Watch Your Mouth
1 Samuel 14:15–46
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #049
April 19, 2016
“Our Father, thank You for this opportunity to come together to study this evening, to reflect upon Your grace and Your Word, and to learn principles that are exhibited in the events of the Old Testament—things that we need to pay attention to, things that we need to learn, and things that are there for our edification, our growth, and our maturity. Father, we pray that as we study we might be able to focus and set aside the things that distract us as we focus upon Your Word.
And Father, we are thankful, too, for the fact that we have a great missionary here in Houston, George Mueller, who has served You for many years. But he is really struggling right now as a result of an automobile accident. We pray that You would be merciful to him, that he would be out of pain, and that his body would be healing and strengthening even as he is going through this difficult time in the hospital. We pray for his family also, as they had flooding in the house and different things happened. We pray for the folks who are around them to strengthen them and sustain them and help them in this time of difficulty.
Father, we pray for us as a church, that we might always be ready to stand in the gap for others, to love one another as Christ loved the church, that we might be an example to others as to how Christians relate to other believers. We pray that we might be challenged again by Your Word this evening. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are in 1 Samuel 14:15–46. I do not know how far I will get, but I think I can get through this. This is a broad narrative situation. We need to go through this and be mindful of the fact that all Scripture is given by God’s inspiration, by the inspiration of God breathing out through human authors. It is profitable for teaching.
Sometimes we look at passages in the Old Testament and are not so sure what the lesson is, but there are some important lessons here. What we are seeing, as I pointed out last time, is an important contrast between Jonathan, who trusts the Lord, and Saul, who is trusting in his own works, or his own effort.
I often find that we all have this tendency to look at some situations like this, either in our own life and experience, or in situations in the Scripture. We think, “Well, I am not so sure about Saul. He really was blowing it.” We forget that but by the grace of God, there go you and I.
So what I want to do is start off with a little review for us to catch the drift of what is going on here. Then we will move forward.
This passage really is an exposition on Saul’s foolishness. He has a foolish heart. He has foolish thinking because he has rejected the plan of God. As a result of that, foolish things come out of his mouth.
I titled this lesson Watch Your Mouth. You never know what is going to come out.
I was trying to abridge the review. It was hard with all these good photos. We will run through them more rapidly than normal. This is a broad view of Israel, the Mediterranean to the west, and the Jordan River to the east. It flows from the north from the Sea of Galilee and down to the south to the Dead Sea.
As you can see from the topography, the shading in this map, the center part of the country (then as now) is the high country, the hill country. This is critical for a lot of different reasons, but militarily the high country is always your valuable territory, because that puts you in a position of strength over your enemies.
For those of you who have never been to Israel, you have an area that is right here in this area where Socoh is, you have the coast over to the west. Modern Tel Aviv is further south. In this area the West Bank comes within nine miles of the coast right along the ridgeline (west of red line).
The danger of that is that it puts all of the coastal plain of Israel at risk. If that area were taken over by an enemy (the Palestinians), then everything along the coast would literally be under the gun of an enemy force up on that ridge.
That is why you cannot go back to the 1967 borders.
About 75% of Israel’s population lives along the coast here, from Haifa, just north up here, all the way down to Ashdod. This area along the coast is the heart of their computer technology and industrial area. About 90% of their business is along the coast.
I have had the opportunity to stand on this ridge. One of the Jewish communities up there that is constantly being criticized by the United Nations and the European Union and some liberals in this country say they need to give this land back to the Palestinians. But if they were to do that, it would be like committing suicide.
The same kind of thing exists further north off the map, in the Golan Heights. Yesterday Netanyahu said that Israel would never give up the Golan. Our wonderful historical anti-Israel, anti-Semitic State Department said, “No, we do not agree with that. You cannot say that. We are not going to back that up, because Israel needs to give it back someday.”
Well, if you have ever been on that terrain, the Golan is up on a high plateau. It puts all of Galilee under the artillery that an enemy force would put there. Those of you who have been there have seen that. In fact, it was under the control of Syria up until 1974, the Yom Kippur War, and Syria was lobbing shells across the Sea of Galilee randomly.
You think it is rough with terrorist attacks, bombs going off in buses and things like that, just have artillery shells come in randomly day in and day out as you are trying to farm, live in the cities, or something like that.
This is the terrain, the hill country in the central part, the green and yellow line that comes down literally from Mt. Gilboa in the north down through Tirzah, Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, all the way down to Bethlehem and further south if we went all the way down to Hebron.
That is called the “Trail of the Patriarchs.” They have this marked out in Israel. There are signs and there are mikveh that are very ancient along that way showing that this was the way the pilgrims would travel on their way to the feast days in Jerusalem.
Slides 4 & 5
The territory that we are focusing on in the center is the territory around Michmash, Geba, and Gibeah of Saul—this is Saul’s town. The Philistines were originally at Geba. Jonathan ran them out. The Philistines retreated across the Wadi Suwenit. They are over in Michmash.
So we are going to look at two geographical features:
- You have this wadi that runs northwest to southeast that has high cliffs on it.
- Then where you see Tell Miryam, there is a cross-pass that runs from south to north. That is going to be the sight of part of this battle.
We saw it this way: the foreground is Gibeah of Saul. The intermediate area is Geba. And the distant somewhat elevated area is the area of Michmash.
Slides 7 & 8
This gives us a nice aerial shot here. We can see Michmash here on the right and then the pass of Michmash running across. This is where part of the battle takes place.
The cliffs of Bozez and Seneh are shown, Seneh on the north side, and Bozez on the south side. Bozez is mentioned in the text where Jonathan scales these cliffs to be able to attack a Philistine out post there.
This map reveals what happens as the Philistines (the black lines) initially sent out troops from Michmash to the north to prevent Ephraim from sending in reinforcements to Israel from the north. The Philistines sent another contingent out toward the Zeboim Valley in order to prevent any reinforcements coming from that direction.
Then the Philistines sent another group out here toward Beth-horon. Then later in the chapter it tells us that they sent out a fourth contingent to the pass of Michmash.
Saul is basically trapped here on the south side at Geba with about 600 men. He is outnumbered about three or four to one.
Slides 10 & 11
Saul has to go into battle. We are told that this battle starts at the initiation of Jonathan because he trusts the Lord. Jonathan decides, after a period of boredom, that somebody has to take the initiative. Saul is not taking the initiative. (That is always an important principle—that if you are going to win, you have to take the initiative.)
If you are going to win and be a victor in the spiritual life, you have to take the initiative to learn the Bible, to study the Word, and to make time for it—to read your Bible on a daily basis, even if all you can squeeze out initially is a chapter. Start with that. But most people can afford about 15 minutes a day to read through their Bible. We have to make a decision, a priority decision.
Are we going to have a regular schedule, create a regular schedule in our lives where we are at Bible class, or we can live stream?
Because I know there are folks who live locally but cannot get here because they do not get home from work until late. They have to get up very early. I know there is at least one man in the congregation that has to report in at an extremely early shift, around 5 o’clock in the morning.
When you have jobs like that you know you cannot make it to Bible class at night. It keeps you out too late. You have to take care of yourself. That is why we have live streaming. But if you can make it, you should. It is important for the congregation to be together, for people to be together to encourage each other.
We are told in 1 Samuel 14:1–2 that Saul is sitting in a defensive position outside of the hill. He is probably overlooking that chasm south of Michmash. It is translated Gibeah here, but Gibeah means “hill.” It is difficult sometimes to distinguish whether you are talking about Gibeah as the location of Saul’s town, or whether you are talking about a hill. Since Saul has already moved up to Geba, it would not make sense that he retreated back to Gibeah. He is sitting there, but he is waiting. He is not taking the initiative.
I pointed out last time that the way the text reads, there are some who suggest that “Gibeah” is the name of the cave. We do not know if this is right or not. Perhaps this large cave, and there are many large caves along that cliff face, were named just like the cliffs were named. This would possibly be the name of the cave. Saul is in there with his 600 men waiting for something to take place.
In 1 Samuel 14:3 we learn that Saul has Ahijah with him. Ahijah is the high priest. What is important about this is that it tells us some interesting background information.
“Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod.”
I wanted to point this out. I was not going to go any further in the text last week. I wanted to come back to this. All that is mentioned here is that Ahijah is there. He is wearing an ephod.
An ephod is the priestly garment, as I have shown in the illustration. As part of the ephod, you had two stones called the Urim and the Thummim.
The Urim and the Thummim were used in some way to communicate with God, whether these different stones glowed or you used them like lots. If they landed on one side it meant one thing, but if it landed on the other side, something else. We do not know and we are not sure, but that was one way to communicate with God, and one way God would communicate with people.
We are told in almost a parenthetical statement that Ahijah is with Saul. Then we are told, as a side note, “But the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.” He has taken off, and the people are there.
I showed you this slide last week to trace out the house of Eli. Remember, God said that Eli’s line would terminate. It would not be permanent. This will end with Ahijah. We have an interesting connection between Saul who has lost his dynasty and Ahijah, who is the end of the house of Eli for the priesthood—two failures that are joined together here.
The thing that we ought to learn from this is that despite the spiritual failures of Saul, and the spiritual failure of Ahijah and the house of Eli, God’s grace still works for Israel.
That is an important point because a lot of times we fail in the Christian life. Others around us fail. It is real easy to be hypercritical. I am not justifying failure, but God’s grace is remarkable. It is magnificent. It works in our favor even when, and mostly when, we do not deserve it at all.
Slides 14 & 15
We saw last week that Jonathan took off between the passes, 1 Samuel 14:4. He crossed over to the north side and climbed up the rock face of Seneh.
I showed you these photos to get a sense of the rugged terrain there. We see how tough it is and how steep it is.
This demanded a certain amount of energy and climbing skill. This happens in the early part of the day. I do not know if any of you have every done a lot of hiking or backpacking or climbing, but it can really wear you out—especially if you hit the top of the ridge and you had to go into hand-to-hand combat.
This would have depleted Jonathan’s energy as he went up on top of this cliff.
What we should note here is that there are many times when we are in a position of weakness in our life due to physical circumstances, due to emotional circumstances, due to the outside pressures of life in the form of adversity. We have to decide whether we are going to trust in God despite the pressure from our sin nature to choose the wrong option, the easy option, or are we going to trust in God?
Having feelings of despair and fear are, in and of themselves not wrong; it is what you do with them that is wrong.
Having feelings of anger or resentment, these emotions well up within us at times. The issue is that having those emotions may be normal as human beings, but what you do with them is what is important. That is when you decide to engage the sin nature in those areas of sin, or trust in God.
We’ve seen this photo. This is important for background.
We closed last time dealing with the last section, 1 Samuel 14:6–9, where it shows that Jonathan understood that the battle was the Lord’s.
- The battle was the Lord’s with Moses coming out against the Egyptians.
- The battle was the Lord’s when they faced the Amalekites.
- The battle was the Lord’s when the Israelites came in and took Jericho.
Again and again this is the theme we see in Scripture. God specializes in taking those who have little, so that they do not have anything on which to trust in terms of their own human viewpoint. God is the One who comes in and He is the One who protects and provides. He is our fortress.
We went through this last time, but there is another thing I wanted to point out. Look at 1 Samuel 14:7.
“So his armorbearer said to him, ‘Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.’”
I want to point something out. There is a lot of discussion among exegetes and commentators about what it means when it says in 1 Samuel 13:14 and other places that David was “a man after God’s own heart.” It is sort of a knee-jerk theological response to say that this is “God’s choice.”
But as I was going through the Hebrew text on this today, it struck me after teaching this last week, that the same exact construction is used by Jonathan’s armorbearer in 1 Samuel 13:14 as the one to describe David as “a man after God’s own heart.”
After Jonathan has said to his armorbearer, “Let’s take on these uncircumcised Philistines”, and they are outnumbered ten to one. He says that, “it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.” Jonathan’s armorbearer has to also trust in God.
Jonathan is not the only one trusting in God to deliver them. He puts this on the armorbearer and the armorbearer says to “Do everything that is in your heart.” In other words, do whatever you want to. You are the leader. I am following you. Then he says, “I am with you.” It is a clear statement of loyalty, a statement of obedience to Jonathan, that he will stick with Jonathan whatever takes place.
Then the armorbearer says, “I am with you, according to your heart.” That is exactly the same phrase. We could translate this “Go then, here I am with you, a man after your own heart.” It is the exact same phrase.
This is not a phrase related to the choice of Jonathan or the choice of God for David, but it is a clear statement that what is valuable in David is what is valuable in the armorbearer—that they have a commitment to God. They want to serve God no matter what. The armorbearer wants to serve Jonathan no matter what.
Last week I was a little quick going through some of this. Jonathan shows a way to discern God’s will.
So many people in evangelical Christianity today have the idea that they can “naval gaze”. It is a soft mysticism that somehow I am going to set up a set of almost irrational conditions, and if God fits those conditions, then I know that is what God wants me to do.
It is the putting out the fleece test I talked about last time in Judges 6. Gideon had already been told specifically what God wanted him to do, but Gideon came up with this test with the fleece in order to try to avoid it. He thought that somehow he could set up a condition that would be difficult for God to do, to leave the fleece dry and the area around it wet, and then to leave the fleece wet and the area around it dry.
But God surprised him. God is showing that He is more powerful than our circumstances, that when He tells us to do something, He is going to give us the resources to do it, even when we are scared to death.
Go back and read Judges 6 and the first part of Judges 7 after Gideon has had his numbers taken from 32,000 down to 300. He is still fearful. God met Gideon where he was.
Gideon is very different from Saul. Gideon still wanted to do what God’s will was, but he was not really sure. He was weak. God says, okay, if you are still fearful, I want you to take your armorbearer and go down to the camp of the Midianites, and you will hear something.
That is what happened. Gideon went down and overheard two Midianites talking. One of them had had a dream and told the other one what the dream was. The other guy interpreted it to mean that Gideon is going to defeat us.
When Gideon heard that said it strengthened his faith. He went back, organized his men, and divided them into three companies of 100 each. He gave them their torches and their pottery cover for the torches. Then he told them what the signal would be. They used that on the signal. They all broke the pots surrounding the torches. As a result of that they were able to scare the daylights out of the Midianites. This is what takes place. God is the One who is going to give them the battle.
And this is what happens with Jonathan and his armorbearer in 1 Samuel 14:11. They “showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines.” What Jonathan had said was that they were going to set up a situation here. He is not just picking a random situation. He is not the person who says:
- If I get up in the morning and my car does not start, then God does not want me to go to work.
- I am dating a girl, and if she wears a dress, then I will ask her to marry me, but if she has on blue jeans, then I will know it is not God’s will.
People really come up with those kinds of random situations to make decisions thinking that is how you discern God’s will.
I am sure there are people who have used this that way—that Jonathan is just making this idea up, “if they let us come up, then God is giving us the battle, but if they come down to us, then we are going to lose.”
But Jonathan has thought this through. This shows how we make decisions in a crunch. We think through the tactics of the situation and decide.
If you are making a business decision, or have had a job opportunity, then you say “Here are the roadblocks that I see in this decision. Somehow, if God provides a solution to those roadblocks, then I am going to know that that must be God’s will for me to go in that direction. If God does not take away those roadblocks and provide a solution, then I am going to know that God is not opening the door.”
That is how I ended up at Preston City Bible Church. I really did not want to go north of the Mason Dixon Line. Brice had sent me a letter. He finally got me to come up there to do a Bible conference. I did that. I noticed the congregation was really positive. It seemed like a great group of people, but I could not figure out how to make that transition in mid-year. Pam would need to work. Teachers do not change jobs in the middle of the year. It just does not happen.
As the board at Preston City Bible Church was crafting their proposal to me, one Sunday afternoon I checked my e-mail, and that morning in the Norwich Bulletin Anne had spotted an ad that the Norwich school system was looking for a native Spanish-speaking teacher that was elementary certified that could start work immediately and would be able to pioneer a Spanish language program for the elementary schools in Norwich.
I remember looking at that. I read it twice. I said, “Pam, we are going to Connecticut.” It was clear as it could be. We had five days to get her resume in. We met the deadline. They interviewed her over the phone and hired her over eight to ten “in district” applicants. They hired her over the phone sight unseen. The next thing we knew we were starting to move to Connecticut.
That is how it happens. You are not looking for some kind of magical thing to happen. You think it through logically and rationally.
If God is behind something, then God is going to supply the resources. If He is not, He will not supply the resources. This is what Jonathan is talking about here. This is the basis of his rationale.
Jonathan told his armorbearer if they ask us to come up, then we will go up. We will know that God has delivered them into our hand. So they went up, and Jonathan and his armorbearer worked like a good team. Jonathan would knock them down, and his armorbearer would kill them, 1 Samuel 14:12–13.
1 Samuel 14:14–15, Jonathan and his armorbearer took out “about twenty within about half an acre. This created trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled.”
All of a sudden everybody knows that the battle is engaged. And they are scared to death. They have been sitting there across from each other trying to figure out who is going to start this for who knows how long? The text is not clear.
In 1 Samuel 14:16–17, when Saul’s watchers see what is going on, and they see the multitude, they see the Philistines begin to fall back and that something is happening.
Saul cried out to the people “call the roll and see who has gone from us.” Saul is saying, who is starting this action? This is what he is saying.
Then Saul decides he is going to get in on the divine guidance trick. This is how not to do it, because what we are seeing here is a situation where he is going to try to use God to justify his purpose, which is another thing people often do. I have heard my whole life people say, to justify something they are doing that they should not, “well it must be God’s will, or I know this is God’s will.”
How do you know? Well I just know.
Well, God does not ever work that way. Anything God communicates to somebody in private, as we have seen all through the book of Samuel, He makes an objective verification of it so that it is never up to somebody’s “liver quiver” to determine what the will of God is.
What Saul does at this point, in 1 Samuel 14:18, is turn to Ahijah. What I pointed out two lessons back is Saul, like a lot of politicians, and like a lot of Christians, likes to use religion for cover. They like to have that façade, that veneer of religiosity that is going to justify their behavior.
Saul calls to Ahijah and says, “Bring the ark of God here (for at that time the ark of God was with the children of Israel).” The Ark had returned.
We have gone through that episode much, much earlier. What would take place here is something I referred to earlier using possibly the Urim and Thummim, because he has the ephod with him. There is some debate, a lot of debate actually, as to whether this should be read: bring the Ark of God here, or bring the ephod here.
Part of the reason that commentators suggest that this should be the ephod is first, because the word for Ark and the word for ephod are very close in Hebrew. It could easily be a transmission error where the wrong word was copied. Some people think this.
The second argument is that the Ark has not been mentioned. The only thing that is mentioned that Ahijah has is the ephod.
What we have seen so far from 1 Samuel 7:1 and later in 2 Samuel 6 is that the Ark has been in Kiriath-Jearim, which is just outside of Jerusalem. The assumption has been made that because it is in Kiriath-Jearim in 1 Samuel 7, and it is in Kiriath-Jearim in 2 Samuel 6, it did not move in between.
But there is no reason the Ark could not have been brought into battle as it is already in the general location. They do not have to send back to Kiriath-Jearim to get it. It is already either in Gibeah or Geba where Saul is.
Third, another thing that they talk about here is that many commentators and some translations take this as the ephod of God, the casting of lots with the use of stones to determine the will of God.
I am going to give you a new vocabulary word. The word is “psephomancy.”
Hepatomancy is when you are consulting. You sacrifice an animal. You cut out the liver and read the liver to determine what the future is.
Necromancy is when you are consulting the dead to find out about the future.
But this is psephomancy, which is divination by means of white and black stones. I ran across that word in my study and thought I would share that with you. Psephomancy can be your new vocabulary word for the day.
What we see here is Saul using Ahijah to cover up his actions, to give divine justification for his behavior. Then we read in 1 Samuel 14:19, “Now it happened while Saul talked to the priest that the noise which was in the camp of the Philistines continued to increase.”
The Philistines are in a rout. They are the ones who are now living in panic palace. If you remember, it was the Israelites, that when the Philistines came in with their 3,000 chariots and their 6,000 charioteers and possibly some infantry, were the ones who were hiding in the holes and hiding in the caves, scared to death, crossing the Jordon, and running away. But now it is the Philistines that have moved into panic palace.
The Philistines do not have a divine solution. The confusion increases. It is a little difficult to translate and understand some of the ways this has been translated. But the way it makes the most sense to me is if we read this, “Now it happened while Saul said this to the priest that the noise that was in the camp of the Philistines continued to increase.”
The priest is there. The priest is trying to consult with God. All of this is going on. They hear the sound of the battle across the wadi. Finally Saul turns to the priest and says, “Withdraw your hand.”
All through this I have talked about Gideon’s 300 men. What we see with Gideon is that he is trusting God, fearful though he may be. But Saul is not trusting God. Saul is very much trying to control the situation. Saul first tells Ahijah that he needs to come forward and bring the Ark up here. Then when Saul is consulting God’s will he says, “okay, now you can stop.”
Saul is trying to control the situation, which is how a lot of people are. I have been surprised over the years of how people try to control God. They want to talk and act like they are positive Christians, but they want to control what God is going to do in their life. If things start getting out of control then they freak out. They do not learn that the idea in the faith-rest drill is to relax and to trust God because God has our best interest in mind.
Again we see how Saul is operating on arrogance—that he is trying to use God for his own purposes. What Saul does at this point, 1 Samuel 14:20, is he assembled all the people together. They finally move out. There is a rout going on on the other side. The only people causing the rout are Jonathan and his armorbearer. The Philistines have gone into a complete panic.
This is a God-induced panic. It is not due to what Jonathan and the armorbearer have done.
It is the same kind of thing we see when Gideon’s 300 attacked the Midianites. In Judges 7:20–22 we read, “Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers—they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing—and they cried, ‘The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!’ ”
This is not a tactic you are going to read very much about at West Point. It is a tactic, as I said last time, which Orde Wingate emulated to attack the Arabs who were raiding the Jewish kibbutzim in night raids during the Arab wars of the late 1930s. But this is not the normal way to do it.
What happened was that, “And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled.”
As soon as they say those lights and heard the blast of the trumpets—because typically there would be a torch and trumpet for every 100–200 men—they thought there was a huge army attacking them, The Midianites panicked, but it was God who put the panic in their heart. They cried out.
In Judges 7:22 we are told, “When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his companion.”
It was not the tactic of Gideon that worked so well. It was God’s work in the hearts of the enemy. The enemy fought against each other. They became scared of each other.
This is exactly what is happening in this situation in 1 Samuel 14:20:“every man’s sword (Philistines) was against his neighbor, and there was great confusion.”
This tells us a vital principle Paul summarized in Romans 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
That is the principle throughout this whole episode. If you are teaching Sunday school, if you are teaching CEF, this is a great story to tell. It has got all the drama of a battle. It has war. It has people trusting God when they do not have anything.
It is a great example of the principle that is stated in the New Testament, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Here is another principle of hermeneutics. You do not get doctrine directly from narrative passages in history. You get doctrine from the New Testament. But what you see in the episodes of these stories of the Old Testament are the illustrations in flesh and blood, in everyday life, of how those principles are fulfilled and carried out. We see Romans 8:31 exhibited here.
In 1 Samuel 14:21 we read, “Moreover the Hebrews who were with the Philistines before that time.”
- In Samuel the word “Hebrews” refers to the Israelites. That is a pejorative term. There are all types of racially pejorative terms that can come to your mind. When you use those terms, you know that somebody is making some kind of derogatory statement.
- The term “Hebrews” as a reference for the Israelites in Samuel is a pejorative term referring to turncoats, traders, who have aligned themselves with the Philistines.
Now that they see that the Philistines are being defeated and losing, all of a sudden they decide to change sides and go back to their brethren. We are told: “Moreover the Hebrews who were with the Philistines before that time, who went up with them in the camp from the surrounding country, they also joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.”
The numbers are vastly increasing. They are getting reinforcements. Remember, the Philistines blocked reinforcements from coming in from the north, from the east, and from the south. They are now getting reinforcements from within the camp. See how God has turned the tide tremendously toward the Philistines?
In 1 Samuel 14:22, “Likewise all the men of Israel who had hidden in the mountains of Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, they also followed hard after them in the battle.”
The men of Israel are now coming down from the north because the Philistines have heard about this rout and their defenses are collapsing.
Then the key verse: 1 Samuel 14:23, “So the Lord saved Israel that day, and the battle shifted to Beth Aven.”
Now Beth Aven is about two to three miles north of Michmash. But I want you, if you are writing in your Bible, to make a note. Connect 1 Samuel 14:6 with 1 Samuel 14:23.
In 1 Samuel 14:6 Jonathan said, “For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or a few.”
Human circumstances do not deter God. Whatever problems we face in life, no matter how overwhelming they may appear, no matter how difficult they may be, no matter how personally devastating, when we have dreams and hopes and security and the details of this life, and suddenly that crumbles, God does not crumble. God is still in charge. God is still going to take care of those circumstances.
We see that Jonathan recognizes that principle that whether there is human power, human ability or not, God is the One who ultimately gives the victory.
Then we are told in 1 Samuel 14:23 that it is the Lord. It is not Jonathan and his tactics any more than it was Gideon and his tactics that saved the day. It was the Lord that saved Israel that day.
Did they deserve it? No. Did Saul deserve it? Not at all. Did Ahijah deserve it? No, not at all. But God in His grace delivered Israel that day, just as He still delivers us.
But now there is another problem, something that has not been introduced yet. And that is the problem of Saul’s foolish oath. We read this starting in 1 Samuel 14:24, “And the men of Israel were distressed that day.”
That means that they are extremely upset. It is a time of great difficulty for them, just as it had been earlier. It is the same word used earlier in the text.
Why were they distressed? Because “Saul had placed the people under an oath, saying, ‘Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.’ So none of the people tasted food.”
This tells us something really interesting about Saul. We see how Saul is running everything according to his own limited knowledge, doing it his way and not God’s way.
A lot of people look at something like this and say, “how can Saul be a believer?” Let’s review and remind you of a couple of things:
When a person trusts in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says they become a new creature in Christ and all things are new. But they still have a sin nature. Read Romans 6. Again and again Paul is telling the Romans that they need to consider themselves dead to sin.
Why would he say that unless they are already considering themselves alive to sin?
I do not think I need to tell anybody what it means to be alive to your sin nature. I think everyone of us has a pretty good idea of what that means. Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of your sin nature, you know what it is to give into that. What Paul is saying in Romans 6 is that this is a very real possibility.
Then in Romans 7 Paul uses himself as an example that many times he did what he did not want to do, and he did not do what he wanted to do.
There is no mention in Romans 6 or Romans 7 of God the Holy Spirit. The first time we see the mention of God the Holy Spirit is when we get into Romans 8. In Romans 8, Paul says that we are either walking according to the flesh, or we are walking according to the Spirit. Those are the only two options:
- If a person is saved, they still have a sin nature. That sin nature is still as nasty and gnarly as it was when they were an unbeliever.
- If they stop walking by the Holy Spirit and give into their sin nature, it can be worse than what it was when they were an unbeliever.
Yet God’s grace still reaches out to each one of us when we get like that. But you have a lot of Christians today who come along and say well, if they were “really” Christians. The issue here is that first of all, you are born again—you are regenerated when you hear the gospel. But that does not mean there is any growth.
Let’s take the analogy of a newborn baby. A newborn baby comes along and is born, but that baby will not automatically grow if it is not given nutrition. If there is no food. That food and those nutrients are necessary in order for that baby to grow.
The same thing happens in the spiritual life. You get a new Christian, but he is never given any doctrine. He is never taught anything. He is never challenged with the Word. All he knows is Christ died on the Cross for him. Pretty soon his appetite dries up and diminishes. He is often led astray by a lot of false teaching. The result is that he is walking according to his sin nature.
This believer has no reason to ever live the Christian life because he has never been taught the Christian life.
That is the importance of understanding the distinction between justification and sanctification. Sanctification is not an inevitable automatic result of justification. There has to be feeding of the Word. We see that in 1 Peter 2:2, that there needs to be a desiring of the milk of the word.
Saul is a perfect example of the believer who has never shown any interest in the Word. Never cared. He has had some glimmerings here and there, maybe. But he is really in it for himself. As a result he does not know any better. He makes this rash oath.
Here is a military that is engaged in extremely rugged physical activity, and Saul says nobody can eat anything until the end of the day, until evening, “until I have taken vengeance on all my enemies.”
You have to hand it to the people. They all obeyed. They followed Saul. They did not eat any food. 1 Samuel 14:25, “Now all the people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the ground.”
Years ago, as I was finishing up seminary, I was required to take a two-hour Christian education elective. Coming from my background, Christian Ed courses were not always looked upon with great favor. Often they were the simple courses, the “Mickey Mouse courses”. I was not excited with what my options were that summer, to get this elective.
Then I realized that I could take this elective at another school and get it transferred back. That would be acceptable. I had spent many years in Christian camping. Wheaton College actually had a Masters degree in camp administration. They have a huge camp up in Wisconsin called Honey Rock.
They had a two-week, two-hour Christian leadership seminar where you spent three days white-water canoeing, and another ten days backpacking, and finishing it up with a three-day fast up on the beach of Lake Superior. I thought that really beats sitting in a classroom for two weeks—so I’ll get my two hours credit for it. And I did that.
What was weird about that trip is that this was almost the exact same time that Mt. Saint Helens blew. It blew all that ash into the air, which caused a weather change. Typically the average high was 55 degrees and the average low was in the 30 degrees. Often it was colder than that. You were encouraged to bring wool shirts and wool pants and a down jacket.
Everybody on my team was from Texas. We got there in the summer of 1980. If you’ll remember, the summer of 1980 that was one of the hottest summers on record, not just in Texas, but in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan it was hitting 90 degrees every day. You had a bunch of Texans up there trudging through the woods there in wool, heavy clothing that we had not expected.
The team went almost one day, probably half a day, where we could not refill our water bottles. Then we came into this heavily wooded area on the north side of the slope, and there were springs running down the side of that mountain. All through there wild leeks were growing. Every time I read this I think about that time. We were so thirsty. We were parched and hot.
We went through there and had all this water running down through there. We were able to refill our water bottles. We were able to wash the mud and the dirt off the leeks. We cut the ends off and we would eat the leeks. We felt so much better when we got done with that. That is the kind of thing that is going on here with Jonathan.
One of the interesting things that we see here when we talk about this is that honey has such a restorative effect. That is exactly what we see. The people went into the woods. There was honey everywhere, but no one put his hand to his mouth because the people feared the oath that they would be punished or killed.
But Jonathan, who had not heard the oath, reaches out with the end of his walking stick and scoops up a bunch of honey. He takes it in his mouth, and immediately he is refreshed. Honey is a great form of natural energy. It immediately gets transferred into energy, and invigorated him quicker than about anything else.
Honey is often used to increase physical stamina and energy level because it is so easily and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This is what happens with Jonathan, but he may pay the price for this.
In 1 Samuel 14:28 we are told: “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed is the man who eats food this day.’ ”
This word for “cursed” is the same word that is used to describe the curse in Genesis 3. It is a term of harsh judgment in the Hebrew.
“‘Cursed is the man who eats food this day.’ But the people were faint.”
Then Jonathan said in 1 Samuel 14:29, “My father has troubled the land.”
This is an interesting word for “troubled” here. This is not the word causing distress that was used earlier that is also translated “trouble.” This is a word that indicates the social dimensions of somebody’s action. Their actions are causing trouble among all of the people.
- It is a word that was used by Jephthah to describe the “trouble” that his daughter has caused when she comes out of the tent to greet him when he came home. He had made this rash vow as well, that he would sacrifice whatever came out of the door of his house to greet him in Judges 11:35.
- It is a word that is used of Simeon and Levi when they had their revenge on the men of Shechem. They talked them into getting circumcised in preparation for a wedding between Dinah and the son of Shechem. Simeon and Levi “troubled” Israel, Genesis 34:30.
- It is also used to describe Achan when he took the booty from Jericho. He refused to obey the Lord there. He “troubled” Israel in Joshua 7:25.
- It is also used when Ahab sees Elijah in 1 Kings 18:17. Ahab calls Elijah a “troubler” of Israel, and in 1 Kings 18:18 when Elijah responds that Ahab and his father had “troubled” Israel.
This is a word that talks about somebody’s actions that has consequences throughout all the people. That is what Jonathan is saying here. That is why Jonathan uses that word.
“My father has troubled the land. Look now how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey.”
That is exactly what would happen. He has been fighting all day. He is worn out. He has lost energy. He is about to collapse, and all of sudden he is completely reinvigorated by eating. It shows how foolish Saul was because he kept his people from having their energy restored to carry the battle to full fruition. He has created a horrible situation.
Jonathan says in 1 Samuel 14:30, “How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found!”
The rest of this episode talks about what happens. The evening finally comes. The people get the spoil from the Philistines. They rush on it, but they are eating it raw. They are drinking the blood, which was very pagan.
Finally Saul is told that this is causing a great sin among the people.
Saul says, 1 Samuel 14:33, “You have dealt treacherously; role a large stone to me this day.” How many of you have any idea what that means?
If you are a hunter, then you probably have an idea. If you are going to have a sacrifice you cannot put the animal down on the ground and slit it from throat to the bottom and open it up and drain the blood. You need some elevation. By bringing a big stone you can lift the animal up on top of the stone. This would later be used as part of the altar. You use the elevation to be able to drain the blood out of the animal.
Then Saul tells the people in 1 Samuel 14:34 to disperse the people and not to sin, but to cook the meat, which they did.
1 Samuel 14:35, “Then Saul built an altar to the Lord. This was the first altar that he built to the Lord.”
That night Saul decides to go down to the Philistines and to plunder them, 1 Samuel 14:36. What happens is that he comes up with this plan to attack the Philistines at night. The people said: Okay, we will go along with that, “Do whatever seems good to you.”
The priest says, “let us consult God about this first.” At least one person, Ahijah, is thinking about consulting God before you run into battle. When they did that, 1 Samuel 14:37 says, “Saul asked counsel of God, ‘Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you deliver them into the hand of Israel?’ ”
But God does not answer. Why does God not answer? God does not answer because Saul has made this oath. Jonathan violated the oath. This is a really odd situation here. It is going to teach an important principle.
Saul is out of line because of his oath. He represents a government, a kingdom that has stepped out of bounds in putting a mandate upon his people. Saul is going to discover who has done this. He separates Israel. He does not think Jonathan has done it. In fact, he swears that even if it were Jonathan who is the source of this problem, Jonathan would die.
This is the same kind of situation that goes back to Achan in Judges. When the Israelites had defeated Jericho they were told not to take any booty whatsoever. They were not to take any animals, gold, silver, but to destroy everything.
Achan took treasure and hid it under his tent. When the Israelites went out to do battle against Ai the next day, they were defeated. Many were killed. Joshua goes into panic palace because God has deserted them. God said, no, it is not your fault, but there is sin in the camp. You have to deal with the sin in the camp before you can have victory.
They called out all the tribes, and they went through this process of elimination by tribe and by clan until they got down to the family of Achan.
That is what Saul has in mind here. We are going to go through a process of elimination by casting lots to see who is going to be identified by God as the one who broke the oath. Of course, it turns out to be Jonathan. What happens?
1 Samuel 14:44, “Saul answered,” when Jonathan admitted what he had done, eaten the honey, even though he did not know anything about the oath, “God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan.”
Saul is bent on killing Jonathan. He is going to make matters worse. He has already had a foolish decision, now he is going to have an immoral one. This is an example of genuine civil disobedience. God has mandated that believers obey the authority set over them, but not when the authority set over them is an authority that has violated the standards of God.
We see in this a reminder of the principle in Acts 5:29 where Peter said that they “obey God rather than man.”
So as Saul is about to have Jonathan executed, the people intervene and say, “Jonathan is not going to die.” In 1 Samuel 14:45, “ ‘As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.’ So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die.”
The people violated the authority of Saul because he wants to do the wrong thing. This is one of the few examples when it is legitimate to disobey a God-ordained authority.
We are told in 1 Samuel 14:46 in a summary: “Then Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.”
In other words, they go down to the coast. There is now going to be a time of peace and tranquility.
Next time we are going to see that this peace and tranquility only extended to the Philistines, because Saul continues to engage Israel’s enemies, which is his responsibility.
Saul is not all bad. He fulfills a lot of his responsibilities. He is disobedient to God, but God is leaving him in place to accomplish certain things. We will come back and start up with this next time in 1 Samuel 14:47.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this evening, to be reminded that You deal with us in grace again and again and again. We do not deserve it. Many times we are disobedient. Many times we are rebellious, like Saul, but nevertheless You continue to meet us with grace. You continue to forgive us as we confess sin. You continue to work to mature us and to bring us along in our spiritual growth. Father, we pray that You would help us understand the importance that we be grace oriented to others, even as we understand Your forgiveness toward us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”