Kinda stuck on the story of the never-to-be-king-of-Israel Prince Jonathan and his faithful #2, the nameless armor bearer. For sake of discussion, we’ll just call him Joe. (Good Jewish nickname.)
Recap: Jon said to Joe, “Let’s go up this hill and fight these Philistines, and perhaps God will give us victory.”
Things that Joe could have said:
- “Surely, you jest.”
- “Let’s toss a coin.”
- “You go first.” And, of course, the ever-popular…
- “#*!!%#! NO!”
But that’s not what he said, thankfully. I quote: “Do what you think is best,” the armor bearer replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.” (1 Samuel 14:7 NLT)
Sheesh. Then in addition to that, the account goes on to say that “they climbed up using both hands and feet, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer killed those who came behind them.” Joe dug into the project with both hands and feet, and brought up the rear while Jon took care of the front.
Some people are created to be Indians, and some people are created to be Chiefs. I’ve done both, and have decided that I prefer Indian. But being Chief has taught the value, the extreme necessity, of having good Indians following you. It’s a skill, even more so, it’s a gift, even a calling. If you’ve ever been in charge of a project with people who do not share your vision or passion, you know the score.
Jesus made a similar point when He talked about His role as the Good Shepard versus merely the hired hand. People who are “hired” have no vested interest, no shared pain or courageous willingness to dig into the hillside with both hands and feet, only to be greeted at the top by those who want their head.
And it is when I am called to battle that I discover into which category I belong…
Check it out:
1 Samuel 14
“It took Solomon twenty years to build the LORD’s Temple and his own royal palace. At the end of that time, he gave twenty towns in the land of Galilee to King Hiram of Tyre. (Hiram had previously provided all the cedar and cypress timber and gold that Solomon had requested.) But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the towns Solomon had given him, he was not at all pleased with them. ‘What kind of towns are these, my brother?’ he asked. So Hiram called that area Cabul (which means “worthless”), as it is still known today. Nevertheless, Hiram paid Solomon 9,000 pounds of gold.”*
Why would Solomon give away part of Israel’s inheritance from God (which was not allowed by the Law) to a non-Israelite monarch? It seems that this magnificent temple was the reason for a magnificent debt, as well as a conscripted labor force (alas, no unions). And the debt was to a heathen king that seemingly didn’t even appreciate the cites that were given to him. Hmmm….
Various commentaries are in disagreement (fancy that) about the legality of those gifted cities, which, BTW, were eventually returned to Solomon, the reasons of which are, again, in dispute. But a few possible thoughts emerge:
- Going into debt, even for what we consider a “cause from God” is generally not a good idea, especially as it pertains to worldly entanglements. We sometimes expose ourselves (and thereby God’s honor) to dispute when our “good ideas” are actually an excuse for extravagant indulgence. God Himself said He doesn’t really live in a temple made of human hands.
- If the villages that Solomon gave/levied to the gentile king were actually part of the Promised Land, then they were not Solomon’s to give; they belonged to God, even if they were yet populated by non-Israelites. Every Christian, by definition, is a work in progress; we have under- or undeveloped parts of our character and talents and personality that nevertheless belong to God. To separate that from its intended use is to distain and show contempt for what God plans to do in that part of “me” for His kingdom.
- Interestingly, the foreign king did not see the potential in these cities that King Solomon did (as when the towns were returned, they were built up and used properly for Israel.) The world tends to glean what they can from those portions we unwisely give away, and then discard them as “worthless”. God, on the other hand, graciously receives that part of us back, and builds it up for its intended productivity. (Part of that amazing grace we sing about…)
Then, like Paul Harvey used to say, there’s the rest of the story, hundreds of years later, when a baby was born in that spurned back-forty and became known as (you guessed it) the Man from Galilee.
*1 Kings 9: 10-14 Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt) (Kindle Locations 19170-19176). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Here’s another part of the story about Prince Jonathon and his little sortie against the hillside Philistine party. In fact, it’s probably a bit of an overlooked, but really important segment of the account.
Once the prince and his side-kick armor bearer finished off the enemy soldiers on the hill, (which was 2 against 20, BTW), God then sends an earthquake, which had to be pretty scary to everyone, including our two heroes who had just put themselves in great peril for their nation and, more importantly, their God.
Seems like a pretty unconventional way of saying “well done”.
[I find it mildly amusing, or sad, probably both, when we call a natural disaster an “act of God”. Primarily because so many people in our society no longer even believe in God, (although one hears His name thrown around repeatedly in various ways), but also as if He is to blame for acts of His creation, (any more than a parent can be blamed for their adult children’s decisions, as much as we like to do that these days.) But I digress…]
The result of this act of God was that a large portion of the Philistine army was eradicated by this “natural disaster”, providing additional overwhelming victory for the Israelite army. So, as scary as surfing on what was originally terra firma was for our two, their persistence and faithfulness (gotta love that old-fashioned word!) paid off big. The earthquake needed to be properly interpreted as God’s intervention rather than an unfortunate interruption in Jon’s plan
The point: what seems like a setback, a disappointment, or even a disaster may just be God’s rearrangement of our otherwise comfortable terra firma for a greater “victory”.
Check it out for yourself at:
1 Samuel 14
It’s tempting to be discouraged when there is a formidable task at hand and (seemingly) not the appropriate resources to accomplish that task. Most of us have been there, are there, and/or will be there in the near future. Such was the case with King Saul’s son, Prince Jonathon.
Context: His father having just failed his first spiritual test by not waiting on the prophet Samuel, the Israelite army was now in severe disarray and facing the menacing Philistine nation. Less than a thousand Jewish soldiers remained. Thankfully, one of them was Jonathon.
Make that two: Jonathon AND the nameless guy who carried his armor (as well as his own, I might add. I love nameless people in the Bible and the important role they play! But that’s for another story.)
Jonathon was undoubtedly aware of his father’s blunder, but saw the task at hand, counted the resources he had, and chose not to shy away from honoring God. He says decidedly:
“Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” (1 Samuel 14:6, NLT)
Here’s the thought: when the battle is truly God’s, the circumstances pale in comparison to God’s power and provision, and most of all, His character. The young prince and his assistant began with what they had, and God provided the rest, in some pretty amazing ways as it turned out.
It gives me pause, as well as encouragement, to ask myself what things God is putting in my sphere of influence to accomplish—in a relationship that seems broken beyond repair, or in a financial situation that was tanked by recent economic downturns, or any other number of things that seem (and are) impossible for me…
…but not for Him.
At some point into King Saul’s tenure, things were not looking too good for the Hebrew nation, which, BTW, was nothing new up to that point in their embattled but miraculous history. Come to think of it, it has been typical of their existence ever since.
The good news was that the prophet of the Lord, Samuel, the same guy who had in recent memory anointed Saul as king over God’s nation of Israel, said that his plan was to show up in town seven days hence, and that Saul was to wait for him there. The bad news was that the very powerful enemy (one of several) was now r-e-a-l-l-y ticked off at the still-fledgling nation, and was mustering an army against them. As might be expected, Saul’s men were getting more than a little nervous, and began breaking ranks, slipping away into the hills and surrounding places, which was understandably a bit disconcerting for the king of Israel, (who struggled with his own self-image issues anyway—can anyone relate?)
But wait! There was even worse news! Samuel, whose job it was to offer prayers and sacrifices to the God of Israel and bless them for success in battle, hadn’t shown up like he said he would! He was late, or maybe he just wasn’t coming after all!
God’s sense of timing is not like ours. To quote a good friend, Jon McKinney, “God is rarely early, but He’s never late.” This was a test, this was only a test. Unfortunately, Saul bombed it.
In fact, most of this life is a test as well. In this episode, God was exposing an inherit flaw in Saul’s character—Saul was more concerned about himself, his safety, his victory and honor among the people (remember that old inferiority complex?) than he was about trusting God and honoring Him through patient obedience. If only Saul had remembered his history lesson about his predecessor named Gideon (see earlier blog on that one, or better yet, read it in the Bible, Judges, chapter 7), he would have realized that God does not depend on numbers, but on our faith and His own grace and power.
And how do I respond when my circumstances are telling me that God is somehow late, or worse, that He is breaking His promise? Part of our faith is demonstrated by how we interpret our circumstances in light of our relationship with God. Part of our love for God is revealed by desiring to honor Him through our obedience in the midst of those circumstances. It’s not about “my” victory, but about His ability; not “my” reputation, but His.
Thx for readin’—dawnlizjones
Remember the days of playing “Hide and Seek”? (Yeah, I also remember “Red Rover, Red Rover”, potential broken bones and all, so let’s stick with “Hide and Seek”.) I’m not sure if I ever actually won, probably not known as the most ingenious covert operative, but I might posit that most of us have become fairly adept in our daily lives at hiding our true selves in various ways, …even from our true selves!
One of the many things I love about the Bible is the complete candor and mirror-like reality of its stories. The heroes (with the exception of only One) are nuanced and flawed, their follies and foibles paraded befor us not only to see, but to be related to. And I do. Heartily. One such character is the first king of Israel, a fellow named Saul, described as tall, dark, and handsome (okay, that’s not me), but evidently with a supreme inferiority complex, (that’s where I fit in). Here’s a young buck that God has chosen to be king, God’s prophet proclaims him to be king, and he even LOOKS like a king!
Pick up the story as the prophet, Samuel, comes to anoint him before the nation of Israel in a special ceremony:
“So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel before the LORD, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the LORD, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the LORD, “Where is he?” And the LORD replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” *
Cracks me up.
Interestingly, earlier in the same chapter we are told that God gave Saul a “new heart”, which informs me that when God chooses me to accomplish something, he will also prepare me inwardly for that job. However, it doesn’t just stop there. That “new heart” must be nurtured and protected or else the weeds of old ways of thinking and outdated patterns of feeling or processing experiences will creep back in again. That’s when I’m tempted to duck out of sight, so to speak, to hide myself from fear of past shame or failure.
The truth says the opposite. As forgiven children of God, only when we step out from behind the baggage of our past can we then step into our full destiny, trusting His work in and through us whether that puts us in the spotlight or not.
In other words, since God, through His Son Jesus, has already come to seek us, we no longer have to hide.
*I Samuel 1:20-23 Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt) (Kindle Locations 15566-15569). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.