Encouragement from 1 Samuel 14
In my previous post, I wrote about the four responses being made by Evangelicals amidst our current cultural meltdown. I advocated for a Daniel-like response of uncompromised faithfulness. But Daniel certainly isn’t the only Old Testament character worth imitating in regards to these matters. A few days ago, I was struck with the example of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14. In Jonathan, as with Daniel, we see that faithfulness always requires courage, the courage to defy those powers that would seek to rule over us in the place of God. But in this particular account, we get a glimpse into the power of this kind of faithfulness––the power of biblical courage to rally the compromised, the capitulating, and the cowardly.
“The men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armor-bearer. “Come on up, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” they said. “Follow me,” Jonathan told his armor-bearer, “for the Lord has handed them over to Israel.” 13 Jonathan climbed up using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer behind him. Jonathan cut them down, and his armor-bearer followed and finished them off. 14 In that first assault Jonathan and his armor-bearer struck down about 20 men in a half-acre field.
(1 Samuel 14:12-15 HCSB)
This is biblical courage: Seeing the danger ahead in light of God’s ability and acting accordingly. These two men believe that God is able to deliver His people from the hand of their enemies, and they demonstrate that belief by stepping out of the place of personal comfort and security, trusting that God may use them to bring about that deliverance. It is important to note that Jonathan does not presume upon the Lord. Earlier in the chapter, we see that “Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” (v. 7). All of his proceeding actions are grounded in this statement concerning God’s sovereign power. God is certainly able to use us to do this, it needs to be done, so let’s go for it! As we move deeper into the story, we find that this foundational awareness (along with a little test in verses 8-10) leads Jonathan to an unwavering confidence in their victory: “And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” (v. 12b).
The Compromised, the Capitulating, and the Cowardly
These three groups which are found clearly in the passage below correspond quite nicely with the three unfaithful responses mentioned in my last article (I didn’t come across this until after that post had already been submitted, or else I may have been inclined to change the order).
In verse 20 we see the compromised, those who are still fighting on the right side, at least in theory, but have begun to build on some faulty foundations. In chapter 13, we see that King Saul had strayed from God’s design and order, attempting to gain victory over the enemy through his own pragmatic means. But Jonathan’s courage ignites within these men a return to genuine and effective combat with the enemy. “Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle. And behold, every Philistine’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion.”
What about those who had capitulated? We see them in verse 21, “Now the Hebrews who had been with the Philistines before that time and who had gone up with them into the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.” Those in this group had acted like the 3000 men of Judah in Samson’s day who had resigned to the fact that the Philistines were rulers over them (Judges 15:11). These Hebrews had not only given up resistance, they had assimilated into the enemy ranks. Their philosophy, in a nutshell, was, “If you can’t beat’em, join’em.” It is sobering to recognize that there is a point of capitulation that removes almost any sense that there ever was an enemy at all. Among a growing number of Evangelicals today, the anti-biblical doctrines of secular humanism and Darwinian Evolution are no longer viewed as dangers but as socially-approved (and expert-backed) realities that must be integrated with the faith. This helps ease the minds of those who have capitulated. Herein lies a danger for Christians who view secular culture as essentially neutral, who think they must act and speak (and therefore think!) more like the “culture” in order to reach it. The danger is that adapting to the culture often means becoming more like the world, and James warns us that “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4b). I am not saying that we can’t learn things or be helped in certain ways by non-Christians (I believe in common grace). We are to love them and earnestly seek to reach them with the gospel, but we are not to be conformed to their pattern of thinking. Not getting these two things mixed up is critical. For in the end, the confusion of faithful cultural engagement with worldly assimilation is a path that descends dangerously towards defection and the deconstruction of one’s faith. But there is hope. If in humble submission to Jesus, faithful men and women will raise up to courageously wage war against this fallen world’s satanic system of thought, without fear of being outnumbered, then, like in Jonathan’s day, God in His grace may be pleased to use their examples to arouse the defectors from their sleep and stir them to renewed faith and service.
Lastly, we see how even the cowardly are brought from their places of hiding as a result of the courage of Jonathan and his armor-bearer. “Likewise, when all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed hard after them in the battle.” (v. 22). Never underestimate the power of godly courage. Those who are on the sidelines, those who are waiting fearfully for the end of the world, can be rallied to action through the fearlessness of a faithful few.
Victory in and through Jesus
“So the Lord saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven.” (v. 23) Do you believe that God desires to use His Church today to glorify His name among the nations? In your state? In your city? In your community? Do you believe that He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance? Then ask the Spirit to ignite within you the fire of faithful courage that burned within Jonathan. Remembering that this courage burned perfectly and without interruption in the life of our Lord Jesus. He stood outnumbered and faced off with the greatest enemies of all time, triumphing victoriously over them through his life, death, and resurrection. And we now stand in Him.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
(Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV)