Tuesday, August 15, 2017

EmmDev 2017-08-15 [Lessons from Samuel] Jonathan's contrast #2

Jonathan's contrast #2

BACKGROUND: Last week we saw how God honoured Jonathan's faith and courage by sending the Philistines into panic and confusion. The sight of Philistines fleeing brings the Israelites out of hiding and Saul's army grows in number and confidence. Then Saul calls for a priest enquire of the Lord, but the tumult increases even more (may this have been God's answer?) and so they go into battle. But Saul insisted that the soldiers fast for the battle...
Now the men of Israel were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, "Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!" So none of the troops tasted food.
25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out, yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. 28 Then one of the soldiers told him, "Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, 'Cursed be any man who eats food today!' That is why the men are faint."      (1Samuel14:24-28)
Today's passage raises challenging issues...

We've seen Jonathan's trust in the Lord. It is a "rough and ready", relationship-based spirituality. Jonathan walks closely with the Lord, and instinctively is guided by God and God honours Jonathan's trust.

Saul, on the other hand, tries to "do" the religious "thing". He was supposed to wait for Samuel, but then makes that sacrifice for the army himself. When the Philistines are thrown into panic, the writer of Samuel tells us that it was a "panic sent by God" but Saul doesn't seem to recognise it. He calls for the priest to "enquire of the Lord" and then when the pandemonium increases, he tells the priest to withdraw.

So one might commend him for wanting to enquire of the Lord, but sadly, he missed the obvious fact that God was already doing something. That God was doing something special should have been as obvious to Saul as the nose on his own face, but he doesn't see it!

Then, again in an attempt to "do a religious thing" he binds his troops to a fast on the day of battle. One might see this as a noble action, trusting God and dedicating the day to God, but this seems to be Saul's idea and not God's...

Jonathan knows nothing of Saul's restrictions. He finds honey and eating it gives him the energy needed to keep fighting the fight. When he is confronted, his opinion of his father's instruction is classic:
Jonathan said, "My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?" (1Sam14:29-30)

The absolute common sense of his answer makes Saul's behaviour look controlling and contrived.

Now, one needs to be very careful here:
The issue is not dedication vs pragmatism.
It's not about enquiring & fasting vs grabbing the opportunity.
It is about listening to God and being in touch with Him vs trying to appear religious.

We'll look at the "trouble" Saul caused tomorrow...

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