Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”
–1 Samuel 14:6
In 13:3, Jonathan took his men and attacked one of the Philistine garrisons. It was like poking at a hornet’s nest. The Philistines responded by gathering a huge, well equipped army and began to attack the Israelites. As a result, most of the Israelites fled and Saul was only left with six hundred men. What’s worse the leader Saul disobeyed God’s command. In this situation, it looks impossible for them to gain victory against the Philistines. But today a young man Jonathan acts by faith to claim great victory. May God help us learn of his faith and Spirit.
Part 1. Come, Let’s Go Over (13:16-14:15).
Let’s look at 13:16-18. “Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Micmash. Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned toward Ophrah in the vicinity of Shual, another toward Beth Horon, and the third toward the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboim facing the desert.” Please look at this map, Philistine army was invading in the three directions powerfully. To make things worse, there were only two men in the army of Israel that had swords and spears, Saul and his son Jonathan. Also Look at v 23 Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Micmash. It was an urgent and life threatening situation. Let’s read 14:1 all together. “One day Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man bearing his armor, ‘Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.’ But he did not tell his father.” Here Jonathan took an initiative to do something with his young armor bearer. But it was contrary to the laws of war; no military operation should be done without thorough knowledge and the command of the general. Jonathan wants to see what the LORD does. Jonathan probably was awake at night. After his first successful attack, he was mad at the way it became hopeless and how the Israel soldiers were just waiting and discouraged. As he lay awake that night, perhaps a thought came into his mind: “Shamgar!” Shamgar? Jonathan probably remembered how Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with a sharp oxgoad. Jonathan probably thought, “Well, if God could do it through Shamgar, why not through me this time?”
But, he did not say anything to his father Saul. Why didn’t he say anything to his father? It’s most likely because his father and all the other Israelites were shaking with fear. He believed that his father would have simply said “no.” The king Saul who was supposed to be bold and brave. But according to v 2, 3, he was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree. Saul was hiding there that just in case he could quickly get away from the Philistines. Saul’s army chaplain, the priest with the ephod was also there. They sit back while Jonathan bravely trusts God. Saul saw the vast Philistine army and their advanced equipments. He also saw his own fearful and poorly armed soldiers. He saw his soldiers scattering. He saw that the Philistines were about to encroach on the Israel army to finish the war. Seeing these critical situation, Saul was fearful. He lost the courage to fight on the frontlines. Saul here represents those who have no personal faith in God. Unbelieving people live only by sight. Unbelieving people become fearful and hopeless when seeing the critical situation. In fear, they lose spirit to stand against the challenges and helplessly give into the situation. Unbelieving people have no courage to challenge the obstacles which seem to be insurmountable. They become victims of the obstacles. Fear is like an infectious disease. So fear are useless in war for they will be a bad influence on others.
Look at v.4-5. Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost. But there was a cliff. One cliff stood to the north toward Micmash, the other to the south toward Gaba. So, in order to reach the Philistine outpost at Micmash, Jonathan had to go up the cliff. On his way to the Philistine garrison, Jonathan sees something that any military man would notice. He sees a strategic position – a narrow path through a pass, with large, sharp rocks on either side. In this geographic spot two young men were easily able to fight against a much large number of enemies very effectively. If Jonathan would have never initiated or decided by saying, “Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side,” he would have never found this God given strategic place. God guided Jonathan as Jonathan was boldly trusting God, and acting on that bold trust. In brief, I would like to introduce a real story in the First World War. The British army received orders to take a village called Micmash. The name seemed somehow familiar to one officer named Vivian Gilbert. He opened the Bible and found it at this passage and thought that there must still be this narrow passage through the rocks, between two spurs, Bozez and Seneh. He told his senior commander and right there they read the passage through together under the candle light. It was a short five minute impromptu Bible study. They altered their original plan and successfully copied the tactics of Jonathan and won the battle. My point is that God is living and in favor of those who put trust in him and live by faith!
Look at v 6. “Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.’” “Come, let’s go over” Jonathan wanted to see what God could do through two men who would trust him and step out boldly. Anyone knows the meaning of his name Jonathan? It means “Yahweh has given.” He has faith that the Lord has already given victory to Israel in spite of the odds. Often times we may feel our God is too small. We often feel that God is restrained in one way or another. In reality, the only thing that could be said to restrain God is our unbelief. Jonathan says, “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.” He had personal conviction that God would act for the Israelites. Jonathan knew God wanted to use someone. He was willing to be a humble vehicle through which the delivering grace of God might work.
Let’s read this key verse all together once again. Let’s think about three things from Jonathan’s believing remarks. First, Jonathan held the identity as one of God’s chosen people. He said, “Let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows.” He called the Philistines as uncircumcised fellows. When young David fought against Goliath, he also called Goliath “this uncircumcised Philistine.” What does “this uncircumcised Philistine” mean? Circumcision was the symbol of God’s chosen people. The word “circumcision” came out originally in Genesis 17. God appeared to Abram and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made a father of many nations.” God wanted to raise him as a father of many nations and to be a source of blessing for all people on earth. As a sign of the covenant, he commanded Abraham and his household to be circumcised. God wanted Abraham’s act of obedience to be a sign of his acceptance of God’s covenant and of his commitment to God. Through this God wanted to become the God of Abraham’s offspring, the Israelites, and he wanted them to live as his chosen people. This is how “circumcision” was made with a clear purpose! In contrast, the phrase “uncircumcised Philistine” means that God is not with the Philistines, who were idol worshipping people. So, there is no God with the Philistine. The almighty God is on the side of the chosen people, the Israelites, through the covenant of circumcision. As long as God is in favor of Israel, then they have nothing to fear. Jonathan knew his identity as one of God’s chosen people in such a critical battleground. We should have and remember the same identity anytime and anyplace.
Second, Jonathan knows God’s core heart desire to save his chosen people. He read between the lines. He knows what God really wants. It is to save his people. The word “save” indicates that he has a clear purpose behind critical but deceptive scenes. In 9:15,16 when God called his father, Saul, God clarified His purpose to deliver his people from the Philistines. He must have heard it from his father many times. So no matter what the situation might be, he knows God’s purpose and His promise to save his chosen people. God says in Isaiah 46:10, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” By faith, Jonathan is confident about God’s victory from the beginning. When he knows God’s will and purpose, his spirit pumped up to be ready to fight for God. With such clear purpose in his heart, he has the power of focusing just as the rays of the sun can be focused to set paper on fire.
Third, A leader starts with a vision and then works backward from that vision, figuring out each step it will take to turn that vision into a reality. They say that vision is a prime ingredient of leadership. Leaders can see what others can’t see. Jonathan must have believed that God will provide him with everything in need because it is not for his own, but God’s clear will and purpose. Jonathan is prompted by such vision and faith. Significantly, he does not demand to know the whole battle plan from God in advance. He is willing to take it one step at a time, and let God plan it out. Faith is willing to know our part one step at a time for God knows the whole plan and takes true leadership to those who put trust in Him. In summary of these three, I come up with 3P’s: Purpose, Promise, and Provision. When we have a clear identity by holding 3P’s: God’s purpose as our vision, living faith in His word of promise, and trust in His provision, victory is always guaranteed! Through vision, faith, and trust, we can truly synchronize with the Almighty God and His Spirit.
Look at v 7. Then the armor bearer said, “Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” The armor bearer was really moved by Jonathan’s faith and heartedly co-worked with him. He said, “I am with you heart and soul. He was more than ready to cowork with all his heart and soul. May the Lord raise up many willing servants like this loyal armor bearer to cowork with same mind for God’s purpose to save.
Look at v. 8. After approaching the Philistine post, Jonathan showed themselves before the Philistines. It seems that he was foolish from military point of view. Usually a small number should use ambush attack at night. But it’s a bright day light and intentionally show themselves to the enemies. What made him to do so?
Look at v 9 and 10. “If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” Here we can learn that Jonathan was seeking the guidance of God with prayer. I think, it is amazing faith as young men. Jonathan did not act on his own enthusiasm. He first wanted to rely on the guidance of God humbly. Jonathan is setting aside his own zeal for a moment and .wants to know whether his attack to the Philistines was God’s will or not. So, he struggles with prayer to know God’s will first. Then one prayer of faith came into his heart. That is when he showed himself before the Philistines, and if the Philistines say, “Come up to us,” then it will be the sign that God has given the Philistines into their hands.
Look at v 11-14. The Philistines said, “Look! The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” They looked down on Jonathan and his bearer as cowards hiding themselves. They said, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.” In no minute Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” It was a signal to attack from the Lord. Wasting no time, Jonathan and his companion climbed up to the outpost like the mountain climbers and fought the Philistines with his martial art skills such as Israel version Judo and they fell down before him. Then the armor bearer followed and killed them. In this way they can take care of one Philistine soldier after another successfully. They ended up killing 20 Philistines in about a half of acre. It’s a very small number comparing with numerous Philistine soldiers. But when Jonathan and his bearer acted by faith, God worked mightily.
Look at verse 15. “Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.” When Jonathan and his armor bearer had done their part, now God is doing his part. Jonathan could use his heart and his sword, and he did. God blessed his act of faith. When we please God with an act of faith, God works mightily through sending earthquake, making them panic.
Part 2. So the Lord rescued Israel that day (16-23)
In this second part, we can see three different kinds of people who live by sight, not by faith. May the Lord help us to avoid their mistakes and be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Look at v 16-19. Saul saw the Philistine army melting away in all directions. It has taken a long time for Saul, the leader of Israel, to start leading. So far Saul was so afraid to fail that he didn’t want to do anything. Now he is following his own son, Jonathan into battle. Now he will only go into battle because it seems now like a “sure thing.” He is kind of one of the hold-backs, who were out there to fight the Philistines, but didn’t enter the battle until the situation got better. Better to come out then, than never, but how much better to have the bold trust like Jonathan from the beginning! Then Saul just finds out the fact that Jonathan and his armor bearer are not there. He also said to Ahija, the priest, “Bring the ark of God.” While Saul was talking to the priest, the disorder in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So, Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” Bringing the ark of God is inquiring the will of God. When the situation was bad for Israel, Saul did not ask for God’s will. But now is high time for him to fight. He does not know what to do each time. So he is not able to synchronize with the Spirit of God. Rather he does things by his own idea and his own judgement.
Look at v 21. “Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.” Those Hebrews deserted Israel. Maybe they wanted to survive even through abandoning their circumcised chosen people of God. They ended up betraying his own people based on the critical situation. These were the sell-outs, who had forsaken Israel and supported the Philistines when it seemed Israel was a “loser” and the Philistines were the “winners.” They returned only when Israel’s victory was assured. Better to come out then than never, but how much better to have the bold trust like Jonathan!
Look at v 22. “When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit.” Others in Israel, when the Philistine oppression became severe, simply fled.(1 Sam13:6-7) They were afraid to come out for Israel when things were bad, but now that victory seems assured they will join in the battle. These were the hide-outs, who had left the scene of battle and stood on the sidelines until it seemed “safe.” They would not stand for the LORD until the odds seemed to be in their favor. Better to come out then than never, but how much better to have the bold trust like Jonathan!
Look at v. 20 and 23. “When the Israelites went to battle, they found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. In this way, the Lord himself rescued Israel. And the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.” Again God really used Jonathan, but it wasn’t Jonathan’s victory. In fact it was the LORD’s victory. It didn’t matter if the Philistines greatly outnumbered the Israelites, and had far better weapons. God was more than able to set the Philistines against each other. If the Israelites had no swords, the LORD would use the swords of the Philistines against the Philistines! God was just waiting for someone with the bold trust! Historian Josephus says there were 6,000 Philistines killed in this rout. All groups of people had a hand in the victory – the hold-backs, the sell-outs, and the hide-outs. But there was no doubt who led the battle as a true leader: the boldly trusting and Spirit filled young man and wholehearted coworking in unity between Jonathan and his assistant. Which of these groups of people are you most like today?
When I was preparing this passage, it reminds me of “five loaves and two fish” that Andrew brought to Jesus for feeding 5,000 people in the field. As Jesus blessed Andrew’s act of faith by multiplying the bread and fish enough for the five thousand people, God blessed Jonathan’s act of faith and fought in Jonathan’s behalf. Likewise our living God is ready to bless his people’s act of faith. Especially young man has privilege to have vision and is not afraid of fear of failure and launch attack like Jonathan. In 1786, a young man, William Carey raised his voice by saying, “It’s the duty of all Christians to spread the gospel throughout the world.” But one of the elders in the church replied, “Young man, sit down: when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.” According to his unyielding vision, he became “a father of modern missions” as well as “a missionary to India,”giving powerful influence and jumpstart the Protestant missionary movement of the 19th century. He said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” In church history also, campus ministry has had an immense influence. Student movements in Halle University in 18th century Germany and at Oxford and Williams University in the 19th century produced many sacrificial missionaries. Our Lord Jesus Christ filled young disciples with his Spirit and raised them up as leaders of the next generation. God blessed our ministry in the same principle. Late Dr. Samuel C. Lee and mother Barry gave their hearts to serve young campus students in Korea in 1961 who lost hope in the politically chaotic atmosphere. Based on 2 Ti 2, students were encouraged to have clear identities as soldiers of Jesus Christ to correctly handle the word of truth and participate in the sufferings of Christ. God blessed them to pioneer all major universities in Korea. Also they obeyed Jesus’ world mission command by sending a person or a couple as self supporting laymen missionaries. God richly blessed their Jonathan and Armor bearer’s like absolute faith to pioneer many nations. Thanks to coworking between msn. Isaac Kim and M. John Kwon, our LA ministry also came out. God is still doing the same thing in our 21st social media generation. God’s work is powerful when we apply the same principle in our mission land. We all want to live a dynamic and fervent Christian life. How can we? We must actively challenge the obstacles by faith and experience God’s power and his fight for us. We will then have an exciting life of faith. Faith is a shortened form of words: Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him. May we live not by the situation but by faith. And then our lives become dynamic and very fruitful for God’s glory. On each campus, often times we are overwhelmed by the vast uncircumcised Philistine army like unbelieving students. But surely when we have faith and give our time and heart like Jonathan, we can find Micmash like strategic spot and will be guided by the Holy Spirit each step to pioneer campuses. God’s wisdom and core value for us is Jonathan’s like trust and faith in God. God is still looking for just a few young people whose hearts are pumped up with God’s purpose, clear identity, and broken shepherd heart to save his people and His Spirit to fight on the field. Personally I am thankful to the Lord in that God raised up all nations and holy nations groups among us. Even there is a new common life among sisters. It is not a small thing but a landmark of Downey ministry. I believe that God will surely bless each of them to grow as a mother of all nations. In this way they may set a good example and even be a jump start for others to follow. Continually we contribute ourselves to serve west coast campuses and America may be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for world mission.
In Conclusion) There are two ways of living: living by sight and living by faith. Christians are those who live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Living by faith simply means that although we don’t see God with our naked eyes, we believe in God who exists and blesses our faith and gives us victory over our spiritual battle. May the Lord help each of us to live by faith like Jonathan and win victory in our mission life.
One word: Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving!