The Son Rises Above the Father

Larry and Leigh in 1982. She has always had the bluest eyes you have every seen!

I Samuel 14:24-52

It’s difficult sometimes to know exactly why God choses to provide great detail and elevate certain stories and not so for others. I always wonder if I’m accurately picking up on God’s main point for a passage or not. It a little more challenging with narratives such as here in I Samuel. There are a variety of helpful principles that can usually be drawn from the narratives but a classic principle of Bible study I pursue is that there is always one true and main meaning for each passage.

Saul never passes up an opportunity to make a bad decision

For example, Saul was king for many decades and led the armies of Israel into many victorious battles expanding their territories significantly, (vss 47ff). But the primary narrative of the stories of Saul focus on his sinfulness, bad decisions and poor leadership. This story is one of them. He imposes an oath on his soldiers that wasn’t from God but for his own pride. No one will eat until he (Saul) was avenged of the Philistines. Fasting can be a great tool for prayer and seeking God. But to do it when extreme physical strength is needed (like in battle) is foolish. Such a foolish and selfish command caused resentment from his men.

In contrast, Saul’s son Jonathan exhibits qualities of great leadership. Sensitive to God’s leading and in tune with the needs of his soldiers. Jonathan had not heard about the oath to not eat so when they came across a field with honeycomb, he dipped his staff into the honey and ate it, and “his eyes were brightened”. The men told Jonathan of the oath and Jonathan replied, ” my father has troubled the land. See now how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little honey?”  V29. However, the men would not partake in fear of death for breaking the oath. Despite their great weakness and fatigue, Israel slaughtered the Philistines that day and consequently rushed the spoils of the animals and slaughtered them and began eating them raw because they were famished. This was a huge violation of the dietary laws of Israel.

As the leader goes, so goes the people

Saul imposed an oath out of pride and arrogance that consequently caused his men to be vulnerable to sin. Saul then discovered that Jonathan had broken his oath and pronounced that Jonathan would die. “But the people said to Saul, must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel?” V45. The people stood by Jonathan because they saw that “God had worked through him” and they rescued Jonathan and he did not die. We see indications of Jonathan’s leadership: 1) the people viewed him as following God (not just giving the perception of following God by using oaths and setting up alters, such as Saul). 2) the people loved him and respected him. They were willing to stand up to the king to protect him.

The lesson that emerge in this text is that of leadership. Enter leadership with great fear and humility before God. In leadership, everything counts. The people eventually see everything, including the true motives of their leaders. Leadership actions (both overt and subtle) carry consequences upon their people. May I be a humble leader who follows your path, dear Lord, carefully and prayerfully. May you deal with my deepest motives to ensure I am authentic and genuine in my service to you and to those you entrust to me as a leader. Amen.