Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Intrepid Jonathan: 1 Samuel 14

We often talk about Nephi’s gutsy “I-will-go-and-do-the-things-which-the-Lord-hath-commanded” experiences with getting the plates and building the ship, but recently I ran across a character in the Old Testament who gets far less press yet whose faith seemed quite similar—Jonathan, the son of King Saul.

You have to look at what this guy did in 1 Samuel 14.
1 Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father.
2 And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men;
3 And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, I-chabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.
4 ¶ And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.
5 The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.
6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few. (1 Samuel 14:1-6)
I love that last bit-- it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few. Jonathan was willing to try a TWO-PERSON ASSAULT even though he didn’t know whether the Lord would help or not, but he knew that numbers didn’t matter to the Lord.
7 And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart. (1 Samuel 14:7)
Such unity and fearlessness! No whining or temporizing. What a pair!
8 Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.
9 If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.
10 But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the Lord hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us. (1 Samuel 14:8-10)
I find this part very interesting. Jonathan and his armor bearer decide what they are going to do ahead of time and how they are going to respond to the enemy. Oddly enough, they decided to let the enemy call the shots and choose the turf. (Strategically that has got to be one of the stupidest things ever.) However, it is obvious to me that they were not doing this to be lazy or because they had some sort of death wish. Rather, if you assume that they had a powerful faith in the Lord, it becomes perfectly clear what they were doing. They had faith that the Lord was hearing their words as they were making their plans. They were including the Lord in the plans. They were giving the Lord the freedom to make the choices about the best place to fight by acknowledging that He controlled not just the battle, but could control the inclinations of the enemy in such way as to bring about conditions which the Lord knew would favor Jonathan and the armorbearer. Amazing.
11 And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.
12 And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel. (1 Samuel 14:11-12)
That “Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing” sounds like it has a leer and a sneer behind it, doesn’t it? (“Come up here and I will show you something! (Like the business end of my little pet bazooka!)”) Yet Jonathan doesn’t miss a beat and he takes this vague threat as a sure sign that the Lord has practically won the battle for them already. In fact, Jonathan says he will go first!
13 And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armourbearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armourbearer slew after him. (1 Samuel 14:13)
So Jonathan and his armorbearer were CLIMBING UP to the enemy?! (Isn’t that yet another thing that the strategists would say was another one of the stupidest ideas ever—attacking an enemy situated on high ground?) To all outward appearances they have the odds stacked against them in a multitude of ways—it’s two against many, they’re climbing to the enemy, and the rest of the Israelite army has no clue where they are or what they are doing so they get no backup if they get in trouble. And yet they are going for it anyway, because they are thinking, If God be for us, who can be against us?
14 And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow. (1 Samuel 14:14)
This reminds me a lot of the story of Ammon fighting the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon. Fantastic. But wait, the battle is just getting started!
15 And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling.
16 And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another. (1 Samuel 14:15-16)
The Lord has thrown in an earthquake to shake things up a bit. (pardon the pun) Nice.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch..
17 Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armourbearer were not there.
18 And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
19 ¶ And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, that the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand. (1 Samuel 14:17-19)
“Duhhh, who’s missing?”
“Oh, Jonathan and his armor bearer are missing.”
"What’s all that noise coming from the Philistine camp?"
“Uhhh.. I don’t know.”
“I guess we better go see what’s going on...
20 And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture.
21 Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan.
22 Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle.
23 So the Lord saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Beth-aven. (1 Samuel 14:1-23)
So once everyone realized the Philistines were having a hard time, everyone turned on the Philistines, even the Philistine allies, and the Philistines themselves fought each other. (Getting the enemy to kill each other is a very efficient way to win a battle.) The Lord raised up help for the Israelites from people who previously were not going to help.

So what do we get from this story about Jonathan?

1) Assume the Lord will help you.
2) Do something.
3) Take the Lord into account when making your plans and plan in ways to receive guidance from Him according to circumstances.
4) Follow the plan and fight hard even when it looks like the odds are overwhelmingly against you.
5) People will help when you didn’t expect it.
6) Unanticipated miracles will happen.


Chas Hathaway said...

What a great insight from these events. The Lord does look after us, doesn't he!

I just read the first few chapters from your Isaiah book for teens. I love it! I can't wait to read the rest!

- Chas

Michaela Stephens said...

I bet that if Jonathan had done this today he would have gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor.