1 Samuel 14

The legalist and the true believer. The contrasting faith of father Saul and son jonathan is spelt out in parallel stories of a battle against the philistines.

Saul is the legalist. He is enlisting god in his fight. Checking the god box at every step, but talking as though it is his fight, his vengeance that will be wrought.

So he has the ark bought in as a kind of magic box… Again! He is slow and nervous consulting the priests: he’s clearly insecure, as he should be rationally because the Israelites are outnumbered and outclassed with no weapons to speak of. 

But he is judging the battle on his strength to win it, not god’s will for his people. He has the men take a vow not to eat until the victory is his, it’s a vow and test of allegiance to him, not God. And time passes he camps opposite the philistines and talks, and panics.

Jonathon sneaks off and takes a tiny band and just goes up to the enemy camp to see what God will do. He figures god will determine the outcome, and will do it as easily with a few as many. Which is what happens.

With sheer rat cunning jonathon beats a group of them 20 to 2. The philistines panic, they know if the Israelites reputation for occasionally miraculous victories. Noise and confusion land on the philistines and they start to kill each other. Israelites who have been hiding in hole and in the hills come out and pursue them.

It’s a mighty victory… If God. Saul reacts by threatening to kill jonathon because he accidentally broke the silly fasting vow, which was a spectacularly dumb strategy because the troops who followed it were weak with hunger. He can’t rejoice in god’s victory or share the glory with his son. He’s lost it.

But the religion is there, the whole apparatus of the priesthood is with Saul. From the outside you would think Saul was the holy one, with fasting, priests, the ark etc. All the trappings, just not actual faith in God. 

Make me reckless father, make me bold. We are starting at a new church. Give me the spirit of jonathon.


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