1 Samuel 14:1-15

Sermon preached on February 1, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few days ago I received an email from the North Country Great Commission that said in Sri Lanka an Anti-Conversion Bill has been presented to Parliament. The bill states,

"No person shall, either directly or indirectly, forcibly convert or attempt to convert any person professing religion to another religion by use of force, by allurement, or by any fraudulent means."

Anyone who violates this law will be liable for,

"imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years and also be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred and fifty thousand rupees."

The email said that the Anti-Conversion Bill would have serious consequences for Christians in Sri Lanka because the word "allurement" is so broadly defined that just about any kind of gift, assistance, or care given by a faith-based organization could trigger a charge.

If you lived in Sri Lanka, how would you respond if that law passed? Would you stop telling people about Jesus? Would you encourage your church and other Christians to just lay low and not engage in evangelistic endeavors?

Although our text is about war and not evangelism—it has a lot to teach us about our evangelism, for evangelism is spiritual warfare. New Testament evangelism imagery often contains elements of warfare. For example, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

"For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary,
they have divine power
to demolish strongholds."

And in Revelation 12:17 we read about one of the consequences of the birth of Jesus.

"Then the dragon was enraged
at the woman and went off to make war
against the rest of her offspring—
those who obey God's commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

We're involved in a warfare. So looking at Jonathan can be very useful to us in showing us how we should conduct our warfare.

The first lesson we learn from Jonathan is that

you are to have an attitude of expectation, that the Lord will give you success in your efforts to advance his kingdom.

In verse 6 we read,

"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."

Jonathan had an expectation that God was going to deliver His people. This expectation was based on the promise of God. One of the primary purposes of Saul's reign was to rid the land of the Philistines. When God told Samuel to anoint Saul king, He said, (1 Samuel 9:16)

"Anoint him leader over my people Israel;
he will deliver my people
from the hand of the Philistines.
I have looked upon my people,
for their cry has reached me."

Jonathan's expectation wasn't based on a hunch that he had, or a vague hope—but on a promise of God. Jonathan read the situation correctly. Jonathan and his armor-bearer went over and started fighting against the Philistines. The two of them killed about twenty Philistines and at that point God sent a panic among the Philistines and they started killing each other. The Lord gave Jonathan a great victory because he acted on his promise.

In contrast to Jonathan, Saul, the king to whom the promise was made—was inactive. He didn't take the initiative against the Philistines. His lack of actin here reminds me of the guy in the Parable of the Talents who hid his talent and didn't use it. It's interesting that when Jonathan took action he did it without telling his father. We're not sure why but probably the best explanation was that Jonathan was afraid that his father would forbid the venture. It seems that Saul wouldn't act himself and he wouldn't let others act on his behalf.

But Jonathan had faith in God and he took the initiative in saving the Israelites from the Philistines. Jonathan was a great example to the Israelites of his day and to Christians throughout the ages.

The reason we are to have an expectation of success is because God has given us certain commands and promises. After His resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, (Matthew 28:18-20)

"All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."

Jesus commands us to go out into the world. He has promised that He will be with us. He has promised us success, that our work for Him is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

When He called His first disciples, Peter, James and John, they had just finished fishing all night and they hadn't caught anything. (Luke 5) Jesus told them to go out into the deep water and let down their nets. Peter was hesitant to do it, but because Jesus told him to, he did it. You'll remember that when they did so they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They called another boat to help them and they filled both boats with so many fish that they began to sink.

Now, that's significant, for right after Jesus told them that from that time on they'd catch men. The point is that God will build His kingdom through us. We see the same principle in Matthew 16:18. Jesus said,

"And I tell you that you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades
will not overcome it."

In Luke 10 when the 72 returned to Him and reported that even the demons submitted to His name, Jesus said,

"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
I have given you authority
to trample on snakes and scorpions
and to overcome
all the power of the enemy;
nothing will harm you."

Now what all this means is that we should be like Jonathan as we go out with the gospel. We should be bold and courageous, without fear. We are to have great hopes that the Father will honor His Son through our efforts.

In John 4:35-36

"Do you not say,
'Four months more and then the harvest'?
I tell you,
open your eyes and look at the fields!
They are ripe for harvest."

There is no one like Jesus and everybody in the world needs Him. With Him they have everything—life, joy, peace, eternal contentment. Without Him they will have an eternity of misery and suffering.

It's noteworthy that in the book of Acts one of the overriding themes is that Christians are to be bold in proclaiming the gospel. In Acts 4 we read that Peter and John were arrested and put in jail. When they were released they were threatened and ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus. After they were released they went back to the other Christians and quoted from Psalm 2, about the kings of the earth taking their stand against the Lord and His anointed. Then they said, (Acts 4:29-31)

"Now, Lord, consider their threats
and enable your servants
to speak your word with great boldness.
Stretch out your hand to heal
and perform miraculous signs and wonders
through the name of
your holy servant Jesus."

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

This set the tone for the proclamation of the gospel in Acts. When Saul of Tarsus was converted, he spoke, (Acts 9:28)

"boldly in the name of the Lord."

In Pisidian Antioch we read that Paul and Barnabas responded to the Jewish opposition by answering them 'boldly'. (Acts 13:46)

Acts 14:3 tells us that Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time in Iconium

"speaking boldly for the Lord,
who confirmed the message of his grace
by enabling them to do
miraculous signs and wonders."

When Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos speaking about the Lord, they saw that he did so with 'great fervor' (Acts 18:25) and that he spoke, (Acts 18:26)

"boldly in the synagogue."

Acts 19:8 tells us about Paul's preaching in Ephesus, how he,

"entered the synagogue
and spoke boldly there for three months,
arguing persuasively about
the kingdom of God."

The very last thing that Acts teaches us about Paul's preaching is in 28:31. We read,

"Boldly and without hindrance
he preached the kingdom of God
and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."

Now all this shows us that you who are Christians should not be like Saul, who was inactive, but like Jonathan, who went forth boldly, without fear. As Paul wrote in Paul in Romans 1:16,

"I am not ashamed of the gospel,
because it is the power of God
for the salvation of everyone who believes:
first for the Jew,
then for the Gentile."

And in 1 Timothy 1 he said to Timothy,

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity,
but a spirit of power,
of love and of self-discipline.
So do not be ashamed
to testify about our Lord,
or ashamed of me his prisoner."

Christians, be courageous. Be bold in witnessing. Who knows what the Lord may do through you, through us. Serve Him with all your strength and expect Him to work through you.

The second thing that gave Jonathan courage was the fact that

he knew that God could do all things.

He said,

"Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving,
whether by many or by few."

Jonathan had a good understanding of God's power. He stepped out in faith and what a demonstration of it God gave him. Yes, he and his armor-bearer killed 20 men. But God did the rest. In verse 15 we read,

"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."

It only got worse. When Saul heard about it, he was going to consult the priest. But we read that while Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. (Verse 19) When Saul and his men assembled for battle, they found, (verse 20)

"the Philistines in total confusion,
striking each other with their swords."

What a victory God gave Israel. It was all His doing. For awhile the Israelites didn't even have to fight the Philistines, the Philistines were fighting each other.

With Jonathan, we must have a good understanding of God's power. As the psalmist said in Psalm 135:5-6,

"I know that the LORD is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
The LORD does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths."

We, too, are to keep this expectation in mind. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is,

"able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power
that is at work within us,"

When Sarah laughed at the promise that she would have a son, the Lord said to Abraham, (Genesis 18:14)

"Is anything too hard for the LORD?
I will return to you
at the appointed time next year
and Sarah will have a son."

In Luke 1:37 the angel Gabriel said to Mary, regarding not only her pregnancy, but that of her old barren cousin Elizabeth,

"For nothing is impossible with God."

So we are to have an expectation of success, an expectation that the Father will honor the Son, an expectation that Christ's kingdom will grow.

But in expecting God to honor His name, and give His church success,

we must not be presumptuous.

Notice how Jonathan put it to his armor-bearer. He said,

"Perhaps the LORD will act
in our behalf."

Jonathan was not certain that God would bless his particular effort. David Tsumura writes, (1 Samuel, p. 359)

"Perhaps is not a sign of Jonathan's doubt in God's ability, but rather a confession that God is not required to act for them."

Dale Davis writes, (p. 144)

"how refreshing to hear Jonathan's 'perhaps'. 'Perhaps Yahweh will act for us.' Many in our own day think otherwise. They think that to say 'perhaps' cuts the nerve of faith, that if faith is faith it must always be certain, dogmatic, and absolutely positive. Faith, however, must not be confused with arrogance. Jonathan's 'perhaps' is part of his faith. He both confesses the power of Yahweh and retains the freedom of Yahweh. Faith does not dictate to God, as if the Lord of hosts is its errand boy. Faith recognizes its degree of ignorance and knows it has not read a transcript of the divine decrees for most situations. All this, however, does not cancel, but enhances its excitement. Who knows what the omnipotent God may be delighted to do against these uncircumcised Philistines!"

So Christians, expect God to do great things. Expect Him to honor His name. Expect Him to save such a multitude that no man could number. (Revelation 7:9) He will indeed do it. He will defeat all His enemies.

But the road to the new heavens and the new earth, to the glory of the coming age—is very mysterious, as the book of Revelation shows us. So, yes, you should be optimistic—but not so presumptuous that it will lead to discouragement when things get difficult, when success does not come to your efforts as you expect it. John Woodhouse writes, (1 Samuel, p. 243)

"True faith in God knows his power to do all things but submits to his will, knowing that he is both wise and good."

We are to have an attitude of expectation that God will bless our efforts—but even that attitude is one that leaves the outcome to the Lord. God is sovereign. Trust Him to work out His plan.

Some Christians today presume on God's power. With regard to healing, they are absolutely confident that certain people will be healed.

The third lesson we should learn from Jonathan here is that

you need to know the sides.

I'm not quite sure how to put this, but what I mean is that you need to know who is on Jesus' side and who's not. You need to know the battle-lines.

Jonathan knew the battle-lines. He said to his armor-bearer, (verse 6)

"Come, let's go over to the outpost
of those uncircumcised fellows."

Jonathan called them, 'uncircumcised fellows'. David Tsumura tells us that the word 'uncircumcised', (p. 359)

"is a standard epithet of ethnic contempt for Philistines in Judges—Samuel (e.g. Judges 14:3). The Philistines uncircumcised state is usually regarded as evidence for their non-Semitic (alien) status."

Jonathan knew that they were aliens, that they didn't belong in Israel. He knew they were the enemy. He wasn't confused about that at all. He recognized that they were not Israelites. He recognized that they were the enemy. He recognized that he had to fight them.

Now, what lesson is there for us in this? Obviously we aren't to hate non-Christians. We are to love them. We are to seek to be a blessing to them.

But it's a sad fact that many Christians today don't know the battle-lines. Today many professing Christians don't recognize that those that aren't Christians aren't going to heaven. Late last year the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a study indicating that a significant percentage of American Christians reject the biblical claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation. According to the report, 52% of American Christians believe that

"at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life."

But what was really surprising was that 37% of those specifically identified as evangelical Christians agreed. They rejected the claim that Jesus is the only Savior and believed that at least some other religions could lead to eternal life.

A majority of professing Christians deny John 14:6, where Jesus said,

"I am the way,
the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through Me."

They don't believe what Peter proclaimed in Acts 4:12,

"Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."

Charles Blow, a writer for the NY Times, believes that all that is good. Albert Mohler says of Blow's commentary,

"He rejects the claim that American Christians (including the evangelicals cited in this report) are confused or ignorant concerning what the Bible teaches about 'this most basic tenet of their faith.' No, Blow insists, these American Christians are not confused or ignorant about this Christian teaching: 'I think that they are choosing to ignore it ... for goodness sake.'”

Mohler goes on to say that Blow is arguing that,

"'good' people don't believe that other people are going to hell."

Mohler continues,

"Here we see the ultimate confusion of theology and etiquette. The implication of Charles Blow's argument is clear. He believes that Americans are trimming theology to fit current expectations of social respectability. Socially respectable people -- people who are recognized for "goodness" -- consciously reject the clear biblical teaching that Jesus is the only Savior because it just isn't socially respectable to believe that your neighbors and fellow citizens who do not believe in Christ as Savior are going to miss heaven and go to hell."

Those professing Christians don't know the battle lines. They don't know who is properly an object of evangelism. They're confused about who to evangelize. You'll never be a good soldier of Jesus that way.

You need to be like Jonathan. He knew who was a friend and who was a foe. Because of that He was able to go out and be instrumental in starting a great victory for God. You need to be like him. Anyone who is not a Christian is lost. You need to view them as people who need to be saved.

Lastly, for those of you who aren't Christians. What Jonathan shows you is that

you're not okay as you are.

You're outside the kingdom. You're lost unless you go to Jesus. Go to Him today. He will accept you. Find life in Him.