1 Samuel 14: 7-23
‘Do all that you have in mind,’ his armour-bearer said. ‘Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.’
Jonathan said, ‘Come on, then; we will cross over towards them and let them see us. 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.’
So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. ‘Look!’ said the Philistines. ‘The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.’ The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armour-bearer, ‘Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.’
So Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, ‘Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.’
Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armour-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armour-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armour-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.
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.
Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions. Then Saul said to the men who were with him, ‘Muster the forces and see who has left us.’ When they did, it was Jonathan and his armour-bearer who were not there.
Saul said to Ahijah, ‘Bring the ark of God.’ (At that time it was with the Israelites.) While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, ‘Withdraw your hand.’
Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 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. 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. So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.
Jonathan's plan isn't the best military strategy: 'We’ll make ourselves visible and if they say – come up to us, we’ll climb up.'
In any type of warfare, the side with the high ground always has the advantage. If you can control the high ground, you can control the outcome. So what Jonathan is describing here would seem to make victory impossible.
How could he expect to defeat the Philistines with one sword when he would have to use both hands and both feet to climb the cliff?
Jonathan’s plan is clearly not a tactical-strategic laid-out war plan. He was just someone who knew who His God was and who realised that doing anything in this situation was going to be better than doing nothing.
He was more committed to doing what was right than doing what was easy.
Anyway, they get the sign that they want and so they climb up the cliff to the Philistines. And they kill 20 Philistines. 2 men with one sword kill 20 men all with weapons.
God came through on their ‘perhaps’.
God backed them up in their boldness; He affirmed their audacity.
One writer says this:
“Our action invokes God’s activity. It is as if God is waiting for someone to trust Him enough to act on His Word. There is so much that God wants to do that can be seen only after we begin to do it.” (Erwin McManus)
When we move, God moves.
We take a step of faith, and God steps in to back us up.
We take the initiative, God releases His divine power.
We do all that we can do and God does what only He can do.
While Saul was using empty ritual and religion to cover up his lack of faith, Jonathan was risking everything on the perhaps that God might do something.
Saul was passively waiting on God, while God was actively working through Jonathan.
Have you ever been behind someone in traffic and you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, maybe running late for an important meeting. There is just one car in front of you at the traffic lights. You’re watching the light with an intense focus, waiting for it to change from red to green. It seems to take forever, but eventually it changes. You take your foot off the brake, you’re just about to hit the accelerator, but then you realise the person in front of you is entirely unaware that they has permission to go. Instead of looking forward, they are too busy looking at themselves in the rear-view mirror. When that happens me, I shout: 'MOVE!' And hit the horn. I think: 'What are you waiting for? The light isn’t going to get any greener than this.'
I wonder sometimes if that’s what God is thinking? 'MOVE! What are you waiting for? Just do something, try something, you might not know all you need to know and you might not have everything you think you need to have – but the light is green, so stop just sitting there – go forward. Do something.'
Jonathan moved with God, and God moved with Jonathan.
Because Jonathan became a warrior for God, God became a warrior for Jonathan.
The tables quickly turn from it being just Jonathan and his servant against the armies of the Philistines to it becoming Jonathan, his servant, and the living God against the enemies of God’s purpose.
A moment of faith and courage changed the course of a nation.
Life is just really made up of moments. Moments when we make decisions to do something or to do nothing; to step up or to shrink back; to act in faith or retreat in fear; to move forward or to sit still; to push through or to pull back.
As I look back, most of the significant things that have happened in my life happened because in a moment I made a decision to do something.
It was just a moment, but that moment changed everything.
Not all moments are created equal, but at times throughout our lives, God gives us those divine moments, those Kairos moments, and the decisions we make in those moments will impact our lives much more than we could ever have realised in that moment.
In fact, it’s interesting that in the Greek, the root word of MOMENT comes from the word ATOMOS. It where we get the word ATOM – an atom being the smallest unit there is.
So moments can be very small and seem very insignificant.
And yet ATOMOS is also where we get the word ATOMIC – as in atomic bomb.
Because those tiny moments can create an impact which is much greater than we could ever have realised in that moment.
Jonathan seized this divine moment and look at what we read - the earth literally shook, God sends some sort of earthquake and panic hits the Philistines. One writer puts it like this:
“Jonathan was willing to live on the edge, and God had made him the epicentre. His life marked where God was moving.”
Jonathan’s courage in a moment is so contagious that it creates momentum. Those who were doing noting rise up and take action. Those who were hiding come out to fight. A small act of courage in a moment changes the course of history.
Most of us, if we are honest, don’t lack information or resources. Often we lack courage. Courage to do what we know God is calling us to do.
Jonathan is the hero in this story, but I also think there’s another hero. The armour bearer.
A young servant boy whose name we don’t even know. A nameless nobody.
I think his loyal devotion and unwavering commitment gave Jonathan the courage he needed to do what he wanted to do.
We need those people in our lives, people who are with us no matter what. Who God calls alongside us to help us fight battles and face opposition.
Who when everyone else is gone – they’re still there.
And we can be those friends for other people.
Not everyone is a Jonathan – but you can be an armour bearer.
Not everyone will have their name known – but you can still play your part.
Not everyone is up front – but you can serve faithfully behind the scenes.
You might never be in the spotlight, but you can be an armour bearer, you can serve, you can support, you can step off the benches from being a spectator and join in the game.
On that final day when we stand before God, He won’t say:
Or, well talked.
Or, well thought.
It will be WELL DONE.
It what we do or don’t do, in these moments we have, that shape our lives and determine our destiny.