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Like Father, Unlike Son

Like Father, Unlike Son

Preached by Jason Abbott

My Dad is excellent with numbers and finances. I believe that numbers exist and that balancing a checkbook is theoretically a good idea.

My Dad thinks in order to speak. I often speak in order to think.

My Dad eats mostly vegetables with just a bit of meat. I eat mostly meat with just a bit of vegetables.

How different fathers and sons can be! Yet, while these differences are light and comic, some differences are heavy and tragic—such as those we’ll see today between Jonathan and his Dad, Saul.

Let’s read 1 Samuel 14 and then pray for God to teach us (page 301).

1 Samuel 14

1 One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2 Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3 including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4 Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5 The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.

6 Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” 7 And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” 8 Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.” 11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12 And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13 Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. 14 And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. 15 And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.

16 And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude was dispersing here and there. 17 Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Count and see who has gone from us.” And when they had counted, behold, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not there. 18 So Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God went at that time with the people of Israel. 19 Now while Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” 20 Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle. And behold, every Philistine’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion. 21 Now the Hebrews who had been with the Philistines before that time and who had gone up with them into the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 Likewise, when all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed hard after them in the battle. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven.

24 And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. 25 Now when all the people came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. 26 And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright. 28 Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food this day.’” And the people were faint. 29 Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.”

31 They struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. And the people were very faint. 32 The people pounced on the spoil and took sheep and oxen and calves and slaughtered them on the ground. And the people ate them with the blood. 33 Then they told Saul, “Behold, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.” And he said, “You have dealt treacherously; roll a great stone to me here.” 34 And Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Let every man bring his ox or his sheep and slaughter them here and eat, and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.’” So every one of the people brought his ox with him that night and they slaughtered them there. 35 And Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord.

36 Then Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the morning light; let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” But the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” 37 And Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?” But he did not answer him that day. 38 And Saul said, “Come here, all you leaders of the people, and know and see how this sin has arisen today. 39 For as the Lord lives who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But there was not a man among all the people who answered him. 40 Then he said to all Israel, “You shall be on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” 41 Therefore Saul said, “O Lord God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O Lord, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. 42 Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.” And Jonathan was taken.

43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am; I will die.” 44 And Saul said, “God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan.” 45 Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die. 46 Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.

47 When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. 48 And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.

49 Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchi-shua. And the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn was Merab, and the name of the younger Michal. 50 And the name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the commander of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle. 51 Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.

52 There was hard fighting against the Philistines all the days of Saul. And when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he attached him to himself.

A simple way to shed light on this chapter is to compare Jonathan and Saul. When we do, we’ll find that they are very different from one another. So let’s look at (1st) the son and (2nd) the father to learn what God will teach us.

1. Jonathan, the son (vv. 1, 4-15, 27-30, 43, 45-46)

We are certainly supposed to admire Jonathan, and he’s indeed admirable. Just consider what he accomplishes in this passage.

  • Jonathan shows himself to be an expert and fearless rock climber here. He scales Bozez (meaning something like “Slippery”) to get to the battle. (He’s like Westley in The Princes Bride climbing the “Cliffs of Insanity” in order to fight Inigo Montoya and rescue Buttercup.)
  • Next, he bravely engages a fierce enemy who greatly outnumbers him. (Think a smaller version of Gideon’s 300 against the Midianite hordes.)
  • And, he rallies the lethargic leaders and the nation of Israel to triumph over its arch enemy, Philistia. (A little like—“They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!” A la Braveheart, right?)

There’s much to admire about Jonathan in this chapter. However, above all, we should admire his humble faith in God’s perfect power. This we can learn from. This is instructive for us especially when we’re not heroic like Jonathan is here. Look at how he expresses this faith.

Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few” (v. 6).

Think about this faith. Think about what Jonathan didn’t say to his servant. He didn’t say: “We’re just a couple of young dudes. We can’t accomplish anything on our own. We should fit in and not take chances.” He didn’t go for status quo. Rather, his faith dreams big.

Notice also that his faith dreams big without presuming to know God’s will. Instead, he says, “It may be that the Lord will work for us . . .” Friends, this is faith. This is not formula. Jonathan trusts that God is perfectly capable to give victory even when he faces impossible odds. And yet, he stops well short of presuming that God is obligated (in any way, shape, or form!) to give him this kind of victory as long as he trusts in God.

Please hear me when I say that there are those who make faith into formula. They say, “It [will] be that the Lord will work for us [if we have enough faith].” But this is a lie! This makes God into a genie that must grant our every wish because we hold his lantern of faith and speak the magic words.

Friends, God is no man or woman’s debtor—ever! Learn about true faith from Jonathan here. Or, learn from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who, when facing incineration because they wouldn’t worship an idol, respond:

. . . our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace . . . But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18).

In short, God is perfectly capable of saving us; but, if he doesn’t choose to, he’s still God and there is no other worthy of our praise.

Friends, may we be people whose faith dreams big and drives us to action—people who, when God grants success, praise him for it and, also, people who, when God doesn’t grant success, praise him for it. Let’s not be a status quo church. Let’s be a church with faith like Jonathan’s.

Well, there is certainly a lot more we could say about Jonathan, this son; however, we have to limit ourselves at this point in order to move to a discussion of . . .

2. Saul, the father (vv. 2-3, 16-26, 31-42, 44, 47-52)

Allow me to begin with some very positive things reported here about Saul since he is unquestionably a king who is characterized by great success in this text.

  • Saul’s described as “routing” his enemies “on every side” (v. 48).
  • He’s described as a tireless warrior who continues battling the Philistines “all the days of” his life (v. 52).
  • Finally, it must be pointed out that he persists in inquiring of the Lord and sacrificing to God (vv. 19, 36-37). Saul’s motives may be ambiguous at best; nevertheless, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

However, when we pay close attention to what the author reports about Saul, some disturbing characteristics are made clear to us. Saul doesn’t serve the Lord. Rather, Saul mainly serves Saul. In fact, where Jonathan’s faith doesn’t presume upon God, Saul’s does. You see, Saul worships Saul. How do I see this?

Well, as the passage begins, the author gives us some subtle clues about this. To see those clues, we have to recall what’s happened in 1 Samuel up to this point. First, recall that Eli’s family had been rejected as priests by God (1 Samuel 2). Remember, they had been abusing the office so the Lord takes it away from them. Next, recall that Saul’s kingship has just been rejected by God (1 Samuel 13). Remember how he was unwilling to wait upon Samuel and took sacrificial matters into his own hands?

So what do we have at the opening of chapter 14? Well, we’ve an entourage kicking back under the pomegranate tree while Jonathan is on the move for God. Who is hanging out? A rejected king with a rejected priesthood; do you see now?! It’s all a lie. We have a faux king and a faux priesthood and a faux kingdom here. Saul is trying to live out his dream. He’s pretending to be a king with a priesthood. He’s pretending to serve God. But none of it is real!

This betrays that Saul actually trusts in Saul, not God. Saul’s faith is in Saul. Despite the fact that God has rejected him as king, Saul thinks he can still be king. He’ll just appoint priests and generals. He’ll just gather a kingdom for himself. Who cares what God says?!

Let me point out 2 instances in which Saul betrays a faithlessness that stands in stark contrast to the faithfulness of Jonathan, his son.

  • The first is when Saul forces his soldiers to promise to not eat anything until (What does Saul tell them?) “I am avenged on my enemies” (v. 24). Saul’s not dreaming of God’s glory or of defeating the enemies of God. He’s dreaming of his own glory. (Friends, Jesus tells us his yoke is light, and his ways are gentle. But that’s not the yoke of Saul!)
  • The second may seem less obvious to us. It’s a one-liner at the end of 14. The author says. “. . . when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he attached him to himself” (v. 52). We quickly think that sounds wise, and it is wise in worldly terms. There’s nothing wrong with being strong or valiant. I want to be these things. However, ask yourself this question, what isn’t apparently a priority for Saul? Ask yourself, why isn’t Saul attaching faithful Israelite men to himself?

Next week, we’re going to meet a boy who doesn’t look at all like a winner. We’re going to meet a boy whose own family doesn’t even think measures up. Nevertheless, God chooses him to be king, for his heart is like God’s own heart. The wisdom of the world laughs, but the proud are quickly humbled and the weak are quickly exalted. Giants fall before men who trust in God.

Friends, are you trusting in the wisdom of the world and forsaking the Lord? Are you like Saul in this way? If so, throw that foolishness away and cling tightly in faith to the King, Jesus Christ. Death and sin fall before men who trust in him!

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