Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 3 May 20:
In our readings today from 1 Samuel 13 and 14, we learn much about what it means to “wait on the Lord” through crisis or at important decision points. First, Saul will demonstrate what we must never do, and then Jonathan will demonstrate what we should do:
1. 1 Samuel 13:13-14 – “And Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue….’”
When Saul faced an apparent crisis, he did not find it expedient to obey God’s command given to him through Samuel – Saul trusted his own judgment over God’s word. He simply couldn’t wait for the Lord in faithful, trusting obedience to Him – ‘If God is not going to take action at this critical time, I must do it myself.’ What appeared to him to be a small compromise on his part cost him everything.
Instead of waiting for the Lord in obedience, Saul disobeyed God under the pretext of worshipping God, by making a ‘sacrifice’ for the Lord, a sacrifice that was really no sacrifice at all, rather an insult before the Lord, a denial of the Sovereignty of God, an act of cosmic treason!
– 1 Samuel 15:22 — And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
What do you do when you are at a decision point or a crisis point, and God doesn’t seem to be giving you clear answers or an obvious solution? When you have been praying and studying God’s word, and God doesn’t seem to be telling you specifically what to do in a particular situation, the worst thing you can do is disobey what God already has told you clearly in His word.
Throughout the Bible, we are told to “wait on the Lord” –
– Psalm 27:14 — Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
– Psalm 37:7, 9 — Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!… For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
– Psalm 40:1 — I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
– Psalm 62:5 — For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
– Isaiah 26:8 — In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.
– Isaiah 40:31 — But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
– Romans 8:25 — But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
– Lamentations 3:26 — It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Waiting upon the Lord doesn’t just involve being patient and trusting God with His timing, it also involves remaining obedient when obedience doesn’t appear to be beneficial, trusting God with the outcome. The Hebrew word used for “wait” in the Bible is ‘qavah,’ which means, “to bind together,” and the Greek word is ‘perimeno,’ which means, “to abide, to remain, to last, and endure.” Waiting on the Lord doesn’t always mean not making decisions or not taking action, waiting on the Lord means “binding together” with the Lord and “abiding in Him,” through the process, drawing even closer to the Lord, remaining faithful to Him, and diligently obeying Him no matter what. In John 15, Jesus said when we abide in Him, we bear much fruit (which is not just sitting idle but rather being productive for His glory), but if we separate from Him, we wither and die.
– John 8:31 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples….
– John 15:4-6, 8-10 — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
– 1 John 3:9 — No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
– 1 John 3:24 — Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
– 2 John 1:9 — Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
Saul’s mistake wasn’t taking action; Saul’s mistake was acting disobediently, failing to wait on the Lord and abiding in Him. Saul’s faithless disobedience in the absence of specific guidance and direction from God at the moment cost Saul the kingdom. When you have to make a decision and don’t know exactly what to do, first decided to abide.
2. 1 Samuel 14:6 – “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.’”
As stated above, waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean do nothing, in fact, it may mean doing more than anyone else. Here, Jonathan takes bold action without a clear word or ‘special revelation’ from God – “it may be that the Lord will work for us….” So, what is the difference between Jonathan’s actions and those of Saul in chapter 13?
The first obvious point is that Jonathan is not disobeying God in His actions. The second obvious point is Jonathan is not motivated by selfishness or self-preservation (quite the contrary) but is motivated by pursuing God’s will and God’s glory. The third, perhaps most important point, is that Jonathan is acting on faith, trusting God with the outcome, resting (or abiding) on the promises of God – “…for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few…. for the Lord has given them into our hand.”
Though not expedient from a human perspective, Jonathan acted boldly in faith because he saw a terrible thing occurring among God’s people – “When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.” (1 Samuel 13:6, 7) Jonathan saw the people of God, overwhelmed by their own weakness rather than emboldened by the power of God, cowering before the ungodly, bringing discredit to God despite the promises of God, and Jonathan simply refused to follow suit.
Jonathan chose to act on faith rather than on simply human reason, and he was not alone. His armor bearer was ready to go with him – “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.’” (1 Samuel 14:7) One can only speculate whether Jonathan would have crossed over had his armor bearer not been so wholeheartedly willing to go with him, but no doubt the armor bearer was a great encouragement to him at this critical time.
Jonathan’s faith (during a time of Saul’s lack of faith) started a wave amongst God’s people – “Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle…. 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. 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. So the Lord saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven.” (1 Samuel 14:20-23)
A little faith demonstrated by one faithful follower of Christ can go a long way and grow into something tremendous – “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20, 21) “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31, 32)
How desperately do we need Jonathans in the church today? How desperately do we need armor bearers? Who will lead by example by waiting on the Lord in obedience and stepping out boldly in faith, one day at a time? Might that someone be you? What might God do with your mustard seed faith?
– Psalm 54:4 — Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
In today’s readings, both Saul and Jonathan made decisions and acted during a time of crisis. In neither case did God give them a ‘special revelation’ to address their immediate problem, no voice from Heaven, and no wonderous signs. All they had was what they already knew about God, what they had already been told by God through His word, and faith. Jonathan chose to wait on the Lord and abide in Him while he charged the enemy in faith; Saul chose to disobey God in fear, ultimately losing everything. Today’s readings should encourage us to face crisis and key decisions like Jonathan, not like Saul.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit has used today’s readings to convict you of times when you have failed to wait upon the Lord, and perhaps today you are feeling the consequences of those bad decisions. If so, repent, draw closer to the Lord (not further away), “bind together” with Him, abide in Him, remain faithful to Him today, and trust Him with your circumstances – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) When Samuel arrived and confronted Saul in his sin, rather than demonstrating repentance for disobeying God in fear, Saul made excuses, justified His actions, and downplayed his terrible sin – “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed… I forced myself.” (vs 11, 12) Don’t justify your sin under the pretext that you were ultimately trying to do good things and did the best you could under the circumstances. Be honest with the Lord and yourself about your mistakes, repent, and then walk forward boldly and faithfully in God’s grace, which is immeasurably bigger than your failures –
– John 8:11 — And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
– 1 Peter 4:8 — …love covers a multitude of sins.
– Philippians 3:13 — Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead….
– Luke 9:62 — Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 May 20: Today, focus on trusting and obeying. Decide to abide. Before making decisions, pray, pray, pray, then obey without delay.