Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 2 May 21:
How do you make important decisions when God hasn’t told you specifically what to do?
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….’”
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 God doesn’t seem to be giving you a specific word, the first step to decision-making is to prayerfully obey what God has already told you through His word. However, when Saul faced an apparent crisis, he did not find it expedient to obey God’s command to Him 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.
- 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.
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!
When Samuel arrives and confronts Saul, rather than demonstrating repentance, Saul makes excuses, justifies His actions, and downplays 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) How might you be justifying sin under the pretext that you are ultimately trying to do good things?
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.’”
After reading about Saul’s catastrophic decision-making, we read about Jonathan’s bold, courageous decisiveness which brought great victory to God’s people for God’s glory. In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan appears to take bold (perceivably suicidal) action without a clear word 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 simply by self-preservation; on the contrary, Jonathan’s actions make no sense from a human perspective. The third, most important point, is that Jonathan is acting on faith, trusting God with the outcome, resting 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.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 May 21: Today, focus on trusting and obeying. Before making decisions, pray, pray, pray, then obey without delay.