1 Samuel 14:36-46 Working under flawed and insecure leadership
1 Samuel 14:36 -46
Then Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and take spoil among them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” So the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” 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 on that day. Saul said, “Draw near here, all you chiefs of the people, and investigate and see how this sin has happened today. For as the Lord lives, who delivers Israel, though it is in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But not one of all the people answered him. 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.” Therefore, Saul said to the Lord, the God of Israel, “Give a perfect lot.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. Saul said, “Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken. Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him and said, “I indeed tasted a little honey with the end of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am, I must die!” Saul said, “May God do this to me and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan.” But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die. Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.
Saul endeavored to achieve comprehensive victory over the Philistines and enquired of God. God did not answer him through the sacred lots because He wanted to draw attention to Saul’s rash act of committing an oath on behalf of the people. Even as Jonathan was singled out by lot as the culprit that violated Saul’s oath, the people rallied behind Jonathan and rescued him. This incident discredited Saul’s leadership and clearly showed where God’s favor and the people’s admiration lies. Saul’s action is an example of insecure leadership behavior that is controlling, and one that punishes the talents within his ranks. Jonathan was an agent of positive change when he went out of his way and risked his life to confront the Philistines. This incident shows us how we could still function as a change agent under flawed and insecure leadership.
Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You give them into the hand of Israel? – After the men broke fast, Saul contemplated pursuing the Philistines to completely annihilate them. Saul enquired of God through the sacred lots (Urim and Thummim) in order to secure God’s blessing. However, God remained silent; an indication that God was displeased or there could be unresolved business.
May God do this to me and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan (you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this) – Saul proceeded to investigate and see how this sin has happened, or who has broken the oath that Saul invoked. It is possible that Saul had an inkling of Jonathan’s guilt given his absence at the approximate time the prohibition was given. Through the process of elimination using the lots, Jonathan was singled out. Saul’s behavior was unreasoning and inconsistent, wavering between moral and religious instincts. Morally speaking, it was obvious that Saul’s call to fast was to blame for Israel’s incomplete victory. Besides, Jonathan was at that time unaware of the oath. Religiously speaking, it is true that Jonathan violated the oath, however it is utterly trivial for it did not violate a moral principle. Perhaps, it all comes down to Saul’s insecurity as a leader who demands unreasoning conformance to his commands. His cold determination to put Jonathan to death hinted at a deadly rivalry between father and son.
Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? – The people rallied behind Jonathan as one man and countered with their own oath, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” Saul supposed that his resolve to carry out the punishment would increase his credibility as leader. As it turned out, Saul had been overwritten by his own men and would soon grow to fear them. By then, it seems obvious that God’s intention in refusing to respond to Saul’s enquiry is not to flush out the oath breaker but to expose Saul’s increasing incompetence as a leader for Israel.
- Believers should not limit God’s response to a Yes or No, but to understand His will and be an instrument – The exercise of discernment through physical signs does not require one to commune with God or to acquire wisdom. In the age of the Spirit, as the believer increases in wisdom and in communion with Him, the believer will come to understand God’s mind in increasing clarity and depth. Physical signs severely limit communication to a positive or negative response with respect to a query. The sacred lot, Urim could be connected with a Hebrew word implying “curse” and Thummim with a root signifying “perfection”, in which case it correspond to negative and positive responses upon consultation. Saul’s frequent use of the sacred lots points to the shallow nature of his relationship with God. Believers should not limit God’s response to a Yes or No, but rather to understand God’s wisdom, and how I could express His love and be an instrument to fulfill His purposes. For example, instead of asking whether I should migrate to another country, I will seek to understand how and where I could be a more effective instrument for His salvation plans in the world.
- A change agent must earn his credibility by putting himself on the line for others and by walking in the truth – If you live in the truth and have other’s interests at heart, they will be attracted by the truth and put their trust in you. People do not necessary place their trust in one who have abundance of resources, or one with an impressive title but in one who have their interests at heart. Jonathan earned the trust of the people when he risked his own life and faced off with the Philistines. And when Jonathan was accused of breaking the oath, we could see where God’s favor and the people’s trust lie when they came to his aid and said, “… for he has worked with God this day.” The Psalmist spoke about one who does fear, who put his trust in God, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.” Psalm 118:6-7.
- Even though you may not hold a key position in your company, but you can be a key change agent to your company. You can create change by focusing on what you can do even if it’s outside your job description and make adjustments and improvements along the way. Far too many people are not engaged in their work, they are neither fulfilled nor excited, most of all they feel powerless to change anything. The 600 men of Saul were waiting it out, even more were uninspired and many defected and hid themselves. However, Jonathan went out of his way to create change by confronting the Philistines even when no orders were given to do so. He inspired the entire army of Israel and restored camaraderie back to Israel and pushed the enemy back. You too can be a change agent to your organization by making small creative changes over a period of time to create a big impact in your organization.
- Ask God to reveal to you what He is doing in your family, organization, nation and in your life. In doing so, we are better prepared to participate in God’s salvation plans and make Spirit-led decisions that will result in enduring blessings for all.
- Do you see yourself as a change agent in your family, organization, church and nation or as a consumer of resources? A consumer is one who does the minimum required in order to secure a place of employment. A change agent is one who endeavors to make the organization and society a better place for everyone through his work.
- Are you discouraged when your work is not rewarded and your contributions overlooked? God sees your heart and keeps an account of your works and He will surely reward you in His time. Paul says,
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
Dear Lord, reveal to me what you are about to do in my family, organization, church and in my life. Help me to be an instrument in your broader plans of salvation in the world. Empower me to be a true change agent in my family and organization. Cause me to rise above the hindrances and challenges that stand in my way. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.