Big Ego or Great Faith?

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), April 12

imagesThe proverbs describing a child’s likeness to his parents, “An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and, “Like father, like son,” could not be further from the truth in Saul and Jonathan’s relationship.

Jonathan interprets his and Israel’s circumstances through a high view of God. Therefore he and his armor bearer take on an enemy outpost by themselves. God honors his faith in Him by shaking the ground underneath the enemy and causing a panic.

Saul, on the other hand, interprets his and Israel’s circumstances through a small view of God and a lofty view of self. Therefore many of the Israelites lack confidence in Saul’s leadership and are so afraid of the Philistines that they hide in the hill country of Ephraim.

Saul further jeopardizes his entire army by sending them into battle on empty stomachs, “‘Cursed is the man who eats any food until evenings, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.’ So none of the people tasted food” (1 Sam. 14:24). After fighting all day on an empty stomach his troops fall upon the plunder. They butcher the animals and eat raw meat. Only then does Saul build an altar to the LORD and seek His counsel. At this altar he discovers that Jonathan, unknowingly, has replenished his strength with honey. Had the troops not intervened, Saul’s foolishness would have cost him his most courageous soldier, his own son.

Perhaps Saul reasons that God must have chosen him as Israel’s first king because of something within himself. Whatever the reason, Saul interprets this battle as one of personal validation, “I have taken vengeance on my enemies” (14:24), so he relies upon his own strength and ingenuity to lead the people instead of relying upon the LORD. This rationale radically contrasts that of his son, “It may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few” (14:6). Saul is self-centered, while his son is God-centered.

Soldiers more readily follow and defend men whose leadership isn’t self-serving. They recognize what Saul overlooked, “Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? . . for he has worked with God this day” (14:45).

Father and son. One with a super-sized self and the other with a super-sized faith in God. Though men may follow the one because of his position, they adore the other for his Other-centeredness.

Questions from today’s reading (1 Chronicles 9:35-39; 1 Samuel 13:1-14:52): 

  • How had the Judges era stripped Israel of the ability to defend themselves?
  • Review Deuteronomy 17:14-20 and Numbers 18:1-7. What does Saul’s impetuous act reveal about his attitudes toward Samuel as God’s representative and toward the Book of the Law? What rationale does he use to excuse his disobedience?
  • What does Saul’s foolish oath regarding the physical welfare of his army reveal about his leadership style? How does this foolish decision affect his army’s view of his leadership?