It’s here! Don’t be afraid of Old Testament narrative. Let this 15 week study (easily adjusted to 12 or 14 if needed) lead you through the stories of Hannah, Abigail and David as you see God consistently care for his flawed children. These studies offer both a short commentary and reflection questions to help you apply the text.
1 Samuel 14-15
When we last checked in on the Israelites, things were not going so well. Devoid of any proper weapons, the army, or what was left of the army, was following a king who already knew the kingdom would not transfer to his son because of his disobedience and impatience. Saul and his men were waiting around, without much hope. Suddenly movement seemed possible because of a devoted young man named Jonathan. Somehow in the household of his floundering father, Saul, Jonathan had grown a remarkable faith in and respect for God which he put into action here. While the others were dawdling, Jonathan used the imagination of faith to step out in tremendous hope. Looking at the same cliffs behind which all of the others were hiding, roughly named “Slippery” and “Thorny” (Davis, 142), Jonathan suggested to his armor carrier that they climb through these and confront the Philistine outpost head on, just the two of them. What would possess someone to do such a risky, unprecedented thing? “It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” This is what moved Jonathan – the imagination of faith. Instead of stalling, he acted, hoping that God would use his actions in these circumstances to help save Israel. He didn’t presume upon God; it seems that he wasn’t sure this was exactly what God was planning to use. But he was so sure of God’s goodness and power that he put himself into a situation that he could not fix, handle or win on his own and waited for God to show up and fight for his people. God’s response was absolutely overwhelming. Two guards were defeated at the edge of the garrison, which turned into 20 men, which turned into an earthquake, a great panic, and the Philistines fleeing.
The battle for the day was over; Israel had won. Against unbelievable odds, the Philistines were running. The feast was over and it was time to rest. But Saul was not yet satisfied. He didn’t just want the Philistines to run; he wanted them dead. Already Israel had taken their goods, their animals, and probably their weapons. Now Saul wanted to keep pursuing until they were all dead, though the Lord had not commanded anything of the sort. The fact that no answer was given about whether or not Saul should go after the Philistines had nothing to do with the fact that Jonathan hadn’t kept his father’s silly oath. As Clarke writes, “But why did not God answer the priest that day? Because he did not think it proper to send the people by night in pursuit of the vanquished Philistines. Saul’s motive was perfectly vindictive: Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them unto the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them; that is, Let us burn, waste, destroy, and slay all before us!” (Clarke, vs 42). Saul was not fighting the Lord’s battle at this point. He was fighting his own bloodthirsty, greedy, angry battle. The Lord would neither be a part of the battle nor answer him. And yet, in his
The Amalekites had attacked Israel on their way out of Egypt, victimizing the weak and tired at the back of the group. God promised (Exodus 7:14) to completely destroy the Amalekites and avenge his people. Four hundred years later, he gave the command to Saul, his king, who failed to obey.
This passage may evoke a reaction from us of “that’s not fair” or “why so harsh?” Saul basically did what God asked, and didn’t mean any harm in his slight variation on obedience. In fact, he was using what he didn’t destroy to worship. Doesn’t that count for something? This is where the problem lies. Have you ever told a child to do something, a specific command, only to have them instead choose something else to do for you, while disregarding your actual request? “I didn’t clean my room, mom, but I did organize all of the books on my bookshelf.” While we may appreciate our child’s work on some level, in actuality they have been disobedient. We asked them to do something, to obey, and they didn’t. They chose their version, their will. With much higher stakes and much more to lose, Saul disobeyed God. “All the smoke and fat on Gilgal’s altar would never replace the pleasure God would have had from the living sacrifice of Saul’s will” (Davis, 159). God doesn’t want our own version of obedience or a half-hearted bow to him. He doesn’t seek after extra religious ritual or hope that we finally get all our prayers and decisions right. He wants our will; he wants
Saul seemed to be more concerned about his reputation, and about the people continuing to see he and Samuel working