Jonathan and His Armourbearer
(pre July 1995)
"There is no restraint to the Lord to
save by many or by few." (1 Samuel 14:6)
The Lord often does great and marvelous things through individuals and small groups. Multitudes and majorities are not always on the side of right and truth. They may be timid and fearful, and not willing to stand for the cause of righteousness and truth.
So it was in the time of King Saul. He had won a notable victory over the Ammonites, and had had two years of relative calm and peace in the land. Saul chose three thousand men of Israel, no doubt some of the bravest and most stouthearted of the nation, and two thousand of them were with him and a thousand with his son Jonathan.
Jonathan and his soldiers, knowing that the Lord's command had been to conquer all the land of Canaan, "smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba." (1 Samuel 13:3) In response, the Philistines gathered a great host together, including thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen. The men of Israel were terrified at this, and hid "themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits." (13:6) Some even crossed the Jordan to escape the danger.
To compound the difficulty, for many years the Philistines had not allowed a blacksmith in Israel, so that they would not be able to make swords or spears for their defense. All the Israelites had to go to the Philistines even to sharpen an axe or an agricultural implement of any kind. Only Saul and Jonathan had swords and spears.
Jonathan decided it was time to trust in the Lord and make a move against the enemy. Notice the courage he and his armourbearer displayed. They went to a fortified garrison of the Philistines where there was a sharp rock on one side and another sharp rock on the other: a natural defense that must have caused the Philistines to feel that they were impregnable.
Jonathan said to his young man, "Come, and let us go over unto the garrison . . . :it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few." (14:6) The armourbearer was ready to take up the challenge: "Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart." (v. 7)
The plan was that they would show themselves to the enemy and respond according to their reaction. When they showed themselves the Philistines showed their scorn and contempt by saying: "Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves." They added: "Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing."
Jonathan had looked to the Lord in faith and was ready to go on the offensive. He said to the young man with him, "Come up after me: for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel." (v.12)
Doesn't that show great faith in the Lord, as well as a willingness to step out on His promises? Great things for the Lord, and even seemingly small steps forward, often take this kind of faith and boldness, for "without faith it is impossible to please Him," as we read in Hebrews (11:6)
The terrain was very difficult, and Jonathan had to climb up the hill on his hands and feet, with the armourbearer after him. As soon as they reached the sentries a furious encounter took place, and before the two of them were finished twenty of the Philistines were slain.
Then the mighty host, with their chariots and horsemen, began to tremble. Adding to their consternation, the Lord sent a great earthquake. Instead of attacking Jonathan and his young man they began to fight among themselves, and we read that "they went on beating down one another"! (14:16)
Saul, not far away, could see what was happening, and rallied his soldiers to battle. Israelites who had gone over in fear to the Philistines, and those that had hidden themselves in the dens and the caves, came out of hiding and took part in the battle. "So the Lord saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Beth-aven." (v. 23)
Striking confirmation of the truth of the Bible came during General Allenby's campaign against the Turks in Palestine in 1918. Encamped near Michmash, the scene of Jonathan's skirmish, the British decided on a frontal attack, "despite possible heavy casualties." One of the officers, however, Major Petrie, was a student of the Bible. As he tried to go to sleep "the word Michmash kept running through his mind."
Looking in his Bible he found the reference in 1 Samuel 13 and 14, and rushed to his commanding officer and roused him from sleep. After studying the Bible passage they decided on a plan of attack based on that of Jonathan and his armourbearer. At dawn the British "emerged from hiding, with loud cries." The Turks were "confused and terrorized, [and] they were easily subdued, . . . opening the door for a great British victory."
Isn't it wonderful what the Lord can do when there are even a few, like Jonathan and his armourbearer, who are willing to look to Him for direction and guidance, and then step out in faith and obedience?
Jonathan, the king's son, and a trained leader, took the initiative, and without his courage and faith there would have been no victory. But the armourbearer must be commended for his courage and bravery, and his willingness to take up the challenge and follow his leader into the battle.
You may be familiar with the inspiring hymn of P. P. Bliss, "Only An Armour-Bearer." In part it says:
Only an armour-bearer, proudly I stand,Can the "Captain of our salvation," Jesus Christ, depend on you and me? Having experienced His saving grace and His sanctifying power in our lives, are we willing to be humble armourbearers in the Army of the Lord? Then He can use us in the great battle against sin and unrighteousness, and we can look forward to His wonderful words of commendation some day: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (Matthew 25:21)