Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Test of True Character

Today's passage:  I Samuel 13:13-I Samuel 14:23
     "And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised:  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."
     For all of Saul's faults, he must have been a good father.  Either that, or Jonathan had great character despite his father.  That happens sometimes.  Although parents are important figures in children's lives, not everybody is blessed with Godly parents who teach their children from the Bible.  Yet, some children can overcome this by finding the Lord themselves and living for Him despite the opposition in their home.  I find these young people remarkable.  That can't be an easy task.  It shows something though.  It shows that despite the odds, God can overcome any situation.
     In the last several verses of Chapter 13, Samuel tells Saul that his disobedience has cost him the throne for future generations.  Now, I'm guessing Jonathan would have heard about this.  I'm thinking he was none too pleased with his father's willfullness, because his disobedience had actually brought the punishment more on Jonathan than on Saul himself.  Maybe Jonathan wonders if he can change God's mind?  I'm not saying he is trying to, but maybe he wants to prove to God that he would be a worthy king.  And he most definitely would. Jonathan has so many good qualities, you kind of have to wonder how he came by them.  Not saying Saul did not have any, but this young man is just brimming with possibilities.  Jonathan has a pure heart, free of vengeance or jealousy (we see that when he befriends the future king who will take his place).  He has a confidence without pride.  He has a heart to serve God, and has faith that God will deliver him.  After Jonathan enlists his armor bearer alone to go and fight the Philistines, God allows him to defeat hundreds of men.  Who would go on a mission like that?  The armor bearer tells Jonathan, "Whatever you think, I'm with you."  What?  Jonathan had charisma (like his father).  But he had something his father did not have, he had a conviction that they were God's people and that God would deliver them.  Jonathan did have a plan first, a testing of the waters to see if God wanted them to do this thing.  He didn't just assume God was on their side, because after all, God had not been exactly pleased with Saul's actions as of late.  He told his armor bearer that once they showed themselves to the Philistines, if the Philistines said to wait for them to come over and fight, he would know that God was not in this.  But if they said, "Come over here." then that would be their cue that God wanted them to fight.  Sounds completely opposite from what I would have determined.  I would think, "If they say they are coming over, then I have backup with the Israelite soldiers.  If they say, you come over here, I'm doomed."  Jonathan's bravery allowed him to convince this lone armor bearer to go with him and engage the Philistines in a one-sided battle that led to an Israelite victory.  That's amazing!
Jonathan and his armorbearer attack the Philistines--Taken from Standard Bible Readers, Book Four
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
 The Standard Publishing Company, 1927
  Was Jonathan trying to win God's favor?  Maybe.  I can imagine that Jonathan wanted God to know that he was on His side, even if his father proved not to be.  I can guess Jonathan would have wanted to be the next king.  It is what he had been training to do.  Have you ever tried to convince God of something?  Have you ever tried to convince God that really, if You rethink this plan, it would work out better?   Jonathan would have made an excellent king.  Why would God not have allowed the punishment to fall squarely on Saul, and allow Jonathan to have the throne?  Here's the thing.  I think we see more of Jonathan's character because he would not be the next king, more than if he had been.  I see a young man who responds with graciousness to David, who should have been his enemy.  I see a young man who does not plot and scheme to get around God's will, but accepts it.  Now, maybe he doesn't at first, and that may be why he takes on this daredevil attack with the Philistines, to convince God, but when that doesn't work, he doesn't respond with, "Well, what did I do that for?"  Every thing has a purpose in our lives.  That promotion I wanted?  It went to someone else, how did I respond?  The new house I put a bid on, but was not accepted?  What was my attitude?  The paper I deserved an A on but the teacher gave me a C instead?  Did I grumble about it?  God develops character in us, and these situations in our life fully displays it.  Jonathan did not become king because God wanted to show us how to react when we don't get something we think we deserve (by the way, we don't deserve anything, that is another part of God's grace, that He allows us to have anything).  He put someone in the Bible to be the example of a gracious loser.  He put someone in the Bible to help us see that our first response is not always the right one, that we can be a better example when we lose out.  I'm just glad God didn't start with letting Jonathan lose this particular battle.  God uses Jonathan, not because he was a king, but because he didn't get to be.
      What situations have I grumbled about, what opportunities have I lost that I thought I deserved?  My real character shows when I lose.

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