The Power of One – (1 Samuel 13:1-15; 19-22; 14:6-12; 20-23)

In your heart, there’s a desire to accomplish God’s will, there’s a desire to follow God’s commands—but when you see everyone else around you not care… it’s demoralizing. If they don’t care, why should I care? This is why. You may think that one person can’t accomplish much, so why even try. But it’s not about what we can accomplish. It’s always about God. God is always watching. God is always waiting. He’s looking out for those that dare to follow Him in difficult situations and even in impossible situations, in situations where you are alone. Will you be like Jonathan and lead the way to making a Kingdom impact? Or will you be like Saul, and wait for something that may never come?

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Welcome back to our weekly Sunday message. We’re going to start today the same way we do it every Sunday: with a review of what we talked about last week.

Last time, we saw the huge change with the Israelites. In the beginning with Abraham, they were just a family. Then with Jacob, they became a large clan, since he had many sons. After they got rescued out of Egypt by Moses, they were a huge group of wanderers. With their conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua, they became a nation. And now, through Samuel’s anointing of a king, they officially became a kingdom.

God was supposed to be their king but they rejected Him. Why did they want a king so badly? Well, we may not know all their reasons. But the Bible gives us one reason: because all the other nations had kings.

The main idea of last week’s message was that it is easy to get caught up in what’s popular and trending. There are so many things you may not even care about until you find out that the world cares about it. And then you feel like you want to be a part of it, to know what it’s like to have it. Sometimes, these things are good. Sometimes, these things are okay. And sometimes, these things are bad. Having a king was a bad thing, as stated by God thousands of years ago, and as proven by human history that we have studied and endured. Regardless, God let them have a king. God let them have what they want. And while the kings would mostly be bad and terrible for their country, they did have a few good kings, and God will always accomplish His will no matter what the people of the earth choose to do.

Now let’s get to our message for today. For an introduction, I’m just going to give you a brief summary of 1 Samuel 13:1-15.

This story takes place during the reign of Saul, and it also points to an important failure of Saul.

The situation with the Philistines is the same as ever. There is still tension between these two nations and constant warfare. In this particular story, it begins with an attack by Jonathan, Saul’s son. Jonathan attacks a Philistine camp. The attack has sent both nations into high alert. It’s a crisis. The Philistines are angry and preparing to counterattack. Saul sounds the trumpets, calling his people to rally to him. It’s a tense and suspenseful moment.

You see these two nations, and they are about to rumble, about to clash heads. But what happens next is pretty sad. The Israelites join up with Saul. However, as soon as they saw what they were up against and saw what they had to work with, they turned tail. To give you a glimpse of the situation, let’s read verses 6 and 7.

When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.

The Israelites were terrified. When you first hear about how the Israelites rallied together, you think they’re about to throw down. That’s the kind of image you get. We’ve seen the Israelites win before, recently too. This is just a small part of a constant war between these two nations. So you think that when they assemble, they’re just going to get ready to fight.

But as soon as the Israelites rally together, they completely fall apart. The verses we just read almost seem comical. They didn’t just hide in caves. These caves were probably small. Maybe there wasn’t enough space in the caves for everyone. You can imagine what that would be like. It’s like when people  play  “Sardines”, or normal hide and seek, and they try to hide together.   It’s like that, but we’re talking  a huge population;  maybe thousands. They’re just jamming themselves into any tight hiding spot, any place they could find. They were so scared they were hiding in any tiny bit of space they could fit into. They hid in the thickets, or small bushes. They huddled among the rocks. They jumped into any kind of pit, or the cisterns, which were pots for holding water.    It was chaos. Everyone was just desperately trying to get out of sight. And for those that figured hiding was useless, they just swam across the river to get as far away as possible.

The situation looked pretty hopeless for the Israelites. And this is where we see a moment of weakness for Saul, and a foreshadowing of what is to come for him and his kingdom. This is where Saul, fearing for the situation, offers up a burnt offering without permission. He was supposed to wait for Samuel, but couldn’t wait any longer. This was an act of disobedience, which is why Samuel says in verses 13 and 14:

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

By this one act of disobedience, Saul will fail to maintain control over his kingdom. In these kinds of situations, when you make a huge blunder, you’re supposed to feel bad about it and repent before God. That’s how people in the Bible get God to either turn away his wrath or lighten the punishment. Saul does nothing of the sort. He just accepts it and continues on with the way he rules.

The next part we will read is verses 19-22.

19 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plow points, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened. 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekel for sharpening plow points and mattocks, and a third of a shekel  for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.

22 So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.

I just wanted to read this part to highlight just how bad the situation was for the Israelites at this point in time.

The raiding parties of the Philistines were out and about, ready to strike, with their weapons and chariots of war. Saul’s army, on the other hand, was reduced to a few hundred; and worse yet, the Philistines had oppressed the Israelites and kept them under their control by stopping them from having blacksmiths. How they achieved this is anyone’s guess. Maybe they killed them. Maybe they captured them. But the heart of the matter was that this greatly hindered Israel. It was similar to how Pharaoh tried to control the Israelites by killing all the boys. Without boys, they would be less likely to fight back. Here, the Philistines didn’t go as far as Pharaoh. They weren’t murdering children. But they still weakened them considerably by denying them the ability to make weapons. And they also were plundering the Israelites by monopolizing the trade of sharpening tools. Even if the Israelites just wanted to do some farming, they had to pay up. The last verse really just seals the deal. You want to know how bad the situation was?   The only ones with swords and spears were just Saul and Jonathan, just two people. They still had a small army, but they had no swords!

Once again, we are in a dreadful situation. As we go through these stories week by week, it feels like it never ends. For every victory that the Israelites receive, they end up falling back down into these hopeless situations. Such is the way of life, with all its ups and downs. How are they going to get out of this one? Now let’s read 1 Samuel 14:6-12.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come,  let’s  go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.”

11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

Jonathan was the one who sort of started this particular mess by leading an attack against the Philistines earlier. That was when he had an army. And now the situation looks worse. As we saw from before, their army has no real weapons, and many had already fled or went into hiding. But that doesn’t slow Jonathan down, and certainly doesn’t stop him. He decides to attack a camp with just the two of them, just him and his armor-bearer. However, as we can see, this isn’t a blind attack and he isn’t being irrational. His logic is purely centered on God. He understands that “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving.” And he also decides to ask for a sign, so that he will only fight by the Lord’s favor. And as we will see, it all works out splendidly.

Verses 20-23.

20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.

God caused all the Philistines to panic. The Philistines were in total confusion and were fighting each other. In our ordinary lives, this is the kind of thing you expect with some sort of grand master plan by drugging them with hallucinogens or by causing distrust and in-fighting.

But in the Bible, by the power of God, we see this happen instantly and unnaturally. They just fall into chaos, fighting each other for no real reason. And once the Israelites realized what was going on, they stopped acting like cowards and all joined in the battle. They got out of their silly hiding places and fought back. And the Bible makes it clear, it wasn’t anything that they did—it was the power of the Lord. It was the Lord that saved Israel.

Now, as we look at this story, there’s certainly a lot of familiar territory here. You can compare this to many situations we’ve talked about in the past. The Israelites were in trouble. They were in over their heads. Their foes were ready to strike—to kill, enslave or oppress. There was nothing they could do. The only one who could save them was God, and that is exactly what God did.

So there’s nothing new there. But it’s also important to see why God saved them. What is special here compared to most of the stories we have read so far? Jonathan is certainly the one where we should turn our attention to, him and his armor-bearer with him.

To begin, we have to understand that this war is not Jonathan’s fault. The Philistines were already at war with the Israelites. Jonathan’s initial attack was not some unprovoked measure. We have already seen how the Philistines still had some measure of control and oppression over the Israelites by how they managed to get rid of all their blacksmiths. Jonathan only did what was natural, to fight back against their enemies, against their oppressors.

There was a problem, however. No one else among the Israelites wanted to join him. He was alone. Even his father, the king, was just wandering from place to place with his small army. He wasn’t planning an attack. He was just waiting for something, for anything to happen. They weren’t getting anything done. They were just waiting to be attacked.

But then there’s Jonathan, the only one to really care about what was happening, the only one who seems to have faith in God. While everyone else was just thinking about hiding or running away, Jonathan was thinking about God’s salvation. “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving.” That’s what he said. That’s what he believed. It didn’t matter to him that they had no weapons. It didn’t matter to him that they had no army. All he was concerned about was following God. If it is God’s will we can do this, we can win the battle, we can live another day!

He put his life in God’s hands, and the result was what we just witnessed here. God saved Israel because of the actions of just one person, a person willing to follow God’s commands no matter the obstacles in his way.

We know that God can save. We know that God can do anything. He can provide for our needs. He can do anything. He can do everything. But where does that leave us? Do we just sit by and let God do all the work? Do we just wait, wait and wait for some miracle to suddenly reveal it self?

We can pray for God’s help, and that’s important. But we also need action. We see here two people under the same situation. Jonathan and Saul. Both of them had weapons. Both of them were leaders of their people. However, one simply just waited, calling out for prayers to God. The other went on the offensive, believing that God would help.

It was Jonathan’s faith and courage that saved them that day. He didn’t care what everyone else was doing. Even if he had to go at it alone, he was prepared for it.

Whether it’s life or ministry or anything else, there will be times when you may feel like nobody really cares. You’re doing a group project, and nobody wants to help out or work together. You feel like you’re the only Christian in school. There’s some good deed you want to do, you know it will make somebody happy, but your friends aren’t as enthusiastic about it as you are. There’s stuff to be done, like clean-up, and everyone leaves. You’re the only one left.

In your heart, there’s a desire to accomplish God’s will, there’s a desire to follow God’s commands—but when you see everyone else around you not care… it’s demoralizing. If they don’t care, why should I care? This is why. You may think that one person can’t accomplish much, so why even try. But it’s not about what we can accomplish. It’s always about God. God is always watching. God is always waiting. He’s looking out for those that dare to follow him in difficult situations and even in impossible situations, in situations where you are alone. Will you be like Jonathan and lead the way to making a Kingdom impact? Or will you be like Saul, and wait for something that may never come?