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Feeling led by the Spirit to take a look at the difference between King Saul and Jonathan, I turned to 1 Samuel 14. In that chapter, Saul and his military men are between a rock and a hard place. There is an intimidating army of the Philistines gathered, and he has called on his men to fast until he has been avenged on his enemies. Meanwhile, Jonathan and his armor bearer have sneaked out of the camp, and have decided to take a risk by facing the enemy alone. They stand at the foot of a hill where the outpost of the large army sits, and Jonathan tells his armor bearer that if the enemy’s guards look down and call them up, then God has delivered them into their hands. And the guards do call them up, and they proceed to fight the enemy on their own until King Saul and his men join them and pursue the Philistines. But, King Saul’s men are weak with hunger because he placed them under oath to eat nothing until total victory. But, Jonathan does not know about the oath, and so he partakes of some honey. At the end of the march, King Saul proceeds to seek the direction of the Lord about what to do next, but God remains silent. So, Saul assumes there is sin in the camp. It is then discovered that Jonathan, who had slipped out of camp and along with his armor bearer took on the enemy in faith and fearlessness and thus had not agreed to the oath nor knew about it, is the one who is determined to have broken the oath because he tasted some honey. King Saul declares that Jonathan must die. But, the military men save Jonathan from Saul, and will not let him kill Jonathan who had just given them a great victory.

Yes, that is a very odd story, and in some ways does not make much sense at all. First of all, however, oaths are extremely important to God. When anyone takes an oath or a vow, there is no out. An oath/vow is to be kept not broken. Both Numbers 30 and Deuteronomy 23 address this issue. A real life example of oath taking and keeping in spite of the consequences is found in the story of Jephthah in Judges 11-12. When reading that story, keep in mind that Jephthah is in Hebrews 11’s Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:32). Jesus actually advises us not to take oaths, but instead, to just keep our word when we say “yes” or “no” (Matthew 5:34). So, when the men agreed to Saul’s hasty vow, they welcomed on themselves a curse if they disobeyed it. Two things must be noted here before proceeding: Saul did not know what to do but wanted the respect of those under him, and in desperation attempted this through a death oath. His son Jonathan did not know about the oath because he was busy being bold for God.

It is made clear in the chapter that follows this one, that King Saul’s heart was not right before God. He appears insecure in his need for respect and in his need for the approval of those around him. He wants to appear in charge, as God’s highly favored one, as a victorious leader. He is eager for the praise of his men. He is eager to please. He is eager to win. He is eager to do things that make others applaud. He wants to give a good impression. But, this is precisely why God took the kingdom from him, for God does not make judgments based on the outward appearance but rather, on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). His son, Jonathan, on the other hand, appears to be the opposite.

First Corinthians 10:11 states that, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Though this was specifically referring to those who wandered in the wilderness for forty years, it also can be applied to other Old Testament characters, stories and history. It was written down that we, thousands of years later, might learn a valuable lesson through their good or bad example.

In the case of 1 Samuel 14, it is easy to say that the bad example is King Saul and the good example is Jonathan. But in all honesty, which one is more like you? Think about it…

If you are in pastoral leadership, does your mind often turn to how your congregation will respond to what you may teach on Sunday morning? Does the Board’s approval weigh heavily on your decisions about things? As a Christian in leadership or not, do you want people’s approval? Do you need vindication? Do you need to appear godly and right all the time so that others continue to respect you? Do you care more about what God thinks or wants you to do, or more about what others will think? Are you competitive? Do you need applause? As a Christian in a non-Christian environment, are you more concerned about people knowing Jesus or people liking you? As a Christian among other Christians, are you more obsessed with trying to look good to them or to walk in the footsteps of Jesus?

Psalm 139:23-24 states, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

In recent days and because the return of the Lord is soon, I have been in deep reflection regarding my life, and let’s just say, I feel I have been found wanting. Because of this, I have repented in humiliation and brokenness before the Almighty who searched my heart and tried me. I have prayed a lot in the last four years that whatever I do for God, I want it to be shiny, of a quality that it will not be burned up in the fire of God’s presence. In other words, I want it to have eternal worth and Kingdom value (1 Corinthians 3).

There was a book written a few years back entitled, “Driven by Eternity,” written by John Bevere. And indeed, I think too many of us are not driven by eternity nor with eternal, Kingdom thinking because we are too obsessed with today and with others and with success. Just read the book of Luke again and take a look at all that Jesus teaches that do not align at all with how we do things! We American Christians do build bigger barns; we do save up our money for retirement when we can take our ease and vacation and go golfing hours on end. Jesus’ does not condone that! How about in the area of offense? We take offense and get defensively so easily! Yet, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. How about in our giving? Jesus says to give liberally the poor and to not give with an “evil eye” which has everything to do with being stingy. Do you lend without expecting to get back what you lent? Jesus wants you to lend that way! And on and on I could go because Jesus sure does! Read the Gospel of Luke AGAIN, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict you!

So, I want to encourage you Christians today, that since the time of Christ’s return is so incredibly near, do not delay allowing Him to search your heart, to know your thoughts, to try your ways. Allow Him to convict you. Allow Him to show you so that He can purify you now and not during the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Revelation 2-3). In the words of 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Now here is a point of extremely important clarification, so please take note! Conviction leads one to repentance, and God then purifies one from ALL unrighteousness. It is then as if we had never sinned. Guilt leads down a slippery slope of condemnation and destruction that never ends. Please, take note of this stark contrast. God does not afflict us with continual guilt that makes us feel worthless. God convicts us powerfully by His Holy Spirit so that we will repent and will by the power of the Holy Spirit change our ways.

The time is so short! Let’s not be like Saul anymore in seeking to appear godly and in charge and thus find ourselves falling far short of the mark because of the need for the approval of men. Let’s not defend ourselves like Saul did in 1 Samuel 15, who was self-justified and had convinced himself that he had obeyed the Lord when he had not. Instead, let’s have a Kingdom attitude like Jonathan who sought to honor God come rain or shine, failure or success, approval or disapproval, life or death, and who said to his armor bearer in 1 Samuel 14:6, “…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.” Indeed, he was even willing to abide by his father’s unwise declaration that he should die. Are we that humble?

It’s not too late to change. It’s not too late to repent. It’s not too late to become a Jonathan instead of a Saul. It’s time to forget about our own comforts. It’s time to forget about our reputation. It’s time to be fearless with the Gospel. It’s time to be bold with the truth of the Bible. Let’s not waste our time or our minds with worrying about what others might think or say or if someone may shut down our church or not, or if we’ll lose this or that relationship or not, or if our family will disown us, or if we’ll be paid or not, or if we’ll lose our job or not! After all, Jesus said, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” I do not mean to make this sound simple. It is not. But, it is imperative. And Hebrews 12:1-4 states clearly, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Jesus is coming sooner than we can even imagine. Let’s live like it.

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