Saul’s reign as king was marked with battle. Verse 47 and 48 of chapter 14 give us a sense of this:
When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.
But Saul was cowardly, especially when it came time to wait on the Lord. He consistently defied the commands of God and took matters into his own hands. He trusted himself more that he trusted in the Lord.
We see this clearly in chapter 13. Saul goes out against the Philistines and realizes that he is severely outmatched. So, in stead of waiting to offer sacrifices to the Lord until Samuel arrived, Saul takes matters into his own hands and sacrifices the burnt offering before God on his own. When Samuel arrives, he condemns Saul for his impatient and cowardly decision and gives him some stunning news. Because of his cowardice and lack of faith in God’s timing, his family line will not sit on the throne of Israel. Samuel says that the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you (1 Sam 13:14). His cowardice cost him the throne.
But in the very next chapter, we are introduced to Saul’s son Jonathan, who displays a courage that puts his father to shame. In the midst of this dire situation, Jonathan takes his armor bearer and goes out against the Philistines, saying, It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few (1 Sam 14:6). What a statement! “Maybe the Lord will help us. Let’s go find out.” What courage! What utter disregard for personal safety in light of God’s glory and the safety of His people. Jonathan struck the Philistines with such a great blow that they scattered, killing each other in all of the confusion.
Niether man knew if God would be for them, but Jonathan understood the cost and acted in faith, knowing that the Lord can save by many or by few. Saul tried to prompt God into action rather than waiting for Him to act, as he was told to do, and he paid the price for it.
We are told again and again in Scripture that God is faithful, and He will save His people. Do we believe that? Do we consider the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross as proof enough that God will guide us through the big and the small things of life? My hope is that we do. My hope is that we would act in courage as Jonathan did, trusting that God will faithfully deliver us and see us through to the end.