1 Samuel 14:36-46
36 Saul said, “Let’s go down and chase after the Philistines tonight. Let’s not leave even one of them alive. Let’s take everything they have before morning.” “Do what you think is best,” they replied. But the priest said, “Let’s ask God for advice first.” 37 So Saul asked God, “Should I go down and chase after the Philistines? Will you hand them over to Israel?” But God didn’t answer him that day. 38 Saul said to the leaders of the army, “Come here. Let’s find out what sin has been committed today. 39 The Lord is the one who rescues Israel. You can be sure that the Lord lives. And you can be just as sure that the sinner must die. He must die even if he’s my son Jonathan.” But no one said anything. 40 Then Saul said to all the Israelites, “You stand over there. I and my son Jonathan will stand over here.” “Do what you think is best,” they replied. 41 Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel. He said, “Why haven’t you answered your servant today? If I or my son Jonathan is to blame, answer with Urim. But if the Israelites are to blame, answer with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were chosen by casting lots. The other men were cleared of blame. 42 Saul said, “Cast the lot to find out whether I or my son Jonathan is to blame.” And Jonathan was chosen. 43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him, “I used the end of my stick to get a little honey and taste it. And now do I have to die?” 44 Saul said, “Jonathan, I must certainly put you to death. If I don’t, may God punish me greatly.” 45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan be put to death? Never! He has saved Israel in a wonderful way. He did it today with God’s help. You can be sure that the Lord lives. And you can be just as sure that not even one hair on Jonathan’s head will fall to the ground.” So the men rescued Jonathan. He wasn’t put to death. 46 Then Saul stopped chasing the Philistines. They went back to their own land.
In reading this passage today, I am struck with how rich this passage of scripture is with wisdom on the interaction between personality and leadership. In this narrative of Saul’s conquering of the Philistines, I have gained insight into how and external victory can be turned into an internal defeat because of unwise words flowing from a poor self-image.
Saul was chosen by God and called out by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 10:22, but Saul hid amongst the baggage, because he had a poor self-image.
Prior to today’s passage he swears an oath which might have sounded bold and full of faith, but the bible hints that it was not a wise move. Here we see the consequences – Saul’s men have to step in to stop him killing his own son!
I myself am all too familiar with the link between king Saul’s self-image and his behaviour. I know for myself that I can become defensive, sometimes legalistic, or sometimes boldly over-confident when my self-image is challenged by other people or certain circumstances. I know I can keep a lid on my behaviour, but ultimately God wants to address the issue of my self-image and conform me to the image of his Son Jesus (Romans 8:29).
Lord, help me to soften my heart so that you can change me from the inside out, piece by piece. Make my words true to who you have made me to be and protect me from speaking and acting rashly because of my weaknesses and failings.
Written by Ps Justin Ware