1 Samuel 14:36-46
36 Saul said, “Let us go down and pursue the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.” “Do whatever seems best to you,” they replied. But the priest said, “Let us inquire of God here.” 37 So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down and pursue the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day. 38 Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” But not one of them said a word. 40 Saul then said to all the Israelites, “You stand over there; I and Jonathan my son will stand over here.” “Do what seems best to you,” they replied. 41 Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, “Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault,[a] respond with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. 42 Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken. 43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now I must die!” 44 Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.” 45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death. 46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and they withdrew 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 an 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