1 Samuel 14:16-46 (Part 1) – Sending Up A Bat Signal for God: Using God as a Last Resort

Posted: January 16, 2018 in 09-1 Samuel
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1 Samuel 14:16-46 (Part 1 of 3)
Israel Defeats the Philistine & Saul’s Foolish Oath

Today as we open up a three-part look at 1 Samuel 14:16-46, the first thing that struck me about this passage is the subject of using God as a last resort. How many times are we like that? I used to be like that.

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I was always aware of who God was. I was aware of Jesus Christ. I knew who he was. I knew He died on the cross and that it was somehow for our good. I attended church every Sunday growing up. It was the family business after all. I knew church. It wasn’t like I had no exposure to Christianity. I was not like the growing number of Americans today who are growing up in households that may be now either the second, third or even fourth generations of a family that has never darkened the door of a church. We were the church. My dad was a preacher. I knew the hymns. I knew the general overview of the Bible though I did not read it much growing up – surprisingly so growing up as a preacher’s kid. I knew the general nature of salvation was in Jesus Christ and when you said you believed in Him that you would go to heaven, but I did not really grasp why that was. I just knew that Jesus was the key to going to heaven. I knew that sin was bad. I knew that bad behavior was sin and that we needed to be on our best behavior. But being in the church all the time, it was the family business. It’s what we did. I knew that we were different from everybody else. My dad was a preacher. He worked at the church. He wrote sermons. He had meetings with people who attended the church. He preached on Sunday mornings. The church was the center of our universe. But I really never truly got it. Never really got the point of it all. I know people that have come to salvation as small children over the years but I never really got it. I knew that there was a God. But He never was the center of my being.

I did not come to know Jesus Christ as my Savior until I was 39 years old and it has been the Holy Spirit’s work since then to make Him also my Lord. Prior to my acceptance of Christ as my Savior, God was my fallback position. I knew who He was and would even talk to Him and I recognized that He existed. However, He was always in the background. He was a side thing to me. He was the one I would go to when things weren’t going my way. He was my superhero that you called in at the last minute when things looked bleak and things were falling apart. I would shine my bat signal in the night sky when I needed God to intervene on my behalf. I called upon Him when I needed a supernatural, super power, superhero intervention. When I was down and out and blue, I called upon the Lord. I did not have a real relationship with God. He was not part of my daily lifestyle. I did not walk with Him and talk with Him and I did not ask Him to tell me I was His own (old hymn reference there! LOL!). Is that you? Is that where you are at today? Do you know God exists, but He is your superman, superhero that you call on when the chips are down?

That seems to be the case with Saul after we read this passage. That was what I thought of when I read this passage for the first time of three reads today – how Saul reminds me of myself back in the day. I would call upon the Lord when I could not work things out myself. God was my superman but He was not my Lord. I did not put Him first in my life and I treated Him as that las resort supreme being that so many of us treat Him as. Let’s read this passage now, 1 Samuel 14:16-46:

16 Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin saw a strange sight—the vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction.[a] 17 “Call the roll and find out who’s missing,” Saul ordered. And when they checked, they found that Jonathan and his armor bearer were gone.

18 Then Saul shouted to Ahijah, “Bring the ephod here!” For at that time Ahijah was wearing the ephod in front of the Israelites.[b] 19 But while Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp grew louder and louder. So Saul said to the priest, “Never mind; let’s get going!”[c]

20 Then Saul and all his men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other. There was terrible confusion everywhere. 21 Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites. 22 Likewise, the men of Israel who were hiding in the hill country of Ephraim joined the chase when they saw the Philistines running away. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day, and the battle continued to rage even beyond Beth-aven.

24 Now the men of Israel were pressed to exhaustion that day, because Saul had placed them under an oath, saying, “Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening—before I have full revenge on my enemies.” So no one ate anything all day, 25 even though they had all found honeycomb on the ground in the forest. 26 They didn’t dare touch the honey because they all feared the oath they had taken.

27 But Jonathan had not heard his father’s command, and he dipped the end of his stick into a piece of honeycomb and ate the honey. After he had eaten it, he felt refreshed.[d] 28 But one of the men saw him and said, “Your father made the army take a strict oath that anyone who eats food today will be cursed. That is why everyone is weary and faint.”

29 “My father has made trouble for us all!” Jonathan exclaimed. “A command like that only hurts us. See how refreshed I am now that I have eaten this little bit of honey. 30 If the men had been allowed to eat freely from the food they found among our enemies, think how many more Philistines we could have killed!”

31 They chased and killed the Philistines all day from Micmash to Aijalon, growing more and more faint. 32 That evening they rushed for the battle plunder and butchered the sheep, goats, cattle, and calves, but they ate them without draining the blood. 33 Someone reported to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that still has blood in it.”

“That is very wrong,” Saul said. “Find a large stone and roll it over here. 34 Then go out among the troops and tell them, ‘Bring the cattle, sheep, and goats here to me. Kill them here, and drain the blood before you eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with the blood still in it.’”

So that night all the troops brought their animals and slaughtered them there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first of the altars he built to the Lord.

36 Then Saul said, “Let’s chase the Philistines all night and plunder them until sunrise. Let’s destroy every last one of them.”

His men replied, “We’ll do whatever you think is best.”

But the priest said, “Let’s ask God first.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Should we go after the Philistines? Will you help us defeat them?” But God made no reply that day.

38 Then Saul said to the leaders, “Something’s wrong! I want all my army commanders to come here. We must find out what sin was committed today. 39 I vow by the name of the Lord who rescued Israel that the sinner will surely die, even if it is my own son Jonathan!” But no one would tell him what the trouble was.

40 Then Saul said, “Jonathan and I will stand over here, and all of you stand over there.”

And the people responded to Saul, “Whatever you think is best.”

41 Then Saul prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, please show us who is guilty and who is innocent.[e]” Then they cast sacred lots, and Jonathan and Saul were chosen as the guilty ones, and the people were declared innocent.

42 Then Saul said, “Now cast lots again and choose between me and Jonathan.” And Jonathan was shown to be the guilty one.

43 “Tell me what you have done,” Saul demanded of Jonathan.

“I tasted a little honey,” Jonathan admitted. “It was only a little bit on the end of my stick. Does that deserve death?”

44 “Yes, Jonathan,” Saul said, “you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this.”

45 But the people broke in and said to Saul, “Jonathan has won this great victory for Israel. Should he die? Far from it! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair on his head will be touched, for God helped him do a great deed today.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.

46 Then Saul called back the army from chasing the Philistines, and the Philistines returned home.

In this passage, we see many things that are distressing to God. The first one that is important is the fact that after being king for several years, Saul built his first altar to God, but it was only as a last resort. Throughout Saul’s reign, he constantly approached God only after he had exhausted all other avenues. This was in sharp contrast to the priest, who suggested that God be consulted first. How much better would it have gone for Saul if he had consulted God first. God is too great to be an afterthought. When we turn to him first, we will never have to turn to him as a last resort. Often, we turn to God only after we have messed things up so badly we cannot figure out how to fix them ourselves. What if we treated God as the center of our lives rather that some rabbit’s foot, good luck charm, or get out of jail free card?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we are to pray without ceasing. God is to be God of our every moment. He is to be our Lord. We are to have intimate conversations with Him. He is to be a part of everything that we do. We must do more than simply recognize His existence, but yet try to live our lives though we are in charge. We make the calls. We do not consult God. We do everything the way we want it done and then even have the audacity to claim that God wanted it that way. The only way that we can know God’s will is if we live in it. We must be in a relationship with Him. Just as many people in cartoons did not have a relationship with Superman or Batman, they sure would call upon their names when times got card or things had turned into a disaster.

I thought the best illustration of this idea was in something I read this morning at crosswalk.com in an article by Kelly Needham called “Are You Using God?”. In that illustration she said, “Have you ever been used by someone? Maybe you have needy friends or family members who only pursue you because of your wealth. Or it might be that your husband only seems interested in you when he desires physical intimacy. Maybe you are a single woman and all your married friends tend to assume you are most valuable as a babysitter. Whatever the case, it feels horrible to be used.” She goes on to talk about the difference between a God-seeker and a God-user.

We will never experience the fullness of a relationship with God until we are intimate with Him. We will never experience the fullness of a relationship with God when we put ourselves first in that relationship and not Him. When we put ourselves first, we can make Jesus a friend not a necessity. When we put ourselves atop the list, we can excuse our sins by thinking we can be good enough by trying to make our good deeds outweigh our bad (a foolhardy dream that many of by into). When we put ourselves first, we can make certain sins that we favor go away as not being sin. When we put ourselves first, we can ignore certain eternal facts and call ourselves enlightened and modern.

When we put ourselves first, we do not need God. He is the God of last resort. He is our fallback good luck charm that we can wave around when we need it the most. He is not the Lord of our lives and we define the game as a result. What we fail to see is that God is the Creator and we are the created. He defines the game not us. He is the one who gave us His Word. It is eternal truth. It is not something that is subject to change and it is not something whose meaning changes with the times. It is through God’s Word that we know that God is perfect and that we must be perfect to exist in His presence in eternity (and there is one!). However, because of the Fall of Man in the garden and that Fall is substantiated by the evil that we have seen around us and in us since the beginning, we are not perfect. In fact, we are ugly sinners. God hates sin and it cannot exist in His presence. Yet, we are sinners every day. Just one sin though, that first one, not to mention a lifetime of sins that we commit, disqualifies us from existing in God’s love in eternity. We are doomed to hell, the place for sinners. Just one sin sends us there. That’s it! That’s all it takes! The first sin sends us there. All the other sins that we commit daily are just character references in the court of our judgment. It just takes one and we are done. There’s nothing we can do in our own power to change that. There is no bat signal that can change that.

That’s where salvation comes in. That’s the moment that we realize that we are hopeless sinners in the crosshairs of a just and perfect God. That’s where we must through ourselves at the feet of Jesus and beg Him to become our Savior, our Interventionist, our Reprieve from our just and deserved punishment in hell. When we call on the name of Jesus Christ and we believe that He is the Son of God who died on the cross as an intervention for our sins and our just punishment for our sins. Then we are saved.

When we believe that we do not have the power to be good enough, when we believe that we are sinners through and through and that God saved us through Jesus, then we can begin to have a real relationship. When we realize that we are sinners saved by grace not by our works and our ability to control our lives, that’s when relationship starts. When we realize just what God through Jesus Christ saved us from, then we can put Him first in our lives. When we realize that just how unmeritoriously lucky we are to have Jesus step into the courtroom of righteous justice and claim us from the jaws of a just and righteous sentence to hell then and only then can we really have relationship with God where we are his thankful servants and seek Him in everything that we do and put Him first in every moment of our lives. Instead of calling on God as a last resort, we seek Him daily because we are so thankful for the gift of salvation that He gave us in Jesus Christ. We are forever in God’s debt because of what He did through Jesus. Because of that we are and should be like the little yapping dog in the old Looney tunes cartoon that followed the big bulldog around saying repeatedly, “what are we doing now? What are we doing now? Huh? Huh? Huh?” That is the way we should be with God. We must seek Him in everything and in every minute, not as some altar built at the last minute because we are unsure of what to do next? Not as some promise we make while hugging the toilet? Not as some last minute prayer when things are falling apart around us!

What are we doing now God, huh huh huh? Lead on God. You are my Master. You are my intervention and my key to life. I would be destined to hell in the absence of your grace through Jesus Christ. You are my Lord. Where are we going and what are we doing today? What are we doing this minute? Be the Lord over it all God! Lead me. Show me. Teach me. You are my Lord!

Amen and Amen.

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