1 Samuel 14:16-46 (Part 3) – “Such is Life” and “Sometimes, Life Ain’t Fair”: Sayings from My Southern Daddy

Posted: January 21, 2018 in 09-1 Samuel
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1 Samuel 14:16-46 (Part 3 of 3)
Israel Defeats the Philistine & Saul’s Foolish Oath

My dad, as I have stated many times before, is a man of many sayings. My dad has a D.Min. degree. He is an overly educated man who is a ravenous reader. There is not much that he cannot offer an educated opinion on. He is an excellent pulpit preacher who writes well-crafted sermons. His illustrations are always so point on with his sermons. He has a way of preaching that is captivating. He’s my dad so I think he’s pretty damn good at everything he does. Not only is he academically astute but he grew up as a farmer’s son so he knows how to fix stuff and seems to have an understanding of how mechanical things work that escapes me. Because of growing up in the rural South, he is also the master of these pithy little sayings. Two of those sayings come to mind this morning – “such is life” and “sometimes life just ain’t fair”. These two saying were often used by dad to tell me and my brother that the world is sometimes rough place and you just have to deal with what life throws at you. Sometimes, it’s not fair. Sometimes, you have to deal with the fallout of other people’s decisions. Sometimes, things happen that you have no control over that you have to deal with. Sometimes, people will take advantage of you. Sometimes, people have more advantages than you that allow them to pass you by even though you can’t help how you started in life. Inherent in these two sayings is the questions, “So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to whine and complain or are you going to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on?” Life just ain’t fair sometimes and we have to decide whether we let what happens to us destroy us or make us stronger. There’s another old saying that my dad didn’t use but is from the South nonetheless and was made popular by the movie, Steel Magnolias, “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!”

That’s the striking difference I think between me and my first wife. My dad raised me to be a person who, no matter the circumstance, that I would not let my circumstances, what happened to me in life to define who I was. My dad taught me that we have to keep going and keep pushing even when we are hurt physically or emotionally. The keeping going is the thing. Not letting the world defeat you was the thing. I hated it growing up that my dad would not allow us to make excuses for things. When we made commitments, we had to honor them. When he gave us chores and assignments, we had to do them regardless of circumstance. When we had to do tough things, he would not allow us to shy away from them. When we got physically hurt, he made sure we were alright and, if we were, he taught us to shake it off and move on. And when it came to discipline, there were defined lines in the sand that we could not cross. We were well aware of our boundaries. We were well aware of the consequences. And when we did cross those boundaries, there were real consequences. Those consequences were always executed, no matter what. There was no negotiating our way out of it. We suffered the consequences no matter what excuses we had. When it came to punishment, I did not realize how hard that was for him until I became a parent myself. Often times, the punishments that are the toughest to enforce are not the whippings but the restrictions of freedoms. These are often more inconvenient to the parent than to the child. Many parents cave on restrictions because of this fact and children then learn the art of excuses and negotiating their way out of punishment. My dad was a master at not caving in to any inconveniences to him. It was more important that we learn that there are consequences in life for our behaviors.

In contrast my first wife had plenty of excuses as to why she should be allowed not to pay for the consequences of her behavior. First, at age three, her family was in this horrendous car accident that left her mom wheelchair bound for the remaining years of her life. That same accident took the life of her father. Her mom thus had to raise her son and daughter from a wheelchair. Because of this, people often took pity on Lisa and allowed her to get away with things that should have been punished. Further, her mom would often have difficulty enforcing punishment on her kids once they learned that a mom in a wheelchair with no dad around was a recipe for a lack of enforcement of consequences to bad behavior. Further, when Lisa was 19, her brother was also killed in a car accident. That accident changed her life and she began letting all the things in life than had happened to her define who she was. Sure, she had a right by the world’s standards to give up and she did. She had spurts of greatness after that but it was more a downward spiral of whoa is me and what the world has done to me. She gave up and made excuses. She had been spoiled growing up because of her circumstances and later in life she let them define her. She became a victim and everything in life was someone else’s fault not hers. All of these things led to an increasing paranoia, cynicism, and drug abuse (though all legally prescribed). She lived most of the remainder of her life medicated in some way. She gave up and withdraw into her own world that she and her second husband created. It was a world of us against the world. They were right and the whole outside was wrong. It was a world of defeatism.

The contrast between the way we were raised is a telling tale in American society today. We can either make excuses about why we do what we do and why life is not fair and let it define us or we can accept that “sometimes, life just ain’t fair” and overcome the obstacles that life puts in front of us. We can blame everyone for what lot in life we have or we can overcome it. We can blame economics on why we act the way we act. We can blame our race on why things are the way they are for us. We can blame our parents for why we are the way we are. Or we can simply accept where we are starting from and overcome the obstacles. We can say, “such is life” and work hard to overcome our circumstances rather than letting them define us.

We can also learn to accept the consequences of life and move on from them and learn from them. We can also learn to accept that sometimes there are circumstances not of our own making that ain’t fair but that we must work our way through them instead of stopping, curling up in a corner, and whining about our lot in life. Life ain’t fair. It’s just a reality of life that we are failing to teach our children and grandchildren these days. Sometimes, you just get kicked in the teeth and it’s not because of something you caused. A lot of times in life, there are things that happen that knock us for a loop but none of it was caused by us. That’s the life ain’t fair thing that is real. How we react to such things is the thing that we are not teaching successive generations after us.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read this passage – how there is such a contrast between the self-centered Saul and the more godly man, his son, Jonathon. Saul was more concerned about image and self whereas Jonathon owned up to a mistake (even though he could have easily and justifiably claimed ignorance). What kind of man are you? What kind of man am I? Are we ones to make excuses rather than accept the consequences of our actions (regardless of whether we have an easy out or excuse)? Are we going to whine about this is not my fault or are we going to accept that life ain’t fair and overcome it or let it define us. 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 that Saul had issued a ridiculous command and driven his men to sin, as a result. However, he would not back down from it even if it meant he had to kill his son. When we make ridiculous statements, it is difficult to admit that we are wrong. Sticking to the story, just to save face, only compounds the problem. It takes more courage to admit a mistake than to hold resolutely to an error. In contrast, in this passage, we see the spiritual character of Jonathon. He admitted what he had done. He did not try to make excuses. Even though he was unaware of Saul’s oath, Jonathon was willing to accept the consequences of his actions. When we do wrong, we should act like Jonathon and not like Saul.

That’s the thing that strikes me about Saul. This situation was not fair at all. He had no idea of the vow his father made. He could have justifiably offered up that excuse. He could have whined and complained his way out of it. He could have pouted and run away. He could tried to negotiate his way out of the deal with his dad. He didn’t though. He accepted the circumstances even though he knew nothing of the vow to begin with and it was not until after he had violated it that he became aware of its existence. No excuses. No blame game. No whining. No complaining. He simply manned up and was willing to accept the consequences. Wow! Are we men like that? Do we man up when required?

Or do we make excuses? Blame others? Feign ignorance? Do we try to worm our way out of consequences or our actions? Do you blame your ex-spouse for your divorce? Do you blame your boss for why you got fired? Do you blame your parents for why you are disadvantaged in some way? Do you blame your race for why you are not better off than you are? Do you blame events in your life as the reason you are not achieving your potential? Or is it time for you to accept responsibility for yourself, dust yourself off, and live the rest of your life undoing the mess you’ve made, or overcoming the obstacles placed in your life by others or by circumstances? Are you going to let what has happened to your define you or are you going to realize “such is life” and develop a plan of action to rise above it? Whine or win? Be defined by circumstances or overcome them?

It is only through the love of Jesus Christ and realizing that we are sinners that we can begin to truly learn that we can overcome our circumstances. In our salvation, we realize that we start off in life at an eternal disadvantage that can be traced back to Adam and the first sin. We come into this world as sinners. We are defeated from the beginning. We sin and we are done. The only way we can change our circumstances for eternal damnation is through accepting the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. We can change our circumstances through Jesus Christ. Through salvation, we learn that we are not the center of the universe and not everything is about us. We learn that everything is about giving glory to God. We also learn also that the God that loved us that much through Jesus is the same God, far superior to us, can help us overcome anything. When we know our eternity is secure with the Creator of the Universe through Jesus Christ, we realize that life ain’t fair but we can overcome it through our faith in Jesus Christ. We have a God that made the universe and because of that we can rise above life not being fair and such is life. We can withstand anything and overcome anything in Jesus Christ. We don’t have to blame others anymore. We have security beyond ourselves. We can accept it when we make mistakes. We are no longer about self-preservation and making ourselves look good. We can own up to our mistakes. We can live in truth and transparency because we are no longer define by our own image maintenance. We are children of God.

Amen and Amen.

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