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Nov 12, 2017

“Being Led by God” 11-12-17

I Samuel 13:23 – 14:23
November 12, 2017

Today we have before us another interesting story from the annals of the Israelites during the reign of King Saul.  It involves a battle that occurred between the Israelites and the Philistines.  And I need to remind you that this was not the first or only battle between these two peoples. 
The Philistines had terrorized the Israelites and had not allowed them to have blacksmiths to make weapons for them.  So, while the Philistines had more soldiers than Israel, their forces were also equipped with real weapons while most in Saul’s army were carrying and using farm implements as weapons.
On this occasion, the two armies of Israel and the Philistines were not in immediate contact at first.  The troops of Israel, which numbered about 600, were on the top of a cliff overlooking a steep valley.  The main army of the Philistines seems to have been in a different location, either in the valley or on the higher ground on the other side of the valley.  But they had left a detachment of soldiers at the top of a cliff on the other side of the valley from the Israelite army.  This group was to report on activities in the Israelite army.
Saul was probably figuring out how to respond to the Philistines who had a superior force armed with superior weapons, when the battle began without him.  His son Jonathan was in Saul’s camp.
As I read of the exploits of Jonathan son of Saul, I see him in my mind with the face of my mom’s cousin Kenny.  Kenny was in an airborne army unit during the Vietnam War.  Those are the guys who jump out of perfectly good airplanes into a battle or in order to start a battle.  He still has a PS to all his emails that says “If at first you don’t succeed, then parachuting is not for you”.
After his time in the Army, Kenny served as a policeman in Baltimore County for 20 years.  He served as an undercover narcotic’s officer, and then chased some folks around the Baltimore beltway at over 100 miles an hour.
At the end of his career in the police department, he served as head of security for a government contractor for another 20 years.  These days, as a senior citizen, he seems to be taking naps or finding ways to provoke his grandchildren into trouble or sending scary e-mails to his relatives and friends.  Unless he is napping, he has a hard time standing or sitting still.
Jonathan was like that.  So he could not sit in the army camp and wait for a battle to start.  So, he asked his armor bearer if he would like to join him in an excursion into the enemy encampment on the other side of the steep valley. 
Their conversation and their plan are set forth in detail in vs 6-10.  The plan, as formulated by Jonathan and agreed to by his armor bearer was that they would leave their camp without notifying anyone, and would descend their side of the steep valley. 
Commentators say that one side of the valley has thick vegetation on it while the other side is mostly barren.  So it is possible that they got to the bottom of the valley before they were spotted by the enemy on the other side. But it was their plan to reveal themselves to their enemies to gauge their reaction. 
Jonathan had received a word from God, or perhaps he decided to choose a word to God.  Anyway, the plan was that they would reveal themselves to the enemy, and if the enemy said they would come down to them, they would wait for them, but if the enemy said “come on up” they would take for granted that God would give them a victory over their enemies.  After all, it was Jonathan’s understanding that God gave victories, and he could do it with great numbers or few numbers.  The number that really mattered was the big one, God.  He outweighed all on the other side.
When they revealed themselves, the enemies found it humorous.  The Israelites had been fleeing before the Philistines and hiding in wells, cisterns, caves and other holes and some had left the vicinity, and crossed the Jordan to the East.
So when the Philistines saw the two Israelites, they thought that they and others were beginning to come out of their hiding places.  And they said, “come on up, we want to show you something.”
Now I do not go back nearly as far as Jonathan, about 1025 BC, but I can remember in my youth people saying such things.  I learned that when someone said “Hey, come over here, I want to show you something” it is best not to go.
I used this advice recently at the Jefferson Antique show.  A friend of mine was there selling antique cameras. He said, “Come here, I want to show you this camera.”  I said, Larry, I don’t know anything about cameras.”  To which he responded “You’re just the fellow I’m looking for.”
Jonathan and his companion understood the reply of the Philistines as the word from God telling them that those Philistines would fall before them.  They climbed up the cliff with the assurance that God was with them to give them the victory.
And when they got to the top and met the enemy, they developed a rhythm, Jonathan would knock them down and the armor bearer would finish them off.  Then it seems that God got into the act with earth tremors and causing the enemy to panic.
Now, Saul and his 600 men on the other side of the ravine saw an upheaval in the Philistine outpost and tried to determine what was going on.  He first took a roll call, to see if any of his men were missing and may be responsible for the upheaval.  Jonathan and his armor bearer were absent, so now he knew the who, but he did not know what he should do.   He had the High priest with him, so he started the process of having the priest cast the Lots to have God tell them what was going on, but it seems to have been a lengthy process and things were happening quickly on the other side of the ravine, so Saul stopped the priest, and ordered his troops across the ravine to join the fight.
From that point on, the description in the Bible gets a little fuzzy.  It seems that Saul and his 600 joined the fight and then took the fight to the main body of the Philistine troops.  In the process, some Israelites who had gone over to fight on the side of the Philistines, changed in the battle and sided with Saul and attacked the Philistines from within.
And, as they moved toward the main camp Saul and his army were joined by Israelites who had been hiding in wells, cisterns, caves and etc.  So at the end of the battle, the Israelites had defeated the Philistines, and the army of Saul had grown from 600 to 10,000.  It was a great victory for Saul and the Israelite army.

And it was started by one valiant man who suggested an outrageous plan of action to another valiant man, who trusted the first one.
And, more importantly, the first one was seeking direction from the Lord.  And, he was willing to climb all the way down a ravine to get those directions from God.
Now, I am not suggesting that you all go way out on a limb and expect God to speak to you.  Some of you are like Jonathan, and might take up that challenge. But most of us are not and won’t.
But Jonathan in his own hyperactive, progressive way was seeking God’s directions for what he should do.  And we all ought to be doing that.  If we believe that God does act in our world and in our lives, as the Bible clearly says He does, then we should look for His directing us and moving in our lives, and we should be asking him to direct us to help him and make us instrumental in what He is doing down here.
How do you seek God’s will and God’s direction as you live your life?  How can you learn to do so?
Ask those who are obviously led by God.  They will share their stories with you.
Read the Scriptures about how others were led by God.  If you read Acts chapter 16 you will see how the Apostle Paul was led by God through being stopped in what he thought God wanted, and directed through a dream in the way God wanted him to go.
We are all different, with different personalities, but we should all be seeking guidance from God in our struggles, in our battles, in our victories and our defeats.
Chapter 14 of I Samuel describes a great unexpected victory of God’s people.  And it all started with one man who followed God’s direction as he understood it.
May God be with us all as we seek God’s direction in our lives.

 

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906