Which Character Are You: Saul or Jonathan?

(originally published April 25, 2015)

Today you have the choice to be a certain kind of person. Today can be the beginning of a life marked with character, courage, humility and commitment to God, or one marked with pride, fear, disobedience and foolishness. What's interesting is that sometime the line between the two can be faint and hard to see at times. We recognized that last week in the life of Saul, who appeared to have good intentions but didn't. Even this week the contrast of Saul and his Jonathan can be faint at times, but it's a clear indication of two different kinds of people.

Even more frightening than a faint line is one one you can't see. About ten years ago I was serving in ministry alongside a young woman who by all appearances was the on-fore Christian. Everyone loved her and she expressed enthusiasm for the Lord. However it came to surface that for months this woman stole money from a church for her own purposes. Everyone was shocked by the revelation because she was so expressive about God! All to say, it doesn't matter what you represent on the outside if the inside isn't aligned with the heart and direction of Jesus. Sure, we all mess up and need grace...I've needed a lot of it over the years! But it's the habits we form and consistency in a matter that draws a line between a failure and a lifestyle choice. Saul is going to show us in 1 Samuel 14 that his failure back in chapter 12 wasn't just a momentary one, but a lifestyle choice that represents the character within.

Let's start in verses 1-2,
"Later that day, Jonathan, Saul’s son, said to his armor bearer, 'Come on, let’s go over to the Philistine garrison patrol on the other side of the pass.' But he didn't tell his father. Meanwhile, Saul was taking it easy under the pomegranate tree at the threshing floor on the edge of town at Geba (Gibeah). There were about six hundred men with him."

Does anyone else find it interesting that Jonathan is ready to sneak off and fight the Philistines while Saul is "taking it easy?" If you remember, Saul is coming off of his failure to wait for Samuel and has been cursed to lose his kingdom. I'm sure part of the reason he's kicking it is because he's sulking a bit. Nobody wants to hear bad news like that. But instead of being ready to battle as we can assume was the right thing since God directed and granted Jonathan favor, Saul is doing nothing but sitting there. 

Verse 4 continues with the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer, "cross[ing] over to the Philistine garrison [which] was flanked on either side by sharp rock  outcroppings." What Jonathan is doing is dangerous, which means he must be full of both faith and courage! In fact, what he says to his armor bearer in verse 6 is absolutely inspiring!

Come on now, let’s go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe God will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when he sets his mind to it.”

I love this! Jonathan is showing humility and faith in God at the same time, in the face of great challenge and adversity. He could have done nothing! He could have backed out at the last minute. But instead he believes God can do anything and puts his trust in that. He believes that God can use two men just as easily and mightily as an entire army. Just think if you had that same approach everyday. Just imagine if you believed that God could use you just as mightily as a world renowned speaker, a determined missionary in the clutches of persecution, and the gathering of hundreds, What could God do with you?

Further into the story God gives Jonathan and the armor bearer great victory over the Philistines and Israel begins to notice. The men are called together and a priest is brought forth to consult God. However, int he middle of consulting God if the army should join the fight, Saul haults the inquiry and jumps right into action. Saul had the few seconds to spare, but he got caught p in other people's actions and responses that he neglected what God wanted. What a contrast to Jonathan, who didn't tell anyone he was going to fight because he didn't want the negative influence of people's actions and responses.

Saul and his 600 men jump into the battle and are winning when more and more Israelite begin to join the fight. Those who had defected to the Philistine army and those who had run to hide in caves and graves back in chapter 13. Amazingly, Saul's army jumps from 600 to 10,000! You know how the people of God are rallied together in unity against adversity? Because of the courage and faith of one man. That's the power of one with filled with faith. It very much lends to the fact that one person filled with faith is immeasurably more powerful than a hundred with none. Faith makes anything possible!

The story concludes with an issue that arise because Saul made a foolish decision to not let his men eat anything, or else they would be cursed. Jonathan was unaware and had taken some honey, to which Saul decides to kill him, except the army saves Jonathan. It's a bit crazy, I know. But it further shows the line between characters. 

With character being the focus of this post, I'd like to do a little bit of character comparison for you. This doesn't mean go and compare yourself to others because that's not healthy; it means let's take what the Bible shows between two men and see what we can learn for application. 

Saul
* Focused on self
* Passive
* Hides from Reality
* Swayed by people's actions
* Avoided
* Full of fear
* Proud
* Relied on self & man
* Army scattered under his leadership
* Foolish

Jonathan
* Focused on big picture
* Active
* Confronts a battle
* Not swayed by people's actions
* Courageous
* Full of faith
* Humble
* Relied on God
* Had committed armor bearer
* Wise

Can you see how the above relate to each character, and yet how the lines between the two were at times faint? How we approach God and life, and even the smallest choices we make, can amount to the greatest characteristics used to describe us as a person.

What kind of person will you choose to be?

Questions/Thoughts

  1. Is God calling you to courage and faith in a situation? What are the "sharp rocks" that stand in your way and what can you do to pass through them?
  2. Which character will you choose to be?
  3. Pick one characteristic from the list that you want to display and/or improve upon, and make some thoughts on how you can grow in that area.