November 29, 2020

Saul: "Jonathan's Light"

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 14:1-23

Today is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. For the Church it’s the start of a new year and we begin as we always begin, lighting an Advent candle as a sign of hope against the darkness. We remember the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who comes not just to “save us from our sins”, but to set the whole world right.

The person at the center of our story today is Jonathan who is the son of King Saul. He’s not one of the more well-known people in the Bible. He’s not unknown, but he’s also not well known. For example, he does make the list of “heroes of the faith” in Hebrews 11. No one in the New Testament talks about him. Perhaps they should have. In this Advent season his story is worth knowing. In our reading from I Samuel 14 you have to imagine him as he is: he’s young (probably still a teenager – 18 or 19 years old), he’s faithful, and he’s very brave. One person described him as “a model of Christian manhood, faithful friendship, and devoted service to the cause of the Lord.” And yet, he will not be on a Christmas Card will he? He isn’t a character in the “Charlie Brown Christmas Special” or any other Christmas movie. He’s just Jonathan, son of Saul, dead to the world, but still very much alive in the biblical text!

Questions:

Why do we light Advent candles? What do they say about what we believe?
What do Jonathan and his armor-bearer decide to do? What is Saul doing?
Who is Ahijah? Is he someone we should admire?

Jonathan and his young armor bearer leave the cave where despair hangs low and they hike into the light of day with a renewed sense of possibility that comes through faith. Jonathan’s armor-bearer says to him, “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” They come through the rocky valley to the base of the cliff where the Philistines are camped.

Questions:

How do Jonathan and his armor-bearer decide what to do when they arrive where the Philistines are camping? What do the Philistines say to them when they are seen?

In I Samuel 14:12 we read, “So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.”

These words of Jonathan proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in this Advent season. He speaks of a salvation that is certain. In Christ the Kingdom of darkness will never overcome the Kingdom of God. Everything else that follows in the story is merely an addendum. First Jonathan and his armor-bearer do their thing and slay some twenty Philistines. This causes a great panic (which comes from the Lord who always fights for this people) and when Saul and the others hear what is going on, they join the battle (better late than never at all.) Our reading ends in verse 23 with the words, “So the LORD rescued Israel that day.”

The word “rescue” can be understood as “to save” or “to deliver”. The Lord brings salvation to his people Israel. However, this deliverance was already foretold by Jonathan when he said, “Climb up after me; the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.”

Questions:

Faith leads to action and action can be daring. What does it mean for you and your family to believe in a living and active gospel?
How do you put your faith into action?

Long ago, through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke words of salvation to his people and he still speaks them today to us as the Church of Christ. In a pandemic focused world, in the Advent of God, he says, “But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from the farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Jonathan is a man of faith and action. He is not grounded by fear and indecision. His words are an invitation: “Climb up after me.” No, this is not a literal command to us, but it is a window, an invitation into something better than the same old same old of the world. Get it together and get going. Faith leads to action and action can be daring. What does it mean for you and your family to believe in a living and active gospel? You can sit around and wait for the world to entertain you, the government to save you, for your friends and social media acquaintances to legitimize you – but there is a better Word out there. God in Christ has already come to you and in him you find purpose, identity, and salvation. Amen.