1 Samuel 14:1–52; James 3:1–12; Psalm 119:97–120
Faith is often cast as a type of intellectual pursuit: It’s something our minds rise up to, conform to, or simply agree with. But in the Bible, faith is often portrayed as rather mystical: Jonathan somehow knew that God would act on his behalf if his enemies behaved in a certain way (1 Sam 14:1–15). We don’t know how Jonathan had this foreknowledge—prayer seems to be the only explanation for it—but we recognize that Jonathan had tremendous faith. Who else would take on a garrison of 20 men, armed with only one armor bearer and a hunch? Clearly God was at work.
We see God’s work progress as the Philistines inadvertently turned on one another, and previous enemies of Israel joined in the charge against the Philistines (1 Sam 14:16–23). Jonathan’s simple act of faith served as the catalyst for victory. If he had analyzed his inclination and pursued faith without mystery, the Israelites likely would have failed in their campaign against the Philistines.
Yet the real testimony of faith in this account belongs to the armor bearer. After hearing Jonathan’s plan, the armor bearer said, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul” (1 Sam 14:7). While the armor bearer was obligated to follow the king’s son on pain of death, when faced with what appeared to be inevitable death, he could have played his odds by saying no. This scene tells us more about Jonathan: He was known for his faith in God—so much so that his armor bearer took him at his word.
I often wonder what makes a man heroic and others forever loyal to him. In Jonathan, we find the answer: a history of God working through your life and a dedication to follow the mystery of God’s work among us, no matter what stands against us.
Is your faith primarily intellectual, or is it grounded in the mystery of God? How can you bring more of God’s mystical work into your life?
John D. Barry