Saul, the man after the flesh, and Jonathan, a man of faith
Saul reigns two years. He
then selects three thousand men: two thousand are with
him, and one with Jonathan. Jonathan, a man of faith,
acts with energy against the enemies of God's people, and
smites the Philistines; but the energy of faith, acting (as
it always does) in the very stronghold of the enemy,
naturally provokes their hostility. The Philistines hear
of it: Saul is roused to action, and calls together, not
Israel, but the "Hebrews."
Let us remark here that
there is faith in Jonathan. The flesh, placed in the
position of leader to God's people, follows indeed the
impulse given by faith, but does not possess it; and the
word Hebrews, the name by which a Philistine would have
called the people, indicates that Saul relied on the
gathering of the nation as a constituted body, and
understood no better than a Philistine would have done
the relation between a chosen people and God. And this is
the position set before us in the history of Saul. It is
not premeditated opposition to God, but the flesh set in
a place of testimony and used in accomplishing God's work.
We see in it a person linked with the interests of God's
true people, doing the work of God according to the
people's idea of their needa true idea as to their
actual need; but he is one who seeks his resources in the
energy of man, an energy to which God does not refuse His
aid when there is obedience to His will, for He loves His
people; but which in principle, in moral and inward
motive, can never of itself go beyond the flesh from
which it springs. In the midst of all this faith can act,
and act sincerely, and this is Jonathan's case. God will
bless this faith, and He always does so, because it owns
Him; and in this instance (and it is His gift) because it
sincerely seeks the good of God's people.
All this is, in principle,
a kind of picture of the professing church, which in this
point of view anticipates the true reign of Christ, and
in this position even fails in her faithfulness to God.
True faith, in the midst of such a system, never rises so
high as the glory of the coming One, the true rejected
David, but it loves Him and cleaves to Him. If the church
is merely professing, she persecutes Christ; but that in
her which acts by faith loves and owns Him, even when He
is hunted like a partridge on the mountains.
when put to the proof
Jonathan having thus in
faith attacked the Philistines, Saul, who ostensibly
leads the people before God, is put to the proof. Will he
shew himself competent? Will he remember the true
principle on which the blessing of the people rests? Will
he act as a royal priest, or will he acknowledge the
prophet to be the true link of faith between the people
and Goda link the importance and necessity of which
he ought to have recognised, since he owed to it his
present place and power, and it had proved to him its own
mission and prophetic authority by establishing his? When
the critical moment arrives, Saul fails.
The tokens of the
unbelief of the flesh
It is worth while to
retrace here the tokens of the unbelief of the flesh.
The Philistines are
smitten. The nation, active and energetic, hear of it;
nothing could be more natural. Saul has but the same
resourceno call upon God, no cry to Jehovah, the
God of Israel; Samuel does not occur to his faith,
although he remembers what Samuel had told him. If the
Philistines have heard, the Hebrews must hear also.
Israel fears; God gives no answer to unbelief when the
trial of faith is His object. Saul calls the people after
him to Gilgal, but they were soon scattered from him at
the report of the Philistines having gathered together.
Saul is at Gilgal, and Samuel comes again into his mind.
It was no longer as when the kingdom had been renewed.
The circumstances naturally suggested Samuel as a
resource. Saul tarries seven days for him according to
his word. He waits for him long enough to satisfy the
exigence of conscience. Nature can go a long way on this
principle; but it has not that sense of its own weakness,
and that all depends on God, which makes it wait on God,
as the alone resource and worker. Then, as the people
once brought the ark into the camp, he offers the burnt-offering.
But, if he had had confidence in God, he would have
understood that, whatever might be the result, he should
wait for Him; that it was useless to do anything without
Him, and that he ran no risk in waiting for Him. A
faithful God could not fail him. He had thought of Samuel,
and of his having told him to wait, so that he was
without excuse; he remembered that the guidance and
blessing of God were found with the prophet. But he looks
at circumstances: the people are scattered, and Saul
seeks to bring God in by an act of devotion without faith.
It was the decisive moment; God would have confirmed his
kingdom over Israel, would have established his dynasty.
But now He had made choice of another.
The secret of Saul's
loss of the throne
Observe here, that it is
not through being defeated by the Philistines that Saul
loses the throne. The fault was between himself and God.
The Philistines do not attack him. It is enough for Satan
if he succeeds in frightening us away from the pure and
simple path of faith. Samuel departs after having made
known to Saul the mind of God. The Philistines pillage
the land, which is defenceless. The people moreover had
neither sword nor spear.
What a picture of the
state of God's people! How often we find that those who
profess to be the children of God, to be of the truth,
and heirs of the promises, are unarmed before the enemies
who despoil them!