Updated: May 15, 2021
Lessons in Manliness: Jonathan
By Richard Tucker
April 1, 2020
This week I am starting a periodic series called, “Lessons in Manliness” that will focus on a specific man or incident in the Bible that we can all learn from and apply to our daily lives. This inaugural piece will focus on the Old Testament man, Jonathon.
This particular story from 1 Samuel 14, takes place when Jonathan and his armor-bearer (basically his caddie, but for war stuff instead of golf stuff) left his father Saul’s war camp of 600 men to go check out the Philistine Army.
The Philistines had once again come to the Hebrew lands. Most of the Hebrew people were scattered and in hiding. Because of this, the Philistines mocked God’s people for their fear.
Even though thousands of Hebrew men had hid, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not among them. In fact, they were the only ones who sought out their foe. When they reached the enemy encampment, it was on the other side of a steep ravine. Not being the type to sneak around, Jonathan said to the man with him, “Let’s show ourselves to the enemy, and if they want, we can wait here for them, or we can go over there if they invite us over. God can do great things, even if it is just the two of us.”
The Philistines did call the pair over, so they climbed down one side of the steep gorge and then scrambled up the other side to the Philistine camp…and then killed 20 of their warriors.
At this point, the watchman at the Hebrew camp reported the slaughter of the Philistines to King Saul and the king ordered his army to join the battle. Despite being vastly outnumbered and under-equipped, the Hebrew Army began to route the Philistines. Once this happened, even the cowards hiding in the region heard about the retreating enemy. They too joined in the battle and the day was won.
There are a few great lessons to be learned here; the power of covenant with God and the virtues of dealing with problems head on are two that come to mind, but those are both enabling factors for what I think is the biggest lesson here.
Jonathan and his armor-bearer give us an amazing illustration of the power that comes from stepping up, and stepping out. They show us the power of leadership.
When the two Hebrew men initially faced the Philistines, it was just the two of them, and God. Their courage emboldened the Hebrew army, who joined the battle once they realized what was happening.
The Hebrew army was made up of their brothers. These were men who believed what Jonathan and the armor-bearer believed, and were prepared to fight just like they were, but the men in the rest of the army needed someone to take the first step.
Finally, when news of the enemy’s retreat spread, the army was joined by those who had run and hid. These were the men who didn’t even realize the battle was going on until victory was almost assured, and had just accepted a life of defeat.
It is also worth noting that Jonathan didn’t tell his armor-bearer to go and do what God had called Jonathan to do. He didn’t sit around and lament the fact that his father wasn’t doing it. He didn’t complain that his society was not engaged in fixing the problem. He stepped out of the safety of the camp and walked out what God had called him to do.
Bringing it Home
So let’s take a look at this in our own lives. In many churches across this country, the men’s group is pretty weak or non-existent. Many men feel like God could move in a big way in their church and community if that men’s group were stronger, but it doesn’t really move beyond that. Some men complain that the Pastor isn’t doing enough to develop the men in the church, while others bemoan the lack of men in church in general, and still others just leave.
These men need a “Jonathan”. They need a man who is willing to find one or two other armor bearing men and then step out of their comfort zone (aka the camp) to face the problem. If God is in it, and you do your part, the men around you, your brothers who believe what you believe will join you in the battle. As you and your band of men start to retake ground in your own lives and churches, others will be drawn in and be changed. The men in your churches and communities who had previously accepted defeat without every even fighting will finally be able to see victory.
Of course that is just one example. You know what God has been calling you to do. You know if you have been sitting in the camp next to the fire when you should be stepping up and facing what God has told you to face. It might be at church, work, your community or in your own family, but you know it is there.
Maybe it is time to be your own Jonathan. Perhaps you need to be an armor-bearer for another man who wants you to step up with him and help lead the charge. Either way, it is time to leave the camp, because the longer we all continue to sit in the camp and wait for others to lead, the smaller and more irrelevant the encampment will become.
Don’t blindly follow me, or anyone else when it comes to the Word of God. Dig into it for yourself to make sure we are all rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Check out the scriptures below to study this subject for yourself. Don’t forget to comment and share this with others. You can also follow on Facebook or Instagram. I would love to hear from you there as well.
1 Samuel 14:1-23