People Really Saved by Grace Also Practice Grace…

People are so people-ish. We are not a species that is very good at mercy. The first chance we get, we just tear others down and we justify our doing this. Particularly in human-centered religion, we use the doctrines or systems of ethics that we have developed to condemn and be condescending of others. People who claim to be irreligious do this too. If we don’t agree with someone’s specific viewpoint, we are treated like the scum of the earth. Within the last week, I was listening to a sermon. The preacher claimed to be preaching verse-by-verse, but he spent the whole time railing against homosexuality, dispensationalism, and calvinism. He read every verse, but only talked about one- and he argued against what that verse explicitly said. Then, his big application at the end was, “Love wins.” This is a sad commentary on the condition of the human heart. This is the example that we are now seeing in King Saul’s life. There is good news. Despite the hatefulness of the human heart, God is merciful and patient. He is saving His people and teaching them how to be merciful and patient as He is.

1 Samuel 14:1-23

Now the day came that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron. And the people who were with him were about six hundred men, and Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the priest of the Lord at Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. Between the passes by which Jonathan sought to cross over to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp crag on the one side and a sharp crag on the other side, and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The one crag rose on the north opposite Michmash, and the other on the south opposite Geba.

Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”

His armor bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart; turn yourself, and here I am with you according to your desire.”

Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men and reveal ourselves to them. If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you’; then we will stand in our place and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hands; and this shall be the sign to us.”

When both of them revealed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines, the Philistines said, “Behold, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.”

So the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor bearer and said, “Come up to us and we will tell you something.” And Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hands of Israel.”

Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, with his armor bearer behind him; and they fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer put some to death after him. That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armor bearer made was about twenty men within about half a furrow in an acre of land. And there was a trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. Even the garrison and the raiders trembled, and the earth quaked so that it became a great trembling.

Now Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude melted away; and they went here and there. Saul said to the people who were with him, “Number now and see who has gone from us.” And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armor bearer were not there.

Then Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God was at that time with the sons of Israel.

While Saul talked to the priest, the commotion in the camp of the Philistines continued and increased; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and came to the battle; and behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion. Now the Hebrews who were with the Philistines previously, who went up with them all around in the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. When all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines had fled, even they also pursued them closely in the battle.

So the Lord delivered Israel that day, and the battle spread beyond Beth-aven.

Saul’s inaction (v. 1-3)

Now the day came that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron. And the people who were with him were about six hundred men, and Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the priest of the Lord at Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.

So, because of Saul’s sin, the Philistines are forming their battle lines. Saul only has 600 men with him because, of the 2,000 previously in his company, 1,600 had retreated because they were afraid (cf. 1 Samuel 13:7-8). We will see, in verse 21, that some of those who fled had actually defected to the Philistine army. Saul is not acting against this Philistine threat. In fact, he is the reason for the threat. Since there is no action, Saul’s son, Jonathan, takes his armor-bearer and goes to see the Philistine threat.

Jonathan’s infiltration (v. 4-15)

Between the passes by which Jonathan sought to cross over to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp crag on the one side and a sharp crag on the other side, and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The one crag rose on the north opposite Michmash, and the other on the south opposite Geba.
Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”
His armor bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart; turn yourself, and here I am with you according to your desire.”
Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men and reveal ourselves to them. If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you’; then we will stand in our place and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hands; and this shall be the sign to us.”
When both of them revealed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines, the Philistines said, “Behold, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.”
So the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor bearer and said, “Come up to us and we will tell you something.” And Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hands of Israel.”
Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, with his armor bearer behind him; and they fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer put some to death after him. That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armor bearer made was about twenty men within about half a furrow in an acre of land. And there was a trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. Even the garrison and the raiders trembled, and the earth quaked so that it became a great trembling.

Here, we witness Jonathan seeking after God and waiting for God’s confirmation before going to battle. While every indication of the text seems to indicate that Saul is reprobate and growing in his sin, his son, Jonathan, seems to honor God. This will be of great importance as we see Jonathan’s and David’s relationship later in the story. Jonathan and his comrade follow the Lord into a Philistine camp and defeat 20 Philistine soldiers. Last week, we saw how Saul was recognized for Jonathan’s victory. Here, we see Jonathan being given victory again.

Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or few. Even though Saul had built up much pride for himself and did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, God still showed no partiality and still had men, including Saul’s son, who were faithful to Him and who trusted Him. God has always been preserving for Himself a remnant. Jonathan followed God to victory in this moment.

God’s faithfulness and mercy (v. 16-23)

Now Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude melted away; and they went here and there. Saul said to the people who were with him, “Number now and see who has gone from us.” And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armor bearer were not there.
Then Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God was at that time with the sons of Israel.
While Saul talked to the priest, the commotion in the camp of the Philistines continued and increased; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”
Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and came to the battle; and behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion. Now the Hebrews who were with the Philistines previously, who went up with them all around in the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. When all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines had fled, even they also pursued them closely in the battle.
So the Lord delivered Israel that day, and the battle spread beyond Beth-aven.

As a result of Jonathan’s infiltration of the Philistine camp, the Philistines were dispersed, Israel’s defectors returned to the ranks of Israel, and Israel was delivered from the Philistines according to God’s promise in 1 Samuel 9:16. Israel is delivered from the Philistines under Saul’s rule. Notice, here, that credit is not given to Saul as before. God takes the glory for delivering Israel. He is the one who led Jonathan to infiltrate the camp.

In 1 Samuel 12:25, God was very clear, “…if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.” When we studied that verse together, we talked about the purpose of the conditional statements in Scripture. They are not given in order to force human submission to God’s Law. They are meant to reveal human unrighteousness and depravity- that we are unable to keep God’s Law. Israel has proven her unrighteousness once again, and Saul is now exponentially increasing his sin as the narrative continues.

After Saul’s sin sequence begins, God reveals that He has already chosen and appointed a man after His own heart to be ruler over His people (13:14). So, we see the providence of God at work through all this. God, though, will not complete His judgment against Saul until chapter 31, and He takes His time doing this throughout Saul’s life. God’s wrath is not always swift. He has mercy even on His enemies. He has mercy even on the reprobate. In this way, everyone gets to experience a degree of God’s grace even though not everyone experiences grace unto salvation. God is good to all sinners. By seeing God’s providence described, we gain a representation of God’s independence. It is because He is truly independent that He is able to show great mercy even to the worst of sinners, even those who will never repent and believe in Him. God even brought Israel’s defectors back into Israel instead of throwing them into confusion with the Philistines.

When Paul writes to the Roman believers, he describes this amazing mercy and patience that God has toward sinners.

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles” (Romans 9:22-24).

When we sin, and even if we have defected to the side of pride, to a false gospel, or to some ways of the world, God is still the God of mercy bringing His people back to Himself.  He endures with much patience those who will never love Him, those who are reprobate according to the context of Romans 9, for the sake of those who belong to Him. Nothing can keep the Lord from saving! If God is merciful  and patient in this way, should we not also be a people of great mercy and patience? Should we not forgive often and always seek reconciliation? Should it not be so even with those who have defected from our own ranks?

It is amazing to me that many of the people who claim to be saved by God grace are often the very people who are unable to practice grace. We will talk about why next week. 

If God is this merciful, I wonder how this translates to our lives and to the ministry of the church. What does it mean to be Christlike and practice godly ministry? We don’t have to wonder too long. God describes it explicitly for us through the Apostle, Paul. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22-26).

When I am preaching or teaching trough Galatians sometime in the future, I will probably need to spend one sermon or lesson on each of these fruits. I won’t do that since we are currently walking through 1 Samuel. Here, I will simply make a theological point and make some application regarding the mercy and patience of God that we see in today’s passage. 

First of all, the fruit produced in the Christian life does not come from the Christian’s ability to keep the Law or any set of rules. It is produced by the Spirit. In fact, this is the fruit produced when the Holy Spirit is positively at work in our lives and in our local churches. I clarify “positively” because the Holy Spirit is always at work in all places. So, this is the fruit produced when the people of God are following God instead of themselves. This gives us great insight into our own hearts and into the heart of any local church body.

  • Love
    • Love, in the likeness of Christ’s love, means sacrificing ourselves for the benefit of others. As individuals, this means that when we are regenerated and being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, the fruit is that we consider others to be more important than ourselves. We come not to promote our own agendas or expect to be served at someone else’s expense. We live to give of ourselves, not take for ourselves. It means the same thing for the ministry of the local church. We are not here merely to gain attendees or argue people into doctrinal or moral submission. If we are a regenerate body of believers being sanctified, we sacrifice of ourselves for the good of those in our local community. Jamie Powell said it this way, “The community is not here for the church. The church is here for the community.” The people in our community need us to love them with a real love- not to only say it.
  • Joy
    • Joy is a happy state of the heart. Individually, we experience joy even through tribulation if we are regenerate and being sanctified. As a local church body, there is joy when we come together to meet if we are regenerated and being sanctified.
  • Peace
    • Individually, if we are regenerate and being sanctified, this means living at peace with everyone so far as it depends on us (cf. Romans 12:18). As a local church body, it means that the Holy Spirit causes us to be peaceable with one another as we come together.
  • Patience
    • This means that God’s patience is reflected in the lives of believers and of genuine local churches.
  • Kindness
    • This means that we are not hateful or resentful or mean about anything as believers and local churches.
  • Goodness
    • This means that we are good to others, not being overly critical, gossips, or speaking hatefully about any person or group, even those with other moral, theological, or political viewpoints.
  • Faithfulness
    • This means that the people of God and true local churches are loyal to God and to one another.
  • Gentleness
    • This means that we are careful and not abrasive in our actions or speech.
  • Self-control
    • This means that the Holy Spirit enables us to keep ourselves from doing or saying something that, in our flesh, we would not be able to keep from saying or doing.

Then we are encouraged, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” This would be like the individual, or church body, who always sees the flaws in others, feels a need to constantly challenge what others say, believe, or stand for, or, because they are envious, always try to compete with others by proving that they are correct or more worthy of following. Instead of being like this, we are to be like the Father by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. This applies in every arena of life, including what we post or share on social media.

This being realized, there is a message that needs to make it out into our community because so many people have been burned by a local church and have experienced what happens when a local church preaches from the Bible without actually teaching the Bible.

Come as you are. We will practice godly love toward you. We are not going to rant against homosexuality, drinking, cussing, liberalism, or anything else because the Bible doesn’t do that. Its purpose is grander than purposelessly complaining about anyone’s sin. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. We have been growing in our understanding and practice of grace. We are moved by the Holy Spirit to practice patience, gentleness, and self-control. We just want you to hear the explicit word of God, which was given for the benefit of sinners (1 Timothy 1:9). So we invite you to come as you are. Come and see. God is moving here, in this way, by His Holy Spirit.

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