Let’s begin by travelling back to Numbers chapter 20. Moses had been leading Israel for decades, suffering their insults and rebellions, and, more significantly, standing before the LORD on behalf of the LORD’s people – and sometimes between them. Yet a momentary lapse, a failure “to believe in [the LORD], to uphold [Him] as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel,” causes Moses lose the Promised Land.
I remind you of this because chapter 13 tells a peculiar episode that will begin the unraveling of Saul’s kingdom. It might not immediately be clear what Saul’s big failure is, but an important peculiarity about the Israelite nation is affirmed: the LORD’s king may have command over the people, but the prophet and the priest operate independently of him, as do their agencies.
Contrary to the cultures around them, Israel’s kingship was political only; he was not a religious leader, except to know and enforce the LORD’s law. Keep that in your back pocket in the future – really, throughout the remainder of the Old Testament.
In chapter 14 we’re introduced to Jonathan, Saul’s son, who leads an assault against the Philistines. A phrase keeps recurring in the dialogue of this chapter: “Do what seems good to you…” It’s aimed at either Jonathan or Saul, and may serve a purpose.
Saul’s descent continues in this chapter, as he proclaims a rash curse – presumably meant to rally his troops – that almost costs Jonathan his life. However, it’s an almost, as in almost as bad as the Jephthah story, because Saul’s army stands in the way of Saul fulfilling the vow. But the good outcome for Jonathan (and, presumably, Israel), further degrades Saul. The king could proclaim a curse, but had no power to enforce it. Not only is Saul weak in the LORD; he’s also weak before his men: ineffective both in the spiritual and the secular sense.
Finally, don’t check out before the very end of chapter 14, and consider whether a prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled.
Our verse for this week is Matthew 11:28: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
1 Samuel 13 and 14. Now let’s read it!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.