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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 14

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-23

1 Samuel 14:1-23

Come, and let us go over to the Philistine garrison.

Jonathan’s exploit at Michmash

It is evident that, Saul had no thought at this time of making an attack on the Philistines. How could he, wish soldiers so poorly armed and so little to encourage them? Samuel does not appear to have been with him. But, in his company was a priest, Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, grandson of Eli, perhaps the same as Ahimelech, afterwards introduced. Saul still adhered to the forms of religion; but he had too much resemblance to the Church of Sardis--“Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” The position of the army of Israel with reference to the Philistines seems to have been very similar to what it was afterwards when Goliath defied the army of the living God. The Israelites could only look on, in helpless inactivity. But just as the youthful spirit of David was afterwards roused in these circumstances to exertion, so on the present occasion was the youthful spirit of Jonathan. It was not the first time that he had attacked the garrison of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 13:3.)

But what he did on the former occasion seems to have been under more equal conditions than the seemingly desperate enterprise to which be betook himself now. A project of unprecedented daring came into his mind. He took counsel with no one about it. A single confidant and companion was all that he thought of--his armour bearer, or aide-de-camp. And even him he did not so much consult as attach. “Come,” said he, “and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint by the Lord to save by many or by few.” No words are needed to show the daring character of this project. The one point of view in which there was the faintest possibility of success was that the Lord God might favour the enterprise. The God of their fathers might work for them, and if He did so there was no restraint with Him to work by many or by few. Had He not worked by Ehud alone to deliver their fathers from the Moabites? Had he not worked by Shamgar alone, when with his ox goad he slew six hundred Philistines? Had he not worked by Samson alone in all his wonderful exploits? Might he not work that day by Jonathan and his armour bearer, and, after all, only produce a new chapter in that history which had already shown so many wonderful interpositions? Jonathan’s mind was possessed by the idea. After all, if he failed, he could but lose his life. It is in this working of faith that must be regarded as the most characteristic feature of the attempt of Jonathan. He showed himself one of the noble heroes of faith, not unworthy to be enrolled in the glorious record of the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews. What encouragement is here for every Christian worker! Don’t despond when you seem to fail in your first and most direct endeavour. But Jonathan’s faith in God was called to manifest itself in a way very different from that in which the faith of most young persons has to be exercised now. Faith led Jonathan to seize sword and spear, and hurry out to an enterprise in which he could only succeed by risking his own life and destroying the lives of others. We are thus brought face to face with a strange but fascinating development of the religious spirit--military faith. The subject has received a new and wonderful illustration in our day in the character and career of that great Christian hero, General Gordon. No one imagines that without his faith Gordon would have been what he was or could have done what he did. It gave him a conviction that he was an instrument in God’s hands, and that when he was moved to undertake anything as being God’s will, he would be carried through all difficulties, enabled to surmount all opposition, and to carry the point in face of the most tremendous odds. And to a great extent the result verified the belief. One is almost disposed to envy Jonathan, with his whole powers of mind and body knit up to the pitch of firmest and most dauntless resolution, under the inspiration that moved him to this apparently desperate enterprise. All the world would have rushed to stop him, insanely throwing away his life, without the faintest chance of escape. But a voice spoke firmly in his bosom--I am not throwing away my life. And Jonathan did not want certain tokens of encouragement. It was something that his armour bearer neither flinched nor remonstrated. Whether in the way of friendly banter or otherwise, the garrison, on perceiving them, invited them to come up, and they would “show them a thing.” Greatly encouraged by the sign, they clambered up on hands and feet till they gained the top of the rock. Then, when nothing of the kind was expected, they fell on the garrison and began to kill. So sudden and unexpected an onslaught threw the garrison into a panic. And thus the faith of Jonathan had a glorious reward. The inspiration of faith vindicated itself, and the noble self-devotion that had plunged into this otherwise desperate enterprise, because there was no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few, led thus to a triumph more speedy and more complete than even Jonathan could have ventured to dream of.

1. This incident is full of lessons for modern times.

1. First, it shows what wide and important results may come from individual conviction. Did not the Reformation begin through the steadfastness of Luther, the miner’s son of Eisleben, to the voice that spoke out so loudly to himself? Did not Carey lay the foundation of the modern mission in India, because he could not get rid of that verse of Scripture. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature?” Did not Livingstone persevere in the most dangerous, the most desperate enterprise of our time, because he could not quench the voice that called him to open up Africa or perish? Learn, everyone, from this, never to be faithless to any conviction given to you, though, as far as you know, it is given to you alone.

2. This narrative shows what large results may flow from individual effort. Think how many children have been rescued by Dr. Barnardo, how many have been emigrated by Miss Macpherson, how many souls have been impressed by Mr. Moody, how many orphans have been eared for by Mr. Muller, how many stricken ones have been relieved in the institutions of John Bost.

3. Lastly, we may learn from this narrative that the true secret of all spiritual success lies in our seeking to be instruments in God’s hands, and in our lending ourselves to Him, to do in us and by us whatever is good in His sight. It was not Jonathan’s project that was to be carried out; it was the Lord’s cause that was to be advanced. Jonathan had no personal ends in this matter. He was willing to give up his life, if the Lord should require it. It is a like consecration in all spiritual service that brings most blessing and success. “He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

The battle of Michmash

These were evil days for the people of Israel. But it was in these dark days that Jonathan shone so famous. It is yet true that difficulties prove our mettle, and that the greater the hardship or peril, the more is the victory worth telling.

The presence of the enemy should rouse our courage. Is there not need for more chivalry among the soldiers of Christ? How sin lords it over us, even in England. Intemperance, lust, cruelty, ignorance, are the enemies of our ]and; and they do almost as they like; they are slaying our people, starving our children, dishonouring our women. Think, for instance, of the history of one gin palace Where are our Jonathans? If we could not tolerate the presence of an invading foe how can we bear to see the arrogance and cruelty of the enemies of Jesus Christ in this so-called Christian land? It was Jonathan who conceived the plan of attacking the Philistines; which leads us to say--princes should set the example. Officers, to the front. Have you wealth?--use it as becomes a prince of God. Have you learning?--use it to slay ignorance. How the example of Lord Shaftesbury has animated weaker men, and made them feel like the armour bearer of Jonathan

It is true that earnest leaders should not lack brave followers. We are not told the name of the young man who was Jonathan’s armour bearer, but he was worthy of the situation. Listen to him: “Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.” As if he had said, “Look at me; do I look like flinching? If thou art first, I will be second! I am ready to follow thy lead: thou canst not go where I will not be close behind.” If Jesus Christ could only have a Church like that armour bearer, how soon the victory would be ours! And it is yet true that the best of leaders is all the better for the knowledge that his followers will not fail him. Let those of us whose place is not to lead, yet help our commander by acting, so that whenever he looks at us he will see our faces say, “I am with thee according to thy heart.”

Jonathan knew that God can win by a minority. He said to his companion, “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” He remembered that God had promised, “One shall chase a thousand, two put ten thousand to flight.” If, in fighting the Lord’s battles, we wait till we outnumber the foe, we shall never “do exploits.” Joshua and Caleb were outvoted, but they said, “Let us go up at once and possess it.” The twelve apostles did not wait, but, in the teeth of the Sanhedrim, preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” At one time John Wesley was almost the only clergyman who dared the rotten eggs of the Philistines of his day, and now he and his brother have a monument in Westminster Abbey!

At the battle of Michmash, we have been taught that God helps them who help themselves. God worked with the brave men who had gone alone. This “trembling of God,” as it is called in the margin, struck a panic into the hearts of the Philistines. This might have happened if Jonathan had not gone up, but most likely not. God works yet by means, and delights in cooperating with His people. If you want God to help you, help yourself. Climb up the hill in spite of Philistinic sneers, and when you are at the top, the earth shall quake. You will not be alone very long. Saul brought his army after the brave pair had gone alone, and the number of Saul’s people increased directly, as you read in verses 21, 22. The enslaved Hebrews rose against their masters, and these also who had hid themselves. “So the Lord saved Israel that day.” (Thomas Champness.)

The valiant soldier

While the Philistines are making inroads upon Israel--sending out their different companies--and strengthening themselves in garrisons or strongholds--poor Saul remains, with his six hundred men, fearful and dispirited, under a pomegranate tree; a standing proof of what God had told Israel should befall them when they sinned against Him--their enemies the head, and they the tail. But God never will leave Himself without a little faithful remnant, be it ever so small, so despised, or so invisible. Haven’t you sometimes seen a tree of which the fruit has been gathered, with just two or three left on in some part that has been overlooked, or in the very uppermost bough, where they could not well be reached? Now, God compares the very few of His people, whom He reserves, to this: “Two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof.” (Isaiah 17:6). When we look at this we need to ask, with intense earnestness, “Lord, make me one of those few.” Jonathan, bold as a lion, strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, says to his armour bearer, “Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his lather.” No, he had learned not to confer with flesh and blood, when flesh and blood made him a coward in the cause of his God. When you see plainly what is your duty, however difficult, go forward. There will be many evil counsellors, who can talk much of the trials and difficulties, and make other hearts faint like their own: but, you recollect, the Lord does not like such soldiers; He would not let them stay in His army, for He well knew how catching fear is, and what sad work it makes in the camp of Israel. There is a Counsellor from whose lips you may ever hear, “Fear not.” “Incline your ear, and come unto Him.” We see the children of this world urging each other forward--overcoming endless difficulties--and accomplishing immense designs--while, too often, if God’s children have any great work which they would fain do for Him, a thousand difficulties, and ten thousand fears are started, and while they are debating the enemy is gaming ground. Oh, for one such view of our precious Master as Jonathan had! Did we thus see Him all difficulties would vanish. (Helen Plumptre.)

Room for services in the church

In the fourteenth chapter we see on the part of Jonathan what may be described as a disorderly courage. Disorderly courage has often been crowned with successes, and has therefore presented a strong temptation to ill-controlled natures. Free lances have unquestionably done good service in many a man, physical and moral. At the same time there ought to be a great central authority in all well-conducted operations. Room should always be left for genius, and for those sudden impulses of the soul which it is sometimes impossible to distinguish from inspiration: but taking the rank and file, and looking upon the Church as a whole, it will he found that a quiet exercise of discipline and a steady pursuit of paths of order will answer best in the great issue. In the Church, let us repeat, room should be found for all sorts of men: for the great king and the young soldier, for the flashing genius and the slow moving mind. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verse 4

1 Samuel 14:4

There was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side.

Rocks on both sides

The cruel army of the Philistines must be taken and scattered. There is just one man, accompanied by his bodyguard, to do that thing Jonathan is the hero of the scene. These two men, Jonathan and his bodyguard, drive back and drive down the Philistines over the rocks, and open a campaign which demolishes the enemies of Israel. I suppose that the overhanging and overshadowing rocks on either side did not baulk or dishearten Jonathan or his bodyguard, but only roused and filled them with enthusiasm as they went up. “There was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side.” You have been, or are now, some of you, in this crisis of the text. If a man meets one trouble, he can go through with it. He gathers all his energies, concentrates them upon one point, and in the strength of God, or by his own natural determination, goes through it,. But the man who has trouble to the right of him, and trouble to the left of him is to be pitied. Did either trouble come alone, he might endure it but two troubles, two disasters, two overshadowing misfortunes, are Bozez and Seneh. God pity him! “There is a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the ether side”

In this crisis of the text is that man whose fortune and health fail at the same time. Nine tenths of all our merchants capsize is business before they come to forty-five years of age. There is some collision in commercial circles, and they stop payment. When the calamity does come, if; is awful. The man goes home in despair, and he tells his family: “We’ll have to go to the poor house.” He takes a dolorous view of everything. It seems as if he never could rise. But a little time passes, and he says: “Why, I am not so badly off after all; I have my family left.” Before the Lord turned Adam out of Paradise he gave him Eve, so that when he lost Paradise he could stand it. Well, this man of whom I am speaking looks around, and he finds his family is left, and he rallies, and the light comes to his eyes, and the smile to his face, and the courage to his heart. In two years he is quite over it. He makes his financial calamity the first chapter in a new era of prosperity. He met that one trouble--conquered it. He sat down for a little while under the grim shadow of the rock Bozez; yet he soon rose, and began, like Jonathan, to climb. But how often it is that physical ailment comes with financial embarrassment. When the fortune failed it broke the man’s spirit. His nerves were shattered. His brain was stunned. I can show you hundreds of men in New York tomorrow whose fortune and health failed at the same time. Now, what is such a man to do? In the name of Almighty God, I will tell him what to do. Do as Jonathan did--climb; climb up into the sunlight of God’s favour and consolation. I can go through the Churches, and shew you men who lost fortune and health at the same time, and yet who sing all day and dream of heaven all night.

Again, that man is in the crisis of the text who has home troubles and outside persecution at the same time. The world treats a man well just as long as it, pays best to treat him well. As long as it can manufacture success out of his bone, and brain, and muscle, it favours him. The world fattens the horse it wants to drive. But let a man see it his duty to cross the track of the world, then every bush is full of horns and tusks thrust at him. They will belittle him. They will caricature him. They will call his generosity self-aggrandisement, and his piety sanctimoniousness. The very worst persecution will some time come upon him from those who profess to be Christians. Now a certain amount of persecution rouses a man’s defiance, stirs his blood for magnificent battle, and makes him fifty times more a man than he would have been without the persecution. So it was with Millard, the preacher, in the time of Louis XI. When Louis XI sent word to him that unless he stopped preaching in that style he would throw him into the river, he replied: “Tell the king that I will reach heaven sooner by water than he will reach it by fast horses.” A certain amount of persecution is a tonic and an inspiration, but too much of it, and too long continued, becomes the rock Bozez, throwing a dark shadow over a man’s life. What is he to do then? Go home, you say. Good advice, that. That is just the place for a man to go when the world abuses him. Go home. Blessed be God for our quiet and sympathetic homes. But there is many a man who has the reputation of having a home when he has none. Sometimes men have awakened to find on one side of them the rock of persecution, and on the other side the rock of domestic infelicity. What shall such an one do? Do as Jonathan did--climb. Get up into the heights of God’s consolation, from which he may look down in triumph upon outside persecution and home trouble.

Again, that woman stands in the crisis of the text, who has bereavement and a struggle for a livelihood at the same time. How many women there are seated between the rock of bereavement on the one side, and the rock of destitution on the other, Bozez and Seneh interlocking their shadow and dropping them upon her miserable way. “There is a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side.” What are such to do? Somehow, let them climb up into the heights of the glorious promise: “Leave thy fatherless children; I will preserve them alive, and let thy widows trust in Me.” Or get up into the heights of that other glorious promise: “The Lord preserveth the stranger and relieveth the widow and the fatherless.”

That man is in the crisis of the text who has a wasted life on the one side and an unilluminated eternity on the other. Though a man may all his life have cultured deliberation and self-poise, if he gets into that position, all his self-possession is gone. There are all the wrong thoughts of his existence, all the wrong deeds, all the wrong words--strata above strata, granitic, ponderous, overshadowing. That rock I call Bozez. On the other side are all the retributions of the future, the thrones of judgment, the eternal ages, angry with his long defiance. That rock I call Seneh. Between these two rocks ten thousand times ten thousand have perished. O man immortal, man redeemed, man blood-bought, climb up out of those shadows! Climb up by the way of the Cross. To become a Christian is not to go meanly down; it is to come gloriously up--up into the communion of saints; up into the peace that passeth all understanding; up into the companionship of angels. He lives upward; he dies upward. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Difficult extremes

There are critical periods in the life of man, where decision is of the utmost importance. Life and honour, or disgrace and death, are dependent on the course to be taken at such periods. If difficulties multiply, the greater decision is required. This was precisely the case with Jonathan. The approach to the garrison would have been pronounced impassable by a less decisive and less courageous mind. But nothing is too hard to accomplish, with the help of God on your side and a decided perseverance.

The difficult extremes of the present crisis are a sceptical spirit on one hand and a superstitious spirit on the other. Infidelity and superstition are like two rocks.

1. The mind commencing an independent train of thinking, and directing its thoughts to the inquiry, “What is truth?” is met by the avowed infidel, who begins by a subtle augmentation to burden and perplex the soul.

2. On the other hand, superstition claims from the inquirer after truth implicit confidence in its priests and reliance on its ceremonies.

The second class of difficult extremes may be seen in the urgent claims on business and the temptations of leisure.

1. The competition in business. The large portion of time and mental energy consumed in providing for “the bread that perisheth,” leaves but fragments of time and mental power for the interests of the immortal soul--the less has the first claim, the greater has the second. But when the first has been answered there is little but exhaustion left.

2. The temptations of leisure are usually in the same proportion as the demands of business are exhausting. Mind and body endeavour to recruit expended energy. Then the allurement to pleasure becomes powerful.

The third class of difficult extremes may be seen in the danger of presumption on the one hand and the equal danger of despondency on the other.

1. Presumption sometimes so infatuates the mind as to subdue it with an entire indifference to the realities of eternity.

2. Despondency. The remedy must be prompt and decided faith. An acquaintance with the Word of God. Courageous decision in complying with its requirements. There are no rocks before the cross, though there may be one on either side. (Preachers Assistant.)

Verse 6

1 Samuel 14:6

There is no restraint to the Lord, to save by many or by few.

Jonathan’s faith

1. This faith of Jonathan was reasonable. Some think faith mere assumption, or the result of ignorance. It is not so. Faith rests on reason. We know we can do nothing of ourselves in an emergency like that which had overtaken the children of Israel. We know God has infinite power, and He has said that He will help those who trust Him. He has the power and He is willing, then is it not in reason to trust Him?

2. Jonathan believed that it was the height of wisdom to give God the opportunity to reveal His mighty arm. God needs our faith. God is necessary to us, and we, in a sense, are necessary to God. We need God that we may have ground for our faith, and He needs our faith to call out His help. We trust too much in ourselves. Said one to me, “the churches are growing so weak.” I would to God that they were weak enough to lean on God. I do not doubt that there are church members who can get up at five o’clock, swing in and out with the multitude at Moody and Sankey’s meetings, but how few are willing to go up alone against the Philistines. There is an inspiration in a multitude, but it is not always the inspiration that comes through faith in God. The Philistines commenced slaying each other. So it often is when God comes down to help the Church, sinners assist the work in their confusion. Then the Israelites who had hid in caves, when they saw that the army of the Philistines had met disaster, helped on the victory. When God manifests His power, backsliders return. Every man can do something in the Church’s work.

3. Remember, lastly, that if such faith and such labour glorified God, then they can do it again. Is the Church in straitened circumstances? Are the enemies clamorous? There is need of the faith of Jonathan and of his armour bearer. Give God an opportunity, by trusting in Him, to reveal His strength. Defeat comes through a lack of faith. Let no one’s heart be faint. (Metropolitan Pulpit.)

God and we

Richter says that we should all “make as much of ourselves as can be made out of the stuff.” The stuff we are made of may be particularly poor, for we know that we have been able to make little or nothing out of it. Suppose we take it to its Maker and ask Him to do something with it? On the keystone of a bridge over a stream in a beautiful Scotch parish are the words, “God and We,” teaching all who read them that nothing can be built without the help of the great Architect. It is so with the edification or building up of ourselves. It is not “God alone,” which would mean human idleness; or “We” alone, which would mean human presumption; or “We and God,” which would be almost blasphemy; but “God and We.”

Divine and human cooperation

We may often be cheered by this recollection of a beautiful reciprocity in things human and Divine. If God promises His unfailing help to us. He has also conditioned much of the success of His cause on our help rendered to it. Sun, moon, and stars are mutual helpers in sustaining the equilibrium of Nature’s forces. When the earth, sun, and moon join their attractions in a right line the tides rise to the full; but when these worlds exert their forces at right angles then the tides sink to their lowest. So when we place ourselves in the right attitude of harmony with the Divine powers, then we exert the most beneficent influence. The Divine Spirit is the great and all-sufficient source of help for human souls. Science gives us a beautiful illustration. A strong man cannot very long hold up a heavy weight. His arm grows weary and he feels weak. But if a current from a magnetic battery or an electric machine be applied to the tired arm the muscles instantly regain strength, and the weight is held up with ease. So it is with the invisible current of the Divine power of the Spirit applied to our weary souls. (Christian Commonwealth.)

Strength in quiet assurance

Pelopidas, when informed that the number of the enemy was double that of his own army, replied: “So much the better. We shall conquer so many the more.” His intelligent self-possession was more than a thousand spears. The battle of Gilboa was lost before Saul began it. “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (E. P. Thwing.)

Verse 7

1 Samuel 14:7

I am with thee.

The armour bearer who backed Jonathan

Jonathan was a brave and generous leader of men. In the picture we are to study we see Jonathan, tired of inaction, and longing to be against the enemy, suddenly determine to do a little skirmishing on his own account; and yet there was a profoundly religious spirit controlling the impulse which led him to make the attempt. Jonathan devoutly believed that God was able to work by the few as well as by the many. He made known his purpose to his armour bearer and no doubt awaited with interest the attitude which that young man would take in the matter. Then the armour bearer replied with a warm-hearted enthusiasm and fidelity that must have made Jonathan’s generous blood tingle, “Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.” Who could not win victories backed by such armour bearers as that? Go back through history and you will see that the men who have done the greatest work in the world are the men who have been backed by faithful helpers with staunch and loyal hearts. Moses was chosen to lead Israel out of Egypt, but God gave him Miriam and Aaron for armour bearers. Joshua became the great soldier and leader of his nation, but what a splendid armour bearer he had in Caleb. Daniel stands out gloriously against the dark background of wicked Babylon, but the three brave Hebrew boys that went into the fiery furnace rather than betray their faith in God were worthy armour bearers to such a leader. Paul shines forth from Ephesus, and Rome, and Athens, and Corinth as the great leader and evangelist, but who can ever tell how much Silas, and Barnabas, and Timothy meant to the great apostle as armour bearers to encourage and sustain him? Of course God works through leaders. I do not wish for one moment, to shirk my own responsibility or my own duty with reference to a revival. But feeling in this way, I also feel just as certainly that I cannot win in this church and in this city many souls to Christ, unless the men and women of this church shall be loyal and faithful armour bearers. There are many ways in which the individual members of a church may be helpful armour bearers to the pastor in a time like this.

1. The first is in their attitude to God and to their fellow Christians in relation to the meetings. Sincere and earnest prayer which takes possession of the heart and life must help to sustain the pastor in leading a campaign for the saving of souls. Do you think that Peter could have won that victory on the day of Pentecost if the hundred and twenty had been going about criticising him; or bad been making outside engagemants to take away their interest from the meeting. So both your attitude to God and your attitude toward your fellow church members are of the most serious importance. Revivals never come easily. A revival of religion is campaign waged against the world, and the flesh, and the devil. Every liquor saloon in this country is dead set against a revival of religion. Not only are these against it, but the greed for money, and the love of ease and self-indulgence, in church members as well as in outsiders, ere all against a revival of religion. Hence a real, genuine revival of religion always comes hard.

2. If you are to be a real armour bearer you, too, must handle the sword of the Spirit; you must not wait for the pastor to hunt out individuals one by one and win them to Christ. You must be faithful in your own place and with self-denial and earnestness seek to win souls yourself. There are many souls who are waiting for but a touch of influence from the outside to turn the balances on the side of righteousness. And what joy it would bring to you if you were to thus feel yourself a real armour bearer in Christ’s work. It seems terrible, when the human heart is capable of such marvellous things in the way of loyalty, and zeal, and enthusiasm, that we who profess the name of Jesus Christ, and have been redeemed by His precious blood, should be so lacking here. What glorious deeds have been done through the chivalric earnestness of human souls! (L. A. Banks, D. D.)

Verse 13

1 Samuel 14:13

And they fell before Jonathan, and his armour bearer slew after him.

The qualities that win

Sir Charles Napier, when in India, encountered an army of thirty-five thousand Belloches with two thousand men, of whom only four hundred were Europeans. He charged them in the centre up a high bank, and for three hours the battle was undecided. At last they turned and fled. It is this sort of pluck, tenacity and determined perseverance which wins soldiers’ battles, and, indeed, every battle. It is the one neck nearer that wins the race and shows the blood; the one pull more of the oar that proves the “beefiness” of the fellow, as Oxford men say; it is the one march more that wins the campaign, the five minutes more persistent courage that wins the fight. Though your force be less than another’s, you equal and outmaster your opponent if you continue it longer and concentrate it more. (S. Smiles)

Verses 24-52

1 Samuel 14:24-52

And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people.

Great issues hang on a King’s rash word

One little sentence, spoken in a moment of passion by King Henry the Second, brought a lifetime of remorse and penance and humiliation, and made him responsible for a murder which his calmer soul abhorred. He had been hearing of repetitions of troubles brought about by his great Chancellor, a Becket, and in a moment of exasperated temper exclaimed, “Of the cowards that eat my bread, is there none will rid me of this turbulent priest?” Too soon, and toe eagerly, the hasty words were acted upon. The anger of the moment was responsible for a deed which the lifetime of remorse and humiliation could nor undo. (Footsteps of Truth.)

Saul’s wilfulness

That Saul was now suffering in character under the influence of the high position and great power to which he had been raised, is only too apparent from what is recorded in these verses. No doubt he pays more respect that he has been used to pay to the forms of religion. But how are we to explain his increase of religiousness side by side with the advance of moral obliquity and recklessness? Why should he be more careful in the service of God while he becomes more imperious in temper, more stubborn in will, and more regardless of the obligations alike of king and father? The explanation is not difficult to find. The expostulation of Samuel had given him a fright. The announcement that the kingdom would not be continued in his line, and that God had found a worthier man to set over His people Israel, had moved him to the quick. There could be no doubt that Samuel was speaking the truth. Saul had begun to disregard God’s will in his public acts, and was now beginning to reap the penalty. He felt that he must pay more attention to God’s will. If he was not to lose everything, he must try to be more religious. There is no sign of his feeling penitent in heart. He is not concerned in spirit for his unworthy behaviour toward God. He feels only that his own interests as king are imperilled. It is this selfish motive that makes him determine to be more religious. Alas, how common has this spirit been in the history of the world! Louis XIV has led a most wicked and profligate life, and he has ever and anon qualms that threaten him with the wrath of God. To avert that wrath, he must be more attentive to his religious duties. He must show more favour to the Church, exalt her dignitaries to greaser honour, endow her orders and foundations with greater wealth. But that is not all. He must use all the arms and resources of his kingdom for ridding the Church of her enemies. For twenty years he must harass the Protestants. What the magnificent monarch did on a large scale, millions of obscurer men have done on a small. It is a sad truth that terror and selfishness have been at the foundation of a great deal of that which passes current as religion. But it is all because what he calls religion is no religion; it is the selfish bargain-making spirit, which aims no higher than deliverance from pain; it is not the noble exercise of the soul, prostrated by the sense of guilt, and helpless through consciousness of weakness, lifting up its eyes to the hills whence cometh its help, and rejoicing in the grace that freely pardons all its sin through the blood of Christ, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit that renews and sanctifies the soul. The first thing that Saul does, in the exercise of this selfish spirit, is to impose on the people an obligation to fast until the day be overse Jonathan was a true man of God. He was in far nearer fellowship with God than his father, and yet so far from approving of the religious order to fast which his father had given, he regards it with displeasure and distrust. Godly men will sometimes be found less outwardly religious than some other men, and will greatly shock them by being so. God had given a wonderful deliverance that day through Jonathan. Jonathan was as remarkable for the power of faith as Saul for the want of it. At worst, it was but a ceremonial offence, but to Jonathan it was not even that. But Saul was too obstinate to admit the plea. By a new oath, he devoted his son to death. Nothing could show more clearly the deplorable state of his mind. In the eye of reason and of justice, Jonathan had committed no offence. He had given signal evidence of the possession in a remarkable degree of the favour of God. He had laid the nation under inconceivable obligations. All these pleas were for him; and surely in the king’s breast a voice might have been heard pleading, Your son, your firstborn, “the beginning of your strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power”! Is it possible that this voice was silenced by jealousy, jealousy of his own son, like his after-jealousy of David? What kind of heart could this Saul have had when in such circumstances he could deliberately say, “God do so, and more also, for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan”? But, “the Divine right of kings to govern wrong” is not altogether without check. A temporary revolution saved Jonathan It was one good effect of excitement. In calmer circumstances, the people might have been too terrified to interfere. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not. Evidently the military spirit ruled in Saul, but it did not bring peace nor blessing to the kingdom. Once off the right rail, Saul never got on it again; rash and restless, he doubtless involved his people in many a disaster, fulfilling all that Samuel had said about taking from the people, fulfilling but little that the people had hoped concerning deliverance from the hand of the Philistines. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

Acting from mere impulse

We have to propose the question, “What, in recording this passage, did the Holy Spirit mean that we should learn from it?“ We shall not be long in perceiving that there is brought before us, chiefly, one more painful defect, in Saul’s general conduct, and that the consequences associated with that defect are very distinctly described: it is one, too, which is fat from being uncommon. In codes of laws drawn up by man this defect is not indeed set down by name, and signalised as a sin, though humanity bleeds under its effects, but it is condemned, and justly so, by that “commandment” which is “exceeding broad.” We refer to the habit of inconsiderateness--the habit of acting from mere impulse, of allowing merely momentary feeling to sway, without pausing to ask whither the act which we perform, or the step on which we decide, will lead us, and how it will affect other persons besides ourselves. It, is truly a melancholy instance which this chapter describes. To pronounce a curse at, all was presumptuous, where there was no direct command of God to be infringed; and more, what personal pain it inflicted--what actual disadvantages it involved--what further mischief it would have done, if the matter had been left in the King of Israel’s hand! How different all would have been, if, instead of following the mere impulse of an excited mind, he had thought for a moment, and, when prompted to issue his decree, had paused to ask. How will this affect my people? how will it operate in the end? But where, in this imperfect world, can we turn our eyes without meeting scenes and circumstances which cause us, involuntarily, to say within ourselves, “What a difference there would have been here if there had been more of reflection and less of mere impulse.”

We may gather a suggestion or two from this part of Saul’s history, for our own caution and admonition.

1. Let us remember that this inconsiderateness, this acting from mere impulse, is commonly the result of an overweening regard to self. It was not Saul who commenced this engagement, but he could not bear not to have the most prominent place in the affair, and he must do something to make himself both seen and felt--he must make his authority evident, though the result of his decree would inevitably be the misery of his people all that day. His love for his own dear self, and the manner in which all his thoughts centred around that favourite object, are discernible in the very words of the imprecation, “Cursed be the man that, eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.” Let us make the interests of others the object of our regard in all we undertake. Never let us think of ourselves without, at the same time, thinking of others too. The habit of attaching importance to others’ convenience, to others’ comforts, to others’ feelings, will, under God, prove a great preservative against acting from mere impulse.

2. This habit, which we condemn, even though it may involve no serious consequences to others, is manifestly wrong, because it is decidedly atheistic. It affords no room for God; it makes no reference to Him. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him” is a command which needs no other basis than the simple fact that there is a God, and that we are His feeble and dependent creatures. Nehemiah was in the habit of associating God with everything, of putting Him in His proper place: Saul allowed Him perpetually to be out of sight. Hence the difference between the practice of the two men. The one acted deliberately, because he acted prayerfully; the other acted from impulse, because it was no part of his habit to recognise his dependence upon God.

3. Acting from impulse, while it often results in the infliction of mischief on others, is not less to be deprecated on account of the injury which hasty and intemperate men occasion to themselves, and chiefly in this respect--the bitter and enduring bondage into which their thoughtlessness often brings them. Think, then, before you act; pray, before you put your purpose into practice. Consider others as well as yourselves. Direct design to do wrong has slain its thousands; but the inconsiderateness of mere impulse has slain its tens of thousands. “None of us liveth to himself.”

The narrative allows us to draw some few general inferences as to the character of Saul’s personal religion at this time.

1. It leads us to perceive how strangely partial his religion was in its operation. Saul’s religion was not of a very deep character; it was of that order which allows its professor to be vastly more affected by the neglect of something outward and formal than by the indulgence, within himself, of a wrong and impious state of mind. It puts us in mind of that most thorough manifestation of hypocrisy, of which the New Testament contains the record, when the accusers and betrayers of Jesus shrunk back with sanctimonious step from the threshold of the judgment hall and would not set foot within it, “lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.” And yet, though their consciences would not allow them to do this, the very same consciences, when Pilate came out to them, and declared that Jesus was innocent, presented no obstacle to their murderous cry, “Crucify him:--not this man, but Barabbas.”

2. Even in the discharge of properly religious duties Saul was tardy and dilatory; and when, at last he was found doing that which was right he appeared to act, quite as much as when he did wrong, from mere impulse. That it should never have entered his mind to build an altar to God before, this was the point on which the Spirit of God directed that the sacred historian should pronounce emphatically. How keenly significant is that parenthetical sentence--“The same was the first altar which he built to the Lord!” It seems to say to us, God notices when you build the first altar, when you first set it up, whether it be in the secret chamber or in the family. He knows the date of each secret religious transaction, keeps account when it was done, add how long an interval transpired before it was entered upon.

3. It was of a kind which allowed him to put God on one side, when he was too busy to attend to Him. Real, religion will ever put God first--first, as the Object whose glory is sought; and first, as the Being on whose aid we must, in the spirit of humble dependence, rely. The multiplication of duties and engagements in this busy world may sometimes press heavily upon the religious professor; but at such seasons they really serve as tests of character. If he be truly what he professes to be, his sincerity will be seen in this, that he will not allow his busiest cares to interfere with fellowship with God.

4. It does not appear to have been characterised by the slightest self-suspicion, end there is constantly to be detected throughout a singular want of humility. It never seems to have entered his thoughts that he could, by any possibility, have been in the wrong; but he was most ready to suppose that anyone else might be to blame. In the right direction of the lots as they were cast, it was the evident design of God to bring out to view the evil of Saul inconsiderateness. He was the only culpable person, and God made that fact evident. Now, one would have thought; that if anything could have brought him to a sense of his error, it would have been the discovery that his rash decree and oath had implicated his own son, Jonathan, in liability to suffering and death. But, no! he did not see it; he would not see it. Our indignation rises when we hear him say, “God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan;” and we are ready to exclaim, “What! another oath? Has not one done mischief enough? cannot you see it? do you not feel it?” Nothing can exceed the hardening influence of that professed religion which leaves a man unsuspicious and ignorant of himself. (J. A. Muller.)

The rash oath

Though Samuel could not spare time to seek the mind and will of God, he would follow the devices of his own heart, and lean to his own understanding. He made a rash vow. He stands here as a warning to me and you When we have been very much pressed with business or hurried with distress, how short have we been in prayer! how remiss in seeking the Lord! And then, when our conscience was a little uneasy, we have tried to quiet it with some foolish resolutions, thereby bringing ourselves into bondage and sin. As if the more to expose the folly of Saul’s vow, the wearied and worn Israelites come to a wood where delicious food was ready to drop into their mouths; they might almost have eaten as they ran. Ah, Israel! how kindly would your heavenly, your rejected King, have supplied and refreshed you, while the king whom you have chosen does but distress and oppress you. A soldier of Jesus knows what it is after climbing some craggy rock, and after many a hard struggle with his enemies, to get a taste of that precious word which is sweeter than honey to his mouth (Psalms 119:103). His downcast eyes are lightened--he again sees him who is invisible--he is satisfied with marrow and fatness, and praises his God with joyful lips. The poor people became extremely faint for want of food; and as soon as ever the set time was expired, they flew upon the spoil, and, ravenous as they were, did eat, with the blood, thus breaking a direct command of God, while they had so scrupulously kept the commandment of a man God had commanded them not to eat the blood of the sacrifices: probably this command was given to keep up a lively remembrance that it was blood, even the blood of Jesus only, that could atone for sin. Saul puts a stop to this, and, with a further show of devotion,--builds an altar unto the Lord Alas, poor Saul! thou art not the only one of whom it will be said, “He did many things, but left undone the one thing needful.” Though this oath of Saul was so rash and foolish, yet how sacred is an oath with our God. Though only one, and he the well beloved Jonathan, had broken it and that too ignorantly, still God must avenge a broken oath. Oh, righteous Father! what a warning, what a word of comfort is here! Poor swearer! it has a dark side for thee. Will God thus remember, thus take notice of a curse? And wilt thou dare to curse thyself, thy wife, thy children, thy neighbour, thy cattle, thine eyes, thy limbs, and then say, “Tush, God hath forgotten?” Instead of profiting by the trouble that his rash oath had already brought, upon the people, Saul adds yet another, saying, “As the Lord liveth, which sayeth Israel, though it be in Jonathan, my son he shall surely die.” The people, wiser than the headstrong king, rescue the well-beloved Jonathan, giving him, in a few words, as high a character as can be given of a worm. “He hath wrought with God.” To walk with God, and to work with God, should just form the summary of a believer’s life and occupation. It is not confined to one or two of his children, but this honour have all his saints. (Helen Plumptre.)

Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening.

A bad saving of time

It is plain enough, this refusing the people time for eating that they might swiftly pursue, was really a pernicious saving of time; was really a hindrance rather than a help. For, through lack of food, the people became so exhausted that they could not pursue. This bad saving of time is but an illustration of the sort of time-saving many of us are frequently at in these last years of the nineteenth century! How frequently young people make such bad saving of time when they refuse themselves the food of preparation for future service, by using the time of their youth in too great devotion to other things. The young man in business whose attention is on the simple getting through anyhow with his duty, is making this bad saving of time. The young woman whose chief care is society rather than thoroughness and deftness in the knowledges and services that specially belong to women, is making such bad saving of her time. They set Michael Angelo at carving a statue in snow. Lost time for the great sculptor, for the statue being finished could only melt. Such as these are carving statues out of snow, and poor ones at that.

2. How frequently people make such bad saving of time when, like Saul refusing to let the people take time for eating, they refuse to take time for the duty next them, and use that time in dreaming about or dreading the duty.

3. How frequently people make bad saving of time by refusing to seize the present time for becoming Christians, using the time meanwhile for the pursuit of other things. (Wayland Hoyt, D. D.)

Verse 37

1 Samuel 14:37

And dipped it in an honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth.

The honey of God’s Word

There were three kinds of honey:

1. That which was made by bees.

2. That which was distilled from the trees.

3. That which was made from grape juice, and largely exported.

The kind Jonathan ate, was doubtless the product of the honey bee. This honey had a marvellous effect upon Jonathan. “It enlightened his eyes;” it strengthened his body so that the faintness which produced dimness of vision disappeared. God’s Word is our honey. The provision is abundant, like as was the honey in wild profusion in the woods which Jonathan entered. It is sweet. It gives strength. Above all, it has an enlightening power.

1. The Word of God enlightens the intellect. The Bible is God’s great school book to man.

2. It enlightens the moral sense. The needle of the compass must be magnetised if it is to point always to the north; the watch must be set by the sun, if it is to give correct time; so the conscience, to point always heavenward, must be brought under the influence of the Scriptures.

3. It brings light to the eye which has grown dim with sorrow.

4. It reveals the world in its true light.

5. It reveals the true nature of sin.

6. It reveals the sinner’s Saviour--the living, the crucified, the resurrected, the interceding, the justifying Saviour. Let us gather up three or four practical suggestions:--The honey of God’s Word is free, and is adapted to everybody. It never loses its sweetness or refreshing power. It is good to begin every day with a taste of it. It is wasted honey if you do not partake of it. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Verse 43

1 Samuel 14:43

I did but taste a little honey.

A little thorn makes a great pain

When Admiral Blake after driving the enemy from the ocean was on his return voyage to England, he was met at the mouth of the Thames by a storm which hindered his passage and made havoc of his sails, whereupon the Admiral said in a pet, “Shall we who have braved the ocean storms be drowned in this ditch?” Of course, when the gale subsided, the brave Admiral was able to sail up to London to receive the honours which awaited him. It is often the storm in the little ditch which throws us on our beam ends, and what is commonly called the “storm in a teapot,” is sometimes more to be dreaded than the tempest of an ocean. It is not always great failings that ruin us; it is oftener the little faults and flaws in our character and conduct, which by accumulation damage us irretrievably so far as earthly prospects are concerned. Resolutions and ideas which at the moment have been esteemed as of little importance, have often caused great results. You will remember in English history that our Parliament resolved to put a duty on the tea received into the American ports, which then belonged to this country. It was a little thing to do, but its result was the freedom of America from the yoke of England, and the formation of the United States. It has been wisely said that “it is but the littleness of man that sees no greatness in trifles.” Let us look at one or two phases in which little things produce great personal results.

We often make ourselves wretched about little things. Great calamities we overcome by bearing them patiently; but little troubles overcome us because we chafe under them. A very little thing may put your body out of condition or even endanger your life. When you are eating carelessly; a fish bone not an inch long may stick in your throat, and there is no peace until you get it out. When you are walking or riding on a dusty day, a tiny speck gets into your eye, and you cannot rest, or sleep until that irritating speck of matter is removed. Everybody has probably at some time, after a day’s “blackberrying” experienced considerable pain in some finger from a little thorn. There are little annoyances of a mental kind which are apt to worry us if we do not learn wisdom from their recurrence. We stop to take the stone from our shoe or wipe the speck from our eye; but we let these little worrying mental unpleasantnesses rankle in our mind and heart like a permanent splinter in the flesh. I refer to the little things said at home or abroad which ruffle us because they go against our notion of what is right and just to ourselves; and as we do not dismiss them from our thoughts, but, as Burns says, “nurse our wrath to keep it warm,” they become fixed in us like a graft in a tree, and sometimes remain as torments to people until they die Do right; trust in God, and do not be over-much troubled about what anybody says about you. If the aspersion be true, amend your ways, and be grateful to the fault finder; but if what is said be untrue, why should you mind it? “Let the galled jade wince;” but if what is said of you is not true, you are not “galled,” and should therefore go on your way rejoicing. One of the most laughable pictures I ever saw was from the pencil of Leech in the pages of Punch. It depicted a stout gentleman chasing a blue-bottle fly, which had disturbed his nap alter dinner. With his knotted handkerchief, he banged at the blue-bottle, broke the windows and ornaments, tumbled down the chairs, worked himself into a passion, but could not capture or quiet his tormentor. Our fume and fuss over the trifling annoyance of life must seem quite as ridiculous in the eyes of the angels.

We often make other people miserable by something we do or say, or by something we omit to do or say. When a man with an infectious disease is carried in a coach to the infirmary, we expect the cabman will say to us, “There has been a man in here with the smallpox, and I have not yet had the cab fumigated; so you should not corer it.” That would be a just and kind act but if be says, “All right, sir,” and we jump into the cab, we may catch the infection. In the same way, by our thoughtlessness, or perhaps by our haste and unkindness, we may say things that hurt others like an infection. And what is strange, the most sensitive and best, educated are often the worst offenders. It may be a little thing we say or do, built greatly hurts other people. It is shamefully wrong for any of us to say and do things which may spread mental or mortal contagion. An unguarded and unfounded remark may upset a whole neighbourhood, lust as one squeaking puppy may keep the inhabitants of a whole street awake all night. A few thoughtless words may destroy the peace not only of a family but of an entire community. We ought to be careful to “give no offence in anything.” How unpleasant when some neighbours unswept chimney takes fire and emits volumes of noxious smoke I Let us be careful to keep our moral chimney swept, so that our words and actions may not become like offensive smoke. Let us try to bless the world and make it pleasanter; why should any man’s words injure and deface the world?

In the third place, let me remind you that things which seem to be of little consequence often produce great results. A small leak may sink a great ship, and a trifling escape of gas, if neglected, may blow up your house. So, these little flaws and faults and omissions in your moral nature which you think will never be noticed and can do no harm, are enough to ruin you. Those who by wilful neglect or carelessness cause the death of others are their murderers; and even if men neglect their little vices until they become uncontrollable, they are responsible for their own doom. Take care of the littles; for great results may come from little things In thousands of instances little things have produced great results. So little deeds of kindness and self-denial often make or mar a life’s happiness. “Despise not the day of small things.” Do not suppose you are too little to be of any consequence in this great world. No one has been created without a purpose and a mission. (W. Birch.)

A little honey

“Stop the beginnings,” said the old Romans; arrest the evil in the bud; put your foot upon the spark and stamp out the conflagration. Behold how great, a forest a little fire kindleth. “I did but taste a little honey on the end of the rod in mine hand, and lo! I must die!”

1. “A little honey.” So all sin appears at the moment of conception. Had the devil proffered to Jonathan the whole land of Canaan, “flowing with milk and honey,” assured him of its heirship and possession, as he pressed on in eager pursuit of his father’s enemies, he had not succeeded; but he offered a little on the end of his staff, which he could eat as he ran, and instantly the young warrior was caught by the bait and snared. So it has ever been. By little and little. The merchant of Panama, says Beecher, builds his warehouse near the docks. He drives into the water the strongest piles which his native woods can furnish. He is anxious to lay a foundation which fire cannot reach, and neither wind nor wave displace. Thereon he erects his store houses and bestows his goods and fruits. Alas! for human foresight. Presently a small madrepore, whose presence a microscope can scarcely detect, fastens upon the pile; gradually it draws to its aid a myriad little perforators from the water, and by the implements at their command they eat it, saw it, bore and honeycomb it so that in a few years, if a child but, touch it it will crumble to pieces. Even so, under the most insignificant of forms, in the quietest manner, by the weakest of agencies, little sins, vices, foolish habits and excesses, work into and undermine the strongest and purest characters, renders abortive the noblest of purposes, work wreck and ruin in the grandest of lives, till the man, or family, or church, or nation affected by them, honeycombed at the heart, perishes in corruption

2. “A little honey!” We might consider how often our “little sins” come between us and our Maker, shut out from us all true and clear views of His character, and interrupt the sunshine of His favour and love to us in Christ. An eminent London minister, in one of his books, tells us he was once sailing over a beautiful Scottish lake. He raised his eyeglass to get a better view of Ben Lomond; but a small leaf, hanging across the line of his vision, shut out the entire mountain. And something much less than a leaf could have marred the prospect. He had only to breathe on the glass for a moment, and the dimness produced on its surface would have been sufficient to intercept and becloud for him all the beauty of the world. And little sins, fashionable vices, selfish indulgences in things forbidden, freaks of temper, fits of petty wilfulness, take off the edge of our keenest feelings of attachment to God and His service, blunt our susceptibilities of receiving Divine impressions, chill the ardour of youthful enthusiasm, and shut us out from the influences of the world to come. “A little honey!” Our Lord took three of his disciples to act as a sort of bodyguard, and keep watch, while he prayed in Gethsemane. Eight more held vigil on an outer circle. But the day had been long, and the journey had been fatiguing, and the work had been exciting, and their eyes were heavy with sleep. The “little honey” of refreshing slumber was not to be resisted. Their Lord withstood the temptation and was ready. The traitor found Him prepared. But His followers were surprised in their sentinel duty, and “they all forsook Him and fled.” A little sleep!

3. “I did but taste a little honey and, lo! I must die!” Israel very naturally took one view of Jonathan’s case, and his father as naturally took another. In the eyes of the army it was but a trifling oversight; in the eyes of the king it was a capital offence. And our “little sins” appear in different lights as they are viewed in the court of heaven and before the tribunal of our fellow men. Had “Adam’s transgression” been punished on the day wherein it was committed, and the guilty pair been swept from the earth and hurried to their account, the severity of the penalty might have seemed to them disproportioned to the offence But ages have elapsed since then, and that “little sin” has borne its fruit. What should be its punishment now? Thank God! the question need not be put. If, has already been asked and answered. It brought the Son of God out of heaven We did but taste a little honey, and, lo! He must die. Sin, so sweet to us, was the bitterness of death to Him. But let us remember that, like Jonathan, we are sons of the King. Our interests are identical with those of our Father in heaven. What seems a “little sin” to us is a great source of grief and wrong to Him. “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Let us be true to our God and Saviour, in little things as well as great, striving to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke holding forth the word of life.” (R. Balgarnie, D. D.)

Forbidden honey

what multitudes of people in all ages have been damaged by forbidden honey, by which I mean temptation, delicious and attractive, but damaging and destructive!

1. Corrupt literature, fascinating but deathful, comes in this category Taste for pure literature is poisoned by this scum of the publishing house. Corrupt literature is doing more today for the disruption of domestic life than any other cause. When a woman, young or old, gets her head thoroughly stuffed with the modern novel she is in appalling peril. See all the forests of good American literature dripping with honey. Why pick up the honey-combs that have in them the fiery bees which will sting you with an eternal poison while you taste it?

2. Stimulating liquids also come into the category of temptations delicious but deathful.

3. Furthermore, the gamester’s indulgence must, be put in the list of temptations delicious but destructive I have crossed the ocean eight times, and always one of the best rooms has, from morning until late at night, been given up to gambling practices. To many there is a complete fascination in games of hazard or the risking of money on possibilities. Down under its power went glorious Oliver Goldsmith, and Gibbon the famous historian, and Charles Fox the renowned statesman, and in olden times senators of the United States, who used to be as regularly at the gambling house all night as they were in the halls of legislation by day. Honey at the start, eternal catastrophe at the last.

4. Stock gambling comes into the same catalogue.

5. The best honey is not like that which Jonathan took on the end of the rod and brought to his lips, but that which God puts on the banqueting table of mercy, at which we are all invited to sit. When a man may sit at the King’s banquet, why will he go down the steps sad contend for the refuse and bones of a hound’s kennel? “Sweeter than honey and gee honeycomb,” says David, is the truth of God. “With honey out of the rock would I have satisfied thee,” says God to the recreant. Here is honey gathered from the blossoms of trees of life, and with a rod made out of the wood of the Cross I dip it up for all your souls. The poet Hesiod tells of an ambrosia and a nectar, the drinking of which would make men live forever, and one sip of the honey from the Eternal Rock will give you eternal life with God. Come off of the malarial levels of a sinful life. Come and live on the uplands of grace where the vineyards sun themselves. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is gracious!” Be happy now and happy foreverse For those who take a different course the honey will turn to gall. Beware of the forbidden honey. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Verse 45

1 Samuel 14:45

And the people said unto Saul, shall Jonathan die.

Rights of the people

This historical fact was recorded for our instruction; and teaches us that when a people properly remonstrate against the unlawful, unjust, or cruel conduct of their rulers, they may reasonably hope to succeed.

I am to show, that a people have a right to remonstrate against the unlawful, unjust, or cruel conduct of their rulers. To remonstrate properly signifies, to make a strong representation, or to offer reasons, against something said, proposed, or done, which appears to be improper, unjust, unlawful, or cruel. This bare explanation of the term applies, that it is the natural and unalienable right of all mankind, to remonstrate whenever they think they are really abused by those in authority. The child has a natural and unalienable right to remonstrate against any treatment of his parents which appears to be cruel, or unjust, or ever: highly improper. The servant has a natural and unalienable right to remonstrate against the unlawful, unjust, or oppressive conduct of his civil ruler. This natural and unalienable right of remonstrance is essential to all civil liberty. The British Government certainly grants this right to the people, who have often and lately remonstrated with success. Our federal and state constitutions expressly allow the people to remonstrate, and they have exercised this right on many occasions. If we have not the right of remonstrance, we have no right at all. Any other people bare a right to remonstrate, or offer good reasons against the unlawful, unjust, or cruel conduct of their rulers. They are neither to be punished, nor even blamed for remonstrating in a proper manner, on any proper occasion.

This is not only their right, but their duty. Rulers are clothed with authority for the purpose of doing good, and not for the purpose of doing evil. Their civil powers are all derived and limited, and consequently they are responsible for their official conduct This is a duty which they owe to God and to one another. It was the duty of Judah to remonstrate against the unnatural and nefarious conduct of his brethren, who proposed to shed and conceal the innocent blood of Joseph. It was the duty of Ahimelech the priest to remonstrate against Soul’s slaying him and his father’s house, for his innocently and benevolently supplying David’s wants It was the duty of Esther to remonstrate against the fatal decree of Ahasuerus, and had she neglected or refused to remonstrate against it, she would have been guilty of bringing destruction upon herself, her friends, and her whole nation. After Jeremiah had been unjustly east into the dungeon, and taken out by Jedekiah the king, it was his duty to remonstrate against being remanded back again It was the duty of Stephen to remonstrate, with his dying breath, against the unrighteous and cruel conduct of his malignant persecutors. And it was a duty which Paul owed to himself, to remonstrate against the high priest, who commanded him to be smitten in an unjust and illegal manner. If it was the duty of the people of Israel to remonstrate against the maladministration of Saul and David, who were the Lord’s anointed, we may justly conclude, that it is the duty of the people of this day, to remonstrate against the unjust, unconstitutional, and oppressive measures of those, whom they have raised to places of power and trust.

that if a people do exercise their right and perform their duty, in properly remonstrating against the unlawful, unjust, and cruel conduct of their rulers, they may reasonably hope to succeed.

1. This mode of seeking redress of public and private grievances has often proved successful. It is not a vain thing for a people to lift up their united and powerful voice against public measures which they know and feel to be unconstitutional, unjust, and oppressive. There is always ground to hope that their proper and just remonstrances will have a powerful and salutary effect. For,

2. This mode of treating civil rulers has a natural tendency to impress their minds with a deep sense of their duty and interest to guard against or rectify their designed or undesigned errors. Reasonable remonstrances are suited to enlighten their understandings; just remonstrances are suited to awaken their consciences; tender remonstrances are suited to excite their tenderness and compassion; and bold and spirited remonstrances are suited to alarm their fears of losing their popularity, their places, their interests, and even their lives. Proper remonstrances are the best weapons to attack corrupt rulers in their most vulnerable parts. Though they may not feel the obligation of duty, yet they may feel the obligation of interest, to review their conduct, rectify their errors, and redress the grievances of which the people justly and unitedly complain.

3. A people may humbly hope that God will approve of their properly remonstrating against the corrupt conduct of their rulers. The righteous Lord loves righteousness, and abhors unrighteousness, oppression, and cruelty. God has the hearts of rulers in his hand, and can dispose them to treat their injured, oppressed, aggrieved subjects, with equity, condescension, and tenderness He disposed Pharaoh to regard the remonstrances of Moses, and to let his oppressed people go free. He disposed Cyrus to proclaim liberty to the captive Jews, and even to assist them in their return to their native land.

God still stands in the congregation of the mighty, and judges among the gods it now appears, I trust, that the leading sentiment in this discourse is true; and if it be true, it naturally suggests some things which deserve the serious regard of both rulers and subjects at the present dark and distressing day.

1. If a people have an unquestionable right to remonstrate against the unjust and oppressive conduct of their rulers, then it would be the indispensable duty of their rulers to hear their remonstrances, and grant them proper relief. Though they have a discretionary right to hear, or not to hear, any remonstrances of any part, or of the whole body of the people, yet they are responsible for the abuse of this discretionary power. Their civil authority does by no means dissolve their moral obligation to rule in justice. The right of the people to remonstrate necessarily involves the duty of rulers to hear their remonstrances with attention and impartiality.

2. If the people have the right to remonstrate against what they really believe to be oppressive and injurious in the administration of government; then it discovers a corrupt and tyrannical disposition in their rulers, to take away, or even to attempt to take away from them, this natural, unalienable, and important right. It has always been the policy of despotic rulers to suppress the liberty of speech upon political subjects. They may attempt to destroy the right of remonstrance, or restrain the liberty of speech respecting the public measures of public men, by sophistry, artifice, or threats. They may artfully insinuate that if the people privately complain, or publicly remonstrate, they manifest disaffection, disrespect, and disobedience towards those whom they ought to esteem, revere, and obey. If this sophistry fail of answering their purpose they may throw out terrible threats, and positively declare, that all complaints and remonstrances are the high crimes of treason and rebellion. This language ought to be alarming to a people in a free government, and put them upon their guard against those who would seduce or awe them into silence under all the evils and calamities which their unjust and arbitrary measures have brought upon the nation.

3. It clearly appears from what has been said that it is our present duty, as a people, to remonstrate with freedom and energy against those measures of our general government which have brought us to the brink of ruin.

4. That if we properly remonstrate against the conduct which has brought us into our wretched and dangerous situation we may reasonably hope to succeed, and speedily effect such a change of men and of measures as will restore peace, safety, and prosperity to our bleeding country. Decent, just, and spirited remonstrances have often made deep impressions upon the hearts and consciences of both good and bad rulers, and prevailed upon them to redress the grievances of their subjects. Haughty and arbitrary as the kings and parliaments of Great Britain may be supposed to have been, they have generally paid respect and attention to the opinions, the feelings, and the complaints of the nation.

5. We may fairly infer from what has been said that our men of eminence, who have uniformly and boldly remonstrated against the ill-concerted measures of government, have acted a noble and patriotic part, and deserve to be highly esteemed and applauded. Finally, this subject calls upon us to exercise unfeigned gratitude to God for the public and private favours which He has bestowed upon us in this trying and distressing day. We ought to be thankful that He has given us wise and faithful rulers, and by their instrumentality has preserved our rights and liberties, and restrained our powerful enemies from destroying our seaports, and spreading misery and destruction among us. Let us not lean to our own understandings, nor trust in our own hearts, but in the Lord Jehovah, in whom there is everlasting strength. Let us submissively commit ourselves and our country to his wise and holy disposal; and resolve that though he slay us, yet we will trust in him. (N. Emmons, D. D.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 14". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/1-samuel-14.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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