By Many Or FewPosted October 3rd, 2011
by Richard Clark Jr.
Thirty thousand chariots of Philistine soldiers had gathered, besides six thousand horsemen and innumerable other individuals. Each person was more than eager to annihilate the Israelites. Many of the Israelites were already in hiding. The caves, thickets, rocks, and pits were sheltering some of the terrified refugees, while others fled across the Jordan.
But where was the king of Israel, King Saul? The man who should have had the most faith in God in this crisis, also gave in to fear. In a misguided attempt to calm the people and to receive direction and blessing from God, King Saul had gone beyond the limits of his kingly office and sinned by performing that which only a priest was to do. Severe consequences would follow his actions, but even now, Saul still had responsibility as leader for God’s people. The Philistines were still ready to attack.
And so Saul counted the forces with him. The tally? About 600 men.
The situation would have been bad enough if the vast Philistine armies had simply stayed at their camp at Michmash. But they didn’t. Three bands of raiders left the camp and started in on Israel. To make matters worse the Israelites were short on weapons.
Prior to this, the Philistines had made it illegal for Israelites to work as blacksmiths. The Philistines made sure that the “Hebrews,” as they called the Israelites, could not make swords or spears. In fact, in all of Israel only Saul and Crown Prince Jonathan had swords. Even Israelite farmers and carpenters were forced to go down to Philistine smiths to get their tools sharpened.
Back at base camp, King Saul was hardly acting like a military leader. Apparently his attempted military campaign had stopped after the discouraging census and now he was dejectedly sitting under a pomegranate tree.
But Jonathan wasn’t sitting down. He said to his young armorbearer, “Come with me. Let’s go over to the enemies’ garrison. The LORD may work for us. Nothing keeps Him from saving by many or by few.”
To this, the armorbearer replied, “Do everything that’s in your heart. I’m with you fully.”
“Very well,” Jonathan said.
He then laid out his plan. They would cross over to the enemy garrison, located on top of a promontory, and show themselves to the Philistines. If their enemies would say, “wait and we’ll come down,” then the duo would stay put. But if they would say, “Come up to us,” then Jonathan and his armorbearer would go up—”For” Jonathan said, “God has given them to us, this is our sign.”
As the two men stepped out from the deep shadows of the ravines below the garrison into the sunlight, they immediately caught the eyes of the Philistine sentinels.
“Hey look, those Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they were hiding,” they scoffed.
The prince and his armorbearer stood still, waiting. Then they heard it.
“Come up to us, and we’ll teach you a lesson,” (1 Samuel 14:12, NIV).
“Follow me,” Jonathan commanded, and immediately started climbing up the steep cliff. “The LORD has delivered them into the hand of Israel,” he announced triumphantly (14:12, NKJV).
Once at the top of the cliff the two men engaged the shocked enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Then in response to the faith of the two Israelites, God made the enemy armies terrified and the Bible says they “trembled.” The Philistines weren’t trembling from fear alone. God had also sent an earthquake.
Back across the no-man’s-land, the Israelite sentinels noticed something was different at Michmash. The multitude was “melting away,” going helter-skelter. Saul called an immediate roll call and to everyone’s surprise, Jonathan and his armorbearer came up missing. Saul and his men soon joined Jonathan, as did Israelites who were in hiding and even Israelites who had defected to the Philistine camp. Together they pushed the Philistines back.
God used just two people to start a work that seemed ludicrous for 600 to attempt. Israel was saved because Jonathan believed God was able: “It may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few” (14:6, NKJV).
Today God does not want His followers literally to rout armies, for it is a kingdom of grace that God is establishing, one that is not of this world. It is a kingdom whose law is written on its citizens’ hearts and treasured in their minds (Jeremiah 31:33). But there is a mission He has given each of us—a mission to share Him in all countries with all people groups, a mission to invite our family members, neighbors, and friends to become citizens of His kingdom (Matthew 28:19-20; Revelation 14:6). And as with Prince Jonathan and his armorbearer, God often leads His citizens to start great things for Him in small numbers. Is He calling you to go on a special operation for Him?
This article is based on 1 Samuel 13-14.