There is an old puritan prayer that says, “Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up.” This is a flat biblical truth. And once you see the down-up pattern, or the death-and-resurrection pattern, you see it all over the place. Joseph went down to the pit, further down to the prison, and then up to the palace. We speak of our Lord in His humiliation and His exaltation. And we must follow Him down into the valley if we would come up with Him on the mount, “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12). There is the pattern, the strategy for dominion. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with him. The way down is the way up. This very pattern appears in 1 Samuel 14.
The Text – A Summary
Jonathan the son of Saul shows his great courage in this passage. He had an armorbearer. And he tells him to come with him over to the garrison of the Philistines. Interestingly, he does not tell his father, Saul, who remained at Gibeah with six hundred men (v. 2). Now we were told in the last chapter that Jonathan was with his father at Gibeah and the Philistine garrison was to the north of them in Michmash. As Jonathan headed north, he had to cross a gorge, which meant he had to scale down one crag and climb up another. And all of that, before taking on the Philistines with only his armorbearer.
It was no surprise attack. After Jonathan and his armorbeaer made it down one crag, the Philistines looked down from the other and mocked, “Oh, the Hebrews have come forth from their holes.” And they told Jonathan to come on up so they could teach him a lesson (v. 12). Jonathan took this as a sign that God had given them into his hand so up he climbed. After Jonathan’s down and up, his death and resurrection, he slaughtered about twenty men within a half acre of land (v. 14). The battle was on and everything from the Philistines, to the garrison, to the earth itself began to shake. Jonathan’s strike was a spark plug. Israel rose to battle. The word of the Philistines proved true as those who had hid themselves came forth. Even the Israelites who had sided with the Philistines repented and joined Israel in battle (v. 21).
But the men of Israel were still distressed because King Saul, amid his son’s great victory, made a rash oath. He declared that any man who ate before evening would be cursed. He did this in an effort to be avenged on his enemies. And here he shows himself to be the king like the nations. Jonathan, however, didn’t hear his father’s oath. And he transgressed it by eating honey. When Jonathan did hear about it, he saw the folly in it. Jonathan knew the victory would have been greater had the men been enlivened by food.
Saul wanted to pursue the Philistines. But God forbid him doing so. Saul then knew sin was in the camp. And after casting lots, it came out that Jonathan had transgressed the king’s oath. Saul remarkably insisted that Jonathan, his very son, must die. But, the people rescued Jonathan, seeing he had brought salvation to Israel.
Quite a Contrast
There is quite a contrast between Saul and his son. Saul shows us the way to destruction, not dominion. His selfishness is right there on the surface. He wanted to be avenged on his enemies. And he wanted his men to do it for him without any food. Here he follows after Pharaoh’s tyranny. Make bricks without straw. Strike down the enemy without food. Saul wanted to put others down so that he could go up. And this is a regular occurence in the world. Someone wants to scale a particular hierarchy. And he uses others to do so. That strategy involves domineering. But it is a terrible terrible and fruitless plan for dominion.
Jonathan, on the other hand, is the godly example. He sees Philistines and goes right after them. He’s not passing off the hard and dangerous job. He left the safety of Israel’s camp, went down the crag, up the other cliff and conquered. Yes, the job was hard. No, it was not practical to do all of that climbing and then face the enemy alone. But, there you have it. A godly man getting the job done.
In this he is an example to us of what Christ has done. Jesus Christ went down to the grave and came up from death. Upon his resurrection, He too has conquered the enemy like Jonathan. The earth shook after Jonathan scaled that northern cliff. And a great earthquake marked Christ’s resurrection as well (Matthew 28:2). When Jonathan struck down the foe, Israel came out from their holes to battle against the Philistines. Likewise, Christ has risen up to strike down the enemy, and we have been raised with Christ to offer ourselves freely on the day of His power (Psalm 110:3).
The strategy for dominion is nothing new. It is simple and straightforward: Follow Christ, to the cross, to the grave, up to the throne where we reign with Him. We often want the enemies of God to fall within a halfacre. We yearn for the earth to shake as it did upon Jonathan’s victory. But, all of that started with Jonathan’s sacrifice. All of it started by him going down. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. So, onward to the grave.