As we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about King Saul – the first King of Israel. But last week we were introduced to a new character in the story – Saul’s son Jonathan. And Jonathan will actually play a significant role throughout the rest of the book. As we saw last week, he is a key commander in Saul’s military (commanding a 1/3 of Israel’s standing army) and in the weeks ahead, we will see how he eventually becomes one of David’s closest allies – even at a time when King Saul was trying to kill David.
But that’s getting ahead of our story.
If you were with us last week, you’ll remember that Jonathan had just attacked and defeated the Philistine garrison stationed in Geba. We don’t know if this was by order of King Saul, or if Jonathan simply took it upon himself to make this attack. But either way, Jonathan’s actions triggered an open revolt against the Philistines who had been oppressing the Israelites for some time now.
In response, the Philistines gathered their army – which composed of 3000 chariots, 6000 charioteers, and as many warriors as grains of sand on the seashore – and they set up camp at Micmash. At the same time, Saul gathered his much smaller army at Gilgal and waited for the prophet Samuel to come and make a sacrifice to God before they went into battle.
However, as they waited for Samuel, their fear of the Philistines grew and grew and many of Saul’s men fled from their posts – hiding in fear from the mighty Philistine army. Well, after 7 days of more and more men disappearing from the camp, and with no sign of Samuel, Saul foolishly took it upon himself (in direct disobedience to God) to offer the sacrifice himself.
God had clearly instructed the Israelites that these sacrifices were only to be done by God’s appointed priest – and not by the King or anyone else. So this was an act of blatant disobedience. Well, as it happened, Samuel showed up just as Saul was finishing the sacrifice and as Saul tried to justify his actions, Samuel told him plainly that his disobedience to the Lord would cost him the kingdom! The Lord would choose another king to replace him – one who would seek after the heart of God.
And that’s about as far as we got last week. We’re going to pick it up today in 1 Samuel chapter 13, verse 15.