Posts Tagged ‘God’s power’

The literary structure of 1 Samuel 13:19-14:23

Our story today is a continuation of what we looked at last week. Jonathan, Saul’s son, began a revolt by defeating a Philistine garrison. Saul then went to Gilgal according to the instructions of Samuel the prophet, given all the way back in chapter 10:8. But Saul went on to disobey God’s command by not waiting for Samuel to come. As a result, he is judged. He will no longer have a dynasty. And he is left without instructions as a massive Philistine army is poised to attack. Today, we look at what happens next.

battle scene 1

Just to get you oriented, this is a close up of the battle scene.

Michmash and Geba are about a mile apart. The wadi is a seasonal river/creek bed. On either side of the wadi in the East there are steep canyon walls, but at the pass there is flat land.


Our verses today begin with some important background.

1 Samuel 13:19-14:23

Israel’s difficult situation.

19Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” 20But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, 21and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads.

So Israel’s Philistine overlords, as a part of their strategy to keep them subservient, forbade all metal working. And then they charged the Israelites exorbitant rates to sharpen their farming implements, which kept them economically disadvantaged.

The result shows up in v. 22.

22So on the day of the battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them.

We already saw how Israel was outnumbered. Saul had 600 soldiers and the Philistines had “troops like the sand on the seashore” (13:5) along with 6,000 horsemen and 3,000 chariots.

This brings us to the beginning of the conflict.

23And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.

 They are positioning themselves to come to Geba and fight.

 14:1One day (that is, that day) Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.

Remember it was Jonathan who took the initiative in the first battle with the Philistines, not Saul. And so it is here.

The fact that he didn’t tell his father may mean that he doesn’t trust him, or perhaps he thought Saul would forbid him from going.

2Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the LORD in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.

Here we have a reappearance of the line of Eli – his great grandson, Ahijah is Saul’s priest.

Jonathan’s attack.

4Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.

battle scene 2

Here we see the Philistine advance to the pass and Jonathan’s attack to the East on an outpost. Bozez appears to be (a past of?) the northern canyon wall and Seneh the southern canyon wall.  Bozez means “the shining one” and Seneh “thorny one,” perhaps because there thorn bushes on it.


Michmash terrainPicture of the scene from Bibleplaces.com.

Michmash cliffs

Picture of the canyon walls that Jonathan climbs down and back up on the other side, which would have been no easy feat. Bibleplaces.com.

6Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” 7 And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.”

Now, according to natural thinking this is a suicide mission. But Jonathan is acting in great faith. He believes in God and hopes that God will work through him.

Although his father is very focused on counting his soldiers, Jonathan is very clear that what matters is that God is with him, not how many people he has. God can save “by many or by few.”

Now, Jonathan doesn’t know for sure what God will do, as he said, “it may be that the Lord will work for us.” So he suggests a sign.

8Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the LORD has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.”

“The Lord has given” is what Jonathan’s name means in Hebrew.

11So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.”

Notice how Jonathan’s sign puts them in a more difficult scenario. They give up the element of surprise and the Philistines are left with the superior position. They have to climb up the steep rocks to get to them.

And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. 14And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land.

And then God intervenes in a powerful way.

15And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a panic from God. (ESV note)

This is God working, causing an earthquake and putting fear into the hearts of the Philistines.

16And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude was dispersing here and there. 17Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Count and see who has gone from us.” And when they had counted, behold, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not there.

18So Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God went at that time with the people of Israel. 19Now while Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

Saul is seeking to discern God’s will. But circumstances were moving too fast.

He says to the priest, “withdraw your hand” because the previously mentioned ephod had a pocket in it that contained the Urim and Thummin, which were like dice, and used to cast lots to discern God’s will (Exodus 28:30; 1 Samuel 14:41). He’s saying stop, take your hand out of the compartment to get the Urim and Thummin.

20Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle.

So it took a while. He counted the people to see who was missing, and he tried to discern God’s will. But finally Saul gets into the battle, although really after God has defeated the Philistine army himself.

And behold, every Philistine’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion.

So the Israelites have no swords? That is not a problem for God. Confusion and fighting against one another are common ways that God defeats an army.

battle scene 3


In this map, we see how Jonathan’s attack caused a panic that spread to the main body of the Philistine army which made them begin to retreat.  And then Saul comes into the battle.




21Now the Hebrews who had been with the Philistines before that time and who had gone up with them into the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.

So here we learn that that some in Israel were fighting on the Philistine side, but turn against them as the battle went on.

22Likewise, when all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed hard after them in the battle.

These were those who previously “hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns” (13:6).

23So the LORD saved Israel that day.

What do we learn from this?

We learn what faith looks like. There is a contrast in these verses between Saul and Jonathan. And it is Jonathan that is the example of faith for us.

The Philistine raiders are out and their army has assembled for battle, but Saul is not acting. So Jonathan takes the initiative in the moment of crisis.

And he does so against overwhelming obstacles as we saw. The Philistines had swords and chariots and horsemen and a vast army. But he takes the initiative. And when God gives him guidance through his sign he acts boldly. He climbed treacherous rocks, fought the enemy and God used him to defeat the entire Philistine army. This is an amazing portrait of faith in action, risking it all for God.

We also learn that nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Are you facing a massive army? No problem! In 14:15 God caused the huge army of the Philistines to be terrified. In 14:20 God confused them and they turned on one another.

The battle wasn’t won because of Saul, who came late. And it wasn’t won by the reinforcements who came even later. As 14:23 says, “the Lord saved Israel that day.”

To put this all together, if you are here today and you are facing difficult obstacles, even really difficult ones, step out in faith like Jonathan and God will fight for you and save you as well. For no situation is too hard for God.

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Let me share with your briefly as we get ready to receive the Lord’s Supper. We talked last week about how each of us have power in different areas of our lives and at different times in our lives, whether it be physical, economic or social power. And the point was that how we use the power we have is a test that reveals what is in our heart.

  • When we use our power to take advantage of, dominate and put down the weak, it reveals that we are unrighteous.
  • But when we use our power to help, stand up for and honor the weak, it reveals that we are among the righteous.

Now, this all has to with various kinds of earthly power that we have; that God gives us and we are stewards of. But today we focus on another kind of power; what I am calling “true power” – which is the power of God working in us and through us.

Let’s start with –

How God’s power works

It begins in a place of human lowliness. We might be lowly because of our weakness; our lack of earthly power. Or we might be lowly because we use our earthly power to serve and sacrifice for those who are weak. Or we might be lowly because we refuse to use earthly power out of love for God and others – for instance in the case of loving our enemies. However we get there, it begins with lowliness.

Next, we rely fully on God in faith to take care of us. We pray, we trust, we look to God and we wait on God. And then God acts for us in power to raise us up and take care of us.

That’s it! That’s how God’s power works in and through and for us. It is as simple as this.

Now, it works this way, because this is how God works. 1 Samuel 2:8 says, The Lord “raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.” But it goes both ways. Psalm 147:6 says, “The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.”

So there is a double reversal. Those who lift themselves up are brought low and those who lower themselves are lifted up by God. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:12 – “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Let’s look at the example of this –

God’s power in Jesus’ ministry and death

1. Jesus lowered himself to serve and to sacrifice. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said that he “came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”

Philippians 2:6-8 says, “Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of humanity. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He made himself nothing first be becoming our servant and then by dying a shameful death on the cross for us.

Look at the table here today. The broken bread represents the broken body of Jesus. The poured out wine represents the poured out blood of Jesus on the cross. Here we see Jesus in all his brokenness and lowliness. He gave up his power and used it to bless in our weakness and need.

2. He trusted in God. He did this throughout his life and ministry as God worked through him. And when his time came, he trusted God with his life. In Gethsemane he prayed, “not what I want but what you will” – Mark 14:36. On the cross he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” – Mark 15:34. This is a quote from Psalm 22 and he is alluding to the whole of Psalm 22 which is one long prayer for vindication. Act for me God!

3. God acted for him. In his ministry God worked by the power of the Spirit in healings, miracles and casting out demons.

And he God acted in power after his death by raising him from the dead and seating him at his own right hand, vindicating him and glorifying him. Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Since Jesus lowered himself and trusted in him, God raised him up. And this was a double reversal. Jesus was lifted up and those that opposed and killed him were put down.

So Jesus shows us how God’s power works; the power that God is using to make all things new. If God could have transformed the world and our lives by earthly power he would have. If God could have transformed the world and our lives without sening Jesus to the cross, he would have. No, Jesus went to the cross to show us that this is the way that God works.


God invites us to experience this transforming power in our lives

The lowliness of the cross was not just for Jesus. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him – Mark 8:34. We are to follow in his footsteps, as we serve and sacrifice for God and others. He calls us to be lowly.

And then he goes on to say in Mark 8:35 – “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” If we cling to our earthly lives and the strength and power we have, we will lose it all. But when we give up earthly power and become lowly, we gain what only God’s power can give – true life; eternal life. God will act for us and raise us up.

When we do this, like Jesus, we will see God work in and through us. As Jesus said in John 12:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We have to die! It is when we give it all up and become lowly serving and sacrificing for others that God acts in us and through us to bear much fruit.

Hear Paul’s testimony. He was one who knew about lowliness and also about having God work in power in and through him. He was dealing with a physical weakness and the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ . . . (so Paul goes on to say) For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. When we are weak and lowly – then God can work in power through us as well, to change us and to change the world.

Let’s remember this as we come to partake today.

William Higgins

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Today we are looking at Psalm 29 and its message about the glory and strength of God. As we will see, the basic idea of this psalm is that there are many evidences of God’s glory and strength in his displays of power over his creation. And because of this all should rightly acknowledge God’s glory and strength.

You have a handout of an outline of Psalm 29.

 Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength

1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”

This is a call to worship, but a very specific one. It is calling “the heavenly beings” to praise God. It is directed at them.

Who are these? Literally it says the “sons of God.” This is a phrase that is used in the Old Testament to speak of the angels or they are even called “gods,” who are under Yahweh and do his bidding (Psalm 103:20; Job 1:6). They are sometimes referred to collectively as God’s “divine council” (Psalm 82; 89:5-7). Some of these sons of God are also those worshipped by the nations as gods (Deuteronomy 32:8) and are thus given glory beyond their measure.

So here we have a call for these heavenly beings to give proper worship to Yahweh, the one true God.

They are to “2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” God’s glory and strength far surpass that of these heavenly beings, glorious as they may be. And they are to give God his due.

Also, they are to “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” God’s holiness refers to God’s utterly unique greatness. It refers to God as the one who is higher and better and more glorious than anything that he has created. And God in his holiness is “splendid” or “beautiful.” Have you ever thought of God as beautiful?

The Psalm goes on to spell out some of the ways in which God is so great.

But first we need to note that it does so by speaking of –

God’s coming in thunderstorms

As a kid I loved the thunderstorms that would roll through the south like clockwork in the Summer. I was in awe of such displays of power with the ground shaking thunder, the lightning, wind and rain.

As we have seen, when God rescued Israel from the Red Sea, God is portrayed as coming in a great storm. And we saw this recently reflected on in Habakkuk 3 which talks about this same event (Exodus 14; Psalm 77:16-20)

Yahweh is the great God who is above all – in the sky, as it were, who can display his glory in powerful storms. (Although not all storms are of God – Mark 4:35-39).

The phrase “the voice of the Lord” is used 7 times in this Psalm. And it is referring to the thunder, lightning and wind of a powerful storm. His majestic and powerful  voice is heard in the sounds of a great thunderstorm.

Alright, with this background in mind –

Why should these heavenly beings glorify God?

1. Because of God’s power over the waters

3The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” And then also in  10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.”

Once again, the waters refer to the powers of evil, chaos and death. These verses portray God as in full control of the waters.

– God overcame the waters at the time of creation. He separated them into the waters above the above the sky, where the rain comes from and the waters below on the earth, in the seas – Genesis 1:7.

– And God overcame the waters again at the time of the flood, restraining them after he had used them, putting them back in the boundaries that he ordained, above in the sky and in the sea – Genesis 6.

Our Psalm pictures God as above the waters, like a thunderstorm would be over the Mediterranean sea. Such storms show that God is still in control of the waters. They are a display of his continued dominance and power over the deep. God is still in control of the chaos, and this chaotic world. God is still in control of the powers of evil and death.

And this is a power that the sons of God do not have. As Job 41:25 says of Leviathan, the sea serpent who is the personification of the waters, “When he raises himself up the gods are afraid.” So the heavenly beings must acknowledge Yahweh’s superiority over them.

Next, God should receive praise 2. Because of God’s power over all that is exalted on this earth.

5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.” And then also, 9The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.”

I just finished cutting up some limbs that came down in our yard from a storm a few months ago. And still have a limb hanging from a storm several years ago that is too high for me to get. And we have all seen how a powerful storm can damage and destroy trees.

But the point is not just that God has this power, trees can represent that which is tall and lofty, what is strong and exalted in this world. Isaiah 2 talks about how God will come against all that is proud and lifted up, and they will be brought low before him. And Isaiah 2:13 specifically says that he is coming “against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan.”

All that is powerful and exalted in this world is as nothing before the power of God.

Finally, God should be glorified 3. Because of his power over all of Israel.

6He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” He lights up Lebanon. As the lightning and thunder come, Lebanon is like a young animal that runs and skips, here out of fear of the storm. And Mt. Sirion, also called Mt. Hermon, does the same.

8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.” The thunder, which as we know, can make the ground shake under our feet, shakes Kadesh and the surrounding wilderness.

When we look at the geography of this it is really talking about all of Israel.

  • Mt. Hermon or Sirion is on the northern border of Israel and
  • Kadesh is on the southern border.

So God’s power is over all of Israel, from its northernmost point and beyond, to its southernmost point and beyond.

And then we have in vs. 9-10 –

The response of the heavenly beings to God’s power

9And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ 10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”

The temple here is most likely God’s heavenly temple, where these heavenly beings are.

In response to the glorious, powerful and majestic voice of the Lord in the storm, they cry out with their own voices, “Glory to God!” They recognize the Lord as the king he is, and that he reigns forever.

And then finally –

The Lord can give us strength and peace

11May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

This isn’t just an add on at the end. This is where we come into this Psalm.

This same God who has power over all things, is the one who takes care of his people. And so he can give us strength when we need it; when we are weak; when we are overwhelmed. The Lord can help us through.

This same God who has power over the chaotic waters, is the one who can give us peace in this chaotic world that we live in. We can have wholeness, settled calm and experience true life.

And so I encourage you to see these from God, who is the source of all our strength and peace and God’s people.

William Higgins

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