Friday, April 26, 2019

A Faithful Son

We hear fairly often about characters in the Old Testament who are in some way like Jesus. Adam, for example, is often compared to Christ and Christ Himself talks about giving the people the "sign of Jonah." But there is a character in the OT, in what seems like the smallest scene, who is very much like Jesus that you never really hear of. 

It's Jonathan.

Yes, Jonathan - the brilliant and devoted son of Saul, king of Israel, and the friend of David - a friendship that cost him his own chance at sitting on the throne. 

The scene we're looking at takes place in 1 Samuel 14, where the Philistines have set up camp against Israel and it seems like the enemy has the upper hand. Israel doesn't know what to do with herself. She's waiting on someone to break through, in one direction or the other, and actually start this battle, but it's also true that the Philistines have the high point - they are camped out at a vantage that allows them to look down upon Israel, which means that any attempt the Lord's people make to go up to the Philistines will be seen immediately and squashed. The Philistines will readily attack while the Israelites' hands are busy climbing, and it's a sure defeat. 

Except that Jonathan doesn't think so. He grabs his armor-bearer and says, basically, c'mon. Let's go. And up they go, right to the steep climb that will take them into Philistine territory. He decides that if they let him climb up, he'll kill them all, and if they don't let him climb up, well, that's okay, too. He's ready to give his life for the cause. 

They let him climb up, taunting him all the way, and when he reaches the top, he starts the slaughter. There's so much chaos in the Philistine camp that Israel can't figure out what's happening. They see the victory taking shape, but they don't know how and they start looking around until they find out who's missing from their camp. It's Jonathan.

The enemy has been foiled by a faithful son. 

The confident, cocky, sure-of-itself enemy is put to death by a son so faithful he simply goes where he's sent, right where the action is, and starts taking matters into his own hands. 

And if that doesn't remind you of Jesus, I don't know what will. He is the ultimate Faithful Son.

But the story doesn't stop there. While Jonathan is up fighting the battle - kicking tail and taking heads - Saul declares such great victory that they should fast in honor of it. No man is to eat anything until the next day, in recognition of the great thing that God is doing. Except, of course, that Jonathan doesn't hear this decree. He's kind of busy at the moment. So when the battle is over, he wearily dips his staff into the honey and tastes it. (You might contrast this with Jesus, who was offered vinegar on a stick and did not take it.) 

All of a sudden, there's panic and distress in the camp. Someone has sinned! Who was it? Lots are cast and drawn, and the Lord reveals that it is Jonathan, who confesses to eating the honey and is ordered put to death by his father, Saul. 

That's when the army, the people, step up and start shouting. No way, they say. This guy just won the whole battle for us. He just put himself on the line for everything. He just stepped out BIG in faith, and you want to kill him over a little honey? The people themselves, en masse, declare him righteous and spare his life. And all is well in the camp. 

And this, too, brings us to Jesus, who experienced a bit of the opposite. The crowds here shouted and called Him a sinner and sought His death. Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

So we, who so fondly look for comparisons and contrasts between the Gospels and the Old Testament, who look for signs everywhere that point us to Jesus, cannot ignore the story of Jonathan and the Philistines - where a faithful son foils the enemy and is redeemed by his people on account of his righteousness and a Faithful Son foils the enemy and is persecuted by His people on account of His righteousness...and then, for good measure, foils the enemy again. 

Because that's who Jesus is. 

(Clearly, I have oversimplified this comparison, figuring you do not want to read an entire thesis on the matter, but I hope that I have given you something to think about that perhaps you have not thought about before.) 

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