Likewise, 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. So the LORD saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven.
1 Samuel 14:22-23
This is an interesting account. God used one man to run off an entire army and to rally God's people to action. That man was Saul's son, Jonathan. This was a case where one man's faith was rewarded by God. Jonathan is tired of the state of Israel. At the beginning of chapter 14, all of Israel, including king Saul have taken to hiding in caves from the threats of the Philistines. And it appears that the Philistines have taken the high ground in battle.
Jonathan decides, with his armor-bearer, in trust to God, to take one the Philistines single-handedly. He climbs up the rocks to get to the high ground and when the Philistines taunt him as he climbs, he takes it as a sign from God that victory is assured! When he reaches them, he strikes them just as God sends an earthquake. The Philistine ranks are thrown into such confusion that in the haste to escape, they begin fighting off one another. Israel sees what is going on, and Saul hastily rallies his troops to drive off the confused pagans. The result is a great victory for the nation.
The key to understanding what happened is to know that the Lord saved Israel. He used one valiant man to get it going. He moved His people to follow in the wake of what God was doing. And in that day, God was glorified by providing the means for Israel to be established. The Philistines fled to their own territory and once again God brought peace.
This moment also served to help establish Saul's leadership, even though the text is clear to point out that Saul's leadership was spotty at best. He was not a strong leader. 1) He did not start the battle, his son did. Saul was quick to take advantage, but not a great one to start something daring. 2) Saul was also a rash leader. In the heart of the battle he forbade Israel from taking food. His hungry troops thus did not fight as fiercely as they could have done. 3) He rashly threatens to kill his own son, Jonathan, the true leader of the battle because he did eat some honey, even though he did not hear the command from his father. 4) He lets the people over rule his order to execute Jonathan, showing himself to be the populist that he was. 5) At the end of the battle, Saul's strategy was to surround himself with men he perceived as brave or valiant, perhaps to enhance his appearance as a leader.
What Saul missed was the little insight in the middle of the story: The Lord saved Israel. Saul could have been a fine instrument of God's choosing. instead, he tried to make something of himself that he was not, and the result would be more disappointment in his story.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13