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“The Lord Saved Israel” (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 17, 2022 3:00 am

“The Lord Saved Israel” (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 17, 2022 3:00 am

Where do you find courage to step up when everyone else has run away and your leader is hiding in fear? Discover how to find hope even in daunting circumstances. Study along as we continue our study in 1 Samuel on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



What do you do in a dangerous situation when everyone around you has run away and your leader is hiding in fear? Where do you find courage to step up? Today on Truth for Life, we discover how to find hope even in the midst of daunting circumstances.

Alistair Begg is teaching today from 1 Samuel chapter 14. In verse 7, loyalty, loyalty. And his armor-bearer said to him, Do all this that is in your heart.

Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you, heart and soul. The armor-bearer was a very, very important piece of the puzzle, always. The armor-bearer's role was a vital role, and it was a vulnerable role. Because in committing himself to be with the leader, when the leader led him somewhere, then he shared in all of the potentiality, either for triumph or for defeat, all of the possibility of the Lord actually fulfilling this possibility or of them actually not doing that. He is, if you like, in the company of this crazy Jonathan man, who's crazy enough to say, It may be we're going, because we're certain of this. It's a reminder in passing, isn't it, of the importance of others around us, not least of all those in leadership?

None of us—none of us—are any good, ultimately, on our own. What a blessing it is when you've got somebody at your side, the equivalent of an armor-bearer, who writes to you as he does, and he signs off, I am with you, heart and soul. T. S. Mooney, who's one of my heroes, who died in 86, a little bank manager from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, one of the roles that he fulfilled was not only the teacher of a boys' Bible class for fifty years, but he was also the equivalent of the chairman of the elder board, the clerk of session, in the Presbyterian church which he attended. And in the material that was written subsequent to his death, one of the chapters simply is entitled The Minister's Man. And his minister wrote concerning him, and he said, you know, when he was out and about, he often heard horror stories from other ministers who told about people who were around them in leadership and who made their lives more than a little challenging. And he said, I never experienced that with T. S. It wasn't because he had a lofty view of my role. I think it came from his gracious attitude towards everyone.

There was no trace of naivety. His ministry was one of positive encouragement rather than negative criticism. It was a wonderful little section.

We don't have time on it now. But he says, he was more than the minister's man. He was the minister's pastor. Strategy in verse 8 and following.

Here's the strategy. You can read it for yourself. What he says is, we're going to step out and let them see us. We'll let the Philistines know that we're here. They'll presumably think that they are representative, perhaps, of another group that's along with them. Little will they know. On the basis of their reaction, we'll decide what we're going to do. If they say, Wait down there, and we'll come to you, we will stay, we will not go up. But if they say, Come up to us, then we're going to take that as a sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.

Verse 11, the plan is implemented. So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And they were singularly unimpressed, as you might expect.

And the response is derision. And they said to one another, Look, verse 11, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves. The cavemen are out.

Of course, there was another caveman still back, whom we know about, but some of the rest apparently were deciding to come out. And so they said, I think quite brazenly, Come up, and we'll show you a thing or two. In other words, we'd love you to come up here. The sight is amazing from up here. You come up. And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, Well, let's think about this for a minute. I mean, the circumstances do not look good. I mean, there's only you and me, and there's a whole crowd of them. The journey is desperately difficult. The ravine is almost impassable.

No one in their right mind would attempt this kind of ascent. No, he didn't say any of that at all. If he'd said that, he would have sounded a lot like his dad, wouldn't he? He's not like his dad.

No. He says, This is what we're going to do. Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel. And so Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet. You just see them scrambling up—no trumpets, no drums, just the two of them—up this high, steep bank. And as you read the text, as I read it, it says, And they went up hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him, and they fell. But you have to realize that the days of the Philistines is not them. The first time I read it, it said, No wonder they fell. Why would they go up that way?

No! And the Philistines fell. The first strike—take the first—they got to hit the first punch, and then, within this very short distance, they were able to take out twenty of the enemy. And as a result of that, we're told, panic. In the camp, verse 15, in the field, among the people, the garrison and even the raiders trembled. You didn't know that they were mentioned in the Bible, did you?

They clearly were not playing the Browns on this occasion. So the garrison and even the raiders trembled, and the earth quaked. Now, we won't delay on this, but time and again in the Bible, when we hear of the earth quaking, it's a signal and indication of the fact that God himself is actually administrating and overruling and intervening in these things.

Think of the occasion of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Think of the time when the Philippian jailer was unsettled, first by the singing of Paul and Silas and then by the earth quake, and as the whole substructure under him began to shake, he cried out, What am I supposed to do to be saved? It's a reminder, you see, that God is not a bystander in the confusion that is described here, nor is he a bystander in the shaking and in the panic and in the confusion of our world, and nor is he a bystander when your own personal world and when my own personal world begins to shake. God does not look on and say, Oh, that's a surprise. And some of us are here this morning, and we would say to ourselves, you know, I am in one of the shakiest periods of my life.

Whatever it may be, how can we know in one another's life? The real question is, when the ground beneath me begins to shake, to whom or to what do I turn? You see, these Philistines had nowhere to go except their own foreign god, Dagon.

And we've seen already that he was of no use to them at all. He had collapsed again and again. Where are you going to go? Well, we'll finish in that way in just a moment. But in case you've forgotten, Saul is back in the pomegranate cave. He has watchmen who are looking out—verse 16. They're looking out.

I can see him sitting there. He says, Oh, do you have a report for me this morning, Captain? The captain says, Yes, it would appear that the army is diminishing.

It would seem to be diluting. In fact, it seems like it's absolute chaos. Saul says, Well, then, why don't we have a roll call again? It's almost like, I have to do something, so why don't we just count? So let's have a count. See, if we've still got the six hundred. He counts, and they don't have the six hundred.

They may have less than 598, but they're certainly missing Jonathan and his armor-bearer. That must have unsettled him just a little bit. So I imagine him saying as the father, Oh, here he goes again. Jonathan's out there doing these things. Yes, Saul, he is, because you're in the pomegranate cave. You're the king. He's the prince. And so he calls for the ark, which ought to cause us to say, Wait a minute, we remember that in 1 Samuel 4.

The last time they tried that, it was a disaster, exactly. And he calls for the guidance that is to be provided by the priest. When he has launched into this little venture, the tumult, we're told, is getting more and more noisy. And so he says, Hold that thought for a moment. Don't worry about that.

We're not going to do that. What we'll do is we'll all go down and join the battle. And so, in verse 20, all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle. And when they got down there, what did they discover? Well, they discovered that every Philistine sword was against his fellow, and there was great confusion. Now, you remember that the predicament in chapter 13 was in part on account of the fact that the Hebrews had—that Israel had no weapons.

And we read that, and we said, Well, that is an absolute hopeless situation. Clearly, how could they ever go up to battle with no weapons? Can you imagine them when they go up there? Somebody says to his friend, We don't even need weapons. They're killing each other. Which is exactly what was happening. As soon as they got up there, they found weapons lying on the ground.

They were able to pick them up and use them. God knows the end from the beginning. All the way he leads me.

What have I to ask besides? Can you imagine the soldiers singing, Can I doubt his tender mercy? The covenant God, who has purposes for his people?

Would he allow us to be defeated in this way? And we're told that those who had slipped away over the river in chapter 13, now they decide they'll get in on the action. Others who were fearful and had been hiding away, they get involved. And the story concludes in verse 23, So the LORD saved Israel that day. And then that's the end. And you say to yourself, Well, what are we to make of this?

Because after all, as we've acknowledged, this is a long way away from here. Now, some people in teaching this passage would then say something like this. What you see here is the inactivity of Saul and the activity of Jonathan. Saul is not very good, Jonathan is really good. Therefore, this morning, what I'd like to say to you is, Don't be like Saul.

Be like Jonathan. In other words, it's a sort of form of moralistic teaching. You say to yourself, Surely that can be the point. And that's right. It isn't the point.

The point is there. The LORD saved Israel. Jonathan didn't save Israel.

The picture at the end of chapter 13 was hopelessness. But what was God doing in that? He was bringing them, as he chooses to do, bringing them to see that what Jonathan had said could happen would actually happen and has happened, so that they would realize that Jonathan's declaration of certainty, they have now lived. It is impossible to hinder God, who can save by many or by a few.

And he'd save by a few. Now, remember, as I've said in relationship to Gideon, this is a recurring theme. Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles, when they say that the army that is coming against you is a vast multitude that no one can count, Jonathan doesn't say, That's not a problem. We're very strong.

No. As Jehoshaphat says, God, we are powerless against this vast number. The disciples come to Jesus, and they say, Jesus, these people are starving. We've got five thousand men.

They ought to go home. Or we've got to give them something to eat. Jesus says, Well, does anyone have anything to eat? They say, Well, there's a boy here with a lunch. I mean, a few loaves and fish. And then remember what they say? But what are these among so many?

You're not gonna be able to do anything with this. No, but you see, God is able to save by many or by a few. And the story then is not the example of a little boy who saved Jesus by giving him his lunch—which is the way the story's often told. He helped Jesus. He gave him his lunch.

And you go out going, That's what I'm going to be. That's not the story. Jesus did not need the little boy's lunch. He created the universe, ex nihilo. Do you think he needs a loaf and a fish? The amazing thing is that he chooses to use this wee boy and gives him a piece in the program.

Here's the mystery. He chooses to use Jonathan no matter who he is, to make the point that he and his armor—bearer—in their absolute poverty, become the vehicle of God's triumph. Now, there's no doubt that Jonathan is a good example of courage and of faith. But he's not in the Scriptures, I don't think, so that we can copy him. I'd rather like to find him in Hebrews chapter 12, where in Hebrews chapter 12, remember, the writer says, being surrounded, therefore, by a great cloud of witnesses. And what he's picturing there are all the people from the past who have lived, like the Hall of Fame in Hebrews chapter 11—the people who were still living by faith when they died. I imagine that if we were able to look into that, we could find Jonathan somewhere in that group. And what were they all doing? Well, the writer goes on to say, what they were doing was they were standing there as signposts, enabling us to say, Now let us look to Jesus, who is the founder and the perfecter of our faith.

So that what you have in Jonathan is, if you like, just a little hint that makes you say, This makes me think of someone else. And the someone else to whom it points is Jesus, who is the great King. Jesus, who is the only Savior. Jesus, who is the one who saves us from our hopelessness. Now, I find it interesting that there's no record of any of these Philistines saying, You know, maybe I should give up this useless day gone God and trust the true and living God. We'll find out one day whether they did.

But what about you this morning? On what basis do you have hope? Hope.

Not hope that it doesn't rain, but the biblical hope, which is the certainty of that yet to be enjoyed which has not yet been experienced, grounded in the love of God, revealed in the person of his Son Jesus. But here's the problem. It's the problem of being powerful. It's the problem that comes as a result of saying, I think I can handle this myself.

And one of the reasons that the Bible brings us to the place where the ground shakes under our feet is in order that we might then reach out and lay hold of the only refuge and be secure in that. I mean, the real question is, in terms of Bethel's lyrics, you know, what do you want to go with? You want to go with, We can work it out? Or do you want to be honest and say, Help?

That's the question. Saul, by his disobedience, says, You know, I think I can work this out. Disobey the command of God. We live in a world that is marked by hopelessness as much as any other thing. We live in a nation that is the focus of media attention throughout the entire world for the utter hopelessness that is represented in the ongoing destruction of life in such needless, horrific, senseless ways. And if you're in any doubt about how hopeless it is, just go to a secular funeral. Just go to a funeral and sit there and realize that what the Bible says about the condition of man fits—namely, that we are by nature without hope and without God in the world.

And the only way in which hopelessness is to be replaced with hope is not as a result of our reaching into ourselves to make sure that we can take care of it but is as a result of God reaching down into our shaking, hopeless world to do what only God can do. You remember in the story of the prodigal son? It was when he came to himself, he said, This is ridiculous.

Until he came to himself, he thought it was okay. Henry Newen, commenting on that, says of his own experience, Something had to happen that I myself could not cause to happen. I could not be reborn from below. That is, by my own strength, my own mind, my own psychological insights. There's no doubt in my mind about this, because I had tried so hard in the past to save myself. But I can only be saved from above, from where God reaches down. What is impossible for me is possible for God.

Jonathan understood that. I am absolutely certain, he says, that God can save, whether by many or by few. And the purpose of God is to send Jesus to seek and to save those who are prepared to admit, I'm lost, I'm hopeless, I'm sinful, I'm stuck. And the reason that some of us have never become followers of Jesus is because we believe that we are powerful, that we are secure, that we are religious, and we are good. So, either we allow the adjudication of the Bible to diagnose the condition, or we diagnose the condition for ourselves.

I could think in physical terms how that might lead to a very sorry end. It was the Lord who saved Israel, and it's the Lord who saves us. You're listening to Truth for Life. Alistair Begg will be back in just a minute. In today's message, Alistair made the distressing observation that our world is marked by hopelessness.

And sadly, this is a reality for many teenagers and young adults today. Here at Truth for Life, we receive an increasing number of prayer requests from young people and from people of all ages who are struggling with anxiety and depression. So, we have intentionally selected a pair of companion books that we want to recommend to you. These are books written by Pastor and Counselor David Murray. The first book is titled, Why Am I Feeling Like This? It's a book for teens that helps explain some of the causes of anxiety, helps identify the type of anxiety that is being experienced. And then there's a companion book for parents titled, Why Is My Teenager Feeling This Way?

In this book, Dr. Murray helps parents more fully understand the nature of their child's battle so that they can communicate more effectively and more lovingly. Both of these books are bundled together for purchase at our cost of just $10 at When you add a donation to your book order or when you reach out and give to the ministry today, we want to invite you to request the Advent devotional written by Sinclair Ferguson. It's titled, The Dawn of Redeeming Grace. This is a book that will help get your heart ready for Christmas.

Ask for your copy today when you give a donation at slash donate. Now, here is Alistair to close today with prayer. O gracious God, thank you that although by nature we are like these hopeless people at the end of 13, that you are the God who reaches down and who saves. And you give us a hope that doesn't just last for a few minutes, but it actually stands the test of time. You give us a hope which is able to deal with the greatest issue of our lives—namely, that one out of one dies, that we will eventually stand before you. Lord, save us from ourselves, from saying, I can work it out. So shine into our hearts today that we might, like children, say, O God, in the same way that you saved your people on that occasion, save me. For we pray in Christ's name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Join us tomorrow. We'll learn why some religious traditions can present a subtle and yet real danger. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-17 09:37:23 / 2022-11-17 09:46:01 / 9

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