Then Saul said, "Let's chase the Philistines all night and plunder them until sunrise. Let's destroy every last one of them." His men replied, "We'll do whatever you think is best." But the priest said, "Let's ask God first." So Saul asked God, "Should we go after the Philistines? Will You help us defeat them?" But God made no reply that day. (1 Samuel 14:36-37 NLT)
Saul may have messed up early in his reign, but his learning curve is quite impressive. He has held to the LORD’s law himself while teaching his troops to do the same. He has fought the enemies God told him to fight and he is adjusting himself to fight them God’s ways. Now, he is checking with the LORD before he goes into battle to make sure he is on the same page with God.
Then Saul said to the leaders, "Something's wrong! I want all my army commanders to come here. We must find out what sin was committed today. I vow by the name of the LORD who rescued Israel that the sinner will surely die, even if it is my own son Jonathan!" But no one would tell him what the trouble was. Then Saul said, "Jonathan and I will stand over here, and all of you stand over there." And the people responded to Saul, "Whatever you think is best." Then Saul prayed, "O LORD, God of Israel, please show us who is guilty and who is innocent. " Then they cast sacred lots, and Jonathan and Saul were chosen as the guilty ones, and the people were declared innocent. Then Saul said, "Now cast lots again and choose between me and Jonathan." And Jonathan was shown to be the guilty one. (1 Samuel 14:38-42 NLT)
He was even willing to hold himself and his son accountable. They were among the people who could have been guilty before God. As things turned out, they were the ones who were guilty. Jonathan broke a kingdom law.
"Tell me what you have done," Saul demanded of Jonathan. "I tasted a little honey," Jonathan admitted. "It was only a little bit on the end of my stick. Does that deserve death?" "Yes, Jonathan," Saul said, "you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this." (1 Samuel 14:43-44 NLT)
Saul has a decision to make now. His son has broken the law. Saul is faced with a decision that requires a distinction. A theology professor of mine used to like to say, “Theology is the art of making distinctions.” This decision requires a distinction. The law that Jonathan broke – is it Saul’s law or is it God’s law? They are not the same.
God’s laws are given by God and communicated to people through messengers like prophets. Our laws are enacted by people made in the image of God, but who may not have checked with God before making the law. Out of respect, we still follow the laws of our government, our businesses, our schools, and our households. Those laws, however, were put in place by those people. So, those people can change or revoke those laws without any repercussions from God. Saul needs to make this distinction now. What will he do?
But the people broke in and said to Saul, "Jonathan has won this great victory for Israel. Should he die? Far from it! As surely as the LORD lives, not one hair on his head will be touched, for God helped him do a great deed today." So the people rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death. Then Saul called back the army from chasing the Philistines, and the Philistines returned home. (1 Samuel 14:45-46 NLT)
Saul made the right distinction. Then, he made a grace-filled decision. He didn’t let pride get in the way. He saved his son that day. Saul modeled the process we all go through when we are learning to walk together with God.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV)
Saul is learning to live justly. He treats people with fairness and does not waver from God’s Law. He is learning to love mercy. He is willing to change his own laws and forgive debts in order to help people follow God as King. He walks humbly with his God, adjusting his ways to match God’s ways. God is Saul’s Lord. The LORD is the king’s King.
Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel's throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction--against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. And wherever he turned, he was victorious. He performed great deeds and conquered the Amalekites, saving Israel from all those who had plundered them. (1 Samuel 14:47-48 NLT)
How about you? Is the LORD your King? Do you live justly, treating people with fairness? Do you love mercy, giving grace to those who fail? Do you walk humbly with your God? How do you live, love, and walk?