Monday, November 17, 2008
Current Study: People Who Made a Difference
Today’s Topic: Stand Up For What’s Right
Today’s Scripture: 1 Samuel 14:44-45 Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.” But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.
Let’s review our story so far. King Saul had bound the military personnel of Israel with an oath that they could not eat any food until after the daily battles with Philistines. They were only allowed to eat after sundown each night. Disobedience was punishable by death. In an attempt to show the urgency of defeating Israel’s enemies, Saul had impulsively issued an order that was both unwise and unjust. He was not modeling good leadership skills.
Saul’s son Jonathon had not been informed of the oath, nor had he been a part of swearing to it. As he and the army entered the woods one day they came across a large flow of honey from what is presumed to be a large bee’s nest in the ground. Jonathon dipped his staff in the honey and ate some. At that point the soldiers told him about the oath. Jonathon declares the oath of the king to be foolish, stating that his father was actually making trouble for the country by his order. Later that day, the king finds out what had happened, and to defend the integrity of his reign he orders his son put to death, claiming that it is the right thing to do before God.
Now, I do not think that this story can be used to support rebellion against the government when we disagree with its laws. But there is a huge lesson in this story about what to do when we’ve made a poor decision. We all make poor decisions at times. Sometimes the decisions are small ones and don’t affect many people other than ourselves. We may impulsively choose to buy something we didn’t really need and then regret it later when an unexpected bill arrives. But many times our decisions dramatically affect others. We may impulsively say the wrong thing at the wrong time and someone gets deeply offended or hurt. I know there were times when raising our children that in the emotional heat of discipline consequences were enforced that didn’t really fit the offense. We’ve all probably worked for employers at times who had what we considered to be stupid rules in the workplace. Maybe we were the boss who made those rules.
When we make a poor decision, we have two choices of subsequent action. One choice is that we can stay the course. Pride says this is the best option. It’s the option Saul initially chose. Even if it meant the death of his son, he believed his integrity as king was at stake. He thought the only way to be respected was to prove he could stand by his decisions. How wrong he was. What it revealed was a huge level of insecurity in his life. It’s the same for us. When we feel we have to earn respect and protect image by following up bad decisions with more bad decisions, we are exposing the sin of pride manifested in the character flaw of insecurity. There is another option that will actually bring the results that we desire. It’s called humility.
The other choice we have when we make a bad decision is to admit it, change it, and make it right. This requires humility. Sometimes it requires someone standing up to us. That’s what happened in our story. After Saul’s initial response to what Jonathon did, the rest of the army stood up for what was right and opposed the king. They reminded the king that what Jonathon did actually saved Israel, implying that what Saul had ordered had hurt the country. Notice that they didn’t specifically condemn what the King had done, they only showed the benefit of what Jonathon had done. Then they went a step further. They corrected Saul’s perspective on who was actually following God. The king thought he was, because he felt he had an obligation to enforce an oath. But if that oath was made outside of the will of God, which it was, then repentance is necessary, not enforcement.
There are two simple yet profound lessons for us in this story. First, be humble enough to admit when you’ve made a bad decision or committed a sin, and make it right. Second, be strong enough to stand up for others when you know they are in the right. The soldiers of Israel made a difference in Jonathon’s life because they stood up for him and opposed the king. Every day we are confronted with situations of injustice, and we must take a stand for righteousness. Our culture is filled with wrongs. Even though it is not our top Kingdom priority to make the wrongs right – that’s reserved for witnessing and getting people saved – it is a result of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The love of God will give us compassionate hearts for those who are suffering unjustly. Jesus Himself described one aspect of His mission when He read from the prophet Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Let our lives reflect the same mission. We will stand up for righteousness by reaching down to those who have fallen. We will be lifted up by lifting others. We will be filled when we empty ourselves into others. We will be blessed when we become a blessing to others. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, and He wants to do His work in you.