First Samuel 14 is a tale of two leaders. On the one hand, we learn of Jonathan’s faith to infiltrate the Philistine camp and launch an attack with only his armor-bearer at his side. We see his faith when he says, “It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” Jonathan cannot say with 100% certainty that God will save them. He doesn’t know that for sure. But he can say with certainty that God is able to save, and that is enough for him. Faith often requires stepping out with our confidence rooted in God’s character, even when we don’t know what will happen.
On the other hand, we see the folly of Saul repeatedly. He is unwilling to step out until he sees the chaos in the Philistine camp. When Saul finally engages in the battle, on the heels of Jonathan’s victory, he makes a foolish vow that jeopardizes his son’s life. And throughout this chapter, we see him unwilling to acknowledge that it is his sin that has created the problem.
And yet, despite all of this, the chapter ends with a record of Saul’s military accomplishments. He still managed to build a legacy as a successful military leader. Jonathan, however, will end up fading into obscurity, eventually ceding the throne to David. Even within this chapter, Jonathan is willing to forfeit his life to fulfill a sinful vow made by his father, while throughout Israel, Saul receives credit for a victory that Jonathan has won. This strikes us as terribly unjust.
However, Jonathan’s life teaches us about the true nature of leadership. Godly leaders are willing to sacrifice their reputations, their comfort, and even their lives for the good of others. They don’t live to “build a legacy.” They live to be spent for God’s glory and the good of other people. They know that every moment of every day they are using up more of a very short life. Therefore, rather than trying to preserve life and build a legacy, they are eager to be spent for things that are eternal.
The ultimate example of this kind of leadership is Christ. He forfeited his reputation, comfort, and his very life for the glory of His Father and for our salvation. It is only when you receive His grace and your identity is rooted in Him, that you, too, can find joy in fading into obscurity while spending your life on things that matter for eternity!