TODAY’S READING: 1 Samuel 13–14
Jonathan is my favorite Old Testament character and a great model for missionaries. Taking up our missions motif as the backdrop (that is, God’s desire that He is glorified among all peoples), God uses the weak and overwhelmed to win improbable victories (and many souls). God does this so all the glory goes to Him, and we can revel in the spirit of Jonathan and aspire towards it in our assignment to see God glorified globally.
Jonathan’s story began with having half as many men as his father the king (1 Sam. 13:1–2), yet going on the attack while all his colleagues and countrymen either hid, fled, trembled, or scattered (vv. 6–8). From the beginning, Jonathan had the missionary spirit of “go”: “Come, let us go!” he says to his armorbearer repeatedly (14:1, 6, 10), for the missionary is never content to stay where all is safe. Missionaries—like firemen—rush in where others rush out. Jonathan had a specific goal for his go. His reference to the uncircumcised (v. 6) was not a racial slur, but a missional challenge. Circumcision was the sign of covenant with Jehovah. To be uncircumcised was to be un-submissive to the King of glory, and the missionary heart of Jonathan would not countenance that indignity to His Lord. Those devoted to their Lord desire all glory and honor be given to Him by every people and every tongue, so wherever that honor to the King is absent, there is work to be done, war to be waged. In our day, we must ever cast our eyes across the span of nations and ask: What knees are yet unbowed, and what hearts yet uncircumcised? Who does not yet honor our King? Then we must go to those peoples and lands and do something about it.
Jonathan was so dedicated to the glory of Jehovah among the “uncircumcised” (the nations) that he did not need guarantees. Jehovah’s honor was worth dying for. Jonathan’s countrymen were trembling and hiding (13:1–7) and his father was blundering (vv. 8–14). So Jonathan in desperate times realized the best thing to do was attack, even if it went poorly for him. He says to his armorbearer, “It may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (14:6). That beautiful spirit lived out today is the young man in rural America or Sweden, Kenya or the Philippines, Paraguay or Jordan, who turns to his pregnant bride and says with a twinkle in his eye: “Come on! Let’s go to North Korea. It may be that the Lord uses us to see one person come to Jesus. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” Missionary faith like this makes the whole creation tremble (v. 15).
Jonathan was the visionary, but mission visionaries need someone to rush to battle with them and clean up their messes. Johnathan’s armor bearer shared in the “go” spirit saying, “Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart” (v. 7), and this priceless team member harvested those that Jonathan mowed down (v. 13). One of the most precious missionary determinations of Jonathan and his armor bearer was that they determined to fight for God’s glory among the nations; it was just a matter of where. Jonathan says in effect: “If they come down, we will fight. If we go up, we will fight” (see vv. 8–10). Fighting is not the question; the question is just geography. In our age the God of all peoples has brought Hausa to Benin, Syrians to Sweden, Turks to Germany, and Arabs to Dearborn, Michigan. God has brought the nations of the world to us, and the missionary spirit has determined to win them for God’s glory. Whether that fight takes place in Saudi Arabia or South Dakota, it doesn’t matter—the missionary spirit is to fight. My friend Travis who serves in the Arab world recently spoke in South America where he visited a local mosque and shared with Muslims before sharing the gospel with a Jew in the city park. This is the missionary spirit of Jonathan, lived out in the missionary praxis of Travis: It doesn’t matter where I am and it doesn’t matter if the Lord brings the nations to me in Walmart or if He sends me to Hindus in the Himalayas, I will fight for souls!