Bible Readings for August 22nd
The story of salvation history in the Bible does not progress in nice, straight, neat lines. This is a comforting thought, since spiritual growth in our own lives moves forward not with perfect, unbroken progress but rather in fits and starts as we awkwardly advance in the grace of the gospel. In today’s reading, we see Israel simultaneously taking steps forward and backward in a few interesting ways.
Importantly, 1 Samuel 14 is where we first meet Jonathan, the single greatest figure outside of Samuel and David during this period of Israel’s history. Jonathan stands out as a valiant man of faith who does not fear the Philistines at all. Instead, he recognizes that “nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6). Through his unwavering faith, Jonathan represents a step forward for Israel.
But we also see Israel taking a step backward in the actions of their leader, Saul, who makes a foolish vow to put to death anyone who tastes food before the Philistines have been defeated (1 Sam. 14:24). Suddenly, Saul finds himself with the same dilemma that Jephthah faced in Judges 11: Saul’s vow had bound him to put his own son to death for tasting honey that day (1 Sam. 14:39–42).
At this point, however, Israel takes another step forward by refusing to allow Saul to keep his vow, as Jephthah had done. Instead, Israel intervenes and ransoms Jonathan to preserve his life (1 Sam. 14:45). They recognize that Saul had “troubled the land” (1 Sam. 14:29) with a sinful, foolish vow. But rather than permitting Saul to compound his sin, they prevent him from carrying out the terms of his vow.
Through stories like this, God shows us what it looks like to grow in the gospel. All of us wish we could permanently move beyond our sin in one decisive event—say, from hearing one sermon or reading one book—but that simply isn’t how God transforms us. The curse of sin lurks too deeply in our hearts to die that easily.
Nevertheless, there is hope for lasting transformation, even if it doesn’t come as quickly as we would like it to. God has provided us nothing less than the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, which he brings to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Remember the words of Paul: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). God will bring his good work in you to completion, so do not give up the fight of faith. No matter how many steps backward you may have taken, repent today and move forward in faith through reliance upon the grace of God in the gospel.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.