Can we get more leadership books based on Jonathan, please? The man is magnificent, and we haven’t even gotten to his friendship with David yet.
To start with, he has a significant victory that his father seems to take credit for. It’s a simple little paragraph related with very little comment. Jonathan wins. The people hear Saul has won. Okay. That tracks for Saul, but it doesn’t seem to bother Jonathan. I don’t think he’s fighting for the recognition.
The next thing we see is him sneaking off with his shield bearer to face the enemy alone. Except not alone. He knows God is with him. Or that God might be with him. And his servant is all for it. Yes, the faith is phenomenal, but let’s look at the servant. This dude is willing to follow Jonathan literally anywhere, even to their easily assumed deaths. How good of a man must Jonathan be to inspire that kind of loyalty in a servant?
And then you have his response when he hears about his father’s silly oath. I can see the eye-roll. “Seriously, dad? You’ve got to be kidding me.” But it’s the people’s response later that is the real kicker. Saul’s curse falls, and he identifies the ‘perpetrator’ of the sin. He’s all ready to follow through and kill his own son. I mean, good for him, I guess? He doesn’t seem real hesitant… and the people stop him. They redeem Jonathan. I assume this means some sort of costly sacrifice, equivalent to the legal value of a life maybe? It isn’t really clear. What is clear is that, despite whatever news brief Saul is sending out over Jonathan’s victories, the people know how amazing he is. They know what kind of leader he is. They love him.
What kind of king would Jonathan have been if Saul hadn’t forfeited the throne? Would Jonathan have been a man after God’s own heart like David? It really seems likely. It really seems like Israel would have been in good hands with him on the throne. God just couldn’t allow Saul’s line to continue. Saul’s legacy became one of defeat.
Saul had a chance. He could have trusted God. Instead, he was an insecure coward who hid from his announcement, took credit for his son’s victories, panicked when Samuel was late and made sacrifices he had no business presiding over, and gave in to his people’s desire for the good livestock they should have destroyed. From what we have of the account, he didn’t even try to talk them out of it, just kind of… assumed it would go poorly. Such a shame.
Love Jonathan, though.