“Jonathan: Born for Greatness”
This week we study the life of one of the Bible’s great characters. It is difficult to find fault anywhere in the recorded life of Jonathan, son of King Saul. He was a young man of great affection and of great courage. Friendship was very important to Jonathan. He was not afraid of perishing in the cause of right. He inspired others join him in the fight against evil, even against great odds. His trust in the Lord is almost unparalleled in Scripture.
Perhaps the most admirable trait in the brief life of Jonathan was his genuine, humble spirit. He was willing to accept unnecessarily difficult circumstances even though he knew those in authority were wrong. He carried this unusual spirit to an early grave while supporting his erring father to the end. He never wavered in his fidelity to the God-ordained authority figures around him even though they were clearly of lesser character. He would not consent to do wrong, but short of that, he remained in submission to his earthly father. Jonathan, like Christ, emptied himself even unto death. Jonathan is the rare Bible character who fits this description: “Who thought it not robbery to be equal ... but made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant ... he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death ... wherefore God hath highly exalted him” (Philippians 2:6-9). Oh that this could be said of all Christians everywhere at all times.
During Jonathan’s life Israel was in crisis. The people lived under constant threat from their arch enemies, the Philistines. Israel’s soldiers were poorly armed, outnumbered and mocked. The Lord used Jonathan to show that the glory of God shines brightest during impossible times like these. “Who can be against us when the Lord is for us?” is the victorious battle cry of faith. Jonathan’s great demonstration of faith need not seem unusual to us. The Bible tells us that “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
Some people are tempted to feel some sense of pride in their own “unwavering” faith, while others feel despair because they realize that their faith is weak. Men who believe that they have great faith eventually find their faith shattered when real tests come. Only those who accept and use the faith of Jesus are able to exhibit Jonathan’s steady, unwavering, faithfulness.
Righteousness by real faith – the faith of Jesus, is a key component of the good news. “By the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men” (Romans 5:18). This free gift of God’s forgiving grace and “the measure of faith” levels the field so that everyone can make an intelligent decision about whether to believe and receive or reject and spurn the gift of faith. Jonathan made use of the gift of faith sent from above, and in exercising it, was strengthened to walk in yet greater faith.
Paul understood this, although most Bible translators have missed it completely. We have to go to the KJV to hear it straight: “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis mine). Faith, correctly understood, is the mission statement of the SDA movement: “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). The math is simple – I need to make use of the free gift of the faith of Jesus. If one fails to grasp this point, then men like Jonathan are Bible heroes from afar, their incredible feats unattainable to the common rank and file. They take on a status that is iconic rather than exemplary.
Ellen White talks about the dangers of placing stock in our own personal faith:
Every member of the human family is given wholly into the hands of Christ, and whatever we possess…is placed in our possession as God’s treasure…every gift is stamped with the cross … all things come from God … Now, not a soul can give God anything that is not already His. Bear this in mind. We can not offer anything in faith which we have not first received of God. Discern with astonishment the utter worthlessness of creature merit to earn the wages of eternal life. If you were to gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man, and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be regarded as treason. The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from the beginning to the end. Where is the merit in the man to earn his salvation? Impossible! There is danger in regarding justification by faith as placing merit upon faith. There is not a point that needs to be dwelt upon more earnestly, repeated more frequently, or established more firmly in the minds of all, than the impossibility of fallen man meriting anything by his own best good works.” –Ellen White, 1888 Materials, page 811.
I want the powerful faith that Jonathan plugged into. This faith of Christ has never lost a single battle and it never will. There is no sin so large that will not crumble before the faith of Jesus. Though the Philistines outnumber you on all sides, though you are friendless, though your own closest family members turn against your cause, though you be alone facing certain death – faith is the victory, the glorious victory that overcomes the world. When I feel I am too much of a sinner to even go to church it is time to cry out “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” I must follow on, “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
Of the final generation the Bible says, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm in My holy mountain ... a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like ... as horsemen, so shall they run ... they shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways and they shall not break their ranks ... and the Lord shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great” (Joel 2: 1-11).
Jonathan chose to take the servant’s role in dealing with those whom God had placed in authority. Only the faith of Jesus can transform a man into this heavenly condition. One day when we meet in heaven, I want to see Jonathan coming to meet this people of the final generation. I want to live so that he can honestly call me Brother.