But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die.
1 Samuel 14:45
After Jonathan and his armor bearer start the fighting by killing about twenty men (1 Samuel 14:14), Saul and the rest of the Israelite army get into the fight. But Saul makes an ill-advised oath: he said “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.” (1 Samuel 14:24). There are so many reasons why this is a terrible oath under which to put the people, but the most obvious is that people who have exerted themselves strenuously are going to be hungry.
The trouble comes in waves. The first wave happens in verses 31-35 wherein the people, famished from exertion, get so hungry that they just start tearing into the meat before it has been properly drained of blood. This, according to The Law, is sinful. Saul rebukes the people for doing this and has them roll over a large stone on which they can properly slaughter the animals and have their little cookout.
The second wave comes once the people have finished eating and Saul thinks it would be a great idea to go down into the Philistine camp by night and do some killing and plundering (1 Samuel 14:36-42). Sound military tactics. Saul does what he should and asks God whether or not the Israelites should do what he (Saul) thinks they should do. God does not answer. Saul immediately concludes, correctly, that someone in the camp ate when he (Saul) had expressly forbidden it. Turns out that Jonathan had not heard his father give that order and he (Jonathan) had seen some honey in the forest and had a little snack while on the march. Saul decides that he is going to follow-through with his rash oath, but the people intervene with this morning’s verse.
Saul’s rash vow not only led the people into a place where the temptation was too much for them, it also very nearly cost him one of this sons. Points to Saul for wanting to follow-through with what he said. Points taken away for the lack of forethought that went into the vow.
What sort of commitments and obligations am I making? I very well might be making commitments that have nothing wrong with them on the surface — fasting is not inherently bad — but may have consequences if I take the time to stop and consider — for example, hungry people marching and fighting are going to be weakened physically or mentally. If I am committing to something, even something that is apparently good, I need to consider what the impacts of that commitment might be and I need to seek God’s counsel on it. God never told Saul to put the people under an oath of fasting. And there is no record of Saul consulting God on whether or not he (Saul) should put the people under such an obligation. That was all Saul. But God might very well have warned Saul away from that vow if Saul had stopped to consult with God beforehand. Let me pray and consider the commitments I am asked to make or plan to make before I commit to them. It might save me a lot of trouble.
Father, thank You for this reminder that even apparently good things like fasting can be a bad idea in the wrong context. Please bring this to mind the next time I am asked to make a commitment and let me bring that commitment before You before I decide.