That’s the contrast we’re to see in the opening lines of chapter 14. The writer of 1 & 2 Samuel wants to give us character case studies.
Be like this character. Don’t be like this character. And so the writer doesn’t waste any opportunity to contrast a “bad guy” with a “good guy.” And in the last chapter, we established that King Saul is a character of whom we should do the opposite. Whatever we see Saul doing, the good king—the good leader—does just the opposite.
We were introduced to the character of Jonathan in the previous chapter. Here, he’s presented as a foil to Saul. Jonathan is eager to engage the enemy and invites his armor-bearer to join him. A gutsy plan, some might say stupid plan, that he keeps a secret from the king. Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. One dude and an armor-bearer against an entire Philistine company?
What is he thinking? We find out a few verses later.
Saul, meanwhile, is hiding in a cave. The king is hiding in a cave. The king who’s job it is to lead the people in battle is hiding in a cave. I don’t think we’re supposed to miss this contrast between these characters.
Actually, I see three characters we’re shown here that can represent three different kinds of people can imitate.
1) Saul. He’s hiding in a cave. Perhaps I’ve mentioned that already. The king, divinely appointed the lead, in the time of crisis, is actively doing nothing. Bad example to follow. Do not be this guy.
2) Jonathan. He says, “It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” While he may not have a plan, he trusts in God and is willing to be creative and innovative in how he trusts God. Good example to follow. Be this guy.
3) The armor-bear. He says, “Where do I sign up?” He believes in the courage of the king’s son rather than choosing the cowardliness of the king. Good example to follow. Be this guy.
Have you ever been one of these three? What about you? What do you see?