The God of Maybe

It’s one of my favorite little interchanges and big miracles in the Old Testament and it revolves around the beauty of “maybe.”

It’s approximately 1010 BC and, as is often the case, the Israelites are at war with the Philistines. This is before the David and Goliath event. God’s people are outnumbered and things are looking bleak. Lame duck King Saul – who has already been rejected by God – is cowering under a pomegranate tree trying to figure a way out of his latest mess when his Godly son, Jonathan, leaves the encampment with his lieutenant-armor-bearer and approaches enemy lines.

The Philistines have perfect tactical position, overlooking the ever-weakening Israelite position.

There was a cliff on each side of the mountain pass where Jonathan searched for a way to cross over to attack the Philistine military post. The name of one cliff was Bozez, and the name of the other was Seneh. One cliff stood like a pillar on the north facing Michmash, the other stood south facing Geba. Jonathan said to his armorbearer, “Let’s go to the military post of these uncircumcised people. Maybe the Lord will act on our behalf. The Lord can win a victory with a few men as well as with many.”His armorbearer answered him, “Do whatever you have in mind. Go ahead! I agree with you.” 1 Samuel 14:4-7

“Maybe the Lord will act on our behalf?” “Maybe?” What? Are these two guys ready to risk their lives on “Perhaps”?

In other translations Jonathan says: “It may be that the Lord will give us help…” or “Who knows, the Lord may help us…” My favorite is the Jubilee Bible 2000 translation (look it up) which tries to be literal with the Hebrew and reads “Peradventure the Lord will work for us…”

Now I’m going to try to use “peradventure” in a sentence all week.

Jonathan is so fixed on God that he is quite willing to risk his life on a “maybe.” He doesn’t draw his sword spouting guarantees, the way some in the Christian community might in 2015. He is quite willing to trust God, guarantee or no guarantee. Maybe this is the same kind of spirit we see active in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who turned to King Nebuchadnezzar at their moment of truth in Daniel 3 and said,  “If our God, whom we honor, can save us from a blazing furnace and from your power, he will, Your Majesty. But if he doesn’t, you should know, Your Majesty, we’ll never honor your gods or worship the gold statue that you set up.”

But if he doesn’t.

Sometimes we take a bold step firmly knowing only two things: 1. We know we don’t know the future. 2. We know we can trust God no matter what happens.

I think the Lord is more pleased with me when I move forward in faith, knowing that it’s up to Him, than when I make demands and remind Him what he must do for me.

And don’t miss the same kind of faith in Jonathan’s armor bearer, who marches faithfully into what could have been his gruesome death, essentially raising his sword and saying, “Lead the way, sir!”

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But, of course, he wasn’t marching up to his death.

Jonathan climbed up the cliff, and his armorbearer followed him. Jonathan struck down the Philistines. His armorbearer, who was behind him, finished killing them. In their first slaughter Jonathan and his armorbearer killed about twenty men within about a hundred yards. There was panic among the army in the field and all the troops in the military post. The raiding party also trembled in fear. The earth shook, and there was a panic sent from God. 1 Samuel 14:13-15