In this story we begin to see that Saul’s judgment was impaired. If you remember, Jonathan had just taken out a garrison with his armor bearer and God showed up in a big way. There was an earthquake that caused confusion and the Philistines started to fight each other.
The Israelites seized the moment to route their enemy. But this victory wasn’t enough for Saul. He wanted more. He made a foolish vow saying:
“Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!”
This was an extreme overreaction and put his troops at great risk. It was totally self-serving and vindictive. It had nothing to do with the battle and everything to do with Saul being humiliated earlier in the day when Samuel told him that he was unfit to be king.
To Saul’s horror, the one person that did eat that day was his son, Jonathan. Saul placed himself in a terrible position, requiring the death of his son over a foolish vow. Thankfully the people overruled him and Jonathan was spared.
The lesson here is to never make a foolish vow in reacting to your own hurt. We often do that. When the pain is so great, we overreact to MAKE SURE we are never hurt or humiliated again. But it only hurts yourself and the ones you love.
For example, if you are hurt you might make these vows:
- I will never open up to another person again.
- I will never risk being made a fool again.
- I will always pay people back who hurt me.
- I will never trust anyone for anything again.
These vows might protect you in one way, but they have their own nasty consequences. These not only make you a smaller person but they punish others who, like Jonathan, have nothing to do with your issue.
For example, imagine that you were married and got a divorce because your first spouse betrayed you. You might vow to never trust anyone again. But that hurts your second marriage and leaves your current spouse emotionally frozen out. That’s not fair to him or her.
We often make vows that we aren’t even aware of making. It’s just an inner decision to protect ourselves. Take a minute to think about the times you’ve been hurt and whether or not you made a vow. Then consider how that vow is not only hurting you but, the ones you love. Finally, tell God that you want to break that vow. Release it and welcome back the good things you’ve been missing since you made the vow.
Prayer: Father, it’s easy to sit in judgment of Saul, but he merely reflects who I am in my darkest moments. I am susceptible to doing the same things he does. So please help me to see where I have made similar self-preserving and vindictive vows out of my hurt and fear. Help me to bring my deep hurt to you for healing. And might I trust in you in the future and not my vows. I turn my vows back to you now. Thank you. Amen.