Read – 1 Samuel 14
Focus on verse 44-45
Leaders who lack confidence in their own identity and ability, typically default to using fear tactics to motivate those they are trying to lead. As this cycle progresses, those under such a leader’s authority increasingly lose respect for the leader, which typically causes the leader to increase the level of fear needed to control his subjects. Unless there is some form of intervention this cycle will continue to escalate until the leader is removed, dies, or destroys all his subjects… in any event, everyone loses in this scenario.
In todays reading Saul issues a counter productive decree to his men commanding them to fast from food in the midst of a battle. His son Jonathan does not hear him give this order, and eats a little wild honey he happens to find along his way. Jonathan is also the one whom God uses to capture a Philistine outpost which turns the momentum of the battle in Israel’s favor.
Saul’s actions and decisions at this point begin to reflect those of a leader shifting to fear motivation in a desperate attempt to appear in control. Despite not really knowing what to do, but wanting desperately to appear to be decisive, he makes rash and foolish decisions that frustrate the people around him, which further increases his desperation and fear that he is losing his influence. When he gives the order for Jonathan to be killed for eating some honey, his followers not only refuse to carry it out, but step up in Jonathan’s defense.
Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.” But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death. (v. 44-45)
This desperate attempt to appear decisive and in control is quite possibly the beginning of Saul’s demise as king, as it seems to cause at least a few of his key supporters to lose confidence in his leadership.
In sharp contrast to Saul, we will soon see the leadership style of David win the loyalty and love of the people he leads by truly serving them, and giving them every opportunity to succeed and find fulfillment. David is not a perfect leader, he makes some serious mistakes as well, but one of the huge differences between David and Saul is that David chooses to admit his failures and repents of them. He also uses authority fairly, balancing justice and mercy to create an environment that promotes a higher level of honesty and trust among the people he serves.