In 1 Sam 13, Saul was the king of Israel. He had reigned 2 years when Jonathan and the thousand men who were with him smote a garrison of the Philistines [1 Sam 13:2-3]. The Philistines retaliated by gathering themselves together to fight with Israel [1 Sam 13:5]. There were 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen and “people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude.” That’s a massive army.
1 Sam 13:6 says, “When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,)” they hid themselves. 1 Sam 13:7 says that all the people who were with Saul “followed him trembling.”
Notice the two emotions that were driving the men who were in Israel. They were distressed and they were trembling. Distress and fear had gripped them. They were hiding “in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits,” [1 Sam 13:6]. They were in a mess. Furthermore, some of the Hebrews even defected to the Philistines [1 Sam 14:21].
Not only that, but their king was also afraid. He was afraid because the people were scattered from him and because the Philistines were gathered together against Israel [1 Sam 13:11]. Saul was a man fearing king. Later, in 1 Sam 15:24, Saul admitted, when he disobeyed the Lord, that he feared the people and obeyed their voice. That’s what elected officials often do.
So here were a king who feared his enemy and the people he ruled and a people who were distressed by their enemy and afraid. Neither the king nor the people had any idea how God might help them in this situation. Saul forced himself to offer a sacrifice to the Lord in 1 Sam 13:12, which was a foolish thing to do, according to Samuel [1 Sam 13:13], and cost Saul the kingdom [1 Sam 13:14]. If anything, people make foolish decisions in times like these.
We can learn a great deal from this passage in 1 Sam 13. When people are distressed and fearful, they don’t make rational decisions. They make irrational, emotional decisions. The people went into hiding from the Philistines. Some of the men even defected to the enemy. Saul offered a sacrifice, which he knew, as the king, was something that only a priest could do.
None of these things they did offered them any more protection. None of these things drew them closer to the Lord. None of these things adequately addressed the problem they were facing. None of these things took into account that God had already proven that he would bless Israel in battle against the Philistines [1 Sam 13:3]. They just panicked.
This is what many people in America are feeling right now. They are distressed and they are afraid because of the coronavirus and the measures our federal and state governments are taking in response to the potential spread of this virus. To be panicked, fearful and distressed won’t help you anymore than hiding and sacrificing helped Saul and the men of Israel.
When you are distressed and fearful, you need to get your emotions under control, first. Prov 25:28 says, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” To get your emotions under control you need to:
- Quit feeding your emotions with the information that distresses you and makes you afraid.
- Read your Bible daily and sufficiently to get comfort and clear instruction from God.
- Pray diligently and thoughtfully until God absolutely directs your next step.
- Quit worrying about the consequences of your next step or what your second step might be.
Then you must follow through on what God shows you to do. You can’t concern yourself with how other people are going to view what God has directed you to do. You must lead out. Jonathan took decisive action when everyone else was scared to death. In 1 Sam 14, he led his armor bearer to attack a garrison of the Philistines. He said, “it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” By the time they were preparing to attack the garrison, Jonathan said, “the Lord hath delivered them into our hand,” [1 Sam 14:10]. And then when they attacked he said, “the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel,” [1 Sam 14:12]. Notice how his faith grew stronger with each step he took. And yours will, too.
Conclusion: Now is not the time to panic. Now is the time to draw closer to God in prayer and in your Bible and demonstrate how the real people of God handle a crisis. Put your fear and distress aside. Get with God and do what he shows you to do. Help a fellow brother or sister in financial need because of lost wages. Go to the store or the pharmacy for a brother or sister in Christ who can’t get there and handle the crowds or lines. Witness to a neighbor, coworker, classmate, friend, or relative who is distressed and afraid. Pray together with as many of your fellow believers as you can. And remember that your redemption draweth nigh.