Pomegranates, Procrastination and Providence
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
Key Scripture: 1 Samuel 14:1-3 (NKJV)
There are three lessons to be learned from the story in 1 Samuel chapter 14.
This chapter tells a story of indolence, valor and responsive providence.
The backstory is that Saul, after his second year as king, had amassed an army of 3,000 men. He and his son Jonathan had conducted several successful combat operations against the Palestinians.
They were so successful that the Palestinians cobbled together an army designed to eradicate the Hebrews. Their army consisted of 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen and an unnumbered amount of foot soldiers. They were armed with swords, spears and other weapons of war.
The Hebrews did not have any ironsmiths among them. The Palestinians had prevented them from developing that skill set, lest they become armed and cause and insurrection. The Hebrews sharpened their axes, pitchforks and weapons that they had earned in previous engagements. They prepared to do battle but they knew that they were out matched.
Saul and all of Israel quivered in fear of the superior army of the Palestinians. People began to hide in the fields, caves, forests, hills and pits of the region. Some fled to bordering countries. Only six hundred soldiers stayed by to fight for Israel.
There was a custom in those times that before a battle, the priest would pray with the combatants. The priest would also meet them when they returned from battle. Samuel, the reigning prophet, had sent word that he would be there to pray and consecrate the soldiers in a week. He was late. In order to maintain the confidence of his soldiers, Saul usurped the prophetic role and offered the sacrifice himself.
Rather than to follow his hubristic usurpation of the prophetic role with the kingly responsibility to lead, he quavered under the pomegranate tree in the far suburbs of Gibeah.
In those days, a pomegranate tree was a symbol of opulence. The fruit symbolized fruitfulness because it is filled with a sweet, gelatinous substance surrounding seeds. A pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds. This mythically corresponds to the 613 commandments of the Torah.
So here was Saul, languishing from fear and procrastinating under the pomegranate tree. He knew that he was to engage in battle, but waited.
Lesson #1: When God gives a task, delayed obedience is disobedience.
Chapter 14 begins with the Prince Jonathan compelled by an unction from God to act in righteous independence. He was compelled to do what his father had not done. He acted upon the God given task at hand.
Lesson #2: Doing the right thing is a divine imperative that requires no committee.
Jonathan arises, rouses his armor bearer and tells him what plan the Lord has put on his heart. The armor bearer is knit to the heart of the prince and off they go on an unsanctioned, improbable, and virtually impossible mission, because they believed that God could deliver the Philistines through the hands of many or few.
The plan was to sneak down to a lower promontory where they would intentionally expose themselves to the enemy. Jonathan reasoned that if the Philistines, upon discovering them, say, “Stay where you are, we will come down to fight with you, they would stay.” But, if the response was, “Come up unto us,” then that is the sign that the Lord will deliver them into their hands. So Jonathan thought, “We will climb up the cliff side and engage them because in God’s strength, we can not fail!”
That is what happened. They climbed up the cliff and with inferior weapons, they overcame 20 men. The Philistines thought that they were under attack by a superior force and became afraid. God offered top cover to Jonathan and caused an earthquake. The Philistine army gave into fear. They fled the onslaught of Jonathan, attacking each other as they fled.
Lesson #3: When God gives guidance, success is guaranteed when the believer steps out on faith. Providence is the friend of the prepared. In the words of Ellen G. White from her book, Christ’s Object Lessons (page 333): “As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.”
My Advice: Go into this day with the energy, enthusiasm and expectation of Jonathan. Do not be overcome by what I call “the pomegranate paralysis.”
Pursue the providence of your purpose and watch God open doors and escort you into the realization of your dreams. Proceed to achieve.
In closing, I’d like to share some of the lyrics from the song “Keep on Climbing” by the famous gospel music singer and minister, Wintley Phipps:
Just keep on climbing until you reach your goal/Just keep on striving, with all your heart and soul/All things are possible with God so don’t give in/He’ll move your mountains/He believes in your dreams!
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Columbia Union College (WAU) in Takoma Park, Maryland. He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees–a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.