In 1 Samuel 14 (the whole story is well worth reading), Jonathan displays two characteristics as he goes out against the Philistines accompanied only by his armour-bearer. Firstly he relies on his faith in God. Humanly speaking, two men against the Philistine army had no chance of success but God uses this trailblazer to effect a great victory: ‘Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few’. Secondly he does not fear man: ‘both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost’. Jonathan took the initiative in faith – Saul was not there. Jonathan’s young armour-bearer associated himself with Jonathan heart and soul, following the lead that Jonathan gave. In this short incident we have the characteristics of a trailblazer – faith, no fear of man and godly leadership.
As the story unfolds we see that Jonathan’s mission is confirmed and that he given strength to overcome the difficulties – he climbed the cliff using hands and feet. The immediate outcome is that 20 Philistines were killed. The Philistine represents to the Christian the intrusion of the sinful nature into that which belongs to God. They operated inside the borders of Israel – inside the promised land. However God honours the faith and courage of His servant and intervenes in His own way: the ground shook and God sent a panic among the Philistines. Then Saul and the people, including some who had been in hiding, pursued the Philistines and a great victory was won. Sadly, Saul imposes an edict on the people that they should not eat that day (resulting in weakness instead of strength) and Jonathan who had not heard the king’s command falls foul of his orders. Saul, completely failing to recognise the initiative that Jonathan has taken in faith commands that Jonathan should die, but his life is spared. Trailblazers may be misunderstood and may be opposed, so godly initiatives may experience opposition from the enemies outside God’s people and may even be questioned within.
So faith, fearlessness, leadership and continuance with God in the face of opposition characterise the trailblazer. Difficulties are overcome and God recognises the step of faith and intervenes. From Jonathan’s perspective, the attack must have been daunting: a cliff, a Philistine fortress and a complete imbalance of numbers. The context of 1 Samuel may be far removed from today, but as God’s people may we still aim to be trailblazers and take those initiatives of faith which lead God’s people to victory.