Taking responsibility for our actions does not always come easy to us. When it comes times to face the music for something we have done, we find ourselves looking for someone or something to blame – anyone but ourselves. We didn’t get an ‘A’ in the class, so we blame it on the teacher’s method of instruction, rather than our own study habits. Our team loses the game, so we blame it on the ump’s bad calls, rather than our team’s poor hitting. We get a mediocre evaluation at work, so we blame it on the boss who doesn’t like us, rather than admit we need to improve our performance. It’s the art of self-justification: we hate taking responsibility for our failures, so we do the dishonorable thing by shifting the blame to someone or something other than ourselves.
The art of self-justification can be traced all the way back to the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. When God confronted Adam about his sin in the garden, he tried to shift the blame to his wife: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Likewise, Eve blamed the serpent: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” This dishonorable and distasteful tendency has been in all humans ever since then. It even runs in kings and leaders, as we see in the case of Saul in 1 Samuel 14.24-52.
Once again, Scripture presents a negative evaluation of King Saul, this time showing us how he made foolish and rash vows, and then refused to own up to his own failure. Once again, he’s contrasted with the righteous acts of his son, Jonathan, who willingly accepts the blame for the wrong he did.
But this story does far more than provide us with a good role model in Jonathan; it points us to the One whom Jonathan foreshadowed: the only truly righteous King, the Lord Jesus, who not only took responsibility for his own actions, but took responsibility for ours too, providing us with redemption from all our sins.
This story impresses upon us how much we need a king and leader with real integrity, obedience, and wisdom. Saul was king like all the nations – good at some things, like fighting Philistines, but a failure when it came to obeying the Lord and walking in humility before him. When it came to admitting his failures and taking responsibility for his own actions, he had a dismal record. He tried to master the art of self-justification and self-preservation. He had no fear of God.
Jonathan, on the other hand, was a far more righteous man, and would have made a better king for Israel. But the point of this story is not to hold up Jonathan as a perfect example and say to us, “Be like Jonathan,” but rather to point us to the only truly righteous King, the Lord Jesus, who not only took responsibility for his own actions, but took responsibility for ours too, providing us with redemption from all our sins.
You see, like Jonathan, Jesus was sentenced to death by foolish and unjust judges, although he had done no wrong. But unlike Jonathan, Jesus had done no wrong his entire life. He is the only man who lived his whole life in perfect obedience to the Father – in word, thought, and deed. He never failed to do what the Father commanded, and never did what the Father forbade.
And unlike Jonathan, no one was there to ransom Jesus. In fact, he went to the cross to ransom others. He gave his life in exchange for ours: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt 20.28).
You see, there was a ransom price for our redemption. We have sinned against God, and offended him. The punishment is hell. That is what we deserve. We stand under a curse – not a rash curse by a foolish king like Saul, but a just and holy curse against our sin, the very curse of God. God’s law condemns us and pronounces us guilty. And we deserve eternal death. The Bible says, “It is appointed once for a man to die, and then comes the judgment.” We must all stand before the judgment seat of God.
What will we do on that day? Will we try to justify ourselves? We will try to shift the blame on others? Do we really think that we can talk our way out of being judged by God – the God who knows all, sees all, and in his justice must punish sin?
There is only one escape from the punishment and condemnation we deserve: through the ransom price that Jesus paid. No else can pay that price – least of all ourselves. The only price that will suffice is what Jesus paid, for God demands the payment of perfect righteousness, and the blood of a perfectly righteous man. “You were ransomed…not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Xp, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet 1.18-19).
Jesus is the righteous leader who willingly said to his Father, “Here I am; I will die.” He didn’t die for his own sins – for he had no sins of his own. He died for the sins of his people, paying the ransom price for their freedom!
Put your trust in Christ. Confess your sin. Own up to your wrongs, and ask for forgiveness. God’s promise is that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In Christ, the wise and obedient King who gave himself for our sins, we can live in the joy and freedom as those whose debt has been cancelled, whose sins have been forgiven, and who possess the promise of eternal life.
Taken from Pastor Brown's sermon on 1 Samuel 14.24-52. You can listen to the whole thing here.