As we look at the behaviour of Jonathan, it could be interpreted as either impatience with his father’s persistent delay or his taking an initiative because of his faith in the Lord. I suspect it is the latter aspect that predominated, although he would also have been disappointed with Saul’s lack of leadership skills.
As we look at Jonathan’s character, both here and in subsequent incidents, we sense he would have made a good king. But because of his father’s rash behaviour in the incident at Gilgal, he would never be king. The fact that he still showed faith in God shows that he did not regard God’s judgements as a reason for not trusting God to help him. Nor did he see that self-fulfilment was the goal of his life. His life had meaning because he submitted to God’s authority.
It is also worth noting that Jonathan’s faith here is not mere optimism. Sometimes, optimism can be similar to faith, but usually optimism is based on certain possibilities, even if they are unrealistic. But in this case there were no possibilities for creating optimism. What Jonathan saw with his literal eyes was a bedraggled Israelite army, an ineffective leader and an entrenched enemy; but with his spiritual eyes he saw God. There are several principles regarding faith in God that we see in Jonathan.
First, victory is obtained by faith in God. Jonathan’s faith grasped that God was able to help him, which means that he understood God’s power and promises. His faith was informed.
Yet his faith acknowledged that God might refuse to help them. In addition to knowing God’s power and promises, he also recognised God’s sovereignty. Today, the impression is given by some that faith, if it is real, demands things of God. That is not faith, but arrogance. Yet it is worthwhile noting an important distinction here. Confessing God’s sovereignty can come from a desire to serve him or it can merely be a means of doing nothing.
Further, Jonathan’s faith in God was based on a covenant relationship with God. This is seen in his calling the Philistines ‘uncircumcised’. Jonathan knew that God was committed to him by personal desire to bless him and protect him.
Another aspect of Jonathan’s faith that is revealed here is his realisation that he had to make progress bit by bit against the enemy, for he saw that he had to deal with their outposts one by one. There is a simplistic view of faith around today, which actually masquerades as great faith, which suggests that true faith would get rid of all the enemies at one go. That is not the way that faith works, for it proceeds gradually and in a sense slowly and deliberately.