1 Samuel 18:1-16
One of the things I see in this section is the extreme contrast between Saul and Jonathan's response to David. Obviously, Saul is the one in power at this point, and there is good reason for insecurity as God has rejected him as king. But Jonathan is the rightful heir to the throne. He has a high position already and set for ascendency to be king of Israel, so he too has reasons to feel threatened by David. But they respond in such different ways and I wonder if that can be instructive for us.
Jonathan's Response to David - We see in these first 5 verses Jonathan's openness to David. Rather than resenting David, fearing David, being jealous or envious of David, Jonathan embraces him. He loves David and their hearts are knit to one another in a deep, personal and meaningful way. They enter into a covenant relationship together and v. 4 offers this details of Jonathan giving David his robe and armor, which represented his royal status. In other words, Jonathan wasn't surpassed by David in status, he conceded his status to David. Jonathan gave up his high position to David, and willingly took the low position. There is so much humility in Jonathan, and it beautifully reflects the character of Christ, who set this pattern for us, that the low place is the place of blessing before God.
Saul's Response to David - Conversely, we see Saul's pride and ego lead to this paranoid and agitated posture. He couldn't stand David receiving praise and credit, even legitimately. Saul was insecure and unsettled so deeply that any celebration of another's accomplishments was seen as threat to himself. This need for approval and praise and affirmation and jealousy toward the achievements or advancement of another person leaves us always, as it did Saul in v. 9, eyeing David.
I mentioned in my sermon yesterday that anger is a secondary emotion, stemming from anxiety, fear, hurt, powerlessness, rejection, etc. And here, we see Saul described as jealous, and in v. 12, we're told he was afraid of David, and it's the fear and insecurity that drive his anger. Oddly enough, he has position and power over David, yet he lives in fear and jealousy of David.
Saul tries killing him with his own hands, tries putting him in harm's way at the front lines of war, and at every turn God's favor is with David to give protect him and give him success. David serving Saul's purposes, submitting to Saul's authority, even ministering to Saul's heart personally, and yet Saul can't stand him because he is more gifted, more skilled, more successful, and more anointed than he is.
All of this is true about Jonathan too, but his heart is one of humility and love and embrace, whereas Saul is about self-protection and self-promotion.
Is there anyone in your life at work, in school, in your family or church, whose contribution you need to celebrate rather than feel threatened by?
Is there anyone who has been a Jonathan to you, gladly taking a lower place so you could step into your calling? This is such a rare thing... take time today to write a note or make a phone call and thank whoever has been that kind of person in your life.
1 Samuel 18:17-30
We see the insecurity of Saul continue to drive his decision making. Now he's using his daughters like chess pieces, trying to move them around in order to weaken David in some way. This is the ultimate evidence of self-centeredness, treating your daughters with such disregard for your own gain. David seems to see vulnerability in this, if not intentionally by Saul's scheming, at least inherently by having the king's daughter for a wife. David doesn't rush into this lightly. He's aware of some unique challenges.
I guess I'd affirm this and urge us to be honest and eyes wide open with decisions we face. Don't romanticize them and only focus on the benefits. Wisdom takes the whole picture into consideration and treats pros and cons together.
We see in the closing verses of chapter 18 that David even won the heart of Saul's daughter, just he kept winning battles against the Philistine's and winning the respect and appreciation of the people. v. 29 states that "Saul was David's enemy continually."
David never does seem to see Saul that way. He was Saul's enemy, but David worked for the king, not against him. It makes me realize that enemies are made by the posture of the heart. Saul set his heart firmly and fiercely against David. But David always maitained honor and respect for Saul. This makes me think about our posture as Christians toward each other and toward the world. Do we set our hearts against people who disagree with us, have hurt us, are different from us, or have nothing in common with us?
We are called to love our enemies, that is, those who have set their hearts against us and are persecuting us. But even that command from Jesus is in order to assume the posture of a friend toward those who have assumed the posture of enemies. We aren't free to ever position ourselves as enemies. The heart of Christ is open to all who would receive him and his grace by faith. Far be it from me to be any less open than Jesus himself.
We will all face many Saul's for many reasons in our lives... people who oppose us and want our failure. But we all have the chance in such circumstances to be like David, and maintain respect, humility, submissiveness, excellence and integrity.
1 Samuel 19
There are two things in this chapter that grab my attention.
Jonathan and Michal are both loyal to David over their dad. Families have this wierd expectation of loyalty from each other at all costs. I think about how often people lay out a scenario, describe super unhealthy and super dysfunctional realities, and then shrug it off with "but, hey, it's family." We somehow can see the destructive nature of it, but some reason we feel bound always do what family wants and family expects no matter how messed up because "it's family." I'm just saying, being family isn't a built in pass for all manner of foolishness, sinfulness and destructiveness. When you're dad is the king those family ties and power dynamics are all the more strong and pressing, so it took great courage for Jonathan and Michal to both protect David over and against "loyalty" to their dad. It's a good example of how some of us, and our children after us, will have to have the courage to break away from toxic patterns within our families, and be seen as disloyal toward our families in order to be loyal to Christ and his people.
The other thing is David's response to Saul's attempts to kill him. We saw this earlier in chapter 18 and now again in 19. Saul keeps taking aim at David, not just threatening his life but actually trying to kill him. He is bent on murder and he takes throwing spears at David, whose response is a model for us when we face attacks of any form on us. Saul throws spears at David. Notice that David doesn't just sit and let htem land. He avoids and dodges the spears. But notice also that he never retaliates by throwing them back. David continues to honor Saul personally and the positionally. When we are wrongly attacked, accused, criticized, or slandered, we don't have to let things land, but neither are we to retaliate. We can dodge such attacks without responding in kind. Dodge spears, brothers and sisters. But don't throw them.
1 Samuel 20:1-23
I’ll be honest… there isn’t a ton on the surface here. I’ve had to think about and reach a little deeper than usual to gain any personal and meaningful insight. That in itself may be part of what we all need to learn - that while God is the one who reveals truth through his word and by his Spirit, we are still responsible to diligently search out truth. Jeremiah says that he will be found by you when seek him with all you’re heart. Don’t give up easily… some of the best truths are discovered by the frustrated and determined searching out.
David was a man of great courage and strength, a man anointed by God as King, empowered by God as a Warrior, and a man positioned to understandably take the throne by force. There are two priorities I see here that we are wise to embrace:
The Safety of People - David was not a thrill seeker, a foolish risk taker, or a proud defender of his own honor. He and Jonathan together made his safety a priority. He could have cowered in fear or retaliated in kind, but instead he was willing to withdraw himself from the equation for the sake of peace and safety. Sometimes, this is what life calls for. Our presence can charge a situation and our ego often wants to assert ourselves, outlast the other, or prove them wrong and put them in their place. It takes courage and strength, however, to withdraw yourself from a situation that provokes all of your fleshly and competitive impulses. It’s not selfish or unwise to remove yourself from harm’s way and toxic situations. Live to fight another day.
As we see with Jonathan, neither is it wrong to prioritize the safety of others. We serve people well by encouraging them toward situations and relationships that are healthy and safe for them. We must be prepared to suffer for the sake of Christ, but we need not suffer for the sake of suffering. Fleeing unhealthy, destructive situations is wisdom, not weakness.
The Sovereignty of God - David has been divinely authorized to be King over Israel. But there is no hint of him trying to accelerate that by his own will and strength. He is waiting for God’s timing. At great cost to himself he is determined to honor and serve Saul and accept his role and place until God sees fit to set him on the throne. He shows remarkable restraint and self-control, rooted in a deep trust in God and surrender to His will. The people of God could use a lot of this. So often, we try to make things happen for ourselves and advance our own agenda, or even advance God’s agenda. It’s as if we believe God is sovereign over the ends but we’re in charge of the means. David’s life is a great testimony to the sovereignty of God over both the ends and means of executing his plans and purposes.
- Is there any destructive situation you’ve stayed in thinking that walking away is weakness when it may in fact be wisdom?
- Is there any situation where a God-ordained vision has become an excuse for your overzealous assertion? Are you grappling to achieve something in your own timing that God will gladly accomplish in his own, if you’ll just be patient?
1 Samuel 20:24-42
I love the depth of love and intimacy we see between David and Jonathan. We men tend to avoid such affection and depth of friendship but we desperately need it. There is incredible vulnerability and trust between David and Jonathan and we all need human connection and friendship at that level. It is life giving and soul enriching to have people who genuinely love us as much as they love themselves and who are willing to risk and sacrifice in costly ways for our benefit.
If we’re lucky we get couple friends like that in our lifetime. Many of us struggle to ever find that kind of friendship. Maybe we’re too guarded ourselves. Maybe we’re too selfish ourselves. I wonder what kind of friends we are to people. You can’t force this kind of friendship, whether you’re men or women. But, you can sabotage it. Being a great friend to others won’t guarantee you of this kind of connection, but not being a great friend will guarantee you won’t experience that kind of closeness.
Whether we’ll admit openly or not, I do believe we long for friendship like David and Jonathan - non-romantic, non-weird, same-sex, spiritually deep, soul connecting friendship. If you are willing to admit that, I wonder if you’ll start doing 2 things…
Pray for God to bring someone into your life like that or that someone your already friends with may grow to a deeper, more meaningful friendship.
Start opening your heart with embarrassing vulnerability, and risky self-sacrifice to be the kind of friend to others, at least to those closest to you, that would make them want to open their lives to you in the same fashion. Be the ind of friend you wished you had.