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SAUL’S JEALOUSY OF AND JONATHAN’S LOVE FOR DAVID

1 Samuel 18:1-20:42
Key Verse: 20:42

Thank God for granting us his words, Colossians 2 as our annual direction, “Rooted and built up in Christ”, and for giving the words of Proverbs 1, 2 Peter 1-3, and 2 Timothy 1 as our preparation for 2017. We ask God for his abundant blessing on our lives of faith in 2017. Now we return to 1 Samuel study after around four months. Let’s briefly review what we have studied up to chapter 17. Hannah was a woman of prayer, who prayed for a son, pouring out her soul to the LORD. Then God heard her prayer and gave her a son. She named him Samuel, saying “Because I asked the LORD for him.” Afterward she dedicated the son to God keeping her vow to God. To Eli God said, “Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained” (2:30). Samuel was a servant of God’s word and prayer for the nation, Israel. God revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel’s word came to all Israel. He was also a prayer servant for the people of the nation. And Samuel was a caring shepherd for Saul and raise him as king of Israel according to God’s direction. Also, when Saul was not right with God, Samuel helped him clearly with the truth of God, saying, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voices of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams…Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king” (15:22-23). Saul’s downfall was due to his disobedience to God. Jonathan was a man of faith who had absolute faith in God, “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few” (14:6) and brought about a great deliverance in Israel from the Philistines. David was also a man of faith, who triumphed over Goliath the Philistine champion with his faith in the LORD Almighty. He said to Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (17:46). In today’s passage about Saul, Jonathan and David. We can think of two things, Saul’s jealousy of David and Jonathan’s love for David.

First, Saul’s jealousy of David (18). Verse 1 says, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” This is a very interesting description. If it were written, “After Jonathan had finished talking with David, Jonathan became one in spirit with David….” it would make more sense. Here nothing is written about Jonathan’s encounter or conversation with David. Yet it is written that Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. Perhaps it was because Jonathan could see what kind of person David was from hearing the conversation between Saul and David. It was a kind of short conversation: As soon as David returned from killing Goliath, Saul asked David, “Whose son are you, young man?”, and David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem” (17:58). Probably Jonathan was impressed by David’s humble heart and spirit despite his great victory over the Philistine champion Goliath. Anyway, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

Then verse 3 says, “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” Here we see that true love is more than just feeling. It is a commitment to a person through making a covenant. Humanly speaking, Jonathan was the crown prince of Israel, who was supposed to be next king after his father Saul. But he gave his robe, his tunic, even his sword, his bow and his belt to David. Symbolically, Jonathan was transferring his right to the kingship over to David by giving him his royal possession. Surely it was the expression of his full commitment to the covenant with David, discerning and accepting that David was God’s anointed (16:3). At this time we don’t know how much Jonathan grasped God’s grand plan in raising David as the king of Israel. David would be not only the king of the nation, which would be powerful and glorious at that time, but also he would be the shadow of the coming Messiah and his kingdom, the messianic kingdom. Anyhow Jonathan’s love and friendship with David was uncommon and amazing. He could have been the one who was jealous of David, keenly sensing that David was his rival.

Not Jonathan but another figure was jealous of David: Saul, Jonathan’s father. The author describes Saul’s jealousy in verses 6-9, “When the men were returning home after David had killed the philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. ‘They had credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’ And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” This one event on a certain day seemed to ruin Saul’s whole life. And some words from the women remained in Saul’s heart and affected his life horribly. According to the Bible expression, “this refrain galled him.” He thought, “They have credited David with tens of thousands, but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” To Saul, people’s credit mattered. Definitely, the kingdom belongs to God and who can get the kingdom is up to God, who is the true sovereign. But Saul thought that it was up to people’s credit. In that thinking he was a slave to people’s credit. When he harboured this wicked thinking, from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

Jealousy is one of the fundamental problems of all mankind. We are reminded of Cain and Abel. Because of jealousy Cain killed his brother Abel (Ge 4:8). Because of jealousy Joseph’s brothers sold him to Egypt, breaking their father’s heart by telling a lie that some ferocious animal devoured him (Ge 37:33). Because of jealousy the chief priests handed Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified (Mt 27:18; Mk 15:10 in RSV). There are many people who became so miserable when they did not resolve jealousy problem before God. This sin of jealousy arises in one’s heart because of his comparative mindset. Jealousy is definitely related to inferiority complex and pride. Everyone should solve this problem from the root recognizing it and repenting of it before God by relying on Jesus who died on the cross for all our sins. And this repentance should be done at each time, as soon as this sin arises in our hearts. Furthermore one must grow in faith in God who is almighty and sovereign and loving with his perfect plan upon my life, and form the spiritual habit of living before God and striving to please him through each event and particular situation.

When Saul did not deal with his wicked thought, he became worse and worse. In verses 10 and 11, “The next day an evil spirit from God came upon forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, ‘I’ll pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice.” An evil spirit does not come to just anyone, but to those who have evil thoughts in their hearts. After this Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left him. As for David, in everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him. When Saul saw how successful David was, he was afraid of David.

When Saul could not kill David by himself through his spear, he devised another plan. It was to have David as his son-in-law and let him be killed by the hand of the Philistines. In offering his older daughter, Merab, he said to David, “only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the LORD” and said to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!” And then after giving Merab to another person, he offered his daughter Michal, thinking, “I will give her to him, so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” And verse 25b says, “Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.” His thought and plan was murderous in making him his son-in-law.

However, David’s attitude, when he had opportunities to become the king’s son-in-law, was this: He said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my father’s clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” And he said to all the attendants, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I am only a poor man and little known.” Even after becoming popular after defeating Goliath at the time of the blessing of being about to be the king’s son-in-law, David remembered his humble origin and recognized his poorness and being nobody. On the contrary Saul forgot his humble origin after becoming king, regarding himself as somebody. It is true that God opposes the proud but give his grace to the humble (James 4:6b).

And in verse 28, “When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.” Definitely things did not go as Saul had planned. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” When he remained unrepentant, he was a prisoner of his sin of jealousy, pride and fear.

Second, Jonathan’s love for David (19, 20). In the first part we briefly thought of Jonathan’s love for David: “Jonathan became on in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself”, and “Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” And then he gave his robe, his tunic, even his sword, his bow and his belt to David. Thus he gave his right to the kingship over to David, clearly knowing the will of God. His love was discerning and unselfish. Surely, he could see beyond himself and David in the will of God.

In chapter 19 we see how Jonathan defends David. Now Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. Saul his murderous thought became explicit. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” Jonathan did not just side with his father because of the blood relationship. He knew what his father was going to do was not right before God. So he defended David in verses 4-5. Let’s see his defence: “Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, ‘Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?’” His defence was very clear about what is right and wrong, objective and factual, considering the whole nation with godly viewpoint, while Saul was subjective, ego-centric, and driven by his emotion and desire. We are reminded of Jesus’ words, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35; Mt 12:50).

Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death.” However, when he was still unrepentant, he could not keep his oath. He tried to kill David again driven by an evil spirit. But God protected him. David’s wife Michal helped David well to escape and flee. She took an idol and laid it on his bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goat’s hair at the head and thus deceived his father. When Saul did wrong, his daughter also could not support him.

In verses 18-24 there is an interesting event in Naioth at Ramah. When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul has done to him. Here we see what Samuel was doing, after retiring from the public service. He was raising prophet-disciples quietly. But it was a very powerful ministry. Saul’s men came to capture David there. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirt of God came upon Saul’s men and they also prophesied. Then Saul sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Then finally Saul himself came and he also prophesied. He even stripped off his robes and prophesied in Samuel’s presence. This show how powerful Samuel’s prophet-disciple raising ministry was. When King Saul tried to kill David, his valiant soldier and a great-contributor to the nation, it could blow up to a national crisis. But in such a time there was a man of God like Jonathan and a powerful ministry of Samuel’s disciple-raising. Surely these were a power source for the nation. In that spiritual environment God would raise David as king over Israel, which would grow a powerful and glorious kingdom of Israel for God’s purpose.

In this prophesying work, we are reminded of what had happened when Saul was about to be appointed as king publicly. Saul was prophesying with prophecies along with a procession of prophets (10:10-11), when the Spirit of God came upon him. Then the people asked each other, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” At that time Saul was shy and hid himself among the baggage. This time Saul had a similar experience of prophesying when the Spirit of God came upon him again. It could be a chance for him to repent. But he was proud and still unrepentant. Then this was the last time the Spirit of the Lord would rest on Saul.

In chapter 20, now we see the first conversation between Jonathan and David. The description is long. In verse 1, “Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan. It could be dangerous but he went to Jonathan and said, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?” Then Jonathan’s response is this: “Never, You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It’s not so!” Their view of the situation was different because of Saul’s duplicity in his act. This was a difficult situation between the two friends. Yet, it would be resolved when each one’s heart was pure before God. David appealed more from his heart. He took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favour in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.’” At this heartfelt plea of David, Jonathan said, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

Then they made a plan through which Saul would be sounded out and his evil intention to harm David be disclosed if it was the case. In that planning, David said to Jonathan, “As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD” (8). And Jonathan said to David in the case of his father Saul being inclined to harm him yet God being with David and raising him, “But show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.” Then verses 16-17 says, “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the LORD call David’s enemies to account.’ And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.” Again, their loving friendship was based on the covenant relationship in commitment to each other before God. Each one asked for the other part’s kindness in loyalty. Then Jonathan arranged a signal to let David know whether he is in safe or in danger. It is through Jonathan’s shooting three arrows and letting a boy to go and find them on the side of him or beyond him. After this arrangement Jonathan said, “And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever.

Finally Saul’s evil intention was exposed. When Saul saw that Jonathan defended David absolutely and that he could not change his son’s stand toward David, Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” Saul was persistent in his selfish ambition and murderous spirit.

Yet, Jonathan would not yield to the power of evil, even from his father. He would never do what was wrong and evil in God’s sight. Jonathan asked his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Saul could not answer. Then he hurled his spear at Jonathan to kill him. His love for his son Jonathan was not a true one. At this Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. Verse 34 says, “Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David. Jonathan knew what was truly shameful. Jonathan’s love for David was to do what is right before God, even breaking unrighteous human relationship, although it was so painful.

Then Jonathan kept his pre-arranged signal. Jonathan shoot an arrow that would go beyond the boy. When the boy came to the place where Jonathans’ arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly? Don’t stop!” This shout with three exclamation marks was his shout of love for David, conveying with earnest desperation that David was in danger and had to go quickly. The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his mater. The author commented in parenthesis in verse 39, “(The boy knew nothing of all this; only Jonathan and David knew.)” What a beautiful friendship! There was no other human witness, but the promised was kept and the relationship between the two was true in faithfulness.

At this David got up from the place where he was and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. Jonathan and David had a sworn friendship. It was the costly friendship in the Lord, true and faithful and life-giving lasting more than their own generation, and forever.

In the upper room dialogue Jesus said to his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” We thank and praise God for Jesus our true friend, who gave his life for us in eternity. May we keep this grace and grow in this friendship obeying his command, “love one another” In our friendship with our Lord Jesus, may our relationship with one another resemble the friendship between Jonathan and David as we serve the Lord together in his redemptive history.

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