Current Challenge from Doug Knox.
The Life of David, Part 6
1 Samuel 18:12-17; 20:14-15
The Incredible Power of Friendship
Finding Refuge in a Close Friend
The end is in sight for David and Jonathan. Not because of any falling out, but because circumstances place our mortality before us once for all. The final episodes involving David and Jonathan take place against the backdrop of Saul’s growing obsession to kill David. They are a study in contrasts. This passage in 1 Samuel 18 sums up Saul’s situation.
Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the pole. And David had success in all his undertakings, for he LORD was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.
--1 Samuel 18:12-17
God has begun to bless David in every possible way, and Saul can do nothing to stop the avalanche of his popularity. In many ways, Saul’s distrust of David has become self-consuming. The more he tries to trick David into making a fatal mistake, the greater David’s victories become. Even worse, David’s transparency before the people makes him ever more popular in the public’s eye. David and Jonathan’s friendship grows in this caustic atmosphere. Jonathan’s efforts to reason with his father fail because Saul has lost the ability to listen to reason. Saul’s fearful awe will degenerate into obsession. Jonathan senses that the end of David’s time with Saul is unavoidable, he sides with David. His plea is a deep one.
“If I am still alive [when David secures the kingdom], show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
--1 Samuel 20:14-15)
The term steadfast love is one of the most important declarations in the Old Testament. It refers to the unbreakable and altogether faithful love that God holds for his people. God’s essence is steadfast love (see Exodus 34:6). Here Jonathan uses the term twice—once to describe God’s mercy toward him, and once to call David to that same kind of love.
Jonathan’s Last Contact with David
Jonathan’s plea to David forms part of their final covenant with each other. Following this, Jonathan makes a final appeal to his father. By now, though, Saul is in such dread of David that he hurls a spear at his own son (1 Samuel 20:26-34). Jonathan runs out of the house and tells David that the time has come to flee for his life. The two men’s exchange in 1 Samuel 20:41-42 marks the last time that David and Jonathan will see each other.
The Importance of Seeking Deep Friendships
Close friendship between men is meant to imitate God’s loving care for us. It is a concrete expression of God’s invisible relationship to us. In the end, friendship balances us because it places our moral center of gravity outside of ourselves. Notice the difference between Saul and Jonathan’s approach to their particular circumstances. Saul is unable to trust others, and his life ends in despair. Had he recognized David’s value for his own preservation, he might have welcomed his presence. As events turned out, he could see David only as a threat. Jonathan, by contrast, maintains emotional balance even when he knows that his life may be cut short, largely because he rests on a healthy dependence on a trustworthy friend. While we are on the earth, we need to know that we matter to someone and that someone matters to us. Intimate friendship and the respect that grows out of it give us purpose. I wonder how many recent suicides by otherwise successful people have metastasized in a relationship vacuum.
A Lasting Legacy
Looking ahead, in the last chapter of 1 Samuel, Saul and Jonathan will die in battle against the Philistines. Of course, the loss leaves a power vacuum. After a couple brief skirmishes, the people recognize David as the most qualified to take over the throne. Normally a new king would eliminate everyone associated with the previous dynasty in order to protect his power base. David does the unexpected when he mourns Saul. We would expect this from a man of his character. But David moves beyond mere character. In one of the most shining statements in all of Scripture, David asks, “Is there anyone left in the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1, emphasis added). David never forgets Jonathan’s legacy. When he becomes established as the second king over Israel and Judah, his joy is to fulfill his promise to his friend.
For additional studies click on the links below:
May 2017 - Exodus 6:1-13 - Defeat, Not Failure
June 2017 - John 9:1-7 - True Discipleship
October 2017 - Ephesians 1:9-10 - God and the Work Ethic
October 2017 - Psalm 11 - Righteousness and Evil in the Las Vegas Shooting
November 2017 - Ephesians 6:5-9 - Practicing Value in Undervalued Labor
December 2017 - Psalm 77:19 and Psalm 131- Waiting on the Lord
February 2018 - Nehemiah 8:5-8 - Thinking Man's Warfare
March 2018 - Isaiah 1:18-20 -Authority and Reason
April 2018 - Deuteronomy 17:14-20 -The Life of David, Part 1
June 2018 - 1 Samuel 14, 18 -The Life of David, Part 4 and 5