Everybody Loves David
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Bible Passage: 1 Samuel 18-19
Exactly 20 years ago this week, I took my first call as the youth pastor at our mother church – Christ Presbyterian in Olive Branch. I’ll never forget the date, because my first Sunday was two days before 9/11. My first week in Gospel ministry was spent trying to help a group of teenagers process the most significant event of their lifetimes. I learned very quickly that ministry wasn’t about me.
Two weeks ago, we left David standing over the corpse of Goliath. David returned from battle and presented the head of Goliath to Saul. And now a lot of things are about to happen very quickly. Let’s begin reading 1 Samuel 18:
1 As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.
David is no longer an employee. He’s now a permanent member of Saul’s household. But I want to comment briefly on the friendship between David and Jonathan. This friendship is going to be very important and there have been some modern commentaries on this verse suggesting that this is a Biblical example of a homosexual relationship.
I think that is absurd, because the same writer is going to tell us about David’s fling with another man’s wife. There is no way he would skip over something like homosexual sin, which God had called an “abomination”. The fact that some would try to impose a 21st century meaning on this relationship says more about how sexualized our culture has become.
This was a deep, godly friendship between two soldiers. And Jonathan was actually old enough to be David’s father – 27 years older to be exact.
A better application here would be to encourage us towards deep friendships, especially with older men. Do you have a Jonathan in your life – a friend that sticks closer than a brother? In my experience, a lot of men in our culture do not have good friendships and that is a shame. This one literally saves David’s life more than once.
3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
This is more than a grand gesture. Jonathan was the natural heir to the throne, but he doesn’t see David as competition. In fact, he freely gives up his own glory and hands it over to David. This is the son of the king making a covenant with a much younger man, giving up everything for the sake of his friend.
And Gospel sirens should be going off in our heads. This is probably the most Christ-like moment in the chapter. Jonathan doesn’t stop being the king’s son – but he invites David into that status. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us. Galatians 4:4-7
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So, you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
This is who we are in Christ, but that identity is tested every day. I don’t wake up every morning feeling like an adopted son of the living God. David’s status is also going to be tested. Let’s keep reading.
5 And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
6 As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.
7 And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
8 And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9 And Saul eyed David from that day on.
Everyone loves David. Everyone except Saul.
This is not the same man we met earlier in the book – the shy young man looking for his father’s lost goats. Back then, Saul seemed to understand that he did not deserve to be king.
And now he obviously thinks he deserves it, even though God has already told him he’s going to lose it. We are beginning to see Saul’s heart. He is full of insecurity, jealousy, and pride.
And very quickly that sin moves from Saul’s heart to his hands. Twice he tries to kill David with a spear. He sends David off to battle over and over hoping David would die.
And then we get to chapter 19.
1 And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. 2 And Jonathan told David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning.
Stay in a secret place and hide yourself. 3 And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you. And if I learn anything I will tell you.”
Saul’s son spies on his own father and intercedes for David. And it works temporarily. But a few verses later, Saul tries to kill David with a spear again. David escapes to his home.
11 Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped.
David’s wife helps him escape and she even makes a fake David lying in the bed to deceive her father. For the sake of time, we skipped this part of chapter 18, but this is Saul’s daughter!
Saul is completely alone in his hatred of David. Everyone else loves David, even Saul’s family.
But it gets even more tragic.
18 Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. 19 And it was told Saul, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.”
20 Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.
21 When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.”
23 And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24 And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Saul has now become a parody of himself. This is intended to sound almost identical to the story from 1 Samuel 10, when Saul met Samuel for the first time.
Saul goes to battle against the Word and the Word wins. The king is lying naked on the ground, helpless before the Word of God. Undone by it.
This tall, handsome warrior was given everything he needed to be a successful king. But he failed to take God seriously and he’s still doing it. He thinks David is his enemy, but his real enemy is God.
That’s the story, but what does it mean for us? I want us to consider two things.
First, I think we need to look at the way David divides the household of Saul. David’s presence was a threat to Saul’s kingdom. He was a threat to the system. David broke the illusion of power and security and blessing in Saul’s mind. And that’s exactly what God intended.
Listen to these words from Jesus in Matthew 10:
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
The Gospel always brings conflict. It brings conflict with others and even conflict within us. Before Jesus enters the scene, we try to create our own little kingdoms with our little gods. But when Jesus enters the picture, He intentionally threatens our little world because it’s not real. It’s a lie. As Pink Floyd says, it’s a lead role in a cage.
In his book the Gospel in Life, Tim Keller breaks down our typical idolatries into four categories: Power, Approval, Comfort, and Control. And I think we can see these at work in Saul.
If you are seeking power, success, influence, or “winning” as our culture calls it, then your greatest fear is being humiliated. And we see that fear in Saul as the women start singing about David’s success.
If you are seeking approval or affirmation, often through your most important relationships, then your biggest fear is being rejected. We see that fear in Saul as his family starts to reject him in favor of David.
If you are seeking comfort, happiness, freedom from stress or pain, then your biggest fear is anything that brings stress or discomfort. We see this in Saul as God forces him to wrestle with an evil spirit.
If you are seeking control because you want stability, then your biggest fear is uncertainty. We see this in Saul has become relentless in his efforts to remove David completely.
And God shows up in all of this. He is systematically taking away Saul’s power, his approval, his comfort, and finally his control as he lies naked on the ground with nothing left but the Word of God.
This is what God intends to do to us with the Gospel. Jesus changes everything. He demands our attention. He demands to be taken seriously. He’s not going to let us keep up the illusion that we are in control, that we are “winning” without him, that we don’t need him. He’s not going to let it happen. Of course, he is also inviting us into true joy and peace.
Second, Saul’s impulse to kill David reminds me of the religious leaders’ desire to kill Jesus. Over and over, they tried to kill Jesus and ultimately, they succeeded. He was a threat to their system – their kingdom. And they eliminated the threat. At least, they thought they did.
But death was always the plan. Peter explains in Acts 2:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
It all comes down to this. I think we need to recognize the impulse of our hearts is to reject God’s Word and to reject His Son.
I’ll never forget meeting with a student many years ago. He grew up in the church. His parents are Christians. When I asked him about his faith, this is what he told me. “I know what you believe. I understand the Gospel. I’ve heard it my whole life. I just choose not to believe it.” I asked him why and he said this: “Because if I follow Jesus, then I have to change and I like the way I am now.”
Most of us don’t have the courage to admit that, but that is our nature. Our sin rejects God and His Word – just like Saul and just like the religious leaders rejected Jesus.
At the moment of repentance and faith, the question at hand is this: will I crucify Jesus, or will I die with Him? Is that not exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 10?
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
I’ve always had much more in common with Saul than with David. Lord forgive me, a sinner.