I Samuel 19:1 – 10
19 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David 2 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. 3 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.” 4 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. 5 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?” 6 Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” 7 So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before. 8 Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him. 9 But an evil spirit from the Lord came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, 10 Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.
Beginning with Saul becoming jealous of David after the slaying of Goliath, Saul’s moral decline and David’s character development both progress. This process continued about twelve years until eventually Saul is dead and David became king. From chapter 16 through chapter 31, I Samuel relates the drama of these two opposite developments. Watch the relationship between yourself and others around you. You may recognize similar developments, and if you do, follow David’s good, humble choices (up until, but not including, the Bathsheba event).
1. Admitting Failure of the Deceitful Plan to Kill David 1 a
Time often passes between verses or chapters in the Bible. We do not know how many months or perhaps even years went by with Saul’s policy of trying kill David with Philistine swords in effect. We only know that the policy failed. David lived.
Never was an enemy so unreasonably cruel as Saul. His projects to kill David by using the Philistines had failed and therefore he declared him out-law, and charges all about him, based on their loyalty to the king, to kill David at their first opportunity.
It is strange that he was not ashamed to express his hatred so openly when he could give no reason for it and he knew all his servants loved David. He had said so himself, “his attendants all like you” (18:22). He was brazenly unafraid to alarm them by this bloody order.
It was also strange that he who knew how well Jonathan loved David should expect him to kill David. Perhaps he thought Jonathon would be as jealous of the throne as Saul was.
2. Jonathan Proves Himself a True Friend. 1b – 5
On the other hand, never was a friend so surprisingly kind as Jonathan. Jonathan not only continued to delight much in David, though David’s glory eclipsed him, but bravely presented David’s case to Saul for him now that the stream ran so strongly against him.
Jonathan did not know but that some of the servants might be either so blindly obedient to the hateful Saul or so personally envious themselves of David as to do what Saul ordered.
Jonathan showed his friendship for David in informing him of Saul’s designs on his life and counseling him to conceal himself. And also in interceding for him with Saul, trying to turn away Saul’s anger.
Jonathan therefore took the time and trouble to pacify his father and try to reconcile him to David. In his appeal he mentioned: (1.) The good services David had done to the public and particularly to Saul, “what he has done has benefited you greatly” (vs.4), and (2.) David’s innocence. “he has not wronged you” (vs. 4). Jonathan did not want guilt on his family.
Jonathan’s aim was to keep David at court for the welfare of his father and the people because he saw in David a specially chosen instrument of the Lord for the welfare of Israel as he expressed in vs. 4. A good person will rise above petty rivalry and work for the good of the whole.
Notice the wisdom in Jonathan’s address to his father. There is balance between respect and rebuke. Openly and frankly he described to his father what a great crime he would commit if he were to kill David. Jonathan’s heart is free from envy and jealousy while he reminded his father of David’s great services to the royal house and the whole nation. His words and attitude showed manly firmness and decision, coupled with innocence, reverence, and obedience; not a word not in keeping with the commandment to honor parents passed from Jonathan’s lips. In addition to all this, he demonstrated his magnanimous self-denial since he undoubtedly suspected that his friend—not he—would some day ascend the throne after his father.
Jonathan is a character that rises on the platform of Old Testament-life in a uniquely noble, harmonious, ethical-sympathetic form, whether we regard him as the heroic warrior and leader, or as faithful, self-denying friend, or as humble, modest prince-royal, or as the frank, unshrinking denouncer of wrong and sin even in his father.
In attempting to bring peace between his father and his friend, Jonathan succeeded temporarily. But, everything is temporary in the unfolding dramas of life—it is not enough to decide one day to do right, we must persist daily in continuing to do right.
3. The Temporary Truce 6 & 7
Why did Saul listen to Jonathan? God does not give up on even the worst among us.
We must be willing to hear reason, and to take all corrections and good advice even from our inferiors, parents from their own children. How forcible are right words!
Saul swore—a characteristic indication of his to go to one extreme or another.
“As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death” (vs. 6). Whether Saul swore here with due seriousness or not does not appear. Perhaps he did and the issue was deserving of the seriousness, but at other times Saul swore rashly and profanely, which made the sincerity of this oath justly questionable; for it may be feared that those who can so far jest with an oath as to make a joke of it, and reduce it to a trifle, have no proper sense of obligation and will also reduce it to a lie.
Some suspect that Saul said and swore this with a malicious design to bring David within his reach again, intending to take the first opportunity to slay him. But as bad as Saul was it seems he was not that bad and therefore we should rather suppose that in his shallow character he too soon forgot the conviction and corruption prevailed and triumphed over them.
Though Saul had paid him evil for good and even his usefulness was the very thing for which Saul envied him, yet he did not therefore retire in sullenness and decline public service. Even though Saul used David so cruelly David was as bold as ever in using his sword for the service of his country. When war broke out again, David showed the same bravery as before. Clearly, David’s service did not depend on approval from Saul. Why did David serve so consistently in spite of lack of genuine appreciation? David was not serving just Saul! He served another. We too serve as unto the Lord.
Think about singing for an enemy. You can fight a war with conflicting emotions raging in your heart, but you cannot play a harp and sing a song of praise to God with anger, bitterness, or hatred in your heart. “There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land” (Ps. 137:2 – 4)? That David could play and sing for Saul shows us that from deep within David’s heart there was forgiveness. As cheerful as ever in using his harp for the service of the king David reported for musical ministry in the king’s court.
David’s own words may help us interpret what was going on in his mind as he wrestled with the inconsistency between the treatment he was receiving and that with which he responded. Ps 35: 1,13,14 says, “Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother.” David sang, even when betrayed, committing his case to God.
4. Another Relapse 9 & 10
Saul continued his hatred toward David. The man who just the other day had sworn by his Maker that, “David will not be put to death,” now tried to slay David himself. So implacable, so incurable, is the hatred of the devil toward the human race, so deceitful and desperately wicked is the heart of man without the grace of God. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond all cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve” (Jer.17:9). Saul had a heart problem—and so do I. God can help.
Instead of extinguishing Saul’s ill-will and confirming his reconciliation, David’s good performance revived Saul’s envy and exasperated him yet more.
No marvel that the evil spirit came upon Saul again, for when we let the sun go down on our anger we give place to the devil (Eph. 4:26). We make room for him and invite him.
Agitations, anger, and frustration of mind, though helped forward by Satan, commonly owe their origin to men’s own sins and follies.
Saul’s fear and jealousy made him a torment to himself, so that he could not sit in his own house without a javelin in his hand, pretending it was for his preservation, but designing it for David’s destruction.
God continued his care of David and still watched over him for good. Saul missed his blow. David was too quick for him and fled and escaped that night.
To these preservations among others, David often refers in his Psalms when he speaks of God being his shield, Protector, rock, fortress, shadow in a weary land, shelter under the wing, and deliverer of his soul from death.
David fled to his house where the drama continues in the next verses. Which brings up the question: When will our troubles be over? Not until we get to heaven. But God is trustworthy.
Man and woman of God, you may feel that the road is long and you loose your song, but remember David. More importantly, remember the calling and the promise of God. He is faithful and will complete the process of developing you. You are undergoing training, not because God is against you, but because God is for you and wants you to succeed. He is preparing you.