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David & Jonathan Affirming the Covenant

This morning we’re going to tackle a rather lengthly passage as we continue working our way through the book of 1 Samuel. There are 42 verses in 1 Samuel chapter 20, so I want to jump right into it, but first, let me help you get your bearings as to where we are in this story.

There are three main characters in this story today. First, there is King Saul – who is of course, the king of Israel. He has been repeatedly disobedient to God and so God has determined to give Saul’s kingdom to another man – a man who will do all that God wants him to do. And that man is David.

As it happens, David is Saul’s son-in-law and a commander in Saul’s army. He is still quite young, but has repeatedly proven himself to be not only a great warrior, but also a man of tremendous character and faith. As the Lord gives him success after success, all of Israel grows to love David! But as Israel grows to love David, Saul become increasingly jealousy and fearful of David. In fact, things have gotten so bad, that Saul has determined to kill David.

To date, Saul has attempted to pin David to the wall with his spear three times, he has plotted to have David killed by the Philistines at least twice, and he has recently called on his men (including his son Jonathan) to assassinate David!

But Jonathan (who is the third character in this story) is best friends with David! Even before David married Jonathan’s sister, Jonathan had sworn an oath and made a covenant with David – pledging his loyalty and friendship for the rest of his life! What’s more amazing is that, even though Jonathan is the oldest son of King Saul and is next in line to be king, Jonathan has acknowledged and fully supports that David will be the next king instead of him.

So all of this makes for some incredibly complicated relationships!  

David is married to the king’s daughter, but the king wants him dead. The king’s son (David’s brother-in-law) has orders to kill David, but he has pledged an oath of loyalty to him. In the meantime, David has no idea why Saul is so determined to kill him and has remained by Saul’s side, faithfully serving him, despite repeated attempts by his father-in-law to run him through with a spear.

And you thought things were messed up in your family!

But all of this comes to a head in today’s chapter. The lines finally get drawn in the sand and everything comes out into the open. No more secret plots. No more charades. Everyone can finally see things for how they really are.

We are reading this morning in 1 Samuel chapter 20, starting at verse 1.

David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

1 Samuel 20:1

Understandably, David is bewildered as to why Saul is so determined to kill him. He has been nothing but loyal to Saul and has served him faithfully and successfully ever since they first met when David was just a lad. What’s more, Saul had been the one to encourage David to marry his daughters and become his son-in-law. So it seems really bizarre to David that Saul is now so desperate to kill him!

And so he asks Jonathan – what terrible thing have I done to your father that he is so determined to kill me!? verse 2…

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God’s Purposes Will Prevail

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the rise of David and the fall of Saul. As we’ve gone through 1 Samuel 18, we’ve seen how Saul’s jealousy of David has driven him to secretly plot the murder of his most successful military commander. We’ve seen three attempts by Saul to have David killed – and all the while, appearing to be David’s #1 fan!

His first attempt to kill David was probably the most difficult for Saul to appear innocent, as Saul whipped a spear at David, intending to pin him to the wall! 

That doesn’t seem very subtle – but because of the tormenting spirit that had plagued Saul, this incident may have been brushed off as almost accidental – temporary insanity might be the claim. Of course, I don’t know exactly how Saul explained his actions that day, but he seemed to convince David to forgive and forget what he had done. And David, not one to hold a grudge, obliged and faithfully continued in Saul’s service.

Saul’s next scheme to kill David was a little less obvious. He offered David his daughter Merab as a wife, with the condition that David prove himself first by fighting the Lord’s battles. Of course, Saul hoped that one those battles would be the end of David – that David would be killed by the Philistines and then Saul wouldn’t have to do it himself!

However, David turned down Saul’s offer to marry Merab – stating in essence, that he was unworthy to be the king’s son-in-law. His family were simple sheep farmers, not royalty! And so David humbly declined Saul’s offer – thwarting Saul’s plan to have him killed by the Philistines – and thus Merab was given to someone else.

But then, Saul discovered that his other daughter Michal was in love with David. And so he made the offer again to David to become his son-in-law! But this time, Saul convinced some of his men to encourage David to accept the King’s offer! And to make things even easier for David – Saul declared that the only dowry or brideprice that he wanted was the death of his enemies – 100 Philistine foreskins would be enough!

Saul was sure that the mighty warrior David would take up this offer and in his attempts to kill 100 Philistines, Dave would surely be killed the fight!

However, Saul had forgotten to take into account the fact that God was with David and gave him success in everything he did! And as it happened, David and his men went out and killed 200 Philistines and David payed double Saul’s price to marry his daughter, Michal.

And so the chapter concludes with Saul’s plots being foiled yet again – and David having nothing but success and prosperity! Let me read those final verses of chapter 18 for you as we lead into chapter 19 today…

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Saul’s Schemes, Plots and Plans

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working our way through 1 Samuel chapter 18 – and we’re discovering that King Saul had quite a complicated relationship with David.

On one hand, David was his most successful military commander! Ever since David killed Goliath and began serving in Saul’s army – David has had nothing but success! No matter what Saul asked him to do – he did successfully! Whether he was playing the harp for Saul or leading the men into battle, David served Saul both faithfully and successfully.

But on the other hand, David’s success was increasingly concerning to Saul. Saul feared that people were starting to like David more than they liked him. David was becoming quite a popular celebrity… What if they decided to make David king instead of him?! Saul’s jealousy and fear had begun to undermine Saul’s relationship with David.  In fact, it got so bad, that Saul determined to kill David!

Now of course, Saul can’t let on to anyone how badly he wants David dead! After all, everybody loves David! The officers in Saul’s army love David because he wins every battle. The people of Israel and Judah love David – even singing songs about how successful David is! Even Saul’s own son Jonathan is best friends with David and has made a lifelong pact with him to support David as the next King of Israel. 

So how can Saul kill David without causing a riot in the streets, mutiny in his army, or ripping his family apart!?

The fact is, he had already attempted to kill David once and had failed. You’ll remember last week that we read in 1 Samuel 18, verse 10 & 11….

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Everybody Loves David

There was a tv show back in the late 90s called ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’. And the title of the show came from the fact that Raymond’s older brother, Robert, believed Raymond was unfairly favoured over him. The way he saw it, Raymond got the cake, and he just got the crumbs. Even in the eyes of their parents, everything Raymond did was wonderful and exciting, everything Robert did was lacklustre and mediocre. Raymond had a successful career, a great wife, and 3 wonderful kids – Robert still lived home with this parents. It seemed even life favoured Raymond over Robert.

And so, in the opening credits of the shows, Robert always remarks with the self-pity of Eeyore, “Everybody loves Raymond.”

And I mention that this morning because in our passage today, we’re going to see Saul take on that same attitude towards David. “Everybody loves David”.

If you were with us last week, you’ll remember how David had just returned from the battlefield after killing the Philistine giant, Goliath. Of course, David wasn’t even in the army at that time. He was just running some errands for his father and he overheard Goliath’s defiant boasting against the Lord and he just couldn’t believe that no one in the entire Israelite army (not even Saul himself) had the courage to fight Goliath and show the Philistines that the God of Israel was not Someone to triffle with!

And of course, you know the rest of the story. With just a sling and a stone, David takes out Goliath, allowing the Israelites to soundly defeat the Philistines and win a great victory for the Lord! 

Then as we saw last week, when David returned from the battlefield – with Goliath’s head still in his hands – he spends some time talking with Saul and his son Jonathan.

And both of them are incredibly impressed with David – especially Jonathan. It seems that David & Jonathan were kindred spirits – men cut from the same cloth. And so Jonathan, a seasoned man of war and next in line for the throne of Israel, takes this young kid under his wing and makes a pact with David. And while we aren’t given the details of this pact, it’s clear through the rest of the story that this is a pledge of loyalty and support and lifelong friendship between David and Jonathan. 

Perhaps most amazingly, through this pact, we see that Jonathan whole-heartily accepts the Lord’s decision that David will be the next king, instead of him – and Jonathan acknowledges this by giving David his robe, his tunic, his sword, his belt, and his bow. It’s an amazing act of servant leadership. Jonathan willingly does this because of his trust in the Lord and because of his love for David.

And that’s about as far as we got last week. Today we’re going to continue to see how life rapidly changed for David in the aftermath of his victory over Goliath – and we’re going see how Saul’s view of David also changed just as rapidly.

It doesn’t take long for Saul to bemoan the fact that “everybody loves David.”

To get us into our passage this morning, let’s start once more at the top of 1 Samuel chapter 18. This will be a bit of a review since we covered this last week, but the chapter begins like this:

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The Incredible Pact of David & Jonathan

Today we are jumping back into our study of the book of 1 Samuel. And it’s been awhile, so before we get into today’s passage, we probably need a quick review of what we talked about last.

We’re currently at chapter 18 of 1 Samuel, and the young lad David, has just defeated in quite a heroic fashion, the Philistine giant Goliath. But David should have never even been in this battle. King Saul was the Israelite champion – and if anyone should have stepped up to fight the Philistine giant, it should have been him! However, it seems fear had solid grip on Saul and all of his men, and none of them had the courage to face Goliath in battle.

As for David, he was only at the battlefield to deliver some goods to his brothers (who were in Saul’s army)  and to bring back the latest news to his father. But when David heard Goliath’s defiant boasts against the Lord and he saw how no one dared to stop him, David took action and asked to go fight the giant.

Even though David wasn’t even old enough to be in the army, he was still confident that God would help him defeat the Philistine champion. After all, God had helped him defeat both lions and bears in hand-to-hand combat on multiple occasions while he was protecting his father’s sheep.

And so after some time, after seeing David’s confidence, King Saul agreed to let David fight Goliath. And, well, you know the story.

Armed with just a sling and five stones, David killed Goliath and cut off his head with Goliath’s own sword – and the entire Philistine army fled from the Israelites who chased them all the way home.

It’s one of the most famous stories the entire Bible.

But we need to remember that the story of David & Goliath doesn’t just stand alone. It’s actually just a chapter of the bigger story of King David – and David is just a chapter in the bigger story of God’s interactions with His people. 

And that’s what we’re going to see in our passage today.

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David & Goliath

Last Sunday I told you half of the story of David & Goliath – which really ended up being more like the story of Saul and Goliath. Because by all accounts, that’s how the story should have played out!

David never should even been at the battlefield. Saul should have defeated Goliath weeks before David even showed up. As the king of Israel, it was Saul’s responsibility to lead the Israelites into battle. It was his job to courageously face the enemy and lead his men to victory.

But as it happened, Saul did none of that. As the Philistine giant Goliath strutted in front of the Israelite army both day and night for 40 days, boasting and taunting and mocking them, Saul did nothing but offer a reward to anyone who had the courage to do the task that he should have done. It seems both he and all the Israelites were paralyzed with fear.

I was reading in the book of Deuteronomy this week – and in chapter 20, Moses lays out instructions for what to do when the the Israelites went to war and I just want to read a few of those verses for you this morning. This is Deuteronomy 20, verse 1-4

“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! 2 When you prepare for battle, the priest must come forward to speak to the troops. 3 He will say to them, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. 4 For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’

Deuteronomy 20:1-4

Even before they entered the Promised Land, Moses assured the Israelites that God’s presence and power would be with them as they faced their enemies – even when the enemy armies were far greater and stronger than their own. But It certainly seems like the Israelites had missed this memo from Moses because as Goliath mocked and taunted them, and challenged them to come and fight, it says in 1 Samuel 17:11…

11 When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken. 

1 Samuel 17:11

Both Saul and all of the army were paralyzed with fear. And interestingly, Deuteronomy 20 addresses that issue as well. If you jump down just a few verses from what we just read, it says:

8 “Then the officers will also say, ‘Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else.’ Deuteronomy 20:8

It seems like Saul missed that memo too! Fear is contagious – and it’s the last thing you want spreading through your troops before a battle! But Saul certain had done nothing to put an end to the fear that was running rampant throughout his camp.

Fortunately, David had not been in the camp very long. He had only just arrived to bring some supplies from his father and to get a report on how everything was going. And as we’re going to see today, David’s courage was just as contagious as Saul’s fear!

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