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…
So Saul gave his daughter Michal to David to be his wife.
28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and how much his daughter Michal loved him, 29 Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life.
30 Every time the commanders of the Philistines attacked, David was more successful against them than all the rest of Saul’s officers. So David’s name became very famous.
1 Samuel 18:27b-30
It’s at this point that something changes for Saul. He’s concluded that his subtle plots and secret schemes are clearly not working, and so, as we get into chapter 19, we see that his attempts to kill David grow less and less subtle – and he openly and actively attempts to execute David. In fact, the first sentence of chapter 19 says…
“Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David.” 1 Samuel 19:1a
Up until this point, Saul has kept his true intentions of wanting to kill David to himself. But now, he reveals his intentions to his most loyal servants (including his son Jonathan), and he urges them to kill David.
Now of course, this is going to be a problem for Jonathan. Jonathan has pledged a vow of lifelong friendship and support for David – even going so far as to acknowledging that David will one day be King over Israel, instead of Jonathan who was by birth, next in line for the throne. What’s more – Jonathan loved David like a brother! It was unthinkable that Jonathan could harm David in any way – let alone kill him!
And so what is Jonathan to do? Being a Godly man, Jonathan certainly wants to obey and honor his father. Honoring your father and mother is one of the ten commandments that Jonathan would have learned as a boy. Obeying these laws was the foundation for the Israelites relationship with God! It was part of what it meant to be an Isrealite! So it was very important for Jonathan to honor his father.
Additionally, as one of the commanders in the king’s army, he also has an obligation to obey and honor his father as the king! Disobeying the king’s orders was an offence that often resulted in death in those days. In fact, Jonathan had already barely escaped the death penalty once when he unknowingly disobeyed his father and ate some honey as they were chasing the Philistines. (You can read about that back in chapter 14.) But if Saul was ready to kill Jonathan over eating some honey, how would he react to Jonathan’s refusal to kill David?
So on one hand, Jonathan has an obligation to honor and obey his father, but at the same time, Jonathan has an obligation to honor David – He has made a pledge – a solemn vow – to protect and support David. So what should he do? It seems that whichever way Jonathan chooses, he’ll be in the wrong! By honouring one person, he’ll be betraying the other. It really seems like it was a lose / lose situation.
But then again… Maybe there was a third option! Have a look at these next verses….
Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”
4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”
6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”
1 Samuel 19:1-6
You know, I continue to be impressed with Jonathan! What a man of Godly character, boldness, and wisdom! Even when he appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, he finds a third option, and he effectively defuses an explosive situation!
Instead of choosing between honouring his father or honouring David, Jonathan chooses to honor them both. He honours David by warning him of Saul’s plans – and he honours his father by confronting him about his sinful intentions.
Now at first glance, you might not think that confronting your father about his sin is a way to honor him, but I think it is.
You see, Jonathan doesn’t confront his father in anger or to point out what a lousy king he is – He’s just trying to keep his father from doing a terrible thing!
From everything I read about Jonathan, I am convinced that He deeply loves his father as well as David and this confrontation comes out of his love for them both.
By gently reminding his father how good and how loyal David has been to him – and how foolish and sinful it would be to kill an innocent man – Jonathan effectively saves his father from making a huge mistake.
And I would say that keeping someone from a huge mistake is a loving and honouring thing to do.
Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for someone is to gently and humbly show them that the path they’re on is not going to end up in a good place.
As parents we do this all the time with our children. We discipline them and correct them when they make poor choices. And we don’t do that because we hate them or want to hurt them! We discipline and correct our children because we love them and we want what’s best for them!
God does the same thing with us. Hebrews 12 talks about how God disciplines those he loves!Turning a blind eye to someone’s sinful actions, allowing them to blindly persist in their sin – knowing that they will greatly suffer the consequences of their actions – that’s not a loving or honouring thing to do.
If you truly care about someone, you don’t want to see them suffer the consequences of sinful choices. You want to see them on the right path, doing right things – reaping the benefits of good choices, rather than the consequences of bad ones.
And even as brothers and sisters in this church family – we have an obligation of love to help each other when we go astray – even though that might involve a difficult conversation. Galatians 6:1 says…
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
I think Jonathan gives us a great example to follow. I’m sure it must have been difficult for him to say to his father, “What you’re doing here is sin. You need to change directions.” I know that would be super hard for me to ever do that with my father. But Jonathan did it in a very loving and humble way. He wasn’t condemning or belittling of his father. Instead, he very respectfully and logically laid out the facts – and thankfully Saul accepted what his son had to say. I think that speaks volumes to how Jonathan spoke to his father.
Obviously Saul didn’t get all defensive or offended. He didn’t feel like he was being attacked. Jonathan must have really spoken with a lot of care and concern and respect for his father. And as a result Saul listened to his son and vowed that David would not be killed. With gentleness, humility, and little boldness, Jonathan won over his father and kept him from making a terrible mistake.
So with Saul’s assurance that David will not be killed, Jonathan then calls for David to tell him the good news. It says in verse 7…
7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.
8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.
9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.
1 Samuel 19:7-10
Well, it seems that Saul’s vow not to kill David was only good for a short period of time. We don’t know the exact time frame, but not too long after Saul’s conversation with Jonathan, Saul once again attempts to kill David.
Despite Jonathan’s efforts to alter his father’s path, Saul seems determined that killing David is a necessity! This is now the third time that Saul has attempted to pin David to the wall with his spear, but David has managed to escape each time. And on this occasion, as David flees from Saul into the night, this will actually be the last time David is in the royal court until he himself becomes king many years later. From this point on, David will be on the run from Saul – living for years as a fugitive.
Of course, on this night, he returns home to his wife Michal. I don’t think David fully understands how badly Saul wants him dead – but it appears that Saul’s daughter has a bit more insight. Take a look at these next verses…
11 Then Saul sent troops to watch David’s house. They were told to kill David when he came out the next morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t escape tonight, you will be dead by morning.” 1 Samuel 19:11
Perhaps David thought that Saul’s anger would blow over by morning and everything would be back to normal, like the other two times that Saul had hurled a spear at him. But as Saul’s troops arrived and stood outside watching the door of their house, Michal knew that her father was serious about killing David this time and urged her husband to escape. Thankfully for David, he had learned to listen to his wife, and we read in verse 12…
12 So she helped him climb out through a window, and he fled and escaped. 13 Then she took an idol and put it in his bed, covered it with blankets, and put a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.
14 When the troops came to arrest David, she told them he was sick and couldn’t get out of bed.
15 But Saul sent the troops back to get David. He ordered, “Bring him to me in his bed so I can kill him!” 16 But when they came to carry David out, they discovered that it was only an idol in the bed with a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.
17 “Why have you betrayed me like this and let my enemy escape?” Saul demanded of Michal.
“I had to,” Michal replied. “He threatened to kill me if I didn’t help him.”
1 Samuel 19:12-17
Now of course, this was far from the truth! David had done no such thing, but for some reason, Michal felt this lie was the only way to save herself from the wrath of her father.
Michal doesn’t seem to be so bold and as willing as her brother Jonathan to confront their father about his sinful agenda. None the less, her actions buy David enough time to escape the city and make his way toward safety. Verse 18
18 So David escaped and went to Ramah to see Samuel, and he told him all that Saul had done to him. Then Samuel took David with him to live at Naioth. 19 When the report reached Saul that David was at Naioth in Ramah, 20 he sent troops to capture him. But when they arrived and saw Samuel leading a group of prophets who were prophesying, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men, and they also began to prophesy. 21 When Saul heard what had happened, he sent other troops, but they, too, prophesied! The same thing happened a third time.
1 Samuel 19:18-21
And I’ll pause here just for a minute… This is a strange and somewhat humorous thing. Saul is determined to kill David and so he sends some of his troops to capture him at Naioth. But when they arrive, the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and they join with the prophet Samuel and begin prophesying! Now this prophesying doesn’t necessarily mean they were foretelling the future – but more likely they were simply declaring the Word of the Lord – they were speaking as the Holy Spirit prompted them. This might include words of praise to God or it may have even been reaffirming God’s earlier declaration that David would be king or it could be any number of things… we’re not really sure what they said exactly. But we do know that as they prophesied, they certainly did not arrest David as they had been sent to do.
And so since the first troops failed to bring David back, Saul sends a second group of troops to do the job. But they didn’t arrest David either, because they too began prophesying when they arrived. So Saul sent a third group of troops – and the exact same thing happened to them.
And you would think that by now, Saul would be starting to see a trend, but it appears he did not, because look at these next verses.
22 Finally, Saul himself went to Ramah and arrived at the great well in Secu. “Where are Samuel and David?” he demanded.
“They are at Naioth in Ramah,” someone told him.
23 But on the way to Naioth in Ramah the Spirit of God came even upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy all the way to Naioth! 24 He tore off his clothes and lay naked on the ground all day and all night, prophesying in the presence of Samuel. The people who were watching exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet?”
1 Samuel 19:22-24
And thus ends chapter 19. God certainly has a unique way of ensuring that His will be done. God had determined that David would be king and there was nothing that Saul could do to interfere with or undo God’s plans.
You may have noticed that the final sentence in this chapter seems strangely familiar. As Saul is prophesying, “The people who were watching exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet?”
These are the exact words we heard when Saul was first anointed King way back in chapter 10. You’ll remember that back then, Saul was a humble young man, looking for this father’s donkeys that had wandered away. God led him to meet the prophet Samuel who anointed him with oil and proclaimed that God had chosen him to become the leader of his people, Israel.
It’s at that point in chapter 10 that we read:
9 As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, they saw a group of prophets coming toward them. Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy. 11 When those who knew Saul heard about it, they exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet?
1 Samuel 10:9-11a
This first incident of Saul prophesying came about as the Holy Spirit gave him a new heart and a new commission to lead the people of Israel. God empowered him to lead the his people and to deliver them from their enemies.
How things have had changed for Saul now! The second time we hear the people exclaim, “What? Is even Saul a prophet?” is when God stops Saul in his tracks – preventing him from murdering the man God had chosen to replace Saul as King. By this time, the Spirit of God had left Saul and was now with David.
And again, we don’t know exactly the content of Saul’s prophecy, but it seems that while his first prophecy confirmed that Saul was God’s choice to be King of Israel – now Saul’s second prophecy confirmed that David was God’s choice to be King of Israel. No longer the humble man he once was, Saul’s pride and jealousy and his disobedience to the Lord had cost him everything.
This incident really marks the end of the Saul’s rule over Israel. Even as we move to chapter 20 now, we’ll see that the story now revolves primarily around David, rather than around Saul. While Saul will continue to sit on the throne for another 20 years or so, his rule will grow weaker and weaker – while David’s influence will grow greater and greater.
Despite Saul’s continual plots and plans to kill David, God stops him at every turn.
It really is as Proverbs 19:21 says:
21 You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
Saul certainly made many plans – but despite all of his scheming and plotting and planning to kill David, the Lord’s purpose did indeed prevail.
I’m reminded of the other Saul – the one who would eventually become Paul in the New Testament. As the New Testament Saul went around trying to destroy this new movement of ‘Christianity’, the Lord appeared to him and said “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Of course, goads are long pointy sticks used to prod along cattle or oxen back then. And the Lord was saying to Saul that fighting against the will of God was as useless and as painful as kicking a pointy stick!
I think both Saul’s had same experience. In their efforts to resist the will of God, they found themselves kicking against the goads! In the end, they were only hurting themselves!
And I think that’s an important reminder for us this morning. It could be that some of us are resisting the will of God ourselves. Perhaps we’re making many plans for our own prosperity or success, maybe we’re pushing our agenda on our kids…. Or maybe we know that God is calling us to go somewhere or do something, and we’re just resisting Him as best we can. But it’s useless to kick against the goads. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
And that’s not a bad thing. God’s ways and God’s plans are far better than any ways or plans that we have. God sees the whole picture – he has all of history in view. He can see your past and he can see your future – and he knows what’s best! He’s not trying to foil your plans to make your miserable. He loves you like crazy and he wants what’s best for you.
The question is, do you trust him? Are you willing to surrender your plans and your agenda, and to simply invite God’s will to be done in your life?
Or like Saul, will you continue to kick against the goads?