David and Solomon, Part 2

David didn’t have it easy. He had been anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s next king, yet that wouldn’t happen for a long time. Saul, present king of Israel, hung on to the throne by the skin of his teeth while David was waiting in the wings. Gradually losing his grip on reality, Saul knew he was in trouble but like so many in his shoes, he was in too deep. The die had been cast and whether he was fully aware or not, he was finished as king even as he was still being called “king.”

Meanwhile, David’s stunning victory over Goliath was one of those seminal events in one’s life life that causes a sea change to occur. David had been a rugged shepherd, tending to his father’s sheep. But now crazy king Saul decided to bring David from his father’s sheep pens to his royal court and give him a position in the army.

That sounds good on the surface but life in Saul’s court was like walking on egg shells. David never knew what Saul he would run into on any given day. Would he be the genial king that liked you, or the crazy old king who tried to run you through with a spear? David had no idea.

Life can be like that for anybody. But David, in the midst of a life of uncertainty, could write words like this:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (Psalms 34:17 | NIV84)

David and Jonathan: Best Friends

And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:3 | NIV84)

It wasn’t Phil Collins who said this, but he could have:

What is a friend? A single soul living in two bodies.

Who knew St Augustine could write something so sentimental as that? It is sentimental to be sure, but it certainly did describe the kind of relationship that existed between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan.

After the slaying of Goliath, David went to live in the royal palace at Gibeah. He was to serve as a court musician but also as Saul’s armor bearer when Israel went out to do battle. It was in the palace that David met Jonathan and their legendary friendship grew. Verse one describes the friendship in graphic terms. In the NIV84, it looks like this:

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:1 | NIV84)

In the Hebrew, though, this is how the friendship is described:

The soul of Jonathan was “knotted” to the soul of David.

Four things characterized their friendship: loyalty, love, personal devotion, and self-sacrifice. Jesus described friendship like this in John’s Gospel, and it sounds a lot like the friendship that existed between Jonathan and David.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”. (John 13:34-35 | NIV84)

So serious did Jonathan take his friendship with David that he actually made a unilateral covenant of friendship with him. It was unilateral in the sense that Jonathan committed himself to David without regard for himself.

The Lord leads people like that into our lives. No believer can make it through life alone; we all need a Jonathan. Years ago, Christian entertainer David Meece wrote these lyrics, and they’re spot on:

I heard the news about you
A little while ago
I tried to call but you weren’t at work
I’m glad I caught you at home

No one else in this whole wide world
Could mean as much as you to me
So I thought I’d drop by for a little while
In case you needed a friend

Everybody needs a little help to get their life together
(And you’re no exception)
Everybody needs another hand that they can hold onto
Everybody needs a little help to get their life together
And I want to give it to you

You can cry if you need to
You know I’ll understand
You can tell me everything that you feel inside
Don’t you hold it in

Don’t you worry, don’t apologize
For anything you do or say
‘Cause what are friends for but to be around
When you’re feeling that way

That certainly described the friendship between David and Jonathan. No wonder King Saul was so jealous.

Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” (1 Samuel 20:30-31 | NIV84)

Jonathan paid a high price for being David’s friend, and that price was the choice between obeying his father or remaining loyal to his friend. Saul had tried to kill David during one of his crazy rages but failed, and so he enlisted Jonathan’s help to get that job done:

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David 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. 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.” (1 Samuel 19:1-3 | NIV84)

That’s what a friend does; he intervenes on your behalf; he tries to find solutions to your problems. That’s exactly what Jonathan did. The fact that King Saul relented shows how well Jonathan knew his old man. Jonathan was not only loyal, but he was also sharp.

Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” (1 Samuel 19:6 | NIV84)

But that didn’t last very long. There was another skirmish with the Philistines and once again David distinguished himself. This brought about another outburst of jealous rage on the part of Saul. In fact, we are told this:

Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” (1 Samuel 19:11 | NIV84)

Michal was David’s wife and she was also Saul’s daughter, Jonathan’s sister. It seems as though the whole family liked David except for crazy Saul! Michal resorted to what we call “situation ethics” in order to make good David’s escape from her father’s men:

Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head.14 When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.” (1 Samuel 19:13-14 | NIV84)

She lied, and the Bible never condones lying for any reason, no matter how well-intentioned. However, while many Christians get all bent out of shape regarding this lie, they completely miss the really troubling aspect of this whole incident. What was a heathen idol doing in David’s house in the first place? A household idol such as this one was usually kept in a small shrine in the house, so it wasn’t just a paperweight. It’s unfortunate that so early in David’s career he was already compromising his faith. Is it any wonder Solomon built so many shrines all over the land? This was his example.

As both the friendship between Jonathan and Michal and David proves, sometimes associating with God’s people can put you in a difficult position.

The Fugitive

David was on the run for his life now, with Saul and his forces nipping at his heels. He fled from Gibeah to a community of priests with the odd name of Nob. Previously, David’s wife Michal had engaged in some situation ethics, and here at Nob David tries his hand at lying to protect himself.

David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” David answered Ahimelech the priest, “The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place.’” (1 Samuel 21:1, 2 | NIV84)

David’s bald-faced lie and deception led to the slaughter of all the priests at Nob. It’s a horrible lesson that David never really learned. Out of an entire town of priests, one escaped. Abiathar somehow managed to escape the wholesale massacre at Nob and fled, meeting up with David and his band of followers. When he explained what happened, David said this:

I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.” (1 Samuel 23:22b, 23 | NIV84)

And he was safe. As a matter of fact, Abiathar became sort of the chaplain of David’s band of heroic misfits. Many years later, after the death of David, Abiathar was given the bum’s rush by David’s successor, Solomon, as he was suspected of colluding with Adonijah, David’s other son, to take the throne from Solomon.

To Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go back to your fields in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not put you to death now, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign LORD before my father David and shared all my father’s hardships.” So Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the LORD, fulfilling the word the LORD had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli. (1 Kings 2:26, 27 | NIV84)

David was far from perfect, but through all his ethical failings, he remained loyal to God.  The modern Christian should have some empathy for the man.  We’re far from perfect too.  David was a man of questionable ethics and morality, yet God referred to him as “the apple of his eye.”  God calls, saves, and anoints imperfect people to get His work done.

 

 

 

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