The Life of David
“The Price of Popularity Lesson 4:
I Samuel 18:1-11
In the world of today the watchword is “getting ahead.” In politics they speak of having to “go along to get along.” – the necessity of compromise and deal-making. In the business world it is “networking” and “the right timing” – knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time. In the social world it is a matter of “being on the right lists.” And being invited to the right parties and being in the right groups. And if you are caught up in all of that (or any of it,) then you really need the things that we are going to see about David’s life in this chapter. What we have here, in contrast to the two previous chapters, is a series of events that almost seem to almost be “random happenings.” But when we take them together, we see that they are designed by God to show us some very important insights into human nature and its complete unreliability.
The events of this chapter fall into three general sections:
First, in verses 1 through 4 we have the provision of friendship that God makes for David in the person of Jonathon. Then in verses 5 through 9 we have the praise of the females and the problems they brought to David, and finally, in verses 10 through 30 there is the pursuit by the fallen king – Saul’s attempts to kill David in a couple of different ways.
So let’s begin our study by looking at the provision of friendship that God made for David in verses 1 through 4.
Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathon was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathon loved him as his own soul. (2) Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house any more. (3) Then David and Jonathon made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. (4) And Jonathon took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
Here is one of the most amazing stores in all of scripture! We are going to see in this chapter that Saul became insanely jealous of David. But if anything, Jonathon had more to lose than Saul did – he was the “crown prince;” his whole future, even after the death of Saul, was tied up in what David would do. And yet he risked all of it on befriending this unknown shepherd! And he even made a covenant of it by giving David his robe and armor and sword in verse 4. The only explanation for this kind relationship is that it was a gift from God; it defies “human” logic. And there are many other lessons to be learned from the life of Jonathon – he was truly one of the great “heroes of scripture – but that is beyond the scope of this lesson.
But the lesson we want to see at this point is that for the person who is walking in fellowship with the Lord and seeking God’s direction in all of life, God can and does provide even the “connections” and friendships that we need.
Too many Christians waste much valuable time and emotion trying to “maneuver” and “position themselves” (sometimes even thinking it is for the glory of God.) But we need to relax and realize that God is going to place us where He needs us – and He can make whatever “connections” that are needed to get us there. And this can even extend to relationships with unbelievers. Joseph “found favor” with the keeper of the prison in Genesis 29:31. The Israelites found favor with the Egyptians, – Exodus 3:21 Esther had favor with Ahasuerus; and the same with Ruth with Boaz.
So that is the first section of the chapter, “The provision of friendship for David. But in verses 5 through 9 we find an interesting section of the story. There we have the praise of the females recorded. And believe it or not, that contains some important lessons too! Let’s think first of all about the setting for the praise in verses 5 and 6.
So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants (6) Now it had happened as they were coming home, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands.”
Verse 5 is another example of David’s faithfulness in whatever he was given to do. He had been faithful in the sheepfold, then as a lowly harpist in the palace. Now in military leadership. It is also another example of God’s preparation for the job to which God had called him. Although he was tough and experienced in the wilds, he had never had experience in military matters and he had a lot of fighting to do in the days ahead. There is something else to notice here too, another picture of the life of Christ in the life of David – and that is the acceptance by all of the people. Luke 2:52 says that “Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” So out of that setting for praise we hear the singing of the praises.
Now as it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tambourines, singing and dancing with joy, and musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced and Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands.”
Now at first glance this may seem harmless enough. But actually it shows how bad things had gotten in Israel. If we go back to Exodus 15:1-18 we can see how Israel reacted to victories in the early days. That is the passage where Israel praised God for their deliverance from Egypt in crossing the Red Sea. In those days the praise was all for God; now it was for the human warriors. And this is similar to the church today – an emphasis on Christian “celebrities.”
Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, .and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom? So Saul eyed David from that day forward.
The flesh always reacts to the flesh – those who are out of fellowship feed on each other (whether for good or bad). These women were putting the emphasis on the human side of things, and so was Saul. But it didn’t affect David, because he was focused on God and His glory. But the question arises, why does God allow all this sinful praise of man in the first place?” First, sometimes God allows rebellion in various areas to demonstrate the difference between “the children of light” and “the children of the devil” as John puts it in I John 3:10. But also, in this instance it was probably for David’s growth! It was this uneven praise that brought on Saul’s rage in the first place. And over the next few years David is going to learn more from dealing with Saul and his anger than from almost any other process.
David is going to be getting a lot of praise over the next few years, and praise is extremely dangerous, particularly for a young Christian. Jesus said “woe to you when all men praise you” in Luke 6:26. And Paul wrote to Timothy to not choose a novice for church leadership,” and to “lay hands on no one suddenly.” Adlai Stevenson, a prominent politician from an earlier era, said, “Perfume is sweet to smell, but deadly to drink.” Christians should carefully avoid praise (but not the activity that might bring it) Jeremiah 45:5 says, “seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. And yet for these very reasons God sometimes allows it a little of it – to teach the problems that it can bring.
Verse 9 brings out another aspect of Saul’s sinful reaction to the praises that he and Saul got:
So Saul eyed David from that day forward.
This section brings out the true nature of the human heart (the basic purpose of this chapter)
As king, Saul should have been grateful that David had delivered his people from a long term enemy and added to the power of his kingdom, but instead he was jealous. At first Saul had “loved him greatly” (16:21) but now he “viewed him with suspicion” (the literal meaning of “eyed him”) And this shows us the fickle nature of all human relationships. Only God can say “I change not” “as He does in Malachi 3:6. Matthew Henry, another Bible teacher of a previous generation, said “the scriptures not only unveil to us the attributes of God, but also reveal the character of man. The more attentively God’s word is studied and its teachings and principles absorbed the better will we be fortified against many a bitter disappointment. This is certainly a place for Christian love and fellowship and interaction. But unless that is produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit and based around the Word of God, it will sooner or later disappoint.
Our study began with a beautiful friendship and ends with a relationship gone bad. But the difference is that one was based on shared values and trust in God, and the other was initiated on a purely human basis. You see, even in our friendships, we must depend on the Lord in every element of in them.