The Life of David
Lesson 7: “The Other Side of the Coin”
I Samuel 20
In our study of the life of David we have seen a great many good characteristics. But the wonderful thing about the Word of God is the openness and honesty it has about own heroes. Because, in effect, the life is like a “multicolored painting.” In some ways it provides an example for us to seek to follow. In some ways in fact, he is a beautiful “type” of the Lord Jesus Christ! But in other aspects, it provides a solemn warning to which we are wise to pay careful attention. And it is just as important for us to pay attention to the failures and disappointments as it is to emulate the triumphs and successes – God has deliberately recorded them both. At the close of our last study we saw that, to escape the hatred and constant threats of Saul, David went to Samuel at Naioth. And we saw how even though Saul sent messengers there, and finally came after David himself, God intervened in each case. And naturally we would think that David’s reaction would be to be reassured and thankful for the protection by provided by such a God.
But the events of the next chapters are going to show us that that was not the case. Now that comes as surprise, doesn’t it? But it really shouldn’t, because David was only human. In fact, that may be why God allowed us to see this side of him. – we are more willing to emulate the good that he did if we realize that he was not a “superman” but “a man of like passions as we are” as James described Elijah. And chapter 20 begins a section of the life of David that illustrates those principles very clearly. As we look at it we will see three sections. First, there is the concern about Saul in verses 1 through 23. Then in verses 24 through 34, we see the character of Saul. And then, third, in verses 35 through 42 we see the commencement of flight from Saul. At the close of our last study we saw that, to escape the hatred and constant threats of Saul, David went to Samuel at Naioth. And we saw how even though Saul sent messengers there, and even finally came after David himself, God miraculously intervened in each case. And naturally we would think that David’s reaction would be to be reassured and thankful for the protection provided by such a God. But the events of the next chapters are going to show us that that was not the case. Now that comes as a surprise, doesn’t it? But it really shouldn’t, because David was only human. In fact, that may be why God allowed us to see this side of him – we are more willing to emulate the good that he did if we realize that he was not a “superman,” but “a man of like passions as we are, as James described Elijah.
So let’s think first about David’s concern about Saul as we find it in verses 1 through 21. The first thing that indicates that concern is the consultation with Jonathon that we find in verses 1 through 3
Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah and went and said to Jonathon, “what have I done? What is my iniquity, and my sin before your father, that he seeks my life that he seeks my life (2) So Jonathon said to him, “By no means!” You shall not die! Indeed, my father will do nothing either great or small Without first telling me. And why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!(3)Then David took an oath again and said “Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, “Do not let Jonathon know this, lest he be grieved, “But truly, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
Here is the first indication that something is wrong in David’s life. In this part of Old Testament history, the prophet represents the presence of God. So that even though in leaving Naioth, David is getting away from Saul, he is also getting away from God, in the person of Samuel! In effect, this indicates that David prefers the advice of his friend Jonathon rather than direction from God. Going to Jonathon for advice may have been the “natural” thing to do, but was it the “spiritual” thing to do?” And the questions that David asks of Jonathon also show his spiritual state. Notice how often he says and “my” and “mine.” And, by contrast, there is no mention of God at all. Probably the constant threats from Saul had finally gotten to him. Notice the statement of his attitude in verse 3 – “there is but a step between me and death.”
And so it is out of that spiritual background that we find the coercion of Jonathon in verses 4-10. Without taking the time to read all of those verses, What we find there is that David “coerces” Jonathon into telling a lie for him at the palace dining room. Look at verse 5:
(5) “And David said to Jonathon, “Indeed, tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening. (6) If your father misses me at all then say, “David earnestly asked for permission of me that might run over to Bethlehem, his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.”
It made all kind of sense for David to come up with this plan. He was afraid Saul would try to kill him if he showed up at the dinner. But he was also afraid Saul would be angry if he wasn’t there, and probably dispatch someone else to kill him. So from a human standpoint it was a “no win” situation. But this obviously wasn’t the attitude that had triumphed over Goliath, was it?
How did David get into such a condition? Well, it wasn’t instantaneous – something like this never is. Howie Hendricks, fabled leadership expert at Dallas Theological Seminary used to say, “moral failure is never a blow-out, it always begins with a slow leak.” There were at least three steps that he had taken to get there. The first was in marrying Michal, the daughter of Saul. – she was either an unbeliever or at least out of step with David spiritually. The second step was in leaving Naioth and the presence of the prophet. And the third was in consulting Jonathon and working out human devices rather than consulting the Lord.
Even though Jonathon was more Godly than his sister, he, too, was out of fellowship. Notice how he pretends to be ignorant of Saul’s plans, even though he had to have known about them. (compare verse 19:1 with 19:2 – “my father will do nothing either great or small, without first telling me.”
And this is an important lesson No sin stands alone. It is a process that just keeps getting worse unless something is done to stop the process – either confession or divine discipline. (Someone has said, the wages of sin is more sin.”) And that should remind us of the importance of vigilance in walking with the Lord. Remember, “Satan goes about like a roaring lion”
Well, coming back to the text, the next section of the chapter finds Jonathon in verses 11 through 23. Jonathon agrees to tell David how he stands with Saul in verses 12 and 13.
(12) Then Jonathon said to David: The Lord God of Israel is witness! When I have sounded out my father sometime to morrow, or the third day, and indeed there is good toward David and I do not send to you and tell you, (13) “May the Lord do so and much more to Jonathon. But if it pleases my father to do you evil, then I will report it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And the Lord be with you as He has been with my father.
And David agrees to protect Jonathon’s family when he has come to power. – verses 14 and 15.
(14) And you shall not only show me the kindness of the LORD while I still live, that I may not die; (15) But you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the LORD has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
The rest of the chapter tells how Jonathon followed through with his part of the plan. And even though it was many years later , II Samuel chapter 9 shows that David kept his part of the covenant also. Then verse 24 along with verses 27 through 29 show how their fear and lack of fellowship caused these two Godly men to participate in a lying scheme
(24) Then David hid in the field. And when the New Moon had come, the king sat down to eat the feast that David’s place was empty and Saul said to Jonathon his son, “why has the son of Jesse not come to eat
So the first part of the chapter deals with “the concern about Saul.” the second section of the chapter verses 24 through 34, shows the true character of Saul. On the one hand he went on with the formalities of the kingdom. “the observance of the new moon” feast. The stress on attendance and ceremony – assuming that David had some ceremonial reason for not being there – verses 26,27. But on the other hand he had absolutely no sense of Godly standards and values. Verses 30 and 31 are a good summary of that section. Saul says to Jonathon, “you son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, bring him to me, for he shall surely die.
Obviously, Saul no longer has any thought about the glory of God in the kingdom of Israel , only his own dynasty. And his continuing mental deterioration is shown in verse 33
Then Saul cast a spear at him to kill him, by which Jonathon knew that it was determined by his father to kill David.
Finally, the last part of chapter 20, verses 20:35 through 21:9, contain the commencement of flight from Saul.
First, in verses 35 through 40 there is the sending of the bad news by Jonathon, according to their plan described back in verses 18 through 22. And the news is as bad as David had feared. So in verses 41 and 42 we have the saying of good-byes
As soon as the lad (who had given the signal) had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David moreso.(42) Then David said to Jonathon said to David, “go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying May the LORD watch between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forevever. So he arose and went into the city.
A far as we know, this is the last time these two godly friends ever saw each other. It is hard to imagine how sad David was at this point. He may well have wondered if all of those promises of God were ever going to come true. How did things get to this sad point in David’s life? Just a few weeks or months ago he the “darling” of Israel’s society, now he is on the run for his life and separated from his best friend. Well at least a part of the answer goes back to the beginning of the chapter where he took matters into his hands and went to Jonathon. This is an indication that doubt and fear had taken over his life. He evidently felt that the Lord wasn’t going to protect him, so he had to take matters into his own hands. And because of that, Satan was able to put a “fiery dart” through that chink in his armor. Once doubt takes over in our hearts other sins follow in quick order(as we shall see in as we go on with the story in the next few chapters.) This is why Ephesians 6:16 tells us to take the shield of faith, by which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
And it reminds us again that the Christian life, even for someone as in tune with God as David was is still