TEXT: 1 Samuel 20:1-24
David’s travail with Saul began after he defeated Goliath of Gath and the women ascribed greater popularity to him than to the king. Saul became envious and jealous. “And Saul was very wroth… and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:8). From that time, the king made several attempts to assassinate the young warrior of Israel, but God delivered him from all the evil plots.
Our present lesson is a continuation of David’s nightmare and flight from danger to consult with Jonathan, the son of Saul, who had pledged loyalty to and friendship with him. Their covenant of friendship was renewed, and Jonathan faithfully promised to provide David with intelligence report for his safety. From this study, we learn among others, that unlike Saul, leaders should be free from narrow- mindedness, suspicion and envy of their subordinates who may be more favored, gifted and successful (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Again, like David, if we cannot vindicate our reputation before men, we should commit it to God (Psalms 37:5,6; 139:1-4). Also, like Jonathan, we should strive to show genuine sympathy to those whose godly characters are being defamed (Psalm 119:63; Hebrews 13:3). Above all, we should strive to live righteously at all times so as to find acceptance with the holy, all- seeing God.
DAVID CONSULTS WITH JONATHAN (1 Samuel 20:1- 8; Proverbs 11:14; 17:17; 15:22; 18:24; 20:18; Matthew 2:13; 4:12; 12:14,15; 10:23; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:18)
“And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?” (1 Samuel 20:1).
On several occasions, David fled for his life as a result of threats by King Saul. In particular, twelve attempts were made on his life: thrice, a javelin was thrown at him; twice, he was set up through marriage arrangement so that he would fall into the hands of the Philistines; six times, soldiers were sent after him, and once, Saul went after him in Ramah (1 Samuel 18:11; 18:17-30;19:1,10,11-24; 23:15; 26:2). This was why David exclaimed, “…there is but a step between me and death”. He therefore appealed to Jonathan concerning his innocence; obviously, with a readiness to humble himself and seek pardon if indeed he had done any wrong against Saul. The Lord will always provide means for His people to escape in times of danger (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter 2:9).
Hence, in the course of obedience to the great commission, we should be wise to discern that when our lives are under threat, we should, if necessary, relocate to continue the work (Luke 4:29-31; John 7:1; 10:39-42). The Scripture says, “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 27:12). In handling threats to life, we should be prudent enough to learn from our Lord Jesus Christ, Apostles Paul and Peter, and others.
It is comforting and reassuring that David could find a friend in Jonathan at a time he had such an enemy on the throne. Jonathan was no doubt, one of the noblest characters in the Scriptures. He was “…a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) and one who “…loveth at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17). He loved David in times of triumph and distress (1 Samuel 18:1; 20:1,2). He was selfless and sacrificial. His knowledge of David’s coming greatness did not make him feel threatened or jealous. Rather, he loved his friend as his own soul and was willing to see him crowned and exalted to the throne. Such quality of love is required of believers when someone else is advanced into a leadership position or becomes more gifted than themselves (Romans 12:10). Similar traits were exhibited by John the Baptist (John 3:26-33); Jehu’s colleagues (2 Kings 9:5,11-13); the apostles (Galatians 2:9); and Peter (2 Peter 3:15,16).
Jonathan also exhibited loyalty, the greatest evidence of genuine friendship by being available to help in times of distress or personal struggles. Too many people are fair- weather friends who stick around only when the friendship profits them but leave as soon as the relationship requires commitment and sacrificial love. In Jonathan, we also see purity of life. He was very principled and there was no inclination to do evil (Exodus 23:2; Isaiah 5:20). He was readily available to give David counsel when he needed it most (Proverbs 11:14). It is worth mentioning here that believers should always seek counsel from mature leaders when in doubt or danger.
DAVID AND JONATHAN RENEW THEIR COVENANT (1 Samuel 20:9-17; 18:3; 2 Samuel 9:1-10; Genesis 21:27; 1 Kings 5:12)
“And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not: But also, thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever…” (1 Samuel 20:14,15).
Motivated by pure love and regard for his friend David, Jonathan renewed their covenant of friendship (1 Samuel 18:3; 20:16,17). The reasons are obvious: he wanted to assure him of his unwavering love. He feared that David might have reasons to fear that his father’s influence, and his own interest in the throne, should make his love grow cold. He then invited David to “Come and let us go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field” (1 Samuel 20:11), not to fight but talk the matter over and consolidate their friendship. Once they got to the field, Jonathan vowed and swore to remain faithful, even appealing to God as both witness and judge. “The LORD do so and much more to Jonathan: but if it please my father to do thee evil, then I will shew it thee, and send thee away, that thou mayest go in peace: and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father” (1 Samuel 20:13).
The conditions of the covenant are in two parts, namely, David was to preserve the life of Jonathan on ascension to the throne, “And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not” (1 Samuel 20:14). Secondly, he was to show kindness continually to the house of Jonathan: “But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever…” (1 Samuel 20:15). It was in remembrance of this covenant that David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, the lame son of
Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:7; 21:7).
Faithfulness demands that we keep the terms of godly, righteous and legitimate covenants (2 Timothy 3:3; Ecclesiastes 5:4; Malachi 2:16). It is an act of ungodliness to violate our commitments in form of business contracts, marriage vows or land agreements. All parties to such agreements are expected to keep their part of the deal. The Scripture enjoins us to fulfil our promises, covenants and vows (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21). “Covenant breakers” are regarded as evil doers worthy of divine judgment (Romans 1:31,32).
Jonathan’s prayer in his oath “…and the Lord be with thee, as he hath been with my father” (1 Samuel 20:13) was prophetic. It showed that he had already concluded that David would definitely become king in his father’s stead and would not be killed by his father, Saul. We observe that Jonathan was faithful in keeping to the terms of his covenant with David just as David also trusted him.
JONATHAN’S TOKEN TO DAVID (1 Samuel 20:18-24; Joshua 8:12-19).
In response to Jonathan’s readiness to assist, David proposed a simple strategy to ascertain Saul’s disposition towards him. In two days, Saul was to hold a feast during the new moon when sacrifices would be offered (Numbers 10:10; 28:11-15). At this solemn feast, Saul probably would have all his children and officers to sit with him, with David as one of them. David therefore knew that Saul would expect him at the feast. Meanwhile, he had resolved to be absent from the feast as a safety strategy. Should Saul
overlook or excuse his absence, he would conclude that Saul had reneged on his plot to kill him. But if the king regarded his absence with strong displeasure and discontent, it would be easy to conclude that mischief was determined by the king against him. For, he reasoned that since it was certain that the king did not love him as to desire his presence for any other end than he might have an opportunity to kill him. Here, they both settled on the signs and tokens to adopt to know Saul’s mood towards
“And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark. And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth” (1 Samuel 20:20,21). The sign was that Jonathan would shoot three arrows on the side of the rock, Ezel. If he told a lad, the arrows were on this side of the rock it would mean that David could come home as no harm was intended; “but if he says the arrows are beyond thee…” then David was to go his way for Saul
intended to kill him.
Based on the agreed arrangement, Jonathan saved the life of David, Israel’s future king, from being cut short prematurely. In like manner, believers should labour to rescue sinners and backsliders who are in danger of going to hell. “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11,12). We should device scriptural evangelistic strategies to reach all categories of sinners and backsliders before it is too late.