TEXT: 1 Samuel 18:1-30
The victory of Israel’s army over the Philistines in the previous chapter was memorable. David, the lad- warrior brought down Goliath, the head of the army of the Philistines, and won the much-needed victory for a shivering king and army of Israel. It was this victory that brought David to limelight in Israel and endeared him to King Saul, his son and servants, and the generality of the people. Jonathan, the king’s son loved David so much that he gave him his royal robe, garments, sword, bow and girdle as the duo entered a lifelong friendship. But the growing popularity of David among the people which was amplified by the customary victory songs of the women, bruised the king’s ego and drew his ire. He began to nurse hatred and envy against David and made attempts to eliminate him. When that did not succeed, he threw up some ensnaring devices to destroy him and his growing popularity, albeit to no avail.
DAVID’S FRIENDSHIP WITH JONATHAN AND APPOINTMENT BY THE KING (1 Samuel 18:1-5; Proverbs
18:24; 17:17; John 15:13-15; 1 John 3:16; Romans 5:7,8; Luke 22:20; Ephesians 4:7,8,11-13)
The victory of David over Goliath brought with it higher responsibility, national esteem and general affection of the people. Following the slaughter of Goliath, Abner brought David to Saul “…with the head of the Philistine in his hand” (1 Samuel 17:57,58). It was during the interaction of Saul with David that Jonathan’s heart was drawn towards him and the most intimate friendship commenced between them. The two swore to be friends and there was no love lost between them thereafter.
This friendship was providential as nothing could break it. Even when Jonathan came under the threat of being killed by his own father for helping David to escape, he staked his life for his friend. The prudence, modesty, piety, bravery and faith of David might have been the points of affection that endeared him to Jonathan. These virtues might have rubbed off on him as he also did set upon the Philistine army with faith and bravery with which David conquered the Philistine giant. They were so united in their spirits that they seemed but one soul in two bodies. Ordinarily, the likes of Jonathan who lived in the royal court would not descend to befriend a David who just came to town from following sheep. Though their social classes were wide apart – a common shepherd boy and a crowned prince – their soul tie could not be broken or separated. Jonathan demonstrated his love for David with generous presents of his royal robe, garments, sword, bow and girdle. If there was a friend who stuck closer to David than his own brother, it was Jonathan (Proverbs 18:24). The bond was so strong that after the death of Jonathan, David lamented
bitterly that: “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).
Full of love, Jesus Christ the Prince of peace also descended from the courts of heaven to initiate and seal an everlasting
friendship with humanity. He stripped Himself of heavenly glory, incarnated through the virgin birth, demonstrated supreme love through His death and resurrection to provide robes of righteousness for everyone. More than Jonathan, He became poor so that we can be enriched with divine blessings. Jonathan did not die for David, but Christ died for us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jonathan made a verbal covenant with David, but Christ made an
everlasting covenant with His blood for as many as would respond to His love by turning away from sin. Jonathan gave to David his sword, bow and girdle but the Lord has given believers a comprehensive package of the whole armour of God, the sword of the Spirit and the girdle of truth.
David had been anointed to replace Saul as the next king of Israel. By divine arrangement, it was his victory that connected him to the royal family. Saul accepted David and employed him in the affairs of government as a head over the men of war. Thus, he became a resident of the royal court. David’s presence at the royal court was to prepare him ahead of the higher calling of the Lord. David showed himself a dutiful servant as he “…went out whithersoever Saul sent him…” (1 Samuel 18:5). He was obedient and courageous, the qualities which earned him acceptance “in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants”.
RELENTLESS PLOT AGAINST AN ACCEPTED COMMANDER (1 Samuel 18:6-11; 2 Corinthians 10:12; Proverbs 6:16,19; 1 Peter 5:8; Titus 3:3; Acts 7:9; Matthew 27:18; Acts 13:45; 17:5; Job 1:9,10; Ecclesiastes 10:8; 1 John 5:18)
The defeat of Goliath and the Philistines did not only bring joy but also pain to David. Saul felt threatened by the growing popularity of David as expressed in the slanted victory and congratulatory songs of the women. The content of the song ascribed “ten thousands” casualties to David and only “thousands” to Saul. He could not bear to hear the women magnifying his servant above him. He was angry and greatly displeased that the women could express the truth of the victory over the Philistines in songs that reproached him. Saul’s skewed suspicion flashed on an assumed plan to take the kingdom from him and terminate
his dynasty as previously declared by Samuel. “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? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward” (verses 8,9). Seeing David as his possible successor to the throne, he labored to eliminate him. Thus, the triumph and jubilation soon turned to trouble as Saul determined to get rid of David.
However, believers must avoid comparing one with another and sowing seeds of discord through testimonies they share among the people of God. Note also that it is futile to try to reverse God’s judgment on the disobedient by any other means than heartfelt repentance. Saul’s hatred, envy and plot to eliminate David showed that he loved the praise of men and his kingship more than the word and glory of God.
The Scripture affirms that envy and hatred are marks of the unregenerate. Prior to his conversion, Paul the apostle recalled that “we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). It was for envy Joseph was sold into slavery, Christ was delivered to be crucified and the Jews persecuted Paul the apostle (Acts 7:9; Matthew 27:18; Acts 13:45; 17:5). So, envy is not a virtue but a vice which
believers must guard against. To execute his murderous intention and take David unaware, the opportunity Saul sought for came when David played his harp to refresh him from the torment of an evil spirit. He wasted no time as he cast a javelin to pin him to
the wall. By divine help, David escaped two attempts on his life by Saul.
In Saul, we see the mission of the adversary who “…as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. The exhortation for the heaven-bound believer is to be sober and vigilant, with a readiness to resist the adversary. The phrase: “the evil spirit from God” in the text means “the evil spirit permitted by God”. It is obvious God builds a hedge around every true child of His but “whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him” (Job 1:9,10; Ecclesiastes 10:8). So, when Saul was in
fellowship with God, there was a hedge around him. But when he sinned and did not truly repent, the hedge was broken, and the evil spirit was allowed to afflict him. There is, therefore, no eternal and permanent security for any believer who is saved but does not abide in Christ. God’s promise clearly states that: “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18). It is as believers keep themselves in the love of God and abide in fellowship of the saints, prayer and regular intake of the Word that they are kept by the power of God. The abiding believer has a measure of the Holy
Spirit in him that shields him from being possessed by an evil spirit (John 14:17).
Believers today should learn from David to put their entire faith in God to fight their battles and defeat the purposes of their enemies. Instead of confronting the enemy physically, they are expected to prayerfully handover the battle to God. Besides, David was calm and collected. He did not fight back but remained focused and available even for higher assignments. Though he had both strength and courage enough to retaliate, he did no more than secure himself by getting out of it. This was anchored on his absolute faith and confidence in God. The believer in Christ must never give in to revenge (Romans 12:19). When we live in holiness and fear of God, our persecutors will be afraid of us: “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him…” (Mark 6:20).
REPEATED FEAR OF THE APOSTATE AND CRUEL KING (1 Samuel 18:12-30; Proverbs 29:25; 1 John 4:18; Mark 6:20; Romans 12:19,20; Isaiah 41:10,13,14; 54:17)
Saul was a proud and self-willed leader who would rather seek the honour of men than the approval of God. These traits led him to a point of backsliding and apostasy. His lust for honour and recognition of men brought him to the state of perpetual fear. For fear of men, he failed in the divine appointment with Samuel, transgressed the commandment of the Lord and was finally rejected. Saul’s fear in the text was based on his discovery that the divine presence which he lost was with David. “And Saul
was afraid of David because the LORD was with him and was departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 18:12). He knew that David could not have escaped the points of javelin without the help of God. Besides, it was baffling that he tried unsuccessfully to convince Jonathan to work against David. Added to this was David’s prudent behavior.
When Saul brought David close to him, his motive at first was not known, given that he had a broken relationship with God. Later, it became clear that: one, it was to ensure that attention was not shifted to David after his defeat of Goliath; two, to monitor and keep his movements in check; three, he was scared of losing his throne; and four, he needed to entrap him through deceptive favour of luring David to marry his daughter. Saul’s motive for requesting for one hundred foreskins of the Philistines as bride price was an envious plot to destroy David in the process. The strategies that Satan uses today are similar. He can use promotion and favour as baits to lure believers into compromise. He and his agents show feigned love to people in order to pollute or initiate them. The devil also uses marriages to entangle careless believers. But God is always faithful in preserving his children at all times, especially those who put their trust in Him. The wisdom He gave David to prevail over Saul’s cunning and crafty devices is still available to us.
God preserved David from all the attempts Saul made against him. Also, David was very cautious and circumspect in everything he said and did: he “…behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by” (verse 30). Therefore, a believer who walks in the wisdom of God as David is assured that, “no weapon that is formed against [him] shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17).