Saul has been actively seeking David’s life but kept Jonathan in the dark. David confronts Jonathan with this news. Jonathan then seeks the truth and warns David that his life is indeed in jeopardy.
When we left our story last time Saul was under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. He remained this way for a full day and night. One might expect him to arise in a better state than he had previously been in. I know I would! Or at least I believe I would. Imagine spending that time, basking in the presence of the Lord. But this was apparently not the solution for Saul’s soul. His murderous rage did not diminish during this time. Let’s rejoin our story and see where the Spirit of the Lord takes us today; what He shares with my heart.
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Samuel watches over Saul while he is prophesying. None approach the king in all the time he lays before the Lord. Saul is safe in the hands of Samuel and the Lord.
David’s exit from Naioth is complicated by Saul’s troops that await his return. David needs to wait until nightfall before making his way out of Samuel’s compound. The fact that he has no knowledge of how long the Lord will hold Saul in His grasp gnaws at David. He fears Saul may rise at any time. Only Samuel’s assurance that the Lord will hold Saul for as long as David needs keeps David from rushing headlong into danger.
Night finally arrives. Samuel still watches over Saul, David takes his leave of this wonderful group. He will greatly miss the tangible presence of the Lord. But he must be away. Samuel and his prophets will not be safe as long as David remains with them. David KNOWS that the Lord protects them but Saul is sure to take up his pursuit again as soon as he is released. David refuses to be a party to any harm that could come to these servants of the Most High.
David is able to slip by Saul’s forces thanks in part to the phase of the moon. It in nearly the new moon so there is little light in the night. David is extremely grateful for this in the beginning of his journey as he makes his way out of Ramah but it slows the remainder of his journey back to Gibeah.
David cannot afford to be seen anywhere on the road. He has no idea how many of Saul’s troops are out searching for him. He knows he is moving towards great danger by returning to Gibeah as this is the seat of Saul’s power but he must see Jonathan. If anyone can help him now it is this son of Saul; the brother of his soul.
The journey to Gibeah was uneventful for which David gives thanks. David waits outside the gates. He prays for some way past the guards. Dawn is still several hours away. David hopes to be by Jonathan’s side before first light. This will give them time to discuss the matter, arrive at a solution, and set it in motion. David already has a large portion of this plan in mind. Yet this step of slipping beyond the guards eludes him. Fortunately for David, this step does not elude the Lord.
David had been traveling all night. He was nearing exhaustion. His energy was drained with the added stress of wariness required in his travels. As he waited under cover near the gate he need for sleep began to overtake him. His eyes were heavy and threatening to close in sleep when he heard a great crashing sound. David jerked himself awake in time to see both guards rush headlong into the stables near the entrance of the city. Something had frightened the animals kept there and they were thrashing about. David quickly leapt to his feet and made his way past the gates and into the city. He was nearing Jonathan’s house before the guards even realized they had left the gates completely unprotected.
David’s next task was to wake Jonathan without waking his neighbors. Fortunately for David, Jonathan was a military man and was trained to wake at the first sounds of danger. David would use that training to his advantage. David quietly entered Jonathan’s gate and set to rattling his door. He did so with enough force only to wake Jonathan.
Jonathan was awoken by the sound of someone trying to force their way into his home. His wife, who lay beside him, had not stirred. Jonathan retrieved his dagger from his belongings lying on a stool in his room and crept soundlessly to the door. This intruder was in for a rude surprise!
As Jonathan neared the door he heard a voice he recognized coming from the other side. The voice quietly called out his name. David waited on the other side! Without another moment’s hesitation Jonathan opened the door and quickly drew his friend inside.
“David, what are you doing here at this time of night?”
“I had to see you. You are the only one I can trust to help me. To answer the questions that burn within me.”
“What questions propel you at this time of night?”
“What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” (verse 1b).
David’s words strike Jonathan with as much force as any blow ever did.
“Far from it! You shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me: It is not so” (verse 2).
David shakes his head at how well Saul has deceived his own son. Then he raises his hand in the offering of a solemn oath.
“Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan 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” (verse 3).
Jonathan sees and hears the sincerity and urgency of David’s words. His doubts have been swept away.
“Whatever you say, I will do for you” (verse 4).
The plan that David had been turning over in his mind since leaving Samuel’s home is ready to be laid out before Jonathan.
“Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant, but if he is angry, then know that harm is determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” (verses 5-8).
Jonathan hears the desperation and doubt in David’s words. How could David doubt his loyalty?
“Far be it from you! If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you?” (verse 9).
David begins pacing the floor. This part of his plan is uncertain. He has to know Saul’s answer, but how? After a few moments David faces Jonathan.
“Who will tell me if your father answers you roughly?” (verse 10).
Jonathan places a hand on David’s shoulder and gives it a firm squeeze of strength. “Come, let us go out into the field” (verse 11b).
David waits quietly while Jonathan retrieves his robe and sandals then the two depart. David doesn’t even need to ask which field they are going to. It is the field that holds significance for both of them. The place where they have found both peace and safety. The place where David waited while Jonathan sounded out Saul before. The place with their own hiding place.
Before long they are walking in their field. Jonathan draws to a halt and squares himself before David. His words have great weight and he would that David attend to each of them this moment.
“The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father.” Jonathan intensifies his gaze into David’s eyes as if trying to knot their very souls together before continuing. “If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth” (verses 12-15).
Jonathan and David clasp forearms in the custom of brothers in arms. This was a solemn vow and bond between the two. Jonathan ended their covenant with these words; “May the Lord take vengeance on David’s enemies” (verse 16b). This sealing went beyond any earthly vow and placed it securely in the hands of the Lord God of Israel. Nothing would come between them. Not mother nor father. Not even death or life. This bond existed as long as one of them remained among the living. David affirmed this covenant with his own words.
“Before the Lord, I so swear that Jonathan, the son of Saul, and Jonathan’s house shall always have a place among my house.”
The two of them released their hold then resumed their walk in the field. Jonathan had finally come up with the answer to David’s question of how he would know Saul’s mood.
“Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because you seat will be empty. On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap. And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. And behold, I will send the boy, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them,’ then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the youth, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go, for the Lord has sent you away. And as for the matter which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me forever” (verses 18-23).
This plan was a sound one and pleased David very much. He would have the answer he so desperately needed and none would know of Jonathan’s help to David. David would pray for Jonathan’s safety in Saul’s throne room. Who could predict the moods of the king?
Jonathan left David in their field shortly after first light and returned to his home. The day of the new moon, signaling a new month, would start at sundown. He must prepare himself.
Saul had risen from his place in Samuel’s compound about the same time David and Jonathan had parted ways. He was NOT better for his experience. He looked at the state of his own undress and his face burned with shame. He snatched his clothing from the ground where they had been discarded. After hurriedly dressing he made his way back to Abner and his men. He had no idea how long he had been away from them but he longed to be reunited and feel the safety their presence brought him.
Samuel had watched from a short distance away as Saul regained his senses and left the compound. The other prophets had already retired from their long encounter with the Lord. They had not ceased to praise the Lord and prophesy since slightly before Saul sent his first group of messengers. The Lord had sustained them but now it was time to tend to their bodies needs for rest and refreshing.
Saul reached Abner in short order. Abner had been watching for his return since the moment he left. He cared greatly for his king; his cousin. As soon as Saul came into view Abner rushed to his side.
“Where have you been my king? I was worried about you.”
“Samuel has bewitched me also. I awoke and found myself alone and in a most deplorable state! How long have I been gone?”
“It has been a full day and night since you left me.”
“Have you encountered anyone in my absence? Perhaps David or one of my messengers?”
“A few of the messengers you had sent have made their way here to us but David has not been seen.”
“As I expected. Samuel must have helped him escape. We will return to Gibeah now. The rest of the messengers can make their own way home, unless they have been so bewitched by Samuel that they are no longer loyal to their king. In which case they will have no home to return to.”
“Do you wish to refresh yourself first my king?”
“No. I want to be as far from here as possible. I will sufficiently refresh myself when we make Gibeah.”
Saul was sullen and quiet the entire journey. He was thinking over the events of late. He was also thinking over the events on the horizon. At sundown, the beginning of the day, the new moon would be celebrated. This was a required observance from the Lord. David was required to be at Saul’s table for this observance. Saul knew David honored the Lord and this would be his undoing for Saul would take him from table if need be.
Saul and his army arrived home in plenty of time to prepare for the feast of the new moon. At sundown the sacrifice would be offered at Nob, where the Tabernacle of the Lord resided. The priests would see to this duty. The rest of Israel would mark this occasion in their homes or gathered in small groups. Saul’s table would boast of a great feast and all of Saul’s male relatives. Saul readies himself for this moment with relish.
All is in readiness as Saul leads the way to the table. He settles into his customary place by the wall and his family settles in around him. Abner, his cousin and captain of his guard, sat at Saul’s side. Jonathan sat opposite Saul. Adriel, Merab’s husband, sat to Jonathan’s left but David’s place to Jonathan’s right was empty. Everyone noticed David’s absence but none dared mention it. Saul had his suspicions as to David’s absence. He assumed that something had happened to David to make him unclean and thus not able to participate in the observance. The thought of David being injured or lying dead thrilled him for a moment but he assumed someone would have reported such an even to him. “No cause for alarm” he reminds himself. “He will certainly be here tomorrow.”
Conversation was strained throughout the meal and all were glad of its conclusion. Jonathan wasn’t sure what to think of his father not mention David’s absence. Was this a good thing or a bad thing? Tomorrow would surely settle the matter.
The daylight hours of the first day of the month proceeded as usual. The people enjoyed the time of celebration and rest. Evening brought those of Saul’s table together again in celebration. As everyone assumed their places it was again obvious that David was not among their numbers. Saul’s patience had reached its limits. Time for answers! Before the first morsel was taken in Saul confronted his son.
“Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” (verse 27b).
Jonathan could tell by the look in Saul’s eyes that he was not likely to welcome his answer. He determined to sell it a little better.
“David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king’s table” (verses 28-29).
Fire leapt in Saul’s eyes. He pinned Jonathan with his stare. Saul’s words were the vilest he had ever spoken to his son.
“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, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die” (verses 30b-31a).
Jonathan’s heart is breaking. He answers his father with pleading in his words.
“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” (verse 31b).
Without a moment’s hesitation Saul grabs his spear and hurls it at Jonathan. Fortunately for Jonathan, Saul’s proximity to the wall prevented him from putting much force behind his throw or great accuracy. Without those obstacles Jonathan’s father would have killed him.
Jonathan dodged to the side as Saul’s spear landed beside him. Jonathan sprang from the table not, caring that he knocked several dishes over, and stormed from the room. He would not sit at table with his father tonight.
Jonathan heart warred within him as he made his way home. He had never truly conceived of a day that he would be forced to choose between his father and David. To him there would always be a way to work things through but tonight had shattered that hope.
Jonathan’s wife welcomed him home with a warm embrace but even that could not dispel the anguish of his soul. His grief was so great that no amount of encouragement would prevail upon him to eat again until the beginning of the third day of the month. At sundown, the beginning of the third day, Jonathan ate a small meal. He knew he needed strength for what lay ahead of him in the morning.
David had remained in hiding since leaving Jonathan. He dared not even return to his own home to see his wife. Jonathan had arranged for a bag of bread and figs to be left near a tree within easy reach for David. This food sustained David until the morning of the third day but did little to alleviate the anxiety that boiled within him. The only sure cure for that was his lyre but that was beyond his reach and would give him away.
Before first light touched the skies Jonathan was already awake and prepared for his walk into the field. He would need to find a lad to use in his plan. He had no doubt that one would be available when the time came.
FINALLY dawn began to break and Jonathan could step from his house without arising suspicions. He carried his bow and quiver in their usual places on his body. He looked to anyone around to be going out to practice his craft. As Jonathan walks towards the field he crosses paths with a youth about ten years of age. This boy would suit his needs well.
“Would you like to earn a half shekel my boy?” Jonathan calls out.
The boy runs instantly to Jonathan’s side. “What do I need to do?”
“Come with me and fetch my arrows as I practice.”
“I can do that! When will you pay me?”
“As soon as our practice session is over.”
The boy happily joins Jonathan as he continues to the field. They boy is exuberant and talkative as they walk along. He has many stories of how quick he is and how sharp his eyes are. He is trying to assure Jonathan that he has made a wise choice.
David hears the boy and Jonathan as they approach. He can’t make out all that is being said because of the distance. He is certain though that when the time comes Jonathan will be sure his awaited answer will be carried directly to his ears.
Jonathan sets himself for the task. The boy runs forward and off to one side. Jonathan notes his position, notches his first arrow, pulls it back and releases. The arrow flies forward and lands far beyond the lad. The boy follows the arrow with his eyes and notes its landing position. He waits to be released to retrieve it. Jonathan notches a second arrow and sends it close to the first one. Again the lad tracks it. He is also moving further into the field to cut down on time for retrieving the arrows. As Jonathan notches a third arrow he calls out to the boy.
“Run and the arrows that I shoot” (verse 36a).
Jonathan lets fly his final arrow and it sails beyond the boy and the other arrows. The boy quickly retrieves the first two arrows and then Jonathan calls to him as if to assist him in locating the final arrow.
“Is not the arrow beyond you?” In an even louder voice he calls out, “Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!” (verses 37b-38a).
The boy quickly locates the final arrow and brings all three back to Jonathan. With a huge smile on his face he hands Jonathan his arrows.
“Told you I was good!” he braggs.
Jonathan smiles in return. “And so you are. Here is the half shekel I promised. You can earn the second have if you take my bow and quiver to my home. Give it to my wife and tell her of my promise. She will see that you receive your payment.”
The boy rushes off to complete his task. Never has he so easily earned so much money! His parents will be very pleased with his success. He will have no trouble taking Jonathan’s bow and quiver home for he recognized the prince at first sight.
After the boy is out of sight David came from his hiding place. Tears were in his eyes. David came and bowed himself down before Jonathan three times, signifying enormous respect and gratitude. Jonathan fell to his knees before David. When David rose to his knees the two fell into one another’s arms. They kissed on another in the fashion of brothers and wept with one another. This would likely be the last time they saw one another. Finally Jonathan took David by the shoulders and held him strongly before him.
“Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever” (verse 24).
Finding strength in Jonathan’s charge David rose to his feet and left. Jonathan wanted to watch David but knew his actions might give his brother’s location away. Instead he rose and returned to the city.
(to be continued)
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One thing I noticed was the difference between David’s “excuse” he gave for Jonathan to share and the “excuse” Jonathan shared with Saul. David’s could easily have been full truth. He claimed that this was the time his clan got together in Bethlehem. David also “earnestly asked” Jonathan the question. But Jonathan had to add more to the story to sell it to Saul. He added that David’s brother sent for him and the line about finding favor in Jonathan’s eyes. I wonder what God thought about their stories. Did either or both of them have to repent for their stories? I’m certain God would have forgiven them if asked. It was the only way to know for certain what was in Saul’s heart. David probably also had to repent for not observing the new moon celebration.
Father God, thank You for the friends you put in my life. None have saved me so clearly as Jonathan did for David but they have had a HUGE impact. The couple You sent me in Kentucky who loved us as their own when our family was so far away. The friend from Sunday School who has tended to our electrical and plumbing needs on NUMEROUS occasions. The friends in high school who convinced me I was not alone. My sisters who have been more to me than I can ever hope to express, including buddies against the brothers when called on. My mom who is more than just the woman who gave me birth but my closest and dearest friend. There are SO MANY more that You have graced me with but I would be forever naming them and I would inadvertently leave someone out so I will stop here with my list.
What of David and Jonathan’s subterfuge? I know You had Samuel tell a half story when going to anoint David as king. I feel guilty when sharing half-truths and downright despicable when telling outright lies. My parents will be pleased to hear of this maturation in You over the years, but there are still times when a well-constructed story can save someone’s life. I’m NOT abdicating lying or asking for permission to do so, but is there a time for being shrewd with the truth? This world is changing so fast that I have no doubt that someday in the not too distant future, following You will get people killed. I PRAY I am with You by then! But those who remain will need this special dispensation of sharing part of the truth. Please watch over them, and me if I’m placed in that situation. I KNOW I can trust You to care for me and those I love. Keep them from harm.