1 Samuel 20:14-33 The Ingredients of Blessed Friendship: Truth & Time
1 Samuel 20:14-30
14 “And may you treat me with the faithful love of the LORD as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the LORD destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.“
16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, “May the LORD destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.
18 Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile. 20 I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the LORD lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. 22 But if I tell him, ‘Go farther- the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the LORD is sending you away. 23 And may the LORD make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.
So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” 27 But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?”
28 Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.”
30 Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!” he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!” 32 “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.
Jonathan proceeds to test his father’s intentions relating to David. Saul, noticing the absence of David for the second day of the new moon festival enquired of Jonathan about him. Saul blows his top when he realized that David would not be present thus confirming his intentions to kill David. In this passage, we see the unreserved trust that David and Jonathan have invested in each other, a blessed friendship that is built upon God’s truth and tested through time.
But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love, even when the LORD destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth – As Jonathan contemplates the accession of David and the eventual ouster of the royal family, he invokes a covenant with David to spare his family. Jonathan chooses not to contend for the throne and yet remain loyal to his father by fighting along side his army even though he knew how it would end: But if I die… Jonathan knew well that usurpers to the throne would reach for a total annihilation of the ousted dynasty lest they became a threat at a later date. “Your enemies” refers to Saul’s dynasty and all who oppose David’s accession to the throne. By the day after tomorrow, Saul’s reaction to David’s absence at the new moon festival would have revealed his true intentions concerning David. Jonathan appoints a signaling method by which David would learn of the outcome.
But David’s place was empty – As planned, David is absent at the celebrations. When Saul is given an explanation of David’s absence, he boiled with rage at Jonathan. Saul is completely consumed by the notion of killing David and could not hold back his outburst of physical and verbal violence. He puts up a vain appeal to Jonathan’s self-interest: As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king, which Jonathan retorted: “But why should he be put to death? … What has he done?” The incident has put away all doubts concerning the true intentions of his father: So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David. To Jonathan’s utter disappoint, it has also revealed the darkness and selfish ambitions of his father.
- Before we entrust ourselves to others, we must give it time and opportunity for discernment. Time and opportunity are necessary when it comes to discerning whom you can trust. Hence, we must never commit ourselves ahead of time until we have fully ascertained the trustworthiness of people. Many people when betrayed by their closest friends or relatives professed ignorance and claimed that they did not see it coming. Discernment involves hearing not only what is said, but more importantly what is unsaid. The process of discernment involves observing the subject’s behavior and deriving an interpretation of his values system with reference to the truth. Hence, the knowledge or conviction of the truth is essential, without which discernment becomes impossible. It also goes without saying that a person who is not accustomed to walking in the truth has zero discerning power. Jesus says,
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:4-5.
Jonathan and David give each other unreserved trust because they have proven their character and loyalty under different settings and over a period of time; they have time and again risked their lives for Israel and for one another. Their friendship grew over time anchored on integrity and the truths of God. Time is essential when evaluating a person’s character and the posture of his heart. Time exposes the resilience of a certain virtue in a variety of settings. For instance, a person when subject to diverse temptations of wealth, sex and power will reveal the true strength of his faithfulness. Observation of the subject’s behavior over a period of time and in a variety of settings will definitely provide greater objectivity, credibility and depth for discernment.
- Frequent outbursts of temper reveal the wounds and the darkness that lurks within the heart. The inability to control one’s temper and the presence of violent tendencies are indications of ingrained emotional wounds and self-centeredness that must be dealt with. However, a person who loses his temper also loses his credibility before people. Saul’s inclination towards violence and intimidation is very telling of his insatiable hunger for power and domination. Such do not operate by rule of law but by fear and manipulation. If we notice these traits in ourselves or in our loved ones, it is time to deal with the wounds and darkness within. Emotional wounds that were inflicted upon us in particular situations in the past will trigger emotions of hurt and anger when similar situations present themselves. Self-centeredness is the condition where a person makes decisions based on his own benefit and whims; it is diametrically opposed to the values of love and God-centeredness. When a self-centered person could no longer have his way, he turns ugly with unreasoning anger. An emotionally wounded person must invite those hurting emotions to rise to the surface together with the memories of the hurting event so that the Spirit can do His work of healing. The self-centered person must abandon his worldview of life and turn back from his self-centered ways to live for God. The Holy Spirit works in planting the seed of God’s sacrificial love that enables him to love others.
- Do you find yourself betrayed by people all too often? Do you tend to lose your objectivity and reason when faced with people who are sweet talkers or those who plays to your greed? Perhaps it is time to stand secure on the foundation of truth where you can regain your bearing.
- Do you tend to lose your temper especially in particular settings or in the presence of certain people that reminded you of the past? Some people lose their cool when they have the slightest suspicion of being taken advantage of. Yet some behave like a completely different person once they get into a car. Take sometime alone to allow these negative emotions to come to the surface and let the Holy Spirit perform His healing work.
- Do you have relationships that you desire to develop into blessed friendships? Focus on speaking the truth in good will and being transparent concerning your convictions and weaknesses. Give it time and patience and you will soon become a blessing to one another.
Dear Lord, fill me with the Spirit of truth so that I could seek out the ways of righteousness. Give me the wisdom to discern so that I could entrust myself to the right people. At the same time, help me to be a blessing to my friends. As I learn to let go of the past, heal me of the negative emotions of anger and injustice that constantly rob me of my peace and joy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.