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Love That Intercedes
Fall Quarter: Love for One Another
Unit 2: Inclusive Love
Sunday school lesson for the week of October 4, 2020
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard
Lesson Scripture: 1 Samuel 19:1-7; 1 Samuel 23: 1-8; 2 Samuel 9
Key Verse: Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what has he done has benefited you greatly.” (1 Samuel 19: 4)
Exploring the understanding and conflict between Jonathan, David, and Saul. Understanding the move for Israel as a theocracy to monarchy.
Geographical, textual, and interpersonal context
In our opening paragraph we are studying post-Exodus Israel. The nation of Israel is not a united nation at all after entering the promised land. After crossing the Jordon with Joshua, the tribes of Israel scattered throughout Canaan. When adversity arrived and enemies attacked, the individual tribes would join together to ensure their continued existence. Usually they rallied together under the leadership of a judge. They have received the law of Moses and have a well-defined moral code. That can slowly erode if not taken seriously. Furthermore, other nations had not been eradicated from the territory of Israel. There existed many skirmishes between the nation of Israel and various tribes. When Israel joined, they could usually defeat these enemies. Many skirmishes were over water and grazing rights for the herdsmen. The only tribe they never expelled were the Philistines who play a major role in Israelite history.
Prophets still possessed great power as the authoritative voice of God. It wasn’t until the years of Jeremiah and the other major prophets that they were ignored. The voice of the king became the more powerful prophetic voice of God. Of course, not all kings spoke with godly authority. This explains why prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were often ignored. The Mosaic Law was still the authoritative source of morality, but the kings had now become the proclaimer, interpreter, keeper, and leader of the Law.
Initially many of Israel’s behaviors were governed as an Israeli theocracy under the leadership of judges who were actually military leaders.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” This requirement by Jesus certainly was relevant to the relationships between David and Jonathan, and initially with Saul though Saul quickly lost his admiration and care for David. Jonathan and David enjoyed the deepest relationship and were very protective to one another.
Israel was never intended to be a monarchy. They were intended to be a theocracy ruled under the Mosaic Law, most likely by the tribal elders or perhaps a prophet. Whether the articulation was to be done by the elders of the tribes, a chosen select group of wise men, or some other means. We do know, however, that the prophets like Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and Nathan were actually more powerful than kings and the tribal elders in Israel’s earliest years.
From theocracy to monarchy
One of the criteria the prophet Samuel used to select Saul as the first chosen king of Israel was an interesting criterion. It was Saul’s physical attributes. Even today, many sports choose their players based on physical physique and strength. Saul stood “head and shoulders” above other Israelites, thus making him a formidable foe on the battle field. Saul had some of the physical attributes of Goliath who was greatly feared on the field of battle. When Saul was chosen king, the king became a military leader, the role the judges initially occupied. Initially, Saul did well in unifying the scattered tribes of Israel. Why did Israel desire a king when God had not requested they do so? Because most of the surrounding nations had kings; thus, they too wanted a king. God had requested that Israel be a special people under the rule of God, not a monarchy as the surrounding nations. The Israelites demanded that judge Samuel give them their first monarchy, Saul. Samuel warned Israel against choosing a king when God had not so requested. Still, the people demanded a king like the other nations around them in 1046 BC. From this point forward, the living of the law, the moral life, the military battles, and the sources of authority changed. Prophets like Nathan still had spiritual authoritative power and kings like David listened. But as the years passed, the prophets became more ignored, though they spoke truth.
Saul loses the authoritative role of the king
Most of us have heard that power corrupts, and in Saul’s case this was sad and true. Though king, there were still spiritual regulations that belonged solely to the prophets and priests. These were enacted under the authority of God. Yet Saul began to assume these roles for himself. When Samuel was late, rather than wait for him, Saul performed the blessing himself. Read the narrative of Saul’s reign to gain a sense of his spiritual arrogance and the ignoring of God’s requirements regarding issues like keeping an enemy king in captivity and blessing a battle that was the responsibility of Samuel and not the king. Saul took this role upon himself. Two impure actions most of us might remember were this performance of a sacrificial duty set aside solely for a priest and the consulting of the witch of Endor to consult the spirit of Samuel for advice against the battle with Philistines rather than praying to God.
David, Jonathan, Saul, and Goliath
Goliath was a terrifying enemy of the Philistine army. He possessed an even greater physical stature than Saul. Goliath challenged the Israelites to a “one on one” battle on the field. No Israelite had the courage to challenge the mighty Goliath. Young David had become the deepest kind of friend possible for Jonathan. They cared for and protected each other. David was embarrassed and ashamed that no Israelite challenged Goliath, who was mocking the army of God. Even though he was probably a young teen, David chose the possibility of death instead of allowing his God to be mocked. He chose to enter the field of battle. Jonathan, worried about his friend, loaned David his battle sword and armor, but they were too big for young David. David chose to employ the power and gift God had given him as a shepherd and walked forward with his sling. How primitive he must have appeared facing a giant of a man, fully clad in armor, with a weapon used to protect sheep. Yet David had the one great gift the Israelites had ignored. It was a gift that David truly trusted. It was his faith. With his sling he slew Goliath and the Israelite army was ecstatic and amazed.
However, in spite of the joy there was one who was ecstatic but already smitten with jealousy. It wasn’t David’s dear friend Jonathan. No one could have been more thankful and admiring than Jonathan. It was King Saul that was threatened as he heard his army sing and shout praises unto David for such a daring deed of courage and faith. Initially King Saul had use of David as a harpist. Saul’s erratic behavior and dramatic mood swings leads many therapists to assume he suffered from bipolar illness. David’s music often soothes Saul’s inner torment.
Saul’s act of jealousy posed more than a singular problem with David. David was his son’s dearest friend, and David married Saul’s daughter Michal. Now they were a family teeming with jealousy, anger, plots to kill, and strong determination by Saul to kill David.
There was a progression in the attempt to take David’s life. Saul attempted to kill David with his own hand; then, David was put in certain danger that would risk his life, Then Saul did the unthinkable. He enlisted Jonathan and Jonathan’s servants. There was no way Jonathan was going to kill his friend whom he loved like a brother. Saul and the Philistines both failed.
Though Saul had been removed as king, he had been removed as “God’s king” and leader of Israel. To the people, he was still their king.
In Jewish law a son was never to disobey his father, but in the case of Jonathan and David, Jonathan refused his father’s request for him to kill his dear friend as Jonathan sided with David. He not only sided with David, he protected David against the plots of his father.
As an interesting footnote, David would later use a process to kill Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. No one is above sin or jealousy, not even a man with faith as great as David.
It is quite fascinating to note the humility of Jonathan. He was to be the proper heir to the throne. Yet, from the beginning it appears that he intuitively sensed it was God’s will that David become king of Israel. We don’t know if Jonathan recognized David’s great faith, courage, ability to lead, or simply loving admiration. Jonathan seems to value being David’s servant than king of Israel.
Jonathan took great risks himself as he warned David of immediate danger from his father. Thus, he saved David’s life, and further cemented their alliance and covenant with each other. The plot to save David required great planning, risk, and friendship of the heart.
Jonathan reminded his father of another Mosaic law. Not only was a son to obey his father, a man of righteousness was not to kill a godly man. David was such a man and Jonathan reminded his father that David had done him no wrong; thus, Saul had no moral right to kill David. Jonathan was using every means possible to save his friend, and ensure his friend would become king.
It was this last appeal by Jonathan that did more than save David’s life. It restored mutual respect and tolerance in the family. Saul made a vow not to kill David. Vows were serious, for again, in Judaism, words were creative and binding. Once something was said, it was done and irrevocable.
It is believed Saul took his own life after losing a battle against the Philistines, their major enemy.
Almighty God, great and mysterious are the righteous ways you work among us. You ensure that when all is said and done, it is righteousness that will reign victorious over sin. The manner in which you use the gifts you bestow upon your people calls us each to be faithful with the gifts you’ve given each of us. Help us appreciate those more gifted in fulfilling your will and help us avoid the sin of jealousy, being content to occupy the special place you give each of us in life. In Jesus name, Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.