David and Jonathan

There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

Saul had thought that he would be able to rely upon the support of his children in his struggle with David. Through his years as king, he had developed the mind of a tyrant which could not really believe that anyone would dare not to do his bidding, particularly not someone of his own family. That was why he had consented to the friendship between Jonathan and David; that was why he consented to the marriage between David and Michal. Assuming the loyalty of his children, he was sure that through them he would gain an advantage in that struggle which had come to dominate his life completely. 

It was not long, however, before Saul began to discover how wrong he had been. No sooner had he informed Jonathan of his intentions to destroy David than Jonathan took exception with it and argued against Saul’s plan. But this was perhaps not too surprising following, as he did, his firm dedication to the worship of Jehovah just as David did. 

Still it had seemed that Michal would be different. She after all shared none of the religious fervor which David and Jonathan did. In fact, and this was something David himself didn’t even know, she had gone so far as to experiment with the worshipping of teraphim and still kept them with her in her home. Saul himself had not particularly liked that, for he always had tried to maintain the appearance of religious purity even though he had no real feeling for it; but, in the way of a pampering father, he had allowed her to do what she chose as long as it did not become publicly known. Now it even afforded him a bit of assurance that Michal could never be really close to David even though they were married. Therefore, he felt, she at least would remain faithful to him. 

But in, this also, Saul was quite mistaken.. It was true that the union between David and Michal was not a spiritual union and could never, therefore, develop into a truly successful marriage. At the same time though, Michal felt no real loyalty to her father. Rather, at the time, she was quite infatuated with her new husband, and when she found him threatened by her father, she was the first to urge David to flee from her father’s wrath. Even more, once David had left, she did her utmost to prevent or at least delay Saul from discovering his absence. Taking her teraphim from its hiding place, she placed it in David’s bed, she put some goat’s hair about it and covered it all with a sheet so that it might appear that David was still lying there. The next morning, just as she had expected, messengers came from her father summoning David to the palace. She informed them, however, that he was sick and could not come, allowing them to look into the bedroom from the doorway. 

But Saul was in no mood to be put off once again. His answer was curt, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.” Only in this way did they discover the subterfuge of Michal, for in the bed they found nothing but the image and the goat’s hair. 

When the message was brought to Saul he felt more hurt than anything else, betrayed by his own daughter. The next time he met Michal, his question to her reflected his disappointment, “Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped?” Neither did her answer help for it was evidently not true. She said, “He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?” Not only was this quite out of character for David, it could not account for the image and the goat’s hair. It only reflected the fact that Michal could not be trusted. She felt no loyalty to her father, and she felt no real loyalty to the reputation of her own husband. She was quite willing to present him as a violent and unprincipled man if only it served her immediate purpose. 

Meanwhile, David had come to the home of Samuel in Ramah. There was no better place for him to be. He had at last come to the same conclusion as Samuel had many years before — that is, that King Saul was a wicked, proud and ungodly man. The fact hurt him and burdened his soul as nothing else could ever do. That was why it was good for him to be with Samuel, because Samuel had passed through the same experience in his day. One can well imagine the hours and days spent together by the two men, the one so young and the other so old but both sharing a common disappointment and a common consolation as no other two could. It may well be that here for the first time David discovered what it was that actually stood between him and Saul. Samuel had known it himself for many years, and the time was come when David should know also. Saul’s kingdom was not to last. God had taken it away from him; and when Samuel had appeared to anoint him in his youth it had been so that he might someday take Saul’s place. We may well imagine how profoundly David contemplated all that the old prophet had to, say to him; and we may well imagine with what diligence Samuel sought to do all that he could to prepare this innocent, trusting and brilliant young man for the great responsibilities that one day he would have to shoulder. 

Undoubtedly David would have been satisfied to have remained with Samuel indefinitely. To him, everything that Samuel had to say was far more beautiful and important than anything that he could learn from anyone else. Besides this, Samuel met regularly with the schools of the prophets to teach and to worship with them. These schools were composed of groups of young men who met regularly with the old prophet so that they might learn from him and so that they might sing and dance in services of worship before God. With them David felt as fully at home as he ever had with any company of fighting men. He shared with them a common joy and faith. 

It could not last, however, Saul was far too determined to have David out of the way. Soon the report returned to him as to where David’ was staying, and that was all he had to know. He called to himself a company of his most trusted servants and sent them to take David captive. 

Little, though, did he realize the nature of David’s defense. The messengers of Saul, ordinarily a hardened group of men, came upon him in Naioth of Ramah just as the school of the prophets was engaged in its service of worship. It was an embarrassing moment, for no one in Israel could lightly interfere with so deeply religious a ceremony, and so the men stopped and waited for the service to be ended. But then a strange thing happened. As the men listened they were themselves caught up into the spirit of the service until they danced and sang praises to God along with all the prophets. The result was that when the service was ended, it no longer seemed possible to them to lift a finger against one of the company, and surely not against one as well favored as David. Instead, they joined themselves to the company of the prophets and continued in the service of praise to God. 

At first Saul must have wondered what delayed the return of his soldiers; but when the reason was brought to him, he was furious. Quickly he called together another group of soldiers and sent them to Ramah on the same mission. It made him even more furious when the message came back that the same thing had happened to them. A third group were summoned and sent after the first two; but when they too fell under the influence of the prophets, in utter exasperation Saul determined to go himself. 

It all had seemed easy enough when Saul had set out on his way; but, the closer he came to Naioth the more uncertain Saul became. He was entering the territory of Samuel and that was enough to trouble him in itself. He had never felt really easy when near Samuel, and now he had not met the old prophet since their confrontation at Gilgal. It was a considerably less determined man who finally came to Naioth only to find the prophets once more engaged in their service of worship. It must surely have been a strange sight, the king in his royal robes standing sullenly, silently watching and waiting for the service to end while the prophets danced on in their service of worship as though oblivious to his presence. To the king himself though it must have been even more strange. There before him was David and the men whom he had sent to take him all busily engaged in the service of the prophets, utterly indifferent to his presence, unfrightened and undismayed. But as he watched gradually something began to come over him too. Slowly the blanket of time seemed to roll back and he remembered how he had once danced with the prophets. It had been immediately after he was anointed king, when only he and Samuel as yet knew it. Overcome with joy and a strange feeling about God he had joined a company of prophets and danced along with them and spoke of the wonder of God. And so it was that Saul forgot himself and went out to dance once again and to prophesy and speak of the greatness of God. Wildly Saul danced, more so than all the rest, until he threw his clothes aside and fell in a deep swoon to the ground. 

It was then that the dancing stopped. Sadly David looked upon the unconscious king. He knew why Saul had come, and so quietly he gathered his few possessions together and fled. 

Never had David felt so much alone. Before he had known that he could go to Samuel, but now where? He could think of only one other truly trustworthy friend — Jonathan. He would go to him. 

So it was that David went back, back to where he had come from, back to the very shadow of the palace walls, back to the hiding place which he had shared so often with Jonathan in the fields surrounding the palace of Saul. 

It was a tender, touching meeting that the two men had there. David was weary, tired from running, utterly dismayed. What was a man to do, where was he to go when the very king of Israel was determined to have his life? In anguish David threw himself upon the shoulders of Jonathan and cried, “What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?” 

The answer to the question was one that neither Jonathan nor David wanted to admit. The anger of Saul had no rational explanation. It arose from the wickedness of a heart that could not endure the way of the Lord. It was the hatred with which the wicked have ever looked upon the righteous from the beginning of time.