Call to Worship September 5 2021

Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 20

Security is what most people want in life. Excitement and variation are enjoyable for a little while or in controlled circumstances, but few people desire constant change or chaos. Saul had become, as my grandmother might say, “a regular royal pain in the patooty.” His fits of rage and mood swings fluctuated more than a driver in five o’clock Atlanta traffic. Saul was on the war path and he verbalized his anger toward David, Jonathan, and ultimately God (1 Sam. 20:30-31). Saul’s decree to execute David was a direct violation against God’s edict. God had removed the kingship from Saul and chosen David as His representative King (15:26, 16:13-14). Anytime people continually and defiantly rebel against God’s commandments, chaos and calamity often follow close behind. Therefore, security fails to be recognizable.

D.R. Davis asked in his commentary, “How do you spell the word security?”[1] You may think, “Come on, the word is in the question. How hard can it be?” Well, his answer is both witty and keen. “Obviously,” he wrote, “’security’ is an eight letter word. And when spelled out it looks like this: covenant.”[2] Davis did not state a new truth from this chapter, but illustrated a different angle to get the point across. In a plain and cursory reading of the text most people understand commitment and friendship in 1 Samuel 20 are seminal. The word ‘covenant’ only takes it a step further. This chapter revealed a covenant between Jonathan and David on both sides of their relationship and suitable actions to prove it (42). A covenant is a stated promise with clear commitment, which appropriate action ensues to fulfill that stated promise.

Jonathan previously committed and truly covenanted with David in chapter 18 (1 Sam. 18:3-4). Not only is the word “covenant” used, but the actions of Jonathan confirmed his commitment to David by way of covenant. He symbolically tore off his princely robe and gave it to David. Chapter 20 involves further information regarding Jonathan fulfilling his covenantal commitment. Once David convinced Jonathan of dire trouble, Jonathan was willing to help however he was able (vs. 4). Their plan to ferret out Saul’s intentions worked. Saul had transitioned from throwing spears at David to casting them at his own son. Jonathan was thoroughly convinced of the wickedness of his father (vs. 5-34). So he acted upon the commitment to alert David by shooting the arrows in the field (35-40). This signaled the need for David to flee from Saul’s court for the good of his life.

Jonathan’s covenant with David included promise, commitment, and fulfillment. He not only used words, but also appropriate actions, to fulfill his covenant. Jonathan willingly followed a plan to reveal the dangers accosting his friend. Once the danger was obviously and properly identified, he confronted that man with his sin against David and God. He demonstrated there is a difference between sinful anger and righteous anger. His righteous anger involved truthful confrontation with the rebellious sinner (32), grief for the sinfully accosted person (34b), and action to avoid a sinful senseless tragedy.[3] Jonathan, by fulfilling his covenantal commitment with David, was an agent of security. David had security in knowing to flee and in the understanding that he had an advocate on his side. God provided the security and would continue to do the same every day.

Jonathan, as a real historical person, put aside his future kingship, risked his familial relationships, and his life for David. “In vain are those professions of love,” according to Joseph Hall, “which are not answered with action. He is no true friend, that, besides talk, is not ready to do and suffer.”[4] Symbolically, Jonathan and David, in this chapter and subsequent chapters, provide us a veiled picture of the covenant between God the Father and Jesus the Son. God the Father covenanted with the Son to save a people. Christ in commitment to that covenant came into this world of rage and sinfulness against God. He walked in that world blameless and sinless. He fulfilled His covenant commitment on the cross as He bore the wrath of God the Father against sin. Furthermore, He shed His blood to accomplish forgiveness of sin for His covenant people. Not only does God provide security in the daily concerns or evils of life, but He actively provided and accomplished eternal security through His one and only Son, the Lord Jesus. Our God spoke and acted in order to fulfill His covenant promise. Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart, (Christian Focus Pub., 2014.), 203.

[2] Ibid., 213.

[3] Note there is a difference in confronting someone who is ignorant or maybe thoughtless in sin compared to confrontation with a person who is defiant and rebellious. Saul was certainly outwardly defiant against God and Jonathan treated him as such. Careful patience may be more useful with the ignorant or thoughtless sinner. Christ exhibited both of these during his life.

[4] Joseph Hall, Contemplations of the Historical Passages of the Old and New Testaments, (Tentmaker Pub., 2017 from work originally published in 1860.), pg. 193.