Weekly Prompts for Thinking Through Scripture
1 Samuel 18-21
Refresher: The LORD has rejected Saul as king of Israel and anointed David to succeed him. But though the will of the LORD will come to pass, for a time Saul remains on his throne. However, it’s becoming obvious to everyone, including himself, that he’s a man in decline. By providence, David has emerged out from a shepherd boy’s obscurity and entered Saul’s court. Indeed, he’s proven himself as the nation’s champion by downing Goliath and putting the Philistine to flight. So – a tottering king who feels that God has rejected him, and on the rise a ruddy shepherd boy who is confident in his God. And Jonathan in-between.
Read 1 Samuel 18: 1-16
- V. 1 – “…knit to the soul of David.” – a lovely expression of friendship. And it’s an unlikely friendship, that grows ever more so, as it becomes clearer that David will take Jonathan’s place as successor to Saul. And yet, Jonathan remains devoted to the King on the rise. This kind of humbleness puts in mind another John to come, eh?
- V. 8 – “What more can he have but the kingdom?” Now, that’s quite a leap of logic! But jealousy produces these kinds of exaggerations. Who can stand before jealousy? Certainly not the truth. (Proverbs 27:4). It’s a hard trick, but practice appreciating the talents and successes of others.
- V.10 – “Harmful spirit from God…” Though we didn’t comment on the first time, this is the second such reference (16:14). These statements make us theologians throw our hands up in despair: ‘I’ll never get to the bottom of spiritual reality!’ we say. Good call.
- VV. 12, 15 – “Saul was afraid…” “He stood in fearful awe of him.” Rather than enjoying David’s successes (which after all, were also his) or at least looking at them nonchalantly, they send a chilly blast through Saul. Why do you think that was?
Read 1 Samuel 18: 17-30
- In this passage, take note of marriages arranged for reasons of political advancement. Sure, Hollywood teaches us to look down on this kind of thing. But what do you think: is it necessarily bad?
- V. 20 – Understatement of the day: Saul isn’t a father to emulate. He learns his daughter loves a man, yet he’s not mad about that, since her affection will make eliminating her beloved that much easier. As for her feelings? NOT A BIG DEAL.
- VV. 22ff – David’s son will come up with a lot of Proverbs about “crookedness.” Perhaps his father told him about this scene. Communicating through other people, dropping hints, manipulating feelings, preying on another’s modesty (v. 23) – this kind of chicanery almost never ends up well. Brothers and sisters, keep your communication as straightforward as possible. And say no to passive aggressiveness!
- V. 26, 27 – This excellent spirit of David! “Before the time had expired” David brings in a haul twice what was required. God’s Spirit is on David, and that spiritual reality reveals itself BY EXCELLENCE. Ask your Father in Heaven to give you more of the Spirit so that you become known for that trait of “doingmorethanisrequired.” Also, consider our Lord Jesus who has that “Spirit without measure” (John 3:34) – so how thoroughly He accomplishes everything He sets out to do. Hallelujah!
Read 1 Samuel 19: 1-10
- V. 1 – Ok, the gloves are off. Or said another way: the evil has run its course all the way through Saul. Killing David has now become his settled obsession. How this man has altered from the innocent who went looking for his father’s donkeys! Also notice how his bad parenting is now working against him: he’s so oblivious to his son Jonathan’s heart that he thinks nothing about confiding in him about his plans to kill David.
- V. 6 – Saul isn’t (yet) beyond the reach of reason, though. Jonathan’s sensible words break through his malice. But then again, his habit of double mindedness has seemingly rendered him unable to keep a promise. Scary, but I think this inability to maintain resolve isn’t uncommon.
- V. 9 – Did you see our troubling phrase again? Write down all your questions about it, perhaps starting with ‘what are harmful spirits doing around the LORD anyhow?’
- VV. 9,10 – Saul has won again, but his hatred has him at the point of not being able to enjoy anything that also involves David’s success. Brothers and sisters, let Saul be a cautionary tale. Throughout this day consider how important are the tiny decisions made in your heart away from the public eye – – AND YET ARE SO FORMATIVE. For example: to obey all the way, to not cave in to jealousy, to keep commitments…
Read 1 Samuel 19: 11-24
- VV. 11-17 – Saul’s daughter is actively working against him out of love for her husband. And she puts herself at risk with the ruse involving the goat hair and the household idol. (By the way, what’s this idol doing around here?!)
- V. 17 – Michal’s fabricated conversation with David to mollify Saul is interesting. She presents David as a thug who was ready to kill her if she didn’t go along with his deception. She must have told this tall tale because SHE THOUGHT SAUL WOULD BUY IT. Her made-up “David” was absent natural love, a bully, murderous– just the kind of traits at home in Saul’s mental world. How sin corrupts, especially one’s ability to see the good.
- VV 20-24 – A story, not without humor, demonstrating (once again) that Hannah’s prayer all the way back in chapter 2 haunts the entire book. “The LORD makes poor and makes rich/ he brings low and he exalts.” None of the other episodes in which Saul pursues David are like this, but if God wished, they could all be. We’re given this drawn-out, rather humiliating spectacle to show how utterly God is in charge; when he wants to “exalt the horn of his anointed” (2: 10), he can do so by playing with and completely subduing his opponents’ minds. Like I said, this is not God’s go-to method, but occasionally He will parade His supremacy.
Read 1 Samuel 20: 1-11
- V. 1 – For the first time in a while, we hear how David is processing all of Saul’s aggression toward him. He can’t think of any reason for Saul to wish him dead, and he’s correct: Saul has passed beyond the reach of reason.
- V. 2 – “You shall not die.” Isn’t Jonathan aware of Saul’s recent assaults and traps against David? Or perhaps he categorized those attacks as “angry outbursts,” not yet willing to believe that his dad would make a calculated lethal attack against his best friend? Friends, with this in mind, take a glance at the big picture: all the way along, the mission of God in Jesus Christ has moved ahead through much deep heartache. Don’t trivialize your salvation; be sober-minded.
- V. 6 – David creates a deception and involves Jonathan in it. What think you?
- V. 8 – “If there is guilt in me, kill me yourself.” – David sure doesn’t think he’s done something wrong, but then again, he did write Psalm 139:24! Blind spots are a real thing. If guilt is discovered in David, he’d prefer to face justice under Jonathan, rather than something-like-justice from the hand of the unhinged King.
Read 1 Samuel 20: 12-42
- V. 13 – “May the LORD be with you, as he has been with my father.” – Hmm. You could think about this strange blessing all day. True, the LORD had been with Saul, but it’d been so long since that was the case. Why remember Saul that way? But Jonathan is a good man and a good son, and thus chooses to view his dad in the best light possible. The more I think about Jonathan the more I like him. Maybe a name for my next son. Tonia?
- V. 17 – “Loved him as he loved his own soul.” As memory serves, this is the third time we’ve heard Jonathan’s affection expressed in just those exact terms. Inspiring, right? To love anyone like that. To love your spouse/ brother/ church like that.
- VV. 18ff – Every time I read this I think that this is a most inefficient way to get across a secret message. What do you say?
- V. 30 – “Son of a perverse, rebellious woman” – Fathers, don’t rebuke your son with these words. Choose other words.
- V. 33 – Look back one chapter (v.6) and let Saul’s decline remind you of this truth: our character is always developing, for the worse or the better. “Guard your heart with all vigilance”!
- V. 41 – This arrow scene is described in a good amount of detail, then the narrator devotes space to David and Jonathan’s parting. Through this attention we’re being notified that this episode contains a great development in David’s story: he’s now officially on the run from Saul. And that chase will continue over years. (Determining exactly how many is difficult.) “Many are the afflictions of the righteous/ but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Jonathan’s last words to David are of his [David’s] offspring. He knows where all this is heading.
Read 1 Samuel 21
- Remember that Jesus teaches from this passage? What was His point?
- V. 2 – David lies to the priest. Is this worse than lying to someone not a priest?
- V. 7 – An ominous detail, if I’ve ever seen one. I wonder if Doeg the Edomite looked anything like Dog the Bounty Hunter?
- V. 9 – The sword of Goliath shows up once more. The weapons of former victories are put to use again. I think there’s a spiritual truth to be had here.
- V. 13 – The Messiah of the world came from this one! “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgment and how inscrutable his ways!”