Sunday, October 20, 2013

David and Jonathan BC

Prince Jonathan was thunderstruck. While he and the brave soldiers he had been commanding were cowering in fear, a teenage shepherd with no experience in battle (aside from fighting lions and bears) had walked out confidently into the valley, faced a terrifying giant, and quickly beat him. This was someone Jonathan wanted to get to know. This was someone Jonathan could mentor and help to become an even greater warrior.

So after the stunning defeat of their enemy, two things happened. Up to then, David had been going back and forth between his pasture and the palace, but now Saul wanted him to stay at the palace. Secondly, Jonathan became best friends with him. The two of them became like brothers. In fact, they made an oath before God that they would be friends for life. Jonathan took off his princely robe and gave it to David. He also gave him his tunic, his sword, his bow and his belt. This was an amazing gift. Jonathan was the heir to the throne, but he knew that God had told Saul that their family would no longer rule. He also knew that David was God’s choice. He gave some of his greatest treasures to David and helped him as Saul sent David into battle. David did an incredible job in every battle that he fought, and Saul rewarded him by giving him a high rank in the army. All the soldiers loved him. In fact, pretty soon, the women came up with a song that they sang while dancing and playing instruments:

Saul has killed thousands of our enemies,
But David – wow! – he’s killed TENS of thousands!

Now imagine you’re Saul. Normally, you’d love to hear that you’ve solved thousands of problems. But then along comes a young whippersnapper with no experience in battle, and now they’re saying he’s solved ten times the number of problems? Saul was pretty jealous. He started thinking, “What’s next? I suppose he’ll want to be King!”

The next day, Saul was in a very bad mood, and as usual, David stood before him and played his lyre. But this time, the lyre wasn’t enough. Saul was so angry that he picked up his spear and threw it at David! He dodged it just in time, twice! When that didn’t work, he decided to send David away to lead a large army. God gave him success in battle, which didn’t help Saul’s attitude. He was hoping the Philistines would kill David!

Saul almost gave his daughter Merab to David to marry, but David turned him down. But then he noticed that his daughter Michal had fallen in love with David. It took some convincing, but David finally agreed to marry Michal. As a bride price, Saul wanted David to defeat 100 Philistines. (In that culture, the man had to pay the family of his bride before they could get married. It was also called a dowry. In this case, Saul was hoping the Philistines would kill him while he was making good on this odd dowry.) Instead of one hundred, David defeated two hundred Philistines! Not only had David outdone the mission Saul had hoped he would fail, but now he could tell that Michal was madly in love with him, and he was now his son-in-law!

So Saul tried another idea. He told Jonathan to kill him. Jonathan, of course, didn’t want to hurt his best friend, who was also now his brother-in-law. So he came up with a plan. As Jonathan suggested, David hid while Jonathan talked to his dad and reminded him how much David had helped strengthen Saul’s kingdom and defeat his enemies. So Saul listened to Jonathan promised not to kill David.

In the next battle, David was so terrifying to the enemy that the Philistines turned tail and ran!

Back at the palace, Saul tried again to kill David with a spear while he was playing his lyre, and again David dodged it. Saul sent men to try to kill David at his house, but Michal found out that her dad was about to kill her husband, and she warned David to run away. So he did.

David went to Samuel and told him what had happened. Pretty soon, Saul found out where David was, and he sent soldiers to kill him. But when they got there, they started prophesying instead! So Saul went himself, and he started prophesying!

So David ran away from there and found Jonathan. He embraced his friend and said, “What have I done? Why is your dad trying to kill me?”

Jonathan was surprised. “What?” he said. “Dad never said anything about this to me! He promised me he wouldn’t kill you! He would have told me if he were gonna do that. He always tells me what he’s doing. It can’t be true!”

But David said, “Your dad knows that you love me like a brother, and he thinks it would make you sad if he told you about this. So he decided not to tell you. Thanks to him, I’m so close to death!”

So Jonathan said, “What do you want me to do? Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”

David had a plan. “Tomorrow is a big feast, and your dad will expect me to be there. I’m gonna hide in the field, and when he misses me and asks you where I am, tell him that I wanted to go home to Bethlehem for a sacrifice. If he says, ‘Oh, no problem!’ you’ll know everything is OK. But if he loses his temper, he means to hurt me. But you, please be kind to me. Remember the promise we made to be friends. If you find I’ve lied, please kill me yourself! I don’t want to face your dad!”

“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had any idea my dad wanted to kill you, I’d warn you.” So Jonathan agreed to look into it and let David know whatever he found out. If everything was OK, he would tell David. If what David said turned out to be true, he would make sure David made a clean getaway. That day they swore another oath before God. They would be kind to each other, and they would have each other’s backs. If either was in danger, the other would help him out. If either of them died, the other would take care of his family. (David later fulfilled this promise with Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, but that’s a lesson for another week.)

Then Jonathan had something to add to David’s plan. “Go hide in the same place you hid before, and I’ll do what you suggest to find out whether my dad is really out to get you. The day after tomorrow, I’ll come to the field and bring a boy along with me. I’ll shoot some arrows like I’m doing target practice, and I’ll tell the boy to go fetch the arrows. If you’re safe, I’ll tell the boy, ‘The arrows are on this side of you. Go get them!’ But if Dad is out to get you, I’ll tell the boy, ‘The arrows went past you! Go get them!’ Then you’ll need to get out of here. Oh, and don’t forget the promise we made today.”

The first day of the feast, Saul noticed that David wasn’t there, and he thought that was odd. But he didn’t say anything. The second day, when David still wasn’t there, he asked Jonathan about it. So Jonathan told him, “David asked me if he could go to a sacrifice with his family. It’s important to his family, and his brother ordered him to be there. So I let him go.”

Saul lost it. “You imbecile!” He cried. “How dare you side with David?! As long as he’s alive, you will never be King! Go get someone to get him and bring him to me! He has got to die!”

Jonathan was stunned. “What has he done to deserve this?” he asked. But Saul got even madder, and he threw his spear at his own son, the heir to the throne! Jonathan dodged it and furiously left the table. He didn’t eat anything more that day because he was so shaken and sad.

The next morning, Jonathan took a boy with him to the field to help him with target practice. He shot an arrow past the boy and yelled, “The arrow went past you! Go get it! Hurry up!” When the boy returned the arrow to him, he sent the boy home with his arrow and weapons.

When the boy was gone, David came out of hiding, and they kissed each other. (In that culture, kissing was like hugging is to us. It just meant they were good friends.) Both of them cried bitterly. Jonathan said, “Go in peace. We have sworn friendship to each other, and that goes for our descendants too.” So David left, and Jonathan went home.

Thus began Saul’s chase that we’ll learn about next week.

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