Music playing Quality to family, friends, or leadership can be tested. It can even cause us to question our own faith. So how should we respond in uncertain times? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg shows us how David escaped repeated death threats and ultimately appealed to Jonathan, the Crown Prince, for help. Music playing I invite you to turn again to the Bible, this time to the Old Testament, and to 1 Samuel and to chapter 20. And I will begin to read at the first verse. If you follow along, I'll read through to verse 23. 1 Samuel chapter 20 and verse 1. Then David fled from Nahath in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done?
What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father that he seeks my life? And he said to him, Far from it. You shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing, either great or small, without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me?
It is not so. But David vowed again, saying, Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes. And he thinks, Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved. But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death. Then Jonathan said to David, Whatever you say, I will do for you. David said to Jonathan, Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king.
But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, David earnestly asks leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan. If he says, Good, it will be well with your servant. But if he is angry, then know that harm is determined by him. Therefore, deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you.
But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself. For why should you bring me to your father? And Jonathan said, Far be it from you.
If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you? Then David said to Jonathan, Who will tell me if your father answers you roughly? And Jonathan said to David, Come, let us go out into the field.
So they both went out into the field. And Jonathan said to David, The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness. When I have sounded out my father about this time tomorrow on the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father to do you harm, the LORD do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the LORD be with you, as he has been with my father.
If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die. And do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth. And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, May the LORD take vengeance on David's enemies.
And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul. Then Jonathan said to him, Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap. And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. And behold, I will send the boy, saying, Go find the arrows.
If I say to the boy, Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them, then you are to come. For as the LORD lives, it is safe for you, and there is no danger. But if I say to the youth, Look, the arrows are beyond you, then go, for the LORD has sent you away. And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the LORD is between you and me forever. Amen. Father, we bow now humbly and ask that the Spirit of God will open up to us the truth of the Bible and that the Spirit of God will open up our hearts to receive that truth. To the glory of your Son's name we pray.
Amen. Well, as we come back to our studies here in 1 Samuel, it's appropriate, I think, for us to remind ourselves of what we have said or have taken as a sort of foundational verse from the New Testament to help us understand just why it is that we're doing what we're doing. Some people actually even in churches go through their lives and pay scant attention to the Old Testament entirely, as some wonder why we would even pay attention to it at all. After all, there's a page in between Malachi and Matthew, and it's the start of a whole new thing, and so on.
Fortunately, I think that we have moved beyond that kind of perspective. And in part, we have been helped by what Paul says when he writes to the Romans towards the end of his letter in the fifteenth chapter and the fourth verse. And he says, For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. And what he's saying there is that although the Bible has been written over a period of hundreds and hundreds of years, and although they were in the first century and far removed from where we are today and far removed from the events that we're considering in 1 Samuel, the Word of God does the work of God by the Spirit of God in the people of God. And we have recognized that all flesh is like grass, and the glory of man like the flower of the field, the grass withers, the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.
That is Isaiah. And when Peter quotes that in his first letter, he adds the sentence, And this word is the good news that we preach to you. In other words, here is the very truth of the good news of the gospel. Now, I say all of this this morning because people come to these studies at different points of understanding.
And you may wonder just why it is that given that we live in such a highly technical world where advances come at the speed of lightning, it would seem, we would be confining ourselves to this rather ancient story about a king and a kingdom and his son and the usurpers and so on. Well, the answer is that this is the Word of God. And Jesus, remember, said in response to the insinuations and challenges and temptations of the evil one, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And it is that conviction which underpins all that we do here at Parkside, whether it is in teaching your children or your grandchildren, whether it is in gathering in midweek life groups or in our classes around the building now. We come to our study of the Bible, all of us, as a pastoral team, confident in the Word of God. And surely, these words that Paul gives us here are applicable to us all on every day—that through endurance, endurance when I feel like quitting, encouragement when my heart is sad, hope when circumstances appear fearful. What an encouragement it is for us to dig in and to make sure that we're applying ourselves to these things. Now, the twentieth chapter—I keep hoping that I'm going to turn to a chapter that I say to myself, Now, here is a chapter that I understand and know how to teach.
So far, I haven't reached that yet, and the twentieth chapter is not the easiest of texts, at least not for me. And so, as I was thinking along the lines that we've just gone down in relationship to Romans 15.4, I thought, Well, let's take those three words—endurance, encouragement, and hope—and employ them as a means of navigating our way through the text. And so, first of all, we will consider David's need of endurance in the face of his immediate circumstances. And then we will consider Jonathan's great longing for encouragement in relationship to all that lies ahead. And then we will consider finally—and this won't be today for sure—the hope that all of us require in facing the various circumstances of life. Actually, we won't get beyond the first one, I'm confident. First of all, then, we're going to consider here in the text David's need of endurance in the immediate circumstances. He definitely needs this, and we're going to be focusing on where he finds it.
All right? So the chapter is not simply about the wonderful friendship that exists, but it is about the identity of the king and what it means to bow to the authority of the king and so on. But if your Bible is open, you will see that chapter 20 begins in the way that chapter 19 has left off, and that is that David is on the run. Then David fled from Naoth in Ramah and came and said before Jonathan.
If your Bible is like mine, you have 19 in front of you as well. Just notice in verse 10, and David fled and escaped that night. In verse 12, he was let down through the window, he fled away and escaped. In verse 18, now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel, and here we are at the beginning of 20, and he's still fleeing, he's still escaping, and he's still running for his life. And this circumstance is a challenge to him. Now, in each of the previous contexts where his life had been threatened, there had been an intervention which sustained him. The end of chapter 19, again, if your Bible is open, you have this picture of his protagonist with his clothes stripped off, havering and lying half-naked all day and all night. So, he can pretty well be sure that in the present there is little threat going to come from Saul, not at least until he gets his clothes back on and until he is put back together again mentally. But his circumstances press upon him in such a way that he is able to explain to Jonathan, in a summary statement at the end of verse 3, there is but a step between me and death. That pretty well encapsulates his circumstances.
It is true not simply metaphorically—and, of course, it is true for all of us metaphorically—but it is true literally. And his previous two encounters with Saul's endeavor to pin him to the wall with his spear had given him the opportunity to perform what I'm referring to as the musical sidestep. There is a dance in Britain that we have in public life called the military two-step. But this is the musical sidestep.
And he has proven himself adept at this. He's playing the harp, the spear comes to him, and he does the musical sidestep. And there is literally, he says, just one step between me and death. I resist the temptation to remind all of us that there is for each of us one breath between ourselves and eternity. That's not the point of the passage, but it is important to remember, especially when we're listening to God's Word being preached.
Now, David is aware of Saul's ongoing murderous agenda. And it is in light of this that he asks this question, or these three questions, one on top of another, in verse 1. He says to Jonathan, "'What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father that he seeks my life?'"
Now, this is a very legitimate question. In fact, Jonathan knew that it was a legitimate question, because on a previous occasion, he had interceded on behalf of David when his father had announced that he was going to kill him, and he had said to his father, "'Listen, why would you treat him in this way? The only thing he's ever done for you is good. All that he's done for you is actually good.'" I mean, he dealt with the Philistine giant. Now, he has been a warrior, leading your troops and championing your cause.
He's only done you good. And so, David says to Jonathan, "'So what is it? What is the basis for this animosity?'" Now, Jonathan's response is interesting. He says to him, "'Far from it you will not die.'" It's not actually a question—that's not the question he's asking.
He's asking, "'Why is he trying to kill me?'" Jonathan says, "'Well, you should know that you're not going to die, because after all, my father, he never does anything great or small without he includes me in the program.'" Well, perhaps he's thinking of what happened back at the beginning of 19, when Saul spoke to Jonathan, his son, and told them all, his servants, to that they should kill David.
Well, that is true. He had included him in that. But he clearly hasn't included him in everything. He had convinced his father back in verse 6 of 19 that he shouldn't do what he was setting out to do, and on that occasion Saul had listened to the voice of Jonathan and swore that as the Lord lives he shall not be put to death. But immediately on the back of that, he then makes three attempts to kill him. And, fascinatingly, Jonathan is not present in the balance of this section. He doesn't appear. Apparently, he is unaware of the subsequent attempts on the part of Saul to kill David. And so his response is very straightforward.
It's categorical. Why should my father hide this from me? There's a kind of lovely naivety about this fellow, a sort of trusting element that is not actually helpful in this circumstance. It's not particularly helpful when you're dealing with somebody like Saul to walk around with your mouth wide open in a kind of stupefied, gormless perspective. He needs a little bit more of his sister in him at this point, Michal, remember, who came up with a special dummy and everything in order to make sure that David could escape. Maybe you don't like this, but Jonathan needs a little bit more Winston Churchill and a little less Chamberlain, for those of us who've lived long enough. In other words, he needs to have a sense of skepticism, first of all, about his own motives, and then about even his father's motives, given the way things have been unfolding.
But no, no. It's not so, he says. Well, David doesn't leave it at that, and in verse 3 he comes back at him and he says, Listen, your father knows really well that I have found favor in your eyes. And so let me tell you what he's thinking. He's thinking, Don't let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved. Well, it's very kind of David to put that understanding on the circumstances. Perhaps it shows that he wants to think the best of Saul, and that Saul, in not disclosing this to his son, is doing so out of his kindness to his son rather than out of self-focus. I think it may have been truer to say, Your father knows that you and I are good friends, and he thinks, Don't let Jonathan know this, lest he interferes again. Lest he intercedes again.
Whatever, as truly as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there's but a step between me and death. These are the facts, Jonathan. Verse 4, Jonathan then says to David, Whatever you say, I will do for you.
Now, one of the things that is running through this entire section, beyond chapter 20, is the question of loyalty—of where does loyalty lie? The challenge for Jonathan is supreme. He is the crown prince. If his father's kingdom, if his father's house, were to be sustained, then he is next in line.
But since his father's house has been torn from him, he's like minister without portfolio. He loves David. He has an inkling that David has a huge future—how much he knows about David's anointing is hard to tell from the text—but he loves his father. So, is he going to go with his dad, who is the set-aside king, or is he going to go with David, whom he loves as his own soul, who is actually the anointed king?
Now, we won't come close to this today, but let me just make the observation, if you're going to read the text on your own. What this whole thing finally comes down to is the matter of loyalty. Who is the king, and what does it mean to submit to him? David is the king. Therefore, for Jonathan to submit to David as the king means saying no to his family ties. Therefore, it is no easy… The whole question is full of ambiguities—the very ambiguities and challenges that are represented in the words of Jesus when he says to people, If you really want to bow before me as your king, if you're going to love me in this way, then you're going to have to be prepared to hate your father or your mother or the members of your family. And no matter how many commentators try and clean that up, that is exactly what he's saying. In other words, in the light of the challenges of life and the prospect of eternity, to whom will I be loyal? Well, Jonathan here has already made his first statement.
Whatever you say, I will do for you. Well, he doesn't realize what David is going to follow up with. He's now going to persuade him to commit himself to doing something that, at least as far as the text is concerned, we have never seen, and that is to tell his father a lie. David has this plan that he has conceived, and depending on Saul's reaction to it, he's either going to be free to go back into the context of the court, or he's going to have to stay on the run. The dilemma facing David. To whom will I be loyal? Alistair Begg says that's a challenging question for each of us to consider. You're listening to Truth for Life.
We'll hear more tomorrow. As Alistair mentioned today, at Truth for Life, we have the utmost confidence in God's Word. We believe all of Scripture is written for our instruction and our encouragement, and that we will grow in our hope and our endurance as we apply the truth of Scripture to our lives.
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You can arrange to set up automatic monthly donations when you visit truthforlife.org slash truth partner, or you can give us a call at 888-588-7884. When you become a truth partner, we want to say thank you by inviting you to request the book titled The Air We Breathe. This is a book that gives a concise and fascinating overview of the impact of Christianity on our world. As you read the book, The Air We Breathe, you'll learn about seven values in the modern world that have been influenced by Christianity. This book explains how views about things like freedom and progress, even science, are all firmly rooted in the Christian faith. The book even points out that before Jesus, the concept of equality didn't exist in the Roman Empire. As you read this book, you'll see how Jesus began a series of world changes that ultimately led to a desire for all people to be treated equally. You can request your copy of the book The Air We Breathe when you sign up to become a truth partner or when you give a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. We are so glad you joined us today. Tomorrow we'll find out where we can find true security and why that often requires a sacrifice. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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