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Steadfast Love (Part 4 of 5)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
May 8, 2023 4:00 am

Steadfast Love (Part 4 of 5)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 8, 2023 4:00 am

Murderous threats. Secret communications. Family betrayal. All these elements are at play as the saga of 1 Samuel continues. On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg examines the difficulties the crown prince, Jonathan, faced when he declared allegiance to David.



See if this sounds like a Netflix bingeable series. to you. Murderous threats, secret communications, family betrayal. All of these elements come into play as we get near the end of our current study in 1 Samuel on Truth for Life. Today, Alistair Begg takes a closer look at the difficulties that Jonathan, the Crown Prince, faced as he firmly established his allegiance with David, God's anointed king. Now, in 1 Samuel and chapter 20, we're going to read just from verse 35 to the end, which begins, In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. And he said to his boy, Run and find the arrows that I shoot. As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. And when the boy came to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the boy and said, Is not the arrow beyond you? And Jonathan called after the boy, Hurry, be quick, do not stay. So Jonathan's boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master.

But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, Go and carry them to the city.

And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring forever. And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. Thanks be to God for his Word.

Amen. As I said this morning, this evening follows along directly from where we left off. And in the passage that remains before us, which is still a significant number of verses, all that we're seeking to do is to follow the storyline of the text. There are certain passages, I think—and it's true in Old Testament narrative, as in other places—that seem to break up very easily in the prospect of teaching them and then can be shared in that way. And then there are other passages that don't seem to do that at all. And that brings with it a real danger, and that is that the one who's given the responsibility of teaching the Bible presses on the text an outline that the people, as they read the text, are finding themselves saying, I'm not just quite sure how this fits with this passage.

And so, perhaps as an encouragement to you and perhaps as a plea to my own incapacity, we just are going to follow along. We noted this morning that it is clear in this section, verses 12–17, that it digresses from the immediate crisis which has given rise to the events that are described here—that immediate crisis being Saul's murderous threats. And although we didn't say it in the morning, it's worth saying now that I think the point that perhaps we're supposed to see in this is that Saul—who does not appear in this here—Saul is actually now irrelevant to the future to which David and Jonathan are heading.

In a very straightforward way, it is clear now—increasingly clear—what it meant for him to have been deposed, what it meant for the kingdom to have been removed from him, and so on. And so we've sought to understand how David's endurance in the face of the threats and Jonathan's encouragement in anticipation of what the kingship of David would mean, and our hope—all of these aspects, all find their security and focus in trusting God and taking him at his word. With that said, in verse 18 and through to verse 23, it's time now to return to what somebody has referred to as the playful story of secret communication. There's something wonderful, especially for children, about having little secrets, and this is what we're going to do, and why don't you go and hide there, and so on. And the way in which this story unfolds helps to keep our interest in that way. Now, here you have this straightforward outline of how things are going to be. On the third day, go to the place where you hid, and when the matter that was at hand and remained by the stones, and I will shoot the arrows and this and that and the next thing and so on.

I don't think that there's any great benefit in getting tangled up, as it were, in the arrows and what I refer to this morning somewhat incorrectly, I suppose, as the sort of Robin Hood dimension. It is quite interesting how people, when they study the Bible, often miss the central emphasis of the Scriptures, because they become tangled up in questions that are illustrative dimensions, but they are not the essential element of what is being conveyed. And what we learn from this section and what David learns from this section is the instruction that Jonathan is going to give to this boy.

The instruction that he calls out to the boy will be the sign that is needed for David. And essentially, that is the long and the short of it between verses 18 to 23. And I'm now going to reread it again, and you will notice that he closes the section out by saying, And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the LORD is between you and me forever. So you've got this sense of this love of their souls for one another and of this awareness that they have of the faithfulness and the covenant love of God. The only thing that I would point out is the distinction between what Jonathan says in verse 13, if you go back up to 13, where he says, But should it please my Father to do you harm?

Remember, we saw that this morning. The LORD do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I… Notice the subject here—"if I do not disclose it to you and send you away." Okay? If I do not send you away. Down now in verse 22, when he explains what's going to unfold, but if I say to the youth, Look, the arrows are beyond you, then go, for the LORD has sent you away.

All right? The Lord is not sending them away in a vacuum. The Lord is using the language and the call of Jonathan in order to achieve his purposes. It is a straightforward and an obvious point, but it's good to remind ourselves of it—that here, once again, as elsewhere, the heart of man is devising the way, but it is the Lord who is directing his steps. So, in verse 24, David hid himself in the field.

A wonderful sentence. You just allow it to settle in your mind. The picture now of this one—the shepherd boy, the Ephrathite from Bethlehem, the one who had been brought out from the flocks of his fathers in the fields of Bethlehem, into the mainstream of life for this great and vast army, the one who has now taken on this Philistine giant and so on, the one who has been, in a secret moment, anointed as the future king—here we find him hiding himself in the field. And when the new moon came, which of course was to be the occasion of the festival and the meal, the king sat down to eat food. Now, once again—and I've said this to you a lot—but when you read Old Testament narrative, when we read Old Testament narrative, don't read it the way you read other things. You're supposed to read this in the same way that you would read a story as it's told to you. So you're supposed to say, Well, goodness gracious, we've got David, and he's hiding in the field, and what is the king doing? Well, the king is sitting down. Now, notice verse 25. Verse 25 is, if you like—this is a dangerous thing to say—it is an unnecessary verse, isn't it, in the sense that we know the king sat down to eat. But again, the writer is building the framework for us. He's building a picture for us.

So when we read this story, we're beginning to say, Oh, I get it. And the king sat on his seat, as kings do, as at other times. And then on the seat by the wall.

Okay? And Jonathan sat opposite. And Abner sat by Saul's side. But David's place was empty. To which we say, Of course it was, because he had hid himself in the field.

The way in which this is described is in order to build for us the way in which this is going to unfold. David's place was empty, and yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, Something has happened to him. He is not clean. Surely he is not clean. Now, this does not simply mean that he had not had time to wash his hands before he sat down to eat the meal, but it is an indication of Saul's assumption that perhaps David is ritually disqualified—in other words, that there would be certain processes and patterns that would preclude somebody from actually participating in the meal at this time and in this kind of feast, whether it was a special Sabbath or whatever it really was. And so, Saul is able to say to himself, Well, probably that's why it is. So he didn't say anything at all. Actually, don't you think that he might have said to himself, You know, it's maybe because I've tried to kill him three times. You know?

I mean, I've tried to kill the guy on three occasions, and I'm wondering why he's not showing up. But, no, I don't know. No, he said maybe he's not clean. It never dawned on him that that might be the case. Verse 27, but on the second day, Saul asks why David's place was empty. And he inquires of Jonathan his son. Now, notice how he refers to David.

Why has not the son of Jesse? There is surely significance in Saul's unwillingness even to use David's name. David's name must have been a pain in his neck, more ways than one.

The refrain probably was it was impossible for him to extinguish that phraseology running round in his head, remember? As Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his tens of thousands. Everywhere that you went in the community, David was a great one. David was a great hero. David is the future. David this, David that, David the next thing. And he can't even put the name, as it were, on his lips, and he refers to him in almost, I would say, a disparaging way. Well, what about this son of Jesse?

Why has he not come to the meal, either yesterday or today? Now, fascinatingly, now, in verse 28, in Jonathan's answer to Saul, he replies in a fashion that seems to suggest that he had the authority to give David permission to be absent, that David had inquired of him. Of course, this was a prearranged situation, as we know from earlier in the text.

But you will notice the way in which it unfolds. Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. If I'd been Saul, I'd be saying, Why is he asking leave of you?

It's not your party. You may be the crown prince. You're my son, but you're not the king. He asked leave of you?

What else? Well, he said, Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. Now, if you take time to go back and check—and I suggest you may, in fact, we all could—and that is go back to verse 6 of this chapter, where David tells Jonathan what his script is for this moment when it comes. Verse 6.

If your father misses me at all, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem a city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan. But when you come to this, you realize that Jonathan, for whatever reason, has decided to embellish it a little bit. And, you know, when somebody gives you a speech, it's usually better just to stick to what it is they're asking you to say. They're not looking for creativity.

They're not asking for poetry. They're simply asking you to do what they've asked you to do. And it was very, very clear.

And for whatever reason, Jonathan adds these little bits and pieces. He said that his brother has commanded me to be there. He said that David said, My brother has commanded me to be there. So, you know, once people start telling lies, there's no end to where it can go. This was a flat-out lie to start with.

Now the lie's getting better by the moment. He's gone to a clan gathering, but it was because of his brother who commanded him to be there. If I was Saul, I'd be saying, I don't care about what his brother commanded him to be. I am the king. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers. That's the speech. He says, This is what David has said, and for this reason he has not come to the king's table. Now, here is something that I am not clever enough to figure out on my own, but with the help of Woodhouse, I can point this out to you. In the twenty-ninth verse, that little phrase, Let me get away, let me get away, is actually the same phraseology as we noted all the way through chapter 19, where it describes David fleeing. I won't go through all the verses. It's there in 10, 11, 12, 17, 18.

You can find them for yourself. And what Woodhouse observes is, I think, quite helpful. He says, Perhaps Jonathan may have slipped by embellishing the story, but only inadvertently by using this terminology, whereby he says that David said, Let me get away, and thereby giving a clue to the real reason for his absence. The story of his life continues to be, And he fled, and he fled, and he escaped, and he fled, and let me get away. Well, how does this go over? We discover in verse 30. We're not surprised by this, but nevertheless, it is still something to behold. Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan.

He actually blows his top, as we say. Back in verse 7, again, when the setup had been created, David had anticipated that Saul would either react by saying good or by losing his temper. We saw this morning that Jonathan had said, As should it please my father to do you harm. And now, of course, all of that unfolds here in this moment. And he addresses his son, you son of a perverse, rebellious woman.

Well, that's not very nice, is it? Why does he have to drag his wife into it? The fact is, he is the son of a perverse, rebellious man. You, son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? Well, in actual fact, it wasn't so much that Jonathan had chosen David as that God had chosen David. And the rejection that Saul is aware of, now, if you like, is crystallized in this scene that unfolds—a tragic scene, I suggest—where he is now confronted by the rejection not simply of this David character but by the son of his own home. And in verse 31, it's almost as though he makes a final appeal to him when he says, Listen, as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.

Don't think, I don't know where your allegiance lies, he says, looking at his son. Now, we know that Jonathan actually had surrendered his rights long before this encounter. And remember, we talked about how the robe had been torn, and it was an emblem of the kingdom being torn from his father Saul. And now he takes off his robe as the crown prince, and he gives it to David, and he gives him his armor, and he even gives him his sword and his bow and his belt. So this appeal was useless on the part of his father. Saul didn't really understand the extent to which Jonathan and David's lives were interwoven with one another in the steadfast love of God. What I find quite amazing here is that verse 32 begins, Then Jonathan answered Saul his father. Why?

Why? This is mission accomplished. We've already been able to deduce the reaction of Saul.

That's what the setup is for. If he says good, then we'll be able to send that message out. If he loses his temper and goes nuts, then we'll know exactly what we're supposed to do.

So now we do know what we're supposed to do. And then Jonathan answered Saul his father. And he said to him, Why should he be put to death?

What has he done? Now, I suggest to you that this is because of Jonathan's love for his father. His father says to him, As long as this character, the son of Jesse, lives, you will never have a throne. Jonathan, realizing all that is to unfold here in terms of the vengeance of God against his enemies—not knowing how that will play out in the end of the day—says to his dad, But wait a minute! Why?

What? And Saul now hurls his spear at him to strike him. Remember, Jesus says, They persecuted me, and they will persecute you. David, the anointed king, has dodged the spear twice. Now Jonathan, the blood brother of the anointed king, finds himself under the agonizing wrath of his own father. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg, taking us to the breaking point in King Saul's relationship with his son Jonathan.

We'll hear more tomorrow. If you regularly listen to Truth for Life, you have undoubtedly heard me mention our mission, which is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established in their faith, and local churches will be strengthened as a result. As this mission relates to the local church, we aim to encourage and equip pastors for the work of the gospel. One of the ways we do this is through our annual Basics Conference for pastors and church leaders. It's hosted by Alistair, and today Basics 2023 kicks off at Parkside Church. There are hundreds of pastors from across the United States, even some from countries outside the US, who are gathering to study God's Word together. Colin Smith and Herschel York are the guest speakers. They'll be providing instruction and encouragement over the next couple of days. Please join us in praying for the conference, that it will be a time of refreshment, that the men in attendance will be recharged and energized, able to return to their home churches to preach the gospel with boldness. And if you'd like to peek in, get a glimpse of the conference, or if you're in pastoral ministry and aren't able to attend the conference in person this year, you can watch the conference on live stream.

It's free to view at Now we also want to encourage you to take advantage of the book we're recommending currently. The title is The Air We Breathe. This is a fascinating book that explains how many of our important contemporary values have their roots in Christianity. Request your copy of the book The Air We Breathe today when you make a donation to support the mission of Truth for Life. You can do that at slash donate.

I'm Bob Lapine. Today we learned how costly it was for Jonathan to declare his allegiance to David. Many Christians today face similar sacrifices for their loyalty to Jesus. Find out more as you join us tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-08 05:11:33 / 2023-05-08 05:19:53 / 8

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