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Steadfast Love (Part 5 of 5)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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May 9, 2023 4:00 am

Steadfast Love (Part 5 of 5)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 9, 2023 4:00 am

Jonathan’s allegiance to David was costly. He turned his back on his own father and gave up his status and life of comfort and privilege. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg points out the similar sacrifices Christians face for their loyalty to Jesus.


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In the Old Testament, when King Saul's son Jonathan declared his allegiance to David, it came with a great cost.

He turned his back on his own father. He gave up his life of comfort and privilege. Many Christians face similar sacrifices today for their loyalty to Jesus. We'll take a closer look today on Truth for Life as we conclude our series in 1 Samuel. Alistair Begg is teaching from chapter 20, and we're picking up right after Jonathan has explained David's absence to his father, King Saul.

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, 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. Indeed, back in 18, we stopped and wondered at what was going on when that covenant was made between Jonathan and David in verse 3 of 18.

And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul. And then on that occasion, he stripped himself of the robe that was on him. 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 have 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? Now, remember, this is a repeat performance. You go back to 19 and verse 4.

And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he hasn't sinned against you and because his deeds have brought good to you. So he's back on the same theme. Back in his sister's stead. He's not telling him something he doesn't know. He's rehearsing this material. Why should he be put to death?

What has he done? Now, I suggest to you, 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. And it is interesting, isn't it, the way it is put there in the balance of verse 33?

But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. And then the writer says, So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put him to death. Like, he didn't know up until that point. You know, he looked at his dad and said, So I'm taking it that this is a no then.

That we're not… Yeah. Yeah, I think I've got that. And verse 34, And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger, and he ate no food. Food is forgotten, grief consumes him. He grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him. Well, he disgraced David, and he disgraced Jonathan. And one of the commentators to which I've been referring throughout these studies comments at this point of Jonathan, quotes, He feels nothing for his pitiful father. That's the comment. He's furious.

He's not eating for a couple of days. Disgrace has been his portion and the portion of David. And so the commentator concludes, He feels nothing for his pitiful father. I'm not so sure about that.

Of course, we cannot know for certain. But I say to you again, why did he bother to appeal on David's behalf? Was it not, perhaps, his feeble attempt to convince and to win and to save his father?

You see, facing the cost of loyalty introduces all to the dreadful, terrible ambiguities within which loyalty to the king has to be practiced. And the more I thought about this, I was in my mind—I didn't have the time to go and do this, because it lasts forever—but the scene in my mind—and it's a strange juxtaposition, perhaps it will make sense to you, and if not then forget that I mentioned it—but the scene that is in my mind is one of the scenes in Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye is pulling the cart. His daughter is now leaving to marry a Russian soldier. And she calls out to her father, Papa! Papa! And he continues with the cart, continues with the cart, Papa! Papa!

The train is coming in the distance, and he never turns around. That, I suggest to you, is what is going on here in this scene. And that what we are provided with in this is at least an inkling of what we've been referring to all the way along in terms of the words of Jesus, recorded for us in Luke chapter 14 and in verse 26. Now the great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and he said to them, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. And I wonder… I wonder… Jesus knew these stories.

I wonder, did he have this scene in his mind? Because here, loyalty to the anointed King meant on the part of Jonathan the rejection of his father. And I disagree with this commentator when he says, He feels nothing.

I think the reverse is the case. He feels everything. He feels everything for his father.

And it is on account of that, that this drama of affection and alienation plays out. Well, the morning comes, verse 35, and the plan is put into action, into the field, to the appointment with David and with him a little boy. And the drama of the arrows unfolds as planned. The signal is sent. The boy is dispatched. The word is, Hurry, be quick, do not stay.

So the message is sent. And David, at that heap of stones, will have recognized that he is going to continue as a fugitive. There is no possibility of him receiving a welcome from Saul and the encouragement of Saul's court. So Jonathan's boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master.

And here's another wonderful little sentence, isn't it? But the boy knew nothing. He knew nothing.

Imagine him going home, and his mom says, You know, how did it go, that thing? He says, Frankly, I haven't got a clue. I do not know what was going on. I mean, the fellow told me, he says, You run up there and come back here and everything.

I do not know. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to them, Go and carry them to the city. And now, you see, it would appear that the bonds of affection break the boundaries of common sensibility, of propriety, of secrecy. Because the reason that they have been speaking in a way that no one can overhear is because no one must hear. The reason that David has been hiding as he's been hiding is so that no one will see him.

This is a foreordained plan so that they will be able to part from one another in this way without any possibility of Saul or his forces catching up on them and catching them out. And it would seem to me that what happens is that affection and longing and love are such that Jonathan can't help nor can David help but actually come out from hiding and embrace one another in this way. David arose from beside the stone heap, and he fell on his face to the ground.

That is a picture of obeisance, isn't it? He fell on his face to the ground. He doesn't emerge from the stones and go, Hey, this was great. Worked out perfectly.

Good idea. No, he falls to the ground. And he bowed three times. You see what's going on here?

In this story, this whole deal of who's on first is coming back again and again. Jonathan is still the crown prince of a fading kingdom. David is the anointed king but in secrecy. Jonathan has got an inkling of what's going on. David is not sure how will it finally eventually come out.

But in the meantime, he bows down before him as an expression of his devotion. And there you have it. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most.

Now, I will not delay on this. Safe to say this. The inferences that come in certain commentaries, that this is an indication of homosexual affection between David and Jonathan, owes absolutely nothing to the text, absolutely nothing to the time, absolutely nothing to all that is said of them, and owes everything to the perversity of rerunning twenty-first-century immorality into the context of the sixth century BC. They kissed one another. I would have all the Italian men stand up to help us with this, were it not an embarrassment to them. Surely you should think manly. Surely you should think Italiano, the way in which those big, handsome Italians get off those Harley Davidsons in Florence and meet somebody dressed in an immaculate suit and kiss the man on his face, once on one cheek and once on the other cheek. And no one thinks a thing of it, and nobody for a moment is assuming that it is an expression of that which is an inordinate affection.

No. Look at this. They were bound to one another. And so they wept with one another.

Again, if you want help in thinking about this notion of kissing as well, apart from greeting one another with a holy kiss in the Pauline epistles, but, for example, in Psalm 2, which begins, Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? You remember how that psalm ends. Now therefore, O kings of the earth, be wise. Be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear. Rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry with you. In other words, it is not simply an expression of affection or even adoration.

It is an expression of veneration. And so it is. Actually, I don't see how we, any of us, could have been able to end this chapter, to end this story, at this point, without weeping. It would be frankly hard to understand the depth of the narrative, wouldn't it? If they came to the end and they said, Well, that worked out pretty good.

I'll see you on Tuesday, if everything's okay. We can perhaps—no, it couldn't possibly be that way. This, they didn't know if they'd see each other again. And I'm going to tell you if they did.

You can read on yourself and find out. They didn't know at that point. Consider all of the pain involved for Jonathan in rejecting his father and in establishing his allegiance to David. He's already asked him, Show me the steadfast love of the LORD.

If I live for you to be king, do not let me die when Yahweh avenges the enemies of David. And now, all that is represented in the tearing and rending that is there in the familial dimensions of life—some of you know this very, very real, in a very real way, because of the background out of which you have come. And your family have said to you things like, I don't see why you had to go and become a crazy person. We brought you up religiously. You were well cared for.

You've always been taught to do the right thing. And why are you now doing this? And why are you spurning me? And why are you setting us aside? And why is this and why is that? And you live with that, and you live with that. And so the ambiguity of loyalty is there all the time.

Some of you have come out of a Chinese culture and a different background. Some that we know of today in Afghanistan are living this very experience. And for David to see what was involved in this parting, after all, in a sense, he's the cause of all of this. And he sees the risk, and he sees the pain and the hurt and the longing all pointing to the future. And Jonathan then has the last word. "'Go in peace,' he says. 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." It's a bit like… It's Ruth and Naomi, isn't it? "'And treat me not to leave thee.'" There was the loyalty thing right there.

I never thought about it until this moment. But there's the same thing. She is a moabitess. "'Go back to your family.

Go back to where you're from. Go back to where security is.'" "'No,' she says, "'and treat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee. For where thou goest I will go, and where thou dwellest I will dwell, and your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.'" What amazing rending, pain, joy is wrapped up in that kind of affirmation. And on what basis would they be able to go in peace, save the peace that is grounded in the steadfast love of the Lord which never ceases? So whether they would see each other's face again or not, they would part in the awareness of the fact that there was a forever dimension to this relationship that they enjoyed—a dimension that neither of them could fully comprehend at that point, a dimension that pushes us way beyond the historicity of this scene, and ultimately into the book of Revelation, into a company that no one can number from every tribe and nation and people and language and tongue. And they're all united in the covenant love of God, because it was the purpose of God from the very beginning to put together a people who are his very own. And it is the utterly undeserved privilege of each of us who names the name of Christ to be included in that community. Come, let us sing of a wonderful love, tender and true, and out of the heart of the Father above, streaming to me and to you, wonderful love dwells in the heart of the Father above.

That was twenty. Makes you want to start again and see if you can get it right, doesn't it? But you know, I don't know how it will all work, but maybe we'll get a chance to look around that vast throng and see David—I bet he's standing next to Jonathan—as we do as we said in the song, and we take off the emblems of our own authority and status and cast it all down before the king, who, because of the immensity of his steadfast love, has clothed us in a robe of righteousness that we don't deserve, thereby making it possible for us to go in peace. You are listening to Truth for Life.

That is Alistair Begg teaching about the cost and privilege of steadfast love. Today's message concludes our current study in the book of 1 Samuel. If you've enjoyed learning from this Old Testament book, you might want to listen to Alistair's teaching through the entire narrative, which includes the remainder of David's life. The complete series is titled A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel.

It comes on a USB drive. You can purchase it at our cost of just $5. Find it online at slash store. You can also stream A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel for free online. Simply search for the series by title at or in the Truth for Life app.

When you go online, you'll find Alistair's entire teaching library, thousands of messages available at your fingertips, all accessible for free. And this is all because of our Truth Partners, listeners like you who faithfully pray for and give each month to the ministry of Truth for Life. If you've not already become a Truth Partner, you can join this vital team today by going online at slash truthpartner or call us. Our number is 888-588-7884 and say I want to become a Truth Partner. When you make this commitment today or when you give a one-time donation, we want to say thank you by inviting you to request an engaging book called The Air We Breathe. This is a book that explores contemporary values and shows how they actually trace back to the teaching of Jesus.

Visit slash donate to request your copy. And let me remind you that our pastors conference, Basics 2023, is continuing today and tomorrow. Alistair is presenting along with Colin Smith and Herschel York. You can watch via live stream by going to

I'm Bob Lapine. Ever since the church began, it has been threatened by counterfeits masquerading as Christianity. Tomorrow we'll begin a series in 1 Timothy and find out what is absolutely essential if the church is going to stay faithful. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-09 05:09:27 / 2023-05-09 05:17:39 / 8

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