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God’s People, part 45: Jonathan

Read 1 Samuel 18:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘That’s not true!’ Jonathan protested. ‘You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!’” (1 Samuel 20:2 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

DavidCarosel04Part 45: Jonathan. One thing I know is true, Jonathan was, at the very least, David’s best friend. I don’t think there could ever be a more loyal friend than Jonathan, who was the eldest son of King Saul. Being the eldest, that made him the heir to his father’s throne. In fact, his being the next in line only complicated the Jonathan and David’s friendship; however, the ties between them were too strong for it to dismantle their relationship.

As we read in our last devotion, King Saul grew to be a very jealous and tyrannical leader. There are a number of reasons for that. Samuel had outright told Samuel that he was going to be replaced, that God had removed favor from him or his household and that another had been anointed and would eventually replace him. That never goes over well with a king.

Then there was David and all of his success. He, as a shepherd, saved all of Israel from the Philistines in a way that Saul could not. He had everything going for him. He was handsome, he was poetic, he was musical, and he was a heck of a warrior and military leader. To put it in today’s terms, David was a rock star! And Saul had to have known that God had put his favor upon David, which irked him to no end.

Yet, to make matters worse, David became best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. We don’t really know the extent of the friendship; however, the Bible says that there was an “immediate bond” between Jonathan and David. Saul initially encouraged the friendship, and scripture says that “Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as himself.”

Scholars have argued back and forth over the type of relationship Jonathan and David shared. The Bible is rather vague in its description of the relationship. The word for love used in the quote above is ‘âhab (אָהַב, pronounced aw-hab’), or ‘âhêb (אָהֵב, pronoucned aw-habe’), and means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise).” It can also mean “to be loved, lovely, or a lover,” as well as to “like”, or “friend.”

It matters not the extent of the relationship between David and Jonathan; what can be said with certainty is that the two were extremely close and loved each other. This love, I believe, caused Saul to grow even more jealous and resentful of David. Of course, that was not always easy for Jonathan to see.

There were many times that David confided in Jonathan that he thought his father was looking to kill him (David). Yet, on multiple occasions Jonathan denied that, and could not come to admit his father’s hatred for David. One such time Jonathan insisted, “’That’s not true!’ Jonathan protested. ‘You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!’” (1 Samuel 20:2 NLT)

Jonathan’s love for both his father and David ended up putting him in awkward places, where he had to both encourage his friend, but also defend and support his father. Eventually, his dad’s envious ire got the best of him and of Jonathan. Long after David had fled for his life, Jonathan stood by his father’s side on the battle field and marched against Philistines, a march that would lead him, his two brothers, his father, and the army of Israel to their deaths.

Like Jonathan, we often remain loyal to the people we love. We hold these people in high regard and cannot fathom that they would do anything morally wrong or horrible. We defend them, even when others claim to be victims of their harmful or abusive behavior. We remain in denial because it is too hard for us to face the fact that some people, including family members, are not all that we hope them to be. The challenge for us is to, no matter how hard it is, view ourselves and those around us with sober and honest eyes. The challenge is to set up graceful, loving systems of accountability so that we can mutually encourage each other in our strengths and guide each other in our weaknesses. This is what God wants us to do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Accountability breeds response-ability.” – Stephen Covey

PRAYER
Lord, help me be responsible in my relationships, and to have mutual accountability built into my relationships with others. Amen.

God’s People, part 44: Saul

Read 1 Samuel 15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Saul groaned to his armor bearer, ‘Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.’ But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it.” (1 Samuel 31:4 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

The BiblePart 44: Saul. Well, we come to yet another character in the Bible that people think they know pretty well. Right? We who grew up in the church, we know who that nasty, no good, wicked, egotistical, jealous, power-crazed, heavy-handed King Saul was. There’s no need to discuss him, right?

He was that king who promised to follow God and then didn’t follow through. He was the king who refused to do as God instructed, but went his own way. He was the one who, though anointed by God, he led like he was in league with the devil.  He was an inefficient leader, one who became increasingly paranoid, who murderous in his paranoia and, let’s face it, the dude totally tried to kill the epic, rockin’, swave David. What is up with that?

Well, to be honest, David really wasn’t as rockin’ or swave as people give him credit for. Epic? Sure. But that discussion is for another time and place. In this devotion, we are dealing with Saul and, as much as we would like to view Saul as the villain, he really is more of a tragic hero. Do you know what I mean about that, he is the hero that has it all going for him, the guy who was on the rise until his character flaw got the best of him and he came crashing down, taking others (including his family) with him.

Let us not forget that, when the people rejected the judges, God led Samuel to discover and anoint Saul as their king. Saul was God’s child, God’s chosen leader, and had the potential to be a great king. I am sure that Saul had really good intentions on the way in too; however, you know the phrase: the power went to his head.

Instead of leading by example and pointing the people to be faithful in their relationship with God, instead of ruling God’s people in a holy manner, Saul became more concerned with establishing and solidifying his reign and his dynasty. Instead of taking no prisoners, as God commanded of him and the Israelites, Saul not only took prisoners of war but he took them as slaves.

In fact, it was that disobedience that caused Saul to fall out of favor with God. One might want to have pity on Saul because he chose to keep the King alive (which would seem like an act of mercy); however, he did so only for his own gain, not because he had any sort of benevolent heart within him. He didn’t spare anyone else but the king who he could display as his war trophy.

What’s more, we need to understand that the Amalekites were not good actors, but were attacking the Israelites and trying to eradicate them. A ruler is supposed to do what is in the best interest of his/her people, and keeping one’s people safe and ensuring their survival is at the top of the list. Yet, in his disobedience, Saul showed that all he really cared about was his own vainglory and popularity.

In the end, Saul was rejected by God and he further fell into the abyss from that point on. David was chosen to be the next King (more on that later) and that literally drove Saul mad. He spent the rest of his years chasing after David in order to kill him so that his sons could maintain the throne, and he ultimately failed. Saul, once the hero of his people and the first king of Israel, died defeated in battle along with his sons, his armor bearer, and his entire army.

While it is easy for us to look at Saul as villain, how much harder is it to see ourselves in him; however, is he that different from us? Have we not been chosen by God to reflect the true king, Jesus Christ? Have we not also, time and time again, let our own vainglory (aka excessive pride in ourselves and our achievements) stand in our way? Have we not sought to take control away from God so that we can be in control? Have we not lived our lives with the motto, “my kingdom come, my will be done”, which is the antithesis of the Lord’s Prayer?

Each of us has missed the mark in one way or the other, just like Saul did. The challenge is to repent and turn back to God, rather than letting our desire to be God bring us to our own demise. Repent, profess Jesus as your Lord, and be filled with love, grace, and the God-given power to transform this world through and through.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – John Emerich Edward

PRAYER
Lord, help curb my pride and remind me of the need to humble myself before you. I am not Lord, you are. Forgive me. I accept your Lordship over my life. Amen.