1 Samuel 18:1-9
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David…
One great exploit performed in the sight of two armies took David at once and forever out of obscurity. Thenceforth he was a man much observed. The quiet pastoral life at Bethlehem was ended, and could never be resumed. Sudden success brings rapid distinction, but also brings trials and risks from which the obscure are free. David leaped at a bound into honour and fame, but for that very reason he found himself at the beginning of his troubles. Well that, before those troubles began to press him, he knew the Lord as his refuge; well, too, that he won to himself in the very sphere of danger a loving and faithful friend.
I. JONATHAN'S LOVE. If there was a man in Israel who had reason to be jealous of David, it was the Prince Jonathan. He was a gallant soldier, and here was a greater hero to eclipse him. He had by personal valour gained a signal victory over the Philistines, and here was a personal courage still more brilliant, and a discomfiture of the enemy more easy and more complete. He was the heir to the throne, and if this youth should aspire to rule as well as deliver Israel, it was Jonathan whom he would supplant. Yet in this generous prince there appeared not even a shade of envy. He saw in the young shepherd a congenial spirit - a temper adventurous as his own, with a faith in God firm and ardent as his own. The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David. It was good for Jonathan to find a friend who could evoke an admiration and affection so intense. He could no longer look up to his own father with respect or confidence. In the circle or court about the king the finer qualities of Jonathan's nature found no harmony, no encouragement. But here was one who could understand him, and in whom he could see and admire what a leader in Israel ought to be. It was good for David, too, to find that he was cared for, that his pure and devout patriotism was appreciated, and that he had the fraternal sympathy of at least one in that higher grade of life on which he was now so suddenly to enter. The time was at hand when such strong and faithful love would be very precious.
II. SAUL'S JEALOUSY. At first it appeared as though David was to have nothing but honour. The king obeyed his good impulse, and gave the young hero high promotion among his officers, with the evident approval of the soldiers and all the people. But a black cloud of jealousy soon gathered. Saul could not bear to hear this new champion praised more than himself; and he began to brood over the thought that this might be the man at whom Samuel hinted, to whom the Lord would give the kingdom. "What can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day forward." We soon read of the jealous king trying to take David's life. Oh, cruel envy! No worthiness, no goodness is a defence against it. The sight of good excites it to evil. It is the passion of a mean spirit; or, if it fastens on a character which has some great qualities, it tends to weaken and degrade it. Indeed, no more wretched fate can befall any man than to be filled with envy, and so to chafe and jibe at all who surpass him; to become a prey to jealousy, and mistrust or disparage all who seem to please God or man more than he. How fatal for Saul himself was this jealous passion! By the help of David the king might have recovered something of his lost health and happiness, and repaired some of the errors of his reign. But once jealousy took possession of him all this was impossible. Saul became gloomy, crafty, and cruel; and the more David did for the kingdom, hearing himself wisely in camp and court, the more was he watched with envious eyes, and pursued with sullen hatred. "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" This seemed an ominous beginning for David; but it served its purpose in the training through which God meant him to pass. After Saul was anointed he was put through no such ordeal. The slight opposition which was made to his sudden elevation was soon surmounted, and the son of Kish stepped up to the throne of Israel with very little difficulty. But this was really ominous. It was a sign that God was to have little service or glory from King Saul. The son of Jesse had a higher destiny, and therefore he was tried and proved. His faith was tested as by fire; his discretion was ripened by the knowledge that jealous eyes were watching him; his patience was perfected; his staying power developed through an experience hard and harassing.
III. SUGGESTIONS OF JESUS CHRIST, LOVED AND HATED. As David in his youth, and on the threshold of his public career, overcame the strong enemy of Israel in single combat, so Jesus in youth, and on the threshold of his public life, encountered the adversary of the people of God, and overcame the tempter in the wilderness. Then, as David endured much before he reached the throne, so Jesus Christ endured much before God raised him up and gave him glory. And during that time of his lowly suffering Jesus was, like his human ancestor David, solaced by love and pursued by envy.
1. Loved. The Son of David had the applause of the multitude, and bore himself so wisely that the keenest observers could find no fault in him. Withal he had the power of knitting souls to himself, so as to make them willing to forsake all for his sake. Now this was always a strong characteristic of David - a charm of character and bearing which attached to him many lovers and friends. Jonathan loved him in youth as his own soul. His warriors were so devoted to him, that he had but to wish for water from the well of Bethlehem, and three heroes dashed through the ranks of the Philistines to draw water and bring it to their chief. Ittai the Gittite and others are evidences that David retained this attaching power even in old age. And did not the Son of David, with an attraction which we cannot analyse or define, draw to himself the sons of Zebedee, and the sons of Jonas, the brother and sisters at Bethany, Mary of Magdala, and many more who found in his companionship and favour all that their hearts desired? Did he not afterwards draw to himself the persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, and engage the all-enduring loyalty and love of Paul? And are there not thousands on thousands who, though they have not seen him, love him, and in whose eyes he is never more worthy of love than when contemplated as One despised and rejected of men, "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"? It was a solace to Jesus in his deepest suffering that they who knew him best loved him. How often he dwelt on it, on the night in which he was betrayed 1 "If ye love me keep my commandments" "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father." "The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me." Just as it comforted David when hunted and proscribed to know that Jonathan loved him truly and well, so it comforted the Son of David, that though men might hate and kill him, there were those who loved him truly and well, and whom neither death nor life could separate from his love.
2. Hated. We have seen how David's courage and discretion stirred Saul's jealousy. A man so rare in his qualities, so evidently fitted for greatness, drew after him eyes of cruel envy. So it befell the Son of David. Because Jesus drew to him disciples and friends, the priests and rabbis hated him. Because he was followed by multitudes, the rulers took counsel together against him. Because he answered and acted wisely, the scribes and Pharisees were filled with malice against him. Wherever he went, jealous eyes watched him, and crafty questions laid wait for him. The Scripture was fulfilled: "They hated me without a cause." Pontius Pilate easily detected the motive (no just cause)which led the Jewish Council to arraign the Son of David at his judgment seat. "He knew that for envy they had delivered him." So it is today. Jesus Christ is proclaimed as mighty to save. The world is being filled with his name, and everywhere cries ascend of "Hosanna to the Son of David." And how is it taken? Some love, but some also hate. Some feel as Jonathan did. They are quite drawn out of themselves to the Lord Jesus. He is, he must be, their Beloved and their Friend. And how significant of his greatness it is that he, now unseen, awakens in human hearts a faith as strong, an attachment as ardent, as thrilled the breasts of apostles who accompanied him and women who ministered to him in Galilee! Paul, who had not seen him in the flesh, loved him as truly and served him as enthusiastically as Peter and John, who had. Christians of the eleventh century, like Bernard of Clairvaux, or of the fifteenth, like him who wrote as Thomas a Kempis, clave to him as devoutly as the Fathers who lived within a few generations of the apostles. And comparative moderns, like Herbert, Bengel, Rutherford, Madame Guyon, Brainerd, Whitefield, the Wesleys, Toplady, Hervey, Henry Martyn, McCheyne, Adolph Monod, have held him as precious as did the most fervent spirits of earlier times. Jesus Christ has always known how to draw men to himself, and hold them by cords of spiritual attraction, so that they have loved him as their own souls. Others, however, eye him as Saul eyed David, in order to find fault with him. Oh, what a triumph it would give to a certain class of men if they could only find a blot in the Lord Jesus; if they could show him to have been no better or higher than ether men! But it cannot be done. His way is perfect. His character, however closely scrutinised, reveals no flaw. It comes to this, that men hate him because he is so good. They love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.