One of the greatest embarrassments is to be rebuked in public, especially by a parent. Jonathan had that experience at a new moon festival in King Saul’s residence. David had coached Jonathan to test his father’s true feelings toward him by saying that he was absent due to a special family gathering. When Jonathan causally recited David’s excuse, the tension between David and Saul exploded from Saul.
Then Saul’s anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Therefore now, send and bring him to me, for he must surely die.” But Jonathan answered Saul his father and said to him, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Then Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him down; so Jonathan knew that his father had decided to put David to death. (1 Sam. 20:30-33)
Jonathan hardly knew what to say, except to ask what David had done. However, when a king is insecure, a David doesn’t have to do anything to be taken for a traitor.
Anger is a crack that allows true feelings to escape. Saul feared David as a rival. Oh, he disguised it as concern about the kingdom Jonathan would inherit, but it was really concern for his own kingdom.
So severe was Saul’s condition that he had no answer for Jonathan’s question. He stubbornly refused to face the truth that David had done nothing wrong, that he was in fact a kingdom hero, dedicated to Saul’s service. In rage, Saul lashed out at his own son.
Kings do sometimes get away with murder. Few people have the courage to confront a monarch, many who do so, die. If our fear and anger boils over in inappropriate outbursts, or irrational, unsubstantiated statements, even in violence and criminal acts, they are signs that we consider ourselves kings. If we’re a king, we are guarding a kingdom. If, deep down, we cling to our positions or ministries, afraid we’ll lose them to others, then perhaps it is a sign that we have claimed them for our little kingdom. If so, it’s time to give back the throne to the true King.
Later, after David had become king, he faced a genuine threat when his son, Absalom established a rival kingdom. David left Jerusalem. As he departed Jerusalem, David expressed his willingness to leave the kingdom in God’s hands:
If I find favor in the sight of the Lord, then He will bring me back again and show me both it and His habitation. But if He should say thus, ‘I have no delight in you,’ behold, here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him. (2 Sam. 15:25-26)
The contrast between David and Saul is striking. Who are you and I most like? When every role and position that we hold is understood as a service to God’s kingdom then we will hold them responsibly but loosely.
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