A life of integrity is like well-glued plywood. The layers of such lives are consistent with each other. Words match actions. Life in the private shadow lands runs the same way as life under the public spotlight, even under stress. David showed signs of integrity while he endured King Saul’s irrational distrust.
David the giant-killer enjoyed brief favor with King Saul, but Saul quickly grew envious and paranoid because of David’s popularity. Songs crediting David with ten times as many Philistine kills as Saul were the tipping point. Saul slyly sought opportunities to end David’s life, including marriage to his daughter for a daring and dangerous dowry. Saul became bolder and more blatant. Finally, Michal, David’s wife and Saul’s daughter, warned David to flee “or you’ll be dead before breakfast.”1
However, David had a friend in Jonathan, Saul’s son. Jonathan was unaware of his father’s murderous paranoia; David was convinced and knew that Saul was hiding his hatred from Jonathan. David made two statements to Jonathan that demonstrate his integrity.
David vowed again, saying, “Your father knows well that I have found favor in your sight, and he has said, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.’ But truly as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is hardly a step between me and death.”
Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is iniquity in me, put me to death yourself; for why then should you bring me to your father?” (1 Sam. 20:3, 8)
1. David made a vow typical of the time. He used the phrase, “as the Lord lives and as your soul lives.” The vow was emphatic, as if to say, “Jonathan, I’m deadly serious. My life is in danger.”
To swear by someone is to appeal to them as a witness of the truth of a statement; the highest available authority is usually chosen. When God made a promise to Abraham, “since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.”2 God used a similar expression, “as I live.”3 No authority is higher than God and He is distinguished from other beings by being alive in the same way as Jonathan’s soul, for ever. To show his sincerity, David laid a statement of fact about God alongside his belief that Saul wanted to kill him.
2. Integrity means living with an awareness that the Living God sees what we do and hears what we say—and He is our judge.
Some people view deferred judgment lightly, behaving as though it is too distant to matter. Integrity takes the Judge seriously and extends accountability to human companions. David invited the death penalty on himself from the hand of his best friend if any iniquity was found in him. David was so sure that he was guiltless that he bared his neck to the executioner. Human accountability is a reality check on our awareness of God.
The challenge to us is to live with the awareness that God is very real and present; He sees everything in our lives, public and private. Do we regularly welcome the honest and penetrating scrutiny of the Holy Spirit and people around us? Do we keep returning to the Lord for His cleansing so that we remain free of guilt and shame?
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