By Lori Rodeheaver
David and Jonathan have spoken privately and David is to wait as Jonathan goes to find out his father’s intentions. Because David trusts Jonathan with his life, he listens to him and goes and hides while Jonathan heads to the new moon feast and sits down with Saul.
So David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food. 25 The king sat on his seat, as at other times, on the seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, but David’s place was empty.~1 Samuel 20:24-25
Although it was likely a very large feast, the text gives the impression that this is an elite table of big heads. It seems that this table was meant for only four men – Saul, Jonathan, David, and Abner. A few things are notable: 1. Saul sat with his back to the wall. He was as paranoid as he was guilty and insecure. Sin makes us unstable. 2. Saul’s right hand man was neither his militarily courageous and honorably proven son, Jonathan, nor David who had also proven himself as such. No. Saul’s right hand man was Abner – his uncle who was a traitor and whose ambition really was for Saul’s throne. Sin makes us stupid. 3. David appeared to be extremely highly esteemed in Saul’s house. Sin makes us inauthentic.
Let’s see what happens when David plays hooky.
Yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him. He is not clean; surely he is not clean.” 27 But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” 28 Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.”
30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “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? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” 32 Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. 34 And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him. ~1 Samuel 20:26-34
When one man is absent from a four man table, he’s bound to be missed. Saul gives David one day. He chalks the first “offense” up to life’s unpredictable circumstances. But the second day, Saul really does begin to wonder. Keep in mind that this is a man sitting with his back tot he wall. He’s outrageously fearful, suspicious, and insecure even without this unknown cropping into his life.
Saul asks Jonathan where David is. David was right – Saul was paying attention to their allegiance to one another. He knew that if anyone knew David’s story, it would be Jonathan.
But Jonathan lies to protect David. It doesn’t matter how valid the excuse for David’s absence was, when Saul realizes that his evil plans have been frustrated, he becomes irate. Not only does he lose his temper uncontrollably, he turns on Jonathan and blames him for his own frustration and disappointment.
First, Saul begins to name-call. He tears down Jonathan’s character calling him, in modern terms, a son of a whore, a traitor, and a fool. Many a man’s rage begins with a flurry of profanity.
Next, he curses David’s whole family pretending that his concern was for Jonathan’s advantage. He’s trying to get Jonathan on board with is murderous intentions. He’s reminding Jonathan of what’s in it for him if he would just compromise and cooperate. More accurately, he’s warning Jonathan about what he will lose if he does not comply. Oh, how the Enemy loves to remind us of the pleasures of sin without warning us of its consequences!
No matter what Saul says or does to hurt him, Jonathan won’t budge. He isn’t like Saul. He doesn’t care about the throne and he isn’t looking out for number one. He loves David and he tenaciously defends his friend in the face of evil and injustice.
Because of Jonathan’s stubborn resistance to do evil, Saul rages at him just as he did David. His own son is now a victim of his homicidal temper tantrums. What a sad excuse for a father, a leader, and king. Oh, I forgot, he’s a human.
Little wonder why the text tells us that Jonathan was mad. He wasn’t just mad, he left that episode in “fierce anger.” So fierce, in fact, that he couldn’t even eat. It wasn’t every day that a spread like the new moon festival brought would be laid out. Yet Jonathan is livid and his appetite is for justice, not physical satiation. Those who are most engaged in righteousness are least invested in worldliness.
Not only is he fiercely angry over his father’s sin and lack of reason, but he is also deeply disappointed and grieved. He is disappointed because he had so genuinely believed better things about his father. He had truly been convinced of his uprightness regarding this situation. He is grieved because he has finally come to the awful realization that his father is indeed a cold-blooded killer who will stop at nothing to extinguish his best friend’s life.
Ironically , that which Saul accuses David of trying to steal from Jonathan, he himself attempts to snuff out entirely. If David gains the throne, Jonathan will be a subject, but if Saul murders Jonathan, will he then be a king?! Certainly not! ”What fools and savage beasts and worse does anger make men.” ~Matthew Henry
As I wrote yesterday, Jonathan is a type of Christ in this account. As David trusts him and hides in the field, we ought to trust Christ and hide in him while the Father’s wrath is certain to rage against us. Let us remember that wicked men bent on destruction are often paranoid. They are insecure, guilty, fearful, and suspicious – especially when things do not go exactly according to their evil plans. When those evil plans become frustrated by God’s sovereign plans, all hell breaks loose and flies out of their hearts in the form of uncontrolled rage, anger, profanity, character defamation, and brawling. And all of us, at one point or another, are wicked men.
Therefore, these works of the flesh ought to make us fiercely angry. They ought to disappoint us, grieve us and give us a ravenous appetite for rectification. Likewise, physical satiation ought to lose its luster as we aggressively pursue righteousness wholeheartedly. Our attitude against sin must be as hard-nosed and tenacious as Jonathan’s attitude against his father’s sick sword – even when we, personally, are physically and emotionally hungrier than we’ve ever been.
Finally, David, too, is a type of Christ, and he demonstrates here for us how during the time of Christ’s earthly absence, we are called to stand up to evil like his beloved friend Jonathan so faithfully did. Let us never forget that the sin we defend so desperately and allow to remain will doubtless be the very sin that wreaks havoc on the self-centered fear we’re seeking to avoid.