Saul spoke to his son Jonathan and to all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, ‘My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.’ Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, ‘The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?’ Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’ So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.
Again there was war, and David went out to fight the Philistines. He launched a heavy attack on them, so that they fled before him. Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. David fled and escaped that night.
Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.’ Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’ When the messengers came in, the idol was in the bed, with the covering of goats’ hair on its head. Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go; why should I kill you?”’ Now David fled and escaped; he came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him.
Here we find Saul with murderous intent towards David because David is proving to be a successful warrior and his fame is spreading throughout Israel. Saul fears he is losing his authority and status; and his only solution is to dispose of the person who seems to be taking his place. This is a story of what can happen when jealousy takes over and irrational fear clouds the mind.
We also find both Jonathan and Michal, Saul’s children, acting and speaking on behalf of David against their father. Initially Jonathan manages to convince Saul that David isn’t against him and to dissuade him from killing David; but he also warns David and ensures his safety. When David’s subsequent success causes Saul to attack David with a spear and again plot his death, it is Michal who enables David to escape by an act of deception.
In all this David follows the advice of his friend and his wife; and continues to serve Saul as far as is possible. David doesn’t retaliate, nor does he attempt to reason with Saul; he simply does what is necessary to stay alive! Saul is becoming the architect of his own downfall and his alienation from his family.
Sadly people like Saul live in our world too; as heads of state, captains of industry, leaders of large and small organisations, even ministers and office holders in our churches. Ultimately they do not succeed but like Jonathan, Michal and David, we need to decide where our loyalties lie. As followers of Jesus we need to do all that we can to challenge unjust plans, to preserve life, to safeguard anyone facing threats, until the time is right for there to be a transfer of power and fresh leadership. Waiting on God’s time requires faith and patience.
Gracious God, it is sometimes hard to know where our loyalties should lie in human affairs. Help us to discern rightly and act in ways that are life enhancing for everyone, as far as possible.
Save us from being the one who further aggravates a situation; but give us courage to pursue your purposes at whatever personal cost.
In the name of Christ, who gave his life for us, Amen.
The Revd Dr Janet E Tollington A retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge