This sermon was preached on June 27, 2021 by Rev. KJ Norris.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Today we are picking up where we left off last week. Last week, as you remember was the great story of David’s triumph over the giant. We were invited last week to see that God changes everything. David, as you know, has been anointed by God. He worships God with all that he is and trusts in God’s ability to move mountains. When we are willing to look at life through the eyes of God, giants do not seem like giants because we know that God is more powerful than any force this world holds.
And today we are journeying into two more stories of David. Two stories which show how knowing God expanded David’s understanding of love and the love that David received. The Scriptures today might surprise us. I think they are ones which are less often preached, but open our minds to the possibility of love and mercy which is beyond what we humans often extend, even we who are in the church and called to a life whose very foundation is love.
Let’s turn in our Bibles to where we left off last week in 1 Samuel chapter 17. Starting now at the end of the chapter, after David slays the giant.
1 Sam 17:57 – 18:9
So, did you catch what is going on here? Saul has a son named Jonathan. If you are reading through the whole book of 1 Samuel in your daily devotions, you may have already been introduced to Jonathan. He is a mighty warrior in his own right. And he, as the king’s son is the rightful heir to the throne. I’m sure that everyone expects Jonathan to be the next king.
Of course, we know differently. We saw two weeks ago that Saul, the first ever king of ancient Israel, has refused to listen to God, and so God has chosen a new king. David—while just a boy—was anointed to be king one day. And we see him starting to live into that call. Again if your reading the daily Scriptures, you know David lives into this call in several ways. For instance, he is writing and playing songs to the glory of God’s name—you could say he joined the worship band—something you are all invited to do, even kids, if you like to sing or play musical instruments, we would love to have you. Talk to Kimberly if you are interested in that.
And as we saw last week, David is stepping up in military service as well.
So now, King Saul takes notice of this young man. Saul has David come into the court and he begins living with Saul. And Saul’s son sees something in David. We don’t know what for sure. We know from other Scriptures that Jonathan knew God so I like to think that the Holy Spirit of God in Jonathan recognized the Holy Spirit in David, and this was the turning point in their relationship, but the Scripture doesn’t tell us.
All it says is that Jonathan loved David. Jonathan loved him like his own soul. And his soul became bound to the soul of David.
Did you catch what Jonathan does in response to his love?
It’s symbolic language we may not be very familiar with so it is worth a second look. Verse 3 tells us: “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”
So, imagine this. Jonathan is the king’s son, dressed in a royal robe befitting his station. And he takes it off and wraps it around David, a sheep herder. In this action, Jonathan is symbolically is saying, “David, I believe that you are called to be king. I will not contest the throne. I will not stand against you becoming the person I know you are called to be. Yes, people think that I will be king, but I see greatness in you. And I will step down and let you rule.”
I know that’s a lot to say in one gesture, but that’s what is happening here. Jonathan is giving up his right to the throne! Jonathan sees the Spirit of God in David and he is willing to give up everything to secure David’s place as king.
And not only that. Next Jonathan takes his armor and his sword and his bow and his belt—all the items that declare Jonathan as a mighty warrior—Jonathan takes all these things and gives them to David. Again, remember, David is a shepherd boy. He killed Goliath with a stone. But here, Jonathan is seeing something within David and symbolically he his raising David’s rank. Jonathan was destined for military greatness; Jonathan was supposed to lead the army. But instead, he symbolically says to David—David, you lead, and I will follow you.
The language that is used here—language of love, the deep love of the soul, language of a covenant made between these two men—this language has led many pause and say, “Wait, what kind of relationship really existed between David and Jonathan? Is this just the greatest bro-mance in history, the closest friendship of all time?”
Many have said, “yes.” David and Jonathan were best friends. They shared a kind of closeness that we all wish to have. A friendship that lasts throughout their lives. A closeness that was a kind of brotherhood.
Others have read this passage and also verses in other chapters for instance 1 Sam 20:17 which says, “Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him for he loved him as he loved his own life.” And 2 Sam 1:26, after Jonathan dies in battle where David says, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” People have read these verses and others and say that the most natural reading of Scripture is to see that the relationship between David and Jonathan was much more than just friendship.
I cannot say for sure. I wasn’t there. But what I can say is that God surprises me continuously with God’s own expansive love. And certainly, we see that love here between David and Jonathan as Jonathan is willing to give up everything he has a right to so that David can flourish.
So David does. He goes out everywhere that the king sends him. And brings home great victory. Pretty soon it’s not only David who writing songs. People in the streets start to sing and dance, rejoicing about each battle won.
They sing out: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”
Now this again is symbolic language. There were not tens of thousands of Philistines in the army at that time. But the point is clear: everyone was rejoicing because the oppressors were being pushed back. Their homes were no longer being burned to the ground. Their sheep were no longer being raided. King Saul and the military leader David were bringing security to the land.
And David was getting more credit than King Saul.
As you can imagine, this did not sit well with Saul. Our Scripture says, “So Saul eyed David from that day on.”
In fact, when you read the next few chapters, you will find that Saul does much more than just “eye” David. Saul turns on David. He sees David as a threat and tries to kill him.
It is always a great sorrow to me that we can’t read every single passage in these long books of the Bible. 1 Samuel is 30 chapters long so it would take us half a year to study it all if we only looked at it on Sundays. So, you have to be in charge of your own spiritual growth and knowledge and read day by day.
But as our theme for today is about how knowing God expands our love, I’m going to jump ahead to chapter 24 and close with just one more story for today. It’s one that the Sunday Lectionary skips but I love it so much that I’m throwing it in so you won’t miss it.
In chapters 19-23 David goes on the run from King Saul. He gathers a group of followers around him and they basically become Robin Hood and his band of merry men. David, like Robin Hood, wins battles against the rich and powerful who have been oppressing the poor in his day. But David has no home. He and others live in caves and are currently staying in the wilderness of En-gedi.
And Saul, for the most part, has abandoned his role of king. He has become obsessed with David and instead of supporting the poor as he should do as the king is spending all his time, energy, and riches in trying to kill David.
That’s where our story picks up:
Read 24:1-12, 16-20
It’s kind of a funny story. Saul has been looking everywhere for David for years. And finally, he goes into a cave—not to look for David—but instead to answer the call of nature. Like many of us who are camping these summer months, he has to find a quiet and secluded place where is not bathroom available.
And instead, he wanders into the very cave where David and his mighty group of followers is hiding. And David has an opportunity to kill him. His men think that he should. After all, David is the rightful next king. Saul has been pursuing him. Certainly Saul would have killed David if the situation had been reversed.
But instead, David shows mercy. David chooses love over vengeance. David chooses peace over war.
David had experienced great love in his own life. He knows the love of God. And from Jonathan he has experienced great love, a love that is willing to give up everything. A love that is willing to put others first. A love that breaks through any boundaries we might imagine. David has seen great love.
And now David’s love is so expansive that it extends even to one who has forced him from his home, from his position, from people who love him. David’s love extends even to a man who wants to kill him.
As we get into 2 Samuel in the following weeks we will see that God calls David a man after God’s own heart. David loves God so deeply and trusts God so completely that even when he doesn’t experience blessing in his life—even when he is forced to live in a cave and flee for his life, even when things are at their worst, he doesn’t choose to get ahead by any means. Instead, he waits for God to act. He stands in righteousness at all times. Yes, sometimes using violence, but only to defend. Only to set free. Never for personal gain.
And it is in this that Saul recognizes David is bound for greatness. Jonathan could see it early. So could the crowds. But now Saul finally sees what was plan to so many others. God’s hand is upon David and he is the one fit to rule.
Why? Not because of his military prowess but because of his mercy. Because his love is expansive.
May we love like David. Love beyond any boundaries the world sets up for us. May we recognize love in all people. And may we show love and mercy even to those who may wish to be our enemies.