1 Samuel 20
The Byrds were on to something when they sang, “turn, turn, turn.” As the wise preacher taught, “To every thing there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This ball we are on keeps on spinning. And God, being awesome, has made it keep on swirling while it keeps on spinning. No wonder we can get a little dizzy around here. No wonder we expereience some tumultuous transitions. It can be easy to loose your hat when things get twisty on you. But fret not. 1 Samuel 20 shows us how to walk faithfully when things begin to whirl.
The Text – A Summary
David was hiding out in Ramah with Samuel. Saul had pursued him there to kill him. But, when Saul arrived in Ramah, God turned him into a naked preacher. Now if you’re response to that is something like, “Say whaa?” then you should have been listening last week. Just look back a couple posts. It is all explained there.
David knew he was in big trouble so he left Ramah for Gibeah to tell Jonathan that his father still had it out for him. Jonathan could not believe the news for his father, who normally told him everything, had said nothing of killing David lately. David hatched a plan to prove Saul’s murderous intent. This plan involved David missing a meal at the king’s table for new moon. If Saul was fine with David’s absence, then all was well. But if Saul was enraged, then Jonathan would know what was in the works. David required Jonathan to deal kindly with him for Jonathan had brought David into a covenant of the LORD (1 Samuel 18:3).
David would hide himself in the field until the third day (v. 5). And that is the first of several references to the number three in this passage. The “third day” comes up again in verse 12 and 19. Then Jonathan tells David that upon disovering Sau’s response, he will signal him by shooting three arrows (v. 20). And at the end of the passage, David bows three times before Jonathan (v. 41). These “threes” are not insignificant. The third day serves as a day of transition and revelation in the Bible.
Jonah came forth from the fish on the third day. Paraoh released his chief- cupbearer on the third day (Genesis 40:20-21). Joseph released his brothers from prison in Egypt on the third day (Genesis 42:17-18). The LORD descended upon Mount Sinai and Israel met their God there on the third day (Exodus 19:16ff). After coming to the River Jordan, Israel passed over into the Promised Land on the third day (Joshua 1:11). And, of course, our Lord rose from the dead on the third day.
David and Jonathan were going through a great transition, and thus all of the third-daying. As you could have guessed, Saul was enraged by David’s absence and tried to spear his own son the to the wall. Jonathan went out to the field and shot his arrows, signaling David that the situation was not good. Saul indeed wanted to murder David. The two men wept. And Jonathan told David to go in peace. He could do so because had sworn in the name of the LORD saying, “The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and they seed for ever” (v. 42).
That is the secret sauce to getting through tough transitions. Jonathan and David covenanted before the LORD. Their circumstances might change. But the covenant would not. The ground might shift. But their sword steadfast love would not. And the kindness David swore to Jonathan was not merely toward Jonathan. Jonathan explicity covenanted with “the house of David” (v. 16). And that covenant involved covenant kindness to Jonathan’s house and seed.
Jonathan could read the signs of the times. He knew that God was stripping the kingdom from his father Saul and giving it to David. And he was wise and righteous to covenant with the house of David. He was thinking of his children. And little did he know that hundreds of years later the prophet Zechariah would announce the full glory of what was coming to the house of David, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1).
David’s Son would be the one to give that fountain for Jesus Himself said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). If you would get through the violent transitions of life, then covenant with the head of David’s house. And remember such a covenant will result in God’s steadfast love upon you and yours no matter the shifting of the times.