Sabbath Reflection for Friday, 23 January 2015
As a recap, here’s what we know so far from Samuel:
- Israel asked for a king, but not a king like Yahweh commanded (see Deuteronomy 17:5).
- Saul was chosen to be king, but had a faithless heart. He failed king-kindergarten, in other words.
- Jonathan, his son, knows Saul, his father, has been rejected by Yahweh, yet Jonathan doesn’t attempt to seize the kingdom himself.
- Jonathan, brimming with faith and trust in Yahweh’s choice for king, binds himself willingly to the new king, David, and crowns him in the first “gay passage” we’ve seen in 1 Samuel 18.
Saul should have been doing this. Saul should’ve stepped down and looked for Yahweh’s choice for king, and should’ve crowned him. Saul refuses. The son yet again shows the kind of faith the father never had. The son allows Yahweh’s agenda to determine his loyalty. Hmm….
This is, in fact, a scandalous text. But it is not a sexual scandal at all. Jonathan’s actions defy all earthly logic and certainly all ancient practice. No crown prince ever gave up the throne. Why should he? But this one does. David is Yahweh’s chosen, Jonathan knows it, and for that reason alone loves David but—and this is clear from the remaining chapters—they genuinely become the best of friends.
Saul has previously lost the kingdom (chapter 15), his health (16), Israel’s respect (17), and now loses his son.
But wait, that’s not all!
In 18:6-16, Saul loses Israel’s love and his own self-respect, standing “in fearful awe” of David not only because of David’s military prowess, but also because “all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before him” like a king ought.
And again, there’s more!
Having lost his son, and Israel’s love, and his own self-respect, he now loses his daughter to David. 18:17-19 records Saul trying to save his dynasty by manipulating his oldest daughter into marriage with David. It doesn’t work. Then, 18:20 records not manipulation, but self-giving love from another of Saul’s daughters:
Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David….
This pleases Saul, but only because, as Saul put it:
“Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him” (18:21).
To David, Saul has now lost:
- his kingdom
- his health
- his respect, and the love and admiration of the people
- his son
- and his daughter
What more can a man lose? Turns out, nothing more. Saul is finished. He knows it.
1 Samuel 19: Saul tries to kill David
At this point, considering all that we have seen in context (and context, and more context!), what would you expect except for Jonathan to help his friend and King, David?
1 Samuel 20: Jonathan Warns David
(20:2), Jonathan betrays blood in favor of faith, agreeing to turn traitor to Saul.
(20:17), Jonathan and David swear an oath, for Jonathan “loved him as he loved his own soul.”
(20:30), Saul realizes his betrayal, saying to Jonathan a wonderful contender for all-time greatest Bible insults:
“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? For as long as the son of Jesse (David) lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established.”
If the reason Jonathan and David were close was a sexual love, this was the time for Saul to say it. He doesn’t. Instead, he chooses the only “sin” of which Jonathan was guilty: political insurrection.
Later, in 20:41, Jonathan and David “kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most,” but it is not their sexuality in question here. It’s worth pointing out that, in another day and age long gone, this passage never caused an eyebrow to lift. When I lived overseas, I was regularly greeted with such “kisses” from men and women. I hated it. You didn’t do that in the American South where I was raised.
Men were once able to weep together and love one another—using such language, too—and not be homosexual. No longer. When men go into battle and serve in the armed forces, you can still see such friendship that is entirely heterosexual in nature. This tradition—this “band of brothers”—is a reflection of a deep truth that many will never understand and Proverbs 18:24 puts in a sound-byte and perfectly reflects the dynamic between Saul, Jonathan, and David:
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Saul has been abandoned. He’s lost everything there is to lose. It has all been handed over to David. All that Saul loses, David receives. All Saul hoped to establish by his own hand, David receives from the hand of Yahweh.
The principle and dynamic here is clear:
If you oppose Yahweh, he will oppose you. If you stand against him, he will stand against you, and whatever you hoped to gain will be given to another, for Yahweh will himself establish his Anointed.
Now, I said at the top that this passage is part of the historic story showing what happens when you oppose Yahweh. That’s the overarching plot, and I stick by it. However, the sub-plot shows how it is always the man of God’s choosing (rather than our choosing) who receives the kingdom. This man was David. It was to David and his seed that the promise came of a forever-kingdom. David’s greater son, Jesus, becomes the true lion of Judah and will one day receive the kingdom in full. This is undeniable. The plot lines of Samuel do not showcase God’s approval of gay-love. Context. Context. Context. Instead, they point to a consistent message of all Scripture:
Jesus has been given a kingdom, and we would do well to resign our own thrones, worship and serve him, and love him, for he will stick closer than any brother, for he has Redeemed his subjects for himself. He is the antithesis of the self-serving Saul, and his Father has already crowned him:
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them… (Col 2:15).
Moreover, we have in the Mark 3:22-34 two concepts that I have often heard divided into separate sermons, but I think should be kept together. In Mark 3:22-30, Jesus is accused of being an agent of Satan because he is able to cast out demons. Jesus says, “A house divided against itself cannot stand, and a kingdom divided will fall” (paraphrase). Immediately after this, Jesus family—potential heirs to a kingdom—come to him, and demand to see him. Jesus’ response seems harsh, but is perfectly consistent with the themes we have seen in Samuel, especially as we have seen the family dynamics between Jonathan and Saul, that Jonathan willfully chose Yahweh’s agenda over Saul’s, and willfully gave up his shot at personal glory for Yahweh’s glory:
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus is the greater David. We know this. Psalm 110:1 is quoted repeatedly in the New Testament to prove this, and the book of Hebrews is clear this is the case, too. Isaiah, Jeremiah—many others testify that Jesus is the greater son of David, the promised King.
Reader, here is your David, the true King of the Nations. Will you set aside your prerogatives of personal belief, your own grasps at power: identities based in culture (gender, sex, race, class, politics)?
Will you crown him with many crowns, as the old hymn goes?
You’ll have a chance to with all the people of God, the Church, the New Israel, in a few days.