Don’t you hate it, when you’re doing all the right things, but you still find criticism or even persecution? Suffering unjustly — that was David’s burden. He had purchased his bride with double the number of foreskins of Saul’s and Israel’s enemies than required. He was succeeding heroically in battle against the Philistines. But with David’s every success Saul’s jealousy and hatred grew, until it became murderous. In our reading today David is forced to become an outlaw to avoid being unjustly killed by the king of Israel.
What David does do in the throes of such unjust suffering? He continues doing what was right. Throughout his entire ordeal as an outlaw (spanning a number of years) David never seeks revenge, never justifies doing unto Saul before Saul could do unto him, and never touched “God’s anointed”. There is significant teaching here for us all, because we all encounter situations like this — at school, at work, among friends, or even within family. The temptation is always the same: revenge, grudges, hatred, and rage. But the godly response is always the same, too: do what’s right. For further immediate study, take a look at 1 Peter.
But thank goodness for Jonathan — and for others of his “tribe” that encourage us, when we need it most. Do someone a favor and bring an encouraging word to others — you never know when your words, actions, friendship, or affirmation may be needed way more than you could imagine. If you’ve ever needed a Jonathan, realize that others may need you to be a Jonathan, too.
And, oh yeah, there’s this thing with David taking the holy bread of the Tabernacle as he makes his escape from Saul. David’s actions have often been a point of head-scatching for Bible students. But Jesus references this story in Matt. 12:3-8 as He undergirds His teaching that righteousness sometimes has a hierarchy — some things are more important than others. David’s life and his need to escape Saul’s murderous intentions superseded the rule about the bread for the priests. The life or wholeness of a man was deemed by Jesus Himself to be greater than Sabbath —“And He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’” Matthew 12:11, 12, NAS95.
Now, of course, the rub among Bible students is which commands are greater than others. This isn’t the spot for such a discussion — it could go on and on and on. But I will make note of one pretty important pronouncement by the Lord Himself:
“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘”YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”‘” Matthew 22:35-39, NAS95.
This shouldn’t be taken as biblical permission to try to play lawyer and rationalize sin. Mature Christianity seeks first and foremost to please the Lord — not oneself, not others. In most situations, there’s no need to discern one command over another, but when the occasion does call for good judgment, we need to turn to the Scripture and the Lord’s own examples of righteousness.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.