Today’s reading is a study in where jealousy leads — irrationality, upside-down priorities, and sin.
David was now “on the lam”, running from jealous king Saul. He had been forced to leave Israelite civilization in a big hurry, including running by Nob for a little bread, an oracle from the LORD, and weapons — by not telling Ahimelech the priest everything. This had serious consequences for Ahimelech and his entire family.
Saul was really having a serious “pity party”, brought on by jealousy that had made him downright irrational. He whined that everybody was against him, nobody was helping him kill David, and that David was lying in wait for him. Doeg the Edomite, who was in Nob, when David took the consecrated bread, saw his chance to ingratiate himself to the king by both informing on David and later killing (unjustly) Ahimelech and his whole family — except Abiathar, who escaped. This is what jealousy does, but what exactly is jealousy?
The essence of it is intense feelings of possessiveness. Jealousy believes that something or someone rightfully belongs to me, yet someone is trying to take what is mine! We sometimes use the term in romantic settings, and sometimes it actually is appropriate. A husband or wife does have the right to be jealous, when there is evidence that the attentions and affections that are rightfully theirs are going to someone else. God says that His name is “Jealous” — intensely passionate against sharing mankind’s worship and faith with any other so-called god. In the case at hand, Saul was intensely — even irrationally — emotional about his fame and throne. It belonged to him by rights and was never to be shared with anyone. Saul had lost sight of the fact that any fame and throne had been given to him by God; it was not his possession. One can almost hear him whispering, “My preciousssssss!”
Here’s an important point for us all: we possess nothing — we have been given stewardships. All those things that we believe we’ve earned, we’ve “earned” with borrowed talents, energies, health, opportunities, education, etc. and in that sense we’ve really earned nothing at all. And like all stewardships they are subject to the will and decisions of the true owner. Saul’s jealous, like the ones we sometimes display over prestige or things, was greatly mistaken and led to a foolish — even crazy — waste of time, energy, and relationship.
In contrast is Jonathan, Saul’s son, who seeks out David not to kill him, but to reconfirm his covenant. His words are the polar opposite of his jealous father’s spirit:
“Thus he said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father know that also.'” (1 Samuel 23:17, NAS95).
There’s no jealousy here. There’s no anger or hatred. Jonathan plays with tremendous grace what is said to be the most difficult instrument in the world — second fiddle. Jonathan was the one who should have been jealous; he was in line to be king. But knowing that David had been anointed, probably hearing what God’s judgment on Saul’s foolish mistakes was, and apparently recognizing the leadership and military talent of David, Jonathan was OK with taking second place. Here’s a scary question: are you a Saul or a Jonathan?
There’s something especially noble about David’s refusal to raise his hand against “the LORD’s anointed”, despite the fact the LORD’s anointed was hunting him down. And as David proves his loyalty to Saul by merely cutting off the fringe of his garment in the cave, he quotes an ancient proverb that bears a bit of thought even today: “Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness.” It’s not exactly rocket science, but it challenges Saul to look at David’s works, because you can tell a tree by it’s fruit. If I were wicked, David is saying, I would have done wicked things to you; yet, I’ve just spared your life. So, what is your life saying about who you are? Could we also say, “Out of the Christian comes Christian deeds?” or “Out of the compassionate person comes compassionate acts?” Or how about we turn it around: if we are crabbing at people, we are ______. If we are keeping our things to ourselves, we are _________. If we are keeping the good news to ourselves, we are____________. If we are inactive in the Lord’s service, we are ______.
See you tomorrow. Lord willing.