Young David is now a national hero—he’s the giant killer. But he doesn’t let this go to his head. Unlike King Saul, David remains a humble, gracious young man. As we begin chapter 18 of 1 Samuel, he has a new best friend:
The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him . . . Then Jonathan made a covenant with David . . . And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David. (verses 1, 3-4)
When Jonathan gives his robe to David here, it symbolizes a transfer of loyalty to the heir apparent. Jonathan is acknowledging that David will soon be king.
Well, what does Saul do now with David? Verse 5 says, “Saul set him over the men of war.” In other words, David is now a commander.
Verse 6 takes us back to when Saul and his army are returning home after David killed Goliath. “The women came out . . . singing and dancing, to meet King Saul.” But notice what they’re singing here in verse 7: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” And Saul complains:
“They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” (verse 8)
David doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t start humming this song around Saul. He remains committed to a spirit of humility, while Saul develops a spirit of jealousy.
In verse 10 we read, “The next day, a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre.” “Spirit” here can be translated “breath.” This is the breath of God’s presence—and it brings Saul a deep conviction of his sin against God.
Verse 11 tells us Saul erupts in a rage and throws his spear at David—twice! Listen, I would have stopped showing up at that palace after dodging the first spear.
But the most surprising thing here is that David does not pick up that spear and throw it back. He responds with the grace of God, and that is really amazing to me. Beloved, you might be under attack today by enemies of the gospel. Well, imitate David here and don’t retaliate.
Now Saul had promised his daughter to anyone who defeated Goliath, but when the time comes to give his daughter Merab to David, she is given to another man (verse 19). Again, David doesn’t start throwing a fit. Instead, he simply waits on God to work things out.
Then comes this interesting twist: Saul’s other daughter, Michal, falls in love with David. And suddenly Saul seems happy to give her away in marriage. That’s because when David indicates he cannot afford the bridal dowry for a princess, Saul says that all David has to do is kill 100 Philistines. Verse 25 tells us Saul is hoping David will “fall by the hand of the Philistines.” So, what does David do? He goes out and defeats 200 Philistines, and Saul is now forced to give Michal to David (verse 27).
However, verse 29 reports, “Saul was David’s enemy continually.” His envy and jealousy are well known. In fact, we read in verse 1 of chapter 19, “Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David.”
Jonathan immediately warns David, telling him to run and hide (verse 2). Then Jonathan confronts his father, and it takes a lot of courage to speak these words:
“Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you … he struck down the Philistine [Goliath] and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?” (verses 4-5)
Jonathan doesn’t pull any punches here. He tells his father that his attitude and actions are sinful.
Note Saul’s response in verse 6: “Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan. Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’”
I wish I could tell you this peace treaty lasted a long time, but it is not long at all before Saul explodes with jealousy and throws another spear at David. Verse 10 tells us that this time David runs for his life. In fact, he races home to tell his wife, Michal, who offers both a warning and her aid:
Michal . . . told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled. (verses 11-12)
Now although she’s helping David, Michal doesn’t share his love for God. She has an idol there in the house that is used for good luck. Verse 13 tells us she puts this “image” on the bed with goats’ hair around the head to make it look like David is sick in bed. That gives David time to escape. Later when Saul confronts Michal in verse 17, instead of defending David, she says David threatened to kill her: “He said to me, ‘Let me go, Why should I kill you?’”
David flees to Samuel and tells him, “all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth” (verse 18).
When Saul learns where David is hiding, he sends soldiers to arrest him, probably on the false charge of attempting to murder his daughter. Well, when they arrive, God’s Spirit comes on them and causes them to prophesy. They literally worship the Lord. Saul sends two more groups of men to take David, and the same thing happens to them. Finally, Saul decides he is going to have to go himself, and when he shows up, God’s Spirit overwhelms him too, and he also breaks out into praising God (verse 23).
All this gives David time to flee for his life. He eventually finds his best friend, Jonathan, and we are able to listen in on this heart-wrenching conversation as David just spills out his confusion and pain here in chapter 20, saying in verse 1, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” Then in verse 3 he says, “There is but a step between me and death.” Or to put it another way, “Jonathan, I’m just one step ahead of being arrested and killed—and for doing the right things!”
The remainder of chapter 20 lays out the plan for Jonathan to determine his father’s intentions. In verse 27, Saul asks Jonathan where David is, and Jonathan offers up an excuse. Saul knows better, though, and he explodes with anger and throws his spear at Jonathan (verse 33). There is no doubt Saul will not stop until David is dead.
With that, the final paragraph here in chapter 20 finds Jonathan and David weeping together over all that has happened in their lives because of Saul’s ungodly jealousy and anger. Oh, the sin of other people can certainly bring grief and sorrow to the life of the believer. For David, he is now going to live the life of a fugitive on the run for several years, but we know this is not the end of David’s story.
Let me tell you something, beloved. Sometimes people will throw spears at you when everything you have done was the right thing; sometimes life just does not seem fair. Just wait. Your story isn’t over yet either. And one day—maybe not right away and maybe not here on earth, but one day—everything will make sense in God’s plan, and God will make everything right.