2 Samuel 9: Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, taking all his meals at the king’s table.
David remembers his friend Jonathan. He and David stood together in the dark days years earlier. At that time they made promises to one another and David hasn’t forgotten those promises. When David learns that Jonathan has a surviving son he seeks him out. Mephibosheth is lame and has had no contact with David, yet David treats him with respect and kindness. Mephibosheth, obviously, has done nothing to earn anything from David. In fact, as the grandson of Saul, he might still have a claim on the throne in the eyes of some people. Most kings of that era would make it their first order of business to wipe out all his predecessor’s heirs to the throne. David, though, does the very opposite. He returns all Saul’s wealth to Mephibosheth and then gives him an honored place in his own household. David’s action here reminds me of the unmerited favor the King has shown to me. Like Mephibosheth, I’ve done nothing to make myself worthy of this great kindness. And, as David reached out to Mephibosheth because of Jonathan, so has the Lord reached out to me because of Jesus.
Take Away: All the people of the Lord are recipients of the unmerited favor of God – unworthy, but made welcome in his household.
2 Samuel 2: God bless you for this — for honoring your master, Saul, with a funeral.
David mourns the passing of Saul and his good friend Jonathan and prepares to end his self-chosen exile from Israel by moving to Hebron in Judah. He also hears of the bravery and sacrifice of the men of Jabesh Gilead who took their lives in their hands to retrieve the bodies of Saul and his sons from where they were on display in Philistine territory. They brought the bodies back to Israel for a decent funeral. On one hand we have the story of the man who claimed to have finished Saul off, now we have the story of these valiant men who went into enemy territory following a devastating defeat to show proper respect for their dead king. David knows valor when he sees it and honors those men for what they did. Times of crisis define us. We may be able to put on an act that convinces about everyone, but when the pressure is on the real person is seen, for good or for bad.
Take Away: Challenging times have the potential to bring out the best in each of us.
Song for a funeral
2 Samuel 1: “You asked for it,” David told him.
There’s no passage of time between the end of 1 Samuel and the beginning of 2 Samuel. We simply turn the page and keep on reading. David returns to Ziklag after rescuing those who were taken captive and is, I guess, rebuilding the destroyed town. An Amalekite shows up in camp with what he thinks will be received as good news. Saul and Jonathan are dead. In fact, he claims (apparently a lie) that he personally finished Saul off. This fellow was probably robbing the dead on the battle field and came upon Saul’s body. He thinks that having David indebted to him will be worth more than the royal headband and bracelet he took off of Saul’s body. Clearly this guy doesn’t know David. After all, David has more reason to kill Saul than anyone, yet he has twice passed up the opportunity to do so. The bearer of bad news goes out to meet his Maker soon thereafter. David composes a song of lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan. He could have sung of disappointing failure and lost opportunities. Instead, he remembers the bravery of these two men and the security and prosperity they brought to Israel. As the Amalekite learned the hard way, cheering the death of even a deeply flawed individual isn’t David’s way. It’s not God’s way either.
Take Away: As the Lord is gracious and merciful to us, so should we be to all, even those who don’t measure up.
The cement of lasting friendships
1 Samuel 20: God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!
There’s a lot of tension around the palace these days. King Saul is unpredictable and on the verge of losing it altogether. He’s developed a habit of sitting on his throne with his spear by his side. If anyone displeases him in the slightest his glare tells him or her that the spear isn’t just for appearances. Even his own son, Jonathan or the hero of the land, David is not exempt. In fact, both of these good men have barely escaped with their lives when Saul made use of the spear. Jonathan still thinks he can handle his father but David is unconvinced and urges his best friend to test things for him. David’s concerns are justified. Saul’s a danger to anyone who’s in his vicinity, but especially to David. If he’s to survive it’s time for David to run. As he and Jonathan meet in preparation for David’s departure we get a glimpse into the heart of their deep friendship. The bond is God. They both love the Lord with all their hearts. Both are willing to die for the Lord. It’s their relationships to God that’s cemented their friendship with one another. The best, lasting, healthiest, most satisfying relationships have, at their core, God. This is beautifully illustrated in this passage.
Take Away: Where the Lord is at the core of a relationship that relationship will be marked by love.
President of David’s fan club
1 Samuel 19: I’ll go out and talk about you with my father and we’ll see what he says.
Saul has a haunted look these days. There’s no peace for him, but instead, a constant, nagging fear. He has power and authority and a certain kind of cunning, but things are going downhill for him. David is his greatest irritant. David is everything Saul should have been. No one will actually say this to Saul, but in his heart he knows that David is the next king of Israel. Of all people who should side with him in opposition to David, his son Jonathan should be first. In this age, when the throne’s at stake, there’s generally a bloody coop. Jonathan should realize that, not only is his future position at stake, but his very life depends on dealing with David. Jonathan, though, will have none of it. He’s the president of David’s fan club. When Saul signs a death warrant for David, it’s Jonathan who talks his father out of it. Every time Jonathan appears in this story he’s doing the right thing. He fights the enemies of God with skill, bravery, and resourcefulness. He’s a friend to David without thought to himself. He stands up to his father even when doing so can easily make himself the target of his father’s murderous rage. It occurs to me that Jonathan reminds me of one of my favorite people in the book of Acts, the Son of Encouragement: Barnabas. I thank God for people who simply do the right thing. Often they aren’t the ones with the starring roles in life’s stories but they support the stars, like David or Paul. Jonathan, like Barnabas, is a good role model for me.
Take Away: Jonathan’s example of always doing the right thing should challenge and encourage us.
Thank God for good friends
1 Samuel 18: Jonathan was deeply impressed with David – an immediate bond was forged between them.
The connection between Jonathan and David is a surprising one. Aside from some forced, perverted effort to make this into something it’s not, we still see here that Jonathan, who should be the next king of Israel, becomes a committed friend to David, God’s choice for king. You’ll find no better picture of friendship than this one. Jonathan and David stand together no matter what. I guess this isn’t especially profound, but when I read of their friendship I’m reminded of those who are friends to me. I could name names but I won’t. I’ll just mention that across the years the Lord has graciously sent me some precious friends – men who’ve prayed for and with me, who’ve been willing to let me, the pastor, sometimes just be “one of the guys.” Just writing about them today, even in this general a way, warms my heart.
Take Away: Don’t take good friends for granted – they are a gift from God.