From Giants to Jealousy (I Samuel 17:55-18:16)
Topic: I Samuel Passage: 1 Samuel 17:55–18:16
Crying for a King
This morning God has given us the opportunity to once again learn from the book of Samuel. So turn with this morning, if you have not done so already, turn to I Samuel 17:55.
II. The Passage: "...And David Had Success..." (17:55-18:16)
Now, last time we were together we worked through the central verses of chapter 17 and learned how David's victory over the giant Goliath was, in fact, the victory of God. God, not David, was Israel's champion, and David wanted everyone to understand that truth.
Now last time, we left off in verse 51 of chapter 17. Verses 52-54 of this chapter simply tell us how the Israelites routed and plundered the Philistine army after Goliath was killed.
A. David's Blessedness and Saul's Acknowledgement (17:55-58)
But this is what we read in verses 55-58:
55 As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, "Abner, whose son is this youth?" And Abner said, "As your soul lives, O king, I do not know." 56 And the king said, "Inquire whose son the boy is." 57 And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 And Saul said to him, "Whose son are you, young man?" And David answered, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."
Now the classic question that always gets asked in connection with these verses is this: "Why does Saul not seem to know David in this encounter, if David had already become his court musician and armor bearer in chapter 16?"
But notice the question Saul is asking here, over and over. It isn't "Who is this young man?". No, it's "Whose son are you? Who is this young man's father?". Now why would Saul be asking this question?
Well, it isn't exactly clear. One of the clues we have from the text is in verse 25 of chapter 17. Scan over or flip back to verse 25. We read there:
And the men of Israel said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father's house free in Israel."
So Saul promised that any man who killed Goliath would be rewarded handsomely. And one of the rewards was freedom for that man and all of his father's household. The kind of freedom offered here is not specified, but it was probably freedom from taxation and any other royal obligations to which the Israelites were held.
So in asking about David's father, Saul may be asking this in reference to his promised prize. Or he might be asking about David's father in order to confirm that David is in fact an Israelite and that he is from a respectable family. But we also have to link these verses with what we read in 18:2...And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house.
What we see here is that Saul recognizes something unique about David. He recognizes what chapter 16 has already stated: the Lord was with this young man. David's blessedness sticks out like a sore thumb. This may be another reason Saul wants to know about David's father.
Saul had heard Jesse's name back in chapter 16, but I suspect some time has elapsed since David first came to Saul's court. We know from verse 15 of this chapter that David was going back and forth from Saul to Bethlehem. I would guess that David probably got lost in the mix after a little while; just another young man who was intermittently in the king's court. But now Saul wants to keep David with him permanently.
We know from the end of chapter 14 that this was Saul's policy: (14:52) And when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he attached him to himself.
Again, David's blessedness sticks out like a sore thumb.
B. David's Blessedness and Jonathan's Acknowledgement (18:1-4)
But Saul is not the only who notices this. Look at verses 1-4 of chapter 18:
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
We cannot miss the profound nature of what is happening here. Remember who Jonathan is. Jonathan is Saul's son. Jonathan is the prince of Israel. As far as he knows, he is next in line for the throne.
But we learn here that after David defeats Goliath, "the soul", verse 1, "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." Right away, Jonathan feels an intense kinship with David, maybe because in David, he sees a man who possesses the kind of faith Jonathan himself is striving to obtain.
Remember how Jonathan's faith was displayed in chapter 14, when he and his armor bearer went and attacked the Philistines? In chapter 13 it was Jonathan who launched a surprise attack against the Philistines.
Why Jonathan did not step out against Goliath is not clear. But what is clear is that when David's demonstrates his faith and faces Goliath, Jonathan takes notice.
And what he does next is remarkable. He makes a covenant with David. He makes a covenant and then gives him (verse 4) his robe, "and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt."
Remember, Jonathan is the prince of Israel. Most princes would see a guy like David as a threat to his family, as a rival. For the prince of Israel to give another man all of these things as tokens of a covenant, it appears this an expression of Jonathan giving his allegiance to David. It appears that Jonathan also recognized David's blessedness.
C. David's Blessedness and the People's Acknowledgement (18:5-7)
Keep all that in mind and look at verses 5-7: And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants.6 As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. 7 And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, "Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands."
Now when it says "the Philistine" in verse 6, it probably is using the singular to refer to the Philistines in general, and not just Goliath. Seeing this as a reference to Goliath doesn't make sense in light of verse 5, and it would be strange that "women" from "all the cities of Israel" would be singing a song that mentions David's name if it had only been a matter of hours or days since Goliath was killed.
No, David has been "successful", as it says in verse 5, David has been "successful" wherever Saul has sent him; in all of his military exploits as the leader of Saul's men of war. This is why the women are singing.
So not only has the king recognized David's blessedness, not only has the prince recognized David's blessedness, but the people of Israel have also recognized that God's hand is on this young man.
D. David's Blessedness and Saul's Jealousy (18:8-13)
But it is this recognition, the recognition of the people, that lights a fuse in Saul's heart. Look at verse 8:
8 And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?" 9 And Saul eyed David from that day on. 10 The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand.
11 And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David evaded him twice.12 Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13 So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the people.
Now, at this point, we need to remind ourselves of what Samuel said to Saul back in chapter 15. After Saul once again failed to obey God, Samuel told him this in 15:28: "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you."
Can you imagine hearing those words? I would guess those words have been hanging in Saul's mind like a dark cloud. I would guess those words have been haunting him ever since Samuel spoke them. So it makes sense that when Saul hears the women's song, whether they meant anything by it or not, he immediately suspects that David is the man who will take his kingdom away from him.
So when the harmful spirit once again came upon Saul, David's music no longer brings him relief. Instead, the music simply seems to remind Saul of his suspicions about David. Maybe the music reminds him of the women's song. What's clear is this jealousy and fear of David, in combination with the oppression of the harmful spirit, drives Saul to violence. He tries to kill David, two times, but fails in both instances.
But if Saul cannot kill David, he can get him out of the royal court and put him in a high-risk position as the commander of a thousand men in the Israelite army. Maybe, just maybe, David will be taken care of by a Philistine arrow or sword.
D. David's Blessedness (Summarizing Reactions)(18:14-16)
And if we look at the next two verses in chapter 18, verses 14 through 16, we simply find yet another confirmation of David's blessedness. These verses are just summarizing the different reactions to David's blessedness, the reactions we just encountered in the first thirteen verses of chapter 18. Look at verse 14...
And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. 15 And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them. [which is simply a way of describing his military leadership... "went out" to fight, and "came in" from the battle.]
III. Perspective: To Suffer Unjustly
Now, at this point we need to stop and think about the main point of this section. And it should be quite clear by this time that the main point has something to do with David's blessedness. Two times in this verses, in verse 12 and verse 14, two times we are told "the Lord (YHWH) was with David".
But when step back and look at the section as a whole, I think we can say that David's blessedness is part of a larger issue here.
Because Saul the king, Jonathan the prince, and not just some, but "all" of the people have acknowledged David's blessedness, it becomes absolutely clear that Saul's fear of David has no justifiable basis.
There is no reason for Saul to react the way he does. David has done him no harm. In fact, David has not only brought him relief as his music therapist, but he has also strengthened Saul's kingship by bringing him victory after victory over the Philistines.
You see, in this section we find the moment in time when Saul turns against David. And the reason this moment is so important is that Saul's jealousy and fear of David will be what drives the action for the rest of I Samuel. And because that's true, the author of Samuel wants his readers to know that David's suffering is the suffering of an innocent man.
We don't know if David is talking about Saul here, but listen to how David explains this kind of suffering in Psalm 109:
Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. 3 They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. 4 In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. 5 So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. (Psalm 109:1-5)
What wrong had David committed again Saul? None. How much good had David done for Saul. Quite a bit. And yet, Saul tries to kill him.
Have you ever suffered without cause? Have you ever been stung by accusations, or slander, or been alienated, or in some way treated unfairly, even though you did nothing wrong? God's word confirms that this kind of suffering does and will take place. Listen to how Peter encourages those who find themselves in a situation similar to David's, those who are servants dealing with difficult masters. I Peter 2:18-23:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
When you look at both the book of Samuel and the Psalms, you discover time and time again that David is doing this very thing: he is entrusting himself to the One who judges justly.
In the same way, what we learn about David here should affect our perspective. God's blessedness in our life does not mean a life free from suffering. No, it's just the opposite. Over and over again, God's word tells us that His blessings, His presence with us, His mark on our lives often brings us greater suffering. That's what we're beginning to see with David here.
And like David, more importantly, like Christ, we need to face that suffering, not with surprise or fear or bitterness, but with faith that God knows and will take care of everything.
IV. Practice: The Dangers of Jealousy
But at the same time, I think we also can learn a lot here from Saul as well.
Even though the word is not used in this passage, it's clear that the spark that lights Saul's fuse in this account is the spark of jealousy. David goes from battling the giant for Saul in chapter 17 to battling the jealousy of Saul in chapter 18.
And God's word warns us quite consistently about jealousy:
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (Prov 27:4)
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Romans 13:13)
...For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh...? (I Corinthians 3:3)
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy... (Galatians 5:19, 20a)
Brothers and sisters, God wants to warn us about jealousy this morning. Have you ever found yourself filled with jealousy? Are you, even this morning, jealous of someone else, jealous of what they've done, or what they have?
Look back with me at verses 8-12 and let's think about what God teaches us here about jealousy.
Number one, we see from the verse 8 that jealousy always begins with comparisons. (8a)
And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands...
Jealousy always begins with comparing ourselves to someone else. "He or she has that much, but I only have this much." There is hardly ever any good that comes from comparing ourselves with others. When we find ourselves starting to compare, we need to slam on the brakes before we go over the embankment of jealousy.
Number two, we are reminded from that final phrase in verse 8 that jealousy usually leads to fearful speculations. (8b)
Saul said to himself, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?"
When jealousy gets a foothold in our lives, it is always fed by fear; fear that we are missing out, but also fear that we will eventually be left behind, eclipsed, forgotten, rejected. Jealousy is always very slippery slope.
Number three, verse 9 shows us how jealousy causes us to look differently at people. (9)
We read in verse 9 that Saul eyed David from that day on.
Jealousy is not simply about something we do not have, like recognition or success or some kind of material possession. No, it is more so about the person who has what we do not have. We cannot simply say, "Oh, well I like her, but I'm just jealous of her relationship with her husband" or "Oh no, it's nothing again him, I'm just jealous in regard to the promotion he received." No, it doesn't work that way.
Jealousy always colors the way we see another person. Like Saul, jealousy moves people from the category of being a recipient of our love to being a recipient of our suspicions. You cannot love another person with God's love if you are jealous of them.
Number four, verses 10 and 11 reveal that jealousy can lead to indifference, or worse, hostility. (10, 11)
Because jealousy always colors the way we see the other person, if we do not address our hearts, then jealousy will lead to some sort of active disdain for the other. We might not hurl a spear at someone, but we may find ourselves short-tempered with that person or overly critical or we may try to push them out of our life altogether; neglect, indifference, distance.
Jealousy unchecked always breeds contempt.
Finally, number five, in the context, verse 12 teaches us that jealousy is often an indictment against God himself, that His blessings are misdirected. (12)
We read in verse 12 that Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.
Isn't it interesting that Saul himself recognized that David was blessed by the presence and favor of God? But his reaction to that recognition is disturbing. He doesn't give praise to God. He doesn't give thanks. He isn't happy for David. Like Jonathan, he doesn't want to be closer to David. No...he's afraid. He's afaid.
Now, sometimes we are jealous of those who are living in sin because of their sin. But in those cases, the issue is not as much about jealousy, as it is about something in us like greed or lust.
But in almost every other case, whether we know it or not, jealousy is an acknowledgement of God's blessing in someone' s life. The problem is, we've concluded that such a blessing is misdirected. "You've got it all wrong, God. He didn't deserve that promotion. She didn't need that loving relationship. He shouldn't have that kind of house or that kind of talent. Their kids shouldn't go to that kind of school or have those kinds of grades. They shouldn't get along that well. He doesn't deserve a friend like that...WHAT ABOUT ME...WHAT DO I GET?"
Instead of being content with what we have, instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice, instead of being happy for others, or giving praise to God, or directing others back to God's grace and goodness, when we are jealous, we are putting God on trial and calling into question whether or not God really does know what's best for us.
"WHAT ABOUT ME...WHAT DO I GET?"
Even the faintest glow of the embers of jealousy in our heart should lead us quickly to question where our focus is directed. David's blessedness should not have inspired jealousy in Saul. David's blessedness should have inspired humility and repentance. It should have driven Saul to his knees.
When we are wrestling with jealousy, we need to go back and tell ourselves, not simply, "Oh, I should be happy for that person." We should remind ourselves that the real issue is what we believe about God and his goodness to us.
But...how can we be sure that God always does know what's best for us? How can we be sure that He will give us what we need, when we need it? Sometimes our circumstances, our pain, our frustration, or despair, sometimes these convince us that God has made a mistake OR mistakenly overlooked our situation.
Listen again to what Peter told his audience, which included those servants who were struggling with difficult masters. Peter writes...And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will [not might or could...no, the God of all grace will] himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (I Peter 5:10)
Because of Jesus Christ, because of the cross, we can sure that God will always bless us with what we need, when we need it. Even if the blessing is some kind of trial through which God is refining our faith.
The promises of God, confirmed by the cross, are always the perfect antidote for the poison of jealousy.
May God keep us from jealousy as He keeps us close to Jesus.