Powerful people tend to polarize the responses of the people around them. In this chapter the responses of two members of the same family illustrate how this reveals character.
After killing Goliath David becomes a commander in Saul’s army and leads the army to one victory after another. Jonathan, who is heir to the throne and a successful warrior, determines to befriend David.
After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.1 Samuel 18:1-4 NIV
Jonathan did not see David as a threat. He might have known that David had been anointed king. David’s courage and love for God attracted Jonathan. The two make a covenant with each other. We do not know the terms and conditions of the covenant, but we do know that Jonathan initiates the covenant by equipping David for battle. He acknowledges David as his king and presents him his princely garments and weapons. Many times until he dies in battle Jonathan will risk his relationship with his father and his life to protect David.
Saul’s reaction to David’s success was different. Several times in this chapter the sentiment of this phrase is repeated:
When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him.1 Samuel 18:15 NIV
Saul and Jonathan see the same thing. God is with David and brings him consistent success. Jonathan chooses to become David’s friend and Saul chooses to make David his enemy. David never makes Saul his enemy. In spite of this Saul perceives David as a threat and begins looking for ways to kill him. All Saul’s best efforts to kill David and remove him as a threat fail and ultimately it will be Saul who dies.
What About Us?
Who are we most likely to envy? In my own case I have the greatest temptation to envy people I perceive to be like me who are successful at doing what I dream of doing. I do not envy Stephen Curry the basketball player. I have never had any desire to play competitive sports and cannot imagine putting in the work he does to be as great as he is. However, at one point in my life I dreamed of becoming well known as a teacher. This has made it difficult for me to accept others as my teacher in environments where I thought I would be chosen and was not.
I do not think that Saul envied David because David could make beautiful music. Saul envied David because Saul desired to be a great warrior king and God gave that honor to David. We do not have the handicap that Saul had. God had rejected him as king. God has not rejected us. Instead, God is for us. When we desire Him first it is easier to accept that God’s vision and purpose for us are the best. Instead of being an envious Saul seeking to destroy we can become a loving Jonathan seeking for ways to make friends and make them better.