Are Our Loyalties Just Hidden Agendas? A Sermon on 1 Samuel 18-20

People that speak before me always tend to not take the full two chapters, so I end up having to do three chapters in one week. Good thing I’m an expert preacher and I can cover lots of ground in half the time.

This week we are going to have some discussion around loyalty and what drives us to be loyal to some people and not loyal to others. Are we loyal just to cover our own butt? Are we loyal because we get something out of it? Is it just genuine love for someone else? What happens when our loyalties conflict? How do we choose? The next three chapters, which don’t worry, we aren’t going to read them all, is heavily loaded with people being overly loyal and people having no loyalty at all . Saul makes promises that he won’t try and kill David and then tries to a number of more times. David is loyal to Jonathan, jonathan is loyal to David. Saul isn’t loyal to anyone. But a proper reading of all this, is going to be to constantly ask the question of why? As we start to unpack these characters and we get to know David a little bit better especially I think we can start to see ourselves a bit more clearer and it will begin to become more clear as to why it’s important to know what we are loyal to.

So remember, David has just killed Goliath chopped of his head and Saul is wondering who in the world this kid was. The leader of his army doesn’t know who he is and Saul goes up to him and asks him whose son he is. So this is where we left off. One of the more famous stories in the Old Testament of this little shepherd boy killing the massive giant from their enemies. So let’s see what happens next.

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. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 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. 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.

– Now if you remember from last week – Saul clothed David in a similar fashion and what did David do? He took it off him and refused the extra armour. Now Saul’s son clothes him with armour and he has very different results.

– For the next three chapters we watch as Saul and Jonathan intertwine with David and we see very different attitudes from them both. This is what these entire chapters are about. It’s about David escaping the wrath of Saul and Jonathan protecting his life and making sure no harm comes to him. So I’m going to jump around a little bit through the three chapters and not read all three, but we’ll see some key points that go on.

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. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
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?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.

– We don’t have to necessarily see this as an insult, it’s more of a celebration. Yet Saul choose to interpret this (and foreshadow a little bit) negatively for him that David is somehow after the throne by doing what he was asked to do and was needed.

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. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.
Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 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. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.

– This is where it all starts to unfold. Saul goes to keeping an eye on him to hurling spears.

– I find it so fascinating that David is sitting in the corner of a palace playing music.

– We are supposed to continually note Saul’s demise and David’s slow growth into kingship.

– Also in this little bit here we have a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, but then also that the LORD departed from Saul.

Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

– David is not interested and has no aspirations it seems for the throne. It seems that he is content and OK waiting for God’s timing on this.

Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.” And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law.'” And Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.'” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.

– First Saul speaks to David about the first daughter, then second he gets his servants to speak to him in private.

– this is the only spot in the entire Hebrew Scriptures where it says that a women loves a man.

– I’m not sure what kind of story can set up such a drastic expectation and fear. Saul, who just witnessed his entire kingdom saved at the hands of a small boy then thinks for some reason that the Philistines are going to take him? Then David comes back to the king and actually kills double the amount of Philistines that he was supposed to and throws a bag of foreskin at Saul’s feet that his servants count out in front of him.

– So we’ll skip a whole bunch here. So you can read chapter 19 on your own. But the basics of the story is that Saul wants to kill David but Saul’s son Jonathan is constantly working on behalf of David to protect him and give him signs when to run or when to come back. At one point Jonathan even got Saul to swear that he would not put David to death. You can kind of see Jonathan as the peacemaker here trying to calm everyone down and reassure everyone. He’s reassuring Saul that David has done nothing wrong and he has nothing to fear and he’s trying to convince David that it’s not all that bad. But then more battles happen and David is more successful and then Saul throws more spears. At one point even Saul’s daughter, David’s wife, Michal has him take off out a window to run away because Saul was on a rampage to kill him. She put a statue in the bed with some goat hair to try and delay even longer. There is one other weird scene where David goes to where Samuel is and Saul keeps sending messengers to retrieve him but they all stay and start prophesying. So Saul goes himself to get him and then he starts prophesying and now his robe and armour is gone and he lied there naked all day.

– The next bit in chapter twenty is more of the same, of Jonathan trying to find out how serious Saul is about killing David, so they do a little Mission Impossible sign to alert the other person in case Saul is serious about killing. The sign is given that involves a child running and collecting arrows that alerts David to the fact that Saul is in fact a raging maniac and wants to kill David. And this is how chapter twenty ends.

In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. And when the boy came to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the boy and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?” And Jonathan called after the boy, “Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!” So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap[o] and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.'” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.

– So we are left with quite a scene. The king of Israel is a raging lunatic who wants to kill the lowly little boy because he is successful at whatever he sets out to do. Not only that, his son is defending him and his daughter is married to him and defended him and was hiding. It’s really not looking good for Saul.

– So throughout this story so far like I’ve said at the beginning we have people that have been fiercely loyal and others that have continually gone against their word. But what I want to do right now is dig a little bit deeper and ask why people are being loyal? I can’t help but get skeptical about the idea of loyalty and what makes someone loyal. Let’s think about this a little bit. Do Michal and Jonathan maybe know about David’s anointing and know that they better get him on their side? Do they see some sort of power in him because he did what their father couldn’t? Do they see safety? It is afterall as soon as David finished speaking to Saul that Jonathan knew he loved him.

Q: Do you see any mixed motives in this story so far about who is loyal to who?

This all should get us thinking about the idea of loyalty and who/what we are loyal to. The more we know about someone and their story the more their loyalties start to creep up and you start to see what really drives them as a human.

I think this is because we are all loyal to something. Whether it be a person, a job, an ideology, a way of life. Life carries on fine and dandy as long as our loyalties don’t conflict. But when they conflict, it gets quite difficult to get through. Jonathan and Michal are examples here of two people who were loyal to more than Saul would have expected. Saul expects everyone is loyal to him – the king. Everything is fine, of course until new loyalties are uncovered that conflict with them and then things get messy really quickly.

This is why it is deeply important for us as Christians to think about what we are loyal too. What we are loyal to effects all of our relationships and our entire lives. If we don’t know and determine where our loyalty lies then we will constantly be having and losing conflicts of clashing loyalties. For Jonathan it was clear. His loyalty was with God’s plan and his relationship with his friend. For Saul it was clear, he had no problems toying with other people’s lives to control his own fate. His loyalty was not with God and God’s plan, it was with himself and his own ego.

As Christians, we are called to be loyal to one thing and one thing only. Luke 14 says:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

This is a question of loyalty. Where do your deepest loyalties lie? Do they lie with the success of your family? Or getting a job? Or happiness for yourself? Or entertainment? Or luxury? It’s where your deepest loyalties lie that will always dictate how the rest of your life will be lived because eventually there is a confrontation where they clash together. For Jonathan it was when his loyalty to his father conflicted with his loyalty to being a friend. What is it for you?

We can read a story about people a long time ago and see God’s plan unfolding and think that it is easy to be loyal to Jesus and his plan when times get rough, but I think we would be surprised at how quickly true loyalty to Jesus will take a lot out of us. It could exhausting and eventually kill us. By the sounds of it, we could be hating our family. So where does our loyalty lie? What does it look

Q: What does it look like for our loyalty to lie in Jesus? Is it just something nice that we say or is it something more?

Let me end with a parable that Peter Rollins wrote and then we’ll invite the kids to join us to sing together.

It is said that there was once a King who fell deeply and hopelessly in love with one of his subjects. Despite the kings power and success he knew that only now had he found his true meaning and purpose, and it was her. He no longer considered anything his own but offered it all freely to her. She was given the Castle as her own and servants to wait on her every need. It was obvious that the beautiful young woman was deeply touched by the Kings passion and generosity, yet he felt unable to truly touch her heart. Then, to make matters worse, she soon fell ill. First with sleeplessness and then with a fever that would not ease.
Despite the best efforts of the king’s personal doctors the illness grew steadily worse. And so, in desperation, he sent out a decree that the one who could cure his beloved of this affliction would receive anything that lay in the power of this great king to bestow. As one might expect from such an offer people with a variety of motives came from all over the known world with prayers, potions and pills that promised a cure. But nothing worked.
Soon the king fell into a deep and cavernous despair. However not all was lost, for one afternoon he received word that a travelling sage of great renown sought an audience to discuss his beloved’s worsening illness. The king agreed to meet the sage and was soon greeted by a kindly old man who looked deep into his eyes,
“My friend, I have no need of treasure, for the heavens above are my blanket and the people I meet on the road feed me as I feed them, but I am deeply moved by your plight and think I may be able to help. For I have seen such an affliction before, a very long time ago, in the one who I deeply loved and think I might now know the cure. Please may I meet this woman who has stolen your heart so that I might confirm my suspicions?”
The old man spoke with a voice that sounded as old as time itself and he uttered each word as if it had been mined from the very depths of human experience. And so the king began to feel hope well up within him once more.
“Please, go now to see her and hurry back with any news”
So the sage went and sat with the king’s beloved for a full day before returning with his diagnosis.
“It is just as I thought” said the sage, “and there is a cure that will have immediate effect”
“This is wonderful” replied the king, “let us waste no more time”
“But wait, before I continue you must know that the cure is a profoundly painful one that will leave deep and lasting scars”
“So be it. She will understand that the best cures are often painful and she will be able to live with any scars, all I care about is that she be cured”
“But you fail to understand my friend” said the sage with a heavy heart, “the suffering and scars will not be hers, they will be yours. Before you came along her heart was already intertwined with another. In all of your generosity and kindness you took her away from him. Give her your blessing to leave and she will heal”

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