Two Kinds of Friends

I Samuel 18-19

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2020

Today, we are going to talk about friends.  What does it mean to be a friend biblically?  We are going to look at real friends and fake friends.  Some friends are fake.  Jonathon was a real friend.  Saul was a fake friend.  Which type of friend are you?

Several weeks ago, we began a study of the life of David, one of the greatest men in the Bible.  He is mentioned about a thousand times in the Bible.  David began a life of complete obscurity.  He was a complete nobody.  He was not famous.

He started out as a poor shepherd boy in Bethlehem.  He was the baby of the family but one day everything changed.  The prophet Samuel showed up at his house with a bottle of oil, poured it on David’s head and anointed him as king.  God’s Spirit came powerfully upon David and everything changed.  Today, I want to look at three things: David’s Prosperity, David’s Popularity and David’s Protection.

David’s Prosperity

God began to bless David.  David moved up in the world.  He started out as a simple country shepherd, but he became Saul’s court musician and weapons carrier, his armor-bearer.  Then, he became a giant killer.

He killed Goliath and walked away carrying his head. In this chapter, he becomes a military commanded and even joins Saul’s family through marriage.  We are told this three times that David was successful.

Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well. (I Samuel 18:5 NIV)

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. 13 So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. 14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. (I Samuel 18:12-15)

The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known. (I Samuel 18:30)

Why was he so successful?  It wasn’t just because he worked hard or because he had a lot of talent.  It was because God was with him.   We are told three times in the chapter that God was with David (I Samuel 18:12, 14, 28).  God blessed David.  He prospered him.  He blessed everything he put his hand to do.

No matter what Saul did, no matter how many times he plotted against David, David continued to succeed.  God kept blessing him.  We want the same thing to be true of us.  We want to be successful.

If we are obedient to God, we will bless us.  He will prosper us.  Does this mean that the Bible teaches the health and wealth gospel?  Does it mean if we obey God, we will be healthy, wealthy and not have any problems?

Tell that to Job.  He was blameless.  He was godly and he had problems.  He lost everything: his health, his wealth, his kids.  Joseph was obedient to God.

God blessed him but he was thrown in a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of a sex crime and thrown in a prison.  David does not live an easy life in these two chapters either.

David seems like he is on top of the world.  He joins Saul’s family.  He marries his daughter.  He becomes his son-in-law but then Saul goes completely insane.  He becomes certifiably crazy.  He grabs a spear and tries to kill David.

It is bad enough when the king wants to kill you, but Saul was not only the king, he was also David’s boss.  David worked for King Saul.  We saw that in the last two chapters.  Have we ever had a boss like Saul?  Have you ever worked for someone who was moody, unstable, and bipolar? This boss actually became violent.

Saul was not just David’s boss; he was his father-in-law.  Some of us who are married have in-law problems but none of us probably had a violent father-in-law who was completely psychotic and tried to kill us and even hired people to kill us.

David had to deal with people trying to kill him repeatedly in this chapter. He was a man marked for death. His life was constantly in danger.  There were contracts out on his life.  He had all kinds of hit men coming after him

Not only did he have to face death in these chapters, but he became a fugitive.  He became a man on the run.  He becomes an outlaw.  He has to escape out of a window and run for safety.  He becomes a fugitive for ten years.  He never sets foot in the palace again until Saul is dead.

It does not sound like David led an easy life.  We are not promised a problem free life either.  If preachers promise you that, they are lying.  Jesus said, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world ” (John 16:33 NIV).  In this world, we will have all kinds of trouble.  Life is not always fair.  Bad things happen.

David’s Popularity

The second thing we see here is Davis’s popularity.  David was popular.  In the last chapter, he just killed Goliath and cut off his head.  He became the most famous man in the country.  He was more famous that the king himself.  He was a celebrity.

He was a hero.  He was a national hero.  He was larger than life.  Notice the last verse in the chapter.  David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known (Samuel 18:30 NIV)

David’s name was well known.  He was famous.  He was popular. Everybody loved him. The people loved him.  All Israel loved him.  All Judah loved him (I Samuel 18:16).  This was not everyone loved Raymond.  This was everyone loved David.  Saul’s servants loved him (I Samuel 18:5).  The women loved him (I Samuel 18:6-7).

Women loved him, especially the young women, the single women.  He was the teenage heart throb. They loved David.  He was a hero and he was good-looking.

When the soldiers came back from the battlefield, the women do not praise God, they praise David.  The young women sang about him (like he was one of the Beetles).  The danced.  They sang “joyful songs with timbrels and lyres” (I Samuel 18:6 NIV).

People, even in Saul’s family, loved him. His daughter Michal loved him (I Samuel 18:20).  She had a big crush on him.  She loved him and eventually married him.  Now, this is a little interesting Bible trivia.  Did you know that this is the only time in the Bible where we are told that a woman loved a man.[1]  It is the only time in the whole Bible.  That had to count for something.

Her brother Jonathon loved David as well (I Samuel 18:3).  Jonathon was his best friend.  We are told that four times (I Samuel 18:3; 20:16, 42; 23:18).  It is one of the most amazing examples of friendship in the Bible.  It is classic friendship between two men.

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. (I Samuel 18:1-4 NIV)

Four Characteristics of Real Friends

Many have friends but they are not anything like the friendship of David and Jonathon.  This type of friendship is rare.  It is not common.  This friendship was characterized by four things.  True friendship has these four qualities.  Every marriage should have these four qualities.

1) Loyalty

There was a deep commitment between these two men.  There was a bond.  They made a covenant between the two of them (I Samuel 18:3).  This loyalty was dangerous.  It was risky.  Jonathon was loyal to someone who had a death sentence hanging over his head.

He was loyal to someone who had several warrants out for his arrest.  Jonathon was loyal to David over his own father.  He was loyal to David over the king.  David was so loyal to Jonathon that he did good deeds to Jonathon’s children, even after Jonathon was dead.

2) Sacrifice

Gifts were exchanged.  It was a little one-sided.  Jonathon gave David some gifts.  David did not give Jonathon any gifts.  They were not on the same level.  This was the prince and the pauper.

What gifts did Jonathon give David?  He gave him his robe, tunic, sword, bow and his belt (I Samuel 18:4).  The KJV says, “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”

This is not the best translation here.  I do not know when men wore in the 1600s but men these days don’t wear girdles.  Only old ladies were girdles.  Jonathon did not prance around in a girdle.

Why is Jonathon giving David these things?  It was a prophetic action.  It was Jonathon’s way to say that he would be the next king.  He would be Saul’s successor.  He would be heir to the throne.  Jonathon was not only giving him some gifts; he was giving up his right to the throne.

3) Humility

Jonathon was Saul’s oldest son.  He was the crowned prince.  He was destined for the throne.  He was next in line to be the king, but he accepted that David was anointed by God.

He knew that David would be the next king and he accepted that.  Saul never accepted that.  He tried to kill David so what God predicted doesn’t take place. He fought the will of God for his life.

Jonathon should have been jealous of David. He had good reason to be jealous of David but instead of hating David, he loved David.  He accepted David as God’s choice as king and loved David.

He was not even jealous that David outshined him.  Before I Samuel 17, Jonathon was the most famous soldier in the army.  He has the one who had the reputation for bravery against the Philistines.

He attacked twenty Philistines by himself.  He was also a war hero.  After David killed Goliath, it was almost like he was completely forgotten but he is not jealous at all.  He had no thought of himself.  He was selfless.  David was his rival, but he was his greatest supporter.

4) Support

One of the things that friends do is to support each other.  They encourage each other.  Jonathon supported David.  I Samuel 23:14 says, “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God” (NASB).

When Jonathon found out that his dad was trying to kill David, he told David about it.  He told him to go into hiding and he tried to talk his dad out of it.  He tried to convince him not to kill David (I Samuel 19:4-5).

He supports him in the next chapter.  He laid out the case why David should not be killed.  He would have made a good attorney.  In I Samuel 19, he plays the role of a peacemaker.  Normally that would have been a good idea, but you can’t reason with a mad man.

Unbelievers today read this chapter very differently than we do.  If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you can come up with some crazy ideas.  Some skeptics today believe that Jonathon and David were gay.

Were David and Jonathon Gay?

Here were two men.  They are the same sex. They loved each other (I Samuel 18:1, 3).  They kissed each other (I Samuel 20:41).

The strongest argument that they have that David was gay is that he married someone with a guy’s name like Michael.  It sounds like the first gay couple by today’s standards.

How would you answer this argument?  We can’t read it in a modern secular context.  We have to read these words in light of the culture of the time.  There are five clear responses to this argument.

One, in that culture, men kissed other men.  It did not mean they were gay.  It was a common greeting.  Men in the West do not kiss other men, unless they are gay.  In the Middle East, men kiss other men on the check.  It is non-sexual.

Two, both Jonathon and David were heterosexuals.  Jonathon was married and had kids. Mephibosheth is one of his kids.  David is married to Jonathon’s sister.

Three, David committed a sexual sin but his sexual sin was with a woman, not a man.  The Bible condemns him for the sin of adultery, not the sin of homosexuality.

Four, this was said to be a different type of relationship. Jonathon and David were said to be “one in spirit” (I Samuel 18:1 NIV).  This shows that this was a spiritual, not a physical relationship.

Five, the Bible strongly condemns homosexuality.  It is universally condemned in both the OT and the NT.  It calls it an abomination and a sin against nature.

Fake Friends

In the rest of the chapter, Saul’s true colors come out.  While everyone else in the country loves David, while people in his own family loves David, Saul hates him. He can’t stand him.  He wants to kill David.  He tries to kill David He tells everyone around him to kill David. Real friends don’t stab each other in the back.  Saul was a backstabbing friend.

David gets a friend in this chapter (Jonathon).  He also gets a new enemy (Saul).  His enemy is not Goliath.  In fact, it is not a Philistine.  It is an Israelite and Saul persecutes David.  David becomes a clear type of Christ.  He was anointed but rejected.  He was hated without a cause.  What happened to David could happen to us.  Everyone will not always like us.

Jesus said, “you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:19-20 NIV)

Saul hated David that hatred turned into violence and attempted murder.  Saul pretended to be David’s friend, but he was really his enemy.  That was the way Judas was.  He gave Jesus the kiss of friendship as he was betraying him.  Several verses in the Bible talk about this.

His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords” (Psalm 55:21 NIV).

Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts. (Psalm 28:3 ESV)

Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts, they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. (Proverbs 26:24-25 NIV)

Saul told David to fight the Lord’s battles (I Samuel 18:17) but he said that so he would get on the battlefield and get killed.  It sounded real spiritual, but he had murder on the brain.  He told David that he wanted him to be his son-in-law, but he said that, not for good reasons but for evil reasons.  He had a hidden agenda.

We are going to look at what some have called “The Saul Syndrome.”  Many church people have it.  Many church leaders have it.  This was not just some type of mental illness.

Saul was not just bipolar or manic depressive.  He was plagued by demons.  He had an evil spirit.  This was not just depression Most depressed people do not go out kill people. Most depressed people are not violent, according to the Harvard Medical School.[2]  His actions were triggered by one thing.  It was jealousy.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. 7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

8 Saul was VERY angry; this refrain displeased him GREATLY. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David. (I Samuel 18:6-9 NIV)

It started with jealousy and insecurity.  The very next day, he tried to kill him (I Samuel 18:10-11).  We think of jealousy of some minor sin but in this chapter, it was one step short of murder.

David’s Protection

Saul tries six different ways to kill David.  Each way fails.  David had nine lives.  It was almost like he was invincible.  In fact, each time it backfired.  God protected His anointed.  David was God’s anointed.  The Messiah was going to come from David.

Six Ways to Kill a King

1) Saul tried to kill David by spear (I Samuel 18:10-11; 19:10)

He does this three times.  Each time he does it when David is playing a musical instrument.  Here you have David with a harp in his hand and you have the man Saul with a spear in his hand.  You never want to give a mad man a spear or a gun.  What is he doing with a spear?  He is at home, not on the battlefield.

Saul did not need to hold a spear.  He had men to protect him.  He should be throwing spears at the Philistines.  Instead he is throwing them at David, a man after God’s own heart.  He is throwing them at God’s anointed.

David must have had some good reflexes.  He would have been good at dodge ball.  He was like George W. Bush, who was good at dodging shoes thrown at him in 2008 at a press conference.[3] Whatever you thought of George W. Bush, he had some good moves.

2) Saul tried to kill David by dowry (I Samuel 18:24-25)

Saul promised that the one who killed Goliath would get his daughter in marriage (I Samuel 17:25) but Saul was not a man of his word.  He had two daughters (Mer-ov and Me-call).  He did not give his oldest daughter to David.  He gave her to someone else.  His other daughter Michael wanted to marry him, but David said, “I can’t marry her because I am dirt poor.  I can’t pay the bride price.”

Saul says, “I don’t need money.  You can pay me in dead Philistines.  Just kill a hundred Philistines and bring me back proof that they are dead.  Bring me back a hundred Philistine foreskins.  The Philistines were uncircumcised.  Saul figured this was a suicide mission.  It would get him killed.  The bride price will kill him.

This has to be one of the strangest things in the Bible.  David does it and comes back with a bag of two hundred foreskins.  People will do crazy things for love.  Pity the fool that had to count the foreskins, but someone did.  They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. (I Samuel 18:27 NIV)

3) Saul tried to kill David by marriage (I Samuel 18:21)

Saud gave David his daughter to him in marriage.  Why?  “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him” (I Samuel 18:21 NIV).  She thought that the temperamental and spoiled princess would do him in.  He thought she would be on his side.

What happened?  The snare turned into an advantage.  Michal took David’s side.  She loved him.  She protected him.  Instead of hurting him, she helped him.  She actually saved his life.  She sent him out of the window probably of an upper floor to save his life.  He left and fled to Samuel in Ramah, since he was the one who anointed him.

She not only told him what to do to protect himself, she lied for him.  She actually told three lies.  She said he was ill (I Samuel 19:14).  She made it look like he was in the bed by putting an idol in the bed (I Samuel 19:15-16).  What was she doing with an idol in the first place?  Why did she have one in the house?  We don’t know.  Finally, she said that David threatened to kill her if he did not escape (I Samuel 19:17).

4) Saul tried to kill David by the Philistines (I Samuel 18:25)

Saul said, “I don’t need to kill David.  I will get the Philistines to do it.”  Her will fall by the hands of the Philistines (I Samuel 18:25).  The irony is that is how Saul died. What Saul planned for David came on his own head.  He died by the hands of the Philistines.

5) Saul tried to kill David by his own family (I Samuel 19:1)

He used his own children.  He tried to get his son Jonathon to kill him.  It made perfect sense because he was Saul’s oldest son.  He was the heir to the throne.

Jonathon disobeyed his own father.  He disobeys the king.  He commits civil disobedience.  Someone said that this is one of the best examples in the whole of Scripture of godly civil disobedience. The Scriptures teach that we are to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1).

The plan didn’t work because Jonathon was David’s best friend.  That backfired because David now had someone on the inside who could warn him every time Saul was trying to kill him.

6) Saul tried to kill David by hit men (I Samuel 19:11-15)

We are told that “Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him.”  He hired professional killers to do the job.  He hired assassins but even they couldn’t get the job done.  Saul sent then back to try again, and they were still unsuccessful.

[1] Robert Altar, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 118.




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