This is part three of a Saturday Series digging into the destructive emotion of jealousy. Last time, we looked at how Saul let fear cause him to be suspicious of his friend David, which led to anger and rage… all symptoms of a greater sin problem of jealousy. At the end of that post, we picked up the story in 1 Samuel where Saul’s son Jonathan becomes best friends with the object of that jealousy.
Could you imagine if your dad instructed you – in a rage you knew was dangerously serious – to kill your best friend? Thankfully, David & Jonathan’s friendship was real, and neither gave into the temptation to let jealousy or any evil spirits affect their relationship.
Saul tried multiple times to kill David – who had since become his son-in-law – even threatening his own son in the process. Not only did Jonathan not give into that temptation, but also was even able to calm his father’s rage against David for a time, saying “Don’t hurt David! He hasn’t ever wronged you, but only helped you! He risked his life killing Goliath, and his victory was great for the whole kingdom! You said so yourself! Why would you do anything against this innocent man?” (paraphrased from 1 Samuel 19:4-5)
And it worked… until one day it didn’t.
The Bible says an evil spirit came over Saul (v. 9) and he actually threw a spear at David, barely missing him. Gone were the days when Saul tried to keep his hands clean of murder. The jealousy-fueled rage eventually consumed him completely, causing him to become obsessed with killing his once beloved son-in-law.
At this point, Jonathan and David were beside each other in grief and fear. One’s father would stop at nothing to kill his best friend. The situation seemed completely dire. When Jonathan stood up to his father again, a spear was sent hurling toward him in response.
So David ran. Saul chased David far and wide, all the while leaving a trail of vengeance in his path. Others – like the priest Ahimelek – tried to talk reason into him, saying, “Listen, what’s David ever done to you? Nothing! And leave me out of this whole mess!” But Saul didn’t leave them out of it. He had his men kill Ahimelek, plus 85 other priests, and all the men, women, children, cattle, donkeys, and sheep in their village.
Jealousy is selfish and bitter and evil. Jealousy is powerful.
But true friendship, fueled by a pure and self-less love for God and others, is greater.
Proverbs 18:24 says “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Of David’s two friends in this story, which was the unreliable friend? And who was the reliable one?
Even while his father actively sought to kill David, Jonathan encouraged his friend, and helped him find strength in God. Jonathan was stuck between a rock (his friend) and a hard place (his father). Time and time again, he stood up for what he knew to be right and true according to God, even when it was difficult and even when it meant risking his life.
I see that as a great example of how to love those of whom I might find myself tempted toward jealousy. But wait, there’s more…
Later in 1 Samuel, we find out that Saul is once again pursuing David all over the place. Check out Chapter 24. Essentially someone tells Saul that he can find David in the dessert. Saul ends up stopping to go to the bathroom in the same cave where David is hiding. David creeps up beside Saul, while he is in that vulnerable position and… cuts off a piece of his robe. God convicts him and he realizes that it’s not up to him to kill Saul because God hasn’t given him permission to seek vengeance. But then as Saul starts walking out of the cave after relieving himself, David comes out of the shadows and says something to the effect of:
“Why do you listen to those crazy people who tell lies about me? You know me! And today you’ve seen yourself how I could have hurt you if I wanted to, but I didn’t! I’ll leave it up to God to judge you. I have never hurt you and nor will I ever in the future.”
Can you imagine how David must have felt living this out? God essentially delivered Saul – the former friend who had been chasing him for years in an effort to kill him! – right into his hands. Wasn’t he completely justified in taking Saul’s life? Wouldn’t it be self-defense? Wouldn’t it be saving hundreds of other lives since Saul had a habit of killing anyone who sided with David? I mean, seriously?
But God told him no. God instructed David to let Saul live, and David did what most of us – if we’re honest with ourselves – probably wouldn’t have done in that situation. I think this tells us a lot about how we are to treat people who are jealous of us… people who lie about us and try to hurt us. Are we given free reign to pay them back? Or to take vengeance? No. He not only spared Saul’s life, David also confronted him about his sin in a loving yet direct manner.
This scenario played out numerous times, with God delivering Saul into David’s hands and then telling him to wait. Like a giant game of cat and mouse. And each time Saul repented and asked for David’s forgiveness. But the problem is, he never really let go of the anger and fear that took root all those years before.
So what happens to our buddy Saul? We’ll finish the story — and our look at jealousy — in the final part of this Saturday Study.