I Samuel 20

Though the believer be despised of many,
compelled to leave all comforts and part with best friends for Christ’s sake,
be this our comfort,
that we have made an everlasting covenant with Jehovah who will exalt us in due time.

1 And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?

2 And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so.

3 And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.

4 Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.

5 And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.

6 If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Beth-lehem his city: for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.

7 If he say thus, It is well; thy servant shall have peace: but if he be very wroth, then be sure that evil is determined by him.

8 Therefore thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant; for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the LORD with thee: notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself; for why shouldest thou bring me to thy father?

9 And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not I tell it thee?

10 Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy father answer thee roughly?

11 ¶ And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field.

12 And Jonathan said unto David, O LORD God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about to morrow any time, or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then send not unto thee, and shew it thee;

13 The LORD do so and much more to Jonathan: but if it please my father to do thee evil, then I will shew it thee, and send thee away, that thou mayest go in peace: and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father.

14 And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not:

15 But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever: no, not when the LORD hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth.

16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David’s enemies.

17 And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

18 Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.

19 And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel.

20 And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark.

21 And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth.

22 But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away.

23 And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD be between thee and me for ever.

24 ¶ So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat.

25 And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, and David’s place was empty.

26 Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean.

27 And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David’s place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?

28 And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Beth-lehem:

29 And he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table.

30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?

31 For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.

32 And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?

33 And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David.

34 So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.

35 ¶ And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad with him.

36 And he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him.

37 And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad, and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee?

38 And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master.

39 But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter.

40 And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city.

41 ¶ And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.

42 And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.

1 Samuel 20:1-16 – Friendship’s Covenant

   Life becomes intolerable when suspense is long drawn out; hence David’s appeal to his friend. Besides, he yearned for one more glimpse of the dear home at Bethlehem, and to drink of “the well… which is by the gate” (2 Samuel 23:15). The talk between the friends was heart-breaking to both. Only those who have experienced the severance of loving communion and intercourse can fathom the depth and bitterness of the waters that began to roll between the two friends.
   Jonathan is one of the noblest types of manhood presented in Scripture biography. Whether in private or public life, he shone with peerless beauty, as a star in a dark sky. David said of him that he was “lovely and pleasant” (2 Samuel 1:23). Jonathan had a clear prevision of David’s coming greatness, but it gave him no pang of jealousy. He loved his friend better than himself, so much, indeed, that it was a richer ecstasy for Jonathan to see David crowned and exalted than to ascend the throne himself. Love casts out jealousy. This friendship was ideal; and we can only ask that we may realize something of its sweetness, and know the love of Christ after the same fashion.

1 Samuel 20:17-29 – A Friend at Court

   Jonathan most have been strongly tempted to ally himself with his friend, that they might face the world together; but he clung loyally to his father’s fortunes, though he knew that he was courting failure and overthrow. At the same time he stood nobly forth at the banquet in defense of his friend. What a rebuke for some of us! The Prince of the kings of the earth is not ashamed to call us brethren, but alas, how often we shrink from acknowledging and confessing Him when in company which refuses to own His supremacy. We are silent when His honor is flouted, we flinch before the rising storm; if we do not take sides against Him, we at least do not speak up on His behalf. Such cowards are we in spite of our covenants!
   Saul’s jealousy broke out with volcanic vehemence. The king and father abused his son with vile epithets, such as are still employed by Orientals. He demanded David’s instant execution, and ended by seeking to take Jonathan’s life. Truly it may be said of him, as was afterward said of Judas—Satan had entered into him. Be watchful not to give the smallest foothold to the devil.

I Samuel 20:18—Thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.

   Jonathan and David had entered into a covenant, each loving the other as his own soul. Anxious to shield his friend from the wrath of his father, Jonathan discloses to David the plan by which he shall know how matters fared in the royal palace. David’s vacant seat suggests a lesson for us.
   There are a good many empty seats in our houses. Those that occupied them can never do so again; they have gone never to return again, and we miss them sorely.
   Let us see to it that we do not leave our seats in the home circle needlessly vacant. Let not the mother be away at the dance, or even at the religious meeting, when she should be at home, joining in her children’s evening prayers. Let the father be very sure that God has called him elsewhere, before he habitually vacates his place in the evening family circle. Let each of us avoid giving needless pain to those we love by leaving empty seats. But if God calls us away to his service, then for those who miss us, another Form shall glide in, and sit in the vacant chair; and they will become conscious that the Master is filling the gap, and beguiling the weary moments.
   Above all, don’t let your seat be empty in the house of God, at the ordinary service, or at the Lord’s Table. We are too prone to allow a trifle to deter us from joining in the sacred feasts. At such times we are missed, our empty seat witnesses against us; there is a lack in the song and prayer, which cries out against us; there is a distinct loss to the power of the service, which is in proportion to the number of earnest souls present. Oh that there may be no empty seats at the marriage supper, vacated through our unfaithfulness!

1 Samuel 20:30-42 – The Sign of the Arrow

   It had become clear that the arrows were against David. It was useless to endeavor to fight against the force of irresistible circumstances. We are to hold our ground till the Captain, by an indubitable sign, tells us that we may retire. But, when the hour of parting came, the two fond hearts were well-nigh broken. How little the lad realized the tragedy which was taking place beneath the calm beauty of that morning dawn! The birds were singing and the flowers were unfolding to the sun as usual; but to the two friends the sun was darkened and a pall lay over nature. Yet God was leading David forth to lay the foundations of the kingdom of the Messiah, and the two were still joined in God. The Lord was between them, as the ocean is between the United States and Great Britain—not as a divider, but as a medium of communication. 
   Are the arrows beyond thee? Be of good cheer; there is something beyond their farthest reach. God is beyond, a kingdom is beyond, songs of overflowing ecstasy are beyond! Arise and go forth into the unknown. If thou shalt take the wings of the morning, thou canst not outstrip the love of God.