1 Samuel 19:1-7
Sermon preached on June 7, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
Last Sunday morning Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor, was shot to death in his church. He was one of the few doctors in our country who would perform late-term abortions and because of that in some circles he was referred to as 'Tiller the Killer'. An anti-abortionist targeted and shot him. His murder was a brutal crime that we should all condemn.
Yet not everyone is condemning it as murder. Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines whose publication, Prayer and Action News, said of Dr. Tiller's death,
"To call this a crime is too simplistic."
He doesn't even want to call Tiller's murder a crime. He seems to be suggesting that he thinks it was justified.
Another anti-abortionist blogger referred to the killer, not as a murderer, but as being, 'pro-choice'—in the sense that he made the choice to kill Dr. Tiller. It was a backhanded swipe at the doublespeak that those who are in favor of abortion use—instead of referring to themselves as pro-murder, they refer to themselves as pro-choice.
Such statements should shock and outrage us. Those of us who believe in the sanctity of life should not be flippant when an abortionist is murdered. We should not condone it in any way. After all, we are pro-life. God's Word says, (Exodus 20:13)
"You shall not murder."
We must condemn murder for what it is. We should know that murder is not God's way and that it should not be our way.
But then, how should we respond when the government is wrong, when it does things that against God's Word, when it shows much disregard for God's commandments? Thankfully, God's Word gives us much instruction on this, so we don't have to be uncertain as we are faced with evil in government and its officials.
Part of that teaching is in our text. Jonathan's efforts to save David deserve our strict attention and have much to teach us. Yet, because these sections of Scripture are historical in nature, we need to compare their actions to other portions of Scripture to see if they were right or wrong in what they did—to determine if we should follow their example or repudiate it.
So let's look at our text. In it we see King Saul with murderous plans toward David. He told his son Jonathan and the attendants to kill David. The king was planning murder and ordered others to carry it out for him. Saul was forsaking his God given mandate. According to Romans 13:1, every authority is established by God. But authorities have been established to punish those who do evil and to protect those who do good. Verse 3 of Romans 13 says,
"For rulers hold no terror
for those who do right,
but for those who do wrong."
Verse 4 says that the ruler,
"He is God's servant, an agent of wrath
to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."
Saul had reversed this. David was innocent but Saul wanted him dead and he used his authority as king to try to kill David. Instead of protecting the innocent, he was trying harm them.
The first lesson we see here is that
you must never obey unlawful orders.
Jonathan did not obey Saul's evil orders. Saul told Jonathan and all his attendants to kill David. But Jonathan did not obey his father. He went to David and warned him. He said to David,
"My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you.
Be on your guard tomorrow morning;
go into hiding and stay there."
Again, Jonathan's actions here point us to the wider biblical teaching on this subject. In Acts 4:18 we read that the Sanhedrin commanded the apostles not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied,
"Judge for yourselves whether it is right
in God's sight to obey you rather than God.
For we cannot help speaking
about what we have seen and heard."
The Sanhedrin threaten them and let them go. The apostles ignored the order of the Sanhedrin and continued to preach and teach in the name of Jesus. They were arrested again and confronted by the Sanhedrin. The high priest said to them, (Acts 5:28)
"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem
with your teaching and are determined
to make us guilty of this man's blood."
Peter and the other apostles replied,
"We must obey God rather than men!
The God of our fathers
raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed
by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him to his own right hand
as Prince and Savior that he might give
repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
We are witnesses of these things,
and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given
to those who obey him."
God's commands take precedence over the commands of men.
The principle we are taught is that we are not to give unconditional obedience to men. Jonathan was right not to obey his father. He was right to warn David. We are never to give unconditional obedience to mere men.
The second thing we see from Jonathan was that
he was determined to disobey these unlawful orders even at great personal cost.
Truth and right is so precious. They're worth dying for. Jonathan knew that. He was going to defend David even he paid for it with his life.
Many would say that Jonathan committed treason here. He went to David and warned him. If he was found out he would have forfeited his life. We see this in the next chapter. Saul became very angry at Jonathan when he became suspicious that Jonathan was helping David. We read, (1 Samuel 20:30-33)
"Saul's anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him,
'You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!
Don't I know that you have sided
with the son of Jesse to your own shame
and to the shame of the mother who bore you?
As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth,
neither you nor your kingdom
will be established.
Now send and bring him to me,
for he must die!'
'Why should he be put to death?
What has he done?'
Jonathan asked his father.
But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him."
Saul put his life in danger by disobeying his father.
This is a very important point. Lots of people will do the right thing when their life is not on the line, when it doesn't cost them anything. But true obedience shows itself it becomes costly.
How far will you go to be faithful to God?
In August 1934 the oath administered to the German army was changed. Before that date they swore allegiance to their country and its people. But then it was changed they swore unconditional allegiance to Adolf Hitler. The oath said,
"I swear by almighty God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to the Fuehrer of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler, Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, and, as a brave soldier, I will be ready at any time to stake my life for this oath."
Many people took that oath seriously. Their allegiance to it made possible many of the atrocities of the Nazis.
What would you do if you were told to take an oath like the one to Hitler? Perhaps you'd lose your job if you didn't take it. I'm sure that was a consideration to many of the soldiers.
What would you do if your boss told you to lie about something? I knew someone who worked repairing machinery. They used to use new parts, but then, to save money, the company stopped using new parts and put old parts in the machines they repaired. But the technician was required to sign that he had used new parts. He refused to sign it and the company fired him.
How important is truth and right to you?
When Adolf Eichmann was arrested and tried for his part in the Holocaust, for war crimes against the Jewish people, his defense was that he was merely following orders. He said he wasn't responsible because others had ordered him to do it. Such a defense is worthless and he was rightly found guilty. As the apostles said in Acts 5,
"We must obey God rather than men!"
The third thing we see from our text is that
Jonathan actually helped David.
Jonathan could have done nothing. He could have said, "I'm staying out of this." He could have let David been murdered by others and for the rest of his life he could have said,
"I did nothing wrong."
But Jonathan did something. He took the initiative and actually sought out David to warn him.
Again, this shows us our duty. Psalm 82:3-4 says,
"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
And Proverbs 24:11-12 says,
"Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say,
'But we knew nothing about this,'
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person
according to what he has done?"
Inaction is often sinful. If you do nothing when others are being treated unfairly or unjustly—you sin. You have a duty to help others. As we read in Proverbs 25:21
"If your enemy is hungry,
give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty,
give him water to drink."
Not to do so is sinful. Sin not only consists of doing what is sinful, it also consists of not doing your duty.
But what we should not here is that what we should do to help people in David's situation should be according to God's law. Jonathan went and spoke to his father. He reasoned with him and won him over. Jonathan didn't sin in anything he did. He did better than Michal, who lied to her father after she saved David.
Remember what the apostle Paul said about the kinds of weapons we are to use? In 2 Corinthians 6:4-7 he wrote,
"as servants of God
we commend ourselves in every way:
in great endurance; in troubles,
hardships and distresses;
in beatings, imprisonments and riots;
in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;
in purity, understanding,
patience and kindness;
in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;
in truthful speech and in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness
in the right hand and in the left;"
We are to go out with love, with purity, with truthful speech, with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and left.
The fourth thing we see from our text is that
Jonathan didn't make plans to kill his father, or stage a coup d'Ètat.
Jonathan did not take things into his own hands and say,
"Because my father is planning murder, because he is not following the God given rules of government, I must do everything I can to get rid of him."
Jonathan, even though he did not follow his father's orders to kill David, remained a faithful follower of his father.
Now, this in itself doesn't prove that rebellion against rulers is wrong and evil. We need to look at other passages of Scripture. The clearest is Romans 13:1f. We read,
"Everyone must submit himself
to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority
except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist
have been established by God.
Consequently, he who rebels
against the authority
is rebelling against what God has instituted,
and those who do so
will bring judgment on themselves."
I know that some Christians believe that such submission is required only when the government is good. They will tell you that such is implied in Paul's words. One of the most influential sermons in American history is Jonathan Mayhew's 1750 sermon, "Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers". During the time leading up to the American Revolution, many ministers took that position.
In that sermon Mayhew proved that we are not required to give unconditional obedience to governments. If governments abuse their powers and do evil we are not required to obey their evil orders. Mayhew asserted that in such a case resistance to a tyrant was a 'glorious' Christian duty. That is true.
But what important to note here is that Jonathan did not try to overthrow his father, not then nor later when his father pursued more and more evil. He took no steps to revolt against his father and take the throne for himself or for David. Indeed, he was so loyal to his father that he fought at his side till his death. He died with his father on Mount Gilboa.
So the principle that we take from Jonathan here is that while we are not to give unconditional obedience to governments, we are to give them all the respect and obedience that we can.
Some people know that we are not to obey unlawful orders. But they take it as an all or nothing proposition. Things come to a point where they believe the government has gotten so evil that they think they are justified in overthrowing it. For example, once King Saul had the priests of the Lord at Nob murdered, that would have been enough for some people—they would have been in open rebellion against Saul and they would have felt justified in doing so.
But it's important to note that Jonathan never reached that point. Even after his father had the priests of the Lord at Nob murdered, (1 Samuel 22) he would not rebel against his father. Jonathan remained loyal in all things except the unlawful things that Saul told him to do.
We see the same thing in David. In 1 Samuel 26:8-11 he had an opportunity to kill King Saul. Abishai urged David to let him to do it. He said to David,
"Today God has delivered
your enemy into your hands.
Now let me pin him to the ground
with one thrust of my spear;
I won't strike him twice."
But David rebuked Abishai and said to him,
"Don't destroy him!
Who can lay a hand on the LORD'S anointed
and be guiltless?
As surely as the LORD lives,
the LORD himself will strike him;
either his time will come and he will die,
or he will go into battle and perish.
But the LORD forbid that
I should lay a hand on the LORD'S anointed."
At the time that David said that to Abishai, Saul was in open rebellion against the Lord.
David held that Saul's life was sacred. Even though Saul was trying to murder him, David would not rebel against him. Even when many man gathered around David and joined him, he never marched out against Saul and tried to take the throne by force.
We see the same thing in 2 Samuel 1. David heard that Saul was dead. A messenger came from the battlefield and told David. David asked him how he knew that Saul was dead. The man, who was an Amalekite, said that he saw Saul leaning on his spear, with the chariots and riders almost on him. He reported that Saul begged him to finish him off, as he was in the throes of death but was still alive. The man said that he killed Saul. David said to him, (2 Samuel 1:14)
"Why were you not afraid
to lift your hand to destroy
the LORD'S anointed?"
David then gave orders for one of his men to kill the Amalekite. David said to him before he died, (verse 16)
"Your blood be on your own head.
Your own mouth testified against you when you said,
'I killed the LORD'S anointed.'"
Even after Saul had abandoned the Lord, even when he was in the throes of death, David held Saul's life to be sacred. He would not dare touch the Lord's anointed. He would not rebel against him.
The lesson is clear. We are not allowed to rebel against the government authorities. You are not to take things in your own hands and do evil that good may come. Such things are not lawful for us. They are against God's commands.
Putting all this together we see that the duty of Christians toward the government is like walking on a tightrope. There are so many ways to go wrong on either side. On the one hand it's easy to fit in with what the government illegitimately approves and go along with it. Many people follow the crowd and think that they're innocent because the government says that it's okay. On the other hand, it's so easy to disagree with the government that one sins by disrespecting it and rebelling against it.
The correct path is to respect and honor authorities recognizing that God has established them. Indeed, we are commanded to pray for them. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3 the apostle Paul wrote,
"I urge, then, first of all,
that requests, prayers,
intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone—
for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful
and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good,
and pleases God our Savior,"
Jesus is King. Honoring authorities and respecting their God-given right flows from respecting the fact that Jesus Christ rules all things. He is ruling. Presidents and authorities rule because of him. God has a plan and He is working out that plan.
Nevertheless, the book of Revelation warns us that the authorities will demand that people do sinful things. In Revelation 13:15 we learn that any who do not worship the image of the beast out of the sea will be killed. No one will be able to buy or sell unless he has the mark of the beast. Yet will be an exceedingly great sin to receive that mark. (Revelation 14:11) The ones who do so are God's enemies.
Revelation 20:4 tells us of those who will reign with Christ for 1000 years.
"They had not worshiped the beast
or his image and had not received
his mark on their foreheads or their hands."
As Revelation 13:18 tells us—this demands wisdom on the part of the saints. Revelation 14:12 adds,
"This calls for patient endurance
on the part of the saints
who obey God's commandments
and remain faithful to Jesus."
Those are the key things. This is our duty—to have wisdom, to exercise patient endurance, to obey God's commands and to remain faithful to Jesus.
Your trust in God will never be disappointed. God will never leave us nor forsake us. He is leading us to glory and we will arrive there. David was promised that he would be king and he became king. God keeps His promises. A theme of this chapter is how God protects His people. In it Saul is determined to kill David. But David remains safe. First, Jonathan intervenes for him and saves him. Next it's Saul's daughter Michal. She saves David. Then the Spirit of the Lord directly intervenes and comes on the soldiers sent to take David. Finally, the Spirit intervenes with Saul himself. Do what's right and trust God. That's all you need. May God gives us grace to do so.
Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. What you should realize is that you have a glorious and great King. He is telling you to do great and glorious things for Him—and you're refusing, you're rebelling. You're doing the worst thing possible.
Stop your rebellion. Go to your King and confess your sins. The wonderful thing is that He will forgive you. Jesus will pardon you and give you new life, new missions to go on for Him. Go to Him today.