For God or Family?

Stacy Young
Friday, Apr 28, 2017 | 1 Samuel 20:24-42

Getting Started

Back when my son worked in campus ministry, he shared the gospel with a young woman from a Muslim background. She enjoyed hearing about Christ, and even became one of my son’s financial supporters, but she could not accept Christ for herself. To become a follower of Christ would bring dishonor upon her family and a condemnation from her on their traditions and beliefs. In our passage today, we see Jonathan faced with a similar decision: would he choose to honor God above his own family?

  • When have you had to decide between pleasing someone else or honoring God?
  • How was your decision received? Was your loyalty perceived as being misplaced?

Read the Word

1 Samuel 20:24-42 (ESV)

(For further context, see 1 Samuel 20:1-23 before reading today’s passage.)

24 So David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food. 25 The king sat on his seat, as at other times, on the seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite, and Abner sat by Saul's side, but David's place was empty.

26 Yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him. He is not clean; surely he is not clean.” 27 But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David's place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” 28 Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king's table.”

30 Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” 32 Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. 34 And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him.

35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. 36 And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 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?” 38 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. 39 But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. 40 And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” 41 And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap 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. 42 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.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Digging Deeper

  1. How did Jonathan explain the absence of David at the king’s table (vss. 27-29)? What was Saul’s response (vss. 30-31)?
  2. How might Jonathan’s loyalty to David be considered a dishonor to his own family (in the eyes of Saul)? If David became king, what would that mean to Jonathan and the family line of Saul? 
  3. For whom was Jonathan grieved and why (vs. 34)? When has someone’s word against you been secondary to your concern for someone else?
  4. How did Jonathan’s interaction with David demonstrate loyalty to God’s plan, in contrast to the actions of his father, Saul?
  5. When have you struggled to accept God’s will over your own? Use the prayer prompts below to turn these areas over to the Lord. 

Respond to God

Saul knew that God had taken the kingdom of Israel from him (1 Sam. 15), but he refused to submit to God’s word. Instead, Saul became bitter, jealous, and hateful toward his successor, David, and sought to kill him. In contrast, Jonathan chose God’s plan over his own potential kingship; he embraced and loved David. Jonathan’s friendship and covenant commitment to David demonstrated love and commitment to God, despite opposition. Like Jonathan, we must choose to honor the Lord above all else.

  • Today, pray that God would help you, in humility and joy, to surrender to his plan for your life.
  • Also, pray that God would keep you steadfast, despite any possible rejection or disappointment from others.