Saul spoke to his son Jonathan and to all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, ‘My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.’ Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, ‘The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?’ Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’ So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.
Again there was war, and David went out to fight the Philistines. He launched a heavy attack on them, so that they fled before him. Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. David fled and escaped that night.
Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.’ Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’ When the messengers came in, the idol was in the bed, with the covering of goats’ hair on its head. Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go; why should I kill you?”’
What tumultuous relationships and emotions we find in this story, characters about whom we should like to know more and so speculate, easily transferring to them our own experiences and even prejudices.
Today we read about four people, Saul, his son Jonathan, his successor David and David’s wife, Saul’s daughter Michal. We can learn from them all. In the fuller story we learn that Saul experienced florid, ecstatic episodes, readily flying into a rage, prompted it seems by jealousy of both his son Jonathan and, in today’s passage, of David whose musical talents had often soothed Saul but whose military prowess was perceived as a threat. How difficult it is to relate to and help people who are mentally unstable; how easy it is to turn to others who are easier to support.
Jonathan could expect to be his father’s successor but was eclipsed by David with whom he developed an intense bond – a bond so strong that Jonathan was ready to defy his father to protect his friend. What a blessing it is to have the support of good friends.
David had been plucked from obscurity and had by killing the Philistine champion, Goliath, become a hero, and was therefore perceived by Saul as a threat, with good reason. Did his success and the adulation of the people turn David’s head into thinking that he could do what he wanted and get whom he wanted?
Michal initially had no say in what happened to her: Saul had previously decided that David should marry her older sister but now it was Michal’s turn. But we read that Michal loved David and saved his life; did David love her? She was but one of his many women, regarded as little more than chattels. We can hope that attitudes have changed in 3,000 years – have they?
Most gracious God guide and strengthen us in all our relationships to treat others as we would wish to be treated. When we have been hurt, help us to forgive: when we have hurt others, show us how we have been in the wrong so that we can be honest with you, loving God, with others and with ourselves, trusting in our Saviour, Jesus Christ: Amen.
The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood URC