Our chapter today breaks up into 4 sections, and in each section we see a similar thing: David being protected by God from Saul.
Jonathan’s Intervention (19:1-7)
What was implicit and hidden in chapter 18 is now explicit and revealed in chapter 19. Saul wanted to kill David, and he tried to many times and failed, but up until this point he had kept his homicidal feelings to himself. Now, all that changes, because in v1 he openly declares his wishes to those closest to him. He tells Jonathan his son and all his servants to kill David. For many of Saul’s servants this probably came as no surprise, they had probably figured out Saul’s malice toward David by this point and were most likely viewing this new command as a competition to see who could kill David first. So here we have Saul…surrounded by his henchman who appear as wolves hungry to see the end of David. No enemy of David was as unreasonable as Saul, and yet as the passage continues we find that no friend of David was as faithful as Jonathan.
You see for Jonathan this was an entirely different affair. He had a choice to make, one that would estrange him from his father or estrange him from David. Remember back in chapter 18 he made a covenant with David, given him his royal attire, and his own right of succession to the throne of Israel, because he loved David as his own soul. So is he going to obey his father’s wishes and go against David, or is he going to disobey his father’s wishes and help David? As villainous as Saul appears here, Jonathan appears as his bright opposite. He decides to try and intervene for David by pleading and interceding for his life, and makes a plan in v2-3. He warned David of Saul’s command, secretly hid him in a field, brought Saul to that field, and pled for David’s life saying, ‘Why will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause? Didn’t you rejoice along with all the people when he killed Goliath? Didn’t you see how God, through him, worked a great salvation for all Israel?’ Surprisingly Saul was swayed by Jonathan here and swore on oath saying, ‘As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.’ You can imagine the uncomfortable nature of the scene as it unfolds next in v7 when Jonathan goes and gets David from his hiding spot, brings him to Saul, and explains what Saul just said. They make up and for the moment, David goes back into Saul’s service in the royal palace…all is as it used to be…for now.
Escaping Intervention (19:8-10)
For the moment as I just said all is as it used to be, but v8 lets us know that there was more war, which means there was more of David’s success, which as we’ve seen before, leads to more murderous jealousy in Saul. So we’re not surprised to see a familiar scene in v9-10; David playing soothing music for Saul who (as always) has his spear in his hand. As he did twice before in chapter 18 Saul again tries to pin David to the wall with his spear but only succeeded in pinning the wall because in his youthful agility and quickness David escapes and flees home. There is a sad irony to v8-10. v8 says David fought hard against the Philistines and ‘struck’ them with a great blow and as a result they ‘fled’ away from David. In v9-10 when Saul seeks to kill David the exact same Hebrew words are used. Saul sought to ‘strike’ David and as a result David ‘fled’ from Saul. It’s ironic here that David, though victorious over the Philistines, has to act like a Philistine and flee from his own king.
Michal’s Intervention (19:11-17)
So David had escaped from Saul and fled home to his wife Michal. But his own home wouldn’t even prove to be a secure refuge for David. In v11 we see that Saul sends henchman to watch him throughout the night and kill him in the morning. But Michal proves to be as crafty as her father, even though Saul gave her to David so that she’d be a snare to him (18:21), she is in reality more of a snare to Saul. She sees some unwelcome guests sitting close by their home and warns David of the impending danger, and convinces David to flee once more and then helps him escape out the window. Speaking of this very instance David says in Psalm 59:1-4, ‘Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD, for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Awake, come to meet me, and see!’ They had planned to kill him in the morning, yet David ends Psalm 59 in 59:16 saying, ‘I shall sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning.’ David, even in fleeing, is confident that God will protect and deliver him.
It’s this moment, when we come to v13 that we see Michal, in Ferris Bueller like style, buy David some time. She puts an image (idol, household god) under the sheets of the bed and puts a pile of goat hair above it to make it look like David is resting. So Saul’s messengers come to take David in the morning and she tells them, ‘He’s sick.’ So just like common no sense henchman these guys leave and bring the news to Saul and he (probably yelling) tells them to bring David to him bed and all, so that he may kill him. The henchman return, burst in the house, and behold, it’s not David, it’s just an idol and goat hair! (wait why did she have an idol in the house?) Apparently Saul then either comes to the house himself or brings Michal to him and he then says in v17 ‘Why have you deceived me and let my enemy go so that he has escaped?’ She then deceives him again by lying to him attributing the whole thing to David’s brute nature forcing her to do this or be killed. This would’ve angered Saul greatly, because now not only Jonathan was in league with David, his own daughter Michal was too.
Prophetic Intervention (19:18-24)
After David flees from his home he goes to the only place he knows to go, to the prophet Samuel. Samuel was at his home in Ramah when David came to him and when he arrived he poured out his woes. In v18-19 it says David and Samuel then went to stay in Naoith. Now the word Naoith doesn’t describe a town or city, it literally means ‘dwellings’ or ‘tents.’ This seems to be a place where the prophets gathered under Samuel’s leadership within the city of Ramah, perhaps it was a kind of lodge or campground if you will. Matthew Henry thinks this place describes a kind of church with a congregation of prophets. Whatever this place is, it’s significant that it’s within Ramah, because that was where Samuel anointed Saul to be king, but now it is where Samuel is protecting David (the newly anointed king) from Saul. Well, Saul hears that David is there with Samuel at this prophet’s lodge and sends more henchman, in fact he sends three separate parties of henchman to Samuel and David to take David back to Saul and each time we see the same result. The first group of henchman go in v20, and the second and third groups of henchman go in v21, and each time when they come near the place the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they all prophesy, that is they were caught up in a robust and perhaps ecstatic form of prayer, praise, and preaching.
Saul is fed up with this and now clearly see’s what all villains eventually see, that henchman can’t do anything, so if anything is to be done rightly Saul’s got to do it himself, so off he goes in v22…and guess what happens in v23? The same thing. As Saul is heading toward the place where Samuel and David are, the Spirit rushes upon him, and he prophesies until he comes to them and more so when he arrives he strips his clothes off and continues prophesying all throughout that day and night. It’s at this point we hear local folk using the old proverb they used to say of Saul back in chapter 10, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’ When this proverb was first used Saul was becoming the king, now, it’s being used while Saul’s throne is being stripped from him just as his clothes were.
v24 marks the end of the chapter, in which we’ve seen 4 instances where God protects and delivers David from Saul. Let’s take a step back and see three lessons this chapter teaches us:
God’s Protection is Instructive
Throughout this chapter God has protected David by means of Jonathan and Michal, but when we see David escape to Samuel we expect to see Samuel to protect David just as the others have done, but that’s not what we see is it? We don’t see Samuel do anything to protect David, rather we see the power of the Holy Spirit keep David in safety. God may indeed use natural or human instruments to provide protection, but sometimes He doesn’t, and supernaturally acts all by Himself in order to make it clear that ‘salvation is from the Lord.’ David learned this by looking back at events like these. Even when everything seemed crazy he could easily see that God never forsook him, that God always cared for him, and that God never abandoned him.
You know, we have a tendency to think that God is only good if He solves a problem for us, answers a prayer for healing, or removes something we dislike making our lives more comfortable as a result. But do you see that David at the end of chapter 19 is still on the run? His flight away from Saul continues in 20:1 and will continue until Saul is dead, yet David shows himself to be ever-trusting in God and ever-praising God. It seems that we need to be reminded of something David knew. That God is good even when He doesn’t solve a problem for us, or chooses to not make our lives easier by removing adversity, or in the hard moment when God doesn’t heal we need to learn that the appropriate response is still ‘praise God.’ Learn here Church, ‘sometimes the clearest evidence that God has not deserted us is not that we are successfully past a trial or difficult season of life, but that we are still standing on our feet in the middle of it’ (Dale Ralph Davis). God’s protection of David is instructive for it reminds us of God’s goodness even when the darkness doesn’t lift.
God’s Protection is Diverse
Think of all the ways God has delivered David here in this chapter. First it came by Saul’s own Son Jonathan as he interceded on his behalf. Second it came by David’s own quickness and eyeing of Saul as he escaped another spearing. Third it came by Saul’s own daughter as she did some plotting of her own to dupe Saul and his henchmen. And fourth it came by God’s own Spirit, who defended David by turning his enemies pursuit into something that brought Him praise and glory. You know what this reminds me of? A used car salesman.
You know what I mean, when you have the fortunate experience of interacting with a professional used car salesman what you intended to be a quick look around the lot seems to strangely turn into a negotiation that you cannot get away from. If you don’t like something about the deal or the car, there’s always another way to make it work, or there’s always another car. Regardless of how many times you try to leave, they always try and lure you in with something else. Now, in a much higher sense, God is like a used car salesman, in that He never runs out of options to act for the sake of His glory and the good of His people. God’s protection of David is diverse for it reminds us of God’s unending wisdom and powerful providence.
God’s Protection is Ironic
Perhaps ironic isn’t the correct word to use here because the events we’ve seen unfold in this chapter are as humorous as they are unexpected. Saul’s enemy is protected by Saul’s family. His own son throws a kink in his plans to kill David and then his own daughter plots her own schemes to deceive him when he tries to kill David again. Of course this humor isn’t on the level of the minion movies, but it’s humorous enough to put a small smile on our face…reminding us that God cannot be outwitted. His will always comes forth.
So we’ve seen God’s protection be instructive, diverse, and ironically humorous, and yet we can’t be done with this yet. To often when we read Old Testament passages like this one we conclude that God will do for us what He does for the people in view, for us in this text, perhaps some of you have already concluded that God will for you what He’s done for David here. Is that true? Yes and no. No, because David is different from us, he is the special recipient of the Davidic covenant, a covenant promising security and blessings for all eternity, and because of this David is already under special covenantal privileges. On the other hand we can say yes, God will do for us what He did for David and then some! Because though we’re not David, isn’t David’s God still our God? More so, David’s God became David’s son when he came in the flesh and dwelt among us, and this Son, Jesus Christ, has secured the privileges of the New Covenant for us, a covenant which the Davidic covenant merely points to and foreshadows. The glory of the New Covenant is that, because we’ve been delivered by the blood of Jesus, God now works all things toward our good, and we can rest secure.
So ‘when trials come no longer fear, for in the pain our God draws near, to fire a faith worth more than gold, and there His faithfulness is told…I turn to wisdom not my own, for every battle You have known, My confidence will rest in You’re your love endures, Your ways are good. When I am weary with the cost, I see the triumph of the cross, so in its shadow I shall run, till He completes the work begun. One day all things will be made new, and I’ll see the hope You’ve called me to, and in Your kingdom paved with gold, I’ll praise Your faithfulness of old!’ (Getty Hymn)