Cultivating Godly Friendships

Explore the Bible Series

October 19, 2008


Background Passage: I Samuel 18:1-23:18

Lesson Passage: I Samuel 18:1-4; 19:4-7; 20:12-13; 23:16-18




True friendships are a rare thing.We enjoy many gracious acquaintances in life, but true friends come along only a few times in life, friends who remain loving, supportive, loyal, and thoughtful, whatever lifeís circumstances. I have lived for over half a century, and I can give witness that one does not find real friends very often.Like Jonathan of old, I have a wonderful friend named David (among other close friends), and I count our relationship as one of the greatest blessings of my life.We met in college, and he quickly became the brother I never had.Many years and trials have passed since we met, and I have found David a genuine, loyal friend.


Unfortunately, many people have acquaintances like Saul.At first, Saul expressed love for David, but, as time passed, Saulís ďfriendshipĒ turned into a charade, a charade that masked the kingís murderous intent toward David.Of course, most of our relationships do not degenerate to this degree, but many people have endured the agony of betrayal by persons they believed were their friends.David did nothing to merit Saulís treachery; in fact, he remained loyal to the king despite the hateful designs that conspired against him.Perhaps one factor in Davidís loyalty to Saul related to his friendship with Jonathan.


As son of King Saul, Jonathan must have anticipated becoming the ruler of Israel, one day.Nevertheless, as the prince observed the spiritual and political decline of his father, he realized that Godís hand rested on David.The Bible describes the relationship between Jonathan and David in striking terms (See 18:1-2). A deep spiritual bond developed, a bond that lasted until Jonathanís untimely death at the hands of the Philistines (See Chapter 31).Even after Jonathanís death, David honored his friendís family and kept alive the memory of his fallen companion. This friendship endured great hardships; yet, it remained steadfast and true.Thatís real friendship.


I donít know where Jonathan learned about friendship, but he certainly did not inherit his relational skills from his father.Saul was a hypocrite who feigned friendship with David to conceal his lethal hatred for the young man.Over and over, we will, in this lesson, observe Saulís conspiracies, conspiracies he veiled with the veneer of friendship and generosity. He verbally expressed love, gave his daughter to marriage, and showered David with praise (flattery).All the while, he despised the young soldier and sought his humiliation and death.May God save us from ďfriendsĒ like Saul.


I hope all of you have a ďDavidĒ in your life.If you do, treasure such relationships and thank God for his blessings.Furthermore, make certain that you remain a loyal and trusted ďJonathanĒ to your ďDavid.ĒThereís much for us to learn in this lesson.

Lesson Outline:


I.                   The Contrasting Character of Jonathan and Saul (18:1-30)

A.    Jonathanís love for David (vv. 1-4): The text describes this friendship in striking terms.This relationship was grounded in a deep spiritual bond between the men; that is, their souls were knit together, became part of the same fabric.They sealed their friendship with a covenant and the generous gifts of Prince Jonathan: a royal robe, armor, sword, bow, and belt.These gifts not only demonstrated Jonathanís generosity, but these tokens befit the station of the new king and Jonathanís recognition of Davidís status.

B.     The genesis of Saulís hatred toward David (vv. 6-16): In the aftermath of Davidís defeat of Goliath, the hearts of Israel turned to the young warrior, and the crowds lavished praise on the new hero.Other military successes followed, and, in the midst of the celebration of Davidís victories, the women of the region exalted David above Saul.The storm of Saulís wrath gathered, and, in a fit of anger, Saul hurled a spear at David in a failed attempt on the young manís life (apparently Saul hurled the spear twice, see v. 11). Then, Saul demoted David to a field commander, and sent the young man to battle, perhaps hoping that David would be killed.Despite Saulís contrivance, David thrived in his new position and won, all the more, the loyalty and affection of the people.

C.     Davidís marriage to Saulís daughter (vv. 17-30): Saul had promised to David the hand of the royal eldest daughter, Merab, but the king had not fulfilled his obligation.Finally, he agreed to let David marry Merab, but, just as David prepared for the wedding, Saul gave his daughter to another man.Undeterred, David discovered that another daughter, Michal, loved him, and he determined to ask for her hand.Saul decided to give Michal in marriage, but the text reveals the sinister ulterior designs that motivated this choice.The king believed he could use Michal as instrument in a murderous scheme.The ruse demanded that David ďpayĒ for Michal with the foreskins of a hundred Philistines.Of course, Saul hoped the Philistines would kill David (See vv. 21 and 25), but the plot backfired, and Davidís impressive military conquests (David killed two hundred Philistines) endeared the future king to the people of Israel.David married Michal, but she eventually came to despise her husband.


II.                Saulís Continued Efforts to Kill David (19:1-20:42)

A.    Jonathanís intercession for David (19:1-7): Saul told Jonathan of his plans to kill David, and Jonathan pleaded with his father to spare Davidís life.Reason seemed to persuade Saul, but the hate-crazed king did not keep his word that he would not seek Davidís life.For a time, Saul allowed David to reenter the royal household, but soon the king returned to his schemes.

B.     Davidís military success and the return of Saulís anger (19:8-24): War recurred with the Philistines, and, as before, David won impressive victories over the Israelís enemies.Davidís success refueled the fire of Saulís wrath, and, again, the king tried to kill David with a spear.Furthermore, Saul sent messengers to Davidís house to kill him, but Michal helped her husband to escape Saulís treachery.David fled to Ramah where he sought the counsel of the Prophet Samuel. The prophet took David to Naioth, but Saul, unaware that Samuel had left Ramah, sent three waves of messengers to kill David.On each occasion, the Spirit came on these messengers and they prophesied. Finally, Saul came to Ramah, and the king prophesied as well.He followed Samuel to Naioth, and the Holy Spirit came upon Saul.The king stripped off his royal robe, and prophesied before Samuel.Itís difficult to discern the meaning of all of this action, but it seems that, through Saulís prophecy and humiliation, God demonstrated his sovereign control over the monarchy of Israel.

C.     Jonathanís warning to David (20:1-42)

1.      Davidís plea to Jonathan (vv. 1-11): David was puzzled by Saulís wrath, and he sought understanding of the situation from Jonathan.The prince offered no explanation, but he assured his friend that the kingís conspiracy would not succeed.Jonathan agreed to sound out his father to determine if Saul still wanted to murder David.

2.      David and Jonathan agreed on a method of communication (vv. 12-42): The friends agreed that Jonathan would speak with his father, and, if the kingís heart remained intent on killing David, Jonathan would communicate the situation by firing three arrows near a rock pile, in a nearby field.After speaking with Saul, Jonathan warned David of the kingís determination to murder David.


III.             Davidís Flight from Saul (21:1-22:23)

A.    Davidís escape to Nob (21:1-9): After Jonathanís warning, David fled to Nob (about a mile north of ancient Jerusalem) where the priest Ahimelech served the Lord.Clearly, David anticipated that a group of young soldiers would soon join him at Nob, and he asked the priest to provide bread for the men.David lied to acquire bread, and, having no other provisions, Ahimelech gave the men the showbread from the Tabernacle.

B.     Davidís journey to Gath (21:10-15): Davidís unseemly deception continued as he sought refuge among his enemies.Why David traveled to Gath (one of the five cities of Philistia) is not revealed, but he feared the Philistine king greatly.To preserve his life, David feigned insanity, but, of course, this deception did not reflect well on the future king of Israel.

C.     Davidís sojourn at the cave of Adullam (22:1-5): David left the Philistines and hid, for a time, in a cave (located somewhere in Judah).His family and four hundred men joined him, and the whole company went to Moab.Eventually, the Prophet Gad told David to go back to Israel and dwell in Judah, in the Forest of Hereth (location uncertain).

D.    Saulís murder of the prophets of Nob (22:6-23): When Saul heard that Ahimelech had helped David, the king ordered his soldiers to kill the priests of Nob.The soldiers, in the fear of God, would not raise their weapons against the Lordís servants.Saul turned to Doeg the Edomite and ordered him to murder the priests.Doeg killed Ahimelech, the priests, and all the people of Nob.Only Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, managed to escape Doegís cruelty.


IV.             Saul Continued to Seek Davidís Life (23:1-29)

A.    Davidís rescue of Keilah (vv. 1-14):The Philistines attacked the city of Keilah (a fortified city about eight miles northwest of Hebron), and David, after consulting the Lord through Abiathar, determined to rescue Keilah from the hands of the Philistines.After the battle, Saul tried trap David in the city walls of Keilah, but David escaped into the wilderness of Ziph (a barren area east of Hebron).

B.     David in the wilderness (vv. 15-29): Saul pursued David into the wilderness of Ziph (located in Judah, southeast of Hebron), but Jonathan sought out his friend, and the two men renewed their covenant.The Ziphites betrayed David to Saul, and the king renewed his efforts to kill the young man.Another military encounter with the Philistines, however, distracted Saul, and David escaped to Engedi (a major oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea).