Saul, David & Jonathon

Scriptures: 1st Samuel 17:31-40; 19:1-7 & 24:1-7


Title: Saul, David & Jonathon



  • Introduction
  • Saul & David
  • Jonathon & David
  • David & Saul
  • Conclusion



Last year there was a four part documentary series on TV called Why Am I? The science of us.

–         The series was based on the groundbreaking work of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Study which has documented the well-being of 1037 people born in Dunedin between 1972 and 1973

–         So it’s a massive long term scientific research project basically


One of the things they looked at was the question of nature vs. nurture

–         Are we the way we are because we were born that way (nature)?

–         Or are we the product of our environment (nurture)?


What they discovered is that it isn’t necessarily either / or, it can be both / and

–         In other words, with many things nature loads the gun while nurture (or environment) pulls the trigger

–         This could be both a negative thing and a positive thing

–         For example, you could have a genetic predisposition to a certain type of illness which is triggered under certain environmental conditions

–         On the other hand you may also have latent strengths built into your DNA which are brought out under particular circumstances


Science is helpful (it provides part of the picture) but one of the things that science doesn’t take into account is God

–         None of us have perfect DNA and none of us grow up in a perfect environment

–         Everyone faces challenges one way or another – no one is exempt

–         But at the end of the day God’s grace trumps both nature and nurture


My grandfather had a tough life in many ways

–         When his dad died his mum remarried and his step father beat him regularly, for no good reason – just because he was there

–         It wasn’t a good environment so my pop got out – he left home to make his way in the world at the tender age of 12

–         He lived through the great depression and then served in the Air Force during the second world war

–         He was part of a Lancaster bomber crew

–         Somehow he survived 87 missions flying over Africa and Europe


Now some people would go through all of that violence and hardship only to be completely wrecked by it

–         It would trigger something bad in them and bring out the worst

–         They might abuse alcohol or beat their wife or their kids or suffer some kind of emotional collapse

–         But, by the grace of God, that wasn’t the case with my grandfather

–         Somehow God used all that bad stuff to bring the best out of him

–         He never drank to excess, he was faithful to one wife, and he was never violent with his family, in fact he was kind & generous to them

–         He died at the age of 92 from lung cancer, probably triggered by smoking cigarettes when he was younger


I’m not sure what genetic bullets nature loaded in his gun but I’m convinced that God’s grace trumped his environment


Today we continue our series on intergenerational relationships in the Bible

–         That is, relationships between people of different ages or generations

–         A couple of weeks ago we looked at the mentoring relationship between Paul & Timothy

–         Paul was like a father to Timothy – he believed in Timothy and gave Timothy good guidance, both through his letters and his example


Today’s focus is on Saul, David & Jonathon

–         Saul was the first king of Israel and David was his successor

–         Jonathon was Saul’s son and David’s best friend


Saul’s relationship with David was quite different from Paul & Timothy’s

–         While Saul was old enough to be David’s father, Saul did not believe in David & Saul provided lousy guidance, both bad advice & a bad example

–         In fact, Saul went out his way to try and destroy David


Now we might think that the violence and hardship that Saul put David through would trigger something bad in David and bring out the worst in him

–         But, by the grace of God, that wasn’t the case with David

–         God used Saul to bring the best out in David

–         Whatever David’s DNA may have been the Spirit of God was with him

–         God’s grace trumped David’s environment


Saul & David:

Please turn with me to 1st Samuel chapter 17, verse 31 – page 285 near the front of your pew Bibles

–         To set the scene, the Philistine giant, Goliath, is challenging the Israelites to a dual – winner takes all

–         None of the Israelite soldiers are willing to take him on – none that is except David, who isn’t really in the army as he is still a boy

–         Nevertheless the Spirit of God has loaded David with bullets of courage and the Philistine’s challenge triggers David’s courage

–         From verse 31 of 1st Samuel 17 we read…


31 Some men heard what David had said, and they told Saul, who sent for him. 32 David said to Saul, “Your Majesty, no one should be afraid of this Philistine! I will go and fight him.”


33 “No,” answered Saul. “How could you fight him? You’re just a boy, and he has been a soldier all his life!”


34 “Your Majesty,” David said, “I take care of my father’s sheep. Any time a lion or a bear carries off a lamb, 35 I go after it, attack it, and rescue the lamb. And if the lion or bear turns on me, I grab it by the throat and beat it to death. 36 I have killed lions and bears, and I will do the same to this heathen Philistine, who has defied the army of the living God. 37 The Lord has saved me from lions and bears; he will save me from this Philistine.”


“All right,” Saul answered. “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 38 He gave his own armour to David for him to wear: a bronze helmet, which he put on David’s head, and a coat of armour. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armour and tried to walk, but he couldn’t, because he wasn’t used to wearing them. “I can’t fight with all this,” he said to Saul. “I’m not used to it.” So he took it all off. 40 He took his shepherd’s stick and then picked up five smooth stones from the stream and put them in his bag. With his sling ready, he went out to meet Goliath.


May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate God’s word for us


The first thing we notice here is that Saul doesn’t believe in David, like Paul believed in Timothy

–         Saul says: “How could you fight him? You’re just a boy…”

–         Saul doesn’t believe in David but God believes in David

–         And David believes in God

–         David is convinced that God can use him as young as he is

–         God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness


Eventually Saul agrees to let David fight and the guidance he gives David is, ‘wear my armour’

–         Saul’s advice is bad – his armour doesn’t fit

–         Fortunately David has the good sense not to follow Saul’s advice


In refusing Saul’s armour David reminds us of Jesus who put aside the traditions of men and used a simpler approach

–         Jesus did not allow himself to be weighed down by the cumbersome armour of the Pharisees’ man made rules & regulations

–         Instead Jesus made himself vulnerable (without armour), slaying evil with the slingshot of his tongue and the smooth stones of his Word


A point of application here – be discerning about the advice you accept

–         You are wise if you consider the advice of those more experienced than you, but at the end of the day you are the one who has to live with that advice so you decide whether it’s a good fit for you or not


I remember about 14 years ago I was in my last semester of training for pastoral ministry and was considering a call from this church

–         At that time Tawa had a bad reputation

–         It has a better reputation now so you don’t need to worry

–         But back then it was hard to find anyone who would say anything good about the place

–         It was quite a confusing time

–         There I was getting advice from people I respected, who were older and more experienced than I was, telling me not to come here

–         And yet it felt to me like we would be a good fit for Tawa


We had other options and they were good options, but (like Saul’s armour) they just didn’t fit

–         Now I’m not suggesting the people who were guiding us were like Saul – they were good people but it appears they got it wrong in this instance

–         In the end we made a decision to respectfully set aside their advice and we came here

–         As it turned out you were lovely to us (on the whole)


The point is, we don’t live in a perfect world

–         Sometimes our mentors get it wrong

–         Listen to your elders, by all means, but be discerning about what advice you take

–         Wisdom comes from God and God places his Spirit in our hearts to recognise his wisdom


In spite of Saul’s doubt and bad advice David faces and kills Goliath, because God is with him

–         After that Saul becomes jealous of David’s success and sends him off to fight Israel’s enemies in the vain hope that David will be killed

–         But the combat experience is good for David and makes him even more popular with the army and the people alike

–         Ironically, in trying to make things more difficult for David, Saul actually brings the best out of David – that’s God’s grace


Jonathon & David:

Please turn with me to 1st Samuel chapter 19 – page 287 in your pew Bibles

–         Saul had a son named Jonathon

–         Jonathon was very different from his father

–         Jonathon loved David as himself – they were best friends

–         In many ways Jonathon was like an older brother to David – he looked out for David and advocated for him, even at the expense of himself

–         From 1st Samuel 19, verse 1, we read…


Saul told his son Jonathan and all his officials that he planned to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David, and so he told him, “My father is trying to kill you. Please be careful tomorrow morning; hide in some secret place and stay there. I will go and stand by my father in the field where you are hiding, and I will speak to him about you. If I find out anything, I will let you know.”


Jonathan praised David to Saul and said, “Sir, don’t do wrong to your servant David. He has never done you any wrong; on the contrary, everything he has done has been a great help to you. He risked his life when he killed Goliath, and the Lord won a great victory for Israel. When you saw it, you were glad. Why, then, do you now want to do wrong to an innocent man and kill David for no reason at all?”


Saul was convinced by what Jonathan said and made a vow in the Lord‘s name that he would not kill David. So Jonathan called David and told him everything; then he took him to Saul, and David served the king as he had before.


I remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old there was a guy at school who was a few years older than me, I guess he would have been about 12

–         For some reason he looked out for me

–         We didn’t hang out all the time but he was friendly and talked to me, even though there was nothing in it for him

–         It doesn’t sound like much now but when you are a junior and a senior student talks to you in a positive way it gives you a real boost – it makes you feel good about yourself

–         Not only that but it says to the other kids at school, ‘Don’t pick on this kid. He’s with me’


My older friend had the job of ringing the school bell at the end of lunch to tell people to go back to class

–         It wasn’t an electronic bell – it was an actual metal bell that you rang by hand (this was before electricity)

–         Anyway, one day he saw me across the quad, called me over and asked me to ring the bell for him.

–         He was doing me a favour – it was a special privilege to ring the bell


Unfortunately this is one of those anecdotes that doesn’t go anywhere

–         He left school the next year and we lost touch after that


I tell you this story to highlight the value of friendships with those who are just a few years ahead of you


With most of the intergenerational relationships we’ve looked at in this series the age gap between the people involved has been quite large – anywhere from 20-60 years

–         We don’t know exactly how old Jonathon was in relation to David but I imagine it was probably something like 5 years difference, give or take

–         While they weren’t, strictly speaking, of a different generation from each other, Jonathon was still a few years older

–         Sometimes we need someone, who is like an older brother or sister, to show us kindness and give us confidence

–         People, like Jonathon, who are old enough to take care of us but still close enough in age that we can relate with them easily


In the reading from Samuel 19 we see that Saul’s jealousy (his madness) has grown to the point that he is actually talking to others about killing David

–         But Jonathon intervenes to protect David

–         With sound logic and diplomacy Jonathon convinces Saul not to harm David and David is restored to Saul’s presence once more

–         Blessed are the peacemakers. They will be called children of God


It wasn’t really in Jonathon’s interests to advocate for David like this

–         By protecting David’s life Jonathon was putting David ahead of himself, opening the door for David to become the next king of Israel

–         Jonathon cares more for David’s well-being than he does for the throne

–         Saul’s appalling behaviour only serves to bring the best out of Jonathon

–         That’s God’s grace


In some ways Jonathon reminds me of John Baptist – Jonathon opened doors for David, sort of like John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus

–         Jonathon was willing to decrease so that David (God’s Messiah/anointed one) could increase


We need a Jonathon in our lives, especially when we are younger – someone who will watch over us for good, be our advocate and open doors for us

–         Here at Tawa Baptist we encourage our teenage young people to get involved as helpers in Sunday school and crèche

–         Club Intermed also have junior leaders who are just a couple of years older than the kids who attend the programme

–         In youth group Daryl recruits leaders in their late teens and twenties – just a few years ahead of those in College

–         And at Night Church Peter & Dan encourage those just a few years younger than them to play music, sing and lead worship alongside them


Three main reasons we do things this way

–         One, we need the practical help, the extra hands

–         Two, it’s good for the discipleship of those helping

–         And three, it creates the opportunity for those who are younger to form positive, healthy relationships with those just a couple of years older

–         If you are 8 then it’s often easier to relate with someone who is 14, than someone who is 44

–         Or if you’re 16, then someone who’s 23 is likely to be more in touch with what you’re going through because the 23 year old has just gone through it themselves

–         We still need parent and grandparent figures but older brother & sister relationships are also needed – it’s not either / or, it’s both / and


Jonathon was a comfort & shield for David in dealing with Saul

–         Who is your Jonathon?

–         Who is your David?


Jonathon’s peace-making efforts worked for a time but eventually Saul lost the plot again and David was forced to get out of that toxic environment

–         Jonathon helps David escape, while still keeping the door open in their relationship


David & Saul:

We pick up Saul & David’s story again from 1st Samuel 24 – page 292

–         Saul was obsessed with destroying David. From verse 1 we read…


When Saul came back from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David was in the wilderness near Engedi. Saul took three thousand of the best soldiers in Israel and went looking for David and his men east of Wild Goat Rocks. He came to a cave close to some sheep pens by the road and went in to relieve himself.


It happened to be the very cave in which David and his men were hiding far back in the cave. They said to him, “This is your chance! The Lord has told you that he would put your enemy in your power and you could do to him whatever you wanted to.”


David crept over and cut off a piece of Saul’s robe without Saul’s knowing it. But then David’s conscience began to hurt, and he said to his men, “May the Lord keep me from doing any harm to my master, whom the Lord chose as king! I must not harm him in the least, because he is the king chosen by the Lord!” So David convinced his men that they should not attack Saul.


In the Star Wars film Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker and Darth Vada have a light sabre dual

–         Luke beats Vada and cuts his hand off then the dark lord encourages Luke to kill Vada and turn to the dark side but Luke refuses


In some ways Saul is like Darth Vada and David is like Luke

–         Luke has it in his power to kill Vada but he refuses to give in to the dark side, just as David has it in his power to kill Saul but instead chooses to spare Saul’s life

–         By God’s grace Saul’s dark side brought the best out of David


In our reading from Samuel 24 David gets some more bad advice, not from Saul this time but from his friends who tell him to kill Saul, just as the dark lord told Luke to kill his father

–         Fortunately David has the conscience to reject his friend’s advice

–         David refuses to turn to the dark side as Saul had done

–         Instead David leaves the matter in God’s hands

–         By setting the right example the young David becomes a mentor to the senior Saul


By saving Saul’s life David once again points to Jesus, who had the power to destroy his enemies but instead resisted the temptation and submitted to God’s purpose by going to the cross to die for his enemies

–         Both David and Jesus show us God’s grace



You may be wondering why I chose to preach on Saul & David, given that Saul wasn’t a particularly good model for David

–         Well, not all intergenerational relationships are healthy or good

–         That’s the reality of the world we live in

–         We don’t always get to have a Moses or an Elijah or a Paul as our mentor

–         Sometimes we might get a Saul but usually we have someone who is a mixture of good and bad


Saul & David’s very imperfect intergenerational relationship shows us that the future of the protégé doesn’t need to be determined by the mentor

–         By the power of God’s Spirit the protégé (in this case David) has a choice about how he will respond to Saul, his would be mentor


So, if those older than you haven’t provided a good example, if they (like Saul) have given bad advice or misbehaved in some way, you have a choice

–         By God’s grace you can choose to be different from them

–         My grandfather chose to be different from his step father

–         David & Jonathon both chose to be different from Saul

–         What it comes down to is knowing who you are and who you want to be

–         (Usually when we are given a really bad example, that clarifies for us who we don’t want to be and by implication who we do want to be)

–         As Christians we find our identity in Christ – we want to be like Jesus


I’m not saying it’s an easy choice to make

–         You don’t just click your fingers and say, “I’m going to be different from my parents or my boss or whoever is in authority over me”

–         There’s usually quite a bit of pain and anger and forgiveness involved

–         The point is, if the model you’ve been given is bad then you need to get out of that environment and find a better model

–         Jesus is our model – there’s no one better than him


The other thing Saul and David’s relationship shows us is that ultimately God is in control

–         God’s grace trumps our nature and our nurture

–         What Saul intended for David’s harm, God used for David’s good

–         And that should encourage us when we, who are mentors, do a bad job

–         We might not intend to harm the next generation, as Saul did, but we are bound to make mistakes and stuff it up from time to time

–         The good news is, God is gracious – he is able to redeem our mistakes

–         In fact our mistakes (our weaknesses) are often what God uses to bring out the best in others


Reflection Questions:


1.)    What stands out for you in reading these Scriptures and/or in listening to the sermon?


2.)    What do you think of the Dunedin study’s finding that nature loads the gun and nurture (or environment) pulls the trigger?


3.)    God, in his grace, is able to use a bad environment to bring out the best in people

–         How did God use Saul to bring out the best in David?

–         Thinking of your own life situation and / or upbringing, how has God’s grace been at work to bring out the best in you (or others)?


4.)    What led David to not take Saul’s advice (in wearing Saul’s armour)?

–         (Refer 1st Samuel 17:31-40)

–         How might we discern what advice to accept and what to reject?


5.)    Do you have (or have you had) a Jonathon in your life?

–         Who can you be a Jonathon to?


6.)    How does David become a mentor (set an example) for Saul?

–         (Refer 1st Samuel 24)


7.)    In what ways does David point to Jesus?

–         How does Jonathon remind us of John the Baptist?


8.)    What two main things does Saul & David’s (imperfect) intergenerational relationship show us?