Jonathan, the son of Saul and crown prince of Israel, knew he never would be king. That didn't stop him from being a true friend to God's choice for the throne, David. The Book of 1 Samuel has several episodes, we could say, in which Jonathan took David's side, going so far as to protect him. This is the setting for this study, the second in a series called Go Thy Way.
The text is from
"And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul. Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow [is] the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty. And [when] thou hast stayed three days, [then] thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was [in hand], and shalt remain by the stone Ezel. And I will shoot three arrows on the side [thereof], as though I shot at a mark. And, behold, I will send a lad, [saying], Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows [are] on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for [there is] peace to thee, and no hurt; [as] the Lord liveth. But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows [are] beyond thee; go thy way: for the Lord hath sent thee away. And [as touching] the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD [be] between thee and me forever."
David Faced a Dilemma
David had the privilege and uncomfortable position of being a member of Saul's staff. He had served, apparently for some time, as armor-bearer (
So, David has been living on the run for some time. This presents a dilemma, namely that he didn't know what should he do: stay and risk being put to death by Saul or leave and risk being (you guessed it) put to death by Saul? Remember that in
It's in this context where chapter 20 begins.
Jonathan Acted on David's Behalf
Jonathan and David agreed to a plan of action, when Jonathan would find out for certain what Saul planned to do. Then, Jonathan would send word to David by a most careful means. Jonathan would shoot three arrows, just like aiming at a target, and give verbal instructions to the lad as to what to do next. He would not make any kind of guess or suspicion; he probably just did what he had been told to do.
Jonathan also gave David a clear message, namely, the words to the lad would also be a message to David. If Jonathan told the boy the arrows were beyond him, that would mean trouble and David would need to leave, that is, "go thy way."
We can only imagine the thoughts and emotions going through each man here. In David's case, though he was Jonathan's brother-in-law and best friend, I'm sure he had issues of trust. Understandably, David knew well what Saul had done and was capable of doing, and David was going to be the king at some day—though Saul was already king at the time! We can read about some of David's concerns recorded earlier in the chapter.
Jonathan wasn't going to have an easy time of it, either. He not only had to honor his father, Saul, but had also promised to find out what Saul was going to do. At the very least, he wanted to intercede on David's behalf, because David never had done anything less than honorable all the days he had served Saul.
The Final Outcome
Saul made it very clear what he intended to do. Take a look at the following verses (
"So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat. And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, [even] upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul's side, and David's place was empty. Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he [is] not clean; surely he [is] not clean. And it came to pass on the morrow, [which was] the second [day] of the month, that David's place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day? And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked [leave] of me [to go] to Bethlehem: And he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me [to be there]: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king's table. Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious [woman], do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die. And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame."
Saul noticed David wasn't in place for the feast of the new moon, not even for the second day. After this, Saul demanded to know where David was and then ordered Jonathan to have David brought in for execution! It doesn't get much clearer than this, when anyone hears directly what the king plans to do.
Jonathan, true to his promise, shot the arrows, warned David, and gave him one of the most endearing farewells recorded in Scripture. Even sadder, this may have been the last time Jonathan and David ever saw each other on this earth. David ran for his life, seeking refuge among the Philistines—Israel's sworn enemies!—in order to get away from Saul. These events, of course, happened later in the book of 1 Samuel.
David was convinced Saul was out to kill him; as it turned out, David was right. He had reason to fear Saul, humanly speaking; yet he trusted in God. We too can trust in the Lord no matter where we are, regardless of the problems we face.
Yet David didn't stay and risk execution. Jonathan told him, after he found out Saul's intentions, to "go thy way" or "Get out of town!" to avoid the risk of capture. Perhaps there is a lesson for us, as well. The Lord may tell us to stay in a given place, or He may give us a clear warning to get away from the problem or trouble facing us. If we're in a burning building and there is a way to get out, we probably won't please the Lord if we pray for deliverance and die in the fire! David saw what was happening, took Jonathan's advice, and lived to become king of Israel in God's timing.
What will you and I do when we are told to "go thy way"? We must pray, trust and take the appropriate action as directed by the Lord. Our situations are unique, but the Lord will guide us into the best choice if we listen to Him as David did.