Saul has been accusing David unjustly. Last week, we saw David ask Jonathan to observe the evidence on his behalf—effectively accusing Saul. We looked through the Old and New Testaments to see how Jesus actually instructs us to judge our neighbors justly. In fact, that is what it meant for someone to love his neighbor as himself—to judge justly without deferring to the rich or poor. As we continue this discourse, we see the theme of love and judgment continue—a theme that applies to mothers on this Mother’s Day, for moms must judge their children in love in order to discipline them into adulthood. David has asked Jonathan to observe the evidence and discern whether Saul has ill intentions. Jonathan will now ask something of David before leaving to see his father.
1 Samuel 20:12-17
Then Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if there is good feeling toward David, shall I not then send to you and make it known to you? If it please my father to do you harm, may the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also, if I do not make it known to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And may the Lord be with you as He has been with my father. If I am still alive, will you not show me the lovingkindness of the Lord, that I may not die? You shall not cut off your lovingkindness from my house forever, not even when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord require it at the hands of David’s enemies.”
Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.
Like with the previous passage, there is not much specific expository work to do with this passage. So, we will make some observations, explore some explicit doctrinal passages in Scripture, and make proper application like we did last week. Here are some observations:
- Jonathan promises to tell David his father’s intentions based on the evidence; His self-imposed penalty if he does not is death.
- Jonathan is interested in David’s safety.
- Jonathan’s covenant with David requires David’s lovingkindness to Jonathan’s family forever, even when God cuts his family off from the face of the earth for being David’s enemy.
- If David does not keep his end of the covenant, Jonathan asks God to cause David’s enemies to have victory over him.
- Jonathan required David’s vow twice because he loved David as he loved his own life.
This passage is interesting and confounding for the person who is trying to figure out what biblical love and judgment are. We recall, this is not a doctrinal passage. Almost everything about this part of the story is descriptive, not prescriptive. We cannot rightly say we should be like either Jonathan or David. In order to see Scripture’s application, we must look to the explicit passages of Scripture. What is the theme, here? Lovingkindness and judgment—particularly David’s lovingkindness and God’s judgment. do loving kindness and judgment go together? Is it possible for us to show loving kindness to our enemies and God’s enemies? I want to know Scripture’s explicit teaching about these overlapping themes we see described in this part of the story. We will ask two questions of Scripture. First, what does it mean for us to love our enemies? Second, what does it mean for us to love God’s enemies?
Loving our enemies. This question is of particular importance to me. I have enemies all over the world, from Atheists to Muslims and even some who claim to be Christians. What does it mean for me to love them? What does it mean for David to show loving kindness to Saul’s family? How will Jesus love His enemies in the Gospels? In one sense, Jesus will condemn His enemies to Hell (Cf. Matthew 12:31-37). In another, Jesus will ask the Father to forgive those who crucify Him because they know not what they do (Cf. Luke 23:34). In Matthew 5:44, when Jesus will teach His disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, He will quote from Leviticus 19:18.
You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:15-18).
Loving one’s enemy deals specifically with judging justly and not holding grudges. We may surely reprove our neighbors if needed, but we err if we hold grudges, take vengeance, or judge unjustly. This is Jesus’s teaching on loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. Other New Testament teaching is consistent with Jesus’s.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:9-21).
To live in love is to live at peace, even with our enemies—abhorring what is evil but feeding our enemies and not taking revenge. We know, then, that this instruction does not mean we neglect addressing problems (e.g. false teaching or injustice). Loving our enemies explicitly means judging justly, abhoring evil, and not being vengeful, spiteful, or malicious toward our enemies on this earth.
Loving God’s enemies. In Romans 5:6-8, Paul will write:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
If a person is God’s enemy and an enemy to the Gospel, they are helpless concerning the things of Christ’s Gospel. God’s enemies are, by definition, utterly lost in their sin. Instead of saying, “God helps those who help themselves,” Paul reveals that God helps those who are unable to help themselves. Christ is the deliverer of His people and people are helpless to contribute. As Christians, we understand this doctrine of regeneration. We are able to have mercy on those still lost in their sin, understanding that God must do the saving. We have no right to condemn those who are in rebellion against God. We can judge justly because we know we can never force anyone to submit to God or confess Christ as Lord. We can have the same sort of general love God has for His enemies. In His particular love, God is saving helpless people for Himself in Christ.
Jonathan is asking for David’s just judgment for those in his family who will survive God’s punishment upon Saul’s house.
One. Unrighteous jealousy, along with its assumptions and unfounded accusations, destroys nations. I have noticed on this earth that whenever someone seems to be successful or when someone seems to know more or be closer in his or her relationship with God, others, particularly those who think highly of themselves, persecute them because of their jealousy. Much like Saul, they drive away the very people who work for their good. Unrighteous jealousy is a worldwide epidemic. If God is using someone in a way that He is not using me, I ought to celebrate what God is doing. He is building His church and I have a place that has been decided and worked together by God. I don’t deserve any place, so how can I possibly give in to jealousy and also be justified in doing so?
Two. God reproves His children (Cf. Proverbs 3:11-12) and lets those who don’t belong to Him degenerate (Cf. Hebrews 12:8). Scripture instructs us to do the same (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). If moms love their children, they discipline them and teach them how to be adults (Cf. Hebrews 12:9). People who don’t care about you let you remain in your perpetual adolescence.
Therefore, if we love people, we must speak truth. If we care less, we let them burn. Loving kindness is enduring just judgment. Sadly, people tend to think that if we love them we will let them go their own way without trying to persuade them of the true Gospel. If we love people, even our enemies, we strive to judge justly and offer those who are lost in their sin Christ’s Gospel of grace—by which He is delivering helplessly lost people for Himself.
You see how people have taken the biblical idea of love and molded it to fit their own definitions and the movement of popular culture? May God forgive us for importing our own definitions to His instruction. May we grow in our understanding of what biblical love is and how it relates to judgment.