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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, June 25, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Samuel 17:57–18:5, 10–16

On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them. (NRSV)

The ancients thought of things differently than we do now. Relationships were conceptually different; the terminology that we use today would have had no meaning to them, to the degree that what we now talk of as “platonic love” is a thing that would seem very odd to Plato.

Lots of time and ink has been devoted to the question of David and Jonathan’s relationship. I’m satisfied with what the text says: “Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”

Love is what matters. And in this particular account, we see two types of love—one selfless and one . . . not so much. Saul, he loses the plot. He thinks the story is about him, that he’s the hero, and here comes this supporting character, this up-and-comer, looking to take on the starring role.

It’s like Saul fell asleep watching All about Eve on the late movie. Everyone’s paying attention to the younger guy (including his son), and Saul, he feels like his star is a little less shiny, his status a little more shaky. He develops a grudge, which, as the saying goes, is like drinking poison and hoping someone else will die.

Two kinds of love, one pure and one poisoned. In the end, both Saul and Jonathan die together. There’s no winner. In David’s lament in 2 Samuel 1, he tells Israel to weep for Saul, but his deep, personal mourning is for Jonathan. Because love is love is love is love is love.

Lord, teach us to love others as ourselves and not as servants to our ego. Heal us from the poison of jealousy and grudges, and remind us that the love we give is what lives after us. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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