Three Men: Saul, Jonathan, Mephibosheth

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 7
David, the son of Jesse, was chosen of God to be the savior, shepherd, and king of His ancient people Israel; and in these respects he foreshadowed our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Savior of men, and the coming King. Being God's chosen man, it followed that all in Israel who were subject to God would think well of him and yield him obedience; indeed, he became the test in his day as to how far every man understood the thoughts and ways of God. There were three men-Saul, Jonathan, and Mephibosheth-who were brought into direct contact with him, and the way they treated David is illustrative of the way men are treating our Lord Jesus Christ in our day; and this is my subject.
David was not the man whom Israel would have chosen, for he was but a shepherd lad without any pretension to greatness. They chose Saul because of his outward appearance, and even Samuel, the prophet of God, would have repeated their mistake when sent to the house of Jesse, by pouring the anointing oil upon the head of Eliab, because of the beauty of his countenance and the height of his stature. But "the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." 1 Sam. 16:77But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7).
To the natural eye there was "no beauty" in Jesus, and so "He was despised and rejected of men"; but He was infinitely lovely and lovable in the eyes of God, for He loved the Lord His God with all His heart, and the heart is the mainspring of every action.
Yes, Jesus was the Man after God's own heart, His Anointed, who fulfilled all His will.
Israel discovered in the day of their distress that God's chosen man was the only one who could deliver them. When the great Goliath threatened them, and Saul and Eliab trembled before him in their helplessness, they needed to look elsewhere for salvation. It was then that David appeared and, girded with the strength of the God of Israel, he overthrew the giant and set the people free. Then they proved what was stated of the shepherd lad at his anointing, that he was "goodly to look to."
The enthralling story of David's victory is recorded in 1 Sam. 17, and shows us in figure the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over our mighty foe, the devil-a victory told in the words of Heb. 2:14, 1514Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14‑15): "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
How complete was David's victory, and how glorious; yet how surprising to both Philistine and Israelite, for Goliath was a man of war, invincible as he thought, and armed to the teeth, while David was a stripling, with no other weapons than five smooth stones and a simple sling. But by these was that huge mass of boasting flesh brought to the dust; and there, by his own sword was the giant's head cut off, so that even the most fearful and timid in Israel might join in the glad shouts that rang out triumphantly. The Lord was crucified in weakness; He went out against the powers of darkness and the devil on our behalf, and as He hung rejected upon a malefactor's cross it seemed as though He had met with utter and irretrievable defeat. But it was-
"By weakness and defeat
He won the mead and crown;
Trod all our foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down."
And by His death, death's dominion had been overthrown, and the devil's power annulled, and this so completely that our risen Lord can say, "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Rev. 1:17, 1817And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:17‑18).
"Triumphant saints no honor claim,
The conquest was His own."
Saul
After the overthrow of the giant, David got a measure of recognition in Israel, for we are told in 1 Sam. 18 that "he was accepted in the sight of all the people" (v. 5); the women sang his praises (v. 7); all Israel loved him (v. 16); and "his name was much set by" (v. 30). But Saul stood out in base and brutal contrast to the rest of Israel; there sprang up in his heart a bitter and undying hatred toward the people's deliverer; he eyed David with a jealous eye, and sought to destroy him (vv. 9, 10). Saul represents the unconverted man, the man in the flesh. We read a great deal about the flesh in the New Testament. It is that evil principle within the heart of man that shuts out God and Christ, and will always make SELF the supreme object of the life in opposition to Christ. The flesh will have religion, and meetings, and sometimes tolerate Christians, but it will not have Christ. When He came into the world, it betrayed Him for the price of a slave; spat upon Him and nailed Him to a cross. It has not changed in the course of the centuries, and the Christ of God is still rejected and hated by it. The unconverted man is in the flesh; he has no love for our Lord Jesus Christ, and his position is terrible, for the Scripture says, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha." 1 Cor. 16:2222If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22).
Indifference to Christ and His rights may seem a small matter to some, and they may be surprised that it should call down the anathemas of Almighty God upon them; nevertheless, it does. And the justice of it will be evident to you, I believe, if you see its baseness illustrated in Saul's attitude toward David. Israel owed everything to David, for the Philistines threatened not only to seize their lands and wealth, but to make every one of them-men, women and children-their absolute slaves. Saul could not deliver them, nor Jonathan, nor Abner, and the people were at their wits' end. It was then that David appeared and, taking his life in his hand, he overthrew the great foe and delivered the people from his power. David was undoubtedly the one man in the realm whose right it was to reign, and Saul's conscience told him so, but in his selfish pride he refused to surrender to David. Saul was first in his own thoughts, and he hated David because he knew that David ought to be king. Yet David did not suffer in the fight that he waged for Israel; protected by the mighty hand of Jehovah he came through it without a scar. How different it was with our Lord Jesus Christ when He came to deliver men; His visage was so marred more than any man's, and His form more than the sons of men. His hands and feet were pierced and nailed to the tree; every sorrow found its center in Him, and He drank to the dregs the bitterness of death. He has won an everlasting deliverance for sinful men at great cost to Himself-a deliverance from Satan's power, from the fear of death, and from eternal hell; and the preaching of the wonderful love that made Him do it should have prostrated the whole race at His feet. How base is that ingratitude that refuses to love Him! How sinful that selfishness that will not give homage to Him! How terrible the pride that will not have the blessing through Christ crucified!
Alas! "All of self, and none of Thee," is the answer that thousands are giving to the claims of Christ.
Jonathan
Saul hated David, but Jonathan loved him as his own soul; and no wonder, for he had watched the fight in the field of Elah, and as he saw David go forth against the enemy he could say, He has undertaken that conflict for me. And when the victory was completed he could say, He has destroyed the foe for me. He had also beheld him in the tent of the king with the head of Goliath in his hand; and there David won his heart, so that he stripped himself of everything that distinguished him, and made a full surrender to him. David was victor in the battlefield; he was also victor in the tent of the king. The trophy of his first victory was the head of Goliath; the trophy of the second was the heart of Jonathan. Have we known an epoch like that in our lives? Has the Lord Jesus captivated us? Do we love Him and have we made a full surrender to Him? Four lines from Charlotte Elliot's sweet hymn express this surrender perfectly:
"Just as I am, Thy love I own
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, THINE ALONE,
O Lamb of God, I come."
How beautiful was the devotion of Jonathan to David! And we learn how greatly David prized it by his touching lament at Jonathan's death: "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." 2 Sam. 1:2626I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. (2 Samuel 1:26). Yet Jonathan was slain in Saul's company by the hands of the Philistines, and he did not see the glorious kingdom of his well-loved friend. I have often wondered why this was-why the one who shone like the rising of a brilliant star in his love to David at Elah should have set in darkness at Gilboa. I believe I have found the reason in 1 Sam. 23:16-1816And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. 17And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth. 18And they two made a covenant before the Lord: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house. (1 Samuel 23:16‑18).
We have a heart-moving scene there. David and Jonathan met in the wood, as they had met before in chapter 20:41, 42, and there they bade each other a last farewell; and Jonathan, moved by love to his friend, and the knowledge that God was with him, renounced all claim to the throne in the words, "THOU SHALT BE KING... AND I SHALL BE NEXT" (1 Sam. 23:1717And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth. (1 Samuel 23:17)).
It was there that the strength of Jonathan's devotion declared itself; it was there also that he betrayed its weakness. David first, but "I... NEXT." Oh, why did he not put a full period after he had declared that the kingdom was David's, and then been silent as to himself! Why did he not leave the appointment of his place to his king? for surely the king alone had the right to say who should be next unto him. It was the introduction of the capital "I"-his thought for himself-that was the undoing of Jonathan. This carried him back to his father's court, where his friend was hated, and where in former days he had been persecuted for his friend's sake. How different his history might have been if he had said, "David, thou shalt be king, and I will share thy rejection until thy rights are publicly owned; whither thou goest I will go. I am wholly thine; command me as thou wilt." It would have meant for the time being the cave and the mountain-side, the place of rejection, instead of popularity and the palace of the king. But it would also have meant a place of honor in the kingdom of David instead of ignominy and death at the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines.
How solemn is the lesson that this story teaches. It is possible to begin well and yet to fail in that full-hearted response to the Lord's love which alone is right and well-pleasing to God; it is possible for thought of self to come in and make us careful for our own ease and safety and, as we often falsely judge, our own present advantage.
The believer is not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:99But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)), but the flesh is still in the believer, and whenever it is consulted or allowed to control us, it will find room for self, and in so far as it does this, our lives are not wholly for Christ.
David in his rejection prefigured Christ in His rejection; and be it clearly understood that Christ is just as much rejected now as when men cried, "Away with Him." His rights are not acknowledged; the world does not put its crowns upon His brow; men do not want His interference in their affairs, and those who truly follow Him must heed the words of the One whom they follow: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also." John 15:19, 2019If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (John 15:19‑20).
This is our life, and the treasure we have found in His love should make us welcome it.
"Love so amazing, so divine, Demands our soul, our life, our all."
And "if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him."
But I must add here, that all who love the Lord will see His glory, and in the day when He reigns, they shall be with Him; and He will remember every thought of love to Himself, and every act of faithfulness to Him, and this should constrain us as well as His love to us, to live wholly for Him, and to refuse all the clamoring of self and the flesh for a place.