The Political Friendship of David and Jonathan

In 1st Samuel 18, after David killed Goliath and then spoke with Saul about receiving his reward, Jonathan, it says, “loved him as his own soul.”

Today, people can’t accept strong, deep friendships between men as just that. We think it’s weird, or somehow inappropriate, or we cheapen those strong masculine friendships with terms like “bromance” and jokes about getting a room. And it does certainly make it worse now that various perversions are so prevalent. But what’s going on here in 1st Samuel 18 is not in any way romantic. In fact, though there certainly seems to be a genuine brotherly affection between David and Jonathan that develops, I don’t think this is even primarily an emotional or affectionate love being spoken of.

In certain contexts, the term love has definite political overtones. To us, the word love almost always has a passionate meaning to it, but the Hebrew term primarily refers to choosing to be devoted to someone. In a political context, then, this devotion is what we might call loyalty, or allegiance. That’s what seems to be going on here. Jonathan (who is quite a bit older than David, remember) evidently does become a close friend of David’s, but what’s significant to note is Jonathan’s response of allegiance and loyalty to David in contrast to Saul’s jealousy and fear of David.

The content of the covenant between David and Jonathan is not explained, but a covenant is simply a solemn compact taken with oaths of loyalty; the covenant made here probably has something to do with Jonathan’s personal allegiance to David as the man who would one day lead Israel. It’s not clear how much Jonathan knows, but his transferring of his robe and armor to David implies a recognition of a transference of Jonathan’s own status as heir to David.

At the cost of his own inheritance and potential rise to the throne (at least in the eyes of his father and the typical expected custom), Jonathan swears fealty to David, because he recognizes that God’s will must be honored and pursued above all else.

In contrast to Saul’s reaction to David of jealousy and fear, Jonathan models the proper response to the Lord’s anointed: loyalty. Now, we see this in concrete historical terms in the life of Jonathan and David. But, without reading into the text, we can still extrapolate the principle out that leads to our response to Christ. The actual, primary meaning of the event is not directly to point to Christ. But the leap is not as far as we might at first think. David, as the anointed king who would become the ancestor of the ultimate anointed king (the Messiah who would redeem and reign over the whole earth), actually becomes a paradigm and a type (a foreshadowing) of that messianic king. So, as we see Jonathan’s response to the arrival of the anointed king, we do see a model of our own proper response to the anointed king Jesus: loyalty.

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Who is the Scoffer?

The Bible talks quite a bit about scoffers. It warns against being a scoffer, taking advice from a scoffer, befriending a scoffer, and giving honor to a scoffer. But what does it mean to be a scoffer?

A scoffer is someone who, even though he himself may not laugh that much, nevertheless believes that pretty much everything is laughable. It’s someone who doesn’t take life seriously, and, in fact, thinks that it’s silly to do so.

The book of Proverbs explains that the scoffer doesn’t listen to rebuke (Pr. 13:1), doesn’t seek wise counsel (Pr. 15:12), doesn’t take justice seriously (Pr. 19:28), doesn’t take repentance seriously (Pr. 14:9), and brings conflict and insults (Pr. 22:10). Despite their irreverent and mocking attitude, God in fact scoffs at the scoffers—in other words, he sees the scoffer as someone not to take seriously (Pr. 3:34). And despite his flippant pride, God will eventually bring the scoffer to nothing (Isa. 29:20).

The scoffer acts with disrespectful, impudent, insolent presumption. He is someone who is dismissive, flippant, and derisive. If you find yourself thinking that everyone around you takes life too seriously, or that everyone but you is too easily offended, or that others are consistently uncomfortable with how casually, cavalierly, or carelessly you approach life, you may need to examine your heart and ask God if you may be in danger of the warnings directed toward the scoffer.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. — Proverbs 28:13

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. — Proverbs 13:20

Why God Looks On the Heart

As I mentioned in my post on the nature of reciprocal honor, I’ve been teaching through First Samuel recently. Today, I’d like to share a thought about a familiar verse—man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

Chapter 15 of First Samuel concluded with Samuel pronouncing God’s judgment on Saul, and then mourning over Saul’s downfall. Chapter 16 then begins with God telling Samuel to get up and move on. God tells him to fill his horn with oil and go to Bethlehem, because the Lord has chosen one of the sons of a Bethlehemite, named Jesse, to be king.

When Samuel arrives in Bethlehem, he invites Jesse and his sons to a sacrifice; and when Jesse’s sons arrive, Samuel begins looking for the one who would be the next king. He sees Jesse’s son, Eliab, who is physically imposing, and Samuel thinks that surely this is the one. But then we get that familiar statement in verse seven. The Lord says to Samuel: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” A more literal, or formal, translation, would be something like this: “man sees as far as the eyes, but the Lord sees to the heart.” In other words, all we are able to see is the outside, but the Lord is able to see the inner thoughts and motives of the person’s character.

When God gave Saul as Israel’s king, he gave the people the kind of physically, outwardly impressive individual that they, like other nations, would find desirable—someone whose outward stature is striking, with no specific regard for the stature of his soul. The Lord, on the other hand, knows the thoughts of man, as Psalm 94 says, and he is after a man whose inward character is upright, who will thus lead the people righteously.

Humans always tend to look on the outward appearance when evaluating someone’s suitability for a task, but God is more concerned about what is in a man’s soul. However, the point of verse seven in fact isn’t simply that man looks only at the outside but ought to look at the heart. The point is that the outside is all that we can see, but God is able to see the heart.

We don’t have the ability to see a man’s thoughts and motives; we have to make judgments based on people’s words and actions. Even so, we should be able to discern their character to a certain degree by their actions. We should be able to watch the actions of Saul as he repeatedly sloughed off responsibility, and was reluctant to follow the instruction of the Lord, and be able to say that man’s character isn’t what it should be. But the point here is that that’s all we have to go on, whereas the Lord has the ability to see a man’s soul. And while he accommodated himself to the people’s wishes and standards when he selected Saul, he’s going to choose Saul’s replacement in accordance with his own standards. This will be a man after God’s heart, rather than a man after the people’s heart. 

That’s what’s going on with this selection process. The contrast is between men choosing someone whose appearance looks like someone they want as king, and God now choosing a man whose heart looks like someone God wants as king. It’s introducing David as the paradigmatic, archetypal model of a righteous and godly king. Unlike man, who only has the ability to see as far as the outward appearance, God can look to the deepest parts of our soul, and evaluate us accordingly.

Proverbs16:2; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10

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Ages Are Important for Timelines [or: How Old Was Terah When Abram Was Born?]

Constructing a chronology of biblical events is fairly simple—but not always easy. One of the most important aspects of developing a timeline is discovering the anchor dates, but this can be easily thwarted by failing to read the text carefully.

For example, most people assume (and teach) that Abram’s father, Terah, was 70 years old when he fathered Abram (based on a careless reading of Genesis 11:26). However, it’s best to understand Terah as at least 130 years old at the birth of Abram! That interpretation will offset all of the other dates, from the birth of Abram back to creation, by about 60 years.

We arrive at this conclusion for several reasons…

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How to Start Building Your Book Collection

So you want to start building your library, but you’re not sure where to start. I’ve often spoken with folks who wish to dig deeper into the Christian faith, but then find that there are just too many books to choose from—and it’s hard to tell what’s reliable anyway. The proverbial flooded market can certainly be overwhelming—especially when you want solid, trustworthy resources, not just whatever happens to be on TGC’s top 20 list.

So, here’s another list of recommended books!

I’ve started compiling a list of books that would serve well as a starting point for a basic Christian library. And as always, recommending a book does not mean that I necessarily agree with all of its content. Rather, I think these are books which are accessible, solid, and particularly beneficial in their various categories. If you’re interested in learning more and getting serious about the Christian faith and way of life, I recommend starting here. I’ll explain why I give these specific recommendations in another post.

I’d also love to hear about any other books you’ve found to be an essential introduction in a particular area.


Study Bibles

HCSB Study Bible

Ryrie Study Bible

How to Study the Bible

Grasping God’s Word, by Duvall and Hays

Basic Bible Interpretation, by Roy Zuck

An Introduction to Theology

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God, by Bruce Ware

Systematic Theology, by Norman Geisler

He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom, by Michael Vlach

Understanding End Times Prophecy, by Paul Benware

On Living the Christian Life

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, by Michael Horton

Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, by Ed Welch

When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man, by Ed Welch

Respectable Sins, by Jerry Bridges

The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges

Anger, Anxiety and Fear: A Biblical Perspective, by Stuart Scott

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, by Heath Lambert

On Marriage and Family

Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World, by Douglas Wilson

Reforming Marriage, by Douglas Wilson

Building a Godly Home, by William Gouge

Why Children Matter, by Douglas and Nancy Wilson

Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants, by Douglas Wilson

For Men:

Federal Husband, by Douglas Wilson

Man of the House, by C.R. Wiley

The Exemplary Husband, by Stuart Scott

For Women:

Why Isn’t a Pretty Girl Like You Married? And Other Useful Comments, by Nancy Wilson

The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect and the Christian Woman, by Nancy Wilson

The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace

Praise Her in the Gates: The Calling of Christian Motherhood, by Nancy Wilson

The Silver Lining: A Practical Guide for Grandmothers, by Nancy Wilson

On Salvation

Free Grace Theology on Trial, by Anthony Badger

Freely by His Grace, by Hixson, Whitmire, and Zuck

Grace, Salvation, and Discipleship: How to Understand Some Difficult Bible Passages, by Charles Bing

On the Life of Christ

The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, by J. Dwight Pentecost

On the Holy Spirit

The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit, by Larry Pettegrew

Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship, by John MacArthur

On the Church

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever

Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, by Jonathan Leeman

Going Public, by Bobby Jamieson

On Ethics

An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, by Robertson McQuilkin and Paul Copan

Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning, by Wayne Grudem

Devotionals

Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers from Banner of Truth

Morning and Evening, a devotional by Charles Spurgeon

The Puritans: Daily Readings edited by Randall Pederson

Psalms for Trials: Meditations on Praying the Psalms, by Lindsey Tollefson

Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, by Owen Strachan

New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp

Virtuous: A Study for Ladies of Every Age, by Nancy Wilson

Learning Contentment: A Study for Ladies of Every Age, by Nancy Wilson

Hymns to the Living God

Hymns of Grace


 

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Devote Yourself to the Public Reading

When it comes to reading the Scriptures, another thing we commonly do today is say “okay, okay, reading the Scripture is important… so let’s all do that—each of us on our own time, by ourselves. Just get alone with God, and have this wonderful personal experience, just you and God.”

What we often don’t remember (or sometimes were never taught), is that the Scriptures were actually written to be read aloud, in community. From Moses, to King Josiah, to Ezra and Nehemiah reading and teaching the word of God to the people, to Jesus reading the scroll in the synagogue, to the apostles sending out letters to various churches to be read aloud before the assembled congregations, the Scriptures were written to be read aloud together with other believers. And we see in Acts 2 that the early church devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, reading the Scriptures together daily.

In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul calls Timothy to keep this practice going. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and teaching.” Sometimes we can be all for that teaching part, but actually then fail to give ourselves, in any meaningful way, to the public reading of Scripture. But what would happen if we actually began to devote ourselves to reading the Scriptures together with our brothers and sisters? What would it look like for our church to be unified in our commitment to come together to hear the Word of God read aloud?

Our church is doing just that on Wednesday evenings. We’re coming together to read the Scripture together—several chapters at a time, sometimes letters in their entirety—and then talk about what we just heard. It’s a little new and different for us, but I’m looking forward to this time of fellowship and growth as we follow Paul’s instruction and devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture.

The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. — Isaiah 40:8

 


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