Haftarah Reflections 29
Torah portion Leviticus 16 : 1 to 18 : 30
Haftarah portion 1 Samuel 20 : 18 - 42
Listen to the Prophets
This week’s parashah is full of emotion. Lots of different emotions. You may recognize jealousy, envy, anger, pride, gentle caring, love, loyalty, and maybe more. And in each of them, we can see good and bad outcomes.
In brief, Samuel had been a good Judge over the Israelites for about 12 years. As he got older, his sons took on the role, but lacked the honour of their father. They were corrupt, took bribes and perverted the course of justice. So eventually, the people were so dismayed by the situation that they opted to have a king reign over them. Saul was chosen. Very early in his reign, Samuel, (who whilst technically no longer Judge over Israel, continued to exercise an influetial role as elder statesman) became aware of his shortcomings, and told him so. He went further and told Saul that God would choose another to replace him. That one was the youthful David, son of Jesse. At that point, the Scriptures tell us, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.
Then David’s popularity soared, with the conquest of Goliath, and his humble attitude. King Saul, now in the grip of a ‘troubled’ spirit, sought ways to dispose of David. He offered him his daughter in marriage. He reasoned that this would afford him influence in David’s life and plotted that he could then send David into the fierce battles with the Philistines, expecting him not to survive, but he did. And that increased David’s popularity. To cap it all off, Saul’s son, Jonathan became very close friends with David. Saul was extremely angry.
But as our parashah opens this week David had just put Jonathan ‘on the spot’ to find out if it were true that his father wanted to get rid of him. In great caution, and with much wisdom, David decided to absent himself, even though he was now the king’s son-in-law, from the family meal table at the next New Moon festival, whilst he awaited confirmation from Jonathan about Saul’s attitude towards him.
The rest of the story is very well known. Firstly, Jonathan himself almost lost his life when his father, Saul, threw a spear at him. Secondly, that gave Jonathan all the confirmation he needed about his father’s state of mind towards his close friend David. Thirdly, Jonathan warned David by their agreed signal with the arrows. And our parashah ends with the tearful farewell between the two friends.
The lessons we can take from this story are about guarding our emotions, on the one hand, and letting our emotions free on the other.
The problems emerged with Saul becoming inflated with pride. His appointment as king was certainly an honour. He was anointed by Samuel, and approved by God, for the task. But it was not too long before he saw himself as leader in his own right and by his own strength.
We learn an important lesson here. When God approves us for service in His Name, it is paramount that we recognize His authority. In God appointed roles, we have NO authority other than that which He ordains. Obedience to His precepts and commandments is a vital element in maintaining His approval. In Saul’s case, he knew that God had commissioned Samuel to convey His instructions. Saul ignored those instructions, thinking that he knew a better way. His lack of control, or inability to submit his emotions to God in obedience, gave rise to fierce anger. And isn’t Satan ready to jump in and revel in that situation?
When the correction came, Saul again sought to circumvent that outcome by getting rid of the person God had clearly chosen to do His work. Modern day examples of failure of this kind are all around us. And it is all centred in personal pride. Some greatly gifted young men and women have been effectively ‘sidelined’ by pride driven older people in positions of authority within our modern day church scenarios. Shame.
On the opposite side of the ‘coin’, we see great love and loyalty exhibited. Jonathan and David had developed a great friendship. Admiration even. That was birthed, in no small measure, by Jonathan observing the ‘mighty’ acts of courage and achievement which were obvious in David’s life. But in these, Jonathan could see the way God Himself was taking care of David. He recognized the anointing of God on his friend. And Jonathan wanted to be part of that.
Now this provides another lesson. Most of us are sensitive enough to see, and know, when God is at work in a person’s life. There is an aura, a presence, which can be felt when we are in the company of a person who is walking closely with the Lord. An anointing which is palpable. Jonathan knew it. It is a characteristic which cannot be faked. And when faking is attempted, it becomes all the more obvious.
Jonathan risked his life to shield his friend David. Satan is hard at work trying to pull down those who are in God’s holy service. We should try to emulate Jonathan’s example. It is not ‘blind’ loyalty which is required, but a discerning spirit.
God grant that we too may seek His face, be faithful to His calling, and supportive of those who are doing the will of Almighty God.