[Y]ou have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.
Saul has continued to pursue David. Eventually, Saul goes to “relieve himself”, and at that time, David comes upon him, and could have easily killed him. But instead, God instructs him to leave the retaliation and judgment to God. So David simply cuts off a corner of Saul’s cloak, and then questions Saul as to why Saul was so relentlessly after his life. In return, Saul sees things in a new way. You, David have repaid me good, where I have repaid you evil.
What a lot to learn from these characters. First, neither Saul nor David are without blame. They both behave badly, and that behavior is chronicled extensively. And yet, we can learn from both of them. To me, this is instructive because even people who are imperfect and sometimes even behave in evil ways have things to teach us. After all, aren’t we by definition all imperfect people who sometimes behave in evil ways? In this time of big cultural and political schism, wouldn’t it be great if we could see past the imperfections of ‘the other’, and learn from them? And even seek out what they have to teach, rather than dismissing them as useless? Who would think that David, with all his foibles would become a great King? We’re all useful.
When David finds Saul, he does not retaliate. He does not meet Saul’s actions with like-minded violent actions. He tells Saul that God will sort this all out, but that David will not harm Saul. David is not without his own faults, but at this moment, he’s able to back down from an ongoing tussle, at the exact moment when he could have ended the battle. It seems to me that we are all called to end the tussles by turning the retribution and judgment to God, especially at that moment when it’s easiest to take the judgment into our own hands.
Finally I’m struck that Saul, after his tireless pursuit of David, is able to turn and see things in a new way. All it took was a little bit of grace from David’s part. David didn’t kill him when he had a chance. He didn’t even maim or threaten him. David explained, in an almost imploring way, that he was not going to hurt Saul, that Saul was the Lord’s anointed. As Saul acknowledges, David repays Saul’s actions with goodness. And that made all the difference to Saul’s repentance.
With his handing things over to God, David did end the tussle, but in a peaceful way that resurrected the relationship that David and Saul had. Today, I hope to remember that I can learn from anyone, that God’s judgment is better than mine, and that grace can turn things around.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the LORD , saying, ‘The L ORD shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.’
Jonathan, Saul’s son has befriended David. Saul originally loved and supported David, but eventually it seems felt threatened. Saul became fixated on destroying David, despite David being his son-in-law, and his own son’s best friend. Both Saul’s daughter Michal, and son Jonathan took great steps to save David’s life, against the known wishes of their father.
Eventually, it becomes clear Saul will not stop until he’s killed David. His son Jonathan works out an arrangement with David to alert him if this is the case. And unfortunately it is. So despite being deeply loving friends, David and Jonathan part ways, so David can be safe, out of the reach of Saul.
The whole reading is sad. David loses his mentor and father figure, Saul. And he loses a friend he loved deeply. David and Jonathan gave up everything to save David’s life. Actually, almost everything. What they kept was the knowledge of their deep and abiding friendship, and a three-way covenant between them and God. At their parting, Jonathan reminds David that the Lord shall between the two of them and their descendants forever.
People married in a Christian ceremony say that the two are being united in God forever, that God is present in this now three-way covenant. But until today, I hadn’t really thought about that same three-way relationship with friends and God. But clearly, that’s what Jonathan and David are cementing as they depart from each other.
This morning, I’m thinking about the friends I have and how God is involved in those relationships, bidden or unbidden. Like the friend who texted me this morning, grateful for me and noting that she was sad that Jonathan lost his BFF. Even with distance, friendship remains. And even future generations will know of our friendship. My daughter has referred to one of her friends as “my Katherine”. I love the notion that friendship, like marriage is united in and by God. Good friends, casual acquaintances, colleagues. For people of faith, God is involved in our relationships, in the space between two people. Today, I want to see if I can recognize that.