1 Samuel 18:1 – 20:42 – Fame, foe, friend



1 Samuel 18:1 – 20:42



It is said that  “A week is a long time in politics” – It is true of politics and it is true of life!

Our lives can be radically changed from one day to the next –

ILLUS.: One day you can be a young au pair caring for a baby the next you can be accused of murdering that baby. One day unknown – the next day seen by millions on TV. [Louise Woodward and the death of Matthew Eappen – British au pair working in USA – 1997 ]

One day you can be Prime minister – the next jobless!

Through tragedy or triumph life can radically change in moments!

David’s life had radically changed – one day he was a shepherd looking after sheep in the desert – the next day he had killed Goliath and become a national hero.

We could be forgiven for thinking that fame and success and popularity should be welcomed as friends. Was this for David the beginning of a comfortable and easy life at the palace? He had taken the risk in facing up to and killing Goliath and now he should receive his due reward?

We may be tempted to think that if we have served God in some way and sacrificed and taken risks in the process that somehow God now owns us! It is so easy for fame and success to go to our heads – even when doing God’s work!!

There are issues that confront David is these chapters (18 – 20) we are going to focus on three areas of life that David has to deal with FAME – FOE – FRIEND [with the major focus on friend]


1. FAME.

From the Time David was anointed by the prophet Samuel he knew he was going to be the next king of Israel. But before the Goliath incident, the question was whether he would be able to handle obscurity. He was appointed by God to be the king yet scarcely anyone knew – David had shown that he could handle obscurity and he did not try to force God’s hand but waited patiently for God’s timing.

As a result of the Goliath episode David is thrust into the limelight – the question now is… “How will he handle being a National hero?”

He went from unknown shepherd to national celebrity overnight!!

As a result he was given considerable leadership in Saul’s Army – the army officers respected him – the people loved him.

*How did David respond??

David’s fame and success did not go to his head – he did what the king asked of him – he didn’t boast about it – he did it diligently and skillfully – and most importantly he did it in dependence of God ~~ for we read on a number of occasions in these chapters  “ … and the Lord was with David.”

The people respected and loved David – and praised him highly …

1 Samuel 18:7 7 As they danced, they sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his tens of thousands.” (NIV)

David’s acceptance by the people ~ his success in Battle ~ was not popular with everyone, namely King Saul!

2. FOE.

Saul’s problem was that he could not handle David’s success and popularity and he became extremely jealous and angry and full of hate.

The impact of the crowd’s song .. “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”.. penetrated the marrow of Saul’s bones.  Saul must have thought to himself  “They will want to make him king next!” Everything that David did stirred up feelings of jealousy and suspicion in Saul.

Every report of David’s successes was evidence that God was with David and that he had abandoned Saul as King!

Saul was afraid because the people praised David more than Saul [18v7]

Saul was afraid because the Lord was with David [18v12]

Saul was afraid because David was successful [18v15]

Saul was afraid because his daughter, Michal, loved David [18v29]

Fear and hate and jealousy mixed together turned to violence and Saul tried to have David killed. He was in absolute turmoil —

ILLUS.: In the Book “The history of Mr Polly” by H G Wells he describes Mr Polly like this .. “He was not so much a human being as a civil war.”

That would be a good description of King Saul.

Saul was eaten up with destructive jealousy ..

1 Samuel 18:9-11 9 And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

10 The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying  [in this context – probably ecstatic utterances – not necessarily from God – here from the evil Spirit] in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand 11 and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. (NIV)

As we work our way through these chapters we see that these irrational outbursts escalated into cold-blooded, carefully calculated assassination plots ..

  • promised to marry his daughter, Merab, to David on condition he proved himself in battle – the plan was to expose him to so much danger that he would be killed. When David showed up alive, Merab was hastily married to another.
  • Michal, Saul’s other daughter, fell in love with David and Saul’s devilish mind set the obscene dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins – surely 100 chances for David to be killed – BUT when David showed up with two hundred [double the quota] Saul had no choice but to allow the marriage to go ahead.
  • The first attempt failing Saul sent hire killers stake out the house and  murder David ~ David escaped – the men went to get him and Michal told them he was sick in bed ~~ instead of barging in and killing him the men reported back to Saul the David was sick in bed and couldn’t come out to be murdered ~~ enraged he ordered David brought bed and all so he could kill David himself. BUT the occupant of the bed turn out to be a dummy with a goat-hair wig!!

David’s goodness and success was what nearly got him killed. Saul hated David because he was good!!

Saul was enflamed with jealousy.

There are two key lessons for us as we look at Saul’s envy of David:-

  1. When we, like David, have a heart for God – get on with doing good we can expect opposition and jealousy from others ~ even other Christians! We can sometimes thing that if we are serving Christ and his church we won’t face those kinds of problems BUT there will always be people who will try to cut you down or undermine your work.                                   If God does bless you and your efforts ~ have David’s attitude and don’t flaunt your success.
  2. Learn to deal with any root of bitterness/jealousy that may spring up when you see others prospering. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of being jealous of those God is blessing or using other individuals of groups. Often manifests itself in and overly critical attitude – always questioning or being a wet-blanket. [However, doesn’t mean we must be naive and accept everything that is claimed to be of God!!]

What is David’s response to Saul’s aggression?

A glimpse of his attitude in … Psalm 37:1-4

1 [Of David.]

Do not fret because of evil men

or be envious of those who do wrong;

2 for like the grass they will soon wither,

like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD

and he will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV)

When Jesus was on earth – he went about doing good; he above all others had a heart for God; his supreme desire was to please his Father in Heaven. Many responded to him with jealous anger and hatred and finally murder!!

Following Christ and doing good will not always bring earthly praise and reward!! Few people will pat you on the back for being a Christian.

In the midst of David’s difficulties God gave him a friend!!



Jonathan’s friendship with David brackets Saul’s repeated attempts to kill David.

The story of their friendship begins with these words ..

1 Samuel 18:1 & 3

1 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. ……… 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.

Chapters 18 – 20 are filled with the details of Saul’s 6 attempts to murder David; 3x he tried to kill him with his own spear; 2x he lured him into almost certain death by sending him against the Philistines when offering his daughters as prizes ~ first Merab and then Michal; 1x he sent in a death squad to kill David in his own bed.

Each attempt failed because God was with David, protecting him ~ with the help of his friend/s.

As Jonathan helps David to escape from Saul at the end of Chapter 20 that closes the bracket on this period of David’s life at the palace and Saul’s attempts to murder him.

1 Samuel 20:42

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants for ever.’ ” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. (NIV)

At a very difficult time in David’s life God supplies a very special friend.

They were soul-mates and their friendship was covenant based.

Friendship with David complicated Jonathan’s life. He risked losing his Father’s favour and he willingly sacrificed his own kingly future ~~ But in spite of the risks and the personal losses he became and stayed David’s friend.

True friendship is not superficial backslapping.


We have seen something of David’s heart for God but what of Jonathan?

True Piety. ~ we first meet Jonathan in Ch. 14. where he and his amrourbearer take on and beat a host of Philistines. BUT listen to where his confidence lies…

1 Samuel 14:6

6 Jonathan said to his young armour-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” (NIV)

He has a great sense of trust in God – he is utterly and completely convinced of the power of God. And when he hears David say regarding Goliath “The battle is the Lord’s” he is drawn to him as one who trusts God as he does!

Humility ~ Saul was threatened that he would lose his throne to David ~ but listen to Jonathan on the same subject .. 1 Samuel 23:17 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (NIV)

Jonathan is committed to God ~ God puts up kings and brings them down ~ he is humble enough to depend on God whether he is king or David is king.

We see the same humble attitude in David when he is offered the kings daughter in marriage ..

1 Samuel 18:18

18 But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my father’s clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” (NIV)

Loyalty ~ In the end David had to flee for his life and would might have expected Jonathan to go with him BUT he doesn’t. He remains with His father, king Saul.

Why? Because he is enamoured with his father? NO! BUT he believed that his father needed him more than David.

Later when David had opportunity to kill Saul – he refused ~ they both had a deep sense of loyalty to this demented king.

Here are two people whose souls are drawn together in deep friendship. David describes his friendship with Jonathan .. 2 Samuel 1:26

26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.

Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. (NIV)

Some in contemporary society try to identify this as a homosexual relationship. Those who do that totally defy the heart of the scriptures as well as reveal their own twisted morality. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that any sexual impropriety existed in the friendship of David and Jonathan!

The secret of this deep soul friendship is that they both possessed and heart for God.

The secret of a lasting and deep friendship is not simply to look for someone like yourself BUT to develop a heart for God and to seek others with a similar desire.

ILLUS.: People in our society are crying out for these deep relationships ~ Why are there so many dating agencies and Lonely Hearts Clubs ~ People looking for the perfect partner ~ disappointed over and over again.

WHY? because so many are selfish grabbing acquaintances – taking what you can get – pleasing self …

Young people ~ as you look for a marriage partner in the future ~ even now deciding who you will date Look for the qualities you see in David and Jonathan – Develop a heart for God yourself and look for a friend who also has a heart for God. You will never have a good marriage without a good friendship!!


Their friendship was based on more than just similar qualities of character ~ they made a covenant / a pact of friendship. A deep sense of promise and commitment and loyalty.

The people of Israel understood covenant ~ God had promised that he would be their God – he took the initiative –  and the people responded by saying that they would be his people.

Jonathan took the initiative in the pact with David ~ there was a huge difference in their social status ~ Jonathan was a Prince – David was a shepherd.

They made a covenant and stuck to it whatever the cost ~ In ch.20 when David is afraid to go to the palace feast, Jonathan sticks out his neck for his friend and defends David to hid father ~ Saul gets so angry that he tries to kill his own son. Jonathan was willing to risk his life for David – that was the price of friendship.

Jonathan gave his friendship willingly ~ I can’t demand friendship ~ we can’t choose who our loyal friends will be.

You can choose to be a friend BUT you can’t choose to have a friend. Your friends will choose to be your friends.

Jonathan lived out his covenantal friendship with David in the hostile environment of Saul’s court. His difficult circumstances didn’t cancel out his covenant promises ~

Isn’t that the kind of commitment we need today in our marriages, our workplace, our church life ~~ where it is commitment and not circumstances that determine our friendship and loyalty!!

It is customary for friends to give gifts – it was so in OT times – ..

1 Samuel 18:4 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. (NIV)

.. tangible evidence of friendship ~ not just words. These things were the symbols of his status and the King’s son and he gave them to David. All that he was and all that he could do he placed at the disposal of his friend, for he loved him as he loved himself.

Prince Jonathan ~~ The Prince of Glory took the initiative and came down to this world to us ~ he made an offer of friendship and commitment to you and to me ~ by his death he gave tangible evidence of his loyalty to the covenant which he sealed with his own blood.

His friendship his covenant friendship – he swears never to leave us or forsake us. He covers us with his protective royal clothing ~ his righteousness. He gives us his sword – the word of God ……..

John 15:13-14 13 Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. (NIV)

Jesus showed covenant-friendship by giving his life ~~ he calls us to respond by obeying his commands.


Proverbs 18:24

24 ….. there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)

For the Christian that friend is the Lord Jesus Christ – make sure your relationship with him is strong – give him control of your live, once and for all and every day.

Then turn your attention to developing earthly friendships.

What qualities do you have that others would want to have in common with you?

What initiatives are you taking?

If you would have friends you must show yourself friendly!!

“Reach out to people ~~ not to advance your position BUT to advance their condition.” [Briscoe]

When it comes to the fellowship of God’s people in the Church —

  • Do you have anything in common with other believers?
  • Who are the Christians with whom you spend time?
  • Are you committed to the body of Christ, the Church? This local church!!! BINSCOMBE!

You say….

“Well I don’t have anybody. Nobody has shown me any interest.”

Turn around and ask yourself …

“What initiatives have I taken to look out for other people.”

MEN esp….

The story of David and Jonathan is one of manly faith, masculine courage and deep love “Are you reaching out to other men?”

We need deep commitment to each other if the church is going to be strong. Satan will attack us ~~ “Will our friendship in Christ last the distance??”

ILLUS. People say … “I stopped going to that Church!”


I didn’t get anything out of it.”

Is that why we come to Church – to get something out!

I thought we went to put something in – service – worship – friendship!!

“Well I don’t get involved in that sort of thing?”


“Well it doesn’t meet my needs.”

Should we not go as a Jonathan to a David to address HIS needs.

What about the commitment made to the Church? spouse? children?

The stuff of which spirituality is made is communion with Christ worked out in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.

When David was up against it he had a Jonathan ~ God’s provision ~ who took the initiative and committed to him and ministered to him.

Jesus is the ultimate friend to us.

What he asks of us is to be friends ~ soul-mates ~ covenant friends to others.

You can’t be that deep friend to everybody BUT are you being that friend to somebody??



1 Samuel 18:1 – 20:42

 1. FAME.

  • David had learned to handle obscurity
  • Now he is tested in the limelight of popularity

 2. FOE.

  • ‘A heart for God’ and doing good will often bring opposition and hostility
  • Beware of jealousy and bitterness when others succeed or prosper


  • Soul mates

– piety  – humility  – loyalty

  • Covenant commitment

            – pact / promise / practical commitment


              sentiment / fantasy / empty words


 “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

                                                                                Proverbs 18:24

 JESUS  —“Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”                                           John 15:13-14



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