Submitting to God’s Choice
During my pre-pubescent years, I remember on more than one occasion my father impressing upon me that he had a sovereign right to rule in his own house. I didn’t like it but I had to admit that a paddle in his hand sure did some powerful convincing when he used it.
Even when I was older and bigger, (even without his paddle) I could not dissuade him from that sovereign right. So, in the natural order of things, I couldn’t wait to get out of his house and ‘be my own man.’
Of course that scene has come and gone full circle now in my life. My right to rule in my house was challenged and I prevailed…more or less…it seems that our dog usually got her way.
This perceived right to rule is why I find the relationship of Jonathan and David so intriguing.
In 1 Samuel 18: 3,4 we read.
“Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that [was] upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”
Jonathan was a prince, the son of King Saul of Israel. David, on the other hand was a mere shepherd boy that had become a folk hero in Israel when he brought down the Philistines champion.
David had been brought into the King’s court to play the harp before Saul in order to soothe the king’s jangled nerves and smitten conscience.
The prophet Samuel had already told Saul that “… The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, [that is] better than thou.” 1 Sam. 15:28
King Saul and his son Jonathan knew that God had chosen David to be the next king in Israel. Saul resented David and several times tried to kill him. Jonathan on the other hand knew the Word of the Lord from the prophet Samuel and submitted himself to it.
Turning over our rights to God
Although, in the natural order of things Jonathan had a sovereign right to rule, yet rather than being jealous of David and clinging to that which was his by nature, his soul was knit to David’s. In an act of devotion, Jonathan removes those articles of clothing that distinguish him as an heir to the throne and he willingly gives them to David.
There is in this single act a summary of God’s call to every person who has ever lived. Will we, or more specifically, will you or will I willingly turn over our right to rule our own lives to another?
Jonathan obviously had a great deal of confidence in David. Not only had David shown his courage in defeating Goliath, but David had shown himself to be patient in waiting for God’s time to install him as King of Israel.
This is a serious challenge to any smugness we may have regarding our submission to the Lord Jesus. Jonathan recognizes that David is God’s anointed King and the throne rightly belongs to him.
So, what of those articles of clothing that Jonathan turns over to David? Do they say anything to us and our submissive devotion to God’s anointed King, Jesus Christ?
The first thing that Jonathan gives over to David is his robe. This article of clothing above all others designates the wearer as the heir to the throne. The one who lawfully wears it signifies his Right to rule.
As I write this, I am shamed to think of the multiple areas of my life that I defiantly clutch this robe tighter around my chilled soul. Like a defiant three year old deprived of his desire, my flesh shrieks out its hot displeasure at the thought of disrobing and losing my own will to His.
Like Jacob of old who, by subtle craft deprived Esau of his birthright, we can the same deceit be a false heir to the throne of grace rather than a true child of God. It is only by wrestling with God that Jacob, the usurper prince, become Israel, a prince with God. So it is that God must wrest from us that dependence on the flesh ere we ever find a ladder to heaven.
My flesh even now is drawing my mind away to a thousand different hobby horses that pique my interest and promise to satisfy my longings for the imagined security and comfort of a throne of my own devices. Can I not trust Him with my life who I profess to have trusted with my soul?
We are also told that Jonathan gave David his garments. Again, these would not be ordinary garments, nor would they necessarily be for public display.
These would be those personal items of the finest cloth that offer no chafing to the flesh, no disquiet to his senses. These are those things that speak of his rights to personal privilege…things that as a prince he is entitled to and things that are provided for him, not by his sacrifice, but by the sacrifice of others.
The blessings of God are too numerous for finite minds to grasp. We so take for granted our health, our provisions, our daily comforts of the heavenly luminaries to guide us and keep the established order of the tides; the air we breath, the water we drink, the senses to perceive our world and the foods that we consume.
Yet these are but a shadow and a whisper of the spiritual blessings that belong to mankind as a result of the benevolence of our Creator God. His sacrifice for sin, too unspeakable in its horror, is manifold more unspeakable in its grace.
Through Him mankind is given opportunity for redemption and the privilege of relationship with our Savior King. His reluctance to see any perish compels Him to provide yet another day to display His glory in His heavens that all men may bear witness to…perchance they repent and turn to Him for mercy.
Yet we have become so accustomed to these blessings so as to expect them as the entitlements of our existence. So much do we deceive ourselves in this that when calamity, illness or loss of any kind befalls us, we think ourselves undeserving and question the integrity and good will of our provider God. The miseries of this life are falsely attributed to His lack of benevolence rather than to the brutality of our depraved souls.
Jonathan did not fear the loss of privilege as much as he feared the loss of priority that belonged to God’s anointed one. Jonathan’s first love, his chief love was to see God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done on earth as has been determined in heaven.
What presumption of soul do I see within that I should ever prefer my privilege to God’s priority!
May God be merciful to me, the sinner!
Should the Lord grant more opportunity for repentance, these other items remain to be explored:
Jonathan’s Sword = his right to will: defend himself or judge others.
Jonathan’s Bow = his right to project his authority.
Jonathan’s Girdle = his right to run freely