Recognizing the King

By Amber Noel

A Reading from 1 Samuel 17:50-18:4

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it.

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 The troops of Israel and Judah rose up with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 The Israelites came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armor in his tent.

55 When Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?” Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” 56 The king said, “Inquire whose son the stripling is.” 57 On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

1 When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.


What about David makes Jonathan love him — instantly, wholeheartedly, and loyally? What compels a prince practically to bow down before a teenaged manual laborer? David kills Goliath, comes before King Saul to answer who he is, where he’s from, and who his father is. And Prince Jonathan is stricken, from his soul, by this simple young man. Without premeditation, and with passionate abandonment, he removes all his signs of royalty and riches, and literally lowers all his defenses, and gives it all to David.

What is it that compels us, from the heart, toward certain other people? Perhaps it’s something we’re missing in our own lives that we see in them, and we’re attracted. When the victorious David comes obediently before Saul, answering the king’s questions simply and humbly, maybe Jonathan is gobsmacked to find here everything missing from his own house: honesty, courage, meekness, and undiluted trust in God.

But there’s something at play here beyond human affection, attachment theory, or psychological need. If we truly seek to know the character of God, we rejoice when we find it. Something in Jonathan was on the right track as he recognized the calling and presence of the Holy Spirit on David’s life. Yes, David was impressive. Yes, he was handsome. But so (we might imagine) were plenty of people in the royal household, including Jonathan’s own father, Saul.

When Jesus is brought obediently before the Sanhedrin to confess who he is, and where he is from, and who his Father is, it is tragic to think there was no Jonathan there to recognize him and to throw himself down, defenseless and weaponless, before him. No one had Jonathan’s guts to honor a true King when he saw one — humble, simple, God-fearing — before the ruling leaders. May we be given grace to do so, wherever we may find him, especially when it’s a risk, and especially in unlikely people and places.

Amber Noel, M.Div., is Associate Editor at the Living Church and Associate Director of The Living Church Institute. Off the clock, she is the author of short fiction, book and culture reviews, and work for the stage.

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Today we pray for:

St. David’s (Radnor) Church, Wayne, Pa.
The Diocese of Mara (Anglican Church of Tanzania)


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