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Living in Shades of Gray

1 Samuel 19:1-7 


"Now Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan, Saul's son, greatly delighted in David. [2] So Jonathan told David saying, ‘Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself. [3] And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you; if I find out anything, then I shall tell you.' [4] Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, ‘Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. [5] For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, by putting David to death without a cause?' [6] And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.' [7] Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these words. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as formerly." 

King Saul told his son Jonathan, along with Saul's servants, to put David to death.

Pop quiz: Should you always obey those in authority over you? 

Romans 13:1-2 says, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. [2] Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." (NASB) This verse is fairly black and white. Authority comes from God. He has established it and to disobey someone in authority is to disobey God, which will result in being punished by God. Peter makes it equally clear in 1 Peter 2:13, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority," (NASB) Peter says, "every human institution." That is crystal clear, isn't, we are to obey authority. 

More specific to Jonathan's case, Deut. 21:18-21 says, "If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, [19] then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. [20] And they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' [21] Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear." The law requires a stiff penalty for rebellion–death. Why such a serious consequence? Because rebellion is a serious matter. 1 Samuel 15:23 says, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." (KJV)

Pretty black and white, right? Do what you are told and don't ask questions. Then why didn't Jonathan do what he was told? Did he let his friendship with David get in the way of doing what his King–his Father told him to do? Or did Jonathan do right by disobeying what his father told him regardless of what Deut. 21:18-21said?

Sometimes life is lived in a black and white world, but other times we live in shades of gray and we have to decide between two right things to do that are contradictory. Yes it is right to obey your father, but it is also right not to kill an innocent person. Jonathan had to decide which was MOST RIGHT. Jonathan decided that in his gray world, the most right thing to do would, out of loyalty to his father and his friend, talk to his father on behalf of his friend. Jonathan didn't practice "people-pleasing" here. He told his father like it was. He called his behavior sin and asked him to repent of it. He pointed out all the good that David had done for the king and his kingdom and asked the king not to shed innocent blood. Jonathan's attempt at reconciliation between the two parties was successful for a brief time. Let's rejoin the text to see what happened next in 1 Samuel 19:9-18, "Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing the harp with his hand. [10] And Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, so that he stuck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night. 

    [11] Then Saul sent messengers to David's house to watch him, in order to put him to death in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, told him, saying, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be put to death.' [12] So Michal let David down through a window, and he went out and fled and escaped. [13] And Michal took the household idol and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats' hair at its head, and covered it with clothes. [14] When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.' [15] Then Saul sent messengers to see David, saying, ‘Bring him up to me on his bed, that I may put him to death.' [16] When the messengers entered, behold, the household idol was on the bed with the quilt of goats' hair at its head. [17] So Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?' And Michal said to Saul, ‘He said to me, 'Let me go! Why should I put you to death?''

    [18] Now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth." (NASB)

With everything patched up between Saul and David, David returns to his duties and was playing the harp for him, as he had done countless times, and like he had done in 1 Samuel 18:10, Saul tried to kill David while he was ministering to him. And once again, David ran for his life. This time, Saul dispatched messengers to watch him and kill him in the morning in his own bed. Just as Jonathan had intervened on David's behalf, so did Michal, Saul's daughter and David's wife. She helped him escape and deceived the king and his messengers so David could escape. Michal lied, saying he was sick, Saul asked the messengers to bring David to him so Saul could kill him himself (I guess he thought he could handle David himself if he was sick.) Saul was shocked to learn that his own daughter had deceived him to help her husband escape. Michal was living in a gray world too. She had to choose between two wrongs: aiding her father in killing her husband or lying to her father to save her husband's life.

When life isn't black and white, when you're living in shades of gray and have to choose between two rights or two wrongs, what do you do?

FIRST, REMEMBER ULTIMATELY THAT YOU ANSWER TO A HIGHER AUTHORITY. On the brink of war, President Bush addressed the nation and the world on March 17, 2003 and warned the Iraqi Nation that war criminals could not use the defense, "I was just following orders." He said, "And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen carefully to this warning: In any conflict, your fate will depend on your actions. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people. War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, ‘I was just following orders.'"

There is a point where everyone must take responsibility for their actions. As I understand it, there is a difference between a lawful order and an unlawful order. President Bush asked the Iraqis to distinguish between the two. In this case, he was letting them know that the day would come when they would answer to another authority.

SECOND, REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE CHOICES YOU'VE MADE. Whether it is choosing between two rights, like Jonathan did, or between two wrongs, like Michal did, you will have to live with the choices you make.

AND THIRD, SO WILL OTHERS. Remember that David was God's choice for king. Both Jonathan and Michal were doing the work of God while they were living in the shades of gray they found themselves in. They were God's instruments to preserve his King. David and the entire kingdom would have to live by their decisions. What they did had consequences.

So what will David do? Will he fight back? Will he lead a rebellion against the King, or will he stay in hiding at Samuel's place? We'll rejoin the story next week, but for now, let me ask you to think about your own resolve to do the right thing, even when doing it means you are going against the grain. Do you have the courage of character to confront, like Jonathan did or protect like Michal did? Or are you quick to follow other people even if it means going against your conscience. 

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