Before diving into our verse in depth, I have to mention the beginning of this chapter. Jonathan, if you remember is Saul’s son. David and him instantly became the closest of friends; they were bonded by their commitment to God. Jonathan will even later find out that David is going to be the next king, and not even that got in the way of their friendship. Moving on to Saul, it’s incredible how different Saul and Jonathan are. After David beat Goliath, and every mission Saul sent him on after (he never went back to shepherding after Goliaths defeat), he was successful. If you have been following along in this book of Samuel, you may be able to guess that he got jealous of David, almost instantly. Not only was he jealous, but scripture tells us he was afraid of David because God was with him. Remember, David was originally brought to Saul to play the lyre for him when the evil spirit God sent to Saul came upon him. While in one of those times as David played the lyre and Saul was under the evil spirit, he tried to kill David out of jealousy. Yikes! But, are you ready to see David’s character shine? Regardless, David continued to love and protect him. Scripture also tells us that as time went on “Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.” (v.29) I also want to make note that in this chapter, Saul was to give his daughter to David after winning the battle of Goliath. The time had come, but David told Saul basically that because of who he was/where he came from, that it wouldn’t be right to become the kings son-in-law. So, his oldest daughter married someone else, but scripture again tells us Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, so Saul was arranging for them to be married. He knew David wouldn’t just take her as his wife, so he sent David out to battle to basically earn her – hoping he would die to the Philistines – but, he found success and Michal was then given to David in marriage. As we learned in chapter 17, David had such a confidence in God. Every battle/challenge he faced, he gave it over to God, so everything he did he knew was a victory for the Lord, not himself. Our application even tells us that unlike Saul who got arrogant and proud when he gained popularity, David remained humble. God wants us to hold that same confidence.
As I contemplated over this scripture today, “In everything he did he had great success because the Lord was with him.” How did you react when you read this? Did you agree and feel like you could say the same thing? Or did you look at it and feel like “good for you David, but I don’t have the same story.” Or maybe somewhere in the middle. It’s all too easy to get to a place of jealously like Saul was. You see someone else looking like every single thing they do they find success, but it’s not the same for you. Maybe you struggle through things, you work hard, but no pay raise or promotion happens or maybe even something you really want success in, just hasn’t happened for you yet. It may not feel like the Lord is with you giving you all the success he gave David. It may feel like he’s forgotten about you. And those doubts, that when jealousy starts to creep in as we see others get what we’ve been wanting. We may even start to feel unfavored or unseen. But, this verse is actually one to be encouraging for us. What if we looked for how God was bringing us success in a different way? It all comes down to how we view success. The world will tell us (and our flesh will crave it) that success is more money, more power, more followers, but that’s not how God would define it. “The Bible defines success in terms of what is spiritual and lasting and ends in eternal life and joy. Whereas worldly success is centered on the promotion and gratification of ourselves, biblical success is centered on obedience to and glorification of God. Success [defined biblically] is obedience to God, empowered by the Spirit of God, motivated by love for God, and directed toward the advancement of the kingdom of God.” (https://www.compellingtruth.org/Bible-success.html) Now take that thing you were thinking about earlier and put it through the lens of what God considers success. In this truth, I think we can see how this scripture plays true in our own lives. Things we do may not look like we are successful, but that’s to the world. If we are trusting in the Lord with each battle, we will naturally grow closer to Him and be in obedience, which is actual success and like David, we can expect that kind of success as long as are doing our part to stay in line with God. When we flip our point of view (this one is hard!) we will find our success in everything because we are living for God in everything. Sometimes not right away, sometimes it will be in hind sight, but we will see how He has given us success.
Write down someone you are jealous of, or something you are struggling with, or a place where you feel unfavored by God. Write out why you feel this way. I think it’s important to give this to God, now. Then search your heart and mind for something good that has taken place in the midst of it, a success God has given you through it. I know this might be hard, but try. Then ask for jealousy to be removed; for you to be able to see through His lens of success or to help you look for Him in the struggle.
How do you feel now knowing a biblical definition of success? How could this change how you look at future “battles”?
Lord, thank you for this story. Thank you for showing us first what a friendship can look like. Help us to cultivate friendships like David and Jonathan. Thank you for the reminder that we can be confident because you are with us in every battle, fighting on our behalf. Thank you for revealing Saul’s jealousy so that we can examine our own hearts to find where that lies within us. When jealousy is in us, it isn’t something we like and we know that it is not something you desire for us, so, we ask that you soften our hearts now Lord, that any place that jealousy is hiding, you remove it and replace it with your love. We know that the world tells us we need power and money to be successful, but we know success is ultimately what we do for your glory and being close to you. Help us to achieve the type of success you desire for us. We know that you are with us and for us, in every challenge, ready to bring us the success you desire for us. Help us to see your hand in the battles. It’s in your loving name we pray, AMEN!