Love, Jealousy and Fear

Click here for more messages from the book of 1 Samuel.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.

1 Samuel 18:1-16 (Saul has slain thousands)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is on David and Saul, and we are seeing how God raised David up to be king while Saul continued his downward slide away from God. Last week we looked at the story of David and Goliath, and this week we will see what happened between David and Saul as a direct result of David’s victory over Goliath. (Read 1 Samuel 18:6-9 and pray)

————————————–

Two questions. Do you ever struggle with jealousy? Does it make you happy? The answer to those two questions by the way are yes and no. Yes, everyone struggles with jealousy at certain times, and no, it never makes us happy. And yet we do it anyways.

Today we are going to be looking at the topics of love, jealousy and fear as seen through the relationships of Jonathan, David and Saul. Jonathan is Saul’s oldest son, and he is famous for his friendship with David.

Today’s passage teaches a very simple truth: love brings you closer to people, while jealousy and fear will drive you apart. In fact, if you take a look at the sermon outline this morning, you will notice how almost every point in the outline today has two words in it: “you” and “others.”

Love makes you seek unity with others. Love makes you put others before yourself. Jealousy prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes. Jealousy robs you of the joy of your own successes. Jealousy will make you strike out at others. Fear will keep you from seeing God at work in others. Fear will keep you from loving others as you should.

Love, jealousy and fear all have to do with how you will relate to others. They also have to do with how you will relate to God, and how God will use you in this life.

I. Jonathan’s love for David (1-4)

So, let’s get started with Jonathan’s love for David. Jonathan and David enjoyed a special friendship which was all the more remarkable because Jonathan was next in line for the throne, and God was blessing David with such success. If anyone should have been jealous or afraid of David, it was Jonathan. But instead of giving in to jealousy or fear, Jonathan reached outward with love.

   A. Love makes you seek unity with others (1)
      – Psalm 133:1; Philippians 2:2

There are a couple of things we can learn from Jonathan’s love for David in this passage. First of all, love makes you seek unity with others. Jealousy and fear drive people apart, but love brings you together. Look at 1 Samuel 18:1:

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:1)

We’ve met Jonathan before, back in chapters 13 and 14 when we studied the rise and fall of Saul. But this is the first time we see David and Jonathan together. This verse marks the beginning of their friendship, one of the most beautiful and celebrated friendships ever recorded. Jonathan and David were kindred spirits. They were soul mates. They were the best of friends.

Jonathan obviously was impressed by David’s faith in going up against Goliath. Jonathan had shown a similar faith earlier on when he led the attack on the Philistines back in chapters 13 and 14. It was a very similar scene to David and Goliath. Saul and his whole army were holding back in fear, and Jonathan acted boldly in faith.

Psalm 133:1 says: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Paul tells the Philippians in Philippians 2:2: “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:2)

We can seek an even greater unity today because of the Holy Spirit in each believer. Jonathan and David became one in spirit, and Jonathan loved David as himself. Love makes you seek unity with others.

   B. Love makes you put others before yourself (2-4)
      – Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3

Love also makes you put others before yourself. Look at 1 Samuel 18:2-4:

From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 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. (1 Samuel 18:2-4)

Here David and Jonathan move from being one in spirit to committed friendship. Jonathan makes a covenant of friendship with David. He takes off his royal robe and gives it to David along with his tunic, his sword, his bow and his belt. Jonathan was next in line to be king. These clothes and weapons were symbolic of Jonathan’s position as heir to the throne. Giving David these items was symbolic of Jonathan passing on to David his right to the throne.

Talk about committed friendship! Once again, if anyone had a right to be jealous of David, it was Jonathan! But Jonathan seems to have understood early on that David will be the next king, and you know what? Jonathan is just fine with that. He is fine with it because he loves David as himself. And instead of giving in to jealousy, he puts David before himself.

That’s what love does. It puts others first. Romans 12:10 says: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) Philippians 2:3 says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

You are to seek the honor of other people before yourself. It’s not enough that you just don’t mind the other person getting the honor, but you should actually prefer to honor others above yourself. That’s really hard to do, isn’t it? Perhaps only with our children do we really get this right. We want things better for them than ourselves. But true love makes you put all others before yourself.

These verses mark the beginning of David and Jonathan’s friendship, and what a beautiful beginning it is. Jonathan becomes one in spirit with David and loves him as himself. He makes a covenant of friendship with David and puts David before himself. Love makes you seek unity with others and makes you put others before yourself.

II. Saul’s jealousy of David (5-11)

In verses 5-11 now we move from Jonathan’s love for David to Saul’s jealousy of David. And here Saul’s jealousy stands in direct contrast to Jonathan’s love. There are a lot of problems with jealousy, and our passage today highlights three of them.

   A. Jealousy prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes (5)
      – James 3:14-16

First of all, jealousy prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes. Look at 1 Samuel 18:5:

Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well. (1 Samuel 18:5)

So, Saul starts giving David more tasks, and everything David does he does successfully. After the incident with Goliath David is popular with all the people. He is a national hero. If they had action figures in those days, David would have been an action figure!

David is so successful that Saul even gives him a high rank in the army. This pleased everyone. We already know it pleased Jonathan, because Jonathan loved David as himself. But it also pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well.

Guess who’s not mentioned as being pleased? Saul! Saul is not pleased with this at all. Why? Because he’s jealous, and jealousy prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes.

God doesn’t want you to be jealous of other people. We read in James 3: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16)

   B. Jealousy robs you of the joy of your own successes (6-9)
      – Romans 12:3; Galatians 6:4

Jealousy not only prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes. It also robs you of the joy of your own successes. Look at 1 Samuel 18:6-9:

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. 7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” 8 Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:6-9)

So, Saul’s jealousy of David goes all the way back to David’s victory over Goliath. When the men were returning from battle, the women came out to meet Saul. So far, so good! They were singing and dancing and celebrating. So far, so good! As they danced, they sang, “Saul has slain his thousands!” Still so far, so good!

Then they sang, “And David his tens of thousands.” Oh oh, now we’ve got a problem. Saul was angry because they credited David with tens of thousands and Saul with only thousands. “Only” thousands. You see, jealousy not only prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes. It also robs you of the joy of your own successes.

Saul says, “What more can he get but the kingdom?” The proper response to Saul here is, “Saul, it’s not your kingdom! It’s God’s kingdom! What do you care what God does with his own kingdom?” Saul, like Jonathan, is beginning to understand that David is the one whom God has chosen to replace Saul as king. But whereas Jonathan rejoiced for his friend, Saul got jealous, and he got angry. And in his jealousy, he couldn’t even take joy in his own successes anymore.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s hard to count your own blessings when you’re busy counting someone else’s. God wants you to take joy in what he is doing in your life without comparing yourself to anyone else. And especially when it comes to his kingdom. There’s only one kingdom. How can we be jealous that someone else is advancing God’s kingdom?

Romans 12:3 says: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3) Don’t think of yourself in comparison with others but with sober judgment, with a realistic appraisal of the unique personality and gifts God has given you.

Galatians 6:4 says: “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.” (Galatians 6:4) Jealousy is a thief. It prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes. It robs you of the joy of your own successes.

   C. Jealousy will make you strike out at others (10-11)
      – Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:20

And then thirdly, jealousy will make you strike out at others. Look at 1 Samuel 18:10-11:

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying 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. (1 Samuel 18:10-11)

So, this is the very next day, the day after they returned from the battle with Goliath. Saul is in one of his moods, and David is playing the harp trying to calm him down. David has a harp in his hand, and Saul has a spear in his. This evil spirit from God comes forcefully upon Saul, and he throws the spear at David trying to pin him to the wall. He does this twice! You’ve probably heard of rough crowds throwing rotten tomatoes at musicians before, but when they start throwing spears, I think I’m out of there!

Jealousy will eventually make you strike out at others. Jealousy starts on the inside, but it doesn’t stay there. Jealousy will eventually work its way out. You may not have a spear in your hand, but you’ve got daggers in your eyes. You may not throw a physical weapon, but you will strike out in other ways – with ugly words or hurtful actions.

There are a number of what we call “sin lists” or “vice lists” in the Bible, and the order of the sins listed is very interesting. For example, we read in Romans 1:29: “They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers.” (Romans 1:29) What comes first? Jealousy or envy. What follows? Murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip and slander.

Or we could look at Galatians 5:20 which lists the following in order: “… jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.” (Galatians 5:20) First comes the jealousy, then comes fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions and factions.

Jealousy is a terrible sin. It prevents you from taking pleasure in other people’s successes. It robs you of the joy of your own successes. It will make you strike out at others.

III. Saul’s fear of David (12-16)

We’ve looked at Jonathan’s love for David and Saul’s jealousy of David. Finally, we come to Saul’s fear of David.

   A. Fear will keep you from seeing God at work in others (12-14)
      – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

Jealousy leads to fear, not the fear like we looked at last time where the Israelites were afraid of Goliath. No, this is a different kind of fear – the fear of being left out, fear that the other person will get all the attention, fear that the other person will get the credit or honor, fear of being dismissed, discounted or overlooked. Jealousy leads to fear, and fear will do a number of things. For one thing, it will keep you from seeing God at work in others. Look at 1 Samuel 18:12-14:

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul. 13 So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. 14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. (1 Samuel 18:12-14)

Isn’t that interesting? Saul is the one throwing spears, but he’s the one who’s afraid! Perhaps the fact that David eluded the spear twice showed Saul that God was with David.

Saul was afraid, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul. Saul keeps giving David higher assignments in the army, probably hoping David will get killed in battle, but in everything David has great success because the Lord is with him. Here Saul is trying to get David killed, but he just ends up giving David the military experience David will need to be king! Everything Saul does works against himself and helps David. God is doing a great work in David’s life, and Saul doesn’t get to enjoy any of it because he is all caught up in jealousy and fear.

In the New Testament the church at Corinth had gifted leaders, but they were also full of divisions and factions. Paul has to remind them in 1 Corinthians 3: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) God was doing a great work through Paul! And God was doing a great work through Apollos! But the Corinthians couldn’t see it. They were lining up behind one or the other. Some of them were playing with their Paul action figures while others had their Apollos action figures.

God was doing a great work through both of them. But once again, who was doing the work? God was! Paul planted, and Apollos watered, but God is the one who makes it grow. Jealousy leads to fear, and fear will keep you from seeing God at work in others.

   B. Fear will keep you from loving others as you should (15-16)
      – Romans 13:8; 1 John 4:18

And then finally, fear will keep you from loving others as you should. Look at 1 Samuel 18:15-16:

When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns. (1 Samuel 18:15-16)

Saul should have loved David for all he was doing. Here David was leading the men in all their campaigns and bringing Saul victory after victory. The rest of Israel loved David. But not Saul. At first he loved David. But Saul was afraid of David, and fear will keep you from loving others as you should.

Romans 13:8 says: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8) Love is a debt we continually owe each other, because we are loved by God, and we have an obligation to pass that love on to others.

1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) In context this verse is talking about fear of punishment and love for God, but the general principle also applies to our fellow human beings. There is no fear in love. Fear will keep you from loving others as you should, and perfect love drives out all fear.

Jealousy leads to fear. And fear will keep you from seeing God at work in others. Fear will keep you from loving others as you should.

CONCLUSION: So, we have this remarkable passage where we see Jonathan’s love for David, Saul’s jealousy of David, and then Saul’s resulting fear of David. And it illustrates for us a very simple truth: that love brings you closer to people, while jealousy and fear will drive you apart.

And if that’s true, if love brings you closer to people while jealousy and fear will drive you apart, then you should seek love and avoid jealousy and fear. Love will bless you with many close friendships and relationships, while jealousy and fear will only isolate you and make you miserable. You will also miss out on what God is doing in and through other people.

Jesus died not only to save us from our sins, but to bring us together as brothers and sisters in Christ. There is only one kingdom, the kingdom of God, and we are all in this together.

Look, you can’t love someone if you’re jealous of them or afraid God’s going to use them instead of you. And if you can’t love someone, then God can’t use you anyways. So, let’s ask God to help us put all our jealousies and fears behind and start loving people instead.

© Ray Fowler

You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this message provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and that you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For any web postings, please link to the sermon directly at this website.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copies:
By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

Click here for more messages from the book of 1 Samuel.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.