Trials are painful. Protracted trials are especially wearing and stressful. Protracted trials at the hands of a relentless and persistent foe can be overwhelming, taxing our faith and trust in God. Saul was marked by inveterate opposition, hatred, and malevolence toward David. He employed every stratagem, appealed to every evil in the hearts of his followers, and rallied support from every quarter by self-pity and threats.
But David was learning God. David learned that he must “walk through the valley of the shadow of death;” he could not “run” through it. For those walking through this valley, each step is slow; each day begins with hope and ends with unchanged circumstances.
God is kind and gracious. Jonathan went to David and “strengthened his hand in God” (1Sam 23:16). How did Jonathan strengthen David? “Thou shalt be king over Israel!” What a confession to make to a fugitive hiding in the wilderness, pursued by an army of trained and hardened soldiers, and led by a blood-thirsty king! The words, though brief, carried the assurance of safety and coming glory.
As the chapter closes, Saul had David trapped. Encircled by Saul, David must have wondered and thought of the words of Jonathan. But how would God save him now? A messenger came to Saul with news of a Philistine invasion. Saul had to make a difficult choice but realized he needed to save the kingdom if he were to have a kingdom. God employed David’s enemies, the Philistines, to save him. Jonathan reminds us of human responsibility as we help those going through trial; the close of the chapter of divine sovereignty and its mercies for those being tried. God is good!