Posts Tagged ‘trying to appease the culture’

1 Samuel 20:1-42 (Part 1 of 4)
Jonathan Helps David

My dad was a man of many sayings, some were original, some were clichés. One of his sayings that was a common cliché but was one that he used with me quite frequently was “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” I think we all have heard that one as a child at one time or another. It was certainly one though that dad used on me a lot. My dad was real big on family. Being a Methodist preacher’s family, sometimes family was all we had. We moved a lot. The Methodist Church rarely let a minister stay at one church more than 4 or 5 years back in those days, when I was growing up. So, family was the only common thing that we had that lasted. The towns didn’t last but the four of us (mom, dad, me, and my brother) did. The family was the constant. Therefore, my dad was big on us standing up for the family, for each other. He wanted us to display no dissension among us to the world and he wanted us to realize that when you had nothing else you had family.

The only problem with that family before all else mentality was that my brother was socially awkward growing up. He was much like Sheldon Cooper’s character on the show, The Big Bang Theory. My brother has always been this extremely intelligent person. He has this photographic memory. He just reads and absorbs stuff immediately. He just files away stuff in that brain of his and can spout off statistics from the 1977 Braves baseball season like it’s nothing. He can remember small details about everything. He has always been that way and still is that way. This gift that he has was one that made him an excellent student in school. School was effortless to him because of his ability to retain information, retrieve it, manipulate it, etc. It wasn’t just that he could remember facts and figures but that he could apply that knowledge in an understanding way. So, he was a geek, let’s just say that. He was socially awkward. He did not understand that displaying his intelligence to others or deriding others for not being as smart would make him a social outcast.

Although I am not as smart as my brother (as I do not have his eidetic memory), I was a good student and made really good grades. Where my brother would make straight A’s, I would make say 5 A’s and a B or 4 A’s and 2 B’s each nine weeks. Where my brother would make schoolwork seem effortless, I had to work really hard at it and spend more time at it. The difference between my brother and me was that I understood school social dynamics better than he. I knew that school was important and that I needed to make good grades. I wanted that just as bad as my brother. However, I knew that to fit in socially you just didn’t lord your smartness over other people. You just set yourself up for being a social pariah, an outcast, the geeks, the ones that everybody picks on when you do. My brother was picked on, made fun of, made an outcast all through school. He did not understand the social politics of school.

That’s where the whole jumping off the bridge thing came in. My dad would get onto me frequently for joining in with the crowd to make fun of my brother. Although my brother could be a total jerk to me and to any friends I would be with because he was Sheldon Cooper made over, I was to swallow all that and take up for my brother outside our home. I understand family is everything. I believe that myself when it came to my kids, but your siblings have got to meet you half way sometimes. My brother never made it easy for me to take up for me in public. He was his own worst enemy socially and he would even be a jerk to his own brother sometimes in public. However, to dad, it did not matter what society was doing, it was more important for me to stay true to the family.
Trying to fit in with the culture around me as a child instead of standing apart with my brother was what I thought of this morning when I read through 1 Samuel 20 for the first time of three reads of it that we will do over the next few days. The reason that I thought about my childhood relationship with my brother and the social politics of school was the thought that came to mind about the moon festival that was described in this chapter. There was a new moon festival that was described there and it made me think about all the pagan cultures of that day that actually worshiped the moon as an idol. Why were the Israelites having a moon-related festival was the question that came to mind? Why were they being like the cultures around them? That lead me to thinking about the choices that I had to make in the social politics of school when it came to my brother – jumping off the bridge with my friends or standing up for my brother. Were the Israelites jumping off the bridge here to be like the cultures they were hanging out with? Let’s read the passage with that idea in mind (we will deal with the actions of the characters, David, Jonathan and Saul in the next two blogs on this passage/chapter):

Chapter 20
1 David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

2 “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!”

3 Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!”

4 “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.

5 David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. 6 If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. 7 If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. 8 Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord—or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!”

9 “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.”

10 Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?”

11 “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. 12 Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. 13 But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. 14 And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David,[a] saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile.[b] 20 I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. 22 But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. 23 And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.”

24 So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him[c] and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” 27 But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.”

30 Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!”[d] he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!”

32 “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.

34 Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David.

35 The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. 36 “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. 38 Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. 39 He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. 40 Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town.

41 As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile.[e] Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.

42 At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

In this passage, we see this new moon festival being described. If you look back into the book of Numbers, you will note that there is a new moon festival described there and it involved making a sacrifice to the Lord (see Numbers 28:11-15). At the beginning of each month, the Israelites gathered to celebrate this festival. While this was a festival to be enjoyed each month, it was also a way to dedicate the coming new month to the Lord. Other nations had celebrations during the full moon and worshiped the moon itself. The Israelites however celebrated their fest at the time in the moon’s cycle when the moon was not visible in the sky (new moon). This was a reminder that they were not to worship the moon itself but rather the God who made the cycles of the universe that are observable and can be counted on. It was a reminder that God orders the universe and we can count on that and, as a result, we should dedicate our lives to giving him glory each month. It was a completely different take on the moon worship culture of the cultures around them.

That reminded me of what my dad said. I needed to stand with my brother not with the culture that was making fun of him. I needed to stay on the bridge instead of jumping off it with the culture. Then, that got me to thinking about us as Christians. Do we modify our beliefs just to try to fit in with the current flow of culture? Do we water down the gospel to appease the sensibilities of today’s culture? Do we try to fit God’s Word into the current cultural desires and what it accepts as normal and OK? Or do we remain true to God’s Word and stand with what we know to be his eternal truths – even if it is not the popular thing to do?

Is it better to fit in with temporary culture on this side of heaven or stand with God’s eternal Word that we know to be right and true and the measure by which we will be judged when we pass into eternity? Do we jump off the bridge with the culture just because it will make life easier or do we stand firm with God?

Amen and Amen.