Legends, Covenants, Fear
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Reflection based upon 1 Samuel 17-18:5, Mark 4:35-41, Psalm 9
The story of David’s battle with Goliath is a familiar story that is invoked to encourage underdog victories. As a Royals fan, I know this feeling of being an underdog well. Yet David is not viewing this situation as he being the underdog - but someone with a surprise. David is not the usual suspect, not military bred, but a shepherd, the runt of the family, and the go-getter. David does what his father instructs, Saul accepts the offer and David wins. A series of events that raises David’s status not only in the scripture but with those who watch things unfold. David gains armies’ allegiance for his cunning display.
The curious thing of David invoking God before this “fight” which had a whole lot more dressing than actual sparring.
How many of us have done that? Before a competition, a game, we pray for protection and victory. David does not – instead, David says the Lord is with him. That is serious confidence in the midst of a whole lot of fear by those around David. Speaking of which, who wins these games? The ones who pray more or with more solemn intention? Those who expect to win? Those who put faith that things will work out – like what we talked last week.
In fact, we have a habit of making out more of the task ahead of us instead of working with what we have vs working with true faith. Yes, we may miss our mark. We may have great chance at failure, but that fear can lead us to not even try.
Saul invites David into the house. Then, there is this meeting of Jonathan with David. The son of the king binding himself with David in most dramatic fashion. There is clearly love between these two. Later in 2 Samuel, David’s eulogy for Jonathan just takes one’s heart. Clearly, Jonathan is more than just a friend to David, perhaps a first love. In fact, we will observe that after Jonathan’s death, things get really wonky for David with bad decision making, cover ups and more.
What is in a covenant? Why bind ourselves to others? Over the next events in David’s life, Jonathan along with David’s wives (Michal) save him a number of times. Why?
Yet this passage also marks the rapid deterioration of Saul as David’s abilities are revealed. Initially, Saul enjoys having David, but that honeymoon is abrupt. Saul changes from hospitable to adversary. David is a political foe getting a lot of accolades. It could be that Saul disapproves of this covenant between his son, Jonathan, and David. Saul wants to end this and his fear consumes him.
Fear is a natural instinct and can be life saving for the right reasons. (I don’t like heights or deep water.) Fear can be healthy and help us to realize not to jump from the cliff or tall building.
When fear consumes us, it turns into obsessions. Then our decisions become erratic, irresponsible, and can actually disregard our safety. Saul’s fear turns into an obsession to kill David. As Yoda says in Star Wars, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to the dark side.” Fear takes us down paths away from reason, away from reality, away from love, away from faith, away from God.
What are we trying to protect in our fear? Our ego? Our traditions - even when we know things need to change? What do we hide from ourselves that we allow fear to consume us - to separate us from reality, from God? My own fears might be protecting me in some ways, but I cannot let them prevent me from doing the right thing.
If Saul’s outrage is over Jonathan’s and David’s covenant – (who both do quite a bit of subterfuge over the next few chapters to avoid Saul’s wrath and anger), it begins to feel quite familiar to situations I have witnessed where people come out to families only to be kicked out. There are so many stories about families torn apart because of irrational, fearful, and distorted views about queer relationships. This fear, anger and hate destroys – not David as the target but - Saul and Saul’s family.
Saul’s fear is unhealthy for himself and serves to undermine his own authority. It begins his decline.
For us, the lesson is… Why not direct our efforts towards fostering love, faith and grace rather than focusing or obsessing over irrational fears, angers, and hatreds. We have enough conflicts and battles in our lives that we don’t need to introduce more tensions.
Ultimately, love wins because the love between David and Jonathan is real and strong. That love will overcome hate and fear. Love will find a way and teach us the value of people around us. Their story also serves to remind us not to let death teach us the value of that love.
Thanks be to God.