Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty. And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel. And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark. And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth. But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away. And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD be between thee and me for ever” (1 Samuel 20:18-23).


We can imagine David nervously waiting for news from Jonathan that would either confirm or dismiss his fears. He had put his trust in his friend, but what if the king realised what was happening and send men to search for him? David was between a rock and a hard place.


David had to hide in the field and beside a certain landmark specified by Jonathan. Once he had learned of his father’s intentions towards David then he would come to the field and shoot some arrows in his direction. Jonathan’s plan was very wise because no-one would suspect that he was doing anything more than practicing his skill with his bow. It also meant that David could flee if the news was bad without compromising Jonathan’s safety.

Jonathan spoke the Lord’s power and protection with regards to the details. The was no point in putting together a foolproof plan if God was not in it. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Even if because of Saul’s wickedness David had to flee, Jonathan saw that it would be a part of God’s plan in bringing him to the throne.


If we were in a life or death situation it is doubtful if we would sit patiently until we received news of what was going to happen. Some commentators suggest that David may have spent the three days with his family in Bethlehem, and only hide in the cave for a few hours on the third day. Though David must have been fearful, he still had to patiently wait for three days until Jonathan returned. Maybe Jonathan chose the location just in case David’s theory proved true. The stone of Ezel was probably a small cave, but it was known as “the place of departure” or “the place that shows the way”, a sort of milestone on the roadside. By that stone which directs travellers in the way; namely, in some cave, or convenient place, which was near it” (John Wesley). David could have easily given up waiting, since he was convinced that Saul was out to kill him, and go into hiding somewhere else. But David was a man who knew how to exercise patience even in dire circumstances. “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:1-3).


Once again Jonathan speaks of the common bond between David and himself. It was nothing worldly, but instead it was their trust in and love for God. Such a unity in the Lord cannot but be blessed. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Psalm 133:1-3).

We may often find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, but like David we must put our trust in God. God knows all about our circumstances and has means to bring the greatest blessing out of them. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass” (Psalm 37:1-7).