“And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life? And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will show it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so. And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death” (1 Samuel 20:1-3).
David feared for his life. He knew that Saul was not to be trusted, but he still could not make any sense of his reason for seeking his life. He needed to know more, so came to Jonathan and asked him to investigate the situation further.
Fear had taken hold of David’s heart and mind. He had fled from King Saul before, but now it was simply fear itself that had him on the run. We could say that David was panicking. On previous occasions he fled from Saul’s spear, but, since he was under the protective care of Samuel, he had no reason to flee. We see then how fear can easily find a foothold in even the greatest of the men of faith. David as a boy had killed the lion and bear; he had recently defeated Goliath and the Philistines. He was brave, courageous and heroic, yet now he is afraid.
This fear came upon David because he has taken his eyes off the Lord. In his conversation with Jonathan there is no mention of the great things that God had done for him, instead he spoke of the peril and danger he was in. He was allowing his problem with Saul to cloud his focus and faith. It is not that he should have not been so negative, but he could have remembered the positive things too. “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2). As far as David was concerned, he was about to die.
It is good that David had a friend to turn to in a time of need, but why was he running away from the place where the prophet of God was? Surely Samuel was closer to God than Jonathan! He should have turned to Samuel for counsel and encouragement. He was wise enough to seek out the man of God earlier, but since fear had taken root, he thought that his friend would provide better advice.
It seemed logical to him that it was best to get news about Saul from Jonathan. He believed that his friend could find out the reason for Saul’s hatred and intention to kill him. Jonathan believed that his father would remain true to his word about not killing David, so we can see that he was not the best person to help him (see 1 Samuel 19:6). “For Jonathan gave credit to his father’s oath” (John Wesley). There may be a slight accusation against Jonathan in David’s words, for Jonathan had previously spoken up for him. “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good” (1 Samuel 19:4). Was David thinking that Jonathan knew more than he was letting on? David was having a bad time and thought everyone was against him. “I said in my haste, All men are liars” (Psalm 116:11). His fear made him suspicious of his closest friend. Fear was clouding his judgement.
Jonathan was alarmed at what David was thinking, which is indicated by the term, “God forbid.” He rebuked David and told him that he would tell him if Saul was planning anything.
What Jonathan said ought to have calmed David, but he was now looking for loopholes in his friend’s promise. He thought that the reason why Jonathan knew nothing was because Saul was not telling anything to him about his plot to kill him. David was looking for excuses for staying in the gloom. Sometimes it is impossible to encourage those who want to stay negative and fearful. They will always have an answer for why they cannot walk in faith. “There is but a step between me and death” has basically the same meaning as “I have one foot in the grave.”
David was being foolish, for he was putting his trust in Jonathan rather than in God. He forgets that his friend cannot protect him from Saul’s wrath. The moment we take our eyes off the Lord, faith decreases and fear increases. There is no end to the fears and worries of those who refuse to trust in God. “If he had been living in the serenity of trust, he would have known that the narrow space was as good as a thousand miles, that Saul could not force him across it, for all his hatred and power” (Alexander Maclaren).
Future events would show that David was no longer walking in the purity of faith. He was seeing everything through the problem rather than through faith. Fear, worry and anxiety were causing him to lose his grip on life. This can never be what God wants. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). “But though dangers appear most threatening, we cannot die till the purpose of God concerning us is accomplished; nor till we have served our generation according to his will, if we are believers” (Matthew Henry).