And he said to him, "Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this."
1 Sam 23:17 (ESV)
1 Sam 23:17 (ESV)
The background: Jealous of David’s military successes, popular appeal and obvious blessing by God, King Saul is pursuing David through the countryside seeking to kill him. Though chosen by God to be Israel’s first king, Saul repeatedly failed to obey God’s commands. As a result, God’s Spirit left Saul and settled on David, whom God identified as a “man after My own heart”. When Saul died, David would be king.
Unless, of course, Saul killed David first.
Jonathan, Saul’s son, should have expected the kingdom to fall to him, as his father’s heir. But Jonathan realized early on that David was God’s choice to succeed to the throne. Jonathan sneaks off to where David and his men are hiding, and it is in this context this speech of Jonathan is found.
King of the hill. Big cheese. Head honcho. Star billing. What is there in us that urges us to strive for the top spot in any endeavor? What drives us to be the leader, whether or not we have the necessary qualifications? Why must we take center stage, rather than work on the crew?
A number of years ago, I auditioned for a role in our church’s Christmas play. Of the half dozen or so female roles, only three were in my general age range; one of those happened to be the lead. It is fair to say that my acting talent is better than average, and it is also fair to say that I positively lusted after that lead role.
The director, an old friend of mine, broke the casting news to people personally.
“Diane, I know what a talented actress you are, and I have a special challenge for you in this show.” My heart began to swell with pride, but shriveled faster than a pin-pricked balloon as she continued, “I want you to play Nana.”
Nana, the grandmother of the lead. Nana, the half-demented, nearly deaf, mostly senile, bee-hived and bespectacled old lady. I would be playing a woman more than twice my age at the time. Great.
Still, I sucked it up and did my best for the good of the show. In the end, it was not only one of my more memorable roles (somewhere, there may even be a tape), but one of the most fun to play.
The point? Recognizing that the show will be better with someone else in the lead, then stepping back to take a supporting role is a hallmark of an actor who puts the good of the show above personal glory.
So it was with Jonathan. By all rights, he should have been the second king of Israel. After all, Israel clamored for a king like those of the surrounding nations, which would imply that the kingship would be passed down through the first king’s line.
But Jonathan realized that God had something different in mind. In David He found a man who, in spite of occasional lapses, would seek not only to obey God himself, but lead the nation to do the same. Jonathan not only acknowledged that David should be king, but vowed to support him in any way he could: “You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.”
Giving up the spotlight isn’t easy, but sometimes stepping back and taking a secondary role may be exactly what God needs you to do.
Who knows,? You might just win a Best Supporting Actor award.