The theme of chapter 20, as we will see, is that there is security in the covenant between David and Jonathan. Their friendship was much more than just a regular close friendship. Their hearts were knit together, and a covenant had been formed. King Saul was on the heels of David in chapter 19, and God had provided David with a way of escape.
David had apparently gone to Gibeah, to the home of Jonathan. David now feels that Saul is trying to kill him. Your father, he tells Jonathan, “keeps seeking my life” (20:1). His question is “why is he doing this? Is there something that I have done that I am not aware of? David thinks at this point, that if he just knew what the problem was, maybe he could address it and all would be well.
Jonathan is still not convinced that there is any real danger for David. Remember that Jonathan is his fathers confidant. Saul had not let him in on any plans to kill David (20:2). But David is no dummy. Why would Saul inform Jonathan of his plans when he knows that he is pro-David? David tells Jonathan that there is only one step between him and death (20:3). In vs.4 Jonathan consents to aid David in whatever way he can. So David proposes a test that may reveal Saul’s intentions toward him (20:5-7).
At this point David explains why he has turned to Jonathan. “Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” (1 Samuel 20:8).
Now, why would David turn to Saul’s son, and confidant, when he is under attack? It is only because Jonathan had vowed in covenant with David and God (18:3-4). The covenant they entered into involves firm commitments and promises. This is why in this period of great uncertainty for David he turns to Jonathan. He has a safe haven, a certainty because of this covenant.
The 2 words “deal kindly” in vs.20:8 is the one Hebrew word “hesed”. The word is used 250 times in the Old Testament. It carries the ideas of love, compassion, affection, loyalty, and faithfulness. The words “steadfast love” are also from the word “hesed”. The word carries the force of not just merely love, but loyal love; not just kindness, but dependable kindness. This is David’s appeal to Jonathan, to treat him with devoted love. And he believes that Jonathan will do so, because he has entered into this covenant of God. David can now have some peace.
This text is not just describing a relationship between David and Jonathan: it is extending its comfort to any who will receive it. The message is, in confusion and trouble, you can take yourself to the one person who has made a covenant with you. In the world of David at this time, that person was Jonathan. David could expect loyal love (“hesed”) from him.
We shouldn’t be surprised when we catch believers in the Bible doing what we find David doing here in chapter 20. They run to that one dependable refuge that remains for them. They run to the One who has bound Himself to them by a covenant, and from Him they can expect “hesed”-like treatment (Neh.1:5, Psalm 13:5, 17:7, 25:6-7).
I want you to know that “hesed” ultimately flows not from the covenant promise, but from the very nature of the covenant of God Who is rich in “hesed” and faithfulness (Ex.34:6). You shall never perish when you fall into the well of God’s lovingkindness. This is really our only secure place to run. The One rich in “hesed” and faithfulness has come near to His weary people. We need to run to the One Who is full of grace and truth. When we look for “hesed” we can see it in none other than the arms of Jesus Christ. David in these texts has taught us that when we are in confusion and trouble, we are to take ourselves only to Him who has made that covenant with us. Jesus Christ is the only refuge in times of uncertainty. May we run to Him for safety!