The SBJT Sermon: When God’s Arrows Fall Beyond Us: God’s Strange Providence 1 Samuel 20 -- By: Roger Ellsworth

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 002:3 (Fall 1998)
Article: The SBJT Sermon: When God’s Arrows Fall Beyond Us: God’s Strange Providence 1 Samuel 20
Author: Roger Ellsworth


The SBJT Sermon:
When God’s Arrows Fall Beyond Us:
God’s Strange Providence
1 Samuel 20

Roger Ellsworth

Roger Ellsworth is the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Benton, Illinois. He is the author of several books, including Strengthening God’s Church, Faithful under Fire, and How to Live in a Dangerous World. This sermon is included in his recent publication The Shepherd King: Lessons from David’s Life (Evangelical Press).

God’s Strange Providence

David stood waiting and watching by the stone Ezel. It was his stone of destiny. His dear friend Jonathan was to determine whether King Saul still harbored murderous intentions toward David. If so, David would have to flee. If not, he would be able to return to normal living.

David and Jonathan had agreed upon a signal. If it were safe for him to return, Jonathan would shoot three arrows and cry to the lad with him, “Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them and come…” (v. 21). But if Saul still harbored malice toward David, Jonathan would shoot the arrows and cry to the lad, “Look, the arrows are beyond you…” (v. 22). In that case David would know he must flee.

In either case it was important that David not be seen in the field with Jonathan. If the king still harbored hatred toward David, Saul would not have hesitated to send someone to follow Jonathan to David’s hiding place with orders to seize him. Even if Saul were ready to forgive and forget, there was another problem. David and Jonathan had contrived a lie about David’s whereabouts, saying he was in Bethlehem (v. 6). If his presence in the field was reported to Saul, the latter would resent the deception, probably forget his new resolve, and return to his old hostility towards David.

The hours must have passed slowly for David as he waited by the stone Ezel. There was nothing he wanted more fervently than to return to his wife and to his service of his nation and his king. Yes, he had been anointed to be king of Israel, but he harbored no evil intent towards Saul. He was quite content to wait for the throne to become his and to serve Saul while he waited. How he hoped Jonathan’s message would be, “the arrows are on this side of you”!

But what if that was not the message? What if Jonathan cried, “The arrows are beyond you”? Jonathan had made it clear that this message would mean David must flee. Jonathan had added to his warning seven disturbing words that David could not possibly pry out of his mind — “for the Lord has sent you away” (v.

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