As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on. – 1 Samuel 18:1-9 ESV
David’s victory over Goliath was going to bring him great fame and a full-time position on Saul’s staff. No more dividing his time between the sheepfold and the palace. Saul gave him a permanent place on the royal payroll. Not only that, David was able to strike up a deep and lasting friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan. But David’s close proximity to the king was going to result in a growing tension. His popularity among the people was unprecedented. He was a rock star, with a growing fan base and people were not only singing his praises, they were actually making up songs about him. All of this far from pleasing to Saul. He knew what the prophet Samuel had said:
“But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” – 1 Samuel 13:14 ESV
Those words rang in his ears and he couldn’t help but be paranoid and a bit defensive regarding David’s growing popularity. He began to question David’s loyalty and wonder whether this ambitious young man would be satisfied with fame. Would he set his sights on the throne next? Saul was concerned that David would use his friendship with Jonathan and his access to the palace as the means for staging a coup. He intended to keep David close so that he could keep an eye on him.
This part of David’s life is fascinating. So far, he has done everything right. He had proven to be a faithful son, caring for his families flocks, even returning to care for them after having received the anointing of the prophet, Samuel. He had obediently followed his father’s commands, taking food to his brothers on the front line. Then, when he had seen the Philistine champion and heard his taunts, he had been shocked that no one was stepping forward to deal with this pagan who was defying the God of Israel. So he stepped up and offered his services to the king, placing his hope in God, and defeating Goliath with nothing more than a sling and a stone. But despite all this, David found himself under the suspicious and watchful eye of the king. He had made a new friend in Jonathan, but was quickly developing a formidable enemy in Saul. And it is not yet clear whether David even knew that his anointing by Samuel had been for the kingship of Israel. He most likely saw himself as just another servant of Saul, trying to do the right thing and serve the king in whatever way he could. Up to this point, David had been Saul’s armor bearer and harp player. He had done the king a huge favor by eliminating the threat of Goliath. And it seems that whatever David did, he did well. In fact, the text tells us:
Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike. – 1 Samuel 18:5 NLT
David was faithful. He had the Spirit of God dwelling upon him. But all his success would prove his downfall. In God’s providential plan, He had David right where He wanted him. None of this was a surprise to God. And Saul’s hatred of David was not only expected, it was planned. All of this was part of God’s divine strategy for preparing David to be king. David had received the anointing to be king, but now he was going to get the practical training required for him to be the kind of king God intended for him to be. Whether David realized it or not, he was being placed in God’s boot camp for kingship. David was going to have a ringside seat to watch lousy leadership on display. But there were other valuable lessons that David was going to need to learn in order for him to rule righteously. His world was about to be rocked. Those days in the pasture tending sheep were going to look increasingly more appealing. But God had much to teach David. He was a man after God’s own heart. In other words, he had a passion for the same things God did. But now God was going to begin the process of giving David a godly heart. His passions for the things of God were going to deepen. His love for the ways of God would become richer and fuller. His trust in the strength of God would grow. His reliance upon the care and provision of God would increase exponentially. And it would all begin with the growing hatred and animosity of King Saul. Things were about to heat up, because God’s lessons for David were about to start up.