TODAY’S READING: 1 Samuel 18–20; Psalm 11, 59
Some think that when Saul offered David his armor, it was more a test of heart and ambition than a well-intentioned gesture of help. The Chronological Study Bible posits:
Positions of authority in the ancient world were marked by formal insignia, or by special clothing. Even more important, the ruler’s weapon, usually a sword, was seen as a gift of the deities and a mark of their favor toward the bearer as the legitimate ruler.
So when Saul offered David his armor, he would have been understood by Israelite culture as offering David his own position as king of Israel. The transfer of clothing signified a transfer of status. Elsewhere in the Bible, Elijah called Elisha to replace him as God’s primary prophet simply by throwing his mantle upon his successor (1 Kin. 19:19).
Saul’s sword was the mark of his position as defender of Israel; when the sword was given to David, Saul’s kingship went with it. But David could not wear the armor or the sword; he was not ready to rule, even though he already had the favor of God and the courage to defend Israel.
When David refused the armor, he indicated that his ambition was not to rule. He had bigger giant fish to fry. David was consumed with God’s glory, not his own. Jonathan will repeat the gesture giving David his robe, armor, sword, bow, and belt (1 Sam. 18:4). While Saul’s sincerity ebbed and flowed, Jonathan was constant. David and Jonathan were kindred spirits in this essential glory: Neither one of them wanted a title or a position; all they wanted was to fight for God’s fame in all the earth. If the world is to be won for Jesus, if we are to win souls from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, then we are to have this same spirit, ambition, and fire—the ambition for God’s glory among all the nations. When we desire position and title, we war for prestige and as Nik Ripkin says, we war over who gets to rule the sheep instead of who gets to reach the lost by dying among the wolves. Of the many delights of our heavenly home, one I eagerly look forward to is hanging out with David and Jonathan, two of God’s greatest warriors and two brothers in spirit who only cared about the fame of Jehovah among the nations. I don’t think they give a fig about who ruled in Israel then or on earth now as long as Jehovah rules to the end of the earth.
The superscription found at the beginning of each Psalm indicates its context. Some scholars think these designations were added later, but even so they are helpful, for they refer to either the event or the context to which the Israelites applied the psalms. Psalm 59 has a superscript referring to Saul’s jealous rage and murderous attempts on David’s life. Saul was jealous for the kingdom that Jonathan bequeathed and David did not covet. David responded to the assassination attempt by saying: “Awake to help me, and behold! You therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to punish all the nations… And let them know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 59:4–5, 13). Even when fleeing his father-in-law in the middle of the night, David’s soul (because God’s Spirit was strongly in him) could not escape the big picture: the nations submitting to the glorious rule of God. It did not matter to David who sat on the earthly thrones. All he cared about was that Jehovah ruled among the nations to the ends of the earth. This is the missionary heart and spirit.
The missionary spirit does not worry about title or position, prestige or status. All the missionary thinks about—even in the seasons of night—is if God is glorified, ruling, and reigning in Bulgaria. The missionary spirit doesn’t desire recognition or rule, title or throne, position or prestige. The missionary spirit just wants to see Jesus embraced by Turkish Muslim immigrants globally. No one who truly knows the weight of the crown will in their right mind desire it. The missionary spirit just wants to fight for the glory of God among the unreached peoples of earth where the souls are most bound, the wolves thickest, and the danger greatest. That’s the greatest job of all, and if David and Jonathan were alive in our day, I’m sure that’s where we would find them.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 314.