The Scar of Betrayal

David was a remarkably trusting young man. I’m not talking about trusting God, although he did. I mean that he readily chose to trust others. He proved himself willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, time and time again, even unde-servedly. David’s desire to believe the best in people and to preserve relationships was so strong that it almost got him killed on multiple occasions. 

When the short jingle sung by the local towns-women praised David even more than King Saul, he eyed David enviously, suspiciously. On one occasion, as David sat playing an instrument to sooth Saul’s distressing spirit, he took the spear that was in his hand and heaved it at his servant. “But, David escaped his presence...TWICE, if you can believe it! (1 Sam. 18:11)” I’ve got a question for you: “How many times would someone have to sling a spear at you for no good reason before you never wanted to be in their presence again? He did this twice! If you did graciously allow a man a second chance, what would your thought be after the second attempt? And what would you say if that same crazy person offered you the chance to be his son-in-law (18:17-18)? Okay, I get it; it would be awfully great having a king for a father-in-law. What would you then think of the man who gave his promised daughter to some-one else (18:19)? This man is unhinged! Never again! Oh wait, he’s offering another daughter. Maybe this time will be different, but she comes with a condition, one hundred Philistine 


foreskins. After two attempted murders, a relinguished promise, and a seemingly impossible deadly assignment how much trust could David have had for Saul? Unbelievable that in 1 Sam. 19:7, David is once again in the presence of Saul playing music “as in times past.” How could he have known that yet another spear would come hurling his way as it did (19:10)? Still after all of this, David works out a code with his loyal friend Jonathan to figure out if “it is well and he would be safe (20:7). Are you kidding me? In what universe could he ever feel safe around this man? He wanted to believe so badly that a relationship could be salvaged with Saul that it borders on insanity. 

When David asked Jonathan, why is your dad trying to kill me (1 Sam. 20:1) Jonathan basically says, you have nothing to worry about. He would have told me about any plans to do so (20:2). If I’m David, I’ve seen enough evidence with my own eyes to know that I do have something to worry about and anyone who tries to tell me otherwise, especially one who stands to inherit the throne, is not my friend and his motives are sus-pect. Not so with David. How freely he trusted! 

Later, after David’s lie ended up costing all but one from the line of Ahimelech to lose their lives, one escapee (Abiathar) fled to David to re-port. David admitted that he was responsible for the deaths of the man’s entire family (22:22). Someone else might have suspected that Abiathar may have held a grudge and could be a danger to him, but not David. He invited the man to join him because “he who seeks his life also seeks my life (22:23).” There doesn’t seem to be the slightest thought that this guy might want to murder me. 

But, the David we read about before the various tragic, scarring events in his life is not the same David that we read about towards the end. 

David suffers one betrayal after the next. The Ziphites report on him to Saul and attempt to turn him in (23:14ff; 26:1ff). God tells David that the Keilahites will hand him over to Saul even after David had rescued them from a Philistine onslaught (1 Sam. 23:1-13). Fast forward to 2 Sam. 15 when David’s own flesh and blood treasonously attempts to overthrow his kingdom and seeks to kill his own father. His own personal counselor, 

Ahithophel, whose counsel was as the oracle of God (16:23) and who David described as a “familiar friend” had turned against him and given counsel as to how he ought to be hunted. Consider the 55th Psalm to see what affect this had on David... 

My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me...12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. 13 But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. 14 We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng.” (Ps. 55:4-5, 12-14) 

All of this changed David’s character. He is nearly unrecognizable in his en-counter with Mephibosheth after his servant Ziba had lied to David saying that he intended his own takeover of the kingdom (16:3). While Mephibosheth stood expecting death, David declared him one of his own sons who would eat perpetually at the king’s table. He restored his land, his servants, and wealth. This man loved and would have given his life for David (2 Sam. 19:24, 30), and it took one lie to completely unravel their relationship (2 Sam. 19:29). Even though the evidence of his loyalty was all over Mephibosheth’s face and feet (19:24) David seems completely ambivalent. The trust is gone. 

This story has highlighted for us the disgusting nature and damaging effect of betrayal. As David said, if it were sinners in the world we could bear it well, but when it comes from someone close it can scar us and make it difficult to trust again. But we must! We have been called to love one another, and love bears all, believes all, and hopes all things (1 Cor. 13). Jesus knows the pain of betrayal by a friend (Mt. 26:50); actually they all forsook Him. (v. 56). Peter denied, cursed and swore that he didn’t know Him. Yet, He loved them and taught us how to trust again (Please read Jn. 21:15-17). In this text Jesus asked Peter who had betrayed Him three times, “Do you love Me?” And each time, after having received Peter’s affirmation, Jesus called him to feed His sheep. Nothing would have been more natural than for a man to have decid-ed that he needed to cut such a person from his life. But Jesus taught us what it means to love.