Text: 1 Samuel 20:1–4
Focus: 1 Samuel 20:3
Focus: 1 Samuel 20:3
This particular passage contains a beautiful transaction between two dear friends: David and Jonathan. There was a covenant of friendship that embraced these two men as they determined a test to see what Saul would do next. David had been constantly running from an angry Saul. David was struggling to survive and maintain his life against this king who had set out to kill him. He had already escaped Saul’s wrath on a number of occasions, but once again David found himself very close to this one who wanted to take his life. It was within this context that David made the statement, “But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death” (1 Sam. 20:3).
It is also within this context of friendship and this covenant with Jonathan that David called upon his friend for help and companionship. And yet, one cannot overlook a certain amount of fear contained in the voice of David when he indicated, “There is but a step between me and death.”
So much of our lives are spent in trying to stay ahead. We work and toil in our efforts to stay ahead of forces in life that seem to haunt us. Death is one of those forces of which we continually try to stay ahead. We think about it, we pray about it, and we consider it, both in regard to ourselves and our loved ones.
How many times do we pass close to that which could be death? As you travel on the highway, every time you pass a car you pass within inches of death. Sudden illness always bears the potential of death. No one is exempt from the fact that we are all only one breath away from death. For life is, indeed, very fragile.
David’s statement reminds us all that for any of us there is a very short step-a very fine line-between life and death, at least death as we know it here on this earth.
Death is frequently something that we take for granted. There are times when we try to fool ourselves and, in our minds, push back the thought that death could ever be very close. We live and conduct ourselves as if our mortal lives would never end. But we need to recognize the truth. The truth is: there is but a short step between life and death.
Every life embraces experiences which serve to emphasize certain important facts. David was pursued by the jealous and envious Saul who hoped to push forward his kingdom by the destruction of David. David accepted this circumstance as a warning of the uncertainty of life, and he communicated his deep feelings to his friend Jonathan. It is possible that this experience which calls us together today may have brought similar warnings to us, making David’s statement very appropriate to our situation. For as David said, “But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
The very first thing that we must do is to recognize the fact that life on this earth is brief. David knew that his life lay along the borderline of death at any point in time. God’s Word reminds us of the same fact: “They are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth” (Ps. 90:5–6, KJV). The tender grass blade, the budding, the blossoming flower, shifting wind, the ever—fleeing shadow—all preach to us of the gravity and even the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death.
The delicate nature of our physical bodies tell us the very same fact. Heartbeats are messages. Our breath which may at times be silent is but a reminder that life is a gift.
Our environment with all of its negative forces remind us that life is a very fragile state. God’s Word, our physical bodies, and our environment will not permit us to forget that there is, indeed, but a step between us and death.
Yet we must keep in mind that with all of these facts David did not allow the fear of death to freeze him. So it must be with our lives as well.
It is important that, as we consider death, we remember what death really is. What is that to which we approach so closely at times, yet touch only once? We can stand here today and claim promises based on God’s Word that physical death does not mean annihilation. It does not mean total destruction. Death is not the end of existence.
Look at the world around us for a clue. Even nature teaches us lessons and reminds us that life goes on and on. What at first looks like the end of a cycle really is not the end of anything but the beginning of a whole new life. What looks like a dying tree and a dying plant is simply awaiting spring. What appears to be a withering flower is but awaiting a new bud. A seed will die in the earth, but a whole new plant will arise from its dying.
We do not gather here to call attention to the end of anyone’s life. Instead, we come here to claim a promise that what is happening before us is not the end of anything, but the beginning of an entirely new existence that comes through the belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not an exit but, rather, an entrance.
Even though one short step separates us from this thing called death, when it actually occurs, we discover that death is not what we thought. It is, indeed, so elusive! Death is not the destructive, totally mysterious force that we feared it to be. Instead, we will discover death to have been conquered already by our Lord who experienced it for Himself, and then came back to tell us that we should not fear death because He had made preparations for us. “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1).
That is why we are here today, to claim the promise made not only to our friend who has passed from this life but also to all who believe in the name of Jesus.
Even though, as David said, there may be but one step between life and death, once we experience that step we realize that it is not a giant step into the unknown. Rather, the step is a very small, short one into the arms of a loving Savior. Therefore, David”s words come not as a threat but rather as a promise. That is why we are here, to celebrate the claiming of a promise made not only to this one but to each one of us as well.
Prayer: God, grant us the grace to envision all of life as within Your love. Teach us to rest upon Your promise that preparation has been made for now and eternal life. Amen.
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