Jump Start # 2378
1 Samuel 20:18 “Then Jonathan said to him, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed because your seat will be empty.’”
Our verse comes from the long and dark and troublesome times in young David’s life. He was the future king of Israel, but in the meantime, the current king, Saul, was on the warpath. Jealousy, bitterness and likely a dose of mental disease, has caused Saul to lose it. He was out of control. He was chasing David from place to place and while all of this was going on, the Philistines were taking advantage and advancing. Saul wanted David dead.
David had a confident who he could trust. It was none other than Jonathan, Saul’s son. The hearts of David and Jonathan were knit together. Jonathan fed information to David that kept him safe. Our verse is found within promises, vows and oaths that Jonathan made to David. It was time for David to go. He had to hide once more. Saul was getting close and things weren’t safe for David.
Jonathan says to David, “You will be missed because you seat will be empty.” That’s a great statement. It shows the influence, impact and difference we can make in the lives of others. This is true within the family and this is true within a congregation. And, there are different reasons a seat may become empty.
Sometimes a person moves away. We don’t see them all the time. Yes, there are phone calls and Facetime, but it’s not the same. I have a son who lives far away. He spent a few days with us as he was up preaching. I dropped him off at the airport, and immediately I felt what Jonathan said. There was an emptiness. This happens in a congregation. Preachers move. Sometimes we don’t want them to move. It’s a hard decision and some never like the decision that is made. Song leaders, elders, and others move away. Job opportunities, retiring and moving toward the kids, and there is a hole, an emptiness felt in the congregation.
Sometimes it’s death that leaves an empty place. This is especially hard in the family. Holidays never seem the same after that. There is just a part of us that dies that day. In the congregation, once the sadness passes, there is an emptiness left. I think of those smiling faces, those giant bear hugs, those kind words that were spoken by many who are now on the other side. Sure others have come in. Certainly we continue on, but there remains an empty seat.
Now, in all of this, there remains another thought for us. Jonathan was going to miss David. They were more than just friends, David was chosen by God because he was upright, godly and a leader. He was courageous and brave. He was the one who raced toward Goliath, when Saul and the rest of Israel cowered in fear. David was impressive. More chapters are devoted to David than Abraham, Noah, or even Moses. Every good king after him is measured by his standard. Even Jesus is called the “son of David,” in the Gospels. This was more than just missing a friend, it was a major force of good in Jonathan’s life. He certainly wasn’t getting this from his father. Saul had lost touch with God. Saul was out of control and wicked. One can only imagine the hateful things that were said about David in Saul’s home.
I truly believe that some could drop out and only a few would ever notice. The reason being is that they have not contributed anything to the work in the kingdom. Some slide in late. They speak to very few. They leave in a hurry and they are never around to help out, contribute, add to the things that are going on. Need helpers to teach. You won’t find these folks. Need some to help in VBS. Won’t be these people. Work day at the church building. Going to do some cleaning up and pulling weeds. These folks won’t be there. Having a special series of lessons during the week. You won’t find these folks. You don’t see them visiting others at the hospital. You’ll never hear of them sending someone a card. They never take food when there is a need. You won’t see them engaged in any group activities. Barely in Sunday morning and out as fast as they can. They aren’t connected to anyone. They do not have anyone from the church into their homes. When invited to come to others, they always turn down the offer. They never participate in worship. Most in the congregation barely know them because they are so rarely there and so rarely available.
And, to our verse today, when this type of person is gone, they are hardly missed. They didn’t do anything. They didn’t add any value to the work. They, like the hitch hiker of years gone by, will hop on if you are going the direction that they want to go. You must drive, use your gas, and when they have gone as far as they want, they will get out. Not even a thanks, let alone helping pay for gas. The hitch hiking member does the same. He’s along for the ride. Don’t ask anything of him. And, when he’s gone as far as he wants, he’ll drop out. And, his seat will be empty, but most won’t miss him, because there was nothing to miss. To have a fellowship, one must stick around, get to know others and to connect with others. I have been to places where a person’s name was read as being withdrawn from. I notice people looking around and some even whisper, “Who is that? Do they go here?”
So, we must ask and we must wonder about ourselves. If our seat became empty, would we be missed? Are we making a difference, connecting and using our abilities to help the kingdom? This does not mean one has to be a song leader or a Bible class teacher. Not everyone can do that. But you can get there a bit early. You can greet people with a smile. You can give hugs. You can connect with the little ones. You can find something good to do. It may be nothing more than picking up papers off the floor. It may be nothing more than opening doors for folks. It may be pulling weeds around the building. It may be mailing bulletins out to people. There’s lots and lots of things behind the scenes that need to be done. So often, the preacher is doing too many of those things and others ought to and could help out.
David’s seat was going to be empty. He was going to be missed. How about the seat you fill down at the church house. If you were gone, would you be missed? It makes us wonder if all we are doing is taking, taking, and taking and in return, we are giving so little of ourselves to the work.
There are several when they are just gone for a week or two, I miss them. I notice that they were not there. They are like David’s among us. Influential. Godly. Sharing. Connected.
Someday, your seat will be empty. God will call us to Him. You family will miss you. You close friends will miss you. Will your congregation miss you? Maybe it’s time we got off the bench and got into the game of life.