“What is Jehovah requiring of you? Only to exercise justice, to cherish loyalty, and to walk in modesty with your God!”—MIC. 6:8.
SONGS: 63, 43
1, 2. How did David show that he was loyal to God? (See opening picture.)
IN THE dead of night, David and Abishai silently make their way through 3,000 sleeping troops. At the center of the camp, the two men find King Saul fast asleep. He has journeyed to the Judean wilderness in order to find David and kill him. Abishai whispers: “Let me pin [Saul] to the ground with the spear just once, and I will not need to do it twice.” David’s reply is astonishing! “Do not harm him, for who can lift his hand against the anointed of Jehovah and remain innocent? . . . It is unthinkable from Jehovah’s standpoint for me to lift my hand against the anointed of Jehovah!”—1 Sam. 26:8-12.
2 David understood what loyalty to God involves. He had no intention of harming Saul. Why not? Because Saul was God’s anointed king over Israel. Loyal servants of Jehovah respect those whom he appoints. Indeed, Jehovah requires that all of his people “cherish loyalty.”—Read Micah 6:8.
3. How was Abishai loyal to David?
3 Abishai showed respect for David. To illustrate: In an attempt to cover up his adultery with Bath-sheba, David had Abishai’s brother Joab arrange to have her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. (2 Sam. 11:2-4, 14, 15; 1 Chron. 2:16) Abishai may have known something about this, but he continued to respect David as the king appointed by God. Moreover, Abishai never tried to use his power as a military leader to seize Israel’s throne. Rather, he defended David against traitors and other enemies.—2 Sam. 10:10; 20:6; 21:15-17.
4. (a) How was David an example of loyalty to God? (b) What other examples will we consider?
4 David’s refusal to harm King Saul showed that David was one of Jehovah’s loyal servants. As a youth, David was moved to face the Philistine giant Goliath, who brazenly dared to “taunt the battle line of the living God”! (1 Sam. 17:23, 26, 48-51) When David became king and committed gross sins involving adultery and murder, he accepted reproof from the prophet Nathan and repented. (2 Sam. 12:1-5, 13) In his old age, David continued to demonstrate loyalty to God. For example, he made generous contributions toward the construction of Jehovah’s temple. (1 Chron. 29:1-5) Yes, David made serious mistakes, but he was loyal to God. (Ps. 51:4, 10; 86:2) As we consider other accounts about David and his contemporaries, let us seek answers to these questions: What loyalties should take priority? Being loyal requires that we display what qualities?
WHICH LOYALTY SHOULD BE FIRST?
5. What lesson do we learn from Abishai’s mistake?
5 When Abishai crept into Saul’s camp, he did not have his loyalties in the proper order. Out of loyalty to David, Abishai was eager to kill King Saul, but David restrained him, realizing that it would be wrong to lift one’s hand “against the anointed of Jehovah.” (1 Sam. 26:8-11) From that incident, we learn an important lesson: Although we can properly have several loyalties in our heart, the correct order of their importance should be determined by our application of Bible principles.
6. Although it is natural to be loyal to our family and friends, why must we be careful?
6 Loyalty springs from the heart, but the human heart is treacherous. (Jer. 17:9) Thus, one who is loyal to God could easily feel strong ties of loyalty to a close friend or relative even if that person is practicing what is bad. Especially when someone close to us abandons the truth must we remember that Jehovah always merits our primary loyalty.—Read Matthew 22:37.
7. How did one sister stay loyal to God in a difficult situation?
7 A conflict of loyalties may arise when a close relative is disfellowshipped. For example, a sister named Anne  received a telephone call from her disfellowshipped mother. The mother wanted to visit Anne because she felt pained by her isolation from the family. Anne was deeply distressed by the plea and promised to reply by letter. Before writing, she reviewed Bible principles. (1 Cor. 5:11; 2 John 9-11) Anne wrote and kindly reminded her mother that she had cut herself off from the family by her wrongdoing and unrepentant attitude. “The only way you can relieve your pain is by returning to Jehovah,” Anne wrote.—Jas. 4:8.
8. What qualities will help us to be loyal to God?
8 The loyalty of David’s contemporaries highlights three qualities that can help us to prove ourselves loyal to God. Those qualities are humility, kindness, and courage. Let us consider them one by one.
LOYALTY TO GOD REQUIRES HUMILITY
9. Why did Abner try to kill David?
9 When David held Goliath’s severed head in his hand and spoke with King Saul, at least two men must have been watching. One was Saul’s son Jonathan, who made a covenant of friendship with David. The other was the army chief Abner. (1 Sam. 17:57–18:3) Abner later supported Saul’s efforts to kill David. “Ruthless men seek my life,” wrote David. (Ps. 54:3; 1 Sam. 26:1-5) Why was Jonathan’s reaction to David so different from Abner’s? Like Jonathan, Abner knew that God had chosen David to rule as king of Israel. After Saul’s death, Abner could have shown humility and proved his loyalty to God by supporting David, not Saul’s son Ish-bosheth. Later, when Abner had relations with King Saul’s concubine, he may have been seeking the throne for himself.—2 Sam. 2:8-10; 3:6-11.
10. Why was Absalom not loyal to God?
10 Lack of humility prevented David’s son Absalom from being loyal to God. Why, “Absalom acquired for himself a chariot and horses and 50 men to run before him”! (2 Sam. 15:1) He also stole the people’s loyalty. Like Abner, Absalom sought to kill David, even though he knew that Jehovah had appointed David as Israel’s king.—2 Sam. 15:13, 14; 17:1-4.
11. How can we benefit from Bible accounts about Abner, Absalom, and Baruch?
11 The examples of Abner and Absalom make it clear that inordinate ambition can easily cause a person to become disloyal to God. Surely, no faithful servant of Jehovah would pursue such a selfish and wicked course. However, a desire for wealth or a prestigious career in this world can also have a spiritually detrimental effect on a Christian. In some undisclosed way, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary, Baruch, temporarily lost his focus. This was Jehovah’s message to Baruch: “Look! What I have built up I am tearing down, and what I have planted I am uprooting—the entire land. But you are seeking great things for yourself. Stop seeking such things.” (Jer. 45:4, 5) Baruch accepted the correction. And how wise it is to keep those words of God in mind as we await the end of this wicked world!
12. Show why we cannot be loyal to God when we are selfish.
12 Daniel, a brother in Mexico, needed to choose between being loyal to God and seeking his own selfish interests. He wanted to marry a girl who was not a believer. Says Daniel: “I continued writing to her even after I entered the pioneer service. But finally, I humbled myself and told an experienced elder that I was disturbed by a conflict of loyalties. He helped me to see that to be loyal to God, I needed to stop writing to her. After many prayers and tears, that is what I did. Soon my joy in the ministry increased.” Daniel later married a fine Christian sister and now serves as a circuit overseer.
LOYALTY TO GOD HELPS US TO BE KIND
13. How did Nathan stay loyal to both God and David when David sinned?
13 Loyalty to Jehovah can sometimes affect our loyalty to humans. The prophet Nathan remained loyal to David even while maintaining loyalty to God. Nathan learned that David had committed adultery and had arranged for the woman’s husband to die in battle. When Jehovah sent Nathan to rebuke David, the prophet obeyed and acted courageously, even though he was loyal to David. Nathan presented the reproof with wisdom and kindness. To help David see the seriousness of his sins, Nathan used an illustration showing the injustice of a rich man who took a poor man’s lamb. When David expressed outrage at what the rich man had done, Nathan told him: “You are the man!” David got the point!—2 Sam. 12:1-7, 13.
14. How can you be loyal to both Jehovah and your friend or relative?
14 Kindness can help you to deal with a conflict of loyalties. For example, you may have definite knowledge that a certain fellow believer is guilty of serious misconduct. You may feel loyal to him, especially if he is a close friend or a relative. But if you were to cover up the wrongdoing, you would be disloyal to God. Of course, your loyalty to Jehovah should come first. So like Nathan, be kind yet firm. Urge your friend or relative to seek the help of the elders. If he or she does not do so within a reasonable period of time, loyalty to God should move you to report the matter to the elders. In doing this, you are being loyal to Jehovah and kind to your friend or relative, for Christian elders will try to readjust such an individual with mildness.—Read Leviticus 5:1; Galatians 6:1.
LOYALTY TO GOD REQUIRES COURAGE
15, 16. Why did Hushai need courage to be loyal to God?
15 A man named Hushai needed courage to be loyal to God. Hushai was a loyal friend of King David. However, his loyalty was tested when David’s son Absalom won the heart of many and sought to take Jerusalem and the throne. (2 Sam. 15:13; 16:15) David fled the city, but what would Hushai do? Would he switch his loyalty to Absalom, or would he follow the elderly king who was fleeing for his life? Resolved to be loyal to the king appointed by God, Hushai met David on the Mount of Olives.—2 Sam. 15:30, 32.
16 David asked Hushai to go back to Jerusalem, to pretend to be Absalom’s friend, and to frustrate the advice of Ahithophel. Risking his very life, Hushai proved loyal to Jehovah and did what David asked him to do. Just as David had prayed, the counsel of courageous Hushai did frustrate that of Ahithophel.—2 Sam. 15:31; 17:14.
17. Why do we need courage to be loyal?
17 We need courage to be loyal to Jehovah. Many of us have courageously stood firm against pressure from family members, workmates, or secular authorities in order to prove ourselves loyal to God. In Japan, for example, Taro had from childhood centered his life on being loyal and obedient to his parents. He did not do so merely out of obligation. He really wanted to make his parents happy. So when they opposed his association with Jehovah’s Witnesses, he found it especially painful to tell them that he had decided to attend Christian meetings. Says Taro: “They were so angry that for years, I was forbidden to visit them at home. I prayed for courage to stick to my decision. Now their attitude has softened, and I can visit them regularly.”—Read Proverbs 29:25.
18. How have you benefited from this study?
18 Like David, Jonathan, Nathan, and Hushai, may we experience the deep satisfaction of proving ourselves loyal to Jehovah. On the other hand, let us learn a lesson from the disloyalty of Abner and Absalom. Surely we want to stick to Jehovah, as David did. As imperfect humans, we cannot avoid making mistakes. However, we can prove that loyalty to Jehovah has first place in our heart.
^  (paragraph 7) Some names have been changed.