Last week we reviewed the momentous occasion when David slew the Philistine giant, Goliath, with one small stone. When the Philistine army saw that their champion was dead, they scattered and overcome by Israel’s army.
When King Saul saw David going out against Goliath, he asked his commander, Abner, ‘Whose son is that?’ (I Sam.17:55) Some commentators take issue with this question. Since David had been playing the harp for Saul for some time already, Saul knew David and, in fact, had sent to Jesse originally and asked for David to be sent to the palace. Was Saul getting forgetful? I don’t think so.
Remember that Saul had declared earlier that the man who could overcome the giant would be rewarded. How? With a threefold reward: Saul would give him great riches, give his own daughter to be the champion’s wife, and make his father’s house free in Israel.
Saul’s question is related to this reward. If this young warrior was going to become his son-in-law, Saul wanted to know who his father was and what the family background was. And the groom’s father’s house would be declared free. That means they would no longer be subject to heavy taxes and other responsibilities of citizenship. In effect, their status in the society would be elevated. So no wonder Saul asked who David’s father was!
One has to wonder whether the king’s daughter, Michal, had any knowledge that her father had promised her hand in marriage. Since it appears that it was a decision Saul made on the battlefield, she probably didn’t!
While that sounds appalling to us in modern times, arranged marriages were common in biblical societies. In Jewish thinking, the father bears a very heavy responsibility to ensure that the young man to whom his daughter is betrothed is honest, upright, kind, a hard worker, intelligent and serious about the responsibilities of marriage. Does he have the character and integrity needed to be a godly and faithful husband?
If Saul’s decision to offer his daughter in exchange for the vanquishing of his foe was impulsive or spontaneous, given they were in a difficult war, nevertheless, his word had to be honored. Once the giant was dead, the promise – whether impulsive or not – had to be kept. The honor of the king was at stake.
So when David returns after killing Goliath, Abner presents him to the king. Standing by Saul’s battlefield throne in the tent was Jonathan, son of Saul and a mighty warrior in his own right. He appears to be the heir apparent to the throne. Yet he will never be king for God has anointed someone else – the shepherd boy who stands facing Jonathan’s father.
David had just received the recognition he deserved and though soon we will witness a tragic change in the relationship between David and the King, at the moment something else is happening.
After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan become one spirit with David and he loved him as himself…Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took of the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic and even his sword and his belt. I Samuel 18: 1-4
Have you ever experienced meeting someone for the first time and you are instantly drawn to them? Something happens between you and you feel as though you’ve known this person forever? Other friendships may grow over time but this is different. There is a heart to heart, soul to soul connection that only God could create and when He does so, He has a purpose for it. The text says that ‘Jonathan made a covenant with David…’ The word covenant describes a biblical principle. The word in Hebrew is ‘brit’ and is defined as an alliance of friendship, a pledge, a mutual obligation between two parties. We are familiar with the covenant which God forged with Abraham – an eternal covenant.
In David’s time, certain symbols or signs were exchanged as outward evidence of an inner commitment, much like the exchange of marriage vows at a wedding.
In this case, we see two clearly defined actions and a third which may be less obvious but is just as sacred. First, Jonathan removes his royal robe and puts it around David’s shoulders and by that action declares that he recognizes David as the prince of Israel, called to be king. One has to wonder what Saul’s reaction was for there is no doubt he intended Jonathan to inherit the throne. (I Sam. 20:30-31)
Secondly, Jonathan also removed his weapons and handed them over – a gesture that said louder than words, ‘I renounce my right to ever hurt you for the rest of my life.’
The third element of a covenant – the sacrifice – may not be so obvious to the casual reader but it is deeply profound. Jonathan didn’t just give away a robe and some weapons; he sacrificed himself and his entire future in order that God’s choice would rule Israel. That is no small sacrifice!
David understood perfectly what was happening. Can you imagine the look on his face when an elegant and lavish royal robe was wrapped around him, over the simple, often smelly clothing of a shepherd?
The Jonathans of this world are few and far between. Few people put the priorities of God over their own, even to the voluntary surrender of their own rights and privileges. But that’s exactly what the king’s son did. And in I Samuel 20:13 he verbalizes it to David:
‘If it please my father to do you harm, may the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also, if I do not make it known to you and send you away that you may go in safety. And may the Lord be with you as He has been with my father.’
It’s important to note that nowhere does the text relate that David felt the same kind of love toward Jonathan at that moment. There is no doubt that their friendship was deep and lasting as we will see later but the point here is this:
Jonathan’s covenant with David was based on Jonathan’s love, not David’s response. This is the essence of God’s covenant with us. The strength of the covenant, its immutability, rests solely on the integrity of God Himself for He never breaks His Word. In the book of Deuteronomy we discover something that is staggering about His covenant with His people: ‘…because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that He swore to your forefathers.’ Deut. 7:8
God loved you first, before you loved Him. In fact, Psalm 139 elaborates on this truth. I encourage you to read the entire psalm but let me quote here just a few verses.
‘My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes saw my unformed substance and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them in existence. How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast the sum of them!’ Psalm 139:15-17
Have you ever seriously pondered the thought that before you were conceived, before the world was even created, God Himself wrote down in His book every aspect of your life – how many days you would live, what talents and gifts He would bestow on you, what your life’s mission was to be? He knows you by name every bit as much as He knew David by name…and Jonathan…and Abraham…and Esther…and your parents…your children. In the mass of humanity, every individual person is precious to Him and not in some far-off, distance kind of philosophical way but PERSONALLY!
He KNOWS you – personally! Do you know HIM – personally? This is the essence of all of revealed Scripture: that God desires a personal relationship with us as individuals. You were never meant to be a number in a religious crowd. He loves you with a personal love.
Imagine the scene we have just described but put yourself there. For a moment, you are the shepherd boy and Jonathan – as a reflection of God’s love – comes to wrap you in the garments of salvation of which Isaiah wrote:
‘I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; my soul will exult in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation. He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.’ Isaiah 61:10
What is our response?
There can be only one: to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our resources.
Your thoughts? Leave a comment below.