Show me unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not cut off your kindness from my family – not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth. I Samuel 20:14-15
Friendship is a wonderful gift and it has been said that a person who has even two or three heart-to-heart friends in the course of their lifetime is greatly blessed. You see, there are friends and then there are friends – those whose loyalty and unconditional love towards you is a reflection of their character and commitment. They love you no matter what. They are the ones you turn to with your greatest joys and your deepest struggles. Do you have someone – or two or three – like that? They are treasures beyond compare.
That was the kind of relationship between Jonathan and David. But imagine for a moment the difficult position Jonathan was in because of his father’s insane jealousy towards David. Saul was as unstable as water regarding David. In rational moments he recognized the loyalty of the young man and moments later he flew into jealous rage and breathed murderous threats against David.
Following the incident we reviewed in chapter 19 of I Samuel when the Spirit of the Lord overcame Saul and he prophesied all night we conclude from the text that he returned home. Shortly thereafter, David met with Jonathan and asked why the King was so determined to kill him. From the tone of Jonathan’s response it appears that he was not yet convinced of his father’s true intent but in light of David’s obvious concern, Jonathan promised to approach his father and if in fact David’s perception of Saul’s intent to murder him was true, Jonathan vowed to protect David at all cost.
At the time of the New Moon when the King’s entourage regularly attended the festival meal, David was nowhere to be found. Two days passed and still David did not appear. Saul was furious and in a rage, made clear his intentions:
Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me for he must die!’ I Samuel 20:30-31
Can you picture the scene? Did Jonathan’s face turn white with shock? How did he cope with the outburst of his enraged father? The scripture doesn’t tell us what the young man’s feelings were at the moment but it does tell us what he did. He met secretly with David and in the end with a very heavy heart, sent his dearly loved friend away for the covenant which they had between them had knit their souls together by that which was far more powerful than their own dreams or desires – the revealed will of the Holy One of Israel. Jonathan knew in his heart that he was not to be king and whether or not his father understood or accepted it, he recognized David as the future king of Israel and his loyalty demanded that he protect his beloved friend.
Jonathan recognized that it was God who had joined their hearts together for a divine purpose. His faith and confidence in God’s plan and purpose, more important to him than his own expectation of becoming king after his father, motivated him to protect David, even though it meant they would no longer enjoy close fellowship. Their bond had come from the Almighty who joined their hearts for His purposes. There was no selfishness in this friendship; only love and commitment. The covenant we witnessed in I Samuel 18 is tested in I Samuel 20 and emerges like gold tried in the fire.
God-given friends exhibit the same kind of character as Jonathan. You are able to speak your mind without fear of rejection: ‘What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father that he is trying to kill me? (I Sam. 20:1) David asked Jonathan when they met secretly. Jonathan clearly loved his father and could have been offended at David’s words. Instead, he replies: ‘Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It’s not so!’ (vs. 2) Sadly very soon after that, at the New Moon, Jonathan realized that David’s perception was indeed accurate. At that point he took action to save David from his father’s sword. (I encourage you to read through vs. 4- 42 of I Samuel)
Put yourself in the scene of verse 41 and imagine how these two young men felt. Jonathan gave the prearranged signal that David must run for his life then sent the lad who helped him away and went to where David was hiding. After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times with his face to the ground. They they kissed each other and wept together but David wept the most.
The ‘would be’ king and the chosen king, real men with real feelings who are not afraid to share their emotions openly with each other. In ‘normal’ life these two would never be friends, but in God’s economy, this friendship was a key to His plan for the nation of Israel. This rare friendship was far deeper than emotion, however. They shared a common bond: the will of God. Though they had vastly different lives in the natural, their bond was profound.
Typically we think that special friendships like this take time to develop. David and Jonathan’s relationship did not grow out of long conversations and extensive time spent together. They were joined in heart ‘in the name of the Lord’ (vs. 42) and when God creates a friendship, it lasts – as long as both friends are as committed to the purposes of God as David and Jonathan were.
If the Lord is actively involved in your friendships, you are blessed with a great gift. To sustain the gift means commitment, unwavering loyalty and unconditional love. To enjoy the blessing of this amazing kind of friendship, it is up to us to give that same commitment, unwavering loyalty and unconditional love when we clearly see that God Himself has gifted us with a unique friend – one whose love for God and His purposes is the unshakeable bond that unites the two of you.