Friendships are something we value and treasure. Finding friends can be hard. Being one can be even harder.But lifelong friendships, forged in the fires of mutual suffering, without personal agendas, show the great possibility of peace and joy in this life.
The friendship of David and Jonathan is one that comes out of incredibly unique circumstances. These two men should have been bitter rivals, but instead, they have one of the most intimate and touching relationships recorded in all of Scripture.
1 The Friendship of Jonathan 18:1-5
Jonathan was royalty, but David was a shepherd boy. Jonathan also would’ve been much older than David, but yet their friendship was closer than brotherhood.
That their souls were ‘knit together’ (18:1) and that they made vows regarding their friendship and bond, shows us that these two men loved each other without pretence.
It wasn’t a strategic or coercive alliance.
Jonathan had everything to lose, and David had little to offer, but Jonathan is aware that God’s anointing was on David.
It wasn’t a ‘I’ll be your best friend if you give me all your lollies’ or ‘I’ll be your best friend if you act exactly like I do’ , kind of promise. It was a total commitment to the other for the sake of the other.
His giving over of his robes, armour and weapons (18:4) is an acknowledgement of the fact that he was not going to inherit his father’s throne.David had been anointed, and Jonathan was willing to submit to the will of God, which meant resigning his own rights.
Like Jonathan, we are meant to give over our right to reign in our lives. There can only be one king, and only the King that God has provided will be enough for a life of sure integrity and uncompromising conviction in the face of great hostility.
“This David – Jonathan sort of friendship is a love that sets the other free to be himself or herself – a commitment with no demands. In a culture like ours in which there is widespread avoidance of commitment because they are confining, this story of a love commitment that is freeing is a breath of fresh air. Healthy relationships do not restrict our lives; they expand our lives.” – Eugene Peterson
We look at their friendship and see it as extraordinary. But there is no supernatural power you need in order to have a close friendship with another person. Just complete openness, honesty, and accountability, all of which go both ways.
There is place for bonds of friendship, ties that can’t be broken, not matter what lies ahead in life, a unity of mind, heart and spirit to one single goal.
It’s not just marriage that serves this end. Friendship, when done in a God-honouring way, can be a vital tool to our holiness and sanctification.
You will never achieve any level of satisfactory growth in the Christian life while living isolated from everyone else around you.
In a world that’s more ‘social’ than ever, we are in need of friendships that build another up in Christ, where we can serve others with no other ambition but to see them become who God intends them to be.
2 The Jealousy of Saul 18:6-20:42
When we think of our ‘social’ culture that grounds most connections through media, we are all too aware of the seriousness of being ‘unfriended’, or worse, ‘blocked’.If Saul had a FaceBook, his activity would provide much cause for concern. Singing the praises of his friends and family one day, plotting their death and insulting them with vile language ( 20:30) the next.
It started very soon after Goliath’s defeat (18:6-10), with the songs women sang about the thousands and tens of thousands. ( 18:6-9).
Why all this was happening is clear to us – God was with David, and was no longer with Saul (18:12). David’s successes were due God’s clear blessing on his life.
Jonathan loves David. Michal loves David. The people love David. God clearly loves David. Saul cannot love him, and refuses to accept God’s plan for David, and becomes insanely jealous and fearful of David.
This is something we see all around us in a culture gone mad with self-absorption and pride, but jealousy is not limited to the world. We find it our homes, our churches, ourselves.
“Jealousy is a terrible emotion. Jealousy is the scab you keep picking only to have the wound fester. Jealousy is a hunger you simply cannot satisfy; the more you eat, the emptier you feel, and it forces you to feed it once again. Jealousy is a pain that will not abate; it persists and pounds us until we are pushed to the point of no return. Jealousy is a terrible and harsh master.” – JD Greear and Heath Thomas.
“Envy is mother of malice and gives birth to murder.” – Tim Chester
When we are envious of someone to the extent we long to see them fail we are not only committing murder in our hearts ( Matthew 5:21-22) but we are saying we know better than God. We are convinced that God is not Sovereign and is not concerned with our ultimate good.
Saul thinks he can use Michal’s love for David to his advantage and David’s destruction.(18:20-21)
When we start manipulating others peoples affections and emotions so we can accomplish our own agenda, we have exalted ourselves to a dangerous and destructive position.
Families are divided and relationships destroyed when jealousy and bitterness get a foothold. Destruction follows when selfishness rules hearts.
This whole story shows the important distinction between those who embrace God and His Messiah, and those who reject Him.
Saul, in the end, stands alone. Which is where jealousy, spite, pride, manipulation and selfishness always end. Alone. Separated from God and all the good things that He has in store for those who submit to Him and His plan.
The answer to jealousy is the same as it is for shame, which was another emotion that Saul struggled with. To find your identity in Christ as your Saviour, not in comparing yourself to others or always obsessing over what they say about you.
3 The Interceding Son 19:1 – 20:42
Saul plots several different ways to kill David, and all backfire on him, and only add to David’s renown.
He thinks having him for a son-in-law will give him a further level of control over his life, and sets an outrageous dowry ( 18:25) which David goes above and beyond in (18:27).
Next time,Jonathan intercedes for David, and reasons Saul out of it. ( 19:1-7).
Saul then tried to spear David again, who barely escaped ( 19:10).
He sent assassins, who had some scruples, as they did want to murder a sick man ( 19:11-17) and Michal goes directly against her father by protecting David, and helping him escape again.
History repeats as Saul comes looking for Samuel at Ramah. In chapter 9, Saul first meets Samuel while trying to find his donkeys. He ends up being anointed as king, much to his shock and he reacts with great humility, and as sign of this being of God, Saul prophesies and people marvel, and the Spirit of God comes upon him with power and authority (11:6).
This time he is looking for David and come to Samuel, but here there is great reversal. He is again overcome by the power of God and prophesies, but this time, it humiliates him rather than exalts him (19:22-24).
When anyone goes against the Word of God, there can only be one outcome. Saul had set himself against David, and in doing so, had set himself against what God had declared. If you think you can outmanoeuvre the Will of God, you will end up humiliated and bearing a testimony to His greatness by your smallness.
It doesn’t take long for Saul’s anger towards David to rear it’s ugly head again when David doesn’t show up to the feast and Saul sees through the story Jonathan had made up to defend him for not attending the feast. Jonathan ends up on the end of another failed spear attack, as Saul’s tryouts for StormTrooper continue.
The two friends part in peace. David is the most upset ( 20:41), as he well knows what it has cost Jonathan to save his life.
They again make a vow, not just that will cover their own lives, but also their future generations (20:42). Saul would not be the determining factor to their friendship and bond. They would not be defined by what drives them apart. They would seek peace for one another, even in spite of difficult barriers. What God has declared will be what they cling to. No “BFFs” bracelets were needed.
David makes good on all his promises with Jonathan many years later by caring for Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth ( 2 Samuel 9).
4 – The Friend of the King
David acts with integrity in the face of hatred and personal vendetta.
“David’s integrity before God was his strongest weapon during the years of persecution from Saul. You cannot control what people do to you, but you can control what you do with God.” – Warren Wiersbe
Jonathan was faced with a choice. He had to chose between having peace with God’s anointed, or accomodating compromise and evil.
“To side with Jesus will always mean difficult decisions.” – Tim Chester
When we choose to trust the Word of God rather than be fearful of men, we face hard choices.
Saul chose to be spiteful, bitter, angry, self-righteous. He did not need the Word of God, and refused to accept it. He turned on anyone who got in his way.
Jonathan chose to believe the Word of God, and that lead him to form a friendship with David that even death could not break.
To trust in God’s anointed is the call of every human being who has ever lived.
To be interceded for by the Son of the Great King, who is willing to bear the wrath of the father for the sake of saving others, is the great blessing of any who chose to believe on the Son.
If you believe on the Son, you have life.
Jesus was the Son who bore the full righteous wrath, and actually did die, but not for the sins of the father, but for the sins of the whole world, and for the glory of the Father.
He also gave up His crown to gain glory.
Oh, to be a Jonathan, a be a ‘forever friend’ of the true King!