Friendship: David and Jonathan

Friendship: David and Jonathan

Written by: Larry Elliott

Friendship: as children we enjoyed it, as teens we desired it, sought it (often in wrong ways/places), endured it, learned from it, cried over it, and rejoiced in it. Friendship is part of the human experience.

“But he’s my friend!” comes the objection. As parents we labor over our kid’s friendships, trying to help them define the term. “Does a true friend encourage you to break the law? Mock and ostracize another friend? Do drugs? Disobey parents?”, comes Dad’s response.

Does scripture have any insights in this regard? Any examples by which we could guide our choices and the choices of our children? It does indeed!!

“And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (I Sam. 17:57 & 18:1) These are astounding words - souls knit together – now there is a concise, biblical definition of friendship!

Perhaps no two men could come from more divergent backgrounds. Jonathan the prince, David the shepherd, Jonathan the eldest and heir to the throne, David the youngest and mocked by his brothers, Jonathan trained for war, David trained to tend sheep. And yet God providentially put them together for their benefit and his purposes.

Their story likely begins as David is called periodically to play his harp to soothe King Saul’s troubled spirit. Perhaps Jonathan was aware of David at that time, but after the killing of Goliath the two became friends for life, even declaring a covenant of friendship. David’s success continues to expand causing great jealousy in Saul but not in his son Jonathan.

I would encourage you to read the story in its context in I Sam. 17-20. In the meantime, consider:

Real friends celebrate the success of their friends.

Scripture indicates no jealousy on the part of Jonathan though he was the prince and rightful heir to the throne of Israel! Jonathan to David, “You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this. And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord.” (I Sam. 23:17-18) Be this kind of friend, rejoice at the success of your friend. Encourage him/her that they can do it, they can succeed, and you will be alongside to spur them on, to encourage them and to celebrate with them.

Real friends encourage each other to follow God.

“And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16). Do I challenge my friend to spiritual maturity? Is he/she more committed to God because of our friendship? Am I reflecting the character of God? Am I modeling faith, growth, and maturity in our friendship?

Real friends keep their promises to one another.

Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.'" (I Sam. 20:42).  Soon thereafter Jonathan was killed in battle. King David brought Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, who was born lame, into the palace and cared for him his entire life. And David said to him (Mephibosheth), “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” (II Sam. 9:11)

Our ultimate friend is found in Jesus.

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) “Jesus is not the idea of friendship, abstractly; he is an actual friend. Here is the promise of the gospel and the message of the whole Bible: In Jesus Christ, we are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse our presence.” (Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund, pgs. 120 & 115)

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