Being the Right Kind of Friend
Read 1 Samuel 23:6-18
“And Jonathan, arose and went to David at Horesh and encouraged him in God.”
By all standards, Jonathan was the least likely person to become friends with David. David was rural; Jonathan was urban. David was blue-collar; Jonathan was from the elite class. David the youngest in his family and overlooked by his brothers and even his father. Jonathan was the eldest who was the apple of his father’s eye. David was groomed by his father to become a sheepherder; Jonathan was being groomed to become a king. But most important of all, David was a rival to Jonathan’s position as heir apparent to the throne. The first mention of Jonathan was in the context of Samuel’s pronouncement that the Kingdom will not belong to Saul’s household, but given to another---a kingdom that was to be passed on to Jonathan. Consequently, it is surprising that the first time Jonathan and David meet they immediately became close friends. In 1 Samuel 18:1, we find in this first meeting that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David,” which conveys that they were inseparably bound together. They became two peas in a pod. Then in a remarkable act of self-denial, Jonathan stripped himself of his royal robe and his armor and placed it upon David in acknowledgment that David was to be the next king. Rather than seeing David as his rival, Jonathan became his greatest supporter. The more Saul (Jonathan’s Father) became jealous of David the more Jonathan affirmed his loyalty, even to the point of protecting David when Saul was seeking his life.
This background makes the events that unfold in 1 Samuel 23 the ultimate proof of Jonathan’s loyalty and friendship of David. Saul is again in hot pursuit of David, seeking to take his life. With Saul on his heels, David flees to Keilah and in the process delivers them from the Philistines. Rather than honoring David for his protection of the city, they betray him by reporting his presence to Saul. As a result, David is forced to flee into the wilderness with Saul continually seeking him (vs 14). This was one of the low points in David’s life. The one promised to become king was now a fugitive living in the wilderness, alone and betrayed. Desperately needing encouragement, that Jonathan sought him out and “encouraged him in the Lord.” He not only strengthened David’s faith in a time of discouragement by reminding David of God’s promise to make him king. As Jonathan left that day, neither he nor David realized it would be the last time they would be together. After Jonathan’s, it states that David mourned and wept, and in his eulogy stated, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.” Never again would David have a friend like Jonathan.
In this story, we see the heart of friendship and insight into what it means to be in community with God’s people. The community of God’s people transcends all social, economic, and cultural boundaries and serves to bridge people together around a mutual love for one another and a love for God. Community and fellowship is when we become more excited about the success of others than our own success. Friendship takes joy when others are elevated in prestige even at the expense of our own recognition. Godly friendship encourages one another in their walk with Christ when the chips are down, and their faith is wavering. It is this kind of fellowship and mutual love that is to be the hallmark of the church. May people say of us that we were their Jonathan for that is the benchmark of a true friend.