Last week we began a new series entitled “Friends”. In this series we are looking at various friendships throughout the Bible. Last week I began with the most important friendship we can have and that is our friendship with Jesus. Not only is he a true friend to the end, but he defines and models what true friendship can and should look like.
Today, we are going to look at the unique friendship of David in Jonathan. This friendship was a complex relationship because there were many dysfunctions in the family because Jonathan’s father was a little on the crazy side. It was a controversial relationship because it pitted Jonathan against his father at times. Yet, all in all it was a consistent relationship that models what a loyal biblical friendship looks like for us today.
In all transparency this has been a difficult sermon to prepare, not because the content is difficult but because there is so much back story that is needed to fully understand what is going on and why this friendship is unique. So, at times, this will seem like a history lesson (which is important for context) and at times it will be an applicable message that will help us continue to seek out and develop healthy biblical friendships. With that in mind… Let’s dive in.
Israel Wants a King
Israel is a nation that was established by God. If you recall with me that back in Genesis God calls out and establishes a covenant with Abraham, the Patriarch of the nation. God promises him that “(He) will make (Abraham) the father of a great nation.” In establishing this covenant, He promises to lead Israel to the Promise Land, make their name great, and establish the nation as a blessing to all nations. God makes the promise, and He will keep it.
Fast-forward centuries later, God fulfills his promise and leads the Israelites to the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. The rule of the nation was established, and it was going to be a nation governed by God (Theocracy) through chosen men and women who were appointed as judges.
The judges were raised up to be Israel’s saviors by a special empowerment of the Spirit of God. They functioned primarily as military deliverers, raised up to save the people from oppressing foreign powers (Judges 2;16). They served as leaders appointed by God to serve and protect the people of Israel. Notable judges include Gideon, Deborah and Barak, Samson, and Samuel.
During the time of the final Judge Samuel, the nation no longer wanted to be a nation ruled by God through Judges alone, they wanted a king. They wanted to be like all the other nations who were ruled by a king. In many ways the nation rejected God’s rule for the rule of a man.
(Read 1 Samuel 8:4 – 9)
Israel Gets a King(s)
In 1 Samuel 10 a man named Saul was anointed king of Israel. He had all the human qualities of a king. He was handsome, he was tall, he was the total package, but He was not a good king. He was disobedient to God on multiple occasions, very moody, and at times downright evil. His disobedience infuriated God, so God eventually rejected him as king.
(Read 1 Samuel 13:13 – 14)
In rejecting Saul as King, Samuel mentions that God will appoint one who has the heart of God to replace him. However, Saul continued as king (in title alone). During his reign, the Lord was against him and did not bless him. As stated earlier he had another man in mind for the job, his name was David.
The man (or should we say teenager) appointed to be king by God was a young shepherd boy named David. According to 1 Samuel 13 he was a man after God’s own heart. What does that mean? When we refer to someone who has a heart for something or someone, we generally are saying this person is passionate about something or has qualities of the person they have a heart for or after.
So, then what are the qualities of God’s heart? Exodus 34:6 – 7 gives us a glimpse. When the LORD met with Moses on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 34, Moses asks to see God’s glory. The LORD responded by telling Moses that nobody can see God and live. So instead, the LORD has Moses go into the cleft of a rock and says he will pass by him and he could see the tail end of his glory. In Gods passing He declares who He is. He is compassionate, gracious, patient, abounding in love and truth, and forgiving. I believe this to be the heart of God and a person who has the heart of God has these qualities. Thus, I believe David is a man of compassion, patience, love, truth, forgiveness, and grace. Eventually David becomes Saul’s armor-bearer, musician, and we are told that Saul loved David greatly.
We also know David was courageous. His courage is evident when he takes on the colossal Philistine giant. David bravely confronted and slew the giant known as Goliath (it is believed he was 9ft tall). David’s courage and strength did not come from a deep confidence in his fighting skills, grit, or talent; no, his courage came from the LORD. He was, after all, a man after God’s own heart.
David’s fame began to grow throughout the country, and this incensed Saul. He was jealous of David’s popularity, but he continued to love him as his own son. Speaking of sons, Saul had a son who was David’s best friend, his name is Jonathan.
David and Jonathan
1 Samuel 18:1 – 3
Vs 1: In this passage we see that Saul’s son Jonathan and the future king, David had a unique bond between the two of them. They were bound together in a close friendship. The Hebrew translation is, “the soul of Jonathan was bound with the soul of David.” The two have been and will go through so much together that these instances became and will continue to be bonding moments. This was a relationship of two valiant warriors brought together because of intense opposition. It is the kind of bond people experience when they go through distress, trauma, or life-threatening experiences together. Maybe you have experienced this in your life where you went through a hardship, difficulty or a deeply emotional event with another person and that hardship is what bonds or unites both of your hearts together. In fact, I have found that in hardships and distress my true friends rise to the surface and create life-long bonding relationships.
I have witnessed these types of relationships develop and thrive mostly in my early years of ministry. When I was a youth pastor there were many times the youth groups I pastored went on retreats, missions, or conferences. There were usually moments (that I called bonding moments) where kids would bond together after experiencing something holy together. This would happen often when kids would serve at a VBS in the inner-city of DC. The kids would serve these less fortunate children with a compassion and love that they never realized they had, and they would see the living conditions of some of these young children and hearts would be broken and knit together again as these teenagers would go through these life changing experiences together. Other times I would see lifelong friendships begin when a student would open up and share their hardships, or sinful actions with one another and bonds would form immediately.
So as David and Jonathan’s friendship grew and thrived from hardships and distressing experiences, so too can our friendships begin, grow, and thrive.
Vs 3 - 4: Jonathan makes a promise or a covenant with David. We are unsure of the type of covenant or what the covenant entailed, but we see that he made a covenant with David because of his great love for him. This is the second time in this passage we are told that Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. He then confirmed the covenant by giving David a gift that included all of his military gear.
(Read 1 Samuel 19:1 - 7)
Jonathan and David also had an interesting and dangerous relationship because their friendship could ultimately lead to David’s death. Jonathan’s father had an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship with David. It was a love/hate relationship. As mentioned before Saul was jealous of David because of his success and partly because I think Saul was going a bit crazy as well.
In this passage Saul tells Jonathan and his men to find David and kill him. This poses a problem for Jonathan because David, as you know, is his best friend.
He convinces his father to not kill David because he has been a faithful servant and a valiant warrior for his father. Jonathan’s loyalty to David goes deeper than his loyalty to his father. Saul promises to not kill David and his life is spared.
(Read 1 Samuel 20:1 – 9, 30 - 34)
Overtime this friendship was not only dangerous to David, but it becomes dangerous for Jonathan as well. Jonathan tried to convince his father that David had done nothing wrong and that he should not kill David. Once Saul saw Jonathan’s loyalty to David, he became furious and threw his spear at his own son. Jonathan was loyal to David and loved him as his own brother. Since the bond was so strong Jonathan felt compelled to uphold this friendship, even if it meant defying the will of his father. Jonathan had integrity. He could have easily taken the side of his father and remained faithful to his will to kill David, but Jonathan loved David and he made a promise to David. He was a man who kept his word.
Jonathan and David were friends for life. Unfortunately, Saul’s hatred for David rages for a long time and ultimately tragically concludes when David and his sons was slain by the Philistines. When David heard the news of his fallen friend he mourned and wept for a day and he wrote a lament for Saul and Jonathan found in 2 Samuel 1:19 – 27.
As we have seen in this message what true friendship looks like I have picked out three qualities of David and Jonathan’s friendship that we can emulate in our own friendships today.
Qualities of Friendship
David and Jonathan modeled a true friendship that we all should all want to pursue or have in our lives. We see in these two men they had a genuine and bonding love for one another, remained loyal in all circumstances, and was a friendship that was rooted in integrity.
 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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