If you’ve ever heard a sermon on friendship, chances are the friendship between Jonathan and David was a major part of the lesson. After all, the Bible states that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” (1Samuel 18.1). However, while we know that Jonathan and David were great friends, their friendship was not a likely one. First, they came from very different backgrounds. One was the oldest son of the king, the other was the youngest son of a shepherd. But an even greater obstacle to their friendship was the fact that Jonathan could have easily seen David as a rival.
- Jonathan was a valiant warrior in his own right (see 1Samuel 13.2-3), so he could have been jealous of David’s exploits, just as his father was jealous (1Samuel 18.6-11).
- Jonathan could have envied David’s victory over Goliath. After all, Jonathan was likely one of those paralyzed by fear at the giant’s challenge (1Samuel 17.11, 23-24).
- Jonathan could have seen David as a political threat. It had twice been prophesied that Saul’s kingdom would come to an end (1Samuel 13.13-14; 15.26-29). Saul would try to kill his political rival on numerous occasions, and wondered why his son didn’t also want him dead (see 1Samuel 20.31).
Their friendship was formed by mutual faith
We’ve already noted the courageous faith David possessed, trusting that the Lord would grant him victory over Goliath (see 1Samuel 17.26, 34-37, 45-47). Jonathan possessed the same kind of faith, as seen in his own victory over the Philistines (1Samuel 13-14). After Jonathan slew a Philistine garrison (13.2-3), the Philistines sent a massive force deep into Israel (13.5). Significantly, Israel did not respond to this challenge by placing their faith in God. Rather, “the people hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, in cellars, and in pits. Also some of the Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead.” (13.6-7). Only Jonathan believed that the Lord would grant victory (14.1-10), thus he acted in faith (14.11-23).
This helps us understand why Jonathan loved David so much (18.1); they possessed the same kind of faith! Significantly, they entered a covenant together (18.3). This wasn’t a mere agreement to be friends, rather they bound themselves to each other and to the Lord (see 1Samuel 20.8). So, while David and Jonathan may have come from very different backgrounds, they were united by their faith in Jehovah. This bond was so strong that it led Jonathan to side with David rather than his own father (19.1-7; 20.30-34).
Friendships are typically based on things we share in common (location, school, sports team, work, etc.) This is what makes the warning in 2Corinthians 6:14-18 so powerful. There is danger in any relationship that is not based on a common relationship with God.
Lessons to learn from their friendship
- Godly friendships foster honesty. Can you imagine how tough it must have been for David to go to Jonathan and tell him that Sual was seeking his life (20:1-3)? But true friends can always be honest with the other. They can be honest about personal struggles and failings (James 5:16). They can be honest about the failings in the other (Proverbs 27:6).
- Godly friendships prompt sacrifice. Jonathan sacrificed his kingdom and risked his life for David (20:24-34). David would honor their covenant (20:13-14, 42) by providing for Jonathan’s crippled son (2Samuel 9). A true friend is ready to stand with you in the most difficult of times (Proverbs 17:17). A true friend is ready to sacrifice (John 15:12-14).
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