The King and His Friend
1 Samuel 18:1-4[i]
God describes himself as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the creator of the universe and ruler over all. He is more than a King, but some of our relationship to him is best understood by the metaphor of a king.
He is also a covenant God. In other words, He makes promises, and He keeps His promises.
The character of God never changes. Therefore, His promises never fail.
We are created in the image of God.
We make promises, but our promises fail because of sin. Sin has marred the image of God in man. However, there are incidents recorded in history where human actions reflect the character of God. Today we are going to consider just such an incident in the life of David. In the relationship of David and Jonathan, we see reflected a glimpse of God's character. It is part of God’s character to make promises.
In 1 Samuel 17, we read the story of the young shepherd, David, killing the giant, Goliath. After David killed Goliath, he was taken immediately to meet the King. 1 Samuel 17:57-58 tells us:
As soon as David returned from killing Goliath, Abner brought him to Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand. “Tell me about your father, young man,” Saul said.
And David replied, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.”
I don't know how long David stood there talking with Saul, holding the Philistine’s head, but 1 Samuel 18:1 tells us, “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.” (ESV)[ii] This text suggests that there was an immediate bond between David and Jonathan.
The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.
There was an immediate bond between these two men that lasted throughout the lifetime of David. Long after Jonathan was dead, David honored his friendship with Jonathan. David took Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, into his house, and gave Mephibosheth all of the property that had belonged to Saul.
1 Samuel 18:1 tells us that Jonathan loved David as his own soul.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (ESV)
When we love, we reflect the image and character of God. Jonathan’s selfless love for David is a good example of this.
There is not much negative recorded about Jonathan. He was an excellent soldier. He was not afraid to take on the entire Philistine army by himself. 1 Samuel 14 tells the story of Jonathan taking his armor bearer and challenging a Philistine outpost. At that time, He said, “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:7) Years later, Jonathan died a faithful son standing beside his father in battle.
The love that Jonathan showed to David is an example of the love that we are expected to show to our neighbors. It should be demonstrated in our families. This kind of love is what a father should demonstrate toward his children. This kind of love should be demonstrated by a husband toward his wife. This is the kind of love that Christ demonstrates toward the Church.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV) When the Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world . . .” It is referring to this demonstration of God's love, the giving of His own Son for our sakes.
In the relationship between David and Jonathan, Jonathan was the superior. He was the Prince. David was a shepherd. Jonathan was the King's son. David was the King's servant. Jonathan was heir to the throne. David was not heir to anything. There could not have been any apparent benefit for Jonathan in his relationship with David. And yet, the Scriptures tell us that their souls were knit together. I believe this was the Spirit of God at work. David showed his faith in being willing to face Goliath. Jonathan showed the same kind of faith in a different battle where he challenged the entire Philistine army and won. Their souls were knit together in the kinship of the love of God.
We also find ourselves knit together in the body of Christ by a common love for God, and a common salvation. As we have already noted, 1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (ESV)
Although there is no apparent benefit for Jonathan, we can find reason for their souls being knit together. However, it is harder to understand why and how it is that God loves us. Why has God chosen to knit our souls to His? We are created in His image, but that image has been marred by sin. Our own choice has made us enemies of God. And yet, He calls us His friends when we put our trust in Jesus Christ.
1 Samuel 18:3 tells us, "Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul." (ESV)
We have already noted that Jonathan was David's superior. It was his position and right to demand allegiance from David. And here, contrary to social custom and rank, Jonathan unilaterally makes a covenant with David. He swore an oath to David.
Another place we see such unilateral promises is when God reaches out to us. God unilaterally swore an oath to Abraham. God unilaterally gave His promise to David. And, God unilaterally gives His promises to you and to me.
We cannot earn it.
We do not deserve it.
However, the Bible says, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12, ESV)
What if David had refused Jonathan?
The Prince, the King's own son, was offering David his friendship. Why would David refuse? And yet, God offers His friendship to us and many refuse.
Let me make it clear to you how to enter into a personal friendship with God. He is offering it. It is a gift. Therefore, all anyone must do to receive it is accept it. God is not hard of hearing. As a matter of fact, He can hear your thoughts. So if you want to accept God's gift of friendship, just tell Him.
If a friend offers you a gift, what do you do when you receive it? You thank them! Should we not thank God for His tremendous gift? If you have told God you want to accept His gift, then it is time to start thanking Him for His gift.
Since His mercies are new every morning, it is a good idea to thank Him every morning.
1 Samuel 18:4 tells us, “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” ESV
We have seen the selfless love of Jonathan toward David. We have seen his one-sided covenant, and now we see this selfless act.
To be given a piece of clothing the king or his son had worn was considered the highest honor possible. This custom continued so that at the time of Esther, Mordechai was honored by wearing the king’s robe. Before the time of David, Joseph was honored by being dressed in a royal robe. In Joseph’s case, there was additional authority given when Pharaoh gave Joseph Pharaoh’s signet ring, thereby giving Joseph the authority to sign Pharaoh’s name.
Jonathan did something even more drastic. He gave David his armor! This is certainly a symbol of brotherhood, but it can be a symbol of much more. For a sovereign to give up his armor without receiving the same in return is likely to be a symbol of giving up the throne. It is likely that Jonathan’s act recognized David as successor to Saul and thus Jonathan’s replacement as heir apparent. Throughout their relationship and subsequent events, it is clear that Jonathan recognized David was to be the next king and Jonathan was more than okay with that. He supported it.
Jonathan’s selfless devotion to David is nothing short of astounding. In the same way, God’s gracious treatment of us is amazing.
God has clothed us with Christ’s righteousness. Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (ESV)
In addition, God promises to give us glory. Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Furthermore, God has given us Kingdom authority. Jesus told us that He was giving us the keys of the kingdom of heaven and that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and that whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
As if that is not enough, God has also given us a home in heaven, in His house. Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for us that where he is there we may be also.
The person who trusts in Christ has been made a joint heir with Christ.
Being a Christian does not make you ruler of the universe, but it does mean the ruler of the universe is your friend, your close personal friend.
By giving us His Spirit, He gives us of Himself. We have the mind of Christ. This same Spirit is a seal of our inheritance, proof that our home and our citizenship are in heaven.
David became king because God unilaterally made a covenant with him. God makes promises and keeps them. The covenant between Jonathan and David lasted only as long as they lived.
God will live forever.
Therefore, He can make an everlasting covenant.
God is unilaterally offering you his friendship today. He will forgive all your offenses against Him, clothe you with His righteousness and make you His child and heir. God is able to do this because Jesus paid for it all. All you have to do is receive it.
[i]Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.