David and Jonathan




1 Samuel 18:1-4

(1) 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.

(2) And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house.

(3) Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.

(4) 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.



Cheers was a TV show that ran for eleven seasons from 1982 to 1993 on NBC. The show was set in a bar in Boston, and the bar was named after toast, “Cheers.” A group of locals meet there to drink, relax, and chat. The show's theme song says, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came; you want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; you want to be where everybody knows your name!”

Now you may think it is strange that I am talking about a TV show about a bar, but sometimes a bar is an imitation church. It is a place of fellowship, which is what the church should be. It is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. People will tell the bartender their life stories. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because most people want to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.

The church is the real thing. A church should be an inclusive fellowship. You should love and be loved in church. Everybody should know your name and be glad you came. Not only that, the church has the HS, which makes the church a far different fellowship than any bar. A church should be a place where you have friends. We talked about friendship in our weekly Bible study; let us continue that discussion.

Perhaps you could consider friendship as a good investment. Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” “Good reward” can also be translated “good return,” for it means dividends paid on a wise investment. The preacher of Ecclesiastes says the best deal you can make in life is not financial, but an investment in relationships. We get the best return on that investment. Human beings are by nature accumulators. Some people try to accumulate possessions. They are constantly trying to get more or better stuff. We have all heard the saying, “He who dies with most toys wins.” We all know that is totally wrong. If we spend our lives trying to accumulate more things, we will never truly be happy and fulfilled. We should be a different kind of accumulator. We should accumulate friends.

So how do we do that? Proverbs 18:24 “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” Let us reverse that. One sure way not to have friends is to be self-centered. People who are all wrapped up in themselves do not win friends and influence people. Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” However, this is a problem, because, let us face it, we all self-centered to some degree. Some of us are just educated not to show it. Self is a big hurdle to overcome. It takes prayer, concentration, and effort.

So, here is how not to befriend people. Do not smile. Do not listen to people. Do not act interested in people. Do not look at people. Think of yourself only. A scoutmaster told me a story once about a youngster who was causing a lot of trouble in the troop. The other boys did not like him, and he did not like them. Finally, the scoutmaster contacted the boy’s mother. While talking to her, he said, “Johnny is hard to control and he acts like he is better than other boys.” His mother replied, “He is better than other boys.” I guess the scoutmaster located Johnny's problem. A sure way of not befriending people is acting like you are better than they are.

I have talked to many people about why they do not go to church, and sometimes they say it is because the folk in church will speak to you in church but turn up their noses at you outside of church. If they do that, that is a sure way not to have friends.

Listen to people. Encourage people. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a person's heart weighs them down, but a good word makes them glad.” People in our world are hungry. They are hungry for attention, affection and love. They are hungry for people who genuinely care for them.

David was that way. Jonathan was his friend.

Jonathan was the son of King Saul, and the prince of Israel. We do not know how long David had been a member of Saul's court. We read back in chapter 16, that when Saul was in a deep depression that David came and played the lyre for him and that “music therapy” soothed the king's troubled soul. 1 Samuel 16:21: “David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer.” Then in chapter 17, David kills Goliath, which leads to a victory over the Philistines and makes David a hero of Israel, and an even more prominent member of Saul's court.

David was apparently a handsome, charismatic young man and his popularity with the people soon rivaled Saul's. Increasingly Saul saw David as a threat and an enemy. There came a day when Saul was in such a black depression that David's playing on the harp no longer helped. Saul was filled with such a hatred for David that he grabbed up a spear and threw it at him, yelling, “I will pin David to the wall” (I Sam 18:11). It was a one-sided, irrational hatred, as is often the case.

It is always disorienting to be attacked when we are doing something good. We are doing our best and suddenly we are violently opposed. We expect to be reprimanded for doing wrong; we do not expect it for doing right. David was caught in circumstances beyond his control. Have you ever had someone who disliked you for no apparent reason, or for reasons you could not do anything about? Some people dislike us because of our accent, our nationality, our faith, or our race. All we can do is love them back—which is not an easy task.

Interwoven throughout Saul’s murderous plotting is the extraordinary friendship between David and Jonathan. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s closest friend. In chapter 20, we are told that David loved Jonathan as he loved himself (vs 17). Jonathan attempted to bring about reconciliation between his father and his friend. He appointed himself as mediator, representing David before Saul. He nearly lost his own life in the process. Saul was so angry with Jonathan for defending David that he hurled his spear at his son.

Family and friendships are about loyalty, but Jonathan’s loyalty to David complicated Jonathan’s life enormously. He remained loyal to his father, and he remained loyal to David. At first, Jonathan found it hard to accept that his father wanted David dead. When he learned the grim truth, Jonathan did not desert his father, neither did he forsake David. In the process, he learned that close friendships can bring about challenging difficulties. Conflict can test the depth of our friendships; it can also strengthen these ties. Jonathan risked losing his father’s favor and his own future. He was the heir to the throne. Yet these friends drew closer together when their friendship was tested. After helping David escape, Jonathan remained David’s friend, even though the court of Saul was a hostile place for friends of David, and he remained loyal to his father, even though his father hated his friend.

A verse in Ecclesiastes says (v. 11) “Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?” If we take this verse literally, we miss the point. This is more than just about keeping each other physically warm. We need help to face circumstances beyond our control, we need to be able to gain Spiritual warmth when we do not have enough of our own. Sometimes it is cold out there in the world. Sometimes we are facing a battle, and wondering how we are going to make it through this. That is the time we need a friend to warm our spirits.

But we have all encountered the opposite kind of person. We have met people who, when we spend time with them, seem to sap us of life and energy. They send our spiritual gas gauge all the way over to empty. We leave their presence absolute drained. However, there are other people, and these are our friends, that when we spend time with them, our spiritual gauge goes all the way over to full.

To put it another way, we find both encouragers and discouragers in the world. many discouraging people have no idea that they are discouragers, but every word out of their mouth is setting someone straight or telling them how they can improve themselves. That is discouraging. I think of Jonathan as an encourager.

Jonathan was committed to David, and in verse 4, he offers a tangible sign. In recognition of God’s choosing David as king, Jonathan handed David his royal robe and his sword, transferring to David his own status, to include the right of kingly succession (18:4). Jonathan had nothing to gain by this gesture, but everything to lose. He could have viewed David as his rival, yet his heart was united with David in tender affection. Jonathan understood that while his father was still king, David was already Israel’s anointed leader. Jonathan realized that God set David apart. Rather than oppose God, Jonathan was ready to serve David. He wanted God’s will to be done; he wanted what was best for Israel. Yet no one would have been surprised had Jonathan chosen to be David’s enemy. However, the way to destroy enemies is to make them your friends.

Would you help a friend get promoted, even if that meant you might not get promoted yourself? We can get caught up in “playing politics” and lose sight of what is best for the organization. Some form and nurture political “friendships” just in order to gain access to power. It takes a servant spirit to want to help others, and to befriend people who we can make successful, people who probably will not make us successful. It often takes sacrifice to help peers. Knowledge is power, and many people refrain from sharing what they know on purpose, not wanting to share any power.

A friend is someone who protects you. Jonathan protected David. When he learned of his father’s intentions, he warned David. He assured David in 20:13, “If my father is inclined to harm you, may the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May the Lord be with you as He has been with my father.” Then, in v16, Jonathan made a covenant with David. Covenants are not merely promises; they involve relationships. You can make a contract, a treaty or a binding resolution with an enemy, but a covenant is made with a friend. After warning David he states in vs. 42, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the Name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever’.”

While David was hiding from Saul at Horesh, in the Desert of Ziph (chapter 23), Jonathan “helped him find strength in God”, saying, “Don’t be afraid. My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this” (vss. 16-17). After this encouragement, they then renewed their covenant of friendship before the Lord. A true friend is someone compassionate and humble enough to offer and accept help.

There is an interesting verse in Proverbs which reads, “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend” (NLT). True friends want to see us continue to grow. The writer of Proverbs compares true friendship to iron that is banged on by iron. Think of a blacksmith who makes swords. He hammers on molten iron to work it slowly into shape. Friends are always challenging us and even pushing us to be all that God wants for us to be.

Without Jonathan, David might have abandoned his calling and returned to tending his sheep, or he might have developed a murderous spirit of retaliation to get even with Saul. He did neither. In accepting Jonathan’s friendship, David received confirmation of God’s election and the prophet Samuel’s earlier anointing as king of Israel. Jonathan’s friendship encouraged David to persevere. Jonathan was divinely placed in David’s life and helped David rise above the opposition and discouragement he faced. Friendships are not accidents. They are a manifestation of the HS in your life.

Now you may know a lot of people that you could call acquaintances, but you may only have a very few that you could term “real friends.” Someone has suggested that we have been successful in life if we have enough friends to act as pallbearers at our funeral. You may wonder, “How can I tell the difference between acquaintances and friends.” That’s easy, just get in trouble, the people that are still around are your real friends, and there probably will not be as many as you thought. How many friends do you have who will be there for you? The writer of Proverbs (17:17) says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

David and Jonathan remained friends till the end. When David learned of Jonathan’s death he cried out, "How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! "Jonathan lies slain on your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women (2 Samuel 1:25-26 ESV)

You might be saying, we all need a friend like Jonathan, but that is not the point. We all need to be a friend like Jonathan.


If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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Last Modified: 05/02/13