Between a rock and a hard place – the story of Jonathon and David.
Have you ever had a friend of whom your parents really disapproved? Despite all your protestations about great they were, for some reason your parents just didn’t like them and made every effort to make sure that you saw as little of them as possible. Looking back you might understand now why they felt the way they did but in other cases it may have been completely unjustified. It’s hard going when our nearest and dearest take against someone who is important in our lives. We can find ourselves torn in both ways as we try to respect our parent’s views while remaining loyal to our friend.
And when it comes to divided loyalties one of the most poignant examples of such a friendship
must surely be that between David and Jonathon – the shepherd boy and the heir to the throne, an unlikely pairing if ever there was one!
Yet this is one of the most enduring relationships in the Bible. To start with everything is sweet. David is flavour of the month with Saul, Jonathon’s father, King of Israel after slaying the giant Goliath with just a sling and a few stones. But gradually, the cracks begin to appear as Saul realises that David is destined for great things. Instead of being thankful to God that a worthy successor has been found to lead the nation, Saul is consumed with jealousy and desperate to destroy the person he now sees as his greatest threat rather than his greatest ally.
Yet the person who you might imagine to feel aggrieved is the one who goes to great lengths to help David. Despite the fact that if David becomes king, Jonathan will lose what he may have viewed as his birthright, Jonathon remains loyal to his beloved friend. He knows that David is the one anointed by God. He recognises that obedience to God is more important than to the fallibilities of human power games. Jonathon had made a covenant with David in the early days of their friendship. We read in 1 Samuel 18: 3-4 that Jonathon gave David his robe, tunic, sword, bow and belt. Without these trappings of his position Jonathon not only gave his all to David, he made himself vulnerable to him. And he did this because Jonathon knew that he could trust David literally with his life, he knew that David would protect him just as Jonathon would David.
Theirs was a reciprocal friendship rooted in mutual respect and love. In 1 Samuel 18: 1 we read of how Jonathon loved David as himself – a prophetic statement that foretells Jesus’s commandment that we love each other as we love ourselves. Jonathon was living the Gospel without even knowing it.
After Jonathon’s death in battle, David laments the loss of his dearest friend – “ I grieve for you Jonathon, my brother, you were very dear to me, your love for me was very wonderful, more wonderful than that of women”( 2 Samuel 1:26)
David acknowledges that his friendship with Jonathon was life giving and precious. He is not comparing it with marriage, he is simply celebrating the joy of a friendship that cannot be replicated by any other type of relationship.
Friendship is indeed a God-given gift and over lockdown our friendships have become perhaps even more important. While we might have been physically separated from our friends, their presence in our lives has remained important as we have sought to support our friends in a myriad of thoughtful ways.
Over the next few days our reflections are going to focus on some examples of Biblical friendships. As we think about this I pray that it will provide us with an opportunity to reflect and give thanks for the friendships that we value and have blessed our lives, especially over these last few months