My son is entertaining a friend from school today and they are having so much fun. I hear giggles and laughter as they play video games downstairs. I hear hooting and hollering as one of them crashes in the game. I feel blessed that my son is finally having some good Christian friends from his school to hang with. No swearing, no pouting, no anger, just good old-fashioned fun! I miss that part of childhood where friendships blossom. It seems to me that as an adult it is much more difficult to make friends, at least it is for me. Maybe it is because we wear so many masks to cover our flaws. I don’t know. But as I started to think about writing about friendships I couldn’t help but think of one of the famous friendships in the Bible, Jonathan and David. Jonathan was King Saul’s son and David was the shepherd boy who slew the giant. I wonder how a King’s son, Jonathan, and a shepherd boy, David, became friends.
David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem; he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent. As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.” The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.” As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head. “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him. David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”
After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. 1 Samuel 17:54-18:4, (New International Version or NIV).
Here it is. David has just slain the giant that the army of Israel had feared for weeks and he is bringing the head back to the camp to show the soldiers. King Saul is obviously stunned and impressed with this young man and so he inquires what family the boy comes from. Jonathan, Saul’s son, is also there and I find it very interesting that Jonathan was the initiator of the friendship. In fact Jonathan became one in spirit with David and this is an interesting phrase to me. I suppose today we would say they had a budding bromance. Not perverted, not sexual, but a deep bosom-buddy best-friend relationship. Have you someone in your life that you have known most of your life that has a way of clicking with you and gets you in a way the no one else can? That is the type of friendship that Jonathan and David shared. I think that God must have placed this admiration and love in Jonathan’s heart for David because it is Jonathan who protects David’s life more than once in the coming years while Saul and his army hunt for David to kill him.
Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?” Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before. 1 Samuel 19: 1-7, (NIV).
Jonathan certainly showed his friendship for David was deeper than his concern of what his father would think. I am sure this is not the only time that Jonathan talked his father out of killing David.
Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!” “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.
In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.” After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “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.’ ” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. 1 Samuel 20:30-42, (NIV).
Jonathan again saved David’s life from his father’s intent on killing David. Notice how grieved he felt at his father’s attitude toward David. That is what happens when you are good friends with someone and you see the cruelty they are being subjected to by others. Jonathan warned David and before you apply today’s social customs into this scene where Jonathan and David say goodbye to each other I want to say something. In the culture of the Middle East even today men kiss other men as a sign of friendship and of solidarity. There is nothing sexual in this conduct between David and Jonathan. They were simply grieving together because they knew that they may never see each other again. After all Saul was so bent on hatred toward David that he nearly killed his own son because of the friendship with David. That is a lot of hate! What is at the heart of the grief is not only Saul’s jealousy but he also wants David dead so that his son Jonathan can be king after Saul dies as was the custom of other nations around them. Saul knew that God had removed him as the chosen king and had anointed David to be the predecessor to the throne. I can only imagine how angry he felt at his son for placing his best friend David out of harm’s way all the time. Jonathan, on the other hand, had sworn that he and David would always be friends and that his children and David’s children would be friends forever. Jonathan is basically saying that he doesn’t want to be the king because his friend David has been chosen by God and he accepted that graciously. So what happens?
While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “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.” The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh. 1 Samuel 23:15-18, (NIV).
Time and time again Jonathan saved David from being harmed by his father Saul. This lasted for many years and still Jonathan remained faithful in his friendship with David. How extraordinary Jonathan must have been. But God had other plans and Jonathan is killed with his father in battle. David is made king and still he remembered his best friend with kindness.
David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied.
The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet. 2 Samuel 9:1-13, (NIV).
This is one of the most touching friendships I have ever read about. I can’t wait to meet Jonathan in heaven and ask him questions about all of this. I hope to meet David as well and tell him how wonderful I think his kindness was to this poor lame boy. I think it is true that we who have had such a friendship extend our love to the children and grandchildren of our friend. God brings people into our lives for various reasons. For David and Jonathan I believe it was to help David be protected from Saul. For my son and his new friend I hope this will develop into a life-long friendship as well. We all need those kinds of friendships.