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Courageous Faith Series
Developing Lasting Friendships
“The Value of True Loyalty” – Jonathan
Let’s remember that we seek to follow the Divine Promiser and His promise which transforms ordinary people into “children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). It is God’s promise which encourages our hearts and lifts our souls. His promise keeps us going when the going gets tough.
So far in our series on Courageous faith we have discussed Abraham: Getting Started, The Journey of Faith; Jacob: Overcoming the Obstacles, Hanging Tough in the Tough Times; Joseph: When Dreams and Heroes Die, Starting Over When It All Falls Apart; Moses: Becoming A Leader, Overcoming Your Past; Joshua: Success in Battle, Conquering The Opposition; Daniel: Standing Up For What You Believe, Developing Spiritual Determination; Jephthah: Keeping Your Promises, Even When it Costs You!; Samson: Facing Your Weaknesses, Making Them Your Strengths!; Boaz: Reaching Out To Others, Especially Those Who Are Different; David: Realizing Your Goals, Confidence in the Face of Danger; and now the story of Jonathon: Developing Lasting Friendships: The Value of True Loyalty.
Friendships are made. They don’t just happen. Real friendships need time to grow. And growth comes with in-depth communication. You can only build surface relationships with surface conversations. You have to reach beyond the small talk in order to build bridges to other people.
“Hi! How are you?” we ask.
“Fine,” they reply.
Soon the whole process becomes a ritual. After a while, all you have to do is say, “Hi,” and people will automatically respond, “Fine.” You don’t even have to ask how they are! They just say “fine” out of habit, whether they are fine or not.
If we are not careful, all our conversations at work or church can degenerate into a whole series of clichés:
“How’s it going?”
“Nice day we’re having.”
“Couldn’t be better.”
“How ‘bout them Cowboys?”
“Man, they’re really something!”
“Keep up the good work.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Say ‘hi’ to your wife and kids.”
“See you at services.”
Even the handshaking ritual in most of our congregations fails to promote any real communication between people. We turn, smile, shake hands, say “hello” and move on to the next person. Then we start it all over again.
How many times has your wife asked, “Who is that guy you were talking to?” And your response was, “I’m not really sure what his name is.”
The same thing happens with most people at work. We see the same faces day after day, pass by, say “hi,” and keep on going. We don’t really know who they are, where they came from, or what they’re all about.
True friendships take time to develop. Many times, we have to overcome our initial impressions of people in order to build relationships with them.
David and Jonathon became lifelong friends as soon as they met. They had a lot in common. They were both courageous warriors. When Jonathon saw David kill Goliath, he was instantly drawn to him. Look what we read about Jonathon after Saul speaks with David in 1 Samuel 18:1, “Now when 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.”
Jonathon’s father was King Saul. Inept as he was, Saul wasn’t about to let the victorious David get away. He drafted him into the Israelite army and gave him a position of command. The unarmed teenager was now an unarmed commander. Jonathon is so impressed with David look what he does in 1 Samuel 18:4, “And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.”
David was immediately successful as Israel’s new champion. The two young men became inseparable friends. David’s success however, soon made Saul jealous. Actually, he was afraid of David because the Lord’s hand was upon him. When he couldn’t get rid of him, Saul decided to marry his daughter Michal to David to keep close tabs on him. That made Jonathon David’s brother-in-law.
Despite David’s rocky marriage to Jonathon’s sister and the animosity of his father, Jonathon remained David’s loyal friend. When Saul ordered Jonathon to kill David, he protested and defended David’s innocence. He was even temporarily secure a truce between his father and David as we read in 1 Samuel 19:4-7, “Thus Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, "Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been very good toward you. 5 "For he took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel. You saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?" 6 So Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, "As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed." 7 Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these things. So, Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past.”
Unfortunately, Saul’s good disposition did not last long. David’s continued military success only frustrated the old king all the more. He tried to have David assassinated at home, but Michal helped him escape. David ran to the prophet Samuel for refuge at Ramah. Then he went to Jonathon and asked him to intervene on his behalf.
In 1 Samuel 20:1 we read, “Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and went and said to Jonathan, "What have I done? What is my iniquity, and what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?" At first, we find Jonathon disagreeing, listen to the rest of the discussion in 1 Samuel 20:2-3, “So Jonathan said to him, "By no means! You shall not die! Indeed, my father will do nothing either great or small without first telling me. And why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!" 3 Then David took an oath again, and said, "Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.' But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” As David explains in all sincerity he states “There is but a step between me and death.” David was fearful for his life. Jonathon ultimately recognizes this and tells David in 1 Samuel 20:4, "Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you."
David asked Jonathon to find out how Saul really felt about him. A special festival was being celebrated the next day, and they both knew David would be missed if he did not show up. So, Jonathan promised to intervene for him and to bring him word of his father’s response in two days.
The young men agreed to meet at a certain spot near the rock Ezel. Jonathan explained that he would shoot three arrows beside the stone. Then he would send out a boy to fetch them. They agreed if he told the boy to “bring the arrows here,” all was safe for David to return. But if he told the boy the arrows are “beyond you,” David should run away.
When David didn’t show up at the festival, Saul blew up. And when Jonathan tried to defend David, Saul blew up at him. Listen to what he says in 1 Samuel 20:30-31, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die."
Jonathan stormed out in a rage, and yet grieved over his father’s shameful behavior.
There’s Nothing Like A Crisis
Crises have a way of cementing lifelong friendships. When you go through deep waters together, your hearts pull together more than ever. Saul was the “crisis” that helped to cement Jonathan and David together. Maybe you have a “crisis” that has cemented a friendship for you. My wife and I certainly have. When we were dating in 1990 a tornado tore through the Bedford, Indiana area where her sister Susan was living. We were all at their house, I, Jennifer, Susan, Justin and their 3 week old son Kyle. Suddenly, the power went off we had just started a movie in the VCR. Fortunately, when the power came back on the TV switched to the news. Next thing we know, Justin is looking out the window and we were all scrambling to get out of the house to their basement in which you had to go outside to get into it. Needless to say, it was quite the traumatic experience for all of us. Fortunately, none of us were seriously injured aside from cuts and bruises. A family in a small hatchback vehicle gave us a ride to the hospital for all our cars had been damaged by the tornado. To make the story short, following the hospital, Jennifer and I were nearly inseparable. To this day, Jen is still haunted by howling winds. The tornados that came through Pekin in 2012 only solidified our relationship even further. We were very fortunate to be together at the East Washington Elementary school when they hit. The memories of 1990’s tornado instantly came to mind for both of us. Now we share memories of 2012. I suppose, I could include the facts that in our 28 years of marriage and our time in the Air Force we have experienced, earth quakes in Illinois, a volcano in Alaska, and severe flooding in San Antonio, TX. What an adventure! Thankfully, in all those cases we were together. I can’t imagine my life without her, and I certainly don’t want to!
Don’t Forget Me
When it comes to the friendship of Jonathan and David, Jonathan realized that he might never see David again. Yet he loved him too much to let his own father destroy him. He met David by the rock as he had promised. Then shot the arrows and shouted, “Hurry! Go Quickly! Don’t Stop!”
After the boy picked up the arrows, Jonathan gave him his weapons and sent him back to town. Unarmed, he proceeded to meet with David. They embraced each other and wept, David sobbing the hardest.
In 1 Samuel 20:42 we read, “Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, 'May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.'" So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.” They promised always to remain friends and even to bless each other’s families. It was a promise with enormous consequences for the future, for they would see each other only once more.
A Tribute To A Friend
David spent years running from Saul. The paranoid king chased him all over the desert. But time and time again, David managed to escape because God was with him. At one point, he and Jonathan met secretly at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph this is what takes place as we read in 1 Samuel 23:15-18, “So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. And David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in a forest. 16 Then Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, "Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that." 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.”
If you noticed Jonathan tried to encourage his distraught friend when he said in 1 Samuel 23:17, “"Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that." This was quite an admission from Jonathan. He was willing to give up his claim to the throne for his friend David. Now that is true friendship! Jonathan in essence was saying, “I want what is best for you, not just what is best for me.”
Again, they renewed their covenant, and again they parted company. In the meantime, Saul’s pursuit of David continued. Twice David spares Saul’s life. Nevertheless, Saul continued his pursuit. Finally, in desperation, David escaped into the land of the Philistines to the city of Gath – Goliath’s hometown.
As you might imagine, David had quite a reputation in Gath. Achish, the king of Gath, gladly made an alliance with him. AT last, Saul gave up looking for David. However, things did not go back to normal; a double tragedy occurred. Not only did David and Jonathan never see each other again, but also Jonathan and Saul would later die in battle by the hand of the Philistines (1 Samuel 31).
Saul’s jealousy, pride, and paranoia cost him everything. He had turned against David and driven away the one person who could have saved him from the Philistines. In the end, Saul died in battle, and Jonathan died with him because of the sins of his father (the result of the consequences). When David received news of their deaths, his heart was broken. He cried out in 2 Samuel 1:19-27, “The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen! 20 Tell it not in Gath, Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon-Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. 21 "O mountains of Gilboa, Let there be no dew nor rain upon you, Nor fields of offerings. For the shield of the mighty is cast away there! The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. 22 From the blood of the slain, From the fat of the mighty, The bow of Jonathan did not turn back, And the sword of Saul did not return empty. 23 "Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, And in their death they were not divided; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions. 24 "O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet, with luxury; Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. 25 "How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan was slain in your high places. 26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women. 27 "How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!"
Bonds of Iron
It was quite a tribute to a lifelong friend. Eventually, David became the king of Israel, just as Jonathan had predicted. In the years to come, David showed kindness to Jonathan’s family every opportunity he could, especially to his son Mephibosheth. The bonds of their friendship continued long after Jonathan’s death. It was a deep, lasting relationship forged by the bond of human commitment.
Friendships that last are ones that grow in depth. There are at least four levels of friendship:
1. Casual Acquaintances. We know their names and faces. We know them well enough to say “hello,” but we rarely ever talk to them in any depth. We may know hundreds of such people.
2. Casual Friends. We know them well enough to carry on a friendly conversation, but with very little depth. We might even chat with them over lunch, but we rarely open up to them. We know scores of such people.
3. Good Friends. Those people have interests and values similar to our own. We value their ideas and seek their opinions. We enjoy their company on a regular basis, but we are not necessarily lifelong friends. We may have a few dozen such friends.
4. Intimate Friends. These are those few people with whom we have bonded deeply for life. They know all about us and like us in spite of our faults. We can and have shared out deepest joys, hurts, sorrows, blessings, and defeats with them. We love them and they love us.
Friendships are also developed around certain key ingredients:
1. Common Interests: “We like the same things.”
2. Personal Significance: “You are important to me.”
3. Honest Communication: “Let me tell you the truth.”
4. Unconditional Love: “I like you the way you are.”
5. Genuine Concern: “I really care about you.”
6. Personal Encouragement: “I want what is best for you.”
7. Long-term Commitment: “Let’s work through this.”
When friendships contain these ingredients, they are bound to be successful. Whether they last a few years or an entire lifetime, such friendships are essential to our personal growth and emotional well-being. When the tough times come, God uses our friends to help us through. We all need friends we can rely on. Their help, advice, and encouragement are invaluable.
On the other hand, there are also friendships that can develop into negative friendships. They may begin in innocence, but somewhere along the way, they take a turn for the worse. Negative Relationships have the following characteristics:
1. Dependent. When two friends become so over dependent on each other that they can’t stand alone, make their own decisions, or live their own life.
2. Possessive. When one person controls the other by constant threats or demands. And he or she tries to isolate the other person from everyone else.
3. Hidden Agenda. When someone is only pretending to be a friend because they want something the other person has or they want to misuse the other person.
4. Codependent. When both parties reinforce each other’s wrong behavior enabling one another to continue on a self-destructive course.
5. Avoidance of the truth. When there is no real honesty. Ever issue of disagreement is simply avoided.
Reaching Beyond Ourselves
Every time we reach out to befriend someone, there are certain risks involved: rejection, misunderstanding, obligations, and commitment. They might not like me. They might not understand me. Worse yet, they might want me to help them with something.
“I need to move some things into a workshop” a friend recently asked. “Could you give me a hand Saturday?”
“Saturday? This Saturday?” I said, “Sure, what are friends for anyway!”
We’ve all done things for our friends: picked up their mail, mowed their grass, towed their car, and watched their kids. Why? Because that’s what friends are for. We become friends when we respond to needs.
People need people. That’s what life is all about. God created us with a desire for personal relationships. Instead of avoiding people, we all need to learn how to reach out to people. Our words of encouragement, acts of kindness, and attitudes of acceptance communicate to people that we care about them.
We have all heard the old proverb: “He would have friends must himself be friendly.” (Prov. 18:24). That’s how you get friends. If you reach out to enough people, some of them will reach back to you.
David and Jonathan are unique examples of an unusual friendship – warriors with a heart for battle and friends with a heart for each other. These brothers-in-law, whose lives were torn apart by Saul’s animosity, sealed their hearts and friendship together in a common quest – the preservation of the promise.
The line of the Messiah was preserved despite Saul’s hatred for David. God soon made David the king of Israel and through him defeated the Philstines once and for all. The shepherd boy was finally on the throne as God promised many years before.
The Ultimate Friend
When God chose to show His love for us, He sent His son to reach out to us. In this case, He left His throne to come down to the level of common humanity. He came not in the royal robes of His superiority, but in the simple garb of a carpenter’s son. What’s more, He came to die for our sins so that He might bring us to God.
Romans 5:6-8 says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus is the greatest friend we could ever have. He loves us even more than we love ourselves. He proved it when He gave Himself to die in our place. That is the heart of the gospel message: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When Jesus died on the cross, he died as our substitute. He took our place. And he took our punishment as well. That’s why the Bible calls Him the Lamb of God. His death was the sacrificial atonement for our sins. Obeying the Gospel of Christ involves making a whole hearted commitment. That commitment is something each one of us needs to make. We can’t get to heaven on our parent’s faith or our spouse’s faith. We must make that decision for ourselves. The Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”
If you need a true friend who will stand by you for time and eternity, Jesus is the greatest friend you could ever have. Obey the Gospel before it is everlastingly too late! Remember, He will never leave you or forsake you!
As we near the end of another study, let’s ask ourselves some questions with what we have learned from the story of Jonathan and David:
1. Who are your closest friends?
2. Has friendship ever led you to sacrifice your own well-being?
3. Think of the most difficult times you have been through with your friends?
4. How did these times bond you together?
5. Do you have any destructive friendships that need to be changed or dropped?
6. Is God really your best friend?