1 SAMUEL 20:1-23
1David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?” 2He said to him, “Perish the thought! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!” 3But David also swore, “Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.’ But truly, as the LORD lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.” 4Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” 5David said to Jonathan, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. 6If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.’ 7If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him. 8Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?9Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! If I knew that it was decided by my father that evil should come upon you, would I not tell you?” 10Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”11Jonathan replied to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” So they both went out into the field.
12Jonathan said to David, “By the LORD, the God of Israel! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or on the third day, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? 13But if my father intends to do you harm, the LORD do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you, and send you away, so that you may go in safety. May the LORD be with you, as he has been with my father. 14If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the LORD; but if I die, 15never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the LORD were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”16Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD seek out the enemies of David.” 17Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.
18Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon; you will be missed, because your place will be empty.19On the day after tomorrow, you shall go a long way down; go to the place where you hid yourself earlier, and remain beside the stone there. 20I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. 21Then I will send the boy, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you, collect them,’ then you are to come, for, as the LORD lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. 22But if I say to the young man, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go; for the LORD has sent you away. 23As for the matter about which you and I have spoken, the LORD is witness between you and me for ever.”
The drama between Saul and David is the main core story in these chapters in 1 Samuel. But what gets almost equal attention is the story between Saul's son, Jonathan, and David. (If this were some Korean drama, the role of Saul would be played by a gangster father whose daughter, in the role of Jonathan, would be in love with a young man ["David"] whom the father is trying to kill. Has this drama been made? If so, don't bother telling me. I know how the story ends.)
The drama-within-the-larger-drama is this story of friendship. And the central character that ties the two dramas together is Jonathan. He is caught between his love for his father and his love for his friend. What might be overlooked, however, is the basis of Jonathan's commitment to David and his father Saul. That basis is his commitment to the LORD. The underlined portions in the passage capture Jonathan's complete awareness of and commitment to YHWH.
Much can be made of the friendship between Jonathan and David; but without understanding the mediating role of God in Jonathan's friendship with David, the nature of this friendship will be grossly distorted. At this point, we should note that this friendship is not equal. Jonathan has far more to lose in this friendship. David has everything to gain. Jonathan risks his own standing as the king's son and even his life for his protection of David who is seen as a threat in Saul's eyes.
Without his awareness of and commitment to YHWH, Jonathan would be a most miserable man, caught, as he is, between two people to whom he's given allegiance. Misery and confusion would have been Jonathan's lot. Instead, there is clarity. Jonathan desires what is best for both his father and his friend. Jonathan has seen the Lord bless his father, Jonathan has seen the Lord bless his friend, and Jonathan knows that God does not contradict himself by working at cross purposes. Jonathan is aware that the kingship will pass onto David and to David's line. Jonathan knows this because he believes that is the Lord's plan. Jonathan simply wants the transition from his father to his friend to be a smooth, non-murderous, non-violent, and non-chaotic one. That is Jonathan's hope.
We have much to learn from Jonathan in the areas mentioned above. All good friendships are mediated by God, meaning our friendships are in the Lord and through the Lord. Even though we might be committed to someone, that commitment itself ought to be grounded in God's will and love. It is God's love that binds us to one another. Only then is there freedom in love. Without God's love, our love easily becomes possessive, as though friends "belong" to us. And our friendship with others become burdensome as we feel the tug of obligation, thinking that we "owe" people our affections. But because the love that connects is God's free love, we can enjoy and celebrate one another without any sense of picking sides. Moreover, the mediating role of the Lord in our friendships and relationships allows us to speak truth in love to one another.
Lastly, the mediating role of the Lord prevents us from making idols of our relationships and friendships. If, perchance, our friendships fall apart, it is not the end of world. The only one we cannot live without is the Lord. Friendships can come and they can go. We of course desire wonderful, long-lasting friendships. It's a good and worthy desire.
Let's pray: O God, we want you to step into every one of our relationships and friendships. We ask you, Lord Jesus, to be the One who will mediate our relationship with others. We need your grace and love to be the connector of our hearts one to another. We ask you, Holy Spirit, to give us the right view of our friendships from a redeemed perspective. May the love that comes from the Spirit so flow in our hearts that you, O God, create a large space in our hearts for many to enjoy your love as we seek the best in one another. In Jesus' name, amen.