Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
October 15, 2017
I Samuel 18:1-5
Intro: Saul in this passage is King Saul, Israel’s first king.
Jonathan is his son, the next in line for the throne.
And David has just finished slaying Goliath in ch. 17.
I Samuel 18:1-5
When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.
The friendship of David and Jonathan is the most beautiful in all the Bible, with only one exception that I can think of. (More on that later.) Theirs was a friendship that was precious, solid, and fiercely loyal, through good times and bad. It started immediately at their first meeting, and it lasted even beyond death.
In our text this morning, David has just won a great victory over Goliath and the Philistines. (It was a real “David vs Goliath battle!”) King Saul had promised membership into the royal family to anyone who could defeat the Giant. And King Saul was keeping that promise. Jonathan is the King’s son. He’s the next in line for the throne, but he sees in David someone far more capable, far more deserving. By handing over to David his royal robe, armor, sword, bow and belt he is abdicating his future throne, because of what he sees in David. But he sees in David more than just a great future king. He sees a kindred spirit.
Jonathan “loved him as his own soul.” – the text says it twice.
“He loved him as his own soul.”
Something in David resonated deeply within Jonathan. You might say they marched to the beat of the same drum. Or, they both had the same song stuck in their head. They had a connection that went beyond talking about the upcoming chariot races, or the latest in ancient weaponry. They had a connection that was soulful – it was spiritual and emotional; affectionate & complete; it was heart and soul. “He loved him as his own soul.” In short, they were destined to be the best of friends.
Isn’t it true that few things in life are more important than having some really good friends?
The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson deeply appreciated his friends in nearby Concord and beyond. He once called his friends, “the masterpiece of nature.” Emerson wrote:
“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.
Our friends believe in us. They see the good in us. They focus on the good in us and they bring out the good, the better and the best in us! They know most everything about us, and yet they still like us. And their belief in us is life-giving, it’s empowering. There’s no telling what you can do with a few good friends at your side.
Jonathan made David even greater. “David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him . . . And all the people . . . approved.”
Good friends, of course, aren’t just with us when we soar. They’re also with us when we crash and burn.
Illustration. I had a friend growing up whose name was also Rich. We spent so much time together growing up and had so much fun together – in band, chorus and on the football field. But my mother pointed out that it was something else that made Rich such a great friend. She said, “He’s with us in our messes.” He helped us move twice, one of which was not a fun move at all. He spent the summer with us when my mother attempted running a restaurant at the Jersey Shore. He was with us in our messes.
A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
Jonathan was with David in his messes. I’m sure some of you know the rest of the story. Saul became incredibly jealous of young David. Twice he tried to kill David. But Jonathan stayed loyal to David, and warned him of his father’s intentions. He tried to persuade the king differently, and did all he could to help David.
There’s a beautiful scene in I Samuel 20 where David & Jonathan realize that David is not safe around the king, and so he must run for his life. And David & Jonathan realize that their friendship will never be the same again. They embrace, hold each other and weep together. Then Jonathan says, “Go in peace. The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.’”
True friends become part of the fabric of our lives. They have a way of sticking with us, even after they’re gone. My friend Rich died 5 years ago, way too young. But he’s still a part of my life. He’s woven into who I am. I would be someone different, were it not for him.
I mentioned that David & Jonathan’s friendship continued beyond death.
It’s a touching story that I can tell you just briefly. In the next book of the Bible (II Samuel 9:3), David is now the King,
David says, ‘Is there anyone remaining of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?’
He’s told, ‘There remains a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.”
The text says, Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he always ate at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet. (II Samuel 9:13)
David’s bond of friendship with Jonathan was never broken.
It seems to me that friendship is at the heart of what church is all about. When folks join the church, the congregational welcome says, “We promise you our friendship and prayers as we share the hopes and labors of the church of Jesus Christ.”
Let’s keep that promise to each other. Let’s be the kind of friends that David & Jonathan model for us. Faithful, loyal, steadfast, kind, caring, affectionate, inspiring, sharing their hearts, their laughter, their tears and their faith together.
One last thing: at the start of this message, I mentioned that the friendship of David and Jonathan is the most beautiful in all the Bible, with only one exception. I’d like to close by reminding you about the most wonderful friendship in all the Bible, in all eternity. And that is God’s gift of friendship with you.
Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants. But I have called you my friends.”
“No greater love has anyone than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends.”
Jesus believes in us, just like a friend.
He sees our goodness, just like a friend.
He literally knows everything about us, and still loves us and likes us, just like a friend.
And his love inspires us and brings us energy and joy, just like a friend.
And like the best of friends, he never gives up on us.
- He never turns his back on us.
- He never stops believing in us.
Because that’s what friends do.
What a friend we have in Jesus!
Think about it. Let’s pray about it.
Lord Jesus, Thank you for the gift of friendship, for friends on earth and friends in heaven. Thank you for the gift of your friendship. Help us to receive this gift, and help us to live as your friends. Amen.
Were David & Jonathan lovers?
It’s an interesting issue, and much has been written about it through the centuries. I didn’t mention this in the sermon because of time restraints and not wanting to draw focus away from the topic of friendship. Much of the speculation about their relationship comes from this passage, following the death of Jonathan:
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.
(II Samuel 1:26)
If you “google” this issue and read for a while you’ll find that a case can be made either way.