Convinced that King Saul desires to kill him David looks for ways of escape. As an officer in Saul’s army and a member of Saul’s family he lives at the center of Saul’s kingdom. Jonathan, unconvinced that his father has determined to kill his friend attempts to convince David that he is safe.
David and Jonathan design a test and a unique way to communicate the results. David must attend the new moon festival which requires him to come and eat at Saul’s table. Saul’s invitation obligates David to attend, but he and Jonathan agree that David will hide in a field instead. Jonathan will make excuses to Saul for David’s absence and this will reveal Saul’s feeling toward David.
In the course of their conversation David and Jonathan build on the covenant they have already made with one another. David hides and skips the festival. For a day Saul excuses David’s absence, but on the second day he loses his temper. Saul removes any doubt Jonathan may have have had about his intentions by attempting to pin him to the wall with a spear. Saul has failed the test and Jonathan executes the communication plan he and David have contrived.
The two friends love each other so deeply that David cannot just leave as planned. He and Jonathan once again renew their covenant with one another before they head in different directions. Jonathan will return to his father’s side and David will head into year’s of running and hiding from Saul. David and Jonathan will have one more encounter before Jonathan dies with his father in battle.
What’s the point?
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? 31 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!”1 Samuel 20:30-31 NIV
A battle for the kingdom rages in Israel. It is not a battle between Saul and Jonathan or even a battle between Saul and David. Saul is waging war against God and His kingdom with everything he has available to him. He refuses to accept that the kingdom has been torn from him. Determined to pass the kingdom on to Jonathan He will commit murder to make that happen.
The relationship between Jonathan and David persists through intense opposition because of their love for God and for each other. They belong to another kingdom and are determined that God’s kingdom is the one that matters. Their commitment to one another and God’s kingdom will be tested beyond Jonathan’s lifetime.
What about us?
One of the greatest tests of friendship is when one friend receives something that the other friend deeply desires. In the movies this is often the two boyhood friends who end up vying for the love of one girl. Only one can have the girl and the challenge for the one who loses the girl is to honestly celebrate his friends joy. Too often in the movies this is not the way the story ends as the loser seeks to destroy the marriage hoping in the end to get the girl. This makes no sense, but neither did Saul’s rage against David that eventually caused him to attempt to kill his own son.
Unfortunately, this scenario plays out in our lives over and over. I build a little kingdom and my pride grows as my kingdom grows. I may even think I have surrendered my kingdom to God when the collapse of my kingdom results in pain and anger fueled by my pride. At this point I should recognize that it was not God’s kingdom I was building, but my own.
I find one of the best tests of my loyalty to God’s kingdom is my willingness to work for and celebrate growth and success in the lives of my friends. When envy or my competitive instincts rear their ugly heads I know it is time to humble myself before God and look for ways to genuinely cheer my friends on. I am grateful for Jonathan’s example of how to do that.