We talked last week a little bit about music and how powerful a medium it is so I thought that we would start out today with a little bit of a game...we’re going to be talking today about friendship and loyalty so let me ask you a question...name some songs where friendship is a theme. Think of them in your head...let me give you just a few of the ones I came up with...Friends by Michael W. Smith, "With a Little Help from my Friends" by The Beatles...What a Friend We Have in Jesus...and of course, the theme song from Barney...you know, when you have a two year old you are exposed to so much culture! Did I miss any? Anybody come up with something else?
Then there is TV and movies...what about the friends we see there? The Three Stooges...Andy and Barney...except this one isn’t a big purple dinosaur...and of course, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I can still remember watching those two when I was a boy...but since I have grown up I have come to wonder...how could he be the "Lone Ranger" if he always had Tonto with him? That, friends, is one of the most important questions in life that may never be answered. Since we are talking about the Lone Ranger and his Indian friend let me share this story with you that a friend of mine emailed me this week.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep.
Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, "Kemo Sabe’, look toward sky, what you see?"
The Lone Ranger replies, "I see millions of stars."
"What that tell you?" asked Tonto.
The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, "Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of Galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Tonto?"
"You dumber than a post....... it tells me someone steal tent."
Ok, that had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of friendship per se...but I thought it was pretty funny. We have started today by looking at a few secular examples of friendship...the songs and the other examples from entertainment mediums illustrate that friendship is a valuable thing to us. Why do you think that solitary confinement in a prison setting is reserved for those that are the worst offenders...not only is it to insure the safety of other people in the prison system but it has a huge psychological factor. You see, as human beings...we are made for relationship...relationship with God and with others. It is a very rare person indeed who can go off by himself and live...most of us need others around us.
And for most of us it isn’t enough to just have people around us...we need friends...close friends.... those we can confide in....those that will share our problems and will listen to us...we need people who will be loyal to us no matter what. But how can we tell the difference?
Let me give you one way...it’s a saying that is in the back of my mom and sister’s restaurant..."A friend will come bail you out of jai...but a true friend will be sitting beside you saying "Man, that was fun!" That is one way you can tell if you have a true friend or not...but for those of us who have a natural aversion to incarceration.... we need another way to tell. So, let’s turn to the Bible to try to find some answers.
There are several examples of friendship in the Bible...some not good like Job’s buddies that show up during his time of need...and then the one we are going to look at today as we wrap up our series on David. You see, David had one true friend...Jonathan, prince of Israel and the son of King Saul...the man who was trying to kill him.
Much has been made today about David and Jonathan’s relationship...in fact some cynics have suggested that the two were so close that their relationship just had to be more than "just friends" if you catch my drift...and I think that is sad. What these cynics are overlooking is the wide chasm between the culture of David’s time and the culture today. We can go back to even the time of the apostle Paul...four times he instructs the recipients of his letters to greet each other with a holy kiss. Now, granted Paul was speaking to more of a Greco-Roman culture when he gave these instructions...but even with that...the culture in ancient Israel was much closer and much more intimate than the one we currently have. I have asked us to join hands in prayer before...now, let me ask you...were you just a little uncomfortable doing that with others that you are not married or related to? Most people if they are honest would admit that they are a little uncomfortable doing that...I know that occasionally I am. But, closeness like this was not a big deal to David and his culture. So the suggestion that the he and Jonathan are romantically involved is ludicrous...just a malicious attack on the part of those who want to discredit the Bible. However, they were very close friends.... the type that would be sitting beside each other in jail talking about how much fun they had. Let’s take a look at an example of their friendship.
If you have your Bibles turn over to 1st Samuel chapter 20. At the start of the chapter we find David talking to Jonathan and he is asking him why his father is so angry with him...to today’s young people he would want to know why he is "hating" on him. David claims that he has not done anything wrong...and an examination of the scripture would show that this is exactly the case...Jonathan claims that there is no plot on David’s life so they come up with a plan. David has been invited to attend a festival that would last several days at Saul’s house. David decides not to attend and he tells Jonathan that if Saul asks about his absence to tell him that David has gone to Bethlehem to be with his family. He says that if Saul shrugs it off...then he knows he is safe...if Saul gets angry then Jonathan will know that he intends to do harm to David. They work out a signal with arrows to notify David of the situation. Jonathan will return to the field that they are meeting in and shoot three arrows toward the rock where David is hiding and will send a servant to retrieve them. If he tells the servant to "go further because the arrows are beyond you" then David knows that Saul intends to harm him. We’ll pick up the narrative in verse 24.
Saul doesn’t mince a lot of words does he...it is clear from his words here that he intends to kill David. We covered this a couple of weeks ago...why Saul was motivated to kill David. We pointed out that Saul was jealous of David...the attention that he got after he killed Goliath...and now we find another reason that Saul would want David dead...with David gone Saul’s heir would be Jonathan, his son. The throne could continue in his family line. You kind of get the impression that Saul is not only motivated for selfish reasons but for his son as well. Perhaps he wants Jonathan to have a chance to enjoy being king...to have his own kingdom...after all any parent wants to see their children succeed and have every opportunity in the world. But, murder? Could that possibly be a realistic scenario?
I know of at least one other instance where a parent has resorted to a murder plot to help their child get ahead in life. In 1991 a Texas mother was sentenced to prison for attempting to hire a hit man to kill another woman. The other woman was the mother of a classmate of the convicted lady’s daughter. The daughter of the victim was vying for a spot on the same cheerleading squad that the would-be murderer’s daughter was trying out for. So, to eliminate her daughter’s competition she was going to kill the girl’s mother.
Pretty sad, huh? And this was just for a spot on a cheerleading team...there was no kingdom involved...so, it doesn’t seem so out of the realm of possibility that Saul would kill to insure the kingdom would go to his son Jonathan. So, we can see that while the primary motivation for Saul is probably jealousy...he has other reasons to kill David as well.
This presents a very interesting problem to Jonathan...he can allow David to be King...or he can allow Saul to kill him and inherit the kingdom for himself.
Now, we all know what the right choice would be...but what decision would we make ourselves? Now I know most of you well enough to think that you wouldn’t stoop to murder...but what about another less heinous act...one that would advance our career...our standing...but at the expense of another...what decision would we make? I am sure that all of us can honestly say that we haven’t always been as true as friends as we should have been all of the time. We have all advanced our careers…our social standing…or maybe even sometimes our church standing at the expense of other people. So, we couldn’t really blame Jonathan if he takes this opportunity to inherit the kingdom of Israel, could we? He would not be the first person in history to turn their back on…or even kill a friend to inherit power and a kingdom.
But Jonathan…Jonathan is a true friend. Let’s read on just a little bit and see the decision he makes. (Read 32-34).
The context of these verses reveal Jonathan’s decision...first, we read that Saul attempts to kill him by throwing a spear at him.... exactly what he had done to David just a few chapters before. Could this possibly be an indication from Samuel that these two have a lot in common...that their hearts were somehow joined...after all, they almost suffered a similar fate at the hands of the same man. Even if we cannot make this connection...we can come to the same conclusion that Jonathan did...if Saul would do this to his own son because of David...how much more would he do to David. This is very revealing of the motives of Saul...but verse 34 tells us of Jonathan’s decision. We read there that he is "grieved" for David and he did not eat on the second day of the month. In the time of David it was a sign of mourning to refrain from eating, but Jonathan’s mourning here is even more significant because he does not eat "on the Second Day of the month."
The festival that is being celebrated here is "Rosh Chodesh." It is referred to here as "the New Moon Festival" and it marked the beginning of a month in the Jewish calendar. It was a very significant festival in the ancient Jewish culture and it was marked by two days of feasting. So, Jonathan is showing his undying loyalty to David...he refuses to take part in a significant "minor" festival in the ancient Jewish calendar because of his grief over his father’s treatment of David. This act of mourning would have been greatly noticed by those who had been invited to the king’s festival. Jonathan is publicly showing his support and his friendship for David.
The next day Jonathan goes out and he has a tearful reunion with David. He gives the appropriate signal to indicate that Saul means to harm his friend and the two cry together. Except for a brief meeting later, this would be the last time that we read that they are together…and Jonathan later dies on the field of battle.
There are two things that I want us to draw out of this story…we’ve spent a lot of time telling the story and getting the background of the festival and just a small amount of application…but there are two major things I want us to notice and apply to our lives.
First, David’s reaction. When we read the account of their reunion in the field we find that these two friends cry together…but David cries even more. We aren’t told why he cries more. Perhaps it is because the king wants to kill him. Perhaps it is because he realizes that he will not be seeing his friend that much anymore. It could very well be at least partly these things…but I think the reason goes even deeper.
If you asked me to evaluate the reaction of David here…I think that he is grieved for his friend. I think he realizes what Jonathan has given up for him and he is grieved over it. By inheritance rights…Jonathan is the next king. David didn’t ask to be anointed as the next king of Israel…God chose him and Jonathan honors that choice. It would have been really easy for Jonathan to go along with the plans of his father and to take the kingdom by force. It is not uncommon to do so…Absalom tries it later on in David’s life. But Jonathan didn’t…and David realizes it. I believe that he is so touched by his friend’s loyalty that he cries…he cries at the fate of his friend. Not only has he rejected any future claim to the crown…he has also publicly aligned himself with the enemy of the King…the enemy of his father.
The application is this: in every friendship there is someone who gives and someone who takes. That is the only way it can work. We need to realize and recognize those moments when someone has sacrificed for us…maybe we aren’t drawn to tears over it like David…but we know that someone has sacrificed for us and we recognize it. That is what friendship is all about when you are on the receiving end. Please, don’t forget the times when someone has sacrificed for you.
That has been shown to me throughout my life. My mother worked two jobs when I was in school…and she did it for us kids. My dad…the same thing…he worked all day…farmed or worked on cars at night…and still had time to coach Little League. More recently Anne has sacrificed her time with me so I could be a minister and a student on top of my job. Suzy has done without time with her Dad for the same reasons. I recognize these sacrifices and I am thankful for them.
That is the first thing I want us to apply…the second has to do with Jonathan and the sacrifice he has made.
You see, Jonathan has made a determination here…that he would rather have David’s friendship then to have the kingdom. He would rather be the friend of the King then be King…and I just have to ask…how awesome is that?
That, friends, is the mark of a true friend…when you put the accomplishments of another above your own…when you put the well-being of another person above your own. This is the hard part of being a friend…the taking part is easy…the giving, though, is just a little bit tougher. Jonathan, however, had no problem with it and neither did another character in the Bible…John the Baptist.
In John chapter one we read about the priest and the Levites coming to John and asking him who he was. It would have been really funny if he would have whipped out his American Express card...but he didn’t. He tells them plainly that he isn’t the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet...he tells them in a round about way that he is the one who is to precede the Christ...he is sent only to prepare people for his coming. It would have been really easy to claim to be someone else...but John.... John was committed to the one who would come after him. In chapter three of John we find some of John the Baptist’s apostles coming to him...concerned over Jesus’ baptism. They saw Jesus as "competition" just as Jonathan could have seen David as competition.
John’s reply...part of it comes in verse 30 "He must increase and I must decrease." John...he saw the God given mission of Jesus and was perfectly happy to take a backseat to it.
Couldn’t the same be said here of Jonathan...couldn’t you hear him say about David..."He must increase and I must decrease." I firmly believe that Jonathan…he saw the bigger picture as well…and he was happy to let his friend increase…to receive the glory…and to take a backseat to the one who would become king.
So, as we wrap up our series on David…let me encourage you to take this with you…if you are on the receiving end like David was here…then give recognition to the one who gives to you…understand what they have went through to give to you…even if it was “only” the effort to cook you a meal or to bring you something when you were sick. If you are on the giving in…be happy to allow your friend to increase while you decrease…after all, we are called to serve just like Jesus of Nazareth. This, my friends, is the mark of true friendship…the willingness to serve.
Just before I stepped up here, we sang a song…”What A Friend We Have in Jesus” and it is the truth. Jesus is the ultimate example of friendship. In John 15:13 Jesus told his disciples that the greatest love that can be shown to friends is to lay down your life for them…and he did just that. Make no mistake about it…his life was not taken from him but it was laid down. He decreased while we increased. He didn’t have to…he could have stayed where he was and allowed us to languish and to perish. But he didn’t…and this type of sacrifice demands a response. You see, if you want to call Jesus your friend, you have to accept his sacrifice. Just as David accepted Jonathan’s…you have to come to the point where you are broken hearted over the sacrifice of your friend and all you can do is accept it and say “Thank You.” David couldn’t pay Jonathan back…and you can’t pay Jesus back. All you can do is accept it and say “Thanks.” There is no middle of the road here…you either accept it…or you don’t. Jesus makes that plain to us…are you ready to accept him? Are you ready to bask in the glow of his love and his friendship…and not to mention of his salvation? If so, let me encourage you to use today as that occasion…to just come forward and confess him and be baptized…that is how you can say “thank you.” He did this just for you…all you have to do is accept it.