Summary: Jonathan models true friendship and also serves as a picture of how Jesus is a friend to us.
A few sermons ago we started with a little game called “Declare the Pair.” When I said, “bacon” you were to declare its pair or partner. So in the case of bacon you said…“eggs.” Bacon and eggs are a recognized pair on any breakfast table. We also listed ketchup and _________ (mustard), peaches and _______ (cream), Adam and _______ (Eve), and also David and ________ (Goliath). We could have finished that last pair differently. What other name comes to mind as a fitting pair with the name David? What about Jonathan? Yes, David and Jonathan are another famous biblical pair, but another unlikely one, like David and Goliath, because Jonathan was the son of King Saul, David’s enemy. Yet the two are paired together because David and Jonathan were best friends. In our Agents of Grace sermon today we want to look more closely at how good friends are a gift from God.
What’s interesting about the David and Jonathan pair is that we should probably be saying those names the other way around. To say “David and Jonathan” is like saying “Robin and Batman.” Jonathan was the “Batman,” the leader? And David the “Robin,” the sidekick? Consider this. While David was still a teenager busy watching his father’s sheep, Jonathan had command over a third of his father’s army (1 Samuel 13:2). And no, Jonathan wasn’t like the guy who gets the vice president’s job because he’s the company owner’s son, but hasn’t proven himself capable of the position. Jonathan was a courageous warrior in his own right. In fact before David fought Goliath, Jonathan had done something just as bold.
On one occasion the Philistines put together a force of 3000 chariots (the battle tanks of the day) and an army that was described in number like “sand on the seashore” (1 Samuel 13:5). The Israelites on the other hand were left with 600 men after most of the army deserted. To make matters more daunting, among the 600 Israelite soldiers only 2 had swords: Saul and Jonathan. The rest were armed with shovels, hay forks, and other farming tools because the Philistines had banned the making of swords in Israel. The Israelites knew they were outgunned and outnumbered. That’s why most were hiding in caves and thickets, including King Saul. But Jonathan did not go into hiding. He approached a Philistine position on top of a cliff and said to his armor bearer: “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6).
The Philistines quickly spotted Jonathan and his companion and sarcastically told the two Israelites to come on up so they could teach them a lesson. Jonathan took this as a sign that the Lord was with him so he and his armor bearer climbed the cliff and then proceeded to kill 20 Philistines before the Lord put the whole Philistine camp into a panic so that they fought one another and then fled before the now-surging Israelite army (1 Samuel 14).
Like David would demonstrate in his fight against Goliath, Jonathan had shown courage in the face of seemingly superior strength. And like David, Jonathan’s courage wasn’t the swagger of a naïve young warrior. His faith was in the Lord to provide the victory. And that faith was not put to shame. Is it any wonder then that when David confronted and defeated Goliath that Jonathan realized he had found a soulmate? Perhaps Jonathan said to himself: “I thought I was all alone. I thought I was the only one who trusted in the Lord. But here is someone who thinks like me! In fact he probably trusts the Lord even more than I do because he did what I, or any other Israelite should have done: take on Goliath. Although I can’t lean on my father, the king, because he has rejected the Lord, I know I can lean on this David.”
Jonathan made a covenant with David—a promise of enduring friendship. To seal the covenant, Jonathan gave David the robe he was wearing along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow, and his belt (1 Samuel 18:4). I find it interesting that we don’t hear of David giving Jonathan anything in return. But then again, what did David, a lowly shepherd boy, have to give to the king’s son?
So how did Jonathan’s friendship benefit David? Well, after David’s victory over Goliath, King Saul wouldn’t let David return to his father and to the quiet life of tending sheep. Instead David became a fixture at Saul’s court and was appointed as a military commander. The probably older and definitely more seasoned Jonathan would have been able to take David under his wing and show him the ropes. Think of how you have appreciated those who showed you around your school or office and answered all your questions that first day.