Summary: An Exposition of 1 Sam. 20

With Friends Like This

1 Sam. 20

Pastor Stu Webber relates a story from his youth in 1967. We were at war with Vietnam. And there I was, at the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. I can still hear the raspy voice of the sergeant: "We are here to save your lives. We’re going to see to it that you overcome all your natural fears. We’re going to show you just how much incredible stress the human mind and body can endure. And when we’re finished with you, you will be the U.S. Army’s best!" Then, before he dismissed he announced our first assignment. We’d [braced] ourselves for something really tough-running 10 miles in full battle gear or rappelling down a sheer cliff. Instead, he told us: "Find yourself a…buddy," he growled. "You will stick together. You will never leave each other. You will encourage each other, and, [if] necessary, you will carry each other." It was the army’s way of saying, "Difficult assignments require a friend. Together is better."

It sounds as if someone in the military knew that proverb:

Pr 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

How many people would you list among your friends? Not just people you know, or those you work or go to school with- but people you would honestly number among your friends?

We have fewer friends than we imagine, but more than we know. - Hugo von Hofmannsthal

How do you know who your true friends are?

One of the best answers to that question can be found in the story of two friends named David and Jonathan. In some ways, there could not be any two people less likely to be friends, and yet somehow what would seem to have driven them apart draws them together. This morning I invite you to look with me in 1 Sam. 20 at a living example of Prov. 17:17 so that you and I can determine who our friends are, and how you can be the friend you should be, and enjoy the greatest Friendship that anyone ever had.


A fair-weather friend is one who is always around when he needs you. - Bob Phillips

You know that’s not true, don’t you? Friends are those who are there for us to turn to- they are …brothers/sisters who are born for adversity…In fact, isn’t it usually when hard times hit that we find out who our true friends are? That was certainly the case for David.

David is a man on the run. God has chosen Him to be King of Israel, but the current king, Saul, wants to kill him. David found temporary refuge the prophet Samuel, but now he needs someone to turn to who will help him figure out what his next move will be. Ironically, that friend David turns to is the son of the man who wants to kill him: Prince Jonathan.

It might seem odd that Jonathan thinks David is mistaken about his father’s murderous intentions. After all, Saul has tried to pin David to the wall before during one of his insane rages. Only Jonathan’s intervention had saved David’s life (1 Sam. 19:1-7).

But now David knows Saul is not in some passing rage- he is determined to see David dead. Only a step ahead of Saul’s assassins, David turns to the best friend he has to figure out what to do, and Jonathan does not let him down. So Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you.” (v. 4).

Together these two friends come up with a plan to see if David’s fears are founded. David suggests that he go back to Bethlehem and see his family instead of attending the New Moon feast with Saul and his cohorts. If Saul accepts his absence with no suspicion, they will know all is well. But if not, then Saul will reveal his hatred for him. Either way Jonathan will meet David back at this same place, and through signs during his archery practice he let him whether or not it is safe for him to return to Saul’s house.

But there is a tender moment recorded in vs. 13b-17: Jonathan seems to somehow know that David will someday be king, and he will not. He makes a covenant with David, not only man to man, but between kings. It was often the custom when one king would come to power that he would slaughter all of the family of the fallen king. Jonathan calls for David to honor their friendship not only by how he treats Jonathan, but how he will treat Jonathan’s descendants. (cf. v. 15). …indeed the LORD be between you and me forever.” (v. 23) Don’t forget me when I’m gone Jonathan says to his friend because I will never forget you.

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