Jonathan, we read in 1 Samuel 14, was a warrior, a fighting man, a professional soldier. He was also the heir to the throne of Israel and a prince. His father, Saul, was the first king of Israel. As we find in chapter 14, Jonathan took God at his word. He inquired of God before taking risks and held fast to the principle that his God was faithful and could win any battle. He was much different to his father Saul.
When the shepherd David stood up in a national emergency and defeated the giant Goliath in the valley at Elah, the people of Israel saw the national leader they all wanted. Saul had been frozen with fear and lacked trust in God. Seeing this, Saul’s son Jonathan comes to David and this beautiful exchange of friendship happens.
18 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. 2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
1 Samuel 18:1-3 NLT
What Jonathan did that day was an incredible act of self-sacrifice. In committing himself to friendship with David and giving him his own robe, Jonathan did the unthinkable. Jonathan laid his royal princely robe and his armour which symbolised his privilege and position onto David.
Effectively Jonathan actions said to David ‘I recognise that you are God’s man to rule this country’, not me, even though I am rightfully in line to the throne, I have heard you have been anointed by God to be our king, I have seen you lead this nation through a crisis where my father failed, I am your servant’.
Putting others needs before yourself was something Jesus desired his followers to do (Matthew 6, 25, John 12:26, 14) this example set by Jonathan shows that loving others means there is more action than just words. It cost nothing to be a superficial friend, to be a great friend (and a disciple) it will cost us.
Jesus taught us in Luke 14:28 that we are to count the cost before we start something. Jonathan again shows us a calculated love to commit himself to David even though it would mean he wouldn’t inherit the throne.
Being a great friend at time will cost us. It means we will be required to be like Jesus and go that extra mile, wade into the messiness of someone else’s life, put our needs to one side so that we can meet another’s.
I think Jonathan would tell us the cost was worth it. He had to go the extra mile on numerous times, trying to reconcile his jealous father and David, rescuing David from plot to kill David. But Jonathan experienced a deep connection and relationship with another likeminded warrior, someone else who loved God deeply and showed extraordinary courage and faith in following that God.
The two friends were cut from the same cloth and enjoyed a deep God cantered friendship that resonated the teaching of Jesus many centuries later.
What can we learn from this incredible man from so long ago that may bless us today in our friendships and lead us into the richness of self-sacrifice and being known?
Take your pick from loyalty, intentionality, self-sacrifice and a desire to see others succeed. Jonathan was and is God’s man from beginning to end and even though he was a co-star in the bible, his example was so profound he’s worth emulating.