Suppose your father was the king and you were next in line for the throne. Now suppose God decided someone else should get the throne instead of you, even though you were a perfectly good person and would have made a great king. What would your reaction be? Would you be angry or jealous? Would you try to stop that person from getting the throne? Would you go to your room to sulk? Or…would you become his best friend and even protect him when your father decides to have him killed—which would have let you get your rightful place in line back again?
That last choice might seem like the last thing you’d ever want to do, but that’s exactly what Jonathon did in the Old Testament. The story of David and Jonathon is one of the greatest friendship stories in the Bible. Both of them were teens who made a difference.
In the last post we learned that David, a shepherd, was the only person brave enough to battle the giant Philistine Goliath. He did this with nothing but a slingshot and a lot of faith. The Philistines were so shocked and scared to realize a teenager could kill their hero that they ran away. Saul, the king, had promised that anyone who had the courage to fight Goliath would be given great riches. He would even get to marry the king’s daughter.
David became an instant hero to the people of Israel. Everyone told and retold the tale of the teenaged giant killer. Saul took David to live in his home. He and Saul’s son Jonathon became best friends. The Bible tells us “that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Do you have a friend like that? What would you be willing to sacrifice for that friend?
At first, everything was wonderful. Jonathon gave David his robe and armor and sword. Saul was thrilled to have this new hero in his home and put David—still only a teenager—in charge of the entire army. Everyone loved David…and that was part of the problem. When Saul came out among the people, the women would gather to play music and sing, as usual, but now they were singing that Saul had killed thousands, but David had killed ten thousands. Saul was furious. He figured the only thing left at this point was for David to take his kingdom away.
Well, God had decided David was going to be next in line for the throne, but Saul didn’t know that. He was just jealous that people loved David more than they loved him, and that they thought David was greater. He decided to kill David, but twice, David managed to avoid him.
Saul was starting to get scared. In the past, Saul had had God’s support, but his wicked choices had caused God to favor someone else now. Saul could see God was on David’s side of things. And to make things worse, David always behaved with wisdom, which also frightened Saul. So he came up with a new plan. He didn’t dare kill David himself if God was on David’s side. But there were all those Philistines, the enemy of God’s people. If David went to war against them, one of them was sure to kill David.
Saul went to David and offered to let him marry his oldest daughter, Merab. That had been part of the promise for killing Goliath, after all. But in exchange, he wanted David to promise to only fight for God’s army and to only be valiant for the king. David modestly asked who he was that he should be the king’s son-in-law? Saul, though, wasn’t a very nice person these days, so after getting the promise, he gave his daughter to another man.
However, it happened that her younger sister, Michal, was head over heels in love with David. Saul decided to make good use of that, so he told David he could marry Michal if he killed one hundred Philistines. He was pretty sure David’s luck couldn’t hold out that long and he wouldn’t have to follow through. However, David had God on his side and God had a plan for David’s descendents, which meant David had to stay alive to get married. David also liked the idea of being the king’s son-in-law, so he agreed. He killed the Philistines and brought back proof. The king had no choice this time but to let David marry his daughter, and Michal got her dream husband. If this were a fairy tale, everyone would live happily ever after, but since it’s a true story, there were more problems to come.
Now we get back to the friendship between David and Jonathon. Now that David was married to Jonathon’s sister, they were not just best friends, but family.
Saul was family too, but he wasn’t all that happy about it. He still wanted David dead, but clearly the Philistines weren’t going to be able to do it for him. He gathered up his servants and his son Jonathon and ordered them to kill David for him. Well, that wasn’t a very bright idea, because, you remember, Jonathon was best friends with David and loved him. There was no way he was going to kill his best friend.
Instead, he warned David to go and hide. Then he went to his father and stayed with him during the hunt. He went to work trying to talk the king out of killing David. He reminded his father that since David had only done good to the king, it would be a terrible sin for Saul to kill David. You couldn’t kill someone for no reason, especially not someone who had God on his side.
Saul agreed and David was able to return home, but the trials weren’t over yet. Saul again tried to kill David and was saved by his wife, Michal. Saul retaliated by forcing her to divorce David and marry another man. Then Jonathon again defied his father and helped David escape by lying to his father about where David was. This time, David was unable to return. He left the city, forced to live among the Philistines. He had lost his wife and his best friend and his family, because he had been forced to send them away for their own safety.
Even though they were separated, David and Jonathon’s friendship has lived on through history to serve as an example to us of the value of good friendships. Friends can support and comfort each other in the hardest times and help each other to live God’s commandments, even when it is terribly hard.
When they parted, Jonathon’s last words were a promise to David: “Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever.” They vowed to be best friends…forever.