Epic Friendships: David and Jonathan
Would you be willing to give up everything for your friends?
The Bible is full of friendships – between God and people, and between people themselves. We can learn a lot about ourselves and our own relationships by looking at those in the Bible.
In this article, and my next one, I’ll be looking at some of the most famous biblical friendships ever. As you’re reading the Bible this week, why not look out for some of the friendships and relationships described there. What things in those relationships are similar to your life? What can we learn about God from them?
David and Jonathan - they should have been enemies
One of the most famous friendships of the Bible has to be that of David and Jonathan. When they met, David had been chosen by God to be the future king of the Israelites, but Jonathan's father (Saul) who was the king at the time, wanted to kill David.
However, Jonathan took a real liking to David. He made a promise to him, he loved him, he gave him presents and provided for him. He warned David about plots against him by his father, he spoke out for him to his father and he used his influence to keep him safe.
Friendship requires self-sacrifice
It’s not surprising that Jonathan was the main player in the relationship at first, because as the son of the king, he was the one with the power in this relationship.
But it is a power that he used for the good of his friend – and at a cost to himself. Every time he kept David safe or promoted his interests, he was destroying his own chances of inheriting his father’s throne. Jonathan’s friendship with David was at the cost of his own career and reputation!
Friendship requires loyalty
Jonathan was a friend with some pretty impressive qualities. His loyalty to David, and courage in the face of political pressure, and an angry, murderous father was unquestioned. He had the humility to say openly that he would never be king. He followed up his commitments, he was generous and he did it all ‘before the Lord’. He showed genuine affection, loyalty and openness. He was the friend everyone would love to have!
But David was not just a passive ‘taker’ in all of this either. As time went on their friendship grew so that by the end it was definitely a two-way relationship between equals. When the pair had to part, the story says that David ‘wept the most’. At Jonathan’s death, David showed immense grief.
Friendship requires real commitment
One of the particularly beautiful aspects of this friendship was the way David and Jonathan promised to do good to each other’s family and descendents. They knew that as technical rivals to the same throne, it was more than likely that their families and heirs could grow to hate each other and try to eliminate their opponents. They took steps to stop the cycle of rivalry and hate – and as time went on, it worked!
Jonathan and David’s friendship has a lot to teach us about power, self-sacrifice and loyalty.
How do you treat your friends?
Most of us today are unlikely to be in a situation where we become best friends with our greatest rivals, but we may stand to lose status, money or power because of a friendship. Are we willing to put our friends first?
Follow this up: Read 1 Samuel 20. In the end Jonathan did not follow David in getting away from Saul. Why not? Was it a failure in their friendship? Would he have shown more loyalty by going with him? What do you think?