Twilight Kingdom (2)

A Friend in Need … (1 Samuel 20)

Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758), mother of founding father, Aaron Burr, and daughter of Jonathan Edwards, wrote in her journal: True friendship is first enkindled by a spark from heaven, and heaven will never suffer it to go out, but it will burn to all eternity. A similar sentiment is voiced in Michael W. Smith’s 1982 song, “Friends;” Michael’s wife Debbie wrote the lyric: friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them … we know that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends. As true as these two declarations are, the values of Western culture have all but forgotten the virtue of satisfying and long-lasting friendships. But in Christ’s body, friendship is one of the primary means that God uses to extend grace to His people.

In the relationship described between David, son of Jesse, and Jonathan, son of king Saul, in 1 Samuel chapters 19-20, we discover some of the essential aspects found in Biblical friendships. The friendship between these two kindred spirits is not based on sentimentality, but on a covenant relationship. Referring to this in 1 Samuel 20:8, David says to Jonathan, therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. Covenant language is utilized throughout the chapter, for example: faithful, devoted love (7-8), promises and oaths exchanged (12-17), Yahweh invoked as guardian (23), covenant commitment (24-34), and covenant peace (35-42). Amid king Saul’s continued attempts on David’s life, it is only based on covenant, that David would dare trust, of all people, Saul’s son. The covenant established a safe haven in an otherwise treacherous environment.

Jonathan’s commitment to David flouted every expedient political strategy for the heir apparent to the throne. David’s trust in his enemy’s son defied all reason. Common sense and political policy would dictate otherwise, but the power of a covenant overcame it all. Jonathan models the life of the disciple of Christ, as he puts Yahweh’s kingdom first (Mt 6:33); he remains committed to David, even at the cost of his relationship with his father (Luke 14:26). His obligation would eventually cost him his very life (Mt 16:24-26). Jonathan’s priorities demonstrate that life is not to be occupied with getting ahead, making a mark, or achieving a goal, but by living in covenant. It was a covenant bond between two men that would eventually establish peace (20:41-42); this was not a peace as the world knows peace (John 14:27), but a covenant bond – a relationship that holds fast even amid turbulent chaos.