Have you ever received a friendship bracelet as a young girl? This tiny band of embroidery floss and beads symbolized unity, loyalty, and love. In today’s lesson, we are going to see how loyalty and love existed between David and Jonathan.
What is “covenant friendship”? Is this type of loyal love still a possibility today? A covenant is a legal agreement that formally binds two parties. It implies intention, promise, and a guarantee. Do we approach earthly friendships with that kind of intensity? Do we see the need to commit on that level? Today’s passage holds principles that inspire us to rethink the way that we view friendships. We will see how two friends loved well, in spite of competition and conflict, and explore what it means to have friendships that bring glory to God and withstand earthly challenges.
In 1 Samuel 18, we read about Israel’s messy monarchy. Saul is the current king of Israel; Jonathan is Saul’s son. David, who God anointed as king in 1 Samuel 16, has just struck down the Philistine giant, Goliath. Despite the odds, “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (18:1).
It is almost as if God’s hand wrote the DNA of this friendship. The Hebrew word for “knit” is qashar. It means to bind or cleave together. This word is also used throughout Scripture to mean “knot” or “tie together.” Jonathan and David had a deep and abiding love for the Lord, and that love fueled their friendship. The overflow of their own relationship with God manifested in the friendship they built together.
Is the love of the Lord the foundation upon which our friendships are built? If not, what are they built upon?
Jonathan made a covenant with David. To seal it, Jonathan removed his royal robe, all of his armor, his own weapon, and presented them to David. This may seem strange, but it was very culturally significant. Jonathan was the rightful prince and heir to Saul’s throne. Shedding his royal trappings signified his abdication of his role. He was saying to David “Indeed, you are God’s anointed.”
Good friends see our God-given gifts and support us in pursuing them according to God’s will. To be a good friend, we get to shed the defenses and privileges that prop up our will over God’s. In 1 Samuel 18, Jonathan was the rightful heir to the throne, but he recognized God’s will for David and bowed to that will. Philippians 2:3–4 says that in humility, we should consider others more significant than ourselves. This doesn’t mean we should be doormats; it means our friendships should model the love of Jesus, who shed His heavenly defenses and invited us into His transformative love.
We likely won’t be shedding armor or abdicating royal rights. However, we must ask ourselves what we guard most fiercely, and what we refuse to yield. For most of us, time is something we hoard for ourselves. Are we willing to be interrupted, to stop what we are doing, and meet the practical needs of those God has put in our paths, even if it’s sometimes inconvenient? Friendships are not only for our benefit, they are for others and the glory of God. As we continue to explore the purpose of friendships and the practical ways to carry them out, let’s ask ourselves: “Am I a committed friend?”