Meditations in 1 Samuel 47. Covenant Friendship (4)
1 Sam 23:15,16 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.
This is now the fourth and final time that we find reference to this covenant friendship between Jonathan and David and it might be helpful to remind ourselves of those contacts. The first time was when this covenant came into being: “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself…..Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” (1 Sam 18:1,3) A little later, the second time, we found, “Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him,” (19:1,2) but Jonathan managed to persuade his father otherwise, at that time at least: “Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death” (v.6) Then came the third time when Saul was chasing David and “Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan.” (20:1) when they entered into the elaborate pact whereby Jonathan would note Saul’s reaction to David’s absence at the feast and then convey it to him. Now we come to this fourth and final time where Davis is on the run with his men in the desert and we find, “Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (23:16) Tragically, the only other time Jonathan in mentioned in 1 Samuel is to record his death in battle (31:2).
Now before we take note of how Jonathan encouraged and strengthened David, it is interesting to note that although Saul with all his intelligence gathering did not manage to catch David, Jonathan appears to have had no trouble in going to him. We have noted before the gossip that seemed to spread around the region, even between different peoples and perhaps, although the ordinary folk might not have spoken to Saul or his other generals, the fact that Jonathan was clearly loved by the ordinary people possibly meant that there was a conduit of communication whereby he was able to get news of David, even though it did not get to Saul’s court.
So now Jonathan comes to David to encourage him one further time: “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (23:17) Jonathan had shown something of this awareness previously when he asked of David, “do not ever cut off your kindness from my family–not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.” (20:15) There was an implication within that of David’s future success and by inference, Saul’s demise. Saul himself had declared in anger to Jonathan, “As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” (20:31) He clearly saw David as a threat to his own family carrying on the kingship.
We don’t know of course, because it is never mentioned after the original event, if Saul, Jonathan and others had come to hear about Samuel anointing David to be the next king. The very fact that the recorder is able to include it, suggests that it was well known: “The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (16:1) Samuel hadn’t used the word king, but had simply spoken of consecrating the sons but had then clearly picked out David to be the anointed one. Of course it doesn’t require too much to put two and two together to make four when you remember that Samuel had earlier declared to Saul, “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (13:13,14) When Samuel anoints David and David starts having great success, the cat is out of the bag, we might say.
Intriguingly, even the enemy seemed to know about this because when David first turned up at Gather find, “the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances.” (21:11) Wow! A little later Saul, chiding his officials, asks, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me?” (22:7,8) Who could have that authority but a future king. Saul knows! Jonathan’s last pronouncement declares what everyone knows but few are speaking out loud because of Saul’s wrath: “You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (23:17)
There it is! The word is out: Saul knows about this, Jonathan knows about this, the whole world knows about it! Saul reiterates this a while later after David has spared his life: “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.” (24:20) The die is well and truly set and everyone knows it. All we have to do is watch and wait for it. With this in mind, “The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.” (23:18) It was the last time the two ever spoke together.
Jonathan is a good example for us of a friend. What is sad is that, knowing what the end outcome was going to be, he did not stay with his friend but allowed loyalty to his God-opposed father to condemn him to death alongside his father in the days to come.
For David we have a picture of how the Lord encourages him again and again to believe the end plan for his life. Encouragement from the Lord comes to us in many different forms but the one thing we can be sure of, is that He WILL encourage again and again and again until His purposes have been fulfilled in us. Hallelujah!