For Jonathan’s Sake

When David and Jonathan first met each other, the Bible says, “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.” It is the Bible’s way of saying they were kindred spirits. This happens sometimes between believers. The two might never have met before, but something in the heart of both, a shared faith in God, just bonds the two for life – and beyond because the connection is not just an earthly friendship founded on common interests, it is founded in a common love for the Lord.

David and Jonathan first encountered one another after David had killed Goliath. David was an unknown shepherd boy at the time and king Saul wanted to know: “whose son is this youth?” (1 Samuel 17:55) When no one could provide and answer, Saul had the boy brought to him and David told him, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” (1 Samuel 17:58) It is in the next chapter that we are told: “As soon as [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1) For a time, even Saul took a liking to David and brought him into his household.

But Saul’s fondness for the shepherd boy soured quickly when the songs sung of David’s victory over Goliath put him in higher standing than the king:

“And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?’”  (1 Samuel 18:8)

Losing the throne was the king’s constant fear. Back in 1 Samuel 15:26, Samuel the prophet told Saul the kingdom would be taken away from him because of his disobedience. The song of praise to David was Saul’s first full realization that this prophecy would soon come true. It filled him with a jealous rage that would define the rest of his reign. It would also define the relationship between David and Jonathan. The two remained fast friends even after it became clear that David had to go on the run to protect himself from the king’s wrath.

At the end of his reign, with his kingdom unraveling, Saul and his son Jonathan found themselves overrun by their arch enemies, the Philistines. “And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul.” (1 Samuel 31:2) In other words, Saul witnessed the death of his heirs. To avoid the shame of being killed by the Philistines himself, Saul committed suicide by falling on his own sword. (1 Samuel 31:4)

When David learned what had happened to Jonathan and his father, he mourned them both in a song of deep lament (2 Samuel 2:17-27). In it he praised and honored them both. There was not a word of animosity toward Saul and David saw to it that the king and his sons were treated honorably in death. Years later, King David desired to show hesed, a Hebrew word that translates roughly as “loving kindness,” to Jonathan’s progeny. So, he asked: “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1) A former servant of Saul’s named Ziba told David of a man named “Mephibosheth,” a son of Jonathan. Mephibosheth was five at the time of his father’s death (2 Samuel 4:4). Panicked by the news of Jonathan and Saul’s demise, the nursemaid hurried to take Mephibosheth to safety. In her haste, she dropped the child and injured him in a way that crippled him for life. Ziba described him to David as being “crippled in his feet” (2 Samuel 9:3). David, determined to show Jonathan kindness by showing kindness to Mephibosheth, sought him out and had him brought to him. When this “son of Jonathan, son of Saul” arrived, David told him: “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” Mephibosheth’s answer was understandable. Certainly he understood the history between Saul and David, and he also understood that in his condition he had no hope of doing anything in return for the king’s kindness, so he asked: “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (2 Samuel 9:8)

The parallels in this exchange between David and Mephibosheth, and between us and Christ are unmistakable. Like Mephibosheth, we were enemies of Christ. When He brought us to Himself there was nothing we could do in return to repay Him for His loving kindness to us. So, why would He do this? David told Mephibosheth that he was doing what he did for the sake of Jonathan. When he looked on Mephibosheth, he did not see his enemy Saul, he saw his friend Jonathan. When God looks on us, He does not see an enemy. He sees His Son and for His Son’s sake, He blesses us far beyond what we deserve. The only response we can have in light of that is one of humility and wonder: “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” We deserved nothing. Christ gave us everything. The only response we can give in return is a life of gratitude toward God, for Jesus’ sake.

Photo by: unsplash-logoMichael Mroczek

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