Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Psalm 27:10
Truth is always stranger than fiction. Take, for example, the strange friendship of two young men who should have been bitter enemies. Instead, they became the closest of friends. One was raised in the palace of a king and knew the luxuries which are associated with that social status. The other was an uneducated youth who rose from obscurity and threatened to usurp the throne. Their names: David and Jonathan.
You can read about them in the Old Testament book of First Samuel. Of David, Gary Ingrig writes, “David was ignored by his father and disliked by his brothers. He was the runt of the litter, who lived with the bitterness of rejection and neglect.” In spite of this, David had a relationship with the Lord which sustained him in his darkest hours. He is the one who wrote, “’The Lord is my shepherd….’ He also said, ‘Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me’” (Psalm 27:10).
These two met following David’s great victory over Goliath. After David had been presented to Jonathan’s father, the king, the young prince stayed behind to talk to David. Here’s the record: “After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home. And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt” (1 Samuel 18:1-4, NLT).
Another translation puts it, “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” What bonding! They had every reason to be enemies but became friends.
Today we have many acquaintances, but few real friends, and quite often we question how deep a friendship really goes. In these two men, there emerged a pattern which gives us insights as to what real friendship is.
In this friendship, I see a number of elements. First, there was absolute loyalty. Jonathan could have betrayed his friend and eliminated him as a contender for the throne. Instead, in the words of Scripture, “he loved him as himself.” Instead of betraying him, he protected him, endangering his own life in the process.
Then each accepted the other “as is.” They were non-judgmental, something which is absolutely necessary for friends to stay friends. Jonathan never tried to improve David’s manners or dress. When the women danced in the streets and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” out of jealousy, Saul became angry, but Jonathan defended his friend.
Another ingredient of real friendship is that there was absolute trust. When things got very uncomfortable as Saul tried to kill David, the two made a pact, a covenant, and David pledged his honor to protect and honor Jonathan’s descendants forever–something which he later did. Jonathan, in turn, found out what were the intentions of the king and passed that information on to David, who fled for his life.
Another element which is often lacking in friendships today is the commitment of these two men to listen to each other, to encourage each other, and to help each other no matter what the personal cost.
The writer of Proverbs tells us that “a friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17), and never was that more true than in this relationship. In our “what’s in it for me” world today, have we lost sight of what true friendship is about? Interested in learning what it can be? Take the time to make a study of this friendship, found beginning with 1 Samuel 18 in the Old Testament of your Bible.
Resource reading: 1 Samuel 18:1-3, 20:1-16.
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