After David had finished speaking with Saul, the souls of Jonathan and David were knit together, and Jonathan loved him as himself.
1 Samuel 18:1-30. (GIBEAH.)1 Samuel 14:50) into the presence of Saul, "with the bead of the Philistine in his hand." He appears to have been unrecognised by the king, perhaps because of the alteration that had taken place in his personal appearance. Henceforth he resided at Gibeah (ver. 2), where he remained for two or three years. The court of Saul, while unlike that of Solomon, half a century later, was not destitute of worldly show, and was marked by the obsequiousness, self-seeking, emulation, and intrigue which too often prevail in such places, especially when the monarch is capricious, proud, and without the fear of God (1 Samuel 22:6, 7). David's connection with it was of great importance in relation to the position which he was destined by Divine providence to occupy; continued his education for it; and afforded (as every promotion to high place does in its measure a wider scope for -
I. THE EXERCISE OF ABILITY.
1. Outward circumstances, though they may not create eminent ability, serve to call it forth. Much excellence doubtless exists, but is never displayed on account of the absence of favourable conditions.
2. Great genius is shown in one who has the faculty of adapting himself to varied positions in life and their varied requirements.
3. The proper use of power strengthens it and develops it to perfection.
4. The humble, faithful, and efficient discharge of duty in one position prepares the way for another and a higher. It was thus with David, who passed from the narrow circle of private life to the wider one of public life, from the sheepfold to the palace, from contending against a lion and a bear to military expeditions (vers. 5, 13, 30) against the enemies of Israel, and ultimately from loyal obedience to royal rule.
II. ACQUAINTANCE WITH MEN, and the knowledge of human nature. David was familiar with "fields, and flocks, and silent stars," but needed training in another school.
1. There are few things more valuable than an accurate and extensive knowledge of men: their divers temperaments, tendencies, and capacities; their peculiar excellences and defects; their varied wishes and aims; and underneath all the great principles of humanity that are the same in all.
2. Some circumstances afford special opportunity for the attainment of such knowledge. What a field of observation were the court and camp of Saul to one of such mental activity and profound insight as David!
3. The knowledge of men produces in the heart that is sincere, devout, and acquainted with itself a large sympathy with them in their sorrows, joys, imperfections, and strivings after higher things. Of this sympathy the psalms of David are a wonderful expression.
4. It is necessary to the knowledge of the most effectual methods of dealing with them - one of the most needful and desirable qualifications in a ruler.
III. THE TRIAL OF PRINCIPLE. David, no less than Saul, must be put to the test, and his fidelity to Jehovah tried as silver "in a furnace of earth."
1. Trial is needful to prove the reality of principle, and manifest its strength and brightness.
2. One trial is often followed by another and a greater. The royal favour into which David was suddenly raised was as suddenly succeeded by royal jealousy, hatred, and craft. Surely no man was ever more fiercely assailed by temptation.
3. When endured aright, in faith and obedience, trial, however painful, is morally beneficial.
4. The victory which is gained over one temptation is an earnest of a victory over the next. The triumph of humility in David was followed by that of simplicity, patience, and forbearance.
IV. ADVANCEMENT IN POPULAR FAVOUR (vers. 7, 16, 30), which, in the case of David, paved his way to the throne; though he neither coveted nor, during the life of Saul, put forth any effort to gain that object.
1. A course of wise and prosperous action, as it well deserves, so it generally obtains the approbation of the people.
2. Such a course of action ought to be aimed at, rather than the popular favour with which it is attended.
3. The favour of the people is to be valued only in subordination to the favour of God, and in so far as it accords with it.
4. Popular favour should be regarded not as an end in itself, but as a means of promoting the Divine glory and human welfare. - D.
I. THE CHOICE OF FRIENDS. The commonest advice given to young men on this subject is to choose their friends well. But do we really choose our friends? Like love, friendship may kindle at first sight. The instant you see a man, something within you may say, "This is the man for me. This is the man who is going to be the other half of my soul." "My friends," says Emerson, "have come to me unsought. The great God gave them to me," and I expect some of us could say that too. Although in the initial stages friendship seems to be more a matter of good luck than of choice, or, rather, let me say a matter of God's kind Providence, there are subsequent stages when friendship does need to be cultivated. For instance, when friends separate in Providence to live in different towns or in different countries, unless friendship is to lapse it must be cultivated by correspondence, and letters long unanswered are very apt to cool the heart of a friend. Or when other ties are formed friendship is apt to be sacrificed to them, as, when a man is married, he is apt to drop his friends; but that is a great mistake, because the home is enriched with the visits of friends if they are good ones. What is a man to do if he has been unfortunate enough to contract a friendship which is injurious? There may be such friendships. There are more instances than one of this kind, for example, in the life of Robert Burns, the poet, but one of them was especially influential in determining his moral history. One winter, chancing to be at the town of Irvine, learning flax dressing, a detail of farming in those days, he fell in with a young man rather older than himself, and much more versed in the ways of the world, for whom he instantly contracted a romantic attachment. "I loved and admired him," says he himself, "to a degree of enthusiasm, and, of course, strove be imitate him. His mind was fraught with independence, magnanimity, and every manly virtue, but he spoke of illicit love with the levity of a sailor, which hitherto I had regarded with horror. Here his friendship did me a mischief." And the mischief turned out to be more lasting and decisive than, even at the time when writing this sentence, Burns himself had any conception of. Is there not something horrible in the name of friendship being attached to a relationship which is undermining the character and threatening the whole future of one who is engaged in it.
The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David.
1. And first we observe that the love of Jonathan for David seems to have been caused in the first instance by the act of heroism on the part of David which brought life and liberty to the thousands of Israel. Jonathan had sat by his father's tent, and washed the single combat on which the destinies of two nations might be said to hang. He had seen the gigantic champion of Gath march down with stately stride into the valley, and his youthful antagonist advance to meet him, and all the chivalrous enthusiasm of his nature seems to have been stirred at the sight. David has been brought into the presence of Saul with the head of Goliath in his hand, and the king proceeds to enquire his parentage, in order that he may mete out the reward promised to the victor. While the conversation is going on between Saul and David, Jonathan, Saul's son, is standing by, all eyes and ears. Interested from the first in this remarkable young man, he now feels his interest ripen into affection. He admired him at first; he loves him now. Consider the elements of this affection. There was an overpowering sense of gratitude. They were all saved, and David was the saviour. He himself, more than almost anyone else, was under the deepest obligation to the youthful hero; for his life and his honour and his crown had been redeemed. Had David been overthrown, and Goliath victorious, never would he have filled the throne of his father, and reigned over his people. Israel would have become a nation of serfs. Here we have our first lesson, which may serve to show us what it is that first kindles the love of God in the heart of man. We begin to love when we apprehend the first great deliverance which Christ has wrought out for us, and gaze with adoring gratitude upon the Deliverer. We may be interested in the character of Christ, even as David no doubt had excited the interest of Jonathan before the deliverance was wrought; we may admire the Christ as Jonathan did David, when he went forth to meet the Philistine; but love does not spring into life till the moment of deliverance, or of apprehension of deliverance. And even so is it with our Deliverer. The birth of love takes place in the apprehension of that which his love has wrought for us. But here much must depend upon the line of conduct that we assume towards the Deliverer. It is possible to check love at its very birth by averting our inward gaze from Him who has so loved us, and I fear too many believers make a false start here. I fear it is so with many of us who have taken Christ for our Saviour. We needed a deliverer, and we found one in Jesus. The revelation of the cross brought us peace and joy, and set our fears at rest. We rejoiced in the deliverance; but did we cling to the Deliverer? We raised the shout of triumph; we welcomed the happiness and the security and the immunity from condemnation, the freedom from fear, the hope of heaven. But what then? Did we turn from the gifts to the Giver, and fix our adoring gaze of loving gratitude on Him till all our heart flowed out towards Him, and our soul was knit unto Him, and we "loved Him as our own soul"? Or did we go our way, well pleased to reap the benefit of His work, but forgetful of the obligation under which we rested, and of the debt we owed? It is no use trying to make ourselves love God. All love that deserves the name must be spontaneous, and such love can never be generated by an effort of the will, still less by a process of moral analyses and introspection. Love grows by acquaintance with the loved object. Christ will become more to us than Deliverer. We shall love Him because of what He is, as well as because of what He has done, and our souls will be knit unto Him, and we shall love Him as our own soul.
2. Proceeding with the narrative, we observe the immediate results of the establishment of this affection. The first thing that follows is the making of a covenant between the two friends — a covenant involving reciprocal obligations, and binding each to be true to the other in all the various changes and chances of life. Not dissimilar to this is the order of events in the life of love between thy soul and its Lord. The act of Baptism, which in the case of the adult believer would naturally follow immediately on the acceptance of the great deliverance, brings the soul within the bonds of a spiritual covenant, involving reciprocal obligations. Remember, too, that the covenant involves reciprocal obligation.
3. We pass on to the next incident in the story of this great love, and we read that Jonathan stripped himself of his robe, and also his garment, even to his sword, and his bow, and his girdle. It is only in the school of grace, and under the influence of love, that we learn to divert ourselves of all that we naturally prided ourselves upon, and to present all, cheerfully and with an enthusiasm of devotion, to Another. Nor is this all. Jonathan makes over to David, what must always be dear to the warrior's heart, "his sword, and his bow, and his girdle." The very weapons which he had carried on many a hard-fought field — weapons with which he had performed already notable and splendid exploits. What is there you most naturally pride yourself upon, or if you do not pride yourself upon it, what faculty or quality are you most conscious of possessing in a special degree? Is it your intellect? Has God given you a strong head, and a clear judgment? Put the bow and the sword into David's hands. He won't despise the gift, but use it for his own glory. Has God bestowed on you the gift of language, fluency and readiness in speech? You are quick at repartee; or perhaps you possess a lively humour, and the dangerous gift of wit, and those qualities you were wont to exercise in order to gratify your vanity, or to make yourself highly acceptable to society. Let those lips of yours be anointed with the holy unction of the blessed Spirit, so that through Him you may speak as the oracles of God. Give Him the bow, give Him the sword. Has He given you wealth? Remember it is all His already; but He gives you the privilege of giving it back to Him. Lay it at His feet. Has He given you influence? Consecrate that influence to Him, it belongs to Him. Do not let Him have to ask you for it twice. Give it to Him because you love Him. Whatever it is, my friend, that belongs to you in an extraordinary and unusual degree, these are the special presents that you are privileged to make to Him to whom your hearts are already given, and whom having not seen you have begun to love.
(W. H. M. H. Aitkin, M. A.)
1. In the first place, it truly suggests that Christ, the Prince of Heaven, comes seeking a compact with us. Christ sees something in man, at his worst, that He loves, and that seems to Him worth living and dying to save.
2. There is another suggestion that is very comforting, and that is that as Jonathan's love prompted him to give his own clothes to David, so that his humble friend might look as much the prince as himself, Christ comes offering to clothe us in his own beautiful garments of purity and righteousness. It is the glory of Christians that Christ helps them to become like Himself. Our ragged clothing of sin and of evil habit is to be east off, and we are to be clothed with goodness and gentleness and meekness and love and hope. That is the most glorious thing about Christianity. It is not that a man may be simply saved from sorrow and despair and punishment on account of his sins, but the sinner's nature may be transformed and he may become a prince of God's realm, a holy man. The drunkard may put on sobriety. And the promise is that this robing of the soul, this beautifying of the character, shall go on until, when we awake in heaven, we shall awake in the likeness of Jesus Christ.
3. There is one other suggestion here which we find also fulfilled in Christ's treatment of the sinner: Jonathan bestowed upon David, not only his own clothing, but he gave him his own armour and weapons. So Christ equips us with the very weapons with which He battled in this world when He was tempted in all points like as we are and yet came off victorious without sin. He gives us the girdle of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness; on our feet He puts shoes made of the preparation of the Gospel of peace; on the left arm we carry the shield of faith — a wonderful shield that is able to stop every fiery dart of the wicked one.
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
II. THE GAINS OF FRIENDSHIP. The prime gain of friendship is just the knowledge of a noble soul. That was what Jonathan felt. It is the man who has most in himself to give who gives most, not the man who has most of what is external to give. No counter gifts can altogether balance those which an opulent nature bestows when it gives itself. That, then, is the first gain of friendship, simply to know a noble nature.
2. The second gain of friendship is that it develops the powers of those engaged in it. History contains many striking instances of how friends have stimulated one another to the highest intellectual attainment. For instance, Goethe and Schiller, the two greatest chiefs of German literature, though differing widely in genius and disposition, both produced their grandest works when living in the same town and daily enjoying each other's conversation. And German history has a still more striking example. Just as Goethe and Schiller lived together at Weimar, so Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon lived together at Wittenburg, and their friendship did a great deal to stamp its character on the Reformation. It is perfectly delightful to hear Luther and Melancthon speaking about each other. For instance, Luther says on one occasion, "Philip is a wonder to us all. If the Lord will, he will beat many Martins as the mightiest enemy to the devil and scholasticism. I am the rough woodman who has to make a path; but Philip goes quietly and peaceably along it, builds and plants, sows and waters." On the other hand, the younger man said on one occasion, "Luther supplies the place of all my friends. He is greater and more admirable in my sight than I dare express."
3. Then a third gain of friendship is that a friend can often speak a good word for his friend, and otherwise promote his advantage. Flattery is the poison of friendship, because it is false, and it has always been counted one of the greatest gains of friendship that cane friend can, without offence, tell the other his faults. An ancient Chinese philosopher says about this close friendship, "The heaven-ordained relationship, on which depends the correction of one's character"; and a very ancient Indian poet expresses this still more beautifully in these words:
The words which from a stranger's lips offend
Are honey-sweet if spoken by a friend,
As when the smoke of common wood we spurn,
But call it perfume sweet when fragrant aloes burn;
and the Scripture clinches this matter by saying, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
III. THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR FRIENDSHIP. Philosophers are too apt to speak as if friendship were possible only to philosophers, or men of genius. Thus Sir Thomas Browne says, "This noble affection falls not on vulgar or common constituents, but on such as are marked for virtue." La Bruyere, the French philosopher, says, "Pure friendship is something which men of an inferior nature can never taste"; and Charles Kingsley says, "It is only the great-hearted who can be true friends; the mean and cowardly can never know what true friendship means." If a man only be genuine he is quite fit for this relationship, and if in addition he be tender and unselfish he can give the highest pleasure in this relationship. It was part of the low estimate of women universal in the ancient world that the ancient philosophers deny that women could be friends. Christianity, however, has corrected this, as so much else, and we know that women are not only as capable as men of being friends to one another, but of being friends to men. I might quote such historical examples as St. Francis and St. Clara, or as between the poet Cowper and Mrs. Unwin. Is the highest friendship possible without religion? One of the most obvious and inalienable qualities of friendship is this, that friends talk confidentially to each other on important subjects. They exchange with each other their deepest subjects. Now, if the deepest subject of all is excluded — if religion is kept out of the conversation — must we not pronounce the friendship to be imperfect and mutilated? The most elementary dictate about friendship is that one friend must do the other as much good as he can.
(J. Stalker, D. D.)
1. All boys have a natural tendency towards forming friendships. Such friendships tend to bring out the character; without them the powers of a boy will very often lie dormant and undeveloped through his future life. Up to a certain age a youth, though full of affection towards those who are the relations of his life, may be unconscious of them. For his friend at school, in connection with whom none of those relationships exist he is able to realise love and regard, and in connection with him first becomes conscious of the power of love at all. The knowledge of this fact alone expands and invigorates the whole disposition.
2. The friendship of youth frequently ends in important results of usefulness in after life. There is something striking in the altered circumstances which in turn affected the sons of Kish and Jesse; and it was in these very adversities that each was so invaluable to the other. It is very hard to tell what our lot may be in future life. Vicissitudes, as untoward as that which lost Jonathan his throne, may affect us in our onward career; and fortune, as unexpected as that which fell to David's lot, may fall to our share. Many a boy is flushed with high birth or illustrious parentage, or has some bright promise of future position, which will elevate him above his fellows; but the possibility of a future change in the position of boyhood is strongly brought to mind by the story of Jonathan and David. But while this covenant was thus acted upon in after days, the covenant itself was a very striking and beautiful circumstance. Two young men, each of them full of high energies; ambitious, brave, and noble; were, nevertheless, so deeply conscious of their dependence upon God and the necessity of serving Him, as to bind themselves by an agreement of a distinctly religious character; thus evincing their piety and showing that the claims of God infinitely transcend the highest earthly employment. Such a thing is rare.
3. And again, there is something very grand in the long pause in the personal communications between David and Jonathan. They loved each other as boys and as youths. When David walked forth fresh and ruddy from the wilderness of Bethlehem, and Jonathan shone in all the lustre of the son of a great king, the prince and the shepherd boy loved each other. They took delight in telling their love one for the other, and made their covenant before God in the field of Ezel, and their souls were satisfied. They saw each other no more in the passage of years. Indeed, David's eye rested not on the countenance of his friend until it was brought a corpse from the streets of Bethsban. Trouble of all kinds marked the interval. Nevertheless, all this sufficed not to shake the foundations of Jonathan's love for David. It is a very poor and narrow view, to imagine that real friendship should need constant expression. It is a deep, wide, lasting thing, whose seed is sown, as in some cases, in the period of boyhood, and may spring up into a plant which may shadow a long-after day, though the interval that elapses between the ratification of that friendship and the hour of death, may be marked by a long suspension of intercourse: aye! and even by circumstances.
4. Another lesson that we learn from the friendship of these two youths is, that true friendship exists in a desire to discover points of beauty and nobility in everything, however otherwise defective or polluted. Through the outward circumstance of a lineage opposed to the present and future interest of David, he was able to perceive, to value, end to love the noble qualities of Jonathan. While in the shepherd boy, whose destiny had been already declared by an unerring voice to be one which would finally eclipse the house of Saul, Jonathan was able to see the lustre of those qualities which eventually made David "the sweet psalmist of Israel" and "the man after God's own heart;" and seeing them, he had the disinterestedness to love them, and to ally himself to them.
I. FRIENDSHIP THROUGH RESPECT. Love blazed up towards David very suddenly. Still, it was love, founded on respect. With some love may be more slowly kindled, but may die very hardly. Love at first sight is a possibility, and a constantly-renewed experience in this old world. Thank God that romance is not yet banished from the earth. In some nations affections are more kept under control than in England; marriages are made to depend on the amount of the dowry. Harmony of taste and principle characterised the friendship of the son of Saul and the son of Jesse. There was true piety in both. There is little prospect of happiness in any union without piety. First impressions are not always right. We may not always follow them. Reciprocal was the affection between Israel's prince and its future "sweet singer." Sometimes a man may care for one who cares nothing for him. Many a maiden, too, has given affection to one who may not really have had a serious thought about returning it. Imagination can throw round another a glamour of qualities he or she may not possess. People do not always meet with a return of affection. And yet some are as greedy of it as the eucalyptus is of water. Affection should beget affection, but it is not always successful in the transfer. Even when Christ loved with an infinite and Divine love it has not always found a response in souls.
II. DISCRIMINATING FRIENDSHIP. Seneca tells of a distinguished citizen of Rome who introduced the fashion of separating his visitors. Some were left in hall or court, others were admitted to the antechamber, and others were led into the boudoir of privacy and rest. Today some are acquaintances of the street, others of the church, and others of the home. A sensible man will know how to discriminate. He will not carry his "heart on his sleeve." He will not be like bill distributors who thrust their papers into anybody's hands. He will find an intensified interest in the special affection he has for one of like mind to himself.
1. Unreservedness and unsuspiciousness will be found in a true friendship. A Jonathan will pour out his admiration and affection to a David. He will have nothing to hide. There will be free interchange of feeling. When danger threatens one the other will be alive to it. Faithfulness in a friend is promoted by absolute trust. But let me here say that this absolute trust should not lead to presumings. Some are always ready to act as if the surest signs of friendship were found in free comments on conduct.
2. Disinterested and ready to bestow will be the attitude of a true friend. A Jonathan gives his bow and his robes to David. For him he foregoes his claim to a kingdom. He esteems the friendship of David of greater worth than a crown. How suggestive of that Divine love that gave up majesty, glory, heaven's rest, for reviling, rejection, mocking, scourging, loneliness, and death, even the death of the cross for sinners such as ourselves.
3. Unchangeable and unwavering to the end will a true friendship be. Some friendships are like the strings of musical instruments that snap so easily when there is an alteration in the temperature.
III. THE TEST OF FRIENDSHIP. Adversity is a test of faithfulness. When a man is prosperous he will have many friends. They will flock around, bend heads, and bow bodies. Let the tide of prosperity, however, turn, and many will rapidly fade from vision, having wind and tide in their favour as they speed away. One said, "Early fruits rot soon," so friendships too rapidly ripened. Gushing protestations are often followed by tantalising flirtations and bitter and cruel estrangements. Trifling is the death of friendship. Not so was it with David and Jonathan. What misery can be wrought into hearts and homes by those who are unfaithful, and who are not worthy the sacred name of friend! Such bitter experiences were unknown to David and Jonathan. They were faithful to each other right to the end. David would have readily died for Jonathan if he could.
I. CONSIDER THE QUALITIES OF THIS FRIEND whom Jehovah chose for the moulding of the character of his beloved; and then be prepared to surrender to his care the choice of your most intimate associates. He knows what your temperament needs, and where to find the companion who shall strengthen you when weak, and develop latent unknown qualities.
1. He was every inch a man. In true friendship there must be a similarity of tastes and interests. The prime condition of two men walking together is that they should be agreed. And the bond of a common manliness knit these twin souls from the first. Jonathan was every inch a man; as dexterous with the bow as his friend with the sling.
2. He was withal very sensitive and tender. It is the fashion in some quarters to emphasise the qualities supposed to be specially characteristic of men — those of strength, courage, endurance — to the undervaluing of the tenderer graces more often associated with women. But in every true man there must be a touch of woman, as there was in the ideal Man, the Lord Jesus. There should be strength and sweetness, courage and sympathy; the oak and the vine, the rock and the moss that covers it with its soft green mantle.
3. Jonathan had a marvellous power of affection. He loved David as himself; he was prepared to surrender without a pang his succession to his father's throne, if only he might be next to his friend; his was the love that expresses itself in tender embraces and tears, that must have response from the object of its choice. We judge a man by his friends, and the admiration he excites in them. Much is said of the union of opposites, and it is well when one is rich where the other is poor; but the deepest love must be between those whose natures are close akin.
4. He was distinctly religious. He must be strong who would strengthen another; he must have God, and be in God, who would give the consolations of God to his brother; and we can easily understand how the anguish of Jonathan's soul, torn before filial devotion to his father and his love to his friend, must have driven him back to those resources of the Divine nature, which are the only solace of men whose lives have been cast in the same fiery crucible.
II. CONSIDER THE CONFLICT OF JONATHAN'S LIFE. He was devoted to his father. He was always found associated with that strange dark character, melancholy to madness, the prey of evil spirits, and yet so keenly susceptible to music, and so quick to respond to the appeal of chivalry, patriotism, and generous feeling; resembling some mountain lake, alternately mirroring mountains and skies, and swept by dark storms. Father and son were together in life, as they were "undivided in death." When he woke up to find how truly he loved David, a new difficulty entered his life. Not outwardly, because, though Saul eyed David with jealousy, there was no open rupture. David went in and out of the palace, was in a position of trust, and was constantly at hand for the intercourse for which each yearned. But when the flames of hostility, long smouldering in Saul's heart, broke forth, the true anguish of his life began. On the one hand, his duty as son and subject held him to his father, though he knew his father was doomed, and that union with him meant disaster to himself; on the other hand, all his heart cried out for David. His love for David made him eager to promote reconciliation between his father and his friend. It was only when repeated failure had proved the fruitlessness of his dream that he abandoned it; and then the thought must have suggested itself to him: Why not extricate yourself from this sinking ship while there is time? Why not join your fortunes with his whom God hath chosen? The new fair kingdom of the future is growing up around him — identify yourself with it, though it, be against your father. The temptation was specious and masterful, but it fell blunt and ineffectual at his feet. Stronger than the ties of human love were those of duty, sonship, loyalty to God's anointed king; and in some supreme moment he turned his back on the appeal of his heart, and elected to stand beside his father. From that choice be never flinched. When David departed whither he would, Jonathan went back to the city. It was one of the grandest exhibitions of the triumph of principle over passion, of duty over inclination, that the annals of history record. Jonathan died as a hero; not only because of his prowess in battle with his country's foes, but because of his victory over the strongest passion of the human heart, the love of a strong man, in which were blended the strands of a common religion, a common enthusiasm for all that was good and right.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)I. THE FIRST PARTICULAR BELONGING TO THIS REMARKABLE AND MOST INTERESTING ATTACHMENT, WAS ITS SUDDEN FORMATION. It was from predisposition that this friendship so suddenly arose; from the possession and exhibition of modesty, piety, and courage, that it derived its strength and ardour, and finally its permanence. And all this will, in a great degree, account for the otherwise strange mutability, which we observe in human affections. History, poetry, society, are all eloquent in praise of friendship; yet when we look for such an affection, and tax memory and observation on the question, all we have is an account of sudden or violent attachment, formed upon fancy, and not upon predisposition; of friendships as rapidly dissolved as they are raised; oftentimes converted into animosity and hatred; more frequently wasting and decaying into indifference from their first enthusiasm, and seldom durable except when self-interest was largely and deeply involved. This is no slander upon worldly amity, for every man's experience will corroborate the truth of the account.
II. THE ADMIRATION OF JONATHAN TERMINATED in his affection for David, but the affection became mutual. The friendship of the world, in its best form, seems to be rather favouritism or partiality, than mutual and equal attachment, something more like parental regard or patronage, than that which the word friendship properly expresses. This one-sided regard, this favouritism, has in it none of the advantages of friendship. He who has a friend, as old writers say, has got a second self, doubled powers, for good or for evil. In friendships, and we speak only of religious friendships, how many advantages arise to both parties! Their equality and freedom lead to the communication and increase of piety; to the correction of errors in judgment, and errors of infirmity in moral disposition and practice; to a greater facility of approach to God, and a steadier advance through life to his kingdom.
III. IT WILL BE WELL TO THINE A LITTLE ON THE MEANS USED FOR ITS PRESERVATION AND PERMANENCE. These were pious exercises. Thus we read, that Jonathan and David entered into a solemn league and covenant of friendship, with every appeal to heaven to bless their mutual regard, and promote its effects to the advantage of their descendants.
IV. THERE IS ONE FRIEND TO BE FOUND, ONE TRUE HEART, ONE FAITHFUL SOUL, WELL TRIED IN THE FURNACE OF AFFLICTIONS AND TEMPTATIONS, WHOSE PROFFERED REGARD, WITH ALL ITS ENDURING AND IMPERISHABLE BENEFITS AND EXCELLENCES, MEN TOO FREQUENTLY OVERLOOK. That friend, who, in Scripture language, is said to stick closer than a brother, and is a brother born for adversity, you anticipate me by naming, the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Jonathan, captivated with David, stripped himself of all his robes of honour, in order to array him with these, as a proof of his affection — the overture of a covenant attachment, never to be violated. So did Christ.
2. Again we are prompted to consider from this narrative the abiding mercies of the Redeemer. Our first acquaintance with Him (if we possess any) arose from His own gracious condescension.
3. On every occasion of intimacy we read that Jonathan failed not "to encourage David's hand in God." This was the part of a holy friend, one who saw the value of better things than this world contained, and knew the value of such consolations and encouragements as religion — the true religion alone can give in our times of weakness, and depression, and suffering. Has it not ever been so between Christ and the believer?
4. Finally, we learn that it was never in David's power to requite the fidelity of Jonathan, save only in the person of his child, Mephibosheth. Yet him he sought out diligently, and to him repaid, as far as possible, the kindness of his departed friend. Oh! is not this a stirring appeal to us in behalf of Christian gratitude and Christian benevolence. Our friend is removed from us, departed to make way for our inheritance to kingly honour. We cannot even pour out our tears upon his grave, or embalm his sacred remains with ceremonious sorrow. Nevertheless his children are amongst us, the poor ones of his flock — the despised and forgotten of the world. Seek them out, feed them, clothe them, comfort them, cheer them; this tribute, and this tribute only, will be accepted. "Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
(C. M. Fleury, A. M.)
1. The friendships are few that survive years of separation; the shock of conflicting interests; the drain made on our old affections by new claims; the trials they are put to by infirmities of temper, by plain dealing with faults, by a manly independence, by requests refused, by favours unrequited, by the rivalries of business, by the partisanship that springs from creeds or politics, and by a thousand other nameless circumstances. Fragile as the flowers the winter frost traces on our windows, there are friendships that a breath will melt away. It may be very wrong and very pitiful, but, as the wise man says, "a whisper separateth chief friends;" and who lives long lives to see so many, like leaves the frost has nipped, fall off, and the ties which friendship had formed, so often and sometimes so easily dissolved, that he comes to read with little astonishment, and no great sense of exaggeration, the words of one who, describing his relationships, said, "Though the church would not hold my acquaintances, the pulpit is large enough to bold all my friends." Happily, there are friendships that stand the test of time and the severest strain; but among these, what poet or panegyrist has recorded with glowing pen one to be compared with Jonathan's? It is quite unique; remarkable as his father's stature. The words of the poet may be justly applied to Jonathan —None but himself could be his parallel.For example, men will praise their friends, but how few are generous enough without jealousy to hear others praise them, at their expense, in eulogiums they feel to be disparaging to themselves.
2. Then see what severe trials this friendship endured; and enduring, triumphed over. Saul's gloomy eye fixed on David, the javelin he hurled to pin him to the wall, the cry of his soldiers echoing from the rocks as they hunted the fugitive from cave to cave, and hill to hill, not more illustrating the words, "Jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire," than the friendship of Jonathan did those which follow, "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." The reed that bends its head to a breath of wind, and the old grey rock which withstands the hurricane that strews the plain with trees and the foaming shore with wrecks, are not more unlike than Jonathan where his own interests, and the same Jonathan where David's interests were concerned. Such was the depth and power of his affection for his friend. Here neither Saul's entreaties, nor anger, nor violence could move him. He would part with life to please his father, but not with his love for David.
3. If piety is shown by a regard to God and a Child-like submission to His sovereign will, by taking up our cross and denying ourselves daily that we may follow Christ, by saying, like Jesus Himself, as He book the bitter cup of our sorrows from His Father's hand, "Father, not My wilt, but Thine be done," what finer example of this grace than Jonathan? David is to supplant him; David is to enter on the honours and fortune he expected to enjoy; and out of the ruins of Saul's house, David is to build his own; yet Jonathan ceases not to regard him with unabated and the tenderest affection. Tender as a woman, and yet true as steel, overflowing with generous kindness, utterly devoid of selfishness, trusting as much as he wad trusted, with a heart that reflected David's as face answereth to face in water, Jonathan was the paragon and perfect pattern of a friend.
4. To make some practical use of this matter, I remark —(1). Everyone should seek and cultivate friendships. Man has no room in his heart to accommodate many friends; but, as God said in Eden, it is not good that man should be alone. Isolation breeds selfishness, moroseness; and these are apt to run into misanthropy. So necessary, however, is it for the happiness of man and the complete development of his nature, that kings, who are often required by policy to stand aloof on their cold, unenviable elevation from their highest nobles, have raised servants into favourites, and sought the pleasures of friendship in the confidence and company of menials. There is a touching story of a captive, cut off from human society and long immured in a lonely dungeon of the Bastille, whose heart, craving some object of friendship, found it in a spider be had tamed, and which his brutal jailer cruelly destroyed.(2) In choosing friends, we should select such as promise, by the tone of their conversation, and by their moral and religious character, to prove friends indeed — such as we can trust in the hour of adversity, and would like to see by our dying bed. Acquaintances are one thing, but friends another.(3) We should seek a friend in Jesus Christ — the best, truest, kindest, surest friend man ever had. Everliving, everloving, and everlasting. Like summer birds which come and go with the sun, like our shadow which deserts us when his face is clouded, like fair flowers that close their leaves as soon as rain begins to fall or cold winds to blow, earthly friends may desert us when we most need their sympathy and support — at the time, and in the circumstances, expressed in the well-known adage, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." But such a friend is Jesus Christ. One of the old Fathers tells a parable, which, with a slight alteration, illustrates this subject; and, in view of an hour of death, and a day of judgment, may well recommend to our acceptance and confidence and peace and joy the friendship of the Friend of sinners. A man summoned to answer for his crimes, and called in question for his life, sought help of three friends he had. The first agreed to bear him company for a part of the way; the second would lend him some money for his journey; while the third undertook to go all the way with him, to appear in court, and plead his cause. So runs the story. In this man, the representative of a lost and guilty race, we see ourselves: and in the three friends whose help he sought, we see the flesh, or our fellow creatures, the world with its wealth, and Christ, the sinner's Friend.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
I. THEIRS WAS THE FRIENDSHIP OF GODLY MEN. Enter into no friendship that is displeasing to Christ and that is incompatible with friendship with Him. And in reference to that closest of earthly attachments — which unites for good or ill two lives "till death them do part," let young Christian people see to it that they "walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise."
II. UNSELFISH WAS THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN DAVID AND JONATHAN. The favour of princes has too often been secured by the designing and depraved; men who pandered to vice, and made more tempting "the primrose path" to perdition. Unsought, unselfish, was Jonathan's friendship to David. Here is a valid test for friendship. Is it unselfish? Free from rivalry? Able to rejoice at the growing prosperity of the other even while adversity is darkening round itself? Cheerfully willing to pass down from first to second that the other may pass up from second to first? How much of Jonathan's spirit is in it? The friendship that claims congratulations but is slow to congratulate, that looks for sympathy, but is reluctant to sympathise, or falls away altogether from the friend in his "dark and cloudy day" — such may be the friendship of the world. But how unlike the virtue that ennobled Jonathan, the memory of which keeps his name green and beautiful from age to age.
III. SEVERELY TESTED BY ADVERSITY WAS THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN DAVID AND JONATHAN. True friendship can stand the test of adversity. It can not only live in the sunshine but can also illumine our darkness. When sorrows come; when all things seem against us; when men speak evil of us falsely, then we need a friend. A brother is born for adversity; and such a friend as David called "my brother Jonathan."
IV. MUTUALLY VALUABLE WAS THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN DAVID AND JONATHAN.
(G. T. Coster.)
1. Put asunder by Saul's malignant envy, yet I suppose that the remembrance of that great surpassing love of Jonathan's must have been a presence and a power to David. There is no influence on a feeling mind stronger than the sense of being loved; nothing more elevating, more securing to the inner life. We are dearer to ourselves when we are dear to someone else. Danger, of a very subtle and fatal kind, lurks in the feeling, "No man careth for my soul." This is, indeed, the fruitful source of suicide. Youths are steadied when away from home by the confidence they have of a mighty love felt for them by their mothers. Is it not Jeremy Taylor who says, "He who loves is happy, but he who is loved is safe!" See how in the constitution of the family, in marriage, in children, in friendship, God has provided a shield for our weakness in the love borne to us. Jonathan saw himself magnified and improved in David, who was his better self. Read the fourteenth chapter to discern the valorous soul of Jonathan. Look at him, with one attendant likeminded with himself, "climbing up upon his hands and upon his feet" into the garrison of the Philistines. "And they fell before Jonathan," and there was trembling in the host: "and that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armour bearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plough." Here was David's adventurous spirit: Jonathan had seen Goliath for forty days defying Israel, and had not dared to meet him, but he saw David kill him. He loved that which went beyond his own spirit, yet was of the same heroic order. He saw in David a higher and greater Jonathan, the ideal of his own actual life, himself transfigured and perfected. What he had dreamt he might be, he beheld in David.
2. Now, let us turn to the father. Was Saul ever like his son? David, in his song, unites them in a very beautiful harmony: "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions." And when we look at Saul's early history, there gleams on us a ray of his son's noble spirit. When "the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents," it is added, "but he held his peace." That faculty of self-control stands in terrible contrast with the utter loss of self-respect and self-government which he afterwards evinced. Moreover, the grief of Samuel at the Divine rejection of Saul ("it grieved Samuel, and he cried unto the Lord all night") is a touching proof of the truth that Saul was lovely in the early part of his career. Here was a noble nature ruined; but we must confess that his was a situation of such extraordinary difficulty that, while he could have retained his uprightness had he remained in favour with God, yet when we think of his constitutional malady, and of the human and almost necessary vexation which the song of the women must have occasioned; when we think that the praise of higher prowess was bestowed on one who was known to be the aspirant to the throne, as we learn from Jonathan's words to David, we cannot wonder that jealousy caused his ruin.There is no habit so easily acquired, so hardly cast off, as jealousy or envy.
1. We may safely affirm that, if you prize communion with God as your greatest blessing, you will be a stranger to envy. It is the presence of God with us which shuts out the base passions, or keeps them from having dominion over us. And let this be a touchstone to us all. When we feel the rising of envious emotion, let us alarm ourselves, let us be sure we are going back; we are descending to a lower level of the Christian life; we are satisfied to pass the day without a hearty effort to realise God's presence, and therefore has this evil come upon us. Cleave to the Lord, and all virtue, all goodness, all excellence in people whom you meet will be dear to you, because they are His gifts whom you prize higher than all gifts. Envy the gifts! How is that possible when the Giver is yours. Of the Giver "of every good and perfect gift," you can say, "He is my God."
2. This is the first great rule to show us how we may shun envy.
3. But, after this, get into the way of admiring worth, independence, and all moral excellence in whomsoever you see it. Love it in an enemy, and then you cannot have one. Sometimes we are slow to recognise high qualities in people who differ from us; but rid yourselves of this meanness, and delight yourselves in the discovery of nobleness, of generosity, of moral worth in books or men. Wordsworth says —
"My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;"
but what is God's bow in the clouds for beauty compared to God's gift of genius, of wisdom, of disinterestedness, of charity, when in our human life they arch heaven and earth with a glory "that fadeth not away?" The nobility of Jonathan's character cannot easily be over-estimated.
(B. Kent, M. A.)I. THE INTIMATE FRIENDSHIPS OF LIFE.
1. Friendships spring up often, we can hardly explain why, but they are most real, most helpful, very precious, and frequently lasting. It is an unspeakably blessed thing to have a true friend in whose wisdom you can confide, in whose strength you can shelter your weakness, whose sympathy understands the ever-varying moods of your soul.
2. Advice as to how to obtain and to retain friendship could not be more forcibly given than in the words, "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly." All expressions of confidence and affection are not to be on one side only; they must be mutual.
3. Our companionships bear testimony to our natures end our convictions. For friendship as I understand it does not consist in the perpetual interchange of compliments and sweet flatteries, but in the endeavour to increase the goodness and the happiness of each other, and sometimes this can be done only by gentle reproof and warning. It is a delicate task, and not unfrequently a most painful and hazardous one. Yet, as one truly says, the best of friends are "they that deny themselves of pleasure for the sake of making me better; they that incur the risk of anger and dislocation of friendship for the sake of telling me a truth that nobody else dares to tell me, and that I die for the want of hearing; they that are more choice of my soul's interior and essential good than they are of my satisfaction with the pride and the vanities of life, and seek to be physician of my soul, they are my best friends."
4. The other characteristics of friendships are expressions of love and faithfulness in adversity. Do not, expect to get all and give nothing — to have affection and confidence lavished upon you as though it were your right, and return none. Not so will you acquire and keep friendship.
II. SOCIAL ACQUAINTANCES. "Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification." (Romans 15:2.) Beyond those dear and gracious ties we form with souls with whom ours are knit we are compelled to enlarge the circle of our associations, and we make acquaintances in a variety of ways, who never become our friends. Either because we know little about them, or are unattracted by what we do know, our intercourse is limited to those few occasions when we meet in social life, our conversation to those superficial topics which may be called the useful but not valuable counters that serve instead of anything more real or worthy. How many of such acquaintances most people can boast. We are familiar with their names, with some facts of their history, and we encounter them at houses where we visit, or are on tolerable visiting terms with them, but they never show us their hearts, and we are equally reserved. That is not altogether unnatural or undesirable. We cannot, take the oaths of true friendship with everybody. The society in which we move is not to be lowered in its tone by our laxity in fashion or in speech. We are not to descend to the level of the standards which satisfy irreligious people, and sometimes are accepted by those who profess to be religious, but we must follow what is right even if it looks ideal. Those around us are gathering from our conduct what is true and pure and good. We mingle amongst various people, and our influence may be felt. What is wanted is a more intelligent conviction of the duties we owe to society, of its need of a constant purifying influence, and that we Christian men and women have a mission to raise its tone and elevate its life. It will be of little avail to stand sway in isolated carelessness, or in a spirit of indignant asceticism from the world's life, raising an angry protest against its evil; we must resolutely carry the influence of our own principles into its life, and strive by all means in our power to transform and regenerate it. We are to be "in the world," — as salt to save it from corruption, as light to guide, to beautify, to increase the true joy of it — yet we may not be of the world.
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