Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my iniquity? How have I sinned against your father, that he wants to take my life?"
1 Samuel 20:1-10. (GIBEAH.)
1. Its entire freedom. They tell each other, without reserve, all that is in their hearts. Such freedom can be wisely indulged only in the presence of a friend. "A principal fruit of friendship is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart which passions of all kinds do cause and induce. No receipt openeth the heart but a true friend, to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsel, and whatsoever lieth upon the heart to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or confession. It redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in halves" (Bacon, 'Essays').
2. Its gentle expostulations and reproofs. When David said, "Thy father seeketh my life" (an expression often used in the Psalms), Jonathan reproved his distrust - "It is not so;" and only after a solemn oath could be induced to share it (ver. 9). Rebuke is a duty and evidence of true friendship; and "where a man's ears are shut against the truth so that he cannot hear it from a friend, the welfare of such a one is to be despaired of." "As many as I love I rebuke."
3. Its kindly assurances. "Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will do it for thee." Such assurances he gave generously, sincerely, solemnly, and repeatedly, and they imparted encouragement and increased confidence. How "exceeding great and precious" are the promises which the heavenly Friend has given for this purpose to his friends!
4. Its anxious consultations and intelligent counsels. "The second fruit of friendship is healthful and sovereign for the understanding, as the first is for the affections; for friendship maketh indeed a fair day in the affections from storm and tempests, but it maketh daylight in the understanding out of darkness and confusion of thoughts; neither is this to be understood only of faithful counsel. The last fruit is aid, and bearing a part in all actions and occasions" (Bacon).
5. Its earnest requests of aid (ver. 8). Although it is the part of friendship to grant help to a friend rather than to beg it of him, yet it shows itself by reliance upon him in great emergencies, and confidently claims the fulfilment of former assurances; nor will it look for aid to a true friend in vain.
6. Its manifest imperfection. For, like all things earthly, human friendship is imperfect. Its communion is liable to interruption (vers. 10, 41). It often entertains thoughts, devises plans, and makes requests which are mistaken and injurious. The statement of David (though founded upon a measure of truth) was a mere pretext, and through failing faith in God he fell into "foolish and hurtful devices." It also omits reproof when it should be given, complies with doubtful requests, and promises what it is not able to perform. But all the defects which are found in the highest human friendship are absent from, and all the excellences which it possesses, and infinitely more, are present in, the friendship of Christ. - D.
I. THE PRINCELY FRIENDSHIP.
And David fled from Naioth, in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan.1. It will be suitable for us to dwell on the remarkable friendship between David and Jonathan — a beautiful oasis in this wilderness history.(1) It was a striking proof of the ever mindful and considerate grace of God, that at the very opening of the dark valley of trial through which David had to pass in consequence of Saul's jealousy, he was brought into contact with Jonathan, and in his disinterested and sanctified friendship, furnished with one of the sweetest earthly solaces for the burden of care and sorrow. In merciful adaptation to the infirmities of his human spirit, God opened to him this stream in the desert, and allowed him to refresh himself with its pleasant waters; but to show him that his great dependence must be placed, not on the fellowship of mortal man, but on the ever-living and ever-loving God, Jonathan and he were doomed, after the briefest period of companionship, to a lifelong separation.(2) In another view, David's intercourse with Jonathan served an important purpose in his training. The very sight he constantly had of Saul's outrageous wickedness might have nursed a self-righteous feeling, might have encouraged the thought that as Saul was rejected by God for his wickedness, so David was chosen for his goodness. The remembrance of Jonathan's singular virtues and graces was fitted to rebuke this thought; for if regard to human goodness had decided God's course in the matter, why should not Jonathan have been appointed to succeed his father?(3) But there was one feature of the friendship of Jonathan and David that had no parallel in classic times — it was friendship between two men, of whom the younger was a more formidable rival to the older. It is Jonathan that shines most in this friendship, for he was the one who had least to gain and most to lose from the other.(4) Besides being disinterested, Jonathan's friendship for David was of an eminently holy character. Evidently Jonathan was a man that habitually honoured God, if not in much open profession, yet in the way of deep reverence and submission. And thus, besides being able to surrender his own prospects without a murmur, and feel real happiness in the thought that David would be king, he could strengthen the faith of his friend, as we read afterwards (1 Samuel 23:16). What a priceless blessing is the friendship of those who support and comfort us in great spiritual conflicts, and help us to stand erect in some great crisis of our lives!
2. We cannot turn from this chapter without adding a word on the friendships of the young. It is when hearts are tender that they are more readily knit to each other, as the heart of Jonathan was knit to the heart of David. But the formation of friendships is too important a matter to be safely left to casual circumstances.(1) It ought to be gone about with care. A friend is very useful, if he is rich in qualities where we are poor.(2) But surely, of all qualities in a friend or companion who is to do us good, the most vital is, that he fears the Lord.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
1. An unselfish and self-denying avowal. He had soon to learn by experience, and he must have known the fact then, that to befriend David was to displease Saul. Yet is there no faltering in his fidelity. However contrary the waves may be, he changes not the vessel's head; undeterred, he abides faithful. Calumnies and adulations change him not.
2. The religious character of this friendship is forced upon us. He begins with a covenant. Are any friendships worth cultivating whereupon we may not ask the Divine blessing?
3. Such a friendship was not only the affection of a man. He drew the power to thus "love on" from the Great Source of Love.
II. THE PURPOSE THIS FRIENDSHIP SERVED.
1. God gave David a friend at court.
2. Another purpose the friendship of Jonathan served was to strengthen David's faith. During his exile, especially in the early past, when his fortunes changed so suddenly, David's faith became clouded. It is his voice that exclaims, "There is but a step between me and death." The strong confidence is breathed by Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:14, 15). When pressed almost beyond endurance and weary with continual flight, it is Jonathan who directs the trembling heart to God (1 Samuel 23:16, 17).Lessons:
1. Sanctified friendships are God's hands of guidance. Such lead us always to Himself and never from Him.
2. Friendships formed for social or temporal gain are akin to traffic and bargain driving on the Temple floor, and must end in ruin. That is no real friendship which fails to lead us to God.
3. True friendships are stable. Human alliances are as fragile as the flowers the frost has traced upon the window, which melt away before the pure beams of love or the heat of trial from within. All friendships that are worth anything must begin with a covenant.
(H. E. Stone.)
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