The Benefit of True Friendship
1 Samuel 23:15-18
And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.…

And Jonathan... strengthened his hand in God (ver. 16). The friendship of Jonathan for David hero stands in contrast not only to the hatred of Saul, but also to the ingratitude of the citizens of Keilah, and the treachery of the Ziphites (ver. 19). The benefit of it, which had been long enjoyed by David, was even more fully than ever experienced by him now, when he left Keilah with his 600 men, wandered hither and thither, and abode in a mountain (Hachilah) in the wilderness of Ziph." He was exposed to the persecution of Saul, who sought to destroy him by every means in his power (ver. 14), driven from one stronghold to another, able to procure only a precarious subsistence, anxious, fearful, and sometimes ready to sink in doubt and despondency. "Just at this moment Jonathan, as though led by God made his way to him in the thickets of the forest (literally, Horesh), and consoled him as if with words and promises from God himself" (Ewald). He did not accompany the force in pursuit of David (ver. 15), but came from Gibeah. His peculiar and trying position made it impossible for him to do more for his friend than hold this secret interview with him, without altogether breaking with his royal father, and openly incurring the charge of disobedience and rebellion. Never was friendship more faithfully shown; never did it render more valuable service. Well might the blind man, when asked what he thought the sun was like, reply, "Like friendship." Its benefit, as received by David, was -

I. OPPORTUNE. "A friend loveth at all times;" but his kindly offices are peculiarly grateful and beneficial in a time of need; as, e.g., in -

1. Physical distress, affliction, homelessness, privation, peril of liberty or life.

2. Mental anxiety, loneliness, discouragement, depression, when the

"Light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow."

3. Spiritual trial, temptation, failing faith hope and patience; in view of the prosperity of the wicked, the patience of Heaven, the delay of promised good. At such a time how unspeakably precious is a true friend! His countenance is like sunshine breaking through thick clouds. "Friendship is the only point in human affairs concerning the benefit of which all with one voice agree. There is nothing so suited to our nature, so well adapted to prosperity or adversity. I am not aware whether, with the exception of wisdom, anything better has been bestowed on man by the immortal gods. And they seem to take away the sun from the world who withdraw friendship from life" (Cicero). "Refuge failed," etc. (Psalm 142:4; Matthew 26:40, 56).

II. ADAPTED to the most pressing need. "And strengthened his hand in God, i.e. strengthened his heart not by supplies, or by money, or any subsidy of that kind, but by consolation drawn from his innocence and the promises of God" (Keil). "Exhorted him to put confidence in God" (Dathe). He strengthened him by -

1. His genial presence, especially since his visit was expressive of his fidelity, confidence, and sympathy, and made with much effort, self-denial, and risk. "They that fear thee will be glad when they see me" (Psalm 119:74; Proverbs 27:17). "Whom when Paul saw," etc. (Acts 28:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7). "When I ask myself whence it is that I feel this joy, this ease, this serenity when I see him - it is because it is he, it is because it is I, I answer; and that is all that I can say" (Montaigne).

2. His encouraging words. "Fear not" (" the keynote of Jonathan's address"), etc., in which he assured him of -

(1) Preservation from threatening danger, doubtless pointing him to the Divine protection.

(2) Exaltation to the highest dignity: "Thou wilt be king over Israel;" pointing him to the Divine purpose, which had been plainly declared, and could not fail to be fulfilled. He had already intimated (1 Samuel 20:15), and now explicitly asserted, his faith in that purpose. What ground was there for David's fear?

(3) His anticipation of continued and intimate association with him when he should sit on the throne, all claim to which he willingly renounced for his sake, and in obedience to the will of God.

(4) The conviction of Saul himself that he would prevail. If Saul believed it, why should David doubt? What more he said is not recorded. But this was admirably adapted to strengthen his heart and hand. "It is difficult to form an adequate conception of the courage, the spiritual faith, and the moral grandeur of this act. Never did man more completely clear himself from all complicity in guilt than Jonathan from that of his father. And yet not an undutiful word escaped the lips of this brave man" (Edersheim).

3. His renewed covenant with him (1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 20:16, 17, 42), in which, whilst he pledged his own faithful love and service, he drew forth the expression of his faith in his future destiny as well as of his fidelity to himself and his house: and both appealed to God as witness. The intercourse of friends is peculiarly beneficial when it is sanctified by their common recognition of the presence of God, and their common devotion to his will. "Next to the immediate guidance of God by his Spirit, the counsel and encouragement of virtuous and enlightened friends afford the most powerful aid in the encounter of temptation and in the career of duty." It was the last time David and Jonathan met.

"O heart of fire! misjudged by wilful man,
Thou flower of Jesse's race!
What woe was thine, when thou and Jonathan
Last greeted face to face!
He doomed to die, thou on us to impress
The portent of a bloodstained holiness"

(Lyra Apostolica')

III. ENDURING. The influence of their meeting continued long afterwards, and produced abundant fruit (1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 26:9). "The pleasures resulting from the mutual attachment of kindred spirits are by no means confined to the moments of personal intercourse; they diffuse their odours, though more faintly, through the seasons of absence, refreshing and exhilarating the mind by the remembrance of the past and the anticipation of the future. It is a treasure possessed when it is not employed; a reserve of strength, ready to be called into action when most needed; a fountain of sweets, to which we may continually repair, whose waters are inexhaustible" (R. Hall). "If the converse of one friend, at one interview, gives comfort and strengthens our hearts, what may not be expected from the continual supports, daily visits, and powerful love of the Saviour of sinners, the covenanted Friend of believers!" (Scott). - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.

WEB: David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph in the wood.

David's Wanderings in the Wilderness
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