I want to continue to look at some of
the ancient stories that we find in first and second Samuel, as it
concerns the beginning of the monarchy in Israel, and think about some
of the relevance of that for us. Those who were here last week will
remember that we covered the story of David and Goliath, and some of you
may recall that I used an updated translation for that -- "Dan's
embellished version", the DEV :)
As entertaining as it might be to use the DEV once again this morning, I
dare not, as I fear we may have some children present and parental
guidance may be needed for that version. So I'll stick with the New
Revised Standard Version. And also because I discovered last week that
some people doubt the accuracy of the DEV! As always, you may wish to
follow along in your pew Bibles, or your own Bible you brought with you.
I'm going to be skipping through a number of chapters towards the end of
1 Samuel and the beginning of 2 Samuel, to look at this incredible story
of the friendship between David and Jonathan, the son of King Saul.
We take up where we left off last week, after David has delivered the
head of Goliath to Saul. That tender, warm-hearted, wonderful moment so
thoughtfully illustrated in some children's Bibles that I mentioned last
week -- the Charles Manson version for children :) So, reading in
chapter 18, verses 1 through 5:
When David had finished
speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of
David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2Saul took him that
day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3Then
Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own
soul. 4Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing,
and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow
and his belt. 5David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent
him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people,
even the servants of Saul, approved.
However, things quickly go sour
between David and Saul after this, as he becomes more popular than the
King, and the King becomes suspicious of his intentions. And he begins
to make plans to have David killed in battle. Now, take note, because
this is a familiar tactic. Remember later on, David is going to use this
same tactic against Uriah, in order to gain Uriah's wife, Bathsheba as
his own. Only it doesn't work out for Saul, David is too clever. I think
David was watching and learning from Saul, and so he improves on it when
it comes his turn.
At any rate, it doesn't succeed, the plan backfires on Saul, David
becomes even a bigger hero when he slaughters a hundred Philistines. And
as proof that he has accomplished this task (because Saul promised him
his daughter as his wife if he would do so) David brings back a hundred
scalps. Only, the scalps are not taken from the Philistine heads, but
rather a certain skin retained by Gentiles but lost to Jewish boys on
the 8th day of their birth, if you know what I mean. You see why I'm not
using the DEV this morning :) One illustration you won't find in
children's Bibles :)
So, the plot thickens against David, as Saul is determined to kill him.
So, picking up in Chapter 19:
Saul spoke to his son Jonathan
and to all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan
took great delight in David. 2Jonathan told David, ‘My father Saul
is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard'.
And then Jonathan intercedes on
David's behalf, and wins his father over so that David is able to come
back into the royal household, and then there is another battle with the
Philistines, David once again is victorious, Saul once again goes into a
jealous rage, and he tries to kill David himself. David escapes, and he
seeks sanctuary with the prophet Samuel. And Saul sends troops to get
David at the prophet's home. Only those messengers from the King, when
they come into the presence of the prophet Samuel, they fall into a
prophetic frenzy and are unable to fill their task. So Saul sends other
group, they fall into a frenzy. Another group -- 3 times he does this,
and every time they fall into this frenzy as the Spirit of God comes
So Saul himself decides to go to get David. And guess what happens? He
falls into a frenzy -- the spirit of God overcomes him. And then we
read, in verse 24, of Chapter 19 (I'm summarizing a little bit here, but
it's all there):
He too stripped off his
clothes, and he too fell into a frenzy before Samuel. He lay naked
all that day and all that night.
He too?! They're ALL lying there
naked in this prophetic frenzy. There's another image you won't find in
your children's Bible :) I so want to use the DEV version in telling
this story :)
And then we have this saying,
"therefore it is said 'Is Saul among the prophets?'" And then beginning
in chapter 20:
David fled from Naioth in
Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, ‘What have I done? What is
my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying
to take my life?’ 2He said to him, ‘Perish the thought! You shall
not die. My father does nothing either great or small without
disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me?
Never!’ 3But David also swore, ‘Your father knows well that you like
me; and he thinks, “Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be
grieved.” But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live,
there is but a step between me and death.’ 4Then Jonathan said to
David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’
And so they hatch this plot to reveal
the true intent of Saul, and then in verse 17, Jonathan made David swear
again to his love for him, "for he loved him and he loved his own life".
We keep hearing this refrain over and over and over again.
Subsequently, Jonathan discovers that Saul does indeed intend to kill
David. Then through a clever sign of shooting arrows beyond the target,
that is Jonathan's clue to tell David he has to flee. They meet one more
time before David takes off, so at the end of chapter 20, we read:
David rose from beside the
stone heap* and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He
bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each
other; David wept the more.* 42Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in
peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying,
“The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants
and your descendants, for ever.”
Thereafter, they meet one more time,
in a very brief story found in Chapter 23, where Saul is trying to kill
David, Jonathan finds David first, and Jonathan then says to David: "Do
not be afraid, for the hand of my father Saul shall not find you, you
shall be King over Israel and I shall be second to you, my father Saul
also knows this".
So it's very clear that Jonathan is that legitimate heir to the throne,
but he's making it clear that he recognizes David as the heir to the
throne who will be King next. Then the two of them made a covenant
before the Lord (once again this covenant over & over again as part of
this theme that is continued). For the next several chapters we read
about various exploits of David as he alludes the King and he fights off
other enemies. And then 1 Samuel ends with Jonathan killed in battle by
the Philistines, and Saul -- surrounded -- commits suicide rather than
be taken prisoner. Second Samuel then opens with his news reaching
David, who then gives a beautiful dirge to Saul and Jonathan, with its
famous chorus "How the mighty have fallen". And then David says of both
Saul and Jonathan:
"Beloved and lovely, in life
and in death they were not divided, they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions". And then of Jonathan alone he says:
"I am distressed for you my brother Jonathan, greatly beloved were
you to me, your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of
What we do with this story? It's easy
to see why many in the gay community point to this story as a biblical
model for covenant, or marriage, between same-sex couples. I'm a little
skeptical that the Biblical authors ever intended such an
interpretation, though I can easily see why it can be used as such, but
I invite you to read that story for yourself and come to your own
conclusion on that point.
This morning, I simply want to use this story of these two exceptional
friends, to reflect on friendship and why it matters, and what it takes.
So, what are some of the other great stories of friendship that come to
your mind, that are familiar to us? You know, those kind of stories that
when you hear them mentioned, you say "Oh, yeah, that's a great story of
For example, Captain James T. Kirk, and. . . .Spock, right! If you watch
that movie, you instantly will remember that scene where Spock has just
saved the crew and the ship, he's taken the nuclear core and done
something with it, and now he's totally radiated, and Captain Kirk comes
rushing to his side (of course he can't get to him, but through the
modern wonder of plexi-glass that holds out radiation :), they can have
this wonderful scene side-by-side. He says "Why, Spock, why?". And Spock
says "The needs of the many outweigh those of the one". And then great
last words of Spock: "I have been, and always will be, your friend". And
it always hits me, oh, yes :)
Of course, as Billy Crystal once famously noted, there's dead, and then
there's mostly-dead :) Spock, as it turns out, is only mostly-dead , but
not completely dead, so we have another movie :)
It's just a great story. The animal world has given us some great
stories. A couple of months ago on the news, pictures and video, two
dogs -- one of them has been hit by a car. And the other one (with the
first dog lying in the street), standing guard. Did you see that
pictures? Laying down beside his friend.
Or just recently on Facebook, I saw one where the little tiny baby bird
all nestled up in the fur of the cat :) Cat is probably wondering "Hmm,
I wonder how long you have to wait to fatten these things up" :).
Just real quick, without telling us the story, are there other stories
that come to mind that we'll all recognize? Fox and the Hound, yeah.
Ruth and Naomi. Bambi and Thumper, yeah! Frodo and Sam -- yes, that's
another one, that's a great scene from Lord of the Rings, where Frodo
can't go on, and Sam carries him. Calvin and Hobbes! One of my favorites
-- imaginary friends count too, right?! Dennis the Menace and Mr.
Wilson, year. Timmy and Lassi, Tom & Jerry.
So, what do we learn from these
stories? What are the universal truths that come out of these stories?
Take friends where they are, as they are. Don't expect them to change,
do you? They are who they are. You can do more through friendship. A
friend is someone with whom you can be yourself. Yeah.
From the story of Jonathan and David, it's not surprising that David
would want to befriend Jonathan, because he's a shepherd boy, right?
Jonathan is the son of the King, he's got all of the wonderful things
that come with the royal palace. You can see the attraction David had.
But why, why the attraction the other way around? Why is Jonathan so
bound to David's soul?
The friendship of the son of the King, with the soon-to-be King, had to
be one of those legendary stories remembered over time precisely because
it was so unusual and so powerful. The love of two friends that
prevailed over family and social pressure, and which enabled David to
become King because without the help, love, and loyalty of Jonathan, he
would have been terminated by Saul.
So what stands out in this story for me is the loyalty of Jonathan to
David, contrary to social convention. And in a storyline that is all
about the hero, David (the big and strong and wonderful, powerful
warrior he is), Jonathan is the one who is the true unsung hero of the
story. The son of a King who puts his status on the line for this
shepherd boy. And this is the simple lesson I gain: that true friendship
is a treasure that surpasses all the social conventions of race, gender,
sexual orientation, status, and economic status, and family
relationships even. A true friend is one who puts all those other things
aside, and can love that other person as their own soul (as the story
Jesus put it this way: he said "This is my commandment: that you love
one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to
lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what
I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the
servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you
Or as Spock says: I have been, and always will be, your friend.