Ever have a friend, or a person you counted as a friend, let you down in such a way that grieved you terribly? A friend you confided in who broke your trust? It’s one of the most painful things you can experience. But when you have a truly loving, sacrificial friend, one who will give all for you, that friendship is a prized possession you want to grasp tightly and nurture. If you really want to have a life of peace, you’ll search for and make sure you have a friend that possesses those rare, cherished qualities.
In this post, we move to First Samuel 20, where we’ll find the Shalom type of peace used four times. In order to get the full affect of the word usage, we need to study the entire chapter. Packed in this single chapter, we’ll find both an angry, jealous king bent on killing the man he knows God has selected to replace him, and one of the most beautiful friendship stories that has ever played out in history and been recorded on paper.
The characters in this story are: David (the giant slayer), Jonathan (David’s best friend and the king’s son), and Saul (the king of Israel). At the end of chapter 19, we find David being protected from being taken captive by Saul’s messengers. In the beginning of Chapter 20, we find David running to Jonathan to find out what’s gotten into Saul.
David begs Jonathan to tell him why his father, Saul, is trying to kill him. The stunned Jonathan says surely it isn’t true, that David is mistaken. If it were true, Jonathan says, he would know about it because his father tells him everything. David tells Jonathan that he thinks the reason Saul hasn’t divulged his evil intent to him is because he knows David and Jonathan are the best of friends. (David is married to Saul’s daughter, so he’s also Jonathan’s brother-in-law.) He also knows Jonathan will side with David. After he listens to David, though, Jonathan considers it and wants to know David’s plan so he can help him escape and live if it’s true.
David divulges his plan, which involves Jonathan. David, who usually dines at the King’s table for the monthly New Moon feast, (since he’s technically part of the royal family, it would be natural for him to be there), decides he’s going to skip the meal and tells Jonathan to lie about the reason for his absence. David wants Jonathan to tell Saul that he has been called to Bethlehem by his (David’s) brother, to celebrate a family event. David says Saul’s response will surely divulge what’s in his heart. An answer of “Good!” means David is wrong. But if Saul explodes in anger, then Jonathan will know David’s hunch is correct.
Jonathan agrees to tell David how his father responds and devises a plan to meet David out in a field to fire arrows in the direction of a specified boulder David will be hiding behind. What Jonathan says to his servant he takes with him about collecting the shot arrows will alert David to the answer regarding Saul.
Well, Saul does explode in anger about David’s absence, Jonathan confronts Saul about his father’s motive for wanting David dead, and Saul insults Jonathan and then chucks a spear at him, his own son, for defending David. The additional backstory here is that Saul is kind of loony, and he is exceedingly jealous of David and the fact that David, not Jonathan, is destined by God to inherit the throne.
David and Jonathan do meet in the field, recommit their covenant of friendship to one another, pledge to care for each other’s family should either of them die, and weep profusely as they say their goodbyes.
They will never see each other again.
Four times the word Shalom (peace) is used in this chapter, in verses 7, 13, 21, and 42.
In verse 7, David tells Jonathan gives Jonathan direction about what responses Saul might give to his absence: “If [Saul] says thus: ‘It is well,’ your servant will have Shalom (peace). But if he is angry, be sure that evil is determined by him.”
In verse 13, in his response to David, Jonathan says: “But if it pleases my father to do you evil, then I will report it to you and send you away, that you may go in Shalom (safety).”
In verse 21, when Jonathan is giving David instructions on what Jonathan will do and say—the signs he will give David—while out in the field shooting arrows, he tells David: “and there I will send a lad, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I expressly say to the lad, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them and come’—then, as the LORD lives, there is Shalom (safety) for you and no harm.”
In verses 41 and 42, we come to one of the most poignant, beautiful and heartbreaking scenes in Scripture.
As soon as the lad (Jonathan’s servant) had gone, David arose from a place toward
the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. (Here David demonstrates his humble attitude toward his friend Jonathan, the prince of Israel.)
And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. Then
Jonathan said to David, “Go in Shalom (peace), since we have both sworn in the
name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between
your descendants and my descendants, forever.’” So he arose and departed, and
Jonathan went into the city.
What is foremost in Jonathan’s mind is that his best friend David be kept safe from harm, regardless of the cost to his own life and future. Jonathan’s thoughts are for David as he calms his distraught friend and tells him to go in peace.
Jonathan is also a man of honor ho loves deeply and intends to keep him promises, regardless of the cost to him, and even if it means taking a stand against his own father.
Jonathan’s stand and position are righteous ones. He is a man of honor and integrity. And so is David, because he remembers that last meeting with Jonathan, and the promises they made about caring for each other’s families and welcomes Jonathan’s crippled son into his palace after Jonathan and Saul die in battle, and David becomes king, even though David had every right to have him killed. David welcomes the boy into his family and sits him at the table as though he was a member of his royal family.
Wouldn’t you love to have a friend like that? The more self-possessed people become, those types of reliable, honorable, truly loving friends are harder and harder to find.
First, I think we can look at Jonathan as an incredibly righteous, loving and sincere man and loyal friend who is most concerned with David’s well-being and peace. I’m sure David knew that and that is why he went to Jonathan for help, even though doing so would put Jonathan in a compromising, potentially dangerous position with his father, Saul.
How many of us have friends like that? Friends we can trust with our very lives, who will go the extra mile for us and lay their social or political standing, and perhaps their very lives on the line for us?
Second, this story shows us that sometimes we have to give our dearest friends, associations, and positions in order to enjoy a life of peace. We need to walk away from those people and things we really love.
Questions to Ponder
1. Take a moment to think about your true friends. The ones you could label as “Jonathan” friends. Write down their names. Thank God for them. Pray that they will always seek your peace, and you theirs.
If you don’t have any “Jonathan” friends, pray that God will bring one of them into your life. Pray that you will be such a friend to someone.
2. Would you be willing to relinquish your position of friend, brother, or son to a friend in order that they might enjoy peace, or so you might enjoy it? Would you be willing to give up a job position to have peace? A position of authority or respect?
I think doing any of things might be difficult for us. What Jonathan and David had as friends, and what they did for one another, is indeed, rare. Pray that you might be such a person of love and integrity.
Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!
In Christ’s love and peace,