Today February 14th is the day devoted to love. I’m thinking of one of the greatest examples of true love ever recorded. I mean the story of David and Jonathan. These two men came from widely different circumstances. Jonathan, a young Prince, son of Saul the first king of Israel, heir to the throne; and David the youngest son of Jesse a shepherd boy. These two men became fast friends and were intensely loyal to each other through some very difficult days. David became the subject of the king’s hatred when Saul realized that David had been chosen to succeed him instead of his son Jonathan. He was determined to destroy David so that his son Jonathan would succeed him. Jonathan on the other hand, exhibited a brotherly love and loyalty to his friend that is truly remarkable. His father berated him for his fidelity to David even when he knew David would become king.
The unselfishness of Jonathan is evident in his willingness to give up his throne for another. In giving it up he recognized he was erasing his family’s name from the line of Israel’s kings. He was also endangering his own life and hid descendants, as it is usually the case that those who ascended to the throne often killed anyone who had rival claims. This was the case with David whom Saul recognized as a rival.
At a deeper level Jonathan recognized God anointed David as the king to replace him and he was satisfied to accept second place and to serve David loyally as the new king. In this Jonathan’s love is a type of God’s love for us. Jesus was willing to step down from the throne of the universe and become a servant so that he could elevate us to be joint heirs with him.
In due time Jonathan was killed in battle and David ascended the throne of Judah and Israel. Some would say Jonathan lost the chance of a lifetime and that David was the greater beneficiary of their friendship. They would say Jonathan died in obscurity while David’s name lives on as the greatest king of Israel. David’s fame and his achievements have been the subject of great works of art and literature while Jonathan is seldom ever mentioned or remembered. But a careful study of the narrative will show that in his life Jonathon demonstrated and experienced a selflessness, a humility, a maturity of character and devotion to God and to his friend that is unmatched by any other.
Today, I would like to celebrate the love of Jonathan. Although the son of a dark, desperate wholly unsuitable King he rose above the limitations of his inheritance and choose the path of love, loyalty, and humility. In his relationship with David, he demonstrated the truth of Jesus’ statement “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). While history recognizes David as a type of Christ as warrior-king, Jonathan is the type of Christ in his self-sacrificing love. In the end, without Jonathan there would be no David.
If you had the choice who would you rather be? David or Jonathon? Why?
Conroy Reynolds is author of the book, God in the Night: How to get through when you can’t get over