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The Incredible Pact of David & Jonathan

Today we are jumping back into our study of the book of 1 Samuel. And it’s been awhile, so before we get into today’s passage, we probably need a quick review of what we talked about last.

We’re currently at chapter 18 of 1 Samuel, and the young lad David, has just defeated in quite a heroic fashion, the Philistine giant Goliath. But David should have never even been in this battle. King Saul was the Israelite champion – and if anyone should have stepped up to fight the Philistine giant, it should have been him! However, it seems fear had solid grip on Saul and all of his men, and none of them had the courage to face Goliath in battle.

As for David, he was only at the battlefield to deliver some goods to his brothers (who were in Saul’s army)  and to bring back the latest news to his father. But when David heard Goliath’s defiant boasts against the Lord and he saw how no one dared to stop him, David took action and asked to go fight the giant.

Even though David wasn’t even old enough to be in the army, he was still confident that God would help him defeat the Philistine champion. After all, God had helped him defeat both lions and bears in hand-to-hand combat on multiple occasions while he was protecting his father’s sheep.

And so after some time, after seeing David’s confidence, King Saul agreed to let David fight Goliath. And, well, you know the story.

Armed with just a sling and five stones, David killed Goliath and cut off his head with Goliath’s own sword – and the entire Philistine army fled from the Israelites who chased them all the way home.

It’s one of the most famous stories the entire Bible.

But we need to remember that the story of David & Goliath doesn’t just stand alone. It’s actually just a chapter of the bigger story of King David – and David is just a chapter in the bigger story of God’s interactions with His people. 

And that’s what we’re going to see in our passage today.

So 1 Samuel chapter 17 concludes with David returning from the battle to talk to King Saul. 

And I’ll just read these final verses of chapter 17 to give us the context for chapter 18.

55 As Saul watched David go out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the commander of his army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?”

“I really don’t know,” Abner declared.

56 “Well, find out who he is!” the king told him.

57 As soon as David returned from killing Goliath, Abner brought him to Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand. 58 “Tell me about your father, young man,” Saul said.

And David replied, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.”

1 Samuel 17:55-58

I find it a little weird that David is still holding on to Goliath’s head as he returns to talk with Saul, but with head-in-hand, Saul and David sit down to chat a little bit about David’s family. 

Although David had previously worked for Saul – playing the harp for him whenever Saul was troubled – it seems Saul had never taken the time to get to know much about David and his family. But that suddenly became very important to Saul because Saul had promised that anyone who fought Goliath – their family would never have to pay taxes again and on top of that, Saul would give that man one of his daughters to marry. So you can see why Saul would want to get to know a bit about David and his family – he’d have to stop charging them taxes and they would eventually become his in-laws. So Saul and David probably had a much longer conversation than is actually recorded in this passage.

But that brings us now to chapter 18 – which begins like this:

After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. 2 From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home. 3 And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. 4 Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt. 1 Samuel 18:1-4

Now this is a really interesting set of verses and we’re going to chew on these for a little while this morning.

First of all, let’s remember who Jonathan is. We were introduced to him back in chapter 14 in a story not unlike the story of David & Goliath. Now of course, there was no giant involved back then, but there are a number of similarities.

In both stories, the Israelites were facing off against the Philistines. Both armies were dug into their positions on opposing hilltops, separated by a large valley. And in both scenarios, Saul and his army were paralyzed with fear.

But like David, Jonathan had total trust in God and he knew, that with God on their side, no army could defeat them – no matter what their advantage. You’ll remember what Jonathan said to his armour-bearer…

“Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” 1 Samuel 14:6

Doesn’t that just sound a lot like David? Remember how David told King Saul how God had helped him kill those lions and bears while watching his father’s sheep… He said to Saul…

36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” 1 Samuel 17:37

Both of these men had absolute faith and trust in their God to come through for them. And both of them led the Israelites to a tremendous victory because of their faith. Jonathan and his armour-beard single-handedly wiped out the Philistine outpost – and David took out the Philistine giant. And in both cases, their actions turned the tide of the battle and the Israelites won the day.

So it’s not too surprising to me to read that when Jonathan and David met, there was an immediate bond between them. In the words of Ann of Green Gables – they were kindred spirits. They were men cut from the same cloth – they were like brothers.

But notice that it wasn’t their external similarities that drew them together. In fact, looking from the outside, they really had very little in common.

Jonathan was probably much older than David. Some scholars put Jonathan as much as 20 or even 30 years older than David – so that’s a pretty major age difference. Jonathan was a seasoned military commander while David was still too young to even enlist. Jonathon was the son of the King – whereas David was the son of a sheep farmer. On the outside, they were as different as different can be.

But those differences didn’t matter because they were drawn together by their shared faith and common trust in God.

Faith in God is an amazing unifier. I mean, just look at our church! We are some of the most different people on the planet! We may all have different passions and interests, we may come from different church backgrounds, we may take different stands around COVID restrictions and vaccines, we might even vote on different sides of the political spectrum – but that stuff never comes between us because we are united through our faith in Christ.

We recognize that ultimately that’s what matters. Our common denominator is our faith in Christ and his grace for us. Jesus Christ died for all of us and loves us each incredibly. And when we accept his love through faith in Christ, we become united together as His dearly loved children. Galatians 3:26 says…

26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatins 3:26-28

Our common faith unites us together and that bond is stronger than any differences we might have with each other. Certainly there are times when we may disagree with each on certain topics, but those issues are small potatoes – they are insignificant compared to the common ground we share with each other as children of God.

And that was certainly the case with David and Jonathan. Their love for God and their common faith in Him drew them together like brothers – overriding any differences that they might have had.

And by the way, there was one other major difference between them that I haven’t yet mentioned. And this really should have been the one to drive them apart.

You see Jonathan was the King’s son. His eldest son. And as such, he was next in line for the throne. It was his firstborn right and privilege to become the next King of Israel.

But you’ll recall that due to Saul’s repeated disobedience earlier, God had declared that He would take the kingdom away from Saul and his family and would give it to another – a man after God’s own heart. And David was that man.

Now to me, that sounds like that could be a pretty significant rift between these two young men. They are both clearly ambitious, natural leaders, who both have the skills and abilities to be a great king – so if both of them are planning to ascend the throne of Israel, that could really complicate their relationship.

But that’s why this next part is so amazing! Look at verse 3.

3 And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. 4 Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt. 1 Samuel 18:3-4

At first glance, we might read this to be the equivalent of your little girl exchanging friendship bracelets with their friends at school and pinky swearing to be BFFs – Best Friends Forever! But what’s going on here is something much more significant.

By Jonathan making this pact with David and giving him these personal items, Jonathan is recognizing and affirming that David will be the future King of Israel and he will not. Jonathan symbolically and somewhat literally stripped Himself of his rights and privileges as future King and handed them over to David. 

Jonathan even testifies to this a little later in 1 Samuel chapter 23 when King Saul is trying to kill David. Jonathan says to David…

17 “Don’t be afraid,” Jonathan reassured him. “My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.” 18 So the two of them renewed their solemn pact before the Lord. 1 Samuel 23:17-18a

What an incredible example of servant leadership! Jonathan recognized God’s authority in choosing David over him, and Jonathan gladly submitted to God’s will, whole-heartedly supporting David – even at great cost to himself!

This was both an act of faith in God and an act of love for David.

It was faith in God because Jonathan had to trust that God knew that He was doing in choosing David over Him. I imagine that could have been a hard pill to swallow. Jonathan had proven himself to be a capable leader and he was obviously a Godly man – why wouldn’t God want Him to be king? But yet, never do we see Jonathan questioning God’s choice or fighting against it. Certainly not like his father, Saul who would spend the rest of his life trying to kill David as we’ll see later on in this chapter.

Instead, Jonathan displays an absolute trust in God. He knew that God is good and that God is wise and that God will do what was best. And if that meant that David would be king and he would not, then so be it! Jonathan was ok with that because of his unwavering trust in God.

This was also an act of love towards David as we clearly see in verse 3.

3 And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. 1 Samuel 18:3

It’s interesting that earlier we read how Saul loved David. Way back even before Goliath, when David played the harp for Saul we read in chapter 16…

21 So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer. 1 Samuel 16:21

Interesting, right? However, it seems that Saul loved David only for what David could do for him. As long as David played the harp well or fought well in Saul’s battles, Saul loved David! But As soon as David became a potential threat, that love quickly turned to jealousy and hate – as we’re going to see next week.

But Jonathan’s love for David was a self-less love. It was the kind of love that puts the good of the other person first. This kind of love isn’t concerned about what I get outta the deal – but it’s a love that wants what’s best for you.

And of course, that’s the kind of love that God calls us to have for one another. It’s the second greatest commandment in all the Bible.

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

I think Jonathan’s pact with David was a prime example of how to do both of these. He displayed a tremendous love for the Lord by submitting to God’s decision of choosing David as King – and he displayed a tremendous love for David by putting David’s good before his own – and he would continue to do that for the rest of his life.

In fact, I think the only other person to do that better, was Jesus Christ Himself.

Jesus is the ultimate example in submitting to the will of God and putting the good of others before His own. 

He too, set aside his divine rights and privileges – and humbled Himself in obedience to God – even to the point of dying on a cross for our sake. Philippians 2 summarizes it well:

6 Though he was God,

    he did not think of equality with God

    as something to cling to.

7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

    he took the humble position of a slave

    and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

8 he humbled himself in obedience to God

    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus did not die on a cross for his own benefit. He died for you. He died so that your sin could be forgiven and you could experience real life. He died because he loves you and wants only good for you.

Sometime we think God loves us like Saul loved David. That God loves us for what we can do for him. Maybe he wants our service or our worship or tithes and offerings or whatever it is… But that’s just not the case.

God loves us like Jonathan loved David. He continually puts our good ahead of his own. The cross is a prime example. And even today, He patiently endures our rejection, our disobedience, our selfishness – waiting for us to come to our senses. He gives us grace and mercy, because He truly desires good for us.

So I guess my question for you this morning is this: Have you accepted God’s love? Do you believe that God actually wants you to know and experience good in your life? Have you reached the point in your life where you are truly willing to trust Him? And if so, have you completely submitted every area of your your life to Him? Like Jonathan, are you willing to step off the throne of your life and invite Christ to be King instead of you?

If you’ve never done that, I hope you’ll consider doing that even today. You need to know that there is a God in heaven who loves you more than you can imagine. He died for you and wants nothing more than for you to experience His goodness for all eternity!


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