David and Jonathan
February 12th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
1 Samuel 18-20
DAVID AND JONATHAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 18-20
2-12-61 7:30 p.m.
In these evening services we are following through in the life incomparable of David, God’s king, the man after the Lord’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. And in that story of David, we have come to the moment, beautiful and precious, when he formed a friendship that was as strong as death with the eldest son of Saul, whose name was Jonathan. I have often thought how wonderful it would be if a home was blessed with two boys and they named them David and Jonathan. I could not think of two names that would be more beautifully appropriate than to call two sons in the same family David and Jonathan.
And by the way, while I am talking about naming children, I wish somebody who had twins, and one was a boy and one was a girl—I wish they would name the girl Dorothy and name the boy Theodore. You see, those two words are compounded out of the same two Greek words. The Greek word for gift is dōron, dōras, dōrō, and the Greek word for God is theos. So when you put it Dōrō-thea, Dorothea, that would be for the girl. Then turn the two around and put Theo-dora, Theodore, and that would be for the boy. And both words mean “gift of God”: Dorothy and Theodore. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing, that is, if somebody who had twins felt that they were gifts of God.
At these evangelistic conferences, these preachers sometimes tell the most unusual things. In the conference at Nashville, Tennessee, one of the preachers said his little boy came to him and said, “Daddy, I want a little brother.” And so the father said to the little boy, “Well, you just pray to God and see if God doesn’t give you a little brother.” So after a while, he took the little boy to the hospital, and there, beyond the plate glass, there were two of them, two little brothers. And the daddy said to the son, he said, “Now son, aren’t you glad you prayed? Look what God has done in answering your prayers: two little brothers in there.” And the little boy looked at his daddy and said, “But, Daddy, aren’t you glad I stopped praying when I did?”
The naming of children to us sometimes is without meaning. But always in the Bible, these names have glorious, glorious significance. David, for example, and isn’t it strange, he’s the only one in the Bible named David? I don’t understand that, and yet the name in Hebrew is so beautiful. David in Hebrew means “beloved, loved one, beloved.” David, the loved one of God. Now I’m going to read the first four verses of chapter 18 of 1 Samuel, but I want you to turn to 2 Samuel chapter 1. In your Bible, and share it with your neighbor, and we shall read this passage in 2 Samuel chapter 1. Second Samuel chapter 1, now I want you to read from verse 19 to the end of the chapter. Now, I shall read the passage in 1 Samuel 18:
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
And Saul took him that day, and would not let him go no more home to his father’s house.
Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
[1 Samuel 18:1-4]
And that was the beginning of the friendship between David and Jonathan.
In the seventeenth chapter of the [First] Book of Samuel you have the story of the triumph of David over Goliath. Last Sunday we spoke of that, that giant from Gath, that Philistine who cursed God: nine feet, six inches tall [1 Samuel 17:4]. And David was a youth from the sheep herds and from the flocks, and he triumphed over the mailed and armored giant, whose staff, whose spear, was like a weaver’s beam [1 Samuel 17:7]. He triumphed over him with a sling, and with a stone, and with great faith in God [1 Samuel 17:49-51].
And then the story after the triumph: the lad was presented to Saul the king, and it came to pass that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul [1 Samuel 18:1]. Now when Jonathan was slain, David composed an elegy over the slaughter of Jonathan and Saul his father [1 Samuel 31:1-6], which is one of the most magnificent pieces of poetry in the world, in all literature, and we’re going to read together that beautiful elegy.
Second Samuel, first chapter, “And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son” [2 Samuel 1:17], and this is the elegy, the lamentation. Now, let’s everybody read, as Brother Carter leads us: verse 19 through the end of the chapter of 2 Samuel 1:
The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights: who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
[2 Samuel 1:19-27]
There have been in the story of mankind, in the history of our world, there have been some famous friendships; such as Achilles and Patroclus, such as Damon and Pythias, such as Socrates and Plato, such as Elisha and Elijah, such as Paul and Timothy, such as Stanley and Livingstone, such as Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson. But in all of the annals of poetry and the story of time, there has never been a friendship of the depth and beauty and character as the friendship between David and Jonathan.
And just for the moment I want to follow through the story of the two. It began, as I spoke a moment ago, when the young man, fresh from the fields and the pastures and the flocks, having slain Goliath, was presented to the king at the court [1 Samuel 17:55-58]. And Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul, and Jonathan took off his own robe, and took his own sword, and took his own garments, and he bestowed them upon this stripling of a youth whom he loved as he loved his own life [1 Samuel 18:1-4].
Then in the nineteenth chapter of the [First] Book of Samuel, you have the beginning of the story of the terrible and bitter persecution of David by Saul. When David came back from the wars and the battles against Philistia, he was so favored of heaven and so blessed of God and success that the women of Israel sang a song. And they sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, but David hath slain his tens of thousands” [1 Samuel 18:7]. And from that moment on, Saul eyed David and was jealous of him [1 Samuel 18:9].
So, upon a time, David spoke to Jonathan of the bitter hatred of Saul for David. And Jonathan said, “Oh, oh, it couldn’t be, it mustn’t be.” And Jonathan said, “I will speak to my father.” So Jonathan spoke to Saul his father, and in wonderful words of encouragement and honor and reverence for David and what David had done, he took [David] back, as he was before, with him in his love and reverence for David [1 Samuel 19:4-6].
And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past [1 Samuel 19:7]. And then as the days go on and the years multiply, that evil spirit comes back again upon Saul [1 Samuel 19:9]. And in the twentieth chapter of the Book of 1 Samuel, you have that following story of the terrible and oppressive hand of Saul against David. So, David meets Jonathan, and he says to him, “Thy father certainly intends to slay me. I tell you truly, as the Lord liveth, there is but a step between me and death” [1 Samuel 20:3]. And Jonathan says, “Oh, David, not so. It could not be.” But David says, “Jonathan, Saul hides it from your eyes because he knows of your love for me” [1 Samuel 20:3].
So they make a ruse, and it is this: “At the Feast of the New Moon, which is the morrow,” David says, “I will go to my family in Bethlehem, and I will stay three days. And you tell Saul your father, that they are having a feast at my father’s house in Bethlehem, and I cannot come to the New Moon Feast in the king’s house. And it shall be, if he understands and says that is fine, why, then I will know that he does not intend to slay me. But if he is full of wrath, then I know that he intends to kill me. And the sign will be, Jonathan, if your father intends to kill me, shoot an arrow. And if it goes beyond the boy, say, ‘The arrow is beyond you.’ Then I will know that he intends to slay me. But when [you] shoot the arrow, if it is this side of the boy, and you say, ‘It is this side of you,’ then I’ll know that your father intends to let me live” [1 Samuel 20:5-21].
So they go through that. And on the second day, when David doesn’t appear in Saul’s house at the king’s table, why, Saul says to Jonathan, “Where is that son of Jesse? This is the second day and he has not appeared in his seat. It is empty!” [1 Samuel 20:27].
And Jonathan says, “My father, oh, lord the king: they are having a feast, the consecration at his father’s house in Bethlehem, and he is gone” [1 Samuel 20:28-29]. And Saul was full of wrath, and he says, “As my soul liveth, I shall slay that son of Jesse!” And when Jonathan sought to placate the wrath of his father, then Saul’s anger was killed against Jonathan, and he said, “Thou son of a perverted and rebellious woman, do I not know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom!” [1 Samuel 20:30-31].
And Jonathan was filled with wrath, and Saul cast a javelin at Jonathan to smite him and to slay him, and Jonathan fled away [1 Samuel 20:32-34], and he came to the wood, according to their prearrangement, and he shot the arrow way beyond the boy. And when the boy sought to find it, Jonathan said, “The arrow is beyond you,” and he gave his artillery into the hands of the boy and sent him into the city [1 Samuel 20:35-40]. And David came out of the woods, and they kissed one another and wept one with another and bid each other goodbye, and David fled away [1 Samuel 20:41-42].
Now, the last time that Jonathan saw him—one other time:
And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened him, his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not:
for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I—
This is the most astonishing thing, for Jonathan is the eldest son of the king and the heir apparent to the throne. But Jonathan says to David:
Thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee;
and they two made a covenant before the Lord:
and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.
[1 Samuel 23:16-18]
Then you have the battle of Gilboa, and you have the slaughter of the armies of God, and you have the death of Jonathan [1 Samuel 31:1-2]. You would have thought that that meant a day of rejoicing for David over his enemy. Saul is a suicide and he lies in his own blood [1 Samuel 31:3-4]. And the sons of Saul are all slain, and now David has the kingdom and the throne! You’d think he’d rejoice. Oh, no, no!
And David lamented this lamentation . . .
The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places:
how are the mighty fallen!
[2 Samuel 1:17-19]
O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.
I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan. Thou wast good to me, pleasant unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
[2 Samuel 1:25-27]
You just couldn’t follow the story and not be moved by the unusual devotion of these two men.
Now of the two, I do not think there’s any doubt but that it is Jonathan who appears in the more wonderful and the more beautiful and the more glorious light. Of all of the characters that pass across the stage of scriptural story, outside of our Lord, there is none fairer, and there is none nobler, and there is none more without spot or blemish than Jonathan. There’s not a thing said about him, not a thing told, that colors or destroys the perfect beauty and glory of his soul, pure and white. Let us look for just a moment at the nobility of his character.
Jonathan is first presented to us in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of 1 Samuel, when Israel is overrun by Philistia. And in the garrison at Michmash, Jonathan says to his armor-bearer, “Let us go, and let us take it, just you and I.” Look at the athletic prowess of Jonathan, for the garrison is way up on a high hill and a high mountain and on a high rock, impregnable and invincible and unapproachable, and yet Jonathan picks that out to destroy it himself. Now I want you to look how the people love him. And when he said to that armor-bearer, “Let us go,” the armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee: behold, I am with thee according to thy heart” [1 Samuel 14:6-7].
Isn’t that a wonderful devotion? ”I’m with you. If it’s to live, I’m to live with you; if it’s to die, then to die with you. As thine heart is, so is mine.” Then you have the story, and we haven’t time to follow it, where Jonathan, by himself with his armor-bearer, overcomes that garrison at Michmash! And that day, there’s a tremendous victory for all of God’s armies, led by Jonathan [1 Samuel 14:8-23]. And then Saul makes that unusual and strange thing, “Cursed be any man that eats this day before the evening” [1 Samuel 14:24], and Jonathan never heard of such a thing as that [1 Samuel 14:27]. And going through the woods, he found honey in the woods, wild honey, and he took the end of his staff and ate of it, and he was refreshed [1 Samuel 14:27]. And it was told Saul, and Saul said, “As God lives, Jonathan shall die this day for what he has done!” [1 Samuel 14:39-44].
Now, look at the love and affection of the people for Jonathan. And the people said unto Saul, “Saul, you may be a king and you have the power of life and death,” but:
Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground—king or no king, Saul or no Saul—for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.
[1 Samuel 14:45]
It just shows you how the people loved that eldest son, Jonathan. Then I want you to look at his unselfishness. True love is never grasping. What can you do for me? What can you do for me? And what else can you do for me?
I tell you, if you’re married to a woman, and when you give her one gift she wants another, and the next gift another, you’re married to a goldbrick. You know that, she’s just looking at you for what she can get out of you. That is the sorriest, no accountest, cheapest, shoddiest way to live that I know of: what you can get out of somebody, what you can screw out of them, what you can beg and coax out of them, what they can do for you. And there’s no part of love in it. True love is always like this: is there something I can do for you? Shine your shoes, run an errand, do any menial task. That’s love. My heart, my life, my soul, my fame, my fortune, my everything, it’s yours, it’s yours.
“And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, gave it all to David [1 Samuel 18:4] because he loved him as he loved his own soul” [1 Samuel 18:1, 3]. You know, that’s the spirit of our Lord: even as “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:28]. And if any of you men here tonight who are in full-time Christian service, if you look upon your church as something out of which you can get all you can, the favor of God will never be upon you. But if you look upon your church as somebody for whom you can minister and pour out your life, God will bless you. People will love you. You can’t hide true affection and true devotion and true love. Not, “What you can do for me?” but “Is there something I can do for you?”
Jonathan took his robe and put it on David, and his sword, and his garments, and his bow, for he loved him as he loved his own soul. And one other thing in the unselfishness of Jonathan, when Saul said to him, “As long as that son of Jesse lives, you will never be established in the kingdom” [1 Samuel 20:31], and Jonathan replied, “God said the kingdom is David’s [1 Samuel 16:1, 12-13], and if I can just stand close to him, if I can just be by his side to see him king, and see him reign over the land, if I can just stand and look into his face and see God’s favor upon him, it will be enough for me.”
Remember somebody else, when they came to John, the great Baptist preacher, and said, “This One whom you have baptized, behold, all people come unto Him, the great crowds now thronging Him” [John 3:26]. John the Baptist said, “The bridegroom rejoices just to stand by the side of the groom. I, the friend of the [bridegroom], the friend of the Bridegroom, rejoices just to stand by His side, and this my joy is fulfilled for He must increase, but I must decrease” [John 3:29-30]. That’s a true commitment and a marvelous devotion: to see the Lord exalted, and himself passing off God’s scene and out of God’s story.
You know, talking again about us who are preachers, I was never more moved in my life than reading after F. B. Meyer. F. B. Meyer was a wonderful Baptist preacher in London, and a gifted man and a great writer. I have many of his books, and he’s never written a book that didn’t bless my heart. Well, in his day, when F. B. Meyer was in the height of his glory, after a long ministry in London, there came to London a young fellow nineteen years old, and his name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And he just dropped out of the blue of the sky. That young fellow, nineteen years old, came to London and overnight, I mean overnight, he became a world-famous preacher! Nobody, no star in the sky, ever did burst across the horizon like Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Not in the history of time and tide did ever a man appear like Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Just like that, at nineteen years of age, he became a world-famous preacher. I have in my library a book, the first book of his sermons that were edited and presented in America, and the introduction says, “There has appeared a star in London, England, that shines beyond any brilliance we’ve ever seen in God’s sky!” And he says in that first introduction of his first book—he says, “We don’t know whether it will be like a comet and it will soon burn out or whether it will continue to shine like a sun, but all we know is the star has appeared,” when Charles Spurgeon first began to preach in London. All right, now, to go back to F. B. Meyer. This is what I read from F. B. Meyer. F. B. Meyer said that when the young fellow came and the crowds began to throng and the crowds began to jam into buildings and they couldn’t get a building big enough to hear him preach, he said, “My heart was filled with that old green-eyed monster, jealousy and envy. Here I am preaching in London, my pulpit and my throne, and I’ve been here these years and years,” F. B. Meyer. “And the throngs are going to hear Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that young man, and I was filled with envy and jealousy.” And F. B. Meyer said, “I got down on my knees, and I said, O Lord God, I can’t be this way. Take it out of my heart. Take it out of my soul. And O God, bless that young fellow, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that young fellow who’s just come to our city, and may he have bigger crowds and may God bless him with greater power and may God give him greater fame and greater influence.” And F. B. Meyer said, as I read it, F. B. Meyer says it wasn’t long until every triumph of that young man I began to receive as though I had done it myself. And I rejoiced in the throngs, and I rejoiced in his fame, and I rejoiced in his power, and I rejoiced in God’s favor upon him.
That is true and godly love, as Jonathan rejoiced to think that the king will be not Jonathan but David, but David [1 Samuel 23:17]. An unselfish love—not I, but you; not for me, but for you; not what I want, but what you want; not what pleases me, but what pleases you. “And his soul was knit with David, and he loved him as he loved his own soul” [1 Samuel 18:1].
Now, this last word. I want you to look at this, this noble young fellow, Jonathan, as he comes and the last time that he sees David, out in the wood. David is an outlaw, and he’s a refugee, and he’s fleeing for his life from the heavy mailed, bloody, murderous hand of Saul. And Jonathan, [Saul’s] son, arose and went to David, into the wood where David was hiding. Now look at the faith of Jonathan: Jonathan says to David, “Thou shalt be king over Israel. Thou shalt be king over Israel” [1 Samuel 23:16-17].
Why, it looked as though it were a thousand million hundred miles away. He’s an outlaw and he’s hunted like a criminal, like an animal, and he lives in caves, and he hides from one place to another. But, God said David should be king over Israel [1 Samuel 16:1, 12-13], and Jonathan believed God’s word. And look at him. Now you look at this, these marvelous verses: “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, went to David, and Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God” [1 Samuel 23:16]. Ah, what a wonderful thing! “And Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God.” What a friend! What a friend! And he strengthened him in the Lord, and in the commitment of the Lord, and in the work of the Lord, and in the devotion and duty unto God: “And Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God.” Ah, what a friend to help you to God. What a friend to lead you to Jesus. What a friend to encourage you in the devotion and commitment of your life to Christ. What a friend. What a friend.
I was born, as you know, and lived my early life in Oklahoma, and then I began my first ministry in Oklahoma. And this is a true story. Oklahoma, as you know, was Indian Territory, and our denomination, our Baptist people, sent missionaries to Oklahoma. And two of these missionaries were laboring in the western part of the state, and they were living in tents, and they were sleeping out on the prairies. And in the hot summertime, the sun blistered them. And in the cold wintertime, the snows covered them. And it was hard and it was difficult, away from family and away from home. It was hard. And those two men, those missionaries—one of them, said to the other, “I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough. I’m going to quit. I’m going back to my home and back to my family. I can’t take it. I can’t stand it. It’s too hard. It’s too difficult. I cannot bear this burden any longer. And I’m going to leave, and I’m going back. I’m quitting.” Well that night they slept out on the prairie. And the next day this weary, burdened, broken missionary got everything packed up on his pony and was getting ready to go back East and to quit. And the missionary friend, who was being left behind, alone and for God, said to him, he said, “Jim, if you don’t mind, before you go, would you sit down here by my side?” And so he sat down by his side, and this missionary who was staying could play a stringed instrument, could play a stringed instrument, and he said to his friend, he said, “Jim, before you go, would you sing just one song, just sing one song with me?” And Jim said, “Why, sure, I’ll sing one song with you before [I] go.” All right. So he played his stringed instrument, and this is the song that they sang:
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
Upon the crystal pavement
Down at Jesus’ blessed feet,
Joyful I’ll cast my glorious crown
And His dear name repeat.
O precious cross,
O glorious crown,
O resurrection day,
The angels from the stars come down
And bear my soul away.
[ “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?”; Thomas Sheppard]
I love that song. And while they were singing it, Jim began to cry. And when they came to the end of the last stanza, he turned and put his head in the hand of his friend and said, “I can’t. I can’t go. I’m staying. I’m staying!” And he unpacked his pony. And they labored, and they worked, and they gave themselves to God, and all over Oklahoma—and I was in one of those little churches—all over Oklahoma, they founded those little Baptist churches. That’s where I went to Sunday school, that’s where I first heard the gospel preached.
Isn’t it a wonderful thing when a man strengthens you in the work of God? “And Jonathan came to David in the wood, and strengthened his hand in God!” [1 Samuel 23:16]. Ah, that’s a friend worth the world, and the sky above it and all heaven thrown in beside, encouraging you in the work of the Lord, strengthening you in the commitment to Christ.
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
And God calls to you tonight. Somebody, give his heart to Jesus. Somebody, put his life in the hands of God; somebody, coming into the fellowship of the church, and all of us here tonight, who pray and who preach and who sing and who make appeal, we bid you Godspeed, as you devote your life to God and to God’s work in the earth.
In this balcony round, there’s a stairway at the back there’s a stairway at the front on either side, in the throng of this press of people on this lower floor, there’s an aisle from every direction that leads down here to the front. While we sing this song, would you give your hand to the pastor: “Pastor, tonight I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” Would you do it? Would you do it? Or, “Pastor, I feel in my soul God’s call to me, and I want to devote my highest, noblest best to Jesus, and here I am and here I come.” Or, is there a family to put your life with us in the church: “Pastor, my wife, my children, all of us coming.” As God shall say the word, open the door, lead the way, whisper in your heart, would you make it tonight? “Here I come, pastor, and here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.
DAVID AND JONATHAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 18-20
2-12-61 7:30 p.m.
I. Famous Friendships
1. Damon and Pythias
2. Socrates and Plato
3. Paul and Timothy
4. Naomi and Ruth
II. David and Jonathan
1. 1 Samuel 18:1-4; friendship formed
2. Loyal unto death
3. David’s lament
1. Nobility of character
3. Godliness and holiness of his influence
4. Brought out the kindness and goodness in David