June 10, 2023
“'By the Lord, the God of Israel, I will sound out my father by this time tomorrow or the next day. If I find out that he is favorable toward you, will I not send for you and tell you?'”
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“‘By the Lord, the God of Israel, I will sound out my father by this time tomorrow or the next day. If I find out that he is favorable toward you, will I not send for you and tell you? If my father intends to bring evil on you, may the Lord punish Jonathan and do so severely if I do not tell you and send you away so you may leave safely. May the Lord be with you, just as he was with my father. If I continue to live, show me kindness from the Lord, but if I die, don’t ever withdraw your kindness from my household—not even when the Lord cuts off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.’ Then Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord hold David’s enemies accountable.’ Jonathan once again swore to David in his love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.” 1 Samuel 20:12-17 (CSB)
Regarding the narrative, Verses 12-17 do not have to be in the text. In fact, we can go immediately from the end of verse 11 to the beginning of verse 18 with no loss in the flow of the story. But this entire chapter is about a covenant relationship, and the extent of these two men’s love for each other is paramount to our understanding of God’s covenant with us through Jesus. “Love” is the difference between a contract and a covenant. Love is not just committed to the DETAILS; it is committed to the PERSON!
Jonathan is formally committing himself always to act as he did in 19:2-3. People typically do not do what Jonathan does! You don’t hand over your place to your rival and promise to protect him, especially when your place is the crown prince. It’s not natural. If Jonathan were “normal,” he would dispose of David. In fact, what angers Saul is that Jonathan’s commitment to David defies all political sense. Jonathan really did “seek first” another kingdom, which didn‘t align with common sense.
Even more unusual was the commitment Jonathan urges on David in verses 14-16. The time will come when Jonathan (not David) will be in the fugitive role, the needy one. In fact, this actually happened, and David honored his covenant with Jonathan.
What does Jonathan teach us? This: True life does not consist in securing “your kingdom” but in reflecting the Lord’s faithfulness in covenant relationships. There is something liberating about that! Jonathan had acknowledged that the kingdom was the Lord’s and, therefore, David’s if the Lord so chose. This meant Jonathan understood his life did not need to be centered on his ambition (what can I get); rather, he rested in God’s wise plan (what the Lord chooses to give.)
As believers, our reigning passion should not be to make “my way,” “my living,” “my mark,” or to gain “my place” in order to get ahead. That thought may constitute the deadly blow to our prideful wills, but it is certainly liberating. Life does not consist in achieving our goals but in fulfilling our covenant responsibilities to Him, who has the power to bless or curse. We should wake up every morning with this renewed surrendered vow: THY will, THY way, and THY glory be exalted through me. Then He will disclose WHERE He wants to send you, HOW He wants to sustain, equip and protect and the EXTENT to which He will establish your influence among men.
©Steve Wiggins 2021