I was asked to preach on “Love One Another” from the Old Testament and at once I thought of the David-Jonathan friendship in 1 Samuel. Apart from 1 Samuel 20, I also looked at 1 Samuel 18:1–5 and 1 Samuel 19:1–7. I have preached on David and Jonathan before. This time, a new insight struck me. In these passages, David received more than he gave in his friendship with Jonathan. Here is Mary J. Evans commenting on 1 Samuel 18:1–5:
Jonathan is consistently presented as a great man, the equal of David in faith and in courage and perhaps his superior in generosity. The question remains why Jonathan was not the one chosen to be king. It may or may not be significant that all the giving and loving in the relationship is depicted as coming from Jonathan’s side. It was Jonathan who initiated the covenant, or committed friendship, between them. This may be simply because at this stage he was the higher in status of the two, but there may also be a hint here that in personal relationships of all kinds David is better at receiving than he is at giving. (Mary J. Evans, The Message of Samuel [Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004], 112.)
Better at receiving than giving — I was convicted that that was true of me. As I reflected on the friendship between David and Jonathan, I thought of all the friends whom the Lord had brought into my life. I have always believed that there is a certain amount of mystery in friendship — why people make a decision to befriend someone and bless that someone. We are not told why Jonathan decided to bond himself to David in covenant friendship and to generously bless him. Maybe he found in David a kindred soul — both young and brave — but we are never told why he chose to befriend David.
I do know that at many key points in my life the Lord has brought people into my life who have befriended me and sacrificially cared for me. I have been a recipient of much grace and have nowhere blessed my friends to the degree they have blessed me. It may be there were times when I was very needy and these friends extended grace to me and expected nothing in return. In doing so they exhibited the spirit of a Christ who defined friendship in this way:
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13 NIV)
So thank you God for blessing me through my friends. And thank you my friends for allowing yourselves to be channels of God’s grace to me. You know who you are. I pray the Lord will make good my debt of love to you.
As I prepared the sermon I was convicted to be a better friend to my friends. I need to be more like Jonathan. I need to go beyond wishing a blessed birthday via Facebook in response to a Facebook reminder. I need to ask the friendship question that Jonathan asks in 1 Samuel 20:4,
Tell me what I can do to help. (NLT)
Indeed there were times when I had little to give. I was the wounded man lying in the ditch and all I could do was to gratefully accept grace rendered by the Good Samaritans that the Lord sent my way. But I am no longer in the ditch and can and should do more for my friends.
It is dangerous to prepare sermons.