1 Samuel 20


Sermon preached on June 21, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.


When I was growing up I was naive in a lot of ways. I thought that all of my classmates as my friends. And in one sense they were. The word 'friend' can have a wide range of meaning. It can refer to mere acquaintances. But back then I didn't know that we weren't all friends. I hadn't yet experienced indifference, desertion and betrayal and just assumed that your acquaintances wouldn't do that to you. But as I grew older I began to see that some of my acquaintances really disliked others and would try to exclude them or put them down.

Back then I also didn't know the meaning of the phrase, 'fair weather friends'. I was naive. That's the way that many champion boxers are. They have great entourages who accompany them, go to press conferences and parties with them and spend their money. They all seem to be close to the champion. They all seem to be his friends. As Proverbs 19:6 says,

"everyone is the friend
of a man who gives gifts."

And Proverbs 19:4 says,

"Wealth brings many friends,
but a poor man's friend deserts him."

Wealth brings many friends. But they're not true friends. When the fame, glory and the money are gone—so are many of the so-called friends.

But I was naive in other ways too. I thought that I was a friend to everyone. But I wasn't. I remember a girl from the early grades. She was challenged in some ways, and although I don't think that I made fun of her like some of the other boys—I wasn't much better because I basically ignored her. I wasn't a friend to her. I feel badly about it now and wish I had been a friend to her. But it's too late.

In our text we have a great example of true friendship—one that we should all strive to exhibit and display in our lives. Jonathan was a true friend to David. One of the lessons from our text is that

you should be a good friend.

David was in need. Saul was trying to kill him. David goes to his friend Jonathan looking for help. Jonathan did not disappoint him.

That is what friends are for. We are to help them—especially when they are in need. Proverbs 27:10 tells us,

"Do not forsake your friend
and the friend of your father,"

You are to be loyal and faithful to your friends. Proverbs 17:17 says,

"A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity."

That is the kind of friend that Jonathan was to David. When David came to him Jonathan didn't say,

"What are you doing here? You're going to get me in trouble."

No. He welcomed him like a brother. The key to understanding this chapter and Jonathan's friendship to David is found in verse 17. It says,

"And Jonathan had David
reaffirm his oath out of love for him,
because he loved him as he loved himself."

Thus we see that

love is the hallmark of true friendship.

Jonathan loved David. He loved him as he loved himself.

There are many words that are used in the Bible that are translated 'friend'. But some of them don't depict the friendship that we see here between Jonathan and David. Even though they're translated by our English word, 'friend', they don't convey what we refer to as true friendship.

For example, there's one Greek word (hetairos) that was used in Jesus' day as a form of address, often to someone whose name you didn't know. In the story of the workers in the marketplace, when one of the workers who had worked all day came for his pay, the worker thought he would be getting more than those who had worked fewer hours. When he found out he was getting the same and thought he was being cheated, the master said to him, (Matthew 20:13)

"Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?"

This word is also used in Matthew 26:50 with some irony, to refer to someone who should have been a friend, but who in reality was far from it. Jesus used it to address Judas when Judas betrayed Him. When Judas came with the soldiers to arrest Jesus, after Judas kissed Jesus, Jesus said to him, (Matthew 26:50)

"Friend, do what you came for."

There are a couple of other New Testament Greek words that are used to refer to friendship, one of them being 'philos', a word that is related to one of the Greek words for love. We see this word used in John 15:13-15. Jesus said,

"Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command.
I no longer call you servants,
because a servant
does not know his master's business.
Instead, I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned
from my Father I have made known to you."

This is the kind of friendship that we see in Jonathan. He was going to do everything he could to help David, even if it meant endangering himself. When he argued with his father trying to keep Saul from killing David, Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan.

Another example of true friendship is found in David's aged friend, Barzillai the Gileadite. (2 Samuel 17:27-29) When David had to leave Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion, Barzillai, (along with others) who was 80 years old, brought David lots of supplies—bedding, cooking utensils, food. He knew that Absalom was trying to kill David and that he was endangering his own life for helping David. But it didn't matter. He wanted to help his friend and he did so.

Barzillai and Jonathan were the kinds of friend that Proverbs 18:24 spoke about. It says,

"there is a friend
who sticks closer than a brother."

Now I ask you, are you a good friend?

Are you such a friend that when your friend is in trouble you're one of the first places that he will turn for help?

Be a good friend.

But this text is about more than friendship. It's really about covenantal friendship.

At the beginning of chapter 18 we see that Jonathan and David had made a covenant of friendship. In verse 3 of that chapter we read,

"And Jonathan made a covenant with David
because he loved him as himself."

It was on the basis of this covenant that David goes to Jonathan. In verse 8 David said to Jonathan,

"As for you,
show kindness to your servant,
for you have brought him into a covenant
with you before the LORD.
If I am guilty,
then kill me yourself!
Why hand me over to your father?"

David asked for 'hesed', a word that is associated with covenants. It's translated in the NIV here as 'kindness'. Other ways this word can be translated are 'mercy', 'steadfast love', 'lovingkindness', or 'love'. Dale Davis writes, (1 Samuel, p. 207)

"It carries ideas of love, compassion, affection, but often with the additional connotation of loyalty, reliability, faithfulness… hesed often has that flavor: it is not merely love, but loyal love; not merely kindness, but dependable kindness; not merely affection, but affection that has committed itself."



Davis says of Jonathan's commitment to David,

"love gives itself in covenant and gladly promises devoted love in that covenant; the covenant partner then rests in the security of that promise and may appeal to it, as David does here."


The other thing we should see about this covenant of friendship is that

it was done under God.

In verse 8 David said to Jonathan,

"show kindness to your servant,
for you have brought him
into a covenant with you
before the LORD."

The covenant was made before God and both Jonathan and David knew that it obligated them to God to fulfill the terms of the covenant. We see this most clearly at the end of the chapter. In verse 42 Jonathan said to David,

"Go in peace, for we have
sworn friendship with each other
in the name of the LORD, saying,
'The LORD is witness between you and me,
and between your descendants
and my descendants forever.'"

We have a reference to the Lord's name in verse 12 as well. Jonathan invoked the Lord's name to affirm that he would find out if his father was favorably disposed to David. Then in verse 13 he said,

"May the Lord deal with me,
be it ever so severely,
if I do not let you know
and send you away safely."

He then asked the Lord's blessing on David. This covenant of friendship was under the Lord. It obligated them to each other. The Lord was the arbitrator of the covenant.

This covenant relationship that has much to teach us.

First of all, it shows us that

we need to fulfill our covenantal obligations.

We are bound by certain covenants. If you got married you entered into a covenant. When you joined the church, you entered into a covenant. You bound yourself to the Body of Christ and you have certain obligations, not only to the people of this congregation, but to the wider church at large. 1 Corinthians 12 shows us this. We are members of one body and are joined to one another and have an obligation to one another.

But so often we forget about these obligations or minimize them. One of the characteristics of many people in our society today is that they do what they want. They don't fulfill their promises. They don't take their obligations seriously.

The world tells you that it's okay to do that. But it's not. Fulfill your promises, even if it costs you.

Look at Jonathan. In all this he was not thinking of himself. He was serving God. He knew that David was God's chosen one, God's servant who was going to be king. So Jonathan correctly served him and put him first. Jonathan respected God's Word, and put it above the commands of his father. Jonathan put God's kingdom first. Even though most would have thought that he should be king after his father, he knew that wasn't God's will. As Dale Davis said,

"One could say Jonathan 'emptied himself' (Phil. 2:7) he was willing to suffer the 'loss of all things' and to count them rubbish (Phil. 3:8)."



Jonathan's actions with David show you that you need to be faithful in your covenantal relationships. Dale Davis writes, (p. 212)

"If Jonathan is a scribe discipled about the kingdom of heaven, what does he teach us? This: That true life does not consist in securing 'you and your kingdom' but in reflecting Yahweh's faithfulness in covenant relationships."



God is faithful in His relationships. You are to reflect that in your relationships. Dale Davis, (p. 212)

"Jonathan had acknowledged that the kingdom was Yahweh's and therefore David's, so his life did not need to be centered in his ambition (what can I get) but in God's providence (what Yahweh has given). Even as a believer and not as a crown prince my reigning passion is not to make my way, my living, my mark; not to gain my place or to get ahead. That may be costly; but it is certainly liberating. Life does not consist in achieving your goals but in fulfilling your promises."



If at the end of your life you can say that you've kept your promises, to men and to God, you will have lived a successful life—it will be one in which you will hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Fulfill your covenantal obligations. Fulfill your marriage vows. Fulfill your church obligations. Be a good friend.

The second thing David and Jonathan's covenant under the Lord shows us is that

human friendship is not unconditional.

It might seem that way from verse 4. There Jonathan said to David,

"Whatever you want me to do,
I'll do for you."

But that doesn't mean that Jonathan would have done anything for David. I mean, sometimes I say to Marg,

"I'll do whatever you want."

But that doesn't mean that I will do anything she asks. You have to put it in context. We're both Christians and are subject to the Lord.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how in 1934 Hitler made the soldiers of the German swear unconditional loyalty to him. He valued loyalty above all other characteristics and he demanded it.

But we are not to give unconditional loyalty to any men or any human covenant. Our primary and ultimate loyalty is to God.

Indeed, Jonathan made a mistake here by lying for David. He should not have done that.

I heard recently about a high school graduate who disappeared in Florida in the late 70's. Just recently they found his van and his body in a canal just a couple of miles from his home. What happened was that someone had argued with him and there was a fight and he was killed. The guy who killed him called his brother up and asked for help is disposing of the body and the van. His brother helped him and covered it up.

Anything like that is wrong. Being a good friend or a good brother should never involve sinning for the other person. Human friendship, human covenants are never unconditional. God is above all. He is our King, our Lord.

The third thing we see from our text is that

it points us to our greatest friend and shows us that we are to rest in Him.

There's no one like Jesus. What a friend for sinners. Isn't it amazing that He has said, (Matthew 11:28-29)

"Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls."

Isn't it incredible that He has said, (John 6:37)

"whoever comes to me
I will never drive away."

Who can understand this—that the King of Glory should love sinners and come and take the curse of sin upon Himself? That He should die for their sins is incredible. That He could say to the criminal on the cross, (who had earlier mocked him) when he asked Him for mercy, (Luke 23:43)

"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."

For those of you who are not Christians, I urge you to go to this Friend.

If there's one mistake you don't want to make in life it's the mistake of not going to Jesus. He's the only One that can save you from your sins. He's the only One who can wash them away and make you clean. He's the only One who can clothe you with righteousness and give you a place in glory—with happiness and joy forever and ever.

Go to this Friend. If you don't go to Him, you'll regret it forever and ever. Don't make the greatest mistake in the world.

Lastly, for those who are Christians,

you should be a good friend to others because you have someone who has been such a good friend to you.

Philippians 2:1-5

"If you have any encouragement
from being united with Christ,
if any comfort from his love,
if any fellowship with the Spirit,
if any tenderness and compassion,
then make my joy complete
by being like-minded,
having the same love,
being one in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others
better than yourselves.
Each of you should look
not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!"

Follow Him and show Him to others. May God give us grace to do so.