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Bible Search
From the Sheep Pen to the Palace
Three Arrows at Sunrise
I Samuel 18-23
 
I'm going to do something today that, as far as I can remember, I've never done in 32 years of preaching and that is preach on friendship.  That thought came to me as I read through chapters 18 through 23 of 1 Samuel in preparation for this morning's message.
 
I don't suppose I should find that too surprising because having close, intimate friends has never been a high priority for me.  There were enough years between my older brother and me that we had different interests growing up. There weren't other kids around my age where we lived, so I learned to play alone.
 
Outside of a couple of rare occasions I don't remember ever spending the night at a friend's house or having friends over to stay with me.
 
When I was eighteen, I started my own business building cabinets and doing carpentry work and I primarily worked alone.  I still like to work alone.  I find I can concentrate on what I'm doing free of interruptions and be quite productive.  
 
Then, when I grew older and God called me to the ministry, I was taught that a minister can't have close friends in the congregation.  I can remember my father in the ministry telling me that my closest friends shouldn't be members of the church I pastored because there would come a time when things would need to be dealt with in the church and friendship could interfere with being faithful to God. 
 
And, from time to time, I have found that to be good counsel.  So, by and large, I have followed that counsel and continued in the path of my upbringing by being something of a loner.
 
And, to be honest, I don't mind.  This week, Jimmy was gone the first part of the week and Sharon had to be out a couple of days, and I kind of enjoyed those days.  Occasionally the phone would ring or someone would stop by, but it was a relatively quiet time spent by myself.
 
Now that's not to say I don't have friends or vale those friendships.  I do.  There is any number of people I could call right now if I needed someone pray or listen or help with a project.  And it's not that I take my friends for granted.  I just don't have to be around people all the time to be happy or fulfilled. 
 
So, as a result, it's never crossed my mind to preach about the value of friendship.  But to do that is to ignore a significant subject in Scripture.  For instance, the writer of Proverbs said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17).  He repeats a similar thought in chapter 18, verse 24, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”.
 
In the famous children’s book Charlotte’s Web, there’s a wonderful passage that illustrates what friendship is all about. It comes at the end of the book after Charlotte weaved her messages to protect Wilbur the pig. You remember the story. She first wrote “Some Pig” in the web, then “Terrific,” then “Humble,” and then “Radiant.” As a result, Wilbur’s life was saved.
Now Charlotte has almost come to the end of her own life. Wilbur asks her, “Why did you do all this for me? I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
 
“You have been my friend,” Charlotte replies. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life could use a little of that.”
 
“Well,” said Wilbur. “I’m no good at making speeches. I haven’t got your gift for words. But you have saved me, Charlotte, and I would gladly give my life for you—I really would.”
 
Today I want to preach a sermon about friendship.  The text and illustration of the subject comes from the the story of the most famous friendship in all the Bible-the story of David and Jonathan. That story is found in the book of I Samuel.
 
Through the six chapters that record their friendship, we are given four glimpses of the relationship between David and Jonathan. Each part of the relationship is expressed with a single word and each word teaches us something about the qualities of biblical friendship. For everyone here who has known the pain of loneliness, or ever wished for just one person with whom you could just be yourself, for everyone who would like a friend who sticks closer than a brother, this sermon is for you.
 
 
The first word is
 
1.   Commitment
 
The first glimpse we get of David and Jonathan comes in the opening verses of 1 Samuel 18.  It is only moments after David has killed Goliath. He takes the giant’s severed head in to show King Saul. Wild celebration fills the streets. David is the man of the hour, the year, the decade, the century. No one has ever done what David has done.
 
1 Samuel 18:1-4
 
A couple of facts help us to understand what is happening.  First, you need to know Jonathan is the son of King Saul which means he is next in line for the throne of Israel.
 
Also, keep in mind that Jonathan himself is a brave warrior. He had proved it some months earlier in a battle where he led the fight against some Philistines.
 
And when Jonathan saw what happened with David and Goliath, there is an immediate bond between the two.  David is a warrior just like Jonathan David was a patriot just like him. David was a man of faith just like him..  And it is from these common values that their friendship is born. 
 
But there’s more to it than that. Notice the first line of verse 1:  “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.” Some translations say something about the spirit being joined, but the old KJV has it right with the word "knit". 
It’s a word which means to bind together with ropes. You might even say, the soul of Jonathan was knotted to the soul of David. They were joined inseparably. When you knit two pieces of thread together, the two are joined into something bigger and better than they were before. So it was with David and Jonathan.
 
The Bible adds an interesting fact when it says that Jonathan loved David as his own soul.  In fact, it is repeated in the verses.  I find it interesting that it never says the reverse. In fact, all the way through it seems like the initiative always come from Jonathan. It wasn’t a completely equal relationship. There’s no such thing-not on earth anyway. I don’t think David ever knew the depth of friendship for Jonathan that Jonathan knew for David. They loved each other but Jonathan loved David even more.
 
That’s a fact we all have to face. In almost every relationship one person will put more in than the other will. I think God knew that David needed a friend. And he gave David the friend he needed. All the way through the burden is on Jonathan and every time he comes through because “a friend loves at all times” and “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
 
In fact, notice
 
verse 4
 
No keep in mind that robe was the robe the Crown Prince wore. It symbolized that he was next in line for the throne. By giving it to David, he was saying, “I know that you will someday be king, and not me.”
 
Jonathan loved David as himself and he said, in effect, "I’m going to be your friend and I’m going to throw away the scorecard. I’m fully committed to seeing God’s best in your life even if it means I take the second spot."
 
And I would suggest that Biblical friendship begins with that kind of commitment.  And the commitment Jonathon makes to David has two primary characteristics. 
 
First, it is a commitment made on the basis of a shared faith in God. The covenant of friendship meant something because it was made in the presence of God.
 
Second, it is a commitment to see God’s plan come about no matter what it costs me personally. Jonathan said, “David, someday you’re going to be king and that means I will never be king. You’re going to be the top man and get all the glory and that’s all right by me.”
 
For so many of us, our friendships are only veiled competitions. Our envy keeps us from ever getting too close. We feel like we have to keep score. Jonathan loved David as himself and he said, in effect, I’m going to be your friend and I’m going to throw away the scorecard.
 
The second word is
 
2.  Protection
 
I Samuel 19:1-7
 
Obviously, something of significance happened between the opening verses of chapter 18 and what we read here.  And what happened was, Jonathan's dad, King Saul explodes with jealousy. 
 
The envy that began to develop when he heard the  women singing about how great David was begins to spread like cancer.  It makes him paranoid and fearful and angry and it eventually turns him into a killer. Six times he tries to kill David.
 
That puts Jonathan in a difficult position. Here Dad is telling him to kill his best fried.  That's got to be awkward.
 
So Jonathan decides to try and talk to his father in David’s defense.  He points out that David hasn't done anything wrong.  He had, in fact saved Israel by killing Goliath. He also told his father that if he killed David, innocent blood would be on his hands.
 
That was a gutsy, courageous thing to do. After all, Saul is so out of touch with reality he could just as easily killed Jonathan also.  But that is the depth of Jonathan's commitment to David. 
 
He is willing to protect his friend, even if it places his own life in danger.  So in modern terms, what does it mean to protect your friends?  Two things, primarily.
 
Number one, it means you aren’t ashamed to stand by them when things get rough.
 
We all have our share of fair-weather friends whose major talent is disappearing when the hard times come. But “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
It also means you go out of your way to get your friends out of the jam they’re in.
 
If that means covering for them, you cover for them. If that means speaking up for them, then that’s what you do. That’s what Jonathan did for David.
 
That leads to the third word, which is
 
3.  Risk
 
1 Samuel 20
 
As I said a moment ago, when we are commitment to our friends leads to the need to protect them, there is a risk involved.
 
David now is convinced that Saul will never change his mind. Within hours he must leave Saul’s court forever. He is about to become Public Enemy Number One. But before he leaves, Jonathan wants to try one more time to patch things up with Saul. So they cook up an ingenious plan. It has to do with setting up a test to see how Saul will react to David’s absence from a New Moon Festival.
 
This is all for Jonathan’s sake. David knows how Saul is going to react but he has to convince Jonathan. Here’s how the plan would work. While Jonathan was at the New Moon Festival with his father, David would go out into a field and hide near a pile of stones called Ezel.
 
 
 
 
Then Jonathan would come out with a young lad and shoot three arrows near the pile of stones. When the boy went to pick up the arrows, Jonathan would either say, “The arrows are near you,” that would mean David was safe. If he said, “The arrows are beyond you,” that would mean David was in danger and must run for his life.
 
Well, when Jonathan went in to see his father, things blew up in his face.
 
We pick up the story at
 
verse 30
 
I think I've heard that phrase used before!
 
verse 30b - 33
 
Early the next morning, Jonathon went out to shoot his arrows. 
 
verses 35-39a
 
The boy may not have know what was going on, but David did.  And he knew he was supposed to leave and run for his life. David was supposed to leave but he couldn’t leave his Jonathan like that.
 
Notice what happens:
 
verse 41
 
That may make us a little bit uncomfortable, but it shows the depth of their love for one another.  And notice, we are told David wept the most. Why?
I think it is because he recognized what Jonathan had done for him. He had risked his life to save him.  He had stood up to his own dad.  He had forfeited the crown and the throne.  And he had done it gladly, without complaint, because that’s what friends do for each other.
 
Centuries later, in John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”.  That's what Jonathan did for David.
 
By the way, that’s what Jesus did for us. The very next in John 15 says this: 
 
John 15:14
 
Jesus said, "No greater love has a man than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends", then Jesus called us his friends, went to the cross and died in our place. 
 
That’s what Jonathan did for David, it's what Jesus did for us, and it's what we are called to do for each other.
 
The fourth and final characteristic of the friendship of David and Jonathan is
 
4. Encouragement
 
Several months and maybe years pass.  David is long gone from Saul’s court. Now he is nothing more than a bandit, a fugitive, a man on the run, a hunted animal.  David wanders from place to place, running, hiding, always looking over his shoulder. He is tired...and scared...and frustrated.
He eventually makes his way to one of the most desolate places in all of Israel. It is the Wilderness of Ziph. We would call it the Negev Desert. Saul and his men are closing in for the final kill. In fact, the Bible says that Saul sent all his forces to capture David and kill him.
 
David must have wondered what happened!  The victory over Goliath is just a dim memory. Where is the Lord when I need him? Has he gone to sleep? Doesn’t he know what I’m going through? Where are all the celebrations and singers? 
 
And just at the moment of crisis, Jonathan shows up. How he got wind of David’s whereabouts, we don’t know. How he slipped past Saul’s army, we don’t know. But somehow, Jonathan shows up just when David needs him the most.
 
Isn't that just like a true friend?  They always show up at just the right time.  In fact, he is there when there is every reason for him not to be.  And notice what happens.
 
1 Samuel 23:16-18
 
I would say the finest thing one friend can do for another is not just offer encouragement, but help your friend find strength in God. That goes beyond commitment, beyond protection and beyond risk.
 
In fact, there is an interesting word study in that phrase "strengthened his hand in God".  "strengthen someone's hand means to encourage them, to put courage back into them. 
 
But notice, Jonathan didn't just strengthen his hand.  He didn't just offer encouragement.  He didn't just tell him everything was going to be okay or to just be positive and it would all work out.  He strengthened his hand in God.  That means he reminded him of God's faithfulness, of God's promises, of God's Word. 
 
Specifically, he says four things to David.
 
- First, he says, "My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.
- Second, you will someday be king of Israel.
- Third, I will serve by your side.
- Fourth, even my father knows this is true (v. 17).
 
What a friend David has in Jonathan!  And what a man of faith he is!  Jonathan has risked his life to make his way to David and say to this fugitive, this outcast, “My friend, you are going to make it. God has promised and someday you’re going to be king and I will serve by your side.”
 
That was the last time David ever saw Jonathan alive. They never met again. Jonathan would later die by his father’s side fighting the Philistines on Mount Gilboa. When David heard the news of Jonathan’s death, he wrote a song called "The Song of the Bow.  In it, he talked about how special was their friendship and how the mighty had fallen.
 
There are four qualities of friendship we’ve talked about: Commitment, Protection, Risk and Encouragement.
Those words describe this friendship, but they don’t explain it. To explain it and understand it, you have to dig deeper. 
 
The nature of the friendship of David and Jonathan is found back in chapter 20, verse 23.
 
1 Samuel 20:23
 
Literally, it reads, “Remember, the Lord is between you and me forever.” When the Lord is between two people, their friendship can grow and develop and last forever. When the Lord is between two people, their friendship can survive separation, misunderstanding, and hard times.
 
A godly friendship is a friendship built on God. It rests on him and he is between the friends holding them together.  Jonathan understood that.  That's why he went to strengthen and encourage David in the Lord's hand.
 
And in that regard, I guess I would have to say, in spite of what I said earlier, I am rich in friends.   If friendship means to be bound together by the Lord and be encourage by others in the Lord, then I've got more friends than I know what to do with!   Many of you, week by week, Sunday by Sunday, offer me your prayers and encouragement and I am honored to call you my friend.
 
And the good news is, because of what our friend Jesus had done, we will be friends forever. 
 
I want to close with the words of the chorus of a song written by Michael W. Smith. It’s called Friends are Friends Forever. Listen to the words:
 
Friends are friends forever,
When the Lord's the Lord of them.
And a friend will not say never
For the welcome will not end.
Though it’s hard to let you go,
In the Father’s hands we know,
That a lifetime's not too long
To live as friends.
 
Lord, help us to get out of the shallows of casual relationships. We take each other for granted and pass by without really looking. We listen without really hearing. Help us to be like Jesus who laid down his life for his friends. We pray in his name, Amen.
 
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