The following blog was written by Renee Dugan, a full-time staff member with Spirit & Truth Fellowship Int’l.
Ever notice how most people have a favorite figure from the Bible? Besides Jesus, that is. Some people love reading about Paul; some can’t get enough of David’s psalms; or Joseph’s rags-to-riches journey; or Daniel’s powerful witness; or Peter’s relatable stubbornness. For me…I grew up reading the Bible from a very young age, and one of my absolute favorite figures has always been Jonathan.
Comparatively speaking, we don’t know a lot about Jonathan. We know he was Saul’s son, one of the heirs to the throne; we know he was probably married, because he had a son, an heir. And we know he was an invaluable friend to David. And I think that’s what always drew me toward their story as a child; the Bible cuts no corners in making it clear that David and Jonathan loved each other like brothers. But recently it really came to light for me that Jonathan wasn’t only a shining example of a godly, loving friend—he was also an example of how, under any circumstances, a person can accept and embrace God’s plan with absolute humility.
Check out the story of David’s ascension to the throne. So, first, here we have Saul, who’s king. And, let’s be frank, he’s not a very good one. Even when he’s leading his men on military strikes, his blunders and flashes of cowardice are costing Israel a lot. And then you have Jonathan, the prince, who takes his armor-bearer, leaves camp in the dead of night, and slaughters twenty Philistines, putting the rest of them in a frenzy. By military standards, Jonathan was a pretty cool guy—the kind you’d want to have next in line for the throne. Which he was.
Then along comes David. God’s anointed one. The Man Who Will Be King. David is in close quarters with Saul pretty often after that whole Goliath incident, where David did Saul a serious favor. If you follow the biblical record, David continues to gain rank and favor in the eyes of the people, becoming a musician and a military man, and even marrying Saul’s daughter. He’s practically moving into Saul’s house! At this point, it becomes more and more clear that David has God’s favor as well as the peoples’. And we see Saul consumed by jealousy…eaten alive by it. He isn’t a fool; he knows this shepherd boy is going to take his throne, someday. Saul’s opinion of David soured pretty quickly after that, and a lot has been said throughout history about the contention between them—almost a cat-and-mouse game carried out over the years as David fled and Saul pursued.
Not a lot gets said about Jonathan during all of this, other than the time when he helped David discover Saul’s murderous intent on his life, and then sent him away. But think about it this way: Saul was king, but Jonathan was a prince. If he was the eldest, he might’ve even been next in line for the throne. That was a big deal, especially when he was the son of Israel’s very first king. He’d likely been groomed for royalty for many, many years. So when David showed up on the scene, Jonathan had every opportunity to indulge in the same blind fury as his father; he could’ve campaigned with Saul against David, deceived him with an imitation of friendship, or fought him outright for the throne—the same way David’s own sons squabbled for rights to rulership years later.
But the powerful testimony of Jonathan’s life was that he did none of those things. He may as well have stripped off his sword and laid it at David’s feet. He saw the ordination of God on the life of David; and rather than fighting against it the way Saul did, Jonathan—a prince of Israel—embraced David’s calling. He welcomed him as king and brother, forging a fast friendship that, following Jonathan’s death, David declared was “more wonderful than the love of women.” Jonathan loved David with an unselfish, unpretentious and fearless brotherly love…it had no strings attached. Jonathan helped David to escape Saul’s wrath, lied to Saul’s face about it, and nearly lost his head because of that—all for God’s chosen king.
How often do we stand in the same place as Jonathan? How often do we think we’re owed something, that we deserve something, and then we lose it? I know I don’t tend to be a graceful loser when it comes down to it—and I’m never deprived of something as monumental as the potential future throne of an entire nation. But the plans of the Father don’t always end with us coming out in the spotlight; and I think Jonathan set an amazing example with his conduct when the spotlight passed away from him. He saw what his father was doing to David. He saw God’s plan for David’s life. And then he followed that plan, trusting that God knew best with whoever He chose for that throne.
Understanding the truth of Jonathan’s life, his acceptance of God’s plans, and even the role he played in helping David to survive and take the throne, was a powerful lesson for me. Sometimes we have to secede the things we want—even the things we think we deserve—because God’s will is going in a different direction. And like Jonathan—the prince who would never become king—we have a choice. We can rebel against God’s way and see how far that gets us…or we can embrace the ordination of the Creator, place ourselves wholeheartedly in His footsteps, and bind ourselves to His purposes with a selfless, consuming love.