Jonathan owed everything to David, for, next to Saul, it was his responsibility to go and fight the giant, but like his father he was unable to take up the challenge of Goliath. David had captivated the heart of Jonathan, not only by his prowess, but by the charm of his person, for he loved him as his own soul. And these features of David, apart from his being God’s anointed, make him a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Before David was known publicly there were those who had some knowledge of his accomplishments, such as the servant of Saul who said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18). Although David was near to Saul, who had heard so much concerning him, it does not seem to have occurred to Saul that this “mighty valiant man” was really “a man of war” and the very man to overthrow the giant.
But Jonathan was greatly attracted to David. There is no indication that he had been drawn to David while the youthful harper charmed away the evil spirit of Saul, but immediately David’s power was manifested in the defeat of the Philistine’s champion, all the charm of David’s person seems to have been discerned by Jonathan.
David’s power did not lie in the weapons that Saul offered, nor in anything that would attract the mighty of this world; the sling and the stone most eloquently testified that “the Lord was with him,” for they were not the weapons of man’s warfare. The giant might despise the stripling and his staves, but he was overcome by him, and slain with his own sword; just as Satan and his power were annulled by death, the weapon that Satan had used to terrify man.
As we read through the Gospels, and in a peculiar way John’s Gospel, which presents the Person of the Son, we see how the works, the words, and the Person of the Son are so attractive. Those sent to take Him were compelled to go back without Him, saying to those who sent them, “Never man spake like this Man.” Simon Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” With Mary Magdalene, out of whom the Lord had cast seven demons, it was not only the Lord’s power that attracted her to Him; it was Himself in all the divine charm of His Person that drew her, and caused her to say to Jesus, when she thought Him to be the gardener, “Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Many were occupied with the great victory wrought by David, singing, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousand”; but they had not discerned as had Jonathan the attractiveness of the person of David. With Jonathan there was a peculiar appreciation of David that was manifested by what he did. All that marked Jonathan he laid at the feet of David: his robe that showed him to be the king’s son, his garments that manifested his personal character and distinctions, his sword and his bow that were the instruments of his victories, and his girdle that he had worn in his faithful service for God’s people. Everything is put into the hand of David in acknowledgement of his greatness and worth.
Have we discovered the greatness and the worth of the true David? Have we brought all that we are, and all that we possess, to His feet? There is also the attractiveness of His person that would cause us to strip ourselves of all that distinguishes us as men in the flesh so that we might henceforth be here only for Him. We owe everything to Christ. He has wrought the mighty victory that has delivered us from the power of the enemy and has brought us this great deliverance at infinite cost to Himself. Well has Paul written, “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Jonathan was prepared to take the second place in the kingdom although he was Saul’s heir, knowing that David would be king. He spoke well of David to his father, even though it made his father angry; and he was angry himself when he saw his father’s evil disposition towards David. But great as was Jonathan’s love for David, and great as was his devotion to him, one thing was lacking: He was not prepared for the place of rejection, he preferred the palace of Saul to the Cave of Adullam with David.
Many difficulties beset Jonathan’s path through not taking the outside place with David. His delight in David was not enough to spare him the consequences of association with his father in the day of testing. Had he been in the place of rejection with David, he would have had to share David’s hardships and disappointments, but he would have been spared the ignominious defeat of Mount Gilboa, which put an end to all his hopes of sharing David’s place of honor when he came to the throne. As Christians, it is good for us to learn that the path of separation in rejection with Christ is the path to which God has called us, and although it is a path fraught with many difficulties and dangers, it will spare us from the shame of associations in which the Name of the Lord is dishonored, and from what can only distress the heart that in any measure finds pleasure in Christ. May our delight in Him in whom the Father finds His delight enable us to walk apart from all that is dishonoring to Christ, taking our place with Him “outside the camp.” Natural affection kept Jonathan at home with Saul, but it prevented him sharing the rejection and the glory of David.
The history of Jonathan in relation to David has many valuable lessons for us. We may well marvel at his simple-hearted admiration of David, his great love for David, his delighting much in David, his speaking well of David, and his endeavor to ensure the safety of David—and in how much of this we might well emulate him—but how very sad is the failure, with so much that is praiseworthy, to be hindered from that complete devotion that would share all the dangers and hardships in the outside place.
On David’s side there was no restraint, nor did he at all reproach Jonathan for not joining him; and how real was David’s sorrow over the sorrowful end of the one who had loved him so dearly. And long after Jonathan had gone, David remembered the covenant they had made, and asked if there was any left of the house of Saul that he might show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake.
How good it is to see in Mephibosheth the counterpart of his father Jonathan. Jonathan had made a good start, but his end was sorrowful. With Mephibosheth how good it was at the end. During the time of David’s rejection, he was a mourner. He indeed would have gone with David into the place of his rejection and trial, but if hindered and slandered he was nevertheless true to David, mourning all the time of his absence from the kingdom and only waiting for his triumphant return to his kingdom.
Jonathan had chosen the city when David was compelled to flee from Saul; but although Mephibosheth was in the city while David was away, compelled to flee from Absalom, there was no joy for him there, it was a desert to him because the true king was not there.
The two and a half tribes were prepared to go over Jordan to fight but were not prepared to dwell there. They came short of the purpose of God for them. How different was the case of Ruth, who returned into the land with her widowed mother-in-law, when she said, “Whither thou goest, I will go…where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” Had this been the language of Jonathan how very different would have been his end. May it be the language of our hearts, the expression of a devotion that only desires to take up the cross to follow Christ, to seek nothing in this world but His will, and looking to have our part with Him in His kingdom.