(It’s funny to me how all the activity around the Easter holiday can distract us from spending time with the Reason for the holiday – we took a 3-4 day break from our study because we were so busy with family activities and other stuff of life. We return to our story of David and Saul and his son Jonathan – Christy wrote the majority of this post with Anthony filling in the very few gaps by writing in italics in the beginning of this post – one funny coincidence from the day this was written is that our children watched “The Fox and the Hound” again after not watching it for a long time AFTER Christy wrote this post – they knew nothing about the blog post, but watched the movie Christy refers to here – funny timing)
Chapter 20 opens with David on the run – being threatened by Saul and his army. David finds Jonathan and he wonders aloud what crime he had committed that Saul wanted to kill him. Jonathan is taken aback – he can’t believe that Saul would treat David like this, but David swears an oath saying that Saul would hide his intentions from Jonathan because Saul knew of their friendship. When Jonathan hears that his father is still planning to kill David he makes the decision to side with David.
v. 4- “Whatever you say, I will do for you.”
David suggests they give Saul a test to see if his anger has passed, or if he is still planning on taking David’s life, and then he and Jonathan make a covenant together.
- Where Saul has been fighting against God’s will to make David Israel’s king, Jonathan chooses to accept God’s will and actively help to bring it to pass by protecting David.
- Jonathan sees that God’s favor is on David, so he seeks favor with David as well.
v. 14- “If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die.”
Jonathan recognized that by helping David he was placing his own life at risk:
- Saul could have him killed for helping the enemy
- David could become king and choose to have Saul’s entire family killed to stop them from opposing his rule.
In spite of this risk, Jonathan stays faithful his friendship with David, and the covenant they had previously made together. In spite of the fact that by helping David escape Jonathan is ensuring that he will never be king, and possibly ensuring that many of his family members will die once David takes over. This kind of loyalty is described in the Hebrew word “hesed”.
Jonathan asks this same commitment from David in verse 14: “show me the “hesed” of the LORD…”
Hesed is a powerful word! No English word has an exact correspondent to it. It is often described as “loyal, steadfast, faithful love, loving-kindness”. The closest New Testament word to hesed is grace or unmerited favor.
“Hesed is what drives and seals God’s covenant with His people…it is the essence of the Gospel: An unrelenting God pursuing an undeserving sinner and paying an unbelievable ransome to purchase an unworthy and unfaithful bride.” Kimberly Wagner, Fierce Women
Jonathan was asking David to show him this kind of love, to make this binding covenant – that no matter how guilty Saul is in sinning against David, no matter how badly he treats David – in spite of all David had done for him and his kingdom- that David would still remain faithful to his promise to Jonathan’s house.
Just like God continued to remain faithful to His people, Israel, even though they walked in unfaithfulness to Him and His law.
And David makes the covenant with Jonathan, and they weep before saying goodbye, knowing that they may never see each other or be able to stand together as ‘brothers’ again.
The Disney cartoon, The Fox and the Hound, comes to mind as I picture this scene. These two men, who have become such close friends they are described as having their souls knitted together, being stuck in the middle of a war for power that neither of them chose to be in. They just want to be friends, to have peace! So they defy human logic. They refuse to be sucked into the rivalry Saul has created, and they choose to show sacrificial love towards one another instead.
What a beautiful picture of covenant! Jonathan risking his own life to save David, David vowing to remain faithful to Jonathan’s household forever- no matter what comes to pass in the future. Kimberly Wagner, in her explanation of the covenant nature of hesed, goes on to share that, “The possibility of the origin and existence of a covenant was based on the existence of hesed…they are not to be understood as being entirely synonymous but as being mutually contingent upon one another. [A covenant cannot be kept unless hesed- faithfulness no matter what- is present.]”
“Covenant. It’s more than halfhearted promises or good intentions. For God, it is a sacrificial commitment sealed by His own blood. It is sacred faithfulness forging through every obstacle to pursue His bride. it is Hosea going to the slave block to purchase his wayward wife out of prostitution.”
“That’s you and me. And God not letting us go- no matter how far we’ve run.” Fierce Women, p. 245
Is it possible to even grasp this kind of commitment in our culture today? Our culture that has made personal happiness the highest of all virtues? The idea of giving up everything for another’s benefit, of sacrificing your personal comfort or safety, of NOT taking revenge when someone hurts you- and taking a step further by showing them KINDNESS instead?? This way of acting is nearly unheard of.
Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man claims to have hesed, but a faithful man, who can find?”
Yet this is the love God showed us. This never-ending, unfailing, merciful, steadfast love. And I am so thankful today that even though sin made me God’s enemy, gave Him the right to condemn me, He chose instead to show hesed- faithfulness though I am so unfaithful. He chose to build the bridge through sacrificing His own Son Jesus, so we could be at peace- so we could be friends.
Thank you God for Your hesed to me! For Your grace that covers every wrong I have done against You! In light of all You have forgiven me of, please help me to show the same unconditional love and commitment to the people in my life. May I astound the world by extending Your love and grace to them- just like David and Jonathan’s friendship astounds us still today. Amen.