King David: A Heart Like God’s: The Best Thing You Can Be In Life
I Samuel 20:12-23; 23:15-18
I wish to read for you these words from the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. This is the word of God.
“Then Jonathan said to David, ‘By the Lord, the God of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow. If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? But if my father is inclined to harm you, may the Lord deal with me be it ever so severely if I do not let you know and send you safely away. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father but show me unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I live so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family, not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.’
“So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.’ And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him because he loved him as he loved himself. Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed because your seat will be empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began and wait by the stone Ezel. I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you. Bring them here,’ then come because, as surely as the Lord lives, you are safe. There is no danger. But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go because the Lord has sent you away. And about the matter you and I discussed, remember, the Lord is witness between you and me forever.'”
“While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son, Jonathan, went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father, Saul, knows this.’ The two of them made a covenant before the Lord, and then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.
Pray with me, please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
Not very long ago, I was visiting in the home of a friend, and I noticed a very attractive book on the coffee table. I picked it up, opened it, and the words printed there fairly jumped off the page and right into my heart. The words I read are these: “The best thing you can have in life is a friend, and the best thing you can be in life is a friend.” How beautiful. It occurs to me that in the Bible, God has much to say to us on this subject of friendship.
Are you aware of the fact that the word friend appears on the pages of scripture more than 100 times? Furthermore, when you read the Gospel accounts, it is quite clear that our Lord Jesus Christ, as he lived his life on this earth, had a deep need and a deep longing for friendship and, as a result, he surrounded himself with a whole phalanx of friends and acquaintances. But the Gospels go on to tell us, quite clearly, that Jesus had some particularly close and intimate friends. For example, we know that he loved to spend quality time with Peter, James, and John. We also know that he loved to visit in the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus every chance he got. He had a great need for friendship. And as it turns out, he delivers his highest compliment to his disciples when he says to them, “I do not call you servants. I call you friends.”
Well, on the basis of the word of scripture and the witness of Christ, I believe that I can say without fear of contradiction that you and I are called to experience true, deep, significant, meaningful friendships in life. Furthermore, I have come to believe that the Bible tells us that there are three distinguishing characteristics which will mark any true and faithful friendship. And those three characteristics are seen perfectly illustrated, I believe, in what I choose to call the most beautiful friendship in the Bible. I refer to the friendship between David and Jonathan. Look with me, please, at that friendship.
In the first place, the first distinguishing characteristic to mark any true and faithful friendship can be captured in the word “summons.”
In 1 Samuel 17 and 18, we learn that Jonathan actually extended an invitation, a summons, to David to become friends. Here’s how it happened. After David had killed Goliath, as a reward, he was granted an audience with King Saul. Now, Jonathan was King Saul’s son. And so Jonathan was present as this conversation took place between his father and the young hero, David. And as Jonathan listened to the things that David was saying, he decided that he wished to engage in friendship with David. And so he walked right up to—that’s what the Bible actually says. He walked up to David and said, “Can we be friends?” He extended to David the summons, the invitation, to friendship.
Now, I recognize that that is not always an easy thing for us to do. We do have a need for friends in life, but we also, if we’re honest, have this underlying fear that if we initiate the process, that we might be rejected. Rejection. Dear God, what an awful word. Surely there could not be a worse word in the English language than that. Rejection. Reminds me of Frankenstein. Oh, oh, no, no, no, not the Frankenstein we see in the movies. No. I’m referring to the original Frankenstein, the Frankenstein as created by the great writer, Mary Shelley. In her conception. Frankenstein was not some terrorizing monster. No, he was a lonely, sympathetic creature. The one thing he wanted more than anything else in all the world was just to have a friend. At one point, Mary Shelley has Frankenstein say, “My vices arise out of my solitude, but my virtues would rise if I just had one friend.” In spite of his abject loneliness, he would not reach out to others. Why? Because he felt that his physical ugliness would cause others to turn away from him and reject him. There’s that awful word again. Rejection.
Let me tell you what’s true: friendship is not based on something as fleeting as good looks. I’ve known people who look like Hollywood movie stars but who were desperately lonely. Friendship is not based on money and success. I’ve known people who had so much money they couldn’t jump over it and yet they wished to God that somehow that money could buy them just one true friend. Friendship is not based on talent or intellect. I’ve known brilliant and gifted people who died with no one’s regret. No, you and I, we are made in the image of God. That’s what the Bible tells us. And that means that, among other things, we are made to love and to be loved. God, in other words, has made us for friendship. That means that all of us, without exception, need friends in life and all of us, without exception, can have friends in life. So don’t let the fear of rejection—I hate that word! Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from doing what Jonathan did. Jonathan walked up to David and said, “Can we be friends?” You may say no. You may reject me. Doesn’t matter. I’m just asking, “Can we be friends?” He extended to David the invitation to friendship. Summons.
The second characteristic marking any true and faithful friendship can be captured in the word “share.”
In 1 Samuel 19, we learn that David and Jonathan shared a common purpose under God, and it was that bond that held them together. Here’s what I want you to understand: before David killed Goliath, Jonathan was the most popular figure in all of Israel. He was young. He was a military hero. He was the crown prince. He was the heir apparent to the throne. He was adored by the people. Ah, but once David felled the giant, suddenly, everything changed. Now, the chants of the people began to champion David, not Jonathan. And so Jonathan knew that by engaging in friendship with David, he was going to be exalting David’s fame and diminishing his own, but he did it anyway. Why? The Bible makes it crystal clear. The Bible says the two of them shared a common purpose under God. They both loved God and they both loved their country. And it was that common bond that knit them—that’s the word the Bible literally uses. It was that common bond that knit them together so tightly that nothing could ever pull them apart.
I’m getting ready to say something that may seem a little strange, but I’m going to say it anyway. I believe that Christians can have deeper friendships than non-Christians. Hear me clearly. I am not suggesting in any way that non-Christians cannot have good friendships. Of course they can. What I am saying is that Christians can have deeper friendships than non-Christians because Christians understand that their friendship is a gift from God. They understand that God will use those friendships to accomplish great purposes in their lives. And furthermore, they understand that God will use those friendships to be a blessing to others out in the world. And so, yes, I believe it to be true Christians can enjoy deeper friendships than non-Christians.
Now, I’m going to say something else. It may even be more important than the first. The truest test of any true and faithful friendship is whether or not that friendship draws you closer to God. Hear me. No true friend will ever ask you to do something which is wrong in the sight of God. Let me scroll that down the screen of your consciousness one more time, particularly for those of you who are young. Hear me. No true friend will ever ask you to do something that is wrong in the sight of God. And so if you have one you call friend who is asking you or coaxing you or tempting you or encouraging you to do something which is a violation of the standards of God, if you have one you call friend who is leading you or luring you to take your hand out of the hand of God in your life, then in the name of Jesus Christ, renounce that friendship and do it now. It may hurt. It may feel that you’re tearing out your own heart, but renounce that friendship now before it is too late. No true friend will ever ask you to do something which is wrong in the sight of God.
Clarence Macartney said it well and said it right. He said, “A friend who is true is one of life’s greatest blessings, but a friend who is false is one of life’s sharpest thorns.” David and Jonathan enjoyed a magnificent friendship. Why? Because they shared a common purpose in life under God. Share. Summons. Share.
The third characteristic to mark any true and faithful friendship is captured in the word “selflessness.”
In 1 Samuel 20 and 23, we see that selflessness was actually the foundation, the bedrock, of the friendship between David and Jonathan. It begins in 1 Samuel 20, where we have what’s called the Story of the Arrows. Understand, please, this is what occurred. As David’s popularity began to grow, King Saul became insanely jealous of David, and King Saul decided he was going to have to kill David. Now, Jonathan, Saul’s son, loved his father, but he also loved David. And so he decided that he was going to go to his father and appeal to his father to spare David’s life.
And so he said to David, “This is what I want you to do. I want you to go into hiding, but hide close by. I am going to speak to my father. I hope that I can persuade him to spare your life. But if not, well, this is what’s going to happen. After I have spoken with my father, I will come out and I will shoot three arrows at a target. I will have a boy with me, and I will send a boy to retrieve the arrows. And if I say to him, ‘Son, the arrows are beyond you. Go further,’ well, that means that my father has not changed his mind. He is going to kill you. You must flee. But if I say to him, ‘Son, the arrows are nearby. Come closer,’ that is a sign that my father has changed his mind and the coast is clear and you can emerge from hiding.”
Well, the fact of the matter is the king didn’t change his mind, and he set out, indeed, to kill David. And so David had to flee for his life. But here’s what I want you to see. You may miss it otherwise. Listen to me. Jonathan ran a terrible risk to do what he did. You see, if King Saul had learned what Jonathan was doing, he would have killed Jonathan instantly. In fact, you can see it in the story. At one point, Jonathan actually says, “If I am still alive at that point.” He knew the risk he was running, but he ran the risk anyway for the sake of his friendship with David. Selfless love at work.
And then later on, after David had been in exile, running for his life, he grew weary of the whole thing. He got tired of wondering if every day was going to be his last day. His faith was beginning to waver. And at that point, in 1 Samuel 23, we’re told that Jonathan sought David out. And listen to what the Bible says. It’s so beautiful. “Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in the Lord.” Ah! What a great moment. Understand, please. Remember this. Jonathan could have been king. He was the heir apparent. And yet Jonathan laid aside his own self-interest in favor of the interests of David. What a magnificent moment in human history. Jonathan says to David, “You are going to be king. Stay true to our God.” What an incredible moment. Here was the man who would be king, but he turns aside from that for the sake of his friendship, and he says to his friend, David, “You are going to be king. Stay true to our God.” Jonathan would not desecrate this friendship with selfishness. Instead, the friendship was marked always by selflessness.
Summons. Share. Selflessness.
Let me see if I can somehow manage to fold it all together by telling you about Ben Franklin. Oh no, not the Ben Franklin of American history. No. I want to tell you about Ben Franklin who lives in Topeka, Kansas. Back in September of 1963, Ben Franklin was a freshman at the University of Colorado. He was accidentally terribly injured in a mountain climbing accident. He plunged 150 feet straight down into a ravine. Among his other injuries, his back was broken in four places. Surgery was attempted. It failed. The doctors then told him that there was no hope. The best he could hope for would be that he would be a paraplegic for the rest of his life. Ben Franklin was ready to give up and die.
Now, there was another patient in that hospital. A patient with a similar injury. A patient who happened to be a deeply devoted follower of Jesus Christ. One afternoon, this patient wheeled his wheelchair into Ben Franklin’s room. And he said to Ben Franklin, “I’d like to be your friend.” Summons. He said to Ben Franklin, “I want to learn about your struggle.” Share. He said to Ben Franklin, “I want to help you in your healing.” Selflessness. Every afternoon, this patient would wheel his wheelchair into Ben Franklin’s room. He would say to him, “I dare you to move your big toe.” And Ben Franklin would say, “I can’t do it.” And the patient would say, “Try it.” The big toe never moved.
Same thing happened the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that. After two weeks, every afternoon, wheeling himself into Ben Franklin’s room, he then said to Ben Franklin, “Okay. This is the day the big toe moves.” And ever so slightly, the big toe moved. That was the first step in a long, painful five-year journey. But, as a result, Ben Franklin now can walk. Oh, he’s on crutches, but he can walk. And he’s built for himself a significant and victorious life.
Listen to what Ben Franklin says about it all. He says, “That day that I fell, I didn’t fall down into a ravine. I fell down into the arms of God. This Christian brother of mine, this true and faithful friend delivered God’s power into my life. I wouldn’t exchange anything for that. I wouldn’t even want sound health again if it meant that I had to give up God’s power in my life. I fell, yes, but I fell into the arms of God.”
My beloved friends, that kind of summons, that kind of sharing, that kind of selflessness which we see in the friendship between Jonathan and David, that kind of summons, that kind of sharing, that kind of selflessness will mark any true, deep, loving, faithful friendship. Now do you understand why the words jumped off the page and into my heart? “The best thing that you can have in life is a friend, and the best thing that you can be in life is a friend.” And I would add, “A friend in Jesus Christ.”
Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen and amen.