1 Samuel 20:1-23, 35-42 (NRSV)
David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, "What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?" He said to him, "Far from it! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!" But David also swore, "Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.' But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death." Then Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you say, I will do for you." David said to Jonathan, "Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, 'David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.' If he says, 'Good!' it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?" Jonathan said, "Far be it from you! If I knew that it was decided by my father that evil should come upon you, would I not tell you?" Then David said to Jonathan, "Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?" Jonathan replied to David, "Come, let us go out into the field." So they both went out into the field.
Jonathan said to David, "By the Lord, the God of Israel! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or on the third day, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But if my father intends to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you, and send you away, so that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die, never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth." Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the Lord seek out the enemies of David." Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.
Jonathan said to him, "Tomorrow is the new moon; you will be missed, because your place will be empty. On the day after tomorrow, you shall go a long way down; go to the place where you hid yourself earlier, and remain beside the stone there. I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. Then I will send the boy, saying, 'Go, find the arrows.' If I say to the boy, 'Look, the arrows are on this side of you, collect them,' then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the young man, 'Look, the arrows are beyond you,' then go; for the Lord has sent you away. As for the matter about which you and I have spoken, the Lord is witness between you and me forever." ...
In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him was a little boy. He said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows that I shoot." As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. When the boy came to the place where Jonathan's arrow had fallen, Jonathan called after the boy and said, "Is the arrow not beyond you?" Jonathan called after the boy, "Hurry, be quick, do not linger." So Jonathan's boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. But the boy knew nothing; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement. Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said to him, "Go and carry them to the city." As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, 'The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.'" He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.
When I was a child my mother used to tell me, "You can count your true friends on one hand."
At the time I thought she was so silly because I had dozens of "best friends" and thus, imagined that she was very wrong.
As I got older, I quickly found that my "best friends" were quick to desert me when the going got tough. They abandoned me when I did not agree with them, follow the crowd, or cover for them when they lied.
When I got to college, I kept those friends from childhood who had been loyal and true and made one additional "best friend" who shared all of my good and bad days at the university.
Just as Jonathan stuck by David in the most dire of straights, so too did my true friends stand by me as I got married, had children, began a life in public ministry, and experienced all the ups and downs of adult life.
Today, I consider my friends (whom I can count on one hand) one of my greatest gifts from God. But, I also know that these earthly friendships pale compared to the relationship I have with Jesus Christ--who is my best and most faithful friend.
The Bible says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13)
ONLY JESUS gave up his life for me on an old rugged cross to make atonement for my sin and gift me with eternal life!
My earthly friends are grand, but Jesus is grander! For He has shown forth the most faithful love toward me, in all circumstances, and for this I will be eternally grateful!
Today, let us give thanks to God for Jesus AND for our earthly friends whom we hold dear.
Let us pray:
Holy God, thank you that Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than any brother! Please help me to be a good friend to Jesus, sharing the good news that He saves and he saves to the utmost! Please also help me to be a good friend to my earthly companions. Teach me to be loyal and true in all circumstances. I pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaL