The House of Jonathan
Last week we talked about the rise and fall of the House of Saul and this week we’re going to be talking about a closely related house - the House of Jonathan.
Now Jonathan was Saul’s son, and presumably the heir to his throne. He grew up as a prince of Israel. This meant that he went to battle with the army. And he was there when Israel was encamped against the Philistines. He heard Goliath’s challenge, and it shocked him when his father and all his father’s men were too afraid to fight the man. Until one day, someone he had never met before came into the camp. This kid was around his age and a shepherd of all things. He heard Goliath’s challenge too and this kid went to fight him. He wouldn’t take any armor, he wouldn’t take any weapons, and he killed Goliath. The Israelites routed the Philistines that day and Jonathan met David.
David continued to rise in the eyes of Israel, becoming a prominent leader in many ways. This meant that Jonathan got to know him better and better, as the started to operate in the same circles more and more. The two became friends and the thing that Jonathan still admired most about his friend David was David’s incredible faith. Jonathan saw that faith, saw the blessings that God showered on David, and he grew in his own faith.
While David seemed to enjoy all sorts of blessings and advancement, Jonathan also saw his own father’s decline. His faith continued to be weaker and weaker, his wisdom and honor seemed to decline, and there were moments where it seemed that he lacked any sort of self-control. Jonathan looked at his father, and he loved him, but it broke his heart to see Saul falling so far. But when David came to Jonathan and asked why Saul wanted to kill him, Jonathan thought that surely Saul had not fallen that far. He told David that there was no way that Saul would do something like that, but he still agreed to set up a test for Saul. David would go into hiding near the city and miss an important banquet Saul was putting on. Jonathan would make an excuse for David and he would watch how Saul reacts, signalling David either way.
Well, they go through with it, and Saul reacts very negatively. Saul declares his intention to kill David, and when Jonathan protests he goes as far as to through a spear at his own son to kill him. Jonathan goes out to warn David and send him away so that he will be safe from Saul.
Now what I think is so impressive about this story is Jonathan’s loyalty to David. This loyalty overcomes the loyalty to his father, to his family. This loyalty overcomes the loyalty to his king, to his nation. This loyalty overcomes the loyalty to himself, to his own interests. But he says something really interesting about this loyalty at the end of the account from today, he says that “the Lord shall be between me and you.” That loyalty is viewed through the lens of God being the facilitator of the relationship, and recasts Jonathan’s loyalty to David in light that it’s not just because David is so great, instead it’s because the relationship is in the name of the Lord.
The Loyalty of Faith
The Loyalty of Faith
Now what if we took that same loyalty, that same way of looking at things, and applied it to our relationships today. I want you to imagine two friends, you might even be able to think of you and one of your closest friends, but I’m going to call them Michael and Sean. These two friends met at a church event when they were still pretty young. Each of them was quick to volunteer, they helped to set up, they sacrificed some of their experience to help make sure the event went smoothly, and they both were two of the last people to leave. Each saw the other doing all of these things and admired how faithful and genuine the other person was, they started hanging out a lot and helping each other grow in the faith.
As their lives went on, these two friends took different directions in life. They went to different schools, ended up in different professions, and took up different hobbies. They still got together on a regular basis, their families were friends, and they were still really close friends. This was even in spite of a lot of things that you might think would divide them a little bit. One of them was a liberal, the other was a conservative. One of them was a Dodgers fan, the other was a Padres fan. But they still stood up for each other.
Now one day, someone came up to Michael and told him about some terrible things that Sean had done. But Michael trusted Sean and went to him to talk about it instead, and the situation was resolved. Another time, some people in the small group they were both in wanted Sean to help kick Michael out of the group, and Sean stood up for Michael and helped to reconcile those relationships. No matter what tests came up, Sean and Michael showed each other loyalty.
And if you were to ask either one of them why, why they stood by someone who disagreed with them politically, why they stood by someone who had so little in common with them, why they stood by someone who couldn’t help get them where they wanted to be in life. They would remember the faith that they shared, and say, “that’s why I’m loyal to him, because it’s a faithful relationship that God has put into my life, and I’m called to show loyalty in it.”
It reminds me of the character from Game of Thrones - some of you didn’t think I’d get a thematic reference in there, but here it is - Brienne of Tarth. She is a knight, well she doesn’t start off as a knight but she ends up a knight, who shows incredible loyalty to the people she serves. Even when it would be monumentally easier for her to shift her loyalties or her survival would be more sure by giving them up, she never does. She shows incredible loyalty because it is what her code of honor demands. She doesn’t show loyalty for the sake of the individual or because of some circumstance, she shows loyalty because that’s what she believes she is called to show.
That’s the loyalty we’re called to show, not for the sake of the individual or because of some circumstances, but because God puts us into relationships with each other and we should be faithful for His sake.
A Different Kind of Loyalty
A Different Kind of Loyalty
And that doesn’t only apply between believers. God bridges us in relationship to people who are currently outside the faith. If we recognize that God works in our lives to bridge us, to connect us to each other in relationships, loyalty becomes important because being loyal is being faithful to God in the relationships he’s blessed us with.
This is actually something I’ve experienced personally. I had a friend in undergrad who was not in the faith, but he spent a lot of time with the group of friends I spent most of my time with and all the rest of us were Christian to one degree or another. And we showed this kind of loyalty to each other, we stood up for each other, we were always there to support one another, and that extended to this friend who wasn’t in the faith too. We loved him, we stood up for him, we supported him, and all of it was unconditional - we saw God in the middle of the relationship and that was enough.
And I remember really clearly, one day I was at work - Vanderbilt Campus Dining - and I was working at the register. I hated working the register - but that’s not the point. I was standing there, it was close to closing time so there weren’t really people still coming through the line and this guy comes up. He opens up to me about how unbelievably different our group was because of that loyalty, because of that genuine, consistent care and support for each other.
You see, when we show our loyalty in our relationships, when we recognize God calling us to be loyal to others, the impact is significant. In no small part because it reflects the loyalty that Jesus Christ shows to us, the loyalty that Jonathan shows David, the loyalty that we’re called to show - God showed it perfectly. He stood by us, even when we were at our worst, and supported us. He went to bat for us on Calvary’s cross, and His perfect loyalty means that our price has been paid, our sins have been forgiven, and our relationship with Him is restored. And when we fall, over and over again, God is faithful and God is loyal to us, always ready to give us forgiveness and show us mercy.
So even as we strive to see God in the midst of our relationships and to live with the loyalty that inspires, we know that God is merciful and nothing will overcome, nothing will undermine His loyalty for us. Amen.