Friends Are Like…

The following message is based on 1 Samuel 19:1-7 and addresses the value of friendship.

To have a few close friends, even just one or two is a tremendous blessing in life.  They help us through life’s challenges.  They encourage us.  Life comes easier with friends.  Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

To what can we compare friends?  Consider these descriptions…

Maybe you could think of a few more.  The point is that good friends are hard to come by and worth their weight in gold.  I’m impressed to hear of several of you who enjoy friendships within the church.  You vacation together, dine together, and spend time together with each others’ families.  What a blessing!

I asked a teenager recently to describe someone who is a good friend.  They responded: “participation in sports, a good sense of humor, someone who is popular, etc.”  Outward qualities attract, but they go away over time. No, rather we should look for qualities that we want to emulate.  Things like honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness. Proverbs 17:17 says: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Church is often described as a family. How would God have us regard each other?

The qualities of 1 Corinthians 13, would certainly make a good friend.  We are reminded there that a friend is: “…is patient, kind. A good friend does not envy, he does not boast, she is not proud.   A good friend is not rude, he is not self-seeking or easily angered.  She keeps no record of wrongs. A good friend does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  A best friend always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”

Our Scripture today speaks of two men who had a special friendship.  They eventually became family, but the kindred spirit they shared long preceded their legal connection.

David was Jonathan’s best friend and his brother-in-law (David married his sister, Michal).  David was also Saul’s son-in-law.  David was the heir to the throne.  When he was just a boy, Samuel anointed David as Israel’s future king, after the Spirit of God left Saul.  Most sons of a king would have felt insecurity or even hatred towards someone like David.  Not Jonathan.  His soul was knit to David’s.  He loved him like a brother.  What drew the two young men to each other?

For starters, Jonathan and David were close brothers because they served the same God.  They both submitted to God’s will.

In contrast to his father, Jonathan did not feel threatened by David.  Rather, his heart was knit to David’s.  1 Samuel 18:1 says: “Now it came about when (David) had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.  And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”

One commentator states: “As crown prince, Jonathan would have expected to succeed his father as king.  Here Jonathan’s gifts of his robe and weapons to David not only signifies his loyalty but implies his recognition of David as God’s choice for the next king.”[1]

Part of that relationship with God involved the humility of the two men.  Neither was boisterous or arrogant.  David and Jonathan hit it off.  Such was their friendship that Jonathan was willing, and in fact did step aside as heir apparent to welcome David as Israel’s future anointed king.  Hence the disrobing and bequeathing his sword and other items to David.  What made their relationship so unique?

A second quality that made David and Jonathan such good friends was that they had sacrificial loyalty for one another.  Saul was plagued by an unclean spirit.  He was also obsessed with jealousy towards David.  The king sought to kill David on many occasions.  1 Samuel 20:30 tells us: “Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you?”

Mark Boda comments regarding Saul’s jealousy of David: “Saul’s jealousy of David is undiminished throughout the latter half of 1 Samuel.  On several occasions he seeks to kill David, trying to convince his family and soldiers to eradicate his foe.”[2]  Jonathan would risk his life for his friend.  Saul continually tried to kill David.  But every time Jonathan would defend and protect David, even at the risk of his own life.

I want to be a friend like Jonathan was to David.  But I must not look at the qualities that they had and say: “I will only be friends with someone who has this or that.”  Rather, I must ask God to change my heart that I might be more humble.  You must seek the Spirit’s help to make you a better friend!

Maybe this means becoming a friend to someone younger than you, in years or in the faith.  Is God calling you to become a mentor?  Or maybe you could use the friendship of an older, more seasoned person.  Would you allow yourself to be mentored?

Spouses, seek to be friends with your mate.  Parents, seek to be friends with your children.  Grandparents, who knows how much longer you have with your grandchildren?  Time is short. It was once said that my kids will not so much remember what I said when they are older, but how I made them feel.

The following is a message I received from a young mother in Kansas who just lost her dad last week to cancer.  She said: “It is extremely hard all the way around for us. He is in a better place with no pain, we know that, but we want him here with us. He was such a great father, grandfather, husband and friend. He set a pretty high standard for us to follow. I can only pray to teach my children all that he taught us.”

Brothers and sisters, treat your siblings with respect and love, regardless of their age. Seek to build up and encourage each other with your words. Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

We are not given any details of daily conversations between Jonathan and David, but I would venture to say that they lived out these.  People are not friends over night.  Time and actions make individuals friends.

David reacted when hearing of Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths, by executing the person responsible (2 Samuel 1:15).  This is the song David taught the Israelites to sing for generations afterwards, recorded in 2 Samuel 1:23: “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and pleasant in their life, And in their death they were not parted; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions.  How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful Than the love of women. How have the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”

Much has been said over the years about Ronald Reagan’s friendship with Margaret Thatcher.  A USA Today article noted that “Thatcher first met Reagan one-on-one in April 1975 at the House of Commons in London. Reagan, then the governor of California, wrote a thank-you note to Thatcher, then the Conservative Party’s opposition leader in Parliament.”Please know,” Reagan wrote, “you have an enthusiastic supporter out here in the ‘colonies.'”  Nancy Reagan was quoted as saying: “Ronnie and Margaret were political soulmates, committed to freedom and resolved to end communism.”[3]

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of touring the Reagan library and museum in Simi Valley, California.  As I was enjoying the different displays, I noticed against the wall the signature book from President Reagan’s funeral.  Under glass, it was opened to a page that read: “Ronnie, Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant.  Margaret Thatcher.”

[1] The New Geneva Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 404.

[2][2] Mark Boda, After God’s Own Heart (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2007), 61.

[3] See http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/04/08/thatcher-reagan-political-soulmates/2063671/.

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