by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

(Chapter 5 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Blue Denim and Lace)

One day while conducting Staff Devotions, I was asked by one of the staff members concerning the subject of friendship. The devotion for that day had pertained to the relationship of friends. The question asked was something like this: "Pastor, do you know of any such friends in the Bible?" Immediately my attention was directed toward Jonathan and his relationship to David. This, of course, was one of the most beautiful relationships in all the Bible and is worthy of careful inspection.

1. ". . .the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David. . ." (I Samuel 18:1) Notice that it does not say that he knitted himself, but that the soul was knit. True friendship is a gift of God, and a person who has a true friend should count him as such. We hear much about "falling in love" in our day. I doubt if anyone can really define such a condition, but there is such a thing in the Bible. God knit the soul of one to the soul of another. The words "made one" could be used in the relationship of Christ and the church as well as in the relationship of the husband and wife. In other words, when God gives one a friend, he knits their souls just as really as Christ was knit to the church and as the husband and wife are knit to each other.

It is worthy of note that Jonathan's soul was knit to David's. David needed a friend. God gave David such a friend. Happy and blessed is the person who knows such knitting of his soul to that of another.

2. Notice the words in I Samuel 18:1 and 3, "as own soul." In other words, Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul. This could mean "one soul in two bodies," or it could mean "another self." When God gives such a friendship, He gives a love for the friend that is akin to a love for self. The friend's welfare is my welfare. In other words, we prefer our friends to ourselves. How sacred, how wonderful is such a relationship.

3. Jonathan gave up the kingdom for David. (I Samuel 18:4) Jonathan was the son of Saul. Saul was the king. No doubt he was the heir apparent to the throne, but his friendship led him to give all to his friend. David's Welfare meant more than his own. True love and true friendship knows no bounds of sacrifice, love, and giving. True love gives to be satisfied, but finds dissatisfaction. Again, it gives, but again it wants to give more. Yet again it gives, and again it is unsatisfied. Nothing can satisfy true love but giving all. Such was the case of Jonathan.

4. This friendship was not necessarily earned. The word "Jonathan" means "God has given" or "given by God." Apart from salvation itself, God has no more gracious gift than the gift of a true friend. If there is one such person in the world to you, thank God daily for him and do your best to nurture this relationship to its fullest.

5. The friendship was closer than blood. (I Samuel 19:2) In Proverbs 18:24 we find that there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. In John 15:13 we find that the greatest love is one laying down his life for a friend. True friendship is often closer than blood ties. this is the way God would have it. No doubt many readers will think of some such relationship that they enjoy. How sweet it is when the bonds of Jesus Christ and the bonds of Christian friendship exceed even the ties of blood.

6. They made a covenant between them to die for each other and to help each other's relatives. I believe that people should develop friendships so close for which death itself would not be too great a gift. Jonathan proved the sincerity of his heart when he risked his life again and again for his friend David. Each of us would like to have such a friend. It is more important that each of us become such a friend. Ask yourself: "Would I die for anyone?" Make a list of people for whom you would die. Once this list is made and you have made a covenant with yourself to offer such friendship, then go to the person or persons involved and tell them of your devotion. Enter into this covenant with them. Of course, do not expect reciprocation. Happy is the person who has love for another deep enough to die for him. It is certainly important that such relationships be expressed one to another when such friendships develop.

7. Jonathan was willing to be in the shadows. (I Samuel 23:17) True friendship is willing to be second. It is willing to exalt the other in place of self. It steps in the shadows and pushes the friend into the limelight. It finds its satisfaction in loving and not in being loved, in helping and not in being helped. It rejoices in the success of a friend.

8. It seems that Jonathan expressed his friendship to David every time he saw him. Again and again he took care to tell David of his love, devotion, and friendship. This is very important in a friend relationship. To be sure, there is an assurance in perfect love. Yet, we are only people, and we need to be assured again and again. There should be an excess of "I love you's" rather than a scarcity of them. How sweet it is when friends express devotion one to the other.

9. As far as we know, David was the only one to whom Jonathan was such a friend. One must not assume such deep relationships lightly. A friend should be as carefully chosen in the will of Goad as husband and wife. It is not a lesser relationship. Hence, too many such friends would cheapen the union. Also, because friendship bears with it tremendous obligations, one should not assume more friends than he is capable to fulfill the obligations involved. The word "friend" means far too little in most circles and should certainly carry with it a willingness to give all. This, of course, would narrow considerably the number of friends that any one person could have.

10. Jonathan gave to David his every desire. (I Samuel 20:4) True friendship seeks for the needs of its object. As I have said elsewhere in this book, THE DESIRE OF A FRIEND IS A ROYAL COMMAND!

11. Bodily absence does not mean that friends are apart. Jonathan and David were not together as much as one would think, yet their souls had been knit. There is a fellowship other than physical fellowship. How beautiful it is when the souls of two people are so knit together that they cannot be "separate" from each other.

There are some people in this world for whom I would die. I have them listed, and each day I pause to thank God for them by name and to fellowship with them though miles may separate us. Paul said in Philippians 1:7 that he had the Philippian people in his heart. In verse 8 he expressed his longing for them. True friends should have each other in their hearts and should have such soul fellowship that nothing can separate them.

12. It is interesting to note what happened to David after Jonathan died. Not long after Jonathan died, David had his terrible affair with Bathsheba. Then he lost the baby from this unholy union. A son raped a daughter. One son murdered another son. The murderer son then rebelled against his father, fought to take over the kingdom, and was soon killed in a battle against the forces of his own father. None of this happened to David while he had his friend. Could it be that it was Jonathan's friendship that helped keep David right?

I have known the inspiration that is given by having a friend. Such relationships can make my preaching better, inspire me to write more, and even keep my life cleaner and more dedicated to God. A true friend leads one to righteousness. A true friend enables his friend to become a better Christian. Such was the case with Jonathan and such should be the case with us.

13. Perhaps David never really understood the depth of Jonathan's love. To some, the relationship seems one-sided. To be sure, David did not have the opportunity to be a friend to Jonathan that Jonathan had to be a friend to David. However, the statement in II Samuel 1:26 that Jonathan's love exceeded that of women seems to me to be a little shallow. It is doubtful that David ever knew the depth of the friendship for Jonathan that Jonathan knew for David. We must remember, however, that David needed a friend more than Jonathan did. Perhaps it could be that God gave David a stronger friend because of his need. God's promise is that He will "supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory." This God did for David and likewise for Jonathan. There has always been some doubt to me, however, if David knew the depth of friendship that Jonathan knew. This should alert each of us to do this best to have sufficient love to reciprocate the depth of a friend's affection.

14. David gave to Jonathan after his death. All relationships on earth must end for a season, and so did David and Jonathan's earthly friendship. Jonathan died, but David's friendship lingered. In II Samuel 9:1 we see that David did a favor for Jonathan's son in honor of Jonathan and his life. He brought Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, to the king's palace (though the son was crippled) to live as one of his own sons in honor of Jonathan. There are those who think that David should have done something for Jonathan earlier. Perhaps he waited too late to express his friendship. Whether or not this is true in this story, it is nevertheless the case in many lives. We should do now what we plan to do later for our friends. Let us tell of our love now! Let us show our appreciation now! Let us sacrifice now! Let us give now. Let us share now. It is good to give to one's descendants after his death. It is better to give to them during his life. How sweet it is when God miraculously imparts friendship to two people. There are many close relationships in life such as parent-child, husband-wife, brother-sister, etc. Along beside these relationships must go a true friendship - the kind of friendship that exists between Jonathans and Davids, the kind of friendship which is a gift from Heaven and which will last forever.


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