1. An unselfish relationship
“And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Sam. 23: 16).
God make us all His Jonathans. There is a great hunter abroad in the world [the devil]. Like Saul who sought David every day, he seeks souls every day, never a day’s respite, always the hunt is on. Although the words stand for ever, “but God delivered him not into his hand,” yet sometimes souls tire of being hunted, and like David they are in a wilderness in a wood. Then is Jonathan’s chance. But notice what he does; he does not so comfort David that he becomes necessary to him. “He strengthened his hand in God.” He leaves his friend strong in God, resting in God, safe in God. He detaches his dear David from himself and he attaches him to his “Very Present Help” [Psalm 46:1]. Then Jonathan went to his house, and David abode in the wood–with God.
2. An inspirational relationship
Next time we read of David being in serious trouble he had no Jonathan to strengthen his hands. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him … But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” [1 Sam. 30:6]. Long afterwards when he was delivered from Saul he sang one of his songs, “It is God that girdeth me with strength … Thou hast girded me with strength … The Lord liveth” [Psalm 18:32,39,46]. (His dear Jonathan was dead, but he does not even speak of him, all that matters is, “The Lord liveth; and blessed be my Rock”.)
If he had leaned on Jonathan, if Jonathan had made himself necessary to David, he would not have leaned on his Rock and proved the glorious strength of his Rock; his whole life would have been lived on a lower level, and who can tell how many of his songs would have been left unwritten, with great loss to the glory of God and to the Church of all the ages?
So let us not weaken those whom we love by weak sympathy, but let us love them enough to detach them from ourselves and strengthen their hands in God.
3. A caring relationship
“This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15. 12).
Was the love of Jonathan rather a cold kind of love, the love that does not care very much to be “loved back again”? David did not think so: “Very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” [2 Sam. 1:26]. To love as Jonathan loved, and to show that love as he showed his, is not to be hard, or cold; it is not to give a stone when a hungry heart asks for bread.
We cannot love one another too much. It is impossible to love too much. “This is My commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” We cannot approach that, much less pass it, so we cannot love too much. Let all loving hearts then be at rest about loving. Only let the love be selfless, strong, brave, faithful. There are always chances for strengthening one another’s hands in God; let us not lose our chances.
4. A positive relationship
[After he was crowned king, David asked] “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? … Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him?” (2 Sam. 9. 1,3).
Saul had not been kind to David, but all that is forgotten. David remembers the one lovely thing that came from that house. “Whatsoever things are … lovely … think on these things” [Phil 4:8]; leave the rest—-forget them-—that is the word that shines forth here.
Would it not be good to get into the way of looking out for chances to show kindness over and above duties? These words might be well written up, if not on the walls of our rooms, then on the walls of our hearts. “Is there any that I might show him kindness? Is there any that I might show the kindness of God unto him?” Kind Father, teach us how to show Thy kindness.
EDGES OF HIS WAYS (CLC, 1955), 5-7. Title and subpoints added by GN editor