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September 10, 2017

Sermon I Samuel 18:1-5  . . . “People to meet in heaven:  Jonathan”

“People to meet in heaven:  Jonathan”

I Samuel 18:1-5

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

In his book, And You Know You Should be Glad:  A True Story of Lifelong Friendship, author Bob Greene writes:  “If we’re especially fortunate—our first friends, our oldest friends--remain close to us no matter where the world leads us.  We don’t have to live in the same cities; we don’t have to see each other on a daily basis.  Friendships—especially the oldest friendships—don’t require that.”

And he writes:  “No one knows us better.  No one in our adult lives saw us the way we first were, before the inevitable defenses against a thorny world went up, before the layers of protective walls around us were constructed…We all have someone who was there before all of that.  If we’re lucky, that someone is with us for a very long time.”

And in his book, he tells the story of four of his very best friends.  They were there at the very beginning, and would be at the very end.

History has more than its share of good friends.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn, both composers, were very good friends, and so were inventors Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.  J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was a very good friend of C.S. Lewis, author of The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.  In fact, Tolkien even helped C.S. Lewis come to faith.

You’ve heard of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark?  They were two of the most adventurous friends in history!  Actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are said to be good friends, as were Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.  Founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were friends for decades, till both died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826.

Even Disney has its share of best friends.  Think of Lilo and Stitch, Bambi and Thumper, Buzz and Woody, and Mowgli and Baloo.  And let’s not forget about Sesame Street!  Bert and Ernie are pretty good friends too.

The Bible talks a lot about friends.  Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18:  “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  And Jesus said in the book of John:  “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing.  But I have called you friends.”

But of all the friends and friendships the world has ever known, there’s never been one deeper nor more beautiful than the one found between two men—one named David and the other, Jonathan.

If you would, please turn in your Bible to page 307, as I read the read of our text.  I’ll start where it says, “David and Jonathan’s Friendship,” I Samuel chapter 18, verse 1:  “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.  And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.  And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war.  And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” 

Let’s step back for a moment to see what’s going on.  

The story began just a few years before when Saul became king.  He didn’t want to be king.  In fact, when the prophet Samuel first came to anoint him, he couldn’t find him(!), till the Lord told him, “Behold, he’s hidden himself among the baggage.”  He was tall, dark and handsome on the outside, but a coward on the inside.

The first years were good as the Lord blessed him to lead the people and to fight against the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Amalekites and the Philistines.

But somewhere, sometime, something changed.  Did he lose his faith in God?  Was he afraid of the people?

Whatever happened, God rejected him and gave the kingdom to another man, a young shepherd boy named David.  

Then when Samuel anointed David to be king, when he killed Goliath with a sling and a stone, and when the people began to shout, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands,” that’s when things were never the same again.  Envy and paranoia spread in Saul like fire.  He would try to kill David six times.

But wonder of wonders, in the midst of all that fear and drama, we meet a man named Jonathan.

Who is he?  Not only was he David’s dearest friend, he was Saul’s son.

If you think about it, it’s a friendship that should never have been.  Jonathan grew up as the eldest of the king’s sons, the heir to the royal throne.  David was the absolute youngest, heir to nothing.  Jonathan grew up in the lap of luxury, in the capital city, Jerusalem.  David was a country boy from a small, small town called Bethlehem.  Jonathan slept in the palace.  David slept in the fields.  Jonathan held a golden goblet in one hand and a crown in the other.  David had a shepherd’s crook.

Yet what did Jonathan do?  It’s one of the most touching scenes in all of the Bible.  Look again at verse 4:  “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”

What does that mean?  You see, Jonathan wasn’t simply giving David the shirt off his back--“I love you as a dear friend of mine, so here’s my robe and sword and armor.”  Instead, even though he was Saul’s eldest son, the rightful heir to the throne, Jonathan gave him the kingdom.

Now if I could, let me take you across the Atlantic for a moment, across the pond as they say, to England.  And I want you to imagine that, out of the blue, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, heir to the royal throne, formed a friendship with an absolute nobody in British society--let’s say, an auto mechanic who worked at a greasy garage in a back alley in London.  Then, stranger still, not only did he love him with all his heart, he handed over all of his royal regalia, insignia, robes, scepters and crowns, and asked him to be king instead.

Not possible, you say.  Not thinkable.  Could never be.  

But here, in I Samuel 18, that’s exactly what happened.

In effect, he said, “David, take my robe--my stature, my rank, my throne.  Take my sword--my self-defense.  Take my bow--my most prized possession.  Take what’s closest to me.  Take what’s dearest to me.  It’s yours.  It’s all yours.”

Jonathan didn’t care that David had dirt under his fingernails, was twelve shades of brown from years of working in the fields, and spoke with a country twang, he loved him as he loved his own soul.

It seems that we don’t do so well at having friends.  Even though your Facebook page might tell you that you have two hundred friends, how many of those are good friends, close friends?

In her book, Disaster Preparedness, author Heather Havrilesky writes:  “We weren’t meant to suffer alone!  We weren’t meant to…escape the indignity and frustration of asking for help, for needing help…We were meant to lean on each other, as messy and imperfect as that can be, to be capable when we can, and to allow the world to take care of us when we can’t.  It won’t be all bad.  Or it will be.  But at least we’ll have each other.”

Friends laugh and friends cry.  Friends mourn your losses and celebrate your victories.  Friends forgive.  Friends care.  Friends understand.

May God help us to be friends like that.

David and Jonathan had an extraordinary friendship.  There’s never been anyone like it.

But I can think of a friendship that goes far deeper and farther in expressing its love.  And that’s the friendship we have in Jesus Christ.

That’s what He said in the book of John:  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends…and I have called you friends.”

And when did He speak those words?  Not on a Sunday afternoon on a beach on the Mediterranean.  It was in an Upper Room, on Maundy Thursday night, at the Last Supper.  It’s the night when His disciples, His dearest friends, betrayed Him, denied Him, and ran away.

Even more, when Jonathan showed his deep friendship for David, he gave him his armor and robe.  And when Jesus showed His deep friendship for us, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, He “emptied Himself.”  He “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And just as Jonathan once gave David his most prized possessions, Jesus has gifted us with the gospel of peace, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  And He dresses us in a robe of righteousness and crowns us in glory, to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people that belong to God.

No one could ever love us more than Jesus.

One more thing.  The story of David and Jonathan didn’t end here in I Samuel 18.  But it did end later on a battlefield in chapter 31.

The Philistines cornered Saul and his three sons and killed every one of them.  Then when David heard that Jonathan was dead, he tore his clothes and said:  “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.”

But the story of our friendship with Jesus is a story that’ll never end.

As Wilbur Chapman once wrote in a hymn:  “Jesus! what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.  Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a friend!  Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.”

 

We thank You, dear Father, for the love that was found between David and Jonathan.  But we thank You even more, for the love of our Savior Jesus.  In His name we pray.  Amen

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