Tag Archives: King Saul

God’s People, part 45: Jonathan

Read 1 Samuel 18:1-5

“‘That’s not true!’ Jonathan protested. ‘You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!’” (1 Samuel 20:2 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

DavidCarosel04Part 45: Jonathan. One thing I know is true, Jonathan was, at the very least, David’s best friend. I don’t think there could ever be a more loyal friend than Jonathan, who was the eldest son of King Saul. Being the eldest, that made him the heir to his father’s throne. In fact, his being the next in line only complicated the Jonathan and David’s friendship; however, the ties between them were too strong for it to dismantle their relationship.

As we read in our last devotion, King Saul grew to be a very jealous and tyrannical leader. There are a number of reasons for that. Samuel had outright told Samuel that he was going to be replaced, that God had removed favor from him or his household and that another had been anointed and would eventually replace him. That never goes over well with a king.

Then there was David and all of his success. He, as a shepherd, saved all of Israel from the Philistines in a way that Saul could not. He had everything going for him. He was handsome, he was poetic, he was musical, and he was a heck of a warrior and military leader. To put it in today’s terms, David was a rock star! And Saul had to have known that God had put his favor upon David, which irked him to no end.

Yet, to make matters worse, David became best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. We don’t really know the extent of the friendship; however, the Bible says that there was an “immediate bond” between Jonathan and David. Saul initially encouraged the friendship, and scripture says that “Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as himself.”

Scholars have argued back and forth over the type of relationship Jonathan and David shared. The Bible is rather vague in its description of the relationship. The word for love used in the quote above is ‘âhab (אָהַב, pronounced aw-hab’), or ‘âhêb (אָהֵב, pronoucned aw-habe’), and means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise).” It can also mean “to be loved, lovely, or a lover,” as well as to “like”, or “friend.”

It matters not the extent of the relationship between David and Jonathan; what can be said with certainty is that the two were extremely close and loved each other. This love, I believe, caused Saul to grow even more jealous and resentful of David. Of course, that was not always easy for Jonathan to see.

There were many times that David confided in Jonathan that he thought his father was looking to kill him (David). Yet, on multiple occasions Jonathan denied that, and could not come to admit his father’s hatred for David. One such time Jonathan insisted, “’That’s not true!’ Jonathan protested. ‘You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!’” (1 Samuel 20:2 NLT)

Jonathan’s love for both his father and David ended up putting him in awkward places, where he had to both encourage his friend, but also defend and support his father. Eventually, his dad’s envious ire got the best of him and of Jonathan. Long after David had fled for his life, Jonathan stood by his father’s side on the battle field and marched against Philistines, a march that would lead him, his two brothers, his father, and the army of Israel to their deaths.

Like Jonathan, we often remain loyal to the people we love. We hold these people in high regard and cannot fathom that they would do anything morally wrong or horrible. We defend them, even when others claim to be victims of their harmful or abusive behavior. We remain in denial because it is too hard for us to face the fact that some people, including family members, are not all that we hope them to be. The challenge for us is to, no matter how hard it is, view ourselves and those around us with sober and honest eyes. The challenge is to set up graceful, loving systems of accountability so that we can mutually encourage each other in our strengths and guide each other in our weaknesses. This is what God wants us to do.

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” – Stephen Covey

Lord, help me be responsible in my relationships, and to have mutual accountability built into my relationships with others. Amen.


Read Isaiah 45:1-8

“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NLT)

anointing_of_fresh_oilWhen you hear the word Messiah, who do you think of? When you hear the word Christ, what do you think of? Some of you may know that the words Christ and Messiah mean the same thing, that “messiah” is the English equivalent of a the Hebrew word “mâshı̂yach” (מָשִׁיחַ) and “christ” is the English equivalent of the Greek word “christos” (Χριστός). My guess is that when most people hear the phrase “messiah” or “christ”, whether they or Christian or not, they immediately think of the man who ended up becoming the figure head of the Christian religion, Jesus of Nazareth. Some may even mistakenly think that “Christ” is Jesus’ last name!

I am very certain that when most people hear the words “messiah” or “christ”, they do not think of Cyrus. In fact, if I were a betting person, I would bet that most people would not even know who Cyrus actually is. As it happens, Cyrus was the king of Persia. He ended up being the ruler who took over the kingdom of Babylon after it fell to the forces and the might of Persia. Within Babylon were the people of Judah who had been exiled there because of their trying to ally with Egypt against Babylon. When that happened, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon beseiged Jerusalem and, upon overtaking it, forced all of the leaders, the Temple priests, the scribes and people of import were exiled from Jerusalem and relocated in Babylon.

Once Babylon fell to Persia, King Cyrus (who was not a Jew and had no in depth knowledge of the Jewish religion) let the Jewish people return back to Jerusalem. What is even more striking than that, is that Cyrus seemingly had no agenda other than to just let them go home. He didn’t require them to send any money back to him, or pledge their loyalty to him in any way; rather, he simply let them go home to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its Temple. In response to that, the Jewish priests and scribes wrote of Cyrus that he was the LORD GOD’s “anointed one”, or Messiah (which is “Christ” in Greek). Let me reiterate that. Cyrus, the non-Jewish, polytheistic, war mongering Persian King was the Messiah…the Christ…the LORD’s anointed one.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with such richness that really help point us to the nature of God. If we read Scripture carefully, there were many messiahs. Saul, David, Solomon, and every other King of Israel were all the LORD’s anointed ones. That’s different than being “the Messiah”, the one that some of the first century Jews were looking to come and rid them of their oppressors and reestablish the line of King David forever; however, there were many messiahs and each one of them were anointed by the LORD’s prophets. There really is nothing unusual about a king, or others, being called messiah. What is unusual is that this particular king does not even know, let alone worship, the God of Israel.

What does that say for us? It says that God constantly exceeds our expectations. It says that God will anoint anyone who is willing to have compassion, who seeks justice, who loves mercy, and who walks in the path of humility. Whether that person is a Jew or a Gentile, whether that person is a Christian or a Muslim, whether that person is a monotheist or a polytheist, whether that person is a male or a female, God will work in and through anyone who is willing to humble themselves and let LOVE rule the day. The fact is that God was calling Israel to live in that love, to be God’s chosen, and God worked through Cyrus to remind them of that. The fact is that God is calling us to live in that LOVE, to be God’s chosen, and once again is using Cyrus to remind us of that. Be reminded and live a life of LOVE that witnesses to the LOVE of God.

“This is not the time to shrink back in fear. This is the time to move forward in Faith. Get up every morning knowing you are anointed. You are equipped. You are empowered. You have everything you need to fulfill your destiny.” – Elton Sibiya

Lord, allow me to step out in faith, to see that you have anointed me to fulfill the work of love, compassionate justice, and mercy that you began at the outset of the world. Allow me to act upon that knowledge in service of others. Amen.