The Shirt Off Your Back
Jonathan and David made a covenant, because [Jonathan] loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off his robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
1 Samuel 18: 3-4
Jonathan had every reason to be wary of David. Jonathan was Saul’s son, the next in line for the throne. He was going to be king of Israel, with all the honor, wealth, and power of that prominent position. But Jonathan was, first and foremost, a friend, not a prince. His dedication to David surpassed his desires for his own future.
Jonathan’s commitment to his friend inspired him to initiate a covenant, a solemn pledge. To confirm his commitment, Jonathan gave David his royal robe. That was significant, but it wasn’t all. Jonathan also gave him his armor, including his sword, his bow and his belt. This act of remarkable generosity signified that Jonathan was acknowledging that David would take his place on the throne after Saul died.
Our friendships often are based only on mutual interests: You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. When the friendship threatens personal loss, it dissolves. Jonathan’s example, though, is of a categorically different type of friendship, in which both parties are dedicated to the good of the other, no matter what the cost. These friendships are rare, but they are life changing for both people. Those who enjoy this level of friendship tell us that their friend made all the difference in their futures, most often because the friend remained loyal during the darkest, most difficult moments in their lives. That’s the measure of true friendship, one that involves genuine love, sacrifice, and time.
Whatever you are, it’s your friends who make your world.
Jonathan is a picture of Christ. We read that Christ who is the Only Begotten Son of God came down from glory to insignificant us and offered to share His inheritance. The kingdom He was sharing was far beyond the kingdom of Saul and for most of us way beyond anything we can imagine. I’ve often wondered what went through David’s mind that day when Jonathan took off his robe and placed it on him. Yet you and I have received a robe from Christ called the robe of righteousness. This is not a robe we earn or even deserve. It is an incredible gift from our Friend Jesus who shows His love toward us. No wonder the songwriter wrote, “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one, no not one.” How could we ever capture the attention of any king much less the King of Glory? An yet somehow we have. In the story of the prodigal, we read that when he came home, the father called for the servants to bathe him and place the robe of sonship upon him. That’s what Christ has done for us.
Jonathan not only gave David the royal robe but with the robe gave up his own rights, possessions, and throne. Most of us aren’t this kind of a friend. Oh to be sure we’ll share with our friends. We’ll go farther with them than ordinary people would go, and we make some sacrifices. But Jonathan elevated his friendship with David far beyond any comfort zone. He elevated his friendship above his own desires, wants, and security. What about us? Are we the kind of friend who is willing to put our friends above ourselves? Would we give up something we really wanted so they might have it? Jesus said that there is no greater love than that which moves someone to lay down their life for another. And He laid down His life for us. That day Jonathan also gave David his armor including his sword. Let’s don’t miss the fact that he was literally placing not only his position but his very life into David’s hands. David could have chose to eliminate anyone who stood between him and the throne. He could have easily justified his action since Samuel had already anointed him to be Saul’s successor. David ought to be the picture of us as a friend. Instead of pushing his way, David waited for God to make the move and his friendship with Jonathan and his respect for Saul as king and his reverence for God was so strong that even when he had the opportunity to eliminate Saul, he wouldn’t take the advantage. I think sometimes we are tested in our morals and attitudes by God. Will we make our friendship with Him more important than demanding our way? Will we trust Him and maybe just as important, can He trust us? Christ, too, has given us His armor (Ephesians 6) and we have liberty to use it. Will we use it for Christ or against Him. The powerful Sword of the Spirit- the Word of God- has been placed in our hands. It can build up or strike down. It can wound or it can heal. It can help or it can hurt. And God trusts us with it and He trusts us to use it properly.
We read that the love for David moved Jonathan to give the robe, the armor, and the weapons. We read that the love God has for us moved Him to give Christ for us and moved Christ to give us the robe of righteousness and the weapons that are not carnal(of the flesh) but mighty through God. Jonathan’s act of love toward David evoked a response of love and gratitude. Scripture tells us that even though Saul had spent years trying to kill David, that upon his death, David mourned. We also know that David mourned Jonathan. I’ve often wondered whether David would have been influenced to make better choices had Jonathan been around. David’s friendship with Jonathan was so deep that after he ascended to the throne, he sought out any surviving members of Jonathan’s family. He found a single one, a little crippled boy, and brought him to the palace and his table all the days of his life. The gift of true friendship also causes a response of true gratitude.
When we think about how Christ was willing to share His inheritance with us purely because He loves us, ought it not evoke a response of intense gratitude? How can we not adore, worship, praise, serve, and obey such a friend? Why is it that too often everything else becomes our priority and our friendship with Christ lost on our list? What would you think of a friend who has time and energy for everyone and everything else and little time for you? What kind of relationship would it be if they only showed up when they needed something and never asked how they might bless you? What kind of friendship would you think it would be if they hid it and kept it a secret as though they are embarrassed by having you as a friend? Jesus says something powerful, “If you’re ashamed of Me in the presence of men, I’ll be ashamed of you in the presence of My Father.” Friendship goes both ways. It’s impossible to be friends with someone who doesn’t reciprocate. We may love them just as Christ loves us but if they choose to ignore our offer, there can be no relationship. When Jonathan offered David his friendship that day, David responded with an embrace. When Christ offers us His friendship, we respond with worship, and service.
There’s a little chorus that captures the essence of our friendship with Christ:
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me!
That really the question Christ asks us. Will you love me just as I have loved you? I hope you say yes.