June 16, 2024


         (Selections from 1 Samuel)

‘The Love of David & Jonathan’ Rev. Jane Courtright


I know that usually, we read all the scriptures,

Then I preach the sermon.  Today is a bit different,

As we continue to journey with David!

Last week, we pondered the story of David & Goliath.

It is a story that is well known!

But the story of David & Jonathan is less well known.


Besides that, their story is kind of spread

throughout the books of 1st & 2nd Samuel….

Interwoven with a lot of other stories!

So, in order to get the best understanding of their story,

I’ll offer some background & you will hear

Scripture passages read by Karen,

Interwoven into my sermon.


The story of David in 1st & 2nd Samuel is set in a time

When the Hebrew people are living scattered

Across the land of Palestine…a bunch of clans or tribes.

There is no nation, no capitol, no single leader,

Not even much of a common culture!


Though there probably is a shared language & memory

That they are descended from the people who escaped Egypt,

Traveled across the desert for 40 years, & finally ended up

In this land that they believe God  led them to!


All of that happened 100’s of years ago though,

& by this time they had set up housekeeping in Palestine.

They had either killed off, displaced, assimilated

Or learned to live with the indigenous people –

Those Canaanites who had already been living

In the land when the Hebrew people showed up.

[Does this sound familiar?]


During those 100’s of years, they didn’t feel

A great need to be highly organized.

What leadership they had was given by war heroes,

Groups of tribal chieftains & elders, priests, prophets,

Shamans – spiritual type people who had great wisdom

or messages from God.


Unfortunately, by that time, as we heard last week,

It WASN’T common to hear messages from God.

1 Samuel 3:1 says, “The word of God was rare

in those days; visions were not widespread!”


In the meantime, the Hebrew people were beginning

To think that it was high time to get better organized!

You remember that Samuel, the great prophet, is asked

To appoint a king to govern the people….

Like other nations.


Samuel of course, was not entirely happy with this.


And either were some of the people who just weren’t

comfortable with this kind of centralized authority.

The debate over kingship

continues throughout the books of Samuel.


However, at some point in the story,

FEAR wins out over IDEALISM.

The majority of the people began to say,

“If we don’t stop being splintered

& get ourselves together, put someone in charge,

Establish a chain of command,

We’ll get conquered ourselves!”


At this point, God is even reported to have said

Something like, “OK, OK, go ahead & have a king.

In fact, I’ll find you someone!”


That someone turned out to be Saul.

Saul, who didn’t want the job in the first place!

And once he became king,

He couldn’t seem to do anything right!

Oh, he tried his best, but whatever he  did,

It wasn’t good enough for God or Samuel.


He either kills too many people or not enough.

He is seen as too strong a leader or too weak a leader.

One time, a sacrifice was planned just before a battle.

Samuel was supposed to be there to bless the event,

but he was late!


But the enemy was coming, so Saul decided

To go ahead with the sacrifice without Samuel.

Turns out, this decision was a MAJOR sin.


Samuel got no blame for being late.  NOOOO!

It was Saul’s fault – for not having the faith

To believe that Samuel would show!

It can be lonely, tough & stressful for leaders!


Is it any wonder that Saul begins to go crazy?!

Saul becomes jealous & paranoid,

has periods of severe moodiness,

sometimes just flips out & becomes violent…

in general, becomes a tortured soul.

It would be interesting, wouldn’t it,

to have a clinical diagnosis of Saul’s condition!


It is HERE that David enters the picture…

as a young musician who plays the harp so sweetly

that it is able to soothe Saul’s soul.

Yep, David is brought in as a music therapist

for a suffering king.


After this, as we heard last week,

David goes out to slay Goliath 7 save the Israelites.

[which, by the way, WAS Saul’s kingly job!]


Afterward, Saul calls David in to thank him,

‘resize’ him up, try to figure out

whether David is now competition or not.

David as harpist was NOT competition,

but this business with Goliath

puts a new light on things!onathan=


So, Saul & David have a meeting.  Present at this meeting

is Saul’s son, whose name is JONATHAN.



And now, words from the book of Samuel,

which was originally 1 book!

When the book was translated from Hebrew into Greek,

2 scrolls were needed (you see, Hebrew has no vowels!)

Hence, 1st & 2nd Samuel!



1 Samuel 18:1-4

“Jonathan stripped himself of the robe he was wearing

& gave it to David, & his armor, & even his sword & his bow & belt.”


So begins a remarkable relationship,

Remarkable no matter how you look at it!


One way to look at this is to look

At the political importance of the relationship.

Jonathan, is, after all, the son of a king…heir to the throne.


So when Jonathan gives all of his royal finery to David,

It’s not JUST a way to say ‘Thank you,’

or even congrats on a job well done!


Whether because of affection or admiration

or intuition or divine revelation, Jonathan is,

in effect, handing over the future to David.

He is saying, “I am not the next king, you are.”

He puts himself at the service of David.



Another way to look at this is to see it as

a heartwarming story of a human relationship

that is so deep that it somehow survives wars

& personal intrigues & human hardships.



After Jonathan declared his love for David,

& virtually hands over future kingship,

David continues to rise to stardom.  He wins battles.

He says the right things at the right time.

He does whatever  Saul wants,

including continuing to play music for him,

even marrying the king’s daughter

(but that’s a story for another day!)


It’s not just Jonathan.  EVERYBODY loves David.



Saul can see the way things are heading.

He knows that David is a sure shot to be king.

But he doesn’t have to like it.


Every so often, he does things that give us a clue

that he doesn’t like it:

like right in the middle of one of David’s songs,

Saul decides to throw spears at him!



Verses from 1 Samuel 19:1-7

“Jonathan called David & brought David to Saul,

And David was in his presence as before.”


You can see that Jonathan has a problem.


He also cares about his father, who doesn’t love David.



Jonathan wants to be loyal to his father,

who has been a good father to him, and whose

troubles are partly his doing, but partly NOT,

and who is not a well man.

Saul was Jonathan’s father.

Jonathan was not ready to turn his back on him.


So, Jonathan keeps on loving David

& living with his father.

All this DOESN’T stop Saul from trying to kill David,

Until finally, David has had enough.


David is invited to an upcoming holiday meal,

But he has a feeling this meal may be his last.

He asks Jonathan to find out what Saul is up to.

Jonathan, understandably, has been a bit in denial

About his father’s seriousness about murdering David.


But still, he agrees to a plan.

David will stay away from the meal

until Jonathan finds out what’s going on.

Then, Jonathan will let David know

whether it’s safe or not.



Verses from 1 Samuel 20:24-42

“Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace.””


So, David leaves.  Jonathan stays.

They say goodbye & never see each other again.


Two people who love each other are kept apart by a father

And a whole bunch of other forces beyond their control.



David, to be safe from Saul, ends up going over

to the side of his old enemies, the Philistines.

There is a big battle in which

Jonathan is killed by the Philistines,

& Saul is about to be killed,

when he falls on his sword & kills himself.


David himself was not in this battle, because actually,

The Philistines don’t trust him to fight against

Saul & Jonathan.

But he is brought news of their deaths & breaks down.



Verses from 2 Samuel 1:17-27

“Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”


The story ends with this lament, which seems appropriate.

What can we learn from this sad story?

Where does it touch our lives?

Politically & personally, there are so many things

We can learn & places we can be touched by this story.

There are endless sermons I could preach

After reading this story!


But for this morning, let’s look

At the tension Jonathan lives with throughout.

Jonathan has such deep feelings for his father-

Feelings such as love & loyalty.

He can’t abandon his father is such unstable condition.

These feelings are deep, intense, deeply rooted..

COMPLICATED – as family feelings are bound to be.

On the other hand, Jonathan loves David

& David loves Jonathan.

The Bible tells us that they love each other deeply –

With all their hearts.

But Saul will not have it!  He sees David as a threat.


How can Jonathan be true to his father & to David,

who he has said, he loves more then life itself?

We may not agree with the choices Jonathan makes,

but I doubt we would find it hard to imagine or identify

with the feelings with which he is dealing.


How do WE continue to honor a relationship

with someone who doesn’t honor our relationships?

Or how do we continue to love or keep a relationship

with someone who holds values that offend us deeply?


But there can be more than lament at the end of this story!

May the story of David & Jonathan help us resolve

to keep working at making room for loving relationships

in our lives and in the world.


GOD KNOWS there is too much in this world

that is NOT loving,

And too much in this world

that chokes loving relationships.


In the middle of all of this,

may the Force be with us!  Amen.

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