“And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16)
Friends, or potential friends, who appear to have an agenda tend to arouse my suspicions. I really don’t like to be manipulated. So I’m always quite wary of people who seem to have a plan for my life or who try to get close to me because they want something from me. However, I’m learning that friends with a divine agenda can turn out to be the very best friends of all.
With David’s life under threat from envious King Saul, he finds an unlikely ally and friend in Saul’s son, Jonathan. Unlikely because Jonathan is first in line to the throne, so has as much – if not more – to gain from David’s murder as his father does. But Jonathan is not driven by selfish ambition, not focused on what’s in it for him. Instead, he recognises David as God’s choice to succeed Saul as Israel’s King, and humbly submits to God’s plan and purpose. So earlier we read that, “Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt” (1 Samuel 18:4). A clear sign that he recognises David as God’s anointed one.
Jonathan now actively seeks out his friend as he hides from Saul in the wilderness at Horesh. And yes, he has a very clear agenda. He wants to reassure David that God’s plan for his life will certainly come to pass and that Saul won’t succeed in his plot to track him down and kill him. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this” (1 Samuel 23:17). With these encouraging words, Jonathan helps David to find strength in God.
Now David is a type, or a forerunner, of Christ. So Jonathan’s love for and allegiance to David should first encourage us to wholeheartedly love and give everything for our King Jesus. We should submit to him and take refuge in him, as God’s chosen king who alone can forgive sins, reconcile us to a Holy God and bring us safely into the kingdom of heaven.
But we can also learn an important lesson about true friendship from Jonathan’s love for and commitment to his friend David. The very best kind of friends, godly friends, operate according to a divine agenda. They’ll look out for how God might be working in my life and encourage me to trust in God’s sovereign power and control. They’ll lovingly speak words of truth to me so that I grow in faith and in my knowledge of God. And they’ll discourage me from putting all my hope in them, or becoming dependent on them. Instead, they’ll be driven by a desire to help me grow in dependence on God.
Friends with this kind of agenda should receive a warm welcome into my life, rather than arouse suspicion. Indeed, it’s worth praying and asking God for friends like these. And, please God, that I can be this kind of friend to other people too. Doing everything possible to help them find strength in God.