What is it like to be a warrior among warriors, whose closest friend is another warrior whom you respect without reservation, whom you have learned you can depend on in combat, no matter what the odds?
David, King of Israel, was an unusual man from his youth. The youngest of eight sons, he was still his father’s choice to guard the family livestock, which in those days was extremely important. We meet David first when his father Jesse gives him a “care package” of roasted grain and bread to take to his three oldest brothers, who are in Israel’s army and on the front lines of the war with the Philistines. David hears Goliath’s arrogant challenge to the Israelite army to send their best man to fight him. David sees the army’s fearful refusal to send a single warrior to meet him. This is understandable. Goliath was at least nine and a half feet tall, and per Answers in Genesis, his spear was about 12 feet long and would have weighed about 33 pounds. His armor was similarly formidable. Goliath was a big bulletproof braggart, but David took him out quickly.
In the request for permission to face Goliath, in his confrontation with Goliath, and in his reply to King Saul afterward, David exhibits the same humility and reliance on God for victory.
Saul’s son Jonathan was watching and listening to all this, and the two became close friends that day. Undoubtedly they were closer to each other than they were to anyone else on earth. 1st Samuel 18:1 says, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” Verses 3-4 say, “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 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.”
Here is a warrior who so respects another warrior that he gives him his “dress greens” (robe), his “fatigues” (tunic), and his weapons and “load-bearing equipment” (belt).
As the king’s son, Jonathan could have given orders to outfit David with the same gear from the armory. But Jonathan was so impressed with David, had so much respect and admiration for him, that he gave David his personal combat equipment and weapons.
Why? Because Jonathan had tested and proven them. He didn’t want to risk some careless armorer giving David equipment that wasn’t in perfect condition.
David likewise had immense respect for Jonathan, a legendary warrior in his own right: 1st Samuel 14:1-14.
David’s subsequent success on the battlefield as leader in all the (successful) campaigns against the Philistines made him a national hero to all Israel. But it made Saul afraid that he would lose his crown, and he began inventing various plots designed to get David killed.
But Jonathan … Jonathan had honor almost unparalleled in this life. He warned David of the danger and kept him informed of every looming attempt on his life. He also did his best to persuade Saul not to be angry with David. This worked for a while, but there came the day when under the influence of “an evil spirit from the Lord“, “Saul tried to pin [Jonathan] to the wall with his spear“.
Saul’s daughter, David’s wife warned David to escape, and she covered for him at risk of her own life, because Saul was truly kill-crazy toward David.
David and Jonathan met secretly afterward, and David told Jonathan, “… as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”
Jonathan stood to lose his chance to be king, and even his own life, but he swore to David, “I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know?”
And in return, David promised not to take revenge on Jonathan or to wipe out Jonathan’s family. Both of these things were common practices in the savagery of those days.
If you have even one friend who is as loyal to you as this, you understand how important they are to you. How vital they are in your life. Jonathan prayed, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account“, knowing that his own father was the worst enemy of David.
“And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.”
Several days later, when Saul still didn’t see David at his appointed place at the table, he realized that Jonathan was protecting David, and he became enraged. When Jonathan tried to reason calmly with Saul, “… Saul hurled his spear at [Jonathan] to kill him.” For the second time.
But nothing could change Jonathan’s love and respect for David. “Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger … he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.”
Jonathan warned David as agreed. They said goodbye, and I think they both knew they would never in this life see each other again.
When later, David and those who followed him heard that Saul and Jonathan had been killed by the Philistines, “… they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son.”
David composed a lament for Saul as well as Jonathan, but how much it tore his soul that Jonathan had died is easy to read:
“How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!“
Those who have lost close friends or family begin to have some idea of this grief. Those who have lost a beloved spouse, or lost their young child at a young age, probably have the best understanding of what it means to lose someone you depended on in deadly combat. There is a bond formed that we who have not had the experience of can only guess at. The pain must be unbearable. Those who know of a warrior grieving for a lost comrade must pray for them, because there’s no one except God who can help someone not to be destroyed by such grief. We don’t form many bonds like that in this life, and when they are broken the pain is unbearable.
Abba, we lift up to You our warriors who suffer this agony of soul, because we can’t help them very much. We pray, Abba, that You will help us do what we can, show us what that might be, and help those who are in agony of spirit because of this loss. In the holy name of Jesus we ask these things. Amen.