Character Feature: Jonathan

When we think of prominent people of the Bible, we tend to mention the obvious – Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Noah, David, Paul, among others. One name I personally don’t typically hear or talk about is Jonathan, but he’s a figure from the Bible that we really should be talking about. Jonathan has a story of friendship, selflessness, humility, and trusting God’s plan.

Who is Jonathan and what’s his story?

Jonathan was the son of Saul – yes, the same Saul who was killing priests and throwing spears at his own son – making him next in line for the throne Israel. Jonathan, despite his father’s ways, was the exact opposite. He was a man full of faith, devotion to God, and integrity.

Jonathan had a deep friendship with David, who also became his brother-in-law when David married Jonathan’s sister, Michal. Jonathan loved David as he loved himself (1 Samuel 18:1) and made a covenant with him, exemplifying true friendship.

In 1 Samuel 18:6-9, we see the beginning of Saul’s bitterness and jealously toward David. The people began to reject Saul as King and celebrate David instead. Saul’s jealously grew and burned against David, so much so that Saul attempted to kill him. Jonathan protected David from his father’s murderous intentions so that David could flee, even though David’s death would have meant Jonathan taking the throne for himself.

Saul continues on a rapid downward spiral, but Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David in 1 Samuel 20:16 saying, “May the Lord hold David’s enemies accountable,” which included his own father. Jonathan relied on God for his victories, and obediently put God’s will above his father’s will.

Why is Jonathan’s story important, and how does it have meaning to us today?

Jonathan’s story gives us the perfect example of when it is right to obey God instead of man, regardless of who it is. If people, even those closest to us, want us to go against something that God has commanded us to do, God’s will should always be our winning choice. Jonathan is a prime example of not being defined by who we are related to.

Jon Bloom (dessiringGod.org) writes that perhaps the only thing harder for prideful humans than humbly wielding power is humbly yielding power. Jonathan not only yielded his own chance at the throne of Israel to David, but he also did everything in his power to help him.

God’s will for you someday may be to yield your position to someone else. But, not only are we called to yield, but to love the one in the place we thought we would have. God wants us to seek first the kingdom, not our prominence in it. Our relationships and friendships should be edifying and give glory to God. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

How can we “sharpen” our friendships and relationships? We can fellowship, spend time together, be vulnerable, hold each other accountable, pray, lovingly admonish one another, support God’s will in each other’s lives – and, as Colossians 3:14 tells us, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Jonathan may not be a commonly talked about biblical figure, but as I mentioned before, he should be. He cared deeply for his friend and was able to serve and love as strongly as he did because he followed God’s will above all else. God loves when we strengthen one another’s faith with humility and selflessness. Let us have the same mindset as Jonathan, that we make ourselves nothing to become Christ-like in order to serve God and love others.

-Kayley