Monday, August 01, 2016

Faithful Friends

My Life Group lesson for July 31, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide, with an assist from John McClendon ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

How many “friends” do you have on Facebook?

Except for family, how many would you actually keep in touch with if not for the internet?

Why is having good friends important?

One of God’s blessings is our ability to have close friendships. Much of our joy in life is found through connections with other people.

Today we’re going to study how best buds Jonathan and David helped each other, served each other, sacrificed for each other, and respected each other.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

1 Samuel 18:1–20:42

*** In chapter 16 David was anointed king, but it would take years to become the ruler of Israel.

*** In chapter 17 David knocked out Goliath with a rock then cut his head off.

*** We cover chapters 18-20 today, the period during which David served in Saul’s military.

*** To put it mildly, David is military rock star, even killing a couple of hundred Philistines to win the hand of Saul’s daughter.

*** David’s so successful, in fact, that Saul wants him dead and no longer a contender to the throne. Lucky for David, Saul’s son Jonathan is David’s best pal.

TRUE FRIENDS (1 SAM. 18:1-5)

1 When David had finished speaking with Saul, Jonathan committed himself to David, and loved him as much as he loved himself. 2 Saul kept David with him from that day on and did not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as much as himself. 4 Then Jonathan removed the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his military tunic, his sword, his bow, and his belt. 5 David marched out with the army and was successful in everything Saul sent him to do. Saul put him in command of the soldiers, which pleased all the people and Saul’s servants as well.

*** You’ve got a friend in me.

--- We start out with events that took place after David defeated Goliath.

--- Saul drafts David and keeps him from going home. Saul is jealous and fearful of this new hero.

--- Jonathan was himself a courageous hero after climbing a cliff (like the Army Rangers going up Point du Hoc on D-Day) and routing a Philistine garrison in chapter 14.

--- Traditionally in cultures, as the son of the king Jonathan would be next in line. And as a leader he had the backing of his soldiers.

--- Jonathan no doubt watched the battle with Goliath closely and could see that David was brave, cunning, and devoted to God.

--- Like a quarterback who just saw a younger, stronger, and faster rookie score a touchdown, Jonathan could have reacted with pettiness, and he could have set about trying to undermine him or, in this violent era, plotted to murder him.

--- Nonetheless, he committed himself to the new champion, and continued to give himself over to David.

--- Jonathan, unlike his father, believed that David was the true chosen king. He literally gave him the robe off his back to prove it.

*** David and Jonathan's bromance.

--- Twice here it says that Jonathan loved David “as much as himself.”

--- Loving others more than one’s self is the hallmark of any great friendship.

--- When we love ourselves more than others, we begin to use others to benefit ourselves rather than helping them flourish and succeed.

--- “A friend is the first person who comes in when the whole world goes out.” (Henry Durbanville)

--- Saul loved himself and was bent on protecting his name and his title and his power.

--- Jonathan, however, bound himself to David even against his own father.

--- This was not the only covenant between the two men; they made another covenant on the day David fled from Saul (20:8,16), and yet another while David was a fugitive (23:16-18).

*** Question - Instead of being jealous, Jonathan rejoiced at David's success. What are some ways you've seen how rivalry and competition can destroy relationships? How should we react as Christians to the success of others?

TESTED FRIENDS (1 SAM. 20:35-40)

35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for the appointed meeting with David. A small young man was with him. 36 He said to the young man, “Run and find the arrows I’m shooting.” As the young man ran, Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 He came to the location of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, but Jonathan called to him and said, “The arrow is beyond you, isn’t it?” 38 Then Jonathan called to him, “Hurry up and don’t stop!” Jonathan’s young man picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 He did not know anything; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement. 40 Then Jonathan gave his equipment to the young man who was with him and said, “Go, take it back to the city.”

*** Shooting straight.

--- Through chapters 18, 19 and 20, Saul's jealousy caused David to go into hiding and Jonathan to risk his own life to protect David.

--- Jonathan wasn't sure at first, though, that his dad truly meant harm to David (who believes the worst in their father?), so they cooked up a plan to prove it.

--- David would be absent from the king's table at the New Moon banquet, and Jonathan told Saul that he allowed David to go to Bethlehem with his family.

--- David was actually going to hide in a field and wait.

--- If Saul got angry that David wasn't there, it would prove that Saul wanted David there to arrest and kill him.

--- Jonathan would go out to the field with a servant boy for target practice with his bow and arrows.

--- If Jonathan shot the arrows next to the stone, then David would know he was safe. But that's not how it went down.

--- By overshooting his target, Jonathan signaled that Saul lost his temper and David should flee.

--- Considering that Saul yelled that Jonathan was the "son of a perverse and rebellious woman" and threw a spear at Jonathan, this also showed Jonathan that his dad was serious about killing David.

--- In verse 38 Jonathan added, “Hurry up and don’t stop!” These words were spoken to the servant, but meant for David, telling his pal to flee as far away as fast as possible.

*** BFFs: Best Friends Forever!

--- This was a decisive moment in Jonathan’s life. He knew that his father’s hostility to David was wrong, but he had to make a choice. He could continue to show friendship to David, or he could join his father in trying to kill him.

--- True friendship never requires us to do what is evil, but it may require us to break other bonds in order to do what is right. Because of his loyalty to David, Jonathan could clearly see how immoral Saul’s behavior was. Had Jonathan been more neutral toward David, he might have supported Saul out of filial loyalty even though he knew that killing David was not right.

*** Question - How do you think Jonathan felt about being caught between his father and his friend?

TIMELESS FRIENDS (1 SAM. 20:41-42)

41 When the young man had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone Ezel, fell with his face to the ground, and bowed three times. Then he and Jonathan kissed each other and wept with each other, though David wept more. 42 Jonathan then said to David, “Go in the assurance the two of us pledged in the name of the LORD when we said: The LORD will be a witness between you and me and between my offspring and your offspring forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan went into the city.

*** There and back again.

--- After Jonathan sent the boy away, David emerged from his hiding place, and the two embraced in tears.

--- It seems weird that David and Jonathan would bother with the elaborate plan since they ended up talking face-to-face anyway. But they may not have been able to do so, and if others had seen David and Jonathan together it could have meant a death sentence for both of them.

--- Even though David was now a fugitive, Jonathan reminded him of the covenant promise between them, in the name of the Lord.

(Jonathan would always answer David's texts. David would happily help Jonathan move. They would spot each other on leg day at the gym. They would be each others' wingman checking out the ladies.)

--- No matter what happened, their friendship would endure to the end.

--- That is why a man and woman take marriage vows. While one might think that love would keep the couple from straying, it is important that they reinforce their mutual commitment with solemn vows.

--- In much the same way, God’s covenant relationship with us through Jesus will always endure all things, thus providing us with security and hope.

*** Loyal to the end.

--- David went back into hiding, Jonathan back into the city. Saul spent the rest of his life hunting David, the rest of his life. David spent that same amount of time fleeing, hiding, surviving until Saul finally died.

--- The Lord always protected David, and all of this activity made him an even greater general, a greater military man in the future when he took his throne.

--- This would not be the last time that David and Jonathan saw one another. They met at least one more time, when David was on the run from Saul and hiding out in the Wilderness of Ziph (1 Sam. 23:16-18). Jonathan went to see David, and the fact that he could find him implies that the two had stayed in communication. On that occasion, Jonathan encouraged David to have faith in God. Jonathan’s words on this occasion were particularly poignant and ultimately sad. Jonathan was sure that David would win the crown in the end and that Jonathan would serve as his second-in-command. No doubt this would have happened had Jonathan survived, but he died in battle against the Philistines alongside his father at Mount Gilboa.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says that “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Did you know that some studies indicate that someone's number of "true friends" has declined from 3 to 2 in the past 25 years?

Did you know that other studies indicate there is a link between socially isolated people and heart disease? We need to understand that strong friendships don’t just happen. They require work, sacrifice, and intentionality.

Pastor Ron Edmondson lays out four characteristics of true friendship:

Unconditional love - A true friend loves at all times. Regardless of what you do, what happens, or where life takes you, a true friend loves at all times. On your worst day—when you aren’t even fun to be around—a true friend still takes you to lunch. (And likely pays.)

Unwavering support – True friends are in it for the long haul. Even when you’ve fallen—or agree with you completely—a true friend is in your corner. When you call—even when you’re in trouble—they come. True friendships may only be for a season. I have many of those. But if we run into each other again we pick up where we left off. Trust is already established. The relationship is just as strong. True friendships are consistent.

Willingness to challenge – Love and support is not ignoring the words you need to here. A true friendship makes you better. The Bible says “iron sharpens iron.” True friends will correct you if needed. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better an open rebuke than hidden love.” Friends won’t let you injure yourself or others if they can intervene. They won’t remain silent with what you need to hear—and it will be shared in the deepest of love.

Full of grace – True friendship weather the sometime difficulties of relationships, forgiving when needed, and loving each other even when it hurts. A true friendship isn’t one-sided. Both friends are willing to lay down their life for the other. Grace is freely and generously given.

David and Jonathan’s friendship stood the test of distance, time, and trials.

In 2 Samuel he even brought in Jonathan’s disabled son and took care of him.

*** (1) Think of people who consider you their true friend. What characteristics do you demonstrate toward them that communicate to them that you are a true friend?

*** (2) Godly friendship is built on commitment to God and provides lifelong encouragement.

*** (3) Think about your Christian friendships. Approach them as a covenant commitment, intending to bless the other person.

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