David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home (1 Samuel 23:15–18, esv).
Because of the pressures of life—stress at work, turmoil at home, a health problem, a financial crisis—sometimes we stumble. Sometimes the weight on us is so heavy that we can’t help but stumble.
That’s when we need a biblical friend or two to hold us up, as Jonathan did for David during a crisis in his life.
David was being hunted again by King Saul. This wasn’t a game; Saul wanted to kill David. “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh” (1 Samuel 23:16a). Jonathan was taking his life into his hands by even speaking to his friend, who was number one on Saul’s most wanted list. As we examine this scene, let’s notice five ways Jonathan held David up. These translate into five ways we can support our friends and receive their support.
1. Their Presence
A biblical friend shows up. Jonathan arose “and went to David” (23:16a). Jonathan had many reasons for staying away. Personally, he had everything to lose and nothing to gain. He risked his father’s wrath. In fact, when he got up to leave the table in the palace, his father threw his spear at him, trying to kill his own son (1 Samuel 20:30–33), which showed how Saul had slipped into insanity. In siding with David, Jonathan also risked his own royal position. After all, if Jonathan just let his dad kill David, then Jonathan would become the next king.
But David was alone and afraid, and there was no way Jonathan was going to let David down. He went to David.
2. Their Prayers
A biblical friend prays with you. When Jonathan arrived at David’s hideout, he “strengthened his hand in God” (23:16b). Even though David was a man of deep faith—author of most of the Psalms, a man after God’s own heart, a giant-slayer—he was hurting and disillusioned. Jonathan didn’t show up with shallow comments or advice, nor did he present himself as the solution. He helped David take his problems to God.
Notice what Jonathan didn’t say. No cheap encouragement, like, “Dad will come around soon, Dave,” or “Don’t worry so much. It’s not as bad as it seems. Let’s look on the bright side while you hide here in this damp, dark forest without food or hope.” Often when we show up for our friends who are hurting, there’s nothing to say. The burden is too big, the hurt too deep. It’s about presence and prayer. We need friends who will take us to God, and we need to be that kind of friend when others stumble. Christian friendship isn’t about sitting in the same pew at church on the weekend. We need friends who will get on their knees, pray, and discuss the things of God with us. Biblical friends “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24b, niv).
3. Their Protection
A biblical friend protects you. As soon as Jonathan showed up, he reassured David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you” (23:17a, esv). Think of what these words meant to David. David was an emotional guy—he’d have to be to write the kind of moving poetry found in the book of Psalms. It’s not hard to imagine that as he saw Jonathan approaching, David might have questioned his friend’s loyalty. He didn’t have to wonder long. Apparently Jonathan sensed that David’s meter was redlining, so he quickly reassured him. “My dad won’t find you. Of course I won’t tell him where you are. Relax.” When David heard those words of support, he felt strengthened.
When our hearts feel like tornadoes, the last thing we need is for a so-called friend to show up and fan the storm. Instead, biblical friends protect us, speaking words to soothe our troubled emotional state.
4. Their Personal Loyalty
Biblical friends confirm their personal loyalty. Jonathan told David, “You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you” (23:17b). Even though Jonathan was the prince, David had been anointed to be the next king, and Jonathan didn’t contest God’s decision. In fact, he painted a picture of the future for David, essentially saying, “You will be king—not me—and that won’t sever our relationship. I’m content with being number two as long as you’re number one.” No wonder David loved him.
When we stumble, we need friends who protect us with their fierce allegiance, not someone who turns against us and kicks us while we’re down. We need friends who will come to our aid and lift us up with their life-giving loyalty.
5. Their Promise
A biblical friend confirms the friendship with a promise. “And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord” (23:18a). Some men might balk at that idea, claiming it sounds girly or weak. Actually, what a sign of strength that two warriors stood together, admitting they couldn’t be all that God wanted them to be without the other. They communicated, “I really need you! Let’s stand together in this.” That kind of committed friendship lifts those who stumble.
When we slow down in life, get off track, feel discouraged, lose focus, want to quit, or fall flat, we need this kind of friend.
And we need to be this kind of friend.
Father God, thank You for the strong bond between friends, like Jonathan and David. I need that kind of friend in life. Please help me to recognize and value a friend who will hold me up when I stumble, and if I don’t have that, please help me to build that kind of strong, biblical friendship with another Christ-follower. A true friend is a gift. Please help me to be that kind of friend. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray, amen.