“Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.”
1 Samuel 18:1-4
In a community and society where power and influence is a determent of ones’ social standing, we have seen men and women doing all they could possibly do to protect what they believe rightfully belongs to them.
In recent years and months we have seen traditional leaders and church leaders alike contending over who is the rightful leader of the tribe or the church. In South Africa; we will remember the matter between Mduduzi Shembe, the son of the late leader Vimbeni, clashed with Vela Shembe, Vimbeni’s cousin, over who is the rightful church leader. Mduduzi and Vela have been embroiled in a succession battle since Vimbeni’s death in 2011. Or the matter between Masindi Mphephu, the child of the late King Dimbanyika Tshimangadzo Mphephu and her uncle King Toni Mphephu, where-in the young lady is challenging the legitimacy of her uncle hold to the throne following a 2012 decision by President Jacob Zuma to recognise him as king. In her quest for recognition as the head of the Venda people she fights that a long- standing customary rule favouring male heirs be declared unconstitutional. Or more recently, in the matter between King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s younger brothers, Prince Mankunku Mthandeni Jongisizwe Dalindyebo, who filed an urgent application before the Grahamstown High Court to stop the coronation of Azenathi Dalindyebo, son to King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, as acting king of the abaThembu tribe. The cases mentioned above aren’t a new phenomenon, in fact battles of succession are prevalent even in the bible narrative of man. However, there is one particular battle that is unlike many that we know of and it’s found in the tale of Jonathan and David.
David, the youngest son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, from Bethlehem in Judah had been asked by his father to bring food for his three brothers who had followed Saul to war. Saul’s army was camped in Elah and had been engaged in a battle with the Philistines. Saul and his men endured terrorism and torment from a Philistine champion for 40 days and no one was willing to defend the nation’s honour and fight this man. Upon his arrival, the shepherd boy availed himself to fight this dreaded and fearsome man.
The Lord was with David and He gave him victory over the Philistine. Following his miraculous conquest of the Philistine giant, Goliath, King Saul recruited David to form part of his regiment. After a meeting between David and King Saul, the biblical narrative introduces us to a friendship that, from that day onwards, would prove very instrumental in the life of David and God’s purpose for his life.
Jonathan, as Saul’s son, was the rightful heir to his father’s throne as the King over Israel. However, the Lord had rejected his father as a King over Israel and had told Saul that the kingdom will be taken from him and given to another (1Sam 15:26-28). This displeased Saul. After Saul’s rejection by God, David was anointed as King over Israel. Though he was anointed as King, David was not immediately assume the throne, he waited for years wondering and running away from Saul without any significant recognition of his anointing by his fellow country man.
Jonathan, the son of Saul, the “rightful heir” to the throne, became the first individual to recognize and acknowledge David’s anointing. He was an accomplished soldier who had fought wars before. He was a revered Prince who had been reared and trained to succeed his father as King. The biblical account doesn’t reveal whether or not Saul had informed his son Jonathan, that he had been rejected by God and also that the kingdom was to be given to another. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that when Jonathan met David at this first meeting, he was fully confident that he – that is Jonathan – was next in line as the King over Israel.
However, he does something very intriguing and mind boggling; he took off his royal amour and gave it to David, a commoner. The narrative is so detailed that it says “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 NIV. This was a very significant gesture on the part of Jonathan, it characterized and underpinned the posture of his life in relations to David. His complete surrendering of his royal amour to David was in actual fact a recognition of his anointing and the secret to that recognition can be traced to what is found in verse 1 “…Jonathan became one in spirit with David” 1 Samuel 18:1. The spirit of the Lord that was in David is the same spirit that that was in Jonathan, which enabled him to recognize the anointing.
The friendship that Jonathan formed with David became a source of frustration and misery for Saul who had great ambitions for his son to succeed him as King, however Jonathan recognised something in David that persuaded him to be willing to abdicate his royal right to the throne and wished for David to assume it. Saul had become a bitter enemy to David and made numerous attempts to kill him, because David’s continued resistance was a threat to Jonathan ascending the throne (1Sam 20:31). By this time Jonathan had become David’s spy and reported to David everything his father had planned to seal his fate. He fought for David’s position to a point of putting his own life on the line because his father was even will to kill his own son because he was working against him. Jonathan’s loyalty to David is so admirable because it reveals a rare quality in human behaviour. Naturally we are prone to fighting and defending what is rightfully ours, however, Jonathan was not willing to sacrifice principle for convenience.
Sometimes in life we are in positions of authority in various areas of our lives and it happens sometimes that we are blessed with people with abilities and skills that we do not possess, the natural instinct as a human being is to fight and defend our position and if it means subbotaging and eliminating the threat, we do so. The human heart is inclined to discrediting the “competition” and a lot of people have suffered in churches, companies and in organisations because people are looking to cement their positions and influence. Humanity simply takes over that every opportunity we get, we work to bring the threat down, either by malicious rumours or glorying in their weaknesses and mistakes. Monies have been spent and lives have been lost because people are fighting for recognition, however Jonathan was engaged in a cold war with his father for the recognition of the other.
We can learn this valuable lesson from Jonathan, regardless of your rightful position, we must always pray for recognition and submission to God’s anointing in people’s lives. There are people God has anointed or gifted with abilities that you do not possess and He brings them to your life for your own convenience and elevation, but because we are obsessed with being territorial, we lose out on the blessing we were meant to enjoy.
Jonathan’s parting words to David are a testament to his maturity
“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
He was sure of one thing that David was going to be King and he was willing to be next to him.