Jonathan Must Come Home

Untimely Death

If there’s ever a story in the Bible that has moved and broken my heart on the subject of the untimely death of such an amazing person, it must be that of Jonathan. My humanity compels me to a complicated conflicted emotional tag between God’s choice (David) and Israel’s rightful heir (Jonathan) who is set to be the next king of Israel. Unlike his father, Jonathan is the type of friend to David that EVERY human being would die to have! He is so selfless, loyal, expressive and absolutely fights for David even though he knows what David’s success would mean for him.

His Father Saul is decisive—David must die! Why? He is keenly aware that God has moved on and given the throne to one (in God’s own words) better than him. As Saul does all he can to push back the plan God has not only set in motion, but executed and blessed, Jonathan his son who is scheduled to be king is found doing quite the opposite.

As tension is rising in the Palace the king is no longer annoyed with God, Samuel and God’s choice (David) only, he is now angry with his own son Jonathan who he suspects is helping David in secret.

Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?  For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.”  Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?”  But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So, Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death.  And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him (1 Samuel 20:30-34)

If you are familiar with the story, you know that Jonathan leaves this conversation and heads straight to a private appointment he had scheduled with David. Of course, he knew the implication of taking David’s side. The two weep, embrace and confirm both their fears. Someone they both love is trying to kill David. What’s more gut wrenching, someone more powerful than all three of them combined has made a choice that leaves everyone uncomfortable. No matter how the story ends, a heart will be deeply wounded. Jonathan and David are both torn. We love each other deeply, but God has chosen one of us. Whatever the aftermath, we must honor the choice heaven has made.

As THE chosen one weeps uncontrollably—knowing he must head for the wilderness (alone) at least for a time, the other weeps with a yielding surrender of the throne, glory and crown he had held as a prince—destined to be king. They kiss one another, embrace each other as tightly as only a brother can hold a brother you know you may never see again. And as difficult it must have been to let go, Jonathan and David make bloody vows and promises they live to keep, and there in grief, the two friends part ways.

I cannot even begin to express the respect I have for Jonathan!

Not only did he accept the will of God, he lovingly gave up the throne to David because he saw that God’s hand was upon David AND David had what God needed for the task ahead! He blessed David. He respectfully disagreed with his father, stood up for what he knew was right and walked humbly from the high place of honor.

I have been to funerals that felt much like the day David received news that Jonathan had died in battle. The aching restlessness of my own heart has primarily been from the difficulty reconciling how an amazing person who loves, and honors God can die so prematurely. It is this story that has helped me time and again to remember, that God has a purpose HE is trying to fulfill.

When HE decisively says: Jonathan Must Come Home! He has already factored in the 40 years that David would reign as king over His chosen people Israel, the wars David would fight, the songs and Psalms David would write, the kingdom David would expand and establish, the glory David would bring Him and ULTIMATELY, The SON of David that would come through His lineage, hang on a tree and save all of humanity!

Don’t worry: Jonathan is home, but he is home with GOD. But not just with God, David joined them only 40 short years later! A friend is a friend forever—If the LORD is the LORD of them!

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Samuel: A Rare Clarity

To hear HIM wellThe Desire to Hear HIM Well

As I journey through first Samuel once more, a deep longing of desire overwhelmed me when I came to chapter nine.  Not only did I enjoy the story, it felt new! I was pulled in by the intimate detailed conversations between Saul and Samuel and their first meeting and introductory days near Mizpah. Was this story always this beautiful? The new beginnings for Saul, Samuel and a persistent Israel are quite captivating. Saul, who knew little to nothing about Samuel is unknowingly led by God (with the help of a servant) right to the proverbial doorsteps of a well-informed prophet who God had prepared in detail to anticipate his arrival.

The Bible tells us, Samuel was now old.  His sons (Joel & Abijah) who Samuel had appointed to lead Israel were reported to have turned aside after dishonest gain, accepting bribes and perverting justice—reminding us much of the sons of Eli, the high priest who tiny little Samuel had replaced. Which meant the old man Samuel had to continue in his role as prophet and judge over Israel until the LORD could find someone of the same spirit.

The backdrop of this scene is of course not good.  God’s heart is broken.  His people have rejected Him and asked for a king.  Samuel is grieved, but God insists he should listen to the people and do as they have asked.  It is in the midst of this grief where God permissively grants Israel’s request that something beautiful emerged out of the chapter for me personally—deeply endearing my heart to the God of Israel.

For one, He (God) cautions the people of what having a king might mean for their properties and their sons and daughters. When they insist to go forward, He does not begrudge them or treat them with resentment—even though he would be completely justified to withdraw His participation and presence from the entire thing. Instead, God remains loving and engaged.  He even guides Samuel through a VERY detailed process telling him that He would be guiding a young man to him the next day and what Samuel is to say to him.

Can I please point out that God’s character is SO deeply endearing to me?! He is impressive, above reproach and simply amazing!  He had judged the house of Eli and raised up Samuel.  He could dwell on the sin of the sons of Samuel or the collective stubbornness of the hearts of the house of Israel, or He could simply walk out of this and let Israel figure it out—but He doesn’t. Instead, He simply moves forward with the vessel that is willing, faithful and yielded to Him not being hindered by Samuel’s age, the people’s rejection of Him, or the omniscience He holds to know what Israel’s future was going to look like in just a few short years. He talks to Samuel, he asks him to anoint Saul with oil. Read the details.  Samuel is able to give Saul blow-by-blow details of what his journey back home would look like.  God even fills him with the Holy Spirit and literally–changes the man to equip him for the job, signifying that He dearly cares for His people even when we are walking outside of His ways. What a heart! This is beautiful; totally worth emulating!

I gleaned quite a few practical lessons from this passage today, but the deepest longing it awakened in my soul that brought me to my knees before heaven was the intimacy God shared with Samuel. Samuel did not have to guess or wonder what God was saying—he heard God clearly and consistently.  The instructions Samuel gave Saul were accurate and reliable.  They were the VERY words of God!  “You stay here for a little while” he had told Saul “so that I may give you a message from God”.  These words would make any 21st-century Christian cringe (because of how misused they have been), yet this was how Samuel had led Israel, and he would be the very same channel God would use to visit Jesse—regarding God’s own choice for King (David).  So I got on my knees this morning and I prayed earnestly “Lord, I desire to hear you exceptionally well.” Lead me, guide me, and grant me such intimate clear lines of communication with you, that I too like Samuel (in spite the wrong or evil that was going on with his family or his nation) will be able to hear you my LORD with a rare clarity—and speak reliable words that will lead your people to honor your great name.

 Marlene Maina  // 9.1.17