‘A friend in need is a friend indeed‘, the proverb goes, and in 1 Samuel 20, we see this in evidence, as Jonathan proves himself to be a true friend to David. Saul’s increasing hostility towards David has left him afraid and vulnerable and he turns to Jonathan in bewilderment, asking what crime he has committed to provoke such murderous intent. Jonathan is equally bewildered, believing his father’s earlier promise to spare David (1 Sam 19:6), but he proves himself to be loyal to David in warning him when his father reacts so violently to David’s absence from the royal table.
It can be hard to understand the motives and thoughts of other people, and sometimes the faithfulness and loyalty of friends are what keep us going in difficult times. Jonathan and David renew their covenant in this chapter and work together to determine the true state of affairs. They cannot control or change Saul’s behaviour (he is so irrational that he even tries to kill Jonathan in his fury), but they can reaffirm their commitment to each other. True friends are a blessing from God.
This chapter marks a change in circumstances; prior to this, David has been in close contact with both Saul and Jonathan, but now he must flee and the next chapters show him as a fugitive on the run. Parting causes them both sorrow, but they both remain committed to God and to each other, and their loyalty and friendship will be played out in the chapters to come. Covenantal love is so important. We see God making covenants with people, remaining faithful and true even when we are faithless. As His love shapes and influences us, we can truly care more for others than for ourselves and through our love and commitment can be a witness to the world of a God who never lets us go.