In the midst of the ongoing trials of David in the wilderness, pursued by Saul whose obsession showed no sign of abating, Jonathan comes to find David and to offer wise words of encouragement which literally give him the heart to continue. (1 Sam 23:15-18) The world has a proverb ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’, and that is certainly David’s experience. He must have felt discouraged and dismayed by the ongoing need to hide from Saul, to be on the run each day, but Jonathan’s visit must have greatly heartened him. Jonathan affirmed his loyalty and commitment to serving David (freely recognising that David has been anointed king of Israel by God Himself and that he will therefore be happy to play second fiddle to the kingship which will soon be David’s.) He also reminded David not to be afraid (a command repeated for every day of the year in the Bible – no matter what our situation, with God on our side, there is nothing to fear!) and repeated God’s word to him: “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 Sam 23:17)

Encouragement is a spiritual gift which brings perspective to our difficult circumstances, and often involves saying the right words at the right time in an appropriate way. Prov 25:11 says, ‘Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances’; later in that same chapter, we read, ‘Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.’ (Prov 25:25) This is what David experienced at a tough time in his life, and we can be like Jonathan, bringing words of encouragement to others. Paul told the Thessalonians to ‘encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’ (1 Thess 5:11), reminding them to ‘encourage the disheartened.’ (1 Thess 5:14) Barnabas, the son of encouragement, was great to encouraging; we too can be used by God to bring hope and courage to other people.