Jonathan doesn’t merely encourage David with platitudes and catchy sayings. No, Jonathan “strengthened him in the Lord.”

Kari Lee Otto

Strengthened and Encouraged

It was time.

Tucked away in the wilderness and surrounded by hundreds of discontented, yet devoted men, David paced around the camp. He knew that King Saul was coming after him. Though bitter and jealous of his servant and son-in-law David for years, something had finally clicked, setting Saul’s revenge in motion.

In fact, the killing had already started. A priest named Abiathar had recently joined David’s group, sharing the grievous news that Saul had ordered his entire priestly family to be slaughtered. Eighty-five priests were killed that day. It wasn’t long before the women, children, and babies in their families were murdered, as well. Every living thing in the priestly town was demolished. Abiathar was the only one who survived the attack.

David grieved with Abiathar. He knew the priests and their families had died on account of him. They had provided him with food at his request, making them enemies of King Saul. Look at what his actions had cost them. He felt responsible, and the burden weighed heavily upon his heart.

And now, Saul – the king, his father-in law – was after him. After his men. What could he possibly do?

Darkness approached as the sun set on the horizon. As he was pacing, David saw a dim shadow on the ground in front of him. He looked up anxiously. It was his dear friend Jonathan! The moment he had met Jonathan, there was a bond of love and brotherhood between them like no other. How precious to receive this visit from his friend! He knew Jonathan had risked his own life to come to the camp.

The two retreated into David’s tent and talked. Oh, how they talked. With his words and with his prayers, Jonathan spoke words of truth and encouragement into David’s life. I imagine him speaking slowly, confidently, emphasizing each word: “You – will – be – king.” There was no doubt in Jonathan’s mind that God would bring this to pass.

Encouraged in His Faith

There are so, so many things about this story that amaze me. (Read it for yourself in 1 Samuel 22-23.) Can you imagine the grief David must have carried around, knowing people were dying on his behalf? Can you empathize with the responsibility he felt, having 400-600 men following him and serving him, even if it meant rebellion against the king? Can you see the gigantic risk Jonathan took to find David’s hiding place and visit him in person?

But here’s the thing: Jonathan doesn’t merely encourage David with platitudes and catchy sayings. No, Jonathan “strengthened him in the Lord.” He brought David’s attention back to God’s purpose and plan for his life. Some translations say that Jonathan encouraged David to stay strong in his faith.

Strengthened in the Lord

What is, perhaps, even more striking is how the story continues. Just a few chapters later, in 1 Samuel 30, the families of David’s men had been captured by enemies. Possibly tortured, maybe even killed. His men turn on him in their bitterness and grief and talk about stoning him.

David’s response? “He strengthened himself in the Lord.”

Jonathan wasn’t around that time to speak truth and encouragement into David’s heart. But David had already learned to turn his eyes to God. In this case, he called for his friend Abiathar the priest and together, they asked God, “What do you want us to do?”

Isn’t that what many of David’s psalms are? Songs that cry out to God in the midst of his struggle? Songs that remind him of God’s truth? Songs that seek God’s guidance?

A Risk to Encourage

Friends, we have the opportunity to be a “Jonathan” to others. To meet them in their grief, brokenness, or fear and then strengthen them in the Lord.

I don’t know what that looks like for you. Maybe it means a visit to their house. Maybe it means cancelling a meeting so you can sit with them in silence. Maybe it means you sit together in prayer and read Scripture together, simply seeking God in the middle of the heartache. Maybe it means being bold enough to remind them what God says in His Word. Maybe it means you sharing your faith so they can grow in theirs.

I don’t know what it will look like. But I do know it will take some effort on our part. A risk. An invitation. A question. Our time.

Are you willing? Am I?

Kari sign-off

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