In the early hours of the evening, just as the shadows begins to touch the edges of the palace and the waning light of the sun slips quietly beyond the horizon, Jonathan arrives to the feast. This is the second day of the feast of new moons, Jonathan is apprehensive; his sworn oath to his best friend David still fresh in his mind replays itself over and over again. This task, this allegiance is not going to be easy. Jonathan is stuck in the middle, and yet he is motivated by an intense devotion to his friend, and there is a fire in his heart of certainty that David’s safety is in grave danger. King Saul, Jonathan’s father is extremely jealous of David and his popularity; for David is a true battle hero to the people. Songs are sung about him and children are being tucked in at night with tales of David’s war victories told with great exaggeration and embellishments. King Saul does not hide his distain and jealousy well, for his years in power has tainted his moral compass and his reasoning has become self-indulged and consumed by paranoia and hatred. Still, Jonathan hopes that his presence there with his father is enough to stave off any notion of murdering his best friend David. In a very real sense Jonathan’s seat at the feast tonight is a veiled attempted to gauge just how far his father will go to rid himself of David and his perceived threat to the throne. Jonathan is an optimist at heart and he hopes to hear and see any evidence of King Saul’s humanity and compassion. So he enters the feast as he did the night before and reclines himself down into his ornate arm chair of honor before dignitaries, war leaders, and his father who is nursing a large chalice of deep burgundy wine. King Saul appears troubled; then again he always appears troubled these days. But as he glances up from his cup and realizes David has once again not accompanied Jonathan to the festivities, his troubled brow that he has worn regularly like a uniform on a soldier becomes a deep ravine of creases like a tide rolling with anger and hatred.
“Why isn’t Jessie’s son here at the feast?” the king asks spitting out the words as if he’s just bitten into something foul tasting or poisonous. Jonathan notices that his father can’t even bring himself to say David’s name. King Saul’s question is more of an accusation directed at Jonathan than anything else; there isn’t even a hint of concern or compassion in the accusation either. Jonathan looks over to his father and this sudden exchange quiets the regular chatter and festive atmosphere as all of the party guests sense danger in the air and they turn their attention cautiously to their king like an animal in the cross hairs of a predator. Saul looks directly at Jonathan for some sort of explanation. Jonathan, thinking quickly, recounts the phony explanation that he has rehearsed in his mind over and over again to the king. “David asked me permission to attend a sacrifice with his family in Bethlehem, his oldest brother, first born of Jessie ordered him to be there.” The excuse held some customary merit, a son honoring his family’s wishes, spending time together over this cultural holiday and harvest festival of sorts.
But Jonathan waits; he knows his father’s temper all too well. He waits for the explosion of anger, recalling other fits of rage that he has endured. The king’s other advisors, seated at the table, also hold their collective breaths while shifting their eyes in this moment of great agitation and dread as this intense silence blankets the room like a shroud on a death bed. Then it comes like a storm, the fit of rage arrives exploding like a kettle under pressure in a fire too hot, king Saul stands, red faced and convulsing in fury, beard dripping with wine as he bellows, “Jonathan you son of a bitch, I know you have helped that son of Jessie escape and you have brought dishonor on yourself and the mother who brought you into this world!”
The venom that the king has just unleashed to his very own flesh and blood reverberates off of the stone walls of the feast hall like a sentence of death to an innocent man. An uncomfortable silence replaces the outburst as the festival guests and dignitaries consider making an exit from this hall but knowing the king’s reputation are mortified to even move a muscle. The conversation isn’t over yet, as Jonathan, loyal as ever, stands up to his indignant father, “Why should David be here, you plan to kill him, what has he ever done to you?” Saul reaches for a nearby weapon in response to what can only be considered an accusation and insult to his station and stature as king of Israel. With spear in hand and murder in his heart, Saul takes aim at his very own son heaving this deadly weapon of war at Jonathan. If there was ever an indication that David’s life was forfeit before this king it is now evident to all.
Jonathan is stunned and stricken as the spear narrowly misses him, and with sadness he storms out of the festival hall certain that he will never trust his father again. There is a deep wrenching within the pit of his stomach and he knows now that he must warn David to flee.
Early the next morning, after a sleepless night of tears mixed with pensive resentment towards his now estranged father, Jonathan gathers his bow and an assortment of arrows and makes his way to the hiding place of his best friend. He has a servant boy with him and the plan is simple yet covert, no one else will know. With emotions brimming over and exhaustion nipping at his heels, Jonathan draws back the string on his bow, exhales and lets fly his arrow of warning. It sails overhead catching a small updraft on the breeze and hits the dark earth far off into the distance. As he does so he instructs his servant boy to run and retrieve it. While the boy runs to fetch the fallen arrow, Jonathan, with a lump in his throat calls out in a shaky and mournful voice; “Isn’t the arrow beyond you? Hurry quickly, don’t stop!” To any passerby or would be spy of the king this passing comment would solely be instructions to servant boy, yet he has just told the future king Israel to run for his life. Can you imagine such love and devotion? In a single command, Jonathan has warned David, knowing one day his family may be replaced in power and glory within this kingdom. This was not an easy feat but a gallant hope; Jonathan chooses the most honorable path. And minutes after the boy servant departs, Jonathan meets his best friend. They embrace one last time; they weep and with hearts heavy with these burdens thrust upon them forever vow loyalty and honor.
This would be the last time Jonathan and David would meet each other, but their bond of love, companionship, and loyalty displays for us integrity, strength of character and the kinds of priceless qualities that are rare in our world today. How far would you go to stand up for what is right? For what is just? For what is best? This tale of honor and loyalty should cause us to examine our own relationships and what truly matters in this world no matter the threat or pressure and peril we might find ourselves squaring off against. Mahatma Gandhi once said; “be the change that you want to see in the world!” I believe that to be true for all of us. Jonathan selflessly sacrificed everything for his friend, his crown, his safety and his fortune, because of this he changed the world around him. What are we doing to change the world around us? The arrow is beyond us, so stand up, be bold and change the world!