Jonathan or Saul?


Christians like the word servant. We talk about servant leadership, serving the community, serving in the youth ministry, and we even call people out for not allowing us to serve them. We want to be servants but we hate being treated like a servant. We like the word humility but we don’t like to actually be humble. I like the idea of waving in a car that’s trying to get over into my lane but if they cut me off more often than not I will lose my cool. I like holding the door for my buddies but if they say “yeah, that’s right you better hold it” most likely I will hit them with that door. Yeah I love to be a servant, just don’t treat me like one, I like the idea of humility but don’t overlook me. I need help, and my guess is so do you.

When it comes to servant leadership and humility I want the humility of David when he stood against Goliath with just a sling and some stones. I want to serve God’s people by being lifted up, by being made much of so that people can see me as an example of how to be a humble servant. I think if we’re honest with ourselves most of us want to be this kind of “servant” and most of us want the kind of humility that is applauded by thousands. We’d rather be David than Jonathan.
Some of us will have to admit we don’t even know the connection between David and this Jonathan bro. There’s probably a lot of reasons for that, David is mentioned more in the Bible, and is a more important figure in the history of redemption. But I think another reason we don’t hear much about Jonathan is because many of us see ourselves as a David and not a Jonathan so why would we invest time focusing on him? I know that was my rationale for a long time.

So who is exactly is this Jonathan guy? Jonathan is the practice partner who makes the starter better. Jonathan is the employee that makes the boss look good. Jonathan is a humble servant …by choice. In 1 Samuel 18:1-5 we see that he was David’s best friend. Jonathan loves David so he took off his armor and gave it to him, he gave him his robe, his bow, his sword and even his belt because he loved David as his own soul, he loved David as himself.

Cool, Jonathan was David’s best bud, why does that matter? Jonathan was also the son of King Saul. King Saul was anointed by God to be the first King of Israel. He was a stud, he was wealthy, he was the most handsome man in all of Israel and he was a head and shoulders taller than any of the people of Israel. I always think of Gaston from beauty and the beast. King Saul had it all but he disobeyed God, he rejected the word of God and God rejected him as king. God tore the kingdom away from Saul and promised to give it to his neighbor, someone who would be better than him, aka David.

Now it’s starting to get interesting. The handsome King was disobedient so God takes away his kingdom and gives it to a humble shepherd boy who becomes best friends with the rebellious king’s son, the would be heir to the thrown. God used these historical events for a lot of reasons, namely to continue his history of redemption which eventually culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but there are many smaller lessons that we can learn from this story. One important lesson God has taught me and continually teaches me is to be like Jonathan and not Saul. When God raises up a David in my life, when I’m not the starter, when I don’t get to be the boss or leader, when I don’t get to be the center of attention etc.. I have a choice to make, I can either be like Saul or Jonathan. I can get indignant and spiral out of control with jealousy and pride or I can humble myself and try my best to befriend the David in my life. I can pull out my spear to try and kill the one God is blessing or I can surrender my sword to them in service. This lesson has been such a blessing to me. Life is not about me, I am not the center of the universe and the more I come to understand that, the more joy and peace I have. The more I act like Jonathan the more freedom I have to love people and actually consider them more important than myself. The more I act like Saul the more bitter I get and the more I isolate myself.

Jonathan is a great example of servant leadership, he takes the initiative to befriend David and humble himself. Jonathan is an great example of loving your neighbor as yourself when he gives his robe, sword, bow, and armor to David. We can look to Jonathan as a reminder but we can’t stop there. Though we can and should learn a lot from Jonathan, his good traits serve as a sign pointing us to the greater example of a humble servant and friend: King Jesus.

It’s my contention that the universe and all of history exists to elevate Jesus Christ and thus the Bible exists namely to elevate Jesus and point us to him for our good and his glory. One major proof I have for my Christ centered hermeneutic is Colossians 2:2-4:”That their hearts may be encouraged, being Knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.”
Here we see that to avoid being deluded with plausible arguments we need to reach all the riches of assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery. What’s God’s mystery? Christ. Christ is the mystery and in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In order to properly understand biblical wisdom and we have to read the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ.

So as we read the Old Testament we see that all the heroes of our faith are lesser examples of the Christ who is to come. For instance Jesus is the greater David and sin is the more sinister Goliath. Now when we look to follow Jonathan’s example we can’t help but be pushed towards the greater Jonathan, Jesus Christ. Jonathan gave his royal robe to his friend David, Jesus gives his royal robe of righteousness to his friends. Jonathan gave David his sword, Jesus gave us his word which is the Sword of the Spirit. Jonathan gave David his armor for battle, Jesus gives us the armor of God for spiritual battle. Jonathan humbled himself to befriend David, Jesus gave up his seat at the right hand of God the Father in order to befriend sinners like us. Jonathan was a an earthly prince and chose to serve David, Jesus was The Heavenly Prince and chose to serve us all. Jonathan loved David and risked his life to keep him alive, Jesus loved us so he gave up his life to bring us back to life.

Jesus is the greater, Jesus is the greatest. When I find myself on the sidelines of life I’m faced with a choice, Jonathan or Saul. When I choose to act like Jonathan, the role of a humble servant, I find that I’ve made the right choice but I can’t continue in humility and service without looking to the greater Jonathan. Jesus is the motivation, look to him for strength, he’s the author and perfecter of our faith. The Old Testament is a collection of inspired books that point us to Jesus again and again. When you’re not the star, not the center of attention, not the starter, not the employee of the month, choose to be a Jonathan instead of a Saul and look to the greater Jonathan for strength to be a humble servant. The world is not about you, it’s about Jesus.


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