“David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home” – 1 Sam xxiii.18
It takes courage to hold on to one’s convictions. It takes even more courage and faith to act according to those convictions. Prince Jonathan had taken a stand for righteousness but he did not have the wisdom or courage to act on his convictions.
Jonathan initially found it difficult to believe that his father, King Saul, was bent on murdering his friend David. When he discovered that his father was determined to kill David, he was bold enough to voice his support for David. Jonathan asked the king, “Why should David be put to death? What has he done?” Angered by his son’s defiance, King Saul hurled a spear at Jonathan to pin him to the wall; but he managed to escape. Jonathan met David secretly and asked him to flee for his life. Deep down in his heart, Jonathan knew that David would be the next king of Israel. To his credit, Jonathan loved David even though he knew that David’s exaltation would be at the cost of his own dream of becoming Israel’s second king. He was only glad to step aside for David’s sake. His only prayer was that David wouldn’t kill Saul’s descendants. Therefore, Jonathan reminded David of the perpetual covenant of peace between David’s and Jonathan’s descendants. And David “rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.” (xx.42b)
A similar incident took place after King Saul started a campaign to kill David. The king massacred a priest and his entire family just because the priest had inadvertently helped the fugitive David who was on the run for his life. Saul pursued David to the city of Keilah. David managed to get information about Saul’s move and fled to the wilderness of Ziph.
Jonathan went to the wilderness to meet with David at Horesh. This was indeed a deliberate display of support. Jonathan encouraged David and “strengthened his hand in God” (xxiii.16). Jonathan said to David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two made a covenant before the Lord (xxiii.17, 18). “David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.” (v 18b)
If Jonathan knew that David would become “king over Israel” and if indeed he hoped to be his prime minister or second-in-command, he should have openly defected to David’s side. Why did Jonathan go back to the city to live with his wicked father whose days were numbered? Why did he not consider it worthwhile to leave his comfort zone? Indeed, life in any wilderness is extremely difficult. David hid in caves and crevices. He depended on the generosity of friends and strangers for his daily sustenance. But those days of hardship and privation enabled him to depend on God for safety. That implicit trust and the cries of his heart formed the core of the Jewish Hymn Book – the Psalms.
Every decision that we take might have eternal consequences. If only Jonathan had opted to stay with David, he would not have perished on Mount Gilboa fighting a losing battle alongside his disobedient, diabolic father! The Scriptures would have counted Jonathan in league with Moses who, through faith, “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews xi. 24, 25). Jonathan died on a battlefield. Instead of ending up in God’s Hall of Fame, Jonathan’s lifeless body got pinned up a Philistine wall of shame along with those of his father and two brothers.
As Christians, we may have to make difficult choices in order to stay true to Christ and to be in fellowship with His people. That might mean separation from our loved ones who violently oppose the truth. That might bring about isolation, disinheritance and hardships. There is, however, an eternal reward for those who choose the narrow path.
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy ii.11-13