The Jonathan & David Covenant
“A man without a soul friend is like a body without a head.” St. Comgall
St. Comgall got it in a way most of us don’t. Yes, he understood the importance of prayer, even 24/7 prayer. It was one of his great passions. He founded a monastery in Bangor, Ireland where the monks prayed 24/7 for 300 years!
For most of us that’s simply unfathomable. We cannot imagine a community that could be so passionately committed to prayer for three centuries.
We All Need a “Soul Friend”
But, Comgall also got something else that most of us never get. He had another equally ardent passion. Comgall grasped the essential importance of covenantal relationship. “A man without a soul friend is like a body without a head.” These profound words reveal that Comgall knew a passionate commitment to prayer wasn’t enough.
He also understood the need for a “soul friend.” Consequently, he encouraged all of the monks under his leadership to cultivate such a relationship with another.
If we’re honest with ourselves and take a deep enough look inside our hearts, we know Comgall was right. We want a “soul friend.” We all long for someone to explore us, to discover us, to pursue us, to love us. And, in our new hearts as believers in Christ, we long to do the same for another.
We all desire someone to see beneath the surface to know and enjoy who we are. Someone who will accept us as we are – warts and all – and not reject us. We desperately want someone to not only see who we are in Christ, but also to envision who we could become. Someone who is passionate about us fulfilling our destiny in God as we become fierce lovers and tender warriors.
Someone who listens to the story of our lives and helps us wade through our deep woundedness, brokenness, and sin to meaningfully find strength in God…and to learn to love.
A Risk Worth Taking
Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 27:17 adds “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
We all long to have a loving “iron sharpener” in our lives. Do you have such a covenant brother or sister? Most of us don’t. Why? Because we’re afraid to go there – and understandably so. We’ve all been burned enough in key relationships before. On the one hand, we desire closeness with a “soul friend,” but we also fear pain. Usually the fear of pain wins out. We choose safety over intimacy.
The pursuit of covenant relationship with a “soul friend” is a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. Otherwise, we’re just like bodies without heads. We’re incomplete. We can’t function the way we were created to. We can learn what it means to walk out obedience to the Great Commandments – to love God and one another – in the context of such a loving relationship.
So, what’s the answer? I believe it lies, in part, in a covenant with a “soul friend.” Someone with whom we can navigate through the uncertainty, confusion, and pain of life in a fallen world.
Someone who will be “for” us, “with” us, and meaningfully offer his “presence.” Someone to whom we can offer the same gift. Yes, we must choose wisely. Yes, it will be messy at times, but it will be worth it.
Following in the Footsteps of Jonathan & David
One of the most powerful Biblical examples of just such a covenantal relationship is that of David and Jonathan. David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Saul was continually threatening his life. Jonathan strode boldly and lovingly into David’s confusion and loneliness. David needed Jonathan. He needed a “soul friend.”
Consider the following Scriptures that give us powerful insight into the covenantal relationship that David and Jonathan shared. Their covenant is a model for us.
I Samuel 18:1, 3-4
…Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself….And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow, and his belt.
Wow! Twice in three verses we’re told that Jonathan “loved him [David] as himself.” These are the very same words that Jesus used in the second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jonathan pursued David. He made a covenant with him. He gave him gifts that symbolized his commitment not to protect himself, but rather to offer himself in relationship. Jonathan was saying in essence, “I’m with you. I’m for you. I offer you all that I am.”
I Samuel 20:16-17
So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
Once again we see the importance of covenant in helping us learn to love another as we would ourselves – to be committed to another’s best interests as we would ordinarily be committed to our own.
Jonathan knew that David would be king instead of him. He knew he was going to lose the throne of his father. Jonathan would pay a high price for David’s success. He had everything to gain from David’s death at his father’s hand. Yet, he bound himself in love to protect David…to be more for him than for himself.
I Samuel 20:41-42
…Then they kissed each other and wept together – but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord….”
Jonathan and David are great examples of what C.S. Lewis called “men with chests.” They weren’t afraid to share deeply with one another. They embraced one another, both literally and figuratively. They were completely open with their deep affection for each other.
They weren’t afraid to weep in the other’s presence. They were with each other “heart and soul,” like Jonathan and his armor-bearer. (I Samuel 14:1-24) Why would David weep more…because he knew the value of what Jonathan offered him, and he knew what it cost Jonathan. He knew Jonathan was “for” him in a way no one else was.
I Samuel 23: 15-18
…he [David] learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you….” The two of them made a covenant before the Lord…
Once again on the run from Saul, David feared for his life. He desperately needed encouragement. Knowing the need of his “soul friend,” Jonathan pursued David to help him “find strength in God.” More than anything else, David needed God, and Jonathan helped him connect with Him. “Soul friends” do just that, they help us more deeply connect with God…and that’s what we all need.
II Samuel 1:26
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother, you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.
Upon learning of Jonathan’s death, David openly grieved the loss of his covenant brother. He understood the value of Jonathan’s covenantal loyalty and devotion. David knew what it meant to have a “soul friend.” Indeed, it was wonderful.
As Sons of Issachar, we are called to be fierce lovers and tender warriors. To bless one another as we battle for our generation. To do so, we need a covenant friend who will stand at our side, and we at his. We need a Jonathan.
Do you know who your Jonathan might be? If not, pray that the Lord would lead you to just such a brother.
SOI 21 encourages Sons of Issachar to embrace covenant with a “soul friend.” Make a “Jonathan/David Covenant.” Pursue covenantal faithfulness. Be “for” and “with” one another in the heat of the battle. Offer your presence. Enjoy connectedness. Above all, help each other pursue connectedness with God.
Go for it!