To be a Jonathan

The Bible is filled with incredible narratives. There are stories of true heroes trusting in God to deliver them from giants to sickness to invading armies. Often the hero, once delivered, takes on a role of new prominence. Joseph finds himself in a pit, in prison, and unjustly treated. But a few years later he is ruling Egypt. Daniel was carried away to Babylon as boy yet quickly finds himself in the favor of kings. Certainly not all stories end with such drastic contrasts. Some record the person simply walking back to a normal life changed deeply by the mercy shown from God.

But there are other stories; those of heroes who sacrifice everything including their lives. There are heroes who follow their God-given convictions to their end in this life. Tertullian once stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” We encounter one such hero in an unlikely place. His name was Jonathan.

As the son of a King, Jonathan was in line for the throne. His father, Saul, was the first King of Israel. A head taller than his kinsmen, Saul seemed the perfect choice. His tribe, the Benjamites were accomplished warriors. Who better to lead this nation to victory against the Philistines and others hoping to provide the security and rest God promised. To shorten the story, it didn’t work out that way. Saul fell short in both character and faith. David was anointed and a new hero was in the making. But the son of the king, the heir apparent, was still in the picture. How would Jonathan handle this abrupt change of plan and the loss of his future kingship?

Throughout the latter half of 1 Samuel, we watch the friendship of Jonathan and David grow. On more than one occasion, Jonathan challenges his own father defending his friend who consequently would take his place as king. Jonathan submitted to God’s plan and remained faithful though it would cost him his life. Jonathan died in battle, as necessary, for David to become the king God intended him to be.

Jonathan lived with the bigger picture in mind. He lived with God’s story as the primary narrative of life. He played a critical role courageously and sacrificially. He willingly gave up the crown to be faithful. If honest, the thought of Joseph’s or Daniel’s outcome is much more appealing. A time of trials followed by a long life of leadership and blessing seems more appropriate. But am I willing to joyfully live the life of Jonathan? Are we content to play the role God has for us faithfully without any expectation of the mountain top? We could easily ask the question, why David? With such faith present in Jonathan, why not let him take the reigns from his own father? It would seem to make more sense. And frankly, Scripture doesn’t give us that answer. Instead, God chose to do something quite amazing. He took the seventh son of Jesse from the unimportant town of Bethlehem to begin a line of kings eventually leading to Messiah.

There are so many Jonathans we will never read of, hear of, or personally appreciate. But we can be thankful for the faith of the spiritual giants who’ve gone before us. We rest on their shoulders and the foundation of their faithfulness. And some of us may be called to lay our very lives down knowing the plan isn’t moving our direction. Come to think of it, we all are.