Jonathan, David, and Jesus

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The Lord gives us a picture of His beautiful covenant relationship with us in the friendship between David and King Saul’s son, Jonathan.

We are bound to Jesus, and He is bound to us in covenant. The Lord gives us a picture of this beautiful covenant  relationship in the covenant friendship between David and King Saul’s son Jonathan.

Jonathan binds himself to David in covenant: “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. . . . Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt” (1 Samuel 18:1, 3-4). …Think of Jonathan’s initiative with David as a picture of Christ’s relationship with you…

Let’s look more closely at the meaning and symbolism of two of the words used in the 1 Samuel passage we just read: knit and robe.

Knit: We are told that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.” The word knit in Hebrew carries with it the meaning of “to bind or to tie something together.” When used with human beings, it is the idea of binding people together, or of two people being bound inseparably in love. The word defines a relationship characterized by deep, undying devotion.

Figuratively, we see this idea in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, when God instructs Israel to bind His law to their hearts: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The idea of being “knit together” or “welded together” is used by the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:1-2: “I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 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.” Christians are to be knit together into one united body that is one in the Spirit. The love of Jesus is the glue that binds us together, just as the body is held together by joints and ligaments. One of the strengths of the church is the unity produced by Christ’s love. If we are truly knit together by the love of Christ, why wouldn’t we have a deep, undying devotion to our fellow believers?

The Robe: We are told that “Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David.” The term robe refers to a long, sleeveless shawl of blue or purple fabric. There was a hole in the middle which was pulled over the head. It was worn by men of honor and royalty. The robe grew to become a symbol. For example, when a man’s heart was torn by grief, he would demonstrate his inner emotion by outwardly tearing his robe. When Jonathan made a covenant with David, he gave him his robe, outwardly expressing his inner emotions. Jonathan was entering into an undying covenant with David and offering to David all that he had to give. The exchange of robes symbolized an exchange of identity and a sharing of identities with the other person.

Jesus is our Jonathan. He has given us His armor, His resources; He is our covenant partner. He has given us His life, not just symbolically, but literally. He has given us His robes of righteousness—himself and His identity. He is for us. He is on our side. He will fight our enemies.


By Laurie Aker

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