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 (1 Samuel 18:3-4).
“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. Even my father Saul knows this.” (1 Samuel 23:17)
Selfishness is a prominent characteristic of our modern society. It tends to breed fierce competition for position and prominence in all segments of society. This is true in sports, business, politics, entertainment, and various other arenas in our world. Success — to many people — means getting what is desired regardless of who is hurt in the process. Sadly, this exists even in the church world. This attitude is so contrary to the Biblical value of selflessness.
Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” In 1 Samuel, Jonathan did not have this verse to read. However, he lived it out as if he did.
The concept of preferring a brother over oneself is so evident in the relationship between Jonathan and David. In fact, selflessness really cost Jonathan a couple of important things. First of all, it exacted a great toll on his relationship with his father, Saul.
As King of Israel, Saul was the most powerful man in the land. However, he had already been told by the prophet, Samuel, that his kingdom would be given to another. Knowing that David was God’s choice, Saul sought to kill him on more than one occasion. Jonathan’s friendship with David flew in the face of a jealousy and hatred that Saul could not shake. The idea that Jonathan was David’s ally drove a wedge between the father and son that could not be overcome. Ultimately, selflessness was going to cost Jonathan the kingdom.
Notice in I Samuel 18:4 that Jonathan stripped himself of his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt. These were not ordinary items coming off an ordinary man. These were the clothing and weaponry of the future king of Israel. Essentially, Jonathan was giving up the kingdom for his friend. Later, he put this idea into words.
Can you imagine the selfless nature of Jonathan as he spoke to David in 1 Samuel 23:17? Hear these words: “You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” How many people do we know who could be so inclined? Could we ourselves handle things this way? It is certain that we cannot do it without the mindset of our Savior.
Philippians 2: 5-8 speaks clearly about the selflessness of Jesus. Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Talk about selflessness costing something! What did it cost Jesus?
It cost Him the robes of Heavenly royalty. It cost Him the splendor of all that Heaven has to offer. It cost Him — for a time — His deity. It cost Him a point in time when God allowed the unthinkable to happen on the cross. It cost Him his earthly life. Why?
Jesus did this simply because He placed us before Himself. He gave up everything so we can share all that He has here and ultimately eternally. In a world so filled with selfish ambition, let us live lives of selflessness. God, help us to place others before ourselves.
Dave Snyder is an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God – Cleveland, Tennessee. Before entering the ministry on a full-time basis, he was a school teacher. He also coached middle school basketball for eight years.
Dave and his wife, Sara, have two children — Craig and Karen. They also have one ten year old granddaughter — Breanna.
Dave and Sara pastored in West Virginia for thirty-six years. Sara is now retired from the banking industry, and Dave is retired from pastoring. However, Dave currently serves as prison Chaplain for the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Writing essays, articles, and devotionals is a real passion for Dave. He also enjoys playing musical instruments and singing.