Samuel told Saul that he and his sons would die, and the Philistines would defeat Israel (28:19). This is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Saul died by suicide (an Israelite taboo), his head was decapitated, and his armor was displayed at the temple of Ashtereth (goddess of both love and war). The people of Jabesh-gilead courageously took the bodies of Saul and his sons and burned them and buried their bones in Jabesh. Then they fasted for seven days. This was an act of respect and gratefulness to Saul, whose first public deed was to rescue this same city from the Ammonites 40 years before (11:1-11).
This is such a sad end to a man who did not finish well. On the other hand, it is the end to a wonderful man who did finish well: Jonathan! He was such a wonderful example of faithfulness and loyalty!
Here is what the Life Application Study Bible NIV has to say about Jonathan:
Loyalty is one of life's most costly qualities; it is the most selfless part of love. To be loyal, you cannot live only for yourself. Loyal people not only stand by their commitments, they are willing to suffer for them. Jonathan is a shining example of loyalty. Sometimes he was forced to deal with conflicting loyalties: to his father, Saul, and to his friend, David. His solution to that conflict teaches us both how to be loyal and what must guide loyalty. In Jonathan, truth always guided loyalty.
Jonathan realized that the source of truth was God, who demanded his ultimate loyalty. It was his relationship with God that gave Jonathan the ability to deal effectively with the complicated situations in his life. He was loyal to Saul because Saul was his father and the king. He was loyal to David because David was his friend. His loyalty to God guided him through the conflicting demands of his human relationships.
The conflicting demands of our relationships challenge us as well. If we attempt to settle these conflicts only at the human level, we will be constantly dealing with a sense of betrayal. But if we communicate to our friends that our ultimate loyalty is to God and his truth, many of our choice will be much clearer. The truth of his Word, the Bible will bring light to our decisions. Do those closest to you know who has your greatest loyalty? (p.473)This post hits so close to home this morning. While my loyalty has been with God since I was 10 years old, I often had to balance that loyalty with my mother's disapproval of what I was doing in obedience to Him. She often did not understand my choices to not pursue the American dream that her father came to America to realize (my grandparents were Swedish immigrants). The choices I made for God were often seen as disloyalty to the family that had sacrificed so much to "make a better life" for my grandfather's children and grandchildren.
In addition, my father's mother had great bitterness toward God because two families from her church embezzled her inheritance money after both her parents died when she 11. On one of my trips in obedience to God's call on my life, she gave me money but told me that I must spend it only on learning about the art and culture of Europe and not for anything religious! Sadly, my grandmother remained bitter toward God until the day she died.
Coming from this kind of home, it was difficult for me to navigate the waters of "honoring my mother and father" (although my dad never had a problem with my choices) and God's calling on my life. I did not always do it in the best way, but at the end of their lives, I can say that I was able to find the balance between honoring them and loyalty to God's call. It helped immensely when my mom gave her heart to Jesus 12 years before she died (my father had come to the Lord in 1984, a year before he died).
Just last week, through a healing prayer session with a trusted friend, God shed light on why it is so difficult for me to move forward in obedience to Him when people disapprove or are disappointed in my actions. It stems back to some memories of my mother's disapproval growing up. It has been transforming as He connects the dots, and I can walk in greater freedom. God has given me some opportunities to live in this new freedom as I have disappointed a few people lately in obedience to His clear and confirmed direction.
I was investing in a young woman recently who has not found that balance and has done many dishonoring things to her parents in the name of "God." It breaks my heart, but I cannot judge because I did some similar things. I pray she finds that balance and makes peace with her parents soon! Could you pray for this unnamed woman?
I hope Jonathan's life can be an encouragement to us all!
Take some time to evaluate your life and relationships in light of Jonathan's life:
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Brave, loyal, and a natural leader
- The closest friend David ever had
- Did not put his personal well-being ahead of those he loved
Lessons from his life:
- Loyalty is one of the strongest parts of courage
- An allegiance to God puts all other relationships in perspective
- Great friendships are costly
(Life Application Study Bible NIV, p. 473)
Lord, help us to see the balance in loyalty toward those who gave us life, and the calling You have on our life. Help us to finish well like Jonathan by the little choices we make along the way. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.