SIGNS of a ‘TRUE’ and ‘LASTING’ FRIENDSHIP: So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "Let the Lord require it at the hand of David's enemies." Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul. (1 Sam 20:16-17)
It was right after David’s victory over Goliath that he got a chance to appear before King Saul to introduce himself as the son of Saul’s servant (1 Sam. 17:55-58). Listening to David was a young man by the name of Jonathan, who was the eldest son of King Saul and the heir-apparent to the throne of Israel. This is the beginning of a true and lasting friendship that would blossom, and we can already see two signs of this friendship: "Now when 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" (1 Sam 18:1). The first sign is that there is a real bonding between two people (“the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David”). The second sign is that the love for the other person is as much if not more than self love (“Jonathan loved him as his own soul”).
The third sign of a true and lasting friendship is that one person will defend and speak well of the other person in his absence. In the case of Jonathan, he defended David before his father Jonathan: Thus Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, "Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been very good toward you" (1 Sam 19:4). The fourth sign of a true and lasting friendship is a willingness to do whatever the other person desires for his well being. So Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you" (1 Sam 20:4).
From the reading of verses 14 and 15, it is clear that Jonathan believed that David would be the king of Israel in his place. However, he reaffirmed his friendship to David even though he realized that David would soon replace his father as the king of Israel in his place. This kind of unselfish devotion is the fifth sign of a true and lasting friendship!
When Prince Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David (v. 16), he was sealing a long-lasting relationship through which he treated the commoner David as a member of his own family with loyalty, dignity, and devotion. Thus, the sixth sign of a true and lasting friendship is when one person treated the other person on equal status and footing even though both would originate from different background. This everlasting covenant between Jonathan and David (vv. 23, 42) would be later remembered by David when he became the king of Israel and would provide for Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9).
David and Jonathan shared a rare and valuable friendship! Both honored their pledge of friendship during a time when their relationship was severely tested (18:1–4; 20:1–4). Their bond serves as a model for us today who need and seek healthy relationships with others. At the very foundation of a true and lasting friendship is trust and loyalty, which were the basis of David and Jonathan’s friendship. Why else would a royal prince risk friendship with a rural shepherd boy who was an enemy of his own family?
We all need true friends in our lives who will uphold us when we tend to fall down in our life’s journey. Charles Colton has said once: “True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost”. Friendship doesn’t make us wealthy, but true friendship will reveal the wealth within us. Real friendship may call for sacrifices, just as Jonathan ultimately lost his relationship with his father Saul in order to fulfill his pledge to David (20:32–33). A true and lasting friendship is one of the things are worth paying dearly for!