|*October 16 - 22
|Jonathan: Born for Greatness
Read for This Week's Study:
|1 Sam. 14:6–13, 24–46; 18; 19; 31:1–7; 2 Sam. 1:5–12; 2 Kings 6:8–17.
|“Jonathan said to his armor bearer, ‘Come on, let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will intervene for us. Nothing can prevent the Lord from delivering, whether by many or by a few’” (1 Samuel 14:6, NET).
|By all accounts, Jonathan should
have been a spoiled, greedy, and selfish young man who believed that,
as the child of privilege, everything was owed him. And why not? He was
the oldest son of the first king of Israel. He was popular and
well-loved by his people. He was an excellent public speaker and a top
soldier and military leader. By the world’s standards, he had it
all. He was born for “greatness.”
Heaven, though, uses a different measure for what’s great—and Jonathan, interestingly enough, was one of the few who was willing to turn his back on what the world sees as great and, instead, seek a different kind of “greatness”—God’s kind.
In the life of Jonathan, we learn to evaluate our lives through heaven’s eyes. What makes a life great? What makes it worthwhile? What are the important things in this world, and what aren’t?
Jonathan’s story helps answer these questions for us. It also tells us that, if we choose, we, too, can be great in the eyes of God—regardless of where we were born, who our parents are, and how much wealth and talent we have.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 23.
The High Office of Friendship
Friendship is unlike most other relationships, which often are legally regulated and controlled. In many cultures, parents choose marriage partners for their children. Of course, none of us gets to choose our parents, siblings, and wider family relations.
However, we can choose our friends. Friendship crosses all frontiers. Friendship can influence other relationships, as well. Song of Solomon 5:16 shows us the role of friendship in a marriage relationship. True friendship is a completely voluntary relationship, which perhaps is why it is so binding. It does not involve meeting the letter of the law but focuses, rather, on giving ourselves.
1 Samuel 18:1describes the friendship between Jonathan and David. It says that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself” (NASB). What characteristics of friendship are highlighted in Exodus 33:11; Job 16:20, 21; Proverbs 17:17; 27:9; Ecclesiastes 4:10; and John 15:13–15?
Most of us would expect a mother to be prepared to die in order to save her child’s life or a man to protect his family at whatever cost to himself. These strong relationships are admirable, normal, and a reflection of God’s love for us. But this is an instinct that we share with many animal species.
Friendship is much more than instinct. True friendship must be nurtured by communication. Friends are there to help in all the challenges of life, not just to share the “fun” times. We can shape our friends’ present and future through wise counsel, encouragement, and through prayer for them. Jonathan shows these characteristics in his friendship with David. In 1 Samuel 20, Jonathan shows that friendship involves more than just talk; a friend is ready to give practical help, even at great personal risk. Jonathan often interceded for David with his father, King Saul (1 Sam. 19:4). Jonathan took the time and the trouble to find David when he was a fugitive and to encourage him in the Lord (1 Sam. 23:16).
|Have you ever betrayed a friend? Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? What lessons have you learned? What character traits do you need to change in you in order to be a better friend?
A Great Victory
Israel lives in a moment of extreme crisis. The Philistines have assembled to fight Israel with chariots and soldiers that seem to be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. The Israelite army is numerically inferior and very poorly equipped. Only Saul and Jonathan are said to have had iron swords or spears, for the Philistines tightly controlled the blacksmith industry. Indeed, all Israelites had to have their tools fixed or sharpened by Philistine blacksmiths (1 Sam. 13:19–22). Can you imagine the motley Israelite militia, equipped with sticks, axes, and slings, facing a vast Philistine army with state-of-the-art weaponry? No wonder that Saul’s army had a record desertion rate.
Think about the true balance of power in our battles if we are surrendered to the Lord. See 2 Kings 6:8–17. What hope can we take from that account for ourselves?
Jonathan is not intimidated by what others think. He does not lament the lack of faith and trust in Israel. Instead, he determines to do something about it. Jonathan is not out to save the day, but rather, he knows that God is so much bigger than the problem Israel faces. Jonathan does not see himself as a type of savior or hero. He knows that God can save by any means He chooses, and so Jonathan makes himself available to God. God chooses to use Jonathan and his armor bearer; an incredible victory follows.
What are the steps that Jonathan undertakes before climbing up to the enemy outpost? 1 Sam. 14:6–13.
Sometimes the line between faith and presumption can seem very fine. Jonathan does not depend on his own impressions exclusively. He consults with another God-fearing person and shares with him his plans and ideas. Jonathan understands that God is not limited, and so he does not try to manipulate Him. Jonathan is willing to stay or go as God will reveal through the sign that he proposes. Finally, when Jonathan gets the go-ahead, he does not hesitate but immediately engages himself in the challenge.
|What are your own personal battles? How can you learn to trust God in these situations? How can you learn to trust God even when things don’t work out as you had hoped or prayed?
Read 1 Samuel 19:1–7. How would you describe the relationship between Jonathan and Saul? What kind of conflict does Jonathan face between loyalty to his own father and loyalty to a friend?
Exactly what type of father Saul was when Jonathan was a child we do not know, but we do know that in later life Saul was not someone to look up to. Saul was very selfish, moody, jealous, irrational, and at times neurotic. Jonathan, however, gives evidence in his life and relationship to his father of a practical application of the command given in Exodus 20:12, which tells us to honor our parents.
Read 1 Samuel 14:24–46. How could Jonathan, had he wanted, used this incident as an excuse to stop honoring his father? Have not people turned on their own parents for less? What does this tell us about the kind of person Jonathan was?
Honoring our parents means a lot more than an occasional card or gift. Jonathan stands by his father in his time of crisis; he stands by him, too, despite what his father wanted to do to him.
We, too, honor our parents when we stand by them in times of crisis, such as illness or the loss of a job. We have a biblical obligation to support our parents emotionally and also materially (see 1 Tim. 5:8). Honoring our parents is not a subjective, passive activity. Jonathan demonstrates that this often involves giving respectful yet sound advice. Honoring our parents does not mean suspending our own judgment or defending our parents’ errors, nor blindly following or condoning evil. It does mean, though, that we have special obligations to them, regardless of the kind of people they might be.
|Following the example of Jonathan, what practical things can you do to improve your relationship with your parents, siblings, or other family members, especially if they are not believers?
Taking Second Place
One of the main trends in current society is to blame one’s parents for most (if not all) problems in life. To be sure, some folk do carry a lot of heavy emotional baggage from their parents. We can’t deny that fact.
However, it seems that the past decades have seen an incredible increase in this unfortunate tendency. We blame not only our parents but sometimes siblings, teachers, circumstances—anything or anyone else in order to avoid taking responsibility for our own circumstances.
Though we all are subjected to, and even victims of, circumstances beyond our control—Jonathan’s life shows us that we can work through them, at least to some degree. Jonathan would have had a right to blame his father for most of his troubles. If Saul had been faithful, then Jonathan would have had the throne. Jonathan chooses not to play the blame game, though. Jonathan has a good sense of self-worth. Instead of letting himself become bitter and resentful, he trusts that God knows best, and so Jonathan chooses to do what he can with what he has. It probably was not easy for Jonathan to maintain this faith and trust in God when he realized that God had chosen David, rather than himself, to become the next king.
Describe Jonathan’s reaction to
the fact that David will be king in his stead. What does this tell us about
Sam. 23:17. Contrast his attitude to those displayed in Isaiah
14:13, 14; 1
Kings 1:5; and Mark
10:35–37. What is the difference?
When we have our identity secure in God, we are able to face rejection or criticism without being devastated or losing our sense of self-worth. A big part of having our own identity secure in God involves our experience and relationship with Him. Jonathan had already had a dramatic personal experience with God in his victory over the Philistines in 1 Samuel 14.
The later story of David’s family is marked by rebellions and internal strife. Absalom and Adonijah both seek to usurp the throne from their father, David. They are unwilling to allow God to choose the new king. Jonathan’s attitude stands in total contrast to this “I” spirit. He is willing to take second place. He tries to inspire harmony and reconciliation between his father and his friend David (1 Sam. 19:4). He truly stands as an example of a servant leader prepared to take second or even third place.
|Using Jonathan as an example, what can you do when you don’t get the job, position, or respect you feel that you are entitled to? How can you control feelings of rejection, envy, and hate?
When Life Isn’t Fair
Read 1 Samuel 31:1–7 and 2 Sam. 1:5–12. What kind of end did Jonathan have? How do we understand this?
Most of us have been taught that good always wins in the end and that we reap what we sow. We often take this further and believe that a good person should have a good, long life, and that a bad person can expect a troubled, short life. And while we know that good will win over evil in the end, when Jesus comes again, the reality of the matter is that good people do not always get good in this life and that bad people do not always get bad. Sometimes we even are punished for doing the right thing. God does often step in and miraculously save and protect His children, but this is not always the case.
Who are some Bible characters who, though faithful, did not get what they deserved? Gen. 39:10–20, Job 1–2.
Jonathan had been a true and faithful friend to David. He was a negotiator and tried his best to bring peace between David and Saul. Jonathan was not proud and was willing to give up his right to the throne. He was just as willing to accept David as king. He was also a good son. God had used Jonathan before to put a whole army on the run, and now the Israelite army once again faced the Philistines. Perhaps Jonathan wondered if God would once again perform a miracle to save Israel. Jonathan would fall that day on the battlefield (1 Sam. 31:2).
Like John the Baptist, Jonathan is an example of those who do not get what they seem to deserve now. They often suffer, lose positions of honor for the sake of Christ, and sometimes even fall at their post of duty. However insignificant or even useless their lives and sacrifices may appear, they are nonetheless key players in God’s plans. They are motivated and sustained by Jesus’ love and presence. They are born for greatness—not necessarily the kind of greatness that the world understands or portrays but a greatness that goes way beyond our human concepts and expectations.
So much happens that doesn’t, from our perspective, make sense or seem fair. The promise, however, is that one day all things will be made right, and we will have answers to what now seems so unfathomable.
|Read 1 Corinthians 4:5, 13:12, Romans 8:28, and Revelation 21:4. What hope can you draw from these passages as we face difficult questions, not just for Bible characters but perhaps for ourselves, in the struggles, and trials that, at least for now, do not always have happy endings?
“On the record of those who through self-abnegation have entered into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, stand—one in the Old Testament and one in the New—the names of Jonathan and of John the Baptist.
“Jonathan, by birth heir to the throne, yet knowing himself set aside by the divine decree; to his rival the most tender and faithful of friends, shielding David’s life at the peril of his own; steadfast at his father’s side through the dark days of his declining power, and at his side falling at the last—the name of Jonathan is treasured in heaven, and it stands on earth a witness to the existence and the power of unselfish love.
“John the Baptist, at his appearance as the Messiah’s herald, stirred the nation. From place to place his steps were followed by vast throngs of people of every rank and station. But when the One came to whom he had borne witness, all was changed. The crowds followed Jesus, and John’s work seemed fast closing. Yet there was no wavering of his faith. ‘He must increase,’ he said, ‘but I must decrease.’ John 3:30.”—Ellen G. White, Education, pp. 156, 157.
| How do we differentiate
between faith and presumption? When and how do we go about asking for
signs in order to know God’s will for us?
Some cultures promote passiveness as a virtue, while others see it as something negative. Jonathan was willing to take second place. Is this the same as being passive? Should a Christian be passive? If so, when; if not, why not?
Discuss the life of Jonathan in the light of Hebrews 11:32–40. What can you take away from those texts that perhaps could help you in situations that, at least from your perspective now, have dismal outcomes?
|I N S I D E Story
|Saving Grace: Part 1
Gana walked numbly down the snow-blown street of Ulaanbaatar [ooh-lahn-BAH-tr], Mongolia. Her thoughts whirled like the dusty cold winds that blew off the brown hillsides surrounding the city and bit her reddened cheeks. How could I have failed the test? She asked herself. I studied hard and even asked the monk to chant a prayer for me. When Father tossed his fortune-telling pebbles, even he said I would do well!
Gana had wanted to study economics and accounting at the prestigious national university in Mongolia. But her hopes were dashed when her scores on the entrance exam were too low to qualify to enter the school of economics. She returned to her parents' home and didn't want to leave for fear someone would ask how she had done on the exams. Even her father shouted at her for having failed the exam. She just wanted to die!
Then one day a relative stopped to visit. She listened patiently to Gana's sorrow and invited her to visit the Seventh-day Adventist Church with her. Gana was curious about these Christians, so she agreed to go. It would give her a chance to be with people who didn't know that she'd just failed her entrance exams.
Gana knew that her father wouldn't approve of her attending a Christian church, so she didn't tell anyone where she was going.
Gana enjoyed the service. She loved to sing, and the Christians sang so joyfully. After the meeting the youth stayed for a social. As the young people laughed and talked, Gana forgot her troubles.
Gana continued attending the church meetings. When her mother learned where she was going, she simply urged Gana to be sure that she believed in the path that she was choosing to take. But her father was angry and felt Christians were a foreign religion. Gana enjoyed the youth activities and continued attending the meetings at the church. Little by little she fell in love with Jesus. She told her mother that she wanted to be baptized. Her parents didn't understand the commitment she was making, or perhaps they would have objected.
The pastor noticed Gana's deep commitment to honesty and truth, and he asked her to become the church's treasurer. Gana shuddered, for she knew that in many Mongolian circles the one holding the purse strings felt free to dip into the funds. Finally she accepted the position. "It made me nervous," she said, "for I knew that God was watching."
(continued next week)
GANA is the accountant for the Seventh-day Adventist English Language School and treasurer of her church in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
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