In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him was a little boy. He said to the boy, ‘Run and find the arrows that I shoot.’ As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called after the boy and said, ‘Is the arrow not beyond you?’ Jonathan called after the boy, ‘Hurry, be quick, do not linger.’ So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. But the boy knew nothing; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement. Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said to him, ‘Go and carry them to the city.’ As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.”’ He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.
Saul and David had originally been close (16:21), but love was replaced by jealousy. The author makes a point of David’s looks (17:42) and that he captured the heart of two of Saul’s children – Jonathan (18:1) and Michal (18:20). David seemed to be quite the catch!
But as we have read, Saul’s jealousy rose to the level of murderous intent, and Jonathan’s secret signal to David confirmed this, leaving David only one course of action – exile.
The depth of relationship between Jonathan and David is a source of inspiration and comfort to many, especially to our local church’s Metropolitan Congregation with its mission to the LGBT community, but not just for a gay interpretation of their relationship.
Over the years, we have welcomed dozens of folk seeking asylum in the UK, who, like David, suddenly found themselves in danger – even in fear of their lives – when their sexuality was discovered or disclosed. Akin to Saul’s anger, the often violent anger and rejection by family, friends and neighbours was real: many, literally, bear the scars and carry them emotionally.
Very often, the only safe way out for them is a careful, yet desperate plan to escape abroad, often with the help of a sympathetic loved-one – just as Jonathan assisted David – but who must take precautions to protect themselves, like Jonathan’s secret signal with the arrows.
This passage is also the last recorded meeting between David and Jonathan, so it is no surprise that they wept together.
Of the 68.5 million refugees worldwide, 3.1 million are seekers of asylum [Source: UNHCR]. That is a lot of tears welling up from long-parting, often never to return.
One recurring theme across the arc of Scripture is to welcome those in need, a Biblical message that remains relevant today.
Lord Jesus, You say to us: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to Me.” Help us to become the people You call us to be. Amen.