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Arrows of Friendship

Key References: 1 Samuel 20; Patriarchs and Prophets, chap. 64, pp. 649-659, chap. 65, p. 660, chap. 68, p. 696; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 4, pp. 20-23; Our Beliefs, nos. 14, 7, 3.

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“Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.” ‘ Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town” (1 Samuel 20:42).

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We trust and respect our Christian friends who have the same goals and values.

Do you have a unique way of communicating with your best friend? Two friends in the Bible did just that a long time ago. Imagine one of them, who later became King David, telling the story to his son Solomon.

Father,” 12-year-old Solomon called, “today I had a disagreement with one of my friends.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” King David said. “Let me tell you a story.”

Solomon always enjoyed his father’s stories. He slouched into a comfortable position, ready to listen.

“I had a friend once who was closer to me than any of my seven brothers,” David said.

“Oh! You mean Jonathan,” Solomon interrupted.

“That’s right. I met Jonathan after the battle with Goliath,” David answered. “From the very beginning we were good friends.

“I had never lived in a palace,” David continued. “There were many things I had to learn. Jonathan helped me with new things that were now a part of my life. But being a friend isn’t one-sided, you know.”

“What do you mean?” asked Solomon.

“I didn’t just want to take from Jonathan,” said David.

“I wanted to give something to him in return.” “What could you give the son of the king?” laughed Solomon. “You were just a shepherd.”

“Well, you’re right,” agreed David. “But I could still give him the best gift of all—true friendship. We did so many things together. Things were great between Jonathan and me. But his father, King Saul, didn’t like me very much. Oh, at first he did. But later he began to feel threatened by me. Saul wasn’t allowing God to work in his life. Because of that, he began to distrust many of the people close to him. I was one of those people.”

“That must have made it difficult for you to be friends with Jonathan,” Solomon said.

“In some ways it did. But real friends don’t give up when things get difficult,” said David. “We eventually had to be careful. After Saul sent out some of his men to kill me, I knew that Jonathan and I couldn’t meet where anyone else could see us.”

“What did you do?” asked Solomon.

“I sent a message for Jonathan to meet me. When he arrived, I told him his father was trying to kill me. We made a plan,” continued David. “I would hide in the field and wait until I received news from my friend.”

“Jonathan and I had agreed that when Saul noticed I was missing from his family celebration, Jonathan would say that he had given me permission to visit my family in Bethlehem, my hometown, for an annual sacrifi ce. If Saul was fine with that, Jonathan would know I was safe. If Saul got angry, Jonathan would know that I was right and that Saul was trying to kill me.”

“What happened?” Solomon stirred, curious.

“Saul was so angry, he threw a spear at his own son, Jonathan.

“But back to our plan.” David shifted in his seat, leaning closer to Solomon.

“We agreed that Jonathan, pretending to be target practicing, would come out to the field where I was hiding to inform me of what had taken place at the palace. When he realized how angry his father was, Jonathan came to meet me. After he shot an arrow, he said the secret code we had worked out. Jonathan sent the boy who was with him to pick up the arrow, saying ‘Isn’t the arrow beyond you?’ Then he shouted to the boy, ‘Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!’ (see 1 Samuel 20:37, 38). This meant that it was not safe for me to return to the palace, because Saul was devising evil against me. Jonathan sent the boy home so we could talk.”

“What did Jonathan say?” Solomon wanted to know.

“Jonathan told me that he knew that I was going to be the next king of Israel. He wanted me to promise that if anything happened to him, I would take care of his family.

“We didn’t know when we might see each other again. But we knew that we had promised always to be friends no matter what happened.”

“Both of you kept your promise to be each other’s friend even if it was difficult to do,” Solomon said, deep in thought.

“That’s right,” David nodded. “When you find a friend who loves and serves God, you work hard to make your relationship last. You treat each other with respect, and you’re honest with each other. When the bad times come, you work through them. You don’t desert your friend.”

“I guess I should work a little harder on my friendship,” Solomon admitted.