No one is perfect. Unfortunately, no father is perfect. And yes, some fathers are regrettably less honourable than others.
Because that is true it is good for us to consider Jonathan and his relationship with Saul. We don’t think about that often, do we? We know that Jonathan and David’s friendship is legendary but what about Jonathan’s relationship with Saul?
Let’s consider the facts for a minute. Jonathan was appointed commander of 1,000 men. He attacked the Philistines at Geba and obviously won the battle. That stirred up a virtual hornet’s nest, as shown by the Philistines going into a total offensive mode. Saul and Jonathan were in Gibeah whilst the Philistines had the high ground around Micmash. That was when Jonathan and his armour-bearer went and killed the sentries and officers in the high fort and God instigated a major victory.
However, Saul was already beginning to lose the plot. For some inexplicable reason known only to him, he commanded that no one should eat anything until the end of the day – presumably in the hope that all his soldiers would be single-focused until victory was secure.
However, anyone in their right mind would know, as Napoleon is reported to have stated later – “an army marches on its stomach.” In other words, if your soldiers are not well fed you will not win the battle.
Just consider the conditions in the Middle East, with the sun blazing down on you all day. Evidently, the whole army was exhausted and just about spent. Jonathan, on the other hand, not having heard his father’s command, ate some honey and regained his strength.
When Saul was told of the disobedience he summoned the troops to a court marshal. Jonathan’s indiscretion was exposed and Saul commanded that he be put to death. Only the potential mutiny of the soldiers saved his life.
That started a downward spiral in their relationship. Saul would not have endeared Jonathan to him because of his own disobedience to Samuel’s instructions to annihilate the Amalekites and the Lord’s subsequent rejection of Saul as king.
When David was anointed king he tried to sooth Saul’s spirit by playing the harp for Saul; later he succeeded in killing Goliath. However, because of this Saul became irrational and was obsessively jealous of David.
Many were the times Jonathan stood up for David but eventually even he was subject to Saul’s fierce anger and had to duck from being impaled on Saul’s spear.
Jonathan had done all he could to help Saul see sense and reason and to live righteously with David but Saul was so eaten up with jealousy that he rejected Jonathan’s counsel.
Nevertheless, Jonathan remained loyal to Saul. We never read of his insurrection. He never once tried to assassinate the king; the last we read of Jonathan was that he was supporting Saul in the battle against the Philistines at Mt Gilboa.
Jonathan had the ability to discern between good and evil, between honour and obedience. He was able to support the King in his fight against his enemies whilst withdrawing his support from Saul’s irrational decisions.
Jonathan was able to love his father even when he was intent on evil. He didn’t condone his father’s behaviour but supported him in the real battles of life. Jonathan was able to distinguish between the real enemy and the perceived threat to the throne.
We need to be able to do the same, then maybe our epitaph will be as wonderful as Jonathan’s.