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While David was waiting for his turn to be king, there was another young man who most people thought was the next in line to be king — Jonathan.
Do you remember what we said about how some nations pick leaders? Most of the time the firstborn son of the king would be the king after his father died. That meant that in most peoples’ minds, Jonathan would become the next king after Saul.
But Jonathan and David were super close buddies — closer than peanut butter & jelly or biscuits & gravy. In fact, after David escaped from Saul and stayed with Samuel for awhile, he went to find Jonathan.
“Jonathan,” David asked, “What have I done to your father that would make him want to kill me? If I’ve done something wrong, let me know.”
“No, you’re safe. My father tells me everything, David. If he was trying to kill you again, I would know about it!” said Jonathan.
But David told Jonathan, “No, your father has been hiding it from you because he knows how much you care about me, but I’m telling you the truth, I’m very close to getting killed.”
Jonathan was heartbroken. “What can I do for you, David, my friend? Anything — just tell me.”
So they worked out a plan to find out for sure if Saul was going to keep on trying to hurt David. David hid in a field while Jonathan went to a big feast Saul was having. Saul asked Jonathan, “Where’s David? He should be here by now.”
“Oh, he asked me to let him go visit his brothers, so I let him,” Jonathan answered. When Saul heard that David and Jonathan were working together, Saul got really angry. “How dare you help that man!” he yelled at Jonathan. “Don’t you know you won’t ever get to be king as long as David is alive?”
“Dad, why are you acting like this? David hasn’t done anything wrong!” Jonathan said. That made Saul so mad that he threw his spear at Jonathan, but Jonathan got away.
Jonathan was so upset he couldn’t eat anything the rest of the day.
The next morning, Jonathan went out to the field where David was hiding. He let David know what he’d found out. Saul really was trying to kill David, and no one, not even Jonathan, could change Saul’s mind anymore.
David was going to have to leave. It wasn’t safe for him to be near Saul anymore. This made the two friends, David and Jonathan, very sad.
David bowed down three times to Prince Jonathan. They both cried, especially David. He really loved Jonathan. They were going to miss each other.
“Go in peace, David,” Jonathan told him. “God is watching us and sees that we are friends forever.”
Then David went away. He moved to different places, often hiding in the wilderness as Saul kept trying to find him. All the time, David got stronger, but Saul only became more and more of a crazy, angry, jealous person.
Jonathan realized that God was no longer with his father Saul, but God was with David, and David had been chosen as the next leader of the people. Jonathan realized that it wasn’t going to be his turn to be king next after all. It was going to be David’s turn next. David was simply the better man for the job of king.
Notice what I said: It wasn’t that David was a better man than Jonathan — it’s that David was a better man for the job. Jonathan was a courageous, faith-filled, God-trusting man. God loved Jonathan. David loved Jonathan. David being chosen to be the next king instead of Jonathan didn’t have anything to do with how much Jonathan was loved.
Jonathan could see clearly that David was the man God had chosen for the job, so Jonathan was ready to completely give up his turn. He was happy to! He loved his friend David more than his own life.
So while David was still on the run, hiding out in the desert, Jonathan went and found David and encouraged him. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father will never find you, and YOU will be the next king. I will put myself under your command! You will be first, and I will be your second in command.”
Jonathan wasn’t just letting David have “the next turn.” Jonathan was giving up his turn completely. Jonathan would never have a turn to be king. He was choosing the only real kind of love: selfless love. The kind of love that says, “It doesn’t matter what happens to me.” The kind of love that doesn’t think about your-self at all. Jonathan knew that God had chosen David to be the next king, and Jonathan’s job was to be the best friend and brother to David that he could. And he did that to the very end.