Loyalty is one of the most important parts of any human relationship, but, unfortunately, it is hard to find. Of course, “yes-men” abound. But they are not truly loyal, for they are not helpful or trustworthy counselors. It is also common to find people who put on a charade of love and loyalty, only to conspire against us once our backs are turned. Trust is a valuable commodity, not easily gained and quickly lost. All of us have experienced disloyalty and have been disloyal ourselves. Such is not to be the case among the people of God, for we are to maintain our loyalty to all people, not least our brothers and sisters in Christ.
David, as a man of deep piety, is an example of such loyalty, especially in his friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan. We see in today’s passage a moving description of the deep friendship that existed between the two. On the run from Saul, David explained his plight to Jonathan, who could hardly believe him at first (1 Sam. 20:1–11). Jonathan did not want to accept that his father wanted to kill David, since that would have meant he would have to forgo loyalty to his own family for the sake of doing what was right. This fact should not be skipped over too quickly. In this fallen world, loyalty to one person can often require us to be disloyal to another, and it is especially painful when we have to be disloyal to our own relatives who are in the wrong. But Jonathan was an honorable man and vowed to let David know whether Saul’s anger still burned against him, even if it meant losing the trust of his father. The two men even made a solemn covenant to reassure each other of their godly motivations (vv. 12–23).
Such a covenant might seem unnecessary if we forget that we are sinful creatures and prone to break our promises. Oaths and vows exist to help prevent us from sinning against one another, giving even those closest to us reason to continue trusting us even when times are rough. Those who are loyal are not afraid to vow loyalty to others so that their friends and family might be assured of their good intentions (see Gen. 24:1–9). Marriage vows and other solemn contracts all exemplify this principle.
Having vowed to protect David, Jonathan followed through on his commitment, even at great personal cost (1 Sam. 20:24–42). Such is the integrity of the true man or woman of God.