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In 1 Samuel 20, David (who is the anointed King of Israel), is forced to flee from King Saul. Saul’s son, Jonathan, has earlier knitted himself to David in a covenant (see 1 Samuel 18:3). This is clearly no small matter, as in this chapter Jonathan places himself in great danger to release David to safety. After his investigation of Saul’s stance toward David (see 1 Samuel 20:24-34), dodging a spear thrown by Saul, and giving Saul a piece of his mind, Jonathan returns to David to warn him of Saul’s anger toward him.
Jonathan is remarkable in a number of ways. Firstly, he is Saul’s son and yet he gives up his sonship to be identified with David in a covenant (1 Samuel 18:3). Secondly, he gives up his own claim to the throne of Israel for, in supporting David, he is supporting the fall of his own hereditary claim to throne (1 Samuel 20:31). Thirdly, Jonathan respects Saul by not assuming the worst of him (see 1 Samuel 20:9). Lastly, Jonathan is willing to say farewell to someone whom he dearly loves (1 Samuel 20:42).
The most remarkable thing about Jonathan, however, has very little to do with him, and everything to do with Jesus. Jesus, like Jonathan, is someone who gave up his own right to royalty to identify with those in peril.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7)
Instead of assuming his place on the throne, Jesus made himself nothing and took the form of a servant. Jonathan rescinded his own claim to a throne, and took the form of servant to David. In verse 8 it says of Jesus: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient, even to death on a cross.” Jonathan was not killed because of his decision to defend David, and of course all types and shadows are imperfect. However, he almost took a spear in torso for David.
It seems to me that Jonathan is a type of Christ in his covenant faithfulness to David. Read 1 Samuel 20 again, and see how Jonathan’s faithfulness to David points to a greater faithfulness, to someone who gave up more than Jonathan ever could. Then turn to the New Testament and marvel at how Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and rose, all in order to fulfill God’s covenant promises to his people.