“And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad with him. And he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad, and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee? And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master. But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city. And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city” (1 Samuel 20:35-42).
From this moment, for the next twenty years, life was going to get extremely difficult for David. He would not see Jonathan alive again. He would not be able to return to family and friends. He would have no certain dwelling place. All he had was the life of a fugitive.
Jonathan kept his promise to David even though it was highly likely that Saul had spies watching him. His plan regarding the arrows proved to be very wise. Once the signal arrows were shot, Jonathan could instruct David with coded words that none of his watchers would understand. “Make speed, haste, stay not” revealed to David that it was no longer safe for him to be anywhere near King Saul, and that he would have to flee for his life. Jonathan did not try to lighten the bad news, but told David the straight facts. Many preachers today water down the Gospel by not warning the lost about where they will end up if they do not follow Christ. Only the truth is acceptable when we are dealing with people’s souls.
We can see that the friends were broken-hearted as the full realisation of the situation dawned upon them. “David exceeded” means that he was completely overcome with sadness. His life as a fugitive on the run from Saul meant that he had to sever his friendship with Jonathan. We must keep in mind that none of this was a result of anything David had done; instead it was all Saul’s doing. His wickedness would be the cause of much more heartache in Israel. “When the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).
Jonathan’s words of blessing must have been a real encouragement to David. The words would long stay in his mind. They served to remind him that, no matter how dreadful life might become, God was with him each step of the way. “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31, 35-39).
Almost immediately the time had come for David and Jonathan to depart from one another. Jonathan would return to face the continued wrath of Saul, while David had to face an uncertain future fleeing from Saul. In his day, to be forced into exile was considered to be a humiliating experience, for it meant that David could not worship God in Israel, but had to go into a foreign land, one full of idolatry, and try to honour the Lord there.
Here is God’s anointed, but that did not mean that his life would be free from difficulties, pain and sorrow. Instead of luxury and comforts David would know privation, hunger, thirst and ridicule. He was destined to the throne, but the path would be paved with blood, sweat and tears rather than gold and precious stones. We too are destined to worship Christ at His throne, but the way will not be easy. The glories of eternity are a great encouragement to us as we journey as strangers in a foreign land. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17-18).