“And Jonathon, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh,
and strengthened his hand in God.”
(1 Samuel 23:16)
My Bible reading plan has me reading from 1 and 2 Samuel these last few weeks, and, while I know I’ve read these books numerous times, it is amazing that I continue to find something new each time I read it. This is one of the blessings of having the habit of regular Bible reading, picking up on something you might have missed before, or seeing it from a completely different perspective.
The passage above from 1 Sam 23 tells us that when David was hiding from Saul, Jonathon, Saul’s son, came to David and strengthened his hand. That phrase, “he strengthened his hand,” has been stuck in my head for two weeks now.
On the surface, it’s clear what is meant here. When you get the winning bid in Pinocle and your partner passes you exactly what you need, that’s “strengthening your hand.”
When you gain a tactical advantage, or get an increase in strength, you gain the upper hand, or get a stronger hand. That I understand.
But what isn’t so clear is exactly how Jonathon when about strengthening David’s hand.
All we know is what Jonathon said to David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.” That’s all we’re told.
Since I read that passage, I prayed over and wrestled with that phrase, “strengthen his hand.” I wanted to try to get my head around it, to let it sink in. I asked God, “show me what that means!”
And then God did.
I had a friend show up in the midst of a very busy week. With he start of a new year of programing at the church, and more and more involvement with Presbytery responsibilities, I was feeling swamped. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, up early to run and pray, up late to read and pray. The joy of ministry was dwindling, and it was beginning to show.
So my friend shows up, one who is closer than a brother, and he begins to invest in me, to strengthen me, and to encourage me. He listened. He gave wise counsel. He asked me the tough questions about my prayer life and purity that need to be asked to keep me accountable. But most of all, he reminded me of the grace that I have been called to proclaim. He reminded me that I’m not just a herald of that grace, but a recipient of it as well.
Isn’t this what Jonathon did for David? He showed up when David was downs, and reminded him of God’s promises. He directed him to God, not to his own strength, not to his own resources. Jonathon didn’t come to the cave at Horesh and say, “It’s not so bad!” There were no “Daily Affirmations” with Stuart Smalley there in the wilderness…
No, Jonathon simply directed David’s eyes, and heart, back to the word of God. God had made a promise to David, had anointed him and poured out his Spirit upon him. All Jonathon had to do was return David to his foundation in God, the source of real courage and strength.
This is how Jonathon ministered to David. This is how my friend ministered to me. As we were praying, I thanked God that he showed me personally what it meant that Jonathon strengthened David’s hand in the Lord. It means having a brother who will encourage, bless, and challenge you. It means having someone who will speak into your life a word of grace and hope. It means being reminded of God’s promises in your own life so that you can find the strength to move forward.
I cannot stress what a blessing it is to have someone in your life like Jonathon was for David – a source of strength and encouragement in the Lord. I encourage you to be that person for someone today – call them up, listen and encreuage them, be the one to strengthen their hand in the Lord. And also seek out someone in your life who can do that for you. Invite someone to hold you accountable, to ask you the tough questions, and to remind you of God’s goodness and grace toward you in Jesus. May you have that God-given friend who will always be directing you to God.