Perhaps some people would say that Jonathan was acting out of righteousness...defending his friend against his father's bad behavior for God's sake. Perhaps. But honestly, nothing and no one defends righteousness, truth, and holiness better than God defends them himself. In his treatise on Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall said that God's power exists for its own defense. It is by His defense of his own character and nature that we too are defended.
God did not give Jonathan the job of defending righteousness. Jonathan was entrusted with the heart and life of his friend. Big difference.
The story of Jonathan's loyalty to David focuses on the deep love Jonathan had for his covenant friend. God had knit their souls together.
Jonathan gave David the best of all he had...all that signified his status as the son of the king, and all the best armor that served to protect the son of the king. Jonathan's oath and his sacrifice were huge because his heart and soul were even bigger!
I'm sure that Jonathan knew his father was acting sinfully, but I am just as sure that he loved his father very much. It must have been truly painful and confusing to have to decide between loyalty to his father and honoring his covenant...acting on the love and truth God had knit within his soul.
Jonathan was probably eager to see righteousness triumph, but I'm sure he felt badly about disobeying his father. I believe very much that this young man still desired to be loyal to his father and king. Young Jonathan must have been a person of great honor because he died on the battlefield with Saul.
Even so, by following his heart, honoring his covenant, and helping David, Jonathan risked being disowned. He risked his life at the hand of his own father! History has shown that when it comes to power, many a father, son, and brother have turned against one another to a brutal, bloody end.
Given Saul's erratic fits of jealousy and rage, there was no way Jonathan could be certain of his own safety. Yet the truth of his unfailing love for David gave him peace that God would take care of the righteousness. And God did just that.
We seldom hear stories of love and loyalty like this one. Jonathan's heart and his covenant (his feelings and his promise) stood up against even the close and powerful bond of father and son, and the honorable expectations of allegiance to the king.
No one would have faulted Jonathan for obeying his father and hanging David out to dry. In fact, I'd say that Jonathan's reputation was more than just a little bit on the line. Undoubtedly most people then, like most people now, expected blood to be thicker than water. Jonathan managed to honor blood and water...at the expense of his own life.
I guess I wonder how many of us, myself included, would sacrifice ourselves for the love of a friend, the way Jonathan did, and still honor the ones we are bound to by blood, or by service.
Would I risk dishonoring a relative in the wrong for the sake of a soul mate in need? Would I take a stand against my boss in order to honor a covenant and show love to a friend?
In the end, I hope I'd decide, as Jonathan seemed to have decided, to put his life and his honor in God's hands. He risked his life and honor for his friend, for his father, and for his nation...all without question.
And one can ride just as well.