Proverbs 17:17, ESV

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.


1 SAMUEL 19:1-7, NIrV

1 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan liked David very much. 2 So Jonathan warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be very careful tomorrow morning. Find a place to hide and stay there. 3 My father and I will come and stand in the field where you are hiding. I’ll speak to him about you. Then I’ll tell you what I find out.”

4 Jonathan told his father Saul some good things about David. He said to him, “Please don’t do anything to harm David. He hasn’t done anything to harm you. And what he’s done has helped you a lot. 5 He put his own life in danger when he killed Goliath. The Lord used him to win a great battle for the whole nation of Israel. When you saw it, you were glad. So why would you do anything to harm a man like David? He isn’t guilty of doing anything to harm you. Why would you want to kill him without any reason?”

6 Saul paid attention to Jonathan. Saul made a promise. He said, “You can be sure that the Lord lives. And you can be just as sure that David will not be put to death.”

7 So Jonathan sent for David and told him everything he and Saul had said. Then he brought David to Saul. David served Saul as he had done before.


Jonathan was a man caught in the middle of the two people he cared about. He was the son of Saul, king of the Israelites. But he was also best friends with David, a man secretly chosen by God to replace his dad as king. When Saul asked him to kill David, Jonathan had a choice: do I obey my dad or save my best friend’s life? Knowing it would be wrong to kill a man who had done nothing wrong, he warned David about Saul’s sinful scheme. Then, after reminding his dad of all the ways David had loyally served him, he convinced the jealous king to promise not to harm his best friend.

+ What did Jonathan tell David to do? (vs. 2)

+ What did Jonathan say that convinced Saul not to kill David? (vs. 4-5)


1 SAMUEL 19:8-17, NIrV

8 Once more war broke out. So David went out and fought against the Philistines. He struck them down with so much force that they ran away from him.

9 But an evil spirit sent by the Lord came on Saul. It happened as he was sitting in his house and holding his spear. While David was playing the harp, 10 Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear. But David got away from him just as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David escaped.

11 Saul sent some men to watch David’s house. He told them to kill David the next morning. But David’s wife Michal warned him. She said, “You must run for your life tonight. If you don’t, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12 So Michal helped David escape through a window. He ran and got away. 13 Then Michal got a statue of a god. She laid it on David’s bed. She covered it with clothes. And she put some goat hair at the place where David’s head would have been.

14 Saul sent the men to capture David. But Michal told them, “He’s sick.”

15 Then Saul sent the men back to see David. He told them, “Bring him up here to me in his bed. Then I’ll kill him.” 16 But when the men entered, the only thing they found in the bed was the statue. Some goat hair was at the place where David’s head would have been.

17 Saul said to Michal, “Why did you trick me like this? Why did you help my enemy escape?”

Michal told him, “He said to me, ‘Help me get away. If you don’t, I’ll kill you.’ ”


When David crushed the Philistines in battle yet again, Saul’s jealousy exploded into anger! He had promised Jonathan that he wouldn’t harm his son’s best friend. But as David played his harp, Saul broke that promise and hurled his spear. David dodged Saul’s throw, so Saul hatched another plan: “I’ll kill David in his bed tonight.” When, David’s wife Michal (who was also Saul’s daughter) heard about her dad’s evil plan, she came up with a brilliant plan of her own. She used a statue and goat hair to make it look like David was sleeping in his bed when he was actually running away to safety!

+ What were the two ways that Saul tried to kill David?

+ How did Michal, who was David’s wife and Saul’s daughter, save her husband? (vs. 13)


1 SAMUEL 20:1-7, 18-22, NIrV

1 David was in Naioth at Ramah. He ran away from there to where Jonathan was. He asked him, “What have I done? What crime have I committed? I haven’t done anything to harm your father. So why is he trying to kill me?”

2 “That will never happen!” Jonathan replied. “You aren’t going to die! My father doesn’t do anything at all without letting me know. So why would he hide this from me? He isn’t going to kill you!”

3 But David strongly disagreed. He said, “Your father knows very well that you are pleased with me. He has said to himself, ‘I don’t want Jonathan to know I’m planning to kill David. If he finds out, he’ll be very sad.’ But I’m very close to being killed. And that’s just as sure as the Lord and you are alive.”

4 Jonathan said to David, “I’ll do anything you want me to do for you.”

5 So David said, “Tomorrow is the time for the New Moon feast. I’m supposed to eat with the king. But let me go and hide in the field. I’ll stay there until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 Your father might miss me. If he does, then tell him, ‘David begged me to let him hurry home to Bethlehem. A yearly sacrifice is being offered there for his whole family group.’ 7 Your father might say, ‘That’s all right.’ If he does, it will mean I’m safe. But he might become very angry. If he does, you can be sure he’s made up his mind to harm me.


18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the time for the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat at the table will be empty. 19 Go to the place where you hid when all this trouble began. Go there the day after tomorrow, when evening is approaching. There’s a stone out there called Ezel. 20 Wait by it. I’ll shoot three arrows to one side of the stone. I’ll pretend I’m practicing my shooting. 21 Then I’ll send a boy out there. I’ll tell him, ‘Go and find the arrows.’ Suppose I say to him, ‘The arrows are on this side of you. Bring them here.’ Then come. That will mean you are safe. You won’t be in any danger. And that’s just as sure as the Lord is alive. 22 But suppose I tell the boy, ‘The arrows are far beyond you.’ Then go. That will mean the Lord is sending you away.


Each month, the Israelites celebrated a New Moon feast. They offered sacrifices to God and ate a huge meal together. David wasn’t looking forward to feasting in the same room with spear-chucking Saul.  What if the king was in another jealous rage? So David came up with a test. He would skip the feast, but his best friend Jonathan would go and watch his dad. If the king didn’t care that David was missing, it’d mean David was safe. But if he threw an angry fit, David was still in danger. To let his friend know if it was safe to return, Jonathan would shoot arrows to send a secret signal to David.

+ David thought Saul would hide his plans to kill him from Jonathan. Why? (vs. 3)

+ What was Jonathan’s secret signal to let David know if he was safe? (vs. 21-22)


1 SAMUEL 20:27-34, NIRV

27 But the next day, David’s place was empty again. It was the second day of the month. Finally, Saul spoke to his son Jonathan. He said, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal? He hasn’t been here yesterday or today.”

28 Jonathan replied, “David begged me to let him go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go. Our family is offering a sacrifice in the town. My brother has ordered me to be there. Are you pleased with me? If you are, let me go and see my brothers.’ That’s why he hasn’t come to eat at your table.”

30 Saul became very angry with Jonathan. He said to him, “You are an evil son. You have refused to obey me. I know that you are on the side of Jesse’s son. You should be ashamed of that. And your mother should be ashamed of having a son like you. 31 You will never be king as long as Jesse’s son lives on this earth. And you will never have a kingdom either. So send someone to bring the son of Jesse to me. He must die!”

32 “Why do you want to put him to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 But Saul threw his spear at Jonathan to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father wanted to kill David.

34 So Jonathan got up from the table. He was very angry. On that second day of the feast, he refused to eat. He was very sad that his father was treating David so badly.


Let’s review David’s test. To answer the question, “Does Saul still want to kill me?”, he planned to skip to the New Moon feast and see how the king reacted. It didn’t take long for David to get his answer. After seeing David’s seat empty both days of the feast, King Saul was madder than ever! “David is my greatest enemy,” he thought, “and my own son is helping to protect him from me!” The idea of Jonathan helping David enraged the jealous king! So what did Saul do with his anger? Take a deep breath and try to calm down? Nope! He grabbed his spear and chucked it straight at his own son!

+ What was the result of David’s test? Did Saul still want to kill him? (vs. 31)

+ What did Jonathan say that made Saul angry enough to throw a spear? (vs. 32)


1 SAMUEL 20:35-42, NIRV

35 The next morning Jonathan went out to the field to meet David. He took a young boy with him. 36 He said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, Jonathan shot an arrow far beyond him. 37 The boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen. Then Jonathan shouted to him, “The arrow went far beyond you, didn’t it?” 38 He continued, “Hurry up! Run fast! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 The boy didn’t know what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew. 40 Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy. He told him, “Go back to town. Take the weapons with you.”

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone. He bowed down in front of Jonathan with his face to the ground. He did it three times. Then they kissed each other and cried. But David cried more than Jonathan did.

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace. In the name of the Lord we’ve promised to be friends. We have said, ‘The Lord is a witness between you and me. He’s a witness between your children and my children forever.’ ” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.


After the New Moon Feast, David hid near a field, eagerly waiting for Jonathan’s secret signal. Soon, his best friend arrived and a servant boy was with him. But Jonathan wasn’t there for target practice. He was ready to give David the secret signal they’d talked about before the feast. He shot an arrow way far off and yelled to the boy, “Isn’t the arrow far past you?” Those words were Jonathan’s secret signal saying, “Run away, David! My dad wants you dead!” However, David couldn’t resist leaving his hiding spot to give his best friend one last tearful goodbye before he left his home for good.

+ Why did Jonathan go to the field to shoot arrows? 

+ As David and Jonathan said their goodbyes, who cried the most? (vs. 41)



17 A friend loves at all times. They are there to help when trouble comes.


David was one of the few people in the world who could honestly say, “My best friend and my greatest enemy are members of the same family.” In Jonathan, David had a faithful friend who loved him with his whole heart. And in Saul, David had an jealous enemy who hated him with his whole heart!

 There are times when it’s easy to be someone’s friend. Like when you’re playing a game together or they invite you to their birthday party. There are other times when it’s not so easy to be someone’s friend. Like when they are having a grumpy day or about to be beaten up by the school bully!

 Today, we looked at one verse from the book of Proverbs. A “proverb” is a wise saying about how life works. The book of Proverbs was written to give God’s people wisdom about how to live. This particular proverb tells us what a real friend is like: they love you at all times, even when adversity (or tough times) come.

Proverbs 17:17 perfectly describes the type of friend Jonathan was to David. He loved his friend at all times. He loved David during the good times, when the brave young man was knocking over giants and winning battles against the Philistines. And he loved David during the tough times, when David was dodging spears and climbing out the window while his wife put goat hair on a statue in his bed! In fact, because Jonathan stood up for his friend, he had to dodge a spear thrown by his own dad!

Jonathan was a great friend to David. But wasn’t even close to the best friend of all time! That honor belongs to none other than God’s Son, Jesus. He’s the only friend who has truly loved us at all times (and I really mean all times). He’s loved us on our good days and he’s loved us on our many, many bad days. The book of Romans says that, even while we were still sinners, Jesus loved us.

Like the book of Proverbs, Jesus also had something to say about friendship. In the book of John, he said, “There’s no greater love in the whole world than someone willing to die for his friends.” Just like a firefighter rushing into a burning building to rescue someone, there’s no better way to tell a friend, “I love you” than being willing to risk it all to save them!

And that’s, of course, why Jesus is the greatest friend of all-time. Jonathan was willing to dodge his dad’s spears for his best friend David. But Jesus? He was willing to suffer the horrible death of the cross in order to save sinners like you and me from our sins. What an amazing way for Jesus to tell the world, “I love you!”

+ What does a friend do? (vs. 17)

+ What did Jesus say was the greatest kind of love?

© 2023 Andrew Doane. All rights reserved.