In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. 36 And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 And when the boy came to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the boy and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?” 38 And Jonathan called after the boy, “Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!” So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. 39 But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. 40 And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” 41 And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. ~1 Samuel 20:35-42
Jonathan’s original plan to signal David was to shoot three arrows. Note, though, that he only shoots one, hastily sends the boy away, and hurries quickly to the place where David hides. Why?
Jonathan couldn’t bear to allow David to leave without saying goodbye. The original plan between the two was, in the event that Jonathan shot three arrows beyond David’s hiding place, that he was to run for his life. In only shooting one and hurriedly sending the fetching boy away, the text implies that when Jonathan made this pact, he truly wasn’t expecting this outcome. He wasn’t prepared to deal with the pain of David’s departure. When it came right down to it, he simply could not bear to allow David to leave without a real goodbye. Just as David was willing to run back to Saul’s court -where he was being hunted as prey – in order to inform Jonathan and say a formal goodbye, Jonathan offers the very same courtesy and concern over this heart-wrenching break.
Both men are grieving intensely over the other’s departure. David bows three times, assuring Jonathan that he intends to keep his word concerning the blessing he’d promised when he becomes king. They embrace, they kiss, and they cry together – but David cries the most.
Perhaps David cried more because he was headed to an unknown wilderness alone while Jonathan was returning to his own home and family. David may also have been more passionate and tender than Jonathan. It was probably a little of both. Either way, Jonathan again reassures and comforts David with their promise to one another and they part ways for the rest of their lives.
One of life’s greatest blessings is that of a true friend. One of life’s most difficult tragedies is the separation from a true friend. Yet, this is what God’s providence often requires. In our naivety, like Jonathan, we often hope for the best, never expecting the worst. When the worst does indeed come, we grieve unprepared with the deepest kind of pain imaginable. Losing a loved one is inconceivably sad.
In these desperate, heart-wrenching times, we’ve but one hope. We must remember the promises of future blessing. We yet have a true friend in Jesus, though we do not see him now.
Yes, we may indeed cry more intensely in our times of loss. For we know that we must trudge out into the wilderness alone sometimes. But Our Friend will not fail to remind and comfort us with His promise.
‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’”