Who would you rather be — king David or his friend Jonathan, the natural heir to the throne? Both were blessed as chosen members of God’s royal family. But David received more — much more!
Everyone knows about king David. Few know about Jonathan. David left a dynasty that will last forever. When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem the multitudes proclaimed Him the Son of David, not the Son of Jonathan.
David lived to be an old man. In his last days, the most beautiful virgin in all the land, Abishag the Shunammite, “comforted” David in his bed. Jonathan died in his prime — a faithful soldier of Israel. He paid the ultimate price for his Father’s sin, not his own.
So why does David get all the glory?
The scriptures call David “a man after God’s heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). But was David’s devotion to God distinctive from Jonathan’s? We have every reason to believe Jonathan was just as much a man after God’s heart. He was loving and faithful toward Yahweh. Unlike David who committed adultery and then murdered his faithful captain Uriah; there is no record of any grievous sin Jonathan committed. David’s son, Solomon, born by Uriah’s wife, became the richest, most powerful king of Israel. Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, became a cripple.
The scriptures show David as courageous in battle and zealous for the LORD’s reputation. But Jonathan was just as zealous and courageous. It was Jonathan who first demonstrated that “nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6) He defeated a fortified Philistine garrison almost single handedly. It seems David followed Jonathan’s example when he later went up against the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
God passed over Jonathan, as the next king, simply to discipline his father Saul. Yet, Jonathan submitted joyfully to God even at great cost to his own status, safety and reputation. Like David, Jonathan never raised his hand against God’s anointed. Instead he chose to bless both David and Saul. He loved them more than himself. He risked his life for David and then died for his father Saul. Unlike David, Jonathan lost everything by loving faithfully.
David foreshadowed Jesus as a king. But Jonathan foreshadowed Jesus as a faithful brother and dying prince — the one who “humbled himself to the point of death” and was pierced for another’s transgression.
History overflows with unsung heroes like Jonathan. For every David there are dozens of Jonathans. We must celebrate unsung heroes or we will distort the ones we normally sing about. I am thankful the Bible retains the stories of unsung heroes like Jonathan, Ruth, Boaz, and Barnabas.
Who are the unsung heroes in your life? Is it your spouse, a grandparent, a child, a teacher, a coach, a co-worker, a sibling, a neighbor, a babysitter, a counselor, a soldier…? Take notice of the unsung heroes in your life. Others will not sing their praises but you can. So sing loudly! Celebrate them, encourage them, brag about them.
Often, they are the heroes that reflect Jesus most clearly.