“May Jehovah be between you and me and between your offspring and my offspring forever.”—1 SAM. 20:42.
1, 2. Why is Jonathan’s friendship with David a remarkable example of loyalty?
JONATHAN must have been astonished by the way young David faced the giant Goliath. Now David stood before Jonathan’s father, King Saul of Israel, “with the head of the Philistine in his hand.” (1 Sam. 17:57) Jonathan probably admired David for his courage. It was clear that God was with David, and “Jonathan and David became bound together in close friendship.” In fact, they “made a covenant because [Jonathan] loved [David] as himself.” (1 Sam. 18:1-3) For the rest of his life, he was loyal to David.
2 Jonathan’s attachment to David endured, even though God had chosen David to be Israel’s next king. Jonathan became concerned about David when Saul was seeking to kill him. To encourage his friend, Jonathan traveled into the Judean wilderness at Horesh. Jonathan helped David “find strength in Jehovah.” Jonathan said: “Do not be afraid . . . ; you will be king over Israel, and I will become second to you.”—1 Sam. 23:16, 17.
3. What was more important to Jonathan than being loyal to David, and how do we know? (See opening picture.)
3 Loyalty is almost universally admired. However, we would miss a vital lesson if we were to admire Jonathan’s loyalty to David without taking into account his loyalty to God. Why did Jonathan view David as a friend rather than a rival? Evidently, something was more important to Jonathan than his own advancement. Remember that he helped David “find strength in Jehovah.” Clearly, then, loyalty to God had first place in Jonathan’s heart. Indeed, loyalty to Jehovah was the very basis for his loyalty to David. And both men loyally lived up to their sworn oath: “May Jehovah be between you and me and between your offspring and my offspring forever.”—1 Sam. 20:42.
4. (a) What will make us truly happy and satisfied? (b) What will we consider in this article?
4 As Christians, we do not merely admire loyalty in others; we ourselves are loyal to family members, friends, and fellow worshippers. (1 Thess. 2:10, 11) But what loyalty should take first place in our heart? Why, it is loyalty to the One who gave us life! (Rev. 4:11) Maintaining that loyalty gives us true joy and satisfaction. But if we are to prove loyal to God, we must stick to him even through difficult trials. In this article, we will consider how Jonathan’s example can help us to prove loyal to Jehovah in four challenging situations: (1) when someone in authority seems unworthy of respect, (2) when there is a conflict of loyalties, (3) when we are misunderstood or misjudged, and (4) when loyalty and personal interests clash.
WHEN SOMEONE IN AUTHORITY SEEMS UNWORTHY OF RESPECT
5. Why was it difficult for the people of Israel to be loyal to God while Saul was king?
5 Although God had anointed Saul, Jonathan’s father, to be king, Saul later became disobedient and was rejected by Jehovah. (1 Sam. 15:17-23) Since God did not immediately remove Saul from the throne, his misconduct tested his subjects and all who were close to him. They faced the challenge of being loyal to God while the king, who sat on “Jehovah’s throne,” followed a wayward course.—1 Chron. 29:23.
6. What shows that Jonathan stayed loyal to Jehovah?
6 When Saul first manifested a disobedient spirit, his son Jonathan proved to be loyal to Jehovah. (1 Sam. 13:13, 14) The prophet Samuel had said: “For the sake of his great name, Jehovah will not abandon his people.” (1 Sam. 12:22) Jonathan showed that he believed this when a vast Philistine army with 30,000 war chariots threatened Israel. Saul had just 600 men—and only he and Jonathan had weapons! Yet, Jonathan approached a Philistine outpost with only his armor-bearer at his side. “Nothing can hinder Jehovah from saving by many or by few,” said Jonathan. The two Israelites struck down about 20 men at the outpost. Then “the earth began quaking, and a terror from God ensued.” In confusion, the Philistines turned on one another. Thus, Jonathan’s faith in God led to victory.—1 Sam. 13:5, 15, 22; 14:1, 2, 6, 14, 15, 20.
7. How did Jonathan treat his father?
7 Even as Saul’s relationship with God deteriorated, Jonathan cooperated with his father whenever possible. For example, they fought together in defense of God’s people.—1 Sam. 31:1, 2.
8, 9. How are we being loyal to God when we respect those who have authority?
8 Like Jonathan, we can prove ourselves loyal to Jehovah by being in relative subjection to the superior authorities, as God requires, even if some seem unworthy of respect. For example, a government official may be corrupt, but we still respect his position because we are in relative subjection to governmental “superior authorities.” (Read Romans 13:1, 2.) In fact, all of us can prove loyal to Jehovah by respecting those to whom he gives authority.—1 Cor. 11:3; Heb. 13:17.
9 In South America, Olga proved loyal to God by showing respect for her husband even under trying circumstances. For years, he expressed annoyance at her for being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He abused her emotionally, insulted her, refused to speak to her, and threatened to take the children and leave her. But Olga did not return evil for evil. She did her best to be a good wife by caring for her husband’s meals, his clothes, and his family. (Rom. 12:17) When possible, she accompanied him to gatherings of his family or colleagues. For example, when he wanted to go to another city for the funeral of his father, she got the children ready and prepared everything needed for the trip. She waited for her husband at the church door until the ceremony ended. After many years, his attitude began to soften because of Olga’s patience and respect. Now he takes her to the Kingdom Hall, even encourages her to go, and occasionally attends meetings with her.—1 Pet. 3:1.
WHEN THERE IS A CONFLICT OF LOYALTIES
10. How did Jonathan know to whom he should be loyal?
10 Because Saul was determined to kill David, Jonathan faced a conflict of loyalties. Although he had made a covenant with David, Jonathan was also submissive to his father. But Jonathan knew that God was with David and not with Saul. Therefore, Jonathan put loyalty to David ahead of loyalty to Saul. He warned David to hide and then spoke well of him to Saul.—Read 1 Samuel 19:1-6.
11, 12. How does our love for God help us decide to be loyal to him?
11 Loyalty to God helped an Australian sister named Alice to decide how much importance to give to other loyalties. When she began studying the Bible, she would tell her family about the good things she was learning. Later, Alice told members of her family that she would not be celebrating Christmas with them. She explained the reasons, but their mild concern gradually turned into bitter anger. They felt that she was turning her back on her family. Says Alice: “My mother finally said that she disowned me. I was shocked and deeply hurt because I really loved my family. Nevertheless, I resolved that Jehovah and his Son would be first in my heart, and I got baptized at the next assembly.”—Matt. 10:37.
12 If we are not careful, loyalty to a nation, a school, or a sports team can eventually choke out loyalty to God. For example, Henry enjoys playing chess. His school had a tradition of winning the championship, and he wanted to put forth his best effort. But he admitted: “Gradually, loyalty to the school began to take priority over my loyalty to God. Weekend chess matches were crowding out my Kingdom service. So I decided to give up being part of the chess team.”—Matt. 6:33.
13. How can loyalty to God help us to cope with family problems?
13 Dealing with conflicting family loyalties can be challenging. For instance, Ken says: “I wanted to visit my elderly mother regularly and to have her stay with us occasionally. But my mother and my wife did not get along well. At first, I was faced with a dilemma because I could not please one without displeasing the other. Then I realized that in such a situation, my wife had first claim on my loyalty. So I worked out a tactful compromise acceptable to her.” Loyalty to God and respect for his Word gave Ken courage to explain to his wife why his mother should be received kindly and to explain to his mother why she needed to respect his wife.—Read Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5.
WHEN WE ARE MISUNDERSTOOD OR MISJUDGED
14. How did Saul treat Jonathan unfairly?
14 Our loyalty to Jehovah may be challenged if someone in a responsible position misjudges us. Jonathan may have faced such a challenge. King Saul, the anointed of God, was aware of his son’s friendship with David, but he did not understand the reason for it. Saul humiliated Jonathan in an angry outburst. However, Jonathan did not retaliate. He did not waver in his loyalty to God or to David, who would in time become Israel’s king.—1 Sam. 20:30-41.
15. If a brother treats us unfairly, how should we react?
15 In congregations of Jehovah’s people today, it is very unlikely that we would be treated unjustly. However, those taking the lead among us are imperfect men and could misinterpret our actions. (1 Sam. 1:13-17) If we are ever misjudged or misunderstood, let us remain loyal to Jehovah.
WHEN LOYALTY AND PERSONAL INTERESTS CLASH
16. In what situations must we be loyal to God and not be selfish?
16 Saul urged Jonathan to pursue his own interests. (1 Sam. 20:31) But loyalty to God moved Jonathan to befriend David rather than seek the advantages of the kingship for himself. We may be inclined to imitate Jonathan’s unselfish spirit if we bear in mind that a person acceptable to Jehovah “does not go back on his promise, even when it is bad for him.” (Ps. 15:4) Jonathan did not “go back on his promise” to David; neither should we go back on our promises. For example, if a business agreement becomes harder to honor than expected, our loyalty to God and regard for the Bible should move us to keep our word. And what if our marriage proves to be more challenging than anticipated? Love for God will surely move us to be loyal to our mate.—Read Malachi 2:13-16.
17. How has this study helped you?
17 When we contemplate the example of Jonathan, do we not want to imitate his loyalty to God? Let us not pursue our own selfish interests. And like Jonathan, let us prove our loyalty to Jehovah by being loyal to his people, even those who may disappoint us. When we are loyal to Jehovah God in the face of challenging situations, we make his heart rejoice—and that gives us the deepest satisfaction possible. (Prov. 27:11) If we remain loyal to Jehovah, we will see how he eventually works everything out for the good of those who love him. In the next article, we will consider valuable lessons that can be learned by examining the activities of loyal and disloyal contemporaries of David.
^  (paragraph 9) Some names have been changed.