a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 56
In this issue:
Perspective 1 - Grounded in Faith
Perspective 2 - Dependable Love
Perspective 3 - OThe Touch of a Friend
The methods and habits of the era in which we live seem to excel in watering down primal concepts. In our society certain terms have become meaningless by their sheer repetition or inappropriate use.
Take, for example, the phrase "Hi! How are you?" How many people posing that question really want to know how the person is? How many are prepared to stand there and listen while joys or laments are itemized?
Then there is the usually blasphemous exclamation, "Oh my god!" Watch any one television program--preferably, Movie/Disease of the Week--and you will soon lose count of the times this phrase is employed to express alarm/shock/distress/pleasure. Are any of these people actually calling upon a supreme Being--or are they simply belching out lazy writing?
Look at how we sign our letters; do we mean it when we write "Love," or "Yours Truly," or "Sincerely"--even, "Love in Christ"?
We live in a plastic world in which insincere behavior and words have become the acceptable--even expected--norm, and one of the worst transgressions is with the word "friend."
In the First book of Samuel there is the story of a quite remarkable fellow. In his own time he was considered remarkable enough, but in our time he would seem to be almost an oddity.
Jonathan was the son of Saul, the first king of Israel. Throughout his life he demonstrated qualities that set him apart--especially from his own father--as a man of integrity, honesty and grit. He was a man who not only had a strong faith in Jehovah God, who was intelligent and wise, but who also understood what the word "friend" really meant, when applied to the relationship between two people.
Shortly after a young man from Bethlehem killed a Philistine giant with a small stone, and was presented to the king for his bravery, Jonathan became fast friends with the hero of the day. On that day, Scripture says that
the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. 1 Samuel 18:1 NASB
This was no opportunistic dalliance with a celebrity, but the beginning of a true bonding of two spirits--a relationship that would be tested and proven time and again.
This is a cynical age in which appearances have taken precedence over substance. We see this even in our national elections, where a candidate's appearance and demeanor carry more weight than what he says--and what he says, carries more weight than what he actually does.
And in our relationships with each other, too often what we say becomes a substitute for what we should be doing; we have substituted breadth for depth--the result of which is declared by Solomon in his Proverbs:
A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NASB
What is not readily apparent in this verse is that the Hebrew word translated "many friends" in the first part of the verse is the word for "acquaintance" or companion,  while the word translated "friend" in the second part is the word describing one for whom is felt a deep and abiding love. 
Today we use the word "friend" indiscriminantly, using it to describe both someone we love deeply and someone we met just yesterday. We are quick to say, "Oh yes, he's a good friend of mine!" or "All my friends at church." Because of this, today the word doesn't mean much. It's a word tossed about easily, with little consideration for the accuracy of its use.
David and Jonathan shared a deep love for each other--a friendship in the truest and most substantial sense of the word.
What can Jonathan teach us about being a friend? What qualities did this man possess that contributed to the life of his friend David and their relationship? What qualities can we adopt for ourselves, or look for in others, as we cultivate true, loving friendships?
The situation was grim. The Israelite army, numbering only 600 men, was holed up in Geba of Benjamin with the Philistines preparing to attack them from Michmash, just a short distance away. The Philistine numbers?
The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers,  and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 1 Samuel 13:5a
King Saul had just blown his chances by personally, and impetuously, making a burnt offering, instead of waiting for the judge and priest Samuel to arrive. Kings were not to offer the sacrifice. Samuel was furious, saying
"You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command." 1 Samuel 13:13-14
In addition, the Philistines had rigged it so that there were no longer any blacksmiths in Israel, which meant that the people had to come to them for anything like the sharpening of axes and swords. Guess what? None of the Israelites were left with an axe or sword.
Things did not look good.
But Jonathan had a sword. He and his armor bearer set out on their own to even the odds. For our purpose, what we want to lift out of this scene is not so much the military exploits that ensued, but the example of Jonathan's faith in God.
Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, "Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few." 1 Samuel 14:6
Jonathan knew that numbers didn't matter to the Lord--that any warrior with the Lord on his side could slay an army of thousands. He devised a plan for himself and his bearer, that if the Philistines--when they spied the two--said for them to stay where they were, that they would know that the Lord was not in the battle.
"But if they say, 'Come up to us,' we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands." 1 Samuel 14:10
Imagine. "The Lord has given them into our hands." What marvelous trust in his God.
The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, "Come up to us and we'll teach you a lesson." So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel." Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre. 1 Samuel 14:12-14
The best kind of friend for a Christian is a person of faith. And the best kind of friend for a Christian to be, is a person of faith.
One of the foundations for the bond between David and Jonathan was their mutual trust in the Lord. Both knew the obstacle of insurmountable odds, and both knew the sustaining mercy God displayed on their behalf. More than that, however, one could say that God was the bond between David and Jonathan.
Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, 'The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.'" 1 Samuel 20:42
Believers are strung together, connected by the invisible threads of the Holy Spirit. And the fellowship of the Spirit is the basis for the fellowship of true friends. The Spirit brings into every relationship the mind and truth of God.
"We picture lovers face to face but Friends side by side; their eyes look ahead. That is why those pathetic people who simply 'want friends' can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question 'Do you see the same truth?' would be 'I see nothing and I don't care about the truth; I only want a Friend', no Friendship can arise." 
Into the Word
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. Acts 18:1-5,18-19; 1 Cor. 16:19
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Eph. 2:14-16,18-22
Making it Personal
Do you have a friendship like the one shared by Jonathan and David? If so, briefly describe it, explaining why you think it is similar to theirs.
Try to imagine how this relationship would change if the foundation of common faith were removed from it.
Is it possible for a believer to have with a non-believer the same kind and depth of friendship Jonathan had with David?
"You cannot love a fellow creature fully till you love God." 
Into the Word
Read the short epistle of Paul to his friend and brother in Christ, Philemon. What does this brief letter add to our consideration of true friendship?
When you have a friend who trusts in the Lord, you will also have a friend who is trustworthy.
Jonathan demonstrated that he could be trusted by his friend in his role as mediator and buffer between his father, Saul, and David.
Jonathan had everything to gain by siding with the king in his dealings with David. A lesser man would have subscribed to anything his sovereign said--whether kin or no; in 1050 BC, ones who defied their king did not live long.
Saul hated David, had tried to kill him on many occasions--not only by sending soldiers after him, but by personally heaving spears at him in his own throne room! To Saul, David was a threat--not imagined, but real; the prophet Samuel had told Saul to his face
"The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command." 1 Samuel 13:14
Seeing how the people of Israel hailed the heroic David,  Saul put two and two together and realized that David was the "man after [God's] own heart," who would be replacing him upon the throne of Israel.
As the king's son, Jonathan would have been wise--by worldly standards--to support every decision of his father. Blood was not thicker than power, and Saul had already tried to kill his son for disobeying one of his edicts. 
But Jonathan was wise by heavenly standards. He had the Lord's discernment, and the wisdom to know that Saul was wrong in his treatment and pursuit of David. Jonathan had made a covenant with David,  and he was bound to defend his friend even against the king himself.
Jonathan devised a plan by which he could signal to David--who was hiding from the wrath of Saul--the outcome of his meeting with Saul. When Jonathan explained David's absence to his father, the king exploded.
Saul's anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don't I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!" "Why should he be put to death? What has he done?" Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father's shameful treatment of David. 1 Samuel 20:30-34
King Saul had developed a really nasty habit of hurling spears at anyone who crossed him.
Consequently, as arranged, Jonathan returned to the place of their secret meeting and warned David that his father was indeed out to take his life. Knowing that David, for his own safety, must leave, they kissed each other and wept together.  Then, before parting company, probably for the last time, they renewed their covenant with each other.
Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, 'The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. 1 Samuel 20:42
A friend who cannot be trusted is no friend at all. But a true friend can be trusted with one's own life. As Jesus said,
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13
Jonathan put his own life on the line for his friend David. Nowhere in Scripture do we read of any reluctance or hesitation on his part; he did it simply because he loved David deeply--and because it was the right thing to do.
There are few things so rewarding as a dependable friendship.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10
Into the Word
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
|Ruth 1:15-17||Proverbs 25:13||John 14:1|
|Proverbs 11:13||Proverbs 27:6||Romans 16:3-4|
|Proverbs 13:17||Daniel 6:4||1 Cor. 4:2|
|Proverbs 17:17||Daniel 6:23||Philip. 2:19-20|
|Proverbs 19:4||Luke 16:10-12||Philip. 2:22|
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Making it Personal
How would you define "trust"? What are some common elements of trust in a true friendship?
Describe a friendship without trust.
Have you found that betrayal of trust is fatal to a relationship, or can the trust be re-established?
"If God's goodness to us be like the morning light, which shines more and more to the perfect day, let not ours to him be like the morning cloud and the early dew that pass away." 
Into the Word
Here again is the parting agreement between Jonathan and David:
Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, 'The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.'" Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. 1 Samuel 20:42
Read 2 Samuel 9:1-13, to see how David, after Jonathan's death, honored this covenant.
It's hard to think of David making it through this period of his life without the friendship and support of Jonathan.
Imagine David, huddled in his damp cave, feeling the heavy weight of persecution upon him. No less than the ruling sovereign of the land is actively seeking his death. Imagine yourself, for example, in hiding while the President of the U.S., Congress, and the F.B.I. conduct a dragnet across the entire country with the intention of killing you. How vulnerable and alone David must have felt!
But he wasn't alone. He had a friend named Jonathan who was on his side, in his corner.
In the last few days, a mountain climber has reached the peak of Mount McKinley in Alaska. Also known as Denali, the mountain is the highest in North America, rising to a height of 20,320 feet (6194 m) above sea level.  The weather on the mountain has been brutal, but finally the climber made it.
What has set this particular mountain climber apart is that he is blind. Imagine the rigors of preparing, then actually climbing a mountain the size of Mt. McKinley. Now imagine doing it without sight. Imagine huddling at night, taking shelter against the snow, fighting the fierce wind that is trying to blow you off the side of the mountain, knowing that any false step will send you down to your death. All alone--and blind.
But this blind climber wasn't alone. He had four friends along to climb with him, to help and encourage him in his ascent. He had four other people, tied to him by ropes, so that in no event would he be alone. He may be blind, but he was not alone on that mountain.
Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father's shameful treatment of David. In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David ... 1 Samuel 20:34-35a
"When we take God for our God, we take His people for our people." 
Like it or not, when we are adopted into the family of God, we acquire, immediately, brothers and sisters. And we become immediately connected to every one of them--not by rope, but by the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ.
"The church of Jesus Christ is not a building where people come together for a religious service, but it is a gathering of people who come together in order to worship God and to build each other by mutual faith and strength." 
A true friend is an encourager--one who builds up, rather than tears down. What an encouragement Jonathan must have been to David in his distress--how vital his presence must have been to his friend's well-being.
Never does loneliness need a friend as much as when it is lying in a hospital bed. The sounds and smells and frightful ministrations, the beeping machines connected to body parts, combine to make the patient feel somehow isolated from all the rest of humanity--where even the refuge of sleep is repeatedly interrupted by the well-meaning attendants.
But what a powerful visitation of Christ, is the friend who comes to offer consolation. Flesh to flesh, heart to heart, the dear one brings a gentle touch, a listening ear, an empathetic silence.
No "acquaintance" can offer this; nor can someone who is just a neighbor; only a true and real friend can bring this depth of understanding, solace, and encouragement.
"All of us need encouragement. All of us need somebody to believe in us. To reassure and reinforce us. To help us pick up the pieces and go on. To provide us with increased determination in spite of the odds. "We all need encouragement ... and we all need to be encouragers." 
We all need a friend ... and we all need to be a friend.
Into the Word
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
|Isaiah 41:10||Isaiah 58:11||Philip. 4:13|
|Deut. 3:28||Luke 22:31-32||1 Thes. 3:2|
|2 Chron. 16:9||Acts 15:32||1 Thes. 3:13|
|Psalm 119:28||1 Cor. 14:6-19||2 Thes. 2:16-3:5|
|Proverbs 12:25||2 Cor. 1:3-4||1 Tim. 6:17-19|
|Proverbs 25:11||2 Cor. 2:1-11||Hebrews 3:13|
|Isaiah 41:10||Philip. 2:25-30||Hebrews 12:1-3|
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Making it Personal
It is a helpful thing to keep a Prayer Journal, in which our prayers and God's answers are recorded. Such a journal encourages prayer by reminding us of God's providence. It also reminds us on a regular basis of how we are connected to each other through prayer.
In a similar way, it can be a helpful thing to keep an "Encouragement Journal," in which you record the many times and marvelous ways that others have encouraged and supported you. Such a journal serves two purposes: First, it reminds us of the generosity, and the love of Christ, expressed through our friends. Second, it incites us to be, ourselves, an encourager, as we are reminded of how many times others have been that for us.
Begin today compiling your Encouragement Journal. Make a note every time someone encourages you with a kind word, a card or letter, or helps you in some more physical way. Then make a point of doing the same for others--but be sure to never record those things you do for them.
"While preaching on John 13:14, the duty of disciples to wash one another's feet, Mr. Finlayson of Helmsdale observed, 'One way in which disciples wash one another's feet is by reproving one another. But the reproof must not be couched in angry words, so as to destroy the effect; nor in tame, so as to fail of effect. Just as in washing a brother's feet, you must not use boiling water to scald, nor frozen water to freeze them.'" 
Into the Word
So often we think of the apostle Paul in terms of doctrine or theology, but he was also a man who depended on the support of others. His letters to fellow Christians are peppered with heart-felt sentiments expressing the encouragement of others, as well as appreciation to those who were encouraging him.
For a broader perspective into the life of Paul, conduct a survey of those portions of his epistles in which he communicates these sentiments. Hint: Very often (but not always) the more general of these will be found near the beginning of a letter, and the more personal will be found in the final chapter.
To get you started, you could begin with Romans 1:8-12 (general) and Romans 16 (personal).
Issue No. 56
[1.] rea, ray-ah, Hebrew Stg 7453; or reya, ray-ah; from Hebrew 7462 (raah). "This most common Hebrew word for friendship occurs 187 times in the OT. It indicates the relationship of those who are friends, companions, associates, or neighbors. [A term] very flexible, such a friend might be a chance acquaintance or a long-term friend." (Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Zondervan, 1985), p.297) (return to footnote 1)
[2.] ahab, aw-hab, Hebrew Stg 157; or aheb, aw-habe; a primitive root; to have affection for (sexually or otherwise) :- (be-) love (-d, -ly, -r), like, friend. (return to footnote 2)
[3.] The NASB reads 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen (return to footnote 3)
[4.] C.S. Lewis, A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S. Lewis (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p.190. (return to footnote 4)
[5.] Matthaus von Loewenstern (1594-1649); translated by Philip Pusey (1799-1855). (return to footnote 5)
[6.] John Fawcett (1740-1817). (return to footnote 6)
[7.] C.S. Lewis, A Mind Awake, p191. (return to footnote 7)
[8.] 1 Samuel 18:6-9. (return to footnote 8)
[9.] 1 Samuel 14:24-45. (return to footnote 9)
[10.] 1 Samuel 18:3. (return to footnote 10)
[11.] 1 Samuel 20:41. (return to footnote 11)
[12.] William O Cushing (1823-1902). (return to footnote 12)
[13.] William C. Poole (1875-1949). (return to footnote 13)
[14.] Matthew Henry. (return to footnote 14)
[15.] Known to the Indians as Denali, "the high one," the mountain was named for President William McKinley in 1896. The summit of Mount McKinley was first reached in 1913 by the Anglo-American clergyman and explorer Hudson Stuck (1863-1920) and three companions. (Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1993 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1993 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation) (return to footnote 15)
[16.] Matthew Henry. (return to footnote 16)
[17.] Donald Grey Barnhouse. (return to footnote 17)
[18.] Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch: Becoming God's Masterpiece (Word, 1994), p619. (return to footnote 18)
[19.] Edward Henry Joy. (return to footnote 19)
[20.] Niles Borop. (return to footnote 20)
[21.] Cited in The Quotable Spurgeon (Shaw, 1990), p.286. (return to footnote 21)
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