Strengthened and Encouraged

by Cynthia Saladin

And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

This is such an interesting verse. Think about it: Jonathan knows that the kingship will never belong to him even if he is Saul’s heir. God has determined that David will be king. Jonathan could have been tempted to complain loudly that this was not fair; why punish the children for the sins of the father? After all, we know that God had a relationship with Jonathan too - look at the account in 1 Samuel 14. But Jonathan’s perspective is not on what he can get. He fully accepted and acknowledged that David would be king. More than just acknowledging David’s future, he was actually a very good friend to David. That’s where this verse comes in. Saul had been trying to kill David on and off for years. Despite his father’s intentions, Jonathan strengthens David. In the positive application, this word means to encourage, to make firm, to make strong. But we get a better idea of the degree of strengthening we’re talking about when we consider it in the negative applications. It’s used 12 times in Exodus when speaking of hardening Pharaoh’s heart! Pharaoh’s heart was made so firm, so hard against God’s will that it resulted in the destruction of the Egyptian economy (the loss of the slave workforce, the destruction of the spring food crop, the annihilation of many animals) and as well as, potentially, his own death, if not during the plague on the firstborn, then when the Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea.

This Hebrew word, then, translated in 1 Samuel 23:16 as “strengthened” is not a slight or minor encouragement.

O.K. But so what? This is just a nice Old Testament story of friendship, right? It doesn’t have any application to us. Or does it?

I think it has a lot to do with us. I think it’s part of how we’re to occupy until He comes (and no, I’m not talking about occupying Wall Street). Consider these verses:

I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts (Ephesians 6:22, Colossians 4:8.)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11.)

After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia (Acts 20:1.)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25.)

strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22.)

These last two verses really highlight the necessity of encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ! This is something that should come naturally to the Christian. After all, we see encouraging behavior from Jesus - and He is the One we are to emulate. Remember the instance in John 16? Jesus tells his disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (vs. 33.)” Then, speaking specifically to Peter, Jesus said, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:32.)”

I think Jesus would also tell us to strengthen and encourage one another. What does that look like? I think it has to do with redirecting our focus, should it waver, back to seeking God, looking to please Him, to become holy - always. Think of the physical trappings which can be a wonderful asset in encouraging someone else. But don’t become bogged down in the physical realm to the point that it becomes a distraction, i.e. the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.

So what is it that you can do today to encourage a brother or sister in Christ? Look for opportunities. Put it on your list of things to do, every day, until it becomes a part of your natural routine.

Strengthen the weak hands,
     and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
     “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
     will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
     He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:3-4)

Find ways to strengthen God’s people - not superficially, but with the kind of strengthening depicted by Jonathan towards David. After all, it’s not really about you; as Isaiah 35:4 indicates, it’s about beholding your God!

Editor’s note: All verses quoted are from the English Standard version.

Volume 11 Issue 2 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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