Today the term patriot is used rather loosely. It has been applied to those who give their lives in defense of their country and also to those who protest against and seek to change the very foundation upon which this country was founded.
So what is patriotism?
Mr. Webster defined it as “love of one’s country; support of its authority, interests, and values.”
A man who lived in Old Testament times seems to fit that description almost perfectly. His name was Jonathan, the eldest son of King Saul. His name is first mentioned after his father’s accession (1 Samuel 13). At age thirty Jonathan commanded one thousand of the three thousand men that comprised Saul’s standing army. The Philistines had become a thorn in the side of Israel, and Jonathan proved to be an heroic and able thorn-clipper. He took the initiative and led the attack upon the Philistine outpost at Geba, yet this minor victory led only to further shame and festering oppression of the Israelites.
Then, with only his armor-bearer with him, Jonathan climbed the steep, rocky cliffs called Bozez (Thorny) and Seneh (Slippery). After fierce hand-to-hand combat, some twenty Philistine soldiers lay dead. This daring and victorious assault led to panic among the Philistines–a panic sent by God and further heightened by an earthquake.
When his life was threatened because of a foolish oath made by Saul, Jonathan’s men boldly defended him. As Saul became increasingly disobedient, jealous, foolish, and smitten with evil spirits and perhaps dementia, Jonathan remained loyal to his father’s authority and fought bravely for the country and its people. He certainly also believed in the values and interests of the chosen people to whom God had made the gracious promise of a Messiah.
Jonathan repeatedly exposed himself to death for those he loved. He honored his father the king. And though his love for his father was mostly repelled by Saul, yet Jonathan stood by his father in his terrible decline. In Saul’s great defeat at the hands of the Philistines, we yet see Jonathan fighting for his side. “In their death they were not divided” (2 Samuel 1:23). Surely Jonathan was a patriot for his country, giving up his life for her.
But even as Jonathan loved king and country, there was another whom he loved with equal or surpassing zeal. That was David, a friend whom Jonathan loved as he loved his own soul (1 Samuel 20:17). If it can be said that King Saul represented an earthly kingdom, then David represented one greater: the spiritual, everlasting Kingdom of God.
Time and time again Jonathan defended David, trying to soothe and turn away his father’s wrath and jealousy–even risking his own life to do so. Such was their love, friendship, and respect for each other that twice they bound themselves together by covenant in the Lord. When Saul was intent on killing David, Jonathan warned him and reported on court intrigue.
There surely came a time when Jonathan knew that God had passed the throne of Israel from Saul and his family to David. And while Jonathan still fought for his father, he humbly asked that he be allowed to serve under David only after he would assume the kingship. As Jonathan recognized David as Israel’s anointed and future king–and fought for him—so Jonathan loved and served God.
Jonathan walked a fine line, but can it not be said that he was a double patriot, loving this second Kingdom also, supporting its values and serving its interests?
Only faithful Christians can be such double patriots. The wicked of this world can love only the things of this world and its kingdoms, supporting their interests and values. The Christian can be both and do both. He obeys the authorities that God has given for temporal blessing; he votes; he is loyal to the country’s constitution, even fighting for its interests against Philistine-type enemies.
But his first allegiance is toward God, loving his King (David’s greater Son), and serving gladly and humbly in His kingdom. In this we pledge ourselves in love to the Lord, even as He has made gracious and saving covenant with us. For the nations of this world will rage and take their stand both against the Lord and His Christ (Psalm 2). Then we will walk the line with Jonathan.
Always we will obey God rather than men. Thus we will love and serve David more than (or rather than) Saul. Such is the challenge, duty, and privilege of the double patriot.