The most definitive sound in rodeo can be heard during the Bareback Riding. If you time it right, just in front of the chutes, amidst the sound of the clanging gates and exhaling broncs, a bareback rider will crack his bind.
A bareback riggin’ is the perfect combination of raw beauty and functionality. A collection of steel bolts, rawhide, and wood that vaguely resembles a suit case handle that has met far too many customs agents and luggage carousels. Their glove is rosined up leather that is molded to their hand that is resting upon about 30 layers of athletic tape. The glove is a perfect match for the hand that animates it and the riggin’ that receives it. On either side of the palm of the glove, or even on both, can rest two thicker pieces of leather sticking out to ensure that the glove can not be dislodged from the handle. The rider takes all these pieces and connects them all. They wedge their gloved hand in, carefully pulling the leather of the glove through to keep it tight and wrinkle free until the handle sits square across their palm, with the thumb resting alongside it. Then in one motion, the rider will pull his thumb across the handle and rotate his hand in the riggin’, making a creaking, stretching sound. The scraping of leather and wood, born of pressure and friction, is un-mistakable. “Cracking a bind” is the term for this sound. The bind is what keeps a 140 lbs cowboy connected to a 1200 lbs horse that is trying to separate from him. When the horse breaks in two, it is the bind that keeps the cowboy and horse one.
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18.1)
This verse begins the narrative of David and Jonathan; but it begins it with odd vocabulary. The three words “became one with” in English, translates one Hebrew word “qasar”. It is the same word that Moses used as he instructed the Hebrews to “tie” the commandments of God to their hands. Rahab needs to “tie” a scarlet cord in her window to be saved from the collapse of Jericho and Jeremiah had to “tie” a rock to a scroll that he threw into the river. Three times in Proverbs this word is actually translated in the NIV as “bind” (Prov. 3.3; 7.3; 22.15). Jonathan was bound to David…which is the perfect image of what their relationship would look like. God had bound these two together, at the perfect time, to help David survive some of the worst moments of his life. Do you have someone you’re chained too? Someone who says “no matter what, we are in this together?” The easiest way to tell is by looking at the next few chapters.
David and Jonathan were tied together through covenant. (1 Samuel 18.3-4)Much of life is based in a relationship that we would call: contract. I specify my demands and my desires in order for me to arrive at the deal that is in my best interest. Think of sports and the contracts involved there. Friendship (and marriage as well) is founded in a relationship called covenant. Covenants are entered for the betterment of the other party and unlike contracts, have no expiration date. Jonathan understood that his relationship with David would bring him very little in return. Jonathan was the next in line to be King, but his allegiance to David would mean the throne would never be his. So they made a covenant. When a covenant is made there is usually a sign or action that accompanies it. “Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.” (18.4) He renounces his identity as the next King as a sign of the covenant that he made with David. It reminds me of the story in Mark 2, where 4 men dug through a roof to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. What’s in it for them? What do they have to gain? In contract, we gain; in covenant, we give. Who are you chained too right now that you would give anything for?
David and Jonathan were tied together through battle (1 Samuel 19.4) When David needed a brother to fight alongside him and fight for him, he had Jonathan. Saul had tried twice to kill David already. Once by his own hand (1 Sam. 18.10-11) and another time by using the Philistines by sending David on an apparent suicide mission (1 Sam 18.24-25). The only one who had a chance to change the mind of Saul was Jonathan. Jonathan had already seen the relationships of Saul crumble. There is nothing to say that Saul wouldn’t do to Jonathan what he had already tried to do to David. Still, Jonathan stood up and “spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, ‘Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly.’” (1 Sam 19.4) Men of God need others to stand and fight with them and if this verse doesn’t convince you of that, look at these passages from Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy, and draw your own conclusions:
- “You know everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.” (2 Tim 1.15-18)
- “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you…” (2 Tim 4.9-13)
- “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me…” (2 Tim 4.16)
In the midst of a fight, do you people who’d step in? My two favorite bullfighting pictures don’t have bulls in them. One is of Daniel and I praying at Burlington and the other is Seth, Lucas, and I in front of the chutes in Nevada. These are men that when the situation gets the worst, they are at their best.
David and Jonathan were tied together through service (1 Samuel 20.4) David needed information. He knew Saul was out to get him. He also knew that Jonathan had stood up to his father about him before. But a second spear dodging event, has led David and Jonathan’s relationship down a pretty dark road. Jonathan alone would be able to ascertain the information about Saul’s true intentions with David. Jonathan promised David: “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it for you.” (1 Samuel 20.4) David asked Jonathan to get the scoop from the palace. In doing so, Saul tried to kill Jonathan as well (1 Sam. 20.33). Still, Jonathan passed the message along to David. There is nothing that Jonathan would not do to serve David.
Despite the Godly friendship that was displayed throughout their time together, friendships do evolve over time. When David fled, Jonathan remained. “The Lord was a witness” to their friendship, (that is covenant talk) even as they went their separate ways: David towards the wilderness and Jonathan back to the city (1 Sam. 20.42) This is the last recorded interaction between them. Upon hearing of Jonathan’s death, David mourned his good friend (2 Samuel 1.17-27). True friendship, even death cannot separate. It can interrupt, put off, or suspend, but many of us have lost friends who despite their absence here on earth, are still very present in our friendship. The chain of friendship is vital to God’s process of turning us into men after His heart.