One of the most ennobling experiences in Christ is the love and fellowship of other brethren. For many in Australia this would be very special memories of an early Youth Conference, coming to this bi-annual event as though a stranger, knowing so few of the young people who had gathered from all States and some even from overseas. Just a week later and dozens of those unknown faces now belonged to new friends, beloved friends. We agonised to say “Goodbye” and longed for the next occasion when we would see our new friends in Christ. What a wonderful thing! The beauty and power of the Word of the living God had touched our hearts together, perhaps in a way never quite known before. We had our problems before, in Christ or with the Truth and so did they, but now everything seemed easier, more desirable. We returned home full of high aspirations, new vigour and a song, a ‘new song’ in our hearts.

What a calling! What a Brotherhood!

This is more than the work of man. When hearts of men and women are brought together in this way, whatever their age, the Hand of God is involved. The record of Scripture has a special feature to illustrate the wonder of fellowship in the Hope of Israel. It is found in the life of David, the eighth and unknown son of Jesse of Bethlehem. Saul was king in Israel and although he was destitute of spiritual perception and faith, yet the tribes must have found consolation in the fact that his eldest son Jonathan was all that could be imagined for an up and coming prince. He was spiritually alive, loyal to his father’s house, courageous in the field of battle, wise in word and true to the God of Israel. The Philistines were hampering Israel all through the land, but Jonathan no doubt would have been the man that many felt would rid them of the Gentile harassment.

Jesse’s youngest son is minding his few sheep in the wilderness beside Bethlehem. Two fearsome beasts threaten the life of one of the sheep and the young man David went after him, and Yahweh gave him the strength to smite the lion, slay the bear and deliver the lamb. No one saw it among men. A few sheep in the wilderness of Bethlehem, but God would use this event to bring David to public notice when, before all Israel, after forty days of dithering diffidence, the young shepherd would lead the nation valiantly and faithfully to conquest over the “uncircumcised Philistines”.

Did Israel need another potential prince at this time? Jonathan was waiting in the wings. Now there are two remarkable and faithful leaders before Israel and before long the newcomer was also part of the royal family, marrying Jonathan’s sister. Why did God bring David to the fore at this time? Surely Jonathan would make a splendid king.

On the high stage of the nation, Yahweh was teaching Israel the beauty of the love of brethren in the truth. Jonathan loved David, “esteemed him better than himself to be”! He gave David the symbols of his own fame, his robes and sword and bow and girdle! “He loved him as his own soul”; the record says it twice! (2 Sam 18:1,3). This is an astonishing incident. Never does Scripture speak so effusively of the love between two men of faith. With almost everything in common in terms of natural talents, these two young men of God taught the whole nation the basis of the love of brethren. It was the loving kindness, the “loyal love” of Yahweh that ignited their hearts together, replacing jealousy with love and competition with co-operation (1 Sam 20:14,17). Instead of schism and envy there was love and loyalty.

When two brethren sense together the common purpose of God, then they experience what Jonathan and David found. It is the Truth of our Father, known and embraced, that brings such relationships and there is a sense of knowledge that the whole matter is of God. His Hand is there. This is the need in our ecclesias today. Such bonds put the Father before our personal interests. A spirit of confidence and well-being under God permeates the meetings and commitment is strong and willing. Those of weaker faith take courage from the example before them and the young people see with joy the greatness of their calling and are emboldened to cut off the offending practices of their lives and give themselves totally to the service of Christ.

Such a spirit lifts ecclesial attendance and ensures strong participation in Bible Class. The younger and older love the Scriptures and seek to seriously grow in their understanding. Friends who come to our meetings seeking for truth perceive the well-being between the members, their commitment and happiness and they want to be a part of such a rewarding fellowship. Needy members are found and succoured by those who “tremble at His Word”.

And when the special days of unity come along in an ecclesial calendar, this spirit—the spirit of Jonathan, of David, of Paul, of Timothy, of their Lord—this spirit takes them with joy to the grand occasions. Could they be anywhere else? David’s later troubles came when he stayed at home at the very time when kings go forth to battle. There are alluring attractions everywhere today and we are wise to keep them from our personal and family life. The more we yield to them the poorer our unity of fellowship. With the restraint of love we endeavour to limit our liberties where they may in some way be harmful to others.

The hour is late and these issues are pressing hard upon us all. Our time must go into the interests of Christ—who is coming! Let us defend the Truth, labour for the life of our companions in the Truth and rejoice in our unity and fellowship in the Truth.

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).