Recently, my adult Sunday School class was studying the book of 1 Samuel. The Prophet/Priest/Judge Samuel reluctantly found a "king" for the nation of Israel. Samuel knew it was a bad idea, but God told him to do it. God knew it was a bad idea too. God revealed to Samuel who was going to be the first king.
When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, "Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people." 1 Samuel 9:17
You can read more about the life and kingship of Saul in 1 Samuel. Saul ends up not only being a very bad follower of God, he is also unwise, jealous, and untrustworthy. He is so jealous of the young David, he begins to hate his own son, Jonathan. Jonathan continues to show David his undying loyalty. David would not have survived, and become king, without Jonathan's friendship.
With a father like Saul, how did Jonathan become so good? Jonathan knew it was wrong for his father to hate David. Jonathan was not aware of all of his father's sins, but he learned that one. When I asked that question in Sunday School, one person answered "God gave Jonathan a good heart." I believe it!
Many societies expect sons to follow in their fathers' occupations. Although Jonathan would never become king, he did lead troops into battle. He was one of Saul's trusted military leaders. Yet, he did not possess many of the bad qualities of Saul.
Some people really want to possess the good qualities of their parents, and leave the bad ones behind. God made all of us unique, but we still can inherit not just physical traits of our parents, but personality traits too. There is the age-old debate of Nature vs. Nurture. People are born with certain traits, but can also learn so much more. Even more, God has given us the ability to make many choices in our lives. Jonathan chose to follow God by protecting his friend, and Saul chose not to follow God by disobeying His commands.
I remember having a student who expected to end up in jail, just like his father and uncle. He thought it was inevitable. I think the child was about 14 years old at the time he said this. What would this student have to choose to do to avoid the same fate as his family members? Do we all have choices that we can make, no matter the circumstances? That discussion will have to be for another time and place. I just know that God created Saul and Jonathan and Samuel for His purposes, just like He made me and all of you who are reading this.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.