54. II Samuel 1: “Love for an Enemy”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 8/13/2015
(edited October 2020)
Just before he became the King of a still-unified Kingdom of Ancient Israel, David witnessed the death of his sworn enemy, King Saul of Israel. Saul had lied to David, used him, punished him unfairly both personally and professionally while David served him faithfully as a leader in Saul’s army. Finally, David had to become a fugitive and run away from his king. Saul tried over and over again to capture and kill David. So David was on the run, living from hand to mouth and from hiding place to hiding place for years because of this man.
Now as David, by the hand of God, is very near to ascending to take Saul’s place as the King of Israel, word of Saul’s death comes:
Verses 1-10: “Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag; It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance. And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped. And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also. And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead? And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I. And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.”
How would you have reacted to the news of the death of King Saul? If I were David, I fear that I KNOW how I would react. But look what actually happened:
Verses 11-12: “Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.”
The Amalekite was lying. He probably wanted money or a reward from David. We know from elsewhere that King Saul actually killed himself to avoid capture by the Philistines. The Amalekite really misjudged the situation. David was prone to enforcing martial law in this setting, plus he had just come from a fierce battle against the Amalekites:
Verses 13-16: “And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite. And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed? And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died. And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the Lord's anointed.”
David remembers the BEST about Ancient Israel’s first bad king. This “Song of the Bow” starts coming out of David:
Verses 17-21: “And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.) The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.”
Should the death of the wicked ever be mourned? I would say, yes. Who am I to judge whether a person’s life had merit? Listen a minute to something about this topic that was recorded years later in the Book of Ezekiel. None of us should judge a life as worthless or beyond redemption. Nor, Ezekiel warns, should we be too quick to declare ourselves comfortably righteous:
Ezekiel 33: 7-17
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.”
We are not the judge of others. We are to serve others as much as possible and acknowledge God as the Judge of ALL of us!
Let’s get back now to the story of David and the death of King Saul. Saul was hard to love, but David still sincerely mourned for him. It is God’s will for us today – I’m not saying it is easy – but it IS His will for us to return love for hate. He’s told us that.
Our passage closes with what is sometimes called at Christian funerals today a “Celebration of Life” for an individual. That person here is Saul’s son, Jonathan. In stark contrast to his father, Jonathan had always been loving, kind, and true to David. In good times or bad. How beautiful a thing this is! Listen to how tenderly David addresses his relationship with Jonathan in the conclusion of the “Song of the Bow”:
Verses 22-27: “From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”
My personal opinion would be that there is not to be found in the Bible a stronger sentiment of true brotherhood until we get to Christ Himself and His disciples. Did you notice how David’s love for Jonathan actually covered the many offences of Saul against David? The Disciple’s shared that kind of love with the Lord. And we are meant to experience that kind of love with Him and each other today, also. The Apostle Peter says exactly that in the New Testament in I Peter chapter 4, at verse 8. Check out that entire chapter sometime. That’s your homework! Let’s pray.