Lectionary thoughts for July 29 – 2 Samuel 11:1-15

This is probably one of the most relevant passages in the Bible – at least as far as the news and the United States is concerned.  It is a story of betrayal, it is a story of abuse, it is a story of loss of faith.

Recently, the news has been about Penn State University and the trial of an assistant coach who was convicted on over 40 counts of abuse of young males.  This person used his position of power to take from these young men their innocence forever.

It’s not been that many years ago that this passage would have applied to the President of the United States – Bill Clinton.

And yet, this is not to level charges against any individual or to blame any political party.  This is a danger for ALL people.  Our US constitution was developed based upon the idea that people are inherently flawed -original sin, natural inclination, total depravity – call it what you want, but it doesn’t take much time watching the news to realize that ANYBODY is capable of falling into the most evil and horrendous of sins.

Let’s look at the passage now.

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordi...

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Français : Statue du roi David par Nicolas Cordier, dans la chapelle Borghèse de la basilique Sainte-Marie Majeure. Italiano: Statua del re Davide di Nicolas Cordier, nella Capella Borghese della Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Roma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

When David was told, “Uriah did not go home,” he asked him, “Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?”

Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die. ”

English: King David Handing the Letter to Uria...

English: King David Handing the Letter to Uriah (1611) by Pieter Lastman, oil on panel, 51.1 x 61.3 cm, Detroit Institute of Arts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s look first at the opening statement for here it is that we see the beginning of the problem.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

At the time when David’s responsibility was to lead the army, David decided that he didn’t need to do that anymore.  “But David remained in Jerusalem.”  In ancient Israel, it was the kings job to join with the troops when they went to war.

Was David gravely ill?  Nope.  Was he injured? Nope.  Where their pressing needs at the palace which only he could handle? Nope.

We don’t know why David stayed at Jerusalem – but we can infer that David was having heart troubles.  No, he wasn’t sick.  Rather he had stopped being a man after God’s own heart.

Maybe he thought he had done enough.  Maybe he believed that he was too important to do the work being a king required.  Maybe he thought that it was now time to enjoy the fruits of kingship.  Whatever the reason – David was someplace that he should not have been and he was missing from someplace he should have been!

What might the history of the Bible have been if David had chosen differently?  This is jumping ahead of the passage, but look at some of the consequences.  David commit’s adultery.  He betrays one of most trusted men.  He has a man murdered.  His baby dies.  He changes the royal line to choose Solomon, the son of his sinful action.  One of his sons rapes his half-sister.  Absalom avenges his sister later by murdering his half brother.  Absalom leads a rebellion against his father and is later killed.  Absalom sleeps in public with his fathers wives.  Solomon becomes king and kills one of his brothers.  Solomon’s son makes such a mess of things that the kingdom is divided into two parts.

Sometimes people think, I don’t care what happens, just as long as we


Path (Photo credit: Guerito)

have this one night together.  SIN has dire consequences.  And it started when David abandoned his post.

Andy Stanley preached a series of messages on the principle of the path.  The basic idea of this series of messages is that every path leads somewhere and if you want to arrive at a certain destination, you must get on the right path.

Good intentions do not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination – regardless of your intentions.

Mistaken ideas do not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination.

The number of people taking a path thinking it goes someplace it doesn’t does not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 and 14 “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.”

There is a path that leads to destruction.  Apparently it is easy to find and easy to walk on.  There is another path that leads to life and it is more difficult.

Not that he doesn’t say that if you have good intentions, the broad path will lead somewhere else.  The path ALWAYS leads to where the path is going – death or life, peace or conflict, joy or sorrow.

In the opening verses of our passage, David decided to take a different path than the one he had been on.

Larry Norman, the 1970’s Christian rocker composed a song with words I have never forgotten.  “Two roads converged in the middle of my life, I heard the poet say.  I took the one less traveled and that’s made the difference – every night and every day.”

Our neighbor has a sign in his yard with a Bible reference listed on it.  When my wife and I saw it, I misread the reference and we looked it up.  I thought it said Galatians 6:17.  The first part of that very I really like: “Finally, let no one cause me trouble.”  That’s a great quote – but that’s not what the reference was.  It was Galatians 6:7, a verse I’ve memorized in the Kjv – “Be not deceived. God is not mocked.  Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

“But David remained in Jerusalem.”  Because of that, David fell.  Ephesians 4:27 says “Give the devil no opportunity.” NASB.

Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

When we are tempted to think it is all just too much trouble, that maybe it’s time for a break, or “just this once” – think of David, think of Bill Clinton, think of Penn State abuse trials, think of the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal, think, think, think, think, think – there go I but for the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13.

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Lectionary thoughts for July 22 – 2 Samuel 7:1-15

What is intrinsically good, and what is viewed as being for God’s glory, is not necessarily God’s will

English: Nathan advises King David

English: Nathan advises King David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This statement is one of the harder ones for us to believe and appreciate in our lives.  That is intrinsically good – how could that NOT be God’s will.  Doesn’t He want all things that are good?  And how could it be that something that is being done for God’s glory AND which is good –  how could that not be God’s will.

That is one of the messages we find as we look at the passage from 2 Samuel 7.  David started out as a shepherd boy.  Then Samuel the prophet chose David to be the replacement for Saul.  David was both small and young. He wasn’t the obvious choice, but he was God’s choice.

Eventually David was placed on the throne in Jerusalem and God gave David victory over all of his enemies.  Second Samuel 8, shows all the nations that surrounded Israel were defeated by David. God gave him victory, God established his kingdom, and now in chapter 7, verse 1 David was sitting in his house, in peace after all the battles and labors and he’s thinking about what he’ll do next.

In this passage, David is sitting in his palace, thinking with zeal in his heart for God about how to glorify God. He has glorified God through his victories on the battlefield and now he wants to glorify God in a different way so he turns to the prophet Nathan and says: ‘I’ve a desire in my heart to glorify God. I live in a palace made with cedar, but the ark of God is sitting outside in a tent, uncovered by a ceiling of cedar. Why should I live in my house and the ark God be out in the open?‘. Nathan tells him: ‘You do whatever is in your heart. The desire that you find within your soul, you carry it out‘, and then Nathan goes away and God’s still small voice speaks to him and tells him, ‘No! David is not to build the temple. Go back to David and tell him that he is not to build the temple‘. You can just imagine how David felt when Nathan told him: ‘You’re not the man, you’re not to do it and it’s not to happen now in your day‘. But then God tells David: ‘I’m going to do something greater. You think you are going to build my house – no, I’m going to build you a house‘.

Let’s look at what we can learn from this passage.  First, look at the heart of David in verses 1 and 2.  David has a zealous heart. And even though what he wants to do is intrinsically good, (protecting the ark, building a temple for God, etc.) and he is planning on this for God’s glory, this is not necessarily God’s will. David has a zealous heart.  He’s finished all his labors, he’s sitting in his palace, and he” and his battles, and he’s thinking about God and how he can glorify God. How often do you spend your leisure time thinking about God and how often do you spend your time thinking about yourself.  Someone once said you can tell if you are in love when you spend more time thinking about the one you love than yourself.  David loved God.

Notice also the company David kept when he was relaxing, God’s prophet, Nathan.  We are molded by our friends and the company we keep. David was molded by Nathan. David’s ambition wasn’t selfish, it was righteous. David’s desire was good and holy.  He wanted to protect the ark of the covenant which signified the presence of God and glorify God.  David, at the age of 40, wanted to bring a great name to his God.

He had his palace and now he wanted a temple for God. Many folks go into the Christian life or work and build a palace for  themselves but nothing for God. We all face the temptation to build empires for our name and reputation and the worship and praise and respect and reverence of God is missing.  This wasn’t the case for David. David had been blessed.  He was sitting in a palace, his enemies had been defeated,  and he’s rich. But this success didn’t spoil his his walk with God. While we don’t like to believe it, blessings more often then adversity, make us forget God.

So how did David make a wrong decision? There are several rules to help us know the will of God in our life: First is the word of God, second the counsel of wise believers, third the witness of the Holy Spirit, fourth circumstances and fifth, reason. That being said, we still cannot put God in a box and say this is proof of what God’s will is.  David had all of these, but he still made a wrong decision.

In Deuteronomy 12:10-11 it says, ‘ But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.  Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name —there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord.‘ This may well have been what David had in mind as he rested and meditated on the word of God.  God had said, once in the promised land, after all the enemies were defeated, He would make a place for His name to dwell’.  This is the word of God.

In 1 Chronicles 16 shows that David had appointed certain people to minister before the ark of God.  This temple service, until the destruction of Herod’s temple in 70AD, was established by David. Now he was waiting for a place where the name of God would be, and he was actively creating the circumstances around him to facilitate that goal.

In 1 Chronicles 23:2-5, you find 24,000 Levites, 6000 officials and judges, 4000 gatekeepers, and 4000 musicians.  All of these would have needed housing and many of them a building to work in and to carry out their sacrifices.  David probably looked at the word of God, looked at the circumstances around him of the need that there was, and said to himself: ‘It must be time for God to create a house for Himself!’.  Scripture, circumstances, the witness in his own heart, reason and even Godly counsel all said he was going the right direction.  He had desire to see God dwell in a permanent house and not in a tent.  He thought, “God doesn’t have a house but I do!” A. W. Pink notes in his book, “The Life of David” that ‘Thousands of professing Christians think more about the welfare of their pet dogs than they do in seeing the need, and spend more time in the upkeep of their motor cars than they do in support of the work of the Lord‘.  But not David.

There is nothing here to criticize David for in this passage.  But even though the Word of God, godly counsel, the witness of the Spirit, circumstances and reason told him that he was right –  he was wrong. Nathan, who was meant to guide him in the right direction failed him in one way. Nathan said to the king: ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you‘. You can find an account of this situation also in 2 Chronicles 6:8 and here you find that God said this to David: ‘Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart.’ David wanted to build a temple, Nathan told him go ahead, and  God, later on said ‘You did well to have this in your heart’. So what was wrong? Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – who can know it? What David wanted was good, it was to the glory of God, it seemed to be a needed, but at that moment in time it was not the will of God. David had a heart after good at that moment, but he didn’t have a heart after God.

Neither Nathan nor David consulted God. How many good, sincere Christians are busy doing good for God without consulting God about He wants? At that moment in time, for David to build the temple was not God’s will. Get godly guidance, check the Scriptures, use your reason – but make sure you go to God as well!

In verses 4-7, God redirects David.  In these verses, God asked him two questions. First he asked the question,  ‘David, are you the one to build that house?’ and then He asked, ‘Why have I never asked another leader in Israel to build a house, if I wanted a house?’. What God was saying to David was ‘Not you!’ and ‘Not now!’. This is a hard thing to hear from God when you want to do something for the glory of God: ‘No! It’s not you and it’s not now!’.  ‘Not you!’ is the message that John the Baptist had to agree to when he said these words: ‘He must increase and I must decrease’.

What would you do if God spoke to you that you worth in the eyes of men would decrease and that someone else was going to come along and take your place.  If that was God’s will for you, could you accept it? It’s hard to turn from ‘I am the one‘ to ‘I am not the one‘.

How do we react when God says ‘No’ to us in illness, or sorrow, or singleness, or wealth, or ministry.  It’s hard to take ‘No’ and ‘Not now’ – for are impatient. We want everything now and the hardest thing to do is to wait on God when He says ‘Wait’ because it means we can’t do anything. We can’t pray, we can’t work, because God told us to wait on Him, to be still and to know that He is God.

But David’s disappointment was God’s great appointment. David wanted to build a temple for God, and God said to David, ‘No! You’re not going to build Me a house, I’m going to build you a house!’. What do you do when God says ‘No’? Sulk? Doubt? Turn your back on God? Run back into the world? Everything depends on your reaction to God when God says ‘No’.   Look at how David reacted in verse 18.  He went in and sat before the LORD in the tent.  It was there he remembered all that God had done for him.  And God would also remind us: ‘Do you remember where you came from? Do you remember your sin? Do you remember where I brought you from and where I’ve taken you? Do you remember all the blessings that I have blessed you with? Even though I am saying ‘No’ to you today, I want to reassure you that I’ve something greater for you!’.  Maybe what David was thinking was this: ‘I’m going to die and I’ll never see the temple!’. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Will I die and never see my son saved, my daughter come to Christ?’ – what does it matter, if God does save them?

Look at David’s 1 Chronicles 29:2-3.  From that moment on he began with all his might to gather together materials for the temple. God told him, ‘No, you can’t do it’. So he said, ‘Who’s going to do it?’, and God said, ‘Your son’, so David thinks, ‘Then I’ll help him with all my might’. That’s some spirit. David didn’t know why God said ‘No’ – and maybe you don’t! – but several years later God brought David in and told him why. ‘You were to fight for Me David, but your son will build for Me. You have blood on your hands but this temple is to be a place of peace and rest, so you can’t build it’. And David believed the word of God.   There will come a day, whether you’re here on earth at the time or whether you’re gone, when it’ll all be made plain.

There is a story of E. M. Bounds, author of ‘Power Through Prayer’. E.M. Bounds had two sons, one of his sons was a believer and the other was not. E. M. Bounds died at the age of 90 – and his son that was not saved, lived to the age of 90 and didn’t get saved until he was 90! But Bounds had prayed, God had promised and God provided. Trust God with the desires of your heart and believe!

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Lectionary Thoughts July 15 2 Samuel 6

The lectionary passage for this Sunday skips a very important section.  It is 2 Samuel 6:1-5 and then it skips down to verse 12b and continues.  I think we really ought to focus on this part that is missing.

The Chastisement of Uzzah

The Chastisement of Uzzah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before theLord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of theLord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lordblessed him and his entire household.

This is exactly the type of passage that people wonder about.  “Why was God so harsh?” peoople wonder.  “Is this the same God as the God of the New Testament? ” “Why can’t God be more understanding?” “What did these people do that was so wrong that made God so angry that he reached out and murdered this man Uzzah in cold blood?”

This is not how I feel about this passage, but it is the way many people look at God in America.  God can be love but he cannot be holy or just -not if these things cannot be put into ‘Hallmark’ cards.

The Scripture says that what Uzzah did was an irreverant act.  Let’s think more about this.

What is the background to this passage?  In Exodus 25:10-16, we are told this about ark of the Lord:

10 “Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 11 Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. 12 Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. 15 The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. 16 Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law,which I will give you.

Numbers 4:5-6, 15 says,

When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law.Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place. 

15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.

The ark of the Lord was to be carried using the poles through the rings on the ark.  God had been very specific on this.  In addition, only Kohathites were to carry the ark.

English: The Ark of God Carried into the Templ...

English: The Ark of God Carried into the Temple Español: El Arca introduciéndose en el Templo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now some folks will look at this and say, “How petty of God.  How could he kill someone because they didn’t follow some simple instructions.”  But is this really that petty?  Yesterday on the radio news, I heard about two children who were electrocuted while swimming.  It seems that some simple wiring had gone wrong.

We are all familiar with situations that seem small, but result in death.  And many times we rebel against God’s laws.  But cry as much as we want, God’s laws are still there.

Uzzah made the mistake of thinking that the ark of the Lord would be defiled by touching the dirt.  But this is a fundamental flaw in understanding the nature of the world.  It is not the world that is in rebellion against God.  Dirt does not defile the holy things of God – people who are in rebellion against God defile the holy things of God.

Matthew 15 tells the story of Jesus and his disciples eating wheat straight from the field.  The pharisees complain that Jesus didn’t wash his hands first (this was not a health issue but a tradition of the elders).   Verses 18-20, Jesus explains:

18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

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Lectionary Thoughts July 8th 2 Samuel 5

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordi...

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Français : Statue du roi David par Nicolas Cordier, dans la chapelle Borghèse de la basilique Sainte-Marie Majeure. Italiano: Statua del re Davide di Nicolas Cordier, nella Capella Borghese della Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Roma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second Samuel Chapter Five
“All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler. ’”

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

6 The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David.

8 On that day, David said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.”
9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the supporting terraces inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.
11 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David. 12 And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

13 After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. 14 These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet.

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?”
The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely hand the Philistines over to you.”

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim.

21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off. 

22 Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23 so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 25 So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

This sermon was written by Dr. S. Lewis Johnson and edited by standrewscumberland.  The original can be found at: http://sljinstitute.net/sermons/old_testament/history/pages/lessons18.html

Special note: Just to the south on the edge of Jerusalem is Zion.  Mount Zion is to the west but Zion is that part, contiguous to the city of Jerusalem where David had his kingdom.  That is what he is speaking about when he mentions the stronghold of Zion that is the City of David.

This chapter doesn’t see all that special.  We see that David is crowned king in Hebron and crowned king of all Israel.  David had already been crowned king of Judah.  But in the light of the whole of the Scriptures, it becomes very significant.  Two things of great importance are found in this chapter.

First there is David’s anointing.  The figure of David lies behind all of Christianity.  When Christ is born,  Gabriel said, “He will be great, he will be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David.  And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Jesus will be given the throne of his father, David.

In last chapter of the Book of Revelation the Lord says, “I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and the morning star.”

English: Jerusalem Mount Sion King David Statu...

English: Jerusalem Mount Sion King David Statue – Haredim want King David statue moved (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second thing that makes this chapter so important is Jerusalem’s choice as David’s military and national capital.  His own palace was built by Hiram on Zion, which was right next to Jerusalem but is now part of Jerusalem.  The stronghold of Zion is the place where he and other kings lived and carried out the ministry that was given to them as rulers.  Throughout Scripture, many things are spoken about Jerusalem. In fact, all of the events of the Scripture ultimately gather round the city of Jerusalem.  It became for Israel the only accepted spiritual center for Israel and here is the beginning of the golden age of Israel’s history, the rule of David and Solomon.
In Jerusalem, the suffering and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ was accomplished.  And when we turn to the conclusion of the Bible, in Revelation chapter 21, John the Apostle sees the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem, underlining again the importance of both David and Jerusalem for the story that is found in the word of God.
2 Samuel chapter 5 is a chapter that is exceedingly important from the standpoint of the whole program of the word of God.
David is crowned as king.  This is a testimony to the virtue of patience.  His most cherished hopes are realized after years of patient waiting.  It’s no wonder that David wrote so many psalms in which he expresses the fact that we ought to wait on the Lord God.  In Psalm 37, we read, “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.”  The 9th verse, “For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth.”  And in the 34th verse, “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, And He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.”
After all of the years that have passed since Samuel spoke to him and told him, as a very young man, that God intended to make him king, David finally comes to the goal to which Samuel had directed his eye and it’s now reached.  It really is a climactic event for David and it’s just the beginning of his glorious reign.
Look for a few moments through the chapter.  The author begins with an account of the making of the covenant with Israel.  Abner, who was Saul’s general, had really prepared the way for David’s rule over the whole of the Twelve Tribes.  In chapter 3 we read in verse 17.
“Now Abner had communicated with the elders of Israel, saying, “In time past you were seeking for David to be king over you.  Now then, do it!  For the Lord has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.’”  And Abner also spoke in the hearing of Benjamin.  Then Abner also went to speak in the hearing of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel and the whole house of Benjamin.”
And so, we read here in chapter 5, “Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying.”
Note that they had three grounds for making David king over all of the Twelve Tribes.
First of all, they spoke, saying, verse 1, “Indeed we are your bone and your flesh.”  So the ties of kingship were, first of all, mentioned as the qualifications of David for the rule.  Moses had said some things about the king of Israel, a long time ago.  It seemed strange because at the time they had no king and it was not God’s will for Israel to ever have a king except the Lord himself.  But they longed to have a king, just like the nations, and God did finally give them Saul.
Moses had some instructions about the king.  Deuteronomy chapter 17 verse 15 states, “You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.”
This was to be, ideally, the Lord Jesus Christ  but because of Israel’s desire to have a king just like the others, they got Saul.  It’s difficult for Christians to be what they really are, different.  It’s difficult to realize that a different kind of life flows through the veins and the spirits of believers.  It’s difficult for us to realize that we are not of this world.  We are separate.  And so, in the case of Israel, they were told in the beginning that they were to have one of them, and one of them only, as a king.  God intended, ideally, only our Lord Jesus Christ.  But Israel was not willing to trust the Lord God alone as their king and so a succession of kings comes.  And David is one of the line but they all point forward to the Lord Jesus Christ.  So first of all then, they point out that David is one of them.  The ties of kingship, “Indeed, we are your bone and your flesh.”  And so David qualified in that respect.
Secondly, they point to his proven leadership, they say, “Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in,” and so, consequently, they appeal to the fact that he stood out as a leader.  You could go back and read the passages in 1 Samuel chapter 18 verse 5, verse 13, verse 16, and verse 30.  And they all make that point that when David was serving Saul, the soul of the nation was knit to him because of the accomplishments of him in his leading role.  So, consequently, his proven leadership.
And we can put it down into the principles of this, that his calling is evidenced in his conduct as of the Lord.  “By their fruits you shall know them.”  And in David’s case, not only was he one of them, but he also had been proven to be a leader with excellent qualities.
And then, finally, at the end of verse 2, the third of the reasons, we read,  “And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’”  So, ultimately, it was the divine approval.  They had resisted him, the eleven tribes, under Ishbosheth, under Saul, but now they’ve become reconciled to him, acknowledged that God’s choice all along has been David.
As a result of it, they came and came to him at Hebron.  And David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord.  And they anointed David king over Israel.  And he was anointed, as a shepherd king.  He was to shepherd them and to be a shepherd king.
One of the great themes of the word of God is that the Lord Jesus is our shepherd.  David makes a great deal of it.  Jacob, of course, spoke about the God who shepherded him all the days of his life.  Micah speaks about one who shall stand and shepherd his people Israel.  And so the kind of king that Israel is to have is not the kind of king such as a Saddam Hussein or a Joseph Stalin an autocratic dictator but a shepherd king; one who rules but one who rules with the care and the concern that a shepherd manifests for his flock.  Samuel doesn’t tell us this but 1 Chronicles chapter 12 tells us that when they came to Hebron and anointed him king they had a feast for several days.
1 Chronicles chapter 12 and right at the end of the chapter.  “And they were there with David three days, eating and drinking, for their brethren had prepared for them.  Moreover those who were near to them, from as far away as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, were bringing food on donkeys and camels, on mules and oxen, provisions of flour and cakes of figs and cakes of raisins, wine and oil and oxen and sheep abundantly, for there was joy in Israel.”
And so they celebrated it with three days of feasting.  Then there is a brief chronological note in verses 4 and 5 that we will pass over.  But we note now that after David has been anointed king, his thoughts turn toward Jerusalem.
Jerusalem had a Jebusite fortified citadel right in its midst.  As David looked out over the scene and reflected upon the fact, he realized that the Jebusites, a Canaanite people, should not be allowed to live within Israel, and particularly right in the city.  So in a remarkable exhibition of faith and political and military foresight, David and his men go to Jerusalem to take the citadel of the Jebusites.  We read, “And the king and his men,” that’s the six hundred men, “who were his army for so long, and they went against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, ‘You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,’ thinking all along that it’s impossible for David to overcome this citadel.”
It was remarkable foresight that David thought of Jerusalem.  If you look back at the history of that part of the country, you can remember that it must have had for him a great deal of nostalgia.  Abraham had offered up Isaac at Mount Moriah, right nearby.  The great men of the Old Testament had often passed by, those that preceded David, had often passed by that hill and they looked at it.  And now David, in thinking about his kingdom, looks at it as the ideal place to have his kingdom.  But, when he arrives, the Jebusites hold it.  And they are so confident that they will keep that stronghold that they say to him, look, if we only have cripples, you cannot take it.  The cripples can keep this city.  It’s such a stronghold.  They thought themselves impregnable, obviously.  And so a garrison of cripples they felt could defend the city against David and his men.
One of the reasons that David wanted this was the simple reason that the presence of alien Jebusites in the land was something that disturbed him because God had said that Israel was to be a separate people.  To have Jebusites right in the midst of the land and among them was something that he could not take.  The presence of alien peoples in the midst of the peoples of God, defiant of David and worshippers of blind and lame idols, it was something that he felt he ought to get rid of.
Someone has put it this way, “For such an alien element to occupy a strong hold in the very heart of the country, was a most galling thought to one intensely patriotic and brave, and could not but have suggested to him the defective courage and faith of his ancestors in Israel, who allowed such a thing to be possible.  It was no mere love of fighting, no desire to create a diversion on his accession to power that induced him to challenge his best men to seize the position.  It was statesmanship, regard for the purity of the national life, and the honor of him who originally gave the land to Israel for an inheritance.  The people of God must be separate from the heathen.”  So for fundamentally spiritual reasons but spiritual reasons that had military significance for him, he determined that the powers of darkness represented by the Jebusites would not have a foothold in his land.  And so he came and he offered a challenge to his men and the challenge is represented in verse 8, “Who ever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites” he shall be chief and captain.
There was a spring, the spring of Gihon, which was to the south and east of that mountain or that citadel, and it as there that the Jebusites and others who lived up on the stronghold got their water.  And there was a shaft that went from the top down, within, to the spring.  And so David conceived the idea that the way to get in to the stronghold is by the water shaft.  It was a brilliant piece of military maneuvering and Joab and some of the men managed to go up the shaft and into the city and overcame the Jebusites on the top of it.  By so doing, he conquered the stronghold, masterminded by David but conquered by his men.  The city, as a result of that, came to be called the City of David.  David did some construction around it to strengthen it further.   And the writer of the chapter adds the important point in verse 10, “So David went on and became great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him.”
You may have wondered about the expression, “The blind and the lame” and especially that clause “Who are hated by David’s soul, who are hated by David’s soul.”  What he intends for us to understand by it is the same thing that we are to understand when Jesus says, “If a man does not hate father and mother, brother and sister, he cannot be my disciple.”  He means, in other words, hate in the sense of despising anything that is contrary to the purpose of God.  And these individuals were hated by David, not personally, but because they represented the intrusion of the kingdom of Satan within the kingdom of the Lord God.  And so, the city was taken.
The author of the Epistle of the Hebrews makes a great deal over the fact that the Lord Jesus is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek appears in the Bible in Genesis 14 and then one verse in Psalm 110, written by David, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”   Why is Jesus is called a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek?  Melchizedek is called King of Salem.  Salem is the old name for Jerusalem.  Melchizedek had a priesthood, of God Most High, on Salem, or in Salem, inclusive, evidently, of the stronghold of Zion.
So when David conquered Jerusalem, the priesthood that belonged to Melchizedek was regarded as now belonging to him.  And so, in the case of David, we have one who is both king and the inheritor of the priesthood of the Most High God.
Jesus is a king and a priest, High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, but also one who has the throne of David.  So the figure of the king/priest is the result, ultimately, at least in David’s thinking, of the taking of the old kingdom of Salem, where the high priesthood of Melchizedek existed.
From verse 9 on, we read of the consolidation of David’s kingdom, a local consolidation, and he constructs the citadel in a way to further protect his palace.
And then, Hiram, King of Tyre, they did have economics in those days, business, and Hiram at Tyre had a large business and one of his businesses was in woodwork.  And he wanted to have good relationships with this rising and budding kingdom, and so he provided for David messengers with the promise of cedar trees and carpenters and masons and they built David a palace, a house.  Now, as a result of that, we read in verse 12, “So David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel.”
You would never know that David had some of the feelings that you and I have.  That is, at times, we want some confirmation.  And David seems to have no problems.  But every now and then, you can see evidence of the fact that David is just like you and me.  He follows what he thinks is the will of God but from time to time the confirmations are given to encourage him further.  I like to read that because it reminds me how I, too, feel much the same thing when I fell I’m doing the Lord’s will but then there comes a confirmation from the Lord that it really is the Lord’s will.
So we read Hiram’s response to David’s kingdom and all that had happened, brought him further knowledge that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that “He had exalted His kingdom for the sake” not of David, you’ll note but “for the sake of His people Israel.”
The remainder of the chapter records decisive defeats of the Philistines.  They heard the news that David had been anointed king over the Twelve Tribes and they recognize here an enemy.  The fact that he now was in Jerusalem, and had conquered the Jebusites made the enemies of the people of the Lord attack.
When the Philistines came up, David went down to the stronghold and there gathered his men together and thought about what they were going to do.  He inquired of the Lord and the Lord said, “Go up against the Philistines, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hands.”  The result was that David went to Baal Perazim and defeated them there.  David said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like the breakthrough of water.”  In other words, the victory was so decisive it’s as if the Lord had burst through ahead of him.  He’s the Lord of the Breakthrough.  And the result was that the gods of the Philistines, who had been carried there by their men, had been left on the field and David and his men gathered them up.  It’s a terrible thing to have a god that you have to carry around, isn’t it?  How much better is it to have a God who carries us around.  And Isaiah, in one of his great chapters in his prophesy makes that point.  “The heathen have to carry their gods around.  They have to put them on wagons with beasts of burden, who have a hard time carrying them about.  But our God carries us.”
And so they won.  But that’s not enough because the Philistines decide they are going to attack again.  And so they come up again in the Valley of Rephaim.  And this time, when David inquired of the Lord, the Lord said, “Now, we’ll not do it the same way this time.”  No doubt the Philistines were prepared for the frontal attack this time.  And so, the Lord said, “Now, we’ll just have a little surprise attack from the rear.  And David, you gather around and get in the rear of them.  That will also cut off their escape, so if they manage to try to escape, they’ll have to go a circuitous route.  And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees,” the Rabbis like to speak of this as the angels in the top of the trees.  Probably related to the fact that in Psalm 104, the angels are called winds and spirits.  In fact, spirit is a term used of angels in the word of God.  But, “When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly.  For the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.”  And so they gathered around in the rear and concealed themselves until finally, the sound came and the wind of the spirit of God, flowing through the trees, made the rustling sound, sound like marching men.  And David said, “Quick, attack.  And they attacked the sleeping Philistines,” at least, they were sleeping in the sense of totally unprepared and God drove the Philistines back through David from Geba as far as Gezer.  There is a place for waiting and there is a place for acting.  And this was the time to act.
You can see, as you read this chapter and ponder it that under girding and controlling David’s life is the sovereign electing grace of God.   Verse 3, verse 7 and 8, verse 10, verse 12, verse 20, verse 24, all underline the fact that the secret of David’s success is the blessing of the sovereign God who is caring for him and who is with him. When we realize that God as the sovereign God is with us through Jesus Christ, what a blessing that is to know that fact, the gods of the heathen are not like our God.
A T-shirt said, “Their rock is not like our Rock.”  That comes from Deuteronomy chapter 32:31, “For their rock is not like our rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.”  There were probably quite a few Philistines, after those two battles, who said the problem with us is we have the wrong god.  Our gods are different from their gods.  Our rocks are weaker than their rock, their Jehovah.
It’s wonderful to have the confidence that God’s sovereign grace sustains us in all the experiences of our lives.  But sudden reversals may come to God’s saints also. Just as David has been anointed king and just as he has taken Jerusalem, and everything seems wonderful, the Philistines attack.  It’s not surprising that when we think we have everything nice and easy, that things turn out otherwise.  These things happen to wean us from confidence in men, things, and self and to keep us from building too permanent a nest down here upon this earth.  But we can rest in the knowledge that God is going to fulfill his promise.
The Lord Jesus is baptized as the Son of God and the voice from Heaven comes.  “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”  And then, the Spirit drives him into the wilderness to be tested for forty days.
Joseph has his dream and his brethren bow down before him, and it looks as if Joseph is going to have a marvelous future.  And what happens?  His brethren hate him and send him into captivity.  As a matter of fact, hope he might die.
The motto of King Alfred is very fitting.  “If today thou be conqueror or err of the fight, tomorrow.”  If today thou be conquered, prepare for the fight of tomorrow.  So, it’s not surprising then that the reversals come.
Finally notice David constantly seeking divine guidance.  He used his God-given mind but he also submitted his mind to the sovereign control of the Lord God.  So, using his own mind, he inquired of the Lord.
The methods of God vary.  He sometimes wins battles by frontal attack.  Sometimes by the attack from the rear, but the constant touch with the Lord God was the secret of David’s success.  That’s the only way in which you and I will be able to accomplish the Christian life, to the blessing of us and the pleasure of the Lord God.
When the Lord Jesus was ready to choose his apostles, he prayed all night as he selected the twelve men.  When the Lord Jesus left the apostles to cross the sea, he went up into the mountain.  And as they were dealing with the wind and the waves, he was on the mountain praying.  In Gethsemane, as he faced his greatest trial, he was on his knees praying, constantly.  As a matter of fact, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews adds something not found in the Gospels.  He prayed with strong crying and tears.
Spurgeon wrote “No doubt, by praying we learn to pray.  And the more we pray, the oftener we can pray and the better we can pray.”  He also made the point that you don’t become a prayer warrior unless you learn to persevere in prayer.  Abraham and Jacob praying all night at Peniel, the Lord’s praying all night, Elijah praying to shut up heaven, these folks didn’t just pray on occasion.  Rather, their lives were characterized by constant prayer and growth in perseverance in prayer.
As Christians, that that’s the only way in which you and I will truly live a life that is pleasing to the Lord God.  But, as we look over this chapter, we see the great  statesmanlike leader, King David, so spiritual that he wrote the magnificent psalms.  Yet, in times of stress, this man turned to the Lord.  May we do the same.  There is no way that you and I, less gifted than King David, can succeed if we do not make it a habit of our lives, to inquire of the Lord God.

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Lectionary Thoughts – July 1, 2012 2 Samuel 1:1-27

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

"David and Jonathan," by Rembrandt. ...

“David and Jonathan,” by Rembrandt. Jonathan is the figure in the turban. Hermitage News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1 After the death of Saul, David returned from defeating the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days.

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan18 and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):  19 “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.     How the mighty have fallen!  20 “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.  21 “O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings of grain.  For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.  22 From the blood of the slain, from the flesh of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.  23 “Saul and Jonathan—in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.  24 “O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.  25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!  Jonathan lies slain on your heights.  26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.  Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.  27 “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”

David’s Lament over Saul by Chris Appleby  (with some slight editing – excellent thoughts on this passage)
2 Samuel 1:1-1:27

Saul was anointed King of Israel by popular acclaim, though at God’s direction. He was taller than all his peers, an apt warrior king. Just the sort of man Israel needed to oppose the Philistines. Except that he was also a flawed king. He forgot where his power as King came from. As a result God decided to turn the kingship over to David.

David wasn’t without fault but of all the kings of Israel, David stands out as the one King who throughout his life remained steadfast in his faith in the God of Israel. David is the model King, the one after whom Jesus Christ himself will be named, as the Son of David.

What’s so remarkable about David is that he maintains his faith in God throughout his life. David was chosen by God to bring his people to security and prosperity in the land God had promised to Abraham. This is the beginning of a dynasty that will start well and then fade away until God sends his own Son to bring his promises to completion.

In 2 Sam 1 David has been anointed some time before, but has had to wait 15 or 20 years for Saul to die before receiving the kingdom. As 1 Samuel finishes, Saul is defeated by the Philistines and dies on his own sword.

But there’s no sense of triumphalism in this story. This is a sad day in the history of Israel. Her first king is dead.

English: King David, second king of Israel

English: King David, second king of Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David and his men were sent back by the Philistines from the battle with Saul and ended up in a battle of their own, attacking an Amalekite raiding party who had kidnapped their wives and children. Now they’ve returned, unaware of the outcome of the battle to the north. Then a man comes into their camp with news of the battle. He comes to tell David of Saul’s death.

We know what’s happened, but David doesn’t. We know that this man is a liar and con man. He’s torn his clothes and covered himself with dust to make his appearance seem authentic. He elaborates his story with all sort of details: where they were; the chariots and riders bearing down on them; Saul leaning on his spear on his last legs; his heroic action in dealing Saul the death blow and then taking the crown and arm band to bring to David. And it’s all made up! Clearly this Amalekite expects to receive a substantial reward from David.
No sooner has he told his story than he realizes his mistake. David doesn’t respond with the joy he expects. Instead he responds with grief. He takes his clothes and tears them as a sign of mourning. So do the soldiers standing around him. They begin weeping and mourning and it goes on until evening. The Amalekite is thoroughly confused.

What he’s failed to realize is that these men hold God’s choice as precious. This death that he’s reported is part of a great defeat for the people of Israel. And not only has Saul died but so has Jonathan, David’s great friend and companion.

Also, Saul is God’s anointed one. David is rightly described as a man after God’s own heart. For him, personal ambition was secondary. What mattered most was God’s right to choose, God’s right to dispose of his people as he saw fit. And when God anointed someone as King, only God had the right to take away that position.

So as the mourning subsides, he asks the man where he’s from. The man tells him that he’s the son of a resident alien, an Amalekite. The fact that he’s an Amalekite isn’t the issue here, despite the fact that David’s just come back from fighting an Amalekite raiding party. It’s that he’s a resident of Israel. That means that he would have been aware of the significance to the Israelites of Saul as God’s anointed king. He should have understood David’s attitude to Saul as God’s anointed one.

But he isn’t a theologian, he’s an opportunist. He’s thinking on a secular political level. He thinks he can manipulate David to his own advantage.

Galego: Gustave Doré. A morte de Agag

Galego: Gustave Doré. A morte de Agag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the OT history of Israel there are 2 other Amalekites who come to prominence. One is Agag found in 1 Samuel 15 and who in the end was put to death by Samuel. The other is Haman, who appears in the book of Esther. There he manipulates events to first become powerful in the court of King Xerxes of Persia and then he uses his power to arrange for the slaughter of all the Jews living there. In the end his opportunism is overcome and he suffers a similar fate to his other 2 countrymen.
Unfortunately for this man, he hasn’t given a thought to the theological reality in which he lives. But he soon realizes it as David rebukes him, then, as the new King of Israel, passes judgment on him. “Were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” “Your blood be on your head; for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ’I have killed the Lord’s anointed.’”

The sense of relief at Saul’s death that this man expected never happens. Instead the one who claims to have killed the Lord’s anointed is executed. Instead of the great victory celebration that he expected, we find David composing this great lament over Saul and Jonathan.

“How the mighty have fallen! The glory of Israel lies slain upon the mountain tops. Don’t speak of it, lest you give the Philistines cause to rejoice. Treat the news with the reverence it deserves.” You can imagine him today, saying ’turn off the cameras. Don’t put this on CNN. It’s too serious, too tragic to make a spectacle of.’

He enjoins nature to join him in his mourning, to withhold it’s bounty: dew, rain and harvest. Mt Gilboa, where Saul died was synonymous with fertility. But now it’s been defiled by the blood of Saul and Jonathan. So he calls on nature to honor the dead, to fast and mourn out of respect for those who have died.

He celebrates the valor of these two leaders of Israel. Here we see the dual images of war, of horror and of honor. Both must be remembered. In battle, there is heroism, devotion to duty, and love of country that leads to the sacrifice of so many. But the stark reality and horror of war is there also.

That’s what we find here. There’s the blood of the slain, the fat of the mighty, but there’s the expertly wielded bow, kept steady in the face of overwhelming odds, the courageous sword that keeps swinging until the end.

And there’s the camaraderie, the partnership of father and son, joined as inseparable allies in their battle for God’s people. Certainly Saul was David’s enemy at times, while Jonathan was his unswerving friend. But when they appeared together on the field of battle they were seen to be partners, working together, equal in their strength and battle skill. Combined they were a force to be reckoned with.

But now they’re gone. Israel has lost a king and so David calls for the community to mourn. Mourning is something that needs to be done with our community. That’s why we join together for funerals.  We need a community around us when we mourn the loss of a loved. The person who’s died needs a community to express the loss that their death has brought on the world and to acknowledge their contribution to the lives of others. And so David calls on the community to mourn together.
Finally David gives a heartfelt cry of lament over his closest friend. He says “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”

Don’t let anyone tell you this is referring to homosexual love between David and Jonathan. The whole point of what he says here is that this isn’t the sort of sexual love that he might have with a woman and David had a few wives in his time, so he knew what he was talking about!

No, this is the sort of close intimate friendship between 2 men that you don’t her about much these days. Only I’m not sure our friendship are often at this level any more. More often they’re more of the nature of acquaintances or teammates or associates. C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, the Four Loves, “This love, [i.e. friendship love,] free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels” (p91) David and Jonathan shared a bond of friendship so close it couldn’t be broken, except by death.

And so he repeats this refrain. “How the mighty have fallen!” It’s a refrain that sums up the sense of loss and waste, coupled with the recognition of their achievements as warriors. It begins and ends the lament. It’s repeated as Jonathan is remembered. “How the mighty have fallen!” It’s a lament in fact of the human condition. All fall in the end, no matter how great they are.

Before we leave this lament for Saul, notice the significance of this form of public mourning. First notice what a beautiful thing it is. There’s something about the human mind, the human spirit, that needs beauty even in the depths of sadness. The beauty of the poetic form that we find here, takes the sadness we’re feeling and transforms it from something ugly to something that we can begin to deal with. It’s an essentially personal form of expression, a way of entering into our experiences, not just watching them happen to us.

But Lament isn’t just a personal expression. It’s a communal, public expression. There’s no doubt that this expresses David’s personal pain, but it’s also intended as a public expression of the loss of the community. That’s why he instructs that this “Song of the Bow” be taught to the people of Judah. He wants the whole nation to be able to express their sadness. He wants the people to acknowledge what’s been lost in this battle. It isn’t just a strategic loss of territory. It’s more personal, more spiritual, than that. They’ve lost the one that God anointed as their King.

David and Saul. Stained glass, Paris, 15th cen...

David and Saul. Stained glass, Paris, 15th century (some 13th century elements used again). From the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris, opening B (Kings). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As David is about to begin his reign, it’s significant that he sees with theological eyes the deeper principle at play here. The Lord’s anointed is dead. This is the cause of great sadness forIsrael. David’s reign can’t begin until the loss of Saul is acknowledged. And as he begins his reign he knows it’s not because of his own ability or wisdom or strategic skill. It’s because he too is the Lord’s anointed. The success he gains in establishing the kingdom will be the result of God’s intervention, God’s empowering. This is a lesson David had already learnt and it’s a lesson he taught to his people. Listen to the words of Ps 127, reputedly written by David’s son, Solomon: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.” David’s success will come from his devotion to and his reliance on the Lord, shown so clearly here in his response to the death of Saul. David is a King after God’s own heart, because he looks to God for success in all he does.

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