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. — 2 Samuel 1:11-12
It seemed as though the world stood still for a space of time when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on September 11, 2001. People watched the news reports in shock and disbelief. The heart-bruised sensation that accompanied the attacks lingered for weeks, even for those of us on the other side of the continent who had no relatives among the lost. It was difficult to grasp the degree of mourning experienced by those who lost multiple beloved friends and family members on that fateful day. Our prayers went up on their behalf to our loving Heavenly Father, who alone could provide the healing balm needed to assuage their grief.
Our text tells of David’s reaction to the death of Saul, his honored ruler, and of Saul’s son Jonathan, whose heart was knit together with David’s. David was deeply distressed by the news of their deaths, and he lamented aloud, mourning and weeping until evening. However, David’s trust in God was unshaken, and he continued to look to the Lord for leading in the ensuing days.
David’s example in time of sorrow is helpful to each of us because he knew where to turn for strength. Mourning is part of life — inevitably we all will experience the death of someone we love — and it is due to our attachments to others that we are vulnerable to grief. However, we remember God’s promise that those who mourn will be comforted. Then, when we have received the Lord’s comfort, we are more able to comfort others.
Grieving educates us in areas we do not learn otherwise. The lesson of sorrow is not to avoid loving others simply because it will inevitably cause heartache when we lose them. God commands us to love, and we recognize that our lives are wholly enriched by our love for and interaction with lives around us. Eventually it sinks in that our most important mission is to show forth God’s love to the people whose lives we touch, rather than leaving some visible mark on the world around us. In doing so we will reap the benefits of rejoicing with them in their joys, and we will also weep with those who are weeping. Once we have gone through grief ourselves and experienced God’s help as we get through each day, we are able to share this knowledge with others in their hour of need.
Let us learn from David’s example and keep the lines of communication with God open continually. Through His guidance we can react appropriately, be comforted in sorrow, and be able to help comfort others.
Samuel had anointed David to be the successor to Saul as king around 1063 B.C. Near that time, David had been called to play his harp for King Saul in order to calm the King. Saul and David’s relationship had started out beautifully, but as soon as David received greater applause for killing Goliath than Saul was receiving, Saul had tried to spear David with a javelin. For the next seven to ten years, David had been forced to run from Saul to preserve his life.
Despite this persecution, David had high respect for Saul as the anointed king of Israel. Note that David did not consider Saul to be his enemy, even though Saul hunted David for years. Twice, when David had an opportunity to take Saul’s life, he did not harm him because of his respect for the Lord’s anointed.
It was about eighty miles from the area of battle where Saul was slain to Ziklag where David lived. No doubt the Amalekite who brought the news of Saul’s death thought he would receive a reward. Since 1 Samuel 31:4 and 1 Chronicles 10:4 state that Saul killed himself, it is possible that the Amalekite lied about his own participation in Saul’s death, again in hope of a reward. The Hebrew word for stranger means “sojourner,” which indicates he may have been living in Israel and therefore should have known to honor God’s anointed king. Also, the Amalekites were the enemies that Saul had been instructed to destroy. He must have been extremely surprised at David’s reaction.
David’s natural temper was very tender: he was kindly affected even to those that hated him, and he behaved himself honorably and well. David and his men mourned, wept, and fasted for all of the fallen, especially for Saul and Jonathan. Their weapons were also mourned because of the role they played in deliverance and victory for Israel.
David was sincere in his mourning. It affected all that were with him, causing them to also rend their garments and grieve. He did not rejoice over the death of the man who had tried to kill him (showing a desire for public justice over private grievance), and grieved sincerely and publicly over the loss of his king and his friend.
Public lament was part of the custom of that day in times of mourning. Rending or tearing of clothes, along with placing ashes or dirt on the head and wearing of sackcloth, were all expressions of deep sorrow — visible signs of mourning. Each of these signs made the concerned person less presentable to others, giving them a humble aspect, and they were signs of sadness or distress.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The success of King David
A. His reign over Judah
1. David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan (1:1-27)
a. The announcement of their deaths (1:1-10)
b. The grief of David (1:11-12)
c. The slaying of the Amalekite (1:13-16)
d. The lament song of David (1:17-27)
Maybe today your heart is aching with grief. Look to God and find comfort in Him.