HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN!
Lord, teach me how to mourn with dignity and sincerity.
Read 2 SAMUEL 1:17–27
17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):
19 “A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
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 “Mountains of Gilboa,
may you have neither dew nor rain,
may no showers fall on your terraced fields.
For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
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 admired,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
24 “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!”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How do you deal with grief? Do you suppress it, or express it?
How wonderful it would be to lay hold on the Book of Jashar (18)! Along with this evocative lament from “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1, AV) and the enigmatic invocation of Joshua 10:12,13, who knows what other literary and spiritual gems are waiting there to awe and inspire! The fact that David composes this lament and teaches it to his people demonstrates the nobility of his soul, while its content speaks of the generosity of his spirit.
At times, street parties have erupted to celebrate the demise of hated tyrants. One could hardly blame David if such is his response to the news of the death of the man who has hounded him from pillar to post while he despaired of life at every turn. Besides, not only is the king dead but also Jonathan, Saul’s heir apparent. The road is now clear for David to fulfill the implication of the song the women sang after he had killed Goliath of Gath (1 Sam. 18:6–8). David, however, will have none of this. Instead, he gives himself to heartfelt mourning by word and example.
It is not always true that “the evil that men do lives after them,” as William Shakespeare’s Mark Antony famously claimed in Julius Caesar. Sometimes our concern is not to speak evil of the dead. Positively, David chooses rather to celebrate Saul’s military prowess (21–23), the prosperity his reign brought to Israel (24) and his status as the epitome of the pride of the nation (19,20). His lament for his selfless, beloved friend Jonathan is more than fitting and certainly lacks the sexual overtone which some misguided modern interpreters impose upon it (26).
Have you suffered some recent grief? Perhaps you would like to write about it in poem or prose. Such an act is known to aid the process of healing.
Lord, help us all to deal with the death of those close to us and to realize that we will see them again on the other side.
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