What Grieves You? (II Samuel 1:17-27)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 1:17–1:27
Crying for a King
What Grieves You?
II Samuel 1:17-27
March 24th, 2013
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
I. Modern Laments
Consider what all of these words have in common:
“Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name”
“Now, Andy did you hear about this one
Tell me, are you locked in the punch
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch
If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon
If you believe there's nothing up his sleeve, then nothing is cool”
“Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land
Now I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now.”
Did you hear how all of these songs are similar? They are all songs of lament, or lamentations. All of these songs, R.E.M.'s Man on the Moon (1992), Elton John's Candle in the Wind (1973), and Don McLean's Vincent (1971), all of them are tributes, and addressed to a famous person who has died. In this case, the comedian Andy Kaufman, the actress Marilyn Monroe, and the painter Vincent Van Gogh. But this morning, God wants to consider a much older song of lament...3000 years older. Turn with me to II Samuel 1:17-27.
II. The Passage: “With this Lamentation” (1:17-27)
This morning we are coming back to our study of II Samuel. Let's start off by looking together at the first two verses of this passage.
A. A Cultivated Grief (vs. 17, 18)
Look with me at verses 17 and 18:
And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son,  and he said it should be taught to the people of Judah; behold, it is written in the Book of Jashar.
Right away we are reminded of the setting here in the first chapter of II Samuel. As we talked about last week, David has just received word that Saul, the first king of Israel, and his son, Jonathan, have been killed in the midst of a battle against the Philistines. We know from verse 12 that David and his men “mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.”
But notice what we have in the second half of chapter 1. Either that day or some time later, we see from verse 19-27 that David actually put pen to paper and expressed his grief in the form of lamentation, a song of lament. We know from the Psalms that David was a skilled songwriter, so what we find here is really not that surprising.
But what is interesting is what we find in verse 18: David instructed that this song of lament should be taught to his kinsmen, to those in Judah, and it was written down and preserved in an Israelites collection of songs called the “Book of Jashar” (which is also mentioned in Joshua 10:13).
Now, why would it be important for a song of lament to not only be taught to others, but also to be written down for future generations? Why does David want to cultivate grief among the people of Judah and among their children and their children's children?
B. A Corporate Grief (vs. 19-25a)
I think we can find the answer to that question in the lamentation itself. Let's look at verses 19 down to the first part of 25. This is the song that David composed (and as I read, I will break in with some very brief explanations):
He said:  “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! [this is referring to the mountains or hills of Gilboa, where the Israelite army was defeated]. How the mighty have fallen!  Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon [those are Philistine cities], lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.  “You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor fields of offerings! [why does David utter this kind of curse?...] For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. [typically these leather shields were oiled before battle; Saul's will never be oiled again]  “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, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.  “You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.  “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!
Now notice how we find the same phrase at the beginning and end of this section: “how the mighty have fallen”. And then moving in from either end, we find a reference to women, either rejoicing or weeping, referring to the Philistine women in the beginning (in v. 20) and to the Israelite women at the end (in v. 24).
Now, it is very clear that this song of lament is focused not on every warrior who fell on Mount Gilboa, but on the two most important casualties: Saul and Jonathan. So we might conclude that David wanted this lamentation taught and passed on because he wanted everyone to know how much he respected and revered Saul and Jonathan. Or we could take that one step further and say that David was wanting everyone in Judah, and in the coming generations, to also respect and revere Saul and Jonathan; to honor their memories.
But while all of that might be true, I think the truly foundational purpose in creating, teaching, and preserving this song of lament is hinted at in the opening words:  “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!” Who is Israel's glory? Saul and Jonathan! So when these men were cut down, Israel's glory, Israel's honor was cut down. Isn't this why David writes about not publishing this news among the Philistines? Because they will exult, they will rejoice over Israel's defeat, AND over the defeat of Israel's God?
Don't we already know this about David, that he has a heart for God's honor. Look back with me to I Samuel 17. Look at verse 26. These are the very first words that David actually speaks in the Bible, and they are spoken in the context of another battle with the Philistines:
And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)
Now drop down to 45-47. Just listen to the kind of heart on display here: Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand.”
David stood against the Philistine champion many years earlier in order that shame might not be brought upon God's people. But now it has. Israel's glory, her king and her prince, have been cut down. This song is not about revealing the true character of Saul, the man who selfishly sought David's life, the king who stubbornly resisted God's will. No, this song is about reveling in Saul's successes and his military prowess. “How the MIGHTY have fallen!”
And it is this corporate grief that must be cultivated grief. God's people must learn to grieve when God's name is reproached when his leaders are overpowered by the enemy.
C. A Covenant Grief (vs. 25b-27)
But there is something else here. Even though the song seems to be wrapped up nicely by the repeated phrase at the beginning of 25, we find another ending attached to this song; a second ending. Listen to this very personal addendum that David includes:
“Jonathan lies slain on your high places [remember who is being addressed in verse 19... “O Israel”].  I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.  “How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”
It should come as no surprise that David adds something unique and personal for Jonathan. You may remember in I Samuel chapters 18-20, that Jonathan made a covenant with David, and swore his allegiance to David. And when Saul's jealously filled him with murderous thoughts, it was Jonathan who helped David escape. We even read this in 20:17: And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he [David] loved him [Jonathan] as he loved his own soul.
Think about that. The crown prince of Israel, the young man who is next in line to the throne, gladly lays that aside and commits himself to David because he knows that David is God's chosen king. No wonder David proclaims that this kind of self-sacrificial, covenant love is better than even romantic love! And you can hear how the depth of David's love is expressing itself through the deep grief on display in verse 26.
And so this is what David wants his kinsmen in Judah to remember, this is why he wants them to learn this lament: Not only does David want his brothers to grieve when the people of God suffer at the hands of their enemies, but he also wants them to remember the treasure of true covenant love.
III. Shouldn't Our Hearts Break?
What grieves you? What breaks your heart? If you wrote a lamentation, what would it be about? If you were in David's sandals, would you write something like this? Sure, you would be devastated about the death of your best friend. But would you write something like this for someone like Saul?
David's heart was deeply grieved over the death of Jonathan because he deeply loved Jonathan. And David's heart was deeply grieved over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan because David deeply loved God's people and God's honor.
Listen to what Luke tells us about Jesus as rode toward Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday two thousand years ago: And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it (Luke 19:41)
Jesus would go on to utter this...lament: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Matt. 23:37)
Can you hear what grieved Jesus? He wept because God's people were suffering at the hands of their enemies. But this time, their enemies were spiritual blindness and stubborness.
Listen to Paul in Galatians 4:19: my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! Can you hear what grieved Paul? He wept because God's people were suffering at the hands of their enemies. But this time, their enemy was a false gospel based on human effort.
Listen to Paul again, this time in II Corinthians 2:4...For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. Do you know what grieved Paul here? He wept because God's people were suffering at the hands of their enemies. But this time, their enemy was unrepentance.
Are these the things that grieve us? Or does our grief ONLY come from personal loss? Maybe my grief simply comes from me not getting my way? Whether we know it or not, in our hearts, we compose lamentations all the time. But so often, our weeping is fueled solely by selfishness: “O how my reputation has fallen!” “O how my bank account has fallen!” “O how my marriage has fallen!” “O how my candidate has fallen!” “O how MY plans have fallen!”
But all around us, God's people are suffering. The church is suffering. We are distracted by the world's diversions. We are compromising in order to be accepted. We are softening God's hard words. We are content with mediocrity in our own lives. We are flirting with sin. We build empires, but not His kingdom. We are drunk with politics and entertainment and technology and marketing. We insulate ourselves from one another. We are content to come to Christ, but not to go for Christ. We want without sacrifice. We give looking for personal gain. We speak the truth, but not in love. We are often too busy, too judgmental, and too comfortable. And God's leaders...still fall in the midst of THESE battles.
Brothers and sisters, friends, God's people are suffering at the hands of their enemies. Shouldn't that break our hearts? Shouldn't that grieve us...like it did David, and Jesus, and Paul? It's not enough to get mad about these things. We also need be sad. We should be both mad and sad when we see Christ's church distracted and believers living defeated lives.
Do I grieve (not “Am I bothered”...Do I grieve) when I see these things? Not really. So what does that mean? I think it can only mean that I don't care enough. Don't we grieve when we lose something we deeply love, over that which is precious in our eyes? Do I love God's people? Do I love seeing God honored thru His people? Not as much as I should. Do I hurt when we give our enemies reasons to reproach the name of Christ? Not as much as I should.
So how can I, how can you, care more about these things? I think the answer is also in this passage this morning. To grieve like David, a man after God’s own heart…so, to grieve over that which grieves God’s heart, we need, like David, to remember the treasure of true covenant love. We’ve talked many time about how David points us forward to Jesus, but I think Jonathan should do that as well. Shouldn’t we be able to say, “Jesus...your love to me [is] extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.”
The world has put romantic love on the highest pedestal. And to be clear, romantic love, according to God’s designs, is a gift from God. But self-sacrificing covenant love is greater still. Jonathan gave up his throne for David. Jesus gave up His life for us. Jonathan died, but Jesus lives.
We need to remember the treasure of the true covenant love that is offered to us in Jesus Christ. And when you receive and meditate on and celebrate God’s love through Jesus there are two things that happen: 1) In the face of such amazing love, you begin to care about what your Redeemer cares about. More and more, you will find yourself caring for Gods’ glory and for God’s people and for God’s mission.
And when your heart is fixed on this covenant love each day, 2) you will have the heart assurance to feel both the joy and the grief of God. Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to be broken when God’s people suffer at the hands of their enemies because we are fearful of feeling that kind of hurt. But because we are accepted by God’s grace and stand firm in the love of God through Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid. Our feelings cannot carry us away from Christ. Our hearts can break in light of the promise of that our hearts are firmly and forever in God’s healing hands.
And when we care about what God cares about, and when we trust Him enough to grieve over the suffering of God’s people, then faith should carry us forward into prayer. And faith should carry us forward into embodying the change we know that all of us need. Faith should carry us forward into a deeper love for God’s people…into God’s love for His own people. What will that look like in your life?
Let’s pray and ask God to remind us of the treasure of His covenant love in Christ, and to fill our hearts with both assurance in Him and love for His people.