This week we move into 2 Samuel as we continue reviewing the life of David, the shepherd-king.
This book opens with David and his army returning from rescuing their families from the Amalekites. As they arrive home, a young man, fresh from the scene of battle between Israel and the Philistines, comes to David bearing the crown and armband of King Saul.
Announcing to David that the king and his two sons are dead, the messenger (foolishly) claimed that he had personally seen Saul wounded and that he finished him off. However, we know this young man is lying, because in I Samuel 31:4 we learned that Saul took his own sword and fell on it when his armor bearer refused to kill him after he was wounded.
Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son, Jonathan and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12
For several hours then, the young man must have waited for the reward he expected in return for bringing the crown of Saul to David. As the day wore on and the mourning and grief was so visible, did he wonder whether a reward was indeed forthcoming?
We don’t know but that evening, David rebuked the messenger with the words, “Why were you not afraid to kill the LORD’s anointed?” and then ordered his execution.
Given that Saul had been pursuing David to kill him over a period of time, it is more than noteworthy that even now, David still refers to him as ‘the LORD’s anointed’. David knew that God’s call on a life was permanent. If the individual chooses to ignore the call, or to sin in some way, it does not destroy the call of God upon him; it simply means he or she is refusing to walk in it. Therefore, even after his death, David continued to honor God by honoring His call on Saul, rather than berate the king’s behavior toward him.
Sometimes leaders fail. Does that mean that God no longer loves them? Or that He has removed His calling from their life? No – a hundred times, No.
Do they need to repent and get back on track with their lives? Yes.
But until they do, our responsibility is to pray for them and to continue to respect the call of God upon their lives, regardless of where they may be at the moment. Gossip, judgment and condemnation have no place in our thoughts or conversations when a leader experiences a failure. Prayer for them is the only appropriate response.
David grieved deeply the loss of his best friend, Jonathan. He cried out, ‘I grieve for you, my brother, Jonathan.’ The Hebrew word for brother (ach) is a term of affection and means a brother or a very near relative. Though David was a shepherd and Jonathan was a prince, they were ‘one spirit’. David’s respect for Jonathan’s unselfish and sacrificial love toward him knew no bounds. Remember that Jonathan was the ‘crown prince’ with every right to the throne of his father and all his wealth. Yet he dedicated himself to uplift David and support David’s kingship because he recognized the Spirit of the Lord upon the young shepherd boy.
The tragic loss of life on Mount Gilboa became a pain that David carried for quite some time for the very next chapter begins with the words, “In the course of time, David…”
Grief is extremely powerful. It can catch you totally unprepared, knock you off balance and shake you to the core. It can be painful beyond words — physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually — and it can change your life completely. Grief serves to remind you how fragile life is and how vulnerable you are to loss. It can make your present life seem meaningless, and dash any hope for the future.
In the beginning it will always seem as if your grief is running you, but in the end, you can learn to run your grief with the grace of God, the support of one or two close friends or family members and like David, “in the course of time” one grows into the ability to better care of yourself, to find your own way through the loss and to begin rebuilding your life.
Eventually David did – and we can, too. His example of finding strength in the LORD – the only One who truly understands how you feel – speaks through the generations all the way down to us right now.
The LORD is faithful and He will see you through.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a devastating loss of someone you loved and can readily relate to how David felt at this point in his life. If you haven’t, one day you will – such is the course of life. When that day comes, may the Spirit of the LORD remind you of David and His consistent dependence on the Holy One of Israel to see him through the deepest pain.
When someone you know is struck by loss, be there for them and give them enough space and time to work through the process. There is a blessing in supporting those who mourn – as long as they need to.