logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

"David - Dealing with Difficulty, Pt.3: Mourning a Dear Friend and an Enemy"

June 28, 2015 2Sam.1:11-12,17-27


Membership in any organization takes commitment. In the church, we express commitment through baptism and membership promises. These are in response to Jesus' commitment and self-giving for our sakes, expressed at the cross. But for any group of people to operate together takes at least some level of commitment - even for a baseball or soccer or football team, you've got to be willing to show up and make an effort at practice and follow the advice of the coach. No commitment, no team.

A few years back, the Miami Dolphins football team decided that coach Don Shula was becoming too uptight before the Super Bowl, so they put a baby alligator - with jaws tied shut - in his shower! In a meeting the next day, Coach Shula asked the guilty party to stand. Larry Csonka, then running back for the Dolphins, rose to his feet. "So you're the one," said Shula. "No," replied Csonka, "it wasn't me.I just wanted to tell you how lucky you were.You won by only one vote." "One vote?" Shula asked. "Yeah," said Csonka. "We voted on whether or not we should tie up its mouth." (!)

David in the Old Testament must have felt like that sometimes toward his predecessor, King Saul - there must have been times he would have like to have put him in a shower with a live alligator! Yet he showed much grace toward the Lord's anointed king. We see even more commitment, unfailing love, between David and Saul's son Jonathan. These qualities of grace and loving commitment point us toward David's descendant, our Saviour Jesus.


Our core qualities come to the surface when we're plunged into a crisis. When we have to react quickly, the true values and emotions of our heart are exposed. Some people may profess to be Christians when asked on a survey or for purposes of statistics, but react in a most un-Christlike manner when difficulties arise.

It was touching to watch the relatives of the victims make their statements when bond was posted for accused Charleston SC shooter Dylann Roof. Their statements pointed to their deeply Christian faith, offering forgiveness to the killer of their family members, praying for God's mercy. For example, as reported in the Boston Globe, Nadine Collier, whose 70-year-old mother had been killed, said to Roof: "You took something very precious away from me.I will never talk to her ever again.I will never be able to hold her again.But I forgive you.And have mercy on your soul."

Felicia Sanders was the mother of a 26-year-old who was shot while trying to save his aunt. She said to the accused, "We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms.You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know.Every fiber in my body hurts and I will never be the same...But as we say in Bible study, we enjoyed you.But may God have mercy on you."

Would you or I be able to do that - stand there and forgive, and ask God's mercy on the man who killed our mother or son? Such forgiveness is amazing, startling, unnatural. But it's also a powerful witness to the Jesus who was at the centre of the Bible study focus.

In 2Samuel 1, we read of David's reaction upon finding out the news of the death of King Saul, his unintentional enemy, and Saul's son Jonathan, who was David's dearest friend. At this crisis point, we see David's true colours, what he's made of. Does he rejoice that the man who hunted him down and sought his life for so long is finally dead? Does he fall to pieces upon realizing his closest buddy has been killed in the heat of battle?

David's faith in God comes through because he reacts in a way very much like his distant descendant, the God-man Jesus Christ. Jesus is all over this passage, even though it occurs over a thousand years before He's even born! When one of Christ's apostles, John, went to sum up Jesus' life, he did it in 2 words: GRACE and TRUTH. We read in John 1:16-17, "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." In particular, David shows GRACE toward Saul, and TRUTH (in the sense of true commitment and faithfulness) towards Jonathan.


Step back a moment and consider what emotions David MIGHT have been experiencing toward King Saul, in view of the troubled relations between the two. David had been Saul's "music therapist", playing the harp whenever a mood of melancholy or troubledness came over him (1Sam 16:23). David had killed a Philistine giant and served heroically in Saul's army (18:5). But Saul's jealousy of David's success made him increasingly violent toward the youngster. He had tried to spear David three times (18:11; 19:10). Saul had sent soldiers to kill David in his bed (19:11). Over a period of a dozen or so years, Saul hunted David like a nobleman might hunt a fox for sport, forcing David to live as an exile or fugitive in the wilderness, moving from place to place, estranged from his home and family. On at least two occasions, Saul had located David but was himself spared when David might have killed him (1Sam chs.24,26).

So, how do you suppose David MIGHT have reacted upon finding out news of Saul's death in battle with the Philistines on Mount Gilboa? Would you or I have jumped for joy, crying out, "My enemy is DEAD! Hurray! Good riddance! Now I can finally go home again and be safe, not running for my very life!"

That would have been a very understandable response. But, strangely, that's NOT how David reacts. 2Sam 1:11-12 "Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them.They mourned and wept and fasted till 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." Five things here: they tear their clothes as a sign of great upset and shock; they "mourn" - probably calling out in loud wail and lament, vocalizing their grief. They wept, shedding tears, tough hardened fighting men that they are. They fasted til evening, marking the day as so significant they couldn't eat, didn't have any appetite. And v17 "David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan..." He even composed a song especially for his fallen enemy!

People compose songs and anthems and poems for fallen heroes, NOT arch-enemies. Yet David shows exceptional GRACE toward the man who wasted so much of David's life and spent years trying to track him down and kill him! Listen to the way David honours Saul - when he had a golden opportunity to at least shovel dirt on his reputation for posterity.

V23 "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." 'Loved?' Who can love their enemy? (Wait a minute - isn't that something Jesus talks about? Matthew 5:44f "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...")

'Loved and GRACIOUS'? What's gracious about someone trying to hunt you down for no good reason? David here is the one being gracious toward the former king; he seems to be confusing Saul with his son, seeing him in the best possible light. "Swifter than eagles...stronger than lions..." Saul probably was stronger, since he stood a head higher than most other Israelite men (1Sam 10:23). Why doesn't David poke fun at him for the time David crept up behind him in the cave while he was relieving himself? (1Sam 24:4) David seems to have developed selective amnesia, deliberately forgetting or overlooking Saul's weaknesses and faults. Instead he lumps Saul in with his stellar son Jonathan, exclaiming three times as the lament's chorus in vv 19, 25, & 27, "How the might have fallen!"

V24 focuses on Saul in particular, and the king's accomplishments that advanced the country: "O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold." He did succeed in fending off the Israelites' enemies for a good part of his 40-year reign. Back in 1Sam 14:47f the positive parts of his reign are recorded: "After Saul had assumed rule over Israel, he fought against their enemies on every side: Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines.Wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment on them." Those POSITIVE accomplishments are what David chooses to focus on, rather than all the "dirt" David MIGHT have cast on his predecessor's reputation. He chose to honour and elevate the memory of Saul, who in reality had been so mean to him.

David shows GRACE toward his fallen enemy. That's similar to the way Jesus treats us sinners - with extreme grace, paying for our guilt, choosing not to remember our shortfalls. Ephesians 2:1,3B-7 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins...Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Baptism is the Christian action or rite that pictures those "incomparable riches" of God's lavish GRACE and forgiveness washing over us - US who by our sin and rebellion had made ourselves absolute ENEMIES of the Holy One.

So, when David shows such grace toward Saul in his lament - isn't that "just like Jesus"? How the Crucified One treats us who come to Him, as such failures?


John wrote in 1:17, "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." David shows GRACE toward Saul, TRUTH toward Jonathan. Now, I don't mean "truth" here in the sense of 1:1 correspondence to fact. There are truths that aren't very significant or exciting: 1+1=2 for example may be very true, but it doesn't exactly turn your crank. A triangle with sides of length 3 4 & 5 is a right-angled triangle: that's true, but unless you're a carpenter trying to build a house and you forgot your square, it's not a very HELPFUL fact.

On the other hand, having a "true friend" can make for the most meaningful kind of relationship one can enjoy in life. Having a mate who is true to you, whom you can COUNT ON when the chips are down - THAT kind of truth, such COMMITMENT, is extremely precious. You can rattle off the Apostle's Creed in church and mentally check it off the list without much thought, but when you're diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, or a loved one suddenly dies - that "TRUTH" suddenly becomes highly crucial.

Note how tenderly David describes the close relationship with his recently-deceased "best bud" in v26: "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." These sentences just ooze affection, deep bonding, and real commitment.

"My brother" - David was from a totally different tribe, yet he felt a real kinship with Jonathan. They treated each other with the fondness of close siblings.

"You were very dear to me": NRSV translates this, "greatly beloved were you to me." The Hebrew word means "pleasant, beautiful, sweet, delightful." They just couldn't get enough of hanging out together!

Look back at some of their recorded interactions and you find practical evidence of true love expressed. Right at their first meeting, 1Sam 18:1,3f: "After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself...And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt." One in spirit - today we might say they were "on the same wavelength", they could "finish each other's sentences". A covenant - that takes commitment. And the king's son gave to David his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt. Now, the sword is particularly significant because 13:22 tells us the Philistines kept a tight control on the blacksmiths, so there were only 2 swords in the whole country - Saul's and Jonathan's! That would be a VERY valuable gift.

Chapter 20 has more examples of the devotion these two shared. V4 "Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you."" How's that for unconditional support? Vv13-17 "[Jonathan speaking] "May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father.But show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family-- not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth." So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself." Blessing each other, making a solemn promise, reaffirming out of love, loving the other person as Jonathan loved himself - these are all self-forgetting, "there-for-you" signs of faithful commitment and caring.

20:42 notes they have "sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord." Later in chapter 23, David is way out in the Desert of Ziph hiding from Saul, yet somehow Jonathan knows how to find him! They make a covenant again (v18), and v16 says Jonathan "helped him find strength in God." Such a super way of being a friend - seeking them out, reassuring them, affirming your commitment, helping them find strength in God - especially when your world seems to have turned upside down.

This intimate friendship reminds us of the ultra-committed love Jesus has for us. Jonathan gave up all his garb and sword for David, not even being bitter that David would be the next king instead of him: Jesus gave up everything for us, left His exalted place at the Father's side in heaven to go to the cross and grave in shame bearing OUR transgressions. Matthew 20:28 Jesus noted "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Ephesians 5:2 "...Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." That's what true love, committed love, ultimate stop-at-nothing faithfulness does: gives itself for the other person who is so "very dear" to the giver.


Jesus brought grace and truth to us, so we might live a life of love in the power of His Spirit. What might that look like? How can we love others every minute, even our enemies?

A professor was invited to speak at a military base and was met at the airport by a soldier named Ralph. As they headed toward the baggage claim area, Ralph kept disappearing - once to help an older woman with her suitcase, once to lift two toddlers so they could see Santa Claus, and again to give someone directions. The professor asked him, "Where did you learn to live like that?" Ralph said, "During the war." He had served in Vietnam. His job was to clear minefields, and he saw friends die suddenly, one after another, before his eyes. He said, "I never knew whether the next one would be my last, so I learned to live between steps."

Baptism is a reminder of one who died for us, dearly loving us even when we were unworthy and spurned Him. Jesus' costly commitment to us draws us to believe in Him, give ourselves to Him, that as members of His Body we may continue to show His grace and truth to others "between steps". Let's pray.