Songs of the Bible #6: Lament of the Bow
The lament is a common form of poetry and song in the Bible. In our culture it might be comparable to the old Negro Spirituals, Blues music, or the Country Western songs where the dog has died, the wife and left, and the truck won’t start. Songs like, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, or Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, could be characterized as laments.
In 2 Samuel 1:19-27, we find the lament David composed after the death of Saul and two of his sons in battle. We can understand if David greatly mourned the passing of Saul’s son, Jonathan, for they were closer than brothers. God had forged a remarkable bond between these men who could easily have been rivals. We can truly admire Jonathan who, even knowing God was taking the kingdom from him and giving it to David, was fully on board. He demonstrated that by sealing their covenant of friendship with his own symbols of his princehood, an act which provoked Saul’s wrath because he viewed it as disloyalty to him and his dynasty. Jonathan told David that he envisioned the future with David as king and Jonathan at his side as his right hand man.
David, too, was a man to be admired. He had not sought out the mantle of kingship, it had been thrust upon him, ordained by God. But he did not take that anointing as a license to kill. He didn’t go after Saul and claim the throne. Even given opportunities to kill Saul, he would not cross the line and take things into his own hands, instead he waited on the Lord to give him the kingdom in His timing. It reminds us of Jesus, and how He waited patiently for His time to come, resisting the urgings of others to take things into His own hands or operate outside the will of God. We have to wonder, if we were in David’s shoes, would we have seen the opportunities to win over our opponent as God “opening a door,” or would we have had David’s wisdom, self-control and discernment to wait?
By not taking Saul’s life himself, David added legitimacy to his reign, as well as displayed his dependence on God. While he would have been justified to defend himself and end the relentless pursuit by Saul, there would always be that taint that he had somehow been a usurper, and taken the kingdom by force. Unfortunately for Jonathan, even if he had thrown his whole support behind David, there would have always been that faction who would have seen him as the legitimate heir to the throne, and would have resisted David’s authority, or that of his descendants. For David’s dynasty to be the eternal one which God had promised, the Lord had to take noble Jonathan to glory. There I am certain he has received “well done” for his humility, and his willingness to set aside his rights for God’s will to be done. Jonathan displayed the attitude of John the Baptist in regard to Jesus, “He must become greater, and I must become less.”
In the days when the Bible was a common text book in the classroom, it would have been general knowledge that the expression, “How the mighty have fallen!”, was a scriptural reference. There are many such expressions in our vernacular, but our culture is so biblically illiterate it seldom recognizes them as such. We find this sentence, near the beginning, middle and end of this lament. David lauds both Saul and Jonathan for their courage. David says of them, “They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions,” and speaks of how they both were loved, expressing his particular grief for his friend, Jonathan (he does not mention the two other sons of Saul killed that day, Abinadab and Malki-Shua).
There is no direct reference to God in the lament, yet David’s reaction of authentic grief at the passing of the man who had declared himself as David’s visceral enemy, and his kind and praise-filled words for Saul display a deep godly character. It reflects God’s own mercy and generosity of spirit towards us. It reminds us of the grace we received from Him when we were still His enemies, yet He still loved us and drew us to Himself, willingly giving His life for us. It demonstrates to us that even when someone has declared themselves to be our enemy, we do not have to reciprocate with hatred back in their direction. We can follow Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us. We can do good to those who have mistreated us, and look for opportunities to say good things about them to others, even while holding them accountable and not opening ourselves up to their desires to destroy us. Such an attitude will save us from the destructive power of bitterness which will rot the soul of anyone who choses that path.
In this lament we have an example of how to meet persecution with grace, and adversity and grief with appropriate godly sorrow. God is not offended if we say “ouch” when it hurts. When we run to Him in our sorrow (even when He is the source of our pain) He is a wonderfully caring Father who will give us balm for our wounds, comfort for our grieving hearts, and strength to continue through the pain.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
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