How the mighty have fallen!
-2 Samuel 1:19b, 25a, 27a
When an influential television evangelist fell, in the late 1980’s; some Christians celebrated. The cheering was over that fact that God was cleansing his house.
A better response is, “How the mighty have fallen!”
David sang a song of lament and had the song distributed to all of Israel. The song says, “How the mighty have fallen!” This sentiment is the proper response when leaders, who had great influence, fall from grace, or are exposed in their hypocrisy, betrayal and sedition.
Remember that our brother or sister is never our enemy, even when they continually act like one and treat us as theirs.
The story of Saul’s death, that led to David leading Israel, in mourning and lament, rather than celebration; is recounted in 2 Samuel 1:9 to 2:7. Saul was mortally wounded, but not yet dead. An Amalekite man, someone living in Israel, but not an Israelite while still coming under the rules, regulations, faith and practices of Israel: this man killed Saul, at Saul’s behest.
The young Amalekite man killed Saul and then took his crown and royal armband. He then journeyed to David’s camp and sought a meeting with David, to give these to David. As soon as David received the bad news about the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, he and all his closest men went into grieving.
After a short time of mourning and fasting, David questioned the young man. He found out that the man was someone who was living in Israel. He was accountable to the laws of God, and should have known better. David immediately had the young man executed for the murder of Saul.
Then he begged me, ‘Stand over me and kill me, for I’m mortally wounded, but my life still lingers.’ So I stood over him and killed him because I knew that after he had fallen he couldn’t survive. I took the crown that was on his head and the armband that was on his arm, and I’ve brought them here to my lord.”
Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and all the men with him did the same. They mourned, wept, and fasted until the evening for those who died by the sword—for Saul, his son Jonathan, the Lord’s people, and the house of Israel.
David inquired of the young man who had brought him the report, “Where are you from?”
“I’m the son of a resident alien,” he said. “I’m an Amalekite.”
David questioned him, “How is it that you were not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” Then David summoned one of his servants and said, “Come here and kill him!” The servant struck him, and he died. For David had said to the Amalekite, “Your blood is on your own head because your own mouth testified against you by saying, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’”
-2 Samuel 1:9-16
Assisted suicide is not ok. If an an authority gives an order that goes against God’s orders, we must obey God. The right thing to do, for the Amalekite man, would have been to stand with Saul and defend him or drag him to shelter, if possible, so that he could die, if he was to die, in peace.
Everything the young Amalekite man did went against God’s laws. The text makes note of the fact that he was both young and without excuse. He lived in Israel and the prohibition against murder was well known, and he was young, which did not excuse him. Perhaps the text is telling us, as the whole book of Proverbs does, that when you are younger, you need to be more careful to learn wisdom and leave folly and gain life experience and not think you know everything, when you do not.
Another notable feature of this story, is that David first mourned. He mourned first, before trying to assign blame or make a judgement. He only did the later after he did the former.
David, the warrior, knew how to cry. That is a huge lesson for us. Become a warrior, but grieve deeply, when appropriate. Stoicism is not wisdom, Godly or Christlike.
David neither reacted in anger nor went into stoic denial. He mourned and fasted.
Then, after some processing, he interview the young man and had him immediately executed for murder.
David indicted the man from his own words. You may not kill the one who is the Lord’s.
There was an extreme audacity in the man, in that he thought he was doing the right thing. The right thing by God? The right thing by David? Saul? No, no and no.
What he did was purely selfish. It was mercenary. We can surmise that he was looking out for himself.
He murdered and robbed a dying man, who had mental health issues and was loved by God and David. The Amalekite was completely deluded to think that this was the right thing to do and that David would congratulate him.
We can become just like this guy and somehow deceive ourselves that sinfulness is ok in certain circumstances. We kill people, often leaders, with our words. And we rationalize that it is ok because that person is a heretic, or carnally sinful.
For some Christians, their favorite indoor sport is wishing for the death of leaders, whether Christian (even Catholic) or political. If you are a self-identified Christian, look at what Jesus said about murder and how religious people commit murder with their words:
For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Somehow, we fool or deceive ourselves into thinking we are on God’s side or God is surely on our side, when we bash, trash and kill someone with our words whom we deem to be under God’s judgement or we rap on about how bad that person is.
When a corrupt leader falls from grace, is exposed, loses God’s protection and is ravaged by the enemy; that is not our time, our cue, to kill them and steal their jewelry and audaciously try to claim a reward. No.
David lived in the tension that we are all called to live in, of the prophetic future beckoning, while the present has not given way yet completely. How to live into our prophetic destiny without ‘helping’ God and letting God develop you in that tension is what we are all called to.
David led the nation in mourning for Saul. David knew he was called to be king, but the whole nation was not there yet. They didn’t get that. What they may have got and what they may have appreciated about David though, was his abilities as a worship leader, a poet, an artist and a songmaster.
So, in that sphere of his giftedness where they did see him and appreciate him, he served them, the nation; by disseminating this song of sorrow and lament that also celebrated and said “good-bye” to Saul and is regime:
David sang the following lament for Saul and his son Jonathan, and he ordered that the Judahites be taught The Song of the Bow. It is written in the Book of Jashar:
The splendor of Israel lies slain on your heights.
How the mighty have fallen!
Do not tell it in Gath,
don’t announce it in the marketplaces of Ashkelon,
or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
and the daughters of the uncircumcised will celebrate.
Mountains of Gilboa,
let no dew or rain be on you,
or fields of offerings,
for there the shield of the mighty was defiled—
the shield of Saul, no longer anointed with oil.
Jonathan’s bow never retreated,
Saul’s sword never returned unstained,
from the blood of the slain,
from the flesh of the mighty.
Saul and Jonathan,
loved and delightful,
they were not parted in life or in death.
They were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions.
Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet, with luxurious things,
who decked your garments with gold ornaments.
How the mighty have fallen in the thick of battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother.
You were such a friend to me.
Your love for me was more wondrous
than the love of women.
How the mighty have fallen
and the weapons of war have perished!
-2 Samuel 1:19-27
There you have the example of the proper response and a hymn to the fallen leaders.
The last part of this story, that I want to touch on, is in the next scenes. David asks God, “Now what?” And God tells him his next move. And David is anointed king, not over all of Israel, but just over the house of Judah.
Then we have the report of the men who bravely buried Saul. We know where David is headed and who he is, but many people at the time were slow to realize this and might have thought that another son of Saul was the next king. David had to both be obedient to God and be diplomatic with those who were not on-board yet.
The lessons here are that David was bold and filled with faith, but he waited on God to open the doors; and that he was a bridge to the future and not an island that demanded others join him in God’s obvious will. In other words, David’s feet were firmly planted in the prophetic future of his destiny, while at the same time, his hand was reaching out to others, in kindness who did not get it yet.
The final words in this section are David’s words to men who are grieving and coming to grips with David’s rise to power. We know God is behind David, that David was God’s choice; but they do not. And, we can only imagine that if David sat down with them and told them, “Guys, you’ve got to see that I am the one God has chosen!”, that they may not have believed him.
So, he is as kind as he can be and he does diplomacy maybe. He says these words to these men, as he calls them to grasp the reality of what needs to happen and who he is, saying, “be strong and valiant”. Why does he say that? Because more civil war is imminent and he is encouraging them to choose the right side.
Here is 2 Samuel 2:1-7:
Some time later, David inquired of the Lord: “Should I go to one of the towns of Judah?”
The Lord answered him, “Go.”
Then David asked, “Where should I go?”
“To Hebron,” the Lord replied.
So David went there with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail, the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. In addition, David brought the men who were with him, each one with his family, and they settled in the towns near Hebron. Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. They told David: “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul.”
David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, “The Lord bless you, because you have shown this kindness to Saul your lord when you buried him. Now, may the Lord show kindness and faithfulness to you, and I will also show the same goodness to you because you have done this deed. Therefore, be strong and valiant, for though Saul your lord is dead, the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
A lesson here is that God provides the opportunity to do the right thing, but often, people choose otherwise. This led to the personal destruction for the Amalekite man. Choosing to be on the side that opposes what God is doing with a person, and David is that person in the lesson of this story, will lead to your own pain, suffering and even death.
And we can not blame God, because God makes provision for our weakness. Every day, people chose a side that is against God and they will suffer consequences for it that were preventable. God made provision for them not to be deceived, but they said “no thanks” and drove into the ditch.
There is a way to respond when a leader falls from grace or is exposed. And there is an improper way to talk, speak and write; that comes from a heart that is not right with God.
There are steps to follow and ways to discern what God is doing. The first step is to be obedient to the ways of Christ living in me. Jesus was obedient and kind and was an active participant in waiting upon Father and seeing and doing with Father what Father was doing.
David is “the man after God’s own heart”, said God (1 Sam. 13:14). His number one thing was passion for God, personally. Being king was secondary and God’s idea for him.
David, like many of us, was a reluctant leader, as far as we know. And he was a passionate God-seeker, musical artist at the genius level and a skilled warrior; who God chose to be king.
The guy who had been on the hard road for quite a while, spoke out of his experience in suffering and becoming more courageous, when he said to potential enemies in the looming civil war, “be valiant”. In other words, “You know what the right thing is to do, and it might seem harder and far more dangerous. Search your hearts, be brave and do the right thing.” That is what I think David was saying to people who were shell-shocked by Saul’s epic failure and what is next.