The saga of turmoil, deceit, betrayal and murder continues in 2 Samuel. King Saul, David’s number one enemy, is now dead but David’s troubles remain. In chapter one the messenger who (supposedly) killed Saul thought he was bringing David good news (1:1-16) but unwittingly delivered his own death sentence:
“10 So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord…14 Then David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” 15 And David called one of the young men and said, “Go, cut him down.” So he struck him and he died. 16 David said to him, “Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed.’” (1:10, 14-16)
David’s understanding of not touching the LORD’s anointed king is once again seen as he avenges Saul’s (supposed) killer. According to 1 Samuel 31:3-5, the Philistine archers had severely wounded Saul and rather than being made sport of by the enemy, Saul chose suicide by falling on his own sword. Even Saul’s armor bearer chose suicide over killing the king because he feared the LORD’s anointed. Somehow these men understood that God had exalted Saul to be Israel’s monarch and refused to be the instrument of his death.
People have used this text and ones like it to insulate popular televangelist’s from public criticism regarding their teaching, but that is a misunderstanding and resulting misapplication of this text (See Acts 17:11 the Bereans). What I think we are to minimally understand is that those ruling are God’s vice-regents (however evil they may be) and to take personal vengeance on them is not our place but God’s. David modeled this. There are many issues here I’m not prepared to consider, so I’ll leave it you the reader to further investigate. But David’s response is moving:
“Then David chanted with this lament over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he told them to teach the sons of Judah the song of the bow; behold, it is written in the book of Jashar”
This is called the “Song of the Bow” and the refrain, “How the mighty have fallen” is used three times for emphasis (1:19, 25, 27) and unveils to us that for David the Monarchy was highly precious to God and to him. It’s amazing that David would weep over the man that persecuted him and longed for his death, but he did. Why? I think he understood but for the grace of God, the roles could have been reversed and he would have been the madman. The reason I say this is because the man after God’s own heart understood divine mercy, through God’s mercy.
In chapters two and three David is crowned Judah’s king and Saul’s son Ish-bosheth becomes Israel’s monarch. Sadly a bloody civil war ensues between the house of Saul and David, Abner the son of Ner is killed by Joab for spying on David, and David chants a lament for him. Even though Saul is dead, his descendants remain David’s enemies and yet he weeps over their deaths. Why? Perhaps it’s because this warrior king understood how horrible death is—even of his own enemies, perhaps because he was heart broken over Saul’s rejection of him.
The bloodshed continues in chapter four where Saul’s son (Ish-bosheth) is murdered and David avenges his life:
“9 David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, 10 when one told me, saying, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. 11 How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood from your hand and destroy you from the earth?”12 Then David commanded the young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hung them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron.”
It’s a bloody and distressful history that preceded David’s monarchy. Yet, he was eventually crowned Israel and Judah’s king. Yet David’s troubles would continue. His life reminds me that to live is to suffer regardless of any status. Decisions to live for God or rebel against His will confront us daily, and while our enemies too often seem “only” bad, God often uses them to teach us to rely on Him, who is King over all.