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2 Samuel 1:2-16
A man came out of the camp.
The man who professed to have slain Saul
On the day that Saul fell by his own hand, and before his body had been discovered by the Philistines, an Amalekite, passing by, recognised the corpse of the fallen king, and bethought him how best to turn the event to his own advantage. He determined to hasten to David, at Ziklag, and to inform him that, at the king's own request, he had consented to slay him, being persuaded that in any case he must perish, as his wounds were mortal. Thus he hoped to render himself acceptable to David, whose name doubtless was prominently mentioned in popular report as that of the coming king, and who was known moreover to have been injured by Saul. His professed cruelty, ingratitude, and falsehood earned for him, not a reward, but the penalty of death.
I. That outward appearances are deceitful. How often are signs of sorrow thus assumed, when the heart within is joyful! How often is a cheerful countenance worn outwardly when the spirit within is broken! Scriptural phrases may be upon the lips of the ungodly, and falsehood may have a “goodly outside.” The Lord alone can see into the heart, and can discern between the hypocritical and the sincere. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
II. That sycophantic adoration of the fortunate ought not to be valued. The tendency of humanity is to worship the rising sun, to follow whatever fashion may be in vague, be it good or evil. If the inclinations of the leading personages of the day tend towards impiety, then the great mass of the people will be godless; if, on the other hand, the leaders of society condescend to extend their patronage to religion, then the people of the age become generally assiduous attendants on the ordinances of religion. Notwithstanding the genuflections of the Amalekite, David did not accord to him the welcome that he had expected.
III. That though evil communications corrupt good manners, association with the righteous does not make righteous. This Amalekite came out of the camp of Israel. A worthy parent has often an unworthy child, a godly man is found in union with an ungodly friend.
IV. That guileful heart makes crafty tongue. There is a world of iniquity in the tongue, and we need to guard against the errors into which it leads us.
V. That sycophancy leads to falsehood. There are three f's closely allied with each other--namely, flattery, fulsomeness, and fiction--that ought to be avoided by the Christian. There are three h's also related to each other, that he should strive to develop, namely humanity, honesty, and honour.
VI. That even the most hardened criminal tries to palliate his offence. We all attempt to make excuses for our faults and failings, to soften down our guilt, to palliate our offences, to lay cur' sins at the door of others. Is it fear, or a relic of man's better nature, that thus induces men to desire to exculpate themselves in some degree from their crimes? Who can tell? God alone, who “trieth the hearts.”
VII. That the most ingenious excuses, after a statement has been deliberately made, cannot invalidate the force of that statement. Noting, doubtless, that David was indignant at his treason, the Amalekite answers, when asked by David, “Whence art thou?” “I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite.” So futile will be our excuses in the Judgment Day; so vain, indeed, are they often found to be now, even in the light of conscience, not to say in the sight of God.
VIII. That deceit leads to destruction sooner or later. “How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?” No subterfuges or cunningly devised fables can deceive the Almighty, or can prevent Him from giving to every man according to his works. “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” “Is not destruction to the wicked, and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?”
IX. That he who has sown the wind must expect to reap the whirlwind, Saul, contrary to the Divine command, spared a certain portion of the Amalekites, instead of destroying them utterly, as it had been determined, for their sins, that they should be thus severely punished. This very Amalekite may have been one of the captives thus spared; and lo! he comes now in triumph, as it were, in the death of the king whose mercy to the nation of the Amalekites had led to the ruin of Saul himself. “Thus, of our pleasant vices the gods make instruments to scourge us with.” “He that pursueth evil, pursueth it to his own death.”
X. That the path of honour is the path of real success. In selfishness we often injure self, and with a most shortsighted policy sacrifice a glorious and eternal future for a paltry and fleeting present. (R. Young, M. A.)
Tidings from Gilboa
The horrors of the battlefield are far from terminated when the actual encounter is over, and victory has declared in favour of one of the contending parties. The after-scenes are often such as cause humanity to shudder; and to one of the most revolting of these we are introduced by the circumstances under which the tidings of Saul's death first reached David. We refer to the traversing of the field of blood, for the purpose of spoiling and plundering those who can no longer resist the hand of violence. And, probably, it happened in this case--as it has many a time occurred in the annals of robbery and plunder--that the thing stolen has no sooner been actually obtained, than the spoiler finds its possession very inconvenient, on account of its unusual character, or extraordinary value. Wad it been of less splendid material, or of less intrinsic worth, its possession would have excited no remark, and it could have been parted with without difficulty. But a crown and a royal bracelet, which every one would know he could scarcely have acquired by fair means, which every Israelite would recognise as having belonged to his fallen king, and in which the Philistines, too, would have discovered a property to which they, as victors, were entitled, and of which they had been unlawfully deprived by the haste with which he had commenced his predatory excursion on the battle-field--what was to be done with these spoils? It did not answer his purpose to keep them, and yet they were far from being marketable commodities, for the ordinary ways of turning property to account were not available there. It was at this juncture we find him coming to David, and while professing to sympthise with the disgrace of Israel, telling them not only were Saul and his sons dead, but that he himself had put the finishing stroke to his existence; in token of which he stood there as the bearer of the crown and bracelet. The interested part which he had to act accounts for the discrepancy between the recital which he gave, and the narrative previously furnished by the sacred writer. In his own estimation, however, he was taking the surest way to honour and to the advancement of his worldly interests. What reward could be too large for the messenger who brought to David the intelligence of the death of his enemy?--nay , more, who had, by his own hand, put an end to the life of that bitter persecutor? Well contrived as was the plan, it nevertheless failed; and the reason of the failure deserves notice. Many an apparently well-arranged scheme of iniquity has broken through from exactly the same cause. The Amalekite had made a grievous miscalculation as to the character of the man with whom he had to deal. He had done David a gross injustice; and he, doubtless, was not long in discovering his mistake; but then it was quite too late to recede. His mistake was fatal. He was treated as a murderer, on his own confession. He had failed in his scheme for securing his own advantage and aggrandizement, because he had formed altogether a wrong estimate of the character of David.
1. The incident gives us an opportunity of marking the immense difference in the order of mind and character which may subsist between two individuals brought together by one event, and having their attention occupied by one and the same object. And we observe, too, in this instance, a circumstance which is the natural attendant upon this diversity--the incapability, on the part of the possessor of the meaner and inferior order of mental and moral qualities, to enter into the feelings and principles of the possesser of superior endowments. This incapability operates to prevent its unfortunate subject from suspecting the existence, in a fellow-creature, of any other mode of thinking and acting than that which he himself adopts and employs; and it issues, therefore, in the habit of judging all around him by his own standard, and of reckoning that they will be actuated, in their conduct, by the principles which direct his own proceedings. Now, whenever such judgments are formed, and on the same principle, it must be obvious that a considerable amount of personal injustice is perpetrated; and in reference, too, to that very point upon which a well-regulated mind will be most sensitive. To an upright man--to one who exercises himself to have a conscience void of offence towards God--character is a far more momentous consideration than thousands of silver and gold could ever be; and judgments formed on the principles of which this passage reminds us, do injustice to personal character. Nor is it to be wondered at that David should have felt the injustice acutely. For assuredly where, by the Grace of God, a man has been taught the lesson of true self-respect--where he has been enabled, as the child of God, to hold that principle humbly, firmly, and for sanctified purposes--where the Spirit of God has produced moral elevation, and has stamped sin with its real character of debasement and dishonourableness--where these results have been brought about in the moral history of an individual, there is something very humiliating, something peculiarly distressing, because felt to be deeply degrading, in this very circumstance of having been so misunderstood and misjudged, as to have been supposed capable of finding gratification in acting out the principles which rule minds of another order, and of sympathising with the courses to which these principles conduct. There is scarcely a trial which is more hard to endure, or which pierces the heart with so deep a pang, than thus to find one's self standing, in the estimation of a man whose feelings and principles are low, on that same low platform which marks his own moral position, and side by side with himself. It may be said, indeed, that conscious integrity--the personal conviction of uprightness--ought to have a power to heal the pang, that it ought to be enough for a man to know that the judgment formed of him is wrong. But a more delicate perception will discover that it is this very circumstance which occasions the pang, which embitters the trial. It would be no trial but for this consciousness of personal integrity; and in employing this argument as a comfort to the child of God writhing beneath an injurious and unjust supposition, whether implied or expressed, the danger would be, that instead of mitigating the smart, you should only increase the anguish of the wound. The true solace, then, for the heart bleeding at the injustice perpetrated by a false and injurious estimate of character will be found in an intelligent view of those important ends which such a trial is peculiarly calculated to answer, and in yielding to the trial for the sake of the spiritual benefit which it is designed to promote. It may be hard to bear--it will be; yet it will be worth while to have had the spirit wounded by the injustice, and the heart depressed by the injury, if only the principles of gratitude to God, of humility, dependence, and caution, acquire power in the painful process; if only sin become more hateful--self become more completely laid in the dust--and God be more completely glorified. So long as human nature is what it is--so long as men of corrupt minds want excuses for their sins, or sanction and encouragement in the commission of them--so long we must expect that they will find it convenient to form for themselves, and, if necessary, to present to others, a low and unjust estimate of the character of those whom Divine grace has made the subjects of a better nature. But “the Lord taketh part with them that fear Him.”
2. But let it not be thought by any that they can with impunity-commit, under any circumstances, the injustice which has now been described. Apart from the injury which they inflict upon religious character by so representing it to themselves or to others, as that it shall be employed as a sanction for their own sins, or as an excuse for their wrong-doing, it must not be forgotten that, supposing the real character of a professor of religion were such as they represent it--supposing that beneath a profession of purity and love, in any instance, there really did exist a cherished impurity and an indulged malignity, from which they might gain encouragement in their plans, and from which they might secretly expect sanction, yet even this would not justify them in sinning. God looks at sinners in their individual capacity, and deals with them as such. Sin is felt by God to be a personal matter in reference to Himself, and nothing can justify its commission; no, not all the suspected hypocrisy, nor all the proved unfaithfulness of professors of religion, with all the imaginary sanction which the one might give, and all the real encouragement which the other would afford. We know, indeed, that the formation of these wrong judgments of character constitutes a chosen method by which the great enemy of souls seeks to entrap men to their own destruction. He belies and misrepresents religion in their view. He suggests that the high standard of a religious profession is a thing of imagination rather than of reality. He whispers stealthily that, notwithstanding the untoward difference between the men whose lives are avowedly under a higher influence and the rest of mankind, it is not very difficult--for a consideration--to induce these very professors, either to act upon a lower, principle themselves, or to give their sanction to those who adopt an inferior standard of religion and morals. He thus removes the checks and restraints which religious example and influence would exert in discouraging the young from evil. He does more; for, by the insinuation and imputation of real sympathy with sin on the part of professors, he gives direct encouragement to evil courses. Having thus, by acting out his character of “accuser of the brethren,” produced an impression of personal religion as being hollow and valueless, the enemy of souls next presents some well-adapted temptation--some well-arranged enticement--to secure present advantage by means which involve personal guilt and expose to heavy penalty. The scheme succeeds--the youth falls into the trap prepared for him--the criminal deed is done--the actual guilt is incurred--and then, the tempter's object being gained, conscience is allowed to speak, to make itself heard; and, amidst shame and misery, the discovery is made that the impressions about religion and religious professors which induced to the commission of sin, were wrong after all. Then the victim of the temptation wakes up to learn that there is such a thing as religious principle; that it does produce a stats of mind which holds sin in abhorrence; that it teaches men to press the inquiry for themselves, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” There is a fearful peril which the Scripture exposes to view, and to which nothing will so certainly conduct men as this habit of misjudging the character of the people of God for the purpose of gaining sanction to their own sins. The transition is made from entertaining unjust and low thoughts of the people of God to forming unworthy and degrading views of God Himself; and in the same way that a transgressor finds encouragement and sanction for personal sins in attributing to his fellow-creatures the same vicious motives which rule his own heart, so may he proceed a step further, and imagine that the Creator is altogether such an one as himself. It would seem hardly credible, at first sight, that such an idea could ever find entrance in the human heart; but Omniscience records the fact as the object of its own discovery and censure--proving that there is no length to which the hardening influence of sin will not carry a man. (J. A. Miller.)
The Amalekite messenger
1. A scrutiny touching the veracity of this Amalekite's long harangue: Though I find some learned men patronising this Amalekite, and purging him from lying to David, saying his story was a real truth, for Saul had indeed fallen upon his own weapon, but his coat of mail had hindered it from piercing deep enough to be so speedily a mortal wound, but that the Philistines might come and catch him alive and abuse him; and though it be said (when his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead) he slew himself (1 Samuel 31:5). Which yet Dr: Lightfoot senseth thus: When he saw Saul had given himself so deadly a wound, he did the like, and died indeed, but Saul's wound was not of so quick a dispatch, therefore he desired this man to kill him outright. Notwithstanding all this, yet upon a more serious inquest into particulars, this whole story seems more probably to be a pack of lies, one stitched to another for these reasons:--‘Tis altogether improbable, either that Saul, after he had given himself such a deadly wound, whereof he was ready to die, should be able to call him, and spend so many words in talking with him; or that this man should dare to stay so long in this discourse with Saul, seeing he also was fleeing (with the whole army) to save his own life, which he might have lost by making this halt, had the Philistines overtaken him in their pursuit (which Saul feared for himself) during this parley. Nor can it be probable that Saul should desire to die rather by the hands of an uncircumcised Amalekite, than of the uncircumcised Philistines which he so much feared. He could not put any such difference between them, seeing Amalek was more accursed and devoted to destruction than the Philistines. ‘Tis expressly said, that Saul fell upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4), but this fellow saith, he fell upon his own spear (2 Samuel 1:6). ‘Tis as expressly said, that Saul's armour-bearer, being yet alive, saw that Saul was dead (1 Samuel 31:5), which doubtless he would thoroughly know before he did kill himself. Had the armour-bearer been yet alive when Saul called this Amalekite to dispatch him, he would certainly have hindered him from doing that which himself durst not do (1 Samuel 31:4). Nor could that be more probable, which he told David, “I took the crown that was upon his head” (2 Samuel 1:10), but looked rather like a lie, for it is not likely Saul would wear his crown upon his head in battle; this would make him a fair mark to his enemies, whom they chiefly aimed at. A wise general will rather disguise himself (1 Kings 22:30) than be so fondly exposed, etc. The scripture of truth does manifestly ascribe Saul's death to be his own action (1 Samuel 31:4-5), even to his failing upon his own sword, which must be of more credit with us, than an artificially composed speech of an accursed Amalekite, who had taught his tongue to tell lies (Jeremiah 9:5), and all to curry favour with David, from whom he promised to himself some great preferment by thus glozing with him.
2. A just hand of God on this Amalekite for his lying. (C. Ness.)
2 Samuel 1:17
And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son.
1. The Bible has been called “the record of human sorrows,” and so it is. There are, however, parts of the sacred Scriptures where the shadows lay thickest, and the notes are ever in the minor key: I refer to the lamentations. What strains in music are more pathetic and moving than those of the “Marcia Funebre”! and when did ever Handel, or Beethoven, or Chopin exercise their genius with greater effect than in those compositions which unveil in sound the secret agony of bereavement! So in Holy Scripture, when the plectrum of the Spirit sweeps across the chords of the human soul in the dark hour of grief, there is something unspeakably touching in the inspired cadences.
2. Such outpourings of grief as are found in the dirge in this lesson, composed by David, may be “highly poetical,” and betray the tense condition of the emotions; yet they are not devoid of moral teaching, and vividly depict the affectionate character of him who was a type of “the Man of sorrows.”
I. David's lament over Saul.
1. I see in this the spirit of forgiveness. There was enough in Saul's dealings with David to have dulled the poignancy of grief, and even to have called up resentment. David's conduct seems an anticipation of the Christian precept, not only to forgive, but to love your enemies. Forgiveness of injuries, “the flower of charity,” was ripened by the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, for there was little enough of it in the world before Christ came. I am not forgetting that Solomon said, “It is the glory of a man to pass by a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). On the other hand, there is a tone of vindictiveness in parts of the Old Testament--in the Psalter, for instance--which reveals a low standard of morality in some respects. The “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” principle required nothing short of the Life and Death of Christ to dislodge it. Even David, on another occasion, betrayed something very much like the spirit of revenge (1 Kings 2:9). However, before us we have a beautiful instance of forgiveness, when the maxim, “De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” was certainly not in the ascendant.
2. Moreover, David not only gave vent to his grief in the utterances of this elegy; but he taught it to the people. This arose from his generous desire that Israel should remember the greatness of Saul.
3. The object of teaching this dirge to the people was that they might remember it and repeat it. In the same way, the “Lamentations” of Jeremiah are repeated by the Jews at the “Wailing Place” with weeping, and thus the recollection of their sins and miseries is perpetuated. David willed that the memory of his predecessor should live in the hearts of the people.
4. David weeping over Saul is a type of Christ weeping over Jerusalem which rejected Him.
II. David's lament over Jonathan.
1. This was the climax of his grief, the bitterest element in the cup of sorrow.
2. David's sorrow arose from the friendship which existed between him and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1). Similarly, Jacob's love for Benjamin is described (Genesis 44:30). But this was outside all family ties. Strangers found in each other what they could not find in the domestic circle. This romantic form of love played a conspicuous part in the ancient world. Poets, artists, and philosophers made it their subject. Christianity has been taunted with its disregard of friendship. Yet the wider circles of love did not obliterate, in the heart of Christ, that. “love of mutual benevolence” which could delight in certain souls through an “affinity of natural qualities and feelings.” Thus Lazarus was a friend of Christ, and St. John “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
3. But it may be admitted--although there are Christian friendships recorded in the history of the Church, and to be found amongst Christians, which are beautiful and separate from all that is essential or merely sentimental--that friendship has not the same conspicuous place which it had when Aristotle took two books of his “Ethics” to treat the theme; and there are reasons for this which need not now be discussed. It is sufficient to observe that its rightful value as a form of love is preserved. “What it seems to lose in importance, it gains in inward, worth by the consecration it receives from the Christian spirit” (Luthardt).
4. The description of Jonathan's love for David has ever been interpreted as a type of the love of the Christian for Christ, David's Son and Lord; and the covenant which he made with him, and the way he stripped himself of his robes and weapons (1 Samuel 18:3-4), to be an image of the covenant with Christ, and the willingness to be stripped of all for His sake. The strong language which depicts the fervour of natural affection is a vehicle to describe the intensity and transforming character of Christian love.
1. To try to learn the lesson--hard for flesh and blood, but possible through the grace of the Holy Spirit, not only to forgive, but to love those who have injured us. Though Saul had sought David's life, David wept over Saul's death.
2. To learn from the friendship between Jonathan and David, and the value which has been set upon friendship, how important is the choice of friends. How the influence may be powerful either for good or evil which comes from companionship: “With the holy thou shalt be holy, and with a perfect man thou shalt be perfect;” so the opposite, “With the froward thou shalt learn forwardness” (Psalms 18:25-26).
3. All human friendship must be subordinate to the love of that Friend who laid down His life for us, and who is faithful when all others desert us. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)
Death of Saul and Jonathan
I. A Good Chance Will Not Ensure A Successful Career. Be thankful for an open path to success. But be cautious. Education, fortune, and friends will not make a man. That, his own energy and faithfulness must do. The world's competition makes short work of external advantages, and a good chance makes more conspicuous poor achievement. Indeed, the kindest choice may be the adversity which puts men on their mettle, calling out that earnestness and thoroughness which the world loves to honour. A thousand times it has been proved that he who will succeed, can; a thousand times, that the fairest opportunity may be thrown away by reckless or impotent or unwise favourites of fortune.
II. Divine help will not secure success. What more could Heaven have done for this king with a ruined life? And are there none in these days for whom God seems to have done everything? Their very birth was into blessings. How sacred influences have sung over their cradles, and rocked them to sleep in a fond mother's arms. How friends have taken them by the hand, wise to counsel, patient to bear, helpful to instruct. And God has come very near. It is almost impossible for a youth to grow up in a Christian land without feeling strongly and persuasively the claim of God upon him. Companions, older friends, become Christians. He joins them and catches the inspiration. He knows God has come to him, and thinks he has come to God. Is it genuine? Will it last? Each of us knows some Saul who has fought against Heaven's kindness to accomplish his own ruin. Divine love cannot save an unwilling heart.
III. Entire consecration to God is the only assurance of a successful career. Saul's ruin sprang from his disobedience. Absolute surrender to God, unquestioning and unswerving obedience, would have fixed his will and enthroned the good in his nature. Though God gives opportunity, man must use it. Special Divine favours heap up condemnation, if not met with a consecrated will. The Divine purpose may use a bad man against his will and without his profit. There is no sadder sight than the gradual breaking down of a lofty soul under the influence of unresisted temptation. Religious impressions are not religious principles. Good and evil dwell together in every soul; character is determined, not by our sensitiveness to their influence, but by our choice. How do I know but that now some of you may be hesitating before great temptations--to use for yourselves that which is not yours; to break over the pure and sacred laws which control the relations of man and woman? That way lies death. The laws of God cannot be overcome. Though you lived a king, shame would defile you, gloom and fear gather about your last hours. But to the wise, God increaseth knowledge; to the obedient He addeth strength. On this earth they have peace and honour; among the angels, before the face of God, eternal blessedness. (Monday Club Sermons.)
2 Samuel 1:18
The use of the bow,
Activity is a valuable solace for sorrow:--The people were very grieved; for Saul and Jonathan, the king and the crown prince, were slain. David indulges their grief: he writes them a plaintive song which the daughters of Israel may sing. But to take off their minds from their distress he at the same time issues the order to teach the children of Judah the use of the bow, for activity is an effectual remedy in the time of sorrow. Certainly the opposite of it would tend towards blank despair. Do not be tempted to brood over your affliction. Do not shut yourself up alone to ruminate upon the great ill that has befallen you, so as to nurse your wrath against God: this can do you no good whatever. You have heard of Alexander Cruden. Perhaps you do not know that he was crossed in love, and met with certain other trims which drove him nearly mad; and yet Alexander Cruden did not become insane, for he engaged upon the immense work of forming a concordance of sacred Scripture. This work kept him from becoming altogether insane. A valuable solace for sorrow is activity, especially, I think, in reference to new work. The poet Rogers tells us of a rich man in Venice who was the subject of despair, and became such a hypochondriac that he went down to the canal to drown himself; but on the way he was met by a poor little boy who tugged at his skirts, and begged for bread. When the rich man called him an impostor, the boy besought him to come home with him, and see his father and mother who were dying of starvation. He went up into the room, and found the family literally perishing for lack of food. He laid out the money which he had in his pocket in making them all glad with a hearty meal, and then said to himself that there was something worth living for after all. He had found a novel enjoyment, which gave a fresh motive for living. I would like to ask you who have suffered a great trouble whether the Lord may not be pressing you by this means into a new path of delight, directing you to a fresh method of glorifying God and doing good to your fellow-men.
II. An admirable use of disaster is to learn its lessons. What was the disaster? Saul and Jonathan had been shot by archers. The Philistines were evidently strong in the use of the bow; but Saul's army was short of archers, and so they were not able to smite the Philistines at a distance. Before they came to close quarters, where Israel might have been a match for Philistia, the arrows of the Philistines had reached their king. Had they known how to use the bow, they might have been conquerors; and therefore David hastens to teach the men of Judah the use of the bow.
1. Find out where your weakness is. Search and see. Is it a sin beguiled? Is it some point where you ought to have been guarded, but where you have been unwatchful? Is it weakness in prayer? Is it neglect of the word of God? Is it indifference to Divine truth? It is coldness of heart? Or what is it? If you have been defeated, there is a cause for it. If you have been cast down and brought low, say unto God, “Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me.”
2. Learn the way to victory. David judged that if they were defeated by the bow they might yet win by the bow. It is right to learn from our adversaries. There is something to be learnt from Satan. If he goes about, let us be diligent; if he seeks whom he may devour, let us seek whom we may save; and if he watches carefully to find out our weak points, let us watch those whom we would bless to find out how we may best reach their hearts.
3. A call to action--to general action. Saul had a little standing army, and did not drill all the nation for war; but David says, “I will teach all my own tribe the use of the bow.” Now, whenever a church begins to get low, dull, stupid, then it is time to teach the children-of Judah the use of the bow, and to wake them all up to holy enterprise. It was the glory of the Moravians that all their members were missionaries; and such ought to be the glory of every church: every man, woman, and child in the church should take part in the battle for Jesus. This, by God's grace, is the cure for spiritual decline: teach the people the use of the bow.
III. A noble monument to a friend is to imitate his excellencies. When Jonathan and David communed together they fixed the meeting by Jonathan shooting certain arrows: it is evident that Jonathan was a man who greatly favoured the use of the bow; and though his father did not largely introduce it into the army, yet Jonathan was well skilled therein. “Well then,” says David, “in memory of Jonathan, instead of piling up a great monument, we will teach the children of Judah the use of the bow.”
IV. It is great advantage to believers to learn the use of the bow spiritually. There is the bow of prayer. Its use has not gone out of date; but I wish that all of us knew how to shoot the arrows of the Lord's deliverance much better than we do. Holy men of old would pick out an arrow, and when they had chosen it they knew how to use it. They knew what they wanted, and they prayed for it. They fitted their arrow on the string: that is to say, they took God's promise, the promise that answered to their desire, and fitting the one to the other, they took straight aim at heaven, and watched the flight of the arrowy petition. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The song of the bow
David, after the bloody battle of Gilboa, in which he lost his old enemy, Saul, and his dear friend, Jonathan, infused into the hearts of the people a spirit of national pride. The words in the text, “the use of,” you will notice are not in the original; they are supplied, carefully printed by our translators in italics, to show that they are an interpolation, from the supposition that they were wanted to mark the sense of what followed. In fact, they are not needed. “The Bow” is the title of the poem which is then given, and it would rather read, “Also he bade them teach the children of Israel the song of the bow,”--the bow, by which their King and Prince had been slain; the bow, dear to the poet's memory as the means by which the young prince, Jonathan, had saved his friend's life, in that tender story when the unwitting lad through its instrumentality warned him; the bow, by which they were to assert and maintain their nationality. So he taught them not only the use, but he taught the song of the bow. Song filtrates and refines, gives passion and fervour to national feeling, and this, though so old, is a very wonderful song--surely one of the most pathetic and wonderful of all elegies, and it furnishes the key, and gives the fulness to that most wonderful of all funeral wails, the Dead March in Saul. The bow became representative of every kind of furniture of war. Just as bread stands for every kind of food in the Hebrew, so also the bow represents every kind of furniture for war. He turned, therefore, the death of Saul in his song into the means of bringing all the energies, the glowing patriotism of the land, upon national defence. He roused and concentrated the military spirit, and taught them the use, while he taught them the song, of the bow. History is inspiring. The bow, in Scripture, stands for something more than the mere engine of earthly war. Joseph was not a soldier, but it is the grand commendation of his character that “his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the mighty God of Jacob.” And you will notice that in the Bible no name becomes permanently great, no name is recorded of sterling and lasting worth, which is not moved by the Spirit of God, and which does not represent a firm compliance with His will. God spoke to each of these old heroes, God separated each, usually early in life. The heart looked up, knew the voice, owned it, and followed it. Life is no more matched and mastered without a struggle, without discipline and endeavour, than you are likely to be accomplished in your service of arms without training and trial. You know we speak of a Standard Bearer, and somebody has said that that means stand hard, and bear well.
2. The Song of the Bow is, therefore, a song of war. In the old Hebrew fashion, this is full of the grief of life. Nature is called, as it were, to put on mourning for the illustrious dead; “Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be on you no dew,” no refreshing shower, no bubbling desert spring. It is as if the plants and the woods were called to join in the melancholy wail, and the very flowers to sigh forth their grief; and it is so that in a great and sorrowful deprivation, trees and herbs, flowers and forests are called to sympathise with human sorrow; the rose to blush mournfully, and the anemone and the hyacinth to speak forth in their floral leaves the tokens of grief, what conquers, what overcomes this. The Song of the Bow is not only the song of battle, discipline, and trial, but a song of victory and triumph. In Christ we adore the God of resurrections. We see Him, indeed, whose bow was made quite naked in the sight of all the tribes; “there brake He the arrows of the bow, the spear, the shield in the battle;” there “He brake the bow, and snapped the spear in sunder.” Verily, when I think of the death of Christ and His resurrection, I feel that we may teach the children the Song of the Bow. Life is, indeed, full of resurrections. In many a floral and insect world she seems to exhibit something of the gospel of the resurrection, and hangs over the grave “resurrection lights.” From repulsive shells which look forbidding to the eye and the touch, emerge creatures delicate and beautiful, bursting their harsh black prison, and on gossamer wings soaring and sailing through light and air. Out of the body of crawling worms comes forth the winged splendour of the butterfly; it spun its shroud, its coffin, its grave, and so prepared for its resurrection; then, instead of creeping on the earth, and feeding on the dust, it indulges its variable flight and sucks the pollen from the fragrant flowers. (E. Paxton Hood.)
It is written in the book of Jasher.--
Lessons from a lost book
Without entering into the controversy on “the book of Jasher,” let us consider the text as it is presented in our version. We have in the text an illustration of--
I. The combination of the poetical and the practical in one person. Where will you find a truer, sweeter, deeper, more gifted poet than David? Where will you find a more natural and soul-moving lyrical outburst of grief than this over Jonathan? Tennyson's tender and touching, delicate and profound, and, to bereaved hearts, unspeakably precious “In Memoriam” is poor compared with this Davidic ode. Yet the poet, in his sorrow and his dirge, is wise, forecasting, politic, practical. With the bow and arrow Saul and Jonathan had been slain, so David would have the children of Judah well trained in “the use of the bow.”
1. When the poetic is unpractical, merely dreamy, unsubstantial, vain, it loses all true worth--ceases, indeed, to be poetry; for the poet, as the name indicates, is a maker, a creator.
2. When the practical is dissociated from the poetic, it becomes dreary, unexalting, ignoble. When men aim at the merely utilitarian, they miss even their own low mark. We need the ideal, the poetic, in combination with the practical and utilitarian, to attain to completeness and symmetry. “The use of the bow” and the use of the lyre must go together, if we would have a symmetrical order of things--a cosmos.
II. the disorder of human nature. Saul and Jonathan are slain. The earth has not yet absorbed their blood. A deep, genuine, sacred sorrow is wailing in sad minor key through the soul of David. Surely it is a most pathetic, reverent time with the poet king! Yet he must give instructions as to “the use of the bow.” Sorrowing for the absent ones removed by skilful archers, yet he deems it prudent to have the children of Judah made skilful archers, that they in their turn may make wives widows, happy children orphans, and take other Jonathans away from other Davids. There must be some “cursed obliquity” in human nature; the normal must have given place to the abnormal, ere this could have come to pass. The Biblical narrative of human apostasy is, we believe, the key to the enigma.
III. The impermanence of human works. Where is “the book of Jasher?” Who knows it? What did it contain? Was it in prose or poetry? Was it dialectical or didactic? We know something of the theories concerning it; but with any theory we must feel how impermanent are human doings. Suppose it means:
1. A book by some one named Jasher. Well, who was he? What was his character? What was his book about? Where now is all the treasure of his heart and brain, which he poured forth in his book? Alas! Jasher, we condole with thee.
2. A book for the regulation of equity between man and man. How sad that any attempt, even the feeblest, to rectify the disordered state of human affairs, should fail! Surely, in any normal state, any effort to promote equity should succeed and be remembered. But even such a book is not permanent.
3. A book in which the heroic deeds of righteous men were recorded. That must live !A righteous man--how grand! But what adjective is adequate to set forth “the heroic deeds of a righteous man”? A righteous man and heroic worker--surely the book that speaks of such must live! Alas, no! This book of the heroic deeds of the upright has gone.
IV. The permanence of life, as contrasted with its temporary human records. “The book of Jasher” is no more; but the men and their deeds of whom it contained records, they are not no more; the men live, the influence of the deeds lives. Books pass away, men endure; records of deeds are soon lost, the influence of deeds lives on. Do not write a poem; live a poem. Trouble not about the record of the life; but be careful of the life. “The book of Jasher” may be unimportant; but the life of Jasher is of incalculable importance, perhaps to many, certainly to Jasher. (William Jones.)
The book of Jasher
There is great diversity of opinion as to “the book of Jasher,” or, as it is given in the margin, “the book of the upright.” It is mentioned only here and in Joshua 10:13. Here are some of the opinions concerning it which seem to us more or less probable:
1. That it was a book of upright or authentic records or chronicles, probably those of the high priest, and from which much of the Old Testament history was compiled.
2. That Yashar “is better taken as a collective term for Israelites, like y'sharim in Numbers 23:10; Psalms 111:1; and so translated Book of the Israelites, i.e. national book” (Fuerst). The same theory is put thus by Mr. Aldis Wright: “The book of Jasher . . . so called because it contained the relation of the deeds of the people of Israel, who are elsewhere spoken of under the symbolical name Jeshurun.
3. That it was a collection of state poems, written by some one named Jasher, and probably a continuation of “the book of the wars of Jehovah” (Numbers 21:14).
4. Others assert that it was a collection of national songs, and in proof of this allege that Yashar is equivalent to Hashshir, the song or poem.
5. That the book of Jasher contained the deeds of national heroes of all ages “celebrated in verse, and included Joshua's victory over the five kings of the Amorites (Joshua 10:1-43.), and David's lament over Saul and Jonathan.
6. That it was a choice collection of ancient songs, and was called “the book of the just or upright,” because it celebrated the praise of upright men. We may fairly conclude that it was written in verse “from the only specimens extant, which exhibit unmistakable signs of metrical rhythm”; but with regard to the contents nothing can be confidently affirmed. We ought also, perhaps, to call attention to the difference of opinion as to the meaning of “the bow.” Instead of supplying the use of, as the translators of the A.V. have done, some would read “the song of the bow.” “He bade them teach the children of Judah the bow,” i.e. the “following threnody, which was so called either because Saul was shot by an archer, or because the bow of Jonathan is here celebrated (verse 22). Others regard “the bow” as the name of some musical instrument. (William Jones.)
2 Samuel 1:19-20
The beauty of Israel is slain.
The fall of Christians
We have here an illustration of the degenerating influences of sin upon the character of Christians, and the lamentable effects in the eyes of the world.
I. The beauty of Israel. Christianity imparts a distinguishing character to the believer; the moral counterpart of Israel's separation from the heathen inhabitants that surrounded them, and the evil practices from which they were called.
II. The beauty of Israel slain. The history of souls proves this possibility.
III. The beauty of Israel slain in the high places. Many Christians who flourished in the Church while they occupied a lowly position, have had their beauty “slain by an ecclesiastical or secular elevation. God's gems shine best in the shade. But few trees of His growth can challenge the stormy winds of “high places.”
IV. The lamentation. “How are the mighty fallen,” etc.
V. The church's proclamation. “Tell it not,” etc. (The Study.)
How are the mighty fallen!--
The death of the great
1. How is the mighty fallen!--fallen under the superior power of death!--Death, the king of terrors, the conqueror of conquerors; whom riches cannot bribe, nor power resist; whom goodness cannot soften, nor dignity and loyalty deter, or awe to a reverential distance. Death intrudes into palaces as well as cottages; and arrests the monarch as well as the slave. How astonishing and lamentable is the stupidity of mankind! Can the natural or the moral world exhibit another phenomenon so shocking and unaccountable? Death sweeps off thousands of our fellow-subjects every year. Our neighbours, like leaves in autumn, drop into the grave, in a thick succession; and our attendance upon funerals is almost as frequent and formal as our visits of friendship or complaisance. Yet how few realise the thought that they must die! Pilgrims and strangers imagine themselves everlasting residents; and make this transitory life their all, as if earth was to be their eternal home; as if eternity was but a fairy land, and heaven and hell but majestic chimeras.
2. Since the mighty is fallen, how vain are all things beneath the sun! Vanity of vanities; all is vanity! How unworthy the hopes, how inferior to the desires, how unequal to the duration of human nature! “Who then art thou, who settest thine affections on things below? Dost thou value thyself on thy birth? Dost thou value thyself on thy riches? Dost thou value thyself on thy power? Dost thou glory in thy constancy, humanity, affection to thy friend; justice, veracity, popularity, universal love?” If even kings cannot extract perfect happiness from things below; if the gross, unsubstantial, and fleeting enjoyments of life are in their own nature incapable of affording pure, solid, and lasting felicity, must we not all despair of it? Yet such a happiness we desire; such we need; nay, such we must have; or our very existence will become our curse, and all our powers of enjoyment but capacities of pain. And where shall we seek for it? where, but in the supreme Good? But though crowns, and thrones, and kings, though stars, and suns, and worlds, sink into promiscuous ruin, there is one gift of Heaven to mankind which shall survive; which shall flourish and reign for ever; a gift little esteemed or solicited, and which makes no brilliant figure in mortal eyes; I mean religion. Religion! Thou brightest ornament of human natural Thou fairest image of the Divine! Thou sacred spark of celestial fire, which now glimmers with but a feeble lustre; but will shine bright in the night of affliction; will irradiate the thick gloom of death, and blaze out into immortality in its native element! This will be an unfailing source of happiness, through the revolutions of eternal ages. These majestic trifles are not the tests of real worth, nor the badges of Heaven's favourites: it is religion that marks out the happy man; that distinguishes the heir of an unfading crown; who, when the dubious conflict of life is over, shall inherit all things, and sit in triumph for ever with the King of kings, and Lord of lords. (S. Davies, A. M.)
2 Samuel 1:20; 2 Samuel 1:22
Tell it not in Gath.
We are far from assigning She peculiar complexion of this elegy to that mere commonplace thing which goes by the name, though most wrongfully, of charity; but which should rather be characterised as perilous unfaithfulness to God, to the interests of religion, and to the safety of men's souls--a charity which is, however, very popular with a certain class of persons who are ever ready to throw its mantle over the defects of others, provided that they can manage, at the same time, to effect concealment beneath its folds for some indulged sins of their own. Nor can we perceive in this composition the utterance of a spirit of flattery, which, to answer an end, can speak good things of a bad man with cool effrontery, and with perfect consciousness of the falsehood which the lips are uttering. There was no end to be answered here which would serve as a temptation; and how little sympathy there was in David's mind with such a practice, we may gather from those repeated expressions of abhorrence in regard to it which meet us in his writings. Still less do we discover in these words of David nothing more than a tribute to the claims which death is allowed to put forth for a respectful mention of the departed. We cannot regard it as a mere exemplification of the doctrine, good enough within certain limits, that when a man is dead his failings are not to be made the subject of remark.
I. In accounting for the peculiar tone of this funeral-song, in its allusion to Saul, the history seems to justify us in regarding the elegy itself as the testimony which David desired to bear to the completeness with which he forgave Saul every injury which he had inflicted on him. We discover the traces of an unusually close imitation of the Divine character and procedure in the manner in which David here refers to Saul? Do we not see at work the heart of one who has completely “blotted out” the impression of the cruel persecution which Saul had carried on against him--who had “cast behind his back” all personal offence--who had no desire “to remember any more” one of the many occasions on which his own spirit had been riven by the ill-treatment and jealousy of him for whom he had repeatedly hazarded his own life? In regard to one aspect of moral character, and that one the manifestation of which involves a difficult encounter with, and a great victory over predominant self, David's example serves to show what measures of resemblance to God--of “bearing the image of the heavenly”--may be, by Divine grace, attained by man. It serves to show bow we may be “imitators of God;” how we may “walk worthy of the Lord, unto all pleasing.”
2. The entireness with which David had forgiven Saul is testified in the absence from this death-song of any reference to the painfulness of the pest. This circumstance, on which we have been dwelling, may not of itself fully account for another feature of the elegy. There is not only the absence of condemnatory allusion, but there is the presence of a considerable amount of matter of a positively and uniformly commendatory character. It happens with descriptions of character, as it does with delineations of outward nature--they are taken from particular points of view, and must, of course, vary greatly, and differ from each other according to the standpoint selected for making the observation or forming the sketch. In order to identify with the actual scenery a representation by the pencil of some inviting landscape, or of any particular objects which give it interest, we must take the trouble to find out the precise spot at which the artist stood, and forth from which he looked abroad when he sketched the picture. Thus, too, in estimating the truthfulness of sketches of individual character, we are not at liberty to take up our position exactly where we like; the only fair way of forming a judgment of the portraiture is to find out the standpoint at which the author of the sketch fixed himself, and, adopting it as our own, we must, from that position, make our observation. Any other course would obviously be unjust.
3. The true key to the elegy which David here pronounced is the point of view from which he looked at Saul--the position, in relation to the departed monarch, which he occupied at the moment. He simply noted down the features of the character and aspects of conduct which met his eye where he stood; and if we will go and stand side by side with him, looking as he looked, and feeling as he felt, we shall at once acknowledge the accuracy of his portraiture. There are some circumstances which are peculiarly favourable for forming a full and accurate estimate of an individual; there are others, however, which only permit us to take a limited view at best, and looking from the midst of these, the eye most generally allows itself to be engrossed with one or two characteristic features, which come very near ourselves, and which appear, for that very reason, separated in a measure from all the rest. At such a point David now stood.
4. In such manifestations of natural feeling as we discover in this and other passages of the same order, there is much that is encouraging, in a practical point of view. We find our spirits brought into contact with men “of like passions” with ourselves. In David, as he uttered this elegy, we see a man who could weep, just as we weep; who could break down with the pressure of sudden bereavement, just as we break down; who, under the influence of sorrows, looked at men and things just as, under the same influence, we look at them. He does not stand apart from us as a being of higher nature, whose superiority should awe us, and keep us at a discouraging distance; but he comes near to us, and wins our interested attention. We can feel at home with him; we can read his heart as that of a fellow-creature; we can understand him as a man. He stands on the level of a common humanity with every reader of the narrative. It is human nature which we recognise at work--a nature like our own. It is a man shedding tears as we shed them, and doing exactly the same things as, we are disposed to think, we should have done under the same circumstances: And we argue from this point, and argue hopefully. We say to the discouraged spirit, “You see that David and you are alike as regards human nature. Divine grace has the same material on which to work in your case as in his, the same views of things in general, the same emotions under particular dispensations--then why should not Divine grace do for you what it did for him? meeting you on the same level as that at which it met him, why should it not conduct you to the same point to which it elevated him? Reverting from the elegy, however, to the man over whom it was pronounced, it is important that we should bear in mind that our destiny in the next world will be decided, not by the estimate which survivors may, under any circumstances, form of our character and conduct, but by the view which the eye of Omniscience has taken of us, from the beginning to the termination of our earthly existence. It will not be the record of our life which will meet us at God's tribunal, but the pages of the book of God's remembrance will be opened then, presenting the most exact transcript of each portion of our existence, however minute. The account to which every man will be summoned will comprehend “the things done in his body” in the whole course of life. How affecting is the contrast which, alas! there is too much reason to fear would sometimes be presented between what survivors are doing and saying in reference to individuals who have left the world, and the actual condition of the souls of those individuals, if for a moment we could be admitted to make ourselves certainly acquainted with it. How many an one would be “lifting up his eyes in hell, being in torment,” as having lived “without God in the world,” whose manly form the artist's chisel has preserved from being forgotten, and whose earthly virtues are graven on the marble beneath. This is an awful truth; but it is one which is too much and too fatally overlooked. Our fellow-creatures may forgive us, but we may yet go into eternity unpardoned by God. And this, not because man is kinder to his fellow than God is to His creatures. No! but because of the unwillingness of sinful man to seek pardon in that way in which alone God dispenses it, and in which, while He passes by transgression, His law is honoured, His truth is maintained, and the respect due to His moral government is ensured. In the atonement effected by the Son of God, to which all sacrifice pointed, and which was made known from the earliest time with sufficient clearness to meet the case of sinful men, that way of forgiveness is discovered--God, for Christ's sake, forgives men their trespasses. To this propitiation all are invited, with the assurance that none who come in faith and repentance shall be rejected. (J. A. Miller.)
David's lament over Saul
David lamented the king's death, and was sad with genuine and noble sorrow. There are events in life which make the commonest men almost sublime: how much more do such events elevate the princeliest men until they sing as angels or burn as seraphs? David's life has up to this point charmed us by its simplicity and heroism: to-day we see it in its highest mood of veneration and magnanimity.
I. One of the first lessons impressed upon us by this lament relates to David's noble-minded forgetfulness of all personal injury. Do not some of us cherish the memory of our personal injuries, even after death has dug the awful gulf of the grave between the present and the past? Death is not to obliterate moral distinctions; but why should we judge when the man who injured us has passed on to the dread invisible--the very seat of the Just One?
II. The lament shows how David was enabled to take the highest and brightest view of human character. He did not detract from the valour of Saul. Some people delay their praise too long. They keep back their affection until they have to suggest an epitaph. Make your love longer, even if you make your epitaphs shorter.
III. The lament impresses us with the beauty of a zealous and tender care for the reputation of the Lord's anointed. Death is not the only fall. Men fall morally. The mighty men of the church fall like stars from heaven. The great preacher becomes a debauchee. The trusted professor is caught in fraud. The feet of the strong are tripped up. And there are men who delight in telling these things in Gath and Askelon!
IV. The lament shows how bitter is the distress which follows the irreparable losses of life. We do not always give full value to the positive side of life. We hold advantages and blessings as if we had a right to them. It is so in the very commonest things. It is so in nature: in family life: in church relations: sunshine; water; bread; friendship; ministry. The application of the whole:
(1) Let us so live, that death will be but a momentary separation.
(2) In commending the wonderful love of Jonathan, let us remember that there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (J. Parker, D. D.)
2 Samuel 1:21
Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew.
The blood of Christ speaking better things than the blood of Saul
These words form a part of that song of lamentation which David composed after that Saul, and Jonathan his son, had fallen in battle with the Philistines. The death of Saul was in the eyes of David an exceedingly grievous event; an event in connexion with which he considered that no small degree of guilt had been incurred; because Saul was the Lord's anointed: and so grievous, and so guiltful, if we may use such an expression, was that event in the eyes of David, that in this solemn lamentation he imprecates Divine vengeance even upon the very place where the foul deed had been perpetrated; he prays, that henceforth on these mountains of Gilboa there might be neither dew nor rain nor fields of offering. We may take occasion from it to illustrate the enormity of that sin of which those were guilty who embrued their hands in our Saviour's blood; and we may take occasion to draw a like contrast with that which the Apostle has drawn in the case of Abel; and we may dwell with delight upon the encouraging fact, that while the blood of Saul that was thus shed called for vengeance on the very spot where it was shed, the blood of Christ calls for nothing but blessings, the very opposite of these curses.
I. The enormity of guilt contracted by those who shed the Saviour's blood, as that guilt may be illustrated by the enormity of the guilt of the death of Saul.
1. What was the principal circumstance upon which David dwelt, but that Saul was the Lord's anointed? But if it be said of Saul, that he was the Lord's anointed, how much more may it be said of Christ, whose very name--Messiah, signifies the Anointed, or the Christ of God. It was indeed manifest to every unprejudiced mind, by the whole course of our Saviour's history, that he was indeed the Lord's Anointed--the Son of God. It is recorded of Saul, that he had on more than one occasion rejected the Lord, rejected the authority of that God who had caused him to be anointed king over Israel. What shall we say, therefore, in contrast, with reference to our blessed Saviour? He glorified and adorned the doctrines of his heavenly Father, by the most unreserved, entire, and continued obedience; so that the great adversary of man when he came to search and to sift him, could find nothing in him; yea, his very accusers had nothing that they could allege or prove against him, when they had arraigned him.
2. David dwelt upon the disgrace connected with his death, as adding bitterness to the event--that he had been slain by the hands of the Philistines, the sworn enemies of the Children of Israel. If we turn to the history of our blessed Saviour we shall find that there were still more embittered circumstances in his history, which made His cup even still more cruel.
3. If we turn again to the history of Saul, we shall find a variety of other particulars, all lessening the enormity of the guilt; and we shall find the contrast again heighten the guilt of our Saviour's death.
4. And whilst in the ease of Saul, we may observe, that it was made most manifest in the hour of his death, that he had not the fear of God before his eyes, it was made most manifest to all those who surrounded our Saviour as he hung upon the cross, that He was indeed the Son of God.
II. To draw an illustration from the case of Saul, and the vengeance of his death--in consequence of his having been the Lord's anointed--the vengeance that was imprecated by David.
1. It may be fairly admitted that the language of David is poetical where he prays, that there may be neither dew nor rain upon the mountains of Gilboa; “Ye mountains of Gilboa,” etc. And we may, therefore, at once turn to the striking, but all-important contrast which may be obtained as it respects the death of Christ. Had they been dealt with according to their descry-into, the vengeance would have come on those who were guilty of our Saviour's death, and that without remedy.
2. But we shall proceed a little further in this illustration, to show the excellence of the blood-shedding of Christ. And we may take encouragement from this fact, that it was at Jerusalem that the glad tidings of the forgiveness of sins, and of the Spirit of promise, were first to be made known. Surely, if they of Jerusalem--if many of the priests who had been foremost in stirring up the people to ask that Christ might be crucified, if many of these very priests received the dew and the rain of heaven--if many of these very persons were enabled to offer themselves up to God to be His servants for ever, through the merit of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, there are none but may hope that they also, approaching God in the same way, shall also be kept, shall be visited with that grace of the Holy Spirit, and shall be privileged to be numbered among the servants and the children of God. (A. Brandram, A. M.)
2 Samuel 1:22
The bow of Jonathan turned not back.
The old archers took the bow, put one end of it down beside the foot, elevated the other end, and it was the rule that the bow should be just the size of the archer; if it were just his size then he would go into battle with confidence. Let me say that your power to project good into the world will correspond exactly to your own spiritual statue. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
2 Samuel 1:23
Lovely and pleasant in their lives.
The Master and the disciple
The words from the elegy of David far Saul and Jonathan, describe their character and relations in both life and death.
1. Great value is always to be attached to inspiring personal influence. None of us can fully compute the benefits which arise from it. The Eternal God has put it within the power of each one of us to affect others for good or harm. We communicate our intellectual interests, our moral tone, our spiritual bias to those with whom we come into contact. Not more surely is the infection of disease given off than the infection of character. Some men are very mighty in this respect. There is about them a strange contagion. They cannot have intercourse with others without in some degree affecting them. These are men of character: they leave their stamp Upon whomsoever they meet. There is about them, always and everywhere, a distinct, distinguishing manner and style of influence, which it is nearly impossible to resist; and equally so to lose, once it has laid hold upon you.
2. We recognise the importance of the earnest reception of inspiring personal influence. The mightiest inspiration fails to affect some people. They do not receive it. They are like blocks of marble or granite kissed by the sunshine, or sprinkled with the soft sweet rain of heaven. If, in this world, and in our strange human life, when we come near to a good and great man, we open all the doors and windows of our nature to him, He will shine into it, and give to it the warmth and comfort that it needs. When such good people are near, we should see to it that they do not pass away without leaving a blessing upon us. I will indicate a few of the points in which the Master and the disciple strikingly resembled one another:--
I. Breadth of view in regarding important matters. The Christian Church has many eminent men occupying positions of prominence in its ministry or its membership, whose power of intellect, and intensity 'of nature, are related to the circumstance that they look and walk along straight lines, and confine themselves to a defined field of observation. They never change their point of view. It is the one with which they are most familiar, and from which they fancy they can see most. From that point they have been looking for ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years. It is easier thus to limit one's field of vision.
II. Great refinement was manifest in the characters of these two friends. It is wonderful how it ever came to pass that a vulgar person could gain credit for being a Christian; for Christianity is the most refining of influences. It sheds a beautifying, chaste, and hallowing effect upon human life. It is the everlasting foe of everything that is vulgar. The coarse, and the harsh, and the hard elements of character have no recognition from it.
III. Courtesy. Some might ask if this is a Christian virtue. Indeed it is. But, like so many Christian virtues, it has been invariably relegated to the domain of cultured, graceful paganism. (W. Dorling.)
2 Samuel 1:25
How are the mighty fallen.
The dirge of the mighty
“How are the mighty fallen”--the words sound in our ears like a deep undertone in some mournful harmony. The warrior-bard is celebrating the memory of a king and a king's son--warriors themselves of no mean prowess, “swifter than eagles, stronger than lions,” the crown and glory of their land. Yet ever and anon we hear that sad refrain--the knell of their departed greatness, “How are the mighty fallen!”
1. “How are the mighty fallen!” It is the doleful dirge of human history through all time, the monument of many a blasted reputation, the brief but telling epitaph of a thousand wrecked lives. A statesman engaged in the service of' his country, honoured as a public minister of his sovereign, a maker of laws in the Senate and a ruler of men in the State, is overtaken in a career of baseness unworthy of the meanest citizen. Indeed, the greater the eminence, the deeper and deadlier the fall. The clergyman who ought to set forth God's Word by preaching and living too often only negatively illustrates the truth he preaches, and furnishes a warning rather than an example. The trusted guide along the heavenly heights reveals by his fall the yawning gulf to which every traveller is exposed, and against which he himself gave men warning. A tradesman exchanges the counting-house and the shop for the dock and the cell. Another scene rises before my eyes. There sits one in dust and ashes who has lost the glory of woman. The unmanliness of a man has betrayed her too frail virtue. The flower that might have bloomed long days to come lies uprooted, withered, dead. She who was once belie of the social circle, “the observed of all observers,” is now an outcast. Thus and thus in so many instances “how are the mighty fallen!” But in all such cases was there not a cause? The open disgrace, like the death of Saul, only marks and manifests the-consummation and the consequences of sin. For we may be sure the heart was wrong long before the life betrayed itself. The mountain of fire long held in its awful depths the springs of death before it belched forth the liquid molten flood, bringing devastation and destruction over the land. If you could trace the inner history of these fallen ones of the mighty you would find Saul's disobedience repeated. They made their own will and pleasure the standard of their moral conduct, and though at first this was only seen by God, self-enlarged its desire till its baseness was laid bare before the world. Life apart from God was the beginning of evil, actual conflict with God's will and law, the development of it, and abandonment by God to the devil's devices the end thereof. “They chose not to retain God in their knowledge, and so He gave them up to their own hearts' lusts and let them follow their own imaginations.” The leaking drop has become at last a wide breaking in of waters and ruin is in the breach. It is the poet's touching tale--
“the little rift within the lute,
Which by-and-bye will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all.”
See then that your heart is right with God and your desires centred in Him. The heart that “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” will deceive you, if you do not yield it unto God, who alone can know it, who alone can renew it in holiness after His own image.
2. But there are several considerations that will hold us back from exulting over these fallen ones of society--
(1) Let us remember that they have carried many down with them in their fall. Men may sin alone but they cannot suffer alone. “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself,” and the thought of our relations with others should act as a motive to deter us from sin. The husband suffers with the wife, parents with children, brother with sister, friend with friend. Saul, the foe of David, involves Jonathan, David's friend, in his own fall.
2. But again, remember that though these fallen sinners are banished from the world's society, Christ will receive them, if they will not in pride and obstinacy of heart sink to a yet greater depth. It is still true of Him that “He receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” God takes the world's castaways and gives them--weary of sin and broken in heart--an inheritance in His house, and often as our Lord said, the publican and the harlot go into the kingdom of God before the self-righteous.
3. Notice the concluding words of our text, “How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!” Such language may fitly teach, as by a parable, the solemn lesson that the conflict of evil with good, of darkness with light, is still raging around us, and that our danger is not past. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Let us, then, utterly distrustful of self, find our strength, our safety, our all, in Jesus, and cleave ever unto Him. Let us “go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and make mention of His righteousness, even His righteousness only.” (J. Silvester, M. A.)
The fall of the mighty
The mighty, you know, are the puissant and great; and persons may be styled mighty on account of their birth, station, abilities, or noble exploits. This title is given in common to the kings, princes, and nobles of the earth: but the term is more peculiarly adapted to persons of s military profession, and fitly sets forth a champion or general experienced in war. They are properly mighty who are justly renowned for their valour and skill, like the princes of Israel, recorded in 1 Chronicles 26:1-32. And this idea of the word agreeth with the character of those whose decease David mourns. “How are the mighty fallen!” Fallen indeed! Not merely fallen. A general may fall from his horse, or by a dangerous wound. But from such falls the mighty may recover, rise up again, speak with the enemy, and gloriously triumph in the end. The mighty are fallen; fallen like Sisera (Judges 5:27) fallen down dead. This is his sorrowful dirge! 'Tis added, “And the weapons of war perished!” I cannot be of opinion that this is to be taken in a literal sense, as though the loss of these instruments of war, properly speaking, grieved the soul of the Psalmist. Could the value of any number of weapons which can with reason be supposed to be broken or lost on this fatal defeat, demand so deep a lamentation; and especially after weeping over the mighty themselves, who were famous for handling the instruments of battle with skill and success? It seems evident to me that David concludes the elegy with a figure, under which he describes those eminent persons whose fall he bewails. The mighty who are fallen, and the weapons of war, are one and the same.
I. Consider the fact, namely, that the noblest of princes, or the most valiant and honourable of the earth, are liable to fall. Death reigns over all without distinction, under the prince of life, our exalted Saviour, who is alive from the dead, anti hath the keys of the grave. Crowns and sceptres, thrones and palaces, and the whole force of the mighty, secure them not for an hour; yea, not for a moment from the domination of darkness.
II. Reasons for great lamentation when a mighty man falls.
1. That when the mighty fall, in proportion to their zeal, puissance, and highness, the glory of a people is departed.
2. By the fall of the mighty the strength of a people is impaired, which is another reason for mourning when such are removed. The mighty, in proportion to their rank and activity, for the welfare of the public, are the defence of a nation.
3. The known disposition of the enemies of a land to rejoice, and to avail themselves of the loss a people sustain when their mighty men die, is a further reason for mourning their fall. On this account we have seen David enjoin it on Israel, not to spread the melancholy report of Jonathan and Saul.
4. Individuals have just cause of mourning the fall of great men, on account of the general grief that spreads through the nation. Under such awful strokes the land mourns, and every one who seeks its prosperity is sensibly afflicted.
II. Since the mighty fall, and die, as other men, and since the most noble and valiant are liable thus suddenly to perish, let us take heed that we do not place an absolute dependence upon them. Under God, there is a just expectation and confidence in wise and good princes: we see they are in some measure the glory and defence of a land; and are doubtless to be honoured and trusted; yet, since they must die, and may be cut down in a moment, our ultimate hope should not be in them. This also shows it to be foolish and vain for great men to exalt themselves as though they were gods, and the baseness of those sycophants who at any time flatter them; such instances are upon record. In one word, when the mighty fall, how vain is this world in its best estate, how uncertain and transitory its honour and beauty l The advantages gained by the exploits of the greatest men on earth are temporal, but one thing is needful, an interest in the triumphs of the cross, and the redemption obtained by the blood of the Son of God. (B. Wallin.)
2 Samuel 1:26
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan.
Perhaps you know by experience what a choking sensation there is in looking at an emigrant vessel clearing out, even though you have no personal interest in anyone on board. The confusion and hurry that attend her departure; the crowded deck, the thronging crowd on shore to say, “Farewell.” Greyheaded men bidding good-bye to their native land, and a final good-bye, too. Who can ever forget the sobs that burst as the last rope was cast off and the great ship solemnly passed away. The loneliness that came upon you as with a rush then, how like, only very faint in degree, what comes when loved ones say “good-bye” in death and “the time of their departure is at hand.” (H. O. Mackey.)
The loss of a friend
Emma Lazarus used to tell how pathetically W. E. Channing spoke of his friend Thoreau's removal. He never spoke of his death but always of “Thoreau's loss,” or “when I lost Mr. Thoreau.” One day when I sat with him in the sunlit wood, looking at the gorgeous blue and silver summer sky, he turned to me and said, “Just half the world died for me when I lost Mr. Thoreau. None of it looks the same as when I looked at it with him. (H. O. Mackey.)
Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
The love of Jonathan to David
I. The love of Jonathan to David was wonderful in its condescension, If we take into account the state of society at the time, the difference between a prince and a shepherd was not so great as it now appears. But still the social difference was great. The heir to the throne of Israel loved the shepherd lad.
II. This love was wonderful in its depth and intensity. Jonathan “loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1). The love of Christ is in the same respect wonderful. His love is no feeble flame. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.” His soul is indeed “knit” to us so closely that “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
III. This love was wonderful in its unselfishness. Had Jonathan been of less nobler mould, he might have felt envious when David's deed of valour brought him into such notice in the camp. But Jonathan's generous nature knew nothing of such feelings. If they rose for a moment, they were strangled in their birth. Jonathan could expect to reap no advantage from his friendship. So with Christ's love to us. We are eternally enriched by His love gifts, and can make but poor return. We give Him, it is true, our love, our service, our devotion, but what at best are these returns for His great love ,to us?
IV. This love was wonderfully practical. True love ever seeks to utter itself in action, rather than words. It finds in loving deeds its fittest expression.
1. This practicalness was seen in Jonathan taking his own robe and putting it on David, so that he was clothed in princely attire. Has not Christ ,clothed us with His own raiment? We become beautiful in His comeliness.
2. In the promise he made him (See 1 Samuel 20:4). Christ has made to us exceeding great and precious promises, even to a share of His glory, His eternal glory.
3. In pleading with his father on David's behalf. The result of this pleading was David's restoration to favour at court. There is, however, this difference. In this case Jonathan pleads David's merit; but Christ pleads not ours, but His own.
4. Jonathan revealed to David his father's thoughts concerning him. Saul proposed to slay him. Jonathan makes this known (See 1 Samuel 20:35). Jesus has unbosomed to us the father. He has made known to us His purpose of mercy. Jonathan's was a warning voice, bidding David flee, but Christ's is a voice of love, bidding us to return to the bosom of God.
V. The love of Jonathan was wonderfully constant. No change in David's circumstances altered the character of his friendship. When David was an outlaw, when Saul was seeking his life, Jonathan remains true (See 1 Samuel 23:16). Whatever changes human friendship may know, the love of Jesus, like Himself, is the same “yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” (The Study.)
My text is a fragment of the lament, composed and sung by David, to the memory of the slain. Let us forget the battle scene where poor Jonathan, all still and stark and blood-stained, lies, and let us turn to Calvary, and behold the wounded dying form of God's beloved Son.
I. The love of Christ was wonderful when we consider those He loved.
1. There was nothing lovely in us. It is as natural for anything lovely to draw forth our admiration as for the magnet to attract the iron or the flower to attract the bee. There was great reason why Jonathan should love David. But when we come to consider our Lord's love for us, we have to say--
What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
It is recorded that a minister once announced his intention of being in the vestry of his Church, for a certain time on a certain day, to meet any one who might have scriptural difficulties, that he might try to solve them. Only one came. “What is your difficulty,” said the minister. The man answered, “My difficulty is in the ninth chapter of Romans, where it says, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’ “Yes,” said the minister, “there is great difficulty in that verse; but which part of the verse forms your difficulty?” “The latter part, of course,” said the man. “I cannot understand why God should hate Esau.” The minister's reply was this: “The verse has often been a difficulty to me, but my difficulty has always been in the first part of the verse; I never could understand how God could love that wily, deceitful, supplanting scoundrel, Jacob.”
2. There was nothing loving in us.--We haw a familiar saying, that “love begets love.” And it is very largely true in daily experience. “Why is it that everybody loves you?” said Dr. Doddridge to his little daughter when she was dying. “I do not know, without it is because I love everybody.” Many a one who could not aspire to be called beautiful, nevertheless has become greatly loved because of an affectionate, loving disposition they possess. But this is not the key that unlocks the mystery of Christ's love to us. No love of ours drew it forth. If we love Him at all, it is because lie first loved us. “Come, bright spirit, I charter you to find for us when first Christ's love began.” Away into the past speeds our messenger. He lingers at the cross. “Pause not there,” we say, “He loved us before that.” He waits a moment at the manger cradle. “We know that His coming was a great sign of love, but it began not then.” He flies on to the days of creation, and seeing the loving provision made for us he pauses yet again. Yet His love began not then. On flies the spirit into the dim recesses of eternity, when as yet there was no creation, when God was wrapped about in His own solitude, even there he finds God loved us. The task is given up, for he finds from all eternity God loved His people. We are stricken dumb at the greatness of such love. Its nature is indeed a marvel to us. Nothing lovely and nothing loving in us, and yet He loved us. Again let us give utterance to our text, and say, “Thy love to me is wonderful.”
II. The love of Christ is wonderful in its expression.
1. Calvary. The greater expression of the love of Christ is seen in Calvary. A tragedy in the street will always attract a crowd. Business men will spare a moment to make inquiries, frail women will venture in the throng to hear of the deed, and even the infirm and aged cannot be kept away. There was once a tragedy which stopped the flight of angels as well as the flight of men. A cross is lifted up, bearing its load of shame and pain. Who is He? How came He there? He is the Son of God! Love brought Him there. Thinkest thou it was the nails, the cords, that Roman soldiery kept Him there? It was none of these, it was love! Jesus our love was crucified. Here was love passing what tongue can tell, or mind imagine, or heart conceive. His love to us was wonderful.
2. We still have expressions of His love. It was the misfortune of David that he had to speak in the past tense--“Thy love to me us was wonderful.”
III. The, love of Christ is wonderful in its power.
1. There is its melting power:, We feel confident there is more power in love than in fear. Fear is a power, but love is a greater power. Some may have been driven into the kingdom by fear, but more have been wooed into it by love. It is said that when the Moravian missionaries first laboured in Greenland a considerable time passed without any fruit being seen to their labour. They had been earnest, truthful, consecrated, and yet there was no result. Anon they gathered the Greenlanders together and read the story of the Lord's death as recorded by Matthew. The bare recital of the story without any comments upon it had a marked effect upon the Greenlanders. Tears were in many eyes. Some said, “Did He die for me?” Many gave themselves to the Lord, and thus commenced a great revival in those regions. The love of Christ is wonderful when we remember its melting power.
2. Think, too, of its constraining power. It bends the saint to the will of Christ. “The love of Christ constraineth me.” The word “constrain” is a strong word, meaning to press, to press painfully. It is used by Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, where it is translated, “being pressed in spirit.” That well-known text, “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” contains this same word, translated “straitened.” The love of Christ is a great power. It restrains our life from useless aims, and compresses it into the right channel. There is a beautiful Greek story, which may be mythical in its origin, but bears in it a beautiful moral. It is said a prince, his wife, and two sons were taken prisoners by a neighbouring monarch, and were brought before him. Said the king to the prince, “If I let your eider son go free, what givest thou me?” And the prince made answer, saying, “I will give thee half my possessions.” “And if I let your younger son go free what givest thou me?” And the prince answered, “I will give thee the other half of my domains.” The monarch spoke again, saying, “If I let the princess go free, what wilt thou give me?” Now the prince had given all away for the redemption of his sons, and knew not what answer to make; but anon he said, “If thou lettest my wife go free, I will give thee myself.” So pleased was the monarch that he let them all free. As they went homeward the prince said to his consort, “Didst thou see the beauty of the king's countenance?” “Nay,” said the princess. “Didst thou see the glory of his court?” “Nay,” again said the princess. “Didst thou see the splendour of his throne?” “Nay,” again replied his wife, “for I had only eyes to see him who was willing to give himself for me.” Oh, my soul, Jesus was net only willing but did give Himself for thee. Have only eyes for Him. The realisation of His love will be a power in thy life. No command of his will be grievous. His love will prove to be wonderful in its constraining power.
3. Christ's love has also a translating power. There seem to be many persons, even good persons, who all their life are held in bondage by the fear of death. The only reason why this is so is that they must fail to understand the power of the love of Christ. What is death? It is the journey home. “To be with Christ” is how the apostle described the result of death. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Now, if you really love a person, and realise deeply the love of that one to you, you long to get to them, and no journey, however inconvenient and distressful, would make you hesitate or shrink. You would be glad to go. Apply this to Christ and death. (W. L. Mackenzie.)
The love of Jonathan, and the love of Jesus
I. Jonathan's love to David.
1. Jonathan's was a singular love, because of the pureness of its origin. Jonathan loved David out of great admiration of him. When he saw him come back with the head of Goliath in his hand, he loved him as a soldier loves a soldier, as a brave man loves another brave man.
2. Jonathan's love proved also to be most intense. It is said that “he loved him as his own soul.” He would at any moment have sacrificed his life to preserve the life of David; in fact, I do not doubt that Jonathan thought David's life much more valuable than his own, and that he was quite willing to expose himself to peril that David might be preserved. Jonathan's was a very intense love.
3. Jonathan's love was very disinterested. David had been anointed king by Samuel. The kingdom was to be taken from the house of Saul, and given to the house of David. That friendship, in which a man can set himself on one side for the sake of another, is not yet so common that we can hawk it in the streets.
4. Jonathan's love was a love which bore up under all opposition.
5. And this love was very active, for you know how he pleaded for David with his father. He went out into the field, and took counsel with David. He arranged plans and methods for David's preservation; and, on one occasion, we find that he “went to David in the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” Yes, his love was not a matter of mere talk, it was real, practical, active; it was a love which never failed.
II. The love of Christ to me. “Thy love to me was wonderful.”
1. I think that we feel this most when we see our Saviour die. Sit down at the foot of the cross, and look up. Behold that sacred brow with the thorny wreath upon it. See those blessed eyes, red with weeping; mark those nailed hands, that once scattered benedictions; gaze on those bleeding feet, which hurried on errands of mercy; watch till you can peer into that gaping side, how deep the gash, how wide the breach, see how the water and the blood come streaming forth! This is the Lord of life and glory, who this dies amid derision and scorn, suffering the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God.
2. I think, also, that we sometimes feel the greatest love to dear friends when we find others doing them despite. When David found that Jonathan's body had been dishonoured by the Philistines, that they had taken away the bodies of King Saul and his sons to hang them on the wall of Beth-shan, then was he sorely troubled, and his love broke forth again in sighs, and cries, and tears. And I must say to-night that I love my Lord all the more because of the insults others heap upon him.
3. Now let me briefly tell the story of that love. Part of its wonder lies in the object of this love, that it should be bestowed upon me: “Thy love to me.” Then throw the emphasis on the first word, “Thy love to me,” and you have another part of the wonder, that is, in the Giver of this love. Now begin, if you can, to consider the commencement of this love. When did God begin to love His own elect? There was a time when He began to make the worlds; but from eternity He has loved His chosen. Before the first flash of light illumined the primeval darkness God loved His people. Christ's love, then, is wonderful in its beginning; and when it began to work on me it was still wonderful, for what did I do? I refused it. And when Christ's love led Him to come here, and take our nature, was it not wonderful? He reigned enthroned in heaven; seraphim and cherubim gladly did his bidding. He was God, and yet he came down from yonder royal palace to that stable at Bethlehem, and to the manger where the horned oxen fed. 'Tis He! 'Tis He! But as George Herbert reminds us, He hath unrobed Himself, and hung His azure mantle on the sky, and all his rings upon the stars; and there He lies, a babe in swaddling bands, taking human nature into union with His divinity because He loved us. The brotherly and condescending character of this love. Times have been when we, who love Christ's name, have been in trouble, and He has been very near to us. Times have been when we have been misrepresented, and abused, and He has smiled, oh, so sweetly on us! Times have been when bodily pain has made us very faint, and He has put underneath us the everlasting arms. Think, also, of the comforting and thoughtful provisions of Christ's love. Our lives are not all to our credit; there have been sad moments, when unbelief has crept in on the back of thoughtlessness, and you have been almost a sceptic. There have been evil moments when sin has insinuated itself into the imagination, and you have almost done that which would have been your ruin. Have there not been times in your life when you have been smitten, and if there had not been some One to uphold you, you would have fallen, almost unconsciously fallen, and there have lain down to die? But, oh, how Jesus has watched over you, and cared for you! But the love of Christ to us is most of all wonderful in its plans for the future. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The love of Christ
I. The love of Christ to us is wonderful, because there was nothing in us lovely. In the spangled sky, the rainbow, the woodland hung with diamonds, the sward sown with pearly dew, the rosy dawn, the golden clouds of even, the purple mountains, the hoary rock, the blue boundless main, Nature's simplest flower, or some fair form of laughing child or lovely maiden, we cannot see the beautiful without admiring it. That is one law of our nature. Another is that so far as earthly objects are concerned, and apart from the beauty of holiness, we cannot help loving what is lovely, and regarding it with affection. Our affections are drawn to an object as naturally as iron is charmed by a loadstone. God made us to love; and when brought near to such an object our feelings entwine themselves around it, as the soft and pliant tendrils of the vine do around the support it clothes with leaves, and hangs with purple clusters. Such analogy is there between the laws of mind and matter! Without detracting from Jonathan's merits, it must be owned that, however wonderful the love was which He bestowed on David, it was not bestowed on an unworthy object. One brave man loves another. In the old days of chivalry, men honoured courage in their enemies; loving and admiring bravery even when it was in arms against them. We turn now from them to Jesus and ourselves; and what do we find in man to win the love of Calvary? It is not enough to say that there was nothing lovely in us; that, as a holy God, God saw nothing in us to love. Sin, that abominable thing which He hates, the seed and germ of all evils, a thing so hateful that it is said, “He cannot look” on it, had so pervaded the nature of every individual man, and the whole race of men, that it necessitated God to abhor His own creatures. Look at a corpse! purred, bloated, infecting all the air; every feature of humanity shockingly defaced; the bright eye; the damask cheek; the sweet lips; the lovely form changed into vilest loathesomeness; a banquet to worms which, as they creep out and creep in, give a horrible life to death! Were the dearest, fondest object of our affections reduced to a state like that, how would we throw it, shuddering, from our embraces; regard it with the utmost horror; and turning away our eyes, call in pity for a grave to bury our dead. This may teach us how sin makes those whom God once loved with Divine affection abhorrent in His sight. Historians relate how, with all her baseness, her duplicity, her cruelty, her bloody bigotry, the passions and crimes that have left an indelible stain on her memory, Queen Mary had much queenly grace. So perfect was her form, her face so beautiful, her smile so winning, that it was only men cast in the stern mould of Knox that could resist their witchery. And to advert to better attractions than the beauty which is consumed before the moth, I have seen some who, with not a little calculated to repel, possessed in moral and mental excellencies, some loveable, compensating, and redeeming properties. But, in the sight of God's infinite and unspotted holiness, sin left us none. If it be true of all mankind that they are altogether become filthy; true that there is none that doeth good, no, not one; true that “every imagination of man’s heart is evil continually;” true that we may all adopt the words of the Apostle, and say, I know that in me, that is in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing--then sin left us with nothing to engage, but everything to repel, the affections of a holy Saviour.
II. The love of Christ to us is wonderful, because there was nothing in us loving. We love what loves us. Such is the law of our nature; and love comes in time to see its own face reflected in the heart of another, as in water at the bottom of a draw-well. We cannot resist loving what loves us; it matters not who or what it is; though but the dog that barks, and bounds, and wheels in joyous circles around us on our return--“the first to welcome and foremost to defend.” I would hold his friendship cheap who did not love a dog that loved him; and care little for the child that would not drop some tears on the grave of his humble but faithful playmate--or, to borrow a figure from Bible story, of the “little ewe lamb which the poor man nourished, which ate of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was to him as a little daughter.” Let a poor dumb creature love us, we are drawn to love it in return, by a law of nature as irresistible and Divine as that which draws a stone to the ground, or makes the stream flow onward to the sea. Whatever secrets this key unlocks; whatever strange and singular marriages it may explain, it does not open the mysteries of Calvary; it does not explain the love of Christ. I have, indeed, seen some that had abandoned themselves to a life of vice who still respected virtue, and look back with remorseful regret to their days of childhood and the innocence of a father's home. I have seen a profligate son, who, though wringing a pious mother's heart and bringing her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, yet loved her; mourning his own failings, he returned her affection; yielding to sin, still he clung to his mother as a drowning wretch to a piece of the wreck which he hopes may float him to the shore. Now, if our love of goodness had survived the loss of it; if we had retained any love to God after we had lost his image; if we had cast back some lingering looks on Eden; and, like Absalom, who felt pained at being two whole years in Jerusalem without being admitted into his father's presence, if we had been grieved at God's displeasure, then, with such goodly vestiges of primeval innocence, Christ's love to us would not have been so wonderful. But there were no such feelings in man to awaken the love of Christ.
III. This love is wonderful in its expression. A sight is here that might have stayed an angel's wing; and filled both heaven and earth with wonder. Who is this? Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! By the cross where He dies, the ear of faith catches the voice of the Eternal: “This is my beloved Son.” He there, who is buffeted by cruel hands, and meekly bears the blows; who faints from loss of blood, and sinks beneath his cross; who hangs upon the tree, while the blood streams from his hands and feet; whose dying ear is tilled, not with holy prayers and psalms, but with the shouts and mockery of an impious crew; He, hanging mangled and lifeless on the middle cross, with head dropped on his breast, the pallor of death spread over His cheek, the seal of death on His lips, the film of death on His eyes, is the Son of God. The Prince of life has become the prey of death; at once its noblest victim and its almighty conqueror. How did it happen? One word conveys the answer--that word is Love; love to sinners, to the greatest, guiltiest sinners. Love brought him from the skies; love shut Him up in Mary’s womb; love shut Him up in Joseph's tomb; love wove the cords that bound His hands; love forged the nails that fastened Him to the tree; love wept in His tears, breathed in His sighs, spake in His groans, flowed in His blood, and died upon His cross. (T. Guthrie.)
Jonathan, the model friend
The most interesting thing in the life of Jonathan is the friendship that existed between him and David.
I. Jonathan was the model of--a loving--friend. A friend is good for nothing unless he really loves us. And the better he loves us, the more his friendship is worth. Let us look at some illustrations of what loving friends will be, and do. A boy in a town in Germany was playing one day with his sister, when the cry was heard--“A mad dog! a mad dog!” The boy saw the dog coming directly towards him; but instead of running away, he took off his coat, and wrapping it round his arm, boldly faced the dog, holding out his arm covered with the coat. The dog flew at his arm, worrying over it, and trying to bite through it, till men came up and killed him. “Why didn't you run away from the dog, my little man?” asked one of the men. “I could easily have done that,” said the brave boy, “but if I had the dog would have bitten my sister.” He was truly a loving friend and brother. There is a well-known story of two men, who lived about four hundred years before the birth of Christ, that comes in very nicely here. Their names were Damon and Pythias. They were educated men, and what were called--philosophers--in those days, and were very warm friends. Some one accused Damon to Dionysius, the king of the country, of doing something that made him very angry. Kings, in those days, had the power of life and death in their own hands. So Dionysius ordered Damon to be put to death. Before this sentence was executed, Damon begged to be allowed to go home 'and arrange the affairs of his family. The king said he might go, if he could get some one to take his place in prison, and to die for him, if he did not come back by the time fixed for the execution. As soon as his friend Pythias heard of this, he came and offered to take his place. He was put in prison, and Damon went to visit his family. The day fixed for the execution arrived, and Damon had not returned. He had to cross the sea to get back, and the wind had been ahead for several days. A platform had been erected, on which the execution was to take place, and the king sat by, on a sort of throne. Pythias was brought out for execution. He asked permission to say a few words to the crowd of spectators. Permission was granted. “My countrymen,” said he, “this is a happy day for me. I am not only willing, but glad to die in the place of my friend Damon. I am thankful that the wind has kept him back. He will be here to-morrow. And it wilt be found that he has done nothing wrong. He is an honest, upright, honourable man, and I am glad of the opportunity to shed my blood in order to save his life. Executioner, do your duty.” Just as he had finished speaking, a voice was heard in the distance crying--“Stop the execution!” The crowd around the scaffold took up the cry, and exclaimed, in a voice of thunder--“Stop the execution!” The execution was stopped. Presently, panting, and out of breath, Damon appeared. He mounted the scaffold. He embraced his friend Pythias; and said how happy he was that a change of wind had allowed him to get there just in time to save his life. “And now,” said he, “I am ready to die.” “If I may not die for you,” said Pythias, “I ask the king to let me die with you; for I have no wish to live any longer in this world, when my friend Damon, whom I have loved so truly, is taken out of it.” I have one other story to illustrate this part of our subject. A teacher in a day-school had to punish one of his scholars for breaking the rule of the school. The punishment was that the offending boy should stand, for a quarter of an hour, in a corner of the schoolroom. As the guilty boy was going to the appointed place, a little fellow, much younger than he, went up to the teacher, and requested that he might be allowed to bake the place of the other boy. The teacher consented. The little boy went, and bore the punishment due to the other boy. When the quarter of an hour was passed, the teacher called the boy to him, and asked if his companion had begged him to take his place. “No, sir,” he replied. “Well, don't you think that he deserved to be punished?” “Yes, sir; he had broken the rule of the school, and he deserved to be punished.” “Why, then, did you want to bear the punishment in his place?” “Sir, it was because he is my friend, and I love him.”
II. Jonathan was the model of--a generous--friend. Let us look at some illustrations of this same kind of friendship. In one of the battles in Virginia, during the late war, a Union officer fell, severely wounded, in front of the Confederate breast-works. He lay there crying piteously for water, A noble-hearted Confederate soldier heard his cry, and resolved to relieve him. He filled his canteen with water, and though the bullets were flying across the field, and he could only go at the risk of his life, yet he went. He gave the suffering officer the drink he so greatly needed. This touched his heart so much that he instantly took out his gold watch and offered it to his generous foe. But the noble fellow refused to take it. “Then give me your name and residence,” said the officer. “My name,” said the soldier, “is James Moore, of Burke County, North Carolina.” Then they parted. That soldier was subsequently wounded, and lost a limb. In due time the war was over, and that wounded officer went back to his business as a merchant, in New York. And not long after, that Confederate soldier received a letter from the officer, to whom he had given the “cup of cold water,” telling him that he had settled on him $10,000, to be paid in four annual instalments of $2,500 each. $10,000 for a drink of water! That was noble on the part of the Union officer. But to give that drink of water at the risk of his own life was still more noble on the part of that brave soldier. I never think of it without feeling inclined to take off my cap and give a rousing “Hurrah!” for that noble Confederate soldier. Thomas Samson was a miner, and he worked very hard every day for a living. The overseer of the mine said to him one day: “Thomas, I've got an easier berth for you, where there is not so much work to do, and where you can get better wages. Will you accept it?” Most men would have jumped at such an offer, and would have taken it in a moment. But what did this noble fellow do? He said to the overseer: “Captain, there's our poor brother Tregony: he has a sickly body, and is not able to work as hard as I can. I am afraid his work will shorten his life, and then what will his poor family do? Won't you let him have this easier berth? I can go on working as I have done.” The overseer was wonderfully pleased with Samson's generous spirit. He sent for Tregony, and gave the easy berth to him. How noble that was! It was indeed the very spirit of Christ. Now, all the four stories we have here show the same generous spirit that Jonathan had in his friendship with David. He was the model of a generous friend.
III. Jonathan was the model of--a faithful--friend. (R. Newton, D. D.)
True friendship deathless
May heaven give us such generous friendship as this ! A star that breaks the darkest clouds of earth and that will shine on us for ever. True friendship is immortal. “The friendship,” says Robert Hall, “of high and sanctified spirits loses nothing by death but its alloy; failings disappear, and the virtues of those whose faces we shall behold no more appear greater and more sacred when beheld through the shades of the sepulchre.” (Christian Endeavour Times.)
A test of friendship
Getting along well with another is a small matter. There is no friendship in that. Decent enemies can get on with each other, when there is no particular occasion for conflict or variance. But friendship makes both friends gladder, happier, more efficient in very sphere, together than apart. As Thoreau said, “Friends should not only live in harmony, but in melody.” (Great Thoughts.)
Divine goodness in human friendship--Luther and Melancthon
With such feelings did Luther and Melancthon meet; and their friendship continued till death. We cannot sufficiently admire the goodness and wisdom of God in bringing together two men so different, and yet so necessary to each other. Melancthon was as remarkable for calmness, prudence, and gentleness, as Luther was for wisdom, impetuosity, and energy. Luther communicated vigour to Melancthon; Melancthon moderated Luther. They were like positive and negative agents in electricity, by whose reciprocal action an equilibrium is maintained. If Melancthon had not been at Luther's side, the torrent might have overflowed its banks. When Luther was not by, Melancthon faltered and gave way, even where he ought not. Luther did much by power; Melancthon did no less, perhaps by following a slower and gentler method. Both were upright, open-hearted, and generous: both, full of love for the word of eternal life, proclaimed it with a fidelity and devotion which governed their whole lives. (Merle D'Aubigne.)
True friendship in union of kindred spirits
“And it came to pass that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.” You knit things together that are of the same kind: things that are of the same substance, and fibre, and texture, and strength, and endurance. You knit a thread to a kindred thread. You knit a cord to a kindred cord. You knit a threefold cord to a threefold cord. You knit a chain of iron to a chain of iron; a chain of brass to a chain of brass; a chain of gold to a chain of gold; and a chain of gold of the same size, and strength, and purity, and beauty to a chain of gold of the same size, and strength, and purity, and beauty, Now, Jonathan's soul was a chain of gold of the same size, and strength, and purity, and beauty as David's soul. Jonathan, as being the elder man, had for long been looking and longing for a soul like David's soul to which his own soul might be knit; and before the sun set that day the son of Saul had found in the son of Jesse a soul after his own soul, and he was at rest. Jonathan's soul was that day knit to another soul, if possible, still more tender, and pure, and pious, and noble, and loyal than his own; till Jonathan was the happiest man in all Israel that day. And that pattern of friendship, knit that day between Jonathan and David, has been the ensample and seal of all true friendships among men ever since. It was a sweet fancy of Plato that at the great aboriginal creation of human souls they all came from the hand of the God of power, and wisdom, and love, and holiness twain in one. All human souls came into existence already knit together like the souls of Adam and Eve, like the souls of David and Jonathan, like the souls of Jesus and John, like the souls of Christ and His Church. But Sin, the great sunderer and separater and scatterer of souls, came in and cleft asunder soul-consort from soul-consort till all our souls since the fall start this lonely life alone. And all the longings, and cravings, and yearnings, and hungerings, and thirstings, and faintings, and failings that fill the souls of men and women--it is all in search of that brother-soul, that sister-soul, that spousal-soul that we have all loved long since and lost awhile. And every true friendship, every true courtship, every true espousalship, every true married-life is the Divine recovery and reunion of twin-soul to twin-soul, as all human souls were in the great beginning, and will for ever be in God and in God's house of love and rest and satisfaction. And had Plato read Hebrew--and would God he had!--how he would have hailed Jonathan and David as another example of two long-lost and disconsolate souls finding rest in their primogenial, spousal, re-knit, and never again to be separated soul. (Alex. Whyte, D. D.)
Passing the love of women.--
Passing the love of women
There are few things in this sinful earth so thoroughly Godlike, so fragrant of Heaven, as true, unselfish friendship, which hopes all things, believeth all things, beareth all things: and we shall have not read this Scripture in vain if we only learn this one lesson--to try and help each other, to try and stand by each other, shoulder to shoulder, in the great rough battle of life, and to have for our friends a love so pure, so disinterested, so trustful, that like that of Jonathan, it “passeth the love of women.” I might recall how for love of her country Joan of Arc armed her tender form and fought before Orleans, how for love of her husband Queen Eleanor sucked the poison from King's Edward's wound, how for love of perishing souls Grace Darling steered her boat through the waves of the wintry sea, and Elizabeth Fry braved the fever-haunted dungeons of Newgate to read Christ's Gospel to the prisoners, and Florence Nightingale flitted like a guardian angel round the beds of the bloody hospitals of Scutari. I might tell you of the deeds of saintly women who worked and suffered for Jesus Christ, and whose names are written in Heaven, of Dorcas who sanctified the needle by her labours, of the pure S. Agnes, of the gentle S. Margaret, of the simple peasant maid of Milan, S. Veronica; but I would lead you to contemplate a purer, better love than any of theirs, a love passing the love of women, the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. It is human nature to love something, the worst of criminals has often shown an affection for some thing or person, one of the most cruel and blood-thirsty leaders of the old French Revolution loved a dog. A man either loves the creature or the Creator, and whilst I would have you love God's creatures, aye, “the dumb driven cattle,” and those creatures which we call in our pride the lower animals, as well as your fellow men and women, I would remind you that your greatest, highest, strongest love shall be for Jesus who loved you and redeemed you from your sins. We should love Him because He first loved us, and his love is shown
(1) in the greatness of the undertaking to which it prompted Him, the Salvation of mankind. A greater work this than the creation, for God's pleasure we were created, but by God's pain and grief and suffering we were saved.
(2) Next, His love is shown in the humiliation which He suffered. He exchanged a throne in Heaven for a manger in Bethlehem, He gave up the peace of the untroubled courts of Paradise for the heat and clamour of a carpenter's shop.
(3) Again, His love is shown in the greatness of the suffering which He endured. The hardest part of trouble is its anticipation, and our Blessed Lord knew from the first what men should do unto Him.
(4) But once again, the love of Christ is shown in the greatness of the deliverance which it purchased, and the richness of the inheritance which it procured. (H. J. W. Buxton.)
The love of woman
A young man named James Rivers was engaged to be married to a young woman named Ellen Boone. The time for their wedding was not far off when the war broke out. Then the wedding was put off. James went to the war. Battle after battle was fought, and he conducted himself like a brave soldier as he was. He was promoted again and again. His letters home were all full of hope and encouragement. The time passed swiftly on, and everyone was hoping that the sad strife would soon be ended. Then came the greatest struggle of the war. Thousands fell on both sides and sorrow took her seat by many firesides. Ellen Boone received a letter one day written in a strange hand. She hastily tore it open, and read as follows: “Dear Ellen,--These lines are written for me by the ward master of the hospital. In the last battle I lost my arms. They have both been taken off close to the shoulder, and now I am a cripple for life. I send this note to tell you that you mustn't think anything more of marrying me. I can never care for you now, as a husband ought to care for a good wife, as you would be. You are released from all the precious promises you have given me. They say I am doing well. Our regiment was badly cut up. Affectionately yours, James Rivers.” No answer was ever written to that letter. James Rivers was alone for a few days in the great hospital, but he was not alone one day longer than it took to make a certain journey. One afternoon there were quiet footsteps on the hospital stairs and a lady was seen walking hastily down the aisle that led to the place where the armless soldier was lying. All the patients in the hospital were astonished when they saw her kneel down at his bedside and put her arms tenderly round his neck. And then she spoke the best words of all her life: “James, don't mind the lost arms too much. You are dearer to me now than when you had them. I will never let you leave me again.” (Richard Newton, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent