Friday 25 June 2021


 David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan.
He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah.... He said:
"Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!" (2 Sam 1:17-19)

A lie we can adopt - a Western tendency we can fall into, and which gets amplified in some kinds of Christianity - the idea that we have to be perfect people. We have to have perfect smiles, perfect lives, perfect children. Two cats in the yard. We have to look like the pictures in an ad for Alpha with a bunch of flowers on the dining table, a matching tea set of decent china, and good-looking friends. Above all, we have to be happy all the day. This is a challenge to live up to. Most of us are best not trying. But I've been to a service where the first thing that was said after the introductory 5 or 6 songs was, "who's had something good happen this week?"

This can run into the sand when bad things happens. Maybe we then think, why has this happened to us? Sometimes it's possible to see the kind of martyr's smile syndrome, where someone is clearly conveying that they know they're supposed to be strong, but they're kind of breaking inside.

Sadness and fear can be something some people either don't want to share, or want to avoid, like it's catching. I knew someone who, receiving a diagnosis of cancer, wouldn't even talk to her best friend to tell her about it.

The Bible has no truck with it. When things are bad in the Bible, people lament. One thing the Bible knows about is lament. Maybe one of the reasons why the Jews, as a people, have survived thousands of years of racial and religious persecution and exclusion. In the Bible, they'd sing laments, they'd weep, they'd put on sackcloth and roll in ashes. They knew all about lament.

Lament is powerful.

And lament is not a lack of faith. 

So here, David's been busy smiting Amalekites. While Jonathan and his dad King Saul have been, unfortunately, smitten by the Philistines. There's been a whole lot of smiting going on.

And although David and Saul have had their low points - mostly when Saul keeps trying to kill David, because David is clearly shaping up to be the next king - yet David has always felt loyalty to him.

And David has loved Jonathan - and clearly loved  him more than he loved his wives. You can read into that what you like. The Bible just says that. Moving on... 

David could, if he were British - or maybe if he were the sort of British person that believes his own propaganda and still things he lives in 1942- decide he's going with the stiff upper lip. He is, after all, the king-elect. He maybe should be strong. Should be the one going, "yeah, we've lost a couple. But on the bright side, those Amalekites didn't like it up 'em.

But he doesn't. He laments his lost friend and lost patron. He repeatedly says, how the mighty are fallen. He tells Israel that its glory is lost. But in his lament, there's one thing you might notice. One thing not there. One name, if you like, missing. 

In the whole of the passage of lament for Jonathan and Saul, David doesn't mention God once. I wonder if David was so lost in grief, he doesn't know how to bring God into it - he doesn't know what to say? I suppose it's possible his grief was so intense, he almost doesn't even believe in God for a while. 

But even when David has left God out of the lament - one thing we can know - is that God was still with David in it. God was still faithful to the promises made to David. And God was still faithful to the convenant made with Israel. The day would come when David could rejoice again.

1 comment :

  1. Wise words. This too: Lamentations 3:22-23
    English Standard Version
    22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.


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