June 22, 2023
“Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and all of the men with him did the same. They mourned, wept, and fasted until the evening for those who died by the sword...”
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“Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and all of the men with him did the same. They mourned, wept, and fasted until the evening for those who died by the sword – for Saul, his son Jonathan, the Lord’s people, and the house of Israel.” 2 Samuel 1:11-12 (HCSB)
Verses 11 & 12 are at the center of today’s chapter. After having gone through intense trauma over the past several chapters, David and his men had reached their emotional limits. There was no other option but to mourn and do so loudly and dramatically.
Upon reading the events of 2 Samuel 1, I found myself wanting to skip from verse 10 (The end of the Amalekite’s account of Saul’s death) and go directly to verse 13 (The execution of the Amalekite). But the writer seems to think the most important item in the story is the grief and wailing of David and his men over Israel’s fallen leaders and troops. The Lord’s people have been crushed. Grief cannot wait.
In deciding to focus on grieving first instead of swift justice, the writer has exposed a basic human tendency within us to hurry grief instead of letting it take its natural course. The anguish of David and his men is impressive. The condition of God’s people disturbed them. In that, we could all learn a lesson about empathy for the suffering believer.
Furthermore, after the initial grief (and necessary justice), David begins the process of lamenting. Grief remains long after the events grieved have passed. Sorrow is a continuing process. Because grief abides, there must be some process by which God’s people can express that grief and move toward healing. David chose the “lament,” a song by which Israel could continue her mourning and perhaps learn a few lessons.
“David sang the following lament for Saul and his son Jonathan, and he ordered that the Judahites be taught The Song Of The Bow. It is written in the Book of Jashar:” 2 Samuel 1:17-18 (HCSB)
A lament is a formal expression of grief or distress that can be written, read, learned, practiced, or repeated. It differs from the informal, spontaneous, immediate outbursts of grief associated with our initial responses to tragedy. The lament is no less sorrowful or sincere but a vehicle for the mind and emotions. A lament is “thoughtful” grief. The intensity of one’s emotions combined with the disciplines of their mind to produce structured sorrow, a sort of “authorized version” of distress, a coherent agony.
Therefore, words are carefully selected, crafted, and honed in a lament to express loss as closely yet fully as possible. Sorrows are not miraculously healed after a short time of emotional catharsis. Sometimes Christians are impatient with grief. “Why can’t they just trust God and get over it?” Today, perhaps, God is teaching you to embrace the discipline of expressing grief in words (songs or prose), which convey your anguish and verbalize despondency while remembering His great plan and power to enact it.