When David received the news that King Saul was dead, one would think that he would have rejoiced. After all, for over a decade, Saul had been determined to wipe David out. Believing him to be a threat to his throne, Saul had set out on multiple expeditions throughout southern Israel with 300 elite troops to search out and kill him.
Twice on these missions, the Lord had delivered King Saul to within easy striking range of David, and twice David declined to kill him. Why? Because he saw something beyond Saul’s physical threats to him and his family. He saw that Saul had been anointed as Israel’s king by God, and David’s spirit was in awe of the beauty of God and all His divine works. Saul had been uniquely chosen by God to be Israel’s first king, so he must be something special in God’s eyes.
Instead of celebrating the news of Saul’s death, it brought deep grief to David. He wrote a lament and gave it to all his men to sing in their mourning.
19 “The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
21 “O mountains of Gilboa,
Let there be no dew nor rain upon you,
Nor fields of offerings.
For the shield of the mighty is cast away there!
The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
23 “Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives,
And in their death they were not divided;
They were swifter than eagles,
They were stronger than lions.
2 Samuel 1:19, 21, 23 NKJV
Saul was anointed by God, and David’s heart was filled with the grace of God toward him despite being David’s biggest threat and enemy. This is consistent with Jesus’ command to love our enemies and helps to explain why the Lord views David as a “man after God’s own heart”.
David mourned deeply over Jonathan’s death, as well. Jonathan and David were Brothers of the Heart – they had a deep, godly love for each other and for the Lord. Each one had served as an inspiration to the nation and had been used by God to defeat the Philistines to save Israel.
David’s lament called for no “fields of offering” to be cultivated on the 1,600’ rocky Mt Gilboa, the place of Saul and Jonathan’s death. Though it sits amidst the “breadbasket of Israel” at the junction of the Jezreel and Jordan valleys, the mountain remains largely barren to this day, save for a beautiful covering of purple Gilboa (or Hayne’s) Iris and other wildflowers in the springtime.
Despite his many shortcomings, David is often considered to be a “type” or model of Christ. This is because of his tender heart of grace, shown in moments like this. Just as David exhibited godly mercy towards King Saul, God looks beyond our sins and failings to deeply love and care for us. He does this daily as He repeatedly blesses us far beyond anything that we deserve. In His great mercy, God routinely does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
With Saul dead, the throne was now available to David, who had been anointed by God two decades earlier to claim this role as Saul’s replacement. But David did not lay out any plans to go back into Israel to take the throne by force. Instead, he was going to let the Lord lead him each step of the way, one day at a time. The Lord led David to Hebron, where he was anointed first as king over the tribe of Judah. He would reign from Hebron seven years before finally taking his rightful place on Israel’s throne, over all twelve tribes, in Jerusalem.
Where has God, in His grace and mercy, done for you what you cannot do for yourself? In what ways has He blessed you?
Lord, thank you for loving us with the mercies of Christ our Savior, who bore our sins and shortcomings on the cross. Help us to rise from our own dead thoughts and works to live a new life in Christ, just as the Father raised Jesus from the dead.
Help us to have a heart of grace like David had. Lead us and guide us, one day at a time, to live a life of love for You and others, with acts of service that are both holy and pleasing to You. Amen.