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David Learns of Saul’s Death

This morning I am excited to begin a new sermon series – although technically, we are not starting a new one as much as we are continuing an old one!

Way back in September of 2020 we began working our way through the book of 1 Samuel – studying the characters of Samuel, Saul, and David. Well, that series lasted just over a year and we concluded First Samuel just before Christmas of 2021.

Well, this morning, I’d like to continue working through that story – starting today in the book of Second Samuel. Now originally, 1 & 2 Samuel were written as one book. They were really only divided because, back when things were written on scrolls, they couldn’t fit the whole story on one scroll and so they cut it in half and thus we got first and second Samuel.

But that means, as we begin 2 Samuel today, we really are jumping right into the middle of the story. It’s like skipping the first half of a movie!

Now if you’re like me, you may not remember what you had for breakfast this morning – let alone what the preacher talked about 3 years ago, so I understand if your memory of some of the characters and events of 1 Samuel are a little fuzzy. What’s more, many of you weren’t even part of our church yet back in 2020 – so you might not have any idea about who these people are or what they did.

So before we jump into Second Samuel today, I want to give you a quick recap of 1 Samuel. And to do that, I want to show you the Bible Project’s overview video of 1 Samuel. This will give you at least the big picture of the story – and will roughly explain where we are in the story as we begin part 2 today. So we’ll start with that video and then we’ll get going into our passage this morning.

Now I realize that this was a very broad overview of the whole book and it doesn’t give us too many specific details about the people and the events that we’re going to be talking about, but hopefully you’ve got a general idea of what’s going on and I can fill you in on the other details as we go along.

To start with, just before we begin reading in 2 Samuel, let me summarize what has just happened in the closing chapters of 1 Samuel. At this point, David has been on the run from King Saul for years. Even though God had declared that David would replace Saul as King, King Saul has repeated tried to hunt David down and kill him, but God has kept David safe. And despite this, amazingly, David has continued to honour Saul as King. And in fact, there have been multiple times when David has had clear opportunity to kill Saul – but He has refused to do so. He has always left Saul’s fate in the hands of God.

But now, God has finally brought Saul to an end. In a battle against their arch-ememies (the Philistines) – the armies of Israel have been defeated and Saul and his sons have all been killed.

Now of course, David wasn’t part of that battle – although he was almost obligated to fight together with the Philistines against Saul – since David and his men had been living among the Philistines for the last year or so – pretending to be allied with them. (But that’s a whole other story that we won’t get into right now.)

For now, let’s just start reading through our passage and we’ll explain more as we go along! It begins like this:

“After the death of Saul, David returned from his victory over the Amalekites and spent two days in Ziklag.” 2 Samuel 1:1

Now at this point, David does not yet know that Saul has been killed in battle. David has just returned from his own separate battle – rescuing his family from Amalekite raiders. As I mentioned earlier, David had been living among the Philistines in the city of Ziklag – pretending to be their ally as he flee from King Saul. But while David and his men had been away preparing for battle, some Amalekite raiders attacked Ziklag, pillaged it, and had taken all of the families of David and his men as captives.

Well, when David and his men realized what had happened, they chased after the Amalekites, defeated them, and rescued all their families – and not one person was lost. It was a tremendous victory given to them by God! So David has just returned from that victory and had been at home for two days – no doubt assessing the damage to their city and figuring out what to do next.

And it’s at this point that David learns of Saul’s death. We read in verse 2:

2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s army camp. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show that he was in mourning. He fell to the ground before David in deep respect.

3 “Where have you come from?” David asked.

“I escaped from the Israelite camp,” the man replied.

4 “What happened?” David demanded. “Tell me how the battle went.”

The man replied, “Our entire army fled from the battle. Many of the men are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.”

2 Samuel 1:2-4

Now for us, the readers of this story, this is not new information – we read about all this in detail back in 1 Samuel chapter 31. But for David – this is new and very difficult news.

Not only is it devastating for David to hear that the Israelites had lost the battle and that King Saul had been killed – but perhaps even more devastating for David is the death of Saul’s son, Jonathan.

If you remember from our study of 1 Samuel, David & Jonathan had an unusually close relationship – especially considering that Jonathan was the heir to throne – but yet God had anointed David to be King instead of Him. What’s more, Jonathan’s father was very actively trying to kill David – but yet despite all these circumstances, Jonathan remained absolutely loyal to David. It truly was a unique and very deep friendship shared by these two men – and so this news would have been absolutely devastating to David! And so, he says to the messenger in verse 5:

5 “How do you know Saul and Jonathan are dead?” David demanded of the young man.

6 The man answered, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear with the enemy chariots and charioteers closing in on him. 7 When he turned and saw me, he cried out for me to come to him. ‘How can I help?’ I asked him.

8 “He responded, ‘Who are you?’

“‘I am an Amalekite,’ I told him.

9 “Then he begged me, ‘Come over here and put me out of my misery, for I am in terrible pain and want to die.’

10 “So I killed him,” the Amalekite told David, “for I knew he couldn’t live. Then I took his crown and his armband, and I have brought them here to you, my lord.”

2 Samuel 1:5-10

Now there are a couple of things to note in these verses. First of all, you’ll notice that this messenger was an Amalekite. This is interesting for a few reasons. First of all, David had just come back from defeating a band of Amalekite raiders who had attacked his city and taken his family captive. 

But this was certainly not the first encounter the Israelites had had with the Amalekites.  The Israelites had been enemies of the Amalekites for centuries all ready. In fact, one of the first battles that the Isrealites had to fight after leaving Egypt was with the Amalekites. The Amalekites had attacked them completely unprovoked – but led by Joshua, the Lord gave the Isaelites victory over them! From this point on, Israel would be at war with the Amalekites. In fact, in Exodus 17:14 we read:

14 After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”). 16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.” 

Exodus 17:14-16

And of course, God kept his Word. In fact, God instructed Saul in the early days of this reign, to attack and eliminate the Amalekites from the face of the earth. We read in 1 Samuel 15…

2 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation…

1 Samuel 15:2-3a

And so God had determined to finally bring the Amalekites to justice. But unfortunately, Saul refused to obey God’s orders. He did fight against the Amalekites, but did not completely destroy them as God had said. It was this act of disobedience that cost Saul his throne, (this is why God determined remove Saul as King and replace him with David) and now it also seems, that this same act of disobedience that had cost Saul his throne and now also cost Saul his life – as this Amalekite (whom he should have earlier destroyed) now apparently put Saul to death.

And I say apparently, because we can’t actually verify that what this Amalekite man said was true. Did he really kill Saul, or was he just the first guy to find Saul after he was dead? Because if we look back at 1 Samuel chapter 31, we get a slightly different account of what happened that day. It says in 1 Samuel 31:4…

4 Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.”

But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died beside the king.

1 Samuel 31:4-5

By this account, Saul would have already been dead even before this Amalekite came on the scene. So there are two possibilities here: One is that this Amalekite was lying about killing Saul – thinking that he might get a reward from David for finally taking Saul out of the picture and bringing David Saul’s crown and royal armband. Or the other option is that he really did kill Saul – the armour-bearer may have just thought Saul was dead after falling on his sword – and when this Amalekite came along, he really did finish the job as he described to David.

And if that’s the case, then it really is a tragic irony that Saul’s act of disobedience years ago not only cost Saul his kingdom, but ultimately it also cost him his life.

And that’s such a potent warning to us today about the consequences of sin. Yes, there are the immediate impacts of sin – which are often significant – but sin also has a way of extending it’s impact years into the future. The choices that we make today can have tremendous and terrible effect on both us and others years down the road. Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:

7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. Galatians 6:7-8a

That was certainly true in Saul’s life – and it will ultimately be true in ours. We will harvest what we plant – likely in this life, but certainly in the next.

Which is why a relationship with God through Jesus Christ is so vital! Jesus has taken the ultimate consequences of our sin – the consequence of death – when He died on the cross. We may still feel the temporary sting of the many consequences of our sin in this life, but the eternal consequence of death has been taken for us. Through faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven and instead of harvesting decay and death, we can harvest eternal, abundant life. 

It’s like Jesus offers to trade us his reward for living a perfect life in exchange for the consequences of our sinful life. And all we need to do is simply accept that exchange. And if you’ve never done that, I would urge you to make that choice today! Come talk to me after the service and I’d love to tell you more about how Christ died and rose again so that that you can be forgiven and have eternal life! It’s the most important choice you can ever make!

But to get back to our story… When David hears of the defeat of Israel as well as the death of Saul and Jonathan, he and all his men respond by mourning deeply. Verse 11 says..

11 David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day. 

2 Samuel 1:11-12

Now remember that Saul had been chasing after David and his men for years – trying to execute them as traitors – even though they had never been anything but loyal to Saul. And so it’s almost a bit surprising that they would all mourn so deeply over Saul’s death! David’s mourning over Jonathan is understandable – but it says pretty clearly that they mourned and fasted and wept all day – not just for Jonathan, but for Saul as well. 

Which is really kinda surprising. In fact, you might even expect them to rejoice a little bit that the one who had tried to kill them was now dead. They would no longer be hunted down and forced to live away from their homes and families! This was the dawning of a new day for David and his men – in fact, with Saul out of the way, David now had a clear path to the throne – the throne that God had promised Him years ago!

And so you’d kinda expect David and his men to celebrate a little bit, not to mourn, the loss of Saul. But I think that just gives us a little further insight into the incredible character of David.

He lived out exactly what Jesus would teach a thousand years later. In Matthew 5:43, Jesus said:

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45a

Throughout his life and through all his interactions with Saul – and even now at Saul’s death, David continually acted as a true child of God – showing love, honour, and respect to the man who hated him and wanted him dead! David didn’t do that because Saul was such a nice guy or because Saul had somehow earned his respect… No, David treated Saul with love, honor, and respect because he knew that was what God wanted Him to do. That’s not to say that it was easy – I’m sure it wasn’t – but David was determined to honour God in everything that He did – even if that meant truly loving his enemies.

And I think that’s something that we need to strive for as well. We need to strive to honour God in everything we do – even if that means giving honour and respect to those who maybe don’t deserve it.

We all have people in our lives who we might not think of as an enemy per se, but they are people that might be particularly hard for us to love or respect. Maybe it’s political leaders with whom we disagree or people who push agendas that go against our beliefs. Or maybe it’s neighbors who play loud music late into the night or who let their dogs leave little presents on our lawn. Maybe it’s co-workers who gossip about us or who undermine our authority. Or maybe it’s our parent or relatives or in-laws that drive us crazy…. Or some other person who has hurt us in some way. We all have some of those kinds of people in our lives. And I would just encourage you, as Proverbs 24:17 says…

17 Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall;
don’t be happy when they stumble.

Proverbs 24:17

Remember, they are still people. People created in the image of God – and despite their poor (or even evil) choices, they are dearly loved by Him.

So I would encourage you to follow the example of David and love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. It’s certainly not easy – but it’s exactly what God would do. In fact, it’s what God does… every moment of every day. Lamentations 3:22 reminds us:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.

23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23

When you consider how often we make choices that should put us in the category of “people who are hard to love”, but God still loves us anyway – it kinda makes it easier to love those other guys, doesn’t it?

When we act totally selfishly, or when we blatantly disobey the expressed will of God, or when we do things to hurt the people around us – you’d really think God would run out of patience with us. That He’d cancel his forgiveness or treat us with contempt – throw us out to suffer in the consequences of our own making…

But yet He doesn’t do that. The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

What a good, faithful, and gracious God!

And so to close this morning, I’d just encourage you to treat your enemies in the same way that God treats us! Let us follow his example and show that same kind of faithful love and mercy – even to the people who are hardest to love! Let us love our enemies – let us pray for those who persecute us. Because in doing this, we act as true children of our Father in heaven! And great is his faithfulness.

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