The Lord's Anointed
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Bible Passage: 2 Samuel 1
Last week we finished 1 Samuel by reading about the death of Saul. But Samuel is really one book with two main characters – Saul and David. We are meant to compare them, and we have learned a lot already by comparison.
David was anointed by Samuel almost 15 years before he actually became king. Saul had been anointed and then crowned almost immediately.
Saul became king without any period of testing or suffering. David, in contrast, suffered for years before becoming king. He was tested repeatedly. He was not perfect, but his life was marked by humble preparation, unlike Saul.
And that is an important background as we come to 2 Samuel. In the kingdom of God, patient, humble suffering always comes before exaltation. It was true for David. It was true for Jesus. And it will be true for all servants of the King.
And now, I’m excited to begin studying 2 Samuel with you. Chapter 1:
1 After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.
2 And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage. 3 David said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.”
4 And David said to him, “How did it go? Tell me.” And he answered, “The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.”
5 Then David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” 6 And the young man who told him said, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him.
7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 8 And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ 9 And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’
10 So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.”
If you remember, 1 Samuel 31 tells a very different story about Saul’s death. Saul’s last words were to his armor bearer: “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” The armor bearer was too afraid to do it, so Saul fell on his own sword.
But the Amalekite tells David a much different story. According to this young man, Saul asked him (an uncircumcised pagan) to kill him. And not just any pagan, an Amalekite. Saul lost his kingdom because of the Amalekites, so this story is complete garbage. The man is lying. And it’s not difficult to figure out why.
The Amalekite assumes that David will reward him for killing Saul. He travels several days and arrives in ragged condition to give David the symbols of Saul’s kingdom – the crown and the armband. He embellishes the story hoping for a job in the new government. It doesn’t go as planned, but first there’s some more important business for David.
11 Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. 12 And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
This grief is central to the story. In the Bible, how stories are told is almost as important as the story itself. The Bible has structure and there’s meaning in the structure. If you read 2 Samuel 1 in a hurry, you would summarize the story by saying it’s about the lie of the Amalekite and David’s judgment of the Amalekite.
But much more important is this grief. David and his men grieve for the man who tried to kill him multiple times. And it isn’t a show. It’s genuine and it lasted all day.
They grieved over the death of Saul and Jonathan, but they also grieved over the vulnerability of Israel. They wept and they fasted, and it was sincere.
It would be easy for us to say that Saul doesn’t deserve this kind of grief. Jonathan maybe. But Saul? And yet, this is what righteous men do in the Bible. They grieve loss, even when the loss was necessary.
Jesus was described as a man of sorrows and grief, not only because of the cross. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus stood overlooking the city and wept – grieving the sin and death of this world.
In today’s church, we make much of joy and hopefulness – and we should. But lament is also a big part of the Christian experience, because having the Spirit of Christ Jesus means we will start to see the world with His eyes. The darkness will sometimes cause us grief.
13 And David said to the young man who told him, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.” 14 David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”
15 Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go, execute him.” And he struck him down so that he died. 16 And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed.’”
Let’s pause here for a moment to appreciate how God exposes the sin of the Amalekite. He is judged for the intentions of his heart. David doesn’t know the man lied, but it doesn’t matter. He was condemned by his words, and he lied for personal gain.
And this is a warning to us. Listen to what Jesus said about the religious leaders. They were respected by the people, but Jesus knew their hearts were evil. Luke 12:2-3 –
2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
In other words, God knows what we really think and He’s in the business of exposing us.
Parents, we understand this, don’t we? We are praying our kids will make good decisions and when they don’t, we are praying they will be caught. Am I right?
17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he said it should be taught to the people of Judah; behold, it is written in the Book of Jashar. He said:
19 “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
What follows is a song of grief. In this song, David shows a tremendous amount of respect for Saul and Jonathan. Again, we understand the respect for Jonathan. But Saul?
The respect David had for Saul, in spite of everything Saul did to him, is striking. It tells us two things about David with clear application for us.
First, David’s respect for Saul reminds me of the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount – love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Saul was an enemy of David, but Saul was also the Lord’s anointed, and David understood that.
Why are we commanded to love and respect even our enemies? The simple answer is this: because I’m not better than my enemies. Every person on the planet was created in the image of God. And according to God, that’s reason enough to love them.
David’s relationship with Saul was more complicated than this, but at minimum we could describe them as political opponents. Can we even say, as Americans, that we love and respect the people who disagree with us politically? Doubtful. But love your enemies at least means that and really, far more than that. That’s the first lesson.
Second, David’s respect for Saul shows us that David was clearly not driven by a desire for power, as the Amalekite assumed. David was driven by a fear of displeasing God.
This is related to the first point, because the concern is still the glory of God. Disrespecting the anointed of God, or the image of God, is not OK with God.
And what we will learn about David in the next few chapters is that he is still waiting for God to lead, even after Saul’s death. He’s not going to take the kingdom. It will be given to him by God. David will not rush to grab power. He will honor Saul and he will wait.
And this is so convicting to me personally when I consider how I normally operate. I’m so often driven by a fear of what others think about me or by a desire for what I want – not by a fear of displeasing God, a respect for His law, or a desire for God to be glorified through me.
And this is even more convicting when I consider the connection to Jesus Christ. His mission on earth was a mission of perfect patience and dependence on God. Satan tried to tempt Jesus with earthly power and Jesus refused.
There were several moments when the crowds of people tried to take Jesus and make him king by force. They wanted a violent revolution. But instead of leading violence against others, Jesus himself chose death. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
And in the face of that death, Jesus pleaded with the Father to remove the cup of judgment. This was not a fear of death or pain, but a fear of displeasing God. In order to bring forgiveness, Jesus had to bear the curse of our sin. He had to associate himself with our failures and suffer rejection in our place. And we know it was a fear of displeasing God, because Jesus prayed to the Father – not my will but yours be done.
When you become a Christian, the Spirit brings a deep conviction. I’m not OK with God. God is not OK with me, and something needs to be done. That’s the first feeling I experienced. And I began to feel the weight of it. My life does not bring God glory. It does not honor Him. And then comes a godly fear of His holiness, the danger of that realization. But is quickly followed by the amazement of the Gospel – the Spirit brings peace in the words of Jesus – “It is finished.”
God does not want us to respond to that conviction with a commitment to try harder, without first leaning into Christ. When Jesus preached the good news, he said “repent and believe” not “repent and try harder”. We have killed the Lord’s anointed, but He welcomes us into His kingdom by faith.