David: Man After God's Own Heart,
Part III:
How the Mighty Have Fallen

A sermon by Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor
Richmond’s First Baptist Church
Richmond, Virginia
June 24, 2012

2 Samuel 1

This is the third Sunday in our summer story telling series, and the reviews have been mixed.  The children are loving it.  They can’t wait for the next story in the series.  We had some visitors this morning who were more accustomed to sitting on uncomfortable pews and listening to dull and boring sermons who were not so sure.  “What was that?” they said.  “What are we supposed to do with that?”  Well, I can’t tell you what to do with it, but I do believe these stories have a power of their own.  They get inside you and they begin to live and grow and move and breath, and sometimes even days after you’ve heard the story it comes to you, maybe even in the night, with a message.  I believe that if we will prepare the soil of our hearts, the seed of God’s word will fall and take root and grow.  So, get your soil ready for the third installment in this series.

When Samuel went down to Bethlehem to anoint David as the new king over Israel, Saul, the old king, didn’t know a thing about it.  It was a secret anointing.  Saul didn’t know and if he had known, he wouldn’t have liked it one little bit.  But the Lord knew, and the Spirit of the Lord who had rested on Saul began to rest upon David which left Saul with only his own troubled spirit sometimes so troubled that his advisors began to say to him, “My Lord, the King, let us seek out for you someone who is skillful in playing upon the Lyre, so that when your spirit is troubled he might play for you and your spirit might be at peace.”  If music sooths the savage beast perhaps it can also sooth a savage king.  Well the idea seemed good to Saul, and he said, “Who did you have in mind?”  And one of his advisors said, “I know a young man, a son of Jesse from Bethlehem, he’s good looking, he’s well spoken, he is fearless in battle and skillful in playing upon the lyre.  Let us get him and bring him to the palace, and then when your spirit is troubled, he can play for you.”  And so they went and brought David, the son of Jesse, to Saul’s palace and when Saul’s spirit was troubled, David would play upon the Lyre, beautifully, skillfully Saul’s spirit would be at peace.  He became very fond of David.  Some would even say that he loved him.  Some would say that David loved Saul.  But that was before Goliath.  You remember what happened?  The story of David and Goliath, how this shepherd boy came from Bethlehem with only a stick and a sling and single handedly killed this Philistine giant, struck him down, cut off his head.  When he did, all of Israel fell in love with David, and first among them was own son, Jonathan.  He and David were two of a kind.  Jonathan was also a mighty man of valor, a fearless warrior.  You may remember that he routed an entire Philistine garrison single handedly one time.  Well, not single handedly.  He had his armor bearer with him.  I’ve been trying to think what an armor bearer would look like, and the best I can come up with is that he would be something like a caddie, you know, who follows a golfer around the golf course handing him the appropriate club at the appropriate time.  So that as Jonathan climbed up hand over foot to this rocky crag where the Philistine garrison was stationed, he might say to his armor bearer, “Um, let’s see, I’m going to need my, uh, my, my driver.”  And then he would use it to strike down Philistines, twenty of them in the space of about thirty yards, a Philistine with every other step while his armor bearer came along behind and dispatched the wounded with what, a putter, maybe.  Anyway it threw the whole garrison into a panic and they began to surge back and forth.  The army of the Philistines began to spread out across the hill country of that region and the Israelite army followed them.  They gave chase and cut down Philistines by the hundreds, by the thousands.  It was a great day in battle, and at the end of it Jonathan was a hero.  But that was nothing compared to the day David stepped out onto the battle field with just his stick and his sling and brought down a giant.  When Jonathan saw it, his heart exploded with admiration and every little piece that fluttered to the ground had David’s name written on it.  The Bible says that his soul was knit to the soul of David, and he made a solemn covenant with him.  He said, “From now on, no matter what happens, you and I will be friends and our families will be friendly to one another no matter what happens.”  And he gave David his royal robe, his armor, his belt, his bow, his sword.  It was as if he were saying, “You are the one who deserves to be the next king over Israel, not me.”  That day as they made their way back to the palace, David went with Saul and Jonathan.  And the women of Israel came out from their villages and lined up alongside the road.  They shook their tambourines.  They batted their long eye lashes and began to sing a song that went something like this.  Saul has slain his thousands, but David tens of thousands”.  And Saul looked at Abner, his general and said, “Did you hear that?  They’re saying that I’ve slayed my thousands, but David his tens of thousands.  What will it be next?  Will they give him the kingdom?”  From that day forward Saul had his eye on David.  In fact the very next day, David was in the palace playing skillfully upon the lyre for Saul’s troubled spirit.  But Saul’s spirit became even more troubled.  In fact he became enraged with jealousy, and he took his spear and hurled it at David, nearly succeeding in pinning him to the wall.  David dodged the spear, recovered, picked up his lyre, began to play and don’t you know Saul through the spear again and again almost pinned David to the wall.  He didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore, didn’t want to see him, couldn’t stand the sight of him, so he put him in charge of a thousand soldiers and sent him out to do battle with the Philistines or whomever.  David would go out into battle and come home triumphant, and he would go out into battle again and come home victorious.  Everywhere he went he had success, more success than all the other servants of Saul, and every time he returned the women of Israel would line both sides of the road, shaking their tambourines, batting their long eye lashes and singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David tens of thousands.”  It made Saul furious especially when he found out that one of the young women singing this song was none other than his own daughter, Michael.  She loved David.  All of Israel loved David, but she loved him like no other.  She had seen him in the palace, had noticed how strong and handsome he was, how fearless he was in battle and she loved the way he played the lyre.  When he strummed those strings, her heart went zing, zing, zing.  “Ah!” she said, “Daddy, get him for me.”  Saul began to see how he could use this situation to his advantage.  He called David in and said, “David, my boy, my daughter, Michael, is quite taken with you.  In fact she asked if she could marry you, and I thought well why not except for that one small detail and that is you are so poor.”  And David said, “Well you’re, you’re right about that, your majesty.  I, I, I’m nothing but a poor little old country boy from Bethlehem.”  “That’s true,” said Saul, “You are nothing, nothing, but a poor little old country boy and yet if you could bring me the bride price for my daughter, I think we could strike a deal.”  And David said, “What, what is the bride price?  Tell me, anything.  I’ll do it.”  And Saul said, “Bring me one hundred Philistine foreskins.”  Now there’s something you need to know about Philistines and that is that they are not usually eager to give up their foreskins without a fight.  Saul knew this.  In fact he was counting on it.  He thought if David has to fight one hundred Philistines surely one of them will prevail against him and strike him down and kill him and my troubles will be over.  So he sent David out.  And David came back with two hundred Philistine foreskins.  Saul had to give him his daughter’s hand in marriage.  He was, after all, a man of his word.  It was a big wedding, just the kind you would expect when the daughter of a king is married, and David and Michael went off on their honeymoon.  When they got back, they moved into a little house just down the hill from the palace and David went back to work leading his thousand out into battle and bringing them home again victorious so that the women of Israel lined up on both sides of the road shaking their tambourines, batting their long eye lashes, singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David tens of thousands.”  It made Saul furious.  One day not long after that David was down the hall from where Saul was sitting and he was picking out tunes on the lyre.  He must of played one that sounded a little too much like that tune because Saul stomped down the hall with his spear in his hand and he hurled it at David and almost pinned him to the wall so that David jumped up from where he was sitting, left the palace and went down the hill to his house.  He went inside, slammed the door, shut behind him and locked it, said to his wife Michael, “Your father is trying to kill me.”  And she said, “That’s impossible.  My father loves you like a son.”  And David said, “Just take a look out the window.”  And she did and here came the palace guard down the hill toward David’s house.  They did not look happy, and Michael said, “Maybe you’re right.  Quick!  Go out the window.”  And David jumped out the window.  Michael made sure that the door was locked.  She went over to the corner of the bedroom where there was an enormous idol.  Don’t ask me what an idol was doing in a home of a faithful Jew, but there it was.  She dragged it over.  She heaved it up onto the bed.  She dressed it in David’s clothes.  She put goat’s hair at the head to look like David’s hair and then she pulled up the covers.  There was a knock at the door.  The palace guard was there.  They said, “We’re looking for David.”  And she said, “Oh, David is not feeling well.  He’s, he’s sick.  He’s in bed, here, you can see for yourselves.”  And she opened the door just a crack and they looked in and there on the bed was something, someone, might have been David, could have been David.  They went back up to the palace and told Saul, “David is not feeling well.  He’s, he’s sick.”  And Saul said, “You go back down there and bring him to me even if you have to bring him to me on his sick bed.  I will surely kill him.  And so they went back down to David’s house and this time they weren’t so polite.  They burst open the door.  They threw back the covers and found this idol dressed in David’s clothes with goat’s hair at its head.  They brought Michael back up to the palace.  She stood before her father trembling, and Saul said, “Where is David and what have you done?”  And she said “Well, he told me that if I didn’t help him escape he would kill me.  You wouldn’t want that would you, Daddy?”  David had escaped to Ramah where Samuel, the judge, lived and he said to him, “Saul, the king you anointed over all Israel, is trying to kill me.”  Samuel knew just enough about Saul to know that this was probably the truth, and so he and David went up to Naioth to spend a few days lying low.  But Saul heard about it.  He came to Naioth looking for David.  David slipped out the back door, circled back around, took the long way home to the palace and spoke to Jonathan.  He said, “Jonathan, your father is trying to kill me.”  Jonathan said, “That’s impossible, my father loves you like a son.”  David said, “He is trying to kill me and I can prove it.  Tomorrow is the festival of the new moon.  Your father will be expecting me at the dinner table.  When he sees that my place is empty, and when he asked you about it, you tell him that I went down to Bethlehem to offer sacrifices with my brothers.  If he says well and good then it is well and good, but if he becomes angry then you will know that he is trying to kill me.”  So they made that arrangement, but then David asked, “How will I know Jonathan?  How will I know that your father is pleased or angry?”  And Jonathan said, “Here’s what we’ll do.”  And he conceived the most elaborate scheme that has ever been conceived to convey information from one person to another.  He said, “On the third day, I will come out to the field.  You hide yourself beside the rock.  I will bring my boy, my bow, my arrows.  I will shoot three arrows into the air and if things are well, I will say to the boy the arrows are on this side of you.  But if they are not well, I will say to the boy go, the arrows are beyond you.  And if he goes beyond you then you will know that things are not so good at home, and you can run for your life.  Got it?”  David said, “Got it.  Got it.”  And that’s what happened.  The very next night at the feast of the New Moon, there was David’s empty chair.  Saul looked at it for a little while and then turned to Jonathan and said, “Where is this son of Jesse?”  And Jonathan said, “Well he’s gone to Bethlehem.  He asked permission to go to offer sacrifices with his brothers and I gave him permission to go.”  And Saul stood up from his seat.  He banged his fist on the table.  He said, “You son of a perverse rebellious woman, don’t you know that as long as David is alive you will never be king over Israel, never!”   And then Saul took his spear and hurled it at Jonathan trying to pin him to the wall.  Jonathan left the palace that night in a state of fierce anger, and the next morning he got up early, got his bow and his arrows and the little boy and went to the field.  And with his heart breaking, shot three arrows into the air and sent the boy to fetch them.  The boy ran through the field toward the rock, and Jonathan shouted after him, “No!  The arrows are beyond you.”  That was the signal, and when David heard it, he knew the truth and his heart broke.  Jonathan gave the bow and arrows back to the boy, sent him to the palace and then David came out from his hiding place.  He and Jonathan embraced and they wept and the Bible says that David wept more than Jonathan.  Jonathan reminded him of their covenant, that they would always be friends no matter what happened and their households would always be friendly to each other, but finally David had to say goodbye.  And he left Jonathan that day not knowing if he would ever see him again.  He went down to the wilderness of Judah, and he began to round up everybody who was in debt to the king, everyone who was disgruntled or discontent.  He put together four hundred merry men, and like Robin hood began to roam around in the wilderness of Judah not exactly stealing from the rich and giving to the poor but having adventures which you can read about in the book of first Samuel.  Eventually, however, King Saul heard about it and got news that David was hiding out at En Gedi, and Saul went from the palace all the way down to the wilderness of Judah.  And let me tell you, there is not one rest stop along the way.  So that when he got there, he had to turn aside, if you know what I mean.  He turned aside into a cave, the same cave in which David and his four hundred men were hiding, and the men said to David, “This day the Lord has delivered your enemy into your hand.  Go and do what seems good to you to do.”  And so David crept forward to the mouth of the cave where Saul was squatting down, and David took out his sharp sword and in one swift and silent stroke he cut off the corner of Saul’s cloak.  And then he crept back into the depths of the cave.  Saul, when he had finished his business went out of the cave and then David stepped forward and said, “My Lord, the king.”  Saul turned around and saw him there and when he did a shudder went through him realizing how close he had come to death.  But David said, “My Lord, why do you persist in believing those who say that I have it in for you?  I could have killed you just now, but I didn’t.  Look what I have.”  And he held up the corner of Saul’s cloak.  When Saul looked down and saw that it was missing, he realized that David could have just have easily been holding up his head.  And he said, “David, my son.  My son how I have misjudged you, and now I see that you do love me and I do believe that you will be the next king over Israel.  Go, and may God bless you.”  And Saul and his three thousand men went back to the palace where they stayed for a few days, maybe a few weeks until Saul heard one of his hand maidens down the hallway humming that old tune.  (humming)  It made Saul furious and he rounded up his three thousand and went back down into the wilderness of Ziff where David was hiding, and he went and camped on the hill of Hakilah and that very night David and his men came close.  David looked around and said, “Who is it who will go with me into Saul’s camp under the cover of darkness?”  And one of them, one of the sons of Zeruiah said, “I will go.”  And they crept into Saul’s camp, and they found Saul, himself, stretched out on the ground sleeping under the stars with his spear jabbed into the ground near the head and his water jar.  And the son of Zeruiah said, “Oh, my lord, give me leave.  Give me leave.  I will pin him to the ground with his own spear.  I will not strike twice, just once.  Give me leave, my lord.”  But David said, “Who can lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be blameless?  But, here, you take his water jar and I’ll take his spear.”  And they sneaked out of the camp, down into the valley, up the hill on the other side and then David called back to Abner, Saul’s body guard, “Abner!”  “Yes, who is that?”  “Abner, are you not Saul’s body guard?”  “Yes, who is that?”  “Shouldn’t you do a better job of guarding Saul’s body?  Look what we have, his spear, his water jar.”  And that’s when Saul recognized David’s voice.  He said, “David, my son, is that you?”  And David said, “I was right there, Saul.  I could have killed you easily, but I could not, would not lift my hand against the Lord’s anointed.  I have counted your life as precious.  Count my life as precious, too.”  And Saul promised that he would, and he blessed David.  And the very next day went back to the palace.  Saul and David never saw each other again.  But it wasn’t long after that that the Philistines came up from the coast and gathered together for battle in the Valley of Jezreel.  There were so many of them.  They were like the sands of the sea shore.  You couldn’t count them.  And Saul mustered the armies of Israel and they came against the Philistines in the Valley of Jezreel.  There was a terrible battle, and they began to give chase to the army of Israel, chased them into the mountain of Gilboa, and it was there on the mount that the fighting was at its thickest and Jonathan, the son of Saul, was struck down and killed and his two brothers, also.  And Saul, himself, was mortally wounded by the archers until he said to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and run me through.”  But his armor bearer said, “ Who am I to lift my hand against the Lord’s anointed?”, so that Saul had to take his own sword out of its sheath, put the hilt on the ground, the tip of the sword just under his breast bone and there on Mount Gilboa Saul fell on his sword and died.  That day in battle, Saul died, his three sons, most of his men, when David heard about it, he tore his clothes and wept, wept for his dear friend, Jonathan, but wept also for Saul, the king.  There had been a time when Saul loved David and David loved Saul.  David wrote a poem.  He set it to music and taught it to all the inhabitants of Judah.  He wanted them to sing this song maybe so that it would replace that other song.  It goes like this, “Your glory, Oh Israel, lies slain upon your high places.  How the mighty have fallen.  Tell it not in Gath.  Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice.  The daughters of the uncircumcised will exault.  You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you nor bounteous fields for there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.  From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back nor the sword of Saul return empty.  Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely, in life and death they were not divided.  They were swifter than eagles.  They were stronger than lions.  Oh, daughters of Israel, weep over Saul who clothed you with crimson and luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.  How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle.  Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.  I am distressed for you my brother, Jonathan.  Greatly beloved were you to me.  Your love to me was wonderful passing the love of women.  How the mighty have fallen and the weapons of war perished.” 

We’ve been talking about David, a man after God’s own heart.  As we prepare to sing our hymn of invitation, I would ask you to examine your own heart, to think about what part of it you have not yet given over to God and this day and this place, give it over.  Give yourself to him whole heartedly.  Become one of those like David whom the Lord loves. Will you stand as we sing together hymn 477 and come forward on this day as you feel led to do so.    

—Jim Somerville 2012

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