Summary: A meditation on Remembrance Day, 2008.
MOURNING OUR FALLEN
“David chanted this lament over Saul and his son Jonathan. (He gave instructions that the people of Judah should be taught “The Bow.” Indeed, it is written down in the Book of Yashar.)
“The beauty of Israel lies slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
Don’t report it in Gath,
don’t spread the news in the streets of Ashkelon,
or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will celebrate!
O mountains of Gilboa,
may there be no dew or rain on you, nor fields of grain offerings!
For it was there that the shield of warriors was defiled;
the shield of Saul lies neglected without oil.
From the blood of the slain, from the fat of warriors,
the bow of Jonathan was not turned away.
The sword of Saul never returned empty.
Saul and Jonathan were greatly loved during their lives,
and not even in their deaths were they separated.
They were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions.
O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet as well as jewellery,
who put gold jewellery on your clothes.
How the warriors have fallen
in the midst of battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your high places!
I grieve over you, my brother Jonathan!
You were very dear to me.
Your love was more special to me than the love of women.
How the warriors have fallen!
The weapons of war are destroyed!”
Saul and Jonathan had been slain in battle. David and the brave men allied with him were all that stood between the overthrow of the Kingdom by the Philistines and continuation of Israel as a people. The lament that David composed is an example of mourning that honours the memory of those who are fallen. It is appropriate at this Remembrance Day service for us to review this lament, learning how to honour the dead who have given their lives so that we may continue in freedom as a nation.
IT IS APPROPRIATE THAT CHRISTIANS HONOUR FALLEN WARRIORS — War is ugly business; it is the result man’s fallen nature. Jesus warned that as we approached the end of days we would “hear of wars and rumours of wars” [MATTHEW 24:6]. He also warned that “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom [MATTHEW 24:7]. With war comes death, and with death comes sorrow and mourning.
“War is hell,” said General Sherman. The statement was made spontaneously at the conclusion of a technical speech to military cadets at the Ohio State Fair in 1880. The entire quote was, “Boys, I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
“Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell.”
A great general on the other side of the last great conflict in which Sherman fought was General Robert E. Lee. In a letter to his wife, Lee wrote, “What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”
All who are familiar with the history of Israel as recorded in the Word of God will undoubtedly recall the account of the death of Saul. Saul, the first king of the united Jewish Kingdom, had disobeyed God. His disobedience resulted in a prophecy by Samuel that the kingdom would be torn from him [1 SAMUEL 15:28]. The Saulide dynasty would end with the first and only ruler from that family because of his cowardice and wanton disregard of the will of the LORD. God pledged that He would place another king on the throne—one who would prove to be better than Saul, who would obey God and seek Him in all his ways; the one whom God chose was David.
Though Saul ruled as king for over forty years, he moved inexorably toward his date with destiny. A sword hung over his family, and every action of the mad king moved both him and his family closer to death. His disobedience, his wanton disregard of the will of God in order to do what was convenient, brought him into repeated conflict with the Lord and subjected Israel to sorrow that should never have been theirs.