TODAY’S READING: 2 Samuel 1–4
As 1 Samuel ends, Saul was told that the kingdom was taken from him because he did not execute God’s wrath on Amalek (28:17–18). The first verse of 2 Samuel notes that David returned from slaughtering the Amalekites on the day that Saul died, the day that David became king. That slaughter was in direct obedience to the commands of God (1 Sam. 30:7–8). It’s fascinating (and intentionally recorded) that the kingdom was lost and was gained in proportion of obedience regarding the Amalekites. God’s favor and wrath always stay connected to whether or not we glorify Him among the nations.
David never celebrated the death of Saul, and we should never celebrate when God’s judgment falls on the nations or on those who lead. Judgment on us all is inevitable as the purpose of godly judgment is the eradication of evil so that what is pure might thrive. If God destroys a civilization or an institution or a civic leader so that God’s people and purposes go forward, we do not gloat even if we are grateful. Rather we stand with David at that funeral and choose to remember the good days and the good things of the person, place, or leader. In fact, David went on to call Saul beloved and pleasant while he lived (2 Sam. 1:23), conveniently forgetting the spears he dodged. This spirit allows missionaries and local believers who have been persecuted or imprisoned in a local context to sincerely love and cherish what is good about the locus and locals of their place of languish. God’s missionary people do not make a habit of calling down fire from heaven.
In David’s lament of Saul, he cries: “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon—lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph” (v. 20). What made David a man after God’s heart was his constant concern for the name and fame of God among the nations. This passion erupts through the whole book of Psalms and was espoused at the death of Saul: David always wanted Jehovah to look good, David always wanted the nations to be attracted to Jehovah, and David wanted good things to happen to God’s people as a light and testimony to the goodness of God. Likewise, if we are to be men and women of God’s own heart, we must be concerned with how every victory and defeat is interpreted by the nations. We must desire that whether we experience pain or pleasure the result is that God looks good internationally. Our sorrow is not wasted if it somehow is used to bear testimony to the goodness of God. When a missionary family buries their child on the field, living and grieving among their adopted unreached people, and through their tears point their cultural comforters to Christ, that family lives for the glory of God in grief. We do not seek or desire sorrow, but we can welcome it when it leads to Jesus being made beautiful before unreached peoples.
Gideon set the example that sons do not automatically merit leadership positions (Judges 8:23), yet when Saul died, an ambitious general named Abner set up a nice but incompetent child of Saul to reign. This unfortunate insistence (to place someone other than the best leader on the throne, regardless of age, gender, race, status, position, or bloodline) led to civil war, needless waste of resources, and the tragic loss of lives that should have been fighting for the glory of God among all peoples. Too much was at stake in Gath and too much is at stake in Hong Kong for us to lose our best warriors to internecine fighting. When the people of God fight each other, for whatever reason, it is the lost among the unreached who suffer.