2 Samuel 2: God bless you for this — for honoring your master, Saul, with a funeral.
David mourns the passing of Saul and his good friend Jonathan and prepares to end his self-chosen exile from Israel by moving to Hebron in Judah. He also hears of the bravery and sacrifice of the men of Jabesh Gilead who took their lives in their hands to retrieve the bodies of Saul and his sons from where they were on display in Philistine territory. They brought the bodies back to Israel for a decent funeral. On one hand we have the story of the man who claimed to have finished Saul off, now we have the story of these valiant men who went into enemy territory following a devastating defeat to show proper respect for their dead king. David knows valor when he sees it and honors those men for what they did. Times of crisis define us. We may be able to put on an act that convinces about everyone, but when the pressure is on the real person is seen, for good or for bad.
Take Away: Challenging times have the potential to bring out the best in each of us.
Song for a funeral
2 Samuel 1: “You asked for it,” David told him.
There’s no passage of time between the end of 1 Samuel and the beginning of 2 Samuel. We simply turn the page and keep on reading. David returns to Ziklag after rescuing those who were taken captive and is, I guess, rebuilding the destroyed town. An Amalekite shows up in camp with what he thinks will be received as good news. Saul and Jonathan are dead. In fact, he claims (apparently a lie) that he personally finished Saul off. This fellow was probably robbing the dead on the battle field and came upon Saul’s body. He thinks that having David indebted to him will be worth more than the royal headband and bracelet he took off of Saul’s body. Clearly this guy doesn’t know David. After all, David has more reason to kill Saul than anyone, yet he has twice passed up the opportunity to do so. The bearer of bad news goes out to meet his Maker soon thereafter. David composes a song of lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan. He could have sung of disappointing failure and lost opportunities. Instead, he remembers the bravery of these two men and the security and prosperity they brought to Israel. As the Amalekite learned the hard way, cheering the death of even a deeply flawed individual isn’t David’s way. It’s not God’s way either.
Take Away: As the Lord is gracious and merciful to us, so should we be to all, even those who don’t measure up.
Genesis 23: That’s how Ephron’s field…became Abraham’s property.
Thirty seven years have passed since Sarah gave birth to the miracle baby. When she dies, Abraham, in his mourning, makes burial arraignments. He’s become a very wealthy man as he’s lived in Canaan but his wealth is in livestock and other belongings. Abraham doesn’t own a square foot of land. When he goes to the locals to secure a burial site, they’re kind to him, but beyond the kindness is what might be called old fashioned horse trading! Abraham is offered the use of their burial sites, but everyone knows he won’t do that. He’s lived among them all these years and has kept an identity distinct from them. They know that he’s not going to lay the body of his wife in one of their graves. Abraham asks about a certain piece of land and the owner offers it to him for free. However, that’s part of the bargaining process. There’s nothing Ephron would like better than for Abraham to be indebted to him over a small patch of land. Abraham responds that he wants to buy the land at full price so Ephron initiates the bargaining by offering it at a very high price. He expects Abraham to dicker with him but instead, he simply accepts the offer. The Hittites must be shocked to silence at Abraham’s response. They know Abraham’s a shrewd business man so they may think he’s so deep in grief that he isn’t thinking clearly. Now, for the first time, Abraham and his descendants possess land to call their own in the territory the Lord had promised decades earlier. That field and cave becomes the epicenter of the Promised Land for them. Ultimately Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah will all be buried in that place. Isn’t it interesting that the place where God’s promise to give Abraham possession of a land to call his own is first realized at a cave turned into a tomb! I’m probably not supposed to make the connection, but many years into the future, another of God’s promises: the promise to deliver lost humanity from sin will also be first realized at a similar tomb.
Take away: Sometimes God’s promises to us are first realized in totally unexpected ways.