On Memorial Day we honor and celebrate the lives of those men and women who have died in combat for the cause of our country. How do you do that properly? How do you rightfully honor something so valuable and so sacred? Here are four thoughts from David’s song of lament in 2 Samuel 1:17-2:2, as you remember and honor, today, those fallen soldiers who have poured their lives out on the altar of American freedom.
ONE: Acknowledge their contribution to the nation’s cause. In v.18, the song is to be taught to all of the residents of Judah and is to be written in the Book of Jashar which means “The Book of the Upright” – a national history book to honor those whose examples the Israelites should follow. In v.19, David calls Saul and Jonathan “the splendor of Israel.” Even though Saul was not the perfect king, he and his household represented everything that was good in their people by virtue of position, having been anointed by God. In vs.20-21, the nations at war against Israel should be deprived the privilege of rejoicing over Saul and Jonathan’s deaths.
David wanted to be sure that the memory of Saul and Jonathan would be one that promoted the cause of their nation as a whole, throughout the generations. Today, let us remember that the value of our nation’s heritage is built atop the blood of soldiers who paid the ultimate price. Let us remember that we are who we are on the shoulders of those who have died to procure and to preserve the values of our country.
TWO: Celebrate their bravery and sacrifice. My grandfather was a fighter pilot in WWII. He did not die in combat, but he had many friends who did. Before he passed away he wrote out his memoirs for all of us grandkids so that we would know, and remember. These memoirs are full of the play-by-play action of war, during which some died in battle and others narrowly escaped. In vs. 22-23, David’s song celebrates the bravery of Saul and Jonathan, who have fallen in battle: their bow, sword, swiftness and strength.
The memory of those who have paid the ultimate price for our country lives on as we tell their stories from one generation to the next. Do you have such a story? Tell it. Is someone telling you such a story? Listen to it. Proverbs 10:7 says “the remembrance of the righteous is a blessing.” Be blessed today by telling and hearing the stories of those who have fallen in combat.
THREE: Grieve their loss. Grief is something with which King David would become all too familiar as his years passed. Here he grieves over the death of his best friend, and over the death of his king. A few years later he would grieve the loss of his first-born son. Then he would grieve over his own failures that cost others their lives. Even Jesus Christ, who gave His own life for our ransom – the Bible describes Him as a man of sorrows who was well acquainted with grief.
Grief was not part of God’s original good design for humanity. But since sin entered the world, it has been a necessary component of the human experience. Some choose to refuse the gift of grief, tying up their emotions in a secret room shut off from the rest of the world. But there is no healing there. Grief is a curious thing. It’s a kind of pain that brings the healing that secrecy never even dares to promise.
FOUR: Be obedient to God’s leadership in continuing the good work. Lament and grief are appropriate in their time. But eventually, for all of us, the first three words of Chapter 2 become reality: “Some time later…” You never really move beyond grief. Really, you end up moving through it. Grief is a noble thing. Except when it cripples you. At some point, like King David, God will give you the grace to move through the grief, toward a purpose greater than even you may understand. When that time comes (when your “Some time later…” comes), be obedient to God’s leadership in continuing the good work.
Even through his grief, David (a) continued to nurture his relationship with the Lord: v.1, “David inquired of the Lord.” He (b) sought clarity for how he could continue the good work of his people: “Should I go?” “Go.” “Where?” “To Hebron.” Then David was (c) obedient to the Lord’s direction: v.2, “So David went there.”
This Memorial Day – as you remember – if you wan to honor the memory of those who have fallen in battle for the good of this country, follow David’s example from 2 Samuel Chapters 1-2. Acknowledge their contribution to the nation’s good cause. Celebrate their bravery and sacrifice. Grieve their loss. Then get up and go – be obedient to God’s leadership in continuing the good work.
Grace and Peace,