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‘Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift’ (Ephesians 4:7, The Message). Let’s thank the risen, ascended, triumphant Jesus for the gifts he has so generously given his people.

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Bible passage: 2 Samuel 1:17–27

David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan
 17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

 19 “A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
   How the mighty have fallen!

 20 “Tell it not in Gath,
   proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
   lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

 21 “Mountains of Gilboa,
   may you have neither dew nor rain,
   may no showers fall on your terraced fields.
For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
   the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.

 22 “From the blood of the slain,
   from the flesh of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
   the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
23 Saul and Jonathan—
   in life they were loved and admired,
   and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
   they were stronger than lions.

 24 “Daughters of Israel,
   weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
   who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

 25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
   Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
   you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
   more wonderful than that of women.

 27 “How the mighty have fallen!
   The weapons of war have perished!”

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Deep sorrow
David the songwriter uses his gift to help the nation with its grief (vs 17,18). In particular he expresses his brotherly love for Jonathan, and deep sorrow at his loss (vs 23,26).

Read the song again, pausing at the end of each verse to summarise, in your own words, the good things David says about the king and his son. Aren’t David’s words beautiful?

Pointing to Jesus
Notice too where David mentions the Lord in the song. That’s right – he doesn’t! It’s anyone’s guess why he doesn’t. When Christians use their gifts, it doesn’t always mean writing poems or music about Jesus, or making a gorgeous meal for the neighbours and slipping in a sermon between the starter and main course.

But it does mean using our gifts to point people in the direction of Jesus. That’s different – think about it! The combination of you, your words, your manner and your gifts should all make a compelling combination.


Recall the gifts the Lord has given you – the remarkable abilities you often use to help others, within the church and beyond. Thank him for them. Pray that he will empower you to use them ever more generously to express the good news of Jesus.

Terry Clutterham

Deeper Bible study

How wonderful it would be to lay hold on the Book of Jashar (v 18)! Along with this evocative lament from ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Samuel 23:1, AV) and the enigmatic invocation of Joshua 10:12,13, who knows what other literary and spiritual gems are waiting there to awe and inspire! The fact that David wrote this lament and taught it to his people demonstrates the nobility of his soul, while its content speaks of the generosity of his spirit.

It has been known for street parties to be held to celebrate the demise of hated tyrants. One would hardly blame David if such was his response to the news of the death of the man who had hounded him from pillar to post while he despaired of life at every turn. Besides, not only was the king dead but so also was Jonathan, Saul’s heir apparent. The road was now clear for David to put substance to the implication of the song the women sang after he had killed Goliath of Gath (1 Samuel 18:6–8). David, however, would have none of this. Instead, he gave himself to heartfelt mourning by word and example.

It is not always true that ‘the evil that men do lives after them’, as Shakespeare’s Mark Antony famously claimed (William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2). Sometimes our concern is not to speak evil of the dead. Positively, David chose rather to celebrate Saul’s military prowess (vs 21–23), the prosperity his reign brought to Israel (v 24) and his status as the epitome of the pride of the nation (vs 19,20). His lament for his selfless, beloved friend, Jonathan, is only right and proper and lacks the sexual overtone which some modern interpreters would like to impose on it (v 26).

Emmanuel Oladipo

Do-it-yourself lament

In today’s passage, we have the opportunity to eavesdrop on David at a moment of raw grief. In the poem which he composes on the occasion of the deaths of King Saul and of his best friend Jonathan, we might find some inspiration for writing our own laments. We asked Helen Paynter to lend some advice and encouragement for you to have a go.

The lament is not a common piece of English literature. I doubt you were ever asked to write one at school; you may never even have used one in church. But the book of Psalms contains more laments than any other form of poetry-prayer; many of them written by David. And we also find laments in other places in Scripture, as here in 2 Samuel. Clearly there is something about lament that is important. Perhaps we stiff-upper-lip British types are missing a trick. Perhaps there is a source of healing that can be derived from the frank expression of our sorrow.

What causes you to lament today?
The answer to this may be very obvious; raw grief chafing your soul. But for others, it may be less clear - life is fine at the moment. Everything is on an even keel. As we look at this lament of David, we see that it contains two elements. First there is David’s personal grief at the loss of his best friend (see v 26). Does this resonate with you? But David is also lamenting a national disaster - Israel has lost its king (v 14, cf v 21). Sometimes it is national or international events that evoke lament in our hearts. Now do you have some ideas? For me it is the thought of my Christian brothers and sisters who are in fear today because of their courageous witness. It is the thought of the many, many women who are trafficked to make money for others. And it is the thought of the thousands of children who are feral on the streets of so many cities of the world, prey to any who wish to take advantage of them. What evokes lament in your heart?

Next, we might ask for whom David is writing his lament. The text doesn’t give us any clues, although the fact that the poem has survived suggests that it may have been used publically – perhaps for Saul and Jonathan’s funeral. But there is also the strong sense that David is writing for his own benefit. His own personal feelings are expressed, without embarrassment, without shame. For whom will you write your lament? It may be that you will write something to put into the mouths of God’s people – perhaps your own congregation. But it is also fine to write as an expression of your own private prayers and sorrows. It can be just between you and God.|

I’d like to draw your attention to something else in the passage. Remember that David had had a very ambiguous relationship with Saul, who had tried to kill him on many occasions. But there is no hint of bitterness in this lament. On the other hand, David is willing to recall the good times (eg v24). Bitterness will only hold up your grief. Be honest, certainly. But if this prayer is to be useful for your own healing, don’t use it to heap up remembered wrongs.

David uses all sorts of skilful techniques such as assonance and word-play – this is high poetry, Hebrew style. But don’t try to copy David’s way of writing. Use your own words, and your own writing style. Look again at verse 21. The English translations smooth out the way this is written; a more literal rendering would be something like: ‘You mountains of… in Gilboa – no dew and no rain on you.’ It is deliberately distorted Hebrew, as if David is stuttering in his grief. Your lament needn’t be polished; it needn’t be good English. It does need to take your sorrows before the God who is listening.

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Exodus 39,40

Acts 4


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Even though I walk through the valley (You never let go)
Matt & Beth Redman
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

All the glory
Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1991 Make Way Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

  • Maggie van der Bilt | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Thank you for the opportunity for me to put my lament into words. I share it in the hope that someone else has 'been there' and might be able to offer some encouragement: O tarnished soul, where is your shine? Where is the passion that filled you before? Why so shallow, your feelings are fallow What happened to you? You profess your faith without feeling Has your love grown cold? You behave like your belief is a stone that shackles you to your bed instead of the sap that keeps you alive You do your daily readings as a chore The truth spoken every Sunday Has started to feel like a bore I’ve heard it all before Oh, see the sin that crouches at my door! Refresh my soul, my Lord, I pray Awaken me this day Lest I draw my last breath this way. Each day I choose to not let go You see it all, Lord, you know my condition Hear my petition Have mercy on me Please don’t let me go

  • Patrick Heaps | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Maggie, I don’t often comment on Wordlive but I read your lament and it was moving. I have been where you are and I received some good advice. God loves you just as much as he ever did even though you don’t feel as you once did. Keep on reading your bible, keep on going to Church and listening to the word, keep on praising even when your heart doesn’t feel like it and you will come through. It might take some time but He really does care, He knows how you feel, He understands and He really does love you. Rest in His love. There is nothing you can do that will make God love you any less and nothing you can do that will make Him love you anymore than he does right now. Every Blessing.

  • Graham Fuller | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    This is beautiful Maggie and I would echo Patrick’s words of encouragement and blessing.

  • Thelma Edwards | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Yes Maggie, I've been there too, many times over the 56 years of knowing the Lord. Maybe the fact that your lament resonates with us is an indication that you are in fact very close to God's heart even though you may not 'feel' it. He has not moved, He is still holding you in His arms of love, even weeping with you, feeling your pain and one day, Psalm 42 will be your song "why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God -soon I'll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He's my God" from The Message paraphrase.

  • Karen Sharp | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    I have never ever commented on here before mainly through lack of confidence. I like to read and learn from the comments but feel I have nothing to contribute. But reading your words this morning Maggie, well I can hardly describe how I felt. It was as if you were actually writing my exact thoughts and feelings. I have been struggling for some time now with what I can only describe as a cold heart. I know God loves me and my faith is in tact and strong, I know I will always belong to Jesus and yet I feel a fraud because I can`t seem to show my love to him anymore. I am really struggling with prayer and praise. I keep thinking "how on earth can I feel so cold to a God who has proven Himself to me time and time again, and I continually receive His love. Why oh why can I not show any love back". This morning I was determined I was going to get up very early before the rest of my family and just spend the very first hour of my day in the hope that after reading Word Live today I could maybe connect with God my father. Then the very first comment was yours Maggie. I do not feel so strange and alone now. I hope you will find some comfort, encouragement and healing in others comments this morning Maggie. As I have found countless times our Father God can always find His way through to us, even if we feel we are shut away behind a wall of stone. May God Bless you all this day. Sorry this is so long.

  • Michael Hough | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Thank you for your beautifully expressed honesty Maggie. Prayer is at its most authentic when the ‘real you’ meets with the ‘real God’. The psalmist writes: ‘My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me’ - he’s got hold of us even when we don’t ‘feel’ it.

  • Peter Kimber | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Every year in November I take one or more Remembrance Day services and I always use David's lament as the best, timeless expression of grief for both friends and enemies. There is nothing in all literature, I believe, to compare with it. "How are the mighty fallen" is a reminder that all human power bows before God's justice.

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    We are all made in the likeness of God and that includes the enemies that surround us. We all suffer and grieve in life and God knows this; He experienced the same as His Son was hanging and dying on a man-made wooden cross. In our brokenness we can all rest assured that God continues to love us and will restore us to a life of worship and praise to Him who will resurrect us into His life.......The Kingdom of Heaven is all around us and we can joyfully live there with our God. Prayers today for all who feel depressed; God understands. Amen.

  • Jim Scott | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Thank you, Maggie, for sharing your feelings so honestly; they seem so familiar to me at the moment! I suspect that there are a lot more Christians "out there" who are feeling exactly the same way, but who are afraid to say so. I believe that God really accepts and responds to our outpourings of despair and feelings of failure more than He does to smiley-faced, but insincere, expressions of love for Him. Psalm 42 looks like it might be "your" psalm; I pray that the second part of the last verse will be your experience.

  • Eileen Smith | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Thank you for your honesty Maggie. Like others , I’ve also “ been there” & feel for you in your heartfelt cry. If we feel for you how much more does our loving Heavenly Father. Also like others I echo Patrick’s comment ( thank you Patrick) . Will be praying for you Maggie. KAREN— what I’ve said to Maggie I say to you too, including that I’ll be praying for you.

  • Maggie van der Bilt | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    From my heart, thank you all for your encouragement. They have brought me to tears. God bless you xxx

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Beautiful laments and comments this morning. Before I read today's reading I had read the following in relation to 'Man shall not live by bread alone' and I share a condensed version "Food is essential for life. Without it we couldn't grow. We get strength and vitality from food. Our soul needs nourishment too. The things we think on and the desires that we have are food to our souls.Jesus valued spiritual nourishment more than He valued physical nourishment. Likewise, we should set our desires on the things of God so that spiritual matters are more important to us than our physical food.The wrong diet for our souls is the leading cause of failure and depression in Christians. Being spiritually minded produces life and peace. Being carnally minded produces death (Rom. 8:6). In our health conscious society, many of us wouldn't dream of abusing our bodies with bad diets. Yet in our soulish area, we are killing ourselves by feeding on the wrong things. Treat yourself to a healthy spiritual meal today."

  • Stephen Nicholls | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    I am so pleased that Maggie and Karen have shared their thoughts with us today. May God bless you both. Relax and feel the loving arms of Jesus around you - because He is right there, with you. And He loves you so much.

  • David Forbes | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Good point and advice gilvin.. healthy spiritual meal. Thanks for many being open and sharing. We are all mortal and like the disciples at gethsemanee out spirits are willing but our flesh is weak. Last weeks readings were particularly poignant for me.. am i prepared for suffering? Do i fear ? I know jesuss words to disciples that we may be rejected and despised is very relevant to those persecuted brethern but its our lot too.Knowing jesus is with us at thosr times in a special way and refusing tp fear knowing our souls are secure despite all else brings peace . This passage may be appropiate to those greiving for loved ones. My fathers been down because of his age and one ailment after another... 2 hospital apppts and one dressing change at the gps yesterday today and tomorrow.Having to admit 1st time in his 91 years that he needs a wheelchair to get from the hospital door to get his dressing changed post tumour surgery..Its a 1st for our family seeing one of our parents come to terms with inevitable body shutt down .Knowing and seeing others cope with their immortality is sobering.sauls and johnathans demise were sudden and tragic and David felt it acutely. When it approaches slowly to some you are accustomed to being around for ever almost its mote sadness and empathy for them. But good we are not alone and God is always willing to hear our grief and sorrows. "What a friend we have in Jesus..." comes to mind.

  • Kath Prior | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Thank you MAGGIE, your courage in responding to God's prompt today will bless many, may you feel that wonderful sense of privilege to know you have been used and may it spur you on to continue to share. KAREN thank you too for your honesty, when you said "This morning I was determined..." I can see God's grace in prompting you to give time today when something so precious was waiting for you! I heard yesterday 'the opposite of Grace is not effort it is earning', so keep on making that effort and grace will be there for you, God bless.

  • Peter Oliver | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Maggie a wonderful poem thank you.

  • Roger Hall | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    This is such a joyful site. Cold heart I know too. Deep inside I realise that I feel that way, yet daily I have the evidence of God's magnificent love, I complain about the weather, how Does He love me? He takes me out as evening falls and there is the universe He made. Everlasting love. The chorus "yesterday today for ever Jesus is the same. ..all may change, but Jesus Never, Glory to His name, Glory to His Name Glory to His Name....!

  • Barbara Sabin | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    I do not ask thee, Lord, That all my life may be An easy, smooth and pleasant path; 'Twould not be good for me. But O I ask today That grace and strength be given To keep me fighting all the way That leads to God and Heaven! I do not ask thee, Lord, That tears may never flow, Or that the world may always smile Upon me as I go. From thee fell drops of blood; A thorn-crown pressed thy brow; Thy suffering brought thee victory then, And thou canst help me now. . And what if strength should fail, And heart more deeply bleed? Or what if dark and lonely days Draw forth the cry of need? That cry will bring thee down My needy soul to fill, And thou wilt teach my yearning heart To know and do thy will.

  • David Chipchase | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    GILVIN, thank you for the reminder about food for the soul. When I was driving, I used to listen to religious songs and hymns. When I was in the depths of my recent "dark night of the soul", I discovered the intellectual stimulation of ABC's Radio National but it wasn't spiritual stimulation. I will find all my Christian cd's and resume my sing-alongs. MAGGIE and KAREN, I will keep you in my prayers.

  • Rebecca Huie | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    Maggie and Karen, your comments this morning were refreshing. Thankful for your honesty. I have been through similar experiences of going through the motions, and wondering what happened to the fervor and feelings of more spiritually vibrant times. I think everyone has been there, and may still be there. (I am never very far from such feelings, as I often ask “why?”) Amen to all the comments, and may I add just one more- be patient and gentle with yourself. Your Heavenly Father loves you and fully understands. He has not left you and will not leave you. He walks you through such dry times as a tender shepherd cares for His flock. Sit with Him, wait, be patient. And continue to read your Bible, pray, attend worship services. Lean on Jesus and other believers. The Heavenly Father has this and will be with you through all of life. Praying for you and for all of us at WL. God’s comfort and compassion be with you all.

  • Rosemary Fairweather | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    You were brave Maggie and Karen to feel inspired to comment this morning and we were blessed by it. Thank you,

  • Ruth Lewis | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    It is needless to say how Blessed I am by the WL comments. I keep the WL family in my prayers and the Scripture Union family also!!!

  • Hannah Strachan | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

    I know most people won't see this comment as I'm posting late at night (GB time) but I wanted to add my thanks and amens to today's comments x

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