"Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with luxury; who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle...” (2 Samuel 1:23-25).
These words were part of a song that David had written down to teach the children of Judah (2 Samuel 1:18). Saul and Jonathan had been killed by the Philistines in a great battle in which Israel was defeated at Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:1-6). David lamented over the death of his good friend Jonathan and also he wept for King Saul who had made himself David’s enemy (2 Samuel 1:17).
It is easy to understand David’s great mourning over his friend Jonathan. Jonathan had been a great friend to David. Jonathan loved David as his own soul (1 Samuel 18:1-3). Jonathan had defended David before his father Saul (1 Samuel 19:4-6). Jonathan had also helped David escape from Saul’s repeated efforts to kill David (1 Samuel 20:1-42). After David had fled to the wilderness, Jonathan supported David and strengthen his friend’s hand in God (1 Samuel 23:16). It is easy for us to relate as to why David wept over the death of his close friend Jonathan and said, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).
What is so striking about the opening verses above is how David wept over King Saul. Saul had been jealous of David’s success (1 Samuel 18:7-9). This jealousy caused Saul to feel threatened by David so he tries multiple times and in multiple ways to have David killed. David has to flee for his life and gets no rest as Saul doggedly pursues him from one place to another seeking to kill him. If most of us were in David’s shoes we probably would have rejoiced in hearing of the death of Saul and felt great relief because we would know that our life was no longer in danger by King Saul.
But David did not do this. Why? Because David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 13:22). David had true, genuine love for his enemies. Even though Saul had sought to kill David, David bore no malice towards Saul. David had multiple opportunities to kill Saul and to end his misery caused by Saul’s pursuit of him, but David did not harm Saul. David’s feelings towards Saul is reminiscent of Jesus’ words on the cross regarding his enemies, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). David’s example of the love and forgiveness he had towards Saul is a great example for us to follow regarding how we should love our enemies.
David was not a perfect man. He would struggle with sexual sins. He would struggle with his parenting skills. But, in regard to the love he showed for his enemies he excelled more than most. I am not a perfect man either. I may not struggle with sexual sins or with my parenting skills as much as David did, but when I look at my life and my feelings towards my enemies and compare my attitude towards my enemies with the attitude David displays here towards King Saul, I realize I have a lot of room to grow in loving my enemies if I am going to be a “man after God’s own heart”. Today, I realize my weaknesses, but I rejoice that God is still working on me to help me become transformed more and more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2). I will strive to love my enemies as David loved his.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).