2 Samuel 1:19
The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places: how are the mighty fallen!…
This expression suggests numerous refleclions on -
I. THE VANITY OF MAN in the glory of his might. He is proud of his exalted state, his wisdom, strength, or riches; and he is admired and envied by others. But:
1. How precarious his position! He stands on "slippery places." All his grandeur rests on life, than which nothing is more unsubstantial or uncertain.
2. How futile his purposes! Formed in ignorance, weakness, and presumption, they are defeated and" broken off." "There is no king saved by the multitude of a host;" etc. (Psalm 33:16).
3. How unsatisfying his possessions! They afford no solid peace in life or death. "Vanity of vanities," etc. (Ecclesiastes 1:1).
4. How transient his duration! "Man is like to vanity; his days are as a shadow that passeth away" (Psalm 144:4).
5. How signal his downfall! "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!" (Psalm 73:19).
6. Hew evanescent his fame!
Is as the herb, whose hue doth come and go;
And his might withers it, by whom it sprang
Crude from the lap of earth."
(Dante, 'Purg.,' 11.)
7. How complete his humiliation! The sword of Saul is cast away, his shield covered with blood and rust, his sceptre broken, his diadem and bracelet pilfered, his head placed in the temple of Dagon, his body fastened on the wall of Bethshan, his sons slain, and his dynasty destroyed. "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" (Psalm 49:20; Psalm 39:5; Daniel 4:31; Acts 12:23). "The last act is sanguinary, beautiful as is all the rest of the play. Dust is cast upon the head, and there is an end and forever" (Pascal).
"Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: Today he putteth forth
The tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him:
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost;
And, - when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening, - nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do."
(Shakespeare, 'Henry VIII.')
II. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD in the fall of the mighty. "If there be a God, the world must be governed by Providence" (1 Samuel 2:1-10; 1 Samuel 9:1-25).
1. How evident its existence! "The Lord reigneth." It is not only declared in the Scriptures, but also plainly shown by the facts of history and daily observation. Of Saul it is said, "The Lord slew him" (1 Chronicles 10:14).
2. How great its power! "He bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity" (Isaiah 40:23; Daniel 4:25).
3. How vast its domain! All space, all time, all orders of being and all events, the least as well as the greatest (Matthew 10:29). Even the actions of free and responsible creatures, of individuals and nations, the Philistines as well as the Israelites, the evil as well as the good, are encircled and pervaded by it; foreseen, permitted, directed, controlled, restrained, or overruled. The course of Saul was foreseen at his appointment; yet he was not thereby placed under the necessity of acting as he did
"Contingency, whose verge extendeth not
Beyond the tablet of your mortal mold,
Is all depictured in the eternal sight;
But hence deriveth not necessity,
More than the tall ship, hurried down the flood,
Is driven by the eye that looks on it."
4. How manifold its operations! What skilful adaptations it makes! What endless instrumentalities it employs! What varied issues it evolves!
5. How mysterious its methods! The fact is certain, the mode unknown. Its ways are obscure, perplexing, completely hidden for a while, and then made apparent and fully justified. "We know in part."
6. How righteous its administration! (Psalm 31:23; Psalm 37:1-11; Psalm 97:2). "Saul died for his transgression," and Israel (whose self-will he reflected) was chastised through the man of their own choice.
7. How beneficent its aims! The repression of sin, the salvation of men, the glory of God. The fall of Israel's first king was overruled for the good of the nation; the fall of Israel, in subsequent ages, was "the riches of the world." "Oh the depth," etc.! (Romans 11:33-36).
1. Glory not in any earthly good, but only in the Lord.
2. Be ambitious to serve rather than to rule.
3. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
4. Strive for the crown and kingdom that will endure forever. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!