The Dirge of the Mighty
2 Samuel 1:25
How are the mighty fallen in the middle of the battle! O Jonathan, you were slain in your high places.

"How are the mighty fallen" — the words sound in our ears like a deep undertone in some mournful harmony. The warrior-bard is celebrating the memory of a king and a king's son — warriors themselves of no mean prowess, "swifter than eagles, stronger than lions," the crown and glory of their land. Yet ever and anon we hear that sad refrain — the knell of their departed greatness, "How are the mighty fallen!"

1. "How are the mighty fallen!" It is the doleful dirge of human history through all time, the monument of many a blasted reputation, the brief but telling epitaph of a thousand wrecked lives. A statesman engaged in the service of' his country, honoured as a public minister of his sovereign, a maker of laws in the Senate and a ruler of men in the State, is overtaken in a career of baseness unworthy of the meanest citizen. Indeed, the greater the eminence, the deeper and deadlier the fall. The clergyman who ought to set forth God's Word by preaching and living too often only negatively illustrates the truth he preaches, and furnishes a warning rather than an example. The trusted guide along the heavenly heights reveals by his fall the yawning gulf to which every traveller is exposed, and against which he himself gave men warning. A tradesman exchanges the counting-house and the shop for the dock and the cell. Another scene rises before my eyes. There sits one in dust and ashes who has lost the glory of woman. The unmanliness of a man has betrayed her too frail virtue. The flower that might have bloomed long days to come lies uprooted, withered, dead. She who was once belie of the social circle, "the observed of all observers," is now an outcast. Thus and thus in so many instances "how are the mighty fallen!" But in all such cases was there not a cause? The open disgrace, like the death of Saul, only marks and manifests the-consummation and the consequences of sin. For we may be sure the heart was wrong long before the life betrayed itself. The mountain of fire long held in its awful depths the springs of death before it belched forth the liquid molten flood, bringing devastation and destruction over the land. If you could trace the inner history of these fallen ones of the mighty you would find Saul's disobedience repeated. They made their own will and pleasure the standard of their moral conduct, and though at first this was only seen by God, self-enlarged its desire till its baseness was laid bare before the world. Life apart from God was the beginning of evil, actual conflict with God's will and law, the development of it, and abandonment by God to the devil's devices the end thereof. "They chose not to retain God in their knowledge, and so He gave them up to their own hearts' lusts and let them follow their own imaginations." The leaking drop has become at last a wide breaking in of waters and ruin is in the breach. It is the poet's touching tale —

"the little rift within the lute,

Which by-and-bye will make the music mute,

And ever widening slowly silence all."See then that your heart is right with God and your desires centred in Him. The heart that "is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" will deceive you, if you do not yield it unto God, who alone can know it, who alone can renew it in holiness after His own image.

2. But there are several considerations that will hold us back from exulting over these fallen ones of society —

(1) Let us remember that they have carried many down with them in their fall. Men may sin alone but they cannot suffer alone. "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself," and the thought of our relations with others should act as a motive to deter us from sin. The husband suffers with the wife, parents with children, brother with sister, friend with friend. Saul, the foe of David, involves Jonathan, David's friend, in his own fall.

2. But again, remember that though these fallen sinners are banished from the world's society, Christ will receive them, if they will not in pride and obstinacy of heart sink to a yet greater depth. It is still true of Him that "He receiveth sinners and eateth with them." God takes the world's castaways and gives them — weary of sin and broken in heart — an inheritance in His house, and often as our Lord said, the publican and the harlot go into the kingdom of God before the self-righteous.

3. Notice the concluding words of our text, "How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!" Such language may fitly teach, as by a parable, the solemn lesson that the conflict of evil with good, of darkness with light, is still raging around us, and that our danger is not past. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). Let us, then, utterly distrustful of self, find our strength, our safety, our all, in Jesus, and cleave ever unto Him. Let us "go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and make mention of His righteousness, even His righteousness only."

(J. Silvester, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.

WEB: How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places.

The Master and the Disciple
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