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“And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher).”
2 Samuel 1:17, 18.

THE translators have acted very properly in inserting the words, “the use of,” for that is what the passage means. But if you read it without those words, the sense is still the same— “He bade them teach the children of Judah the bow,” that is to say, how to use the bow. In modern times, critics have said that by the expression, “the bow,” is meant the song which David composed. And to sustain their notion, they quote from the Koran of Mahomet in which they tell us that there is a certain chapter called, “the Bow,” and, therefore, David called his song, “the bow,” as if so late an instance of oriental usage was at all to the point. I declare that there is nothing whatever in Scripture to justify the statement that the words, “the bow,” can be applied to David’s lament!

No doubt, some of the Psalms have titles given to them, but there is never an instance of a Psalm being quoted by its title. It is quoted by its number, never by its name. I accept the passage as our learned translators understood it—David bade them teach the children of Judah the bow. If any enquire, “What, then, is the connection? Why should David teach the people the use of the bow because Saul and Jonathan were slain? Why is the military order concerning the use of a certain instrument of war inserted here, when the passage is full of lamentation?” If any ask, I say, I answer most fitly, as I shall have to show you—it was the best memorial of that skillful archer, Jonathan, and of the other princes who had fallen by the arrows of the Philistines, that from the disastrous day of their slaughter, David caused his own tribe, over which he had chief power, to be trained in the use of that special weapon of war.

I. But now to our work. From my text I want to gather a few useful lessons. And the first is this—ACTIVITY IS A VALUABLE SOLACE FOR SORROW. The people were very grieved, for Saul and Jonathan, the king and the crown prince, were slain. David indulges their grief—he writes them a plaintive song which the daughters of Israel may sing. But to take their minds off their distress, he, at the same time, issues the order to teach the children of Judah the use of the bow—for activity is an effectual remedy in the time of sorrow. Certainly the opposite of it would tend towards blank despair. Are any of you in great grief? Have you suffered a supreme loss?

Do not be tempted to brood over your affliction and to think that you ought to be excused from further service! Do not shut yourself up to meditate upon the great ill that has befallen you, so as to nurse your wrath against God. This can do you no good whatever! Rather imitate David, who, when his child was sick, fasted and prayed, but when it was dead, went into the house and ate bread, for he said, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” I beseech you do not fall under the temptation of Satan to cease from your daily activity—and especially from any holy service in which you are engaged for Christ.

It may be that your sorrow is not a bereavement, but disappointment in your work. You have not won those souls that you looked to win and, some that you thought were converted, have gone back. And now Satan tempts you to do no more—never to cast the net again, for you have toiled all night and taken nothing—never to sow again, for you have wasted your seed by the highway, and birds have devoured it. This is a suggestion of the Evil One. It will lead you into deeper anguish. I would say to you, O mourner, get up from the couch of ease! Shake yourself from the dust, O virgin daughter of Zion! Sit not down upon the dunghill in your grief, but bestir yourself, lest you sink into blacker woe and your bitterness become as wormwood and gall! While inaction will lead into blank despair, I am certain that work dis- tracts the mind from the sad point upon which it is apt to thrust itself.

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