David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news. They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the LORD’S army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day.—2 Samuel 1:11–12
If an enemy who had opposed you for years was finally dealt with, what would be your first thought? I doubt it would be how to show kindness to that person or to members of his or her family. Generally, we want to give the way that we get. If we get hit, we want to hit back—even harder. That is human nature.
But David had made a promise to Saul’s son Jonathan, and he was a man of his word. He would look out for Jonathan’s children and show mercy and kindness to his descendants.
After Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, there was no king over Israel. David was the rightful king, but the battle continued between the house of David and the house of Saul. Saul had a son named Ishbosheth, and Abner, Saul’s general, made him king. He ignored the fact that God had chosen David as Saul’s successor.
Then Abner and Ishbosheth had an argument, and Abner threatened to defect. Sure enough, he went over to David’s side. But there were problems with that because Joab, David’s general, hated Abner. He couldn’t believe that David would allow Abner into their ranks. This escalated, and Joab ultimately hunted down Abner and killed him.
David was outraged. He was tired of the fighting and wanted it to end. He didn’t want to deal with his enemies in the way they had dealt with him. He wanted to forgive them.
David could have engaged in some big-time payback. But he did the very opposite. Even before all of the experts figured it out, David knew the power of forgiveness.
Was David a perfect man? No. Did he have his flaws? Yes. But God loved David. And He uniquely described him as a man after His own heart.