Lord of the Bursting Dam

If God is not establishing a work, or a house, or a kingdom, or a nation, then it cannot be established. And if God is doing so, then nothing whatever can prevent it—however mighty that opposing force might be.

The Text:
“Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh . . .” (2 Sam. 5:1-25).

Summary of the Text:
The tribes of Israel come to David and present three arguments for making David king. They are related to him (v. 1), David has proven himself in battle (v. 2), and God has promised the shepherding/kingship to him (v. 2). And so the elders, representing the tribes, come to David in Hebron and make a pact with him (v. 3), and anoint him king over all twelve tribes (v. 3). David was 30 when he first became king in Hebron, reigning for 40 years total, 33 years over a united kingdom (vv. 4-5).

David starts by conquering a capital city from the Jebusites, a city that would not be part of any tribe—just as D.C. is not part of any state. At the same time, the city was in the territory or region of Benjamin, some consolation to the tribe of Saul. The Jebusites do a little trash talking from the wall, the meaning of which is ambiguous. The best guess is that they were saying that an army of blind men and cripples could defend this place against you all (v. 6). But David captured the city anyway (v. 7). They did it by climbing up a steep water tunnel (which archeologists have found and identified), and that is how David got saddled with Joab (v. 8; 1 Chron. 11:6). That water course was about fifty feet tall. David then consolidated his rule (v. 9), and God blessed him greatly (v. 10), and which David saw clearly (v. 12). Hiram of Tyre made an alliance with David (v. 11), and David had many more sons (vv. 13-16). From all these sons, the only two which receive subsequent mention are Nathan and Solomon, both sons of Bathsheba (1 Chron. 3:5). Nathan is an ancestor of Joseph (Luke 3:31).

At this the Philistines invaded, and David retreated into a stronghold (v. 17). The Philistines set up in the valley of Rephaim, a valley named after giants, just a couple miles west of Jerusalem, easily within sight (v. 18). David inquired of the Lord, and was told to go out (v. 19). He went and was victorious, like the breaching of a dam (v. 20). They captured the Philistine idols and burned them (v. 21). These idols were so pathetic that they weren’t even capable of running away like their worshipers could. The Philistines tried again, in the same place again (v. 22). When David inquired of God again, he was told to attack the Philistines from behind this time (v. 23), and to follow the lead of the Spirit in the tops of the trees (v. 24). The botanical identification of the trees is uncertain (mulberry, balsam, aspen?). This David did and struck down the Philistines decisively (v. 25).

Constitutional Government:
When Samuel established the monarchy, he wrote down a constitution, and placed it before the Lord (1 Sam. 10:25). When David became king, the Lord had anointed him (through Samuel), but the people also established him as king through anointing him. He was the king-in-principle from the moment Samuel anointed him, but he was not installed until the people anointed him. This is contrary to the whole “divine right of kings” approach, and it is utterly contrary to the arrogant attitude of our current ruling elites. This is something which the Reformers saw very clearly, and was the basis of their understanding of government. We owe our republican forms of government to that understanding.
When David was anointed by them, he also made a covenant with them (v. 3). Israel was governed by the law of God (Deut. 17:14-20), of course, but it was also governed by a written constitution. This is because written constitutions are a great barrier to dishonest men, not to mention the cowardly men who let them be dishonest.

Big With Mercy:
The last verse of Cowper’s great hymn (God Moves in a Mysterious Way) expresses a very biblical truth in an altogether lovely way.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessing on your head.

God’s deliverances often are given to us in bursts. The first victory here against the Philistines was at Baal-perazim, Lord of the Outburst. David said that the Lord broke forth on the Philistines like the breaching of water. In 1 Chronicles (1 Chron. 13:11), and in 2 Samuel, the time of this victory is followed by “the breach of Uzza,” or Perez-Uzza. This breach was a judgment, but also a mercy. Although Uzza died, the people of Israel were taught to receive back the ark of the covenant in reverence (carried by Levites, as the law required), and not hauled on a cart, the way the Philistines did it.

And David is the descendant of Perez, so named because he “breached” before Zarah, who had been marked and identified by a scarlet cord tied to his wrist (Gen. 38:28-30). Achan, who died for his treachery, was descended from Zarah. Rahab, who was the mother of David’s great-grandfather Boaz (descended from Perez), completed the breach when she let down a scarlet cord from her window at Jericho. Here is the line of blood red redemption, found always in the unlikely places! This is the line of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is the way of the Lord Jesus Christ. What was His death and resurrection but the bursting of death’s dam?

And Then Pentecost:
After the Lord breaks through, like the breaching of water, He delivers Israel in another unlikely way. He tells David to go around behind the Philistines, and to wait for the sound of the wind (think of the Spirit) in the tops of the trees. The text says explicitly that the Lord was going before them (v. 24). And then attack, following the Spirit. Never run ahead of the Spirit. Wait in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high. This second victory over the Philistines was just about a couple miles from where the Spirit was poured out upon the disciples centuries later.

This is how we are to fight giants in the valley of giants. We pray for the Lord to make a breach, like a dam bursting. We pray for the Lord to rush before us, like the wind in the top of the trees.

Hands Like That

We can never be reminded too many times of the gospel of grace. It is a message that is not just information, but also food, and light, and warmth—it is a message that is effectual. And there is a word we should all love more than we do—effectual.

Our condition apart from Christ is one of utter helplessness. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were slaves to sin, having to do its bidding, and we were free from the control of righteousness. All our efforts to cease being unrighteous just created a different kind of unrighteousness—the religiosity of the carnal man. This religiosity always veers to some form of works righteousness, because the energy for such religion comes from pride, and not holiness. But pride is our sinful condition. We are dead in our sins, and the name of that death is pride, self, me. And for all the striving that it generates, the word for such religiosity is ineffectual.

But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were steeped in our unloveliness, Christ came down from Heaven in order to love us. He abandoned His will to the will of the Father—the very thing we had refused to do—and was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. He was stripped, beaten, flogged, nailed to a cross of wood, thrust through with a spear, taken down, laid in a tomb for three days, after which point He came out of that tomb with your forgiveness outstretched in His two hands. The thing about it is that when hands like that have been pierced in that way, whenever they are carrying forgiveness of sins, they are incapable of dropping it.

So He came out of that tomb carrying our righteousness, our justification, our perfection. And He offers it to us here—free grace—in the gospel, in the declaration, in the preaching, in the Supper. And so this is the message summed up—that we, the unrighteous and filthy, are given the grace to be able to say, without fear of contradiction, the Lord our Righteousness.

Hypocrites Don’t Care . . .

The Lord Jesus warned us about the sin against the Holy Spirit, a sin that could not be forgiven (Matt. 12:31). We are approaching a Table laden with forgiveness, and some tender believers worry about whether they have a right to come, whether they have a right to be here.

Before considering what that sin might be, let us take a very important moment to recognize what it cannot be. There are hypocrites who are utterly deceived about their condition, but one of their most notable characteristics is that they do not worry about this possibility. There are those who have been guilty of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—these are those who don’t care about whether they have or not. So one of the distinguishing marks of those who cannot have fallen into this sin is the feature of worrying that you might have fallen into it. Hypocrites don’t care about whether or not they are hypocrites—that is why they are.

So what is the sin of blaspheming against the Spirit? In context, Jesus had been accused of casting out demons by the spirit of the devil. In other words, His accusers had fallen into the sin of completely inverting the categories of righteousness and unrighteousness, saying that God was the devil, and, by implication, that the devil was God. But even here, Jesus doesn’t say that they had committed that sin, but He does warn them that they are getting close. There comes a point where that inversion hardens completely, and the sin is everlastingly committed. There is perpetual lack of forgiveness because there is perpetual sin.

But you? You confessed your sin earlier this week, right after you committed it. You confessed your sin honestly and fully at the beginning of this service. You were cleansed, and ushered into the presence of God. And now, just in case, you acknowledge your fallenness and faults—you have let it all go. You trust in the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ, and in that alone.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.