Inscrutable Justice and Mercy

Introduction This passage concludes the narrative of the book of Samuel, and it does so with a story that sounds odd to modern ears—for various reasons. Some of those reasons have to do with the coming of the gospel, and some of them have to do with us drifting away from a biblical understanding of God’s ways with man. The Text: “And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah . . .” (2 Sam. 24:1-25). Summary of the Text: God’s anger was kindled against Israel, and so He made David make a bad decision (v. 1). David told Joab to go and number the people of Israel (v. 2). Joab, wisely, was opposed (v. 3). But David prevailed against Joab and the military leaders (v. 4). They traveled through all Israel, taking 9 months on the census (vv. 5-8). The number was 800,000 in Israel and 500,000 in Judah (v. 9). Upon receiving this information, David’s conscience struck him (v. 10). A prophetic word came … [Read more...]

A True Sun King

Introduction In this passage, we have the last formal pronouncement that the great David gave. This message from David spoke of the blessing that comes from a godly ruler. Louis XIV was the Sun King of France, and his idea of it was absolute monarchy. David, by way of contrast, spoke of a sun king very differently. The Text: “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, And the man who was raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me . . .” (2 Sam. 23:1–39). Summary of the Text: These are the last words of David, referring to his last pronouncement (v. 1). He was the sweet singer of Israel (v. 1), and God spoke through him (v. 2). A ruler must be just (v. 3), and if he is, then he is a morning sun (v. 4), a cloudless morning (v. 4), and as new grass after rain (v. 4). Though David’s house does not deserve it, God has made an everlasting covenant (v. 5). Sons of Belial, … [Read more...]

The Meaning of Blamelessness

Introduction With just a few variations, this chapter is also found in Scripture as Psalm 18. A common feature of ancient Hebrew writing is to conclude an extended narrative with a song, as Deuteronomy does, or as we see with Jacob’s prophecies at the end of Genesis. In this case, we find the narrative of both books of Samuel bookended with Hannah’s song and with David’s. Because I have preached through Psalm 18 before, in this message we will focus on one fascinating aspect of the psalm. The Text: “And David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul: And he said, The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer . . .” (2 Sam. 22:1–51). Summary of the Text: The psalm was written in the aftermath of God’s deliverance of David from Saul (v. 1), but it is also appropriately placed here, near the end of David’s life. God is David’s Rock and Fortress (vv. 2-3). No … [Read more...]

The Glory of Giant Killing

Introduction We have concluded the main narrative of Samuel, and have now come to an a-chronological coda, tying up some loose ends from the David story. The fact that the “appendix” is deliberately thought through can we see in the fact that the coda is a chiasm. That chiasm is straightforward—we have A. deliverance from a natural disaster in Israel (21:1-14), B. giant-killing (21:15-22), C. then a song of David (22:1-51), C’ then David’s last words (23:1-7), B’ then the heroics of the 33 (23:8-39), and last A’ deliverance from another natural disaster (24:1-25). The Text: “Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites . . .” (2 Sam. 21:1-22) Summary of the Text: There was a three-year famine in the land, and when David inquired of the Lord, he was told that it was because of bloodguilt that Saul had incurred against … [Read more...]

Yet Another Head Wound

Introduction At the conclusion of chapter 19, hot words were exchanged between the men of Israel and the men of Judah—with the men of Judah being the harsher of the two. This created an opportunity for a demagogue to arise, and history shows us that such opportunities are seldom neglected. The Text: “And there happened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel . . .” (2 Sam. 20:1). Summary of the Text: For most of this chapter, this account is structured in a chiasm: A. Tents and trumpets (2 Sam. 20: 1-2);          B. David orders the rebellion be dealt with (2 Sam. 20: 3-7);                  C. Joab takes out Amasa (2 Sam. 20: 8-13);          B’ Joab deals with the rebellion (2 Sam. 20:14-22a); A’ Tents and trumpets (2 Sam. 20:22b). … [Read more...]

Losing a Regained Grip

Introduction We saw in the previous chapter that the death of Absalom was a reverse type of the death of the great son of David. We will see in this chapter another set of related contrasts—the attitude and response of the respective fathers involved. The Text: “And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom. And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son . . .” (2 Samuel 19:1-43) Summary of the Text: Joab was told that David was in mourning (v. 1). The victory of the people was consequently turned into mourning (v. 2). The troops crept back into the city, as though they had been defeated (v. 3). The king covered his face, and cried out loudly (v. 4)—meaning that he could not see or hear. Joab came in and rebuked him bluntly (vv. 5-6). He tells him to get out there and review the troops (v. 7). Word spread that the king had come out, and the troops … [Read more...]

Between Heaven and Earth

Introduction We see in this passage a stark contrast between the shrewdness of Joab and the sentiment of David. Joab was not a godly man, but he was often clear-headed about the politics of the thing. David was a godly man, but he was at times muddled by his own sense of mingled love and guilt. This is one of those times. We also see a striking example of what might be called a reverse type of Jesus, the Messiah. The Text: “And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. . .” (2 Sam. 18:1-33). Summary of the Text: So David set his troops in order (v. 1). He placed a third of them under Joab, a third under Abishai, Joab’s brother, and the remaining third under Ittai, the warrior from Gath who had just joined David (v. 2). When the elderly king set out to go to battle with them, he was diplomatically dissuaded (v. 3). The king reviewed the troops as they went out (v. 4). Everyone heard the order that David … [Read more...]

A Toxic Civil War

Introduction We see here in this passage that God is always sovereign, and His Word always comes to pass—regardless of who seems to be in power, and who seems to be powerless. Shrewd counsel is disregarded, and bad counsel followed, and why? Because God determines the movements of men. The Text: “Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night . . .” (2 Sam. 17:1-29). Summary of the Text: Ahithophel advises immediate pursuit with 12,000 men, which would represent all of Israel (v. 1). They are vulnerable, they will all scatter, and David only will be struck (v. 2). The people will become Absalom’s and there will be peace (v. 3). Absalom and all the elders were pleased with this advice (v. 4). But Absalom wanted a second opinion and called for Hushai (v. 5). When Hushai arrived, Absalom summarized Ahithophel’s counsel, and asked Hushai what he thought (v. 6). … [Read more...]

The Secret Things

Introduction In the last chapter, we caught a glimpse of the old David. Here, in this passage, he is fading in and out. He is easily duped by Ziba, but he also shows great restraint and humility in the face of Shimei’s taunting. But, for all his stumbles, he remains a clear type of the Lord Jesus. The Text: “And when David was a little past the top of the hill, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him . . .” (2 Sam. 16:1-23). Summary of the Text: As David passes the top of the mountain, Ziba arrives with many provisions (v. 1). David asks, and the provisions are explained (v. 2). The absence of Mephibosheth is noticed by David, and Ziba slanders his “master’s son” (v. 3). David impetuously gives all Mephibosheth’s holdings to Ziba (v. 4). David goes a little further, and encounters someone else from the house of Saul, a man named Shimei, a man cursing as he came (v. 5). Across some kind of a ravine, he threw rocks at David and his entourage (v. 6). He calls David a man … [Read more...]

A Glimpse of the Old David

Introduction As we begin to work through this passage, we see that David is still far too passive, far too trusting. Even though he is forgiven for his sin, he is forgiven in a palace. It is not until he is walking toward the wilderness, barefoot, as a seventy-year-old man, that we see the stirrings of the kind of shrewd faith that used to accompany him when he had to haunt the wilderness caves earlier in his life. Psalm 3 was written upon this occasion, and look to the great conclusion of verse 8. Salvation belongs to the Lord. The Text: “And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him . . .” (2 Sam. 15:1-37). Summary of the Text: So Absalom began acting like a Gentile king, in an ostentatious way (v. 1). He would get up early to come and play the demagogue in the gate (vv. 2-6). When he was forty years old, Absalom asked the king for permission to go and sacrifice in Hebron in order to fulfill a vow (vv. 7-9). … [Read more...]

A Field on Fire

Introduction God continues to unroll the consequences of David’s sin, while at the same time fulfilling His gracious promises to David. Solomon is not mentioned in this section, but he is clearly waiting in the wings. The Text: “Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was toward Absalom. And Joab sent to Tekoah, and fetched thence a wise woman, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner . . .” (2 Sam. 14:1-33). Summary of the Text: So Joab saw the conflicted nature of David’s attitude toward Absalom (v. 1). He brought a wise woman from Tekoa and told her to present herself as a woman in mourning (v. 2), and to present herself to the king that way with a story that Joab gave her (v. 3). And so she came before the king, prostrated herself, and cried out for help (v. 4). David asks what is wrong, and she says she is a widow (v. 5). She had two sons who got in a fight in the field, and one killed the other (v. 6). The whole clan wants to kill … [Read more...]

David as Patsy

Introduction This tragic story follows immediately after the David and Bathsheba tragedy. Details and names change, but we have a beautiful woman, fulfilled lust, and then murder. The Text: “And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her . . .” (2 Sam. 13:1-39) Summary of the Text: Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar, and Amnon loved her (v. 1). Amnon made himself sick over it (v. 2). Amnon had a friend in Jonadab, his cousin, and he was a man full of twists and turns (v. 3). He saw Amnon’s condition and found out the problem (v. 4). Jonadab came up with a plot to get them alone together (v. 5). So Amnon did it (v. 6). So David sent Tamar to her half-brother in his sick bed (v. 7). She prepared the food, but he refused it, and sent everybody out (vv. 8-9). He invited her to his inner chamber (v. 10). When she did, he grabbed her and said “come, lie with me” (v. 11). She … [Read more...]

You Are the Man

Introduction David sinned grievously, but his repentance went as deep as his sin had gone. We see complete forgiveness in this portion of the story, offered to David, and received by him. We also see that the reality of ongoing consequences is not the same thing as lack of forgiveness. We must learn to stop reading the latter in terms of the former. The Text: “And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor . . .” (2 Sam. 12:1-31) Summary of the Text: As many messengers had been sent in the previous chapter, so now the Lord sends Nathan the prophet to David (v. 1). The prophet tells him a stylized story about a rich man and a poor one (v. 1). The rich man had many flocks (v. 2), while the poor man had only one small ewe lamb, like one of the family (v. 3). A traveler came, and the rich man killed the poor man’s sheep in order to feed his guest (v. 4). David got angry, and said … [Read more...]

Uriah Drunk and David Sober

Introduction God has established David as a great king in a newly created Israel. This is the account of a new fall, marring that new creation. In this chapter, David commits adultery, followed up with murder. His subsequent attempts at a bungled cover-up resulted in one of the best known stories of human history. So much for cover-ups. But though the outlines of the story are well-known, there is a lot more to it than is commonly supposed. The Text: “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. . .” (2 Sam. 11:1-27). Summary of the Text: The time of year came when kings go out to battle, but David does not go out to battle (v. 1). When David gets up from a long afternoon nap, and while walking on his roof in his palace pjs, he sees a beautiful woman bathing (v. 2). … [Read more...]

Divided in Two

Introduction In the previous chapter, David showed covenant kindness (hesed) to a prince who had lost his father, which is what happens in this chapter also. In the previous chapter, it was received with loyalty and deep gratitude. In this chapter, it starts a war. The Text: “And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. 2 Then said David, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father shewed kindness unto me. And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his servants for his father . . .” (2 Sam. 10:1-19). Summary of the Text: The king of Ammon died, and his son Hanun came to the throne (v. 1). David determined to show kindness (hesed) to Hanun, the son of Nahash, as a reciprocal kindness (v. 2). Incidentally, Hanun means gracious and Nahash means serpent, meaning that this is a role reversal story. David sent diplomats as envoys/comforters, and Hanun’s counselors tell him that they … [Read more...]