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.

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