…Christianity is above all, a faith rooted in hope for the future. This life offers only partial fulfillment. Nothing makes sense until we allow eternity into our calculations…
…You won’t earn any favors with God by hating or hurting people whom you think are God’s enemies. People do turn away from God and do evil, and God does not want them to do that. But he doesn’t hate them — He grieves over them, as he grieved over Saul…
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Download 2 Samuel Part 1
2 Samuel # 1. Chapters 1 & 2.
We just finished the book of 1 Samuel. However, that book leaves off in the middle of the action, so to speak. It doesn’t tell us what happened to David after Saul died. The reason for this is that originally, First and Second Samuel were one book. The Jews who translated the Old Testament into Greek divided this history into two books. Probably the division arose because Greek uses vowels, where Hebrew does not. This means that the Greek translation is much longer than the original Hebrew. As a result, it had to be put into two separate scrolls – the “first,” and “second.”
For now, we will continue on with the historical record, at least until we get to a reasonable stopping point – so that means we’re jumping into what we call the book of 2 Samuel. Bear in mind as we study it, however that it all part of one work.
Last time I read the lament that David wrote about Saul. But there were a few things which preceded that. David and his men had fought a battle of their own with the Amalekites, who had attacked when everyone else in the region was off to the Israelite-Philistine war. David returned to his burned home. Two days after he got back, a man came from the north, bringing news of the great battle in the valley of Jezreel.
This man got the main news correct – Israel lost the battle, and Saul and Jonathan were killed. But then his story diverges from the one recorded in 1 Samuel 31. The writer does not make editorial comments, but it is clear that whoever wrote it regarded 1 Samuel 31 as the accurate record of events, and the story of this stranger as embellishments and lies.
Jewish tradition holds that the man who came to David with this story was actually the son of Doeg the Edomite, whom they also suppose was Saul’s armor bearer. They think his claim to be an Amalekite was to hide from David the fact that his father was the infamously evil Doeg. There is nothing in the text one way or another to tell us if this is so or not, but it is possible that Doeg was elevated to the status of Saul’s personal armor bearer and guard, after he did him the favor of killing the priests when no one else would. If this man is Doeg’s son (and Doeg was Saul’s armor bearer), it would explain his presence close to Saul, and how was able to take Saul’s crown and escape.
He claims that the Philistine chariots were coming close to Saul. This shows us, the readers, that he is not being completely truthful. He probably said it to try and justify to David why he (allegedly) ended Saul’s life. Chariots were formidable weapons that the Philistines had, and the Israelites did not (at this time). It would be the modern equivalent of tanks closing in on an infantry position. If the chariots were close, then indeed all was certainly lost. However, we know that Saul was on Mount Gilboa, and the messenger even affirms this. There were no roads (the way we think of roads) in those days. Chariots simply did not work well, if at all, on road-less, forested mountainsides. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that they used chariots on the mountain where Saul died.
David, experienced warrior that he is, probably sensed right then there was something wrong with the story. Even how the messenger begins is quite suspicious: “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa…” He “just happened” to be near king Saul in the middle of a battle? Not likely.
It was clear however, that this man thought claiming to have killed Saul would make him a favorite with David. Whoever he was, he completely misunderstood David. This was because he assumed that deep down, David was not really serious about being the Lord’s man; or perhaps since he was part of Saul’s retinue, he had never heard anyone talk about David’s strong faith. He condemns himself with his lie.
David had him executed immediately for the crime of killing Saul. Once again, as harsh as this seems, it is a reflection of David’s humble heart and in a way, a reflection of how the Lord felt about Saul. God is not happy that Saul is dead. Neither is God’s servant. David, by executing this man shows everyone that there is nothing to be gained by lies or treachery or unnecessary bloodshed. If anyone they thought they could ingratiate themselves to David with that kind of behavior, their illusions would be shattered. God didn’t want Saul dead, and neither did David. You won’t earn any favors with God by hating or hurting people whom you think are God’s enemies. People do turn away from God and do evil, and God does not want them to do that. But he doesn’t hate them — He grieves over them, as he grieved over Saul. Saul was destroyed by himself and his own choices, not by God. You can destroy your own life, as Saul did, but the Lord is never out to destroy you.
Now that Saul is dead. David’s reason for staying out of Israel is gone. His main obstacle to becoming king and fulfilling the Lord’s calling has been removed. David knows he was anointed to be the next king of Israel. A large portion of the population knows this also. I think a lot of people at this point would move ahead and “just go for it.”
Not David. The first thing he does is ask God what he should do. He does not assume anything. I think the reason for this is that David wasn’t trying to establish his own kingdom – instead, he was trying to be God’s servant. His attitude is not, “how can I behave so that God can help me?” That’s was Saul’s basic approach to life. But David’s heart is this: “Lord, what do you want to do next?” He did not view God as his assistant in achieving his goals. Instead, he felt that his whole life was God’s own project. His role was to try and assist God, not the other way around. David’s anointing and his destiny were not about David – they were about the Lord. So become king is not David’s idea nor his goal – his goal is to serve the Lord.
As I have pointed out before, David is one of the people in the Old Testament who sheds light on what Jesus is like (that is, David is a “type” of Christ). Jesus expressed this same attitude of being here for the Father’s purposes in John 8:28 and 12:49 (among other places)
28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (John 8:28, ESV)
49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment-what to say and what to speak. (John 12:49, ESV)
This is not complicated, but it is HUGE when it comes to living out our faith practically. It is so easy to fall into the idea that the life of faith is about God helping us each achieve our own destiny. We make this seem good and spiritual, because we assume that our destiny was created by God. And of course, it is. But it isn’t about us. It is about God. However, when we think that it is about us, we inevitably get angry or disappointed with God when he fails to do things for us that we think would bring about our destiny.
Our true destiny is to bring glory and honor and praise to God – not to meet our own personal goals. Achieving that destiny is God’s business from beginning to end. Some people, like David, brought glory to God in very public ways, like becoming a well-known leader. Others do it quietly, like being a loving wife and mother, or praying regularly for others.
Now, I think it would be wrong to assume that David didn’t care either way if he became king. First, he wanted what God wanted, and God did want that. Second, because God wanted to work in this way through him, David was drawn to it. He wanted to lead because he was created for it. So I am sure that David really wanted to become king. Even so, he subordinated his own desires to God, because he understood that it wasn’t really about him. Like Samuel’s mother, he had real desires that he acknowledged, but at the same time, he also surrendered them to God.
This is important, because right after he asked God what to do, David received a partial fulfillment of God’s calling on him. The Lord told David to return to Israel, to the town of Hebron in the territory of Judah. When he did that, the tribe of Judah received him as their king. Judah was one of the largest, most powerful and prestigious tribes. In future generations from David, Judah became its own independent country and most of the Jews living today come from that tribe (that’s why they are called Jews). Even so, being king over just one tribe and about one third of the territory of Israel isn’t exactly what David thought the Lord had planned for him. It is sort of a fulfillment of God’s promise and calling. He is a king. But he isn’t the king of the whole nation.
There is potential here for David to become frustrated. After all, you could not make any argument that Saul was more worthy than David, but even so, Saul’s kingdom was much larger than David’s (during this period of time). Samuel anointed David when David was perhaps fourteen years old. At first it seemed like everything was falling into place. He grew a little, killed the giant and became a famous warrior and trusted member of the king’s court, all while he was very young. But since then, it has been a lot harder. Now, David is thirty years old. Probably fifteen years have gone by since he was anointed to be king. That’s a long time – half of his entire life so far. And now finally he is – one of two kings of Israel. It will be seven more years before he becomes king of all Israel.
This partial fulfillment is also a type of Christ. The kingdom of Jesus Christ has only come in part so far. Jesus reigns over the hearts of those who will let him, but not everything is under his rule, as it will be when this world ends. Speaking of Jesus, Paul writes:
9 For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth — 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11, HCSB)
But currently, at the name of Jesus, not every knee does bow, not every does worship. There is a part of Jesus’ exaltation and kingship that is still in the future. It is not fully here yet. The writer of Hebrews says:
7 You made him lower than the angels for a short time; You crowned him with glory and honor 8 and subjected everything under his feet. For in subjecting everything to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him. 9 But we do see Jesus — made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone — crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering in death. (Heb 2:7-9, HCSB) (added italicization)
We do not yet see everything subjected to Jesus.
In the same way, we too wait, having only partially what has been promised us. Paul writes to the Ephesians:
11 We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory. 13 When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:11-14, HCSB)
We haven’t received the whole inheritance yet. We have the Holy Spirit as a down payment – we have only part of what has been promised us. This means that Christianity is above all, a faith that is all about hope. We know this world doesn’t fully satisfy. True justice isn’t available here and now. True, unblemished joy is scarce and temporary. True satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment are always elusive. Those who don’t surrender their hearts to Jesus get angry at God because of this. But they aren’t listening. The true fulfillment of God’s love for us and his promises to us comes after this world ends. We don’t have to make the credits outweigh the debits in this life. We don’t have to have everything we have dreamed of before we die. It is still coming. It was still coming for David. It is even now, still coming for Jesus, who is not yet king over everything. And it is still coming for us.