Tasting of the King's Reign
2 Samuel 8-10
10th Sunday after Pentecost–August 20, 2017 (am)
We’ve titled today’s message, Tasting of the King’s Reign. David is now on the throne in Israel and we’re seeing him act like a king who’s a vassal of the almighty God, the Lord of hosts (7:27). We’re getting to see what it looks like when the prince over… Israel (7:8) is a man after (God’s) own heart (1Sa.13:14). And through him we get a foretaste of what it might be like to live under a truly righteous reign, a truly (just) king. So, let’s walk through 2Sa.8-10 and get a taste of life under God’s anointed. And let’s unpack it in three parts.
David’s Reign Establishes Israel as Great Among the Nations
We just read cc.8-9 together, so we’ve had a bit of a head start to see how God is working through David among Israel’s neighboring nations, but also among their potentially divided citizens—those who might still feel a loyalty to Saul. As we walk through these three chapters under our first point, it might help to write a caption under each: 8 – David Defeats All External Enemies and Brings Prosperity to the Kingdom, 9 – David Loves and Trusts Potential Internal Enemies and Strengthens the Kingdom, and 10 – David Defends the Honor of God’s People and Brings Peace Among the Nations.
David Defeats All External Enemies and Brings Prosperity to the Kingdom – 8:1-18
Almost certainly this is not a record of all the battles Israel fought, but is representative of the victories the Lord enabled. What the narrator is telling us is the Israel was safe on all sides. (This) chapter is organized geographically in a way that reinforces this point. David’s conquests began with the Philistines to the west (v.1), and then he fought Moab to the east (v.2). After that, (he) turned north to (face) Hadadezer of Zobah (vv.3-12), and (he finished) with the Edomites in the south (v.14) (Leithart 205, edits mine). All sides safe!
But make no mistake, God is the true Victor here. Twice we read: And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went (8:6, 14). There’s the theme of c.8. And the longest section in this chapter has to do with David’s victory over Hadadezer of Zobah (vv.3-12). Hadadezer means “Hadad is a help,” and Hadad was an alternate name for the sky or storm god of Canaanites, … “Baal” (“lord” or “master”) (Leithart 206). So, not only was David given victory over Israel’s neighboring enemies, but also over the false gods they worshiped.
That’s the way it is when God’s anointed reigns. His people dwell in victory and safety. They’re not threatened by their enemies. They say with David: Psa.271 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
A few quick points of interest, here: first, while David reduced the power of Israel’s enemies, he didn’t leave them destitute. What he did to the Moabites (8:2), for instance, could sound ruthless (Baldwin 235). But it could also be seen as quite merciful in that a third returned home; he didn’t wipe them out entirely (Bergen 347). Second, David dedicated to the Lord all the spoils they gained (8:11), which were considerable. And what it means that they were dedicated to the Lord is that they were used by his son Solomon to build the Temple (1Ki.7:51; 1Ch.26:26). Third, the mention that David’s sons were priests (8:18) doesn’t mean that they wrongly entered the Levitical priesthood, but that they were perhaps royal advisers, or that they assisted in those priestly functions for which the king was qualified (Baldwin 241), like when David sacrificed an ox (6:13) as the ark was entering Jerusalem. The point is, David’s sons were engaged with him in the spiritual leadership of Israel.
David Loves and Trusts Potential Internal Enemies and Strengthens the Kingdom – 9:1-13
Next comes a beautiful story that still touches our hearts today—and with good reason. Having secured the (nation), David set his attention to home rule. And he was most interested in discovering whether there was anyone left (in) the house of Saul to whom he might show… kindness, hesed, covenant love. That’s different!
Through one of Saul’s household servants he was told of Mephibosheth, whom we met back in 4:4. Mephibosheth was a son of Jonathan (9:3) who, at the age of five, had been injured as his nurse was attempting to get him to safety, just as Saul’s and Jonathan’s lives were nearing an end (4:4). As a result, he is crippled in both his feet (9:3). But that didn’t matter for David’s purposes. Mephibosheth means something like one who scatters shame or from the mouth of shame. And he was living in Lo-debar, which means no word or nothing (Leithart 209). So, Mephibosheth was a shameful man from nowhere. But the king was looking for someone to love, so Mephibosheth was brought to David (9:5). 7 And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” Twice David referred to himself to Saul as a dead dog (1Sa.16:9; 24:14), unworthy of the king’s pursuit. But Saul continued to seek his life. Here, now, Saul’s grandson rightly identifies himself as a dead dog before King David, but David is determined to show him hesed! My friends, don’t miss it.
That’s the way it is when God’s anointed reigns! The spiritually blind and lame (cf. 5:8) are granted a seat at the king’s table! They (eat) at (his) table, like one of the king’s sons. (9:11). They’re given an inheritance, like Mephibosheth, receiving back all that belonged to Saul and to all his house (9:9). And it comes to them solely because of the covenant love, hesed, of the Lord! We are Mephibosheth!
David Defends the Honor of God’s People and Brings Peace Among the Nations – 10:1-19
David also sought to (deal) loyally (hesed) with the new king of the Ammonites, Hanun, upon the death of his father, Nahash (10:1-2), who was defeated by Saul (1Sa.11), but with whom David must have made some sort of treaty (Bergen 357). 10:2 … So David sent by his servants to console (Hanun) concerning his father. … 3 But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David’s sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it?” 4 … So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away, desecrating them physically and ceremonially. The Law forbade men to (trim) the edges of (their) beard (Lev.19:27). And they were to have a tassel on the corner of their robes as a reminder to obey all the commandments of the Lord (Num.15:37-41). But most immediately I’m sure, this was just shamefully embarrassing treatment!
Well, the Ammonites knew what was coming then! (10:6) So they hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and… of Zobah to join them. Joab was in command of Israel’s forces, and he immediately found himself in a vulnerable place with the Ammonites in front of him and the Syrians behind. So, he divided the troops. He led the group that engaged the Syrians and he put his brother Abishai in command of those who’d engage the Ammonites (10:9-11). Then he (encouraged) the troops, commended them to the Lord (10:12), and both went out and defeated their opponents! (10: 13-14)
But Hadadezer of Zobah (cf.10:6; 8:3) wasn’t ready to give up yet. So, he 10:16 … sent and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphrates. They came to Helam, with Shobach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head. 17 And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan and came to Helam. The Syrians arrayed themselves against David and fought with him. 18 And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there. 19 And when all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore.
That’s the way it is when God’s anointed reigns. No enemy or alliance of enemies can stand against him at the end of the day. Earthly alliances will fail. We see that clearly as the big story draws to a close (Rev.16-20). God’s enemies will either (make) peace with Him and His people, or they’ll be defeated—eternally judged!
David’s Reign Anticipates and Even Greater Kingdom to Come
Grand as it must have been to live in Israel in those days, it wasn’t flawless. We’ve see little seeds of problems from early on in David’s reign. Why didn’t he deal with Joab regarding the murder of Abner? (3:39) Why so many wives when the Law had forbidden it? (Deu.17:17) And the worst is yet to come. We’ll see it next week in cc.11-12, God willing.
But something is going to have to break this pattern. When we hear God’s promise to David that 7:16 … your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever, we know that things will have to get even better than they are here. When we hear God say to David, 7:9 … I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, we know that something even greater is coming. We know that David’s reign, great as it is here, must anticipate an even greater kingdom to come. God’s promises require it. Surely He’s not speaking here of a life always marked but battles to defeat the latest world power. He’s speaking of a day when all enemies will have been fully and finally defeated, and when the Son of David will be sitting on His throne eternally, ruling in righteousness, justice, and love.
David’s reign only anticipates this coming reign. And we live in a day when the King has now been introduced. Jesus has come! And He’s inherited the throne of David. Peter preached it on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of God was given to God’s people as the spoils of Jesus’ decisive victory over all His enemies, including sin and death. Having quoted Psa.16 where David wrote: 27 …You will not abandon my soul to hades, or let your Holy One see corruption, Peter explained that David wasn’t speaking of himself. He was speaking of Jesus. Act.2:29 Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’” 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” He’s King!
And as Paul wrote to the Philippians: 320 … our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will do everything necessary to fit us for His kingdom, and prepare us to live in a place where all wars have cease and all opposition has been tamed! He’ll transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 41 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved, joyfully anticipating, and living in light of, His return.
There Is No Greater Joy than Citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom
Truly there could be no greater joy that citizenship in this kingdom. When we finally witness the arrival that that which is yet to come of Jesus’ reign, words will fail us, and they almost did the Apostle John. He wrote: Rev.21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
This, is the land in which our citizenship is established, when we receive it’s coming King by faith—David’s promised Son Whose throne shall be established forever. This is the land whose code of conduct we strive to honor even now by God’s amazing, sanctifying grace given to us in His Holy Spirit who dwells in us. We are the citizens whose identity is reaffirmed by our King each time we gather for corporate worship on Sunday mornings. And the cost of our citizenship is remembered each time we come to the Table of the Lord to taste again of His reign.
And this citizenship is what we are protecting as we exhort one another every day… that none of (us) may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb.3:13). Do you know the joy of this citizenship? And do you feel the charge of protecting it? In a few moments we’ll be coming to the Lord’s Table, that emblem of our oneness in faith, our oneness in Christ. So let’s do so—let’s taste of His reign—hearing His affirmation that we are His New Covenant people, His unified community of believers set apart for His purpose in this world.