Summary: This part of 2 Samuel is really about God as the king, giving David the human king what he promised. It shows us David trusting God’s kingship, caring for Mephibosheth, not seeing him as a threat to what God gave him.
By Guerin Tueno, ministry student at St Theos.
My parents often remind me that when I was growing up I loved to do jigsaws. To fit the pieces together. To make a picture emerge. The stories of the Old Testament are bit like a jigsaw. There are some very important pieces – like God’s promise to David in last week’s reading But there are some like today’s reading which are harder!
We often wonder what to make of them. David and his army defeated lots of nations These are David’s officials. This is David being kind to Jonathan’s son. There’s a temptation just to moralise story: David was kind – we should be kind too. David had administrators – its good to have administrators. David killed lots of enemies – we should kill our enemies too. Hang on – that doesn’t sound right...
So what are we to do with passages like today’s?
This story in Samuel is part of a bigger story – we need to keep the bird’s eye view in mind when we view each piece. So what does this passage actually tell us?
Well in the first place we get a list of enemies David defeated. To the West he subdued the Philistines – the nations that Saul failed to overthrow. To the East he defeated the Moabites and the Ammonites. To the South he defeated the Edomites. To the north he defeated the Arameans. On each border, David has won peace. Other nations send tribute to him – goods and money. to show who’s the dominant superpower. Under David, Israel’s old enemies were defeated and disarmed. Other countries sought friendship and alliances with Israel.
Last week in chapter 7 we heard how God promised David and Israel rest from all their enemies. Today we hear about how that comes true.
The sign of David’s empire, and his ability is provide justice and rest is seen in the recording of his officials. Joab’s in charge of the army. Jehoshaphat is the court recorder. Zadok and Ahimlech are priests. Seraiah is the secretary. This is how God’s promise was realised, as v15 says, "David administered justice and equity to all his people." Do you hear the refrain about David’s victories in 8:13? "And the Lord gave David victory wherever he went."
For all his abilities, David didn’t do this. He might be King, but God really wears the crown. David didn’t build his kingdom. God did – David used the sword, but God gave the victory. Without God, David could have swung the sword around as much as he liked – but it wouldn’t have won the day. David might be King – but God’s in charge.
God rewarded David’s faithfulness to him, by building his kingdom. Giving his people rest from their enemies. Or to put it another way, David might wear the crown, but God wears the pants.
The defeat of Israel and Judah that we read of later in the book of 2 Kings happened not because God was weak, but because he judged them for their sins for their spiritual adultery (following other gods), and for their injustice. He was able to save and them and exalt them under David. And he can choose to punish if them if they deserve it.
I hope from the time this year we’ve spent reading Samuel that we see that God is faithful. Faithful to his promises – he keeps his word.
And while Israel was sent into exile for her sins, God eventually brings them back. God never forgets his people. His love never runs out.
David’s victories came about because he obeyed God. He sought to please God, and to rule with justice. By David and the people’s actions, God was able to bless them, give them all the good things he’d promised.
Well that’s well and good for David and Israel. But what about us – does faithfully following God today mean that God would be with us if we got out guns and knives to grab surrounding properties to enlarge the car park, or to double the church hall? I don’t think so.
And I don’t think its what God wants...
Part of the problem is that in David’s time God’s people were one racial group, and living in one geographic region. Today, God’s people are the church, and we’re not limited to one country. In fact, despite what the media often says, we don’t have a Holy Land, a special bit of dirt. Well not yet anyway.
Listen to what the author of Hebrews says: "Abraham looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them."