“Mercy and Grumbling” 2 Samuel 19
David is re-called as King. He shows mercy to Shimei who cursed him and to Mephibosheth who insists that Ziba had lied about him. At the same time things look less than rosy. Joab is unhappy at David mourning for Absalom. He expects him to show strength of leadership and gratitude to those who fought for him. The people’s reason for returning David to the throne doesn’t seem to be based on fulsome loyalty. Yes, David had defeated the Philistines but was weak and driven out by Absalom. Then there’s division and grumbling again when the people of Judah are seen to be taking priority in bringing David back.
In this passage we can focus on three things
- David’s example in showing mercy and compassion.
- Restoration/vindication and justification – Mephibosheth is vindicated having gone through false accusation.
- The challenge of grumbling and complaining which often seemed to afflict God’s people in the Old Testament. Note the harshness of the argument and consider the proverbial wisdom that a soft answer turns away wrath.
“Troublemaker” (2 Samuel 20)
Another rebel, Sheba arises and rebels against David. Note that this follows on from the argument between Judah and the other tribes of Israel in chapter 19. This appears to be the outcome. Sheba is also from the Tribe of Benjamin suggesting a connection with Saul’s dynasty too. This another example of someone looking to exploit division for their own gain.
There is a little side point and footnote to the story of Absalom. David provides for his concubines but no longer sleeps with them. This is just a hint of some of the fall out from the episode. David has been permanently affected by what happened with his son. The consequences which go back to David’s own sin are far reaching. It is also worth taking time to talk about the concubines and their treatment at some point too. Once again we have the passive victims of male quest for power.
Returning to the issue with Sheba. David acts decisively. The royal household have learnt their lesson from Absalom. David deals with this enemy swiftly. Here is a picture of how we should engage in spiritual warfare. The Bible warns us to put to death sinful desires. Puritans like John Owen put it this way “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
“Vengeance” (2 Samuel 21)
Famine strikes. After a period when it seems that God’s voice is silent in the story, we now have God’s view on things again. The cause of the famine is an outstanding injustice. Saul had mistreated the Gibeonites.
David resolves this by executing some of Saul’s family. Is this extreme? Are they taking the fall for their father’s behaviour? Is this evidence for “generational curses.” I want to suggest not. Rather, as I said above, the issue is that justice remains outstanding. We know from reading 1 and 2 Samuel that the families of Saul and David were very closely connected and involved in their political manoeuvrings. The suggestion is that the family are complicit in this.
Why does Saul’s treatment with the Gibeonites matter? Well, in Joshua 9 they had made a treaty with Israel. It may have been achieved through deception but Joshua and the Israelite s knew that it was important to keep their word because they trusted in a God who kept his word. God was faithful to his covenant and so his people were meant to be faithful and keep their promises/covenants. This is another excellent example of how what we believe about God and the grace and mercy we have received from him should flow out and affect our relationship with others.
The end of the chapter describes on going war with the Philistines including descendants of Goliath’s family.
This chapter warns us against complacency in spiritual warfare -after all, this had been part of David’s failure when he sent his army out to battle. We are reminded again that there is a constant fight against temptation.
The theme of justice and the need to press on with this also arises out of the chapter. First of all, the challenge to us is not to sit back when there are people who need justice. Will we speak for them. Secondly there is an encouragement to all who are waiting justice. Press on. God is the one who will one day give true and permanent justice.
“Praise” (2 Samuel 22)
A version of this psalm is also included as Psalm 18. The Psalm is described as a response to David’s deliverance from Saul and all his enemies. So, it is fascinating that it is placed here. Perhaps there is a sense of typicality between Saul and other opponents. Additionally, it is worth noting that the last few chapters have also drawn our attention to the dynastic rivalry between Saul and David. The two first kings of Israel are sharply contrasted throughout 1 and 2 Samuel. So perhaps the author feels that this provides a fitting part of the conclusion of his account.
The Psalm focuses on the power and strength of the exalted God who rules over nature. He is the one who is David’s rock and ours. He is the faithful God who we can depend upon for protection and turn to for salvation.
God brings salvation to his King. This points us forward to Jesus, the King in whom we find out salvation.
“Last Will and Testament” (2 Samuel 23)
Here is a second poem where David speaks about his relationship with and trust in God his rock. The focus now is on God speaking to him. Our trust is in the God who reveals himself.
This is followed by a summary of the exploits of David’s mighty men. How do these link? Well I think there is a link between God’s faithfulness to David and David’s obedience to him which inspires loyalty and confidence among those with him. The result of a right relationship with God will be a right relationship with each other. There should be a sense of togetherness as part of God’s people that we share in the same mission.
Furthermore, if David is the King who points forward to the greater and eternal king, then if he could inspire loyalty and bravery in his followers then how much more does Christ command our loyalty?
“Census” 2 Samuel 24
God is angry with David and so provokes him to take a census. This is something that David was not meant to do. The result is a plague. David responds by offering a sacrifice. He insists that he will pay full price for the land on which the altar is built.
There are some challenging things to pick up on here. In particular, how do we relate this to the similar account in 1 Chronicles 21 where it is Satan who tempts/tests David into the action. Also, why does God provoke David in this way or at least allow him to be provoked?
I would suggest
- That there is an element of both/and. God is the one who causes David to be tempted through the agency of Satan. God’s purpose is to discipline/rebuke David and restore his relationship to himself. Satan’s aim when tempting/testing is always our destruction.
- The census is significant because God is challenging David. Where does his trust really lie. Will he trust in God alone or will he become proud again and rely on his own success and the strength of his armies.
It is clear that although David initially slips, he learns through this to trust more and more in the Lord alone. This helps him to grasp something of what grace is. David’s repentance leads to one of the most famous verses in the OT (v24). David will not rely on what Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace.” God’s grace/salvation/forgiveness is free. I cannot earn it/pay for it. However, I also must realise that it requires my whole life. I belong to God, all that I am and all that I have is his.