Last words are impregnated with meaning and value. As you read 2 Samuel 23, each word sags with a lifetime of illustrative lessons. Verse three stands out where David says, “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3). David’s honest self-evaluation lifts this truth out of the dross of his life’s failures.
Nearly every chapter at the beginning of 2 Samuel has some form of a public statement from David. It is interesting to note how he emphasized mourning Saul, Abner, and Ishbosheth and even how he made a public spectacle of the transportation of the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. He immediately executed the reward-seekers who reported on Saul’s death and Ishbosheth’s mutinous murder, yet, as far as Joab is concerned, he is only served a tongue lashing. Why were the sons of Zeruiah so hard for David?
To answer the question, one must consider allegiance. Study the origin of the word “allegiance” and it adds value to its meaning. You may have heard a character in a story say, “My Liege! My King!” Allegiance simply means “to increase supremacy or importance; magnify beyond all others.” In order for one to rule over men correctly, they must rule with justice. Justice, an esteemed virtue among nations, has been personified by the blindfolded, fair maiden holding a scale and sword. Justice is no respecter of persons but weighs the actions against the code with a readiness to respond with discretion. However, since man is corrupt, many have peaked from behind the blindfold or have unjust weights or have forgotten their sword.
The Bible says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29:25), and sadly, even David was ensnared from time to time. David’s allegiance was strained. Joab was family. Joab had been a fellow during David’s fugitive years. Joab was too valuable. Yet, one of the final instructions David gave to Solomon before the responsibility of ruling was passed to him, was to show no mercy to Joab. David recognized the error of his ways in 2 Samuel 23:3. The only way to rule with perfect justice is to rule with a fear of God.
David’s system of justice was inconsistent based on the variables. As much as we love David, he represents our deficiencies. A King is coming who will one day rule with a rod of iron. Justice will be his pedigree. For now, you lead people in some fashion. “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” Make sure your allegiance magnifies God and not men. As John the Baptist exclaimed, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
In the Israelite organization of Scripture, there is not a division between 1 and 2 Samuel. They form one coherent message regarding God’s inevitable work through the affairs of men despite their weaknesses. This means the thematic elements of the first words in 1 Samuel still resonate through the writings of 2 Samuel. Hannah’s prayer placed a magnifying glass upon Saul’s life when she exclaimed. “Talk no more for the Lord weighs the actions.” Hannah’s prayer also makes one other major observation: There is none holy as the Lord. Then she illustrates His absolute sovereignty.
“The bows of the mighty men are broken, And they that stumbled are girded with strength...The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up.”
The grand summary was, “He will keep the feet of his saints, And the wicked shall be silent in darkness; For by strength shall no man prevail” (1 Samuel 2:9). As the early years of David’s reign unfold, you will notice a man who desires to align his heart with the Lord. He knows God must fight his battles, but he also zealously goes to war with the enemies of God. Although imperfectly (and those imperfections will haunt him later), David lives up to his moniker, a man after God’s own heart.
The climax of the pursuit of God rises to the reclamation of Jerusalem and establishing it as the city of God, Zion, with the house of God. God puts a pause on the building plans for the Temple and promises to establish David’s house as an eternal dynasty. Yet in the midst of this unprecedented success, David pulls away from the umbrella of God’s holy blessing and ends his reign as a broken king. The baton of hope is passed to his son, Solomon, but that story will come later. For now, remember Hannah’s prayer and remain on the right side of God’s ways. If you do drift away because of distraction or temptation, be sure to scamper back to God through repentance.
Through David’s life, you can see examples of drifting from God in desperate times and in flourishing times. Vigilance is required in order for you to remain aligned with God. This alignment ensures your strength will not falter.
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings as eagles; They shall run, and not be weary; And they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
The last chapter of 1 Samuel records startling accounts of David’s life. The sweet psalmist of Israel is not so sweet as he threatens to wipe Nabal off the earth and pillages neighboring towns under a shadow of deceit. Sometimes God works in our lives by bringing reality check moments. These are moments when we should press pause on our life and seriously seek out the answer to the question, “What am I doing?” These moments are divine stop signs. As in life, blowing a stop sign may be OK a couple of times, but eventually, you’ll be T-boned.
David blows through the stop sign of reason. Abigail stands between David and the “Last of the Nabalites.” Whatever pause David took from this moment was lost as he reacts in desperation. David loses all hope in God. The praises he sang at Nabal’s comeuppance, fly from his mind. David believes he will die at Saul’s hand.
David blows through the stop sign of the ridiculous as he becomes a vigilante and deceiver. He soothes his cause by giving of his spoil to neighboring Israelite towns. It would be at this moment you would think, “I had better stop while I can.” Not David. He finds himself marching into battle against Israel, allied with the Lord’s enemies!
Then at the stop sign of reality, David is not T-boned, but he has a brush with devastation. Everything he and his men valued in this life is razed to the ground or absconded. Someone served David a little of his own medicine. It was only by God’s mercy they did not slaughter their families. Finally, David takes the reality check and encouraged himself in the Lord. In this repenting, restoring, and refreshing moment, David came back to God.
For over a year, David was estranged from God. How sweet the reunion was when he returned to God, but how desperate the circumstances. Will you decide today to encourage yourself in the Lord? If you have wandered far away from Him, will you wait any longer or will you press pause and face the reality check from God?
In my ministry experience, I have found God’s intervention steadily grows in intensity the more we ignore His divine stop signs.
“For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, Neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; But the fitches are beaten out with a staff, And the cummin with a rod” (Isaiah 27:28).
God is never excessive, but the harder cases earn a more determined chastening. Remain tender and pliable in the hands of God. It is in such a case that the mere whisper of the Spirit will produce God’s work in your life.
“Everything is against me!”
Have you ever felt that way? If you have read 1 Samuel 22-24, David knows how you feel. He is burdened because he occasioned the death of 85 priests, after delivering Keilah he flees because they would betray him, and he was nearly surrounded by Saul’s men in Maon. Everywhere he turned, he was hard-pressed to find encouragement, yet within each scene, he was given a dose of encouragement which signaled God’s unwavering support.
Out of the Levite slaughter, he won the loyalty of Abiathar and constant contact with God. You could say his communication was strengthened through this event. After fleeing from Keilah because of the threat of betrayal, he was affirmed by his closest friend, Jonathan. Their conference and covenant were reassuring. Jonathan pledged his allegiance to David and strengthened his hand in God. You could say his courage was strengthened through a friend’s commitment. Caught between the rock and the hard place of a fight against Saul or surrender and be killed, the messenger notifies Saul of a national security issue. God’s intervention by way of man’s movements strengthened his confidence in God. All three were important assets for his next encounter when Saul was in the cave with David and his men. He needed to be closely connected to God’s will. He needed to be courageous enough to stand against the worldly wisdom. He needed to be confident God would take care of Saul in His own way.
Medical science regularly applies a practice through vaccination whereby they give you a dose of a pathogen so your body will fight it and be strengthened against that disease. In the midst of your seasons of “dis-couragement,” remember courage is in the word. Look for a little shot of encouragement. It will help you strengthen your communication, your courage, and your confidence in God.
You learn more about God in desperate times than most any other time. Sadly, you learn about yourself as well, and that can be most disappointing. From 1 Samuel 19-22, David goes through a roulette of safe-havens. First, he runs to Samuel which proves to be a very successful haven. Saul as not able to touch David. God detained even the most determined individual. Why David left Samuel, we do not know. Maybe Samuel grew weak with the added stress or David was afraid of endangering the prophets. David decided to run to his friend Jonathan. Also, a good source of consolation and a close friend in adversity. Jonathan helps David expose Saul’s intentions. The grief grips David and unsettles his powers of reason. He reacts by impulse.
So the merry-go-round of havens continues but first there was a stop at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. This would appear to be a good choice. In his time of need and direction, he seeks God’s counsel. However, the text does not bear any indication of his search for wisdom. Instead, he asks for supplies and weapons. He asked for materials to maintain his predicament instead of divine wisdom to navigate it. Throughout David’s life, you can see the “fight or flight” moments because they are the times he dives into something senseless. They are the moments in the story where you almost blurt out, “Don’t do that, David!” Like retreating to Gaza with Goliath’s sword in tow, David’s roulette of havens was a scamper for self-preservation.
In our lives, we can also be guilty of the same thing. We are as resourceful as a frightened mouse, skittering from cover to cover, instead of pausing to ask for wisdom. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Eventually, David stopped and reflected and you can enjoy his meditations in Psalm 34.
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles…O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him…Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace, and pursue it…Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all…And none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”
Instead of seeking material supplies to help you maintain the season of difficulty, will you not ask for divine counsel to help you navigate the season? Find your haven of rest in God.