Be Strengthened, and Be Valiant

Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 2:1-7 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 11/22/2015 in Novato, CA.

Sermon manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
2 Samuel 2:1-7

“Be Strengthened, and Be Valiant”

There are many things today that seem to be in one way or another against Christ’s kingdom, yet they seem to be alive and well or even on the rise. There’s terrorism, agnosticism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, postmodern relativism. I could go on and on. These are things we tend to hear a lot about today. Non-Christian thinking and immorality continues to be on the rise. At the heart, these things are opposed to Christ’s kingdom, and thus they are opposed to the church, and thus they are opposed to you and me as Christians. At times we can feel so overwhelmed by these and similar things as look to live in this world as a Christian. We want “reversal.” We want these evil things to go away, and the world to embrace Christ and his Holy Word. And yet right now it can often seem that the world is going in the opposite direction.

And so I want us to continue on this theme of reversal today. We’ve been talking about this recently from 2 Samuel. For the people of Israel, in the midst of great sorrow and loss, at a tremendous low point for them, God was starting to bring about a positive reversal for them. And as we study this passage, then we continue to think of how this becomes a picture of our story as well, and should encourage us and give us hope even right now when unbelief seems so prevalent. In Jesus Christ, we have begun to taste of a positive reversal, but not yet in the full. And that is the case here in this passage. The already, and the not yet, of that reversal continues to be seen with David and Israel. Out of the fallout of the great loss that came from the poor leadership of Saul, God was beginning to reverse Israel’s standing through bringing a new, better, king to the people.

Well, we definitely see this in our first point for today. Our first point is to consider the return of the king. We know that for many chapters now, David, the anointed of the Lord, has been on the run from King Saul, and living as a refugee. Most recently he even fled to the land of the Philistines which provided a safer place of refuge, while he also was able to do some covert operations at the same time. But now, with the death of Saul, he realizes that it may finally be safe for him to return home. But of course, since David is a man after God’s own heart, he doesn’t just pick up and leave. No, we see what he does in verse 1. He inquires of the LORD. This shows again his character. He’s a man after God’s own heart. He wants the LORD to guide him. And so he inquires of the LORD, surely through Abiathar the priest, and God answers him. God tells him that he can go back to Israel, back to his tribe of Judah, and specifically to Hebron.

And so he does. The anointed one returns home, to finally step more fully into his calling to be king, even though he is not yet reigning as king. And so I like verses 2-3. It mentions David’s family, and it mentions David’s loyal soldiers with their families. Besides verses 2-3 being a historical note of what happened, we can see the significance. David doesn’t go back to the land of Israel with just his soldiers. It’s not like he’s going there in some war march to take the town of Hebron. No, he goes there with his family and his loyal men and their families to live there. Verse 3 says they dwelt in Hebron and the surrounding area. And so this makes sense. The one who wanted to take David’s life was now dead. So, he could return in safety. And so that’s what he does, he and his loyal supporters. I’m sure this had to be a wonderful homecoming for them.

And then it gets more wonderful. Verse 4. They men of Judah anoint David as king. Now David actually has become a king! Praise the Lord! Of course, what this means is that he’s king over the tribe of Judah. That was his own tribe, of course. It was the tribe that he had most recently blessed even with the spoil from those conquered Amalekites. And surely they knew the history and why David had been on the run from Saul. So we can understand the great welcome here and why they in turn anoint him king. But to note that he has now been anointed king by the tribe of Judah is to also note that he’s not yet been anointed as king over the rest of the tribes of Israel. And yet we know God intends for David to be king over all the people of Israel. And so we see progress here. That wonderful reversal we’ve been talking about is starting to happen for Israel. One tribe has the king now that God said would replace King Saul. But not yet the rest of Israel. In fact, as we’ll continue to see, there is yet some exciting things that will happen in order for David to finally become king over all of Israel. And so we continue to sit on the edge of our seat and watch how God continues to establish David’s kingdom, and at the same time bring about a wonderful reversal for Israel.

And so I mentioned some of the similarities with our story. We should not be surprised to see some typological similarities. Here David has the joy of coming back to the land where God’s people dwell. Already he has begun in part to reign as king, but his jurisdiction is not yet acknowledged by everyone. There is forward progress here, but yet more remains. Well, think of what we have in Jesus Christ. Already, the long awaited Messiah King has come. Already, he has been bringing God’s people together in him. Already he reigns on high, though we know that so many do not acknowledge his authority. And already, we here are part of this group that has begun to have King Jesus actively reign over us in his church. We experience the glorified reign of Christ now in and through his church in a way that the rest of the world does not. We already have begun to taste of the glories of that kingdom. This includes all the good reversal we have already begun to know. We have experienced the reversal of passing from death to live, from condemnation to justification, from the inevitability of judgment to the certainty of our heavenly hope; from total depravity to a regenerated heart, etc, etc. And yet we know more progress remains in all of this, in our own experience and enjoyment of Christ’s kingdom, and for Christ’s rule in general. For, yet there are so many people in this world who do not call Jesus as Lord. They show it by how they think and how they act. We are called to seek the advancement of his kingdom on this earth. We have thus begun to see great forward progress in Christ’s kingdom already, but not yet in the full. We can certainly see the similarities here with David. And as much as God was to bring about the establishment of David’s kingdom, he will yet finish what has already been inaugurated, the full glorious coming of the kingdom of Christ.

So then, returning back to the text, we come to our second point, to consider the men of Jabesh Gilead. In our second point I want us to notice how David blesses them and what all that entails. David learns in verse 4, that the men of Jabesh Gilead were the ones who had buried Saul. Presumably David had heard about the story of what they did. We already have seen David’s heart and kindness towards Saul, even after all Saul had done. So, we are not surprised at this point to see that David was interested to know what happened to Saul’s body, and to inquire about if he had received a proper burial. On a side note, much later, toward the end of this book, in chapter 21, he’ll rebury Saul and Jonathan’s bones back in the tribe of Benjamin in the family tomb where Saul’s father Kish had been buried. So, again, this is something that David, a man after God’s own heart, cares about.

And so upon learning that it was the men of Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, he goes there to bless them. By the way, remember, what this entailed. These men of Jabesh Gilead didn’t just bury Saul and Jonathan. Remember how valiant they were. The Philistines had captured the bodies and had been abusing them, and putting them on public display. And so the men of Jabesh Gilead took heart and went by night to covertly recover the bodies, and bring them back to the land of Israel, and then give them a proper burial. So, it was no small act of valor or kindness. They risked their lives to do this. And so David wants to bless them in the name of the LORD.

I love what David says and its import. Look at verse 5. He tells them, “You are blessed of the LORD, for you have shown this kindness to your lord, to Saul, and have buried him.” We remember David’s perspective about Saul. He was the Lord’s anointed, and so despite all the failings of Saul, to the degree that you could honor Saul and show him loyalty, then David thought that was right and good. And so David rejoices that these men treated Saul like this. He says they are blessed for this. And then he goes on to say this in verse 6. “And now may the LORD show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.” And because they were kind to the Lord’s anointed, David bestows a blessing upon them that God would in turn be kind them. And now he as the newly anointed of the Lord follows suit. He too will show them kindness, as the Lord’s anointed.

I love the reciprocation idea here. It makes sense. We get that. Someone is kind to you, so you are kind to them. They in turn are kind back to you. It’s a wonderful thing. And in fact, I think we should remind ourselves of the history here again. Why was it that the men of Jabesh Gilead of all people were kind like this to Saul? Surely it was because of the kindness God had first shown to them through Saul. Again, I remind you back to 1 Samuel 11, how that evil Nahash the Ammonite wanted to pluck out all their right eyes and enslave them, and so they called for help, and Saul was their hero who came and saved them. And so, as we think about the ongoing reciprocation here of kindness, it really started with God through Saul. David blessed them here for showing kindness to Saul, the Lord’s anointed, and says that in turn God will show them kindness. But surely, they were showing kindness to Saul in the first place because Saul had already shown them kindness.

Well, again, we know how this works. And we know the bigger picture and how we can apply it to ourselves. 1 John 4:19, “We love, because he first loved us.” God took the initiative with us to show us love and kindness first. Or think about it like this, God in Christ responded to our evil, to show us love and kindness first. We then, struck by the kindness of God are drawn to Christ in love. We respond to what God has done to us first in Christ, by coming in loyalty and love to Christ, the anointed one. We, then, by his Spirit working in us, also an act of his kindness and love, begin to show such love and kindness to others as well. And so we’ve seen this kind of reciprocation in our own life; a reciprocation connected with the Lord’s anointed; a reciprocation in which God took the initiative. And so the application there is a reminder to us now just of that initiating love God has shown us — praise God! But also a reminder that such love demands a fitting response by us. That’s the idea we see in a verse like Philippians 1:27 that says we should live in a manner worthy of the gospel. We are reminded that God’s kindness toward us in Christ is meant to bring about repentance in our life. There is a fitting response that we have to the initiating love of God. And what is amazing, is that God even yet continues to bless us and love us all the more, even in light of the good things we do in response to his love, even though those were good things that he essentially worked within us. This whole reciprocation thing then really highlights God’s love and grace and blessing to us.

So then, coming again back to our passage for today, I want us to see how David’s blessing then has a final point for the men of Jabesh Gilead. It’s rather tactfully stated in verse 7. Verse 7, “Now therefore, let your hands be strengthened, and be valiant; for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.” David’s words in verse 7, beg a question. Will the men of Jabesh Gilead follow the new king? This is then our third point to consider today. Will the men of Jabesh Gilead follow the new king? Remember, David is only king right now over the tribe of Judah. Jabesh Gilead is in the tribe of Manasseh. They were loyal subjects to Saul. But would they be loyal subjects now to David?

I love how David puts this in terms of reversal for them. At the start of verse 7 he talks about how he wants them to become strengthened and be valiant. Interesting, that’s exactly what these guys were when they went on their mission to recover the bodies of Saul and his sons. But then they came back and mourned and fasted for seven days. So, David comes now to encourage their hearts, and points them to future valor and courage and strength. And so for the men of Jabesh, the question becomes, will they now find renewed valiance and strength in the newly anointed king of the LORD? Will they follow their brothers of the tribe of Judah in following David as their new king?

You see, that’s essentially what’s being implied here by David’s language to them. David’s language is that of a suzerain or king coming to them and calling them into a covenant-type relationship. David acknowledges and praises their past covenantal loyalty to Saul. David says that it was a godly thing. And the implication to them is that there is a new king now that they should show their loyalty to. David has already commended their past loyalty and now calls them to put their loyalty in him as the new king.

So, how did they respond? Well, we are not told. But what we will see in the very next passage is that this is the issue that is coming before Israel. Yes, the tribe of Judah has made David king, but what about the rest of the tribes? And what we will see in the next passage is an attempt by Saul’s military commander to make Saul’s remaining son, Ishbosheth, king. This will essentially cause a bit of a civil war. And it begs the question about loyalties and who is indeed the Lord’s anointed one to serve as king. You see, it was right for the men of Jabesh to show loyalty to Saul, since he was the Lord’s anointed. But now they, and all Israel with them, should indeed follow the new anointed of the LORD. But it’s not Ishbosheth, it’s David.

Well, we will see how this whole matter gets dealt with in terms of Israel. But as for the loyal men of Jabesh Gilead, we are not told here of how they particularly respond to David’s words here. We don’t know if they at that time rightly embraced David, or if they would at first put their support in the wrong place with Ishbosheth. We don’t know how they responded. But in applying this passage, we can certainly ask how we will respond? Because at the end of the day the question to them, and the question to us, is will you put your allegiance and loyalty in the Lord’s anointed one?

Of course where things are different for us from them, is that David comes to people that had in the past been loyal to Saul, and now asks them to transfer that to him. But for us, Jesus comes to people like us who’ve had a history of disloyalty. But he initiates the relationship with his great sacrificial love and calls you to be in covenant relationship with him. And so we don’t know how Jabesh Gilead responded to David’s offer. But for us today that is besides the point. If you have not yet responded to Jesus the Christ’s offer, how will you respond? Will you gladly receive him as your King? I pray you will. I hope you will see how you have not deserved it, but that actually you’ve earned the opposite. You’ve earned the King’s wrath, not his kindness. You’ve earned hell from God, frankly. But in joy upon joy, the king turns now to you and offers peace, and kindness, and blessing. How will you respond? I urge you today to receive the king’s offer, in faith. Submit to king Jesus and follow him. Know his kindness and love even more.

And for us who have already come into this covenant relationship with the Lord’s anointed, I remind you today how good this is. David could speak today these words of blessing to the men of Jabesh who had been following Saul, one who was anointed of the Lord. And so if they knew such blessing in that connection with Saul, how much more blessing do we know in our covenantal relationship with Jesus! For Saul, and David, and the other kings of Israel under the old covenant looked forward to the real king God had in store for his people. That’s Jesus, the greater son of David, king over an everlasting kingdom. And in him, you have already come to know every spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus.

So in our final application today, take these words of blessing by David here, and apply them to yourself in your relationship with Christ.

Verse 5, “You are blessed of the LORD, for you have shown this kindness to your lord, to Saul, and have buried him.” Having come into a saving relationship with Jesus, we’ve already known his blessing. But the blessings continue even in our service to Jesus Christ.

Verse 6, “And now may the LORD show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.” God has already and will continue to show such kindness and truth to us, for Christ’s sake.

Verse 7 “Now therefore, let your hands be strengthened, and be valiant; for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.” In Christ, be strong and courageous. For as you head out into this world, you go into battle and face many enemies of God’s people. You will encounter people and forces in this world who are opposed to God, and therefore to you. At times this might mean times of great sorrow or times of great troubles. But you are not alone. The Lord, the Messiah, is with you always. And so be strong and courageous! For he is continuing to reverse our circumstances. And that brings us back to the start of our message today. Yes, God was establishing his kingdom through David back in the book of 2 Samuel. But that story was just a beginning to a bigger story. That story continues on now in Christ. We are then those whom Christ has begun to reign over. And in our allegiance and loyalty to him, we participate in the further establishment to come. Such great reversal and progress has already been made. But there is more wonderful things ahead. Yet, until Christ’s kingdom is fully established in glory, there will be challenges ahead too. But rejoice. Be strong and courageous. Jesus is your Lord, King and Savior.

And as we head into the national holiday of Thanksgiving, may this be your chief reason to be thankful. No matter the low parts of your life, if you are in Christ, you know that your circumstances are ultimately going to be far better. With Jesus as your king, everything is going to ultimately work out just fine. Thank God that he took the initiative in your life, to show you such kindness and love, and to be willing to have you as his subjects. I mean, I can appreciate why David might want to talk with proven and loyal valiant people like the men of Jabesh, in trying to get their support for his kingdom. But Jesus has reached out to people like me and you; flawed sinners though we are. But he has a plan, even as a part of his kingdom, to not just bring us in flawed as we are, but to gloriously grow us and transform us, to be conformed even to his glorious image. Again, what a reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving holiday! Amen.

Copyright © 2015 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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