Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 7:18-29 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 2/21/2016 in Novato, CA.
2 Samuel 8
“The LORD Preserved David Wherever He Went”
As Christians, we often miss the real point for why we should rightly condemn Radical Islam. You see Radical Islam uses terror and violence to promote their religious agenda. In the name of Jihad holy war, they kill people who do not agree with them. And so, it’s very easy for us as Christians to think we are taking the moral high ground in terms of how we instead promote our religious convictions. We can point to how we do battle with other religions, not by force, but with dialogue, and persuasion, and the winsome exchange of ideas. To clarify, we are right in that understanding, that we as Christians are to be engaged in a spiritual battle against the enemies of the Christian faith. The New Testament has made this very clear. And yet, though that is our current rules for engagement given to us by God, the reason why Radical Islam is wrong to kill people in the name of their religion comes down to a different reason than their use of physical force. We recognize this when we come to our passage for today. Here, David is involved in physical warfare, operating in general on divine instructions. We have to recognize that our faith’s heritage has some holy war in its history, and that holy war was not wrong.
So, what is the real reason why Radical Islam is wrong? It’s because it’s a false religion with a false god. In other words, they claim to kill in the name of their god, but their god is an invention of man. They are killing people in the name of a lie and a deception. It comes down to truth. If God truly calls you to do something, then you do it – remember how God tested Abraham that way with his son Isaac. But they are doing things that actually violate the true God’s laws in the name of their false god. Now, yes, I know this is not a very politically correct conversation to say one religion is true and another is not. But that’s at the heart of our faith. And this is important context for understanding today’s passage. You see, this passage is not about Radical Islam. But I used that as an example to start thinking about why David does what he does here. David has all this military conquest and God is with him through it all. And the background for so much of this conflict is religious in nature.
And so that’s where I’d like us to begin today. I’d like us to consider David’s conquests here in light of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible which Moses recorded). What we see, in a nutshell, is that God’s promises and prophecy from the Torah are being worked out here in David’s conquests. We can also see the Torah’s instructions for Israel’s king also being lived out here too.
So, looking broadly at this passage, we can see that in his conquests he ends up subjugating various people groups as he is able, and making them subservient to him. Let me setup some background from the Torah. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would eventually receive the Promised Land as their inheritance. But God told Abraham that this would happen in the future, because at that time, the sins of the people in the Promised Land had not come to their full measure, Genesis 15. In other words, God was already setting up the notion for why it would be just and righteous for God to have Israel take away by force the Land from the nations that were already there. These nations had lived in great wickedness, and God would use Israel to be his hand of judgment against them, and simultaneously bless Israel with the Land as an inheritance.
So, in preparation for this conquest, we read in Deuteronomy 20 some rules for warfare that God gave the people as they were about to enter the Promised Land and take it in holy war. God spelled out seven specific nations, the nations most immediately controlling the Promised Land, and God told that they had to completely destroy them. God also told them not to make any treaties with them. None of those seven nations are ones being discussed in today’s chapter. But then Deuteronomy 20 went on to talk about other wars and enemy nations that Israel might face as they took and secured the Promised Land. In 20:10, it says that Israel should proclaim an offer of peace to such enemies. And listen then to Deuteronomy 20:11, “And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace, and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you, and serve you”. And so they could make treaties of peace with other nations, though God’s idea there, is that it would not be an equal treaty. The other nations would serve Israel, not the other way around. There was to be this privilege of God’s people.
And so, when we look at this passage, we see David in conquest trying to further solidify the Promised Land that God had already given Israel, but they still had struggled to take hold of the full extent as promised by God. In his conquests, David seeks to subjugate various peoples and make them servants of Israel and extract tribute. Let’s look down through the list of peoples that are mentioned here and try to appreciate what’s going on for each. As we are able, we’ll keep bringing in more light from the Toarh.
So, we have first the Philistines. It’s not mentioned, but presumably they were not interested in peace or serving Israel. 1 Samuel 4:9 actually records that back then the Philistines fought hard against Israel so they wouldn’t become their servants. Well, we’ve known the troubles the Philistines have caused. And the wording in verse 8 is hard to translate when it mentions Metheg Ammah, because there is no known place like this. But it’s probably a reference to David conquering the heartland of the Philistines. The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 18 even mentions that this battle involved them conquering Gath, which was a main Philistine city. So, looking forward into the Biblical history, we never see the Philistines being any real serious threat from this time forward. It seems that finally God used David to bring a rather decisive victory against these enemies who had continued to try to afflict and persecute God’s people.
Then you have the Moabites in verse 2 and the Ammonites in verse 12. Interestingly, they were both distant relations to the Israelites. They both came from the line of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. But long after that, the Moabites and the Ammonites had not treated Israel well. Deuteronomy 23:3 remembers how they would not be allowed to enter the Tabernacle, because they had not greeted Israel after the exodus with bread or water when they were on their way to the Promised Land. And also, Moab had hired the wicked prophet Balaam even to try to curse Israel. But also interesting, is that because of the family history, God said in Deuteronomy 2 that Israel was not to harass the Moabites or Ammonites or try to take their land, because God had given it to the descendants of Lot.
But of course both the Moabites and Ammonites are recorded as being instead the ones to harass Israel, which in turn justified Israel’s response. With the Moabites, however, their chief problem was in hiring Balaam to curse them, but of course God changed the curse into a blessing. We find this for example in Numbers 24. Listen to what Balaam prophesied in Numbers 24:17 who was hired by the Moabites. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab.” And yet that was a long time ago. Why does David then attack them here in this chapter? Remember, David even had family ties to Moab through his great great grandmother Ruth. And remember in 1 Samuel we saw that David brought his parents to Moab for protection when Saul was pursuing him. What changed between then and now to have David so come down upon them?
Well, we don’t know with certainty. This is certainly a difficulty here, to try to understand what motivated David to give this harsh treatment of them. There is a story from Jewish tradition that may or may not be true. The tradition says that the Moab king ended up killing David’s parents. The tradition actually says there was also one of David’s brothers staying there in Moab and that somehow the brother was spared by the parents weren’t. So, they see that as the logic for why David spared one Moabite for every two that he killed here. And so, realize that this is a tradition that’s recorded outside of Scripture. It may or may not be true. But it shows that there very well may have been circumstances on the part of Moab that precipitated David’s response like this. But what is in Scripture is that ancient prophecy of Balaam which David ends up fulfilling through whatever circumstances precipitated it. It is interesting to see how God fulfills his Word in judgment for the original evil of the Moabites.
The next conquest to notice here is Hadadezer of Zobah. King Saul also had done battle with the king of Zobah, according to 1 Samuel. But what is important to consider here is the reference to the river Euphrates in verse 3. Back in the original promise to Abraham about the Promised Land, God said the land would extend up to the Euphrates River, Genesis 15:18. And so here we have David pursuing that promise.
There are so many more various details of the battles that we could go through here, but let me begin to sum up then a big theme we see. For so many of these nations and peoples, David ends up subjugating them and extracting tribute from them, as part of their further securing of the Promised Land. Verse 2 with the Moabites, verse 6 with the Syrians, verse 14 with the Edomites. And it’s a little different with verse 8 with Toi, king of Hamath, but that king proactively comes to David and makes peace and gives him a very generous gift as well. And so David is subjugating enemy nations, and putting even friendly nations into a subservient position to the kingdom of Israel.
One last note about these battles and the Torah. David seems to be living in light of the instructions of Deuteronomy 17 for the kings of Israel. Two things from that passage are seen here. Deuteronomy 17:16-17 says that the king should not acquire many horses for himself, nor excessive silver and gold. Well, this chapter shows David exercising restraint in both areas. Surely part of this idea was that the king should be humble and not just lusting for unnecessary wealth and power as a way to exalt himself.
So, I hope what has become clear in all this, is that so much of what David was doing here can be seen as a living out of the Scriptures that David would have had. You know, his Bible would have been the Torah. And we see so many ways in which he is pursuing the promises and living out the prophecies and instructions God had given in the Torah. There is nothing in this chapter that would condemn David’s actions here. On the contrary, twice this chapter mentions God was with David through all of this, preserving him and giving him victory, verses 6 and 14. And David recognized this and gave so much of the spoils of victory back to God, verse 11.
I’d like to now turn to begin to offer some general application to today. Let’s think about what’s different and what’s the same between their Old Testament context and our New Testament context. One difference that is pretty clear, is what we already said. God doesn’t have his people fight physical wars to be his hand of judgment on sinners under the new covenant. However, this does not mean that God still isn’t serious about judgment. The bible is very clear. There is coming a day of judgment. Jesus Christ has been appointed the judge over all. When he returns he will come to bring conquest to all his enemies, and to bring to them a destruction far worse than what is pictured here. If this chapter leaves people unsettled, the judgment of hell that Christ will bring to all his enemies should leave you even more unsettled. Christ’s judgment is terrifying. This passage must point the world to that coming day of Christ’s conquest and judgment.
But it’s also in this passage where we get a sense of hope. This passage under the old covenant showed there would be a way in which those who are not God’s people could yet know peace. It’s that idea from Deuteronomy 20 that the nations back then could accept the offer of peace from God’s people and submit as servants to Israel’s king, and be saved from that conquest and judgment. Of course, that’s what was offered to these nations under the old covenant. Something far better has been offered to the nations under the new covenant. Under the new covenant, there is something similar, but better. Under the new covenant, we can have peace with God’s people. It’s through submission and allegiance to the Lord’s anointed one, to King Jesus. But what is offered is not just some existence where we are servants to God’s people. It’s where we are offered to become a part of God’s people. That’s what is so wonderfully revealed in the New Testament. As those who turn in faith and repentance to Jesus, yes, we are made Christ’s servants. But we are also made a part of God’s people, and not only that, we are made a part of God’s household. What wonderful grace!
So that’s the general application here. This passage points to two outcomes to those who have been in opposition to God’s people and to his Christ. You can continue to resist him and know his ultimate day of judgment and wrath. Or you can accept his offer of peace, and come to him in faith and repentance, submitting to him as your Lord and Savior. The choice should be obvious, and yet how many yet reject Christ in defiance. And so this is where this Old Testament passage drives us to, in light of the greater light of the New Testament.
So then, I will conclude our sermon with some final applications to us who have heeded the call of peace in Christ. For us who have joined God’s people through uniting with the Christ, what then can we learn from this passage about how to live here and now for the Lord? Well, I have four brief but specific applications.
First, David has army, and Jesus has an army. Of course, we are Jesus’ army. You see, in this passage, we see so much of the focus on David conquering all these enemies. But of course David wasn’t an army of one. It wasn’t just he himself alone fighting all these battles. In fact, 1 Chronicles 18 mentions what is mentioned in verse 13, but credits it to Abishai instead of David. Surely the point is that Abishai led that particular battle, but David as the king got the ultimate credit. And so mighty King David used an army for these battles. And Jesus now in advancing his kingdom, has chosen to use an army. It’s the church. It’s us. Now, yes, we already said that the rules of engagement had made this a spiritual war. But it is a war nonetheless, and we must participate.
Second application: David has an administration, and Jesus has an administration. In other words, in verses 15-18, we read about how King David structured his various officials in his kingdom to run various parts of the government. That was the leadership in place at that time. And even now, King Jesus has established his kingdom on earth with various sorts of leaders: pastors, elders, and deacons. Under David’s kingdom, the people would need to work in and through that administration. And under the New Covenant, we too need to respect the leadership that God has put in place, and work in and through it. Thinking about that in terms of a spiritual war, we know that it’s important in a battle setting to have leaders coordinate the troops. That remains the case today for us. Work within the system of government that God has established for his church.
Third application: David had the LORD, and that meant the LORD was with the people. Likewise, Jesus has the LORD, and that means the LORD is with us. I already mentioned verses 6 and 14. The LORD preserved David wherever he went. That’s our hope and confidence too as we serve God in this spiritual warfare. God is with us. Find your courage and confidence in that. No enemy is too great for the power of our God.
Fourth and final application: David gave back to the LORD of the spoils of victory; let us give back to the LORD as well. I have in mind especially verse 11. “King David also dedicated these to the LORD, along with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued.” We mentioned the humility that would come with David as he realized that his hope should not be in silver and gold. So, David was able to give back to God in such a big way. Let us too give back boldly to God. Yes, our tithes and offerings. But should God give you in abundance even more than you need, as he did here with David, let us be ready to give it generously back to the LORD for the further work of his kingdom.
Saints of God, what joy it is to be on the Lord’s side and to know his peace and his victory. We look forward to the day when the battles are finally over, and we are settled in that permanent place of peace and joy forever with our God and with our King. Amen.
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.