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Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 19:9-19:43 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 5/22/2016 in Novato, CA.
2 Samuel 19:9-19:43
“Bringing Back the King”
Holidays are typically wonderful times, a joyous occasion. They often are a sort of homecoming when you and other family members all go back home and spend some quality time together. And yet, occasionally when you ask someone how their holiday with their loved ones went, you hear from them that it didn’t quite go as they had hoped. It may have still been a good time, but it wasn’t quite as good as they had wanted. Maybe there was conflict with family members. Maybe there were some awkward conversations. Maybe some family members didn’t approve of what is going on in your life. There are different reasons why sometimes these special family occasions don’t quite become what they should be. But the ultimate reason is that your family, including yourself, are sinners.
Well, I use that as an analogy for today’s passage. You see, here is something that should also be a wonderful event. It’s the homecoming of King David. The king is being restored to his kingdom. In the grand scheme of things, this is a wonderful, magnificent thing. And yet as we’ll see today, this event is not quite what it should be. It is affected by the same thing that affects our family gatherings at the holidays. It’s that the people involved, the citizens of the kingdom, and even the king himself, are sinners. This reality negatively affects the glory of this return of the king. Don’t get me wrong, there is still something very awesome and significant about what happens in this passage. But it is not as great as it should be.
So, today we’ll look first at the decision to bring back the king. Then we’ll look at the procession of bringing back the king, back over the Jordan into Jerusalem. And then lastly, we’ll recognize the typology that is here; that this becomes a wonderful picture of the restoring of the kingdom of David under King Jesus. We’ll see some of the similarities and differences between this passage and that greater homecoming of King Jesus.
So, let’s begin with the decision to bring back the king. We see this initiated in verse 9 by the tribes of Israel. To clarify, when it says the tribes of Israel, we see that it means all the tribes except the tribe of Judah. Notice that verse 9 describes debate and dispute about this. It wasn’t like they all were on the same page about this decision to bring David back. But the case for bringing him back was twofold. One, David had lived up to their expectations for a king in that he has repeatedly led them to victory over Israel’s enemies. Two, they had anointed Absalom as king instead of David, but now Absalom was dead. Implied there is that David is a better military leader than Absalom. And so the case is made among the tribes of Israel, and they come to the conclusion that King David should be brought back as king of the kingdom. And yet notice that they don’t actually confess or acknowledge any wrong doing by them. They were at fault in essentially joining Absalom in treason or mutiny against David. They essentially chose an antichrist figure instead of God’s chosen king. Yet they don’t own up that here.
And so the tribes of Israel after this debate finally decide to bring back David. And yet, the passage goes on to show us that the tribe of Judah was not there yet. David sees this and takes the initiative to try to bring them to the same conclusion. And so David makes his appeal to the elders of Judah through his loyal priests, verse 11. Notice the various parts of his appeal. He appeals to the views of the other tribes, and asks why they should be the last to bring him back. In verse 12, he appeals to their close family connection; they are of the same tribe. In verse 13, he specifically appeals to Amasa and promises that he will be the new commander of David’s army if they bring him back. Remember that Amasa was the commander of Absalom’s army. And so for David this would have been a way for him to punish Joab’s recent insubordination with regard to the handling of Absalom, while at the same time it sends a tremendous message to all of Judah. Imagine if you were Judah, you might think that bringing back the king could spell trouble for you. You might be afraid that David would hold people accountable, especially the leaders, who sided with Absalom. But this action by David essentially tells people that David will not hold a grudge; that their treason will not be punished. There’s a certain practical wisdom to this, though it does raise some questions of righteousness. And yet the bottom line is that his appeal is effective. Verse 14, he sways the hearts of Judah. They call for him to return. And yet, again, we see that they too had division over whether or not to bring back David. They too do not seem to own up to their evil in supporting Absalom over David. There is no sign of contrition on their parts. In fact, all of this seems more fueled by pragmatic self-interest rather that recognizing they erred in choosing Absalom.
And so starting in verse 15, we see the transition in this passage to focusing on the king’s return. This is our second point. To see the grand procession and return of David. Basically a bunch of various people come to greet and welcome David back as he comes across the Jordan back into the Promised Land proper. Remember, David had been staying in Mahanaim which was east of the Jordan river. So, David and his people will have to cross back over the Jordan and then come into Jerusalem. Many come out along the way to greet David in this procession. And in fact a number of them actually go over the Jordan and meet David there, so they can then accompany him and cross over with him. It’s sort of like a big parade to escort the king across the river back into the heart of the Promised Land. It is of course especially symbolic as it reminds them and us of Israel’s beginning. Remember, it was Joshua who led the people across a parted Jordan river, crossing over westward from the east. Joshua led the people across the Jordan to come and take hold of the Promised Land. And so this wonderful procession of David and all sorts of people would have been like a ceremonial new beginning for the nation. And in many ways, it was a new beginning as they receive David back to his kingdom.
And so there are many positives here about this grand procession of David and the people. I especially love the dialogue with Barzillai starting in verse 31. Barzillai had been a tremendous help to David and his family and men as they were in exile east of the Jordan. Now that David is returning, he wants to bring Barzillai with him. He wants to honor and promote Barzillai by bringing him back and having him serve the king in probably some grand position. But Barzillai asks to be excused from the great honor. He points of course to his age. But the point with Barzillai is that not only had he been treating David before so honorably, but even now he is not power hungry or looking to exalt himself. Barzillai’s humility here is honorable, and so is David’s desire to bless and honor Barzillai.
And yet there were also aspects of this return to Jerusalem that were not as positive. We see David’s interaction with Shimei. This is an interesting one. Shimei was the one who had so cursed David before when he was fleeing in exile. It was of course against the law to curse the king. Abishai reminds David of that here. Shimei, maybe to his credit, comes humbly before David and acknowledges his sin. Consequently, David advocates mercy, just happy to be restored as king again. And yet, is Shimei truly repentant, or is he just left with no other choice? We can’t know his heart, but his actions later will again get him in trouble with King Solomon, and this issue will be referenced by Solomon in 1 Kings 2. That all at least gets us to think about how genuine his repentance and support for King David really was.
And then you have both Ziba and Mephibosheth here and present at David’s return. Remember their history. Mephibosheth was the crippled son of Jonathan that David restored and effectively made as one of his own sons. Ziba was a servant of the late King Saul’s house, and David had ordered Ziba to serve Mephibosheth. And yet when David had to flee in exile, Ziba came to David without Mephibosheth, with supplies for David. Ziba claimed at that time that Mephibosheth had betrayed David and was hoping that he would now become king. Well, we said back then that in light of this passage it was clear that Ziba was a liar and a manipulator. Sadly, David believed Ziba and took all of Mephibosheth’s property and gave it to Ziba.
And so now here we find both Ziba and Mephibosheth at David’s return. We can imagine why Ziba would be there. He wants to continue to be in David’s good graces. Yet, what we see with Mephibosheth is a clear example of a righteous man who had been betrayed by Ziba and had mourned for David during his exile. Notice in verse 24 that Mephibosheth had not cared for his body the entire time of David’s exile. This was clearly a sign of mourning by him, and a show of his support for David. David asks him why he didn’t go with David and Mephibosheth gives his side of the story. Obviously, it is a matter of Mephibosheth’s word vs Ziba’s word. And yet if Mephibosheth’s physical condition didn’t serve as proof enough, notice Mephibosheth’s attitude here. When Mephibosheth makes his case, David backtracks on his previous judicial decision and basically says that the land he had taken from Mephibosheth and given to Ziba would be divided up in two, and half given to each. But look at Mephibosheth’s response. He says that Ziba could have it all; that Mephibosheth was just happy the King was back. It’s surely part of Mephibosheth’s attitude to say that he just wants to be back at the table of the king again as one of his sons.
And yet doesn’t that sound familiar? Surely it foreshadows, in divine providence, the greater wisdom of David’s son Solomon. Remember in the future that story when Solomon is brought the two woman who both claim the one baby is there. Solomon orders for the baby to be divided and given half to each. The fake mother was okay with that idea, but the real mother loudly objects and says to instead give the child to the fake mother. In that, Solomon then knew who was the real mother, the one who valued the child’s life. And yet here in this similar situation, David doesn’t have the wisdom of his future son. And he treats this honorable Mephibosheth with not nearly the honor he should have. This is an example of how this homecoming is not quite as it should be, and it shows that even the king who is coming is one who is not as wise and righteous as he could be. And I guess we can also point out that it shows even the division that existed between Ziba and Mephibosheth.
And that division is helpful to point out, because we see more division here on a larger scale. I’m talking about the division between Judah and Israel seen at the end of this passage. The tribes of Israel are basically offended that the procession to bring David across the Jordan started before they all showed up. This is verses 40-43. Without going into all the details, the bottom line is that you have Israel quarreling with Judah about the honor connected with the king. Israel seems to accuse Judah of trying to take the honor and prestige of restoring the king away from them, and keep it for themselves. You can imagine that if you are close to the king, there is honor and privilege and position within the kingdom that comes along with that. Judah tries to deny that accusation, but we nonetheless see that not all is well in the kingdom between these two sides.
It’s also interesting that it is David who is the one Israel that confronts with this matter, but it’s the men of Judah who answer instead. David is silent in the conflict, which means he doesn’t bring any peace between the two. The conflict between Israel and Judah surely foreshadows how the nation will eventually split into two, along these lines. David and his son Solomon are able to keep the two sides together, but eventually his kingdom will be divided into two as well. And not only that, but next chapter will show an immediate fallout to this. There will be another rebellion, this time from some of the tribes of Israel, surely as a result of how they felt snubbed here in how David was brought back into the kingdom.
So stepping back, I hope the point in all this is clear. On the one hand, this is an exciting occasion for bringing back the rightful king to the throne. There are some who are truly serving the LORD and doing the right thing. And it is of course good for the king to be brought back. But not all is well in the kingdom. There is division among the people. There are areas where repentance hasn’t happened. There is jealousy and striving among the ranks and party lines of the people. And even the King has his strengths and weaknesses in all of this. This wonderful occasion of bringing back the king to the kingdom is marred by the failings and weaknesses of both the king and the citizens of the kingdom.
And yet, as I said at the start, this nonetheless looks forward to a new covenant expression of all this. This stands typologically to look forward to a future event where a king in the line of David would be restored to his rightful kingdom. Remember, by the time you get to the New Testament, there is no king from the house of David reigning any longer. But the prophets, like in Amos 9:11, predicted that God would restore the fallen tent of David. In other words, there would yet come one from David’s house who would again reign over God’s people. Today’s passage is a picture of the Davidic kingdom being restored. And that is what we find in the New Testament.
Of course that New Testament fulfillment also began in the Jordan. God promised that before the Messiah came, he would send a forerunner to prepare for his arrival. That was John the Baptist. And he brought the people back to the Jordan river. He had them leave the heart of the Promised Land and come and be washed in the Jordan River in a vow of repentance, and then go back to the Promised Land. It was another new beginning of sorts. And then Jesus came. And he too started his ministry at the Jordan river, being washed along with the people. And then he went into the Promised Land to declare the coming of the kingdom. One of the greatest parallels with today’s passage came at Jesus’ triumphal entry. There he road in grand procession as king into Jerusalem while the people praised him. And yet, like in our passage, not all was well with the kingdom. For in just few days after that Palm Sunday procession, the people of Israel would be calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. And yet that did not deter the plan of God. In fact, it was part of the plan! For, on the third day he rose again from the dead. He then declared that he had all authority in heaven and on earth. That was a kingly declaration! He had taken his throne over his people. Jesus then called for his people to go to the nations with the good news of his kingdom, and to make disciples from all the nations. And after that Jesus continued to be vindicated and glorified when he ascended up into heaven and poured out his Spirit upon his people. And so now, all who receive the gospel message in faith, all who believe and trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, are made a part of his kingdom. We are receiving Jesus then even as the King of our hearts, and we are citizens of his glorious kingdom. This message goes out into the world still today, calling people to bring the kingdom into their own hearts by faith, and thus to also join with us in Christ’s kingdom.
And yet it’s here where we can again relate to our passage. For we know that there is coming a day when Christ will return and usher his kingdom into glory. At that point, he will perfect us his people in holiness and righteousness. But until then, there is one big similarity between our situation and this passage. The citizens of the kingdom who have received their king – we are sinners. As sinners, the glory of this kingdom is not yet what it will ultimately be. Our sin causes us troubles in enjoying this kingdom as we should. Think of some of the examples from our passage. See how we still struggle with them today. But let us learn from the troubles we see in today’s passage, as a way of application to us today.
And so some applications. First, receiving the king must begin with repentance from our sins. That was a problem we saw with Israel today; they wanted their king back but weren’t confessing their sins that drove him away in the first place. Our relationship in Christ must begin with repentance and we must continue to look to repent of all our ongoing sins. May it be genuine repentance as well, truly from a heart broken over our sins.
Second, let us be on guard against that spirit of craving privilege over our brothers. Ziba wanted power and possession at the expense of Mephibosheth. Judah and Israel fought over power and position in the kingdom. I remember the disciples of Christ arguing over who would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom. But Jesus of course told them that to be the greatest, you had to become the least. You had to serve your fellow brothers. Let us strive for such; to have that spirit of humility we saw in people like Barzillai, or especially Mephibosheth who was just pleased to have his king back!
Third and finally, let us then embrace our king. We see the joy many had in receiving their king. Let us embrace in our faith Jesus as our Lord. Not just as our savior, but also as our Lord! See the mercy David brought and realize the greater mercy that Jesus brings. Welcome that. Receive that. Trust in that. For in looking to live in Christ’s kingdom here and now we have to acknowledge that we still struggle with sin. That will have the consequence of making this time here and now in Christ’s kingdom not everything that it should be or ultimately will be. The fact that we still struggle with sin guarantees that for now. And yet that is where there is a big difference between the kingdom now and what it was in today’s passage. Not only were the people sinners in this passage, but so was King David. As good as he was, he had his flaws and failings. That is not the case with King Jesus. Look to his leadership then to uphold you and to uphold his kingdom even with the reality of our sinful natures that war against us. He has promised to be with us until he returns. Trust in him, he will not disappoint.
And so as a final word then of a different sort of application. I speak now to any so called Christian church today that has long since kicked Jesus out of their church in place of some other gospel or some false Christ. As a minister of Jesus Christ, I speak to such churches. If you have pushed out the Biblical Jesus, I implore you, bring back the king! Repent and return to the Lord while there is yet time. And so to us then here, may we never replace King Jesus in this church with any other. He is the Lord’s anointed. Hail King Jesus! Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen!
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.