From Shepherd to King (7)
“Building the Nation – Putting God First” 2 Samuel 5:17-25 & 6:11-19
Former US President Jimmy Carter is known as a committed Christian. He has never been afraid to hide the fact he is a follower of Jesus Christ. In his book “Living Faith” President Carter writes, “…my Christian faith has guided & sustained me, …it has challenged & driven me to seek a closer relationship with God & my fellow human beings.” King David who lived 3000 years ago & was Israel’s greatest king would no doubt say much the same. Doing what was pleasing to God was his number one priority. As king over both Judah & the other eleven tribes of Israel David wanted to make sure God was put at the centre of the nation’s life. He asked God for wisdom as he set about building the nation. One of the very first things David did was to choose:
A New Capital
He needed somewhere both central & neutral to be the centre of the nation’s political, social & religious life. God led him to make a brilliant choice – a fortress on a hill called Zion that stood on the border between Judah & Benjamin. It was right by an important road running north south along the ridge of mountains, between the Mediterranean Sea & the Dead Sea. The only problem was that the fortress of Zion was occupied by a Canaanite tribe, the Jebusites. The fortress had never been conquered by the Israelites even though for many hundreds of years they had occupied the flatter areas just to the north of the fortress. The Israelite town was called Jerusalem.
The Jebusite fortress was relatively easy to defend because on the south, east & west were steep cliffs. The north side of the fortress had a strong high wall to keep out attackers. So confident were the Jebusites that when David & his men came to attack, we read, “The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here; even the blind & the lame can ward you off.’” (2 Samuel 5:6) They thought it would be very easy to repel any attack. But how wrong they were! We read in v.7 “Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion - which is the City of David.” And v.9 says, “David then took up residence in the fortress & called it the City of David.” The fortress became known as the City of David though the term came to refer to the whole city of Jerusalem, not just the fortress that David conquered. Today of course the city of Jerusalem stretches far beyond the boundaries of the Old City & the fortress of Zion.
Verse 10 continues to say that David, “…became more & more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.” The key to David & his men being able to conquer the Jebusite fortress & the key to David’s becoming stronger & stronger was the simple fact “…the LORD God Almighty was with him.” There is a powerful spiritual lesson for us in all this.
The Jebusite fortress can be likened to the spiritual strongholds of the enemy that we sometimes allow to remain in our lives. A spiritual stronghold is any area in our lives where Jesus is not reigning as king. It is any area where we have allowed the enemy to settle, an area where Jesus is not welcome. The places where Jesus is not Lord can become a stronghold of the enemy. If we compromise with the truth, if we allow ungodly thoughts or habits to control us, Satan is building a stronghold from which to attack our spiritual life. Satan laughs at us for he knows that on our own we are powerless to break down the strongholds we have allowed him to build.
We saw that the key to David & his men being able to conquer the Jebusite fortress was the simple fact “…the LORD God Almighty was with him”. In the same way you & I need the Lord to help us defeat the enemy. A simple thing like giving up smoking for some people seems impossible – it is a stronghold. Addictions to alcohol or pornography or illicit sex or over-eating can also be strongholds of the enemy. Others find it hard to overcome things like jealousy or self-pity or anger. Dear friends, we need the power of the Lord to help us defeat the enemy. We cannot do it on our own. But with His strength, with His mighty power – victory is sure. And just as that former fortress of the Jebusites became the fortress of King David – so too those areas where Satan has had control in our lives, can become places where King Jesus is in control. Hallelujah.
Defeating Old Enemies
There were other enemies that David had to tackle. They were their old enemies, the Philistines who still had control of large areas of Israel. For many years the Philistines had harassed the Israelites – often sending raiding parties at harvest time in order to steal their food supplies. The Philistines were not going to stop now that David had been made king. Quite the opposite! We read in v.17 – “When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him.” Hearing that David had been made king of the united tribes of Israel & Judah they thought they had better get rid of him before he became a threat to their power. We read “…the Philistines had come & spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.” (v.18) The Valley of Rephaim was very close, just to the west of Jersualem. It shows how bold & dominant the Philistines were. They were right in the heartland of Israelite territory.
What do we do when the enemy seems so powerful? What do we do when the old enemies of the world, the flesh & the devil threaten to overwhelm us? Let us see what David did. We read in v.19, “David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go & attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?’” Yes, David turned to the Lord for guidance & help. And you & I must do the same when the enemy comes in like a flood, spreading out as if he owns the place. David asked God if he should attack the enemy. He also knew that if he was to win the victory it had to be the Lord who brought deliverance. So he asked, “Lord, will you deliver the enemy into my hands?”
Dear friend, are you being threatened by your old sinful nature? Is that old sinful nature that so controlled your life before you met Jesus, threatening once again to tell you what to do, threatening to control your life, to drag you down? Will you, like David, cry out & say, “Lord will you defeat the enemy? Will you bring deliverance?” What did God say to David? We read, “The LORD answered him, ‘Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.’”(v.19) The Lord did help David & his men & they did defeat the Philistines. In fact the Philistines took off so fast that they left behind all their idols, the images of the gods that were supposed to be protecting them. We learn from 1 Chronicles 14:12 that “David gave orders to burn them [i.e. the idols] in the fire.” That is what we must do with idols. We must get rid of them completely from our lives & our homes.
Well, despite having been beaten the old enemies came back again. We read in v. 22, “Once more the Philistines came up & spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.” Yes, friends, do not be surprised that again & again you & I have to face the same old enemy. We may win one battle but before very long a new challenge will come. While we live on earth we are never free from the temptations of the world, the downward pull of the old sinful nature, & the subtle attacks of the evil one. We are in a spiritual war zone. The battle is on. But do not be discouraged. The Lord is with us & He is able again & again to give us victory.
David did not think: “Last time we defeated them, surely this time I can easily defeat them again.” No, David did not presume he knew what to do. He knew that it was not by his own skill or might that he had defeated the Philistines. The Lord had done it. So wisely, David once again asked God to guide him & deliver him. We read in vrs. 23 & 24 that this time God said to David, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them & attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” David was told to wait until he heard the sound of marching in the tops of the trees. What could this be? Surely it is referring to angelic heavenly forces moving ahead of them to defeat the enemy. Yes, David & his troops were to fight but only after heavenly forces had marched out ahead of them. How exciting it would have been for David to hear the sound of those heavenly troops. What faith & courage it must have given him! Let us ask God to move in our church in the same way – may we hear the sound of God’s army marching out to defeat the enemy. Yes, we do face spiritual attack. Satan is not happy that we want to extend the church. He is not happy that so many want to grow in faith & want to follow the Lord. We need the power of God’s Spirit. We need to hear the sound of the heavenly army.
As soon as David heard the sound of marching in the trees he was to launch his attack. There is a picture here of the cooperation between us & God. We have a part to play. We have to resist the enemy. We have to stand up & fight. The Bible says, “Resist the devil, & he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Trusting in the Lord, knowing He goes ahead of us, & being obedient to Him in all things, we are then to resist the enemy. V.25 continues the story: “So David did as the LORD commanded him, & he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.” This time it was a decisive victory. David & his men chased the Philistines all the way down to Philistine territory. This victory broke the back of Philistine opposition.
As you & I submit ourselves to God in obedience we can take a stand against all the attacks of Satan. In the Name of Jesus we can reject his lies, his deceptions, & his accusations. We can experience deliverance & victory. If you are a new Christian don’t be discouraged that little things stumble you, that you make some of the same old mistakes & fall for the same old temptations. As you learn how to resist the enemy, you will grow stronger. The enemy will be pushed further & further back as you learn to fight with the Lord’s army going ahead of you. To fight spiritual battles we need spiritual weapons. To overcome the enemy we need the power of God, & His power is available for each one of us, as it was for David.
Finally, in building the nation David saw the importance of:
Not only did David conquer the fortress of Zion & turn it into the City of David. Not only did he defeat the Philistines & break their power. David also saw the importance of worship. He wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem into the very centre of life in the nation. 2 Samuel 6 tells the story of this important event. The ark is not to be confused with the big boat built by Noah before the worldwide flood. And it has nothing to do with Jack & Lucy’s waterproofing company. The ark was a national treasure of Israel dating from the time of Moses when he led the nation out of slavery in Egypt & when God gave them the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. The ark was a wooden box covered with gold which was normally kept in the Tabernacle, or tent of meeting. The ark represented the presence of God with His people. It was holy & could not be touched. Only the priests, the Levites, could carry it with specially made poles.
We do not have time to look at all the details of what happened but here is a little background. For many decades the ark had been almost forgotten – being kept in the house of a man called Abinadab. David gathered a large number of people from around the nation. He wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem. They put the ark on a new cart & we read, “Uzzah & Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it… David & all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums & cymbals.” (vrs 3-5) What happened next, however, was to shock everyone, not least David. They were not far from Jerusalem when the oxen pulling the cart stumbled. We read, “Uzzah reached out & took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, & he died there beside the ark of God.” (vrs 6 & 7) It seemed unbelievable. A well-meaning man trying to steady the cart ends up dying. Why, why should this happen?
David was not only shocked. He was angry & confused. V 9 says, “David was afraid of the LORD that day & said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?’” Meanwhile the ark was left in the house of Obed-Edom who lived close to where the tragic event took place. In the next 3 months God blessed Obed-Edom & his family. “King David was told, ‘The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom & everything he has, because of the ark of God.’” (v.12) This news helped David to overcome his fear.
What David & the others had not realised was that there were very clear instructions regarding how the ark was to be moved. It could only be carried by Levites using carrying poles. And it could not be touched. God is a holy God & His laws had to be obeyed or else there would be serious consequences. David had learnt a very important lesson. God is holy. We cannot presume to come to worship unless we are ready to reverence & obey the Lord.
Verse 12 continues, “…So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.” This time David made sure everything was done correctly. He also joined in as one of the most earnest worshippers. He didn’t dress in kingly robes. He dressed like a Levite in a simple linen garment. We read in vrs 14 & 15: “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he & all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts & the sound of trumpets.” Not everyone shared David’s love for worship – one of them being his wife Michal. Michal had been reunited with David but did not share her husband’s passion for the things of God. Sadly as she saw David dancing before the Lord she despised him for not being as dignified as she thought he should be. David however was unashamed of his God. He loved to be extravagant in worship. He loved music & loved dancing before the Lord. No wonder David was seen as “a man after God’s own heart” – that is, as someone who pleased God. For David true worship was to be at the centre of everyday life. It was to be central in the life of the nation.
And worship should be central in our lives as believers. Do you love & worship the Lord with enthusiasm? Or are you afraid of what others might think? Former US President Jimmy Carter is an unashamed worshipper of the Lord Jesus. Like David, he tried to put the Lord at the centre of everything. How about you?