Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Latter Years of King David: Victories, Lust, Betrayal, & Hope

"How the mighty have fallen!"

David cried out in tears and bitter pain and sorrow, as he must’ve looked upon the bodies of Saul and his son Jonathan. David composed a great song of regret and sorrow at the loss of these great men, despite the fact that David had been so severely persecuted and hated by Saul.

David begins by ruling from a city called Hebron. Then he slowly gains control of the tribe of Judah’s land. Slowly he is fighting off the remnants of Saul’s forces, led by Abner. But Abner betrayed the false king, a descendant of Saul, turned to help David, but was later killed by one of David's men.

Eventually David won control of the entire nation of Israel. And David’s first act as King was to conquer the city of Jerusalem, which would become the capital of Israel. To this very day, Jerusalem remains the capital of Israel.

From 2nd Samuel chapter 5:6-7,9-10, “The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David. David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.”

Finally, at last, after all that nonsense, all the trouble! All the chaos! After having to hide in caves, and dodge javelins being thrown at him, and battles and betrayals, finally, David becomes king, as he was meant to be, the leader of the nation of Israel, the leader of God’s special nation.

God’s will is done. And it’s done in our lives. But we have to remind ourselves that it often takes time, and patience, and trusting in God day in and day out, having a rock solid faith that can’t be shaken.

Do you have that faith in your life? Not only on the good days, but when your upset, hurting, struggling, do you simply trust and have a faith in God, that no matter what, no matter how your emotions are right now, God remains with you, and you can trust Him.

We have to walk through the pain. But we can have a solid faith, an anchor in the storm, that keeps us steady, calm, firm, unmovable, brave, bold, courageous.

David has learned so much during his many trials. He’s been kept humble. He knows he must seek the Lord in everything he does. Every decision, big and small must be connected to God.

As soon as David is named King in Zion, the Philistines hear about it, and they are very worried. So they come and prepare for battle against Israel.

It says in 2nd Samuel 5:18-20, 22-25, "Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them.

Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and 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.” So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines…”

So David is victorious in once again driving back and defeating the enemy of Israel.

Next we see David bring the ark of the covenant, which contains the ten commandments given by God, into Jerusalem. And David dances with all his might before the ark as they bring the ark into the city, and it’s an amazingly beautiful scene of David’s political victory, but also his spiritual victory. God has done it all, he is victorious and they celebrate by bringing the ark into the new capital city.

It says in 2nd Samuel chapter 6:16-23 “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

So we see this great celebration, but Michal David’s wife gets upset and jealous and yells at him a bit here. And then we see Michal is really not blessed as a result. In any case David is king, all is well, their enemies are defeated, and David begins to consider something. In his heart he wants to build a temple for God. And he inquires of the prophet Nathan, who is serving as an advisory to him at this point. And Nathan reports back what God says.

From 2nd Samuel 7:8-16: “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[b]; your throne will be established forever.’”

So David will not be the one to build this temple that God is planning to bring about. But it will be David’s son who does this. Very interesting. And we also see a hinting here toward the one who would come in the future. We see that David’s line will be established forever. And eventually one will come in the line of David who will rule over all the Earth. 2nd Samuel 7 is very important, because God points David forward to see the coming of the messiah who would save the world from their sins, Jesus Christ.

We see in the next few chapters that David continues to have victories against his enemies, and does great things. But then we come to 2nd Samuel chapter 11. Israel is at war during this time with the ammonites. Normally the king would be out leading the army, but instead David sends his military advisory Joab to lead the army.

David stays at the capital, Jerusalem. And it says this, 2nd Samuel 11:2-5 “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.””

What... Just... Happened!?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? You’re doing great. Life is good. Maybe you start to get a bit complacent, a bit lazy, and then wham, the enemy sends a temptation. And in this case, David fell for the temptation.

He saw this beautiful woman from the roof of the palace. He starts getting all excited. He tries to find out about her. And he finds out she's married. That’s the moment when you say, oops, alright, moving on. But honestly, even before that, David is already married himself! So what is he doing here? If I see a beautiful woman and I want to find out more about her, ok, I’m single, no big deal. But if I find out she's married, game over. Time to move on. But David doesn’t move on. He brings her to the palace, probably impresses her with all his wealth and wisdom, and then takes her to bed.

Then he sends her back home. So he doesn’t try to keep her around. Just sends her out. End of story right? Wrong. She sends him a note, hey, uhm, I’m pregnant. Uh oh. Not so easy to cover up your mistake now is it?

Big problem. What do you do now? Say alright, I sinned, I messed up, come forward about it? That’s what he should do.

But instead he calls for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. He brings Uriah in and spends some time with him and tells him to go home. Then he can sleep with his wife, and no one will know the difference when Bathsheba is pregnant. But Uriah is too honorable a guy, he won’t go home, he sleeps on the steps of the palace. So David keeps him another night, gets him drunk this time and tries to send him home to his wife, but again he doesn’t go home. He doesn’t want to spend time with his wife when none of the other soldiers can in the war.

So David tries something else. This is the guy who for so long never made a mistake, right? Crazy isn’t it, how sex and romantic relationships can get us into so much trouble?

So Uriah goes back to the army. And David sends a message to the army commander and says attack the walls, with Uriah, and then pull back while Uriah is fighting. And they obey the orders of King David, and Uriah is killed during the battle.

And it says at the end of 1st Samuel 11:26-27, "When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

Now here is an epic mic drop moment. Nathan goes to visit David, Nathan is the prophet, the sort of “voice of God” to the kings. From 2nd Samuel 12:1-10: "When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’”

So David laments and cries out for mercy, and God does forgive him. Nathan tells him that. But he also says, the child is going to die. And you’re going to have lots of struggles in the future because of this.

And indeed, the child shortly after did die. But later Bathsheba became pregnant again, and she gave birth to Solomon, who would one day be the one who would become king of Israel.

David has many other children with his various wives. Why he had more than one escapes me. But it was culturally practiced at this time in history. And we see how destructive it is for him. But in any case, he has other children. And many years go by. And he has this child named Absalom. And Absalom slowly begins to rebel against David’s leadership. He starts to pull people aside and have secret conversations with them, saying he can help them instead of David. And he whispers against David’s leadership and criticizes him, and begins influencing more and more people to believe Absalom should be king of Israel instead of David.

David doesn’t really notice at first. He’s too busy ruling the kingdom. But Absalom after many years has gathered many followers. And they actually raise an army and attempt to overthrow David. The rebellion goes so out of control that David and his leaders have to flee the capital of Jerusalem. But David rallies his forces, and they attack Absalom’s troops. David loves Absalom despite his betrayal and he tries very hard to prevent Absalom from being hurt in the fighting. But never-the-less Absalom is killed in the combat. David reclaims the throne. And Absalom dies. David mourns the death of Absalom bitterly. Despite his betrayal, he loved him deeply.

So David grew old and eventually died. And we’ll see next week how Solomon his son would become an even greater king that David was.

Before we close I want to draw a 3 way comparison. Consider the three prime figures we see here. We saw Saul, who was a king who fell short of what God called him to. We saw David, the king who had a heart like God’s own heart, even though he made serious mistakes, he was victorious. Then we see Absalom, the disenchanted son of David who rebelled against the king.

And I believe we can end up being one of these three people in our lives. We can be the Saul. In the case of Saul, we start off doing well, but we aren’t able to finish. We end up becoming increasingly disobedient to the Lord. We end up being the leader who fails his or her people, by failing God. Don’t be a Saul.

We can also be an Absalom. We’re very intelligent. Very likeable. We’re part of a blessed family. We are a leader. But pride becomes our downfall. We start to rebel against the leaders God has placed over us. We try to make our destiny bigger than it’s supposed to be. Despite having the best intentions, in the end we end up as a rebel who was turned against God. Don’t be an Absalom.

Hopefully each of us can end up being a David. He avoids both the pitfalls of Saul and Absalom. David never rebels outright against Saul. He recognizes that Saul is King, and Saul is a bad king, but never-the-less David recognizes he was put there by God, and he would be sinning by trying to tear him down before the appropriate time which God would make it happen.

David doesn’t rebel. He submits to his leader, over and over, even to have a spear thrown at him numerous times. He was under a corrupt leader, but God let it play out His way, and he didn’t try to force it to happen before it’s time. David also avoided the pitfall of Saul not being able to finish. David did commit some terrible sins, we all do, but the difference between David and Saul is that David was corrected and he listened, and repented in tears and sorrow for what he had done. Saul did not. He refused to repent, and went into worse and worse sins as a result.

We can be the David of our story, the hero, the one after God’s own heart, by refusing to rebel against the authorities over us, even if they are corrupt, and allow God to work it out, and we can be a David by repenting quickly when we sin, and changing our behavior, instead of continuing forward in evil.

Take some time to consider your life, and the journey ahead of you. Avoid the sin of pride, avoid the sin of rebellion, be a humble hero like David, though he made grave mistakes, he came out victorious in the end.