(2 Samuel 5:1-5; 9-10)
Last summer we saw several “Occupy” events – for lack of a better term – pop up around the country. Most of these attempted to mimic the Occupy Wall Street movement of late 2011 – with varying degrees of success. The occupiers in 2011 were angered by social and economic inequality, greed, corruption, and the power big business seemed to have over government. Those is 2020 had similar concerns and also added rising police brutality to their protests. Indeed, the Occupy Wall Street movement also protested police brutality toward the end of their initial public actions, but they are main remembered for economic inequality (We are the 99%).
I say that the 2020 protests mimicked those of 2011 “with varying success” because the 2020 protests all ended with major police confrontations and, while police were involved at Wall Street, I remember the takeover and the dispersal as being rather peaceful.
Today’s Scripture – the last in our series about the amazing ways God moved in the lives of Samuel and David and still moves today – describes a similarly energetic occupation. After all his years as unlikely royal anointee and warrior, David finally, officially becomes king. And his first task as leader is to capture the great city, the city of Jerusalem, and make it capital of a united Israel. Our text describes the army’s strategy, sneaking into the city through a water shaft until they “occupied the fortress.” While the writer of 2 Samuel mentions many big boasts from the Jebusites as David approaches Jerusalem, he does not mention any conflict in the actual occupation. Of course, that doesn’t mean they took the city with no struggle, but, on the other hand, it would not be the first time God gave David a victory with no bloodshed.
But the possibility of risk was real – both for David and for modern occupiers. And, on this 4th of July weekend, we can also the life and death risks of our forebears who fought for the freedoms we celebrate today. To occupy a space means to be committed to the risk of bodily harm. To occupy any space means being rooted, committed, and absolutely present. People’s physical presence, gathering together to fight for a cause is a powerful, unifying force.
So it was for David’s army. Israel had been a mess of rivaling tribes and even civil war during Saul’s reign. But under David, the people came together. Was is because he was the strongest, biggest, bravest leader the world had ever seen? No, we’ve seen how God surprised everyone with this unlikely choice for Israel’s king. It is only by God’s power that David succeeded as he did.
The people came together because the representatives of each tribe had three compelling reasons. First, they were family. In the larger sense they were all children of Jacob. To be specific, David was Saul’s son-in-law. It didn’t make sense for people who were family to continue to be at war with each other.
In essence, we are the family of God. Sons and daughters of the King. It would behoove us not to be at odds with each other. That’s all the enemy of your soul wants.
Rev. 12:10 says:…. Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
The devil is the one who accuses each one of us. Most of the time, the devil’s lies are mixed in with some truth to make it believable. But a partial lie is still a lie.
Second, David was already a proven leader of Israel. The people remembered the times when David had led Saul’s army into battle and defeated their enemies. Saul’s jealousy had been fed by the people’s love for David and a fear that they would turn to him as their king.
Third, they felt that the Lord had chosen David. Some may have known of Samuel’s anointing of David, but more of them probably witnessed God’s blessings upon David and accepted that as a sign of God’s anointing. Everything seemed right in their request.
There was a very simple principle at work in the logic of the elders. They turned their back on all of their differences and focused on the things they had in common, the things that could unite them. The cause of Christ’s kingdom would be helped if Christians could learn to come together rather than arguing over differences.
David, then, made a covenant with the elders that stipulated the nature of the kingship. There were two aspects of David’s covenant with the elders that are key to understanding this story and which apply to us today.
First, it was a covenant that laid out the obligations of both parties. While there may have been things that David wanted the people to agree concerning their commitments to him, there were also his obligations to the people. There are too many people in the world today who have forgotten the mutual aspect of covenant relationships and this continually undermines businesses, international relationships, and relationships between people.
The second element in David’s covenant with the elders was that it was made as verse 3 says “before the LORD.” They made a religious ceremony out of the agreement. This was a serious commitment. It acknowledged God’s part in bringing them together. It sought God’s continued leadership in the affairs of Israel.
Our lives are given their meaning by the covenants we make and keep. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ means entering into a covenant with God. It is a relationship with obligations not only on God’s part, but also ours. Getting married is entering into a sacred covenant. All of us need to learn to see the covenants that we make as “before God” and to find resources in God for keeping those covenants.
David’s anointing as king brought to fruition what had been anticipated when Samuel had visited the house of Jesse and anointed David while he was just a kid. This should be a reminder to us that there is often a great distance between the beginning of a dream and its fulfillment. From the first day back in 1841 to today’s church service, God’s call of building a church in this city is being fulfilled.
There must have been times when David doubted that he was God’s anointed because of the trials he went through as a fugitive and an exile. And there are times when this church has struggled with what God is doing. We live in a society that is obsessed with instant everything. This mentality has also affected how we view the Christian life. We often want now what it takes God time to create. The Fruit of the Spirit don’t come from a hurried-up, crash course on Christian living.
You remember Joseph. The dream that he had as a youth took almost twenty years to fulfill. It included abuse, slavery, temptation, prison, and betrayal. Most of the time, we only think of the destination that God has for us and forget the journey.
David’s journey had included both praise and persecution, deep friendships and enemies, but through it all, God was moving David’s life forward toward the goal that He had for his life and those that followed Him.
This text goes on to tell us that when the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel they decided to attack. As long as the two rival groups of Israelite tribes were fighting with each other they were no threat to anyone. Now that they were unified, the Philistines were concerned and moved against David before he had time to consolidate his resources.
Christians ought to learn from this lesson. As long as we use up our energy competing with each other, the world isn’t going to worry about us. This is probably why the world tends to be so patronizing of the church. If those “of the world” are not reacting to what we are doing, that should concern us. When God’s children join their considerable resources to do God’s work, they always get a reaction from the world that operates with different values and goals.
If we are only “casual Christian,” the world will not take us seriously because we aren’t serious about our walk with God. But when you allow the Spirit of God to move you and guide you, the world around you will take note that you have been with Jesus. When a man or a woman comes face to face with the Lord, things have to change.
As I mentioned last week, at this time in his life, David made no move without consulting God. He probably should have remembered that rule before making a move on Bathsheba, but that’s a story for another day. David made two moves on the Philistines and knew to ask God. Knowing what questions to ask God is a part of spiritual wisdom. In the first battle, David’s request was if he should engage the Philistines. In his second inquiry, the questions related to strategy. One battle called for a frontal attack and the other for a flanking movement.
Often we make the mistake of thinking that the work is ours and that it must be done in our own strength. We must always recall David’s words as he faced off against Goliath: “the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” If God isn’t in it, it will not come to pass. The battle will be lost.
Paul mentions something similar in 1 Corinthians 2, where he says: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
The point of the whole chapter is summarized by verse 10: “David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.” We know from later stories about David that he was by no means a perfect king – as I already mentioned, but he sought God in all he did and God gave the victory. His reign is considered a golden age for ancient Israel, a united kingdom, brought together by the passion of a people, united under a great king, united under God.
I believe our nation is at an important crossroad. The struggles we face in so many areas are, in my opinion, directly related to the fact that many of our citizens – as well as many of our leaders – do not believe we are “one nation, under God.” Or, if they claim to believe it, they give that truth only lip service. Israel was a great nation as long as they looked to God for His providence. They began a descent when they moved away from Him and put their faith in other “gods.” It was not a quick descent – it took nearly 425 years from the beginning of David’s reign to Jerusalem’s final destruction. And it was not straight down – there were highs and lows along the way. But it was a descent nonetheless. If we, as a nation, continue to move away from being under God, our fate will be the same.
But, as important as that truth is, more important still is the truth that God is setting up His kingdom. And He is doing that through those He calls. Or, more specifically, those He chooses. The Bible says that “many are invited, but few are chosen.” God is setting up His kingdom through His people. As I talked about last week when David moved on from mourning Saul and Jonathan and God said, “Go up,” so David is anointed king and is ready to move. And God tells David to be ready to go quickly. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move.
Just like the moving of the poplar trees, when the kingdom of God was set up, the apostles, who were to begin the advancement of that kingdom, were not even supposed to attempt anything until they received the promise of the Spirit; who came with a sound from heaven, as of a sound of a rushing, mighty wind. But when the Spirit came, then they had to go.
It’s the same today, God is still moving by His Spirit. Can you hear the trees moving? The Spirit is wanting us to go; united under God’s banner. Move in the direction that the Spirit of the Lord wants you to go.