Far too many churches overlook the importance of the Old Testament. They focus almost exclusively on the New Testament, the gospels, the epistles, and the advancement of the early church. This perspective fails to appreciate how the Old Testament provides context for and validation of the New Testament. The law, history, wisdom, and prophecy of the Old Testament provide a framework which allows Christians to better understand the teachings and completed work of Jesus Christ.
There are parallels between the Old Testament nation of Israel and the New Testament Church. Both were/are called to represent God and to make him known throughout the world. They were/are commanded to obey the LORD’s decrees and to follow His will. Both were/are to recognize God as their supreme authority and to bring glory to His holy name. Though there are also notable differences between them, the similarities between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church are significant. We as Christians today can learn much from the successes and mistakes of God’s Children during the Old Testament.
In our current series, “The United Church - A Study of Ancient Israel”, we have been learning about the origins of the Jewish nation. We have seen how the 12 tribes joined together to form a single monarchy. We have looked at the turbulent and often misguided reign of King Saul. Now we are discussing the early portion of David’s kingship. Thus far he has expelled many of the adversarial occupants of Israel, established Jerusalem as its capital, worked to revitalize the city, moved the Ark of the Covenant there, and received God’s promise to establish his throne forever. Things seem to be going quite well...
This morning we will read and discuss more good news for David and Israel. The people were moving in the right direction, renewing their allegiance to God, and enjoying His bountiful blessings. These were bright and joyful days for the Israelites.
I. SUCCESS (2 Samuel 8:1-18; 1 Chronicles 18:1-17)
During the first half of King David’s reign he enjoyed tremendous military success. He defeated the Philistines and took control of their chief city Gath. He conquered the Moabites, killing many of them and forcing the survivors to pay tribute to Israel. David advanced north-eastward to the Euphrates River and attacked King Hadadezer. The Arameans of Damascus sought to help Hadadezer, but David defeated them all and took much spoil. They too became servants of Israel and had to pay tribute.
Toi, the king of Hamath, had been an enemy of Hadadezer. When Toi heard that David had defeated Hadadezer he sent his greetings, blessings, and many articles of gold, silver, and bronze. David took this gift, along with the many items he had taken from his defeated enemies, and dedicated them all to the LORD.
David also advanced southward into Edom. He subdued the Edomites, and stationed garrisons of soldiers there also. They became servants of Israel as well. Thus, David made a name for himself throughout the region. He and the leaders of his administration ruled justly and righteously over the people. Most importantly, God was with David wherever he went.
II. MORE SUCCESS (2 Samuel 10:1-19; 1 Chronicles 19:1-19)
Sometime later the King of Ammon died and David wanted to extend his kind condolences to the new king. David sent messengers to comfort Hanun, but the Ammonites perceived them to be spies. So Hanun humiliated these Israeli messengers by shaving their heads and cutting their clothes. When King David heard what had happened to his servants he became quite upset. He sent his army to wage war against Ammon.
Fearing that they might need some help, the Ammonites hired many Arameans to come and assist them in their battle against David. Joab, the leader of Israel’s army, divided his troops into 2 groups. He led his detachment against the Arameans while his brother Abishai led his detachment against the Ammonites. As the battle progressed, the Aramean mercenaries fled. Seeing this, the Ammonites retreated into their city in defeat.
The Arameans who’d escaped from the battle in Ammon later regrouped and were joined by others from beyond the Euphrates River. They gathered together at Helam. David sent his army to confront them, and his forces were victorious yet again. Having been soundly defeated a second time, the Arameans made peace with and became subservient to Israel. They did not offer military assistance to the Ammonites anymore.
III. EVEN MORE SUCCESS (1 Chronicles 20:1-8)
Having dealt with the Arameans, David sent his armies back to Ammon. They besieged its major city of Rabbah and overthrew it. David took a large amount of spoil from the city, including their king’s crown. He then ravished many of the cities and Ammon and they became subordinates of Israel as well.
David had overcome the Arameans to the north, the Edomites and Amalekites to the south, and the Ammonites and Moabites to the east. In addition to these, war continued with the Philistines to the west. Over the course of time and in several different battles, Israel defeated them also. The few Philistine giants that remained, having descended from the sons of Gath, were all killed by David and his mighty men.
IV. DAVID’S KINDNESS (2 Samuel 9:1-13)
David wanted to show kindness to the family of Saul as a tribute to the memory of his dear friend Jonathan, so he asked if there were any surviving descendants of the slain king. Ziba, a man who’d had actually worked for King Saul several years earlier, told David that one of Jonathan’s sons - Mephibosheth - was still alive and living in Lo-debar. Mephibosheth was crippled in his feet due to a boyhood injury he’d suffered after hearing of his father’s death during the Battle of Jezreel (2 Samuel 4:4).
King David brought Mephibosheth to Jerusalem and promised to treat him well. David restored to him the land that had once belonged to his grandfather Saul. He further assigned Ziba and his 15 sons to be the servants of Mephibosheth. He extended an open invitation to Mephibosheth to eat at the king’s table, which he did on many occasions during his life. David treated Mephibosheth like his own son for their remainder of his life.
In our lesson today, we saw how David reached out in sympathy to the Ammonites after their king had died. He sent messengers to encourage and comfort them. However, the Ammonites rejected David’s kindness and were suspicious of his motives. It was only then that David sent the armies of Israel to destroy their cities and people. In much the same way, God is reaching out with lovingkindness to the lost people of this world. We all have a chance to receive salvation through the person of Jesus Christ. But to those who reject God’s redeeming grace, punishment will come in due time. Retribution will not wait forever...
We also saw that David’s kindness was showered upon Mephibosheth, an otherwise forgotten and obscure character. Mephibosheth did nothing to earn or merit David’s generosity, yet it was freely given to him. In fact, Mephibosheth was shocked that David even took notice of him. In the same way, God treats us with undeserved goodness and invites us to eat as His table. He accepts the redeemed as His own children. He challenges us to show such kindness to others.
May God teach us how to boldly stand for the truth of His word while simultaneously loving those who violate it, ourselves included. May we learn from David’s example how to be fearless warriors for the LORD while also exhibiting the kindness of Jesus to those who desperately need it. May we find the proper balance between grace and truth, while compromising neither.