The King in His Kingdom

2 Samuel 23  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
2 Sam. 23
There are two songs in the Books of Samuel indited at different times, with upwards of a hundred years interval between them, yet when read together they appear as two parts of one whole, the work of one mind-the Spirit of God-though the utterances of different hearts and under different circumstances. They are the prayer of Hannah and the last words of David.
Hannah bursts out in praise to God after years of heaviness, sorrow, and reproach (1 Sam. 1:66And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. (1 Samuel 1:6)), when it had all passed away, and the Lord, in answer to her cry, had granted the desire of her heart. It is the first, though we can well believe not the last, effusion of her heart in praise to God, yet in Scripture the only song of hers that is recorded. Of David's psalms we have many, but this is his last. Hannah might look forward to years of happiness now that she devoted her child to the Lord, and entrusted him to Eli to train up for Him. David had nothing before him but death. She looks back on all God's dealings with her and rejoices. David looks forward and hopes. Hannah sings because of a salvation already accomplished. He is occupied with the covenant as yet unfulfilled, which is all his salvation and all his desire. Accordingly she celebrates God's ways of sovereignty and grace to the afflicted: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich: he bringeth low and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory." (1 Sam. 2:6,86The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. (1 Samuel 2:6)
8He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them. (1 Samuel 2:8)
.) David's words have for their burden, the character and work of the King-the Lord's Christ. But no celebration of the Lord's intervention in grace and goodness on behalf of His people, could be complete without a reference to that for which God had been all along working, the establishment of the kingdom; so Hannah goes on to speak of the king, although the kingdom had not then been set up in Israel. " He shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed." It is at this point where she ends that David begins; and, speaking by the Holy Ghost as he expressly affirms (2 Sam. 23:22The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. (2 Samuel 23:2)), he treats first of the king, then of his work. And so the whole chapter gives us a slight sketch of the king and his kingdom from " the pen of a ready writer." Hannah's prayer, deliverance having come, is full of brightness: David's song is full of beauty yet tinged with sadness.
The priesthood, which in the days of Hannah was God's appointed form of government in Israel, had been displaced and the kingdom set up-but the king was yet future. So, in speaking of him, David declares he speaks by direct inspiration. " The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." Nor that only. It was to him that God revealed the character of the One who should sit on his throne. This is only in harmony with the rest of God's dealings with David. It was to him the form and character of the house was revealed. It was by him the Levites and priests were arranged in their order and courses. It was he who appointed the choir, and set apart the different officers of the intended house for their respective positions. And if Solomon was to execute justice on Shimei and Joab, it was David who charged him to do it. So here it is to David that the character of the king is first revealed. " The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of' the morning, when the sun ariseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."
If such was to be the king, David was not the man. Tried by this standard he had failed, and that grievously. That Saul, made king by the people's request, should have proved himself unfitted for the office might not seem so surprising; but that David, the man of God's choice, not selected because of outward appearance (i.e., after the judgment of man), should have been tried and found wanting, might indeed surprise some, proving, as it does, that fallen man, even if renewed in heart, is unfit for the place of universal sovereignty. David's adultery, followed by the murder of Uriah, and his manifest partiality for Absalom, though his hands were stained with the blood of Amnon, his brother, were proofs that he had not been always just, ruling in the fear of God. But might not his son, beloved of the Lord, be the man? Ah, no 1 He surveys his family and confesses, " Although my house is not so with God." Young and tender, his hand free from blood, an untried sovereign was Solomon, yet the dying prophet could see he would not answer to the description of God's king.
There is something touching in this statement of his house. Death was near him. He was singing his last words yet God's covenant was unfulfilled. Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah, these were of David's house; but the just king was not there. God had promised, " I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son; and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee. But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established for evermore." (1 Chron. 17:11-1411And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever. 13I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: 14But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore. (1 Chronicles 17:11‑14).) With this David is satisfied. It is beautiful to see the faith of the dying king stayed upon God's word. He looks forward not because he discerns in his son a promise of the coming brightness, but because God had told him the light should shine. Sorrowful must it have been to his heart to own his sons were not so with God, but comforting to remember God's covenant which nothing, not even the sinfulness of his family, could annul. (Psa. 89:35-3735Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. 36His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. 37It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah. (Psalm 89:35‑37).)
Hence he can sing, and how beautifully! If the thought of his family introduces a vein of sadness, the description of Him that shall come sheds a beauty and brilliancy over everything. " Be shall be as a light," &c. Brightness, freshness would characterize him. What is brighter than a morning without clouds? What is fresher than the young grass after rain?
Following this we have the work he will accomplish: punishing the wicked and rewarding the faithful. The first, David sings of as future; he never could effect it. The second he did in his measure, and thus it has its place here as a foreshadowing of what the Lord will do when He comes. For to Him only will the dominion over Men, (Adam) belong. " The sons of Belied shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands." Useless as thorns, whose only power is to injure, David had often smarted under their thraldom. Joab, whose hands were twice stained with innocent blood, was still captain of the host. David knew well that such could not be taken with hands. His efforts to remove him were fruitless. " But the man that shall touch them must be fenced (or filled, i.e., fully provided) with iron and the staff of a spear; they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place." To one only of David's offspring will this apply-Him of whom it is written, " Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron." (Psa. 2:99Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. (Psalm 2:9).) " Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies, thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as the fiery oven in the time of thine anger, the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, the fire shall devour them." (Psa. 21:8,98Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. 9Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them. (Psalm 21:8‑9).) " He will baptize with fire," " and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matt. 3) The punishment of the wicked is the Lord's " strange work" (Isa. 28:2121For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. (Isaiah 28:21)); yet He will do it. (Matt. 13:4141The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:41).) To David it was a work of insuperable difficulty. For with the exception of the Amalekite, killed for having asserted he had slain Saul, the Lord's anointed, and Sheba the son of Bichri, who lifted up the standard of rebellion against David, none of the others in Israel, whose deeds of iniquity have been recorded, are spoken of as punished by the king's commandment. So the language of Psa. 101 can only fully apply to the time yet to come. David's impotency appears in the pathetic exclamation, " I am this day weak though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me; the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness." (2 Sam. 3:3939And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness. (2 Samuel 3:39).) Against the enemies inside and outside the land of Canaan, within the limits of his kingdom, he prevails; but against the sons of Belial among the people, he owns himself impotent. He had felt their power and knew his weakness.
The rest of the chapter gives us a different subject closely connected with the kingdom-the reward of those who had been faithful. Viewed historically, this catalog of mighty men might have been placed much earlier in the narrative, for these were they " whom he had, who strengthened themselves with him in his kingdom, and with all Israel, to make him king according to the word of the Lord concerning Israel." (1 Chron. 11:1010These also are the chief of the mighty men whom David had, who strengthened themselves with him in his kingdom, and with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the Lord concerning Israel. (1 Chronicles 11:10).) They had owned, and fought for, and with him, when Saul hunted him as a partridge in the mountains, the Ziphites discovered his retreat, and the men of Keilah were willing to deliver him up. They had shared his dangers and owned him when in rejection, so their names are now mentioned with honor. It is very interesting to trace the moral order of events as given us in God's word. Long before David uttered his last words, two, certainly, of these mighty men had passed away. Asahel slain by Abner when Ishbosheth yet divided the land with David, and Uriah slain by David before the birth of Solomon. Yet the catalog has its place here as completing the picture of the kingdom.
Of the deeds of many here recorded we have no account. But, whilst all of them are classed as the mighty men of David, we see each one is rewarded with his place, according to his work. Such is the law of the kingdom. (Matt. 16:2727For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Matthew 16:27).) Is it asked what qualified the first three for their place of pre-eminence, the sacred record informs us, boldness in the wars of the Lord, and personal devotedness to their king. But among these three there was an order. The Tachmonite sat chief, qualified by having killed 800 (in 1 Chron. 300) at one time. Eliezer comes next for his bravery in retrieving the day single-handed, when the men of Israel had gone away, and " the people returned after him only to spoil." Shammah has his place next for Wending a portion of God's land against the Philistines, when the people's courage had failed, and they fled away..In these the claims to place were different. In what follows they had a claim for distinction in common. (2 Sam. 23:1717And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men. (2 Samuel 23:17); 1 Chron. 11:1919And said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mightiest. (1 Chronicles 11:19).) These three mightiest hazarded their lives, and broke through the hosts of the uncircumcised to draw water for their king from the well of Bethlehem. Death was braved by these men, perils were encountered, the enemy defied and overcome. Numbers were as nothing when God's honor and power were in question. Difficulties could be overcome, dangers met, when the desire of the king had been expressed. Against God's enemies they would fight, even if they fought alone. For the Lord's anointed they would break through the Philistines' hosts, if only to get him a drink of water. What cannot boldness for God achieve when acting according to His mind? What will not attachment to the king effect?
The Philistines, who dwelt in the land; the Moabites, who often invaded it; the Egyptians, from whom God's arm had delivered Israel; such are the enemies they encountered and overcame, and these the enemies of Israel were likewise the enemies of the Lord. Thus they entered, with what measure of intelligence we know not, somewhat into God's thoughts about the kingdom. The time was approaching when a king of Israel should reign over all the land, and the different kings and kingdoms between the river of Egypt and the river Euphrates should own his sway. By their acts they seem to anticipate this, and they did what they could to forward it. The acts of Benaiah were numerous; three only are singled out: the combat with two mighty men of Moab, the slaughter of the Egyptian with his own weapon, the destruction of the lion in a pit in the time of snow. Nothing stood in his way when conflict was necessary. In season, out of season, such seemed his motto. Few, too, would like in such a position to meet a wild beast. Death or victory would be the only alternative. There could be no escape. He went forward and conquered. Confidence in God, and fellowship with God's thoughts, seem the two features that characterize these mighty men. None had a place in this list who was not mighty in warfare. The time to sheath the sword had not then arrived. Each was active, and was rewarded according to his deeds. And God remembered them. David gave them a place in his kingdom, God recorded their acts in His word.
But in all parallels between God's saints and the Lord Jesus, there will be contrasts also. We have David in his last words as an example of faith in the word of God. We have him too in his acts as a type of the Lord in rewarding those faithful to him. It has been noticed how he was not a type in punishing the wicked. There is one other contrast to be noticed ere closing. He could reward his faithful adherents with a name and place at his court, but he could not preserve them from death, or ensure their beholding the reign of the Prince of Peace. And if he gave them a place before hint, to sit in. his presence, he could give to none a place on his throne. What he could not do, the King of kings can and will. It is now the time to be associated with the Lord as the rejected of the world: by and by we shall reign with Him. Asahel never saw David king over all Israel. Uriah never witnessed the capture of Rabbah,
and the final subjection of Ammon. We, through His grace, shall witness our Lord's glory, and share in His triumph.