2 Samuel 12

The king’s servants and subjects may have been willing to turn a blind eye, but the great sin of David did not go unnoticed in heaven. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David’s sin and expose his hypocrisy with a clever parable.

As Nathan told the story of the rich man taking advantage of the poor man by stealing something dear to him and using it for his own pleasure, David was outraged and demanded justice. At that moment, Nathan landed the knock-out punch: “You are the man!” David had taken advantage of his position of power to steal another man’s wife. God’s indictment was harsh (v.7-12). After receiving so much of the grace and generosity of the Lord, David had “despised the word of the Lord” and done an “evil” thing (v.9).

In response to the story of the poor man’s pet, David had pronounced the death sentence for the thief. Now the Lord hands down His own sentence for David: in addition to the sad demise of the infant son of his illicit affair (v.14), the evils of sexual sin would plague the royal family, and it would involve David’s own wives (v.11). David would suffer the same shame he had inflicted on the family of Uriah — and though David managed to keep his sin under wraps, the Lord would make sure it was exposed for all to see (v.12).

David immediately owned up to his sin in a brief statement of confession (v.13; this statement should be read alongside the powerful psalm of repentance David wrote after this incident, Psalm 51). As the little child of David and Bathsheba lay dying, David lay on his face, interceding for him. God did not answer his prayers, but took the little boy to heaven.

In the heat of the moment and the passion of his lust, David did not consider the implications of his sin. The following chapter tells the sad story of David’s son, Amnon, who followed his father’s example of out-of-control lust. Chapter 13 tells how he raped his own sister, setting into motion a chain of events that brought David endless heartache. That’s the way it is with sin: it takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay. God, deliver us! Save us from ourselves!

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2 Samuel 11

David is an important man, so we should respect him. But he is an imperfect man, so we can relate to him. To this point in his biblical biography, David has been a model servant of God. He was obedient to the Lord at every turn, enthusiastically executing every command. But as Robert Bergen observes, “In this section David becomes for a moment a rebel against the Lord’s covenant, with devastating consequences.” The final and summary line of this chapter is understated and loaded with meaning: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

The “thing” David had done was an act of adultery with the beautiful Bathsheba. It began with a look of lust from the rooftop of the palace. In my Dad’s sermon from this passage, he says, “David looked, he lusted, and he lunged into sin.” David abused his royal authority by having Bathsheba brought to him. We love to speculate on the woman’s motive and level of cooperation in the affair, but it is not revealed in Scripture, and is thus irrelevant. What matters is that David knowingly stepped over the very clear boundary of God’s Law.

Only God knows how David rationalized his sexual encounter with Bathsheba, but because I am an experienced sinner, I can guess: “I have sacrificed so much for God; I deserve to have a little fun.” “I have done so many things right, it won’t matter if I do this one thing wrong.” “It’s lonely at the top; God understands that a man needs companionship.” “No one will get hurt.” “I am the king; the rules don’t apply to me.”

When Bathsheba informed David that their affair had produced a pregnancy, his reaction shows how sin dismisses clear thinking and pollutes godly wisdom. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that covering up the sin was his best course of action. It is chilling to think that the brilliant, creative mind that gave us so many of the beautiful Psalms could concoct such a devious, ugly plan. Before it was done David had willfully violated half of the Ten Commandments (the second half, to be exact; see Exodus 20:13-17): murder, adultery, stealing, deceiving, and coveting his neighbor’s wife.

David had defeated his enemies of his nation on the battlefields of Canaan, but he had not defeated the enemy of sin on the battlefield of his heart. He was a master of the harp, the flock, the sling, and the pen — but he could not master his lust and selfishness. Although David would eventually repent, irreparable damage had been done.

Every time I read this chapter I am reminded of the power of sin and how I am powerless to overcome it on my own. I am reminded of just how desperately we need a Savior, and just how gracious God was in sending one. And I am reminded of the scandalous grace of the gospel, that God would not only send His Son to bear our sin, but that He would choose to send Him through “the house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4): David the sinner — but David the friend of God.

2 Samuel 7

This chapter shows us David’s love and commitment to God, but it also reveals God’s love and commitment to David. It contains what is known as the “Davidic Covenant”, one of the most theologically significant, far-reaching passages in the Bible. It began when David was enjoying a quiet day in his new palace in Jerusalem, the new capital city.

David called in the prophet Nathan to propose an idea that revealed the good heart of the king. The Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence and the focus of Israel’s worship that had journeyed with the people since the days of Moses, had made its final move to its permanent location in Jerusalem. But when David compared his own new home of stone and cedar to the tent that housed the Ark, it just didn’t seem right. Nathan immediately affirmed David’s desire to build a temple for the Lord and encouraged him to proceed with the Lord’s blessings. But Nathan spoke too soon — God had another plan.

In a nighttime vision to the prophet, God gave a life-changing message for the king. The crux of the prophecy was that David wanted to build a house for God, but instead God would build a “house” — an eternal dynasty — for David (v.11, “the Lord will make you a house”). There was a reason beyond David’s own lifetime for the meteoric rise of the shepherd-king and the unprecedented blessings on his leadership (v.8): a descendant of David would rule forever.

This magnificent promise should be understood on two levels. First, Israel’s history affirms that David’s family, beginning with his son Solomon, became a dynasty that reigned for many years. After Nathan passed God’s promise on to him, David received it by faith, as demonstrated by his beautiful prayer of gratitude in verses 18-29. But more importantly, this promise would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the saving king of Israel and all the world. I don’t think David was completely aware of this long-range fulfillment of the promise, but the early Christian community of the New Testament certainly did. Taking their cue from Jesus, they understood God’s promise to David to extend far beyond the rule of David’s physical offspring and into the realm of the spiritual reign of the Messiah. If you re-read verses 12-16 with Jesus in mind you will see that Jesus’ earthly parents were descendants of David (v.12); Jesus did build a “house” for His Father, the church (v.13); Jesus was indeed the Son of God, conceived without the involvement of an earthly father (v.14); Jesus did suffer punishment for sins, though they were not His own (v.14); and Jesus currently reigns as Lord of all, the King of an eternal kingdom (v.16)!

Like David, stop and pray a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s promise that was (and is) fulfilled in Christ. Thank Him for the grace He has shown you in salvation. Pray a prayer of fresh surrender to the rule of King Jesus in your life. As you pray, use the words of David in verse 22: “You are great, O Lord God! For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You.” Amen!

2 Samuel 5

The book of Second Samuel opens with a kingdom divided. After the death of Saul, his son Ish-bosheth reigned over Israel in his place while David, who was the rightful king by virtue of his anointing, reigned only over the tribe of Judah. A long war (see 3:1) and a string of tragic murders followed (including the murder of Ish-bosheth). A long last, David was crowned king over a united Israel. He was 37 years old.

David’s first priority as king was to establish Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel. Jerusalem was the crown jewel of the Promised Land, a beautiful fortress city on a hill that was strategically located. The Jebusite people, who had never been expelled from Canaan, occupied the city and would have to be defeated. Because of Jerusalem’s defenses they were overconfident and David succeeded in conquering the city.

It is important to note that in defeating the Jebusites, David was acting in obedience to the command of God (see Deuteronomy 7:1-2). His immediate and courageous obedience to Scripture ensured the blessings and presence of God in his life. No wonder the biblical writer states that “David became greater and greater, for the Lord was with him” (v.10). The Lord was with David in other military exploits, namely against the Philistines (v.17-25), and the king was careful to seek the Lord’s wisdom in his battle plans.

Confident that God had established him as king, David built a house in Jerusalem and enlarged his family (only a few miles from his hometown of Bethlehem). The little harp-playing shepherd of Bethlehem had come a long way. No longer was he leading sheep and fighting animals — now he was leading Israel and defeating nations. Scripture makes it clear that it was neither David’s talent nor his ingenuity that brought him success. It was the fact that the Lord was with him, the Lord exalted him, and the Lord fought for him (v.10, 12, 20). All the while, David’s response to God’s grace was to be faithfully obedient to His commands (v.25). That is still the formula for the kind of success that truly matters.

1 Samuel 17

David was a busy young man. He was working two jobs, splitting time between his duties at home as a shepherd and his service as King Saul’s court musician and armor bearer (v.15). David had apparently been home for more than a month with the sheep (perhaps it was the time of shearing the sheep or the season of birthing) while the Israelite army had been called to battle against the Philistines. When his father sent him to the battle front to take supplies to his brothers, David learned that the battle was at a standstill. He found his brothers, King Saul, and indeed the whole army “dismayed and terrified” (v.11). Why?

The Israelites were accustomed to doing battle as a unit, but the Philistines had proposed another method: each side would choose a “champion” (a word meaning “a man between the two”), and the two warriors would fight in a high-stakes, winner-take-all, one-on-one death match. This kind of representative combat was risky, as it placed the fate of the nation on the hopes of a single man. For forty days the Philistines had presented a champion but Israel had not responded, and for good reason — the champion of the Philistines seemed unbeatable.

Goliath of Gath was a physically and psychologically intimidating warrior. Standing 9′ 9″, he towered over the tallest Israelites. His armor and weaponry were overwhelming in appearance. He was sheathed in metal, a human tank that could smash any opponent. He held a spear with an enormous shaft and a 15-pound iron point, and his bronze javelin (a curved sword, like a scimitar) was slung between his shoulders. Apparently the rules of representative combat allowed for a shield bearer, and Goliath’s protected him with a full-length shield. He must have seemed invincible. This combined with the threats he shouted at the Israelites left them paralyzed.

When David arrived and heard the Philistine mocking the Lord’s army, he was incensed: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v.26). Seeing that none of the soldiers would respond and fight, he immediately volunteered himself to be the “champion”. Saul rejected the offer, saying, “You are not able to fight with him” (v.33). But David would not be put off so easily, arguing that if the Lord had empowered him to defeat wild beasts in defense of his sheep, surely He would enable him to defeat a Philistine in defense of His people (v.34-37). The young man’s logic was simple and his faith and courage were extraordinary. It disarmed the king, who decided to take the greatest gamble of his military career and present David as Israel’s champion.

Refusing the armor of a soldier, David instead chose to fight as a shepherd. Armed only with his shepherd’s staff and a sling, he faced the loud-mouthed giant and declared his intentions: “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts…the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head…that all the earth will know that there is a God in Israel.” With that, he charged Goliath as he loaded his sling. Aiming the stone projectile at his head, David let it fly, trusting God to make it count. The shot was lethal, the giant fell, and true to his word, David removed Goliath’s massive head with his own bronze sword. With their champion dead the Philistines ran for their lives and Israel was victorious.

Whatever you are facing today, remember David’s words in verse 47: “The Lord does not save with sword or spear. The battle is the Lord’s.” Your battles are the Lord’s battles. Like David, you can trust Him and be bold. There is no problem so big, no threat so great, and no enemy so strong that God cannot overcome it. Take courage and run to the battle!

1 Samuel 16

The arrogance and cavalier attitude of King Saul had at first angered the prophet Samuel, but the anger quickly turned to grief. As the old man sat grieving, God called him out of his depression and into action. God promised to reveal a new king to Samuel, and he would be found in the little town of Bethlehem. God directed Samuel to the family of Jesse, who was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz (see Ruth 4:21-22), who were possibly still living at that time. God had chosen to reward the faith of Ruth and the grace of Boaz by choosing one of their great-grandsons to rule the nation.

With a flask of holy oil in his hand, Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint one of the eight sons of Jesse as king. As Jesse introduced each of his sons to the prophet, from oldest to youngest, Samuel noticed their physical appearance and saw what he thought would be “king material”. As he envisioned tall Eliab as the new king, God spoke to Samuel’s heart and uttered one of the most important statements in Scripture about what He values in people: “The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (v.7). While we tend to value what we can see, God values the invisible qualities of faith and character.

When God had said “no” to the seven sons of Jesse who were present, Samuel asked if there were any others. No one had thought to call young David, who was out tending the sheep. He was called and quickly brought before Samuel. David was a good-looking young man, but that was irrelevant. What mattered was that he had a heart for God. Samuel anointed him with the oil, and even as the ceremonial fluid covered his head and ran down his face, the Holy Spirit was covering David’s life with divine favor and spiritual empowerment (v.13).

As David received his anointing, Saul’s anointing was revoked and replaced with persistent depression. The text makes it clear that Saul’s torment came from God (v.14). It was both an act of holy judgment and a way to highlight the spiritual difference between Saul and David. In order to cheer up the depressed king, his servants found a musician to play soothing and uplifting songs for him — it was none other than the multi-talented David of Bethlehem. It turns out that David was a very skillful harpist. When he would play for the king, the depression would be temporarily relieved. Like David’s good looks, his musical talents were irrelevant — it was the presence of God in his life that had a healing effect on Saul.

Saul called David into his service so that he would always be available to “play his blues away”. Verse 21 points out that Saul “loved” David. I am sure he loved what David did for him, but he did not truly love the young man. Saul’s true character would shortly be revealed, and he would become David’s sworn enemy. David’s character would be revealed as well, and he would become the greatest king in Israel’s history.

1 Samuel 15

As the king of Israel, Saul was the commander-in-chief of the army of the Lord, and the prophet Samuel came to him with battle plans from heaven. The mission was to attack the city-state of Amalek and completely destroy them. You can read in Exodus 17:8-16 how the Amalekites were the first people to attack Israel when God’s people made their first steps toward the Promised Land in the days of Moses (v.2). The Amalekites were terrorists, guerrilla raiders who constantly threatened the peace of Israel. Additionally, they threatened the morality of Israel because of their wickedness and idolatry. Through Saul, the time was right for God’s people to eliminate the threat once and for all.

Samuel made it clear to Saul that everything and everyone in Amalek was to be completely destroyed — no exceptions. This directive may seem cruel and harsh, but it puts the consequences of sin and the holiness of God on display. The sin of the Amalekites was legendary, and the wages of their sin was death (Romans 6:23). The terrible annihilation of their entire population would make it impossible for them to ever be an aggravation or an evil influence on God’s people again.

King Saul led a large force to Amalek and easily defeated them, but he disobeyed God’s command to destroy everything and everyone. Saul took it upon himself to spare Agag, Amalek’s king, and to allow the army to take the best of the livestock for themselves. This selective, incomplete obedience was a willful act of disobedience on Saul’s part, and the Lord saw it as nothing less than open rebellion. Saul’s attitude effectively disqualified him from royal service. He had “turned back from following” the Lord (v.11), a fact that would not be overlooked or excused.

The news angered Samuel, who interrupted Saul’s victory celebration to confront his sin. At first Saul deflected blame onto his army (v.13-15), then he tried to justify his disobedience (v.19-20). Only when he learned that he stood to lose the throne did Saul admit his sin and ask for forgiveness. There is a hollow sound to his confession (v.24-25). The Lord did not buy it, and neither did His prophet. In dramatic fashion, they made it clear to Saul that the kingdom would be ripped from his control and given to another (better) man (v.27-29). The horror of Saul’s sin and squandered opportunity is reflected in the horror of Agag’s execution. What the king had arrogantly refused to do, the elderly prophet did with gusto (v.33).

We do not have to wonder about the lesson God has for us in this chapter. Samuel’s statement in verses 22-23, his most memorable quotation, makes it clear: there is no substitute for obedience. When Saul rejected God’s authority, choosing a self-directed, self-styled form of half-obedience, he lived to regret it. Let’s not make the same mistake. There is no substitute for obedience.