We had a lot to talk about at Big Word last night! If you’ve missed any previous discussion on the book of 2 Samuel (or 1 Samuel) or just want to follow along with the homework, you can link up or download all of that on the Bible studies page.
So far in this book we’ve seen a civil war between Saul’s remaining camp (now led by his only living son) and David’s camp (led, of course, by David). All the typical drama and betrayals of war played their parts. Now, in chapter five, we have David, the new king of Israel setting up a new capitol for the reunited nation. That brings us to our first major discussion from the homework.
Why did David choose Jerusalem for the new capitol?
Up to this point Jerusalem had been occupied by the Jebusites. It wasn’t even in Israelite territory. It was, however, within the borders of the Promised Land as defined by God to Joshua. So the Israelites should have seized Jerusalem long ago, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. This is a contributing factor to David’s choice, but it’s not the only one.
Jerusalem was a city on a hill, the ideal fortress. Built with rock walls on three sides and a ready water source, it was the perfect candidate for establishing a secure, lasting kingdom.
Jerusalem was located on the border of Benjamin — Saul’s tribe — and Judah — David’s tribe. This makes its choice a symbolic peace offering to unite the tribes after years of discord Also, because it hadn’t previously been claimed by the Israelites, it was neutral territory. Kind of like Washington, D.C. It doesn’t belong to any one state and can, therefore (at least theoretically), represent the whole nation without favoritism. In the same way, David’s new capitol could objectively defend and serve all twelve tribes.
What was the deal with the traveling Ark?
Once David secured and established Jerusalem as the new capitol, he determined to collect the Ark of the Covenant (we’re long past Noah here) and bring it to where he was. The Ark had been sitting in the same spot for about 75 years, so why move it now?
Deuteronomy 12 presents God’s desire for a central sanctuary. Throughout that chapter several verses (5, 11, 21) reference “the place that the LORD your God will choose.” It talks about travelling to this chosen place to worship God. All the tribes would unite in worship in one place. They would be one nation under one God.
David recognized this from the Law and, by bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, would bring that central sanctuary into being.
So why didn’t it work? If this is what God desired, then why did He lash out against them for attempting it?
Because they didn’t do it the right way.
Throughout David’s life we can see a consistent pattern: He inquires of the Lord before he acts. This time he didn’t. He was convinced of God’s will and acted without inquiring. On top of that, he didn’t follow God’s very specific instructions for how to do it. Numbers 4 provides the instructions. The Ark was supposed to be carried on poles by the priests, not jostled around on an ox cart. (1 Samuel 6 reveals that ox carts are the preferred transport used by pagans.) After getting mad and scared and pouting for about three months, David tries again. This time he follows proper procedure, and — shock of all shocks! — it works! God blesses David and His people.
Oh, but there was someone who wasn’t so happy.
What was Michal’s problem?
We had some discussion last night over the appropriateness of David’s dance. Did he really disgrace himself? Did he expose himself in the name of honoring God? Was he nekkid?
I don’t think so. While some have taken Michal’s confrontation to mean he debased himself, most of the group did not interpret Scripture that way. Rather, we concluded that he simply removed his royal garb placing himself on even plane with everyone else. He wasn’t naked; he just wasn’t royally adorned. Michal, having been raised a princess, saw this as completely unacceptable behavior for a king. She despised him as the lowly shepherd boy he once was.
David responds by saying he will become “even more undignified than this” if that’s what it takes to honor God.
These next questions are for you personally.
- Have you ever praised God with such passion that you appeared undignified in the eyes of others?
- If not, what prevents you from uninhibited worship of Him?
- How can you remove obstacles to true, unadulterated worship?
The Davidic Covenant
Entire books have been written and published on the Davidic Covenant. I am not qualified to dive into all the exquisite details of it or its implications, so consider this a very basic introduction.
In 2 Samuel 7 David tells Nathan about something he wants to do for God. (Nathan is a prophet and he’s been one of David’s advisors for years, since his exile.) David wants to build God a temple, a permanent dwelling place. Nathan responds:
“Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”
That night He sent a message to David through Nathan basically saying “Thanks, but no thanks.” God had different plans, bigger plans.
Before we get into the details of the covenant, let’s back up. Some wonder, if Nathan was a prophet and what David wanted wasn’t what God wanted, why did Nathan give that lousy advice? Well, sometimes we need to step out on faith to discover God’s will. As Nathan pointed out, God was with David. He would make His will clear. And He did!
Have you ever landed in a similar spot? We can easily become paralyzed waiting for God to confirm His path for us. But if we know Him and His heart, what are we really waiting for? He’s not going to send us an email packed with explicit details of His plan. Sometimes we need to make a move. As long as we walk with Him, we can never be too far from His will. The key is to persistently, perpetually pursue Him. If the step we take is wrong, He’ll let us know. And if it’s right, He’ll light the next step.
Let’s get back to God’s bigger plan for David.
The promises (covenant) God made are unconditional. Nowhere in this passage do we see “If you …” or “If your descendants …” No. This is God simply giving a promise that depends on nothing more than the faithful character of God.
To David this covenant may have seem a little like a back-handed compliment. All that he wanted would happen … but not by him. David wasn’t the one who would build a temple for God … but one of his descendants would. David would never fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant or save the world … but one of his descendants would. To David, the covenant meant hope for his seed and his line, but it may have meant disappointment for him personally.
To Israel this covenant meant continued fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. It meant rest and blessing within the land. It meant an everlasting kingdom.
To the world it meant HOPE. LIFE. CHRIST.
Read Psalm 20:6–9. David and his men trusted God and His promises. And God wasted no time in keeping them. Almost immediately the nation’s borders expanded — north, south, east and west! How good is our God?
The story of Mephibosheth offers an interesting little interlude. We met this son of Jonathan, grandson of Saul, in 2 Samuel 4:4. In chapter 9 we see him again, this time elevated to an honored position by King David. Not only is he honored, but he is virtually adopted into the royal family.
This act reveals much about David’s character. He keeps his promise to honor Jonathan by honoring his son. He holds no animosity toward Saul’s line — He forgives. He is humble. He is honorable. He is gracious.
When we compare this to Ephesians 2:4–10 and Titus 3:4–8 we see the parallel between David and the grandson of his enemy and God to us. If we believe, we are adopted into God’s royal family. We who were the cause of His Son’s death have been accepted as children of the Most High King. That is an absolutely amazing truth! How does it impact the way you live? How does it color your perceptions of self and others?
Your Turn: Share with us what you think about all this. Did I miss anything from the text or the homework? Tell us what God has been telling you through this study.