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2 Samuel 5:1-12
Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake saying, Behold we are thy bone and thy flesh.
David king over all Israel
It was probably very soon after the death of Ishbosheth that this visit of the tribes of Israel to Hebron occurred. Now, in this request the elders urged three reasons why David should be their king.
1. Blood-relationship: “We are thy bone and thy flesh.” It was with these words that Laban welcomed his nephew Jacob to Haran (Genesis 29:14); with these words also Abimelech sought the allegiance of the men of Shechem (Judges 9:2).
2. David had been, under Saul, their leader in war, and as he had been a victorious leader they are ready to acknowledge him as their king.
3. He had been called of God to be a shepherd and a prince over Israel.
As the representatives of the tribes the elders come to Hebron with this petition, and a covenant is entered into “before the Lord.”
1. All the tribes of Israel were now united and the family circle was one under David.
2. There was peace in Israel, instead of the long, bitter strife of so many years.
3. Their anointed king was he whom God had selected, so that, instead of fighting against the Divine purpose, they were now in harmony with that purpose, and the smile of Jehovah rested on their union.
4. The future was bright before them. So long as they were contending with one another they had no strength to overcome the enemies of God, and the Jebusites could not be driven out of Jerusalem. But now, the tribes united, led by such a prince as David and with God on their side, they were strong to conquer all their enemies.
There are two profound thoughts in this closing verse:
1. The recognition by David of the hand of God in his position as king over Israel.
2. The recognition of the truth that the purpose of this providence was for the temporal and spiritual interests of the people of God. The people are not created for the king, but the king for the people. (A. E. Kittredge, D. D.)
David king ever Israel
I. Look at Israel in those years of waiting for their king. Near five centuries before the founding of the kingdom, the rule which was to govern the conduct of their coming king had been lodged in the archives of their nation. He had been seen at the helm of human affairs, of whom it was written: “He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” The steppings of God are not swift enough for us. Time spent waiting for deliverance or advancement seems lost time. We forget that preparation is demanded for all promotions, all changes that are radical. Because Israel would not wait for God to choose for them a king in his own time, he gave them Saul, of their own choosing. They, however, found little comfort in him. His life was “one long tragedy.” Human wisdom is often folly. That which we judge will be for our large advantage often proves our peril. There is no safety but in waiting for God to go before and lead.
II. Notice God’s choice of David as king. In the midst of the commotion and desolation of Israel, Samuel was commanded to go to Bethlehem, and there anoint one of the sons of Jesse. No explanation was given of the meaning of that anointing. Neither Jesse nor David understood it, though both must have had conception of some great honour indicated. The choice was of God. Mighty changes were to take place in the rule of Israel; a mighty man was required. He was found. God always has instruments at hand for use.
III. Notice David’s preparation for the kingship. God was preparing him, through the persecutions of enemies and the treachery of friends, by a long and painful discipline, for the kingship of Judah, at Hebron. There he reigned seven and a hail years, when the throne of Israel became vacant. Purified in the furnace of affliction and humiliations, grown strong in faith through wonderful deliverances and exaltations, he was ready for the place which God had made ready for him.
IV. Notice David’s exaltation to the throne. (Monday Club Sermons.)
David a type of Christ
David is made fully king. He has been, so to say, partially king; now his kingship is to be completed. It is legitimate to inquire into the typology of the whole case. Being the father of Christ according to the flesh, it will be to our edification to ask where the lines coincide, where they become parallels, and where they again touch one another. The study will be at once interesting and profitable.
1. “David was thirty years old when he began to reign” (v. 4). How old was Christ when he entered his public ministry? Was he not thirty years old? The full meaning of this it is impossible to find out; nevertheless the coincidence itself is a lesson: we stop, and wonder, and think. Providence thus reveals itself little by little, and we are permitted to take up the separate parts, bring them together, and shape them into significance.
2. “And they anointed David king over Israel” (v. 3.) Is that the word which is used when men are made kings? Is there not another word which is employed usually? Do we not say, And they crowned the king? The word here used is anointed--a better word, a word with more spiritual meaning in it, and more duration. The oil penetrated; the oil signified consecration, purity, moral royalty. There was a crown, but that was spectacular, and might be lost. Was not Jesus Christ anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows? Have not we who follow Him and share His kingship, an unction, or anointing, from the Holy One, through whom we know all things?
3. David reigned forty years. Forty is a perfect number. There are many numerals which represent perfectness, and forty--the four tens--is one of them. Or making the whole life seventy years we come again upon another aspect of perfectness: perfectness in the life and in the royalty: perfectness in both senses and in both aspects. And is not Jesus Christ to come to a perfect reign? Has He not His own forty and His own seventy--His own secret number, which represents to Him mysteriously the perfectness of His reign? He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.
4. The Jebusites mocked David when he would go and reign in Jerusalem; they said, “Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither” (v. 6). In other words: If you can overcome the lame and the blind, you may enter into Jerusalem, but other soldiery we will not interpose: even they will be strong enough to break the arms of David. Has no defiance been hurled at the Messiah? Has He not been excluded from the metropolis of the world? Are there not those who have mocked Him and wagged their heads at Him? Are there not those who have spat upon His name, and said, We will not have this man to reign over us? Let history testify, and let our own conscience speak.
5. David advanced more and more. The tenth verse has a beautiful expression: “And David went on, and grew great.” The words are short, but the meaning is boundless. David was a persistent man--he “went one” It is the man who steadfastly goes on, who enters the city and clears a space for himself, in all departments and outlooks of life. And is not Jesus Christ going forth from conquering to conquer? Is He not moving from land to land, from position to position. “And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ.” Go on thou mighty Son of God!
6. Then we read in the eleventh verse, “And they built David a house.” Even those who were averse to Him came to this at the last. And is no house being built for Christ? Once He said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” Is it to be always so? or is not the whole earth to be the house of the living Christ, the sanctuary of the crowned Lord? This is the voice of prophecy; this is the testimony of all history: in this inspiration we pray our bolder prayer and utter our grander hope. Jesus shall reign, and a house shall be built for Him, and it shall be called the house of God.
7. “But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold” (v. 17). Christ has enemies to-day. There are Philistines who are banded against Him: they want to deplete His name of all spiritual meaning, to take away from Him all the glory of His miracles, to deny even His incarnation, to treat Him as a myth, a vision, or a dream; but still He goes down to the hold, and still He advances His position.
8. Having overthrown the Philistines in one conflict, we read in the twenty-second verse, “And the Philistines came up yet again.” These words have modern meaning--namely, the words “yet again.” The enemy is not easily foiled. One repulse is not enough. The victory is not secured until the enemy is under foot--no truce, no compromise, no modification, no temporising, no living by mutual concession. (J. Parker, D. D.)
King David a type of Christ
David, as king, was an illustrious type of Christ. “I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalms 2:6.) “All Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the deliverer.” (Romans 11:26.) Jesus was recognised as “The Son of David”; He is “King of the Jews”; “King of kings,” and “of His kingdom there shall be no end.” This passage suggests several analogies between King David and King Jesus.
1. David was king by Divine ordination (v. 2, 12.) And so Christ was elected from eternity to be the Monarch of mankind, was predicted of old. “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.” (Daniel 4:3; Daniel 4:34.) It was asserted by Himself, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He claimed kingship of Divine origin and authority.
2. David was ordained to be king for two purposes: “Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.” It is the function of a shepherd to feed; of a captain to guide and protect. So Christ is the good Shepherd and the Captain of Salvation. He supplies the need of His people, and leads them to victory.
3. David was qualified by kindred relationship. “We are thy bone and thy flesh.” So Jesus took our nature, “in all things was made like unto His brethren.” “He is not ashamed to call us brethren.” His humanity, linked with His deity, qualified Him to be the “Mediator between God and men”; the Shepherd-King of His people; “the Man Christ Jesus.”
4. David was king by mutual covenant. The Son of David is proclaimed from heaven as King of men; and He engages to rule in equity, and to guard His people from harm. We, on our part, accept Him as our Lord: we declare that we desire Him to rule over us; there is a mutual covenant. He says, “Ye are My people”; and we say, “Thou art our King.”
5. David assailed the strong fortress of his foes. David’s greater Son lays siege to the human heart, fortified against Him by unbelief and sin. He summons it to surrender; brings the battery of truth against its walls; promises pardon if it will open its gates.
6. David conquered the-fortress and dwelt in it. So Jesus has entered many a heart by its opened doors, and has proved His power to subdue the most determined resistance. He then makes it His abode.
7. David enlarged the captured city. “He built round about.” Thus the kingdom of David’s Son is constantly being enlarged. Faith in the soul grows as seeds. The leaven leavens the whole lump. Every part of our nature progressively owns the sway of its Lord.
8. The King of Tyre sent cedar-trees and carpenters to help to build David’s house. So the Gentiles built up the Church of Christ. Earthly wealth is consecrated to His service. Not Tyre alone, but every people and clime shall help in raising up Jerusalem, and making Zion a praise throughout the earth.
9. David reigned in Hebron and Jerusalem forty years. David’s Son reigns everywhere, and His kingdom shall have no end. “He shall reign for ever and ever.”
10. David had the joy of being assured that God had exalted His throne. “He perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel.” And David’s Son “shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” Lessons:--Let us individually enter into covenant with Christ as our King. Let us open our hearts for Him to dwell in. Though “blind and lame,” He will heal us, and help us to fight His battles and share His triumph. (N. Hall, D. D.)
2 Samuel 5:2
Thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel.
Divine appointment and man’s doing
There are both sides of the great division in evangelical theology--Arminianism and Calvinism: man’s doing, and God’s planning. The Lord said that David should lead Israel; and David did lead Israel. And the people of Israel gave a fair prominence to both sides of the question. They saw that David could do what the Lord had said he should do; and they knew that the Lord had said that David should do what they saw he could do. As a practical matter, these two sides of the truth have to be considered by all of the Lord’s people, in all their doing and in all their judging. If a man is called of God to a special work, the man must show by his doing that he is the very man whom God has called, and who was the man to be called of God. And in judging of another’s fitness for his work, it is right for us to consider the call of God to that man, as well as that man’s apparent success in his work. If the man is clearly out of the place to which he was called of God, all his ability and apparent fitness for this other place must be counted insufficient to inspire confidence in him for permanent success here. It has been well said, as to a Christian’s personal duty in God’s service, that he ought to work in his appointed sphere as if everything, depended on his own exertions, while he ought to trust as if everything depended on God’s strength as given to him in that sphere. (H. Clay Trumbull.)
2 Samuel 5:3
And King David made a league with them.
Making a league
For one born into the family, no formal covenant is necessary, in order to bind to his support all who are of the same blood with himself. But when one is taken in from outside, to be closer than a brother, or when a number of persons who are not of one blood would bind themselves together in mutual fellowship, a specific league must be made in ratification of the new relation. The form of the league is different in different cases. The simplest form, and one which has always had a binding force in the East, is that of eating together, of breaking bread in common, in token of mutual fidelity. Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, in his Among the Turks, gives various illustrations of this truth. As he sat on the floor, at dinner, in a Turkish governor’s residence, the boy gave him in his fingers a piece of roast mutton, to be taken by the guest’s fingers and then eaten. “Now, do you know what I have done?” asked the boy. “Perfectly well,” answered Dr. Hamlin. “You have given me a delicious piece of roast meat, and I have eaten it.” “You have gone far from it,” responded the boy. “By that act, I have pledged you every drop of my blood, that while you are in my territory no evil shall come to you. For that space of time we are brothers.” Coming from Smyrna, at one time, Dr. Hamlin was on a vessel containing a large number of raw recruits for the Turkish army. “Just before reaching port, some fifteen or so of these recruits threw off their look of stolid resignation, cleared a place on the deck, as I supposed, for a country dance; and I looked on with interest. I could see, by their costumes, that they were all from the same village, or villages closely associated . . . They stood in a ring, each man’s right hand upon his neighbour’s left shoulder. Soon one came to take a vacant place, with a semeet, a ring of bread, in his hand. He broke it into bits, and they all ate of it, saying a few words of prayer, probably the first chapter of the Koran. It was a religious act, plainly. About to separate, and be dispersed into the army, they bound themselves to be faithful in memory, and in aid, should it ever become possible. It was to them a kind of sacrament, an oath of brotherhood.” And so they “made a league” with one another. (The Sunday School Times.)
2 Samuel 5:5
In Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years.
Jerusalem, the Holy City
It was highly desirable that the capital should be accessible to the whole country, and should possess the necessary features that rendered it fit to become the heart and brain of the national life. It must be capable of being strongly fortified, so as to preserve the sacred treasures of the kingdom inviolate. All these features blended in Jerusalem, and commended it to David’s Divinely-guided judgment. In this he greatly differed from Saul, who had made his own city, Gibeah, his capital--an altogether insignificant place, and the scene of an atrocious crime, the infamy of which could not be obliterated. To have made Hebron the capital would have excited the jealousy of the rest of Israel; and Bethlehem, his birthplace, would have struck too low a keynote, None were to be compared with the site of Jerusalem, on the frontier between Judah and Benjamin, surrounded on three sides by valleys, and on the other side, the north, strongly fortified.
I. Its previous history. To the Jew there was no city like Jerusalem. It was the city of his God, situate in His holy mountain: “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth.” The high hills of Bashan were represented as jealous of the lowlier hill of Zion, because God had chosen it for His abode. The mountains that stood around her seemed to symbolize the environing presence of Jehovah. The exile in his banishment opened his windows towards Jerusalem as he knelt in prayer, and wished that his right hand might forget its cunning sooner than his heart fail to prefer Jerusalem above its chief joy. The charm of the yearly pilgrimage to the sacred feasts was that the feet of the pilgrim should stand within her gates; and when at a distance from her walls and palaces, pious hearts were wont to pray that peace and prosperity might be within them for the sake of those brethren and companions who were favoured to live within her precincts. But it had not always been so. Her birth and nativity were of the land of the Canaanite. An Amorite was her father, and her mother a Hittite. In the day that she was born she was cast out as a deserted child on the open field, weltering in her blood. For a brief spell the priest-king Melchizedek reigned over her, and during his life her future glory must have been presaged; the thin spiral columns of smoke that arose from his altars, anticipating the stately worship of the Temple; his priesthood foreshadowing a long succession of priests. Thereafter a long spell of darkness befell her; and for years after the rest of the country was in occupation of Israel, Jerusalem was still held by the Jebusites. Joshua, indeed, nominally subdued the city in his first occupation of the land, and slew its king; but his tenure of it was very brief and slight, and the city speedily relapsed under the sway of its ancient occupants.
II. The capture. Making a levy of all Israel, David went up to Jerusalem. For the first time after seven years, he took the lead of his army in person. Passive, when he was called to wait for the gift of God, he was intensely active and energetic when he discerned the Divine summons. David’s first act was to extend the fortifications; “He built round about from Millo and inward;” whilst Joab seems to have repaired and beautified the buildings in the city itself. This first success laid the foundation of David’s greatness. “He waxed greater and greater; for the Lord, the God of Hosts, was with him.” Indeed, neighbouring nations appear to have become impressed with the growing strength of his kindom, and hastened to seek his alliance. (1 Chronicles 11:7-9; 2 Samuel 5:11).
III. A fair dawn. It has been suggested that we owe Psalms 101:1-8 to this hour in David’s life. He finds himself suddenly called to conduct the internal administration of a great nation, that had, so to speak, been born in a day, and was beginning to throb with the intensity of a long-suspended animation. The new needs were demanding new expression. Departments of law and justice, of finance, and of military organization, were rapidly being called into existence, and becoming localized at the capital. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
2 Samuel 5:6
Except thou take away the blind.
Security not safety
A graphic picture of the haughty security of the Jebusites and of their consequent weakness is given in Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine. The late Dean wrote: “When David appeared under the walls of Jebus the ‘old inhabitants of the land,’ the last remnant of their race that clung to that mountain home, exulting in the strength of these ancient ‘everlasting gates” looked proudly down on the army below and said, ‘Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in thither; thinking David cannot come in thither.’ The blind and the lame they thought were sufficient to defend what nature had so strongly defended. It was the often-repeated story of the capture of fortresses through what seemed their strongest and therefore became their weakest point. ‘Precipitous, and therefore neglected.’ Such was the fate of Sardis, and of Rome, and such was the fate of Jebus. (Sunday School Times.)
Jeering as a war-weapon
Long before the origin of the comic-caricature as a political war-weapon, scoffs and jeers were a favourite projectile in Oriental warfare--as they are, in the East, at the present time. The jeer of Tobiah, against the Jews who were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem Under Nehemiah, was: “Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.” This was, in spirit, much like the Jebusite jeer at David, Our blind and lame can keep your host at bay. “Come on, thou rider of a kadesh!” (a hack-horse) was the cry of one shaykh to another in a combat in Palestine, as reported by Mrs. Finn. And the response of the other was: “At least I am not the son of a gypsy!” Arab warfare is so far not unlike Chinese warfare; and so far the present is much like the days of David, in the East. (Sunday School Times.)
2 Samuel 5:8
Whosoever getteth up to the gutter.
The assault upon Zion
“Some far-seeing Hittite or Amorite had designed from the inside of the city that a subterraneous passage should be cut through the rock to the spring below, so that in troublous times when the daughters of Zion could no longer venture outside the gates to draw water from the fountain, the needful supply should be obtainable without the knowledge of the besiegers, and without risk to the besieged.” (Harper.) There is strong presumption that David obtained information of this secret way through a citizen--Araunah the Jebusite. At all events whoever disclosed to him the singular viaduct--“gutter” of our Bibles--he issued forthwith the proclamation that an attack through it was feasible. This has received the amplest confirmation from two other well-known Palestine explorers by having themselves accomplished the feat. They worked their way up through this same covered passage. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
Storming the citadel
Joab stormed the stronghold of Zion, which the Jebusites thought-impregnable. Jonathan and his armour-bearer were scornfully despised by the Philistine garrison (2 Samuel 5:1-25.) So General Wolfe won the great victory which has made his name famous, by leading his men up the Heights of Abraham above Quebec, his French opponents not dreaming that such a feat was practicable.
Storming the fortress
The whole incident recalled a kindred adventure in Scottish history; when during the wars of the Douglas, Dumbarton Rock--550 feet in height, crowned with its fortress and castle, had its precipices of ballast sealed by a few daring men, with the aid of ladders and grappling irons and misty midnight. An ash tree growing in a crevice near the top served as an equivalent for what, in the water-course of Jebus, helped materially to crown the feat with success. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
2 Samuel 5:10
David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of Hosts was with him.
Greatness by gentleness
“Thy gentleness bath made me great.” So wrote David when he rehearsed the history that had culminated in his advancement to the throne of all Israel. He admits, therefore, that he was a “made” man, but not a “self-made.” man. Here in the narrative of his prosperity he confesses that it had been the Lord who established him king, who also exalted his kingdom; and then in a Psalm of devotion he ascribes all his glory to Divine grace.
I. We consider the greatness David had just reached. Six successive steps, at the least, had the eternal God taken in his behalf on the way to his advancement.
1. He caused that a full and loyal call should come from the realm over which he was now to rule as the second king (2 Samuel 5:1.)
2. The Lord trained David for the position he was to occupy by a long and intricate process Of providential discipline (2 Samuel 5:2.)
3. Moreover, God had chosen David intelligently, years before, and announced him as the man who should come after Saul (2 Samuel 5:3.)
4. Then, too, God helped on David’s greatness by providing for the stability of his government a capital and a royal abode (2 Samuel 5:7.)
5. God’s gentleness made David great in that a perpetual presence was vouchsafed to him for his entire life (2 Samuel 5:10.)
6. Then, also, God had made this monarch great by opening his intelligence so that he should understand the meaning of Divine Providence, past and future, and admit its special reach (2 Samuel 5:12.)
II. The gentleness in the Divine dealing with him from his first recognition as a shepherd-boy to this final establishment of him in the throne of Israel; is that in particular among the attributes of God which he acknowledges just now. The poet Goethe has left behind him, in his autobiography, this somewhat curious sentence as a revelation of personal fact: “I was especially troubled by a giddiness which came over me every time that I looked down from a height.” Many people, since his day and before it, have had the same characteristic disturbance; but it has more often been a height of ambition than merely a height of tower or precipice. But there is no symptom of giddiness in the quiet ascription of his gratitude: “Thy gentleness has made me great.”
1. God’s gentleness had borne with David’s want of memory.
2. Then, also, there was David’s want of faith, with which the Almighty bore in a like spirit of gentleness.
3. To this we may add that God’s gentleness is disclosed in his patiently bearing with David’s want of courage. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. What David did. “He went on.”
1. He “went on” with his appointed work. David was not alone in this. Every man has a work given him by God. David was, above all things, a servant of God, and every man may be that if he will!
2. He “went on” in the face of opposition. He was opposed by the Jebusites, and later by the Philistines. If we are in the path of duty, let us go forward! ‘Tis patient going on that wins! In school and college, in workshop and office, perseverance triumphs. Even so is it in the godly life. “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” “To patient faith the prize is sure,” etc.
II. What David became. He “grew great.” David “grew great” in his kingly power, and honours, and victories, great in the eyes of his foes, and great in the estimation of his subjects. The large majority have to be content with mediocrity. Most natures possess a spark of wholesome ambition, but in many cases it has become smothered and buried! Many throw away splendid opportunities of becoming at any rate greater than they are. The idler, the spendthrift, the drunkard, etc. Ambition may be worthy or unworthy. He who aspires to be great in an honourable calling by honourable means, to push his way by dint of hard work to the front, is surely to be commended! Let us grow great without sacrificing our integrity, or not at all! If we may not rise on the wings of righteousness let us be content to keep on the ground! Above all, let it be our aim to grow great morally and spiritually. But moral ennoblement comes from a higher source. Tennyson’s Arthur, speaking of the Knights of the Round Table, says:--
“I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the king as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their king,
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
To honour his own word as if his God’s,
To live sweet lives in purest chastity.”
Write “Christ” instead of Arthur and you have the patent of a higher nobility than earthly sovereign ever bestowed.
III. The secret of David’s prosperity. “The Lord God of Hosts was with him.” The secret of all real greatness is in having the Lord on our side. How can we secure His presence and help? How did David secure these?
1. He trusted God.
2. He acknowledged and consulted Him.
3. He obeyed God.
The same method of ensuring the Divine help is open to all. If we would go on and grow great, if we would prosper in all right ways we must begin to walk in those ways. Have we made the great commencement? He calls us now! (J. Sellicks.)
I. The tide of prosperity.
1. David as sole ruler over Israel. Every tide has a turning, and at last the ebb-tide of David’s misfortunes began to flow. Judah had for seven and a half years been subject to David’s sway, and now all Israel was anxious to array itself under his banner. The account given in our lesson is very meagre, but a fuller account in (1 Chronicles 12:23-40) will prove that the whole proceeding was full of pomp. Adding up the military escorts there mentioned, we find that they reached the grand total of three hundred and forty thousand eight hundred, For three days there was universal rejoicing and festivity. Thus with ceremonies of appropriate dignity, the former shepherd was at last recognized as sovereign over all God’s chosen people.
2. As military conqueror. Soon after his installation as king over all Israel, David began to cast wistful glances at Jerusalem. It was really the Gibraltar of Canaan. But thus far, by reason of its impregnable situation, it had defied the efforts of the Israelites to capture it, though on one occasion they had been partially successful. David therefore laid plans for its complete subjugation. Thus David gained a kingdom, a capital, and a religious centre from which to rule his people.
3. As king among nations. Prosperity at home was followed by the recognition of the sovereigns of other nations. Among them was Hiram, king of ancient Tyre. Distant rulers sought alliance with the king of Israel, and courted his favour. So he advanced, and became great. The tide of prosperity swept far up on the sands of David’s life, and the promise of happiness and usefulness was golden.
II. The cause of prosperity.
1. David recognized that it was not for his own individual sake that God had thus prospered him, but that it was “for his people Israel’s sake.” If he had stopped to think, he would have recognized that he was no more talented a man than Saul had been. Saul began well, when raised to the throne. In some respects, indeed, Saul had the advantage over David. At this time in his life David probably recognized all this, and ascribed the glory to Him to whom it belonged. Had he only always borne this in mind, he would have made fewer mistakes and committed fewer sins than he did. So long as his thought ran God-ward he was safe; but as soon as his mind began to say, “by mine own might,” he lost power and fell. These first few years of David’s reign were among the happiest of his whole life. His hardships as an exile were at an end. He no longer lay down and rose up in fear of his implacable enemy. He was no longer separated from family and friends, and driven from post to pillar like a wild beast. His heart was not tried by the apparent contradiction between God’s promise and God’s performance. The promise of the kingdom had been made good, and David felt that “all’s well that ends well.” Moreover, the people had not yet become alienated from this ruler. The enthusiasm of a united and prosperous nation, led by a wise and talented military chieftain, still pervaded all classes. The great and overwhelming temptations of royalty had not yet enfeebled the moral character of the king. Enlarged life, filled with unusual opportunities for usefulness, spread out before him, and filled him with the enthusiasm of full manhood. This was David’s “golden age.” He stood at the beginning of a career which might be almost perfect in its achievements. So stands many a young man and woman. Life stretches out before them, and is full of grand possibilities. The restraints incident to childhood and the years of tutelage are over. Powers of body and mind are in full vigour, and hope stands with face erect and confidence on its brow. Friends applaud, and predict great success in future days. Well is it for such persons to remember that God is the source of all their talents and of the conditions of their future success. (A. F. Schauffler.)
The nature of true progress
It is slow. Ewald would translate this phrase, “And David gradually became greater and greater.” It was not a sudden and unexplained outburst of prosperity, but a gradual growth. God’s greatest results are the slowest of accomplishment. Haste is a sign of feebleness, but that which is to abide must be slowly achieved. The lower forms of life quickly reach maturity, and quickly decay. Man alone spends years of helpless childhood. The building up of a kingdom and the formation of character are alike works that cannot be hurried. The setting up of the Kingdom of God on the earth is a task more difficult of accomplishment than was the establishment of David’s kingdom. We must not be impatient. God has eternity in which to work. (R. C. Ford, M. A.)
There are men who go on and grow great, among or above their fellows, while the Lord is not with them. Such growth and greatness are neither to be desired nor to be admired. Again, there are men with whom the Lord is, who do not go on, as they might go: and there are yet more of them who do not grow great by their doings, or by the Lord’s planning. Having the Lord with us, is the chief thing. Going on is the thing of next importance; that is, going on, while the Lord is with us. Growing great, is of least importance; but if a man is to grow great, let him see to it that he does not grow away from the Lord, and that he has the Lord with him in all his going and in all his growing. (H. Clay Trumbull.)
Improvement a duty
Progress and improvement are every man’s duty. It is not right to remain as we were, or as we are. We ought to be all the time gaining and growing in experience and attainment and grace. It may be to our shame that we are just where God put us, and that we have just what God gave to us. A man whose looks were spoken of contemptuously, said in rejoinder, “You’ve no right to find fault with my looks; I’m just as God made me.” “I know it, and that’s what I’m blaming you for,” said his critic; “you’ve never made any improvement on yourself.” That answer made a fair point. If God puts us at the bottom of a hill, or at the beginning of a road, it may be for us to mount or to proceed, and not to stop where we are. It was the man who retained just what his Lord gave him, and who was ready to give back that at the day of reckoning, who not only lost his possessions, but was cast out into outer darkness as an unprofitable servant. Remaining just as God made us may be the cause of our condemnation. (Great Thoughts.)
The laws of vigorous growth
Dr. Hugh Macmillan tells us that the motto on the crest of John Spreull, of Glasgow, who, for his defence of religious liberty in the times of Claverhouse, was imprisoned on the Bass Rock, in the Firth of Forth, was “Sub pondere cresco”--I grow under a weight. His crest was a palm tree, with two weights hanging on each side of it from the fronds, and yet maintaining, in spite of this heavy down-dragging force, its upright position, carrying its graceful crown of foliage up into the serene air. So the very things that threatened to hinder the growth of the early Church became helps to its progress. “The stumbling-block became the stepping-stone”; the weights became wings.
Going and growing great
David went on growing. His activities were not fruitless. There are some people who do a deal of the going, but all too little of the growing. We want both of these. There must not merely be the signs of activity, but there must really be actual improvement and development. A mill-wheel is always going, but it never gets any further forward; no blame to the mill-wheel, for it is doing its business by simply going round. A door is constantly moving on its hinges, creaking, perhaps, as well, but it makes no progress. Still, there it stands, day after day. This is all right for the door, but all wrong for you. Keep on going, but see to it that the growing is not neglected either. (Thomas Spurgeon.)
2 Samuel 5:11-22
And Hiram, king of Tyre, sent messengers to David.
The kingdom established
1. Now the tide fairly turned in David’s history, and that, instead of a sad chronicle of hardship and disappointment, the record of his reign becomes one of unmingled success and prosperity. The fact is far from an unusual one in the history of men’s lives. How often, even in the ease of men who have become eminent, has the first stage of life been one of disappointment and sorrow, and the last part one of prosperity so great as to exceed the fondest dreams of youth. Effort after effort has been made by a young man to get a footing m the literary world, but his books have proved comparative failures. At last he issues one which catches in a remarkable degree the popular taste, and thereafter fame and fortune attend him, and lay their richest offerings at his feet. A similar tale is to be told of many an artist and professional man. And even persons of more ordinary gifts, who have found the battle of life awfully difficult in its earlier stages, have gradually, through diligence and perseverance, acquired an excellent position, more than fulfilling every reasonable desire for success. But it is an encouraging thing for those who begin life under hard conditions, but with a brave heart and a resolute purpose to do their best, that, as a general rule, the sky clears as the day advances, and the troubles and struggles of the morning yield to success and enjoyment later in the day. David’s prosperity and enlargement in every quarter were due to the gracious presence and favour of God. Unlike many successful men, who ascribe their success so largely to their personal talents and ways of working, he felt that the great factor in his success was God. There is what the world calls “luck,” that is to say those conditions of success which are quite out of our control; as, for instance, in business the unexpected rise or fall of markets, the occurrence of favourable openings, the honesty or dishonesty of partners and connections, the stability or the vicissitudes of investments. The difference between the successful man of the world and the successful godly man in these respects is that the one speaks only of his tuck, the other sees the hand of God in ordering all such things for his benefit. This last was David’s case. But is this way of claiming to be specially favoured and blessed by God not objectionable? Is it not what the world calls “cant”? Is it not highly offensive in any man to claim to be a favourite of Heaven? This may be a plausible way of reasoning, but one thing is certain--it has not the support of Scripture. If it be an offence publicly to recognise the special favour and blessing with which it has pleased God to visit us, David himself was the greatest offender in this respect the world has ever known. What is the great burden of his psalms of thanksgiving? Is it not an acknowledgment of the special mercies and favours that God bestowed on him, especially in his times of great necessity? What the world is so ready to believe is that this cannot be done save in the spirit of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not as other men. And whenever a worldly man falls foul of one who owns the distinguishing spiritual mercies that God has bestowed on him, it is this accusation he is sure to hurl at his head. The truth is, the world cannot or will not distinguish between the Pharisee and the humble saint, conscious that in him dwelleth no good thing. The one is as unlike the other as light is to darkness. What good men need to bear in mind is that when they do make mention of the special goodness of God to them they should be most careful to do so in no boastful mood, but in the spirit of a most real, and not an assumed or formal, humility.
2. Midway between the two statements before us on the greatness and prosperity which God conferred on David, mention is made of his friendly relations with the king of Tyre (2 Samuel 5:11.) The Phoenicians were not included among the seven nations of Palestine whom the Israelites were to extirpate, so that a friendly alliance with them was not forbidden. Tyre had a great genius for commerce; and the spirit of commerce is alien from thee spirit of war. That it is always a nobler spirit cannot be said; for while commerce ought to rest on the idea of mutual benefit, and many of its sons honourably fulfil this condition, it often degenerates into the most atrocious selfishness, and heeds not what havoc it may inflict on others provided it derives personal gain from its undertakings. But we have no reason to believe that there was anything specially hurtful in the traffic which Tyre now began with Israel, although the intercourse of the two countries afterwards led to other results pernicious to the latter--the introduction of Phoenician idolatry and the overthrow of pure worship in the greater part of the tribes of Israel. Meanwhile what Hiram does is to send to David cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons, by means of whom a more civilized style of dwelling is introduced; and the new city which David has commenced to build, and especially the house which is to be his own, present features of skill and beauty hitherto unknown in Israel. For, amid all his zeal for higher things, the young king of Israel does not disdain to advance his kingdom in material comforts.
3. Two campaigns against these inveterate enemies of Israel are recorded, and the decisive encounter in both cases took place in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The narrative is so brief that we have difficulty in apprehending all the circumstances. The first invasion of the Philistines took place soon after David was anointed king over all Israel. It is not said whether this occurred before David possessed himself of Mount Zion, nor, considering the structure common in Hebrew narrative, does the circumstance that in the history it follows that event prove that it was subsequent to it in the order of time. We see that the campaign was very serious, and David’s difficulties very great. David attacked the Philistines and smote them at a place called Baal-perazim, somewhere most likely between Adullam and Jerusalem. Considering the superior position of the Philistines, and the great advantage they seem to have had over David in numbers also, this was a signal victory, even though it did not reduce the foe to helplessness. For when the Philistines had got time to recover, they again came up, pitched again in the plain of Rephaim, and appeared to render unavailing the signal achievement of David at Baal-perazim. Again David inquired what he should do. The reply was somewhat different from before. David was not to go straight up to face the enemy, as he had done before. He was to “fetch a compass behind them,” that is, as we understand it, to make a circuit, so as to get in the enemy’s rear over against a grove of mulberry trees. That tree has not yet disappeared from the neighbourhood of Jerusalem; a mulberry tree still marks the spot in the valley of Jehoshaphat, where, according to tradition, Isaiah was sawn asunder. When he should hear “the sound of a going” (R.V., “the sound of a march”) in the tops of the mulberry trees, then he was to bestir himself. It is probable that the presence of David and his troop in the rear of the Philistines was not suspected, the mulberry trees forming a screen between them. When David got his opportunity, he availed himself of it to great advantage. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
2 Samuel 5:23-25
When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself.
The special meaning of common things
What a different world this would be if we believed that God governed it--that He was in it--that He was at work in it--that His footsteps were still on its mountains--that He walked amidst its trees, and rode on the wings of the winds--if we realised His presence, and ascertained and saw in the ordinary things of everyday life the indications of His will. We believe there was a time when God was in the world, but it seems to us now like a forsaken world--like a world without God; for we act as if God had nothing to do in it or with it. What a different Church there would be if we recognised spiritual influences, recognised them in all their variety and modes of manifestation. Divine interpositions do not interfere with human agency. Some men are-always waiting--always looking for signs and wonders, for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens--looking for outpourings, for baptisms of the Holy Ghost, for Pentecostal seasons. They do not see the meaning of common and ordinary things, they do not avail themselves of the means at their disposal.
I. The same things are to be done differently at different times: Men have sometimes to do the same things in different ways--in ways prescribed by Divine intimations. David had to contend with the Philistines. He had beaten them once, but they had come up again in undiminished strength, in battle array. He is to adopt new tactics. He is not to “go up,” but to “fetch a compass behind them.” In every age the Philistines are coming up against the Israel of God. Our mode of warfare must be regulated by providential intimations.
II. The presence of Divine indications will be to us the revelations of the Divine will. If a man desires to do the Divine will, he will have a Divine revelation. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” An earnest man--that is, a man in earnest to do the Divine will--is never left in utter ignorance of that will. The difficulty is not so much to find out the will of God, but to reconcile our wills to it, so that we may be Willing to do it.
III. Divine intimations may come through any channel God pleases. We have no ephod, no priest with Urim and Thummin, no response from the oracle, no audible voice like that which fell on the ear of David. To us, however, have been committed the books containing the successive” revelations God has made of His will to men. In all that pertains to the way of salvation, the revelation is clear, distinct, and definite. I hear a little bird singing on the branches of a tree, pouring forth its song with the infinite heavens above and the wide world around, singing in a world where there is winter as well as summer, and I learn a lesson no words of mine can express. There are. Divine intimations still in suggestions and impressions. I am in perplexity. I want to know what to do, or how to do what I have to do. There come sudden suggestions like revelations. How am I to determine their source? If they lead me, in dependence on the strength which God gives, to follow a course involving self-sacrifice, and having a tendency to promote the Divine glory, may I not conclude that they came from God? May not the Father of my spirit speak to me? May not the soul hear His voice? There are Divine intimations in circumstances.
IV. The presence or absence of Divine intimations make the difference between the same objects to different men. The mulberry trees were seen by the whole army, but the difference between David and his soldiers was the difference between a revelation and no revelation. They merely heard a sound, the wind moving the tops of the trees; there was nothing strange, nothing unusual in this, but David had received an intimation as to the special meaning of this sound. They heard only the movement caused by the wind, but David recognised the presence of the Lord, who was going before them to smite the host of the Philistines. So with Saul of Tarsus. The men who were with him on his way to Damascus saw only the brightness of the light that shone round about him, but Saul saw Christ. They heard only a sound, but he heard a voice. Be thankful for revelations in spiritual matters. You must yourself be spiritual to understand spiritual revelations. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him.” (H. J. Bevis.)
Waiting for a sign
Our victory was not sufficient to establish the security of the newly-founded city;--the enemy returned and threatened a renewed attack. The devout king has not lost faith in God, and again inquires of the Lord. Before dismissing the history, it will be well for us to profit by the example of the godly monarch, and to adopt the rule of his life as the rule of our own. That no enterprises shall be commenced--no plans or projects carried into execution--no movements made--without first consulting the will of God: seeking His approval, and placing ourselves under His guidance. “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”
I. The sign vouchsafed. The motives by which David was influenced in seeking a sign were laudable in the highest degree. He sought information as to the best means of encountering his enemies. Perhaps we may be disposed to think that a mode of communication with heaven, which secured so distinct a declaration of God’s will, was far superior to any means which we possess of obtaining a knowledge of the path of duty. But herein we err for each successive dispensation of God’s dealing with man has been in advance of that which preceded it. And yet how often like Gideon we would lay the fleece upon the ground and ask that it may be both wet and dry;--we want to stand with Moses in the cleft of the rock while the Lord of Glory passes by and audibly proclaims His mercy;--with Elijah, on the solitudes of Horeb, we would have mighty winds and the terrors of earthquake and fire mingled with the still small voice;--with David, we could wish that the mysterious movement on the tops of the mulberry trees should remove our doubts and tell in bodily image, or visible sign, or audible voice, that God is with us. It will be profitable for us to inquire what advantages we possess under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, which are comparable with these Divine communications made to the ancient Church. “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22) They exalted the material above the spiritual. A morbid love of the wonderful as it appealed to their senses, so occupied them, that the wonder-words of Christ found no room within them. It was not evidence that they sought, but the gratification of mere idle curiosity. They were wrong at heart--and there can be no surer path to the perversion of the intellect in relation to sacred truth. The Bible deals very extensively with this tendency of men to amalgamate the spiritual and the material. In such instances as the teraphim,--which were the objects of so much solicitude on the part of Rachel,--and those kings of Judah who destroyed the idols, but did not cut down the high places and the groves,--we have indications of the cleaving of the human heart to a bodily image,--and the fear of men to commit themselves entirely to the spiritual and the unseen. The Church of God is now under the special direction of the Holy Spirit.
1. Special manifestations God makes by means of His written Word. No logic can argue away the force of impressions made upon the mind by the words of Divine truth. Only he who has experienced the surprise caused by the unexpected adaptation to his circumstances of the “word in season” can appreciate the moral power of such occurrences as these. They lift up the depressed,--strengthen the weak,--confirm those who were wavering in the path of duty,--and strengthen the foundations of trust in God and His mercy. It is no cabalistic use of Scripture of which we speak, but a calm, deliberate, faithful employment of one of the Divinely-appointed ends of the Word. Revelation is given to us to be our guide,--our light,--our food,--and to serve countless offices of mercy in our lives.
2. Conscience is another of the means of Divine communication with men. A faculty which rightly employed brings us very near to God. All its worth, however, is to be determined by the measure of its subordination to the truth of God. A conscientious man is not a man who is infallibly right, but one who acts faithfully in accordance with his views of that which is right. Those views may be utterly distorted by a false belief, or completely enfeebled by reason of ignorance. While, then, on the one hand we may not undervalue the great importance of this vicegerent of God in man, on the other hand let us not be led astray by, the pernicious belief--so popular in the present day--that conscientiousness is all that God requires of man. It is subjection to Divine truth that is the demand of the Eternal, and where this is found all the powers of the soul are brought into harmony with each other. “I must have a good conscience,” said William Wilberforce. A necessity which every true Christian will value as above all earthly acquisitions. It is not indispensable to my happiness that I become rich or powerful.
much that is the object of human ambition I could surrender and feel little loss,--but a conscience void of offence is essential to my existence. A happy man is he, who knows the power of the blood of sprinkling to cleanse this mighty agency from all defilement. The astronomer should not be so solicitous to preserve his bright, clear lenses from dust,--nor the telegraphist so anxious to guard his delicate machinery from injury, as a godly man to enshrine his conscience securely from even the minutest disturbing influence. A little grit on the bearings of the locomotive will disturb the progress and safety of the hundreds of tons weight, which otherwise would be borne swiftly in the desired direction. Little causes often disturb the peace and arrest the progress of the godly. It is worthy of all the care a Christian can bestow on any object;--the cultivation of a tender conscience. A friend, the last to forsake us and the most valuable in the hour of need,--or a foe the hardest to propitiate and the most relentless in his assaults--deserves much consideration. In determining the path to be pursued, a conscience under the influence of Divine teaching will impart counsels quite as distinct as those which David gathered from “the sound of a going in the top of the mulberry trees.”
3. But our Divine Lord and Master has indicated to us and promised us a source of instruction even more complete than that afforded by the Word of God or conscience,--it is the Holy Spirit. “He shall guide you into all truth.”
II. The vigilance enjoined. Perhaps like the zephyr which, oft at eventide without previous warning, seems to rise out of the thick serried ranks of ripening corn, and then taps their curled heads in its onward but gentle course, till the whole field bows gracefully, as if paying homage to the sweet breeze. Or, as when the lake, embosomed amidst the Alpine mountains, suddenly changes its glassy surface and ripple after ripple rises and spreads,--but none can tell of the wind that has ruffled its breast, whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. Thus unexpected opportunities steal over us, and say, “Bestir thyself.” Whensoever the feeling of desire to draw near to God thus takes possession of the heart,--away to thy secret chamber and fan the flame till the soul is all aglow. To defer the exercise may be--probably will be--to confiscate a blessing. At what time soever an open door presents itself for usefulness to man, or for bringing glory to God--enter in,--pass on,--and do the thing to which the finger of God points, and reap the blessing He bestows. When some spiritual Philistine is in thy grasp, thou shouldest smite six or seven times: for a feeble opposition to evil only provokes its more severe hostility. No command was more frequently uttered by the Saviour than this,--“Watch.” In every well-managed ship the men in the forepart are those of keenest vision and most experience; night and day they pace the deck, one face always looking ahead, the other abaft. All around we need to keep our guard--lest coming good be missed, and coming evil takes us unawares.
III. The promise given. “Then shall the Lord go out before thee.” In like manner He went before Israel in their wanderings through the desert. He gave them not only the assurance of His protection, but the blessing also of His guidance. They had but to follow the movements of the pillar of cloud, and the waste, howling wilderness yielded them a security greater than that of thick-walled cities. Each night saw the fiery defence lighted up which shot its friendly rays round all the tents of Jacob,--but only intensified the darkness beyond the sacred enclosure. Many a feeble heart became strong by a glance at the symbol of the Divine presence. This was the explanation of their surprising victories over superior armies, and of their defeat and expulsion of the Canaanitish kings. (W. G. Lewis.)
The moment of opportunity
I. “When,” or the Divine intimation. “When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry-trees.”
1. They were to wait for God’s leading.
2. They were promised an intimation of God’s leading. The trees were to be moved at the top. They could only be reached’ from above. It was to be God’s signal. The whole scene is quite within the scope of imagination. They are concealed in the thicket. They are waiting for the sign. What different tempers! What need of patience! How slowly dragged the minutes. Zeal longed to break from concealment and dash upon the foe. Unbelief wondered if the leaves would ever stir at all. Fear imagined they might be discovered by the enemy before the intimation of God’s presence was given. Presumption thought a favourable opportunity had come, and that it was a mistake not to seize it. Faith counselled patience continually, while Hope cheered them with bright songs--until at last the promised token was given, the trees whispered musically of the Divine presence, and bursting from their ambush they swept as a torrent on the foe. God is giving constantly intimations of His presence. We are looking for a revival. Have we any token of the Lord’s will in the matter? The Divine breath of the Spirit already seems stirring the leaves. The sense of quivering expectancy which one finds abroad. The unity of desire for a more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The increased spirit of prayer which has been manifested.
II. “Then!” or human activity. “Then shalt thou bestir thyself.”
1. God expects man to do his part. There is always a human element in these movements. God uses instrumentalities, not because He is obliged to, but because He desires and chooses to do so. He would teach us the need of effort.
2. God expects man to do his part at the right moment. “When . . . then.” When God gives the signal, when the trees sway in the heavenly gale--strike then--that is the moment of destiny.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”
3. God expects man to do his part with utmost vigour. “Then bestir thyself.” This effort must be whole hearted and heavy handed. Because God promised His help they were not to stint their labour. To the fullest of their powers they were to exert themselves,
3. “For” or the assured victory. “For then shall the Lord go out before thee to smite the Philistines.” The certain result is victory. This must be the result, for all the conditions necessary to secure it are fulfilled. God is leading, man is working: natural conclusion--victory. It must comet (W. L. Mackenzie.)
The Lord leading; David following
I. A prime necessity promised. “Then shall the Lord go out before thee.” This was a necessity to David, for he had long ago learned that all his dependence must be upon God. It is also a necessity to us. What we want just now especially is for the Lord to go before us in our contemplated mission. In what way?
1. The Holy Spirit must go before us to prepare the minds of the people. When our Lord came into the world, the world was prepared for His coming. There had been certain things done, all over the globe, that made the time of His coming the best time at which He could come. But it has also been noticed by our missionaries, especially in the South Sea islands, that before they arrived there, certain changes had taken place, and certain movements in the minds of the people, that made the missionaries feel that they had come just in the nick of time. God had gone before them in providence and in grace, making ready a people prepared for the Word. You cannot tell how much the conversion of sinners is due to antecedent action on the part of God before the saving moment came. There is a fire, and you say that the fire was made when the match was struck, and applied to the wood. Well, that is true; but long before that moment, he who split the wood and he who made the match had something to do with preparing the fire, had they not? Where had been your fire if the wood had not been dried, and ready for the kindling, and deftly laid in its place? And where had been your light if it had not been for the phosphorus, and all else that was used to make the match? So does the Lord prepare for the fire of holy service. God is at work in London as well as elsewhere. God is at work in providence, and with tender touches here and there He is making men thoughtful, constraining them to feel, in a word, making them ready before the time of the preaching comes.
2. And then the Holy Spirit must go before us to prepare the preacher. Preachers may think themselves thoroughly prepared for their work; but the smallest thing may put them out,--some little disarrangement of their dress, something in the pulpit not quite right, or somebody dropping an umbrella in the aisle, or some one person in the congregation wire does not seem in the least impressed. Oh, shame upon us that we, who have such a message to deliver, should be affected by such very little things! Yet preachers are so affected, and often they cannot help it.
II. A consequent action commanded: “Then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee.”
1. God could do without us if he chose to do so; but God is pleased not to do without us. What a mercy it is that God deigns to use us!
2. When will some of our brethren learn the fact that God’s working is not a reason for our sitting still? It is not written, “The Lord will go before thee, and then thou shalt rest,” or, “The Lord shall go before thee, and then thou shalt sit still, and be grateful.” No, no; “Then thou shalt bestir thyself.” Our forefathers, of the olden time, who went everywhere preaching the Word, the Calvinists of France who, in the Desert and wherever they went, hazarded their lives unto the death, the Huguenots, who could bravely do and dare and die for Christ, were, to a man, believers in these principles, which are supposed by some to send men to sleep. The most energetic Christianity that ever was upon the face of the earth has been just this form of Christianity; and therefore it cannot possibly be that the doctrine rightly Used will encourage idleness or sloth. How can it? If you yourself were told to-night, “Proceed on such an errand, and your God will go with you,” would that be a reason why you should not go? If you were bidden to fight a battle, and you were told, “God will be with you in the battle,” would the fact that God would be with you, and would win the victory, be a reason why you should not fight? You must be made of strange material if that were to be the result of the promise of victory and the assurance of the Divine presence. Nothing makes men labour so energetically as the expectation of success; and the certainty of succeeding, because God is with them, nerves their arm, and makes them do what otherwise would be impossible.
III. A hopeful sign afforded. Whether these were mulberry trees or balsams, I do not know; it is very difficult to discover what trees they were. It does not matter much, but David was to get round to the back of the Philistines instead of attacking them in front, and he was to lie quietly in ambush till he heard a rustling in the tops of the trees when there was no wind, as though they were trodden by the feet of angels, and God’s host was hurrying to the fray. Perhaps this sign, whilst it was intended to encourage David and his people, was meant to intimidate the Philistines. They would say one to another, “What is that noise? What is that rustling? There is a sound of something travelling along the tops of yonder trees. There is not a breath of wind, but you can hear the leaves moving. Listen to the rustling; something strange is happening.” The Philistines were most superstitious, and would be ready very speedily to take to their heels. However, whatever it was to them, to David it was to be the signal for attacking them. Christians should always be smiting the Philistines of sin; but there are certain times that call us to unusual action. And what are they?
1. To me they are when we see earnestness among God’s people.
2. Again, it is a hopeful sign, when God gives us useful preachers. Oh, what a blessing a true gospel minister is! There was no better proof of the Reformation having begun than when Luther began to speak out against the abominations of Rome, and Zwingle lifted up his voice, and Farel proclaimed the old faith, and Calvin came forth to declare the truth of God, and Beza and multitudes of others gave their testimony. These were the birds that sang because the sun was rising and when God gives us useful preachers, they are among the signs that he is coming near us to bless the people.
3. Well, when the preachers are there, with a praying people at their back, then, when you see crowds come together to hear the Word, do you not think that there is the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees? “That is right, Mr. Spurgeon,” says one; “stir them up.” I did not say “them.” I said, and my text says, “Then thou shalt bestir thyself.” It is all very well to say, “I like to see an earnest church.” So do I; but it is better to have every member zealously seeking the souls of others, for that is the way to have an earnest church, and that is the way the blessing comes. David, you must bestir yourself; then the soldiers who are with you will catch the fire from their leader, and they will bestir themselves.
IV. A sure result following. The result was all that David could have expected, and more. Obedient action secured it. David simply “did so, as the Lord had commanded him.” You do not hear much more about the Philistines after this. That final stroke had crushed them down. But David did so, not merely thought about it. He probably thought; but he also “did so.” He came to the practical point. If I habitually look after others, and speak individually to them about their souls, and if I bring the gospel before them, either in a printed form or viva voce, if I keep on testifying of Christ to everybody who will give me a hearing, I shall have conversions as surely as I am a living man; it cannot be otherwise. If you continue looking to God to go before you, and follow after Him with that part of the work which He has put into your hands, and which is a great privilege to be engaged in, you shall not labour in vain, nor spend your strength for nought. “Paul planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Signal for advance
I. That the cause of God hath not made unopposed progress in the world. Here we have a pattern and parable of the conflict. The powers of darkness may change their name and front, but their antipathy remains undiminished to this hour. The Christian, like the Hebrew Church, is militant in its character, needs ever to be on the alert, and fully equipped to repulse attacks made upon the city of God, and make aggressions upon the city of Satan. The Philistines are upon us.
II. That God always has more forces on His side and at His command than appear visible to human sight. The flowing tide of Divine energy is with the Church of God, and “if God be for us who can be against?”
III. That God expects the co-operation of human agency with His unseen forces in the victories and progress of His kingdom. Those who are in close and conscious touch with God will hear sounds unheard by the ears of the world, and will feel that more is with them than all who can be against them. Conclusion:
1. Enlist under the banner of the cross.
2. Equip for the battle of the Lord.
3. Look for the signal to advance.
4. March in the strength of God.
5. Continue to the end then the palm of victory and the fadeless crown. (F. W. Brown.)
The sound in the mulberry trees
Let us learn from David to take no steps without God. The last time you moved, or went into another business, or changed your situation in life, you asked God’s help, and then did it, and you were blessed in the doing of it. You have been up to this time a successful man, you have always sought God, but do not think that the stream of providence necessarily runs in a continuous current; remember, you may to-morrow without seeking God’s advice venture upon a step which you will regret but once, and that will he until you die. There are certain signs which ought to be indications to us of certain’ duties. I shall use the verse in this way. First, there are certain special duties, which are not duties to everybody, but only to some people. If we wish to know whether we are to perform these duties, we must seek signs concerning them, and not go and rush into a duty to which we are not called, unless we get a sign, even as David got the rustling among the mulberry leaves. And then I should use it, in the second place, thus. There are certain duties which are common to all of us; but when we see some signs of God’s Holy Spirit being in motion, or some other signs, these are seasons when we ought to be more than ever active, and more then ever earnest in the service of our Master.
I. First, then, in regard to special duties. I shall confine myself to one. The office of the ministry is a special duty. I believe the office of the ministry, though not like that of the priesthood, as to any particular sanctity, or any particular power that we possess, is yet like the priesthood in this--that no man ought to take it to himself, save he that is called thereunto, as was Aaron.
II. But now I come to something more practical to many of you; you do not profess to be called to preach; there are certain duties belonging to all Christians which are to be specially practised at special seasons.
1. Concerning the Christian church at large. The whole of the Christian church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come and that His will be done on earth even as it is in heaven; but there are times when God seems to favour Zion, when there are great movements made in the church, when revivals are commenced, when men are raised up whom God blesses; that ought to be to you like “a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees.”
2. The same truth holds good of any particular congregation. One Sabbath-day the minister preached with great unction; God clothed him with power, he seemed like John the Baptist in the wilderness, crying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He spake with all the earnestness of a man who was about to die; he so spake that the people trembled, a visible thrill passed through the audience. Men and women rose up from the sermon, saying, “Surely, God was in this place, and we have felt His presence.” What ought a Christian man to say, as he retires from the house of God? He should say, “I have heard this day the sound of the leaves of the mulberry trees.” I saw the people earnest; I marked the minister speaking mightily, God having touched his lips with a live coal from off the altar. I saw the tear in every eye; I saw the deep, wrapt attention, of many who were careless. There were some young people there who looked as though they had been impressed; their countenances seemed to show that there was a work doing. Now, what should I do? The first thing I will do is, I will bestir myself. But how shall I do it? Why, I will go home this day, and I will wrestle in prayer more earnestly than I have been wont to do that God will bless the minister and multiply the church. The same I might say of any time of general sickness, or any time of plague or cholera, or sudden death. There are times when the cholera is raging through our streets; the people are all trembling, they are afraid to die; mark, that is the “sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.” It is the business of you and me to bestir ourselves, when people are by any means led to serious thought, “Now,” said the Puritans, during the great plague of London, when the hireling parish priests had fled from their churches--“now is our time to preach.” And all through that terrible time, when the carts, filled with the dead, went through the streets overgrown with grass, these strong-minded Puritans occupied the pulpits, and boldly preached the word of God. That is what we should do whenever we see a time more favourable than another for telling sinners of the wrath to come. Let us seize it, just as the merchant looks out for every turn of the market, for every rise and every fall; just as the farmer looks out for a good season for sowing or planting or mowing. Let us look out for the best times for seeking to do good. Let us plough deep while sluggards sleep, and let us labour as much as possible in the best season, to make hay while the sun is shining, and serve our God when we hear the “sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.”
3. Keep the same idea in view in regard to every individual you meet with.
4. I must expressly make an appeal to you in regard to your own children. The tender plant, if it be of God, it is sure to grow; but let me take care to be the instrument of fostering it, and let; me take my boy aside, and say unto him,” Well, my son, have you learnt something of the evil of sin? “And if he says yes, and I find he has a little hope and faith, though it may be rather a superficial work let me not despise it, but let me remember, I was once grace in the blade, and though grace in the ear now, I would never have been grace in the ear if I had not been grace in the blade. I must not despise the blade, because they are not ears; I must not kill the lambs, because they are not sheep; for where would my sheep come from, if I killed all the lambs? I must not despise the weakest of the saints, for where should I get the advanced saints from, if I put weak ones out of the covenant, and tell them they are not the children of God? Christian, in regard to yourself there is a great truth here. Be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale, for want of preparation for it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God signals to His people to take certain steps at certain times. Then it is their duty to bestir themselves. When the Deluge was about to descend upon a guilty world, Noah was commanded to bestir himself and prepare an ark for the saving of his household. When the fire-shower was coming upon Sodom, Lot was laid hold of by God’s angels and urged to escape for his life. When the children of Israel were in peril of being overwhelmed by the Egyptians, God signalled to them the order to advance, and by a majestic pillar of cloud led them through the parted sea. All sacred history is studded with illustrations of this truth. Martin Luther, discovering the “open secret” in the convent Bible at Erfurth, and hammering, his theses on the church door of Wittemburg; the young Wesleys, awakened at Oxford and sent out to awaken slumbering Britain, were simply God’s agents bestirring themselves at the Divine signal. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
2 Samuel 5:25
And David did so.
Each day read your chapter or passage with the idea that you are receiving your marching orders; that there is some new service to render, some new duty to perform, some new virtue to acquire. Let the attitude of your soul be indicated by Samuel’s words, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” When you hear, do! (F. B. Meyer.)
Do present duty
Procrastination is reckoned among the most venial of our faults, and sits so lightly on our minds that we scarcely apologise for it. But who can assure us that had not the assistance we had resolved to give to one friend in distress, or the advice to another under temptation to-day been delayed, and from mere sloth and indolence put off till to-morrow, it might not have preserved the fortune of the one, or saved the soul of the other? It is not enough that we perform duties; we must perform them at the right time. We must do the duty of every day in its own season. Every day has its own imperious duties; we must not depend upon to-day for fulfilling those Which we neglected yesterday, for to-day might not have been granted to us. Tomorrow will be equally peremptory in its demands, and the succeeding day, if we live to see it, will be ready with its proper duties. (Hannah More.)
The grasp of opportunity
Writing an article on Social Economy especially in reference to wages and industrial progress, Professor Atkinson says: “The man who had the shrewdness and capacity to seize the opportunity afforded by recent science and invention had made progress, wealth, success. While from him who had not the foresight or mental aptitude to adjust himself to the new conditions, had been taken away even the opportunity for common labour which he enjoyed before.”
Whatever noble work on earth is to be done you must do it yourself. If you leave it to others it will never be done. Do it yourself. Put away that poorest of poor spirits which would treat good wishes or benedictions, or even prayers, as substitutes for personal service. (Bishop Welldon.)
Doing your duty
There is one lesson which all agree that the Duke of Wellington taught, and which we are specially desirous of pointing out, viz., that throughout life, he made it a rule to do whatever he saw to be his duty at the time--a more rare and valuable quality than many suppose, unless they remember that it was a rule which he applied to small things as well as great, to the answering of a letter, and to the movement of an entire army. While he notoriously confined himself strictly to his own duties, anything and everything was regarded as a duty when laid upon him by legitimate and competent authority. It was no question for him whether the thing were too small for his powers or his dignity; he was required to do it, he could do it, and he did it--did it with all his might, whatever it was. Great as he was, he has in this left an example to the least, as well as to the greatest--to the young as well as to the old. (Great Thoughts.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent