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2 Samuel 24: Glorifying in Numbers

Here we are at the final chapter of 2 Samuel. Admittedly, chapter 24 is somewhat hard to understand.

We are greeted with the image of God being angry at Israel. Israel did a lot of pretty bad stuff over the years, and God was angry at them several times. That is not necessarily surprising.

However, after that is where it becomes kind of odd.

2Sa 24:1  And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

2Sa 24:2  For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.

2Sa 24:3  And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?

This passage implies that taking a census is on some level a sinful activity. What? Why would Joab respond in the way that he did? Why was he so adamant that this was a problem?

We need to do a little bit of cross referencing here. This event also appears in 1 Chronicles 21.

1Ch 21:1  And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

1Ch 21:2  And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.

1Ch 21:3  And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?

First, let me settle this seeming contradiction. The verse in Samuel seems to indicate that God moved David while the verse in Chronicles indicates that Satan provoked David. I think that this can be handled easily when we realize that God needs to allow evil to happen in our lives. He ultimately has power, and the only reason Satan is still around is because God allows him to be. There are plenty of other places you can go on the Internet that talk about why God allows evil in the world, but I do not have time to outline all of that for you in this post.

The important part for us is that God allowed Satan to provoke David to commit the sin. That is why I think that taking the census was a sin. David was listening to Satan rather than God. However, what was God saying that would tell David not to take the census?

I think that the answer comes back to Joab. He was asking why David was taking delight in the number of people. I think that it’s quite possible that pride was creeping in here. Joab was essentially saying that God did indeed add to the people, and the king could see it with his own eyes. Why did David have to go count? Did it need any more proof?

I think this is a pretty good indication that there was pride there. Although it is somewhat hard to judge the intentions, I think that the context is pretty clear. We know that pride is a sin, and we know that David really wanted to have this number. We know that his top advisor asked him why he cared about something that was self-evident, and David again really wanted to have that number. The conclusion seems to be consistent.

It all seems to come back to the number. We need to be careful that we do not glorify in our numbers or ultimately become too proud.

Pro 16:18  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

2 Samuel 23: Ethical Business

I am writing this blog while taking a break in the middle of studying for the last final of my business school career! Incidentally, I was reading about ethics for accountants, and 2 Samuel 23 gives us some very good advice in this regard.

2Sa 23:3  The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

2Sa 23:4  And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.

I am not necessarily going to be a king, but I might be a manager at an organization where I do have some degree of power. If you’re in that position, you must make decisions “in the fear of God.”

What does that mean exactly?

In the Hebrew, this word can also be translated as reverence. In other words, when we are leading people, we need to make decisions that honor God.

What does it look like in the workplace?

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few major ethical dilemmas that any of us might face. For example, it might be pretty easy to skim a little money off the top. As a manager, it is possible you might have the authority and opportunity to commit fraud (although ideally your organization would have solid internal control to prevent this from happening), but if we do that, would we be honoring God?

That needs to be our moral standard. If we are in a position of authority, we need to be fair to the people under us, and we need to make sure that any decision we make honors God.

It seems as if the business world runs by fraud at times, and it might be tempting to join in all the fun. After all, if everyone else is getting rich, why shouldn’t we? Quite simply, as Christians we need to be different. It doesn’t matter what the world is doing. We are supposed to do what God wants, and dishonest business is a problem.

Pro 19:1  Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

2 Samuel 22: God Is Our Protection

2 Samuel 22 is a pretty cool chapter because it is essentially a giant praise and worship song. We find that David wrote the song because God had always been faithful and protected him. That impression comes through very clearly throughout all of his lyrics.

2Sa 22:2  And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

2Sa 22:3  The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.

2Sa 22:4  I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

2Sa 22:5  When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid;

2Sa 22:6  The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me;

2Sa 22:7  In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears.

I chose this part of the chapter because it hits many of the main themes. God was clearly his protector. However, the word deliverer almost has a different connotation. When you are delivered from something, you are allowed to escape. In the case of a fortress or a shield, they certainly protect you while you are there, but they do not help you escape. You use them when you intend to be in the conflict and need to be safe.

On that level then, I think this comparison gives an accurate picture of what God does for us every day. On one hand, He is always with us. He will be the shield. However, for some of us, it’s pretty tiring to be in the battle all the time. Even though we do have our shield, sometimes God takes us away from the problem. He will bring us to a place where we can recuperate.

Whatever may come, we know that God will be there. He might help us stand and fight, or He might help us retreat safely for a short while, but He will always be there for those who love Him.

2 Samuel 21: Taking down Giants

In 2 Samuel 21, we get to see a few more giants. Goliath had obviously been killed by David a long time before, but we now are going to see his children.

2Sa 21:15  Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint.

2Sa 21:16  And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David.

2Sa 21:17  But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.

2Sa 21:18  And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant.

2Sa 21:19  And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

2Sa 21:20  And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant.

2Sa 21:21  And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea the brother of David slew him.

2Sa 21:22  These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.

We don’t have many details about this war, but think about what we do know. The Philistines came to make war again. This time, they brought four giants with them. When David took down Goliath, he was the only one in Israel who trusted God to help him overcome his mighty opponent.

Now, there are four different people who were willing to fight giants. That tells me that there was some spiritual growth. Something had changed in the culture of Israel that inspired people to put their faith in God.

I think that a lot of that came directly from leadership. When people understood that David loved God and was willing to follow Him, they were more willing to follow God. When people witness the power of God, lives and attitudes can be changed.

2 Samuel 20: Do Not Become Jealous

Yesterday, I did indeed write about how we should be honest like Joab, but in 2 Samuel 20, Joab does not look like such an admirable character.

The problem came out of the fact that there was a rebellion led by Sheba. David, not wanting a rebellion in the kingdom, decided that he needed to send his army to shut down the rebellion. He put Amasa in control of these forces.

Amasa had been the commander of Absalom’s army, so as I’m sure you can imagine, Joab had no great love for him.

Amasa went to build his army, but it took him longer than it was supposed to. As a result, David sent Abishai to go finish off Sheba. However, the men that went with Abishai were Joab’s. Think about how much more angry he must have been. His men were marching off to war, and he was not in charge of them.

Not very long after, here is the scene that we see develop.

2Sa 20:9  And Joab said to Amasa, Art thou in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him.

2Sa 20:10  But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand: so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri.

This is quite frankly cold-blooded murder. There’s really no way around it. Amasa was not a good general, but that is not a capital offense.

What happened?

Joab was jealous. His jealousy led him to commit such a terrible crime. Why do you think that the 10 Commandments told us not to covet? When people are jealous, bad things can happen. I am not saying that every time we are little bit jealous of our neighbor’s new car we are going to commit murder, but I am saying that it is still a sin. This type of attitude is not helpful for anyone.

2 Samuel 19: Honesty Is the Best Policy

At the beginning of 2 Samuel 19, David is still distraught over the death of his son. Even though Absalom was technically an enemy, yesterday we talked about how David had so much unconditional love for his son regardless of what happened.

I can understand why he was still upset, but not everyone thought that all of this grief was necessary.

2Sa 19:5  And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines;

2Sa 19:6  In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.

2Sa 19:7  Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.

Joab as you will recall was the guy who actually killed Absalom, so I can understand why it was a little bit difficult for him to have any sympathy in this situation.

He was basically telling David that the people were not entirely thrilled that he seemed more upset about a victory than he would have been about a hypothetical defeat.

You might not necessarily agree with his message and have you delivered it, but I think that we can learn something from Joab here.

I have read about many leaders who complained that they are surrounded by people who only say what they want to hear. For example, if I was running a business, I don’t think I’d be very happy if everyone around me always said that I was always doing everything right.

You want someone honest. You want someone who will tell you whether or not you have entirely lost your mind. Joab was that type of advisor.

Of course, we always need to be sure that what we say is always for the benefit of the other person in love, but we do need to be honest. David took his advice and regained his composure, so I guess it was pretty convincing.

2 Samuel 18: Never Stop Loving

I think that 2 Samuel 18 tells us something about unconditional love. Think about the situation. Absalom led a revolution that took the kingdom of Israel away from his father David. Then, he started hunting David around the countryside, and David had to essentially run for his life.

Now, we come to the point of the story where there is the final face-off. The two armies met, and 20,000 men eventually died during the conflict.

However, before the battle began, David specifically said that he did not want anything to happen to his son.

2Sa 18:5  And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.

This was rather different than normal warfare. In most situations, if you came across the rival general, you would kill him so that the entire thing would be over. In this situation, David is saying that the mastermind should be spared.

As it turned out, Absalom did not survive the battle. He was riding a horse, and he ended up getting tangled up in a tree. When Joab saw him in a compromised position, he put a spear through him.

Immediately, couriers went back to David, and here is the conversation that followed.

2Sa 18:29  And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered, When Joab sent the king’s servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.

2Sa 18:30  And the king said unto him, Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.

2Sa 18:31  And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king: for the LORD hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee.

2Sa 18:32  And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is.

2Sa 18:33  And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

Even after everything that happened, David was still distraught. He said that he would have rather died in the place of his son. Normally, you don’t say that about people who are trying to kill you as well.

This is a very powerful picture of unconditional love. I don’t think that David ever stopped loving his son, and I think this is a good picture of how we need to treat everyone. Jesus told us to love everyone, and the fact that David was still be able to love after everything that went down was pretty great.

2 Samuel 17: Be Grateful When People Help

It is interesting to draw parallels between Absalom pursuing David and 2 Samuel 17 and the way that Saul chased David around earlier in his life.

2Sa 17:1  Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:

2Sa 17:2  And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only:

This immediately made me think of all the opportunities David had to kill Saul. Saul was weary and sleeping when David had the opportunity to strike him down, but David did not do that. Something tells me that if the same situation came up with Ahithophel finding David asleep, David would not survive the encounter. That is one definite contrast.

Moving on from that, as I already somewhat mentioned, it was interesting to see David on the run again. At this point in his life, he had already been a highly successful king. He has proven himself to be a mighty warrior, and everything seemed to be going his way. Now, it seemed as if everything was against him.

However, on the positive side, he did have a few supporters in Israel, and they were willing to help him in his moment of need.

2Sa 17:27  And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,

2Sa 17:28  Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,

2Sa 17:29  And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.

God uses people at different points in our lives to help us out when we need it. We don’t always know when that will happen, and we do not always know how those people will help us, but we need to be grateful for the help. Even in our worst situations, we can still take time to be grateful.

2 Samuel 16: God Has a Plan

I have to wonder what David felt like in 2 Samuel 16. He was obviously not in a great position as his own son just led a revolution against him. However, to add insult to injury, when David runs into a relative of Saul, he is attacked on that front as well.

2Sa 16:5  And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.

2Sa 16:6  And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.

2Sa 16:7  And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:

2Sa 16:8  The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.

As you will remember from our previous study, David did not really do anything to bring down Saul. He had plenty of opportunities to kill him, but ultimately he died in battle and fell on his own sword. Sure, David had been anointed as the next king, but he always had the utmost respect for the life of Saul. These accusations were virtually baseless.

Even though one of his advisers urged him to just kill Shimei, here is how David responded.

2Sa 16:10  And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?

2Sa 16:11  And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him.

2Sa 16:12  It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.

David understood that God has plans for all of us. We may not understand what is going on, but in the face of adversity, we have to keep everything in perspective. It is not like we are alone, and like David pointed out, it might also lead to something better (it is worth pointing out that this is not a guarantee in terms of wealth. I don’t do any type of prosperity gospel). God does use adversity to strengthen us at times though, and that could also be seen as something better for the future.

2 Samuel 15: We Need God with Us

In 2 Samuel 15, we see a revolution taking place. Absalom was incredibly power-hungry.

2Sa 15:4  Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!

He would sit outside the room where David was acting as judge and would almost lobby the people as they went in to have their problems worked out. He would tell them exactly what they wanted to hear, and we find out later in verse six that he “stole the hearts of all the men of Israel.”

He was making sure that he had popular support. After all, it’s kind of hard to have a revolution if no one supports you.

However, even though it does seem like he had a pretty good amount of popular support and ultimately did follow through with his plan, he did not have the support of God.

He put all of his faith in the fact that the people loved him. However, having the support of God is absolutely the most important thing, and it seems as if God doesn’t always worry about the odds. Think about Gideon. He was vastly outnumbered, but God was with him, and that was enough. Joshua should not have been able to overtake Jericho, but God made it happen.

Rom 8:31  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

I think this is a perspective that we need to keep. If we try to do what everyone else wants us to do in order to be popular, there’s a problem there. Popularity is not a bad thing, but our first priority needs to be doing what God would have us do rather than what is popular. Absalom thought that his popularity was enough to make him king. Making sure that he was in God’s will should have been the first priority rather than his desperation for power.