We do not provide for God; God provides for us. Anything we do for the Lord is a response out of what He has already done for us. And what has He done? He has given us Jesus, according to His promise. All we can do at this point is respond to God’s gift, believing upon Jesus and living in gratefulness to His gifts of grace.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/preach-the-word/id1449859151?mt=2
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2aSveQvIs7SPHWB4UcmSUQ

The Great Gift of the Great God

Posted: October 21, 2021 in 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 7, “The Great Gift of the Great God”

It has been often said, “You can’t outgive God,” and it is true. In fact, it is truer than we might realize. Typically, when pastors talk about not outgiving God, it’s in reference to our financial gifts through tithes and offerings. Sadly, it often minimizes the truth. The gifts of God stretch far beyond anything dealing with money…if we limit it to that, we’re missing out on much! To those who turn from their sins to receive Jesus as Lord, believing upon His name, God gives us the right to be the children of God (Jn 1:12). Likewise, to those who believe upon Jesus, God frees us from condemnation and gives us everlasting life (Jn 3:16-17). Moreover, as Christians, when we pray past our anxiousness in thankful supplication, God gives us peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:6-7) – He gives us wisdom when we ask in surrendered, trusting faith (Jas 1:5-6), and much more. God gives and gives and gives some more. He is truly a giving God!

Of course, the very best gift of all is none other than His Son, Jesus Christ. He was given in the fullness of time, having been God’s plan for mankind from before the foundations of the earth. Jesus was never a backup idea or “plan B”; He was (and is!) God’s plan for our forgiveness prior to our creation. He was promised to Adam and Eve, being the Seed of the woman to one day crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:16). He was the promise to Abraham, being the One through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3). He was the promise to Moses, being the greater Prophet that would be raised by God (Gen 18:15). And, He was the promise to David, being the future Son who would have an everlasting kingdom, the One through whom God would fulfill the promise of an everlasting house.

It is those promises to David that are given in Chapter 7. Overall, things were going well for the king. After decades of running from Saul, David was finally elevated to the throne, albeit in a step-by-step fashion. After the death of Saul, David was received by Judah. After the death of Ishbosheth, David was received by the rest of the tribes in Israel. Twice made king, David moved the seat of government to the newly conquered Jerusalem and had a great beginning as commander-in-chief in his initial victories over the Philistines.

Having experienced blessings in all these areas, David had the good desire to move the ark of God to Jerusalem. What could be better for the kingdom than to remind the nation of who the true king was: God. The ark was the symbol of God’s presence, having even the representation of God’s throne on the mercy seat (i.e., the lid on top of the ark). With God’s throne in Jerusalem, it was a wonderful proclamation that God reigned over Israel.

Sadly, with this good intention came David’s first major failure as king. David neglected to seek the Lord prior to moving the ark, and he ended up following the example of the Gentiles rather than the word of God. It demonstrated a temporary lack of fear of God, which turned tragic for Uzzah, who died when putting his hand against the ark. Thankfully, David soon renewed his fear of God and tried again, this time following the example of Scripture and succeeding.

Put it together: David has the throne, his home, his victories, and the ark of God with him. Things are good. Now what? He does what many of us might do: he recognizes how God had blessed him and then desired to respond by blessing God. He desired to give God something good. The only problem? He couldn’t outgive God. He can’t out-bless the God who blessed him so abundantly. Not that David’s desire was evil; it just could not be accomplished. We do not provide for God; God provides for us. Anything we do for the Lord is a response out of what He has already done for us. And what has He done? He has given us Jesus, according to His promise. All we can do at this point is respond to God’s gift, believing upon Jesus and living in gratefulness to His gifts of grace.

Respond to God’s gift by believing His promises about Jesus!

2 Samuel 7

  • God’s promise to David (1-17)

1 Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.” 3 Then Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

  1. Things sound good. During a time of relative peace and prosperity, David saw the Lord living in poverty and wanted to do something nice for Him. After all, David had been blessed. He was sitting on the throne in the capital city, had a home of his own, and experienced military success. Why wouldn’t David want to do something for the Lord? How could he live in the lap of luxury while the symbol of God’s presence did not? David had a “house of cedar,” whereas the ark had nothing but a “” At this point, David did not state what he wanted to do, but his intentions were clear, as Nathan the prophet understood. David wanted to build something for the Lord and the prophet agreed.
  2. There was only one problem: God is not poor! That the ark of God remained in a tent was not a sign of God’s poverty. YHWH God is not homeless, without resources of His own. The earth is His, and all its fullness (Ps 24:1). Almighty God does not lack for anything. All that exists, He created. There is nothing we have or see that does not come from God; it all ultimately belongs to Him. The cedar house of David belonged to God. The throne of Israel belonged to God. The city of Jerusalem belonged to God. The world belongs to God, as do you and I as individuals. For David to assume that he dwelt in more luxury than the glorious Creator God of the universe was an arrogant assumption of massive proportions. No doubt, David had good intents when he assumed it, but it was wrong, nonetheless.
    1. Sometimes our first thoughts are wrong thoughts. We tend to excuse certain of our actions, thinking, “But I meant well.” Sure…but that doesn’t make it right. A surgeon who performs a knee replacement on the wrong leg might have meant well, but did something awful. Our good intentions do not excuse bad theology and practice. What we do needs to be based on the word of God, nothing else.
  3. Notice that it wasn’t only David who had bad theology with good intents; it was also the prophet. To his idea, David received immediate permission from the prophet Nathan. Yet, was it truly permission? Is there a record of Nathan seeking the Lord prior to giving the go-ahead? Can there be true prophetic permission apart from a word from God? Of course not. Nathan spoke too soon.
    1. Not only do our actions and desires for the Lord need to be based on His word, any counsel received on those things also needs to be Biblical. And just because a normally godly person gives us advice does not mean that it is Biblical advice. Godly people can sometimes be wrong. Just as the prophet was wrong in his advice to the king, sometimes pastors can be wrong in advice to the people. Just because someone as a reputation or a title does not mean that everything coming out of their mouth is blessed of the Lord. How can we tell if it is or isn’t? By comparing it with the written word of God. Godly advice is based on God-given Scripture. Without it, all we have are the opinions of men and women, which even though they might be nice and otherwise godly people, is ultimately worthless.

4 But it happened that night that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, 5 “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in? 6 For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’ ” ’

  1. As opposed to what Nathan originally said to David, God did not give David permission to build a house/temple. Instead, God posed a series of rhetorical questions back to David. God wasn’t looking for an answer, of course, but rather wanted David to think through his own poor theology.
  2. For instance, God wasn’t looking for a house. David might have lived in a house of cedar, but that had never been God’s own stated desire. Not once in Israel’s past had He demanded or asked for a temple. God never asked for anything other than the tabernacle. Moreover, God specifically chose the tabernacle. This was His command to Moses regarding His dwelling among Israel. Nearly all of chapters 25-40 of the book of Exodus are related to the tabernacle from its design, to its construction, to its assembling. That was God’s choice for His symbolic dwelling among His people. There was no need for David to question it.
  3. Remember that everything about the tabernacle system points to Christ. From the bronze altar on the outside where sacrifices were performed, to the altar of incense on the inside, to the ark itself in the most holy place, everything about and within the tabernacle pointed to some function of Jesus, be it His bloody sacrifice, to His priestly intercession, to His holy rule. Even the materials speak of His person and work with the gold referring to His deity, the silver speaking of His redemption, and the bronze referring to His judgment and being judged for us. The average Hebrew in the camp of Israel could look at the tabernacle setup and see the white linen curtains that served as a kind of fence on the outside, symbolizing how we are to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ; they could also look at the singular entrance to the courtyard realizing that there is but one way to God as Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Every sacrifice spoke of the one sacrifice of Jesus and every act of mediation spoke of the one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. To understand the tabernacle system was to understand the gospel, even though it was nearly 1500 years until the cross. This was a wonderful system – a system chosen and designed by God. God had no reason to change it.
    1. So why did He? If the tabernacle system was so good from Moses to David, why did God command it to be changed with Solomon? Although some of the structural items about the tabernacle itself changed, the tabernacle system itself did not. Granted, the linen curtains were gone, replaced with walls and columns. The structure was far bigger, with more lampstands inside. But the basic implementation remained the same. Moreover (and more importantly), when God did give permission for the temple, it was according to His own will and design. The temple was not something invented by David using the royal architects in Jerusalem; it, like the tabernacle before it, was given by the plan and revelation of God. In later life, David certainly made preparations for the temple, ensuring that his son Solomon would have everything required to begin construction, but the plans themselves came from the Lord (1 Chr 28:19).
    2. The point? David did not have the right to change the system of worship, but God did. We do not invent for ourselves the way we want to approach God; we approach Him only at His invitation through His provided means. How do we approach Him today? Only through Christ Jesus.

8 Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth.

  1. God not only chose the tabernacle, but He also specifically chose David. David was God’s “servant,” and the one He had taken “from the sheepfold…to be ruler over [His] people.” Considering that shepherds were often seen as some of the lowest of society (due to their constant lying down with the sheep), David went from lowest to highest…all because of God. It wasn’t David who rose through the ranks using his own skills and strategy; it was all by the hand and grace of God. God chose David for His own, to be His servant and chosen vessel. God chose David to be the anointed king in place of Saul, to rule over Israel. Additionally, God was the One who provided for David. God protected him, giving him victory over his “” God made David a military warrior and commander to be feared, promoting his reputation among the various neighboring armies in the lands around Israel. To put it bluntly: God had done everything for David! For all that David believed he could do for the Lord, God turns it around and basically says, “But I already did everything for you. There is nothing you can do for Me that I did not empower you to do.”
    1. This isn’t arrogant on the part of the Lord; it is the simple fact. And as with David, so too with us. There is not a thing we can do for the Lord that He did not first enable us to do. We put our faith in Jesus, but God makes it possible for us to respond to Him through the cross, the resurrection, and the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit. We give God our worship, but God puts it in our hearts to worship. We love God, but only because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). What is it that we can give to God that He has not already provided? All we do in our relationship with Jesus is a response, and even that response is dependent on Him.
    2. What does that tell us? It tells us to get our egos out of worship! It isn’t about us – it isn’t about what we can bring, what we can provide, or what we can do to “help out” the Lord. God is God! The worship and service we bring, we bring because of His goodness, His grace, and His provision. The service we give Him, we give through His own empowerment. Thus, our worship is to be about Him and Him alone. It isn’t about how we feel or what emotions we can stir; it is about the glory of God alone.
  2. The word in verses 8-9 serves as a bit of correction to David, regarding his original motives for bringing the ark to Jerusalem. What was it that David believed he was doing? Was he bringing up a symbol, or did he believe he was providing a home to Almighty God? Did he think he was doing God a favor? David might have brought up the ark into the capital city, but it was God who brought up David to the throne. David brought up a symbol of God’s presence; God brought up the actual David from shepherding to ruling. Was it a bit of an ego check? Yes, but that’s something we all need from time to time.

10 Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, 11 since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. …

  1. God had chosen David, but He also chose Israel and provided for them as a nation. They were His people, purchased out of Egyptian slavery through the blood of the Passover lamb, taken through the Red Sea, provided for in the wilderness, and given a permanent home in the Promised Land. It brings David’s earlier desire into perspective. Just as with him as an individual, the nation was not the one who blessed God; it was God who blessed them. They could (and should!) bless God through praise, but they would never be able to provide for Him. God, being God, is the provider for Israel, for David, and for us.
  2. About verse 10, notice the future tense, “I will appoint…will” Had this not already been accomplished when God brought the nation of Israel into the Promised Land? After all, Israel was already planted in a permanent home, dwelling in the Promised Land, having been given protection from their oppressors in Egypt and elsewhere. Right? Yes and no. Yes, they were in the land and had the blessing of David as king, experiencing a time of peace and prosperity. And yes, they would experience even more prosperity during the coming reign of Solomon. But those things were incomplete and fleeting. Although the days of David and Solomon saw expansions of national borders, it was only a smaller part of what was originally promised to both Abraham and Moses. Additionally, any peace they enjoyed from oppressors was fleeting. Both the Assyrians and Babylonians lay in the not-so-distant future, as did the empire of Rome. Did that put God’s word of promised protection in doubt? Certainly not! To date, Israel has experienced a foretaste of these promises, but the ultimate fulfillment of these things lies with the ultimate Davidic king: Jesus. What Israel tasted in the past, they will enjoy to the full during the Millennial reign of Christ. After Jesus returns in power and glory, He will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem, reigning over a literal fulfilled kingdom.

… Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house.

  1. Of what did God’s wonderful plan consist? God would make David a “house.” Speaking here not of a physical house (as was David’s desire regarding a temple for God), but of a symbolic “house,” regarding David’s progeny and royal dynasty. The house built by God would not be built with human hands, nor would it be of human design. It would be an enduring house of royalty, something that would have benefits beyond David’s understanding. 

12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” ’ ”

  1. This is what scholars typically refer to as the Davidic covenant. A “covenant” is basically a promise – it is a social contract of sorts that governs relationships between two or more parties. Biblical marriages are covenants made between two people (a man and woman) under the headship of God, binding them together in lifelong mutual and public commitment. Ancient kingdoms were governed by covenants made between the king and his people. The king promised to militarily protect the people, and the people responded by promising to serve the king. Likewise, the Bible demonstrates several covenants made between God and His people. God made a covenant with Noah to never again destroy the earth with a flood. God made a covenant with Abraham to give him a land, a people, and a worldwide blessing. God made a covenant through Moses with the nation of Israel to rule them through the holy law. Here, God made a covenant with David to provide him a royal dynastic house.
  2. What was included in this dynastic house? The Messianic promise. Several aspects are seen:
    1. God sets up seed from David’s lineage (v12). By this point, David already had several sons. Here, God gives the assurance that at least one (if not several) of these sons would continue a lineage in David’s name. Moreover, one particular seed of David will have his kingdom established by God. What this told David is that his lineage would be different than that of Saul’s. Whereas Saul’s line was forever cut off from the throne, David’s line would not. It would endure, looking forward to one particular man.
    2. David’s seed builds a house for God (v13a). Part of the specific promise was that “he shall build a house for My name.” That which David was forbidden to do, yet desired to do, would be accomplished by one of his descendants that came from his own body. Again, a future temple for God was not sinful or wrong; it just needed to come at the right time and in the right way.
    3. God establishes an everlasting kingdom (v13b). Whereas royal dynasties might endure for generations, individual kingdoms rise and fall with the individual king or queen. Once Elizabeth of England dies, the kingdom of Queen Elizabeth II will be no more. At that point, it will be the kingdom of her heir. Yet for this particular seed of David, His kingdom would be everlasting, eternal. That says volumes about the Seed!
    4. God has a special relationship with David’s son, even being considered his Father (v14a). To this point in Israel’s history, this was rare! God was their God, their ruler, and their king – to certain individuals, God may have even been their friend (such as Abraham and Moses). But a Father? That was nearly unheard of. Yet this particular seed of David would have that very special relationship.
    5. Sin regarding the son will be chastened, but God’s mercy toward him is everlasting (v14b-15). God’s promises towards David’s son was great, but even so, God would not overlook sin. Sin would be dealt with fully and dramatically. And even as God deals with sin, God mercy would not be removed. The promise in this covenant would not be made null and void, due to the greatness of God’s mercy.
    6. David’s house and throne is everlasting (v16). Even David would somehow live on in a future renewed kingdom. The promises made to him by God would never end.
  3. These are wonderful promises! Yet it might seem a bit ambiguous. Remember that David had several sons, along with many other descendants, not all of which loved or served the Lord. Some of this seems to point directly to Solomon; other parts seem to look beyond to Jesus. So which is it? Is this Jesus or Solomon? Is it exclusively one or the other, or does the promise perhaps refer to both at different times? A few considerations:
    1. Both Solomon and Jesus do indeed come from David’s physical lineage. Although Solomon was not David’s firstborn son, he was the first legitimate son to come from David’s marriage with Bathsheba. As for Jesus, the New Testament gives us two genealogies detailing His lineage, twice through David. His adopted father Joseph came through the kingly line descended through Solomon; His birth mother Mary came from the line of Nathan, born of a different wife of David.
      1. It is amazing thing to consider Jesus’ incarnation. Though He is the eternal Son of God, the living Word (Logos) of God, He is also fully human having the descended DNA of David.
    2. Both have kingdoms given them by God. Solomon inherited the physical kingdom of his father. Jesus not only proclaimed the kingdom of God during His earthly ministry, but after His resurrection was given all power in heaven and on earth.
    3. Both build a house for God. Solomon would literally build a temple for God. Jesus builds the church, which itself is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
    4. Only Jesus has an everlasting, eternal kingdom. What we experience in part today as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we will experience in full when Jesus lives and rules on the earth during His future Millennial kingdom. For 1000 years, Jesus will literally reign in Jerusalem, giving opportunity to fulfill all of God’s kingdom promises to Israel. After a brief time of rebellion and the final casting of Satan into hell, there will come a new heavens and a new earth, and Jesus’ reign will continue into eternity.
    5. Only Jesus is the true only begotten Son of God. Although all the anointed Davidic kings were formally recognized as sons of God, there is only one eternally begotten Son of God, beloved by the Father, with whom God was well pleased: Jesus. Jesus could call God “Father” in a way previously unknown to David and Solomon.
      1. Amazingly, we are invited into this very same relationship. God truly is our Father.
    6. Only Solomon commits sin, as do his other descendants. Jesus would never be chastened for sin of His own, but Solomon could and would. Even so, Jesus still experienced the chastening of God towards sin when He became our sin substitute in our place. Jesus bore the full wrath of God toward sin.
    7. Both experience God’s mercy and kindness.
  4. All of this might raise another question. How can a prophecy (or unified series of prophecies) refer to more than one person or event? It is beyond dispute that this particular prophecy is Messianic, but it is also plain that much of this prophecy refers to Solomon (as we’ve already seen). How can it be both? It’s due to a concept theologians call “dual fulfillment,” or the “mountain peaks” of prophecy. Some prophecy might have a partial fulfillment in one moment, only to be totally fulfilled later. A great example is seen in Isaiah’s prophecy of Immanuel, the sign of a son that was given (Isa 7). There was a partial fulfillment of that prophecy with one of Isaiah’s own children (Isa 8), but the only true fulfillment is seen in Jesus (Mt 1:23). The same concept applies with the Davidic covenant. There are portions seen fulfilled in Solomon, but the fullness is only fulfilled in Jesus.
  5. In all of this, don’t miss the forest for the trees. God gave David a marvelous promise: a royal dynastic house that would lead to an everlasting kingdom, ruled over by none other than the Messiah. The future Son of David would sit on high over Israel and over all the world, and He would reign forever. – This is our Jesus! The Lord we worship – the One who died for us at the cross and rose from the grave – the One who gave His body and blood for us that we might be saved…this Jesus is the Son of David, the King of Israel and King of the Universe. He is the fulfillment of all the promises of God!

17 According to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.

  1. More than wrapping the first literary section of this chapter to a conclusion, verse 17 demonstrates a contrast with verse 3. Earlier, the prophet Nathan spoke too soon to David, giving him a word that had not come from the Lord. Now, Nathan spoke a true word from God to David, being faithful to speak all of God’s word.
  2. Without leaving the context, we still have application today: when we act as representatives of God, what are we to speak to others? Only the word of God, and all of the word of God. For pastors, it is imperative that we teach the whole counsel of God to our congregations. As individual Christians, it is imperative that we represent the full gospel of Christ to our friends, family, and neighbors. What God has given you to say, say. Don’t leave anything out!
  • David’s prayer to God (18-29). Praise (7:18-24).

18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord GOD? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O Lord GOD; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come. Is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD? 20 Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord GOD, know Your servant. 21 For Your word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them.

  1. It is only right that David’s prayer of response begins with praise. After all, he was blown away by the wonderful promise of God. How could he not begin with thanks and praise?
    1. Sadly, this is what we too often forget! Our prayers often jump into our needs rather than beginning with praise, adoration, and thanks. When we speak to God, we need to remember that we are speaking to God. His greatness needs to be acknowledged.
  2. Interestingly (and correctly), David’s praise began with his own humility. He had no personal worth or standing before God, apart from God’s grace. David was not inherently deserving of God’s goodness. David was not “owed” the throne; he had no entitlement. He recognized that everything he had was a gift of grace.
    1. So too with us. What do we deserve from God, other than His righteous wrath? Our lives begin in sin, being dead in our transgressions. And it is only when we understand our great need for God’s grace can we properly praise God for the grace He provides us in Jesus. This is why the Scripture tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6). Proud hearts need to be broken by the righteous law of God, that we might humbly look to Jesus asking for grace. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Mt 5:3).
  3. Yet David’s humility was no obstacle to God’s ability. As low as David was, he rightly understood God can do all things. It “was a small thing” for God to raise up the Messiah and an everlasting dynasty for David. It would be impossible for man, but with God, all things are possible. He is able to do above and beyond what we can think or comprehend.
  4. Sometimes, it is comprehension that is our hardest part. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways (Isa 55:9). Here too, we are dependent on God. It is only by God’s grace that He reveals His will to us. As David said, “You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them.” Amazingly, God wanted David to know His will for him. Why? That David might praise God in humble awestruck worship.
    1. Is it any different with us, in terms of the gospel? Why have we been made the people of God through Jesus Christ? Why have we been given the mind of Christ through the wondrous blessing of the Holy Spirit? We did not deserve these things; quite the opposite! We did not deserve the blessings of God; we deserved His wrath. But in Christ He is merciful and kind to us, and He wants us to know His goodness and grace. He wants us to know His marvelous plan. Why? Peter tells us: “that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (1 Pt 2:9). God graces us with comprehension of His glorious gospel that we might give Him glory in return. Why do we study Scripture? Why are we to know Biblical doctrine? That we might apply it, not for legalism’s sake, but for the glory of God! The more we know God, the more we praise Him!

22 Therefore You are great, O Lord GOD. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

  1. There is none like God! He is great and mighty, the only God. He is the one true God of the universe; there is no other. Nor is God like anything else other than how He is described in the Bible. Although other religions claim to worship this same God, even through other names (like “Allah”), the only way we know this God is through His revelation to us. David acknowledged this by saying that what he knew of God was “according to all that we have heard with our ears.” What revelation do we have of God? We have Jesus of Nazareth, God Incarnate, for those who have seen Him have seen the Father (Jn 14:9). Additionally, we have the written word of God, to which nothing can be added or subtracted. It contains all we need to know to be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:17).
  2. Take note of the repeated name/title of God used by David: “Lord GOD.” In Hebrew, Adonai YHWH. Typically, we see the capitalized LORD whenever the Hebrew text uses God’s revealed name of YHWH. (YHWH = The ever-existent One / He is; in comparison with the “I AM” when God spoke to Moses.) Here, it is GOD that is capitalized, with the actual Hebrew word for “Lord” given in the text (Adonai). What makes this interesting is that it is used no less than 7 times in David’s prayer (7:18, 19a, 19b, 20, 22, 28, 29). While the title is commonly used by the prophets (particularly by Ezekiel, for whom it is the most repeated name for God), prior to this point in 2 Samuel it is used 7 times total in the Old Testament. Thus, it is relatively rare prior to the time of David, and then suddenly David uses it repeatedly. And in what circumstance? In response to the Messianic promise from God. It was as if David knew this was something wonderful and different, something that stood out from the rest of God’s promises in Scripture. Truly, it was. The promise of the Messiah has existed from the very beginning of human history (Gen 3:15), but David received wonderfully new information about Him, which was worth emphasizing.

23 And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name—and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land—before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? 24 For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God.

  1. There was no one like God’s people, who knew and experienced the revelation of God. Moreover, there was no one like God’s people whom God Himself “” David understood the special relationship that God had with Israel, which itself stood as a witness to the nations. The rest of the world was supposed to look upon the relationship between God and Israel and be awestruck, convicted of their own idolatry, and flock to Israel’s God in faith. And to some extent, it happened. This was why Israel left Egyptian slavery with a mixed multitude among them. Who were these people among the Hebrews? Egyptians! These were men and women who saw the hand of God during the many plagues, converting in faith to the true God of Israel.
    1. The purpose of God’s relationship with Israel in the Old Testament is one of the purposes of God’s relationship with the church in the New Testament. Now Israel is to supposed to look to the church and be provoked to jealousy. They are supposed to see our fellowship with God through the Messiah, and wonder why they do not experience the same.
    2. One day, they will. Scripture affirms that God’s people are always God’s people. Although we as the church have been made the people of God, God is not yet done with national Israel. He still has a plan to save them through the redemption purchase of Christ. (Rom 11)
  • Petition (7:25-29).

25 “Now, O LORD God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said. 26 So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. 27 For You, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You.

  1. Notice three patterns for us to follow: First, David prayed according to God’s own revealed word. David did not lay demands upon the Lord, claiming authority in his own faith. Instead, he prayed that God’s will be done, knowing that God had already declared what His will was.
    1. It isn’t unlike the example of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What is it that God has said? That is for what we are to pray.
  2. Second, David prayed according to God’s own glory, that God’s name would “be magnified forever.” Would David be exalted? Sure, but that was part and parcel with God’s specific promise. David was not praying for his own exaltation; he was praying for God’s glory.
    1. Even when we pray for blessings, our true motives need to be for the glory of God. “Do this Lord, not because I desire it, but because You will be magnified according to Your will.”
  3. Third, David prayed with confidence, because God first gave him grace. That is where the “Therefore” comes from in verse 27. Apart from God’s specific word and revelation through Nathan to him, David would never have prayed for an enduring and everlasting royal dynasty. It would have been far too presumptuous and selfish. But because God gave him a promise, because God gave him grace, now he had it is in heart to pray this way.
    1. It is indeed a presumptuous thing for us to pray at all. Who are we to come into the presence of Almighty God, asking for His blessing and provision? Yet we can pray because we have been invited to pray. We have confidence to pray because God first showed us grace. Because Jesus acted in loving mercy toward us, now we have bold confidence to go before the throne of God and ask for grace in our times of need.

28 “And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. 29 Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord GOD, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”

  1. Three quick affirmations: (1) Affirmed that God is God. (2) Affirmed that God’s word is true. (3) Affirmed that God’s promises are good.
  2. Concludes with his final petition for blessing. Blessing, not because David deserved it, but because God promised it. “God, because You have spoken it, please do it.” One of the advantages of praying according to the text of Scripture? When we do, we know we are always praying according to the will of God.

Conclusion:

What wonderful promises were given by God to David! What an immense gift! David had desired to do something good for God, although he was a bit presumptuous in his original idea. God brought needed correction to both king and prophet, reminding them that He was God, the giving and gracious God of Israel. It was God who provided for them; not they for God. And God had a glorious plan and promise: the Messiah. Upon that promise, David could respond with praise and faith.

David looked forward in faith to a future Messiah from his bloodline; we look back unto Jesus. Jesus came exactly according to God’s promise, accomplishing the work God said He would do, and will one day return in power and glory to fulfill the yet-future promises of the kingdom. And just like David believed in faith, so should we. We are to take God’s promises at His word, believe, and act upon them. We are to respond to Him in thanks and praise for Jesus, surrendering our will unto Him, looking for His glory to be done.

For any who have not yet believed upon Jesus as Lord for the forgiveness of sins, this is your application and opportunity. God gave a word to David about Jesus; David was to believe. This was the basis of grace, how it would be possible for him to move forward with God. Know this: apart from Jesus Christ, you have no relationship with God. There is but one way to the Father: through Jesus the Son. Jesus is the Son of David and the Son of God. We must surrender ourselves to Him to be saved.

For those of us who know Christ as Lord, our response is also one of faith. We thank God for His marvelous gift of Jesus as Messiah! We take God’s word for what it says. We pray, seeking God’s will and God’s glory. We serve, because of His enabling grace. We worship, responding to His great glory and work for us. We humble ourselves, exalt Him, and surrender ourselves to His will. He has done great and mighty things…may we continue to look to Him as He does even more!

Although no one wants to go to battle, some things are worth fighting for. The good news is that God equips us for battle through His Son Jesus Christ and through God the Holy Spirit. If we were to face these things in our flesh, we would fail; when we face these things in the equipping of God, we glorify Him.

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War in the Church

Posted: October 17, 2021 in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 10:1-6, “War in the Church”

Church fights. It sounds like a contradiction in terms, although they are all too true and frequent. Many (perhaps most) of them are unnecessary. What color the carpet needs to be, or what brand of coffee to purchase, or whether to use guitars as musical instruments in worship – these things are trivial and should be handled in an attitude of love. Even certain doctrinal issues of secondary and tertiary statues should be able to undergo discussion in an overall attitude of love, rather than breaking into heated arguments. What good does it accomplish to fight about the timing of the rapture, when the person you’re fighting with is also a brother or sister in Christ looking for His return? It is an issue of importance, but not one of division. 

But there are other issues that arise, issues of primary importance, and these things are worth fighting for. Not by throwing fists or launching into shouting matches in which no one wins, but by means of spiritual warfare. Some issues require the use of spiritual weapons, items by which we go to war in defense of the faith and protection of the church.

This was what Paul did with the congregation in Corinth, as they faced issues and controversies that potentially rocked them to their core. While not specifically identifying the issues at hand, Paul did address the need to engage in spiritual battle. Typically, we think of spiritual warfare taking place outside the church. Here, Paul showed that he was fully prepared to engage it inside the church.

How did we get here? Although much of 2 Corinthians addressed issues of discipline within the church, much of which was seemingly driven by the reception of new teachers who cast doubt on the ministry of Paul – those issues were temporarily set aside in Chapters 8-9. There, after expressing his joy that the Corinthians responded so well to his earlier discipline, Paul continued his boasting in the church regarding their response to giving. Faced with an opportunity to help struggling Christians in Jerusalem, the Corinthians responded with zealous eagerness in their financial collection. Paul reminded them of their reasons for giving, demonstrated the integrity in which their gift would be received, and gave some practical exhortations for how to go about the act. Giving was to be done purposefully, joyfully, and thankfully, as this was one more opportunity for the church to be used by God as His instrument.

Having drawn this exhortation to a close, Paul returned to the main subject at hand: discipline regarding their rejection of his ministry. It seems a strange thing: on the one hand praising Corinth for how they responded in repentance (7:11); while on the other hand chastising them for their stubborn disobedience. But then again, all of us have more than one side. We might find ourselves praising God on a Sunday morning affirming right doctrine while losing our tempers on the road as we head to lunch. We all do something right while doing other things wrong at the same time. Corinth was no different. 

It should be noted that some scholars see a break in the unity of the letter at this point, with some suggesting that Chapters 10-13 constitute a different letter altogether, perhaps even being the “severe” legger to which Paul earlier alluded (2:3). They argue that Paul’s change of tone from Chapter 9 is too abrupt in Chapter 10, and that over the course of time, the severe/sorrowful letter was appended to the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. Although it answers some questions in the minds of scholars, the problem with the theory is that it is pure speculation without any physical evidence of a separation in the original text. Besides, there is great unity to the overall letter. As we get into the final chapters, we find Paul returning to some of the same issues he discussed earlier, providing great continuity. Did his tone change? Certainly. But keep in mind that Paul likely dictated this letter to be written over the course of several days. It is unlikely that Paul made a detailed outline in advance of everything he wanted to say. He probably had a broad idea, but otherwise he spoke as he was moved by the Holy Spirit to speak as he addressed the issues in this far-away congregation that he dearly loved. If that meant that he review material he already covered, or change his tone, then so be it.

In any case, there is most certainly a change in the opening of Chapter 10. Whatever the original circumstances of Paul’s writing, he understood the dire importance of what was going on in Corinth. He loved these people and was willing to wage war over them. Although no one wants to go to battle, some things are worth fighting for. The good news is that God equips us for battle through His Son Jesus Christ and through God the Holy Spirit. If we were to face these things in our flesh, we would fail; when we face these things in the equipping of God, we glorify Him.

2 Corinthians 10:1–6

  • Pleading for peace (1-2).

1 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. 2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

  1. Paul begins by pleading with Corinth in Christ’s humility, that the bold discipline he thinks he needs to bring need not be necessary. As he does, he admits a couple of things: (1) Paul had a reputation of a humble presence and a bold absence, (2) Paul was under no delusion that he faced accusations and opposition.
  2. As to his reputation, it was true that when Paul was face-to-face with the Corinthians, he acted in lowliness and humility, while it was in his letters (when written from far away) that he was bold. The argument against him in this was that he talked tough in his letters, but didn’t back it up when he was with them. We see a similar issue on social media today. People type tough when they are debating someone they’ve never met on Facebook, but if they actually saw the person face-to-face, their attitude is totally different. For us, it is an issue of pride, as we boast against others in our anonymity, but shrink as soon as anonymity is lost. That said, that wasn’t Paul’s problem. Looking through the book of Acts, Paul was not someone who might be considered shy. He didn’t talk tough only to back down later. This was the same guy who pronounced blindness on Elymas the sorcerer for opposing the gospel (Acts 13:11), who had to be restrained from running into the heart of the Ephesian riot (Acts 19:30), who was so bold as he preached the gospel in Jerusalem that as he did, people were calling for his death (Acts 22:22). This is the same Paul who preached before soldiers and kings, with people calling him mad as he attempted to share the news of the resurrected Jesus with them. He wasn’t exactly a “shrinking violet,” he was bold! Yet…not so among the Corinthian church. He had been bold initially sharing the gospel in Corinth (Acts 18), but among the born-again Christians in the city, he maintained lowly humility.
    1. Was this wrong or inconsistent? Not at all! Paul was simply following the example of Jesus. Jesus was extremely meek and humble, to the point that it was prophesied of Him that He wouldn’t break a bruised reed (Mt 12:20 / Isa 42:3). Jesus made Himself lowly, of no reputation, coming as a Servant to seek and to save those who were lost. He did not come to do His own will, but that of His Father who sent Him (Jn 5:30). Yet knowing all this about Jesus, He was no pushover. He could be bold when necessary. It is impossible to read Jesus’ condemnations of the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 23 and not see His boldness.
    2. Remember that humility and boldness are not all-or-nothing attitudes. Just because boldness is called-for in certain situations does not mean that it is required in all situations. Sometimes, humility is best, as seen in Jesus’ silence before the wicked Pilate as Jesus submitted to God. Wisdom is knowing what response is required at the time and how best to apply it. 
  3. The second admission from Paul was that he was well-aware of accusations and opposition against him. There were some who accused him of walking according to the flesh, using the potential division between Paul and Corinth in an attempt to drive a further wedge between them. The larger point is that Paul faced opposition from within the church. These were likely the false teachers that Corinth unwisely welcomed, and these teachers set themselves up in opposition against Paul. Not only did Paul teach different doctrine than them (they seemed to be far more legalistic with more dependence on a person’s individual works than depending solely on the gospel of Jesus Christ), but Paul acted differently, too. How could the Corinthians trust what Paul had to write, when his letters and his person seemed so different? It was a whisper campaign against Paul, and judging from the way Paul addressed Corinth in Chapter 10, it was dangerously effective. Of course, “effective” doesn’t equal “accurate.” Yes, Paul’s tone was different, but his content was not. Not that this mattered to his enemies. They were looking to exploit any potential weakness, and this was what they chose.
    1. Lest this sound too conspiratorial, it is interesting that Paul uses the same word (though a different parsing) for “I intend” and “who think,” showing that just as Paul was carefully considering and planning his actions in Corinth, so were his adversaries calculating their charges against him. Their accusations were carefully planned, being intentional.
  4. What was Paul’s plan to deal with this opposition? Bold discipline. He didn’t want to do it, no more than any parent looks forward to disciplining his/her child…but he was prepared to do it. He intended “to be bold against some.” What that boldness looked like was left unsaid, but no doubt it wasn’t something that the “some” in question wanted to experience. Would it have been good? All godly, loving discipline is good, even when it isn’t enjoyable at the time (Heb 12:11). But it is good. It is good for you and for me. It brings me back into line with the will of God, continually conforming me into the image of Christ. Godly discipline helps make us into godly disciples. It’s a natural part of the process.
    1. That said, it is far better to exercise self-discipline than to be If, by God’s grace, we choose to walk in line with the will of God for our lives, it goes far better for us than when we walk in rebellion and have to be brought into line. In essence, this was Paul’s appeal to Corinth. He begged them that his own boldness might not be necessary. If they would choose to humble themselves under the hand of God now, they would not have to experience a potential humbling later. 
  • Weapons of war (3-5).

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.

  1. Regarding the accusation against Paul: Did he, or did he not, walk according to the flesh? It depends on what we mean by “flesh.” If, as his accusers charged, we mean that Paul was carnal and sinful in his motives and actions among Corinth, then no. Paul wasn’t one who was known as walking according to carnal motives. He had repented of his fleshly ways long ago. Obviously, Paul was not perfect (none of us are), but his was not a life characterized by carnality. If, however, we mean that Paul was a simple human being, doing the same things that other humans do, then yes. Like everybody else, the apostle Paul slept at night and woke in the morning – he got hungry and thirsty – he even got tired and cranky from time to time. Yes, Paul had his own sins and failings. Perhaps he regretted how things had fallen out with Barnabas over John Mark – maybe he understood that his sarcasm could be a bit too biting at times. So sure, in this way, he walked in the flesh. But that wasn’t how he went to war. When it came to battle, the real stuff where war is fought, Paul stayed far from the flesh. He didn’t seek to throw punches or even strike rhetorical points in debates. The battle was somewhere else, so his weapons were appropriately different.
  2. Before we look at the weapons, don’t miss a fundamental point: Paul did There is a place for war in the life of a Christian. There was for the apostle Paul, and although the date has changed, times have not. There are still some things for which we must fight. – We might not often think of the Christian life in this way. After all, it was none less than Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” (Mt 5:9). Peace is good, but it isn’t good in all circumstances. For instance, we are not called to make peace with the devil. He doesn’t abide by an armistice with us, holding up under a truce. He comes not except to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn 10:10), and he will seek us harm until the day we die. Nor do we make peace with the temptations of our flesh. The moment we compromise with those things is the moment we give ourselves over to sin. Instead, like Joshua waging total war on the judged inhabitants of the Promised Land, so do we reckon ourselves dead to the flesh and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:11). Moreover, we do not seek peace with attacks on the gospel of Christ. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, and that alone (Eph 2:8). Anything else is an assault on the gospel, one that must be fended off. Paul valued this so much that he confronted Peter to his face when Peter potentially endorsed legalism (Gal 2:11), and Paul told the Galatians that the gospel is so important that even if he or an angel preached another gospel, it was accursed and worthy of being damned to hell (Gal 1:8-9). – So yes, there is a time for war…and we dare not shrink from the fight when it comes!
    1. Too many Christians do, including myself. Not always purposefully – not out of ill intent; out of sad apathy. Christians fail to fight when we fail to realize we are at war. We fail to fight when we are not prepared to fight. How else do so many of us fall in temptation? It’s because we allowed ourselves to get lazy and lax. A vigilant soldier is sometimes overpowered, but never taken off guard. Our problem is often a lack of vigilance. We aren’t looking for the fight, so we are not prepared when it comes.
    2. How we need to open our eyes! How we need to remember that our enemy does not rest, and that our culture rarely sleeps. There is always another temptation to which our eyes or ego will be drawn. We need a war-footing and mindset, remembering that another potential spiritual battle is always just around the corner.

4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

  1. Rather than looking at carnal battle weapons, Paul looks to weapons of a spiritual nature, making two initial points about them: Spiritual weapons are (1) powerful and (2) effective. First, they are powerful in that they are “mighty in God.” They are able/capable, the word coming from the same root as the famous dunamis enabling-power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). In fact, Paul emphasizes the divine nature of these weapons’ power, not only writing that they are mighty, but that they are “mighty in God.” IOW, we do not wield these weapons in our strength and skill. Any good that these things accomplish does not come from us; it comes from God alone. For instance, while it is wonderful for us to commit Bible verses to memory, it does us little-to-no good just to spew random Bible verses at stuff. Quoting Scripture is not like quoting incantations, as if we have some kind of pagan power in the use of our words. Heaven forbid! No, the power of the Scripture comes from the power of God. When God’s word is used according to God’s will, then God will ensure His word does not return void. He will see His divine work done. 
  2. Second, not only are God’s spiritual weapons divinely powerful, but their power is effective, accomplishing what they are meant to do. This includes pulling down/casting down (same word used in both instances) things like “strongholds…arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” Sounds great! What does it mean? What exactly is a “stronghold” – is it something we need to study and parse and claim God’s promise against? Let us not make Paul’s writing into more than what it was. Proper Biblical interpretation means that we interpret the Bible according to the context, genre, grammar, etc., in that it was originally written. Here, Paul was using the figurative language of earthly war to describe the very real issue of spiritual battle. Technically, a “stronghold” is a military installation or fortress, but Paul is not commanding the Corinthians to wage war against invisible fortresses with invisible weapons. Instead, Paul explains what he means by “strongholds” when he goes on to describe them as “arguments” and “high things” exalted in pride. Those things are what we fight using the spiritual weapons God gives us. We aren’t looking to claim ground in spiritual realms (giving far too much attention to demons); we are in a battle for truth. When Paul wrote of going to war, the primary context of his war was against bad theology and false teaching. — Does this mean that Paul has nothing to say about the individual Christian’s ongoing fight against sin, temptation, and the devil? Of course not. Paul has much to say on the matter, as that is the primary context of what he has to say in Ephesians 6 about the armor of God. Yet here, Paul’s context refers to enemies on the inside; not the outside.
    1. This war still rages strong! Just a casual look at broader Christendom shows a wide variety of groups all claiming the description “church,” yet their theology could not be more different from each other. Some claim Jesus as the Son of God and Savior, while relying on the works of men and clergy to complete what Jesus has apparently left undone. Others claim Jesus is God, but that His word doesn’t really mean what it says and that broad swaths of it can be ignored. The broader “church” is awash with apostasy, legalism, and hypocrisy. A war rages within it for truth, and we are those who must stand firm! It means we cannot lock arms with those who deny the gospel’s sufficiency or its power. We cannot abide with those who treat Jesus as a butler instead of Savior and Lord. Those are enemies of God, against whom we are at war. 
  3. With so much written about spiritual weapons, it begs the question: What kind of weapons are spiritual? We don’t want to miss the main point, that Paul was stating what these weapons were not. They were not carnal, fleshly physical weapons that we ought to expect to pick up with our hands and wield. These weapons did not involve literal swords, clubs, or fists. Paul didn’t go to war with a physical bow and arrow. (As an aside, Paul’s statement in verse 4 doesn’t mean that no Christian should ever own a physical weapon. It just means that wasn’t Paul’s context and wasn’t how he was prepared to fight.) Paul did fight, but not with physical, fleshly means. – So what did Paul use? What spiritual weapons were in his arsenal? Interestingly, he doesn’t say. Although he describes the effects his weapons had, he did not specifically identify what weapons he used. Elsewhere, however, he did. In a different context, when writing to the Ephesians, Paul wrote in detail about the spiritual armor available to every child of God. Ephesians 6:14–18, “(14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” Notice even with the Ephesians, Paul did not write much of actual weaponry, but armor. IOW, the majority of what he detailed was defensive, rather than offensive. There was a belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, and helmet, all defensive. Then there was one active offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. The Bible is living and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb 4:12), and Paul was adept in wielding it on behalf of the gospel and his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Along with it, although not illustrated as a specific weapon, was prayer. For Paul, prayer was active; not passive. Prayer was the mode by which Paul waged war on behalf of the church and relied on the power of God. — Scripture and prayer. These are the Christian’s two primary weapons in spiritual battle. (Are there others? Different scholars make different arguments. But these are fundamental to anything else.)
    1. Bring it back to the type of war Paul waged in this context: the war for truth inside the church. Scripture and prayer were the weapons Paul used to fight it. To those who opposed his ministry and his doctrine, he appealed to them on the authority of the Bible, not showing himself to be something, but relying upon the authority of God Himself. When God’s word speaks, it has its own inherent authority. Of course, Paul did not merely rattle off a bunch of Scriptures with no context or explanation. Rather, when Paul spoke (or wrote) to others, Scripture flowed freely from his lips as it was itself what formed Paul’s own arguments. When Paul’s own words fell short, he appealed unto God. He prayed constantly for those in the churches he planted, interceding for them, especially against those who would lead them astray. This was the way Paul fought in the battle (as seen throughout the book of Acts and his epistles), and it is the example set for us as well.
    2. Notice what was not used by Paul in the name of spiritual warfare: anything smacking of personal power, disguised as “faith,” or particularly, “spoken word faith.” We don’t even see it listed in the illustration of Ephesians 6. Faith does play an essential role in the armor of God, but it is a defensive faith as we stand fast, protected in the work of Jesus. We fall back on what Christ has done for us, having faith in His sufficiency and power. What Paul does not describe is faith in ourselves. It is not imagining ourselves to have power over our enemies and circumstances. Never once are Christians told to “name it and claim it” as we wage war on the devil. We don’t put faith in our faith, nor do we attempt to exalt ourselves to some position of spiritual power. Again, that sort of thing is paganism; not Christianity. As Biblical Christians dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope is in Him alone as the Son of God crucified for sins and risen from the grave. We are to rely solely on the power and authority of God, demonstrated in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  4. What did Paul’s use of the spiritual weapons accomplish? We see it at the end of verse 5. Not only did he bring down arguments and self-exalting things, but he also brought “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Exactly what thoughts can be brought into captivity? All of them. Paul writes of “every thought.” With that said, keep in mind that contextually, he referred to the thoughts of those who opposed him in Corinth. Legalistic thoughts and impositions on the church were to be taken captive. Boastful, divisive thoughts and ideas were to be taken captive. Any idea that presented itself in opposition to either the gospel, or the gospel mission of Christ was to be taken captive like a prisoner of war, and not allowed room to grow. – Yet, isn’t that what so often happens in churches today? One person states a rumor, and instead of the gossip being shut down and taken captive, it spreads and grows. Someone else floats divisive doctrine that distracts from the essentials of the faith, and slowly seeds doubt among the congregation. In contrast, that kind of opposition ought to be shut down ASAP. These are cancers in a church, things that start small but metastasize into something terrible.
    1. Although the immediate context of Paul’s statement shows how it applied to the opposition teachers within the church congregation, we can still see how application stretches beyond matters of internal division. That our thoughts can be taken captive is a good summation of how we engage in our own personal spiritual battles. Every one of our thoughts can be captured, made to serve Jesus. Remember that the word Paul used regarding “captivity,” speaks of gaining control, or making a prisoner of war. Consider it terms of the spiritual battles we face as individuals. We encounter temptations, weaknesses, anger, fear, lust, etc. All of these things can be captured as prisoners of war, freeing us to serve Christ. We cannot control each and every one of our circumstances. Some things fly at us, with no warning. You might be walking in the mall, and (BAM!) your eyes are assaulted with a lingerie model. Or, you’re driving on the freeway, when someone cuts you off, and (BAM!) you react with angry shouts. These things come at us, unexpectedly like sneak attacks or ambushes from the enemy. What do you do? Take those thoughts captive. Imprison those thoughts, not allowing them to flourish in your mind, making them subject to Christ. When your eyes see the lingerie, bounce them somewhere else and think of things that are pure and godly. When your temper is provoked on the road, surrender it immediately to God, asking Him to fill you with His Spirit and peace. We all face unexpected circumstances, but we need not remain victim to them. Instead, be active! Take your thoughts captive unto Jesus, asking for His help and power to live in freedom.
      1. It is never easy, but it is easier when we actively prepare. Soldiers on tour expect attack, constantly preparing for them. Our problem often is we don’t expect the attack, thus we never prepare. News flash: we have an enemy who hates us and wants us dead. Satan does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy, and he looks for Christians whom he can stumble and take down. Expect the attacks – expect the ambushes and prepare for them. Spend time in the Bible, memorizing Scripture. (“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You,” Ps 119:11.) Spend time in prayer, constantly turning your attention to God that you remain mindful of Him. Regularly ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18), that you are always prepared to walk in His power. We can actively prepare for battle, thus we should.
    2. One more thought about this war going on in Corinth: notice that the battle was primarily over doctrine. Paul used his weapons in “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” There were factions and enemies within the church that attempted to exalt themselves against God, thereby, there were enemies within the church that were (in some way) anti-Christian. Lest that seem too harsh a descriptor, remember the first being that attempted to exalt himself above God was Lucifer, Satan himself. Mankind has been following in his example since the Garden of Eden. This kind of satanic disruption took place in Corinth, and still takes place today. It happens every time that a cultic group like the Mormons/Latter-Day Saints try to pull away Christians to their gatherings, or the Jehovah Witnesses, or even the Roman Catholics as they attempt to pull evangelical Christians away from the true gospel to the anti-Christian gospel of works-based religion. How we need to be vigilant, ever guarding the Biblical gospel that has been entrusted to us. We need to ensure that our theology is Christian, faithful to the text of Scripture, ever-submitted to God while never exalting itself above God.
  • Prepared to punish (6).

6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

  1. If you’re going to use weapons, you need to prepared to deal with the fallout. No hunter raises his/her rifle at a deer without a clear readiness to kill the animal and clean it. Obviously, Paul wasn’t looking to kill anyone (other his own fleshly nature), but he used the spiritual weapons of warfare prepared for the result it would bring. In this case, Paul was ready to “punish…disobedience.” He was ready to bring righteous justice against those who were disobedient to the simple, pure gospel. Notice that he wasn’t ready to punish just “some” disobedience, but “all disobedience.” Yet surely Paul was not referring to all disobedience everywhere. His context is not the disobedience of the world. How could he punish that? He had no authority in that arena. Nor did Paul refer to punishing all disobedience among the demons. Punishing the demons is the job of the Lord God; not of Christians. (Jude 9 is instructive. We are not to directly interact with demons, but rather ask the Lord God to rebuke them.) There is only one other option: Paul referred to the disobedience of, or within, the church. Remember that he was the apostle to the Gentiles, i.e., the Gentile Christians. This was his responsibility, so this was where he was prepared to act. Where disobedience had arisen within the Corinthian congregation, Paul was ready to deal with it. Not in a dictatorial sort of fashion, but that of a father towards his children, or a shepherd towards his sheep. These Christians were in his care, with Paul having a responsibility toward them. If he did not punish their disobedience, then he himself would have been guilty of sinful neglect.
  2. What kind of “disobedience” was Paul prepared to address and punish? The word for “disobedience” is a modified version of the word “to hear,” making this particular version of the word mean “an unwillingness to hear.” This gets back to the overall context of Paul’s opposition. There were teachers that the Corinthians had received that taught the men and women there to ignore Paul. These were divisive teachers, teachers opposed to the simple Biblical gospel. Their only hope to gain a following was to take people away from Paul and convince them to shut their ears to the truth. Yet what do we know about faith? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing, by the word of God,” (Rom 10:17). If someone is to know and believe the truth of Jesus and the truth of God’s word, that person needs to be open to hearing it. A Corinthian closing his/her ears to the apostle Paul was essentially someone closing his/her ears to New Testament doctrine, i.e., the word of God.
    1. Where is that disobedience seen today? It is seen every time Christians willfully decide to ignore the Bible to carry out their own decisions. “I know what Jesus says about divorce / adultery in the heart / holding grudges, etc., but I don’t care. This is what I want to do.” This is when Christians claim that Jesus is Lord with their lips, but deny that He is their Lord by their actions. It is hypocrisy and disobedience, and sadly far too common.
    2. Question: Does God still punish this kind of disobedience? Without question, yes. We do not have modern-day apostles like Paul administering this discipline and punishment, but we have apostolic doctrine and example given us in the Scripture. Moreover, the God we worship is the living God who interacts with His children. The same God who punished the Hebrews in the wilderness and who sent Israel into captivity still works among His New Testament people in the church. God is ready and willing to forgive us our sins through Jesus Christ, but He will not forever abide our intentional unwillingness to hear Him. Hebrews 12:6, “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” God loves us enough to chasten us. Those who are willingly disobedient who do not experience God’s discipline and punishment have reason for concern. Those are people who ought to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith!
  3. Yet Paul’s great hope was Corinth’s “obedience.” Here, he used the opposite word from earlier. If Corinth’s disobedience was their unwillingness to hear, their obedience was their willingness to listen. And he had great confidence that soon, those in Corinth would demonstrate how their “obedience is fulfilled.” Though they were once convinced by the false teachers not to listen to the apostle, because they had responded so well to correction in the past, Paul had full expectations that they would respond this time as well. This time, they would listen. Perhaps the punishment would bring them to that place of obedience; perhaps they would come to repentance on their own through the prompting of this letter. Either way, the people in Corinth who were errant would be brought back into full fellowship. – It may seem like a minor point, just a follow-up to the idea of punishment, but be careful not to overlook this. What was Paul saying? He had full confidence of the Corinthians’ repentance. He knew that they had the opportunity to change, by the grace of God, and they would.
    1. This is good news to the rest of us! If a congregation like ancient Corinth had the opportunity and expectation of repentance and restoration, so do we! They did not have to remain in their disobedience, nor did their past disobedience prohibit them from moving forward in Christ. They were not forever marked as failures, cast out by Paul and the rest of the New Testament church. Far from it! They could repent and be restored, and Paul had full assurance that they would be. – Whatever failures in obedience we have had in the past, we need not remain failures forever. Just like Peter (after his terrible denial) had the opportunity to be restored to full fellowship with Jesus through confession and repentance, so do we. Have you been disobedient? Have you refused to hear and heed the warning of the Holy Spirit regarding sin? Have you failed? I have…far too often. But praise God we need not remain forever failures! Never forget the glorious promise of 1 John 1:9, that it was written to born-again Christians: 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess your sin, your failure, your disobedience to God. Admit your faults to Christ. And then plead upon His promise of forgiveness. He will grant it willingly and abundantly! He is faithful and just to forgive you and me of our sins, truly cleansing us from all our unrighteousness, renewing us in His own perfection.
  4. With God’s promise of forgiveness in mind, it is not something to take for granted. Obedience matters. Paul was fully prepared to punish disobedience within the church, while looking for, and being ready to respond to their fulfilled obedience. God wants us to obey Him. God wants us to hear His truth in the Bible, know it, and respond to it. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus…this is the good news of the gospel. But we are saved for the purpose of good works, to the glory of God (Eph 2:8-10). We are saved freely by grace, but we are saved to serve the Risen Lord Jesus. May we serve Him in full, wholehearted obedience!

Conclusion:

Conflicts and battles in church is never fun, but it is sometimes necessary. Paul saw the need in Corinth, when he faced what these false teachers were doing within this beloved congregation. Those who once followed the simple gospel preached by Paul and the other apostles were getting distracted and dragged off into other things, and Paul was willing to go to war for them. He certainly pled for peace among them, but he was ready with his weapons of spiritual warfare, fully prepared to punish disobedience to the gospel where it was found.

The language perhaps sounds dramatic, but the need is no less dire. The American Evangelical church deals with just as many attacks on the gospel and Biblical doctrine today, as did the ancient church of Corinth. There are still false teachers who try to take Christians away from the foundation of the Scripture into legalism, paganism, cults, or any other number of items that are anti-Christian. There are still doctrines and arguments that exalt themselves above God.

We need to be willing to go to war. Not that we look forward to fighting one another…God forbid! Between one another in our church family, we plead for peace and we seek true reconciliation in love. But that reconciliation must be based on the truth. We cannot sacrifice Biblical doctrine, especially regarding the gospel itself, just for the appearances of “unity.” There is no unity apart from the gospel of Christ. If we cannot be united on the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then we cannot be united at all.

Might it require spiritual battle? Certainly. But remember we do not fight in the power of our flesh or by the virtue of our will; we fight with the spiritual weapons of Biblical truth and prayer, all by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through these, we take anti-Christian thoughts captive and tear down strongholds that would otherwise take hold in the church.

Moreover, we use these same weapons in our own spiritual battles. We take every thought captive to Christ, praying always in the Spirit, ever immersing ourselves in the word of God. This is where the battle is fought – this is how the battle is won – all glory and honor to God.

We cannot worship the Lord rightly until we fear Him properly. A true fear of God will cause us to seek the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ. Only when we do that, does real worship begin.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/preach-the-word/id1449859151?mt=2
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The Importance of Fear

Posted: October 14, 2021 in 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 6, “The Importance of Fear”

Is fear good? The answer isn’t an easy yes or no. As with many things, it is best described as an “it depends.” Fear can be good, depending on the circumstance, just like fear can often be bad. There is much of which we should not fear, and indeed, the Bible repeats some variation of the command “fear not” well over 100 times. We should not fear our circumstances, our culture, or even our challenges and trials. These are things in which we should have faith, and God will use our faith to deal with our fears.

Faith, on the other hand, begins with fear. Fear can be good, even necessary, when it is the fear of God. Without a proper fear of God, we will not understand the scope of our salvation, and our love and worship of God will fall short.

David learned this in his own experience. When he walked in the fear of God, he did well. When he temporarily forgot the fear of the Lord, he stumbled into tragedy, as we see in 2 Samuel 6.

After a tumultuous transition, David was finally king of all Israel. He administered justice upon those who murdered the previous king from the house of Saul. He was seen by the people as someone who did what was right. He finally conquered Jerusalem after centuries of Jebusite rule, making it the new capital of the nation.

This came as the fulfillment of prophecy that was decades’ old, that David was God’s choice to replace Saul as king. After Saul’s repeated rebellion against God, God sought a man that was after His own heart. He found this man in David. All this was known from the time of David’s youth, prior to the battle against Goliath. Yet due to Saul’s own rebellion and even a time of David’s own lack of trust, it did not become reality until decades later.

What now? Now it was time for David to start things right. He had been made king (twice: first over Judah, then over all Israel), and he had a home for his seat of government (Jerusalem). Additionally, he had fought his first battles as king, under the leading and direct command of the Lord (against the Philistines). Now it was time for him to ensure he would reign well as king. The only way for him to do it was to set the right priorities, by putting God first.

It was the right thing to do, and there was a right way to go about doing it: by fearing the Lord. For all of David’s worship of God, it was still possible for him to worship God wrong. Worship is a commendable thing…when done right. It isn’t always done right. Quite often, people claiming to know God worship Him incorrectly. When we try to worship God in our strength through our merits, it is unacceptable worship. When we try to worship God through mere ritual and religion, it is unacceptable. What is required for acceptable worship? Fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10), and we might rightly extend it to say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of worship. We cannot worship the Lord rightly until we fear Him properly. A true fear of God will cause us to seek the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ. Only when we do that, does real worship begin.

Fear the Lord!

2 Samuel 6

  • A failure of fear (1-11).

1 Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim.

  1. David prepared to bring forth the ark into his new home city (and capital city) of Jerusalem. And for that, he gathered 30,000 men of Israel. Considering that many small homes can be packed and moved with only a handful of people, 30K men to move a single golden chest might seem a bit excessive. Not so! The fact that David gathered so many together emphasizes the fact that this was no small task. This was nothing less than the “ark of God,” which required the utmost care. For all that soon went wrong in this first attempt, take note of the fact that David did not go about this lightly or carelessly. He put thought and planning into this, though sadly it was all his own human planning, rather than searching the Scriptures for God’s instructions on what to do.
  2. Along these lines, notice who David “gathered”: “all the choice men of Israel.” IOW, he didn’t put out a generic call for the first 30,000 who showed up, nor did he pick from only his family’s tribe in Judah. He chose the best of the best from all over the nation. On one hand, this can be commended because it underscores David understood the importance of the task, that it required proven, trustworthy men. Moreover, David showed himself to be a true king of the entire nation, rather than limiting his choice to his own personal tribe (as Saul so often did, with Benjamin). On the other hand, we might question the inherent limitation of “only” 30,000 men. Why not women and children? Why not put out a call to everyone who loved the Lord and desired to see Him worshipped in Jerusalem? God is the God of all Israel; not only of the green berets of David’s army. Thus, arguments can be made for and against. In the end, it emphasizes a very human mode of thinking; not necessarily a Biblical line of thought.
  3. Yet that was what David needed most. Sadly, what he did not do (or, at least, there is no mention of him doing) was to ask the Lord. In the past, David was willing to inquire of the Lord prior to going to battle. He inquired of the Lord before pursuing the Amalekites who destroyed his temporary home in Ziklag (1 Sam 30:8). He inquired of the Lord before meeting the Philistines for battle (2 Sam 5:19,23). Yet David did not do this regarding something vastly more important: approaching the symbol of God’s presence among Israel.
  4. How important was the “ark of God”? This was the symbol of Him “whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells among the cherubim.” The ark was important, but only in that it was directly associated with the most high God. Were it just a piece of religious furniture, it would have been pretty – a sight to behold with all the gold and intricate design. But would it have been worthy of this attention? What gave it its worth was that it was the ark of God, and that this God has the name of all names, the most important name which could not be normally uttered. This God is YHWH Sabaoth, the I AM covenant-keeping God of Israel who commanded all the heavenly armies. This God is the God who is so mighty that His throne sits between the mysterious cherubim, angelic creatures so wonderful that even the Biblical writers had difficulty putting it into words. This magnificent holy God is the God of Israel, and this was His ark, the symbol of His dwelling among the nation of Israel. It was the merciful condescension of the Almighty to the people He chose to save and preserve. That made this ark very important.
    1. So important, in fact, that David dare not treat it lightly! And if not David, how much more us, regarding Jesus? After all, we do not approach God through the blood of sacrifice placed upon a golden chest; our only approach to God takes place through the blood of His only begotten Son, who Himself is the dwelling of God with man. Christ Jesus is our one Mediator, and the cross His place of mediation. We dare not treat Him casually, with disregard, with disdain. When we consider Jesus, our hearts ought to break at the thought that it was our sin that made His sacrifice necessary – it was for our rebellion that God poured out His wrath upon Him. This is our Jesus, one whom we ought to reverence, worship, and treat in humble awe.
    2. Do we? Or do we treat Him too casually? He becomes Buddy-Jesus, Genie-Jesus, Butler-Jesus. The cross is the subject of our artwork and jewelry, but not considered in its gore and glory. As thankful as we are for the freedom we have in Christ to be called His friends and to be made the children of God, may we never take Jesus for granted or treat Him with anything less than reverent awe and worship! Jesus is our Friend, yes; He is also our Savior, our Lord, our King, and our God. Jesus is the Lamb of God slain for us, the propitiation of our sin. He is the glorious Word of God and everlasting King. May we see Him for who He is, and worship!

3 So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. 5 Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.

  1. The picture is a simple one: David got his men together, had the ark placed on a cart driven by oxen, and thus began the glorious parade. There were 30,000 choice men of Israel present, a musical marching band, and the king of Israel at the head joining in the song. By the cultural standards of the day (and even by our own standards today), this would have been acclaimed. It was pomp and circumstance and joyous celebration.
  2. The problem? None of this was according to the command of God. Not that it was a bad idea to bring up the ark “out of the house of Abinadab” where it had been for the past many decades since the days of Samuel’s youth after the ark had been returned from Philistine capture. It was good that David desired the ark be located in the capital city, symbolizing that though David was king in Israel, God was the true Sovereign of the nation. But the way they went about it was all wrong. The book of Numbers gives very clear commands to the Levites as to the transportation of the ark, and this was not it. Numbers 4:5–6, “(5) When the camp prepares to journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. (6) Then they shall put on it a covering of badger skins, and spread over that a cloth entirely of blue; and they shall insert its poles.” The priestly clan (of the lineage of Kohath) was to place the special veil separating off the holy of holies over the ark itself so that it was not seen. Then they were to take the poles that were made by the command of God, insert them through rings on the ark, and then carry it via human transportation from place to place. Yet what did David do? He had a parade of people present, with music playing. He may have even had Levitical representation through Uzzah and Ahio. But there was no mention of covering, nor were there any poles for hand-carrying. Instead, the ark was treated like cargo, placed on an ox-cart like an ancient UPS parcel. It was treated with fanfare, but ultimately as just a piece of furniture, disregarding the specific command of God.
  3. Worse yet, where did David learn to do it this way? From the Philistines. The last time the ark was addressed in any detail by the author of 1-2 Samuel was when it was captured from, and returned to Israel by the Philistines during the final days of Eli the priest/judge. After capturing the ark from the overconfident arrogant Israelites in battle, the Philistines quickly learned they could not keep the ark among them. Their idols were destroyed in its presence, and plagues followed it from city to city. So, the Philistines sent the ark back to Israel the best way they knew how: by putting it on a cart drawn by milk cows that had never been yoked, with golden offerings along with it (1 Sam 6). By an act of God, these untrained cows walked straight to a town of Israel, where the cart was busted up into a bonfire and the cows sacrificed over it. Did God bless it? Yes, but this was the exception to the rule. It was how the Gentile Philistines dealt with the ark; not the command to Israel. – Yet that was the model apparently used by David. Instead of looking to God’s instruction in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, David used the example set by the Philistines.
    1. How tragic it is when we leave the instruction of the Bible to worship God from the example of our culture! This is how we end up with concerts and motivational “talks” in place of Bible-centered worship. This is how we end up with gimmicks and marketing strategies, rather than the clear preaching of the gospel. Too many pastors and churches model their strategies off of the world, rather than the word of God.
    2. That isn’t to say that modern musical instruments or musical forms are bad. Nor does it mean that unless we worship God in exactly the same way as did the early church in 50AD, that we’re doing something wrong. Although we have some of the same songs (the psalms), we don’t know the ancient melodies. We don’t dress the same way, we don’t eat the same things, we don’t gather in the same places. That’s okay. What we do want is for our primary model for worship to be found in the Scriptures. We let the Bible be our authority and regulative standard for our worship; not the popular fads of the world. 

6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.

  1. Before we jump to conclusions, take the time to look at the event logically. The initial response for many people is to be repulsed in shock at the overreaction of God to something relatively minor, especially when Uzzah was likely trying to do something good, such as preventing the ark from falling to the ground. We think, “Maybe Uzzah wasn’t perfect, but this was overkill. Why would God do such a thing? How is this not unjust?!” Let us take a step back and look at what happened. While the ark was in a position in which it ought never to have been, the oxen driving the cart did something normal like stumbling. Thus, the ark did something normal, in that it moved in the cart when it jolted, perhaps causing it to come close to falling to the ground. Would that have been bad? Would it have been the normal consequence for the irreverent decision of David to treat the ark like cargo? Yes. Might David have been punished? Perhaps, and it would have been right and just. But Uzzah did not allow these natural consequences to come to pass. Instead, Uzzah (based on his own mind and understanding, rather than from any command of God) decided to intervene and put his own hand to the ark to keep it from falling. He determined that the ark of the living God required his hand to be steadied, that he could touch that which the high priest dare not even touch with his bare hand. Uzzah determined that his hand was holier than the dusty ground that the Lord created, that it would be better for his hand to steady the ark than the ground itself. This, though surely founded in good intentions, was monumental arrogance. Far better to allow the ark to hit the ground and allow David to experience the just consequences of his actions, than for Uzzah to interpose his physical person onto the ark and to interfere with the righteous judgment of God. Moreover, it was something God specifically warned the priests and Levites never to do (Num 4:15). Not only was Uzzah’s action an overreach; it was a direct violation of a divine command. That God struck Uzzah dead in the moment was far from “overkill;” it was the righteous response of the ever-just God.
  2. Don’t forget what led to this point: David’s mishandling of the ark. Because David acted apart from God’s plan, Uzzah followed in the same path. David’s irreverent handling of the ark led to Uzzah’s irreverent response. Was it intentional irreverence? Did he mean to do it? Probably not, but it was still a lack of holy fear. Again, this led to God’s response of judgment. Unintentional sin is still in requiring judgment. “But I didn’t mean to do it!” Try that excuse in a court of law. If it doesn’t work among human justice, why would we think it would be different with God. Does God have a lower standard of justice? Certainly not! God’s standard is infinitely higher than man, because God is perfect. Thus, even unintended sin is still sin, and the wage of all sin is death.
    1. This gives us one more reason to thank God for Jesus Christ! He saves us from all sin, intentional, unintentional, remembered, forgotten, etc. Jesus paid the sufficient price for all.

8 And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day.

  1. Question: Why was David angry? The text tells us that it was “because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah,” but that doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. Was David angry at the Lord, or angry with himself? The parallel account in 1 Chronicles 13 doesn’t provide any additional information. On one hand, we might imagine David being angry with God, falsely accusing Him of overreaction (just as many of us might have initially done). On the other hand, David might have understood that all of this was ultimately his fault, that Uzzah died because of his own misjudgment and irreverence. That surely would have angered him, just as we all get angry with ourselves when we do something stupid in our sin.
  2. Whatever the specific reason for his anger, it was not something that he soon forgot. David marked the very location of Uzzah’s death, giving it the name “Perez Uzzah,” or “Outbreak/outburst against Uzzah.” Every time David walked past that spot, he would be reminded of the man who died that day. There was a terrible price to pay for an irreverence toward God. That was something David could not afford to forget!
    1. Neither can we. The moment we forget the price of our sin is the moment we start sinning all over again. While we praise God that in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us, declaring that He will remember them no more (Jer 31:34, Heb 8:12), we should not forget the monumental price that was paid by Jesus for us. His blood was shed for me and for you. May God help us never forget!

9 David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 10 So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.

  1. That David “was afraid of the LORD” was good! It was perhaps a bit on the late side, but good, nonetheless. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10). Once David developed a healthy fear of the Lord, he would understand his utter need for grace when approaching the Lord. David’s fear would cause him to seek the Lord through the blood of sacrifice, rather than human assumption and arrogance. That was exactly what he (and all Israel) needed.
  2. That David asked the proper way to bring up the ark of God was also good, although again, a bit late. How much better it would have been for him (and for Uzzah) to ask this earlier! How much heartache he could have saved himself and others! — Better late, than never. We may not have done things right the first time, but that doesn’t mean we have to always live in that failure. Whatever we’ve done in the past, we can still make the choice to seek the Lord today!
  3. The person with whom the ark remained in the meantime is interesting: “Obed-Edom the Gittite.” There is an Obed-Edom mentioned elsewhere in Scripture during the days of David, being one of the names listed among the Levites who brought the ark up into Jerusalem (1 Chr 15), perhaps being the same man. At the same time, he is described as a “Gittite,” meaning that he was from the city of Gath. Whereas the word “gath” (גַּת) literally means “wine-press,” it is also one of the famous five cities of the Philistines. Some scholars note that there were other towns in Israel named “Gath,” (ex: Gath Rimmon) referring to the local winepress that was there, the most famous was certainly the Philistine stronghold where David himself spent so much time during the waning days of Saul. Could it be that this particular Obed-Edom was a Philistine living among Israel? Might it be that God allowed His most holy ark to remain in the house of a converted Gentile for three months? The text is open-ended, but the question is intriguing. — What is clear is that while the ark remained, “the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.” For three months, Obed-Edom experienced the blessings of YHWH God in a way few in Israel ever knew.
    1. What Obed-Edom experienced during those three months is something that any born-again child of God can experience today. After all, we have something far better than the ark of the testimony in our homes: we have God the Holy Spirit in our hearts! We ourselves are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The blessings we experience are immense! We understand what it is to be the sons and daughters of God. We experience the peace that passes understanding when we pray. We are empowered by God Himself for His service and witnessing. We have the Holy Spirit Himself praying with us in intercession as we pray. Talk about blessing? It doesn’t get much better!
  • A renewal of worship (12-19).

12 Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness.

  1. Once David heard the news of Obed-Edom’s blessing, he felt safe enough to try again. Question: Why did David wait three months? Why didn’t he immediately seek the Lord after Uzzah’s death? It is impossible to say. Perhaps David did immediately seek the Lord, but it wasn’t recorded for us. Perhaps time just got away from him, with everything else going on in the kingdom. Whatever the case, enough time passed for David to understand that God was not going to send a punishing plague.
  2. David felt safe enough to try again, why? Because he heard the report of Obed-Edom’s safety and blessing. The report that was brought to him attributed the blessing “because of the ark of God,” meaning that because the ark was in Obed-Edom’s house, Obed-Edom was blessed. That was what David was told, but was that the reality? Remember that it was not the ark that blessed Obed-Edom; it was God. The ark was not a magical relic. It merely symbolized the presence of YHWH. Those who are in God’s presence are blessed.
    1. The best blessing is not found in riches or even health; it is found in the gift of God’s salvation, being made His children through Jesus Christ!

13 And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. 14 Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.

  1. This time, things went much better! Scholars debate whether sacrifices were made every “six paces,” or if one set of sacrifices was made after the initial six paces. Either way, instead of oxen drawing a cart carrying the ark, oxen were sacrificed before the ark. Blood was shed as the ark was moved. The blood of sacrifice was shown as essential to any approach to God, rightly so. Moreover, everything surrounding the ark changed. David did not lead from a position of honor and authority as the mighty king, but from a place of humility dressed as a lowly priest in a linen ephod. The shofar sounded, rather than the multitude of many instruments, being the instrument of the priests.
  2. As good as these changes are, what is interesting is that not even the combination of these things are specifically mentioned in the Scripture regarding how to move the ark. The initial instruction from Numbers 4 speaks only of the clan of the Kohathites covering the ark and moving it using the poles. It says nothing about sacrifices, the shofar, shouting, or linen ephods. The one hint at these other items is in Numbers 10 as the nation of Israel was prepared to move out from the base of Mount Sinai. Silver trumpets were blown by the priests, the nation began to move with the Levites and the items of the tabernacle at various points between certain tribes. Whenever the ark set out, Moses would himself put forth a shout: Numbers 10:35–36, “(35) So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: “Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.” (36) And when it rested, he said: “Return, O LORD, To the many thousands of Israel.””  Were these things exactly mirrored by David? Yet Moses’ shout and the movement of the ark was for a different purpose. What Moses did was for the movement not only of the ark, but of the entire nation as they proceeded on their journey to the Promised Land. By the time David moved the ark, the nation was already settled in the land, and he was the king; not the national prophet. Thus, Moses may have been the model for David, but his actions could not be exactly mirrored.
    1. The point? Although his situation was different and new, David still based his actions on Biblical example. He did not have to legalistically bind himself to every situation of the past, for his situation was different. Yet he did bind himself in faithfulness to the heart of God’s word and revelation, giving God the same honor and fear in his own day as Moses did in his.
    2. We follow the same example. We bind ourselves in faithfulness to Biblical example in our worship, but we do not bind ourselves to legalism of the past. For instance, we do not demand that men greet one another through kisses, nor forbid women from braiding their hair or wearing jewelry. We do not expect one another to wear tunics that need to be girded up while running, nor do we leave our sandals/shoes at the door for our feet to be washed as we enter the building. Each one of those cultural practices are seen in the Bible, but we are not bound to them. Instead, we are to be faithful to the principles behind those practices, appropriating them as necessary in our own time and culture.
  3. In all of the changes that David made from Moses, what was one thing that remained the same? The fear of the Lord. What was most important above all, was that God be honored and reverenced in worship, treated in holy fear by His people. Whether that was seen through Moses’ shout and leading of the nation, or through David’s sacrifices, shouting, and dancing, it was the same. – What is it that we need in our churches today? The holy fear of the Lord. Not a pretended dourness that is nothing but religious hypocrisy; not a ritualism that is dead; we need a true, sincere, holy reverent fear of Almighty God based on Biblical truth. Remember that we are worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). To worship God in the spirit is not to worship Him according to the spirit of the world, or even the “spirit” of our emotions. It is to worship Him as those who are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, as those who understand who our God is, as only those who are born of the Holy Spirit can. And to worship God in truth is to worship Him as He has revealed Himself to be through the Scripture, and specifically, by the Truth, Jesus Himself. This requires fear. We think it requires love (and it does), but a Biblical love of God is based on the Biblical fear of God. It is a holy respect, understanding God to be our Almighty Creator, the Righteous Judge, the One worthy of angelic proclamation and of human prostration. To this God, one day every knee will bow. We will cast our crowns before Him in abject worship. This is a God to be feared. Not fear as in the “boogie man,” from which we run and hide; but fear in knowing that this is God, whom we can never take for granted.
    1. Take the point and make it personal. Do you fear God? Is this how you see Him – or has your relationship with God become so casual that your prayers consist of your demands, with the expectation that God will bow to your will? Who is the authority in your relationship between you and God? How you need to fear the Lord!
  4. About the dancing… It was certainly unusual. The specific word used to describe it is used only twice in the Old Testament (both times in this chapter with this description), seemingly referring to a swirling/whirling of sorts. Dancing itself it mentioned often in the Old Testament in terms of worship and joy. It is not described in New Testament worship, but is not necessarily inappropriate in the right setting. (Our problem would be using it rightly in our worship of God, rather than either incorporating sensual carnality or making it boastful.) As for David, there is no question that his motives were pure as his dance was dedicated to God.

16 Now as the ark of the LORD came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

  1. Michal “despised” David for his worship, for his supposed lack of dignity. She was the daughter of a king, given in marriage to the king. She was raised in royal halls with the expectation of certain methods of public behavior. Her own father may have lost his temper (and dignity) in public, but it was verboten for her to have done so. If she had disgraced her father, she would have paid a dear price. For her to now look out on David and see him acting in a very “un-royal” manner was abhorrent to her. At that moment, her heart changed towards her husband, and not for the better.

17 So they brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

  1. The ark arrived in Jerusalem, and it was set in place, the very place that “David had erected for it.” From the description, this does not seem to be the same tabernacle/tent that Moses and the children of Israel used during the wilderness wandering. That isn’t to say it was impossible; only unlikely. Otherwise, the author surely would have described it as such. Whatever the case, there was a specific place designated for the ark in Jerusalem, although it was not yet the temple.
  2. As it was put in place, David offered even more sacrifices to the Lord. One has to wonder how many animals were offered that day? Especially if sacrifices were made every six paces (rather than just after the first six paces), the number of offerings would have been massive!
    1. Even so, it wouldn’t have been enough. As wonderful as these offerings were, they were still insufficient offerings of animals. The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin. They can never truly atone for all our iniquity. For that, we need the blood of Christ.

18 And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. 19 Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.

  1. Not only did David give gifts to God through the offerings, he also gave gifts to the people. It was a celebration of God’s provision for the nation. He had given them the ark of the testimony, allowed them to bring it into the capital city, and showed Himself faithful to His covenant promise to provide for them. It was a small thing for David to demonstrate this by giving everyone bread, meat, and raisin cakes. Each family would go home that day, reminded of God’s loving and faithful provision for them.
  • The response of the world (20-23).

20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

  1. Michal sarcastically accused David of belittling the monarchy. Remember that she was “the daughter of Saul.” Apparently, she felt herself entitled to the role, even in a position to instruct David on how to act. “You don’t know what you’re doing, while I’ve been living in the palace all my life. You’re nothing more than a rube. How dare you disgrace the throne in this way!” As if this were her place! She may have been the daughter of Saul, but Saul was no longer king. She had no authority, other than the authority David allowed her to have. She was entitled to nothing.
  2. Question: Had David been naked? The text is clear that he was at least clothed in a linen ephod. He had the outer dress of a priest (and also the undergarments, if that was truly his intent). Michal’s problem was that David did not appear in his royal robes, but as a priest. And not even as the high priest, but as a lowly Levitical servant. He made himself as low as he could go, while still being involved with the worship of God.
    1. It is somewhat reminiscent of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. He left His infinite divine royal glory to dwell among us in humility. As the song says, “He clothed Himself in frail humanity.” Was this disgraceful for Christ? Certainly not! He humbled Himself, but Jesus’ humility is itself a glorious expression of His obedience to His Father, being the very act that led to our salvation.

21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. 22 And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

  1. David saw right through the sarcasm and disdain of Michal. She had no say over the throne or what dignified it or not. She might be the daughter of King Saul, but Saul was no longer king. In fact, Saul was rejected from being king by God Himself and God specifically “chose” David to replace him. For Michal to despise David in his humility was to despise God’s chosen anointed king. It was for Michael to demonstrate her own irreverence and lack of fear of the Lord. It was nothing less than rebellion against God Himself.
    1. So it is for everyone who rejects Christ! Those who reject Jesus as Lord reject God’s chosen Anointed King. They reject God, and thus damn themselves in their sin.
  2. Not only did David refuse to apologize for his humble lack of royal pretense; he doubled down on it. He would “be even more undignified than this,” if it meant giving God more glory and honor. David would debase himself as much as he could, if it meant exalting the Lord in the eyes of Israel. David had no need to exalt himself; God had done that. All David cared about was exalting the Lord.
  3. And if David’s own wife despised him for it, then the “maidservants” of Israel would honor him. And they would continue to honor him. 

23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

  1. Depending which English translation you read, there might be a discrepancy with 2 Samuel 21:8, where it refers to five sons of Michal. Scholars note that the discrepancy does not exist with the ancient Greek and Syriac versions of the Old Testament, and that the later passage refers to a different daughter of Saul (Merab).
  2. The point here is that Michal was judged. How exactly, we do not know. Perhaps David refused to go into her bed after this point. Perhaps God judged her with barrenness. Whatever the case, there were no descendants of Saul that would come through David’s line. Saul’s throne was forever cut off from Israel.

Not everyone responds well to those who fear the Lord. Some despise, to their own hurt and destruction. Such was the case with Michal, and it is still the case today.

Conclusion:

It was a wonderful desire of David’s to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. Why shouldn’t the symbol of God’s presence reside in the capital city of God’s people, as a reminder that God indeed reigns on high? It was a good desire, at first gone horribly wrong. Why? A lack of fear. When David neglected to fear the Lord rightly, tragedy resulted. When he regained his fear of God and maintained an attitude of holy reverence, the nation was blessed. True, David had his detractors, but overall, the nation rejoiced in his wonderful example.

We need that same fear of the Lord today. God has not changed, neither has His word. The fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom. That is just as true for the New Testament age of the church as it was for the Old Testament nation of Israel. Yes, we live in a dispensation of grace rather than law, but God’s character and nature remains the same forever. He is just as holy and glorious today as He ever has been. He is just as powerful, just as mighty, just as righteous, and loving and merciful and gracious in this day as He was from before the foundations of the earth. And all of that will remain in the eons to come. This is a God to be loved, yes, but also feared. Praise God we can love Him through Jesus Christ, but we will never love Him properly until we first fear Him reverently.

Think about it: how can you love another person you do not know? You love your spouse, your children, and your friends because you know them. Even the newly expecting mother and father love their unborn child knowing at least that this child is their child, their gift from God. We cannot love strangers in the same way. We might feel as if we know certain celebrities, but we cannot have any true connection with them because we do not know them. We might know a character they play in the movies, but we do not know them. Even if we say we “love” that actor, we love them wrongly.

So too, with God. Many people say they love God because they love their idea of God. Yet they do not know the true God. They do not know Him as He has revealed Himself as the creator of heavens and earth, the Almighty Lord of hosts, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. To know this God, we must approach Him on His terms, as He is. And for that, we must fear Him. We do not run from Him in terror, but we understand that He is more powerful than we can possibly imagine and that He has every right to destroy us from existence, even blotting out our very atoms. This is a God to be feared. And once we do, it leads us to the mercy of the cross of Jesus, where we find mercy and grace in our time of need. And that is when we can truly love God with all our heart, soul, and strength.

God had a plan for David to be king over all Israel – something announced long ago to both David and the nation, but now finally seen in its fruition. What is seen initially in David is seen in its full fruition in the Better-than-David, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our King is righteous, He reigns, He prepares a home, and He is victorious. Follow the King!

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A New King

Posted: September 30, 2021 in 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 4-5, “A New King”

Although there are many things we understand as Americans, one of the concepts we potentially have trouble with is that of monarchies, royal families and royal rule. Although certain Americans are somewhat obsessed with the British royal family, treating them as welcome celebrities, many other Americans (myself included!) remember that we fought two very important wars to ensure our permanent separation from kings and queens. That just isn’t who we are; we live in a constitutional republic, by the grace of God.

Our national history with King George III aside, we as Christians have a very good reason to have at least a basic understanding about monarchies: we live in one! As born-again Christians, we are dual citizens. On one hand, we have our earthly citizenship with the nation of our birth; on the other hand, we have our heavenly citizenship in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. To be sure, His is a kingdom that is both “now,” and “not yet,” but it is a kingdom, nonetheless. Jesus is King and He reigns! Thus, we need to follow Him as our King.

Where do we turn to learn how God uses His anointed King with His people? Simple: we turn to the history of the nation of Israel, demonstrated wonderfully in the beginning of the reign of King David. His was a rocky beginning, but because it was God’s will, God worked it into something wonderful!

With the death of King Saul, the nation of Israel faced its first transition of power in its short history as a kingdom. Although God long ago made known His choice of David as the successor to the throne, other people had plans of their own. Abner, the commander of Israel’s northern armies took Saul’s surviving son Ishbosheth for the throne, while only the southern tribe of Judah initially recognized David as God’s choice. Thus, the kingdom split, eventually (and inevitably) going to war. Casualties were not far behind, including David’s nephew Asahel, the brother of Joab and Abishai (commanders in the army of Judah). Because Asahel fell by the hand of Abner, that set Joab on a course of revenge as he looked for an opportune time.

That time arrived when Abner finally came to his senses regarding David’s right to rule. Having been insulted by Ishbosheth, Abner (who was the real power behind the throne) recognized he didn’t have to put up with it. He promised to deliver the northern kingdom to David, making a covenant with him. When Joab heard of it, he was incensed, yet saw his opportunity. Joab took Abner aside and murdered him in cold blood, in vengeance for his fallen brother.

This caused a great political challenge for David. On one hand, he could not condone the murder of the man who was leading the north to align with him. On the other hand, he could not risk alienating himself from the southern army that followed Joab. In the end, David publicly mourned Abner’s murder, honoring him in death while proclaiming a future curse on Joab’s family for the evil he had done. Justice would not forever be blind to Joab’s sin, even if no immediate action could be taken in the present.

All of this demonstrated the providence and sovereignty of God. God had a plan for His anointed king and kingdom, and no work of sinful man could overrule the plans of God. God brought His chosen king to the forefront, with the king demonstrating righteous judgment, being exalted over the nation, preparing his home, and conquering his enemies. God’s plan for King David was wonderful. God’s plan for King Jesus is even better!

2 Samuel 4

  • Ishbosheth murdered (4:1-12). The King is righteous.

1 When Saul’s son heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost heart, and all Israel was troubled.

  1. This was the aftermath of Abner’s murder. Ishbosheth lost heart because Abner was the real leader in Israel, being the only reason Ishbosheth sat on the throne of his father. Remember that Ishbosheth was never mentioned on the battlefield with his father, rarely named among the rest of his brothers. He had no preparation or training for the throne; he received it only because everyone else was dead. Abner had control of the army; Abner had the ears of the tribal elders; Abner had the experience and influence required to lead. The only thing Abner lacked was the bloodline, which was why he put Ishbosheth in power only as a figurehead. Now Abner was gone. He had already begun talks with the elders of Israel to receive David as king, but none of that process was concluded. Everything was up in the air, and the rest of the nation understood Ishbosheth’s weakness. He was in a bad spot. – When the text says that Ishbosheth “lost heart,” it literally says “his hands dropped.” Although the phrase seems unusual to us, we experience something similar at the reception of bad news. In shock, our arms often fall to our sides. This was what happened with Ishbosheth. He was in such dismay at the news of Abner’s murder, that his arms fell, his heart and courage failed, and he didn’t know what to do.
  2. Interestingly, he isn’t called Ishbosheth at this time, but “Saul’s son.” (Jonathan is given the same description in verse 4.) It emphasizes the distinction between the house of Saul and the house of David. Two dynasties were potentially in competition for the same kingdom. Even if David did not pursue his ambition in this area, others would (and did). Ishbosheth understood he was in great danger and great trouble.

2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were captains of troops. The name of one was Baanah and the name of the other Rechab, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin. (For Beeroth also was part of Benjamin, 3 because the Beerothites fled to Gittaim and have been sojourners there until this day.)

  1. Introduction of two “” The word used to describe them (שַׂר) might also be translated “leaders, chiefs.” They were commanders within the army of Abner. They were trusted men, although their ancestry was not purely that of Israel. Beeroth was a city of the Gibeonites, located in the land of Benjamin. Recall that Joshua had made a covenant with the Gibeonites to protect them, although the Gibeonites would forever serve Israel (Josh 9). For Rechab and Baanah to serve as captains in the army perhaps suggest they had a mixed lineage, partly of Israel and partly of Gibeon.
  2. Why all the background for these two men? (Particularly knowing what crime they commit against Ishbosheth!) Perhaps to establish them as supposed-loyalists to Israel. Although they will brutally murder the king of Israel, they were not previously known as being lawbreakers or thugs. They were respected among their peers, born of a well-known family. Maybe they saw something wrong with the leadership with Abner had Ishbosheth relocate the capital away from the land of Benjamin to the Transjordan side of the river. We can imagine that it was hard enough for them to lose Saul, but still being willing to follow Abner even with the weak Ishbosheth as little but a figurehead on the throne. With Abner gone, things changed. They had no confidence in the weakest son of Saul, and wanted what was best for their nation. Perhaps they believed others would view them as patriots. They may have had a zeal for the kingdom, but their zeal was born of sin and led to terrible evil. – Another possibility is that their lineage from the Gibeonite city shows a link with a previous attack against the Gibeonites by Saul (unmentioned in 1 Samuel, referred to in 2 Samuel 21). If so, perhaps the crime was Rechab’s and Baanah’s attempt at revenge against the house of Saul.
  3. Speculation? Yes, but informed speculation. The Bible does not always tell us why it includes bits of information, but we can know that nothing is in the Bible by accident. It includes very real history about very real people, giving us very important lessons. If these things happened to them, they could happen to us. Whatever seduced Baanah and Rechab to evil, the same danger exists for us today.
    1. Just because things start well for you doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to remain. Each of us face different temptations and challenges. I look around and tremble with men who have fallen from their pastoral callings. Not a one of them got into ministry believing they could fall, yet they did. The same danger is true for each of us. Paul gave a wise warning to the Galatians when exhorting them to restore those who are overtaken in trespass, that they would do so in gentleness, considering themselves let they also be tempted (Gal 6:1). As we say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” so it might be with any of us. Beware and be humble!

4 Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was lame in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel; and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened, as she made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.

  1. Here, we are introduced to Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul who experienced a tragic accident when his caretakers heard the news of Saul’s and Jonathan’s death. The young lad was dropped in the chaos, leaving him permanently crippled, unable to walk.
  2. Why mention Mephibosheth? This is only an introduction. David will later show kindness to him because of David’s previous covenant with Jonathan. For now, it demonstrates that the house of Saul endured beyond Ishbosheth with at least one other survivor. Elsewhere in the Bible, we learn that Mephibosheth was not the sole surviving descendant of the house of Saul. While it is true that all of Saul’s immediate sons were killed either in battle or via murder, he had several grandchildren. There was Mephibosheth descended through Jonathan, and other grandsons descended through Saul’s daughters (2 Sam 21:8-9). As for Mephibosheth’s introduction, he will be seen again receiving the active mercy and grace of David for Jonathan’s sake. As for Chapter 4, it illustrates that the lineage of Saul endured past the initial generation. Not once did David view them as competition, or as threats to be quashed. The rest of the world may have operated according to those ugly politics, but that was not the way of God’s chosen merciful king.
  3. As an aside, his name is interesting, particularly when compared with that of his uncle Ishbosheth. “Bosheth” means “shame, or idol,” which is common to both names (perhaps being a literary replacement for “Baal,” not wanting royalty to be linked with the pagan idol). Where as “Ishbosheth” means “man of shame,” “Mephibosheth,” means “breaking/exterminating the shame/idol.” IOW, although their names sound familiar, they mean almost precisely the opposite of one another. Saul directly linked one of his sons with shame/idolatry; Jonathan went the other way, breaking any and all implications with idolatry. 

5 Then the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out and came at about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who was lying on his bed at noon. 6 And they came there, all the way into the house, as though to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. 7 For when they came into the house, he was lying on his bed in his bedroom; then they struck him and killed him, beheaded him and took his head, and were all night escaping through the plain.

  1. Having been introduced to Rachab and Baanah as chiefs and captains, these two trusted men were able to walk into the house of Ishbosheth without suspicion. Once inside, they brutally murdered their king, doing the same to Ishbosheth as Joab did to Abner, stabbing him in the stomach. More than that, they beheaded the king, taking the gruesome proof of their deed to David…

8 And they brought the head of Ishbosheth to David at Hebron, and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul your enemy, who sought your life; and the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul and his descendants.”

  1. Notice how they bragged about this. They were looking for reward. They (like the rest of Israel) knew how David was supposed to be king, yet it was only Abner and Ishbosheth who stood in the way. Abner was already gone, now Ishbosheth was dead. To other kings, this would have been welcome news, richly rewarded by the grateful king. Instead of David having to wage his own war against Ishbosheth, these two men had already done the dirty work. All David needed to do now was simply take the throne. Surely, Rechab and Baanah could sit back and retire after this.
  2. Not only were they looking for reward, but they cloaked their evil in the guise of religion. They went so far as to claim this was the work of God. “The LORD has avenged my lord the king,” or “YHWH has done this on your behalf, King David!” Consider what they were saying: God not only allowed, but sanctioned and even accomplished the brutal murder of Ishbosheth. It was God who moved Rechab and Baanah to betray Ishbosheth’s trust, stab him in the gut, and cut off his head. It was God who moved these men to break the law, as an act of holy vengeance and to bless David. IOW: It wasn’t sin, if God did it.
    1. Sin is sin, period. God does not sin, nor can He sin, by definition. What God does is inherently right. God’s only constraint is His self-constraint based on His word and character. God does not lie, never breaking His word. Yet what did these two men claim? If God ordered the murder of Ishbosheth, God would be breaking the 6th This was not only terrible murder on the part of these men; it was blasphemy!
    2. God can never be blamed for our sin. Our actions are ours, alone. The choice we make, we make of our own freewill. Might our hearts be hardened by God, as was Pharaoh’s? Sure, but Pharaoh first hardened his own heart before God confirmed that hardening. We can be sure that God has not changed. What we do in the hardness of our hearts is the result of what we freely chose to do.
      1. The good news is that this can change! Not through our will or our efforts, but by surrendering ourselves to the grace of God! Yes, we are responsible for our sins, but we can also repent of our sins and receive the free grace of the Lord Jesus.

9 But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all adversity, 10 when someone told me, saying, ‘Look, Saul is dead,’ thinking to have brought good news, I arrested him and had him executed in Ziklag—the one who thought I would give him a reward for his news. 11 How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous person in his own house on his bed? Therefore, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and remove you from the earth?”

  1. David saw through the boasting and condemned it for the sin that it was. This was not the work of the Lord, nor any kind of righteous vengeance. This was wicked sin, murder. This was crime of the worst sort, to be judged in righteous wrath by the standard of God’s word. If there was anything these men should have known about David, it was his desire to judge righteously. He already killed the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul after Saul received a mortal wound in battle. He even clearly labeled Joab’s murder of Abner as an act of wickedness, and Joab was a vital part of David’s own military leadership and his nephew. How could David now not respond to these men regarding their blatant act of murder? If David was to be righteous, he had to act. Anything less would have been wickedness.
    1. If that is true with David, how much more is it true with God? We consider the righteous justice of our human criminal court system. Child abusers, rapists, and murderers are all judged, with righteous judges never turning aside or sweeping the cases under the rug. If the judges did not condemn the guilty, they themselves would be condemned. God is infinitely more righteous than the very best human judge on earth. God sees all sin in all people, preparing His perfect wrath on each one. None will escape in our guilt. – Praise God for Jesus Christ, who stood in our place and became guilty on our behalf! It is only because the righteous wrath of God fell on Him instead of us that we have been made free.
  2. As for the supposed work of God in this murder, David understood that God had alreadyredeemed” him and protected him. David was not looking for vengeance, as he knew God’s will was already being done. And God’s will was being accomplished, even in these tragic events. — Question: Did God use the murder of Ishbosheth to give the kingdom to David? Was God sovereign over the actions of Rechab and Baanah? Yes. Did God command the murder as an act of holy vengeance? No. Again, although God used the sin of these men, God cannot be blamed for their sin. Their sin was their own fault and they bore their own guilt.
    1. Likewise, with us. God can and does use the sins we commit in our lives while working all things for His glory. But that does not justify our sins. It neither gives us permission to sin nor does it absolve us of our guilt. Those actions were choices we made, and every one of those things is going to be brought to account when we stand before God as our Creator and Judge. — Praise God for our Advocate and Sacrifice in Christ Jesus!
  3. One more thing: notice that David did not blame Ishbosheth for the sins of Saul or Abner. When referring to the murdered king, David calls him “a righteous person.” That was not a declaration of Ishbosheth’s true ultimate righteousness before God, for none are righteous (no, not one!). Ishbosheth was a sinner in need of salvation just like the rest of us. But relative to David, Ishbosheth had committed no sin. When it came to the throne, David understood that God would elevate him in His own time. David’s trust was in the Lord; not in forcing anything on Ishbosheth. 

12 So David commanded his young men, and they executed them, cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner in Hebron.

  1. This was righteous, swift judgment on the murderers. It sounds brutal to us, but it was not uncommon in the culture. Just as they had mutilated the corpse of Ishbosheth, so did David have done to Rechab and Baanah. On the flip side, David treated Ishbosheth’s corpse (what little he had of it) with respect and honor, burying it in Abner’s tomb (i.e., like a state burial).
  2. Some scholars see a literary parallel between Mephibosheth being lame in his hands and feet, and the execution of Ishbosheth’s murderers, with their hands and feet cut off. Whether this was the primary reason for Mephibosheth’s inclusion in the narrative is debatable. What is clear is the symbolism intended in each case. Someone without hands and feet would have been considered not only disabled, but cursed. In the case of Mephibosheth, it was because of a cruel accident. In the case of the two murderers, it was their righteous punishment. Yet either way, it resulted in the same wretchedness.
    1. This is what sin does to us: it leaves us cursed and defiled. Whether we were born into our situation or stepped into it as a consequence of our sin, we all have the same problem. We are all wretched, defiled, cursed, unable to come into the presence of God. What do we require? A sufficient sacrifice, a propitiation provided by the grace of God. 

2 Samuel 5

  • The start of the unified kingdom (5:1-5). The King reigns.

1 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying, “Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. 2 Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’ ”

  1. The northern tribes came to David, asking him to take his place as king. In doing so, they affirmed three things. (1) They affirmed their kinship and covenant relationship with David, as his own nation. “We are your bone and your flesh,” meaning, “Although we may not be of the tribe of Judah, we are your brothers in the nation of Israel. All of us are part of the larger family and people of God.” (2) They affirmed David’s past history among them. Not only had David begun his military reputation with the miraculous defeat of Goliath, David was also a captain and commander among Saul’s army, respected by Israelites far and wide. (3) They affirmed God’s word and promise. Just like Abner had known David was to be king, and just like Saul knew that David was to be king, so did the rest of the nation. God’s promise concerning David was very public, never truly in doubt.
  2. It all begs the question: If Israel knew this all along, why did they go through the pretense of having Ishbosheth as their king? Simple: sin. It was the way of the flesh versus the way of God. One felt good to their carnal natures, as they believed they were getting their way. In truth, they were in rebellion, and it took a bit of a shock to their senses to get them to see the reality.
    1. How often do we do the same thing? We know what God wants us to do, being clear on what the Bible commands…we just don’t want to do it. Instead, we try to push our own way, stumble, and experience the inevitable consequences. That’s when we wake up, perhaps a bit shocked to our senses. It can be painful, but it can also be a good opportunity. That’s the chance we have to confess our sins, repent, and be cleansed as we start anew with Christ.

3 Therefore all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel.

  1. Verse 2 told us only of Israel’s appeal to David; not his response. Obviously, he said “yes.” They sent a delegation to him at Hebron and gave him a new covenant and anointing for their new king. Technically, this was David’s third anointing. The first was most important: Samuel’s prophetic anointing of David showing him to be God’s choice as king. Second, was the more recent anointing by the tribe of Judah. Finally, was the third anointing by the elders of Israel, recognizing him as king over all the nation. – Had God’s anointing changed? The calling of God was clear from the time David was a young man. It was just affirmed in time, openly by the rest of the people.
    1. We see New Testament parallels in things like ordination and baptism. In both cases, God does something first with the individual. For the pastor, God first calls the man to the ministry, which is later openly recognized by the local church. For the individual Christian, God first does the work of salvation within the man/woman, and it is later that the person openly identifies him/herself with Christ through water. The work of God always comes first. Any ritual is something done in response to the work of God.

4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah.

  1. The “forty years” is an approximation, a round number. If we add up the years in verse 5, it comes to 40½ years. Either way, it was a long reign!
  2. It all began when David was 30 years old. It seems awfully young for such a large responsibility. (And as I get older, 30 seems younger and younger!) Of interest is the fact that 30 years was the age that priestly service began among the Levites (Num 4). Perhaps of greater importance is that it was the same age as Jesus when He began His own earthly ministry (Lk 3:23).
  • Jerusalem captured and made the capital (5:6-16). The King’s city.

6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.”

  1. Jerusalem did not initially belong to any of the tribes of Israel, as it was never properly conquered by Israel. The Jebusites had resided in the city since the days of Joshua (Josh 15:63). Although Joshua was faithful to his calling to conquer the whole of the land, the interior details were left to the individual tribes, and Jerusalem was one of the cities that remained basically untouched. Its location was strategic on several levels. Not only was it a strongly fortified city (able to fend off the Israelites for several centuries, despite their overall presence and strength), but it was also a neutral city. Although it lay on the border of Benjamin and Judah (the lands ruled by the house of Saul and those ruled by the house of David), it was controlled by neither. Taking this city as his capital would show David as the legitimate king of both north and south. (Not unlike Washington DC…)
  2. The one thing that stood in the way was the presence of the Jebusites. Their hold on the city was so secure that they boasted in their ability to fend off any attack. They bragged that even their weakest, their disabled would be sufficient to beat David. They taunted and insulted him, claiming that a blind man was more capable than King David of Israel. Keep in mind that by this point, David was a famous warrior. More than being known among Israel, David was known by all the Gentile raiders and enemies in the land. This was taunting of the highest order. It would be as if a person insulted Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, saying that their 5-year-old could beat him in a wrestling match.

7 Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). 8 Now David said on that day, “Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul), he shall be chief and captain.” Therefore they say, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”

  1. Technically, the phrase “he shall be chief and captain,” is assumed in the text of verse 8. However, it is a reasonable assumption of the translators as this is explicitly stated in 1 Chronicles 11:6, as the Chronicler shows how Joab went up against the Jebusites in Israel and became chief.
  2. Question: Did David really detest the lame and the blind? No. When we next see Mephibosheth in the narrative of 2 Samuel, it is with David showing great mercy and grace to him…while he resides in Jerusalem, no less. 2 Samuel 9:13 speaks of Mephibosheth dwelling in Jerusalem, eating at the king’s table. Thus, 5:8 cannot refer to an absolute hatred of the blind and lame by David. Instead, we need to look at the immediate context. Here, we see it in reference to the Jebusites, with their boasting against God’s anointed. The victory song against the “blind and the lame,” is not a song against the disabled; it is against the rebellious, particularly the Jebusite people. Those who boast against God’s anointed were hated by David and the rest of Israel, with them never being forgiven apart from a complete change, confession, repentance, and reconciliation.
  3. Without spiritualizing the text away, keep a larger symbolic picture in mind when remembering David’s tie to Jesus as the Old Testament type to Jesus’ New Testament antitype. Physical deformity is a reminder of the physical and spiritual fall of man, due to sin. Those who are spiritually lame and blind cannot enter the house of the Son of David. Those who abide and boast in their sin have no part with Jesus Christ. Without a total change – without their heartfelt confession, sincere repentance, and actual reconciliation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the cross, none can be saved. Those who remain in their blind sin, who boast in their crippled carnality, face only the wrath of God and will never enter His house.

9 Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. 10 So David went on and became great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.

  1. How was it that David “became great”? The work of the Lord! “The LORD God of hosts” was with him. Consider the Biblical names used of God here: YHWH Elohim Sabaoth, I AM the God of heavenly armies…this is the God exalting the reign of David as king. Almighty God intervened in the life of David, making him the great king that God always desired him to be.
  2. Who exalts Jesus as King? This same God! This has been God’s plan since before the foundations of the world, and it is come to fulfillment. Jesus is exalted to the highest place and receives the greatest glory, because of the work and plan of Almighty God. It is not by accident, nor by chance; it is by the ordained choice and completion of God!

11 Then Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters and masons. And they built David a house. 12 So David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted His kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.

  1. David not only became great in his own kingdom, but even Gentile kings recognized his greatness. They sent gifts and messages to David, hoping to win his favor. Again, this was something God blessed, and even David understood how it was God who “established” these things. David was wise and capable, but he wasn’t capable of doing this. This was due solely to the work of God!
  2. Again, looking forward, Gentile kings in the Millennium will do the same with Jesus. Kings and rulers will come from every nation, giving homage to the King of kings and Lord of lords. They will recognize His greatness and glory, exactly as the word of God proclaims that they will.

13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he had come from Hebron. Also more sons and daughters were born to David. 14 Now these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.

  1. This is a list parallel to the earlier list in Chapter 3 identifying the sons of David born to him in Hebron. Here, we see the sons born to David over time in Jerusalem. Of note are Nathan, whose lineage leads to Mary (Lk 3:31), and Solomon, whose lineage not only leads to the future Davidic kings in Judah but also leads directly to Joseph (Mt 1:7).
    1. Why the two lines branching out from David? It is the perfect fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus is the Son of David through both birth and adoption. He is the rightful heir to the Davidic throne, even when the last king to sit on the throne was cursed for none of his seed to inherit the throne. It would be an impossible situation, if not for the God who makes possible the impossible!
  2. As a reminder: the addition of all these wives and concubines was considered culturally normal, even through it was not Biblically commanded or recommended. Ultimately, this would prove to be a downfall to David, and it would have been wise for him never to start down this road. 
  • Victory over the Philistines (5”17-255). The King conquers.

17 Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim.

  1. Remember that David once had an alliance with the Philistines, serving Achish king of the Philistines while in self-imposed exile away from Saul. Yet once the Philistines heard that David was the new king in Israel, they gathered their forces for battle. So much for past alliances!
  2. If nothing else, it shows that David’s past time walking after the flesh was a waste of time. It gained him nothing in the long-term.
    1. Any time spent walking in our flesh is a waste. How many memories do we have that we regret, knowing we should have chosen differently? Praise God that even the times of our foolishness fall under the forgiveness of Jesus! The wood, hay, and stubble of our lives will be burned away and God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

19 So David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And the LORD said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.”

  1. As seen earlier (1 Sam 30:8, 2 Sam 2:1), David didn’t assume anything. He sought the Lord prior to fighting, even though fighting was the obvious course of action. David (at least at this time) understood his dependence upon the Lord. Even if God didn’t promise him the victory, David still would have gone if asked, because he understood that the way of the God was far better than the ways of men. (Are we willing to go, even if God says it will be hard?)
  2. Thankfully, God answered in the affirmative. Just the fact that God did answer was a blessing and privilege. Unlike Saul, with whom God was silent (1 Sam 28:6), David received a definite word from the Lord. There was no doubt of the Lord’s victory and promised deliverance. The only thing left at this point was the question of David’s obedience. God promised deliverance, but David would never see it if he didn’t step out in faith. He did, and God did according to His word. 

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, “The LORD has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim. 21 And they left their images there, and David and his men carried them away.

  1. Sure enough, God gave the victory as He promised. God broke through like a flood, overwhelming the enemy. David memorialized it through the name, but it begs a new question: Why use the name “Baal”? It seems so strange for David to name a place of victory after a pagan god. We need to understand that “baal” was not only the name of a Canaanite god, but also a common term for “owner, lord,” even being used in some contexts as “husband.” For David to call the place “Baal Perazim,” he is saying, “The Lord / the Master broke through.” The word was not always and inherently evil, although it certainly was not precise.
    1. Precision is important when speaking about God. Many people think they have a great relationship with God, but the moment we mention the name Jesus, they take great offense. To name God as the Lord Jesus is to get very precise. To describe Jesus as the literal Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the grave is even more precise. The more precise we can be, the better. Might we offend more people? Perhaps…but the Bible tells us that Jesus will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. And at least they will know the truth.
  2. Notice in verse 21 the extent of Israel’s God-empowered victory over the Philistines. The Philistines ran so fast from the battle that they left behind all their miniature idols, which David captured. (This made for a bit of a reversal of when the Philistines captured the ark during the days of Eli the judge!) This wasn’t David encouraging idolatry; it was symbolic of the overwhelming defeat of the pagan “gods,” which were later burned (1 Chr 14:12). The gods of the Philistines proved to be nothing. The true God of Israel is the only God.

22 Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 Therefore David inquired of the LORD, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. 24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 25 And David did so, as the LORD commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.

  1. It was the same problem at the same place. The Philistines tried all over again, going back to the Valley of Rephaim for battle against Israel. Perhaps they thought they could be victorious, now that they knew Israel’s battle strategy. This time, they would be ready…at least, so they thought.
  2. David again turned to God in faithful prayer, again receiving an answer. Isn’t it interesting that even here, David did not take anything for granted. If it were us, we might assume that since we were facing the same problem in the same way, that God would want us to do the same thing. David didn’t make that assumption, as he continually went to the Lord. He was going to base his actions on God’s clear directions; nothing else. (Far better than our assumptions are the clear directions of God in the Bible!) 
  3. Notably, this answer was different. God still promised victory, albeit through a different strategy. Instead of going up to the front of the battle lines, the Israelites were to come from the mulberry trees. Was there anything special about the “mulberry trees,” as opposed to any other tree? No…those were just the trees that were present. God had His reason for David to come through these trees; David’s only responsibility was to be obedient to what God directed him to do. The result? Another victory! The Philistines were driven far back from the Valley of Rephaim, all the way to their own cities.
    1. Are we always promised victory with every battle that we face? No…not unless God specifically promises us the victory in His word. For instance, God promises that with every temptation, He gives us a way of escape. We just need to look for it. That’s a victory available for the taking; we just need to be obedient.

Conclusion:

God had a plan for David to be king over all Israel – something announced long ago to both David and the nation, but now finally seen in its fruition. It started with the ignominious actions of sinful men, murdering Saul’s son Ishbosheth, but it resulted in the righteous judgment of the king, which led to the reign of the king, the capital city of the king, and the ongoing victories of the king.

Although we can never neglect or forget that these events are historical accounts regarding the very real, historical people of ancient Israel and King David, we cannot help but see how they point to the Son of David, the Better-than-David, King Jesus.

  • Through ignominious actions of sinful men, Jesus of Nazareth was brutally nailed to the cross. In their minds, they were murdering Him; in reality, He willingly gave up His life in obedience to God the Father, becoming a substitution and sacrifice for us in our place. It was the righteous judgment of God, placed on the One meant to be our King.
  • When Jesus rose from the dead, God highly exalted Him, giving Him the name that is above every name. Jesus has been glorified and given all authority in heaven and on earth. Truly, our King Jesus reigns today and none can knock Him off His throne!
  • Just as David gained for himself a city and a home, so has Jesus been preparing a place for us over the course of 2000 years, that where He is, we may be also. We have an eternal home in the heavens with Jesus, even as we await the day that King Jesus will return to earth and literally reign from Jerusalem over the course of 1000 years.
  • Finally, Jesus is our Victor! He not only conquered death and sin, taking away its sting; He also gives us freedom from sin’s ongoing power in our lives and will one day free us from sin’s presence. He continually offers us cleansing and forgiveness from our failings, just as He gives us the indwelling and coming-upon power of the Holy Spirit equipping us to be His witnesses and to fight every spiritual battle.

Put it together: our King Jesus is righteous, He reigns, He lives and gives us a home, and He conquers all. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and is forever to be praised!

Beloved, this is our Jesus! Follow Him! See Him as the King that He is, worshipping at His feet and serving Him as His people. Rejoice in Him, praise Him, love Him…the best King imaginable is our King.

For all the confusion that persists around the topic of giving, Paul gave great clarity to the Corinthians, thus giving great clarity to all the church throughout all the ages. Christian giving, Biblical giving, is an act that should be done with purpose, in joy, and with thanks. It is not a burden, but a blessing.

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How to Give

Posted: September 26, 2021 in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 9:1-15, “How to Give”

It comes as no surprise that much abuse takes place among various churches and ministries surrounding financial giving. It costs a lot of money to maintain TV budgets and to fuel private jets, so the screws get turned on congregations to give as much as possible. How else is a TV preacher supposed to promote the image of success and celebrity, if he/she doesn’t dress in the finest clothes, wear the best jewelry, and drive the fanciest cars? It all takes cash. You’ve got it; they want it; so they’re going to ask for it and ask for it until they get it.

It may sound extreme, but it is frighteningly common. It is a scam, and it is sinful. It is an outright distortion of the way the Bible teaches about financial giving and is rightly condemned. What the Bible actually teaches is wonderful. It is freeing! It is filled with joy and thankfulness and worship unto God. Let us cling to what the Bible teaches and abhor the rest!

Contextually, Paul had already opened the subject of financial giving, as he was receiving a benevolence offering from the various Gentile churches to take to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were struggling. The topic came on the heels of Paul boasting of his confidence in the Corinthian Christians. They had responded wonderfully to his previous letter of correction, which gave him much assurance of their responding in a similar way to the current letter.

When it came to giving, Paul first wrote of the need to give generously, based not only on the examples of others, but most importantly, on the example of Christ. This was the church’s opportunity to participate in the work of God, which was glorious and a privilege. Next, Paul wrote of the need for integrity in giving, that it should be overseen by godly people and administered according to godly processes. In Corinth’s case, they were to expect the arrival of Titus and two other Christian brothers who would receive it and deliver it to Paul, while Paul would remain accountable to God and the church-at-large.

A lot of ground had been covered in the previous chapter. Paul had written of the reason we give and the processes through which we give. In Chapter 9, he gets to the nitty-gritty, the practical stuff. Having ended Chapter 8 with an exhortation to give, in Chapter 9 he describes how to do it. For the Christian, giving is not to be burdensome, but a blessing, being worshipful. Godly giving is good in that it glorifies God. May we give purposefully, joyfully, and thankfully knowing that God has already given so much for us!

2 Corinthians 9

  • Purposeful giving (1-5).

1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; 2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority.

  1. From our previous studies, recall that the “ministering” was the service, the “deaconing” of the church of Corinth towards the church of Jerusalem. This was a good thing for one local congregation to do for another, and Paul was excited about the opportunity that existed for Corinth. Paul knew of the zeal of the Corinthians, of their excitement and willingness. How confident was he regarding these things? So much so, that no words were needed. “It is superfluous for me to write to you.” There is a bit of (perhaps) unintended humor here. Paul wrote that it was unnecessary for him to write to the church on the matter, but what was he doing? Writing to the church of the matter. It was as if he was so confident of them that he was at a loss for words, while still writing words over the course of two full chapters. But the overall point was that the apostle was pleased with the church in this matter. For all the problems that Paul had to guide this congregation through, financial giving was not one of them. (Which itself is instructive! If more pastors would spend more time teaching actual doctrine straight from the Scriptures, they wouldn’t have to spend so much time on “stewardship” sermons exhorting people to give.)
  2. The idea is that this willingness was a good thing…a really good thing. This was something Paul could continue to “boast” regarding Corinth. Whereas other congregations might have been a little weaker exercising their faith in giving, the Corinthians were eager, willing, and able. They went straight to it. In fact, Corinth’s willingness to give inspired others to do the same. Their “zeal [had] stirred up the majority.” Corinth was in the region of “Achaia,” or modern-day southern Greece, whereas Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea were among the “Macedonians” (modern-day northern Greece). Corinth served as an example to these other churches, demonstrating their spiritual maturity in at least this one area. (They weren’t spiritually mature in many areas…praise God for this one!)

3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting.

  1. Although he had previously boasted in the church, Paul’s boasting might prove futile. If their gift was left incomplete – if it was a zeal only in dreams and intentions rather than realized completion, it was all “in vain.” Paul had said much of the Corinthians to the Macedonians, and there would be some Macedonians returning with Paul when eventually did come back to the city. What would they think, if the famed gift never materialized? Don’t misunderstand, Paul wasn’t afraid of bruising his own ego. It wasn’t that his shame might be due to embarrassment on his own reputation, being that Corinth was a church he personally planted and of which he personally boasted. Paul wasn’t perfect (none of us are), but there is no indication that he was thin-skinned. It wouldn’t be the first time he was disappointed in the lack of obedience among Christians, nor would it be the last. No, the shame would be on Corinth. Paul would be embarrassed for their sake, and they would be ashamed for themselves. They had promised so much and Paul took them at their word. Would they now fall short and fail? They were so close to the completion. They couldn’t stop now…it would be shameful. It would be like running a marathon, going all 26 miles and stopping short of the final 385 yards (.2 miles). It would be like taking a college course and deciding to blow off the final exam to take the “F.” What would be the point? How embarrassing and shameful! Such was Paul’s issue with the Corinthians. They had come this far; they needed to go all the way. Bring this gift to a finality and conclusion, giving glory to God!
  2. Notice that not once in all of this does Paul give an explicit expectation of an amount. He never says, “You promised 5000 denarii, you need to deliver it!” (or whatever the amount might be). He only writes of a promised gift, a ministry from the congregation at Corinth to be delivered to Titus and others for distribution abroad. What does that tell us? It means that the completion of the gift had nothing to do with the amount yet everything to do with the heart. The church at Corinth had begun their giving a year in the past. The only way it would be left incomplete with the church “unprepared” to see Paul would be is if they gave once a year ago and never gave again. It would be if they neglected to give all that they desired to give, holding back thinking, “I could have given more, but I never got around to it.” The issue was laziness and procrastination, not some unspecified amount.
    1. Isn’t it interesting (and sad) that the bulk of our discussion about giving revolves around dollar amounts, rather than attitudes of the heart? We get caught up in percentages, tests of faith, whether we give out of net income vs. gross income, etc., when we should be more concerned with our eagerness and consistency in giving. Paul will have more to say on amounts in a bit, but suffice to say for now that the person who gives 1% consistently and joyfully, desiring to give that 1% to God for His use in His kingdom has a better understanding of Biblical giving than the person who gives 30% occasionally, reluctantly, and half-heartedly, always wondering if he/she should be giving that much at all. Those who are prepared to give, give. Those who are unprepared seemly always find excuses not to do so.
  3. This wasn’t the first time that Paul wrote of his boasting in the Corinthians (7:13-14). Was it wrong for him to boast? Not necessarily. Although it isn’t good to boast in our works or in the approval of men, that wasn’t what Paul was doing. Paul was boasting in the work of God within Before the Corinthians heard the gospel and were saved by Jesus Christ, they weren’t generous; they were selfish egotistical people just like the rest of us. But when Jesus saved them, Jesus transformed them. Thus, when Paul boasted in Corinth, he was really boasting in God. It might be a fine line (one which we need to tread carefully), but anytime we boast in the Lord it is a good thing.

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

  1. The “therefore” completes the thoughts that have led up to this point. Although it wasn’t really necessary for Paul to write to the church on this matter, he did so because he loved them so much that he didn’t want them to be embarrassed with an incomplete and unprepared gift. Thus, he gave this exhortation to the congregation, just as he exhorted Titus and the other two men with him. Notice here, three principles of giving that can be drawn out of Paul’s exhortation to Corinth: (1) Giving is to be orderly, (2) Giving is to be intentional, (3) Giving is to be done as a blessing. 
  2. Giving is to be orderly. As is apparent throughout the passage, Paul desired Corinth’s offerings/gift to be completed prior to his arrival. He did not want to show up among the congregation and see the people in a mad dash to complete the gift. He did not want his presence to either pressure people to give more, or to provide a perverse carnal incentive for people to give in such a way as to attract attention. Paul didn’t want people trying to impress him with their personal gifts. Of course, if it was all complete before his arrival, all these potential problems would be avoided. Thus, the idea of orderly giving.
    1. Although giving should always be joyful, it should never be chaotic. Like the practice of any spiritual gift in worship, our financial giving should be conducted decently and in order. No shouting, no weeping, no emotional manipulation, no extra amount of pulling on the heartstrings – nor any hand waving or any other form of attention-seeking should be done. Our gifts unto the Lord are just that: personal gifts unto our God, our Lord and King. We don’t need, nor do we want, our carnal flesh to get in the way.
  3. Giving is to be intentional. In Chapter 8, Paul already wrote of the need for purposeful, thoughtful giving among Christians, and he does so again here. This was to be a gift prepared “beforehand,” which was “previously promised.” This wasn’t done out of guilt or in an emotional fit. Nor was it to be random and done on the fly, based on how the Corinthians were feeling that particular day. They were to determine how much they each were going to individually give, then give that much. Might it be more or less than someone else? But their giving was theirs, irrespective of anyone else. What they intended to give, that was what they were to give.
    1. There will often be occasions where giving is done “on the spot.” Perhaps you are introduced to a missionary and you are moved by his/her ministry. Perhaps you see a homeless person and God weighs on your heart to give some money along with a gospel tract. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. Overall, our giving to the Lord needs to be thought-through, intentional. As we look at our monthly income (or weekly, or daily, whatever), we think about the amount we desire to give to the Lord through the local church and we do it. If married, we discuss it with our spouse; if not, we simply do it.
    2. The advantage to intentional, purposeful giving? It takes out the guess work. It removes the “what ifs” and the forgetfulness. Intentional giving become habitual giving, something that isn’t done out of compulsion or manipulation. It isn’t done for us to see how much we can “get out of God” that particular week; it is given because we’ve already purposed in our hearts that was what we were going to give.
  4. Giving is to be done as a blessing. This principle might not jump off the page, but it is more evident in the Greek text. Interestingly, the word for “generous” and “generosity” is a word more often translated “blessing.” We might even think of it as a compound word for “good speech,” (εὐλογία). We might say that Paul exhorted the Corinthians to prepare their “blessing” beforehand, that it might be ready as a “blessing” for others. To put it another way, the gift of Corinth would be a blessing the church of Jerusalem, so they were to prepare and give it with blessing in mind.
    1. Giving should be a blessing; not a burden. When Christians give to God through the local church, they aren’t to be beaten into submission over it. It isn’t supposed to be surrounded by nagging and Eeyore-like complaining. On the contrary! When Christians give, we should be looking at it from the completely opposite point-of-view. Giving is our opportunity to be a blessing to others. We have been immensely blessed by God; now we get to be used by Him as His instrument to bless others. Our gifts help spread the gospel in our city and around the world. Our gifts help other brothers and sisters in Christ become mature disciples. Our gifts help provide a place for God’s people to gather in corporate worship. Our gifts assist in the manifold variety of services that God does around the world. Inmates in prison hear verse-by-verse teaching through radio. Churches get planted in west Africa. Pastors receive support in India, and receive training in Cambodia and Uganda and Guatemala, and much more. God uses our gifts to bless others. When we give, the blessing is ours!
  5. The contrast for the giving done in blessed generosity is that done “as a grudging obligation.” A quick look around various Bible translations show the many ways the word could be rendered. ESV = exaction; NASB/KJV = covetousness; HCSB = extortion; NIV = grudgingly given. The Greek word is a compound word derived from two roots: to fulfill/complete + to have. We might think of it has “to have more than the full,” hence, the KJV/NASB “covetousness.” One dictionary describes it in terms of “greediness, insatiableness, avarice,” noting the classical/secular usage of the word regarding a lust for power or other desire. Bottom line: it ain’t good! This kind of begrudging, self-centered covetousness becomes a barrier to Biblical giving. How so? It all boils down to the “self.” When we have a desire for “more,” it prevents us from giving more. When we want more for ourselves, we don’t like giving away what we have for others. And that’s a problem. When we see generosity as a threat, it is a sign of greed. This is when our giving turns into “grudging obligation,” as we start thinking about everything else we can do with that money, rather than give it to God.
    1. Be careful not to get the wrong idea. There are certain things we ought to do with the money God gives us, being good stewards of what He has entrusted us for the families He has given us. We don’t do anyone any good if we give away our mortgage payment and put our family out on the street. But there is a clear difference between being smart and being selfish. When selfishness gets in the way of our purposeful, orderly giving unto God, then that is nothing less than sin. That isn’t a concern for our families; it is the manifestation of our carnal flesh. It is something to be confessed to the Lord, repented of, and changed at the next opportunity.
  • Joyful giving (6-9).

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

  1. As Paul continues, he reiterates a principle of giving seen elsewhere in the Scripture: sowing and reaping. Just as farmers seed corn into the ground expecting to receive a crop of corn, so do we expect only to reap that which we initially sow. Paul used the same idea when writing to the Galatians regarding not just their finances, but also their actions. Galatians 6:6–8, “(6) Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. (7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (8) For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” If we sow into sin, we should expect the result of sin; yet if we sow into the things of the Spirit, we could expect some results and fruit of the Spirit. For instance, when we tell lies, we expect consequences to come once our lies are exposed. But when we pray for God’s help in sharing the truth of the gospel, then we experience the spiritual blessings that come from walking in obedience. So, all of this is true regarding character. When Paul uses the same analogy with the Corinthians, he shows that it is also true regarding our financial gifts to the Lord. If we sow “sparingly,” stingily, then we need to expect stingy results. If we sow “bountifully,” generously, then we expect generous results.
  2. The principle is straightforward. Where it gets off track is with those who teach the false prosperity gospel. So often, the message that is preached is one of our seed obligating God to provide a harvest. “If you sow $100 to my ministry, God will give you $1000 in return,” or other such nonsense. Scriptures are pulled out of context, such as Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken, and running over,” or regarding our hundredfold increase for that which we have given up for the kingdom from Mark 10:30. Or they say we need to name our seed to determine what it is we shall reap, just like God determined what seed brought forth the various grass, herbs, and fruit according to His command in creation (Gen 1:11). All kind of confusion is created around the principle of sowing and reaping, which should be a straightforward principle that becomes abused by many in their attempt to get rich. So, let’s ask the straightforward question: Is Paul saying that we give in order to get? Did he admonish the Corinthians to give generously to the benevolence offering so that they could have the promise of receiving generous finances in return? Of course not. Nowhere does Paul guarantee or even imply a rich financial reaping for Corinth, as if all he was concerned about was them getting a profitable ROI (return-on-investment). Later, Paul does write about God’s provision for Corinth, but providential provision is vastly different than false promises of prosperity. The only point Paul makes in verse 6 is there is a correlation between sowing and reaping in the things and work of God. The whole context is that of participating in God’s work, being a blessing to others. In fact, that is specifically stated in the Greek text, even though it doesn’t leap off the page in the English. The word for “bountifully,” in vs. 6 is the same as for “generous” in vs. 5 (εὐλογία). If we want to experience the blessings of God, we need to participate in the blessings of God. We need to give ourselves to be used by God as His blessing, and we will then experience the joy of doing so. Yet if we hold back in selfishness (the “grudging obligation”), then we are the ones who miss out.

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

  1. Application #1 in blessed giving: it should be willing, desired giving. It isn’t supposed to come through a bunch of arm-twisting (as we’ll see in a moment); it should be done out of a freewill desire as we worship the Lord. Give as you purpose to do so in your heart to give. Give what you choose to give. Do you choose to give a lot? Wonderful! Do you choose to give a little? This too, is wonderful. When the gift comes from a willing heart, from a heart dedicated to the Lord in worship giving thanks to Jesus, then that gift is good. The dollar amount is meaningless compared to the heart that gave it.
    1. Question: “What about tithing?” Good question. As we’ve already noted, not once in these two chapters has Paul mentioned either a dollar amount or a percentage amount. In two chapters completely dedicated to the subject of financial giving, the apostle Paul is notably silent when it comes to the tithe. As a former Pharisee educated under one of the premier rabbis of the day, Paul was well-schooled on the subject of tithing. If this was something he required of the church, we would expect to see it somewhere in his letters. Not only is the tithe absent from 2 Corinthians 8-9, it is absent from all of Paul’s letters. In fact, in the New Testament it is present in only two gospels (Matthew and Luke, both in condemnation of the Pharisees’ self-righteousness), and once in the epistles (Hebrews, in the context of showing the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood in comparison with Levi’s). Not once in all of the New Testament is the tithe specifically commanded of born-again Christians.
    2. Objection: “But nearly every New Testament church teaches tithing!” Yes, and churches can be wrong. Please do not misunderstand. Not for one moment do I imply that tithing is bad, nor do I imply that churches that teach tithing are abusing their people. I simply believe, based on my study of Scripture, that the tithe is something given to Israel and not the Church. (And the oft-quoted Malachi 3:10 about testing God in tithing is something specifically given to Israel; not the church!) There are indeed principles of tithing that can be helpful. Some people have no clue how much to give, though they desire to give purposefully. 10% is a wonderful place to start. Tithing gives us an opportunity to give regularly, as it is based off whatever increase we receive. Tithing gives an opportunity for people to give in an orderly manner, as it need not be based in emotional appeals. But all of those things can be accomplished with or without the tithe. Those things are just as true for those who give 10% as those who give 3% and those who give 30% or more. Born-again Christians are not bound to the tithe, either for too much or too little. Where the tithe can become a stumbling block is when people look to it as a baseline for righteousness. “I know I’m good because I pay my tithes, and I know I’m extra-blessed because I’ve given an offering above my tithes!” Or, it goes the other way with guilt. “I guess I must not trust God enough, because I only gave 5%.” Or, it becomes locked with legalism, “Did I actually pay enough? I paid 10% on the net; should I have gone with gross? And is 10% even enough, because of all of the other various offerings in the Old Testament?” It has the potential to become a burden and stumbling block to many Christians, and God has so much more for us in the abundant life we have in Christ.
    3. What’s the bottom line? Give what you want to give. If that is a tithe (which, by definition is 10%), then great. If it’s more or less, that is great, too. For some, the tithe might be a starting block, a kind of financial training-wheels. For others, it is a goal they would like to one day reach. Ultimately, what you give is between you and the Lord. Give what you want, what you choose to give. 
  2. Application #2 in blessed giving: giving should be cheerful/joyful. It has been often noted that the word for “cheerful” is the Greek word that we derive our English word “hilarious,” (ἱλαρός). That isn’t to imply that the act of giving should be unserious and done while laughing uncontrollably. (Beware the exegetical fallacy of fully equating an English cognate with the Greek original.) The general idea is that giving should be done with joy. This goes hand-in-hand with giving what we choose, what we want. When we give what we want, then we will be joyful in giving it. Consider some of the Christmas gifts you’ve given over the years. There are some gifts that I couldn’t want for my wife or daughter to open, because I put so much thought into them. Those were what I truly desired to give them and it was as much a joy for me to give as it was for them to receive. There were other gifts I felt obligated to give (such as at a group party where I didn’t know too many people). The gifts were generic, the responses were generic, and I felt embarrassed and unsure about the gift in the first place. We want our gifts to the Lord to be the former; not the latter. Our gifts to God (be it financial or otherwise) should be borne from joy. We should be excited to put our trust in our God, giving to Him in worship and praise, knowing that He is going to use our tiny gifts for His great glory. To consider that the relatively few dollars you gave might bring someone to saving faith in Christ…that is something that brings eternal dividends of joy! That’s something to get excited about. This is the kind of giving we love to do. Moreover, this is the kind of giving that God loves to see. “God loves a cheerful giver.” The giving that most pleases God comes from those most pleased to give.
    1. Do you love to give? Is it something that brings joy and cheer to your heart? If not, that is something you need to take to the Lord in prayer, searching the Bible as God uses His Scripture to help you examine your heart. Again, I don’t want to give the wrong idea. You won’t necessarily have on a massive ear-to-ear grin every time you write a check to your local church or your missionaries, etc. We aren’t looking for some emotional high that might be either faked or forced. But in general, it should please our hearts when we give unto our God. Even if it is a bit of a step of faith, it should be something we can do with joy. If there isn’t, then check your motives, slow down. God loves a cheerful giver. If we can’t give in a way that pleases God, something is wrong.
  3. What might be wrong? Consider with what Paul contrasts joyful giving: giving that is done “grudgingly or of necessity.” We might otherwise translate it as “not from grief or from pressure,” other Bible versions render along the lines of the ESV: “not reluctantly or under compulsion.” All of it makes a clear point: manipulative pressure to give is unbiblical. It is wrong, downright sinful. Sadly, this is not only where the prosperity teachers fall, but it is also the trap into which many otherwise-solid Biblical churches get stuck. Pressure tactics are used to increase the financial offerings from week-to-week, be it through an unrelenting focus on the tithe, or on a building campaign, or even fundraising for mission work, etc. Truly good activities and ministries can be tainted through unbiblical tactics surrounding money. “I know that you don’t want to send Brother So-and-so off with such a small love offering. Let’s send the collection plates around again…” “We have all the money we need to fund the building project; it just happens to be in all your bank accounts. Open it up, so the blessings can flow…” Let us be clear: these tactics are wrong. Even if the pastors and churches using them are otherwise Biblical, any donation practice that relies on manipulation and pressure is sinful and should be avoided at all costs.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

  1. Those who give, have wonderful assurance as we give. How so? Because God provides for His people. No child of God need fear any amount of intentional, freewill, joyful giving, because our God is a good God, a loving Father, an “able” Provider. Obviously, this is not a truth we abuse in a perverted attempt to twist the Biblical doctrine of giving into a promise of financial prosperity. Again, we do not give in order to get. Just because God is able to provide for us does not give us an ironclad promise that if we give $10, we will receive $100 in return. We do not treat the good promises of Scripture like a Christianized stock market or slot machine. That isn’t the point. The point is that God is good. There is nothing that we lack, of which God is not able to provide. Fear is often natural, when it comes to giving. It is natural, yet needless because our God is a loving, giving God.
  2. Moreover, God gives abundantly. To what extent is His abundance? In every way! Greek scholars point out a repetition of the idea of “all,” that doesn’t translate well in the English. “ἐν παντὶ πάντοτε πᾶσαν”…you might hear the alliteration in the “pan/pas” syllable referring to “all/everything,” (think “pantheism,” the believe that all things are god”). Here, as Paul writes of God making all grace abound toward us, he says that God give us an abundance “in all, always, all things.” God is enough for all things at all times in all We sing in our songs, which itself gets the phrase from our Bibles that God is our “all in all.” Consider how God provided for the apostle Paul. There were times that Paul had abundance and other times he had next to nothing; when he slept in comfort and when he slept in prison; when he was received with joy and when he barely escaped riots. Yet God provided for him through it all. God’s grace was abundantly sufficient for Paul and is likewise sufficient for you and me.

9 As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”

  1. Although our natural tendency is to read this as God being the one dispersing abroad, giving to the poor in demonstration of His enduring righteousness (which itself, is not untrue!), that is not the interpretation of the Scripture. Paul quotes Psalm 112, which praises the Lord for the blessed man who fears the Lord, delighting in God’s commandments. Of this man, the psalmist writes: Psalm 112:5–9, “(5) A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion. (6) Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. (7) He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. (8) His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies. (9) He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor.” What does that mean regarding Paul’s context to the Corinthians? Paul is not emphasizing who God materially provides for those who give generously; he emphasizes how God sees those who give generously. The righteous person gives abundantly, just like God has given to us. The righteous man is a generous man, the generosity being the fruit of his righteousness.
  2. Be careful not to reverse the order! Our generosity does not make us righteous; the righteous work that God has done within us is reflected in our generosity. Our generosity is one potential evidence of Christ’s righteousness on/in us. Once we’ve repented of our sins and placed our full faith and trust in Jesus as Lord, that is when we are born of the Holy Spirit, cleansed of our sin, and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. That is when our hearts are changed, and we who once thought selfishly and greedily now think generously and of the glory of God. Any financial offerings we give at this point are not to earn God’s favor; they are because of His favor.
    1. Too many people get this wrong! I was speaking with some dear elderly women at the State Fair who initially spoke of their faith in Jesus, only to point only to their works and tithes as the reason they believed they were going to heaven. That isn’t the gospel! The good news tells us that our salvation is found in Jesus alone, apart from our works. Yes, our works change, but they change as a result of our salvation; not because they have saved us. The Lord Jesus Christ saves us; Him and none other!
  • Thankful giving (10-15).

10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

  1. Although the NKJV phrases this as a prayer, most other translations relate this as a simple fact. God does supply our needs, even while multiplying our gifts. God brings forth a lot of fruit from a little seed. These are truths we need not doubt. Though it is by no means a guarantee of riches, it is a promise of God’s merciful and gracious provision. Neither the apostles Paul, Peter, or John, nor the Lord Jesus waltzed around Jerusalem in the finest Italian fabrics, nor would they have driven Tesla or BMW if they had existed. None of them lived in the lap of luxury, though certainly Jesus could have demanded it if He desired. As God the Son, what couldn’t He have had, if He but asked for it? Instead, He lived humbly among hard conditions, facing all the hardships as most other people in the world living on less than $1 per day. But the Father provided for Him. Likewise, God the Father provides for us. He gives us the very seed that we sow into the spiritual “soil” to give back to Him. Think of it: what can we give to God that He has not already given to us? He gave us our bodies and our breath that we use in our labor. He gave us our jobs or businesses. He gave us our income and increase. There isn’t a single thing that we see or possess that did not first come from the Father. As James writes, James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” He has given us everything.
  2. What is the right response to these things? God’s generosity to us makes us thankful. How can we look at the many blessings of our lives, and not be grateful? Even those who have little, have something. In Jesus’ day, even the blind beggars who subsisted off of alms and scraps of bread could give thanks to God for those things. And when Christ offered them so much more, they had opportunity to be so much more grateful. Sadly, not all who encountered Jesus understood this. There was a time that Jesus healed 10 lepers. They all cried for mercy, and Jesus had mercy on them all. Yet only one, a foreigner, returned to give Jesus thanks (Lk 17:11-19). Only one truly recognized the blessing and gave thanks to the One who blessed him.
    1. How much more have we received from Jesus? We have been cleansed from the leprosy of sin, not just once, but many times over. We who believe in Jesus have gone back time and time again for forgiveness and grace, finding it in abundance. And then He also gives us homes, employment, families, and more? Even better, He gives us a real, living relationship with Himself, fills us with God the Holy Spirit, and invites us to pray to God as our Heavenly Father? How could we not give thanks!? Surely, we have innumerable reasons to express our gratitude to God through prayer, praise, service, and yes, even our giving. It is a natural extension of our thankfulness to Him.

12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,

  1. Notice here that the giving of the church causes people to give thanks unto God. IOW, our gifts are not only an expression of our thankfulness; our gifts help other people be thankful. Think of it in the case of Corinth. The specific offering Paul was writing about was a benevolence offering for the church in Jerusalem. How might the Christians in Jerusalem give thanks to God for His provision, when they received the offering collected by the Gentile churches? Imagine what their response was when they heard that Gentile Christians loved them so much that they sent this gift to help them in their time of need. Surely, thanks unto God would abound! So too, with us. People give thanks to God through the ministry conducted by this church (and by every local church). Any form of outreach is something made possible through the gifts of the saints. When people hear the gospel and are saved, or receive teaching and are discipled, or are blessed through any number of means, they give glory to God. God is praised by others because of the giving of Christians.
  2. To put it another way, the giving of the church leads to ministry among the church. God uses the gifts of the saints to accomplish His ministry and will. Does He have to? No…but He chooses to. All of these things lead to real ministry being done. This is expressed even in the terminology. “Administration” is again a word normally translated “service,” (i.e., “deacon), yet the word for “service” is a different word: λειτουργία (~ “liturgy”). We might think of it as spiritual service. (Which emphasizes how Biblical giving is an act of personal worship…) Put it together: giving is first a service done unto God before it is a service beneficial to others.

13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.

  1. The giving of the church glorifies God in the gospel. The gift itself can be a witness of the gospel. Again, in Corinth’s case, Paul tells them that the Jerusalem Christians could give thanks to God. Not only for His provision towards them (which was the emphasis in verse 12), but also for the evident work that God had done among the Gentiles so far away in Corinth. Those in Jerusalem would see evidence of transformed lives in Corinth (and Macedonia, etc.), knowing that this kind of transformation could only take place through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. For that, they would give thanks to God.
  2. Likewise, the giving of the church is an expression of love and unity within the body of Christ. Not only would the Jerusalem Christians thank God for the salvation that was evident among the churches in Corinth and Macedonia, but they would also “long for” those churches because they were truly-saved Christians. If you’ve ever had the blessing of being on the mission field, you’ve seen this first-hand. The moment you meet someone in another country, whose language you cannot speak (and perhaps cannot even read their alphabet!), yet you know that his/her faith is in Christ just like that person knows that your faith is in Christ, you are immediately family. You know that you are brothers and sisters together in the Lord Jesus, and you long for their best just like they long for yours. Giving (particularly giving for missions) has a unique way of encouraging that, even though you might never leave home. You pray for the churches to which your dollars will go. They pray for you, when they receive the provision of God meant for them. We all pray for each other, as we’ve all experienced “the exceeding grace of God.

15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

  1. In all of this, never forget that God gave first, and God’s gift is best: Jesus! Jesus is the “indescribable gift” of God not because we don’t have words to describe Him…we just don’t have enough! Thousands of songs have been sung about Christ over the course of thousands of years, yet it will never be enough. No matter how much we pray and how much we give thanks, it will always fall short of the thanks our Lord truly deserves. Remember that there are magnificent angelic beings surrounding the throne of God doing nothing but proclaiming His holiness and praises. Yet they never tire nor get bored. Why? Because there is always more to say! God’s worthiness is infinite, thus His praise is equally infinite.
  2. The crowning glory in all of God’s marvelous work is our Lord Jesus Christ. That God the Father would send God the Son in the power of God the Spirit to earth, to walk with us and among us, to teach us and to heal us, to suffer for us and die for us, to be our substitution and sacrifice bearing the wrath of God in our place for our sin…this is a gift unimaginable! And as glorious as that is, God’s gift in Jesus did not end there. Jesus rose from the grave in power and victory, ascended to Heaven in glory, gave the Holy Spirit in power, and now invites all people in every nation to be saved through repentance and faith. Those who do are saved, being forgiven, cleansed, born-again, adopted, redeemed, sealed, sanctified, and given the promise of eternal life in heaven, forever glorified in the presence of our Lord. Praise God! Do you have the words to describe such a gift? It goes beyond our capacity for rational thought! Yet this is the gift of God, and we are eternally thankful.

All of which emphasizes the point: giving should be done in thanks to God!

Conclusion:

For all the confusion that persists around the topic of giving, Paul gave great clarity to the Corinthians, thus giving great clarity to all the church throughout all the ages. Christian giving, Biblical giving, is an act that should be done with purpose, in joy, and with thanks. It is not a burden, but a blessing. It is a glorious privilege in which we get to be used by Almighty God for His work around the world. We do it intentionally, in cheerful freedom, and in heartfelt gratitude. That is when it pleases God.

Sadly, it is often presented in other ways. Churches use guilt, manipulation, emotions, and sales tactics to increase giving. It becomes about the bottom line and the financial profit of those at the top. And it sadly stains the rest of the Church, the Biblical church.

Let us be free from such immoral mockery of what God has given to be good! When we give, let it be from grateful hearts desiring to worship God and to see Him glorified. May it be with cheerful hearts, giving with purposeful intention to the God we love and Who loves us. May it be with a desire to see our Lord glorified among the church and within the world.