Victory, kindness and the king
What does kindness mean to you? Can you tell a story about kindness?
When David, King of all Israel, proposed to make a fine Temple for God, the prophet Nathan spoke God’s reply to David. God said that it has been and never will be the duty of any person to make God’s name great. It is God who builds David’s house and not the other way around. God promised David that there would be a king on the throne forever who will be known as God’s son. The Davidic covenant outlined in Chapter 7 is fulfilled, not by Solomon, but in Jesus – our Forever King!
So, David has peace in his palace with no further command from the LORD to build His Temple. Mephibosheth appears in Chapter 9 but we met him briefly in Chapter 4 Verse 4. He is the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul. David and Jonathan dearly loved each other despite the hatred from Saul’s household to David. When Saul and Jonathon were killed in battle, Mephibosheth, a 5 year old at the time, was carried off in haste, dropped and his legs permanently crippled.
Read 2 Samuel 8-9
Two chapters are included in this study. Brief notes will be offered for Chapter 8 and more information provided for Chapter 9.
What did you see? (Observation)
- The LORD gave David victory wherever he went (8:1-14)
- Defeating enemies (1-6)
- Great gains (7-14
- The King’s Justice and Righteousness (8:15-9:13)
- Beginning: The King’s Officials (8:15-18)
- The Problem: The pursuit of kindness for Jonothan (9:1)
- The Quest: Finding Mephibosheth (2-5)
- The Resolution: Kindness assured (6-11)
- The End: Kindness enjoyed (12-13)
The LORD gave David victory (1-14)
Defeating enemies (1-6)
“In the course of time…” This phrase need not mean, “after Chapter 7” but rather that what happened in Chapter 8 is a summary of the victories of David over the course of time.
“…Metheg Ammah…” I will not spend time naming and defining the place names in this section as I wish to focus on Chapter 9. We see, however, a description of David’s success in every direction.
“So the Moabites became subject to David and brought him tribute.” The method of this subjection sounds brutal and I will not try and smooth it out. See Judges 11:17 and Numbers 22-24 and Joshua 24:9 for a history of how the Moabites had expressed hostility to the Israelites. Also the prophecy against Moab in Numbers 24:17. “Rather than mounting our moral high horse and condemning David’s action, we should recognize that the righteousness and justice of God’s kingdom includes his judgment on all rebellion against him.” (John Woodhouse, 2 Samual “Preaching the Word” commentary, 2015). The outcome of David’s harsh act is that the Moabites who had persistently rejected God and His people were receiving judgement while a third received mercy and were left to submit. The tribute is an offering. It seems similar to the promise that one day every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:10).
“The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.” The kingdom of David is not built on the strength of men but on the promises of God. It was David’s hands and army that did the conquering but it was Yahweh (LORD) who gave him victory. The LORD was saving David from defeat. We can thank God that, in Christ, the victory is ours and it is no longer measured by peace and victory in a promised land but by the defeat over sin and death. Our greatest enemy has been defeated and thank God that in Christ we are given the victory.
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:55-58
Great gains (7-14)
“David took the gold shields that belonged to…” In victory, David took plunder.
“…brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze.” In reverent fear of David, some greeted him with gifts. The joy of the nations who loved that David is king. We see an example here of the nations coming to Israel, seeing it as a blessing to the world.
“King David dedicated these articles to the LORD…” This plunder was not placed in the king’s bank account but offered to the LORD. Perhaps later to be used for the house of the LORD when Solomon would build it.
“And David became famous…” 2 Samuel 7 contained the promise (Verse 9) that David’s name would be great. This echoed the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2.
“The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.” This repeated phrase that we saw in Verse 6 highlights the subject of this chapter. It was not the barbaric behaviour of an ancient man that is being praised which makes his name great (like Alexander or Ghengis Khan) but it is the salvation through the LORD that makes this king great. We look forward to a day when the name of the LORD will be praised because of his great mercy and humility. Philippians 2:9 speaks of Jesus being the name that is above every name.
The King’s Justice and Righteousness (8:15-9:13)
We now turn to a detailed story of David reaching out to show, not only kindness, but justice and righteousness to a son of Jonathon because David had promised to protect the house of Jonathon (1 Samuel 20:14-17). While Chapter 8 was a montage of events showing the king’s favour from God, Chapter 9 shows us an image of the king’s righteousness showing favour on another.
Beginning: The King’s Officials (8:15-18)
“David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” Our story begins with this summary statement of David reigning and acting justly and rightly. The ‘just and right’ statement gives us a clue for what might follow. What did that look like, especially in the light of all that was written about him in Chapter 8! How was this king of Israel anything different to a bully in the Middle East?
“Joab…Jehoshaphat…Zadok…Ahimelek…Seraiah…Benaiah…” Verses 16-18 lists the key officials in David’s reign. These were the top ranking men. His kingdom was ordered and managed. Two things worth noting: Firstly Benaiah seems to be a mighty man put in charge of some loyal mighty men – perhaps bodyguards. See 2 Sam 15:18; 20:7; 1 Kings 1:38, 44). Secondly…
“…and David’s sons were priests.” It is hard to say whether this was a good thing or not. The priests were already listed in Verse 17. Reading that David’s sons were priests tells us firstly that David’s sons were active and ready for the house of David to be built and grow by the Sovereign Hand of God. But it also makes us readers a little nervous because when the duty of king and priest is blurred, such as Saul making the sacrifice because he could not wait any longer for Samuel, it can be a sign of arrogance. But we have also read of David making sacrifices when the Ark was being carried to Jerusalem. Of course, Jesus Christ is our King and Great High Priest in One. Worth pondering whether Verse 18 ends positively or with a hint of something else. We must remember the words on Verse 15 which describe David as acting righteously and justly.
The story begins next in the context of David reigning and doing what is right and just…
The Problem: The pursuit of kindness for Jonothan (9:1)
“…anyone still left of the house of Saul…” God had left the ‘house of Saul’ and the ‘house of David’ is where we know the promise of peace and rule will come forever. But David has always maintained a respect for the house of Saul as once the house that God had chosen.
“…to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” The friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, was unique. They loved each other like they loved themselves. They were kindred spirits who both worshiped Yahweh and knew that a kingdom can only be built with Yahweh in the lead. 1 Samuel 20 (esp. Verse 14-15) describes the pact between Jonathan and David. Prince, though he was, Jonathan surrendered his future crown to David. David pledged to keep the family of Jonathan safe.
The problem is posed as a question. Who is left of the house of Saul to honour Jonathan with? David intends to keep his word to his old friend who was killed in battle alongside his father, Saul.
The Quest: Finding Mephibosheth (2-5)
“They summoned [a servant of Saul’s household] to appear before David…” Ziba was Saul’s steward (see Verse 9). Even a servant of Saul’s household might be scared to be summoned before the rival king. The place to start investigating David’s question is with someone who had served the house of Saul.
“…is there no one still alive…to whom I can show God’s kindness?” David did not mention Jonathan but the whole household of Saul. This was the scope of David’s search and not limited to Jonathan exactly. Notice, though, that David intends to show the kindness of God. The kindness Jonathan had asked for (1 Samuel 20:14-15) was unfailing kindness (unending love) extended to his family and David has taken that as the house of Saul. The kindness that David wishes to extend is either like God’s in kind or it is more that God’s kindness will be shown and given through the hand of David the king. Either way it is a kindness that is characteristic of the kingdom of God. One that is on the basis of promise rather than on merit. It will be called grace.
“…a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” Ziba introduces Jonathan into the conversation. His son is lame. He is not the sort of person that the king would love to adopt into his kingdom. He will not be like one of the notable men of 8:15-18. He will be unable to function as a soldier or a priest. David is given a name to show kindness to and it is a name that will not be a profitable investment to the kingdom of David. We will see in Verse 6 that this son is named Mephibosheth and he became crippled at the age of 5 when he was carried from his house and dropped – at the time that Jonathan died in battle (2 Samuel 4:4).
“…David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.” The details of where he lived are repeated in Verses 4 and 5. 2 Samuel 17:27-29 help us to understand Lo Debar to be on the east side of the Jordan River, near Mahanaim where Saul’s house was based after Saul’s death (see chapter 3). Makir was perhaps a loyal servant of Saul and willing and able to look after a crippled child. Later, in Chapter 17, he will be loyal to David also when the kingdom is threatened by Absolom.
The King’s Quest to find kindness on the house of Saul has led him to a young man who needs protection. An innocent victim of violence and misfortune is about to come face to face with God’s King to receive a great kindness that he can never repay and is never asked to do so.
The Resolution: Kindness assured (6-11)
“When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honour.” If Ziba had been worried to stand before the king, how much more Mephibosheth. He may have heard the stories of the two rival houses and how Saul had mistreated David. Being only 5 when Jonathan died, he may not have heard about the generosity of the king. But I ponder too much. He is at the king’s mercy.
‘“Don’t be afraid,” Davide said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ comes to us for the sake of Christ and not us. No people on the face of the earth have come to God with a privilege to be blessed. Rather, we come with the curse of sin upon us. But for the sake of Christ, we are brought into the presence of the Almighty with confidence. He no longer seeks revenge on us because His Son has taken all the wrath that we deserve. Grace comes to us by the promises made in the past and not by any gains or successes of our present. We, like Mephibosheth, come to God crippled and broken. Our King says to us, “Don’t be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of Christ who redeemed you.”
“…all the land…and you will always eat at my table.” This gift comes in two magnificent stages. The first is about a future because, even after the King is dead, the land will belong to a descendant of Saul. But secondly, this man need never work the land for his own feed. He is being welcomed into the kingdom of David with full access to the king and the riches of his table. A half-measured kindness may have given Mephibosheth a block of land and a servant outside of David’s sight. But the kindness of this kingdom is all-inclusive and generous.
“…What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” The writer of this story points us to the right conclusion here. David is showing a generosity that this world does not show by default. David gets nothing out of this deal except to show that his kingdom demonstrates the kindness of God.
“Then the king summoned Ziba…Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.” David looked after Ziba also and allowed him to manage the land for Mephibosheth just as he had done perhaps previously as the steward of the king (see also 2 Samuel 16:1.
“So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.” This man has been adopted by the king with no birthright but equal share in the king’s good fortune.
The End: Kindness enjoyed (12-13)
“Mephibosheth had a young son…the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth…lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.” The only thing new in this concluding statement to the story is that Mephibosheth was blessed, as promised, in every way. He had a child who is named. The family of Ziba followed with their promise to serve him. He lived very close to the king and ate at his table. We are only reminded that he did never enter David’s infantry to give David anything from his own but that he came to David lame in both feet.
The story of Mephibosheth and Ziba is not over yet but it is done for now. They will reappear in Chapters 16 and 19 on either side of the betrayal of Absolem.
What did we learn? (Meaning)
David’s kingdom is defined as righteous and just, showing favour and mercy on the basis of promise but extending wrath and judgment on those who are against the kingdom. The gospel tells us that we are all enemies of God and yet he sent his son to die for us. The gospel tells us that we are all rebels to God and yet he extends his mercy and unending love – making us co-heirs with Christ. His kingdom is where the poor become rich and the idolaters are excluded.
Now what? (Application)
Topic A: Comparing the blood of Chapter 8 with the love of Chapter 9. The Anglican Prayer Book contains a prayer that is a mash-up of scripture: We are not worthy so much as to eat the crumbs that are under you table. But you are the same God whose nature is always show mercy. It is a prayer of humble access for us to come to the table of the LORD Jesus Christ and so to share in the Lord’s Supper. We do not deserve to be treated so well by our God. But it is his nature to show mercy, not because he must but because it is who he is. It is this merciful and kind nature of God that we need always remember when we are confronted with hostile passages such as Chapter 8. While God is kind and merciful, he is also right and just. Those who continually oppose him ought to fear him. Those who come to him with humility will receive his mercy. It is through the wrath of God poured out on His Son that we are able to come to his kingdom with confidence. It is for the sake of Christ that we are able to receive mercy.
Topic B: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That is often the way that G.R.A.C.E is explained. We receive reward but it is not because we are anything. It is because Christ laid down his life. We may well say that we are ‘dead dogs’ before our God but His promise is to bless us. We may never feel like we deserve to be part of His kingdom. And yet, as Colossians 1:12 says, he has qualified us! Another 1:12 but in John this time (Jn 1:12) says that we can be called the children of God! Why? If we believe and put our trust in Him – the Son of God.
Topic C: Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. The gift of eternal life is our hope for the future. We may never enjoy a wealthy life this side of eternity (we do not preach a prosperity Gospel) but we have become God’s workmanship. What He is building in us all is a greater grasp of the nature of the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:22-23 list a set of virtues that ought to be grown in people of the Kingdom. 5th in the list is kindness. It is 2nd in the list that describe love in 1 Corinthians 13:4. The work of God in us must include a growing understanding and practice in kindness. With our mouths, be kind. With our actions, our rights, our wealth, be kind. Kindness is an attribute of love.