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The Restoration of a SinnerDavid's Heart Revealed
By John MacArthur
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 John MacArthur
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUniting a Divided House
2 Samuel 2, 5
* * * Historical Background * * * Israel had been led for hundreds of years by judges (judges were individuals called by God to lead His people against their enemies, to settle disputes, and to protect the nation). But the Israelites eventually decided that they no longer wanted judges to lead them. Under the judges, the people were dependent on God to determine when a judge was necessary. Now instead of relying on God to protect them, the Israelites wanted to imitate the world around them. All the nations of Canaan were governed by kings, so Israel wanted a king as well.
Samuel, Israel's last judge and one of God's great prophets, warned the people that exchanging the Lord for a monarchy was a destructive idea-a king would harm the people with taxes, and would exploit them for his own gain. Yet the people refused to listen, so the Lord instructed Samuel to anoint a young man named Saul as Israel's first king.
Sadly, Samuel's words of warning were fulfilled. Saul was disobedient to God, and the Lord eventually rejected him as king. So the Lord chose another man whom-unlike Saul-had his heart turned to obedience. His name was David, and Samuel anointed him as Israel's next king. Saul, however, continued to reign for many years. But he didn't reign well. Knowing that God had rejected him in favor of David, Saul spent the remainder of his life trying to kill David. Tragically, Saul died in battle against the Philistines, and all his sons died with him-all except one, a man named Ishbosheth.
This study opens shortly after Saul's death, when David is preparing to take over the kingship. But Saul's sole survivor, Ishbosheth, feels that the throne is his by birthright, and the nation is divided in its loyalties.
* * * Reading 2 Samuel 2:8-3:1 * * *
Competition for the Throne: Saul's only remaining son raises himself up as heir to Saul's throne, effectively dividing the nation of Israel into two factions.
8. Abner: Abner was King Saul's cousin, and the leader of the Israelite army. He remained loyal to Saul's house, even though David had already been anointed by God to be the next king. His loyalty was misplaced at this point, but he eventually would agree to serve David as faithfully as he had Saul.
Ishbosheth: This was Saul's only surviving son; the others had all been killed in Saul's last battle against the Philistines. His name means "man of shame."
9. king over Gilead: The areas listed in this verse under Ishbosheth's reign include most of Israel.
10. the house of Judah: David's family was from Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. This tribe would remain loyal to David throughout his kingship and beyond. Eventually, the nation of Israel would split into two separate nations: Israel and Judah.
13. Joab: Joab was David's nephew and the leader of his army. We will look at him more closely in a later study.
The Tragedy of Civil War: Two great generals, Abner and Joab, attempt to prevent all-out warfare, but it proves unavoidable.
14. Let the young men now arise: Abner proposed a combat of champions, twelve from each side, rather than a full-scale war. This was a sensible suggestion insofar as it went-the outcome of the combat, had it been decisive, would have prevented civil war where brother was killing brother. The problem, however, was that Abner and the men of Israel should have submitted to the kingship of David, since he was the man God had anointed to sit on the throne over all Israel. Abner's plan failed, and the civil war erupted despite his suggestion.
18. the three sons of Zeruiah: Zeruiah was David's sister and the mother of Joab.
19. Asahel pursued Abner: Asahel was Joab's brother, and in this tragic story he showed himself to be a man of character and determination. He was pursuing Abner in battle, and to have killed the general of the opposing side would have immediately ended the entire conflict (and also brought him great honor). Asahel was clearly out of his league fighting Abner, as will be seen, yet he refused to turn aside from the pursuit. He is reminiscent of David, who did not hesitate to face the giant Goliath in a single combat that brought great victory to God's people.
22. Turn aside from following me: Abner also showed himself to be a man of character in this sad episode. He did not want to kill a young man of Asahel's quality, so he tried repeatedly to dissuade him from battle. But the seeds of division were already sown. Division is the work of the devil, and when God's people are divided against one another, only tragedy can result. Rather than fighting the enemy of our souls, godly men and women attack one another. In doing so, they waste their efforts, just as Abner and Asahel did, fighting against each other rather than against the Philistines.
23. died on the spot: This terrible tragedy would have equally terrible long-term consequences. Joab never forgave Abner for killing his brother, even though it was done in battle. We will see the results in a later study.
25. the children of Benjamin: One of the twelve tribes of Israel. It was also Saul's tribe, and they had remained steadfastly loyal to him throughout his turbulent reign.
26. Shall the sword devour forever?: Abner was responsible for the conflict in the first place, since he led the men of Israel into battle.
3:1. there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: Many tribes of Israel continued to support the house of Saul, rather than submitting to David as their king. The Lord had publicly anointed him and told the people, through Samuel, that he was God's selected ruler-yet David still had to establish his throne by force.
* * * Reading 2 Samuel 5:1-12 * * *
The Kingdom Is United: Abner changes sides and comes to serve David, and the nation of Israel submits to his kingship. Soon after, David establishes himself in Jerusalem.
1. Then all the tribes of Israel came to David: Several years had passed since the battle of chapter 2, and much had happened. Abner had abandoned Ishbosheth and joined forces with David. Before any good could come from that alliance, however, Joab took revenge for the death of Asahel by murdering Abner. Sometime after these events, Ishbosheth was murdered by two of his captains.
2. you were the one who led Israel: King Saul had tried repeatedly to murder David, after Samuel anointed David as king. During those years, David had led a small band of fighting men on many raids and excursions against the Philistines, and the people of Israel had celebrated his victories in songs.
4. David was thirty years old when he began to reign: David had begun his career as a leader in Israel when he was just a teenager, on the day he stepped forward and slew Goliath. Yet he was forced to endure more than ten years of hardship, resistance, and fighting before he could finally ascend to the throne in relative security.
6. Jebusites: The Jebusites were one of the Canaanite nations that Israel had been commanded to drive out of the promised land (Exodus 23:23), yet they were still living there and still causing problems for Israel. They had traditionally occupied the city of Jerusalem, which they called Jebus.
THE BLIND AND THE LAME WILL REPEL YOU: The Jebusites placed their faith in the fortification and security of their city, a mind-set that is as common as it is foolish. God's people must never fall into the trap of thinking that military might or financial security will stave off ruin. As the Jebusites would soon discover, God's hand is not stopped by man's fortifications.
7. Zion: This is the first appearance in Scripture of the name Zion. It originally referred specifically to the Jebusite stronghold, which became the City of David after this battle, but Scripture uses it to refer to Jerusalem in general, the earthly City of God.
8. water shaft: A secret tunnel ran from the city down to the spring of Gihon. It was intended to provide water if the city were ever under siege and was one of the defenses that gave the Jebusites their false sense of security. Ironically, David used that very "defense" against the people, as his men climbed up the water shaft and took the city from the inside.
12. the Lord had established him: This was the foundation of David's great leadership in Israel: he always remembered that it was the Lord who had raised him from a humble shepherd to the king of God's people. Saul lost sight of that fact and became proud and stubborn, but David always remembered that he was subject to the Lord's will, an attitude that carried him even through periods of sin and heartbreak.
* * * First Impressions * * *
1. Why did the people of Israel try to make Ishbosheth king instead of David? Why did Abner, Saul's great military leader, side against David?
2. Why did Abner suggest holding a "contest of champions" rather than open battle? Was this a good idea, in your opinion? Why did it fail?
3. Was Abner justified when he killed Asahel? Was Asahel wise or unwise to keep pursuing him?
4. Why were the Jebusites so arrogant in their response to David? How was their faith misplaced?
* * * Some Key Principles * * *
Division is the devil's tool.
The nation of Israel divided when King Saul died, each half placing their allegiance behind a different heir to the throne. That same division would return later in David's reign, and would ultimately divide Israel into two separate nations. Each time the people were divided, strife and civil war resulted. Abner was forced to fight Asahel, a young man he admired, when the two men should have been fighting side by side against the Philistines.
This is Satan's goal in dividing God's people: if we are busy contending against one another, we won't be doing battle against the forces of darkness. The evil one loves to see Christians bickering and scratching at one another, and he will do all he can to cause division and contention within the church.
The Lord wants His people to be unified together in one body, focused on serving one another and caring for one another as members of the same body. "Now I plead with you, brethren," wrote the apostle Paul, "by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. . . . For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal?" (1 Corinthians 1:10; 3:3-4).
Submit to the Lord's chosen leaders.
The division within Israel came about because some were unwilling to submit themselves to David's authority. They felt that a son of Saul should be the next king, and they set about making it a reality-in spite of the fact that God had publicly proclaimed David king through the anointing of Samuel.
The basic mind-set of the Israelites was that they knew who should govern better than God knew. They thought they had the right to choose their own rulers-but this was actually not true. The Lord is the one who places people in positions of power and authority, and He expects His people to submit themselves to those authorities.
God's Word calls us to be submissive to those in authority, whether in government, at home, in the church, or at the workplace. The Bible says, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves" (Romans 13:1-2).
God's people are established by God, not by our own might.
David had to fight to establish his throne in Israel. He faced much opposition, both from outside enemies, such as the Philistines, and from foes within his own nation. He fought boldly and effectively, and eventually he gained victory over those foes-yet he declared clearly that his throne had been established, not by the power of his mighty sword but by the power and will of God Himself.
Conversely, the Jebusites placed their faith in their own might. The city of Jerusalem was nearly impregnable, because of both geography and man-made fortifications, and it could stand strong even under a lengthy siege. The Jebusites were convinced that they had made themselves secure, and they saw no need to fear God or His people. Yet the Lord eventually used their own might against them.
We do not find our security or success through our own efforts or through the world around us. It is the Lord who establishes us where He wants us, "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). We attain success and security by submitting to His sovereign hand.
* * * Digging Deeper * * *
5. How might this civil war have been avoided? What did the war cost the nation of Israel?
6. What motivated the people of Israel to reject David as king? What was wrong with their thinking?
7. When have you witnessed division among God's people? What caused it? What was the result?
8. Are you promoting peace and unity, or stirring up strife and division? In what areas might the Lord be calling you to be a peacemaker?
* * * Taking It Personally * * *
9. Where do you find security? Do you place your faith in your own efforts, or in God's sovereignty?
10. How well do you submit to those in authority in government? at work? at church? at home?
A Throne Established Forever
2 Samuel 7
* * * Historical Background * * *
Most of David's kingship was characterized by conflict and warfare. Israel had many enemies who persisted in trying to conquer her-some even wanted to wipe her off the map. The Philistines were one of their most dangerous enemies, and David spent most of his reign overthrowing their tyranny. In addition to foreign enemies, David also faced multiple rebellions from the Israelites themselves, and even one of his own sons briefly overthrew him from power.
Despite this opposition, David never lost sight of the fact that all of his blessings were from God, and he longed to do something to demonstrate his love and gratitude for the Lord. In this frame of mind, David got the idea of building a beautiful temple in which the people of Israel could worship God.
The Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron to construct a portable tabernacle during their exodus from Egypt. This structure was made of cloth and animal skins, designed to be set up and taken down easily as the people moved from place to place in the wilderness. The tabernacle housed the ark of the covenant, which was the nation's symbol of God's presence, and the tabernacle itself was the figurative "dwelling place" of God among His people.
But now, with Israel's wilderness wanderings long since completed, David felt that it was not right that he should live in a beautiful palace while God continued to dwell in a portable tent, so he devised a plan to build the temple. The idea itself was not wrong; God would indeed lead another king to build a temple-but not David. Nevertheless, the Lord blessed David immensely for the love behind his desire to build a permanent dwelling place for the Almighty.
* * * Reading 2 Samuel 7:1-29 * * *
A Dwelling Place for God: Later in David's life, he reflects on the fact that he lives in a palace, while God's tabernacle is merely a tent. He decides to rectify that.
1. the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies: This passage probably takes place much later in David's reign, near the end of his life. The ark of the covenant had been residing in Kirjath Jearim (see the map in the Introduction) for many years, and David had finally returned it to the temple in Jerusalem where it belonged. (See 1 Samuel 4 and 2 Samuel 6 for further information.)
Excerpted from The Restoration of a Sinner by John MacArthur Copyright © 2009 by John MacArthur. Excerpted by permission.
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