Nehemiah 7-9: Clear Understanding

Nehemiah 7

Upon the building of the wall, Hanani (God is gracious) and Hananiah (God has given) are appointed to take charge over Jerusalem, “for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many” – an indication that such restoration of the wall is to be maintained in the hands of one who is a Christ-follower.  This is accompanied by the need for the gates of Jerusalem to be open when the sun is hot (c.f. Exodus 17:12; Malachi 4:2; Revelation 1:16), a reminder that the Son is the one who allows the gates to be open for people to enter New Jerusalem (John 14:6; Revelation 3:12).  However, as of now, the city though wide and large – the people within it were few and no houses had been rebuilt (v.4).  A shame that there are not enough labourers sent out into His harvest (Matthew 9:38).

From v.6-73, the genealogy largely matches that which was stated in Ezra 2 – bringing us into the context of Ezra and remembering that Nehemiah’s actions are meaningless without the restoration of the Mosaic law through Ezra.  V.73 is a exact repeat of Ezra 2:70, except the new addition that “when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns” – reminder of Leviticus 23, where the month of Tishri includes the keeping of the the Day of Atonement and Feast of Booths.

Nehemiah 8

The gathering of people “as one man” has been few and far in between, matching the language in Ezra 3:1 here (and the last time this happened was in 2 Samuel 19:14).  Their congregation around the Water Gate supplements the symbology of this gate, that the water of life, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, should be the true food which these gates of Jerusalem are protecting.  This chapter therefore reinstates the importance of Ezra’s reforms as the undergirding element of Nehemiah’s rebuilding – in the presence of men and women and those who could understand (v.3).  This is different from the strict keeping of the great Jerusalem feasts by men alone (Deuteronomy 16:16-17) – instead, now the crowd is to all who could understand.  “And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (v.3).  Ezra opened the Book of the Law in the sight of all the people and blessed the LORD (v.5-6), with several others (including both Levites and non-Levites) helping the people to understand the Law (v.7).  The Law of God was read “clearly”, and they “gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading”.  This type of detail is so far removed from what is the norm in the Mosaic books through to Ezra, where the keeping of the law was often not explained to come hand in hand with “clear understanding” – the theme of this chapter.  In many ways, this clear understanding and the inclusion of all who could understand (i.e. including women) is a shadow of the freedom in Christ (Galatians 3:28) only upon the circumcision of the heart, represented through Ezra (the priest and scribe) and Nehemiah’s (the governor) joint reformation of the Ancient Church.  Their spiritual emancipation and release from understanding the Law was transformed from weeping to joy – an eschatological picture of our weeping turning into joy in New Creation (Revelation 21:4).

It is interesting that instead of describing the keeping of Yom Kippur, v.13-14 immediately begins with the keeping of the Feast of Booths, as a restoration of a practice not done since the days of Yeshua the son of Nun (v.17), keeping to what the law had stated in Leviticus 23:34-39 / Deuteronomy 16:13-15.  In fact, this follows naturally from the hearing of the law earlier in this chapter – for the themes have been one of release, one of understanding, one of rejoicing that the LORD has taken away our grievances, as symbolised most starkly in the festival of Feast of Booths.  As Leviticus 23:35 states, “On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord.”  Deuteronomy 16:14 states, “You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow who are within your towns.”

Nehemiah 9

It is only upon such grateful thanksgiving that they then assemble with fasting and in sackcloth, confessing their sins and iniquities of their fathers (v.1-2), finding confidence first in the Word, then in confession, then in worship (v.3).  It is from v.6 onwards that we see a history of redemption, from Genesis up till now, His promises fulfilled through Abraham’s faithfulness (v.6-8), through the great exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (v.9-15) – and despite the stiffneckedness of the Israelites, He still remained faithful and gracious (v.16-21), sustaining them in the wilderness and instructing them by giving them the Holy Spirit.  Such goodness which came to them was completely by His hand (v.22-25).

Yet, the Israelites continued to be disobedient and ignored His law (v.26-31) – and here, His mercies are repeated (3 times “in your great mercies” repeated in these few verses) throughout the age of the judges and the kings from the time of Moses to the time of Zedekiah, the last king of Israel before the Babylonian exile.  By His prophets, by His saviors, by His warnings, by His Spirit (v.30) – all rejected and blasphemed (c.f. Leviticus 24:16; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).  Hence, their current state of slavery is one not caused by God – but (notably) it is the Levites who recognise that their kings, their princes, their priests and their fathers have not kept their law or paid attention to His commandments and His warnings.  Because of all this, the Levites (v.38) make a firm covenant in writing, with the names of Israel’s princes, Levites and priests.

Nehemiah 7-9: Clear Understanding

2 Chronicles 22-24: Preserving the house of David

Chapter 22

The wicked mother Athaliah is the instigator of the potential destruction of the promise and hope of Israel in her attempt to destroy all the royal family of the house of Judah.  This begins with her son Ahaziah, in her marriage with Jehoram – and unfortunately Ahaziah walked in the ways of the house of Ahab (v.3), in the counsel of those in this wicked house (v.4-5).  Rather than instilling the fear of the LORD, the knowledge of the gospel, into the hearts of the neighbouring nations, he would rather join in alliance with Ahab’s son Jehoram to make war against Syria.  It is therefore righteous and in God’s ordinance that Jehu son of Nimshi should destroy the house of Ahab and Ahaziah alongside with it (v.9).  However, this is not the same as destroying the royal house of David, which was Athaliah’s intent (v.10), for Ahaziah had a son Joash (who was not yet able to rule v.9, v.11).

It is in God’s providence that Joash is protected from the murderous intent of Athaliah and that the lamp in the house of David is not extinguished – and this is done by the hand of Ahaziah’s sister Jehoshabeath (oath of Jehovah), wife of a priest Jehoiada (knowledge of the LORD), again the preservation of the house of David initiated not by mere man, nor by mere king, but by the ordained priesthood.  Joash was therefore hidden in the house of God whilst Athaliah the whore reigned free, just as Christ was hidden in the house of God – known to those faithful to Him – awaiting the day when He would glorify the Father and display the Triune glory in fullness on the cross and destroy the whore once and for all (Revelation 17).

Chapter 23

Just like the scene of the wise men Matthew 2, Jehoiada with Azariah (whom Jehovah helps) (son of Jeroham (cherished)), Ishmael (whom God hears) (son of Jehohanan (whom God gave)), Azariah (son of Obed (serving)), Maaseiah (work of the LORD) (son of Adaiah (adorned by Jehovah)) and Elishaphat (whom God judges) (son of Zichri (memorable)) together gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah and came to Jerusalem to announce the coming of the true king.  These are clearly men who looked forward to the Promised Seed and saw in Joash the need to overthrow Athaliah’s mad rule, Joash being the only hope and lineage from whom the Promised Seed shall come.  This is indeed a literal keeping/guarding of the law and covenant until the day of Christ’s first coming (c.f. Genesis 2:15 original Hebrew interpretation), as we see the synonymous nature of protecting Joash as if protecting the LORD Himself (v.6)!  These were men who understood what the Sabbath truly meant – an act of worship and not a secular piece of work to further one’s own kingdom (c.f. Luke 6:1-5); thus they fulfilled the true meaning of the Sabbath not by taking “rest”, but by achieving the promised rest in protecting the king of the house of David.

It is therefore a beautiful comparison in v.11-15, the imagery of the anointed, protected and elected king Joash from the line of David (with much song and dance!) contrasted to Athaliah’s madness and eventual death (v.13-15).  Therefore Jehoiada, from the protection of the king in his early youth, to the king’s anointing was very much the picture of the John the Baptist was to Christ, making the way straight for the king’s headship over the kingdom.  His covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the LORD’s people (v.16) is a restoration of the status quo set down in David’s and Solomon’s day.  Like the period of Asa, Israel once again went through a reformation of its identity (v.17-18), reminded time and time again the importance of the house of David and the lineage of priests in presenting a multimedia presentation of the true King to come.  They should all know that the peace achieved after Athaliah’s death (v.21) was but a short one, a mere taste of the everlasting peace only achievable by the destroyer of the serpent’s head.

Chapter 24

However, it was foreboding that all the work and the covenant was kept by Jehoiada – but not Joash.  Joash was only a type of the foretold King, but bore hardly any quality similar to that of Christ.  Only during the days of Jehoiada that he worked to restore the house of the LORD and re-introduced the tax initiated by Moses in the wilderness (Exodus 30:12-14) as a reminder of the people’s need to focus on the House of the LORD (which was the tabernacle, the sanctuary, in Moses’ time) which defines the entire nation.  So the national dedication of the LORD’s offering was pleasing (v.8-14) and worked towards the proper reparation of the house of the LORD as well as utensils for serving in the house of the LORD (v.14), with burnt offerings offered in the days of Jehoiada’s leadership.  However, it is apparent that Joash’s heart was merely skin-deep in his love for Jesus; where Jehoiada focused not on the pomp and presentation of the House (possibly a reason why the Levites did not act quickly under Jehoiada’s leadership – v.5-6), he compensated in his spiritual influence over the kingdom that all would offer burnt offerings and provide wise advice to the king to prevent him defecting from his role as king in the house of David.  Yet, his death led to inevitable trouble (v.17) as the heart of the king was not grounded in the Word, nor the true meaning of the glorious physicality of the temple, and instead he was led astray by the princes of Judah to abandon the house of the LORD.

Joash’s eventual murder of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (forgetting the kindness of Jehoiada v.22 who had preserved Joash lest he be murdered by Athaliah) is a picture of the chosen nation Israel crucifying our LORD Jesus, solidifying the truth that Israel is not an elect nation due to its purity or virtue.  Rather, Israel was elected to display itself as a type of the sinner of the world, and Jesus the creator (with the Father and the Spirit) being crucified by the rebellious created.  Thus, the irony that Ahaziah and Jehoram’s invasion of Syria is brought back on its head as the Syrians return to destroy the princes of Judah and execution of Joash despite the Syrians having come with few men (v.24).  Although Jehoiada preserved Joash under the LORD’s direction, it was also His discretion to destroy Joash for not walking with Christ and for walking in the ways of his father Ahaziah and grandmother Athaliah.  However, his destruction now is the the vengeance of the LORD (at the hand of non-Israelites – the Syrians, Ammonites and Moabites c.f. v. 26 – a picture foretelling the Gentiles being led by the LORD instead of the Israelites themselves) and His justice truly served, as the house of David is still preserved in Amaziah (v.27).  The preservation of the house of David would not have been possible had Athaliah murdered Joash at the outset, yet it is in the LORD’s mercy that He should continue his steadfast love for David’s descendants, despite the Israelites’ continual relapses into rebellion.

 

2 Chronicles 22-24: Preserving the house of David

2 Chronicles 19-21: Victorious Worship

Chapter 19

Despite Jehoshaphat’s cry in chapter 18, his alliance with Ahab still needed to be accounted for – hence Hanani’s commentary on Jehoshaphat’s help of “the wicked” (v.2) and love for those who hate the LORD.  This is very much allows us to see what it means for us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44) – which is to pray for those who persecute you.  It would appear that Jehoshaphat’s alliance did not include the heart to convert Ahab to following Christ; rather, Jehoshaphat’s oath to be with Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18:3 betrayed Jehoshaphat’s intentions.

Immediately thereafter, the narrator describes Jehoshaphat has appointing judges in the land of all the fortified cities of Judah (v.5), reminding them that they judge for the LORD and not for man.  It is clear that the narrator intends not to merely focus on Jehoshaphat’s unholy alliance with Ahab, but rather recall the good which is found in Jehoshaphat (v.3) in setting his heart to seek God, as proven in his appointment of righteous judges.  This is followed in v.8-11 by his appointment of certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel to give judgment for the LORD and to decide disputed cases – a further development of the justice under the banner of Jehoshaphat which should be done “in the fear of the LORD, in faithfulness, and with [their] whole heart…” (v.9; c.f. v.11).

Chapter 20

Again, in fulfilment of Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6, Jehoshaphat is right to set his face to seek the LORD (v.3) in the oncoming invasion from the neighbouring nations.  However, this is a far cry from the peace in the days of Asa when the law of the LORD pointed to the cross and instilled the fear of the LORD on even the neighbouring nations’ hearts.  Now, the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites no longer have such fear, an indication of Jehoshaphat’s divided heart.  It is at this time that a national fast is declared (v.3) and thus he prayed:

O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven?  You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.  In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.  Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?  And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you – for your name is in this house – and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.” (v.6-9)

Indeed, Jehoshaphat goes on to comment how these Ammonites, Moabites and people from Mount Seir were not attacked in the days of the exodus and yet they repay Israel with such aggression (v.10-11) – yet his hope does not lie in Israel’s brute strength (or lack of).  Rather, his hope lies in the name of the LORD – for that is the only reason why they stand before the house of the LORD, the sanctuary, the temple.  It is the same Name which the ancient Christians called upon (Genesis 4:26), the object of the Old Testament saints’ worship, which warrants the election of Abraham as God’s friend and Israel as the elected nation through which the promised Offspring shall come.  And this reminder comes through the mouth of the Levite Jahaziel (whom God watches over) by the filling of the Holy Spirit, that the Israelites shall not be afraid nor dismayed.  It is fitting that Jahaziel is described to have hailed from the lineage of Asaph, one of the leaders of David’s choir (1 Chronicles 6:39), bringing us again back to the LORD’s faithfulness to the house of David.

Further, the enemies shall go up by the ascent of Ziz (flower / branch) at the east of the wilderness of Jeruel (vision / founded by God) – and it is here that Israel need not even fight in this battle but merely to witness the salvation of the LORD on Judah and Jerusalem’s behalf.  Is this not the same fight which Christ fought on our behalf on the cross and we merely need to stand our grand and witness this miracle of salvation?  This is complemented by the beautiful image of Jehoshaphat the king, leading all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem to fall down before the LORD in worship, whilst the Levites, Kohathites and Korahites stood up to praise the LORD with a very loud voice – the combined silent obedience with uncontrolled praise.  We are, for the first time since 2 Chronicles 7:6 in the times of Solomon brought to remember the LORD’s steadfast love (v.21); to believe his prophets.

It is in their bowed head in worship, their psalms of victory and praise, that the men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir are defeated.  They are defeated whilst the Christians are praising; this is no “army” of God – this is but a priesthood, a family of worshippers who simply believe that salvation is gifted to them through the mouth of the LORD and His prophets (v.20-22).  Their initial fear evolves into unity as Christ-followers and people of the first Promise of the gospel in Genesis 3:15; which is juxtaposed against the initial false unity of the enemies which degraded into mass hysteria and mutual destruction (v.23). Is this not the picture of Old Testament worship – expecting Christ to be victorious on the cross?  Although Christ has not yet achieved such victory, their praise and hymns are sung as if this ancient promise is already fulfilled (Revelation 13:8); and similarly, although Christ has not yet returned to take us home, we are already citizens of heaven in a very Spirit-led manner?

It is quite a literal picture of the meek inheriting the treasures of the earth in three days (v.24-25), a reminder once again of the treasure of salvation we have received in the short course of three days from Christ’s death to resurrection, leading to the fourth day of blessing at the Valley of Beracah (blessing).  Yet, this blessing first came from the LORD and what they bless the LORD with is what the LORD had anyway – a picture of the perichoretic triune Christian community.  For the first time since the days of Asa (2 Chronicles 14), the fear of God returned on all the kingdoms of the neighbouring countries once more.  However, Jehoshaphat is again but a weak follower of Christ, with the narrator ending the description of his reign as having joined again with another wicked king of Israel (Ahaziah).

Chapter 21

Despite Jehoshaphat’s holy efforts as king of Israel, his son did not walk in his way but rather in the way of the wicked king Ahab (v.1-6).  Yet, the LORD’s steadfast love for Israel meant that the covenant He has made with David will not be destroyed because of traitors in the house of David (v.7) – the lamp of the Promised Seed shall not be extinguished even if Satan’s agents are hiding in the ancient church.  Yet, due to Jehoram’s satanic walk, men of Edom, Libnah, Philistines, and Arabians no longer feared the LORD and revolted from the rule of Judah (v.8-10; v.16-17).  Jehoram further led Judah and Jerusalem into whoredom, which evoked a disciplinary response from the LORD through the mouth of Elijah – that a plague shall strike Israel (v.14-15, 18-20) – Jehoram being one of the first kings of Judah to exceedingly stray from the covenant promise made to the Davidic household.  Despite this response, we are reminded once again of the opening verses (v.6-7) – “…the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever“.  Indeed, in spite of our lies and our deceit, our standing in Christ (Romans 3:4) – the lamp given to David’s lineage (Revelation 21:23) – secures us the salvation we do not deserve.

 

2 Chronicles 19-21: Victorious Worship

2 Chronicles 13-15: Covenant of Salt

Chapter 13

Here, the rivalry is again described overall as the tension between the house of David and the house of Jeroboam, with the intention of the narrator being very clearly one of “priesthood versus heresy”.  Verses 3-12 is a beautiful proclamation made by Abijah, stating clearly what has been implied in Jeroboam’s removal of the Levitical priests in 2 Chronicles 11 (c.f. v.9-12).  Solomon’s household, as well as Rehoboam’s, were portrayed as the elected household in v.5 – “…the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt“.  This phrase “covenant of salt” is used in two other instances – Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19.  In my commentary of the book of Numbers, the covenant is explained as such:

“Salt is commonly used in two analogies: the covenant between LORD and man; and negative connotations (C.f. Ezekiel 47:11 and Zeph 2:9).  Leviticus 2:13 makes the point that all the grain offerings shall have the covenant of salt.  When placing this covenant alongside Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of salt, it is simultaneously an imagery of God’s sanctification/separation.  In 2 Kings, the usage of the salt is for purification of the water; in Ezekiel, the imagery of the salt is that of dirt and uncleanness.  The prophecy of Ezekiel 47:8 makes a distinction between fresh and salt water – and no doubt, the salt water being the water of punishment from the deluge from the window above heaven (c.f. Genesis 7 and 2 Peter 3), but the fresh water being the water on earth.

 

To bring these two imageries together, the feeding on the holy flesh (cow/sheep/goat) and the unmistakable “covenant of salt”, the picture is a two-fold manifestation of Christ’s work on the cross.  Through his blood, we can now feed continuously of the flesh represented by the communion bread as sanctified priests, symbolized by the anointing and separation of the covenant of salt.  It is by this covenant of salt that David and his sons were given the kingship over Israel forever?  Undoubtedly this salt-covenant to David and his sons is a conscious foresight of the Son’s eternal kingdom, an act of purification, just as the salt waters burst through the heavens to purify the world of the wicked creatures.”

This covenant of salt is a synonym to the gospel work completed through David’s lineage and not to Jeroboam’s lineage.  Jeroboam’s failure to see the importance of the Temple, of the Levites, of Jesus’ heritage are all the essence of all heresies – the failure to connect the dots in the Old Testament which all point towards the cross and not to oneself’s creation of truth.  “Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed” (v.12).  Indeed, David, Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijah are not the head of Israel – the LORD God Himself is the Head, and Jeroboam is challenging not Judah, nor Abijah, but the LORD Himself.

This explains Jeroboam’s utter debacle and loss in v.13-20, whereas Abijah grew mighty under the wings of the LORD.

Chapter 14

Again, chapter 14 records another victory achieved solely by relying on the LORD, in fulfillment of Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6.  This time, it is not Jeroboam, but the Ethiopians (who have clearly forgotten the blessing of Solomon through their early Queen of Sheba in chapter 9) who challenged Israel with more men than Jeroboam (an army of a million men vs. Jeroboam’s 800,000 men).  Asa’s cry is similar to that of his father’s: “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude.  O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.

Chapter 15

Upon the filling of the Holy Spirit, Azariah the son of Oded reminds king Asa of the “Golden Age” of Israel’s rule under David and Solomon, when the gospel was clearly communicated amongst the Israelites, all of whom were looking forward to the day of the Messiah’s first coming.  Azariah’s comment that “For a long time Israel was without the true God” (v.3) is an observation of Israel losing its way in the period since Rehoboam to Asa, due to the removal of the formal priesthood and compliance with the Mosaic statutes under the divided rule of Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  The only comfort of the Israelites was through their oral teaching and remembrance of the LORD’s steadfast love in their times of distress (v.4).  However, Azariah wishes for the Christian walk to be filled with peace (v.5), and not to only call upon the LORD in times of brokenness (v.6).  Asa’s subsequent actions and reforms (v.8-15) are indeed the actions of a righteous Christian king, drawing in more and more of those previous defected (those from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon v.9) with his testimony of the LORD.  It is with their collective sacrifice (v.11) and the covenant and oath (v.12-14) that the LORD gave them rest all around (v.15-19) between his tenth year (when he defeated the Ethiopians) and 35th year as king.  The LORD’s steadfast love to the house of David means that Asa’s compliance with the Spirit’s prompting is a key step towards ensuring the survival of Israel until the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled.  Although man has forgotten the law and priesthood, the LORD will never forget.  Although man may even forget the promise of the Messiah as their true hope, the LORD will never stop working to ensure the Messiah will come from the line of David and crush the Satan who leads His sheep astray time and time again.

2 Chronicles 13-15: Covenant of Salt

1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

Chapter 12 continued with various descriptions of David’s mighty men, from Benjaminites (v.2), Gadites (v.8), men of Judah (v.16) and Manassites (v.19) to the other tribes listed in the divisions of the armed troops who also assisted David in turning the kingdom of Saul over to him (such as Simeon (v.25), Levi (v.26), Jehoiada of the house of Aaron (v.27), Ephraim (v.30), Issachar (v.32), Zebulun (v.33), Naphtali (v.34), Dan (v.35), Asher (v.36), Reuben (v.37) – altogether a large number of men from all the 12 tribes of Israel).  These were men of notable abilities (v.2), the least was a match for a hundred men and the greatest for a thousand (v.14).  Amasai (the “strong“, the chief of the thirty v.18), being filled with the Spirit, thus declares that these men are as follows:

We are yours, O David, and with you, O Son of Jesse!  Peace, peace to you, and peace to your helpers!  For your God helps you

Indeed, but for David’s LORD, these mighty men would not be David’s subjects to begin with, that they were scatter from Saul’s headship and kingship to be with the one persecuted and rejected by the kingdom at large (v.19).  These are the men who were added day to day to David’s camp, until there was a great army of God (v.22)  indeed, an army of God, not an army of man.  This army had one single purpose:  to make David king over all Israel (v.38), hundreds of thousands of men feasting with David for three days (v.39) on food from afar, celebratory elements of flour, figs, raisins, wine, oil, oxen and sheep – a shadow of the marriage supper of the Lamb in new creation (v.39-40; Revelation 19:9), for “there was joy in Israel“.

This familial supper is thus combined with the celebratory reclamation of the ark.  Chapter 13 begins with David consulting with the commanders, the leader, and above all – the LORD (v.2), to firstly gather brothers in Christ who were scattered across the land.  Just as the good news was to be brought to the ends of the world as Israel was to be a priest to the nations (Exodus 19:6; Mathew 24:14), Israel must firstly be gathered and seek the LORD as one man (c.f. Judges 20, before the days of Saul).

From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7).  It has therefore been over two decades until David has ushered in the symbolic presence of the LORD back into the arms of the Israelites.  This explains why David assembled Israel to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim, as it was brought to that region by the Philistines who had been struck with curses (e.g. 1 Samuel 5:6).  Eleazar (God has helped), the son of Abinadab (father of nobleness) has thus taken care of the ark since it was brought to his father’s house in Samuel’s day.

However, terror struck in v.9, at the threshing floor of Chidon (meaning “javelin“; or Nacon, meaning “prepared“- c.f. 2 Samuel 6:6) when Uzzah unwittingly touched the ark when the oxen stumbled and died there before God.  Although it would seem to be merely a careless mistake that this son of Abinadab had died simply from touching the ark, this family of Levites should have known from Exodus 25:14 that the proper method of transporting the ark is not by a cart but by the poles in the side of the ark.  This proper procedure was not observed with care, and thus the incident – a reminder that such joy for the LORD should not come without proper knowledge of the gospel and worshipping in His will and His direction.  Thus, as shown in the house of Abinadab and in the house of Obed-edom – with proper understanding of our standing before the LORD in our worship of Him, understanding that the work of the priesthood can never be replaced or revised, allows us to remember that the Father has indeed chosen to bless us through the High Priest and not through our devised methods of worship.  This, of course, translates into the Protestant obsession with “faith” and “grace” (sometime with a capital G) rather than with Christ Himself:

“The views to which the Wesleys were led by these means became of historic importance, for these views influenced the beliefs they held throughout life.  They both spoke of ‘seeking Christ’, yet as one analyses the pertinent passages in their Journals it becomes evident that they were actuallly seeking faith more than they were Christ. Faith had become the great desideratum in their thinking, insomuch that they began to look upon it as an entity in itself.  Under [the Moravian] Bohler’s instructions they had forsaken their trust in personal endeavours and works, but faith had become a kind of new endeavour which they substituted for their former endeavours and a work which took the place of their former good works.  They had still learned nothing about receiving Christ in the fullness of His person and the completeness of His saving work, but were concerned about faith itself and what measure of it might be necessary for salvation.  Charles expected that the coming of this faith might be associated with some visible presence of Christ, and John looked for an experience which would be accompanied by an emotional response.  ‘I well saw’, he wrote, ‘that no-one could, in the nature of things, have such a sense of forgiveness and not feel it.  But I felt it not.” – Arnold Dallimore on John Wesley in his George Whitfield, vol 1

Chapter 14 chronicles David’s victories against the Philistines, underscoring God who has broken through David’s enemies by David’s hands; so also it is the Father’s joint victory over the cross through the Son.  As Karl Barth states it in his first volume of his Church Dogmatics – the Father’s work has His own distinguishable personality and mark compared to the Son’s, but should never be separated from the Son.  The Son was indeed the One on the cross, but it is as much the Father’s work in the Son’s overcoming of the sting of death as it is the Son’s.  David’s fame is therefore underlined by the LORD (v.17); not by Saul’s type of might, nor by Abinadab’s type of good works, but simply by seeking Christ Himself.

Note the difference in chapter 15 with the break-out against Uzzah in chapter 13; David has learned from his experience and has chosen the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites to consecrate themselves so that they may bring up the ark of the LORD (v.12).  The proper procedure has been observed, and David understood that the failure came from the fact that they “did not carry it the first time, [so] the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule“.  Exodus 24:15 was thus observed in chapter 15:15.  The LORD thus helped the Levites (who had prepared joyous music in this act of worship, see v. 16-25), and their response was to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams (v.26; c.f. Numbers 23:1; Job 42:8; Ezekiel 45:23) – at the same time, David was dressed as a Levite, robed in fine linen with a linen ephod.  This is a grand picture of the Saviour in His fullness, the salvific work of the Lamb through His sinless sacrifice, the glorious High Priest and King coming in the sound of the horn, trumpets, cymbals, harps and lyres (c.f. Book of Revelation).

Yet, in this wonderful occasion, the chapter ends with Michal’s jealousy for David which is nothing like the jealous love of the LORD.  Her heart for David consumed her above her love for the LORD (2 Samuel 6:23), forgetting what the mystery of marriage truly is about (Ephesians 5:22-33).

1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

1 Kings 19-20: Son of the Judge

I Kings 19

 

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.

2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”

3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

 

Unlike his boldness in chapter 18, we see Elijah cowering into fear by going back to Beersheba, the well of the oath made between Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 21:31), hiding in the region of Judah instead.  Again, this emphasizes on the weakness of the LORD’s election of a seemingly inappropriate and humble servant to do his bidding more clearly portrayed in the person of the rejected and humbled Christ.

 

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”

6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.

7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”

8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

 

It is under the shade and protection of this broom tree that the Angel, the Son of the Father, goes to feed Elijah for the journey is too great for him (v.7).  Look at the tenderness of our LORD God, reaching out to us intimately ensuring that we are not tempted beyond our abilities (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Such is the power of the food provided by the Son of God that Elijah went on to ensure the temptation and the trial for forty days and forty nights (c.f. Genesis 7:4, 7:12; Exodus 24:18, 34:28) until he reached Horeb, the mountain range of which Sinai was one of the summits (Exodus 3:1, 17:6, 33:6; Psalm 106:19).  This is a reminder of Moses’ standing before the Father on the same Mount, and here Elijah is hiding in the same remarkable place where Moses led the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt towards Canaan.  Back then, the tribes were united under the banner of the Angel who led them in the pillar of cloud and fire – and now, we return to the dire situation of the reluctant prophet leading the Israelites back to a restored faith in Jesus.

 

9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.

16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.

17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.

18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

 

Note, Christ coming to Elijah as “the word of the LORD” and questioning Elijah “What are you doing here…?” (v.9).  Elijah’s response is the same in v.10 and 14, as bookends to the mighty display of God’s synchronized power of might and intimacy.  Elijah is in nothing short of despair – a man who believes that he is the only one left and fears for the day when not one prophet remains to intercede for Israel.

 

Where, on the same Mount in the region of where the commandments were given through Moses; the same Mount where Moses met Jesus (Exodus 3); and it is on the same Mount that the Word of God, the Son of the Father, commanded Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD”.   Elijah witnessed the Father, just as Moses witnessed the Father on the third day (Exodus 19).  Yet, this time it is not the giving of the law – but it is a transition from “a great and strong wind” which tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before Him; then an “earthquake”; then a “fire”.  The Holy Spirit in the wind (ruach) (Revelation 7:1), to earthquake (Revelation 8:5, 11:13-19, 16:18), to fire (Revelation 20:14-15, 21:18).    It is after the passing of these prophetic elements of the book of Revelation that we reach the end: a low whisper (v.12).  It is to this low whisper that the same Angel, the Word of God, the Son of God – the qol of God (Hebrew literal translation of ‘voice’ – c.f. literal translation of Exodus 20:18 where the Voice is seen).  The question is repeated – and the Word is the LORD, just as the Word was with the LORD (John 1) in this majestic feat on the Mount of Horeb.  It is this joint connection between Elijah, Moses and Christ on Mount Horeb which explains their joint meeting at Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9.

 

It is interesting from v.15 onwards that we see the LORD’s hand over a nation aside from Israel – that he would appoint the prophet from Judah to anoint a king Hazael (whom God sees) to be over Syria.  Though he does not appear until 2 Kings 8 (under the observation of Elisha, the prophet in Elijah’s place), this prophecy pertains to the eventual preservation of 7,000 in Israel in light of the overarching defeat of the nation by Assyrians and Babylonians by the end of 2 Kings.

 

The LORD also cares for the appropriate election of Jehu (Jehovah is He), the son of the saved (Nimshi) to anoint as the new king over Israel, and the salvation of God (Elisha) as the son of the judge (Shaphat) of the meadow of dancing (Abel-meholah) as the prophet in Elijah’s place.  These pertain to things in 2 Kings 9.  The full meaning of the prophecy in v.17-18 would be made clear at that stage when the ultimate authority is not given to the king of Syria, nor to the king of Israel, but by the prophet Elisha (v.17) – reminding us that the spiritual Israelite is more authoritative than that of a king.  It is the LORD’s preparation of those who have either kissed Him, or kissed Baal – the romantic language used as a potent imagery against the faithlessness of the nations.  The importance of the appointment of Elisha is made apparent when the first focus here is his election, and not the anointing of Hazael nor the anointing of Jehu which is yet to come:

 

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him.

20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”

21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

Matthew Henry:

Elisha came to a resolution presently, but begged a little time, not to ask leave, but only to take leave, of his parents. This was not an excuse for delay, like his (Luke ix. 61) that desired he might bid those farewell that were at home, but only a reservation of the respect and duty he owed to his father and mother. Elijah bade him to back and do it, he would not hinder him; nay, if he would, he might go back, and not return, for any thing he had done to him. He will not force him, nor take him against his will; let him sit down and count the cost, and make it his own act. The efficacy of God’s grace preserves the native liberty of man’s will, so that those who are good are good of choice and not by constraint, not pressed men, but volunteers. 3. That it was a pleasant and acceptable call to him, which appears by the farewell-feast he made for his family ( 21), though he not only quitted all the comforts of his father’s house, but exposed himself to the malignity of Jezebel and her party. It was a discouraging time for prophets to set out in. A man that had consulted with flesh and blood would not be fond of Elijah’s mantle, nor willing to wear his coat; yet Elisha cheerfully, and with a great deal of satisfaction, leaves all to accompany him. Thus Matthew made a great fast when he left the receipt of custom to follow Christ. 4. That it was an effectual call. Elijah did not stay for him, lest he should seem to compel him, but left him to his own choice, and he soon arose, went after him, and not only associated with him, but ministered to him as his servitor, poured water on his hands, 2 Kings iii. 11. It is of great advantage to young ministers to spend some time under the direction of those that are aged and experienced, whose years teach wisdom, and not to think much, if occasion be, to minister to them. Those that would be fit to teach must have time to learn; and those that hope hereafter to rise and rule must be willing at first to stoop and serve.

 

I Kings 20:

1 Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his army together. Thirty-two kings were with him, and horses and chariots. And he went up and closed in on Samaria and fought against it.

2 And he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, “Thus says Ben-hadad:

3 ‘Your silver and your gold are mine; your best wives and children also are mine.’”

4 And the king of Israel answered, “As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have.”

5 The messengers came again and said, “Thus says Ben-hadad: ‘I sent to you, saying, “Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children.”

6 Nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants and lay hands on whatever pleases you and take it away.’”

 

The son of the Syrian god – Ben-hadad, the king of Syria demands “the best wives and children, and silver and gold” (v.3) – followed with a greater demand of what is in the houses of Ahab’s servants’ houses, and lay hands on whatever pleases them (v.6).  It is to the grander and more ‘unreasonable’ request of v.6 that Ahab refuses, though he had wholeheartedly given the king himself and “all that [he has]” (v.4).  Ahab has suffered much – that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slaughtered in chapter 18, that these false gods have failed Israel in the battles against Syria.  Yet, this is but a natural progression of reliance on self-made gods which are dead – affecting not only himself but the nation of which he is the head.  Israel, if united as one (Judges 20:11), would otherwise prosper under the Anointed King who unites them under the banner of the Heavenly Father.

 

 

7 Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, “Mark, now, and see how this man is seeking trouble, for he sent to me for my wives and my children, and for my silver and my gold, and I did not refuse him.”

8 And all the elders and all the people said to him, “Do not listen or consent.”

9 So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, “Tell my lord the king, ‘All that you first demanded of your servant I will do, but this thing I cannot do.’” And the messengers departed and brought him word again.

10 Ben-hadad sent to him and said, “The gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me.”

11 And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself like he who takes it off.’”

12 When Ben-hadad heard this message as he was drinking with the kings in the booths, he said to his men, “Take your positions.” And they took their positions against the city.

 

The exchange between Ben-hadad and Ahab is an exchange based on empty pride.  Ben-hadad who swears by “the gods” (v.10), and Ahab who preaches humbleness (v.11) are both victims of their own demise.  Ahab and Jezebel are exactly those who have assumed the victory of their Baals and Asherah; Ben-hadad was wrong to assume victory over Israel.  Yet, the victory still comes to Ahab not because of his idolatry, but because of the LORD’s faithfulness to Israel from which the Son will be born and cut off.

 

13 And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

14 And Ahab said, “By whom?” He said, “Thus says the LORD, By the servants of the governors of the districts.” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” He answered, “You.”

15 Then he mustered the servants of the governors of the districts, and they were 232. And after them he mustered all the people of Israel, seven thousand.

 

Yet, in face of the various kings (33 kings including Ben-hadad himself v.1), a prophet came near to Ahab and preached what Ahab needed to hear.  Victory by the servants of the governors of the districts; as if such men were not already humble by their stature, the numbers were also humble (v.15 – mere 232).  The battle, however, must be started by the king of Israel (v.14) – and achieved by the humble servants, by those (likely those who haven’t yet bowed their knees nor kissed Baal) 7,000 (1 Kings 19:18), to ensure that glory is given to the true LORD (Proverbs 21:31):

 

 

16 And they went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the booths, he and the thirty-two kings who helped him.

17 The servants of the governors of the districts went out first. And Ben-hadad sent out scouts, and they reported to him, “Men are coming out from Samaria.”

18 He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive. Or if they have come out for war, take them alive.”

19 So these went out of the city, the servants of the governors of the districts and the army that followed them.

20 And each struck down his man. The Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them, but Ben-hadad king of Syria escaped on a horse with horsemen.

21 And the king of Israel went out and struck the horses and chariots, and struck the Syrians with a great blow.

22 Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, “Come, strengthen yourself, and consider well what you have to do, for in the spring the king of Syria will come up against you.”

23 And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.

24 And do this: remove the kings, each from his post, and put commanders in their places,

25 and muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot. Then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.” And he listened to their voice and did so.

 

It is thus preached to Ahab that this victory was clearly in the LORD’s hand, though should not be taken lightly (v.22) and to be continually equipped and not to become complacent:

 

Matthew 12:43-45

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.

44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.

45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

 

What superstition that the Yahweh of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – the God of relationship with men, is labeled as a mere ‘god of hills’ – god of a dead inanimate object.  That, again, reveals the poor theology of Ben-hadad, for him to believe that gods are ‘governors’ of a piece of land.  Yet, our God is our Saviour, personal, intimate, and corporate.

 

26 In the spring, Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel.

27 And the people of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went against them. The people of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Syrians filled the country.

28 And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”

29 And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined. And the people of Israel struck down of the Syrians 100,000 foot soldiers in one day.

30 And the rest fled into the city of Aphek, and the wall fell upon 27,000 men who were left.

Ben-hadad also fled and entered an inner chamber in the city.

 

Aphek is a royal city of the Canaanites meaning ‘strength’ – the same place where a Canaanite king was killed by Joshua (Joshua 12:18), a place constantly used by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1; 1 Samuel 29:1), marking off the eventual demise of Syria in Ben-hadad’s choice to fight against Israel there.  For the strength lies in the LORD.

 

The prophet (v.13, 22), and the man of God (v.28) – are both people aside from Elijah who have reached out to Ahab, to ensure that he is walking in the LORD’s commands to ensure that Israel is not wiped out.  This is the LORD’s faithfulness carried out, for He is the God not merely of hills, but also of valleys (v.28), but even moreso the God of Elijah, Elisha, the prophet, the man of God.  A mere 7,000 odd people, by the LORD’s strength, defeating the 100,000 foot soldiers in one day.  This massacre is nothing short of a miracle.  As if hiding in a city called strength is a true refuge for Ben-hadad (v.30)!

 

31 And his servants said to him, “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. Let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads and go out to the king of Israel. Perhaps he will spare your life.”

32 So they tied sackcloth around their waists and put ropes on their heads and went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please, let me live.’” And he said, “Does he still live? He is my brother.”

33 Now the men were watching for a sign, and they quickly took it up from him and said, “Yes, your brother Ben-hadad.” Then he said, “Go and bring him.” Then Ben-hadad came out to him, and he caused him to come up into the chariot.

34 And Ben-hadad said to him, “The cities that my father took from your father I will restore, and you may establish bazaars for yourself in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.” And Ahab said, “I will let you go on these terms.” So he made a covenant with him and let him go.

 

Yet, this is where Ahab is clearly not aligned with the LORD who brought victory for Israel, to preserve Israel.  Ahab chose to enter a covenant with his “brother” Ben-hadad (v.33) – the same “brother” who tried to conquer Israel, take all things pleasing in their eyes (likely to include the items in the House of the LORD as well) – the same “brother” who relied on the little gods.  This is walking out of line of His command (Deuteronomy 7, 32), and an example already demonstrated by Asa in earlier years (2 Chronicles 16:7).  What heresy to enter into covenant with a country which does not acknowledge the LORD’s might and sovereignty.

 

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him.

36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have gone from me, a lion shall strike you down.” And as soon as he had departed from him, a lion met him and struck him down.

37 Then he found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” And the man struck him—struck him and wounded him.

38 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, disguising himself with a bandage over his eyes.

39 And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’

40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.”

41 Then he hurried to take the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets.

42 And he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’”

43 And the king of Israel went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria.

 

The remaining verses of chapter 20 is reminiscent of 2 Samuel 12 – Nathan’s rebuke of David by use of analogy.  What is interesting in both 2 Samuel 12 and with Ahab is that the word of the king is held accountable by the prophet (2 Samuel 12:5-7, compared with v.40).  This is therefore the judgment of the king who had weighed the LORD’s justice lightly; for sin is not a light matter, which must require the blood of the innocent divine Son of God to be entirely removed.  To let this man go, whom the LORD had devoted to destruction, is to directly spit on the work of Christ.  For His work is not a cheap, but an entirely costly grace.  Thus, Ahab is judged (1 Kings 22:34-35), but not until after he had eventually humbled himself (1 Kings 21:29).  Yet, it still seems that the prophet’s actions in v.35-37 are out of place compared to Ahab’s self-condemnation.  It is important, however, to understand the crux of Ahab’s sin.  The appearance of mercy on the man’s behalf in v.36, is the same type of ‘mercy’ which Ahab exercised in v.42; yet the LORD’s intent to strike is filled with wisdom, an understanding built upon His coming Son’s work that the LORD shall instead strike the Son, and those who stand outside of Him.  For the man to refuse the LORD’s striking of the prophet (who had requested it), it is akin to him usurping the role of the LORD in presuming that His judgment is too harsh; that His wrath is too much.  What lies that we should presume anything like that!  His wrath is deserving on us, as is His judgment.  Yet, His love overflows through His beloved Son, and we are the subject of such grand mercy.

 

1 Kings 19-20: Son of the Judge

2 Samuel 17: The false fellowship against the Glorious Trinity

In 2 Samuel 17 we see Psalm 2 played out in entirety.  The ‘wicked counsel’ of men against the chosen counsel of Hushai, the type of Christ, interceding on behalf of the spiritual Israelite church.  Note how the wickedness of Ahithophel’s counsel is not in the destruction of all the men who went with David – rather, the focus is on one man (v.3).  His belief is that the death of this One Man will ‘liberate’ all men, and the people will be at peace – and there is a certain sense of irony here which is echoed in the words of the Pharisee in Acts (Acts 5:34-40).  

Yet, this plan is flawed in the LORD’s eyes – because the king is not fighting the king.  Thus comes in Hushai’s grand plan – to unite all the heretics of Israel, meanwhile commending David and his men.  Note especially v.11 where Hushai encourages Absalom to fight David, the heretical son against the father, the angel Satan against the Father who created him.   

 (8)  Hushai said, “You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people.  (9)  Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’  (10)  Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men.  (11)  But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person.  (12)  So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left.  (13)  If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there.”   

Note what words Hushai uses:  mighty (v.8), valiant (v.10), lion-hearted (v.10), valiant (again – v.10).  And under Hushai’s counsel where David and his men are portrayed positively powerful despite being exiled, what is equally important behind Hushai’s loyal words (to David and his men) is explained in v.14: 

(14)  And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.   

The key purpose of Absalom receiving Hushai’s counsel is “so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom”.  Through the going out of the false king, only then can the true king return from death.  This imagery is thoroughly carried forward into the passing over of the fords of the wilderness in v.16.  Yet, before we reach the passing of the fords, we come to see a stark imagery of the two sons of Zadok the priest, Jonathan and Ahimaaz, being forced to hide inside a well though they were waiting beside one (En-rogel).  In the providence of God, we see here a picture of the priestly sons hidden in the depth of the earth, in the well, and ascending out of the well to deliver the implied message behind this imagery of baptism (v.16-21). 

 (22)  Then David arose, and all the people who were with him, and they crossed the Jordan. By daybreak not one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.  (23)  When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.  (24)  Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel.  (25)  Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother.  (26)  And Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.  (27)  When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim,  (28)  brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils,  (29)  honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” 

And so, upon David’s crossing of the Jordan (v.22 onwards), we see a physical portrayal of Romans 6:3-5: 

Rom 6:3-5  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  (4)  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (5)  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 

David, taking the first step crossing through the waters of the Jordan is leading his men further away from the Promised Land; and yet, in doing so, Hushai’s counsel may be fulfilled that Absalom and his men may too walk this path of death.  Yet, unlike Jonathan and Ahimaaz who had ascended out of the well just as David and his men do not plan to stay on the outer side of Jordan, so also Absalom and his men shall be ‘baptised’ into the death of Christ (v.24) but not rise with Him for they planned to murder the King of the true church and try to force the bride into Satan’s hand.  This is the true picture of the crossing of the Jordan, in direct contrast with the first picture of crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land in Joshua 3.   

And it is in immediate response to this picture of death-baptism that Ahithophel saw that his counsel was defeated – the result of which is death, not only of king Absalom but also indirectly of himself.  His action of suicide is merely an action of receiving his firstfruit of death which is inevitable as he understood the meaning behind Absalom and his men crossing the waters of Jordan.  He is but a precursor to Judas – this man, who once walked alongside David as his counselor (2 Samuel 15:12) but like Judas has not recognized that the true David’s victory will bring life even to the rejected Judas and Ahithophel.  Rather than side with the children of light, he would rather remain in darkness as both men hang themselves in shame – and above all, in persistent disbelief that Jesus is a greater king of redemption than the satanic Absalom.   

Even this can be seen in the fellowship of Absalom and the fellowship of David and his men – Christ is all about feasting: evangelism and spiritual warfare are but tools of the period of the wilderness.  In faith, hope and love, the greatest of these three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13), for in new creation our pinnacle source of joy is partaking in the intra-trinitarian love of the Three Persons.  David is brought food from the rejected (v.27-29) – the pastureless (Lodebar); the inbreds (Ammonites); and the fullers (‘tramping’ the cloth in washing – Rogelim) – and yet, this is at the very place which Jacob called God’s camp – Mahanaim (v.24 c.f. Genesis 32:2).    How beautiful it is that the LORD would eat with us in the wilderness, to serve and be served in the wilderness, despite the ravenous wolves trying to persecute Him and kill Him?  What a stark contrast between the suicide of Ahithophel and the calmness of the loving fellowship of David and his men?  This is the beauty of the Trinitarian family and the love of God transcending even the evil counsel of Ahithophel (and the oath of Saul which was poorly made when the men were hungry – c.f. 1 Samuel 14:26-27) and turning his counsel into one which is ironically true.  For it is indeed in the death of Absalom, the evil king, that the bride will return to David, the true king.

2 Samuel 17: The false fellowship against the Glorious Trinity