BOOK 2: PSALM 59 OF 72 – Wronged but Righteous

We live in a world where the good Samaritans have been uprooted by the sniggering Pharisees.  How often does one hear that they’ve been wronged; that they are innocent, and their persecutors did not receive their just deserts; that they have worked hard, accumulated tears, sweat, and blood, but receive an imbalance of appreciation or reward.

Whilst 1 Samuel 19-20 shows us the narrative of Saul’s persecution of David, Psalm 59 helps us peer into David’s heart.  For there, we find the turmoil of the king-in-the-making, of the man after God’s own heart.  What we expect is a man who exudes continual confidence; whose gravitas precedes before him; who destroyed Goliath with his wit and not his brawn.  Instead, we find a man incredibly insecure; a man who pines for justice as he has been unjustly dealt with; a man who is not confident to take matters into his own hand, but rather to leave it in His.

Saul has left himself open to a harmful spirit from the Lord.  If not for Jonathan’s reminders, he would have pursued his passions to destroy David.  David describes him, and his men, as dogs howling and prowling about the city, bellowing with their mouths, lying in wait for David’s life, to stir up strife against him.  The enemies whom David faced are born of the same deceiver whom Jesus destroyed; and the enemies we face today are constantly deceived by the spirits of this world, than by the Holy Spirit Who breathes life through us.

That is why David can proclaim that the Lord is his Strength; that God is his fortress; that He will let David look in triumph on his enemies.  How can a howling, growling dog, a prowling lion, a hungry beast who wanders about for food, even scar the high towers of God’s temple?  We triumph because He is much larger than we perceive Him to be; and yet our sights are often on the dogs and lions than the unshakeable and unbreakable Rock we stand on.

David prays that his enemies are consumed by their own wrath; and indeed, that is what God allows, for those who do not stand under the cross; they are, as John said, already condemned: John 3:16-18.

 

Do we not need to restore our perspectives to this, daily?  Are not our eyes and our sight so easily manipulated by the circumstances that surround us?  This psalm is a firm reminder that, even a faithful shepherd like David is easily discouraged, describing to Jonathan that he is but one step away from death: 1 Samuel 20:3.  Yet, turning around, David realises that he need not fear death at all, because Jesus has conquered death.  David can now find strength – even strength in the face of death – that he can sing in the day of his distress.

These are not easy words for David to preach.  He was not a man who merely philosophised the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, and that he should somehow force himself to appreciate that God is his refuge.  No – he is a man who, like Jacob, wrestled with Jesus to be blessed.  David, too, is struggling here with the LORD; and by the end of this psalm, he is blessed and remembers that this Strength and towering fortress is built on the foundation of God’s steadfast love.

That is why Jesus’ work on the cross is so important; not just a generic concept of the emotion and passion that we call ‘love’ today.  Jesus’ work on the cross is a combination of His painful sacrifice, in the face of howling, growling, hungry dogs and lions; and His overcoming of these enemies is what allowed men like David; and men like us, to even have a basis to proclaim victory in the face of death; victory in the face of being wronged.

It is in the cross that we find comfort from the Lord who experienced the same discomfort; it is in the cross that we find true justice, from the Lord who had been unjustly treated; it is in the cross that we find true value, from the Lord who gives us our value.  When we set our sights on the cross, and not on the prowling lions, that we begin to realise that the balance of this world is corrupt.  That the scales are uneven.  But the cross evens the scales; the cross restores the corrupt balance.

 

 

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BOOK 2: PSALM 59 OF 72 – Wronged but Righteous

Book 2: Psalm 57 of 72 – His love and my praise

Today, we often say “praise the Lord” when He does amazing work in our lives.  When He gives us favour at work.  When we are blessed with the gift of children.  When we are provided for materially.

Yet, how often do we still praise Him when we are in the midst of difficult circumstances?  When there is a re-structuring in my firm and that I am re-directed to a team that I have no expertise in?  When my supervisor is potentially demonised?  When my financial obligations outweigh my income?  When there is severe illness in the family?

We often look to Job as the forebear, as it were, of the generations of Christians who have suffered and yet looked to the Redeemer: Job 19:25.

Whom we do not often associate with such praise in the midst of suffering is a man like David.  Whilst in the 1st few chapters of the book of Job we learn some facts about the faithfulness of the eponymous hero, the reader is not familiar with him as we are with David, whose generational, familial, military background are laid out in the course of various books in the Old Testament.  Clearly, Job teaches us a lesson on God’s sovereignty in the midst of unjust suffering.  It is a parable for us that even in the most extreme forms of suffering, God’s answer is in the sacrificial lamb: Job 42.

David, on the other hand, teaches us our interaction with the politics of the world as a man who grew from a mere shepherd boy to become a king setting a new precedent (since he likely drew limited inspiration from Saul’s leadership when he took over the reins to lead Israel) of what it means to shepherd a uniquely, unparalleled, theocratic kingdom.

It is within such context that we approach this psalm, which David wrote when he was still but a soldier, fleeing and hiding in a cave from Saul’s wrath: 1 Samuel 21, 24.

David starts not with self-justification, but with humility: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge.”  Indeed, our source of refuge is in God, because our security lies not in our education, not in our accumulated life experiences, not in our accolades.  Those are measures of how the world values us.  God, however, values us simply as His beloved children.  David thus yearsn, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”  Yes – let your will be done, not mine; let your purpose be done, not mine.  Yet this purpose is one that is for me; it is one in which I have the privilege in partaking.

Shortly before the pensive Selah, we are told that God will send from heaven to save David; he will put to shame him who tramples on David.  It is then clarified that God will send out  “his steadfast love and his faithfulness“.  How exactly is this played out?  We see this in 1 Samuel 24:

12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. 14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.”

16 As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.

This is a turning point for David.  He could have very well set a wicked example of murdering the Lord’s anointed.  He could have uprooted the person whom the Lord, and Samuel, had appointed as the 1st king of Israel.  Instead, David exercised mercy; he repaid wickedness with love.  Why?  This could only be due to the revelation that David received in the cave, in hiding, in the storm.  Instead of justifying himself, instead of finding his comfort in his friends, in his band of brothers, he found comfort in knowing that the Lord sent help in the form of steadfast love and faithfulness.  David therefore approached Saul in the confidence that the Lord is the just judge who would deliver David from Saul’s hand.

The story of David’s mercy is told in generations to come.  David’s rise to kingship was not due to Saul’s own demise.  That was happening concurrently.  The Lord has already been preparing David’s heart to take the role of the anointed king, and this is one of the crucial moments beautifully juxtaposing the persecuted shepherd who exemplifies the meaning of mercy, against the wrathful king who exemplifies the meaning of self-justified vengeance and Pharisaic achievement.

That this happens in a cave is almost, itself, a commentary that this is the spiritual battle which we face in the dark of our hearts.  Do we walk the path of Saul in pursuing every end  and strategy to achieve political and economic might?  Or do we allow God to balance the scales of justice because we trust that He will deliver us from “the midst of lions, fiery beasts, children of man whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords“, as David goes on to describe in this chapter?  David’s goal was not even to exalt himself; he merely set his eyes on Him who provides our refuge; yet, in doing so, we learn from 1 Samuel 24 that he exudes the qualities of a king that Saul does not have.

Much like the story of Joseph and his brothers, Haman and Mordecai, so also the enemies’ plan to dig a pit in David’s way would only end with the pit being the enemies’ ultimate destination.  Satan’s attempts to lure us into death is itself converted into an opportunity for the Lord to save us through death into re-born life.  That is the Selah that David invites us to ponder.  That is the extent of God’s faithful love, that He can transform even the darkest circumstances into the source of our everlasting joy.

As Spurgeon comments on the whole chapter:

Mystically this hymn may be construed of Christ, who was in the days of his flesh assaulted by the tyranny both of spiritual and temporal enemies. His temporal enemies, Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and people of Israel, furiously raged and took counsel together against him. The chief priests and princes were, saith Hierome, like lions, and the people like the whelps of lions, all of them in a readiness to devour his soul. The rulers laid a net for his feetin their captious interrogatories, asking (Mt 22:17), “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” and (Joh 8:5) whether the woman taken in the very act of adultery should be stoned to death or no. The people were “set on fire, “when as they raged against him, and their teeth and tongues were spears and swords in crying, “Crucify him, crucify him.” His spiritual enemies also sought to swallow him up; his soul was among lions all the days of his life, at the hour of his death especially. The devil in tempting and troubling him, had laid a snare for his feet;and death, in digging a pit for him, had thought to devour him. As David was in death, so Christ the Son of David was in the grave. John Boys, 1571-1625.

 

The Lord’s faithfulness and love in the first half of the chapter are then the cause of David’s gleeful response in the latter half.  “I will sing“, “I will awake the dawn“, “I will give thanks to you“, “I will sing praise to you” – why?  “For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

David’s preparation for the throne does not require academic excellence, military might, or political savvy.  His preparation was simple.  He turned to God’s steadfast love.  He knew that such love had the power to transform his circumstances.  It was not a distant, impersonal love which would only lift one’s emotions; it was a real, tangible, force personified and exemplified in the work of Christ on the cross.  It is that grace and mercy which drove David to take the high road, and which grew him into a person that he never imagined he would become.  This was his spiritual marker, his milestone, and arguably one of his most important moments in consolidating his kingship.  Oftentimes we face similar dark circumstances, and write them off in hopes that the Lord would give us favour in better times; yet it is in these dark circumstances that we need to find refuge in Him to consolidate His purpose in our lives.

Book 2: Psalm 57 of 72 – His love and my praise

Esther 9-10: Co-heirs with Esther

Chapter 9

Now that the Israelites are victorious, chapters 9 and 10 are the aftermath of what it means when Christ is risen indeed.  On the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them (v.1).  This could, word for word, be interpreted as “On the very day when the Satan of Christ hoped to gain mastery over Him, the reverse occurred: Christ gained mastery over the enemy who hated Him“.  V.2-14 then describe with detail the result of those who had persecuted the body of Christ and the reversal of fortunes at the hand of God’s sovereignty; such cleansing occurring not only on the 13th day of Adar but also on the 14th day of Adar as requested by Esther (v.13).  The house of Haman, as inherited now by Mordecai, has no more descendants as the ten sons of Haman were also punished on the tree (v.14). Such destruction of the Amalekites and of the enemies of the Jews is but a type of the final judgment on the day of Christ’s second coming (Malachi 4:1-3).  Paul Blackham goes on to state in his Book by Book guide on Esther:

“For many people in the world, their enemies are much more serious and their actions really do cause an outcry that is heard in the heavenly throne room.  Those that suffer serious abuse and injustice call out to the Living God as the only one who can give them help or hope.  They are killed, raped, enslaved and humiliated… yet there seems to be no possibility of overthrowing the tyrant.  These enemies of humanity are enemies of the LORD God, who defends the widow and the orphan.

When the Amalekites killed the weak and wounded of the Hebrews in the exodus from Egypt, they showed a terrible heartlessness and cruelty.  They showed how godless they were by this vicious slaughter.  The problem of the human condition is not always so clearly seen.  If we live far from the Living God then the darkness gets ever deeper into our souls and we are driven further away from light and love and goodness. 

The LORD God saw the hardness and evil in the Amalekite people.  Their wicked lives provoked His anger and His verdict was just and true.  There was time for repentance, but the Amalekites remained entrenched in their godlessness and cruelty.  In the case of the people of Jericho, although they were all under the fatal judgment of the LORD, yet Rahab found mercy as she joined with the Hebrews (Joshua 6).  In the case of the Amalekites, they seemed to have harboured their evil and malice down the generations.  Finally, under the leadership of Saul the day of judgment arrived and they were mostly removed from the LORD’s earth. 

However, as we saw, Saul’s disobedience left a root to re-grow.”

Therefore, it is by the hands of Mordecai and Esther that Saul’s disobedience is rectified; that the root of sin is removed completely, allowing the Israelites to live new lives without persecution by the old enemy. 

Note, however, that the Jews laid no hand on the plunder (v.10, 14, 16).  This is compared with Esther 3:13 where Haman’s decree demanded the enemies of the Jews to take the Jews’ plunder; similarly under Mordecai’s decree in 8:11, they are entitled to take the spoil as well.  Yet, this is the act of mercy the Jews decided to show to their enemies – although they were entitled to the spoil, they relinquished this right to the true vengeance of the LORD on the day of Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 10:23-34; Hebrews 10:30).

Once the cleansing is complete, the Jews in the king’s provinces (i.e. the rural towns) rested on the 14th day – yet, under Esther’s request, the Jews in Susa rested only on the 15th day since they were given one more day of relief after the 13th (v.16-18).  Such day of rest is for gladness and feasting – as a holiday – as a day on which the Israelites send gifts of food to one another (v.19), as grateful remembrance of the divine reversal of the enemy’s plan to purge the world of Christians.  This is recorded and sent in letter form to all the Jews in the provinces of the king, both near and far, not too dissimilar to the letters of the apostles and disciples of Christ when Christ was risen – teaching the ancient Church to respond appropriately to the typological victory of Esther over Haman, of Jesus over Satan (v.20-28).  The days of Purim (meaning “lots“, an ironical term of the method which Haman used to destroy the Jews) should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants (v.28).

Thus, the festival of Purim was initiated by the hand of Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew in this chapter (v.29-32) – a new Jewish festival, a new practice; just as the new spiritual practices developed from the Mosaic law upon Christ’s resurrection – from passover to communion, from circumcision to baptism. 

Chapter 10

The book ends on the king imposing a tax on the land and coastlands of the sea – and yet, the ultimate focus is not on the king, but on Mordecai.  Even Mordecai was recorded in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia, spreading the gospel down the line of Gentile heritage.  Such reference to the Chronicles also indicate that the book of Esther is primarily a book about Jesus, and not a historical recording of Ahasuerus’ actions. 

Finally, despite Esther’s mediatorial actions, it is Mordecai who is exalted as he served as the faithful Christian who bookended this book.  His faithfulness is lauded as he inherited the house of Haman (which was Esther’s) and received the power of the king by His signet ring (which was Esther’s).  All of such things were shared with Esther as if she were Mordecai’s sister; and yet, this is the picture of the gospel, that we share in Jesus’ inheritance (Romans 8:17) – all that is His is ours, for in Esther we saw a glorious picture of the king fighting for his bride. 

 

 

 

Esther 9-10: Co-heirs with Esther

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 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus

1 Chronicles 8 begins with the genealogy of Saul with some notable Christians such as Jonathan and Merib-baal (Mephibosheth, the “contender against Baal”, he who was exalted by David in 2 Samuel 21:7).  It is interesting that v.29-40 are repeated in chapter 9, as if to emphasise the mighty descendants of Benjamin, the son of Jacob.  Yet, it is in the prophecy and in their names that we realise the promise of the Seed will not be fufilled through Benjamin.  This “ravenous wolf” who in the morning is devouring its prey, and in the evening dividing the spoil (c.f. Genesis 49:27) is but the proper presupposition with which we see Saul’s lineage.  His genealogy focuses not on Jonathan or Mephibosheth, the significant characters which seemingly redeems Saul’s posterity; rather, it ends with “the sons of Eshek” – which is means the sons of “oppression“.  Ulam, Eshek’s firstborn, being both “their strength“, yet also “their folly“.  These were indeed mighty warriors of Benjamin, having many sons and grandsons – emphasising once again from which son of Israel they descend in v.40.

Yet, almost immediately, we are shown the genealogy of the returned exiles.  From the glory of Saul’s days, his warriors which seem to be his lineage’s stronghold, the focus is not on the returned Benjaminites.  Rather, the focus is firstly the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants (1 Chronicles 9:2).  The meaning of the name of the chief of the gatekeepers, Shallum, is in contrast to Eshek or Ulam.  Where Shallum means retribution or a restoration of sorts, Eshek and Ulam are both folly and oppression – explaining why the Spirit does not inspire the narrator of 1 Chronicles 9 to focus any longer on the folly of Saul’s bloodline, the spirit of whom was followed continuously by the rebellious kings of Israel.  Rather, the Levitical focus of Chronicles reminds us of the importance of the Priesthood and the chosen tribe Levi – such as the Korahites (c.f. Numbers 26:58; 2 Chronicles 20:19 – musicians of the Lord).  Their work of service, their fathers being “in charge of the camp of the LORD” (v.19), their “duty of watching” (v.27) – all summed up in David and Samuel’s joint election (v.22).  Note once again that such genealogies were not elected by Saul – but by the prophet and the first king after the LORD’s own heart, the man who modelled his life after the Second LORD of his worship (c.f. Psalm 110; Matthew 22:45).  So also the work of the kinsmen of Kohathites (who had been the focus of Numbers chapter 4 in their service of the tabernacle), are brought to the fore.  It is not until a full exposition of the glory of the LORD’s restoration of Israel through the priesthood that the narrator seems to strangely return to Saul’s genealogy.  Yet, the purpose is apparent in comparing the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 9:35-44 with 1 Chronicles 8:29-40.  Verses 39 and 40 are removed from chapter 9:35-44 – no longer does the narrator focus on Eshek or Ulam or even the warriors or bowmen of Benjamin, for these things are useless in the face of restoring Israel after its captivity in Assyria / Babylon.

The folly of Saul’s lineage is made even more apparent in chapter 10, which opens with the death of Saul and his sons, and Saul’s plan to preserve his ego and reputation by falling upon his own sword rather than being overwhelmed by the Philistines.  Saul is accordingly diminished, whilst David, Samuel and the Levites are appropriately exalted.  The author of Chronicles is clearly intent on remembering the Lord as the Author of Israel’s life, and Refiner of Israel’s rebellion.  Chapter 10 therefore ends with “So Saul died for his breach of faith.  He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.  He did not seek guidance from the LORD.  Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (v.13-14).  Instead of seeking guidance from a medium, he should have sought after the Mediator; instead of satiating his lust of self-preservation, he should have satiated his need to be preserved by Christ in the Father’s wrath.

Thus, as we turn to chapter 11, we come to understand why Jerusalem is not the city of Israel; nor is it the city of Saul.  For the true character of this city was not defined by the physical first king, nor from Israel, but from the LORD of the kings and the LORD of the nation.  David embodies the character of Jesus in taking over Jerusalem, the once city of the Jebusites, with the support of Israel declaring herself as David’s “bone and flesh“, reminiscent of the relationship between Christ and the Church in Genesis 2:23 and Ephesians 5:22-33.  Just as Israel submits herself to her king David, so also David’s victory came from seeking the Mediator’s guidance contrary to Saul’s actions – and of all the notable events of David’s life (such as his slaying of Goliath), the narrator opted to focus on the renaming of Jerusalem as the city of David (v.4-9), for this city is essentially not David’s city, but the city of the One Whom David’s worshipped – the city of Jesus.

For David to become such a great man in the LORD (v.9), it was befitting that he was supported too by mighty men as described in the remainder of chapter 11.  The emphasis, however, is not on how mighty they were; contrarily, their efforts cannot hold a candle to David’s sacrifice (c.f. v.18-19).  For it is David’s lifeblood which gives these men their life, not vice versa – “”…Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men?  For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”  Therefore he would not drink it.”  Indeed, the only cup that Christ shall drink is the cup of the Father’s wrath, pouring out His lifeblood for the mighty men.  Although the followers of Christ are co-heirs and perhaps mighty kings and mighty men, their exaltation comes from the humbleness of the One who poured His lifeblood out to us, so that we may drink of His blood and feast on His flesh (Matthew 20:28).  It is in this light that we are to read about the lives of such mighty men, their might hinging on the One whose might is in His weakness; whose might does not lie in men’s sacrifice, but in His sacrifice for us first.

1 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus

2 Samuel 22: The LORD of David’s song

Let us now turn to David’s song of praise in chapter 22.  This song is uncanny in the sense of its difference from his final words in chapter 23 – the key distinguishing factor is that this song is very much a historical account of God’s redemptive tale, not merely of David’s life, but an account of what has happened from Genesis up to 2 Samuel 21.  Though David speaks in first person, many of the details cannot be directly applied to David’s life, especially if we were to look at his debacles in 2 Samuel compared to 1 Samuel.

However, it is more appropriate to look at David’s words in chapter 23 in light of his whole life, compared to his song here.  The chronology of this song seems to be firmly placed between the two books: v.1 indicates that David spoke these words “on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (1 Samuel 20:16; 25:21-23).  The placement of Saul at the end of v.1 implies that Saul was the last persecutor before David’s song of praise.

2Sa 22:1-51  And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.  (2)  He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,  (3)  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.  (4)  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

What a mighty man David is – and we are first introduced to him as a humble shepherd boy (1 Samuel 16:11), who elected Himself to be Israel’s mediator (1 Samuel 17), and thereafter become the rejected champion of the worthless men (1 Samuel 30:22), though loved by Jonathan the heir to Israel’s throne (1 Samuel 20:16), and his life uniting both the Israelites and the Gentiles under the banner of David.  This is the David who looked not to his own glory, but understood the redemptive plan which worked through him by Him – the LORD who is his Rock and his Deliverer.  Is this “rock” the man David?  Is this “rock” Peter (Matthew 16:18), the first man of the Catholic apostolic succession?  No – this Rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).  David’s object of worship is the Son of God, the Rock on whom we build our foundation and drink the Spiritual waters, (Exodus 17:6).

Yet, when we come to v.5, we begin to see that David is musing on events which he did not himself witness, but God’s redemptive acts prior to David’s life so popularly preached through the ages:

(5)  “For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me;  (6)  the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.  (7)  “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.  (8)  “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry.  (9)  Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.  (10)  He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.  (11)  He rode on a cherub and flew; he was seen on the wings of the wind.  (12)  He made darkness around him his canopy, thick clouds, a gathering of water.  (13)  Out of the brightness before him coals of fire flamed forth.  (14)  The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice.  (15)  And he sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning, and routed them.  (16)  Then the channels of the sea were seen; the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.  (17)  “He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.  (18)  He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.  (19)  They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support.  (20)  He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

V.5-20 clearly are prophetic words in relation to Christ on the cross – these are words which Christ speaks and which no other man can speak (Psalms 18:5-11; 30:3; Acts 2:25-28).  Can David literally say that the cords of Sheol entangled him?  No – though poetically yes.  Yet, it is the habit of the New Testament Christians to look back on David’s psalms (Peter’s sermon in Acts 2) and interpret them knowing that David wrote concerning Christ.  Can David say that the Father heard David’s voice from the temple and caused earthquakes and the routing lightning?  But Christ can indeed say so (Matthew 17:24, 27:54; Luke 24:27).

David then mixes in the imagery of the LORD’s salvation of Israel through Moses in Moses’ definitive life as the “one drawn from the waters” (v.17), the one who is saved (Mosheh, מֹשֶׁה, meaning drawn out of or saved from (the water)).  V.16 is more appropriate in describing the travel through the Red Sea, for it is there that the Holy Spirit (Exodus 14:21) which revealed the bottom of the sea, and “the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD” (Matthew 8:26).  Such a rebuke that the Israelites walked through it, following the Rock, and were baptized (1 Corinthians 10); but the Egyptians instead became the subject of the rebuke as they had no Rock to be their refuge and shelter.  And why did the LORD rescue David?  “Because he delighted in me” (v.20).  Such words make so much more sense in light of the Christ, whom the Father loved at the foundation of the world (John 17:24).  All the Father’s love poured out on the Son, that we must stand in Him to receive the Father’s delight.  That we must stand upon the Rock to be delighted by – and not to seek his delight through our works, our sacrifice, our pain, and our gain.  David had much to boast – but he chose to boast in Christ Jesus; he chose to revel in the LORD who parted the waters, the LORD who brought His anointed one out of the tangles of Sheol, the LORD who brought Israel through baptism into new life.

(21)  “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.  (22)  For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God.  (23)  For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside.  (24)  I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.  (25)  And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.  (26)  “With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;  (27)  with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.  (28)  You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.  (29)  For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.  (30)  For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.  (31)  This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  (32)  “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

And v.21-22 is very apparent in displaying David’s focus in the praise song.  Is David inadvertedly praising himself?  Has he truly kept the ways of the LORD and has not wickedly departed from His God?  What of (1 Samuel 22:11-19)?  Yet, indeed, until David’s fall in 2 Samuel, he had loved the LORD and followed His mandates closely – until v.28 we cannot have a clear-cut definition of what this ‘cleanness’ and ‘righteousness’ might mean.  This cleanness and righteousness is identified with the humble who are saved; furthermore, this cleanness and righteousness is brought about by the One who is our lamp, by Whom we can run against a troop, by Whom we can leap over a wall (v.30).  So v.21-22 turns into a praise song, because it is this God, whose “way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him”.  Indeed – the LORD is the truly righteous, truly perfect, truly blameless one – and he looks on David with favour, the David who walks in Christ’s path.  V.32 immediately negates any misinterpretations of self-righteousness – rather, David looks vicariously through his righteousness to truly give thanks to the LORD who is the foundation of David’s refuge and strength throughout 1 Samuel.  He has made David’s way blameless (v.33).  He has declared David righteous:

(33)  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.  (34)  He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.  (35)  He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  (36)  You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.  (37)  You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip;  (38)  I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and did not turn back until they were consumed.  (39)  I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise; they fell under my feet.  (40)  For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.  (41)  You made my enemies turn their backs to me, those who hated me, and I destroyed them.  (42)  They looked, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.  (43)  I beat them fine as the dust of the earth; I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets.  (44)  “You delivered me from strife with my people; you kept me as the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me.  (45)  Foreigners came cringing to me; as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me.  (46)  Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses.  (47)  “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation,  (48)  the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me,  (49)  who brought me out from my enemies; you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence.  (50)  “For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.  (51)  Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.”

After reading these words of praise, can we divorce them from the true Christ, the true anointed, the object and cause of the everlasting existence of the house of Israel through David’s bloodline?  Even David acknowledges this in the final verse of his song: “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever”.  Though this applies to David, who is the king of Israel; who is the first anointed one; yet the blessing is to extend to his offspring forever.  These words may apply to David – but he is but formed, like us, in the image of God.  Yet, it is Christ who is the true image (Colossians 1:15; Romans 8) of the Father.  He is the true alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13) of the Father’s Anointing; He is the alpha and omega of the Father’s election (Isaiah 42; Genesis 3:16; Revelation 13:8; John 17); and He is the alpha and omega of the One who was thrown into Sheol; who was resurrected from the waters of judgment; who stood tall as the true king of the Jews (Matthew 27:37) and that all nations are but his footstool (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13).  For though David spoke of his life, it is more accurately the lives of the saints – but most predominantly, and prophetically, he speaks of the life of the one who is anointed and chosen to inherit the everlasting kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 7).

2 Samuel 22: The LORD of David’s song

2 Samuel 21: Saul’s house of peace

Chapter 20 ends on a very similar narrative structure compared to chapter 8 – an end of a period of David’s life and a summation of whom is in charge of what ministry.  The remaining chapters of 2 Samuel therefore are overarching conclusions to a grand coverage of David’s magnificent typological life of Christ throughout these two books.   

Like the end of Genesis where a famine brought Abram to Egypt (Genesis 12:10); Isaac went to the Philistines (Genesis 26:1); Israel to Egypt (Genesis 42:5); from Bethlehem in Judah to Moab (Rush 1:1); and now in the time of David.  Famine is a time when the children of God are banished from home and are brought to an alien land where they are refined by fire and recognize it is the LORD who provides (Psalm 33:19; 37:19) – the greatest famine of which being the famine of the Word of God Himself (Amos 8:11).   

Yet, this three year famine is caused by the breaking of peace between the Israelites and Amorites (v.2 – the Gibeonites are from the remnant of the Amorites).  What is interesting is that throughout the Pentateuch, the Amorites were always enemies of God (as the descendants of Canaan – Genesis 10:16; the promise of the Israelites entering the land of the Gentiles – Exodus 3:8, 23:23; the eventual dispossession of the Amorites – Numbers 32:39; Joshua 24:18; Judges 11:23).  However, the oddity here is that there is an unwritten and unrecorded peace between Israel and the Amorites (perhaps the same peace as mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:14), this oath (v.2 – Israel taking an oathשׁבע) broken by Saul (the implications of breaking oaths c.f. Numbers 30:2; 1 Samuel 14:24).  

It is interesting how David is trying to make atonement between Saul’s household and Gibeon – Israel as a corporate body of Saul when he was king of Israel, experiencing the famine as a result of Saul’s sin.  Yet Israel is now ousted from the grasp of Saul and David stands between the Israelites and Gibeonites.  What does David do?  Will he give up the seven sons of the house of Saul to mediate between Israel and Gibeon (v.6)? 

Instead, the wrath of the LORD was mediated through David’s giving up of the seven sons, excluding Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth stood under the oath of David; David effectively, like Christ, propitiated the wrath which was meant to be experienced by Mephiboseth.  Mephibosheth should have been hanged.  However, it is the other seven sons of Saul’s household who are hanged, the seven perishing together: “They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest” (v.9).  Such is the effect of Christ’s death on the cross, these iniquitous seven sons of Saul’s household representing the iniquitous Son of God on the cross; their deaths ending the famine upon the beginning of barley harvest, just as the Feast of Harvest occurred between the Passover and the Feast of Ingathering  (Exodus 23:16; Matthew 13:39), for it is only now that the famine is over – and that the Holy Word of the Father can be received and that the harvest begins until the Ingathering at the Day of Resurrection. 

The chapter however does not end here.  Where in the story of the mediation between the Gibeonites and the Israelites completely hinged upon David’s decision to propitiate God’s wrath by the sevenfold son-sacrifice (akin to the sacrifice of the sevenfold lambs in Job 42:8), in the story of the Philistines’ return we see David’s followers walking with David in his footsteps.  Where David had fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17), now four giants (going by the names of Ishbi-benob; Saph; Goliath; and the six-fingered giant – all are defeated by the hands of Abishai, Sibbecai, Elhanan, and Jonathan.  Is this not the picture of the book of Acts in our current age of the harvest prior to the Ingathering, the miracles of toppling giants by standing by the true Rock?  Such is the implication of Christ’s victory, that the harvest is plentiful and workers are capable of wrecking such havoc against the champions of the world of spiritual Gentiles.   

Yet, this picture of peace, achieved as a causal effect of Christ’s gospel work, is coupled with the solemn but noble picture of Rizpah who had clearly understood the work of mediation and propitiation.  We do not spit on our sacrifice with contempt – but rather, we love the Christ who died in our place.  So Rizpah ensured that neither birds nor beasts would come upon the corpses day or night, that prompted David to retrieve Saul and Jonathan’s bones from the clutches of the enemies and restore them deep in the soil of the father’s clan (c.f. 1 Samuel 31; Saul from the clan of Benjamin and anointed as king in 1 Samuel 9:1).  Such is the love of Rizpah that David, our Christ, shall go to all lengths to retrieve the one sheep (Matthew 18:12)!  Just as the true peace was achieved in the defeat of the four giants of Philistine, so also the famine only responded to the plea for the end of the famine upon the final restoration of Saul’s household in bringing the bones back to the heart of Canaan from the filthy hands of the Ashtaroth worshippers and thus redeeming the house of Saul by David’s covenant with Jonathan and providing the true beth-shan (house of peace / ease; c.f. Isaiah 2:2-4).

2 Samuel 21: Saul’s house of peace