DAVID UNITES HIS KINGDOM 2 Samuel 6–10“David went down and brought up the ark of God . . . to the City of David with rejoicing” (2 Sam. 6:12).David’s next actions indicate careful planning and political sensitivity. They also reveal another trait appropriate to exceptional people: a firm and joyous faith in God.
Moses predicted that God would choose a place in Canaan “for His name” (Deut. 16:2). That choice was made through David. From David’s time on, Jerusalem was the very heart of the nation and of the Jewish faith. It remained the capital of Judah after Solomon’s kingdom was divided. It was Jerusalem to which Jewish settlers returned after the Babylonian Captivity. Jerusalem was the focus of much of Christ’s earthly ministry, and the city where He was condemned. Prophecy identifies Jerusalem as the place to which Jesus will return, and as the capital of the earthly kingdom which He will establish. There is no other site on earth as theologically significant as the City of David, Jerusalem.
David made Jerusalem the religious as well as political capital of Israel by bringing up the ark (6:1–23). God did not allow David to erect a temple (7:1–7). But God did promise David a permanent dynasty (vv. 8–17), moving David to praise the Lord (vv. 18–29). David defeated nearby enemies (8:1–14), created a national government (vv. 15–18), and showed kindness to Jonathan’s only surviving son (9:1–13). In time David crushed all his enemies and extended Israel’s domination from the Gulf of Aqaba in the south to the Euphrates River in the north (10:1–19).
Understanding the Text
“He and all his men set out . . . to bring up from there the ark of God” 2 Sam. 6:1–8. David’s first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem ended in failure, caused by two violations of ritual law. The ark was Israel’s most holy relic, a symbol of the living presence of God. Old Testament Law required that it be carried by members of a particular Levite family (Num. 3:27–32), and that it never be touched (4:15). When the cart on which the ark was placed tipped, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady it, God struck Uzzah dead. David was both frightened and angry. Why had the God he so desired to honor acted in such a way? This story has troubled many who read the Bible. God’s action does seem unfair. Uzzah surely had intended no harm. Perhaps the answer lies in the casual way Saul had treated God for some four decades. He had never shown an interest in the ark, or even in obeying God. The sudden outburst against Uzzah reminded David and all of Israel that God truly is holy. And the Holy One of Israel is not to be treated casually! “David . . . danced before the Lord with all his might” 2 Sam. 6:9–15. Before David attempted to move the ark again, he apparently consulted Scripture (cf. v. 13). This time David’s joy was unrestrained, and he exchanged his royal robes for the kind of linen ephod worn by priests who served before the Lord. This clothing symbolized the fact that the king found his greatest fulfillment as a simple servant of God. When you and I come before God, all our worldly accomplishments are meaningless. All that counts is a heart committed to love and serve the Lord. “She despised him in her heart” 2 Sam. 6:16–23. Michal had been used by both her father and David (cf. 1 Sam. 18:20–25; 2 Sam. 3:13–16). It’s no wonder she had become bitter. But Michal had permitted bitterness to gain such a grip on her life that she found no joy in the Lord. Instead of focusing on the ark and on the Lord, Michal focused on David’s “disgraceful” refusal to maintain his royal dignity. What a warning to us. Yes, others may misuse us. But if we permit ourselves to become so bitter that we cannot sense the presence of God, we will lose all perspective on life. Michal may have had a right to be bitter. But surely David, persecuted so long by her father, had a right to be bitter too. David triumphed over bitterness by keeping his focus on the Lord. Michal lost sight of God, and ended her life lonely and alone. “The Lord Himself will establish a house for you” 2 Sam. 7:1–17. This significant Old Testament passage introduces the Davidic Covenant. This is the name given to promises which God made to David, which David recognized as an unbreakable divine commitment. The heart of the covenant was God’s announcement that He would “establish a house” for David. Here “house” is used in the sense of descendants. In the immediate future David’s own son would erect a temple (v. 13). But as is common in biblical prophecy, the immediate future mirrors God’s eschatological [end time] intent. Through David’s line God would establish a kingdom that would “endure forever before Me.” The New Testament carefully traces the genealogy of Jesus Christ back to King David. Matthew especially shows how Jesus’ birth fulfills Old Testament predictions about a coming King destined to rule eternally (cf. Matt. 1–2). David did not understand all the implications of the divine commitment. But he realized that God was giving him a great gift when the Lord announced, “My love will never be taken away from him [David’s descendants], as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (2 Sam. 7:15). David’s throne was secure, through his own lifetime, and beyond! “David fought” 2 Sam. 8:1–14. David’s next years were spent in battle with enemies to the north and east. God gave him success in every battle, and he was able to gain control of vital trade routes that passed through Damascus, establishing garrisons in Syria and across the Jordan in Edom. David’s wars multiplied the territory Israel controlled many times over that held in the Judges era! “I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan” 2 Sam. 8:15–9:13. The writer of 2 Samuel passes over David’s vital work in setting up a national government (8:15–18), but gives extensive space to the story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. The crippled son of David’s old friend Jonathan is given his grandfather’s extensive lands and a place in David’s court at Jerusalem. In most cases in which dynasties were replaced in ancient kingdoms, surviving members of the old king’s family were slaughtered. David’s unusual treatment of Mephibosheth is a better display of those strengths which won him the throne than his genius for bureaucratic invention. Success does demand ability and hard work. But the secret of true greatness is found in godly character. “I will show kindness” 2 Sam. 10:1–19. It would be wrong to portray David as a despotic aggressor. The story detailing the start of David’s war with the Ammonites illustrates that many conflicts were actually forced on Israel. David’s unbroken string of military successes established Israel’s dominance of the area during his lifetime.
Precious Promises (2 Sam. 7)
David had been eager to do something for God. When God turned down his offering, David must have been momentarily shaken. But then God went on. Rather than accept a gift from David, the Lord intended to give a gift to him! How like God’s dealings with us. We love Him, and want to give Him our very best. But whatever we do, we soon learn that God is the greatest Giver. When David realized what great and precious promises God had made to him, he was stunned. “What more can David say to you?” the grateful king exclaimed. And then David found something to say. David repeated God’s promises, fixing them in his mind and heart. And then David simply praised God. What a model for us. What can we say to God? What can we do for Him? Simply repeat His many promises to us, fixing them in our hearts and minds. And then lift our voices to praise the Lord.
The most appropriate thing we can give the God who gives us so much is praise.