Justice, Righteousness, and Covenant Love
2 Samuel 9.1-13
In 2 Samuel 9, David’s actions to Mephibosheth illustrated God’s covenant love (the Hebrew term is ‘hesed’- a key term in the Old Testament). One commentator described the nature of covenant love (‘hesed’). “It refers to extraordinary acts of kindness, “meeting an extreme need, outside the normal run of perceived duty, and arising from personal affection or pure goodness.” 2 Samuel 8.15 described the nature of David’s reign. “So David reigned over all Israel, administering justice and righteousness for all his people.” 2 Samuel 9 describes one particular action of David in which the king “administered justice and righteousness.” David’s treatment of a potential rival to the throne portrayed God’s covenant love (‘hesed’). “Is there anyone left of Saul’s family that I can show the kindness [‘hesed’] of God to?” (2 Sam. 9.3).
God’s word challenges believers to demonstrate justice, righteousness, and love towards other people? What can believers learn from David regarding treating others with justice, righteousness, and love?
First, God’s challenge to believers to live by justice, righteousness, and covenant love is counter to prevailing culture (2 Sam 9.1). In the culture of the Ancient Near East, a new king often killed descendants and servants from the previous regime. David did not follow the cultural pattern of his day. Critical members of Saul’s kingdom had died: Jonathan (2 Sam. 1.4), Abner, Saul’s uncle and commanding general (2 Sam. 3.27), and Saul’s last surviving son Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 4.7). David was neither involved nor responsible for the death of Saul’s supporters. Furthermore, even after a prolonged war “between the house of Saul and the house of David” (2 Sam. 3.1), David sought out one of Saul’s descendants to whom he could demonstrate covenant love (“hesed”).
Second, in the Bible, covenant love is based on promises – “for Jonathan’s sake” (2 Sam. 9.1). David kept two promises. First, at Saul’s request, David promised a dying Saul that he would not destroy his family when he became king (2 Sam. 24.21-22). Second, David kept his promises to Jonathan. Jonathan initiated a covenant relationship with David involving three specific covenant responsibilities. First, Jonathan desired God bless David (1 Sam. 20.13). Second, the covenant established a relationship between ‘the house of Jonathan’ and ‘the house of David.’ The term “house” denotes ancestral lines. Third, Jonathan wanted the covenant with David to last “forever” (2 Sam. 20.15 NASB). One commentator noted, “It is utterly astonishing that Jonathan seems to have seen that David’s kingdom would be “forever.” In Jonathan’s covenant words to David, he looked to the future and appeared to anticipate the eternal dynasty God purposed for David – a dynastic promise fulfilled in Jesus, the descendant of David.
Third, believers must search out needs and opportunities to demonstrate covenant love, justice, and righteousness (2 Sam. 9.1-5). After David’s prolonged battles for the kingdom ended, he proactively sought out individuals from Jonathan’s family to whom he could lavish covenant love. Often, we are guilty of neglecting others, particularly disabled individuals. We need to acknowledge our neglect and take corrective action. Through an intermediary, David learned of Mephibosheth – Jonathan’s grandson. When Mephibosheth was five years old, a nurse carrying him during a time of flight from opponents dropped him resulting in the inability to use his legs (2 Sam. 4.4).
Fourth, believers should establish specific plans to help people with needs (2 Sam. 9.6-13). Per the old saying, “Talk is cheap.” Mephibosheth, probably with great difficulty, gave deference and homage to David by prostrating himself before the king. David commanded the disabled prince to stop being afraid. The command, “Do not fear” occurs in the Bible on occasions when there is a possible reason to be fearful. David’s purposed to show kindness to Mephibosheth. David graciously made to promises to Mephibosheth. First, David promised to restore the family land of Saul to his crippled son. The family grain fields would provide for Mephibosheth. Second, David allowed Mephibosheth the privilege and honor of eating at the king’s table. Saul forced David from his table; David included Mephibosheth at his table. David’s action modeled undeserved grace.
In response to this lesson, I have two personal applications. First, Lord, open my eyes that I may see needs of people. Second, Lord, help me establish a course of action to help people with needs.
Your Sin Will Find You Out
2 Samuel 12:1-14
I enjoy the biblical parables. Jesus was the master parablist. He powerfully and effectively communicated truth through stories developed from human life (Luke 15) or agriculture (Mark 4). We misunderstand the parables if we define a parable as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Parables invited the listeners to make a decision – a judgment. Invariably, the listener’s judgment regarding the details of the parable condemned the listener.
Nathan the prophet earlier announced a message of blessing (2 Sam. 7:8-16). Now the prophet declares a message of judgment (2 Sam. 12) using a parable. Nathan’s parable invited the king to make a judgment – thus unwittingly pronounce judgment upon himself. From David’s sinful example, believers learn precious truths.
First, God will confront us with our sin (2 Sam. 12:1-4). Nathan confronted the king with a parable inviting a judgment. 2 Samuel 11 details heinous incidents committed by David: lust, adultery, and conspiracy to murder. Nathan approached David with a story of a poor man and a wealthy man. David obviously thought the prophet requested the king to decide a real court case.
Nathan’s parable has numerous parallels with the sordid events of chapter 11. The story involves the interaction between a wealthy man and a poor man. David confessed to having a background of poverty (1 Sam. 18:23); therefore, he would empathize with the poor man. The story concerns a traveler (literally “walker” in Hebrew) that comes to the rich man. David walked on his roof welcoming the guest of lust (2 Sam. 11:2). The rich man “took” the poor man’s lamb (12:4); David “took” Bathsheba (11:4). The poor man’s lamb ate and drank in the home, and the poor man slept with his arms around the lamb (12:3). In contrast, Uriah refused to enter his house, eat and drink, and sleep with his arms around his wife (11:11).
Second, like us, David harshly condemned another for sins David personally committed (12:5-7a). An enraged David pronounced a death sentence on the rich man although the rich man committed no capital crime. The law demanded fourfold repayment for theft. Nathan informed David that his pronouncement of a guilty verdict actually judged the king – “You are the man.” David pronounced a sentence of death for a non-capital offense. Yet, David deserved death because he committed adultery and murder. Often, we judge more harshly the sins of others and evaluate our sins as less worthy of judgment.
Sin violates the person, mighty acts, and grace of God. God rehearsed his gracious actions on behalf of David. Five times God says, “I did this for you David.” I anointed, I delivered, I gave (2 times), and I would have done more. Our willful sin violates God’s mighty act of redeeming us through the costly sacrifice of Jesus. Further, sin involves “despising” the word of God (v.9). Saul rejected the Word of God (1 Sam. 15:26); David despised the Word. The act of despising the Word seems stronger than rejecting the Word. Perhaps David thought God privileged him; that is, David perceived himself as in a special category separate from other men to whom the Word applied. An individual with an intention to sin can always find a rationalization for sin.
Fourth, the practice of sin is costly (2 Sam. 12:10-11). David could not escape the consequences of his sin. His sin involved gross transgressions of the sacredness of the family. David suffered the effects of his negative example upon his family: the death of his child, the rape of Tamar (chap. 13), the violent death of Amnon (chap. 13), and Absalom’s rebellion (chap. 14), and Absalom’s gruesome death. The actions of David led to the breakup of his family as his family experienced palace intrigue, sexual sins, rebellion against the father, and murder.
Fifth, David genuinely repented (2 Sam. 12:13-14). Psalms 32 and 51 express the depth of David’s repentance and God’s gracious forgiveness. Both Psalms provide models for prayers of repentance for believers today. God forgave David, but the consequences of David’s sin continued. I believe in praying Scripture. I encourage the readers to pray Psalm 32 after studying this lesson.
The Sword Will Never Leave Your House
2 Samuel 13
When the prophet Nathan confronted David with his sins of adultery and murder, God communicated a prophecy of judgment on David’s royal line. “Now the sword will never leave your house … (2 Sam. 12.10). David enjoyed success in almost every area of his life. He slew the giant Goliath; he faithfully served in the court of King Saul, unified the Jewish tribes, and established a capital city at Jerusalem. The king expanded the borders of Israel into Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan gaining control of the land promised to Abraham. The Bible highlights David as a musician, diplomat, city builder, warrior, and king. David miserably failed in one area of life – the most crucial area of life – family. David was an unfaithful husband and a weak father.
What disaster did God’s sword of judgment produce in David’s family?
First, the sword of a bad example destroyed David’s family. David failed to provide a positive model for his children. David’s children knew about the sins of their father. David lacked the integrity to encourage his children by his godly example in the home. David’s family members repeated his sins of sexual acts and murder. At best, he could only say, “Do as I say; do not do as I do.” 2 Samuel 13 begins with a note of “love” (albeit illicit love); however, the dominant note within the chapter is hatred. Ammon “hated” his sister (v. 15). Absalom “hated” his brother Ammon (v. 22).
Second, the sword of incest cut David’s family into warring factions (2 Sam. 13.15-20). David failed to discipline about a heinous crime his son committed. The Mosaic Law prohibited incestuous relations (Lev. 18.9,11). Amnon, a name meaning “faithful,” acted unfaithfully toward his half-sister Tamar by raping her. He encouraged her to “Come!” and then after the deed Amnon commanded her to “Go!” Amnon confused lust and love. The Hebrew word for love “aheb” means to love or “to breath after,” as in “to pant after.” Amnon “breathed hard after Tamar” with lust and thought he loved her. Amnon even involved the unwitting king in his plot of deception (vv.6-7). When informed of Amnon’s nefarious deed, David became angry, but he did nothing to the heir apparent. His failure to confront his grown son with his evil actions circulated within the family. David could not control his lust; he failed to confront his lustful son.
Third, the sword of murder attacked David’s family (2 Sam. 13.21-36). David refused to be reconciled to his troubled son (2 Sam. 13:21-14:33). Since no man would marry Tamar, Absalom, her brother, provided for her by taking her into his house (13:20). Absalom became Tamar’s provider, protector, and defender. Like his father, Absalom refused to confront Amnon. Instead for two years, Absalom planned the murder of Amnon. Ironically, the name Absalom means “father of peace.” Yet, Absalom’s action escalated the war within the family. In subsequent chapters, Absalom’s lead a rebellion against his father.
Fourth, the sword of separation grieved David’s family. After the murder, Absalom fled for refuge in his maternal grandfather’s house (13:37). Absalom lived with his grandfather for three years. David grieved at the separation between him and Absalom.
Many families allow past hurts to paralyze and debilitate their present relationship. David withheld forgiveness. His bitterness hurt him, Absalom, and the entire nation. Broken relationships poison the totality of life. The church is the family of God, yet in many churches, a refusal to be reconciled gives Satanic forces a crucial victory.
The Sword From Your Own House
2 Samuel 15
After David’s sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, Nathan the prophet declared to King David, “The sword will never leave your house” (2 Sam. 12.10). The “sword” of the father’s legacy of sins against the husband and wife nearly destroyed David’s family. Ammon raped his sister Tamar (2 Sam.???), Absalom killed his brother Ammon and rebelled against his father. Ironically, the name “Absalom” means “father of peace,” yet Absalom nearly destroyed David’s reign.
What lessons may twenty-first believers learn from Absalom’s rebellion?
First, the passage teaches us about the danger of refusing to reconcile (2 Sam. 14.12-15.6). After killing his brother Ammon, Absalom fled from the king’s court for three years. The interposition of David’s advisor Joab moved David to allow his exiled son to return to Jerusalem. When Absalom returned to Jerusalem, he lived in the capital city for two years and never saw his father’s face (2 Sam. 14.28). David’s trusted aide Joab helped Absalom come before the presence of King David. Absalom bowed in homage to his father. 2 Samuel 14 concludes with the words, “The King kissed Absalom” (2 Sam. 14.33). 2 Samuel 15.1 describes Absalom’s response, “After this, Absalom got himself a chariot, horses, and fifty men to run before him.” (Years later, Absalom’s younger brother Adonijah with support from David’s commander Joab and priest Abiathar followed the same public display of rebellion (1 Kings 1.5-8). After years of exile and not being allowed to see his father even though he lived in the capital city, Absalom launched his rebellious attempt to take the kingship from David. Ahitophel, probably Bathsheba’s grandfather, supported Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam 15.31).
Absalom undertook six actions to promote himself as king. First, he acted with royal pomp as he rode his chariot through the streets of Jerusalem with fifty-man entourage going before to attract an audience. Second, he stationed himself at the city gate, a phrase that resonated in an ancient culture like our phrase “the Halls of Justice.” Third, he listened to the complaints of people that felt they needed justice in personal legal matters. Fourth, he told every man seeking justice “your claims are good and right (v.3). Fifth, he publicly let it be known that David was responsible for the failure of justice (v. 3). Sixth, he declared that he would be a good judge (v. 4). As a result, Absalom “stole the hearts” of the people.
Second, the passage warns readers of the dangers of not “understanding the times (2 Sam. 15.7-16). At a particular moment in Israelite history, the Bible describes men from the tribe of Issachar as men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12.32). David neither understood the times nor his own family. Absalom approached his father with a request for permission to travel to Hebron to offer sacrifices. The city of Hebron has numerous historical connections to key events in Israelite history that should have warned David. Hebron was Abraham’s home and burial spot of Sarah, a city of refuge, the location at which Samson picked up the city gates and moved them, as well as Absalom’s birthplace (2 Sam. 3.2-3) and the location where David received anointing as king (2 Sam. 2.4). As one scholar commented, “Go in peace opened the way for Absalom to war!” Absalom’s plot included the recruitment of David’s trusted advisor Ahithophel, most likely Bathsheba’s grandfather. Thus, prominent members of Bathsheba’s family joined the revolt against David. The conspiracy grew, and an unnamed person informed David of Absalom’s success, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom” (2 Sam. 15.12). David and his supporters fled.
Third, the passage affirms the importance of trusting God (2 Sam. 15.24-30). David fled from Saul; now he flees from Absalom. As he fled, however, David sought God. During this flight from Absalom, David wrote Psalm 3. In the Psalm, David modeled a believer’s response when we are at our wit’s end. First, David focused on the truth of God (Ps. 3.3). God is s a shield of protection. Second, David cried out to God for help (Ps. 3.4). Third, David experienced the sustaining power of prayer (Ps. 3.5). Fourth, David celebrated God as the deliverer (Ps. 3.8).