June 29, 2010 David Balzer

1 Chronicles 10-12: David and the Nation

A while ago I preached at a little country church. And one of the things I prayed for during the service/ was that God would bring PEACE in the world. That he would work in the politicians and diplomats and leaders to bring about a PEACEFUL end to the various conflicts around the world.

A fairly standard, non-contentious type of prayer. Or so I thought. Two old guys came up to me after the service. Gruff-looking. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you” one of them said. “I didn’t agree with what you prayed.”

He went on to say he didn’t think I should pray for PEACE because God was a God of WAR. God wanted to destroy evil. And that the church was to be involved in that BATTLE.

I asked him how he knew which side was the EVIL one, and which one God was fighting for. How did THE CHURCH know which side to choose? What about the Christian churches in each of those countries? Israel? Palestine? Afghanistan? America? Iraq? Zimbabwe? Northern Ireland? East Timor?

I spent the next 20 minutes or so talking to him. It’s probably more accurate to say ‘being talked AT by him’. And I never really got to the bottom of what he was getting at. Or why he held those views.

But he DID talk about some sort of global conspiracy. He said he’d been researching it for 20 years. I don’t know what he’d been reading. But I don’t think it was his Bible.

As funny as it was at the time. It was also sad. Because there are LOTS of people around today like this guy. Who misunderstand their Bibles, and try to make them say things they were never meant to say. This guy would read Old Testament passages like this one from 1 Chronicles. About how King David and all his mighty men killed hundreds of wicked Philistines. And he’d drop himself, more or less, straight into the picture.

“God’s people THEN/ went to war against the wicked. We should do the same.”

But it’s not as simple as that. What DO we do with these sorts of passages? Yes, there is a continuity between the New and the Old. Some things are the SAME.

But lots of things are VERY DIFFERENT. We AREN’T Jews. God’s people-NOW/ aren’t just from ONE NATION. We DON’T live in the Promised Land. And God DOESN’T generally punish the wicked by wiping them out in battle. And so we need to tread carefully.

And that’s the approach we need to take in today’s reading. It’s a picture of God’s kingdom at its best. The all-conquering King David – so much better than Saul. Surrounded by his band of mighty men. In the best city in the world. Beautiful Jerusalem. And the whole people are behind them. 100%. It doesn’t get any better than this.

The king, the city, and the people. That’s the picture. And the question WE need to keep in mind as we look at it/ is what does it have to do with US?

And the first question to ask – the one that willhelp us/ is “what did it have to do with the FIRST AUDIENCE?” What was God’s message to the ORIGINAL HEARERS?

Sometimes we can’t really work out who that might be. But for Chronicles, we’ve got a fairly good idea.

  1. What was God saying to Jews in Judah around 450 BC?
  2. What’s God saying to us today?

1. The People’s King:

The king, the city, and the people. That’s the picture. And the first part of the picture is to do with THE PEOPLE’S KING. And it starts in Ch 10.

Now, you mightn’t think that Ch 10’s about King David at all. After all, it’s describing what SAUL did. But it IS about David. And you can see that/ from the particular BITS of Saul’s reign that are described. And from the lesson at the end of that Chapter.

We know from other parts of the Bible/ that Saul wasn’t the BEST king in the world. But he didn’t do EVERYTHING wrong. He did have SOME victories. But here in Ch 10. It’s only the LAST MISERABLE FAILURE that’s described. That’s all we’re told about Saul. How he was KILLED. Nothing about his coronation. His reign. His victories. His relationship to David. Just how he DIED.

It’s funny how it’s always your most embarrassing moment that people remember. They quickly forget your victories. But they never forget your failures. And that’s what’s happening here.

Saul’s being painted as black as possible/ to show up David. It’s like trying to paint with white paint on white paper. You can’t do it. You need a dark background to show up the white. And Saul is the David’s DARK BACKGROUND.

And you can also see it from the moral at the end of the chapter. Why Saul was a failure. Look at it there in v 13 of Ch 10.

(1 Chr 10:13-14 NIV)  Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, {14} and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

There it is. Black/ and white. Good/ and bad. Saul and David.

Saul was UNFAITHFUL to the LORD. He DIDN’T KEEP GOD’S WORD. And he asked A CLAIRVOYANT for advice, rather than God. And the result? .

And what’s the implication? What’s the comparison? DAVID (on the other hand) was FAITHFUL to the Lord. He DID keep God’s word. And he DID ask God’s advice.

What was so good about David? Was it his military victories? His great wealth? His perfect moral character? No! He was a man who followed after God. A man after God’s heart.

And the message to Israel in 450 BC? It’s the same as the message to us. Whether there’s a king around or not/ the way to live under God’s blessings is to BE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW AFTER GOD’S HEART.

Firstly, are other attractions seducing you? Money, influence, approval? BE FAITHFUL to God. No idols.

Second. God gives you a command. But you’re not sure obeying it will make you happy? You think you know better? KEEP GOD’s WORD. That’s the only way to live the rich and full life God’s designed for you.

Third. Not sure who’s ADVICE to listen to? The latest book, or guru, or financial planner? Ask GOD’S advice. Pray about it. Listen to what God says through his Word, the Bible. You’ll never go wrong.

David followed after God’s heart. Saul didn’t. Make sure you do. That’s the message.

And the people in David’s time could see the difference between the two men. And they knew who they preferred. No question! Look at Ch 11 v1.

(1 Chr 11:1-3 NIV)  All Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and . {2} In the past, even while Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'” {3} When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel, as the LORD had promised through Samuel.

And you can see the sort of leadership that God had in mind. He didn’t want a king to protect the people. Lead them into battle. Because no MAN could be the Saviour of Israel. That was God’s job. And whenever kings tried to do it on their own, they only got into trouble.

What sort of leader was God after? (See it there in v2?) A SHEPHERD. To show the sheep where to find water, and grass, and protection and comfort. To point the people towards God.

And all the way through Chronicles/ that’s the measuring stick of a good king. Did he point people TOWARDS God, or AWAY from God? Did he SHEPHERD the people?

In fact, if you go back and read 1 Sam, God didn’t want to give Israel a king AT ALL. They wanted a KING like the NATIONS. He wanted to give them a LEADER instead. That’s the word He uses. It’s a word that might also be translated ruler, or prince, or vice-regent, or second-in-command. But NOT king. The king’s REPRESENTATIVE in other words.

Because it’s only GOD who’s the TRUE king. And the LEADER’S job was just to carry out the KING’s wishes.

And it’s the same word here in Chronicles. At the end of v2. “You will shepherd my people Israel/ and you will become their RULER.”

So the godly leader shepherds the people towards God so HE can supply their needs. And he also REPRESENTS GOD before the people. Carrying out GOD’S Wishes. Following GOD’S agenda. Building GOD’S kingdom, rather than his own. And those were exactly what DAVID did. He wasn’t perfect. But he SHEPHERDED God’s people. And he built GOD’S kingdom.

And it’s STILL those two qualities that make a good leader of God’s people.

2. The king’s people

Next, our attention turns to the king’s PEOPLE. And that’s in THE REST of Ch’s 11 and 12. But in a strange way/ THESE CHAPTERS are ALSO about David.

Because they’re such a NOBLE band. So LOYAL and BRAVE and DEVOTED. That it just casts David in an EVEN MORE flattering light. “King David was such a great leader – just look at the sorts of people who followed him. And look what they were prepared to do for him”

Let’s look at some of these individuals. First up there’s Joab. David was looking for a commander-in-chief. And the job application was Jerusalem. The impenetrable city. It was held by the Jebusites. And his whole life, David had looked at it from the outside. He grew up in Bethlehem – just around the corner.

And now he was king. And that was the city he wanted. So he said to his soldiers. Ch 11 v6. “Anyone who leads the attack will be the new commander-in-chief”. Joab did it. Won the city. And got the job.

Next up, some of those under Joab. Mighty men, with great stories of victory against incredible odds.

In v15 for example, there’s the story of a time David was out in the desert. Feeling pretty thirsty. And he’s not far from his home town of Bethlehem. But the problem was/ it was filled with Philistines. And David makes some off-hand comment about how much he’d love a drink from his favourite watering-hole. Wishful thinking really. V17.

(1 Chr 11:17 NIV)  David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”

And three of his men take him seriously. They’re SO loyal, and SO brave, they break INTO Bethlehem, get the water for David. And then break OUT again to bring it back to David.

But David is so humbled by their action, he won’t even drink the water. “Who am I to deserve such loyalty?” Instead he offers it to God. He’s thankful to God for the group of men he’s got around him.

And the chapter continues. More stories of mighty men. Individuals, with names, and ancestors, and backgrounds. Special skills. Like Ch 12 v2

(1 Chr 12:2 NIV)  they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed;

And they were a scary bunch. Look down at v8.

(1 Chr 12:8 NIV)  Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the desert. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains.

And if it’s INDIVIDUALS who are emphasised. It’s their UNITY that’s the key point. Because as different and special as each of the mighty warriors was/ it was their UNITY behind David that’s important. Diversity within unity. Go back to the start of Ch 11.

(1 Chr 11:1 NIV)  ALL Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and .

And down to V3.

(1 Chr 11:3 NIV)  When ALL THE ELDERS of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD etc

And v 4.

(1 Chr 11:4 NIV)  David and ALL the Israelites marched to Jerusalem

And the idea’s taken up again at the end of Ch 12. Each of the 12 tribes are listed. Not so many individual names. Just the total numbers. ALL ISRAEL behind David.

And look down at v38. The summary of these chapters.

(1 Chr 12:38-40 NIV)  All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over ALL ISRAEL. ALL THE REST of the Israelites were also of ONE MIND to make David king. {39} The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them. {40} Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.

Individual people united under a godly king. That’s the picture. And the message to the Jews in 450 BC is this. “Forget that Israel is divided. Forget that there’s only a of tribes at the moment. You can get back to this by following David’s example. Follow after God’s heart.

And follow the example of the people – be loyal, and united under God’s king. And if there’s no king, keep praying for one. And keep looking for God to come good on his promise. Because he DID promise that there’d always be a king from David’s line on the throne.

But for the Jews in 450 BC, he never came. At least not the sort of king THEY were looking for.

3. Another king

But God DIDN’T forget his promise. He DID send his king. Jesus. ANOTHER king. Descended from David’s line. Born in David’s town, Bethlehem. And it was into David’s city – Jerusalem – that he rode on a donkey. And as he did, everyone praised God, and shouted, “Hosanna to THE SON OF DAVID. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”

And that brings US into the picture. Because Jesus is the king WE serve. The PERFECT SHEPHERD. The perfect LEADER of God’s kingdom. And we are HIS people.

But what does OUR service LOOK LIKE? And that gets back to the question the old guy from Gulgong had. Do we storm through Doonside shops blazing away with a gun, because that’s what DAVID’S followers did? Of course not.

And part of the answer is in the passage from Hebrews that we read. Ch 11 is the great list of FAITH soldiers. People who did various things because of their TRUST in GOD. And some of those things are to do with battles and warfare. But most aren’t. Listen to these verses from the end of Ch 11 (p 852 if you want to look it up) V32.

(Heb 11:32-34 NIV)  And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, {33} who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, {34} quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

That’s all pretty violent, isn’t it? My mate at Gulgong would love that bit. But listen to how it changes. V35. (People who were just as much God’s soldiers).

(Heb 11:35-38 NIV)  Women received back their , raised to life again. Others were d and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. {36} Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. {37} They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– {38} the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

What sort of battles are these? Answered prayer, persecution, poverty. Exactly the sorts of battles WE might face. This week.

And who is the enemy they’re fighting? Not the Philistines. V35 says it’s . V38 says THIS WORLD wasn’t worthy of them. That’s the world of SIN. The world where SATAN is having a field-day. That’s the enemy WE’RE up against.

And our warfare is to do with PRAYER, and standing up for Jesus, and being persecuted. And counter-cultural poverty. Because we’ve got DIFFERENT PRIORITIES. Just like THOSE Old Testament warriors.

And even though some things are the SAME. Hebrews goes on to describe one of the DIFFERENCES. The major difference between us, and the people who followed David. Look at v39.

(Heb 11:39-40 NIV)  These were all commended for their faith, yet NONE OF THEM RECEIVED WHAT HAD BEEN PROMISED. {40} God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

As faithful, and brave, and loyal, as David’s soldiers were. And as wonderful as David’s reign was. It didn’t last. And it WASN’T what God had promised. A HUMAN king in an PHYSICAL land/ was only a taste. Enough to give the Jews in 450 BC a longing for SOMETHING BETTER. Something that would LAST.

And that’s exactly what God had in mind. Something better. For US. And it was a plan that would include THEM as well. That’s what v40 says. God’s people BEFORE and AFTER. United by God’s plan. His plan of salvation in Jesus.

And what does that mean for us? Back to the old Gulgong question. Look at Ch 12 v1

(Heb 12:1 NIV)  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Look at those Old Testament faith-warriors. Follow THEIR example. Get rid of sin. Anything that can weigh you down, or trip you up, or distract you. Or make you less effective.

David’s mighty men followed THEIR king with bravery and loyalty and determination. Let’s follow King Jesus with the SAME bravery and loyalty and determination.

But we don’t just look BACK at those Old Testament examples. We look forward. Look at v 2.

(Heb 12:2-3 NIV)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus is the AUTHOR of faith. Every warrior in Ch 11 with faith, had it as a gift from God because of Jesus.

And he’s the EXAMPLE of faith. The faithful, loyal, sacrificial servant. And we’re to CONSIDER HIM. When things get tough/ look to Jesus, so you don’t grow weary and lose heart.

That’s the war that we’re involved in. To keep following Jesus. And living for him. And not giving up when it’s easier to. And standing our ground, when it’s easier to fall back.

And that’s the message I’d like to give to those two old guys in that little country church!

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