What Sort of Kingdom?

Two kings are mentioned here but neither provides the kingdom we need, only Jesus Christ can do that. 

2 Samuel 21  

21 During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, ‘It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.’ 

2 The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) 3 David asked the Gibeonites, ‘What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?’ 

4 The Gibeonites answered him, ‘We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.’ 

‘What do you want me to do for you?’ David asked. 

5 They answered the king, ‘As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, 6 let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul – the Lord’s chosen one.’ 

So the king said, ‘I will give them to you.’ 

7 The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9 He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning. 

10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up. 

14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer on behalf of the land. 

15 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. 16 And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, ‘Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.’ 

18 In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha. 

19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair[c] the Bethlehemite killed the brother of[d] Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod. 

20 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot – twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 21 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him. 

22 These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men. 

There are many questions that arise when we read this passage.  Weren’t they innocent men who were killed?  Does God send droughts to punish us for past wrongs?  Did David have to do what the Gibeonites asked?  Wasn’t there some other solution?  On we could go with many other concerns raised here.  Most of our answers would be speculation based on thin evidence.  We are on safer ground if we follow the theme of II Samuel which is well summarised as “Waiting for the True King.”  The important question then is what sort of king I want to live under.  Going a step further we can ask what sort of kingdom I want to belong to.   

We are explicitly confronted by two kings here, Saul and David.  Regarding Saul, we learn that he was guilty of treachery against the Gibeonites.  There had been a long-standing treaty with them, and Saul had broken it and sought to destroy them.  This, along with many other incidents, not the least being his ongoing pursuit of David, showed that Saul could not be trusted even at a very basic level. 

David, on the other hand, could be trusted to uphold the treaty with the Gibeonites.  His actions, while grotesque by our sensibilities were an expression of faithfulness to these people.  He intended to be gracious, although we would wish for a better solution!  David’s kingdom, while better than Saul’s, was still far from ideal for those within it.  It was also limited by the mortality of the king, it would not last forever.  Later in the chapter we read of David’s failure in battle.  He showed the standard human problem of fatigue from diminishing powers which almost brought about fatal consequences. 

From this we see that we need a greater King who is not treacherous like Saul but trustworthy and gracious.  We need a King not like David who is weak with limited solutions and time, but victorious with all the answers for us. 

King Jesus is our perfect King.  Where there is injustice, he deals with it by bearing in himself the penalty for wrongdoing so there can be both forgiveness and justice.   He can always be trusted.  We can place ourselves in his hands for mercy and eternal life.   He does not fail through weakness but achieved a great victory for us by dying and rising again.   

When we believe in Jesus, we are part of an eternal kingdom as forgiven people with a king who has dealt with everything for us.  He is the king we need, and it is to his kingdom we need to belong.  All else will provide treachery, injustice, disappointment and ultimately great harshness. 

Head: Think about other areas where David and Saul were failures, but Jesus was the great success. 

Heart: Consider the comfort, joy, hope and peace that is yours as you believe in the perfect King Jesus and live as part of his kingdom. 

Hands: What can you do today to show the world that, while living in this world, you belong to the Kingdom of God under King Jesus? 

Prayer: Father, I am all too aware of my failings in life.  I confess to you that I can be guilty of untrustworthiness like Saul and provide weak and inadequate answers to problems like David.  Thank you that I have Jesus as my Lord and King who died to deal with my guilt and is my strength and wisdom.  Help me live in the security he provides and show something of his love and grace to others.  In Jesus name.  Amen. 

A song to listen to:  Man of Sorrows 

David Johnston 

Living Church Creek Road