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2 Samuel 5:11-25 -

The facts are:

1 . The King of Tyre, being friendly with David, supplies him with means of building his house on Mount Zion.

2 . David regards the varied successes of his enterprises as confirmation of his belief that he was indeed appointed by God to reign over Israel.

3 . He establishes a court on a larger scale, after Oriental style.

4 . The Philistines, hearing of his accession to the throne, prepare for an attack upon him, whereupon he seeks guidance of God, defeats them at Baal-Perazim, and destroys their images.

5 . Subsequently the Philistines come to a second attack, but on inquiring of God, David is not allowed to assail them in front.

6 . Adopting the strategy recommended him, David secures the overthrow of the enemy unto Gazer.

Divine favour vouchsafed to imperfect men.

The Bible teaches that the hearts of kings and people are in the hands of the Lord, and that he turns them so as to advance the great purpose he is working out. The friendly attitude of so important a personage as Hiram must be regarded as a mark of God's favour to David. To us the record makes clear that David was indeed called of God, and had the special help of the Almighty, and yet 2 Samuel 5:12 suggests that there were hours when he himself felt the need of confirmatory signs. Some of the Psalms indicate the same. He is here represented as overcoming any doubts and fears arising from his own deep consciousness of moral imperfection, by considering the unmistakable blessings wherewith his efforts so far were crowned. It was all of the Lord. He was not in error in supposing that he was in the path of duty. And yet the very next verses of the narrative (verses 13-16) tell us of a weakness in David's character—an inferiority to much that later on was attained to by others—so that we cannot but note this conjunction of great and manifold favours conferred on one whose standard of moral and social life was, relatively to ours, very inferior. To the right understanding of this we have to observe ―

I. DOMESTIC RELATIONSHIPS ARE MATTERS OF POSITIVE ENACTMENT . Moralists distinguish rightly between obligations moral in their own nature and obligations created by precept. Obviously there is not the same kind of obligation for a man to have only one wife as there is to love God with all his heart. The one depends on considerations subsequent to the existence of more than one person; the other holds from the very nature of the feeling, and cannot but be the right thing. That it is wisest, best, most conducive to personal moral perfection and to social welfare that men should not have plurality of wives, is certain; but that arises from the constitution of society and the particular purposes God intends to work out by means of the domestic institution, and consequently the prohibition to have more than one wife partakes of the nature of a positive precept. Had man not been told what he should do, he would not have felt and known absolutely that only one wife must be taken. Had he not been told what he should do, he would nevertheless have felt and known that to love not God, to disobey God, to prefer vileness to purity, was wrong. David, left to himself, would see evil in aversion to God, but he would not so distinctly and certainly see evil in having many wives.

II. THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF LIFE IN ANCIENT TIMES WERE INHERITED . Inheritance does not make wrong right, but being over a long series of generations it tends to prevent those who are the subjects of it from seeing the evils which others fresh to the facts might soon discover. This applies especially to those forms of evil which are so in a secondary sense, being the opposite of what is termed good by positive precept. Polygamy was a custom very ancient, running through long generations of good men, and among sheiks and heads of nations it became one of the marks of distinction and an inevitable appendage of wealth. That, of course, does not make it useful or morally right, but it accounts for good men adopting it with as little compunction of conscience as others, in modern times, have bought and sold slaves, or sold drink, which are known to be the occasion of great evils.

III. THE MEANS OF EDUCATING MEN TO MORE PERFECT FORMS OF SOCIAL LIFE ARE GRADUAL IN OPERATION , AND THE FORCE OF PRECEPTS CONCERNING THEM IS NOT AT ONCE RECOGNIZED . No doubt monogamy was the will of God—the common law from the beginning ( Matthew 19:4 , Matthew 19:5 ). The subsequent practice of polygamy by good men was tolerated, but it was the evident design of the Mosaic regulations to moderate and minimize it ( Deuteronomy 17:17 ; Exodus 21:10 , Exodus 21:11 ; Deuteronomy 21:11-17 ). The elevation of the people above the degrading practice was a slow process, and, according to the Talmudists, even the distinct precept ( Deuteronomy 17:17 ) was understood in a non literal sense. It is possible, therefore, that David, inheriting practices straight from Abraham, should be disposed to anticipate the Talmudic interpretation, and understand "multiply" to refer to an "inordinate number," and the reason assigned to be a matter of discretion. The same difficulty in educating men to rise to the full recognition, in social relations, of some of our Saviour's precepts set forth in Matthew 5:1-48 . and 6; is obvious to us even now. In the case of Oriental polygamy in Old Testament times the difficulty was greater from the circumstance that the wife in chief held her place, and others improperly called in English "concubines" were secondary, and often served in court as "maids of honour" do now.

IV. IT IS THE METHOD OF GOD TO WORK BY IMPERFECT AGENTS UP TO A HIGHER FORM OF LIFE . All things in the earlier stages of constructive work are in an elementary condition, and in that sense inferior. Out of the elemental forms organisms arise, and from the lower organisms higher types have appeared. Out of our own imperfect mental condition there arises, by use of that imperfect condition, a superior form of mental life. The same holds good of our moral habits. By use of the weak and inferior, with a tendency upwards, there comes to pass a moral elevation that can never descend to the old conditions out of which it sprang. Likewise, in constructing a perfect human society on the purest and noblest gospel principles, it is God's way to use men as he finds them, with their inherited notions and tendencies, and by precept and inspiration gradually raise them above themselves, and so make them instruments of raising others to a higher level of life. Had God waited till men became as clear in their conceptions of social proprieties and utilities and as strong in purity as Christ, nothing would have been done for the world. He is a Father who pitieth his children. He remembereth that we are but dust. It is, therefore, in unison with general principles of government that David, though a polygamist, was blessed, and for the same reason many a slave owner's life has been attended with spiritual blessing. Were it not so, who of us dare hope for favour?

V. THE BLESSING OF GOD IS RESTRICTED BY OUR IMPERFECTIONS . Had David risen to the dignity of true monogamy, and, with clear vision and firm spirit, entered on a domestic life in keeping with gospel principles, he would doubtless have exerted a wider and more powerful spiritual influence. But as it was, the kind and measure of prosperity vouchsafed to him were proportionate to his imperfect domestic life. God's blessing is only restrained by the channel through which it has to flow. The more we can anticipate the more holy and consecrated and enlightened future by our present elevation of life, the more surely will the blessing rest on us and our deeds. According to our faith and love, as seen in perfect conformity of feeling, perception, and action to the blessed life of Christ, so may we expect the favour and blessing of God.


1 . It becomes us every now and then to make careful scrutiny of our lives, to see what elements there are in them derived from an ungodly inheritance and resting on mere fashion and custom.

2 . The best light by which we may discover what is merely traditional and perhaps morally defective in our characters is that derived from a close study of the spirit that animated our Saviour and the ideal he set up for our model.

3 . In our anxiety to know whether we are really accepted of God and are enjoying his favour, we may safely reckon prosperity in our calling, if only, like David, we are conscious of going forth in his Name and not for personal ends.

4 . We may, like David, after seasons of long trial for the sake of Christ, well take courage when the tide of success flows freely in, and should be careful at such times to ascribe all to God.

5 . We see how the essence of religion, namely, trust in God, desire to know and do his will, and maintenance of righteousness in all affairs according to the measure of light obtained, is distinguishable from the form of social morality which custom or tradition may have generated.

The renunciation of human strength and wisdom before God.

The historian is here fragmentary in his records. Having noted David's first efforts towards consolidation of his power and his general prosperity, he refers to the troubles that arose in consequence of the assaults of the Philistines. These natural enemies of Israel had doubtless observed with satisfaction the gradual decay of Israel's power during the reign of Saul, and probably were hopeful that the threatened civil war between the adherents of David at Hebron and the friends of Ishbosheth would still further place the people at their mercy. The seizure of Jebus was, however, so startling an event as to awaken the fear that the near settlement at Hebron and removal of the court to Jerusalem might be the beginning of trouble for themselves. The remembrance of the prowess of David in years gone by must have intensified this fear. It was therefore in accordance with the best human policy that they should bring all their forces together and seek to crush him by a single blow. It is interesting to observe the conduct of David under those circumstances.

I. THE STRONG AND SAGACIOUS MAN SEEKS THE GUIDANCE AND HELP OF GOD . That David was a man of courage, brave, hardy, and capable of great endurance, is the record of his life. Naturally he was capable of great things. Also his whole conduct revealed a remarkable sagacity, such as fitted him for military leadership and statesmanship. If there was one in Israel who, reckoning on personal qualities and acquired renown, was justified in facing the Philistines in sole dependence on his own gifts, David was the man, and yet, instead of that, he turns at once to his God, and seeks guidance and help of him. This was not an act of superstition; not the result of sudden change of character, in which fear took the place of courage and mental confusion the place of calmness. It was the product of enlightened piety—a policy of profound wisdom, a sagacious estimate of all the facts and probabilities of the case. He was the servant of Jehovah, bound to carry out his purposes and cause his great Name to be reverenced in all human affairs. Therefore it was due to the ever present and ruling Lord to honour him by seeking to know his will and trusting in his aid. Past successes in his Name suggested the same. It was true then as now that the Eternal Spirit could act on masses of men and their leaders so as to change the course of events; and for aught David knew to the contrary, it might have been the Divine will to force them back by some other agency than by his arms. Prudence, reason, piety, all sound principles and sentiments, concurred in renunciation of all human powers before the Eternal, that his power might be manifest. This is the course pursued by every strong and wise man in whom piety is a force. The Apostle Paul was a notable instance of strong will and great general ability laid prostrate before Christ, that his power might work through human channels ( 2 Corinthians 4:6 , 2 Corinthians 4:7 ). The more distinguished the man in natural gifts and in grace, the more thoroughly is God sought, as in the case of Augustine. Men of strong will and great force of intellect who refuse to depend on God are not strong and wise all round; they are morally weak and spiritually blind. The more perfectly the whole man is developed the more complete will be the turning to God for guidance and help.

II. THE STRONG AND SAGACIOUS MAN FOLLOWS THE LIGHT GIVEN . David learnt that it was God's will that the national foe should be smitten, not by pestilence or sudden terror subjectively produced, but by the national arm; and in the two cases by different methods of procedure. Whatever was the method of learning the will of God, and whatever degree of distinctness the revelation, the fact to be noted is that David was not "disobedient to the heavenly vision." His generalship was regulated thereby. We have no Urim to consult, no high priest to receive special communication for specific emergencies; but in our times of danger to business, domestic interests, Church affairs, and personal religious life—to say nothing of national events—we can seek God by prayer, by reading his will in the pure conscience, in the steady lines of providence, and in the principles of his written Word. It should be a cardinal truth with us that God is interested in our affairs, and has ways of making himself known to the earnest spirit. Especially does it behove each Christian and the Church as a body to seek guidance and help when assaults are being made on our holy faith, and the enemy threatens to deprive us of our goodly heritage. There are ways and methods of meeting the foe which God can reveal, and our success will depend on the care with which we adopt the methods approved of God. Infidelity and atheism are to be confronted or attacked in the rear on principles Divine, not on maxims of human expediency.

III. THE STRONG AND SAGACIOUS MAN IS WILLING TO LET GOD WORK , SO THAT THE HAND OF MAN SHALL NOT BE MOST CONSPICUOUS . David acquiesced in the front attack when enjoined, and equally in the restrained action of himself when ( Matthew 5:23 , Matthew 5:24 ) an unseen influence was brought to bear on the foe. In this lies the beauty of true godliness, that it is content, when God wills it, that man should not be seen if only the purposes of God are carried through. David cared not for military distinction if the finger of God could only be seen. His strategy in this case was Divine. He stood aside for Providence to work till the hour for human action arrived. This was the apostolic spirit in the early days of Christianity, based in its exercise on the truth that the living God was the great Worker on the souls of men. The same feeling and belief should ever actuate us in all our endeavours to subdue enemies to the cross. We are only instruments, and a true estimate of ourselves will lead us to rejoice in our being counted as nothing and lost sight of in the display of saving power straight from God. Perhaps there is less success because we want to appear in front of the "mulberry trees."


1 . We have to hold our own heart and our Church life against the inroads of our natural enemies, "the world, the flesh, and the devil," and the remembrance of this should always make us watchful.

2 . In times of great stress in this conflict we should make special requests to God, and not simply proceed on the prestige of former achievements.

3 . In dealing with modern forms of attack on Christianity, we have need to ponder well the methods and principles of procedure; and the entire Church should make it a matter of special thought and prayer.


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