The Life of David, Vol. I.
by A. W. Pink
2 Samuel 5
Inasmuch as it is not our design to write a verse-by-verse commentary on the books of Samuel, but rather to study the life of David, we pass over what is found in the remainder of 2 Samuel 3 and 4 and come to the opening verses of chapter five. In the interval between what was before us in our last chapter and the incident we are now to contemplate, the providence of God has been working on David’s behalf. His principal opponents had met with a summary and tragic end, and the way was now cleared for the purpose of God concerning our hero, to receive its accomplishment. Viewing him typically, it is indeed striking to observe how that David’s path to the throne was marked by bloodshedding. From the human side, Saul, Jonathan, and later, Ishbosheth, stood in the way, and none of them died a natural death; by the hand of violence was each one removed!
We cannot regard as accidental, or as a trivial detail, what has just been pointed out above. There is nothing trivial in the imperishable Word of God: everything recorded therein has a profound significance, if only we have eyes to see it. Here, the deeper meaning of these details is not hard to discern: David, in all the essential features of his history (his failures excepted), foreshadowed the Lord Jesus, and, as we know, His path to the throne was along one of bloodshedding. True, the Lord Jesus was "born King of the Jews," as David also had been born into the royal tribe of Judah. True, Christ had been "anointed" (Matthew 3; Acts 10:38), prophet, priest, and king, years before His coronation; as David also had been "anointed" to the royal office (1 Sam. 16: 13). Yet, it was not until after His precious blood was shed at Calvary, that God exalted Christ to be a "Prince" unto the spiritual "Israel" (Acts 2:36; 5:31): as it was not until after the blood-shedding of Saul, Jonathan and Ishbosheth, that David became king.
Upon the death of Abner and Ishbosheth the tribes of Israel were left without a leader. Having had more than sufficient of the rule of Saul and Ishbosheth over them, they had no inclination to make a further experiment by setting another of Saul’s family on the throne, and having observed the prosperous state of Judah under the wise and benign government of David, they began to entertain higher and more honorable thoughts of the "man after God’s own heart." That illustrates an important principle in God’s dealings with those whom He has marked out for salvation. There has to be a turning from Satan unto God, from the service of sin unto subjection to Christ. That is what true conversion is: it is a change of masters: it is a saying from the heart, "O Lord our God, other lords besides Thee have had dominion over us; but by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name" (Isa. 26:13).
But conversion is preceded by conviction. There is wrought in the soul a dissatisfaction with the old master, before there is begotten desires towards the new Master. Sin is made to be realized as a bitter thing, before there is an hungering and thirsting after righteousness. The cruel bonds of Satan must be felt, before there is any longing to be made free by Christ. The prodigal son was made to feel the wretchedness of the far country, before he had any thought of journeying toward the Father’s house. Clearly is this principle exemplified and illustrated in the case of these men who now sought unto David, desiring that he should be king over them. They had had more than enough of what the prophet Samuel had faithfully warned them (1 Sam. 8:11-18)! They had no desire for any other of the house of Saul to reign over them, but were now desirous of submitting themselves to David’s scepter.
Unspeakably blessed, then, is the typical picture here presented to our view. In the voluntary coming unto David of those men of the different tribes, following their unhappy lot under the reigns of Saul and Ishbosheth, we have adumbrated the outcome of the Holy Spirit’s operations in the hearts of God’s elect when He draws them to Christ. He first makes them discontented with their present lot. He gives them to realize there is no real and lasting satisfaction to be found in the service of sin and in continuing to follow a course of opposition to God and His Christ. He creates within the soul an aching void, before He reveals the One who alone can fill it. In short, He makes us thoroughly discontented with our present portion before He moves us to seek the true riches. The Hebrews must be made to groan under their merciless taskmasters in Egypt, before they were ready to start out for the promised land.
"Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel" (2 Sam. 5: 1-3). Ah, note well the opening word, "Then": after a period of no less than seven and a half years since the death of Saul (v. 5).
After the death of the apostate king, and following David’s recognition by the royal tribe, "It might have been expected that all Israel would have been ready to welcome him. Had it not long ago been declared by the lips of Samuel, that God had forsaken the house of Saul? Had not this been acknowledged by Saul himself? Had not God by the destruction on Gilboa, finally set His seal to the truth of His denunciations? And was it not evident, that the strength and blessing that had departed from Saul, had accompanied the dishonored sojourn of David in the wilderness? The might of Israel was there. There were they who were able to break through the host of the Philistines, and to draw from the well of Bethlehem, when Bethlehem and its waters were in the grasp of the enemy. There too, was the Psalmody of Israel. And yet, despite every indication that God had given—careless alike of the tokens of His favor toward David, and of His displeasure toward themselves—the tribes of Israel continued to reject the chosen servant of God; and Judah only welcomed him.
"The son of Saul, though feeble and unknown, was preferred to David; and David left the wilderness, only to be engaged in a long and destructive struggle with those who should have welcomed him as the gift of God for their blessing. So slowly does the hand of God effectuate its purposes—so resolute are men in refusing to recognize any thing save that which gratifies the tendencies of their nature, or approves itself to the calculation of their self-interest. For seven years and six months, Abner and all the tribes of Israel fiercely assailed David: and yet afterwards, they were not ashamed to confess, that they knew that David was he whom God had destined to be the deliverer of Israel. They knew this, and yet for seven years they sought to destroy him; and no doubt, all the while, spoke of themselves, and were spoken of by others, as conscientious men fulfilling an apprehended duty in adhering to the house of Saul. So easy is it to speak well of evil, and to encourage iniquity by smooth words of falsehood.
"At last, however, God accomplished the long cherished desire of His servant’s heart—the desire that He had Himself implanted—and David became the head and governor of Israel" (B. W. Newton). Yes, at last the hearts of these rebels were subdued; at last they were willing to submit themselves unto David’s scepter. Ah, note well the particular character in which David was owned by them: "thou shalt be a captain over Israel." As we have pointed out in the introductory paragraphs, the surrender of the men of the eleven tribes unto David, was a type of the sinner’s conversion. This presents to us a vital and fundamental aspect of salvation which has wellnigh disappeared from modern "evangelism." What is conversion? True and saving conversion, we mean. It is far, far more than a believing that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, and that He made an atonement for our sins. Thousands believe that who are yet dead in trespasses and sins!
Conversion consists not in believing certain facts or truths made known in Holy Writ, but lies in the complete surrender of the heart and life to a divine Person. It consists in a throwing down of the weapons of our rebellion against Him. It is the total disowning of allegiance to the old master—Satan, sin, self, and a declaring "we will have this Man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). It is owning the claims of Christ and bowing to His rights of absolute dominion over us. It is taking His yoke upon us, submitting unto His scepter, yielding to His blessed will. In a word, it is "receiving Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col 2:6), giving Him the throne of our hearts, turning over to Him the control and regulation of our lives. And, my reader, nothing short of this is a Scriptural conversion: anything else is make-believe, a lying substitute, a fatal deception.
In the passage now before us, these Israelites, who had for so long resisted the claims of David, serving under the banner of his adversary instead, now desired the king of Judah to be their king. It is evident that a great change had been wrought in them—wrought in them by God, though He was pleased to use circumstances to incline toward or prepare for that change: we purposely qualify our terms, for it should be quite obvious that no mere "circumstances" could have wrought such a change in their attitude toward the ruler of God’s appointment, unless He had so "used" or influenced them by the same. So it is in connection with conversion: the distressing "circumstances" of a sinner may be used of the Spirit to convict him of the vanity of everything beneath the sun, and to teach him that no real heart satisfaction is to be found in mere things—even though those "things" may be an earthly mansion, with every thing in it that the flesh craves; but He must perform a miracle of grace within the soul before any descendant of Adam is willing to pay full allegiance to Christ as King!
"Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh" (v. 1). What a precious line in our typical picture is this! After conviction and conversion follows spiritual illumination. The Holy Spirit is given to glorify Christ: to take of the things concerning Him and reveal them to those whom He draws to the Saviour (John 14:16). After a soul has been brought from death unto life by His mighty and sovereign operations, the Spirit of God instructs him; shows him the marvelous relation which divine grace has given him to the Redeemer. He discovers to him the glorious fact of his spiritual union with Christ, for "he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6: 17). He reveals to the quickened children of God’s family the amazing truth that they are members of that mystical Body of which Christ is the Head, and thus we are "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. 5:30).
It is precious to see that these words of all the tribes of Israel, "we are thy bone and thy flesh," were used by them as a plea. They had long ignored his rights and resisted his claims. They had been in open revolt against him, and deserved nought but judgment at his hands. But now they humbled themselves before him, and pleaded their near relation to him as a reason why he should forgive their ill-usage of him. They were his brethren, and on that ground they sought his clemency. And this is the very ground on which the Spirit-instructed believer sues for mercy from God in Christ. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same . . . Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest" (Heb. 2:14, 17). What confidence does the apprehension of this impart to the penitent heart of the Satan-harassed and sin-distressed saint!
O dear Christian reader, beg God to make this transcendent and precious fact more real and moving to thy heart. The Saviour is not one who, like the cherubim and seraphim, is far removed from thee in the scale of being. True, He is very God of very God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the King of kings and Lord of lords, but He is also one who was "born of a woman," who became Man, who is bone of thy bone and flesh of thy flesh, and therefore "He is not ashamed to call us brethren" (Heb. 2: 11). And for the same reason He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Heb. 4:15), and "in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18). Then hesitate not to approach Him with the utmost freedom and pour out thy heart unreservedly before Him. He will not reprove thee any more than David did his erring brethren. Take full encouragement from this endearing relation: we are the brethren of Christ; He is our kinsman Redeemed!
"Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel; and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel" (v. 2). This too is very blessed when we look through the type to the antitype. These humbled revolters now praised David for his former services, which before they had overlooked; and now acknowledged the Lord’s appointment of him, which before they had resisted. So it is in the experience of the converted. While in the service of Saul (Satan) we have no appreciation of the work Christ has done and no apprehension of the position of honor to which God has elevated Him: the depths of humiliation into which the Beloved of the Father entered and the unspeakable suffering which He endured on behalf of His people, melted not our hearts; nor did the scepter which He now wields bring us into loving subjection to Him. But conversion alters all this!
But more: "the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel." They not only praised David for his former services, but recognizing him as the divinely appointed shepherd of Israel they determined to put themselves under his protection, desiring that he would rule over them in tenderness and righteousness, for their safety and comfort, and that he would lead them forth to victory over his enemies. This too finds its counterpart in the history of those who are truly converted: they realize they have many foes, both within and without, which are far too powerful for them to conquer, and therefore do they "commit the keeping of their souls to Him" (1 Pet. 4: 19), assured that "He is able to keep . . . against that Day" (2 Tim. 1:12). Yes, He who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh is "mighty to save," "able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him" (Heb. 7:25).
1 Chronicles 12:23-40 supplies fuller light upon the opening verses of 2 Samuel 5. There we are shown not only the numbers which came unto David from each tribe, and with what zeal and sincerity they came, but also the gracious reception they met with. The one whom they had so grievously wronged did not refuse to accept them, but instead gave them a hearty and royal welcome: "And there they were with David three days (typically, now on resurrection ground), eating and drinking" (v. 39)—at perfect ease in his presence; "for there was joy in Israel" (v. 40). Blessed be God, the Saviour of sinners has declared, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). Hallelujah!