Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
DAVID CROWNED KING OVER ALL. 2 Samuel 5:1-5.
"In full and glad surrender we give ourselves to Thee,
Your utterly, and only, and evermore to be!
O Son of God, who love us, we will be Your alone,
And all we are, and all we have, shall henceforth be Your own."—Havergal.
It was a great day in Israel when all the tribes gathered together in Hebron to make David king over a united people. Perhaps the wisdom and advocacy of Abner had much to do with the bringing about of this happy event (chapter 3:17-19). The man who had been anointed with the holy oil (Spirit), and who lives by faith in God, will have a path that shines more and more with the light of His favor. We are reminded here of the time when all the tribes of earth shall confess Jesus Christ as King, and crown Him Lord of all. The turning of the kingdom to David, like the turning of the kingdoms of the world to our God and to Christ, was "according to the Word of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 12:23). We shall note here—
I. The Confession. They came to David, as we may come to Christ, making confession of—
1. Kinship. "Behold, we are your bone and your flesh" (v. 1). To have a "flesh and bone" relationship with a king is surely a great privilege, and a mighty plea in urging a request. Such is the honorable position of every Christian. "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Ephesians 5:30). Did not the first Adam say of Eve—a type of the Church—"This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). This close and living union with Him brings us as members into vital connection one with another (Romans 12:5).
2. Failure. "In time past, Saul was king over us" (v. 2). There is a ring of sorrowful disappointment in these words. In time past we had an untrustworthy ruler over us, one who broke away from the command of the Lord, and who sought to destroy the influence of His anointed, and to lead us to war against the purposes of God. What a faithful type of the prince of this world, and of the woeful conductor of all those whose minds are blinded by Him. Let the time past suffice for the will of the flesh and the work of the Devil.
3. Grace. "You were he who led out and brought in Israel" (v. 2). This is a confession of the wisdom and goodness of David's work among them. David, like the Lord Jesus Christ, dealt with them "according to the integrity of his heart and the skilfulness of his hands" (Psalm 78:72). It is wonderful, in looking back over even our past sinful life, how much of the wisdom and grace of our Lord we now see. What we then thought was opposed to our highest interests we can now trace to the skilfulness of His hands.
4. Faith. "The Lord said unto you, You shall feed My people." By these words the elders made confession of their faith in David as the one appointed by Jehovah to lead them and feed them as a shepherd. He whom God has set up shall not be easily overthrown. Has not Christ, the Shepherd of our souls, been commissioned of the Father to feed His sheep? And shall not we, like these elders, acknowledge our King as He who spreads a table for us in the wilderness, and as He who is in Himself the "Living Bread."
5. Surrender. "You shall be prince (or ruler) over Israel" (v. 2, R.V.). This language is expressive of perfect subjection to His word and will. You shall rule over us, and our lives are at your disposal for the carrying out of all the purposes of your heart. Are we prepared so to yield ourselves as instruments of righteousness to Him who is our Redeemer and King? Can we pray in truth, "Your will be done in us, as it is done in Heaven?"
II. The Covenant. "King David made a covenant with them" (v. 3, R.V.). This offer was accepted, and an everlasting bond of union formed. David's league with them was the pledge and promise that his wisdom and power would be exercised for their personal and national well-being. So they anointed David king over Israel. So may it be with us. All who are prepared to crown Jesus King over all will have the benefit of His covenant of promise and power. The crowning of Jesus over our lives means for us a life of victory and blessing.
"Crown Him Lord of All."
DAVID RESTORING THE ARK. 2 Samuel 6:1-16.
"O heart! Weak follower of the weak,
That you Should travel land and sea,
In this far place that God to seek
Who long ago had come to thee."—Houghton.
The Ark was the symbol of the presence of the invisible God among them, and a type of Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, but Israel had lost it (1 Samuel 4). Sin and iniquity will always separate between you and your God (Isaiah 59:2). The same Presence which was the joy and comfort of the Lord's people was a terror to the ungodly (1 Samuel 5:8). Separated from Him, "Ichabod" may be written on all we do (1 Samuel 4:21; John 15:4, 5). In this chapter we have men taking up various attitudes towards the Ark, reminding us of the different positions some take up toward Christ. Notice the—
I. Zealous Formalists. "They set the Ark of God upon a new cart" (v. 3). The descendants of those carters are still with us. There is a show of sanctity about their actions, but they have more pleasure in putting their religion in new carts—new churches—than carrying it personally (1 Chronicles 15:15). The Ark had staves, but no wheels (Exod. 25:14, 15). The religion of Jesus Christ can not be driven in a mechanical fashion. We may invent new machinery and organizations and put our faith in them, but if the "burden of the Lord" does not rest on our own hearts the cause of Christ will make no progress through us.
II. Self-Confident Professor. "Uzzah put forth his hand to the Ark and took hold of it, and God smote him for his error" (vv. 6, 7). Familiarity with holy things, without the heart to appreciate, leads to presumption (Levit. 10:1-3). The Ark of God does not need the hand of man to steady it any more than did the Pillar of Cloud. It is possible to perish in the place of privilege through putting forth the hand instead of the heart (Romans 10:3). There be many like Uzzah, who would defend the faith, and yet show by their actions that they have no faith. They would save the Bible from falling, and they themselves fall and die unsaved.
III. Timid Seeker. "David was afraid, and said, How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?" (v. 9). David was anxious to have the Ark, as many are anxious to have salvation, but the holiness and power associated with it, and a sense of his own unworthiness, made him afraid. How shall this holy, sin-smiting One come to me? How will I ever be able to live in fellowship with such purity and might? Ah, this "how?" has troubled many a seeker after God. The answer is found in the Cross of Christ, for we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and our hearts made the habitation of God through the Spirit. Who is able to stand before the holy Lord God? (1 Samuel 6:20). He who has access by faith (Romans 5:1, 2).
IV. Humble Believer. "David carried it into the house of Obed-edom, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his house" (vv. 10, 11). Obed-edom's name occurs among the porters (1 Chron. 15:18), but though humble of occupation, he evidently received the Ark joyfully, for from that day salvation came to his house (Luke 19:5, 6). David was afraid to take the Ark home himself, but he seemingly thought that it would do no harm in the humble house of the doorkeeper. The Ark seemed to say, "If any man open the door I will come in, and sup with him, and he with Me." There are many who are afraid to let Christ, the Ark of God, into the home of the heart, lest something else should need to go (Matthew 21:12).
V. Fearless Witness-Bearers. "They bare the Ark of the Lord" (v. 13). They did not invent another "new cart." with elaborate decorations, to help it in its progress, neither did they pay others to do the carrying for them. They boldly took "the burden of the Lord," and bare it. The cause of Christ is not to be advanced by those who know no more about the personal Savior than the oxen knew about the Ark. Christ, like the Ark, must be borne by those who have been separated unto Him (1 Chronicles 15:14, 15; Acts 9:15). We need at times to have the Ark on our shoulder, in the street as well as in the house. In the eyes of some the Ark is always out of its place, unless when it is out of sight.
VI. Joyful Confessor. "David danced before the Lord with all his might" (v. 14). His mourning is now turned into dancing, his sackcloth has been exchanged for the belt of gladness (Psalm 30:11). Obed-edom's blessing has brought the blessing of a strengthened faith to him. Perfect love casts out fear. The presence of God is here triumphing through sacrifice (v. 13). So we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:11, R.V.).
VII. Sneering Fault-Finder. "Michal saw King David dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart" (v. 16). The things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14). In their ignorance and self-conceit they mistake glad men for mad men (Acts 2:13). Any fool can be a fault-finder, but it takes more than the world can give to make a man "dance before the Lord." The giddy worldlings dance before one another and become fools before the Lord. Those who stare through their windows with the eyes of a Michal can see no beauty or glory in the Ark (Christ) of God, no cause for joy in its (His) coming. They hide, as it were, their faces from Him. When Christ comes will He find you among the formalists, the fearful, the faithful, or the fault-finding?
DAVID AND MEPHIBOSHETH; OR, SAVED BY GRACE. 2 Samuel 9.
"Man's forgiveness may be true and sweet,
But yet he stoops to give it. More complete
Is love that lays forgiveness at your feet,
And pleads with you to raise it! Only Heaven
Means Crowned, not Vanquished, when it says Forgiven!"—A. Procter.
Much food for reflection might be found in comparing this chapter with Romans 9-11. The purposes of God concerning Israel, as revealed in these chapters, ought to be better known than they are among believers everywhere. We might observe here—
I. Mephibosheth's Condition; or, The Sinner's Need.
1. Fearfulness. From the fact that such inquiry had to be made, we may learn that Mephibosheth was hiding from the king. They dread God who know not His love (v. 1). Hiding from his best friend. So like the sinner (Genesis 3:8).
2. Destitution. "In the house of Machir (sold) in Lodebar" (without pasture) (v. 4). How true! The rebellious dwell in a dry land (Psalm 68:6). Away from God the sinner is but lodging in the house of poverty (Isaiah 44:20; Luke 15:16).
3. Helplessness. "Lame on both feet" (v. 13). At that time you were without strength (Romans 5:6). With regard to the things of God the unregenerated are heartless, handless, footless. Any ability we have is God-given (1 Peter 4:11).
II. David's Purpose; or, The Love of God. He wished to show kindness to the house of Saul (his enemy) for Jonathan's sake (the gift of God). What an illustration of 2 Corinthians 5:19. This—
1. Love was Spontaneous. It was the voluntary impulse of a kind and merciful heart. "God is Love." God takes the first step towards man's redemption (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2). He so loved the world that He gave His Son. "We love Him because He first loved us."
2. Love was Gracious. It sought out the undeserving. It offered favor to an enemy. While we were yet enemies Christ died for us. It was, indeed, the "Gospel of Grace" that David's servant carried to the poor cripple. What a privilege to belong to such "sent ones" (v. 5). This is a beautiful illustration of Romans 10:14, 15. What is the meaning of John 20:21?
3. Love was Self-sacrificing. "I have given all that pertained to Saul" (v. 9). This was a great gift, but it was for Jonathan's sake. In John 3:16 we see a greater gift, and with this gift comes the pledge of all things (Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3).
III. Mephibosheth's Faith; or, Salvation Enjoyed. He—
1. Believed the Message. So proved his faith by obeying the call. "He came unto David" (v. 6). See 2 Chronicles 30:10, 11). The Master is come, and calls for you. We test the truth of the Gospel when we believe it.
2. Humbled Himself. "He fell on his face." So well he may. He confesses himself to be as a "dead dog" (v. 8). You has he quickened who were dead in sin—worse than a dead dog. The goodness of God leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 5:14).
3. Was Accepted. "David said, Fear not, I will show you kindness" (v. 7). The God who invites will surely receive (John 7:37). Think of His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).
4. Was Adopted. "He shall eat at my table as one of the king's sons" (v. 11). Although he was lame on both his feet he sat continually at the king's table. His table of mercy covers many an infirmity (1 John 3:1, 2).
5. Was Made an Heir. "David said, I will restore you all the land of Saul your father" (v. 7). From poverty to plenty through the grace of the king (1 Peter 1:3, 4). By grace are you saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
DAVID'S FALL AND FORGIVENESS. 2 Samuel 12:1-14.
"Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10-12). Backsliding never begins with an overt act of guilt, but in the secret thought of the heart. "You have left your first love, therefore you are fallen" (Rev. 2:4-6). Christians may fall out of fellowship with God, although they may not fall out of their relationship as children, any more than the prodigal in Luke 15 could fall from his sonship. There was a vast difference in results between the fall of Saul and that of David, or between the denial of Peter and that of Judas.
I. The Nature of It. David was guilty of adultery and murder (chapter 11). The killing of Uriah was a subtle device to cover the shame of his sin with Bathsheba. Oh, into what depths a child of God may fall in one unguarded moment! Here note the faithfulness of the Bible in exposing the faults and failings of its heroes. David is not the only holy man that has been dragged into the mire of sin through the influence of a look (chapter 11:2). Eve saw before she took the forbidden fruit. Lot's backsliding began when he "looked toward Sodom," and a look was the ruin of his wife. The first step that led to the destruction of the old world was taken when the "Sons of God looked on the daughters of men" (Genesis 6). The words of Christ are very searching in this connection (see Matthew 5:28). As we stand in the glare of this searchlight from Heaven, who will be the first to cast a stone at David?
II. The Fruit of it. "By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme; the child also shall surely die" (v. 14). The marrying of Bathsheba before the child was born did not cover the guilt of his sin in the sight of God (chapter 11:27). How sad when the behavior of a professed servant of God fills the mouths of His enemies with arguments against Him and His cause! The misdeeds of Christians gives the enemy occasion to say things that blaspheme His Holy Name. Has He not said that "the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes" (Ezekiel 36:23; see also Romans 2:24).
III. The Conviction of it. "You are the man" (v. 7). This arrow was not shot at random. Those who are living in sin are not to be convicted with a mere hint, they have to be "pierced in the heart" (Acts 2:37). As Christ was pierced for our sins, so must we be pierced with conviction. David's secret sin was naked before God. Like the sin of Cain and Achan, no human device could cover it. The message sent by Nathan was singularly apt, as God's messages always are; and like Latimer and Knox, he feared not the royal wrath. When a man has a message from God his manner will be bold and his speech unequivocal. Was it not thus with Jesus Christ?
IV. The Confession of it. "David said, I have sinned against the Lord" (v. 13). He makes no excuse, he mentions no extenuating circumstances, he blames no one for betraying his secret to the prophet. He is too deeply wounded to offer any resistance. He does not say, I have sinned against Uriah, but I have sinned against the Lord. When a man has discovered that he has "sinned against Heaven" (Luke 15:18), he will cease justifying himself (Psalm 51:4). When the wife of John Brown, the martyr; asked the murderer Clayerhouse how he would answer for this day's work, he sneeringly replied, "As for man, I will answer to him; as for God, I will take Him into my own hands." A dead conscience makes a man as arrogant as Satan himself. Job said, "Because I am vile, what shall I answer You?" (chapter 40:4). "God be merciful to me a sinner" is the incense that rises from the live coals of a burning conviction (Luke 18:13).
V. The Forgiveness of it. "Nathan said, The Lord has put away your sin" (v. 13). It is still true that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us" (1 John 1:9). How sweetly David sings of this abounding mercy of God in the thirty-second Psalm. The prophet Micah exults in the same joyful note. "Who is a God like unto You, that pardons iniquity" (Micah 7:18).
1. It was Immediate. As soon as confession was made, so soon was his pardon declared. Behold in this the readiness of God to bless, as soon as the heart of man is in a right state to receive it.
2. It was Complete. "The Lord has put away your sin." Who shall ever find what God has put away? God never upbraids, where there is honest confession, but by the power of His omnipotent grace, He sweeps the hell-born thing forever from before His face. "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29).
3. It was Accompanied with Promise. "You shall not die." The forgiveness of God is associated with the promise of life (Acts 13:38, 39; Ephesians 1:6, 7; John 5:24). He forgives, then He assures the forgiven one with His Word. Although we should never hear a voice, as it were from Heaven, saying to us as it said to John Bunyan, "Will you have your sins and go to Hell, or forsake them and go to Heaven." Yet are we not justified until we confess our sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
DAVID AND ABSALOM. 2 Samuel 13-18.
David's terrible fall through sin may have had much to do with the fostering of pride and self-confidence in the formation of the character of Absalom. No man lives unto himself. The fruit of a parent's iniquity may have a resurrection and a judgment in his offspring. The story of Absalom is the story of a prodigal perishing in the far country; it is a beacon of warning to all young men in danger of being lured to rain through the tossed of the eye and the pride of life. Let us take a survey of this young man's career and note his—
I. Natural Advantages. These were exceptionally great and favorable. Not only was he the son of a king, but in his personal appearance "There was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him" (chapter 14:25). But what a terrible contrast there was in his moral and spiritual nature, "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there was no soundness in it" (Isaiah 1:6). Hereditary advantages or disadvantages are not sufficient in themselves to make or mar true nobility of character, but a favorable start may count for much in the race of life. Absalom had a wide door of glorious possibilities opened for him in that he was able to command the affections of the men of Israel (chapter 15:6). But outward appearance counts for nothing in the sight of God (I Samuel 16:7).
II. Revengeful Spirit. Absalom's "cold-blooded murder of his brother Amnon "two full years" after Amnon's vile and cruel deed had been done reveals a dogged and remorseless spirit (chapter 14:23-28). Time and circumstances had no power to cool the fire of his unforgiving temper. His words were like honey and butter, while deceit lurked in his heart (chapter 15. 4). Outward beauty and inward deformity are forever characteristic of the hypocrite "whited sepulchers." See the whiting process described in Romans 10. S.
III. Renewed Opportunity. Absalom who had fled to Geshur to escape the wrath of his father is now after the lapse of several years restored to the favor of the king through the influence of his cousin Joab (chapter 14:33). In the providence of God he has another chance of making a fresh and more honorable start in life. How momentous are the consequences that hang on this renewed day of grace! Will he choose the narrow path that leads to life, or the broad self-made way that leads to destruction? Are there not many young men in our towns and cities today who are lightly esteeming a repeated privilege that is heavily laden with eternal issues. "Behold, now is the accepted time" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
IV. Self-Aggrandizement. "After this Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him" (chapter 15:1-6). The forgiving grace of the father, instead of mellowing his heart into thankful submission, seemed only to give greater license to his unbridled will and presumption. An unregenerate sinner will turn the grace of God into lasciviousness by taking all the favor and blessing God can give him, that these might minister to his own pride and self-glory. In after years Adonijah played the same proud, ruinous game (1 Kings I. 5). He who exalts himself shall be abased (2 Corinthians 10:18).
V. Open Rebellion. "Then you shall say, Absalom reigns" (chapter 15:10). The hypocritical mask is thrown off, and the secret purposes of his heart are revealed. He declares himself an enemy to the government of David his father, and an aspirant for the position and authority of the king. It is most suggestive that the two hundred men whom he had called, and who went in their simplicity, "Knew not anything" (chapter 15:11). Open rebellion against the will and ways of God is the ripened fruit of a secret, self-centered life. As long as ungodly men can gain some worldly advantages by their false pretensions they will refrain from manifesting their true inward dislike to the rule of God. But the day is coming when every hidden thing will be revealed.
VI. Untimely Death. "Behold I saw Absalom hanged in an oak" (chapter 18:9-14). In riding into the wood to escape "the servants of David" he rode into the jaws of death, for that head of pride and beauty was caught between two branches of an oak, and the mule in whom he trusted "went from under him." Those who fight against God have forces to reckon with that they know not of; then mule, whatever that may be, will one day go from under them, leaving them helpless "between Heaven and earth," as utterly unfit for either. The man who built his house on the sand had the object of his confidence taken from under him too. It is very different with the redeemed of the Lord (Psalm 40:2). Joab's treatment of the unfortunate pretender was cruel and ghastly. "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord, I will repay." Surely the triumph of the wicked is short.
VII. Ironical Monument. "Now Absalom had reared up for himself a pillar, and called it after his own name" (chapter 18:18). He had set up this pillar, perhaps to mark his last resting-place and to perpetuate his name, but instead they "cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him" (chapter 18:17). His utter disregard for parental and divine authority prepared for him the burial of a dog. His pillar, like the pillar of salt on the plain of Sodom, became a monument of the judgment of God against disobedience. It was another tower of Babel on a small scale. In Luke 18:11 we see another man busy rearing up his pillar, but their name is legion (Romans 10:3).
VIII. Sorrowful Father. "O my son Absalom! would God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (chapter 18:33). The only one that was able seemingly to shed tears for Absalom was that one who was most grievously insulted by him. What a revelation is here of the depth and tenderness of the love that was sinned against. There were doubtless several elements that went to add pungency to David's grief, namely, his own aggravating fall, the painful circumstances of the death, and Joab's disregard for the king's command (v. 5). But what shall we say of the love of God, who, while we were yet sinners, rebels, sent His only begotten Son to die for us? Herein is love, a love that wills not the death of any, a love that has wept over the erring (Luke 19:41). A love that is ready to forgive. A love that has already suffered the sharp pangs of death in our stead; but, alas, a love that is as lightly esteemed by many today as David's was by Absalom.
DAVID'S SONG OF DELIVERANCE. 2 Samuel 22:17-20.
"O strengthen me, that while I stand
Firm on the Rock, and strong in Thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
To wrestlers with a troubled sea."—F. R. Havergal.
This Song of Deliverance is in itself one of the most marvelous deliverances that has ever been achieved by mortal lips. It is the singing of one whose heart has been attuned to the harmony of Heaven. What depth of rich personal experience is revealed in these glowing exultant words (v. 1-7). A full sense of the greatness of God's salvation is enough to make the dumb to sing with a sweetness that even the eloquent worldling cannot approach. Confiding our attention to the few verses indicated above, we remark about this deliverance that it was—
I. Needed. Concerning his enemies, David says, "They were too strong for me" (v. 18). Too strong for him, but not too strong for the God that was with him. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are all too strong for us, but greater is He that is in us than all who can be against us. Those who fight in their own strength will find out to their sorrowful loss that the enemy is too strong for them.
II. Divine. "He sent from above" (v. 17). The need was so very great that saving help could only come from above. Help came from above when God sent Samuel to David with the divine call and the holy oil. He laid help upon One that is mighty when He sent His Son to seek and to save the lost (John 3:16). "Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3, margin).
III. Personal. "He took me" (v. 17). This is a sweet little testimony. He might have taken others and left me, but "He took me." The hand of God's mighty redeeming power was stretched out to grip me and to take me from the "horrible pit" (Psalm 40:2), and out of the "deep mire" (Psalm 69:1, 2). The salvation of Christ is a very personal matter, and, blessed be His Name, all who trust Him will be taken by Him.
IV. Great. "He drew me out of many waters" (v. 17). The Lord drew David out of the waters of danger when He saved him again and again out of the murderous hand of Saul. He drew him out of the waters of affliction when the crown was put on his head. He was drawn out of the waters of guilt when Nathan pronounced the forgiveness of his sin (2 Samuel 12:13). The salvation of God is a drawing out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. The waters of affliction and persecution may still flow in upon us, but out of them all our God can draw us. He drew me, or I would certainly have been overwhelmed like the Egyptians. "Salvation is of the Lord."
V. Hearty. "Because He delighted in me" (v. 20). His salvation was not only a matter of power, but of love. "God so loved the world that He gave." This a sweet note in the song of the saved, "He delighted in me." We often find this out only after we have had our feet established on the rock of His eternal truth. This delight does not spring from anything in us by nature, but has its source in the fathomless generosity of His own character. He delights in mercy. Herein is love.
VI. Satisfying. "He brought me forth into a large place" (v. 20). Some are afraid to be drawn out of the many waters of their sins lest they should be brought into such a narrow place that all the joy of their life would be crushed out of them. Those who, by the grace of God, have been brought into the kingdom of God have been brought into a very large place, for this kingdom is bounded by eternity. They have been brought into the family of God, and are the heirs of eternal life. This "large place" may surely be taken as referring also to the enlarged possibilities that open up for us in Christ Jesus as "kings and priests unto God."
DAVID'S OFFERING. 2 Samuel 23:15-17.
"What You has given me, Lord, here I bring You,
Odor and light, and the magic of gold;
Feet which must follow You, lips which must sing You,
Limbs which must ache for You before they grow old."—C. Kingsley.
As Herbert has said, "My God must have my best." There is something sublimely pathetic about this simple act of David in pouring out a drink of water as an offering unto the Lord. It was very natural for the thirsty warrior, while lodging in the hold of Adullam, to long for some water from that crystal spring at Bethlehem, where in earlier days he had so often quenched his burning thirst. First impressions are not easily effaced. The privileges of youth may be eagerly longed for in after days, and a higher value set upon them when they can scarcely be had. See then what David offered. It was a—
I. Common Thing. "Water" (v. 15). We may find sacrifices for God in the smallest details of life. We need not be always looking for some great thing to do in order to show our hearts' devotion to our Lord and Master. With every daily mercy there comes the opportunity of glorifying God. Little quiet moments of time may be turned into acceptable sacrifices unto God.
II. Costly Thing. It was water secured at the "jeopardy of their lives" (v. 17). A common thing made precious, because purchased with a great price. Such were all of us who have been redeemed with the precious Blood of Christ. David was sufficiently large-hearted not to offer to God, as a sacrifice that which cost him nothing (chapter 24:24). There are those who reserve for God the torn reputation, the lame life, and the sick days (Malachi 1:13). They give to God that which they no longer want—a diseased body and a sin-smitten soul. "Honor the Lord with your substance" (Proverbs 3:9).
III. Desirable Thing. "David longed for the water of Bethlehem" (v. 15). In making this offering David was not giving that for which he felt he had no need, for his whole soul longed to have it. It is easy for us to offer God that for which we have no longer any capacity to enjoy. Many readily part with their goods for charitable purposes when death is looking them in the face, who while healthy and vigorous held them greedily with an iron hand. There is no sacrifice in this. In pouring out the water the royal shepherd was giving to the Lord that which was, at that moment, the best he had. Present yourself unto God. Perhaps this may be your most desirable thing.
IV. Consecrated Thing. He "poured it out unto the Lord." He refused to use it for the gratification of his own longings. Even water spilt on the ground after this holy fashion is not lost; it brings forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness. It is a making deep the ditches within our own natures for a mightier filling with the "water of life" that comes from the very throne of God. Everything becomes holy that is given to the Lord. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?"
V. Thing that could not be taken back. "Water spilt; that could not be gathered again." Who ever thought of taking back for their own use the sacrifice that was laid on the altar? What was given to God was His, and His forever. David was perfectly conscious that in pouring out the water unto the Lord it could never more be his own. Do we realize what this means? If we have given ourselves unto the Lord, then we are "not our own," and it is the grossest sacrilege to take back for our own self-gratification that which belongs only to God. "You are not your own, for you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; see also 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15),
DAVID'S CHOICE. 2 Samuel 24:1-14
"God loves to work in wax—not marble. Let Him find
When He would mold your heart, material to His mind."—Trench.
"Weak and feeble hands may touch God's great hand while groping blindly in the dark." These are not the exact words of Longfellow, but the suggestive substance. In numbering the people David was groping blindly for the hand of human strength when he touched the divine hand of judgment. In this chapter we have before us a—
I. Subtle Temptation. "He moved David to say, Go, number Israel" (v. 1). This move evidently came from the Devil, for the author of the Chronicles tells us that "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel" (1Chron. 21:1). It was to Israel's own hurt and defect that their number and strength was depended on. It is ever the cunning device of Satan to get us to trust in our own strength, for well he knows that if we do that he will succeed in "standing up against us" (Ephesians 6:11). "It is not by might (numbers), nor by power (human influence), but by My Spirit, says the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6). We may safely "count our blessings," and count on His promises, but to count on our own wisdom and strength is to lean on a broken reed.
II. Full Confession. "David's heart smote him after he had numbered the people, and he said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly" (v. 10). Joab's glowing report that there were in David's united kingdom "thirteen hundred thousand valiant men that drew sword" (v. 9) brought no feeling of relief to the sin-smitten heart of the king. What were these if God was not for him? All our natural gifts and powers of intellect however great, all our experiences however rich and varied, will avail us nothing in the work of God if the power of the Holy Spirit is awanting. Perhaps much of our failure in the past has been due to the numbering of our own capabilities, to an ignoring of the Holy Spirit. We number our organizations, our meetings, our people, and our pounds, but say, How much do we count on the power of God? Might we not pray with David, "O Lord, take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly?"
III. Terrible Offer. "Thus says the Lord, I offer you three things, choose you one of them" (vv. 12, 13). The three things were all equally fearful, although the length of duration was very different. "Seven years' famine," "three months' fleeing before the enemy," or "three days' pestilence." Yielding to the tempter has brought to David a sorrowful alternative. The wages of sin is death in the believer as well as in the ungodly. It would seem that all three judgments were due owing to David's sin; but God, who "delights in mercy," gave Him his choice of one. The three judgments are most suggestive of the fruits of disobedience and dishonoring God. Soul hunger, soul defect, and soul disease. God does not promise to give us our choice as to how He will chastise us for our pride and unbelief, but let us take heed lest there be in any of us such an evil heart, for sin will surely find us out.
IV. God-honoring Choice. "David said, Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercies are great" (v. 14). David had sinned against God in choosing to number the people, now he would honor God in allowing Him to choose for him. God's mighty hand was uplifted to smite, and the penitent king saw it coming down with terrible force, but he looked beyond the awful sword-girt arm, into Jehovah's gracious heart, and took refuge in His mercy. He would rather anchor his soul in the mercies of a righteous, sin-hating God than "fall into the hand of man." He knew that the mercies of the wicked are cruel. The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of a traitor. Although God's arm is strong to smite, His love is strong to save. The choice God offers now in grace is between life and death, between retribution and salvation, Heaven and Hell. Why should any one now say, "I am in a great strait," when the only open way of escape from the vengeance of God against sin is in "His mercies which are great," in Christ Jesus, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree. "I flee to You to hide me" (Psalm 143:9).