Service or Presumption

I love the stories of King David. At times, they are inspiring, at other times, frustrating and tragic. Yet, in the victories and failures of David’s life, one thing shines through. God famously says, “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.” [Acts 13:22] Time and time again, people have asked – what was it that made David a man after God’s own heart? That in itself warrants a full discussion, but I just want to focus on just two incidents in David’s life where he reflects the heart of God. These two incidents highlight the importance of knowing God’s heart. If we know His heart, we can love Him and serve Him in a way that pleases Him. If we do not know the heart of our God, how will we live in a way that glorifies Him? Service comes from relationship. Service without relationship is not service at all, but presumption.

A summary of two incidents

1. The young Amalekite who claims to have killed Saul [2 Samuel 1:2-16]

In a battle between Israel and the Philistines, Saul is shot by archers and asks his armourbearer to end his life. His armourbearer, however, is afraid, so Saul falls upon his own sword and dies. The armourbearer does the same when he sees that Saul has died. David is not at this battle since Saul had become displeased with him, knowing that God had taken the kingdom from his hand and given it to David. Saul’s response was to pursue David in order to kill him. David continued to honour Saul as the Lord’s anointed, and Saul saw David’s righteousness and his own sinful response to God’s decision. However, instead of repentance, Saul’s heart became hard with jealousy and resentment and he did not give up pursuing David. David had just returned from his defeat of the Amalekites, and was at Ziklag when the news of the Saul’s death reached him. [2 Samuel 1:2-16] tells of what happened next.

On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honour.

3Where have you come from?” David asked him.
He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.”
4What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.
The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.
5Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?
6I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. 7When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?
8He asked me, ‘Who are you?’
“ ‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.

9Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’
10So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”
11Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
13David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?
I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,” he answered.
14David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?
15Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’ ”

Rechab and Baanah who murder Saul’s son, Ishbosheth [2 Samuel 4:5-12]

This story is found in [2 Samuel 4:5-12] and occurs sometime after the death of Saul, also after the death of Abner who had deflected from the camp of Saul’s son, to that of David. He was killed by David’s commander, Joab, without David’s knowledge, as revenge for the death of Joab’s brother Asahel at Abner’s hand.

5And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ish-bosheth, who lay on a bed at noon. 6And they came there into the midst of the house, as though they would have gotten wheat; and they struck him under the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. 7For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they struck him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and got themselves away through the plain all night. 8And they brought the head of Ish-bosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul your enemy, who sought your life; and the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his descendants.

9And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of all adversity, 10When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:  11How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth? 12And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth, and buried it in the sepulcher of Abner in Hebron.”

Misunderstanding the King’s heart
– the young Amalekite, Rechab and Baanah

Both the young Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul, and the two men who killed Saul’s son misunderstood David’s heart. The Lord had chosen David to be king instead of Saul and Samuel, the prophet, had anointed him. However, David understood that the Lord would transfer the kingdom into his hands in His timing and His way. In the meantime, David honoured Saul as the Lord’s anointed in his place as the present king over Israel. The young Amalekite, Rechab and Baanah seemed to know and understand that David would rightfully inherit the kingdom of Israel. However, none of them understood how David waited on the Lord. They presumed that they were doing service to David and glorifying God when they attacked Saul and his son. The young Amalekite’s words show how he believed what he was doing was right. He says, “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.” Looking at his words through only a human lens of understanding, it would seems as if he was being merciful to Saul, and honouring David who he knew was the rightful next king of Israel. Reechab and Baanah bring the head of Ish-bosheth to David, also thinking to honour him with this assurance of his kingship. They say, “Behold the head of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul your enemy, who sought your life; and the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his descendants.”  Yet, David was not pleased with either of these “gifts” but was instead, grieved at the deaths of Saul and Ish-bosheth. He fasted and mourned, wrote laments in their honour and ensured they were properly buried. David deemed these “bringers of good news” as deserving of death and did not hesitate to carry out their punishment. The young Amalekite, Rechab and Baanah came into David’s presence thinking they had brought him a pleasing gift. Instead, they were condemned to death.

Understanding the context helps us to see why the young Amalekite, Rechab and Bannah may have approached David in the way they did. David had just returned from attacking the Amalekites who had set fire to his camp, and taken the women and children captive. When David attacked the Amalekites, only 400 men escaped and fled. The rest were destroyed and David’s men reclaimed all that had been taken. Israel and the Amalekites had long been enemies and the young Amalekite must have known this even as he answered David saying, I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite”. Yet, he must have thought the crown he carried with him, promise of Israel’s kingship, would give him favour in David’s eyes. Rechab and Baanah were from the camp of Israel and they travelled into Hebron where David was king over Judah. They had been captains of Israel’s troops and now they were deserters. Their gift of Ish-bosheth’s head was meant to be a show of loyalty to David. Was David ruthless in his execution of these men? Or did he understand something they did not. If these men had thought David would kill them when they entered his presence with their gifts, they surely would not have come, or bothered to bring any gift. No, these men probably expected to be thanked or at least, accepted into David’s camp for their demonstration of loyalty to him. The young Amalekite lied and claimed he had killed Saul. It cost him his life. Rechab and Baanah left their positions as captains over troops to kill Ish-bosheth and deflect to David’s camp. Their actions cost them their lives. What went wrong?IMG_2176

Understanding the King’s heart
– Abigail and Abner

To understand what happened in these two incidents, we need to understand David’s heart. Two people came before David with understanding of what the Lord has promised him, and also, of how it would come about. David respected both. He took Abigail as his wife, and sent Abner on his way in peace.

The story of Abigail’s meeting with David can be found in [1 Samuel 25:2-44] – Abigail was told by a servant how David had sent messengers to greet her husband in peace, and how her husband had reviled them. She wastes no time in bringing a gift of food, drink and livestock to David, asking forgiveness in order to deter him from seeking revenge by his own hand. David recognises her wisdom and thanks her saying, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand.” Abigail understood that God’s favour was on David and that God himself would put in place what was necessary to fulfil what He had promised for David. She recognised the importance of waiting on God and trusting Him. David learnt from this encounter and was thankful to the woman who reminded him of God’s justice and faithfulness.

Abner came to David understanding that the kingdom of Israel was rightfully his and offered to make a covenant with him in order to bring all Israel to him. David agreed on the condition that his wife, Michal, would be brought from Israel, to him at Hebron. Abner obeyed to fulfil David’s request. Abner did not kill Ish-bosheth, but spoke with the elders of Israel saying, “In time past you were seeking for David to be king over you. Now do it! For the Lord has spoken of David saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.” [2 Samuel 3:19] says that “Abner also spoke in the hearing of Benjamin. Then Abner also went to speak in the hearing of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel and the whole house of Benjamin.” In verse 21, he says to David, “I will arise and go, and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.”  David then sends Abner away in peace. Abner did not take the situation into his own hands but conferred with David, then reminded Israel of the Lord’s promise to David. Abner respected the word of the Lord and that was his weapon. This is in contrast to the swords of Rechab and Baanah which presumed to kill Ish-bosheth.

David’s heart and purpose of life are proclaimed all through the Psalms. In [Psalm 27:4], he says,

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.”

And, in [Psalm 15], David says,

“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbit with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbour,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he who honours those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent,
he who does these things shall never be moved.”

 In David’s life, it is clear that he recognised the importance of walking in obedience to the Lord’s commands. Though he was not perfect, his heart was directed towards God. He fell towards God when he failed, and he repented, knowing both the love and justice of God. David was a man who feared God and he recognised those who also feared God. He dealt justice to men in accordance with the Lord’s commands.

A fragrance or a stench?

How do we present ourselves before God? What offering, and what worship do we bring to him? We cannot please God if we do not know Him. We need to know the heart of God, His desires, His will and His ways in order to walk in them. It’s one thing to say, “Lord, Lord”, but it requires understanding to live in a way that declares, “Lord, Lord”. [Matthew 7:21-23]  says,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in You name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

How terrible it will be in that day for those people who cry “Lord, Lord” and hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; depart from Me.” When David put to death those who had called evil good, they lost their lives on earth. How much worse it will be for those who lose their eternal lives. I can think of nothing more terrifying or dreadful than to appear before the Lord, thinking you have lived a life honouring Him, only to hear Him say, “Depart from Me.” It’s not because God is cruel or unfair, it is because He is true and just.

[Isaiah 1:10-17] speaks again of God’s true desire. It is not for the superficial trimmings of ceremony and offering, but for a life transformed by the Spirit to walk in step with His desires.

10Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah. 11To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? says the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of male goats.12When you come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to trample my courts? 13Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary of bearing them.15And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you: yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16Wash yourselves, make yourself clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil;17Learn to do good; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Misty Edwards sings the song “Put Your Heart in Me”. These are the lyrics for the pre-chorus and chorus – they capture the longing of my heart well.

“For your Spirit lives within me
And Your heartbeat He will unveil
Your very mind has been placed within me
So clear the gray and let me enter in.

Show me what You are doing
I want to be near You as Your friend
Tell me Your deepest secrets
I want to know You, put Your heart in me.”

IMG_2184As I live on earth, I pray that I will draw closer to Jesus each and everyday – to hear His very heartbeat and walk in step with His Spirit. I desire that my life is a fragrant offering of worship to Him, a life that brings Him joy.

“Teach me Your way O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unit my heart to fear Your name.”
[Psalm 86:11]

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