This afternoon, we begin in 2 Samuel 21:1. This, at first sight, seems to be material where there is not much to learn; but then, if you dig, you find, here, some valuable lessons. In fact, I see more than one valuable lesson from verses 1-14. It begins in verse one, saying, “….” If it’s not one thing, it’s another. I’ve noticed that in my life and I know you’ve seen it in your life, as well. I am sure that, by now, David must also think that. If it’s not one thing, it’s another! If you look back into the life of David, you find his existence has been plagued with problems. He’s not had much rest from problems. As far back as the days of Saul, David already had problems. Think of the time he rose on the throne and, first thing, he had problems with a divided kingdom. Then, when that resolved, he had problems with the Ark of the Covenant and, then, with his family and surrounding nations. He had problems with his sons, his generals and other troublemakers. And, now, there is famine in the land for three successive years!
Now, three years is a long time. Those of you, who know farmers, know how tragic that can be, for people relying on farmland, to go three years, without crops. And so, I know the land was devastated and the people were in crisis.
But this is a problem of a different nature. See, most problems, in David’s life, were fixed with a sword. He was able to fight with his army. But how does the sword fight against famine? You can’t use it to solve things.
That problem, you can only fight on your knees! There is only one solution. It is a lonely struggle, on your knees! Maybe that is why we are told that David is, now, driven to prayer. But I wonder, reading the text, why did David wait so long to ask the favor of the Lord? Why did he not do that the first year of the famine, or the second year? We are not told the reasons; but I know there is a tendency, for all of us, to wait and wait and try everything we can, on our own, before we turn to the Lord. Prayer is usually our last resort, not our first! And, perhaps, this afternoon, we need to remind ourselves that we need to seek God in the beginning, as well as in the end!
For I find that when David seeks the face of the Lord, God doesn’t waste any time telling the problem. God says, in the end of verse 1, “….” Now, who are the Gibeonites and what is God talking about? Verse two gives us a clue to the answer. “….” So, somehow, Saul had done wrong to the Gibeonites! In his zeal for his people, not for God (notice that), he had tried to annihilate them! Only, the Jews had once sworn to spare them! To see that, you have to go all the way back to Joshua, Chapter 7. Now, we don’t have time to research the whole story. But I want to remind you of a few facts. You might remember that Joshua had entered the Promised Land with the help of God. He had taken Jericho, Ai and a few people, without much effort, and he had left the remaining nations, running, scared for their lives. Now, we read in Joshua 9 that some of them started to devise ways to remain alive. Among them are the Gibeonites, or the Amorites. They know enough not to fight against Yahweh’s people. That would mean destruction! And so, they decide to make a treaty with God’s people. But they know that God has said, “You drive the people out and you kill them. No treatises! You shall not ally yourselves with any nation in the land!” He has said, “You drive the people out and you kill them. No treatises!” So the Gibeonites came, in deceit. They came with old, worn-out, patched clothing. And they came with old, worn-out wineskins. And their sandals were old and patched. And the bread they carried was dried and in crumbles. And they said, “Oh, Joshua, we have come from a long, long way. And we want to make a treaty, with your people! We will serve you, if you make peace with us!” And at first, Joshua was a little suspicious; but finally, he gave in and made a treaty. Only, in Chapter 9, we read that he did not inquire of the Lord, beforehand. He never asked what God thought. He made a treaty without approval. Had he asked God, God would have told him of the deception. He would have said, “No!” But now, the treaty was made, in God’s name. And now, Joshua and the people had no choice but to honor their promise. God, above all, prizes honesty!
So, throughout all the life of Joshua, throughout hundreds of years, the Amorites remained in the land! They remained until the time of Saul. Now, I don’t know if Saul just didn’t read the Word or if he just didn’t care. But the Bible says, “He violated the treaty.” And, with a ruthless hand, he went out, trying to destroy all the Gibeonites. He violated an oath that was made, before God! It was an oath that God, himself, would honor!
And now, many more years have passed and we are in the reign of David. And there is famine for three successive years. And God says, “David, that’s the problem Saul created, way earlier, that caused this!” And what God is really saying is, “David, you’ve got to make it right! You’ve got to make your wrongs to be right!” So David wastes no time. He goes to these Gibeonites and he says, in verse three, “….” It’s almost as if David was begging those people! “What can I do to make this right?”, he asks. And they make an amazing response. They say, “We have no right to demand anything.” Look, in verse four, it says, “….” It’s almost as if they are in, what we would call, the driver’s seat because David responds, after this, with the equivalent of: “Whatever you want, I’ll do!” He wants to make it right! They are in the driver’s seat! They can ask for anything they want and they will probably get it! So finally, in verse 5, they respond. They feel pressed to answer, so they say, “….” But, verse 7 is interesting because David does not let them have Mephiboshet! You remember that Mephiboshet was honored, by David, and he was brought to live in the court’s house. And all of it was because of an oath that David had made. Well, we read, in verse 7, that’s also why David keeps him from harm. The verse says, “….” So, instead, David finds seven grandsons to King Saul. He delivers them to the Gibeonites and the Bible says, “They are all put to death.” And finally, verse 14 says, “….” It’s over. The wrong has been made right, in the sight of God. And the famine ends!
Now, I would like to take this story and, from these 14 verses, draw a few conclusions that I think are valuable to all of us. Here is my first point.
I. God is a God, who keeps his promises.
He does not forget what has been said. I hope we all realize, this afternoon, that we stand before a God that does not forget! He had made a promise to the Gibeonites, through Joshua, hundreds of years earlier. But still, he remembers! And now, in the life of David, he brings this promise up, generations later! And he assures his Word comes to pass!
Now, I guess there are two sides to that. There is one good one and one bad one. The good one is when God tells me that he will answer my prayer; that he will stand beside me and give me strength. When he says that he’ll save me, deliver me and give me heaven, someday, I am assured he will do so. I know, for a fact, he will never forget his promise!
But, the negative side is that if I go through life without repentance, God will not forget. Do you remember a time when you were a child and, maybe, you had done something that was wrong, in public? What did your parents do! Didn’t they say, immediately, you would be in trouble, once you got home? But, did they always remember? Once the company had left, a few hours later, or once you came home, later that evening, did you always get punished? Know that, often, once I was warned, I would behave, immediately. I would smile and talk nice with Mum and Dad. I would serve Mum and Dad. I would kiss Mum and Dad. I did all of that, so that, once at home, they would forget what I had done. And often, it worked! I would go free.
My teachers, for instance, would never forget a punishment. I had one teacher, in particular, I hated because of that. He was my English teacher and that man was a terror. If you dared to drop a pen, in class, your pen would disappear in his desk for the rest of the year. If you had a watch and it beeped, in his class, he would take it away and put it in one of his drawers, for the year. He would never forget when he had promised a test and when you had to turn in a homework assignment. He would never forget to check on your punishment. I tell you, he was bad. But I came to respect the man. I came to learn more in his class than any other time. But you didn’t horse around in English! And, really, what I want you to realize, today, is you can horse around with many things, in life, but you don’t horse around with God. You don’t play with sin. You don’t play with repentance because God remembers everything. He is a God of his word. Perhaps, it’s why Paul said, in Gal. 6:79, “….” And what that says, to me, is that if I go through life, sowing seeds for the Spirit, God will not forget. He will reward me for it. But, if I go through life, sowing seeds for the flesh, never having asked for forgiveness, God will remember! I might go through 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, hoping he will forget; but don’t be deceived. God is not mocked. He will not forget!
There are two or three additional points I want to mention.
II. God hates the man, who will not keep his word.
The second point that I want you to see is that God hates the man who will not keep his word. He, simply, will not bless him or her. Saul, of course, is a good example of that. Here is a man who never, once, showed concern for promises. He went through life breaking promise, after promise. And what was the result of it? God withdrew his favor and he died in tragic conditions. But David is the total opposite. He is a promise keeper, not a promise breaker. Not only does he fix the wrong; but in fixing the wrong, he makes sure no recent promise gets broken. He is a man of his word. Think about this. Who was the easiest one to get, from the family of Saul? Where was the first descendant of Saul? Right there, at David’s table. He could have killed Mephiboshet, without any problem. He would not have had to search the land. But no, David said, “You don’t get Mephiboshet because I made an oath, before the Lord, to his father, Jonathan!” David was a man of his word!
And I am reminded, here, of what Solomon said, in Eccles. 5:4, “….” It is better not to promise than to promise and not keep your word. And, so, to the best of your abilities, this afternoon, when you make someone a promise, you keep it. When you say to someone that you will do a certain thing, to the best of your abilities, you do it. When you sign a piece of paper and say, “I agree to all these conditions and I will fulfill all of these obligations”, you do it to best of your abilities! Now, I know there are times, in life, when you simply can’t do it. But, so far as it is possible, and so far as it rests upon you, do what you say you’ll do. And also be slow to put yourself into situations you might not be able to handle!
III. Don’t take advantage of others.
Then, there is a third point that I have. It has to do with the Gibeonites. I find them very wise and very good examples. Because they are in a situation where they can ask for anything and get it, they can ask for silver or gold and they will get it. They can ask for land and it will be theirs. David is against the wall! But they don’t take advantage! Amazingly, at first, they even say, “We don’t have any rights!” They remember, probably, how fortunate they were, in the beginning, when they were allowed to live. But David presses the issue and so they ask only for justice. But they do not take advantage. And, today, I believe we need to learn not to take advantage of people, circumstances or situations! Our world, I believe, is full of grief because too many have taken advantage of their position. So, when you find yourself in the driver’s seat, when you can put the squeeze on the people, don’t do it. Ask for what is right; but don’t go beyond. And remember, in the first place, how fortunate you are! This, maybe, you will need to remember when you will be in a car accident and you will be in the right. This, you will need to remember if you are taken to court and you win. When you can put leverage on someone, ask only for what is right; but don’t go beyond, even if you have grief!
IV. Being a leader is very hard.
One last point! It is not easy to be a leader and it is especially not easy when you are leading God’s people. Let me ask this: “How would you have liked to be King David, in this story? How would you have liked to be the one who had to choose seven men to be put to death?” You read the rest of the story and you see much distress was caused in families because of David’s choice and so I wonder, “How would we have liked to face his responsibilities?” It is not easy to be a leader for God! Leaders, sometimes, have to make decisions for the good of the whole body and, sometimes, these decisions adversely affect 1, 2, 4, 5, or 7, like in this story. But it is the only way for the community to survive! And so I want to remind you that we all need to support our leaders! We all need to pray for them. We all need to encourage them and help them. But we also need to remember that, at times, decisions will adversely affect your spouse, your child, your family member or your good friend. God’s leader does not want to harm anyone. He does not want to turn away anyone. But, he has been charged by God, to lead the mass of people to the pearly gates. And, sometimes, it will demand decisions that some will not like! So, if this ever happens, seek the big picture and side, not with man, but with the Heavenly Father. Support your leader!
Here are four lessons that I hope you will always remember.