Who’s Your King?
Spent the last two evenings listening to John William Woodhouse (“Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia”, “author of Your Kingdom Come: an expository commentary on 2 Samuel“) at Orchard Road Presbyterian Church.
Old Testament Narrative
He started the first evening by giving a quick summary about how one should read Old Testament narrative.
Basically (and amazingly) the whole Old Testament, tens of books written by many different authors, in different circumstances, over hundreds of years, all concur in pointing to Jesus as the fulfilment of all the signs and promises made during the span of the Old Testament.
(If anyone is interested, he probably covered no less than went down during the four sessions he gave at the Proclamation Trusts’ 2007 Senior Ministers Conference (available for free download). Downloads are also available over at The Gospel Coalition site:
Preaching OT Narrative: Context is Key
Preaching OT Narrative: How to Study It 1
Preaching OT Narrative: How to Study It 2)
Then it was on to 1 Samuel 31 – 2 Samuel 2. We were meant have gotten to Chapter 5 by the end of the second evening but he said he was so caught up with the details of the story that we only got to Chapter 2. His main point for 2 Samuel 1:1-16 was that crime doesn’t pay and that the king will judge, for 2 Samuel 1:17-29 – something about grief and the new king, for 2 Samuel 2:1-11 – reactions to the new king (for David or for Ish-bosheth the “man of shame”?), and for 2 Samuel 2:12-32 – how human politics always fail.
7 Sessions by John Woodhouse on Instructions on Psalms, David and the Christ (download free-of-charge from The Proclamation Trust)
After a long table of us had adjourned to The Cathay and rearranged chairs for our company, there was some discussion later over Popeyes‘ New Orleans cajun fried chicken and biscuits (with strawberry jam) and Sapporo beers that John WW’s conclusions had to be taken on faith – the more preferable course would have been for him to show how he got to his points (he did take us through the passages, but didn’t show his working). After all, principal of a pre-eminent bible college or no, we want to trust in God’s Word rather than someone who has written books/lectured on the Bible.
Regardless, 1 Samuel 31 to 2 Samuel 2 is pretty fascinating stuff – in a mere 3 chapters, Israel’s first king (Saul) is killed and another one (David) begins to rule. But these books aren’t about King David (they aren’t Hello magazine); they are about a covenant God who makes covenant promises to a covenant king through whom he will preserve his covenant people (as Dale Ralph Davis succinctly puts it).
If Prince of Egypt is our starting point, you will recall that after God saved his people from slavery in Egypt through Moses, he brought them to the edge of the Promised Land. Yet despite observing God’s power and goodness in saving them from the “powerful” Egyptians with many signs and wonders (Exodus), the people refused to go into the land, doubting that God could give it to them (Numbers 13 – 14). Since they distrusted him, God made them wander in the desert for 40 years until that disobedient generation died (Moses’ last instructions = Deuteronomy). The next generation then started to enter the Promised Land under Moses’ successor, Joshua (Joshua). After Joshua, the people continued to disobey God and the whole of the Book of Judges is a chronology of the downward spiral of horror that accompanies sinfulness.
Saul became the first king of Israel, under unhappy circumstances. It had come to the point when the people decided expressly to turn away from God who had known their fathers and who had saved them from Egypt and who gave them a good land to live in; they demanded a king to rule over them instead of God, just like all the other nations (1 Samuel 8. God had already said they would some time back). Under God’s instructions, Samuel anoints Saul as king (1 Samuel 9). Saul too disobeyed God and led God’s people to do the same (1 Samuel 15). So God rejects Saul as king sends Samuel to anoint David as king instead (1 Samuel 16). This was known to Saul and in continued disobedience to God (not acknowledging that God decides who gets to be king, including himself), he tries very hard to kill David.
David, on the other hand, though king-in-waiting, does not presume to assume the throne before his time. He had many opportunities to kill Saul and for good reason too (self-defence, anyone?) but, acknowledging that God appoint Saul, refused to harm God’s anointed (1 Samuel 19 – 26).
In 1 Samuel 31, the badly hurt Saul falls upon his own sword on the battlefield to prevent being humiliated and tortured by the conquering Philistines. A opportunistic Amalekite (the irony!) spins a different story to David, claiming that he was the one who dispatched the old king (with compassion of course) probably in the hope of being rewarded by the new king (2 Samuel 1). He must have been horrified to observe that David, unlike any other king, mourned the passing of Saul and his heir, Jonathan. For David didn’t have the passionate self-interest of the Amalekite; he had a godly fear of the living God and gave due respect to the person God anointed. David then executes the Amalekite for knowingly killing (so he claimed) God’s king.
In 2 Samuel 2, there are two camps – those who acknowledge David as God’s anointed king (and thereby acknowledging God as God) and those who insist on putting up their own king, Ish-bosheth (apparently a nickname meaning “man of shame”).
This doesn’t make sense of course: they, the creatures, attempting in all earnestness to pit themselves against their Creator. No need to take bets on how that will end. But we do the same thing today – though God has appointed Jesus as king over everything, we hardly obey or condescend to acknowledge him as master over our lives – surely, the judgement will be against us in the end.