February 11, 2016

Losing the kingdom (2 Samuel 15-24)

by Jesse Johnson

I’m preparing to spend the Spring preaching the second half of 2 Samuel (15-22) to my congregation.  This is my letter to the congregation introducing this often overlooked passage of Scripture, and explaining what I hope they learn from our time in it:

spittingThings Fall Apart is a gripping novel about how Nigeria changed when Christianity was introduced in the early 1900’s. It is a book of chaos, and it depicts desperate people trying to appease unknown tribal gods—gods who occasionally require fathers to kill their own children. By the end of the novel, nothing is left standing. African traditions have been obliterated, tribal customs abolished, and the entire culture is changed forever.

The book of 2 Samuel has always reminded me of Things Fall Apart. It begins with David in charge, and as the plot moves forward we see David increasing his grip on the kingdom. He gets Jerusalem to be the capital, and gets the ark moved in from the wilderness—albeit with much difficulty. He fulfills his covenant with Jonathan, he goes to war, and he conquers Israel’s enemies.

But in the middle of his book, things begin to fall apart. David sins sexually, covers it up with murder, and then is cornered by Yahweh’s prophet. Once cornered, he repents and receives God’s forgiveness, but his sin still planted the seeds of destruction.  

The fruit of that sin is the story of 2 Samuel 15-24. David’s sin with Bathsheba leads to a complete revolution in Israel. Four of David’s sons die, David is overthrown, his wives are raped in public, and the kingdom seems to collapse. David is cursed, spit on, and ends up fleeing in disgrace—a disgrace brought about by his own sin.

Of course, David is eventually able to come back to Jerusalem and retake the capital. Thanks to a general who was more faithful to David than he was to Yahweh, the rebellion was put down and the traitors were executed.

However chaos remained. To punish Israel for neglecting her covenants, God struck them with drought. David had to give grace and mercy to his enemies, while in one instance executing seemingly innocent people in order to keep peace with his neighbors. By the end of 2 Samuel there is suicide, bodies hung from cliffs, and pools of blood on the ground. A wise woman decapitates a military leader and throws his head over the wall to buy peace for her city. Yahweh strikes his people with yet another famine.

In short, things fall apart, and it appears that the kingdom will be lost forever.

But then the book turns on a dime, and ends in peace. How can this be?

Well, the closing scene gives us a clue. The book concludes with a scene of David worshiping Yahweh, and declaring his allegiance to the only king who is always faithful.

On the one hand, 2 Samuel is the story of how David lost the kingdom. It will never again be gained, at least not until Jesus himself comes to claim it. This is the story of how things fall apart.

On the other hand, this is very much the story of how the worship of Yahweh held things together. When it appeared that the entire Israelite nation had come unraveled, there did indeed remain one more thread holding things together—that thread is the faithfulness of Yahweh.

He remains faithful when his people are faithless. When his people are bloodthirsty, and indifferent to justice, Yahweh remains the only one who can hold things together. As chaos ensued, there was always peace to be found in the presence of God.

In that sense, 2 Samuel 15-24 is a picture of life in a depraved world. Things fall apart, but God holds them together. The kingdom may be lost, but Jesus will come to seek the lost—and he will always save those whom he seeks.

Here are the letters I wrote them before Judges, 1 Samuel 1-15, 16-32, and 2 Samuel 1-14

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • tovlogos

    Fantastic, Jesse — your analysis of Samuel is one of your best moments; and the inevitable salvific expectation for those in Messiah.

    “This is the story of how things fall apart.”
    We can easily apply this reality to the US, and Europe today.

    • Thanks man. Its a joy to preach through these books.