Victory through the Word (II Samuel 5:17-25)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 5:17–5:25
Crying for a King
Victory through the Word
II Samuel 5:17-25
July 21st, 2013
(One Truth: Your Word is Truth)
I. The Caving Conundrum
Imagine you are in a race. Like any race, there is a finish line, but only minutes before the race begins, you learn that the finish line is on the other side of a long networks of caves. So just before the race begins you are given four options:
First, after the race begins, you can have an hour to look over a detailed map of the cave system. You can’t take the map with you, but you can do your best to remember what the map tells you. Second, instead of the map you can take an old camera flash. It is incredibly bright, but it can only be used every half an hour (since it needs time to charge back up). Third, if you’d like, you can take a flashlight. And finally, you can save time by declining all of these options and depending on your wits, your own resourcefulness.
The race is about to start. What would you do?
This morning we are once again returning to our ongoing study of the book of Samuel. So let's look together at II Samuel 5:17-25.
II. The Passage: “And David Inquired of the LORD” (5:17-25)
As we discovered last time, the first half of chapter 5 describes for us the monumental moment in which, after many years of waiting, God's promise to David finally came to pass. What promise am I talking about? The promise that David would be king over all Israel. That was way back in I Samuel 16. God had rejected Saul, who had been the first king over Israel, and instead chosen David to lead His people.
But as David discovered, our timing is not always God's timing. Many years, and many hardships, and many questions, and many conflicts, and many sleepless nights had to go by before David would assume the throne. But as we talked about last time, David's story wasn't over. As is true for us because of God's grace in Jesus, David's story was not simply a story of adversity. It was also a story of establishment and exaltation. 5:1-16 not only describes David's anointing as king over all Israel, but also God's abundant provision for His new king.
A. David's Need for Guidance (5:17)
And this is where we pick up the story in verse 17. Look at what we read:
When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold.
In this life, the celebrations don't last forever, do they? New challenges will inevitably arise. Our faith will continue to be refined. As we've seen, David had been dealing with Saul's opposition, and then opposition from Saul's son and Saul's general. But now, it's the Philistines who make a reappearance.
If we were to go back to the beginning of I Samuel (and even further back to the time of Samson), we would see that the Philistines were Israel's main oppressors. In fact, it was because of their faithlessness and idolatry that God had given the Israelites in the hands of the Philistines.
Did you know there are 100 references in the book of I Samuel to the Philistines? Remember, it was the Philistines who took the Ark of the Covenant after defeating the Israelites in I Samuel 4. It was the Philistines who sent Goliath against the Israelite forces in I Samuel 17. It was the Philistines who fought against David when David served as Saul's greatest military leader. And it was the Philistines who finally killed Saul and his sons in the battle of Gilboa.
But the Philistines were one of the main reasons the people first asked for a king. God had told Samuel in I Samuel 9:16 that he should “anoint [Saul] to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” In the same way, after Saul had been rejected, God used David to inflict mass casualties on the Philistine forces.
But in a strange twist, you may recall that is was the Philistines who sheltered David during the last part of his exile, when he was on the run from Saul. David had pretended to cut his ties with Israel and become a vassal of the Philistine king Achish. In fact, David was almost forced to fight in the very battle in which Saul and his sons were killed!
And so when we get to this verse, to II Samuel 5:17, it only makes sense that Philistines mobilize their forces when they hear that David has been anointed as king over all Israel. Remember, they had defeated Saul and were now controlling major sections of Israelite territory. As their vassal, it was acceptable for him to be king over Judah. But replacing Saul was not an option. David would have to be eliminated.
And so, once again, David is on the run.
B. David Seeks God’s Guidance (5:18-21)
But look at what read in verses 18-21:
Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.  And David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the LORD said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.”  And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The LORD has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim.  And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away.
The valley of Rephaim is west and a bit south of Jerusalem. It was one of the ancient routes that people would take to travel to the coast. Now, David's location before this is uncertain. This may have taken place before he captured Jerusalem, therefore he may have gone from Hebron to his desert “stronghold” in Adullam. It isn't clear. But what is clear is that David seeks God's guidance on the eve of the battle.
Of course, this is nothing new for David. This is exactly what we find in I Samuel 22 and 23: David in Adullam, asking God if he should attack the Philistines. How did David hear from God. Well, in I Samuel 23, God speaks through something called the ephod, which was used by the priest Abiathar. The chapter prior to that, it was the prophet Gad who communicated God's word to David.
And so once again, David seeks God guidance. And once again, God answers him. As we see in verse 19, God affirms David's course of action and assures him of victory. And look at how the victory is described here. David says in verse 20 it was as if a mighty flood had swept down and broken through the Philistine lines. Clearly, the Israelite army overwhelmed the Philistines. We're even told in verse 21 that the Isralite attack was so quick and so strong, the Philistines dropped the idols they brought into battle as they were retreating.
And so as he had in times past, as he had in those days when women sang songs of his victories, David has defeated and driven back the Philistines.
C. David Seek God’s Guidance…Again (5:22-25)
But you don't get rid of the Philistines that easily. These guys ate kittens for breakfast. They were fierce warriors. Look at verse 22...
And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.  And when David inquired of the LORD, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees.  And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the LORD has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.”  And David did as the LORD commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.
Notice that David does the exact same thing he did before: he sought God’s guidance. But this time, God does not affirm David’s thinking. Yes, David should attack the Philistines, but not in the same way as before. This time, God instructs David to sneak around to the groves of balsam or mulberry trees that lie behind the Philistine forces.
But God’s instructions to David were not simply an example of God remembering more from the West Point manual of effective battle tactics . David was a seasoned warrior. If there was a tactical advantage to be had, David would have found it. No, as God makes clear to David, this strategic placement was only strategic because David would be given a supernatural advantage.
We don’t know what this sound was that David heard. Some think it was it simply God’s way of describing the sound of a strong wind rustling the tops of the trees. Is this what God used to cover the sound of the attacking Israelites and give them the element of surprise?
We just don’t know. All we know is that God describes the sound as “marching”, and therefore, it is indication that God, the Lord of hosts, the Lord of armies, is on the move ahead of the Israelites. And that is the only encouragement David needs. He obeys God, and once again, God gives him victory over the Philistines; and as we see here, an even more comprehensive victory. The Philistines are finally driven out of Israel’s central hill country.
III. Seeking God’s Word, Seeking God’s Victory
The one things that we cannot miss, the one thing we need to see this morning is the very thing that distinguishes David as, not originally the king the people wanted, but most certainly, the king the people needed. David was distinct from Saul in that he consistently sought God’s guidance through God’s word. Saul was given God’s word, but he consistently rejected it. Even at the end of his life, even when things had gone from bad to worse for Saul Saul was found looking for guidance from Israel’s version of the Psychic Friends Hotline.
But David sought God’s guidance through God’s word, and as we see here, through that word, David gained the victory, time and time again.
Do you believe as David believed? Do you believe that there is victory through the word of God? David is highlighted in Samuel, as well as in the Psalms…he is highlighted for His love of the word of God. His leadership set an example for God’s people. Remember, according to Deuteronomy 17:18, the king was supposed to write out for himself a copy of the entire Law of God, and keep it with him, and read through it “all the days of his life”. David set the example for God’s people in those days. But his example stands for us today.
This morning God’s wants you to have victory in your life, and despite the promises of TV preachers who first want you to send in a donation, God wants you to know that victory only comes through his word. Full stop. True victory only comes through God’s truth. But unlike David, we don’t need an ephod. We don’t need a prophet. We can find God’s guidance in the pages of Scripture.
I believe there are three things God has shown us this morning that help us better understand this idea of victory through His word. Let’s look at those:
1. David sought God’s word because David continued to fight.
All of us are fighting, and all of us are fighting all the time. That’s not really the issue. The issue is “Are we fighting the right battles?” Who or what are our true enemies? And in what ways should we truly fight? The ultimate battle we must fight is not against any person, or set of circumstances, or political or corporate machine. The real battle is a spiritual battle, and the real battleground is our own hearts.
One of our biggest struggles with God’s word is making the daily connection between His word and our daily needs. But God’s word is sufficient. God’s word is exactly what we need when our enemies (e.g. world, devil, flesh) spread out before us. Remember what the disciples confessed to Jesus in John 6:
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.  So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life… (John 6:66-68)
Paul reminded Timothy of this very truth in II Timothy 3:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:14-17)
Like Timothy, we need to “continue in” this word. Timothy was taught the word from childhood, but that didn't mean he could now do without the word; that somehow he had outgrown the word. Like a soldier equipped for battle, God wants to use the word in this same way in our lives. “...Equipped for every good work”, and armed for every spiritual battle.
2. David sought God’s word because David sought God’s power.
Why do we turn to the word in the face of this spiritual battle we call life? We turn there because we recognize that we desperately need a power beyond ourselves. Did you see how this passage emphasized God’s power, and that the victory that comes through His word is always His victory? Verse 20: “The LORD has broken through…”. Verse 24: “…for then the LORD has gone out before you”.
Think about how God’s word is described in the NT. It’s often compared with a weapon!
…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God… (Ephesians 6:17)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… (Hebrews 4:12)
I love how the power of God’s word is described in the book of Jeremiah:
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29)
This is what we need: God’s power at work in our struggles. Where can we find that power? In the word of God! How could we ever neglect it?
3. David obeyed God’s word, even when it seemed counter-intuitive.
We already talked about the fact that God gave David different instructions for the second battle mentioned in this passage. And it seems clear this battle strategy was not one that David would have ever attempted, or even thought of. It was counter-intuitive, wasn’t it? It was a strategy that wholly depended on faith. The other battle involved but trust, but this even more so.
But isn’t this how David’s son Solomon encouraged us in Proverbs 3:5:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
And isn’t this the same theme that carries over to the New Testament and is picked up by Paul in I Corinthians 1:18:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The word of God should always bring us back to the Son of God. The word of God should always bring us back to the victory of God at the cross; back to the greatest victory ever accomplished. You see, the word of God led to David’s defeat over the enemy of God’s people: the Philistines. But ultimately, those victories only point us forward to God’s victory over our greatest enemy: the sin that separates us from God (and the death and judgment that come as a result of sin).
Is this a strategy for victory that the world embraces, that we naturally embrace? No, it is foolishness to the fallen, to those trapped under sin’s deception. We need God’s grace, through God’s Spirit, to open our eyes.
Do you love God’s word? Do you recognize how much you need God’s word?
The race is about to start. The cave of life stands before you, with all its challenges; with all its darkness. Why wouldn't you just take the flashlight? Hasn't God told us that his word is a “lamp to our feet, and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105)? Like the person who studies the map for an hour, you could simply lean on what you were taught about the Bible or religion long ago. Like the person who takes the old camera flash, you could, every once in a while, open the Bible to find illumination. Or, like that last option, you could simply go at on your own, depending on your own skill, smarts, resourcefulness, connections, experience, etc.
But wouldn't we just take the flashlight? Why don't we avail ourselves, each day, of the light God has given us in His word, light to disperse the world's darkness; light to guide in this journey?
I found a wonderful verse in our Three-a-Day readings this past week, one that speaks to everything we're talking about. Does this describe your thinking about God's word?
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
Let's ask God to give us this very heart, in light of His word, and for His word.