You Cannot Win (II Samuel 10)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 10:1–10:19
Crying for a King
You Cannot Win
II Samuel 10
October 6th, 2013
(One Lord: No One Like You)
I. Endurance and Encouragement
Whenever we find ourselves in the Old Testament, it's always important to remember what the New Testament teaches us about the older books. Paul writes this in Romans 15:4...For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Are you ready to be encouraged this morning? If you are, turn over with me to II Samuel 10.
II. The Passage: “May the LORD Do What Seems Good to Him” (9:1-13)
Let's jump right into this chapter. Let me read...
After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. [the kingdom of Ammon was due east of central Israel, and the capital city was called Rabbah. Today that city is called Amman, in the country of Jordan. Amman=Ammon]  And David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.” So David sent by his servants to console him concerning his father. And David's servants came into the land of the Ammonites.  But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it?”  So Hanun took David's servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away.  When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
When the Ammonites saw that they had become a stench to David, the Ammonites sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob, 12,000 men. [the Syrians are literally the Arameans, and their kingdom was to the north and east of the Ammonites. It does occupy what today is modern Syria]  And when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the host of the mighty men.  And the Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the gate [the gate of Rabbah], and the Syrians of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah were by themselves in the open country.
When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians.  The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites.  And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.  Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.”  So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him.  And when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians fled, they likewise fled before Abishai and entered the city. Then Joab returned from fighting against the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.
But when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together.  And Hadadezer sent and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphrates. They came to Helam, with Shobach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head.  And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan and came to Helam. The Syrians arrayed themselves against David and fought with him.  And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there.  And when all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore.
Okay, so this is one of those chapters in the Bible where it is very easy to say, “Well, this is all very interesting, but really...why does any of this matter?” When I first looked over this chapter, I was scratching my head and wondering if there really was some kind of lesson or encouragement for us in this chapter. Some scholars believe this chapter was only included to set the scene for David's massive failures in chapter 11.
But if we look backward instead of forward we could also say that, in all likelihood, this is simply an expansion of what we looked at a couple weeks ago in chapter 8. Look back there for just a minute. If you look at verses 3-8 of chapter 8, you will see some familiar names: “Hadadezer”, “Syrians”, “Rehob” and “Zobah”. See those? So what we find in chapter 10 either took place before what happened in chapter 8, or chapter 10 simply gives us more detail about what is summarized in chapter 8.
Why is that important? Well, because in one sense we could conclude that the spiritual lesson for us, the encouragement for us here in chapter 10 is the same encouragement from chapter 8: as Proverbs 21:31, expresses it... The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.
Strangely, in chapter 10, it's Joab who reminds us of this comforting truth. Do you see that in 10:12...“Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.”
That was true for God's people then, and it is still true for God's people today. Every success, every win, every advance, every victory in your life is God's victory, and he should ultimately and always get the glory.
But I think there's something else here. I think there is a sub-point, an aspect of this broader idea of God giving the victory, that we need to look at this morning. Now before we explore that sub-point, let me point out three features of the passage God has given us here in chapter 10. For example, notice...
1. There is Hostility in Response to Kindness.
We have no idea how Nahash helped David. From what we know of Nahash, he didn't seem like a very generous fellow. If you recall, he was the one who was going to gouge out the right eyes of the people of Jabesh Gilead way back in I Samuel 11. The people were only rescued when Saul showed up and claimed his first victory as king. But since Nahash had no love for Saul, maybe he helped David in some way when David was on the run.
Whatever happened, David wanted to express his condolences and be a good neighbor to the new Ammonite king. In fact, the word translated “loyally” in verse 2 of this chapter is the same word we talked about last week in chapter 9, where David wanted to show “kindness” or “steadfast love” to someone from the house of Saul for the sake of Jonathan. This is the same Hebrew word, hesed. And David said, “I will [show kindness] with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father [showed kindness to] me.”
But Hanun is swayed by his princes, and wrongly believes David is up to no good. So he responds to David's kindness with hostility, and humiliates David's servants. But we also see in this chapter that...
2. There is Resistance instead of Repentance.
Notice in verse 6 how the Ammonites realize that, instead of teaching David a lesson, David is probably going to come and teach them a lesson. Why? Because they stink...they stink with disrespect and foolishness. Now at this point, the Ammonites would be wise to make peace with David; to seek his forgiveness; to attempt to somehow make amends for all the beard-shaving and robe-trimming that took place.
So is that what they do? Nope. Instead of repenting, they dig in their heels. More than that: they dig into the Ammonite treasury and buy themselves an army of Syrian mercenaries. Seems like a great idea, right? We aren't told what David was planning to do about the Hanun's original offense, but now, with Arameans massing on his eastern border, David has to take action. And so he sends Joan and the army to answer the Ammonites provocations. But there's one more thing I'd like to point out there. We also find in chapter 10 that...
3. There is Scheming in the Aftermath of Defeat.
The Ammonites and Arameans fail, don't they? This 'coalition of the willing..and the paid' is beaten by Joab and Abishai and the “mighty men”, which was something like the “special forces” of Israel. But Joab does not take or destroy the city. His decision may have had something to do with the calendar. Going into the rainy season, it may not have been a good idea to engage in a seige of Rabbah. As chapter 11, verse 1 indicates, Joab will wait until the Spring to conquer Rabbah.
But the pride of the Syrians has been bruised. Even though they were simply the 'hired guns' for Ammon, they are now taking their defeat very personally. So what do they do? They mobilize all of the Aramean tribes, even the ones to the east of the Euphrates river.
And leading them is the infamous Shobach, who must have been some kind of superstar commander, to lead this unstoppable army. Great plan, right? Wrong. This time David himself leads the battle, and the Syrians are trounced, once again. But this time, the Syrians learn their lessons, and they submit themselves to David's authority.
III. Stubbornness or Surrender?
So as we take all of this in, and try to think about it in the larger context of this book, I want you to also consider the message of Psalm 2. Turn over to Psalm 2. Listen to what the psalmist tells us here and think about how it connects to our main passage this morning...
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed [His Messiah, His king], saying,  “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”  He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.  Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,  “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” [that's Jerusalem]  I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”  Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.  Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2)
Do you see what God is telling us here in Psalm 2, and also in II Samuel 10? He is reminding us that if you try to fight against God and His messiah, you cannot win. For those who fought in God's name, it was their confidence that “victory belongs to the LORD”. But when you are in opposition to God, that same truth should be incredibly sobering. You cannot defeat God. Hanun could not win. Hadadezer could not win. If God has raised up David, if God has made a covenant with David, if God has promised David he will have rest from His enemies, then you cannot win.
But listen to a prayer, a prayer in which a portion of Psalm 2 is featured prominently. Here's that prayer:
...“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,  who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles [the nations] rage, and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:24b-28)
The kings and princes of II Samuel 10 were not the only ones who tried to destroy God's anointed king. Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel all tried to destroy Jesus, the son of David...Jesus, the true King. But even though it seemed their plan had succeeded, they also failed. When you fight against God, you cannot win.
And when the Jewish leaders who helped put Jesus to death were trying to figure out how to get rid of His pesky disciples after the resurrection, one of the wiser teachers, Gamaliel, gave his fellow Jews this advice: “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail;  but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing [fighting against] God!” (Acts 5:38, 39)
Isn't the pattern in II Samuel 10 the same pattern we see in the world today?...There is hostility in response to God's kindness...there is resistance instead of repentance...and even when people fail to overthrow God or get rid of him, when they fail to undo what He's done...there is still scheming in the aftermath of defeat. Some may think they've won. But we know in the end...“victory belongs to the LORD”. One day, every person will stand before God, and for the hostile, for the resistant, for the schemers, there will only be defeat.
You see, this truth is not limited to those on the outside, to those who are not God's people. As King Abijah said to the northern tribes of Israel in II Chronicles 13:12, “O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”
So what about you? Are you one of God's people because of Jesus, because He set you free with his own blood? If you are, do you still find yourself, at times, fighting against God? I believe all of us do. For example, maybe there is someone he wants you to speak with...but you're fighting Him. Maybe there is something He wants you to give up, or let go of, or throw out...but you're fighting Him. Maybe there is a relationship God wants you to restore...but you're fighting Him. Maybe there is a relationship God wants you to end...but you're fighting Him. Maybe there is a sin He wants you to confess...but you're fighting Him. Maybe there is love or peace or grace He wants you to embrace...but you're fighting Him.
Brother, sister, friend...remember...you cannot win. What do I mean? I mean you cannot achieve what you hope to achieve: peace without surrender. More joy, but less obedience. Stubbornness without any consequences. A closer walk with God, while pushing Him away. You cannot win. Listen, God wants you to know this morning, that surrendering to Him is far sweeter than the empty temptation that we can somehow ‘defeat’ Him and get our own way. Listen to how a couple of the NT writers describe this idea of surrender…
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit [surrender] yourselves therefore to God. [Don't resist God...] Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:6-8a)
...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:5b-7)
Whether you have never surrendered to God through Jesus, or need to do that this morning in regard to a specific area of resistance, God “gives more grace”. Lay down your arms. Don't scheme. Don't be stubborn. Surrender. Let that pride or that fear be glorious, wonderfully defeated by the Lord and His Anointed, Jesus Christ. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.