Why Do You Serve the King? (II Samuel 19:8b-15, 31-43)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 19:8–19:43
Crying for a King
Why Do You Serve the King?
II Samuel 19:8b-15, 31-43
(One Lord: No One Like You)
March 30th, 2014
I. A Question of Motives
Is there really anything more important in this life than following Jesus? We know, or I hope you know, that if you are not following Jesus, through faith, on God's path, then you are not doing your own thing. No, you are most definitely on the opposite track, following the world's lies on the path of sin. The Bible tells us there are only two options. Truth or lies. Life or death.
But as we think about the importance of following Jesus through faith, I want you, as you listen to the following passages, I want you to think about what is motivating these individuals. Listen to either their own words, and/or the words of the writer, and/or the words of Jesus. Listen carefully...
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37)
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58)
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said,  “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:4-6)
Three passages, four individuals. Four individuals, but only three are named. What do all of them have in common? They all followed, or wanted to follow Jesus. But what was motivating them? Why were they following Christ? What did they want? James and John wanted positions of prestige. The unnamed “someone” from Luke 9 seemed to want something similar, but Jesus clarified the cost of following. And Judas wanted the easy money that came as a result of Jesus' popularity and his own position as treasurer.
And so in light of those examples, the more important question may not be, “Are you following Jesus?” It might be, are along with it we should ask, “Why are you following Jesus?” Our motives matter, don't they.
I want you to keep the idea of motives in mind as we return to our ongoing study in the books of Samuel. This week we find ourselves in II Samuel 19 for our seventieth study in this series.
II. The Passage: “Bringing the King Back” (19:8b-15, 31-43)
So really quickly, in order to catch you up to speed, let me remind you that David, the king of Israel had been driven from the land by his own son Absalom, who was leading a rebellion against his father in order to make himself the new king.
But the nation of Israel was God's nation, His covenant people. Therefore, no one simply makes himself the King of Israel. Therefore Absalom died for his arrogance and treachery, and his army was soundly defeated. So now, David, who has set up his base of operations in eastern Israel across the Jordan River, David has to figure out how put the pieces back together and return to his throne in Jerusalem.
A. Driven by Politics (19:8b-15, 41-43)
Let's pick up the story there. Look with me at II Samuel 19:8, looking at the final sentence...
Now Israel had fled every man to his own home.  And all the people were arguing throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and saved us from the hand of the Philistines, and now he has fled out of the land from Absalom.  But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?”  And King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests: “Say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king?  You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’  And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’”  And he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, “Return, both you and all your servants.”  So the king came back to the Jordan, and Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and to bring the king over the Jordan...[jump down with me to the last part of verse 40]...All the people of Judah, and also half the people of Israel, brought the king on his way.  Then all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, “Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David's men with him?”  All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is our close relative. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king's expense? Or has he given us any gift?”  And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?” But the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.
So notice in verse 9 the word “arguing”. What we have in verses 9 and 10 is just one side of the argument. The other side must have sound something like this, “David, who needs David? What has he ever done for us? And where is he? He's abandoned us! Let's get another king, someone like Absalom.” Remember, we were told in 15:13 that “The hearts of the men of Israel [had] gone after Absalom.” It seems like a majority had supported him, and in supporting him they were rejecting David. But now that Absalom was dead, what we're they going to do?
So when David gets word of the chatter, he reaches to his own tribe of Judah. Now, you may recall that Absalom's conspiracy started in Hebron, a city in Judah. And I think it's safe to assume that Absalom had strong supporters in Judah, since even Absalom's general, Amasa, was from Judah, being Absalom's cousin and another of David's nephew. So think about it: with Absalom dead, those in Judah may have been afraid of what David might do to them in light of their double betrayal.
So David assures Judah of his commitment to them, even swearing that Amasa will remain the new royal general (I'm guessing Joab's personality flaws probably made it easier for David to think about replacing him). And David's plan worked. Judah agrees to support David and welcome him home. But did you see what happened next? When Judah went to welcome the king, “half the people of Israel” went with him. That must have been the half who were making the arguments in verses 9 and 10.
But at the end of chapter 19, we see that the other half of Israel, the other half of the northern tribes, that group was not going to be left behind and possibly be judged by the returning king. So not only did they go, but they decided to give the tribe of Judah a hard time about acting independently (clearly not knowing that David had initiated everything). So then Judah must then defend their motivations as Israel tries to makes its case about why it should have been included in the welcoming committee.
But consider the motivations here. What is driving Judah? What is driving Israel in terms of their commitment to David, God's anointed king? They are driven by politics. The are driven by the desire to advance their own agendas through a good standing with the king. There is no indication that they are remorseful about their treason, about Absalom. No one reaches out to David in humility. David has to reach out to them.
B. Driven by Pleasure (19:31-40)
But what is fascinating is how the writer has sandwiched, in the middle of these two sections about welcoming home the king, the writer has sandwiched three stories about three individuals who also welcome David home. Now, four messages ago, we talked about both Shimei and Mephibosheth, the men mentioned in verses 16-30. But we did not talk about this man name Barzillai. Look at what we read about him, starting in verse 31, and consider how it differs from the actions of Judah and Israel...
Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim, and he went on with the king to the Jordan, to escort him over the Jordan.  Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. He had provided the king with food while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man.  And the king said to Barzillai, “Come over with me, and I will provide for you with me in Jerusalem.”  But Barzillai said to the king, “How many years have I still to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem?  I am this day eighty years old. Can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king?  Your servant will go a little way over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king repay me with such a reward?  Please let your servant return, that I may die in my own city near the grave of my father and my mother. But here is your servant Chimham [who may have been Barzillai's son]. Let him go over with my lord the king, and do for him whatever seems good to you.”  And the king answered, “Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you, and all that you desire of me I will do for you.”  Then all the people went over the Jordan, and the king went over. And the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own home.  The king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him.
Now to make complete sense of this, we need to remember what the writer told us in chapter 17, verses 27-29 about what happened when David and those loyal to him were on the run from Absalom. Flip back there for a minute. 17:27 says...
When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim,  brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils,  honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”
So Barzillai, without being asked, generously provided for David and his people in a desperate time of need. And as we see here from 19:31-40, Barzillai was not motivated by some hope of reward from David. He was not trying to play David. He wasn't trying to schmooze him or impress him. Even when David offered him a chance to enjoy the blessings of the royal court in Jerusalem, Barzillai is content with his current situations, and suggests someone else receive those blessings.
It appears that Barzillai helped David simply because David was David. Barzillai was not driven by politics. He was driven by pleasure; the pleasure of serving God's anointed king.
III. Examining Our Motives
I think the contrast presented in this passage, between the people of Israel and Judah on one side, and Barzillai on the other, I think that contrast is an important one. Why? Because it forces us to ask, “Why do I serve the king?”
This is not whitewashed history. David's return is not romanticized. He is going back to a fractured nation; a wayward nation where political loyalties were about as solid as a milkshake. You see, Absalom's end did not mean the end of David's suffering because of his horrible sins against Bathsheba and her husband. Remember what God said? “The sword shall never depart from you house” (12:10) Divisions and struggle would continue. But there were wonderful reminders of grace in the midst of this struggle. Barzillai is one of them.
But God's grace in the midst of sin's consequences must point us to the David's far off son: to Jesus Christ. Which brings us right back to our initial question: Is there really anything more important in this life than following Jesus? If Jesus is God in human flesh and the coming king (the Messiah), if Jesus took our place and the punishment we deserve, if Jesus offers us full forgiveness and forever in God's presence, if Jesus invites us to come freely, to drink deeply, to receive abundantly, and to live eternally, then what could be more important? And all of this by simply trusting Him!
But our passage this morning drives us back to the question of what drives us. If you are following Jesus through faith, or if you want to follow Jesus by faith, the question is...why? Why do you serve the King? Why do you WANT to serve the king?
Do we serve Him in the hopes He will fix our everyday problems? Do we serve Him so that He will support our agendas? Do we serve Him because it's a family tradition? Because it's all we know? Do we serve Him because we like the conservative values of Jesus? Do we serve the King because he's the next idea on our list of spiritual fixes? Do we serve Him because we respect the Christian intellectual tradition? Do we serve Him because we are looking for affirmation?
Do YOU serve Him because you are desperate for a second chance? Do you serve Him because you believe He will make you successful, or because it feels good? Do you serve the King because you feel emotionally vulnerable or desperate? Do you serve Him to make your spouse happy? Do you serve Him out of fear of death and Hell? Do you serve Him because you want to live forever? Do you serve the King so you can be empowered to realize your dreams?
The people of Judah and Israel were driven by politics, by a desire to secure influence, and favors, and power. Their focus was driven primarily by a focus on themselves. But Barzillai was driven by a pleasure to serve the king and his people in their time of need. His focus seemed to be driven primarily by a focus on David as God's king.
In the same way, our focus needs to be on Jesus as God's perfect king. Why should we serve the king? Because He is the king! (2x) The earliest and simplest confession of the church is this: “Jesus is Lord”. Do you believe that? The gospel is not first an invitation to trust in WHAT was done, but in the One WHO did it. The love and forgiveness we find in the cross of Christ is love that connects us to the King and forgiveness that frees us for His service. I love the way the Apostle Peter affirmed this for and in his readers...
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:8-9)
You see, our different motives drive us to a ‘playdough’ Jesus, one who can be molded to meet our felt needs, not our true need. Paul spoke about this danger in II Corinthians 11…
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (II Corinthians 11:3-4)
Listen, if you are a follower of Jesus, this is not simply a matter of what you thought about Jesus back then. This is a question we should ask ourselves regularly: “Why do I serve the King? What is motivating my devotion to Jesus? Is it about what I want or what He wants? Is it about who I am or who He is? Is it based on the truth or lies?”
Why is this so important? Because like Israel and Judah, if you are serving God’s chosen king for any other reason than the fact He is God’s chosen king, you will inevitably choose an ‘Absalom’ when things don’t go your way. Think about it? How many of your spiritual disappointments are connected to the fact you had wrong expectations based on a wrong view of Jesus? How many of your spiritual failures in the face of temptation are connected to the fact you had wrong desires inspired by a desire for the wrong Jesus, for one who thought lightly of sin, or was indifferent; one who did not really satisfy?
Why should we serve the King? Because He is the king? What about his words? They prove He is a wise king! What about his miracles? They prove He is a powerful King! What about His cross? It proves He is a loving and merciful King! What about His empty tomb? It proves He is a living King who stands ready today to receive you, and watch over you, and stand with you. All you must do is believe that Jesus did it all, and that He is the only One who could do it all.
Who do you serve the King? Why do you WANT to serve the King?
The Apostle John was a man who served the King. His life was deeply impacted by the lordship of Christ. As a consequence, John’s life deeply impacted a man named Polycarp. Polycarp learned from John about serving the King, and in 160 AD, he stood before a crowded arena, a man probably in his 90’s, as he faced the threat of a horrible death. This is what has been preserved about that moment:
As Polycarp was being taken into the arena, a voice came to him from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp and play the man!” No one saw who had spoken, but our brothers who were there heard the voice. When the crowd heard that Polycarp had been captured, there was an uproar. The Proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On hearing that he was, he tried to persuade him to apostatize, saying, “Have respect for your old age, swear by the fortune of Caesar. Repent, and say, ‘Down with the Atheists [that is, the Christians who don’t believe in the Roman gods]!’” Polycarp looked grimly at the wicked heathen multitude in the stadium, and gesturing towards them, he said, “Down with the Atheists!” “Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” “I have wild animals here,” the Proconsul said. “I will throw you to them if you do not repent.” “Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil. I will be glad though to be changed from evil to righteousness.” “If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.” “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”
Brothers and sisters, serve the King in truth. Serve Him, not first because of what He has done or can do for you, but because of what those things tell you about who He is. Just as David was faithful to bless Chimham in light of His word, Jesus Christ will most certainly bless you and care for you, every day for the rest of your life…AND THEN, every day, every moment for all eternity.