Introduction: 2 Samuel chapter 8 is an amazing chapter that should be studied on three levels. First, it recounts the faith of David in defeating Israel’s enemies in every direction. These enemies had oppressed the Jews since they became a nation. No leader before David had the faith to fully subdue them. Second, this chapter records God’s faithfulness in fulfilling multiple prophecies that He gave in Genesis and Numbers. Third, through David’s example, God reveals seven characteristics of a Spirit-led leader fighting in spiritual warfare. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12). These include: (1) faith, (2) sacrifice, (3) trust, (4) service, (5) worship, (6) submission, and (7) justice.
First, David defeated the Philistines in their stronghold of Gath. In later chapters, he would fully defeat the Philistines where every leader before him failed. The New Testament reveals that David’s faith allowed him to defeat the nations around him. His faith also led to his obedience in fighting the enemy nations around him. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader has the faith to both trust and obey God’s Word. Second, David next defeated the Moabites. David was related to the Moabites through Ruth, and his people had offered him protection from Saul. Yet, David sacrificed his own family relationships to fulfill God’s will and a prophecy that the Moabites would serve the Jews because of their wickedness. From this account, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader makes personal sacrifices to serve God. Third, David’s army then defeated two Aramean armies from Syria. He captured thousands of horses that he could have used in future battles. Instead, he kept only 100 horses. David did not want to rely upon his own military might in battle. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader trusts in God’s power and not his or her own power. Fourth, David gave the tribute that he received to God. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader uses his or her gifts in service to God. Fifth, God built up David’s reputation through his victories. But David gave the credit back to God through songs and worship. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader gives God the glory through worship. Sixth, David submitted to the will of the Spirit and defeated the Edomites. Through his submission, he fulfilled a prophecy that God gave when Esau and Jacob were in their mother’s will. Through David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader submits to the will of the Spirit. Finally, David ruled with justice and righteousness with the help of other Spirit-led men. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader pursues His justice with the help of other believers in the Church.
David defeats the Philistines. David’s first major victory was against the Philistines: “1 Now after this it came about that David defeated the Philistines and subdued them; and David took control of the chief city from the hand of the Philistines.” (2 Sam. 8:1). From the parallel account of this chapter in the book of Chronicles, God reveals that the name of the city he subdued was Gath: “Now after this it came about that David defeated the Philistines and subdued them and took Gath and its towns from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Chron. 18:1). Goliath, the champion of the Philistine armies, came from Gath (1 Sam. 17:4). After David killed Goliath, certain women of faith prophetically sang of David’s future reign as king, where he would kill more enemies of Israel than Saul: “The women sang as they played, and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’” (1 Sam. 18:7). The servants of the King of Gath later quoted this prophecy to warn that David was a threat to them (1 Sam. 21:11). After David pretended to be insane, the King of Gath ignored these prophetic warnings and allowed David to escape (1 Sam. 18:12-15). Here, David fulfilled this prophecy by sacking the Philistine stronghold of Gath. Later in this book, he fully subdued all of the Philistines.
God empowers David to defeat the Philistines1
The partial fulfillment of God’s promises to save the Jews from the Philistines. Before his death, Abner prophetically proclaimed to the elders of Israel that David would free the Jews from the oppression of the Philistines: “Now then, do it! For the LORD has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’” (2 Sam. 3:18). David’s defeat of the Philistine stronghold was a partial fulfillment of this promise.
The fulfillment of God’s promise to curse the enemies of God’s people. God’s covenant with Abraham included a prophetic promise to bless all the nations who stand with His people and curse the ones who stand opposed to them: “and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3). David’s eventual defeat of the Philistines and the enemy nations around Israel is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. This promise should also stand as a warning to those who call for Israel’s destruction. Those nations which fail to support Israel also forgo their chance to receive God’s blessings for supporting it.
You also can trust in His promises to you. The accuracy of God’s promises show that you can also trust His promises for you as well. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful even when you are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that you can trust in His faithfulness even when your faith fails Him?
God granted David victory because of his faith and obedience. God revealed that He was the secret to David’s military success: “And the Lord helped David wherever he went.” (2 Sam. 2:6). In the book of Hebrews, the Bible further reveals that God helped David defeat his enemies because of his faith: “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (Heb. 11:32-34). With God on David’s side, no army could stop his advance: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). If you do God’s will and you act in faith, He will also guarantee your victory.
God will also bless a nation with protection when its faith leads to the fruit of obedience. David’s faith led to his obedience in acting as God’s avenger. He served as God’s instrument to free the Jews from oppression and to judge God’s enemies. When the Jews followed God’s Law, He also promised victory (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17; Gen. 22:17). God will also bless a faithful and obedient nation with His hedge of protection against its enemies: “7 The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7). For those who are obedient and take refuge in God in the face of the enemy, He promises to be a shield against the enemy’s fiery darts: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5(b); 2 Sam. 22:31). With God’s help, Jonathon killed 20 enemy soldiers (1 Sam. 14:14). Likewise, it was God’s blessing that allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). God also used Gideon’s small army of only 300 soldiers to kill 120,000 enemy Midianites (Jdgs. 7:16-22; 8:10). Are you praying for the nations to repent and return to God to receive His blessings?
Act upon God’s Word, and He will bless you. Like David, God expects you to act on His Word. Obedience is not a test for salvation. Yet, for those who obey God’s Word, He promises many kinds of blessings: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33). “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Dt. 6:3). “But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex. 23:22). Throughout the Bible, God reminds His people that vows of obedience must be followed by action: “And the LORD said to me, ‘Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear the words of this covenant and do them.’” (Jer. 11:6). In case anyone believes that these are relics of the Old Testament, they are repeated even more often in the New Testament: “Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24-25). “[F]or it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” (Ro. 2:13). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22; see also, Rev. 14:12; 22:14). God doesn’t want you to be obedient for the wrong reasons. Out of love (and not the promise of reward) are you being obedient to God’s Word, His Spirit, and His calling in your life?
David defeats the Moabites. In addition to defeating the Philistines at Gath, David conquered the nation of Moab in modern day Jordan: “2 He defeated Moab, and measured them with the line, making them lie down on the ground; and he measured two lines to put to death and one full line to keep alive. And the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute.” (2 Sam. 8:2; 1 Chron. 18:2). David’s paternal grandmother Ruth was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4; 4:22). When Saul pursued after David, David asked the King of Moab to provide shelter for his parents (1 Sam. 22:3). The Moabite King offered David shelter, but the prophet Gad warned David not to stay in Moab (1 Sam. 22:4-5). David then returned to the Promised Land to free Jews under oppression. The Bible does not state what caused David to subdue the Moabites. Moab was not part of the Promised Land. Some speculate that David left his parents in Moab when he returned to Israel, and the Moabite king later killed David’s parents. Yet, there is no evidence to support this theory. A better explanation is that David ignored his heritage and acted as God’s avenger and fulfilled a prophecy against the wicked descendants of Moab.
David leads the Jews to defeat the Moabites2
God’s prophesy against Moab. The Moabites symbolized the flesh. They were the offspring of Moab, the eldest son in the incestuous union between Lot and his eldest daughter. Their son was named Moab (Gen. 19:36-37). God previously prohibited the Jews from encroaching upon Moabite territory because Abraham gave them their lands (Dt. 2:8-9). Yet, the Moabites abused God’s mercy and grace and instead embraced foreign idolatry. For this reason, God judged them: “Woe to you, O Moab! You are ruined, O people of Chemosh! He has given his sons as fugitives, and his daughters into captivity, to an Amorite king, Sihon.” (Nu. 21:29). King Balak of Moab hired a sorcerer named Balaam for the purpose of cursing the Jews (Nu. 22:1-5). God later prevented Balaam from cursing Israel (Nu. 23-24). Yet, Balaam still wanted to earn the pay that Balak offered him (Nu. 22:17). He also knew that the Moabites were too afraid to fight the Jews directly in battle. (Nu. 22:3). He further knew that God was protecting His people (Nu. 23:8). Just like the devil, Balaam knew that the only way God’s people could be destroyed was if they voluntarily broke His Law. Having them join with temple prostitutes was one rule he figured he could induce them to break (Ex. 34:14-15; Dt. 23:17; Jdgs. 2:17; 1 Kgs. 14:22-24). Thus, he came up with a plan to have the Jews defile themselves with the Moabite and Midianite woman (Nu. 22:4). He instructed Balak to send his most attractive women to invite the Jewish men to Moabite banquets. (Nu. 31:16). The women then seduced the men through acts of temple prostitution. The men would have had free sex with the prostitutes in exchange for their agreement to first eat foods sacrificed to Baal of Peor, the Canaanite fertility god, and then to worship him. Although Balaam caused many Jews to die from God’s judgment, he could not cause God to remove His protections over His people. Because of both the Moabites’ idolatry and their acts against the Jews, God revealed through a prophesy to Balaam that the Jews would eventually rule over the Moabites: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth.” (Nu. 24:17). Yet, God delayed His judgment to give Moab a chance to repent. The Moabites, however, ignored God’s warnings. In addition to practicing idolatry, they continued to try to subjugate Israel. After the Jews invaded the Promised Land, King Eglon of Moab invaded Israel and enslaved the Jews for 18 years (Jdgs. 3:12-14). God then raised up a deliverer named Ehud. Ehud traveled to King Eglon under the pretext that he was delivering the Jews’ annual tribute to the Moabites. Ehub then killed King Eglon with a hidden dagger (Jdgs. 3:15-26). Through the example of Ehud’s faith, God granted the Jews victory over the Moabites: “29 They struck down at that time about ten thousand Moabites, all robust and valiant men; and no one escaped. 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel.” (Jdgs. 3:29-30). God not only judged the Moabite king, He also judged all of Moab for its wickedness: “Woe to you, Moab! The people of Chemosh have perished; for your sons have been taken away captive and your daughters into captivity.” (Jer. 48:46). When God stood with the Jews, their enemies could not defeat them in battle. “7 The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7; Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17; Gen. 22:17). Here, David fulfilled God’s warning of judgment against the Moabites. The Moabites remained servants of Israel until the death of the king Ahab (2 Kgs. 1:1).
David sacrificed his family relationships to the Moabites in service to God. David would have likely felt remorse in invading a nation he was both related to and that had offered him refuge from Saul. Yet, David placed his service to God before his family relationships. Jesus also warns that service to Him can sometimes split families when a believer is forced to choose between their family and Him: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:34-37). Are you willing to sacrifice like David when your family is preventing your service to God?
Make no provision for the flesh. If the Moabites symbolized the flesh, David made no provision for his heritage in the flesh while he served as King of Israel. Believers are also called upon to make no provision for the flesh. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). Are you denying the desires of your flesh to fully serve Jesus?
David defeats the Arameans. In addition to defeating the Philistines and the Moabites, David’s army defeated two Aramean armies from Syria: “3 Then David defeated Hadadezer, the son of Rehob king of Zobah, as he went to restore his rule at the River. 4 David captured from him 1,700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers; and David hamstrung the chariot horses, but reserved enough of them for 100 chariots. 5 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, king of Zobah, David killed 22,000 Arameans. 6 Then David put garrisons among the Arameans of Damascus, and the Arameans became servants to David, bringing tribute. And the Lord helped David wherever he went. 7 David took the shields of gold which were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took a very large amount of bronze.” (2 Sam. 8:3-8; 1 Chon. 18:3-8). During this time, modern day Syria had two separate Aramean nations. One had a capital in Damascus (the modern day capital). The other capital was in a place called Zobah. Even with greater numbers of horsemen and soldiers, the two nations were no match for an army with God’s backing. By faith, David had no fear of mighty armies.
David’s conquests to fulfill God’s promises to His people3
David did not trust in his own strength or understanding in battle. David did not prevail because of his weapons. He only kept horses to pull 100 chariots (2 Sam. 8:4). Instead, David prevailed in battle because he trusted in God: “For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them.” (Ps. 44:3). “and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Sam. 17:47). “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” (Ps. 20:7). “The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.” (Ps. 33:16-17). “For I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me.” (Ps. 44:6). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). Do you trust in God or your own abilities to succeed in your conflicts?
A Spirit-led leader must not covet power. Part of having Spirit-led obedience as a leader includes forgoing the temptations that come with power. Moses warned that the future kings of Israel could not covet power, which he symbolized through a king’s desire to “multiply horses” for himself: “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’” (Dt. 17:16). Coveting breaks God’s Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). When a leader covets power, it is one of the leading reasons for a leader to rebel against God (Isa. 1:23). When Korah led a rebellion against Moses he was joined by 250 “men of renown.” (Nu. 16:2). They coveted the power that Moses had over the 12 tribes. God also condemned one of last kings of ancient Judah for his covetousness that led to his “dishonest gain” and the “shedding innocent blood and  practicing oppression and extortion.” (Jer. 22:17). Satan’s pride also caused him to covet God’s power (Is. 14:12-15). Those who “covet” are disqualified from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:3-6). A leader who covets can never satisfy his desires by giving into those desires. He will always want more power (Hab. 2:5). Are you content with what God has given you?
Joshua’s similar destruction of the enemy’s weapons. Chariot horses were also a symbol of the weapons of the enemy. Centuries earlier, God showed that He was faithful to keep His promises by defeating the armies of northern Israel in battle. Joshua in turn showed his faith-led obedience by maiming the enemy’s horses and destroying their chariots: “8 The Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, so that they defeated them, and pursued them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh to the east; and they struck them until no survivor was left to them. 9 Joshua did to them as the Lord had told him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.” (Josh. 11:8-9). Like David, Joshua could have used the horses and chariots in other battles. Indeed, the existence of these weapons caused the Jews to fear the Canaanites in future battles (e.g., Josh. 17:16-18; Jdgs. 1:19; 4:13). Yet, God prohibited His people from using the weapons of the world in battle (Dt. 17:16). The Messiah would one day show the way by leading peacefully on a donkey (Zech. 9:9). Joshua and David showed their obedience and their faith in God to protect the Jews by destroying the enemy’s weapons.
Don’t use the enemy’s tools in spiritual warfare. The chariots were tools that Pharaoh used to subdue the Jews while they were captives in Egypt. They symbolized the tools of the flesh. Believers must never delude themselves into believing that they are doing God’s work when they are using the tools of the enemy. We see many examples of this in the body of Christ today. People who feel wronged by another frequently resort to the devil’s tools of rumors, gossip, lies, or deceit to get back at someone (Gal. 5:19-21). Instead, believers must use God’s weapons of love, prayer, and forgiveness. Are you employing any of these tools of the devil in your walk with God?
David dedicates the spoils of war to God. David showed himself a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22) by refusing to keep the spoils of war for himself. Instead, he gave them to God: “9 Now when Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer, 10 Toi sent Joram his son to King David to greet him and bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him; for Hadadezer had been at war with Toi. And Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze. 11 King David also dedicated these to the Lord, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued: 12 from Aram and Moab and the sons of Ammon and the Philistines and Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah.” (2 Sam. 8:9-12; 1 Chron. 18:9-11). Hamath was in upper Syria in the valley of the Orontes River. It formed the northeastern corner of the Jews’ territory (2 Kgs. 14:25). The people of Hamath, like the people of Tyre in Lebanon, consented to David’s rule.
God’s faithfulness in granting land to Abraham’s successors. God’s covenant with Abraham included the promise of land stretching as far as the river Euphrates: “18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Gen. 15:18; 17:8). Through Joshua, God later again promised lands stretching as far as the Euphrates to the Jews: ‘“3 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.’” (Josh. 1:3-4; Dt. 11:31; 17:14; 34:4; Neh. 9:8). David’s conquests briefly fulfilled God’s promises to Abraham. As Joshua once remarked: “45 Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). The Jews’ control of this area lasted through Solomon’s reign: “Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.” (1 Kgs. 4:21). Yet, this area then slipped out of the Jews’ control. It was only through a failure of faith that they failed to maintain their lands stretching to the Euphrates.
David used God’s gifts for God’s Kingdom. David showed himself to be a man after God’s heart by dedicating the things he received as either tribute or plunder back to God: “11 King David also dedicated these to the Lord, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued:” (2 Sam. 8:11). King Solomon later used these gifts to build the Temple and the holy furnishings inside of it: “Thus all the work that King Solomon performed in the house of the LORD was finished. And Solomon brought in the things dedicated by his father David, the silver and the gold and the utensils, and he put them in the treasuries of the house of the LORD.” (1 Kgs. 7:51). “ . . . David took a very large amount of bronze, with which Solomon made the bronze sea and the pillars and the bronze utensils.” (1 Chon. 18:8(b)). Unlike David, many believers are like the servant who fail to use God’s talents or gifts for His Kingdom: “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (Matt. 25:18). Jesus will discipline those who fail to use their talents for His Kingdom: “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.”’ (Matt. 25:24-26). Are you using your God-given talents, time, and treasures to serve His Kingdom or your own?
A Spirit-led leader must not covet wealth. A Spirit-led leader must also be content with what he has. He must never seek to enrich himself through his leadership for God: “17 . . .; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.” (Dt. 17:17(b)). We can see an example of how wealth can corrupt a leader through King Ahab’s theft of Naboth's vineyard. King Ahab had everything he needed as king. Yet, he coveted a vineyard that belonged to a subject named Naboth. Naboth, however, refused to give it up because the land was an inheritance for his family (1 Kgs. 21:1-3). King Ahab and his wife Jezebel then wrote a letter to the elders in Naboth’s town and told them to proclaim a fast. They then used that fast as an opportunity to falsely declare Naboth as someone who had blasphemed against God and the king. Thus, they had Naboth killed (1 Kgs. 21:8-14). They then took possession of Naboth’s land (1 Kgs. 21:15-16). God later used Elijah to severely judge King Ahab for his theft and murder of Naboth (1 Kgs. 21:17-24). Do you covet money or power?
God fulfills His promise to build a name for David. Through God’s blessings, God also caused David’s enemies to fear him after He empowered David’s soldiers to defeat 18,000 Arameans: “13 So David made a name for himself when he returned from killing 18,000 Arameans in the Valley of Salt.” (2 Sam. 8:13). The Valley of Salt was located south of the Dead Sea in the extreme south of Arabah. According to the parallel account in the book of first Chronicles, God reveals that David’s servant Abishai led the troops to this victory: “Moreover Abishai the son of Zeruiah defeated 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.” (1 Chron. 18:12). God previously promised to make a great name out of David: “I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth.” (2 Sam. 7:9). When Saul was king, God built up David’s reputation during his battles: “Then the commanders of the Philistines went out to battle, and it happened as often as they went out, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul. So his name was highly esteemed.” (1 Sam. 18:30). Here, God faithfully fulfilled His promise to build up David’s reputation (2 Sam. 8:13). “I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and I did not turn back until they were consumed.” (Ps. 18:37; 144:10). Yet, God built David’s reputation for His glory, not David’s. If God has blessed you, are you using those blessings for His Kingdom or to build up yourself?
David leads the Jews to defeat 18,000 Arameans4
Any glory that David received, he gave back to God. David also showed that he was a man after God’s heart because he did not hoard the glory of victory for himself. Instead, with any victory, he gave the credit back to God. As one example, he created a song to praise God for the Jews’ victory at the Valley of Salt: “For the choir director; according to Shushan Eduth. A Mikhtam of David, to teach; when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and smote twelve thousand of Edom in the Valley of Salt. O God, You have rejected us. You have broken us; You have been angry; O, restore us.” (Ps. 60:1). “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name.” (Ps. 30:1-4). Believers also should never boast in their God-given victories. “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24). “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14). Do you boast about your accomplishments? Or, when others give you praise do you give Jesus the praise?
God exalted David only after humbling him. God could have made David the first King of Israel. He also could have spared him from suffering under Saul’s reign. Yet, if God had done either of these things, David might have become prideful from these victories. God could only exalt David after humbling him. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23). “‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’ (Jam. 4:6(b)). Do you walk with humility to allow God to exalt you?
David defeats the Edomites. The last nation that David conquered was Edom: “14 He put garrisons in Edom. In all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became servants to David. And the Lord helped David wherever he went.” (2 Sam. 8:14; 1 Chron. 18:13). David’s actions again fulfilled a centuries-old prophecy to the Jews. They were the descendants of Esau and the Jews’ brothers. David submitted to the will of the Spirit and acted as God’s avenger against the Edomites. The delayed fulfillment of this prophecy showed God’s mercy and grace in giving the Edomites the chance to repent.
Esau’s rejection of the Promised Land for Edom. As a child of the flesh, Esau had little regard for the blessings of God available to him as the firstborn son of Isaac. Thus, he gave them up for a bowl of lentil stew (Gen. 25:29-34). In the book of Hebrews, God revealed that Esau sold his birthright because he was immoral and did not believe with faith in God: “that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” (Heb. 12:16). After Isaac blessed Jacob instead of Esau, Esau took his three worldly wives and his five children and left the Promised Land. They settled in the hill country of Seir in the southern part of modern Jordan (Gen. 36:6-8). Abraham also sent his seven sons of the flesh out of the Promised Land. He first sent out Hagar and his son Ishmael (Gen. 21:12-21). He later sent out Keturah and their six sons (Gen. 25:1-6). Yet, unlike Hagar, Keturah and their children, Esau left voluntarily. Because Esau cared little for the things of God, he liked better what he saw in the world than in the Promised Land. Despite Esau’s rejection of God, God showed mercy and grace toward Esau by creating the nation of Edom from his descendants. God’s creation of the nation of Edom is important because it shows that He was faithful to keep His promise to Rebekah that two nations would come through her: “The LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body;’” (Gen. 25:23(a)). He separately showed that He was faithful to His promise to Abraham that “many nations” would come from him (Gen. 17:4-5). The Bible is filled with these historical accounts to demonstrate that God keeps His Word. His Word never fails. Yet, the Edomites did not recognize God’s blessings or worship Him. They also refused to allow Israel safe passage through Edom on the way back to the Promised Land (Num. 21:4). Nevertheless, as a reflection of God’s mercy and grace, Moses still called them a “brother” of Israel: “From Kadesh Moses then sent messengers to the king of Edom: ‘Thus your brother Israel has said, ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us;”’’ (Num. 20:14). Despite the Edomites’ refusal to treat the Jews as brothers, Moses forbid the Jews from retaliating against the Edomites or attacking them because God had given them a separate inheritance: “You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even as little as a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.” (Dt. 2:4-5). The Jews were not even allowed to take food from them without proper compensation: “You shall buy food from them with money so that you may eat, and you shall also purchase water from them with money so that you may drink.” (Dt. 2:6). Before his death, Moses repeated his warnings for the Jews not to detest or attack the Edomites for their transgressions: “You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land.” (Dt. 23:7). Moses also gave the Edomites greater rights than the Ammonites and the Moabites in joining God’s assemblies (Dt. 23:3, 8). God later revealed to Joshua that He gave Esau’s descendant’s the nation of Edom to govern: ‘“To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.”’ (Josh. 24:4). Yet, the Moabites never recognized God’s blessings. They also misused their God-given protections to attack God’s people.
God’s judgment upon Esau. Every good and perfect thing is from God (Ja. 1:17). Yet, like many people today, Esau believed that the only good things in his life came from the respect he received for his own skills. Because he had no regard for the things of God, he was not thankful for his spiritual birthright. With sorrow, God later “hated” the evil in his heart: ‘“I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” (Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9:13). With sadness, He later judged them for their wars against Israel. “Flee away, turn back, dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Dedan, for I will bring the disaster of Esau upon him at the time I punish him.” (Jer. 49:8; Is. 34:5). “Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, so that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter.” (Ob. 1:9). “therefore thus says the Lord GOD, ‘I will also stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it.”’ (Ezek. 25:13(a)). Like Edom, no nation should become prideful and believe that it can live in open rebellion against God. Eventually, all nations will be judged. It is the role of believers to be “salt and light” in a lost nation (Matt. 5:13-16).
David’s submission to fulfill God’s prophecy that Jacob would rule over Esau. God previously promised the Jews through a prophecy to Rebekah that the Jews would rule over the Edomites: “The LORD said to her [Rebekah], ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.’” (Gen. 25:23). Hundreds of years passed without this prophecy being fulfilled. Here, David finally fulfilled these prophecies by conquering the Edomites and forcing them to pay tribute to the Jews (2 Sam. 8:14). It took great faith for the Jews to believe in the prophecy given to Rebekah centuries earlier while they were in captivity or a weak nation. Likewise, it takes tremendous faith to believe in the promises of Jesus’ return that believers received centuries earlier. The promises of the secular world seem to offer immediate gratification while the promises of God seem to some uncertain. Will you trust in God’s promises, even when you don’t see them fulfilled?
God needs you to submit to His will to help fulfill His Word. David’s fulfillment of a prophecy might seem to have little relevance to believers today. Yet, if he failed to submit to God’s will, the prophecy would have remained unfulfilled. Jesus has also called upon believers to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20). He needs you to submit to fulfill it. Will you submit to God’s will to fulfill the Great Commission?
Evil leaders who are permitted to oppress God’s people will also eventually be judged. David submitted to the will of the Spirit to faithfully serve as the instrument of God’s judgment against the Edomites: “for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Ro. 13:4). Although judgment comes first to God’s people, nonbelievers will eventually face judgment: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17). God will judge all evil. Your only escape is through Jesus. Through prayer and love, you can also be the instrument of His judgment against the devil and his followers.
God is sovereign over the nations. This account also shows the sovereignty of God. Centuries earlier, he predicted David’s victory over Edom while Jacob and Esau were still in their mother’s womb. He controls the destiny of every nation. He also appointed for each person a nation to live in: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,” (Acts 17:26). “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the people according to the number of the sons of Israel.” (Dt. 32:8). Thus, He controls the destiny of every nation. When times are bad, do you trust that God is in control?
David reigns with justice and righteousness. After conquering these kingdoms, David reigned with justice and righteousness: “15 So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. 16 Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder. 17 Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Seraiah was secretary. 18 Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief ministers.” (2 Sam. 8:15-18; 1 Chron. 18:14-17). Saul only tried to use his power to maintain it. He did not use it to liberate the Jews. He also did not treat his subjects, like David, with either justice or righteousness.
David turned to God to reign with His justice and righteousness5
A Spirit-led leader must pursue justice. Through Moses, God warned that a Spirit-led leader must pursue: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:20). God appointed the kings to “do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kgs. 10:9). A king is supposed to sit “on the throne of justice.” (Prov. 20:8). This means that a Spirit-led leader must care about addressing wrongs and the plight of those in need: “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). Christ also expects every believer to seek to resolve injustice around them. “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). “[L]earn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17). On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will ask what each person did for the oppressed and needy (Matt. 25:40). When you are called to account for your actions before your judge, will you be able to describe where you were a force for God’s justice? (2 Cor. 5:10). Or, are you living for yourself?
Jesus will reign with righteousness. David’s reign of justice and righteousness foreshadowed Jesus’ reign: ‘“Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.”’ (Jer. 23:5). He is our righteous judge (2 Tim. 4:8). While David later sinned, Jesus never will. His reign will be perfect.
A Spirit-led leader must pursue God’s justice through God-fearing believers. Centuries earlier, God used Jethro to rebuke Moses for attempting to resolve all of the people’s disputes on his own (Ex. 18:13-18). Through Jethro, God advised Moses to select God-fearing men who loved the truth and hated dishonest gain (Ex. 18:21). In the New Testament, such a leader is referred to as either being full of the Spirit or Spirit-led (Acts 6:3). God does not call you to serve alone. Instead, you are called upon to serve with others: “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Ro. 12:5). “But now there are many members, but one body.” (1 Cor. 12:20). Are you acting within the Church to be an instrument of justice and to help those in need?