2 Samuel 20

2 Samuel 20
by Pastor David Groendyk

In terms of the big picture, two great truths stand out in this chapter. One, David and his kingdom are preserved by God yet again from another rebellion attempt. But, two, Nathan’s words still ring true: “The sword shall never depart from your house” (2 Sam. 12:10). Although David squashes the rebellion relatively quickly, this whole event doesn’t come without a great cost. It’s really just the same old story that we’ve been reading over the past few chapters but with different details.

For whatever reason, Sheba is unhappy with David being king. And as has been the recurring theme, this is not merely a case of being displeased with the government. Sheba is separating himself from the covenant king whom God had promised to bring prosperity to the nation. It’s tantamount to Sheba separating himself from the very covenant of God. The one nation of Israel has been splintering and growing more fragile all throughout this book, and here is just another stress, which will eventually lead to a full split. The sin of God’s people is having horrible consequences. And that’s also what’s going on in verse 3. The mention of David’s concubines feels a little random and out-of-place. But keep in mind the rest of 2 Samuel. The Lord had warned that he would take David’s wives and give them to someone else (2 Sam. 12:11). Absalom did eventually go on to fulfill that warning (2 Sam. 16:20–22). And this event is quite similar to the horrific rape and rejection of Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1–19). Of course, Bathsheba was also taken from her home and grieved the murder of her husband (2 Sam. 11). There has been profound and inexpressible pain, suffering, sadness, and brokenness for the women in Israel in the wake of the great sin of these men. All of these examples teach us the poignant lesson of the sadness and brokenness that sin leads to, but it also serves to remind us that Christ came to “bind up the brokenhearted” and “bring good news to the poor” (Isa. 61:1). It’s not just the wicked and rebellious sin that God has come to save us from but also the brokenheartedness, despair, and depression. We find relief, comfort, and hope in God’s redemption. Who do you know that needs this hope? How can you share the good news of Jesus Christ and his redemption with them?

This rebellion of Sheba is also another chapter in the sorry story of Joab. Twice David passes over him to lead the pursuit of Sheba, and I think we can understand why. Twice already Joab has murdered in cold blood someone who was close to David (Abner in 2 Sam. 3 and Absalom in 2 Sam. 18), and now Amasa makes three. His words in verse 20 sound more than hollow: “Far be it from me…that I should swallow up or destroy!” Surely David knows how valuable Joab is to his cause, and yet you could understand how his confidence in Joab was wavering. Ralph Davis has a number of good descriptions for Joab. He is “intensely loyal and completely uncontrollable… He does not try to become king and yet he acts as his own king… He is extremely loyal to David but essentially unsubmissive to David.” Joab would never dream of overthrowing the king, and yet he never seems to listen to him. Davis goes on to remind us all of Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” You can acknowledge Christ’s kingship, know the Bible inside and out, and yet still be living according to your own will rather than God’s. You can prophesy, cast out demons, and do countless mighty works, but still not know Christ personally. Here is a warning for us all: are we really submitting ourselves to God’s will? Is the intense loyalty that we profess to God actually based on his Word? Or are we fiercely fighting in the name of the Lord for something he has not actually told us to do?

This stretch of 2 Samuel hasn’t been exactly pleasant to read, but it is necessary to know and study and live out. It reminds us of the terrible effects of sin on our lives, but it also points us to our all-sufficient Savior who redeems us from it all. May even this hard self-examination remind us of the infinite mercy and grace of our loving God!