All of you are probably unaware of the fact that the United States once had an emperor. It’s true – at least, it was in the rather confused mind of Joshua Norton.
Norton lived in San Francisco during the 1800’s. He was a bit of an eccentric. In 1859, he published a proclamation in the newspaper that he was “Emperor of These United States.” Perhaps it was a practical joke, or maybe it was result of a deluded mind. Whatever the reason, it quickly got out of hand. Emperor Norton wore a uniform, carried a sword, stuck a feather in his hat, and marched along the streets, making note of all the things that needed to be fixed.
The citizens of San Francisco were amused by this and so they played along. They gave Norton free tickets to trains, ferries, and special events. He was invited to gala opening nights. He even issued his own currency that some establishments accepted. It was all done in the spirit of fun. But to Norton it was serious business. In fact, in 1863, he expanded his authority to “Emperor of These United States and Protector of Mexico.”
Joshua Norton lived and died in a delusion of grandeur. He didn’t hurt anyone; in fact, he brought a bit of a smile and a chuckle to people who met him. But make no mistake about it. Joshua Norton was never really the emperor. If he had insisted on a confrontation with the United States government, he would have been disposed of rather quickly. More than likely, he would have been confined to an asylum for the rest of his life.
Because it’s important for us to recognize who actually has the authority. And, as we’re going to see this morning, it’s one thing to rule as king. But it’s more important to recognize who the true king really is.
We continue in our series on King David. To this point, David has been made king, but only over one tribe, the tribe of Judah. One of Saul’s sons, Ishbosheth, was made king over the other eleven tribes to the north. But Ishbosheth was a weak man. It would appear that he was sort of a puppet king, put into place by Abner, the commander of his armies. Abner was the real power behind the throne.
And when Abner made a move to take the throne, Ishbosheth called him out. To which Abner basically said, “I put you on the throne. I can take you off the throne. I’m going to switch sides and give your kingdom to David.”
And that’s what he intended to do. Abner spoke with David and told him that he was going to get all the tribes in the north to switch their loyalty. He basically said, “I made Ishbosheth king, and David, I can do the same thing for you. With my help, you can become king over all of Israel.”
But, as we saw last week, while Abner’s loyalty switched throughout the years from King Saul to Ishbosheth to David, in reality, Abner’s loyalty was always only to himself. He was only concerned about himself and he was willing to switch sides if he thought it could benefit him.
But, before David could either accept or reject Abner’s offer, the commander of his forces, Joab, killed Abner in cold blood.
So, that brings us now to the 4th chapter of 2 Samuel where the story continues. “When Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, heard about Abner’s death at Hebron, he lost all courage, and all Israel became paralyzed with fear.” (2 Samuel 4:1).
It makes sense that Ishbosheth would lose courage. His father was dead. His three older brothers were dead. Now his commander is dead. The commander who put him on the throne. The commander who was able to get things done. And Ishbosheth knows that he’s in over his head. He was a very weak man, so all he could do is, as someone has put it, “fret, sweat, and get all upset”.
Now, there were two men who were captains in his army. The name of one was Recab. The name of the other was Baanah. They were part of the tribe of Benjamin, which means they were part of King Saul’s family. Years before, their family had fled.
Now, the next few verses are a flashback. Remember when King Saul and his three sons died in battle on Mount Gilboa? After that, news came back to Saul’s family, “The king is dead.” And everybody panicked because it was typical when there was a regime change to go after the previous king’s family. So, they all thought, we’re dead meat. We’ve got to get out of here. That’s how Recab and Baanah ended up living somewhere else.
But there’s an interesting sidenote in verse 4 about another member of Saul’s family, “Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was five years old when the report came from Jezreel that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled.” (2 Samuel 4:4).
This seems to be a strange thing to mention in the middle of this story, but it’s a fore-shadowing of something significant that’s going to happen later on in David’s story. So, don’t forget about Mephibosheth.
When word came back that King Saul was dead and all of his family fled, one of Saul’s family members was his 5-year-old grandson, Mephibosheth. And so, his caretaker, a nurse, grabbed the boy, scooped him up in her arms and began running.
Something happened, though, where she dropped him. It must have been a hard fall because it seems to have broken his ankles or his feet. And they didn’t have orthopedic surgeons like we have today, so it didn’t heal right. And Mephibosheth was handicapped from that point on.
Right now, the author is just mentioning Mephibosheth. But we’re going to come back to him later in chapter 9, one of the most beautiful stories in all the Bible. But you’re going to have to wait for that one.
Right now, the focus is on these two captains of Ishbosheth’s army – Recab and Baanah. As time went on, they realized that they were on the losing side. And so, they decided to do the same thing that Abner did. They wanted to switch sides. And they had a plan that they thought would guarantee that David would receive them with open arms.
Verse 5, they “went to Ishbosheth’s house around noon as he was taking his midday rest. The doorkeeper, who had been sifting wheat, became drowsy and fell asleep. So Recab and Baanah slipped past her. They went into the house and found Ishbosheth sleeping on his bed. They struck and killed him and cut off his head.” (2 Samuel 4:5-6).
So let this be a lesson. If you are a lazy teenager, and you like to sleep until noon, here’s what can happen to you. No, all kidding aside, it gets very hot in that part of the country during the summer months. I looked up the forecasted temperature for that region today and it’s 104 degrees.
So, without air conditioning, they would get up early and start their work early. Then, in the heat of the day, they would take a break, take a nap. And then, in the evening, they would resume their duties when it was cooler.
So Recab and Baanah snuck into the house while Ishbosheth was sleeping, killed him and cut off his head. Then verse 7, “taking his head with them, they fled across the Jordan Valley through the night.” (2 Samuel 2:7).
They ran all night long, carrying the king’s head with them. And the place where they were headed was Hebron, where King David was. They assumed that King David was like them – that he would rejoice in what they had done and reward them greatly. After all, they’ve now made it possible for David to be king over all Israel. But what they discovered, to their surprise, is that this was a king who cared more about righteousness than he cared about success.
Verse 8, “When they arrived at Hebron, they presented Ishbosheth’s head to David. ‘Look!’ they exclaimed to the king. ‘Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you.’” (2 Samuel 4:8)
These two men were so proud of what they had done. They helped David out. They killed his enemy. And now they expect to be rewarded. Which makes me think they probably had not heard the story of what happened back in chapter 1, when someone else, an Amalekite, came to David saying, “I killed your enemy, King Saul.”
So, David filled them in. He said, “Someone once told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ thinking he was bringing me good news. But I seized him and killed him at Ziklag. That’s the reward I gave him for his news! How much more should I reward evil men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Shouldn’t I hold you responsible for his blood and rid the earth of you?” So David ordered his young men to kill them, and they did.” (2 Samuel 4:10-12)
I think David was trying to show everyone that he did not instigate the murder of his rival. That was an important statement to make. If David had said to these two men, “Good work. I’ll give you guys a reward. You can have a high position in my army.” Then all of the people of Israel would have assumed that David put them up to it.
But what those two men did was wrong, it was sinful. So, they needed to be punished. And the punishment for murder was death.
Again, we’re reminded that David was in no hurry to be the king. From the time when he was first anointed by Samuel, over 20 years earlier, David was willing to wait. He refused to kill King Saul to take his place. He refused to kill King Ishbosheth to take his place. David was willing to wait until God was ready to make him king over all of Israel.
It’s like Jesus. Someday, Jesus will rule as king over everyone. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 2 that the day is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord…” (Philippians 2:10-11). That day has not yet come. But Jesus is waiting patiently until it does come.
So, David kills these two murderers. It’s not a pleasant sight. He cuts off their hands and hangs them by the pool in Hebron. That was probably not a good day to take your family to the pool. There are these two guys hanging there with their hands cut off. Just not a good day to go to the pool. But David wants the people to know, “What these two men did was wrong. And anyone who takes the law into their own hands will be punished.”
Now we come to chapter five, and this is one of the highlights of this book. This is when David becomes king over the entire nation of Israel. Not just Judah, but now over all of Israel.
So, we read in verse one, “Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood.” (2 Samuel 5:1).
So, we’ve had this civil war that took place for seven and a half years between the north and the south. It was a long, tedious war. We only get a few highlights of the fighting that took place, but there were seven and a half years of civil war.
At the end of this time, Ishbosheth is dead. These leaders of the 11 tribes in the North come to David and they make an important statement. “We are your own flesh and blood.” We’re related to you, David.
You’re part of us. We’re part of you. We’ve been fighting this civil war, but we recognize that we’re brothers. Why should we fight you? You’re part of the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Your tribe is one of our tribes. Enough is enough. The fighting is over. We all agree that we’re going to make you the king of Israel. We are your own flesh and blood.”
I would suggest that this is a good verse to remember when you’re arguing with a Christian brother or sister. Why do we insist on fussing and fighting and arguing? We’re flesh and blood. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the same Father. We’re going to spend an eternity together in heaven. So, we need to do everything we can to get along.
Paul said in Romans 12:18, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Jesus said if you’re at odds with your brother, try to reconcile with him. Sometimes, that’s impossible. I understand. But don’t give up before you even try. Be quick to forgive, quick to extend grace, and realize, hey, we’re part of the same family.
Then in verse 2, they say, “In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the Lord told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’” (2 Samuel 5:2)
They recognized that God had chosen David to be the next king of Israel. And I love the fact that David is referred to, not just as the king, but as the shepherd of God’s people. When David was young, he was a shepherd over flocks of sheep. But God said, “You’re going to be the shepherd over my flock, my people, Israel.”
In verse 3, “They anointed David king over Israel.” (2 Samuel 5:3). So, now, after seven and a half years of battle, the nation of Israel is once again reunited under King David. And verse 4 tells us that David will reign for 40 years.
One of the first things David did when he became king was to move his capital. Hebron was fine for ruling over Judah, but David needed someplace else to rule over all of Israel.
Verse 6, “And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites…” (2 Samuel 5:6). Let me just stop there for a moment. David wants Jerusalem to be his new capital.
But this city was controlled by the enemy. When Joshua brought the people of Israel into the land of Canaan, they conquered the land and they captured the city of Jerusalem. But it didn’t last very long, and it was re-captured by a Canaanite tribe called the Jebusites. So, at this point in time, the Jebusites occupied Jerusalem.
But David wanted Jerusalem. And it wasn’t just a place that David chose. In Psalm 132, we’re told that “the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place.” (Psalm 132:13).
Strategically, it was the perfect spot for a capital city. It had a water source which, in those days, was called the Gihon Spring. And it was a city that was easy to defend. On one side of Jerusalem was the very steep Kidron Valley. On the other side, there was the Tyropean Valley. The only part of the city that was easy to attack was the Northern end, where they could put towers to protect it.
So, it was a very strategic place because of the mountains and valleys. There’s an allusion to this in Psalm 125, a passage that should sound familiar because we sing it. “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 125:1-2).
So, Jerusalem was a city that was easily defended. Because, if you build a city up on a hill, and there are steep ravines all around it, the enemy is going to have a hard time getting up to it.
So, David wants to move his capital to Jerusalem. The problem is, this city is so well-protected that the Jebusites said, “We don’t even need soldiers to protect this city.”
“[The Jebusites] said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off” — thinking, “David cannot come in here.” (2 Samuel 5:6)
They said, we can defend this city with one arm tied behind our back. We can use blind people and lame people to defend us, because nobody can touch us. We’re invincible.
But David had a plan. In verse 7, “Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, ‘Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack “the lame and the blind”.’” (2 Samuel 5:7-8)
It looked like the city of Jerusalem was impenetrable, but there was one weakness. Remember I said there was a water source outside the city called the Gihon spring. You can visit that spring today and see the water coming up out of the ground.
The Jebusites had to figure out a way to get that water into the city. It was too dangerous for their men to go outside the city walls to get the water. They could be attacked. So let me show you what they did. Here, on the screen is a picture of the Jebusite city in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, and the Gihon Spring down here.
First, the Jebusites built a tunnel that went across so the water could flow. Then, they built a tunnel up here from inside the city where they could walk across. Then they had this 42-foot shaft going from the top to the bottom, so someone inside the city could walk across the upper tunnel, lower his bucket, collect the water, and carry it back into the city without ever having to go outside the city walls.
It was brilliant. They could live behind protected walls and still have a water source. And the really cool thing is that, if you go to the city of Jerusalem today, you can still see these tunnels and this shaft.
So, David said, “We’ll never be able to attack the city walls. It’s too easy for them to defend them. We read in I Chronicles 11 that David said to his men, whoever can figure out a way to get into this city through that water system, I will make him commander of the army. Joab does it. Remember, Joab used to be David’s commander. Apparently, after he killed Abner, David demoted him for a while, but Joab found a way to get his position back.
Joab climbed through the lower tunnel, climbed up that 42-foot shaft, and then followed the upper tunnel into the city. From there, he either took some soldiers in with him to fight, or maybe he opened the city gates to let the rest of David’s army in. But it worked.
So, David took over the city. Verse 9, “And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David…And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him… And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” (2 Samuel 5:9-10,11-12).
That’s important. David knew that God had established him as king over Israel for the sake of the people. God didn’t exalt David so that David could say, “I’m king. Look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve accomplished.”
David realized that God raised him up to take care of his people, to bless the people of God, that he was just an instrument that God could use to provide for his people. And he recognized that God raised him up, not because he was special, not because he was awesome, but for the sake of his people Israel.
As we consider how to make application of this story into our own lives, I want to suggest that, just as God wanted the Israelites to acknowledge David as their king, God wants us to acknowledge Jesus Christ as our King.
We read in our text this morning that “all the tribes of Israel went to David” to make him their king. Why would these people make David their king? What led to this change of heart? They had fought against him for years. Some of them, especially Saul’s family, had been hardcore supporters of Ishbosheth, the rival king. Why would they come to David?
Perhaps more importantly, why would someone who has resisted Jesus Christ for years crown him as King of his or her life today? Why would you do that if you have resisted Christ, especially if you have done it for a very long time?
I want to draw from our story this morning, three reasons to come to Christ the King.
1. Because of who the King is
The tribes of Israel came to David and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.” (2 Samuel 5:1)
That’s who David was. It’s also who Jesus is. The story of the gospel is a message about how Jesus Christ took on flesh and blood so that he could become one of us.
“Because God’s children are human beings — made of flesh and blood — the Son also became flesh and blood….” (Hebrews 2:14). God became one of us so that he could be our king and we could be his people.
Notice, the people of Israel didn’t say to David, “You are our bone and flesh.” They said, “We are your bone and flesh.” I think they’re making an argument as to why David should receive them. “We have resented your rule, we have fought against us, but please take us and be our king. After all, we are your own flesh and blood!”
There’s humility here, and that’s how we need to approach our King Jesus. It’s not, “Jesus, you will be blessed if we become your people.” It’s “Jesus, we are the ones who will be blessed if you become our king. You came into this world for flesh and blood people like us. Please take us as your subjects.”
Second, we need to take Jesus as our king…
2. Because of what the King did for you
The people of Israel said to David, “In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. (2 Samuel 5:2)
They recognized that, in earlier years, it was David who had won great victories for all of the tribes of Israel. It was David who had defeated Goliath. It was David who led the armies into battle. David had always been on their side, even though they had somehow gotten the idea that he was against them. But now they see it: “David you were for us even when we were against you! We see now what you did for us!”
Why should you come to Jesus Christ today? Because he was for you even when you were against him! Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Even when we had no interest in him, Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be removed. We need to remember what Jesus has done for us.
Third, we need to take Jesus as our king…
3. Because of what the King does for you
The people said to David, “The LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” (2 Samuel 5:2)
What a beautiful description of what a true leader is: the king is both a prince and a shepherd. As a shepherd, he provides for his people, and as a prince, he acts to protect his people.
These people had appointed Ishbosheth as their king. What had he ever done for them? Their self-appointed king had failed them, and now that he was gone, these people were like sheep without a shepherd, and they came flooding in huge numbers to David.
God called David to be the shepherd of these people. And David knew what that meant because the Lord was his shepherd, and he wrote about that in Psalm 23.
Jesus Christ is not just our King, he’s our shepherd. He has promised to protect us and provide for us. And sometimes we have to come to the point where we realize that someone else we turned to to take care of us has let us down. We need Jesus because of what he can do for us.
This morning, it’s God’s desire that Jesus Christ rule over us as our king. But he won’t do it unless we are willing to acknowledge him as our king and submit ourselves to obey and follow him.