When the Time is Right

This morning, I want to begin a new series of lessons from the book of 2 Samuel.  We’re going to be taking a look at the life of King David, who is one of the most significant men in all the Bible.  And I say that because, as his story goes on, one of his descendants – Jesus — will be known as the Son of David.  And Jesus will take David’s throne and become king, not of an earthly kingdom, but the kingdom of God. 

            So, you might expect that if Jesus is the Son of David, that there would be a good bit of the Old Testament dedicated to the story of David, and that is indeed the case.

            If you add up all the chapters in the Old Testament that tell the story of Abraham, you would count 14 chapters.  Abraham, the father of the Jews and the father of all the faithful.  14 chapters.  Joseph is another very important Old Testament character – his story is told in 12 chapters.  Jacob, 11 chapters. The prophet Elijah, the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets, 11 chapters.

            But when it comes to David, 62 chapters are devoted to his story.  1,118 verses in the Bible mention David’s name.  His name is found in scripture more than just about anyone else.  In fact, the only other name mentioned more frequently than David is the name of Jesus.  So, David occupies a huge place in God’s story

            We’re going to be in 2 Samuel for the next several months, but I want to begin by reading a passage from Psalm 78.  This is a psalm that was written by Asaph.  And, in this song, Asaph tells the story of the history of God’s people, how they were slaves in Egypt, but God brought them out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness, and they entered the land of Canaan.

            And throughout this psalm, Asaph makes the point that the Jewish people were constantly unfaithful to God, but in spite of that, God remained faithful.  God made promises to his people and he always kept those promises.

            We pick up in verse 68,

“[God] chose…the tribe of Judah,
    and Mount Zion, which he loved.
There he built his sanctuary as high as the heavens,
    as solid and enduring as the earth.
He chose his servant David,
    calling him from the sheep pens.
He took David from tending the ewes and lambs
    and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants—
    God’s own people, Israel.
He cared for them with a true heart
    and led them with skillful hands.”
(Psalm 78:68-72, NLT)

            Asaph tells us that God chose David, calling him out of the sheep pens.  And we see that in I Samuel, chapter 16.  David was one of Jesse’s eight sons, but he was the child that nobody paid any attention to.  He was considered the runt of the litter.  The family kept him busy outside, taking care of the sheep.  And so, when the prophet Samuel showed up one day and he said to Jesse, “God is going to choose one of your sons to be the next king of Israel.  Bring all your boys in, I want to take a look at them and we’re going to see who God chooses.”

            Jesse brought in seven of his sons to meet with Samuel, but he didn’t even bother to call David in.  It was only when Samuel asked him, “Do you have any other sons?”, Jesse said, “Well, there is the youngest, but he’s outside watching the sheep and the goats.”

            Jesse didn’t call David in with his brothers because he didn’t believe that David could ever be the king of anything, much less the king of Israel.  David was ignored and overlooked  by his family, but he was the one that God chose.  As God said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

            And twice in the Bible, David is called “a man after…God’s own heart.”  Now, that’s quite a title, because when you think about it, nobody else in all the Bible is ever called a man or a woman after God’s own heart, but David was.  Which seems a bit odd to those of us who know the story of the life of David, because David was far from perfect.  He not only committed some sins, he committed some big sins, like adultery and murder.  But, as we work our way through 2 Samuel, we’re going to find out what it was that made David a man after God’s own heart.

            But we start in chapter 1, verse 1, “After the death of Saul, David returned from his victory over the Amalekites and spent two days in Ziklag.” (2 Samuel 1:1).

            2 Samuel is actually a continuation of I Samuel, so we’re going to have to go back and do a little bit of research to see what was happening at the end of I Samuel.  We read here that David was living in the city of Ziklag, which seems kinda strange because Ziklag was one of the cities of the Philistines, and the Philistines were the bad guys, they were the enemies of the Jews.  Just to refresh your memory, Goliath was a Philistine.

            But when King Saul was trying to kill David, and David was running away from him, he figured the best place to hide from King Saul was right in the middle of his enemies.  Saul would never think to look there and even if he did, he’d have trouble getting to David.  So, David moved in with the Philistines.  Why would the Philistines allow him to live there?  Well, their policy seemed to be, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And since David was King Saul’s enemy, that made David their friend.

            And so, for many years, while David was living in their midst, the conflict between the Israelites and the Philistines escalated, and the Philistines kept getting stronger and stronger, and kept expanding their territory.  And, at the end of I Samuel, they fought Israel in a huge battle on Mount Gilboa.

            David wanted to go to that battle, but he was turned back by Achish, the king of the Philistines, because his commanders said, “We don’t trust this guy.  David grew up in Israel.  When he was younger, he killed a bunch of Philistines, and if he decides to switch sides in the middle of this battle, we’re going to be in trouble.  So, we don’t want him there.”

            So, King Achish said to David, “Sorry, you can’t go to battle with us. You and your men have to go back home.” So, David and his men went home to the town of Ziklag.  But when David got there, he found that the city had been devastated.  While David was gone, there was a group of invaders called the Amalekites that came in, stole these men’s families, their wives, their children, burned down the city with fire, and stole all their stuff.  Because that’s the sort of people the Amalekites were.

            And I need to explain that to you, because unless you understand the historical background, you’re going to miss the significance of a lot of things that happen.  The Amalekites were an enemy of the Jewish people from the early days when they came out of the land of Egypt.  When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and they started moving along, we’re told that the Amalekites attacked them from the rear.  That’s where the people were that were old, and feeble and weak, the ones who couldn’t keep up with everyone else.  And those were the ones that the Amalekites attacked so that they could steal their supplies.

            So basically, the Amalekites were a group of terrorists. And they were known for this throughout their history.  So, while David is away from Ziklag, the Amalekites say to themselves, “Hey, this place is unprotected, let’s raid it, let’s rob it, let’s loot it, let’s take these people and sell them as slaves.” That’s the kind of people they were..

            And because of that, when the Israelites entered into the land of Canaan, God told them, “After you clear out all the enemies in Canaan, you must destroy the Amalekites and erase their memory from under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 25:19, NLT).  Because, if you don’t, they are going to continue to train their children, generation after generation, to terrorize nations.

            Fast forward to when Saul was king and Samuel the prophet came to him and said, “It’s time for you to do what God commanded.  You need to go in and wipe out the Amalekites, every single one of them.  Don’t leave even one of them alive.” 

            There are some people who complain because God because gave such a brutal commandment.  But you need to understand who the Amalekites were, what their practices were, how they taught their children to behave the same way from generation to generation.  And God said, if you don’t do this, you’re going to have trouble with the Amalekites for centuries to come.

            So, King Saul went out, he fought against the Amalekites, but he didn’t kill everyone.  He spared the king, King Agag, and some of other men.  And when Saul got back to Israel, the prophet Samuel rebuked him and said, “You didn’t do what God told you to do!”   And Samuel took his sword out and went up to King Agag and the Bible says he hacked him into pieces. You may say, that’s horrible.

            Yeah, it’s pretty brutal.  But keep reading, and, in the book Esther, you read the story of the Jews living in Persia, and there’s a man there by the name of Haman, who was an Agagite, a descendant of King Agag, the Amalekite.  And Haman wrote a law that would exterminate all of the Jewish people in the entire kingdom of Persia.  If Saul had been obedient to the commandment of God, that never would have happened.

            I tell you all that because I want you to see exactly what kind of people the Amalekites were.  So, David comes home to Ziklag to find that the Amalekites have raided his town, stolen his family and his men’s families.  David goes to God and asks him, “Should I chase them down?”  God says, “Yes, go for it.”  So, David and his men chase them down and they are able to get back all the women, all the children, and all the stuff that was stolen.  And, as 2 Samuel opens, David has only been back home for a couple of days.

            Meanwhile, while all of that is going on, the Philistines have been fighting the Israelites and the Philistines have been victorious in battle.  In fact, King Saul is dead from that big battle on Mount Gilboa, which means that David is in line to be the next king of Israel, but that won’t happen for quite a while, as we’re going to see.

            We pick back up now in 2 Samuel chapter 1,

            “After the death of Saul, David returned from his victory over the Amalekites and spent two days in Ziklag.  On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s army camp. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show that he was in mourning. He fell to the ground before David in deep respect.

            “Where have you come from?” David asked.

            “I escaped from the Israelite camp,” the man replied.

            “What happened?” David demanded. “Tell me how the battle went.”

            The man replied, “Our entire army fled from the battle. Many of the men are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.”

            “How do you know Saul and Jonathan are dead?” David demanded of the young man.

            The man answered, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa…” (2 Samuel 1:1-6)

            Now, I don’t think he just happened to be on Mount Gilboa, for reasons that will become obvious in just a moment.

            The man answered, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear with the enemy chariots and charioteers closing in on him.  When he turned and saw me, he cried out for me to come to him. ‘How can I help?’ I asked him.

            “He responded, ‘Who are you?’

            “‘I am an Amalekite,’ I told him.

            “Then he begged me, ‘Come over here and put me out of my misery, for I am in terrible pain and want to die.’

            “So I killed him,” the Amalekite told David, “for I knew he couldn’t live. Then I took his crown and his armband, and I have brought them here to you, my lord.” (2 Samuel 1:6-10)

            So, we learn that this young man was an Amalekite, which I think, tells us exactly why he was on Mount Gilboa.  Amalekites didn’t “happen” to be anywhere.  They were a warring tribe that went looking for battles and they would go to battlefields to ransack the bodies.  I think this guy was there to loot all the stuff that was on the ground after the battle was over.  And he hit the jackpot.  He ended up with the king’s crown!

            The problem is, there’s a discrepancy in his story.  If we read the previous chapter, which is the last chapter of 1 Samuel, it tells us the story of Israel fighting the battle against the Philistines.

            The battle is not going well for Israel.  They’re losing and they begin to retreat.  But, while they are retreating, an arrow fired from the Philistines happens to strike King Saul and wound him.  It didn’t kill him, but it wounded him so much that Saul knew he wasn’t going to make it, that he was going to die a slow death. 

            So, he turned to his armor bearer and said, “I’m going to die. Do me the favor of taking your sword and thrusting it through and killing me.” Well, the armor bearer didn’t want to do that, because this is the king.  You don’t want to be the one who kills the king.

            So, the text tells us that Saul took his own sword and he fell on it and he died.  And now, we have this Amalekite saying, “Yeah, I was there and Saul was wounded, but he wasn’t dead.  But he told me to kill him and I killed him.”  According to the Amalekite, that’s what happened.

            But I don’t believe he was telling the truth.  I think he was lying.  I think he brought Saul’s crown back to David, hoping that David was going to reward him monetarily.  “If I tell King David that I’m the one responsible for killing his enemy, he’s going to consider me a hero!”

            So, here’s David, who has just finished fighting the Amalekites who ransacked his town, and along comes this young guy into his camp and he says, “Hey, I’m an Amalekite.”  And David probably says to himself, “I know exactly who you are.  I just fought a whole gang of you guys.”

            But the first thing David does is to go into mourning.  “David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news.  They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day.” (2 Samuel 1:11-12)

            This shows us just how godly David was.  And I say that because Saul was his enemy.  Saul chased David around the country for about 10 years, and tried to kill him.  But when Saul died, David didn’t respond like you would expect him to.  He didn’t say, “Yay!  Finally!  Saul finally got what he deserved, and my life is so much better for it.”  Like in the Wizard of Oz – Ding, dong, the witch is dead!

            But, no, David mourned.  He was genuinely sad to hear the news about Saul.  He tore his clothes as a sign of his grief, and he felt broken-hearted.  David still had respect for King Saul, no matter what Saul did.  David always referred to him as the Lord’s anointed.

            Remember when David was hiding out in a cave and King Saul came into that cave to use the bathroom while David and his men were hiding in the shadows.  And one of his men said, “David, this is your opportunity.  You can sneak up on him and kill him.  The Lord has delivered him into your hands.”

            But David said, “No I’m not going to touch the Lord’s anointed.  If God put the crown on Saul’s head, then God’s going to have to be the one to take the crown off his head.  Saul is the Lord’s anointed and I’m not going to be the one that ends his life.”  Later on, David had a second opportunity to take Saul’s life and he refused.  Throughout his life, David was very respectful of King Saul.

            It was Jesus who later said, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” So this is the Old Testament version of that, and I see a foreshadowing of that in David’s response.

            But it wasn’t just Saul who died.  Saul’s son, Jonathan, also died, and he was David’s best friend.  It may have made David sad to hear that Saul died, but it must have devastated him to hear that Jonathan died as well.

            So, David and his men mourned and fasted all day.  But then in verse 13,

            “David said to the young man who had brought the news, “Where are you from?”

            And he replied, “I am a foreigner, an Amalekite, who lives in your land.”

            “Why were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?” David asked.

            Then David said to one of his men, “Kill him!” So the man thrust his sword into the Amalekite and killed him.  “You have condemned yourself,” David said, “for you yourself confessed that you killed the Lord’s anointed one.”  (2 Samuel 1:13-16)

            I’m pretty sure that was not the response that the Amalekite was hoping for!

            The rest of chapter 1 is a funeral song that David wrote to remember Saul and Jonathan.  Then chapter 2 opens with these words:

            “After this, David asked the Lord, “Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?”

            “Yes,” the Lord replied.

            Then David asked, “Which town should I go to?”

            “To Hebron,” the Lord answered(2 Samuel 2:1)

            In the book of Ecclesiastes, it says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  A time to be born, and a time to die…A time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2,4).  David’s time to mourn was chapter 1.  He truly did miss Jonathan, the other sons of Saul, and I think, to some degree, even King Saul.

            But there comes a time when mourning is over and life must go on.  It’s time now to move on and be king. And it’s so important what David does next.  David asked the Lord what he should do. 

            David asked God, “Should I go up to the cities of Judah?  And the Lord said, “Yes.”  But David wanted more information, so, he asked the Lord again, “Where should I go up to?” And the Lord said, “Go to Hebron.”  Hebron was in Judah.  It was familiar territory to David.  David was from Bethlehem, and those two towns weren’t too far apart.

            Hebron was located about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and it’s actually higher in elevation than Jerusalem, about 3,400 feet in elevation. It’s the highest city in Judah, topographically speaking.  It was the area– do you remember in the book of Numbers when Moses sent the 12 spies into the land of Canaan and they went to the Valley of Eshkol, and they got grapes that were so massive and so many that it took two men to carry them on a pole between them as they brought them back to Israel’s camp.  That was the area of Hebron. Beautiful area.

            In verse 4, “Then the men of Judah came to David and anointed him king over the people of Judah.” (2 Samuel 2:4)

            This is actually the second time David was anointed.  The first time was private, back when the prophet Samuel anointed him in Jesse’s house.  This anointing was public, recognizing David as king over one tribe, his tribe, the tribe of Judah.  David will serve in that role for about 7 and a half years, and then he’ll be anointed over the entire nation of Israel.

            But here’s what I want us to focus on as we think about how to make application to our own lives – David recognized that God would make him king when the time was right, and he was willing to wait for that time and not rush it.

            Several years ago, there was a young lady by the name of Kristyn who often came to our house and she would be in tears because she said, “I don’t want to be alone the rest of my life.”  And I would say, “When the time is right, you’ll find the right person.”  And she would say, “But there’s no single guys in the church.  I’ll never meet anyone.”  To which I said, “When the time is right, God has the ability to drop somebody in your lap.” 

            To which she would say, “But there’s no single guys in the church.  I’ll never meet anyone.”  To which I said, “There will be when the time is right.  Don’t rush God.  For all you know, God is working on getting the right guy ready for you right now.  When the time is right, he’ll let you know”  Fast forward several years.  Now we can all look back and say, “God knew exactly what he was doing, and when the time was right, he brought the perfect person into Kristyn’s life.”

            Now, I say all that not to be critical of Kristyn, but to point out that we all do the same thing.  We don’t like to operate on God’s timetable.  Especially when it involves something that we know is part of God’s plan.  We want to rush things.  We want to make things happen.  But David refused to rush things.  He said, “When God is ready to make me king, he’ll make me king.  I’m willing to do things in God’s time.”

            We need to constantly be reminded that God isn’t in a rush.  You’ve heard the phrase, “I’ve got all the time in the world”?  The truth is, I don’t and you don’t, but God does.  God is beyond time.  God isn’t limited by time.  Scripture records story after story of blessings that came to people who were willing to wait on God.

            God promised Abraham and Sarah a child, but they had to wait 25 years for that baby to be born.  God had Jacob wait 14 years for the perfect wife.  The Israelites waited for 430 years in Egypt, eventually becoming slaves there, before they returned to the Promised Land.

            It is through the process of waiting that God accomplishes his purposes.  God knows what he’s doing, and he’s never late.  And God uses those times of waiting to develop us.  As we wait, we learn to trust God and our faith increases.  As we wait, we learn to draw closer to God.  As we wait, we’re forced to look more and more to God. 

            Think about the Psalms.  How many of them were written during periods of waiting?  So many of them have questions like, “How long, O Lord?”  “How long will I have to wait until this trial is over?”  Several of the Psalms talk about “waiting on the Lord and waiting patiently for him.”  Waiting is always part of God’s plan and process.  To refuse to wait is to want to skip something God has designed that will be for our benefit.  God always has a reason for asking us to wait, and when we aren’t willing to wait, we can mess up the very blessing he’s trying to give us!

            But, for those who are willing to wait on God, to allow him to determine when the time is right, good things will happen.  Just ask David.  Or Kristyn.


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