2 Samuel 8
In the preceding chapter we pointed out that the central thing in 2 Samuel 8 is David overcoming his enemies, and this, in order that Israel might enter their rightful portion—occupy and enjoy the inheritance which God has given them. In order to do this, hard fighting was entailed. We also called attention to the fact that 2 Samuel 8 opens with the word "And," which requires us to observe what immediately goes before. In 2 Samuel 7 we find God giving David "rest round about from all his enemies" (v. 1), and that he spent this season of repose in communion with the Lord—over His Word (vv. 4-17) and in prayer (vv. 18-29). Following which he evidently received a commission from on high to attack and conquer his most formidable foes, for we are next told "And after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them" (v. 1).
The spiritual, application unto the believer of the above is striking and blessed. The "rest" given to David from those who had assailed him typifies, first, the initial coming to Christ of a convicted and sin-weary soul, and finding rest in Him; and second, it typifies the restraining hand of God laid upon the sinful lusts of the Christian, granting him a little respite from their assaults. This is necessary if there is to be sweet and profitable communion with the thrice holy God, for the soul is in no condition to rejoice in His perfections while sin is raging within him; therefore does the Lord, in His mercy, frequently lay His powerful hand upon us, subduing our iniquities (Micah 7: 19). Then it is we should improve the opportunity by feeding upon the Word of promise and by pouring out our hearts before God in thanksgiving, praise and adoring worship. "Thus David used his "rest," and so should We; for by so doing new strength will be obtained for further conflicts.
David’s smiting of the Philistines and subduing them is a figure of the work of mortification to which God calls the Christian: "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness" (Col. 3:5). The clear call of God to His people is, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Rom. 6: 12). The Christian must not suffer his fleshly lusts to lord it over, him, but is to engage them in mortal combat, refusing to spare anything in him which is opposed to God. David’s taking of "Methegammah" (which means "the bridle of the mother") out of the hands of the Philistines, speaks of the believer devoting his special attention unto his master lust or besetting sin, for until that be (by grace) conquered there can be no real experimental progress in spiritual things; "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth to his neighbor Let him that stole, steal no more . . . Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" (Eph. 4:25, 28, 29).
Now David’s subduing of the Philistines and his capture of Methegammah, their chief stronghold, was imperatively necessary if Israel was to gain possession and occupy their inheritance, and it is this fact which we desire to press most upon the reader. The Christian has been begotten unto a blessed and eternal inheritance in Heaven: from his eventual entrance into it Satan cannot keep him, but from his present possession and enjoyment thereof he seeks by might and main to rob him; and unless the believer be duly instructed and steadfastly resists him, then the enemy will prove only too successful. Alas that so few of the Lord’s people realize what their present privileges are; alas that so many of them relegate unto the future what is theirs now in title; alas that they are so ignorant of Satan’s devices and so dilatory in seeking to resist the great robber of their souls.
The believer has, even now, a rich and wondrous portion in Christ; a portion which is available and accessible unto faith: "For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s" (1 Cor. 3:21-23). But O how little are we impressed by such glorious declarations as these; how little do we enter into them in a practical way; how little do we appropriate them. We are much like the man who died in poverty, knowing not that a valuable estate had been left to him. Instead of setting our affections upon things above, we act as though there was nothing there for us until we pass through the portals of the grave. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16: 11)—now as well as in the future!
O what a tremendous difference it makes whether or not the Christian be living in the present enjoyment of his eternal inheritance. What power could the attractions of this world have for one whose heart is on high? None at all. Instead, they would appear to him in their true light, as worthless baubles. How little would he be affected by the loss of a few temporal things: not making them his "treasure" or chief good, the loss of them could neither destroy his peace nor kill his joy—"And took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance" (Heb. 10:64). How little would tribulation and suffering move us from a steady pressing forward along the path of duty: "who for the joy that was set before Him (by faith) endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2).
But for the present enjoyment of our eternal inheritance faith must be in exercise, for "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Faith is that which gives visibility and tangibility to that which is invisible to sight. Faith is that which gives reality to the things which hope is set upon. Faith brings near what is far off. Faith lifts the heart above the things of time and sense:
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" (Heb. 11:24-26). Ah, the "recompense of the reward" was a living reality unto Moses, and under the elevating power thereof the flesh-inviting offer of Egypt’s princess was powerless to drag him down. And, my reader, if "our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil 3:20) in a practical way, so far from the baits of Satan tempting us, they will repel.
But, as we pointed out in the preceding chapter, faith cannot be in healthy operation while the work of mortification be neglected. If we yield to the solicitations of our fleshly and worldly lusts, if we fail to crucify our besetting sins, if any evil be "allowed" by us, then faith will be suffocated and rendered inactive. Just as both the Canaanites and the Israelites could not possess the promised land at one and the same time—one being compelled to yield occupancy to the other—so neither can faith and sin rule the heart at one and the same time. The idolatrous Canaanites already had possession of the promised land when God gave it to them, and only by hard fighting could the Israelites secure it for themselves. in like manner sinful lusts originally possess the heart of the Christian, and it is only by hard fighting that they can be dispossessed and the heart be filled with heaven.
As the Canaanites were vanquished, the Israelites occupied their places. Thus it must be spiritually. The mortification of sin is in order to the vivification of spirituality. The garden plot must first be clear of weeds and rubbish before it is ready for the vegetables and flowers to be planted therein. Hence the oft-repeated word is, "Cease to do evil, Learn to do well" (Isa. 1:16,17), "depart from evil and do good" (Ps. 34:14), "hate the evil and love the good" (Amos 5: 15)—the second cannot be attended to until the first be accomplished. "Put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts . . . Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:22, 24). That is God’s unchanging order throughout: we must "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit," if we would know "perfect holiness in His fear."
How instructive and how striking is the order in Obadiah 17, "But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions." First, there is deliverance upon "mount Zion," which is where Christ is, for in Psalm 2:6 God declares, "Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion." Only by Christ can the sin-harassed believer obtain "deliverance" from those enemies which are ever threatening to destroy his peace, joy and usefulness. Second, following the "deliverance" is the promise of "holiness," which is a positive thing, a moral quality of purity, with the added signification of devotedness unto God. But note this cannot be before the "deliverance"! Third, there is then the assurance that God’s people shall "possess their possessions," that is, actually enjoy them, live in the power thereof.
"And he smote Moab" (v. 2). In order to get at the practical application of this unto ourselves it will be necessary to go back to earlier scriptures. From Genesis 19:36, 37 we learn that Moab was the incestuous son of backslidden Lot. Their territory was adjacent to the land of Canaan, the Jordan dividing them (Num. 22:1; 31:12). It was Balak the king of the Moabites who hired Balaam to curse Israel (Num. 22:4, 5). Her daughters were a snare to the sons of Israel (Num. 25:1). Her land also proved to be a snare unto Naomi and her family (Ruth 1:1). God used the Moabites as one of His scourges upon His wayward people in the days of the Judges (3:12-14). No Moabite was suffered to enter into the congregation of the Lord unto the tenth generation (Deut. 23:3). It was foretold that Christ would "smite" them (Num. 24:17). In the last reference to them in Scripture we read, "Surely Moab shall be as Sodom" (Zeph. 2:9).
From the above facts it is clear that the Moabites were a menace unto Israel, and that there should be no fellowship between them. But the particular point which we need to define is, exactly what do the Moabites symbolize? The answer to this question is not difficult to discover: they figured the world away from God, but more particularly, the world bordering on the domain of faith. It is not the world-bordering church, but the church-bordering world, ever inviting the people of God to leave their own heritage and come down to their level. The Moabites were near to Israel both by birth and locality. There was a long and a strong border-line between them, namely, the Jordan, the river of death, and that had to be crossed before the people of God could enter their domain. Moab, then, typifies the world near the church; in other words, Moab stands for a mere worldly profession of the things of God.
"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). The Cross of Christ is the antitype of the Jordan. It is by the Cross the Christian is separated from the world. While the principle of the Cross—the principle of self-sacrifice, death to sin—rules the Christian, he is preserved from the blandishments of the world. But as soon as the principle of the Cross—mortification, the denying of self—ceases to dominate, we fall victims to the fair "daughters of Moab," and commit spiritual adultery with them (Num. 25:1); in other words, our testimony degenerates into a mere profession; we cease to be heavenly pilgrims, and vital godliness becomes a thing of the past. "Every fair attractive worldly delight that makes us forget our true Home is a ‘daughter of Moab’" (F. C. Jennings).
"And he smote Moab." The spiritual application of this to us today is, we must be uncompromising in our separation from an apostate Christendom, and unsparingly mortify every desire within us to flirt with worldly churches and an empty profession. For a child of God to come under the power of "Moab" is to have his usefulness, power and joy, replaced with wretchedness, impotency and dishonor. Hence our urgent need of obeying that emphatic command, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (2 Tim. 3:5). It is not that we are called upon to fight against the modern "Moabites" (as Israel did under the Old Testament dispensation) but to mortify that within us which lusts after their attractions. In sparing one third of the Moabites and in receiving "gifts" from them, David temporized—the sad sequel is found in 2 Kings 3:4, 5 and what follows.
We do not have sufficient light and discernment to follow out all the details of 2 Samuel 8 and give the spiritual application of them unto ourselves, but several other obvious points in the chapter claim our attention. "David smote also Hadadezer" (v. 3); "David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men" (v. 5). How numerous are the (spiritual) enemies which the people of God are called upon to engage! It is to be carefully noted that David did not quit when he had subdued the Philistines and the Moabites, but continued to assail other foes! So the Christian must not become weary in well doing: no furloughs are granted to the soldiers of Jesus Christ: they are called on to be "stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58), i.e. the work or task which the Lord has assigned them, which, as the immediate context shows, is to gain the victory over sin.
Let us now anticipate a criticism which some of the Lord’s people may feel ready to make against what we have said in this and the previous chapter: Have you not been arguing in favor of self-sufficiency and creature-ability? No, indeed; yet, on the other hand, we are no advocate for Christian impotency, for there is a vital difference between the regenerate and unregenerate as to spiritual helplessness. The way to get more faith and more strength is to use what we already have. But we are far from affirming that the Christian is able to overcome his spiritual foes in his own might. So with David. Considering the vast numbers which composed the ranks of his numerous enemies, David and his small force could never have won such great victories had not the Lord undertaken for him.
"And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went" (v. 6): note the exact repetition of these words in verse 14. Here is the explanation of David’s success: he fought not in his own strength. So the Christian, fighting the good fight of faith, though weak in himself, is energized by divine grace. David’s onslaught upon the Philistines and the Moabites was in line with the promises of God in Genesis 15:18 and Numbers 24:17, and most probably they nerved him for the battle. Thus it should be with the Christian. It is his privilege and duty to remind God of His promises and plead them before Him: such promises as "I will subdue all thine enemies" (1 Chron. 17:10), and "sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14), O to be able to say "Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me" (Ps. 18:39).
We have space to consider only one point: "Which also king David did dedicate unto the Lord, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated of all nations which he subdued" (v. 11). While David destroyed the idols, he dedicated to God all the vessels of silver and gold which he took from his enemies. So while the Christian strives to mortify every lust, he must consecrate unto the Lord all his natural and spiritual endowments. Whatever stands in opposition to God must be crucified, but that which may glorify Him must be dedicated to I us service. This point is a blessed one: David entirely changed the destination of this silver and gold: what had previously adorned the idolaters, was afterwards used in the building of the temple. The spiritual application of this is found in "as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (Rom. 6: 19). May the Lord graciously add His blessing unto all that has been before us.