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29th March

2 Samuel 4-8; Psalm 88

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
29th March

2 Samuel 4-8; Psalm 88

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in 1-2 Samuel we've read through the rise of Samuel, Saul, and David, and then Samuel and Saul's deaths. Samuel was born to Hannah, who gave him over to the priest Eli to server in the Tabernacle. Samuel grew up in God's presence and grew in favour with God while Eli's own sons and the rest of Israel were disobedient and rebellious. Samuel stepped up to fill the gap and led the Israelites to repentance before defeating the Philistines, giving the Israelites a new era of peace.

But as Samuel got older, the Israelites did not want his sons leading them, so they asked Samuel for a king. Samuel warned them that this king would oppress them, but they weren't interested. So Samuel gives them what they want and appoints a young man named Saul to be king. Saul started off okay but things quickly turned south. He offered sacrifices himself when he wasn't meant to and he made foolish and impulsive decisions that impacted his people negatively.

So Samuel found a new king. A young shepherd boy, David. When Samuel anointed him, the spirit of God left Saul and settled on David. We saw as David grew in favour with the people and with Saul's children, while Saul became unhinged by jealousy, wanting to kill David. Eventually, David fled from Saul's court, fearing for his life.. But David continued to grow in favour while on the run, gathering men around him who looked to him for leadership. And in it all, David was committed to being obedient, refusing to kill Saul when he had the chance.

Saul finally dies in battle against the Philistines and David is made king, but only of Judah. The rest of Israel choose one of Saul's sons as king. This led to a civil war as the two kingdoms fought it out. David's commander, Joab, shows himself to be manipulative and violent, killing the enemy commander Aber in cold blood after he had made peace. But David didn't punish him for his behaviour.

2 Samuel 4-8

Yesterday we saw king Ish-bosheth's own commander Abner turn his back on him. Clearly, the northern kingdom of Israel was getting tired of Ish-bosheth. Eventually, two of his captains came and murdered him in his sleep, bringing his head to David.

Much like the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1, they believed this would win them favour with David. In the same way, David was furious that they would attack an unarmed man, and has them killed. It is a sad state of affairs. But now, finally, there is nothing stopping David from being king over all of Israel.

Then all the people came out to David and asked him to be king. They noted how God has clearly appointed him, and they recognise all that David had already done for them. As king, David's first act was to find a new capital city.

He attacked the city of Jerusalem and took it for his own. It seems like even after all this time in the land, there were still whole cities that were owned by the original Canaanites. The people that lived in Jerusalem before David defeated them were the Jebusites (see Genesis 15:18-21).

David then built Jerusalem up so it was a magnificent city. There he prospered and married more wives, having plenty more children. If you’ve been following along some alarm bells might be ringing for you. Back in Deuteronomy 17:17 one of the rules given for kings as that they shouldn’t acquire many wives for themselves. Already David’s success is leading him to make poor decisions.

The Philistines heard about David's success and decided to come out to attack him. Before going out, David asked God what he should do. God told him to go out and attack the Philistines, so he did and defeated them.

When they came a second time, it would have been normal for David to just go out and fight them again. God had already helped David defeat the Philistines once. Why wouldn't he do it again? But David didn't want to get cocky, or assume he knew what God was going to do, so he asked him again.

It was a good job that he did, because this time God game him a new plan, to attack them from behind. David models what it is like to be completely dependent on God. Not assuming what the right plan is, but constantly asking God what to do.

Having made Jerusalem the capital city of Israel, David decides he also wants to make it the religious capital of Israel. He goes down to get the ark of the covenant to bring it up, but on the way, someone accidentally touches the ark and God strikes him down. This scares David, so he leaves it with a nearby family.

But God begins to bless this family, and David realises that the ark is a good thing, it just needs to be treated carefully. So this time, he brings the ark into Jerusalem slowly, sacrificing animals and make offerings as they went.

As the ark entered the city, David was dancing around it. Many people believe that he was doing this in his underwear or naked, but the passage clearly says he was wearing a 'linen ephod'. These were often worn by priests to make sure all their nakedness was covered.

But David was making a fool of himself, and it was this that his wife Michal challenged him over. She argued that he had 'exposed himself' metaphorically before the people and had become lesser in their sight. But David pointed out he wasn't dancing to impress people, he was dancing to celebrate the goodness of God. He would make himself seem much more foolish if it meant lifting up God's name.

But just like we’ve seen the hints of trouble with David’s commander Joab, we’re starting to also see hints of trouble within David’s family. He’s married many wives and his wives are starting to despise him.

Settling into his new home, David realised that while he has a lovely palace, the Ark of the Covenant is still in a tent. He decides to build God a grand temple, but God has other plans. He promises David that instead of David building him a house; he is going to build David's house. He is going to establish his kingdom forever, and one of David's descendants will forever be on the throne.

This is important, because later on in the Bible there are going to be a lot of prophets that pick up on this idea and speak of one of David's descendants that is going to come, be king and rescue all of God's people.

David is at a really high point in his life at the moment. He's king. His descendants are going to be kings after him. He's got a great palace and his people love him.

To continue celebrating this, we get a list of all the great battles that David has won and all the important people that advise him. The focus is on celebration because, going forward, things are going to start getting bad for David.

Psalm 88

This psalm is attributed to two groups; the sons of Korah, and Heman the Ezrahite. It falls into the category of lament psalm, but stands alone as the saddest psalm. While other lament psalms include complaints, requests, and declarations of trust in God, this psalm is complaint all the way through.

This only positive thing about the psalm is the fact that the psalmist is bringing their complaint to God directly.

Psalm 88:1-7 - On the edge of death

Psalm 88:8-10 - Lonely and forgotten

Psalm 88:11-18 - God’s wrath and judgement

The psalmist starts by crying out the God of their salvation. They call out to God to hear them. Because their life is hard and they are getting ever closer to the realm of the dead, Sheol.

They are already seen as someone who has died because they are so weak and worthless. They feel so far away from God. God is the one that put them there and they feel God’s wrath heavy upon them.

The psalmist point out that God has caused their friends to shun them. They are so alone out still they call out to God. May God will again be the one that raises the dead to life.

The psalmist asks God if his steadfast love still exists for those who are dead. Does God’s righteousness still hold true in the realm of the dead? They continue to cry out to God and it feels like God continues to ignore them.

Close to death, the psalmist is suffering. They feel helpless and overcome my God’s judgement. Again, God has caused those closest to the psalmist to turn their backs on them.

As I say, there’s little positive about this psalm, and if read on its own, it provides little hope. But the good news is that it isn’t to be read on its own. It’s read alongside many other psalms that show us we can make requests of God and we can still trust in his goodness.

As part of that tapestry, this psalm shows us sometimes it's okay to just sit and feel all our feelings. We don’t have to solve the problems; we don’t have to fix everything and pick ourselves up straight away. Sometimes it’s enough to acknowledge I am hurting and lonely and to that all before God.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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