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In the Presence of a Holy God

Today we will be looking at 2 Samuel chapter 6. At this point in our journey through the book of Samuel, David has recently been crowned king over all Israel. Originally, he had ruled over just one tribe of Israel – the tribe of Judah – and he did that for about 7 years, but now the other 11 tribes of Israel have also accepted him as King – so David is now King over the entire unified kingdom of Israel.

As one of his first acts as King, David set out to conquer the Jebusite fortress of Jerusalem – one of the last unconquered strongholds within the borders of the Promised Land. And as we read last time, David successfully conquered this fortress and made it his new capital city. He renamed the city – The City of David – and build a palace for himself within it’s walls. And now, as David moves into his new home in the capital, he also desires for the Lord to make His home there as well!

You see, over the last 40 years, it seems that the Israelites had kinda neglected their relationship with God! Specially, the Ark of the Covenant (which was to represent the very presence of God) had been more or less forgotten about – and wasn’t even kept in the same place as the tabernacle! And we’ll talk more about that in a bit – but today we’re going to see how David determines to fix all that! He knows how important it is to have God at the centre of all life – and so he wants to bring the Ark of the Covenant back into the center-focus and attention of all the people of Israel.

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The Lord Establishes David

Our last message from 2 Samuel ended with David finally becoming king over all of Israel! He began to rule over just one tribe of Israel – the tribe of Judah – when he was 30 years old – and he waited another seven and a half years before he was finally invited to be king over all of Israel.

2 Samuel 5:4 says..

4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all. 5 He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

2 Samuel 5:4-5

Now you’ll noticed that when David ruled over just Judah – his capital city was the city of Hebron. This was certainly a significant city in Judah – actually I read in my devotions this week that this was where Abraham spent a lot of time. He built an altar there and when his wife Sarah died – she was buried in that area. This was also the city that Caleb (one of the 12 spies that gave a good report to Moses) – this was the city that was given to him as his inheritance from the Lord. Later it would become one of the cities of refuge and would belong to the descendants of the high priest. So Hebron had a long and important history for the Israelites.

However, when David began to rule over all Israel, he moved his capital city to Jerusalem. This was a city that up until this point had not really been a significant city for the Israelites. In fact, at this time, Jerusalem wasn’t even an Israelite city! It was a fortress within Israelite territory but it was controlled by the Jebusites – some of the original inhabitants of the land. 

However, today we’re going to see that conquering this fortress and making it his new capital city would be David’s first priority as the new king of Israel.

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Integrity & Promises

We are currently in the last part of chapter 3 as we study the book of 2 Samuel. And this week, as I was preparing for this message, I was just thinking about how long David had to wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Way back when David was just a young boy tending his father’s sheep – the prophet Samuel had anointed him as the King of Israel. But it would be a long, long road for David before that promise would finally come to fruition. David had to spend years serving as a commander in King Saul’s army, many more years fleeing as a fugitive from King Saul who was trying to kill him, and then even more years fighting in a civil war against the supporters of Saul after Saul’s death.

But in all that time – David never seemed to resist or resent God’s timeline. He never rushed to put himself in the position of King. He never tried to manipulate the circumstances in order to hurry God’s promise along! He just trusted that God would fulfill his promise in his own good time.

And I think that’s one of the character traits of David that I admire most! Even when he had clear and abundant opportunity to move himself closer to the throne of Israel (a position that was promised to Him by God!) – he never chose to sin against God by taking matters into his own hands. 

David even declared this when he spared Saul’s life back in 1 Samuel chapter 24 when Saul was hunting for him to kill him! David said to Saul…

9 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’

1 Samuel 24:9-10

And this was a guiding principle for David – he would not lift his hand against King Saul. God had put Saul in power and David would wait patiently for God to remove him. And this also applied to Saul’s son, Ishbosheth as well. Actually, just a little further in this very chapter where David spared Saul’s life, we see that Saul asked David to show this same kindness to the rest of his family. Saul says to David in verse 19…

19 Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. 20 And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!”

22 So David promised this to Saul with an oath. 

1 Samuel 24:19-22a

So not only has David vowed never to harm the King – he has also vowed not to kill his descendants after him (as many kings would have done!) It was not uncommon back then for the new king to destroy the whole family and close friends of the old king – so they would never posse a threat to the kingdom. But David promised he would not do that. He would never lay a hand on Saul or his family – and he would just trust God with the outcome!

However, not everyone in David’s camp agreed with that policy! We’ve already mentioned in previous messages how there were several occasions when David’s men urged him kill Saul when he had the opportunity. 

And today we’re going to see, that even now with Saul dead, the people loyal to David – on more than one occasion – resorted to going behind David’s back to attack and destroy Saul’s family.

And actually, we already saw that happen last week – as David’s army commander Joab murdered Abner – who was Saul’s cousin and the commander of Israel’s armies. So we’re going to start today by looking at how David responses to that – and then we’ll look at yet another incident of David’s supporters harming the family of Saul – and how David responded to that. 

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Abner’s Quest for Power and Control

When we last left off, David was just beginning to establish his rule over Israel. In fact, at this point, he was king over just one tribe of Israel – the tribe of Judah. The rest of Israel had chosen to follow King Saul’s son, Ishbosheth. However, it wasn’t really Ishbosheth that was calling the shots. Abner, the commander of Saul’s army (who also happened to be Saul’s cousin) had established Ishbosheth as King after Saul’s death. And while Ishbosheth had the title of king, as we’re going to see today, Abner was really the one in charge. But we’ll talk more about that in a minute.

So at this point, there is a civil war within Israel: The house of Saul – led by Saul’s son Ishbosheth is at war the house of David to determine who will be the rightful king of Israel. But the story doesn’t really revolve around David or Ishbosheth as much as it revolves around their army commanders.

As I’ve already mentioned, Abner was the commander of Ishbosheth’s army and Joab was the commander of David’s army.

To make this all a bit more complicated, we read in 2 Samuel chapter 2 that Abner had killed Joab’s brother in battle! Of course, this was very much in self-defence – Abner even told Joab’s brother to go fight someone else, but he refused and so – in the end, Abner was forced to defend himself and Joab’s brother was killed! 

So Joab now holds a grudge and is seeking revenge against Abner for killing his brother. And as you might imagine, this grudge-match between these two army commanders had grown into a full blown civil war! The first verse of chapter 3 sums this up by saying:

That was the beginning of a long war between those who were loyal to Saul and those loyal to David.

2 Samuel 3:1a

That’s certainly not the kind of succession plan any kingdom wants to have! The transition from King Saul to King David was not going smoothly – and sadly, as we pointed out in our last message, Abner really was the driving force behind all this conflict. Had he accepted God’s choice of David to be King – this entire civil war could probably have been avoided! But as it was, Abner’s selfish ambition plunged the nation into a needless war that resulted in great bloodshed, and as we will see next week, ultimately his own demise.

So we’ll pick up today where we left off last time. Chapter 3, verse 1.

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Defining the Church

It is certainly exciting to be able to hold our first Sunday morning worship service here in this building! We have been working towards this day for quite some time now and God has done some amazing things to get us to this point, and I know God will continue to amaze us with what He does through this church in the future.

And of course, when I say that “God will continue to do amazing things through this church” – I’m not actually talking about this building. You see, as wonderful as it is, this building is not actually the church.

And I know that might seem a bit confusing… the english language doesn’t really convey the idea of church very well.

I mean, really, when you think about it, we use the word ‘church’ in all kinds of different ways. For example, we might say.,..

    • “Let’s go out for lunch after church.”
    • “We need to fix the church roof.”
    • “We want to reach the unchurched families in our community.”
    • “Kids, please change out of your church clothes before you go play.”

And you can see why this can be confusing! Judging by those four statements, the church is an event, its a building, its a social status, and its a type of clothing.

I don’t think any of those convey the true definition of what the church really is. If you look at how the Bible talks about the church – it sounds like something very different. Let me show you a few examples:

      • “But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” Acts 12:5
      • “Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem.” Acts 15:2
      • “After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too.” Colossians 4:16
      • “Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them.” Acts 14:27

In these verses, church doesn’t sound like an event, a building, a social status, or a type of clothing. Look at the action verbs there – Praying, deciding, reading, meeting together – those all sound like things that people do. Building don’t pray and events don’t read. People do these things. 

Now of course, if we were Greek speaking Christians back when these verses were originally written, this wouldn’t even be an issue for us. We would understand that the english word ‘church’ used in these verses, or the word ‘ekklesia’ in greek, meant a gathering of people – or an assembly. It had the idea of people being called together for a public meeting. In the Greek language, that’s what an ‘ekkesia’ was – it wasn’t even anything to do with religion, it was just people called together for a public assembly.

So it seems from the language of the Bible that the church is simply people. 

If you’re my age or older, you might know the little poem – Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the doors and here are the people. 

It’s a nice little poem, but I’m afraid it’s just not very accurate! The people are the church. The church is not a building. No steeple is required. The church is people.

And of course, the church isn’t just any people. The church isn’t simply anyone who shows up Sunday morning. The church is made up of specific people. So who are these specific people? Are you one of them? Let’s find out.

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The Sordid Tale of Abner

Two weeks ago we began our study of 2 Samuel – which is really just a continuation of our study of 1 Samuel which we concluded back in 2021! So in a lot of ways, we’re jumping right into the middle of the story – a story that many of us either missed the first half or have forgotten how it all started. But don’t worry – even if you don’t remember part one of this story, I’ll do my best to remind us of the key details as we go along.

For now, probably the key thing you need to know is that the nation Israel is currently in a bit of a state of civil war. In our passage today, Israel is still a very young nation – it’s had only one king thus far in it’s history and that king has just died. So now Israel is at a crucial conjuction. Who will lead Israel next?

One of the twelve tribes of Israel (Judah) has chosen David to be their new King – while all the rest of Israel has pledged their loyalties to King’s Saul’s son, Ishbosheth.

However, our passage today doesn’t really revolve around either David or Ishbosheth – but rather around their respective army commanders – Joab (the commander of David’s army) & Abner (the commander of Ishbosheth’s army).

Now before we read today’s passage, let me just re-read the last verses we looked at last week. This is kinda the setup for today’s story. 2 Samuel chapter 2, verses 8-11.

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