Sermon Commentary for Sunday, July 7, 2024

2 Samuel 5:1-10 Commentary

Whose Idea?

Something that ties together the two mini-texts within our larger lectionary reading for this week is the idea of Divine-human cooperation.

In the first case, we knew long ago (all the way back in 1 Samuel 16) that God had chosen David to serve as the next king of Israel.  But Saul (the king at the time) didn’t know that.  The people of Israel didn’t know that.  All they knew was an upstart kid fell Goliath and then led armies to victory in multiple battles under Saul’s direction. So, sometimes, God knows God’s plan and we don’t.  Sometimes God makes the plan known to a few people who then have to wait for this plan to come to pass.  And then sometimes — finally — God’s plan and an individual’s intention to follow that plan is confirmed in the external call of communal discernment.  So the author of II Samuel lays this all out and places it in the mouth of the people: “In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’ When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.”

For those of us who’ve been reading the Bible a long time, we might miss something in this second section because we all know that God chose Jerusalem as the center of the Kingdom established in the Promised Land.  But where, in the text, does it say so?  In these five verses it seems the idea is entirely David’s. Biblical scholar John Goldingay wrestles with this idea in the following long excerpt. “It is difficult to think ourselves back into the situation when Jerusalem was not the capital. At the time, the idea of Jerusalem as the nation’s capital was as revolutionary as the idea of Canberra being the capital of Australia as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne. Jerusalem will later be described as the place God chose, but here it is simply the place David chose. Maybe David sought divine guidance over the question, but the narrative does not give that impression.”  Here it seems that God is blessing David’s choice, which is particularly remarkable considering that, over centuries of history, we’ve come to see Jerusalem as God’s choice.

Again from Goldingay: “David could work both ways, sometimes looking to God, sometimes doing what seemed a good idea and being grateful afterward for God’s involvement.”  This creates an opportunity to reflect on the ways that we continue to partner with God.  Sometimes, God speaks a word to us in Scripture, in answer to prayer or through the wisdom of Christian community.  And sometimes it seems the choice is left up to us.  Both are valid ways of following God’s leading however, as Goldingay asserts, the willingness to look back and see God at work when it was obvious in the moment and the times it was less clear and to respond with increasing trust and gratitude.

Waiting a Lifetime

For the reader, the span between David’s anointing and his coronation is about 20 chapters, but, for David, the span is a whole lifetime. Literally.  Most exegetes assume that, at the time of his anointing, David would have been a teenager.  Young enough to still be out in the fields and then young enough not to be conscripted into battle with the Philistines along with his older brothers.  So, if we take a rough guess, as some scholars have posed, he would have been 15 years old, give or take a couple years.  Now look at verse 4.  “David was thirty years old when he became king” By the time he was crowned king, he had spent half his life knowing something big was coming and living as an ordinary guy in an ordinary life.  Can you imagine the pain and frustration of waiting? When his brothers went off to war and he was relegated to messenger service? When he killed Goliath and routed the Philistines did he wonder, “Is this it? Have I hit the big time now?” When Jonathan brings David into Saul’s inner circle, can you imagine what he saw and learned? How he had to bob and weave to avoid Saul’s murderous envy. All the while thinking how he would do things differently? And when will it be his turn? But when Saul and Jonathan die, David doesn’t rush in.  He leaves room for grief.  He takes what amounts to a governorship and continues to wait. Especially watching all the political shenanigans and palace intrigue, perhaps he thought he might just content himself with his gig in Judah. Did he ever wonder if he’d heard Samuel rightly? Maybe this was the promise after all. Maybe he’d dreamed too big to think Samuel meant King over all Israel.  He must have wondered, at times, whether all of this was God’s plan.  And then he finds himself in II Samuel, chapter 5.

Illustration: Song and Storybook

Wendell Kimbrough’s Eternal Weight of Glory is a song that captures the waiting beautifully in the words of II Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

You might consider using the Mo Willem’s book in the Elephant and Piggie series: Waiting is Not Easy as a Children’s Message. In this book, Piggie has a wonderful surprise for his friend Gerald.  But they must wait for it.  So, the reader waits with them and weathers all the ups and downs of Gerald’s hope, impatience, anger and, ultimately, delight.


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