“For not with swords loud clashing, or roll of stirring drums; with deeds and love mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”

Those words, written in 1887, are from the hymn ‘Lead On, O King Eternal.’ It really is a great hymn describing the moment when God’s final judgment will be carried out as He ushers in His heavenly Kingdom in full measure. But there’s one thing off with the hymn. While the rest of the words of the hymn match the feeling, the sense, and the truth of what will occur on that final day when Christ the King comes, the words I’ve just quoted to you do not. They teach that in the end the heavenly Kingdom will be ushered in by Christ not with swords or drums of war but with deeds of love and mercy. Now, while the deeds of the Church are surely to be deeds of love and mercy in this life, will our Lord Jesus usher in His Kingdom with deeds of love mercy in the end? No. Psalm 110, the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament, says Jesus will usher in His Kingdom with all His might, placing all His enemies beneath His feet in subjection to Him despite all objection and opposition to Him.[1] Revelation 19 expounds on this when it says the glorified Church will sing Hallelujah’s and give praise to the Lamb as they watch Him carry out His wrath on all the wicked. So how will Christ bring in His Kingdom fully and finally? Through holy war.

As offensive as this is to modern ears, it’s true. In Jesus’ first coming He came as Savior, lowly, humbly, to die on the cross in the place of sinners. As He rose from death, defeating it for all time, He ascended to rule and reign at the right hand of the Father, and in His Second Coming He’ll come, not as Savior but as Judge, General, and King. Pastor Brian Walls is right to say that if we reject this wrathful reality in God we only worship God for half of who He truly is.[2]

As we continue on in 2 Samuel today we see a preview of these very things as David’s kingdom expands through holy war. So here at the outset let me state something.

I know this is quite a sobering reality to begin with this morning, but let me encourage you. Like a father who instructs his child to not leave the dinner table until they eat the meal prepared for them, the meal they do not enjoy or like the taste of, but also the meal the father knows is good for them…I feel something of a parental instinct here as I bring this text before us. Some of you may not like it. It rubs against almost all of our contemporary sensibilities. Even so, there is a rich, deep, and abundant hope to grab ahold of in this passage.

May God give us soft hearts and open ears as we enter into and linger on this chapter.

The ordering of 2 Samuel is important to take note of. Any reader might wonder whether David would ever be king after reading of all the turmoil contained in chapters 1-4, but the threefold strand of chapters 5, 6, and 7 validate David’s kingship in Israel with certainty. In chapter 5 God unites His people by establishing David as king over them. In chapter 6 God establishes the city of Jerusalem as the center of the worship of His people as the ark comes to reside there. And in chapter 7 God establishes David as covenant head over His people, securing David’s throne forevermore.

After such validation we come to chapter 8, where God continues to make David’s case by giving us a resume of his achievements as king.[3] What achievements you ask? Two achievements: David’s victories (v1-14), and David’s officials (v15-18).

David’s Victories (v1-14)

Let’s begin with v1-6, “After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and David took Metheg-ammah out of the hand of the Philistines. And he defeated Moab and he measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground. Two lines he measured to be put to death, and one full line to be spared. And the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute. David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to restore his power at the river Euphrates. And David took from him 1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but left enough for 100 chariots. And when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians. Then David put garrisons in Aram of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.”

What we see in v1-6 is a list of nations David defeated in his wars as king. This list doesn’t include all the wars David was victorious in but it does include wars that were pivotal to the expansion of Israel. Beginning with the Philistines, then Moab, then Zobah, and then the Syrians David is thoroughly victorious, why? The reason is given in v6, the Lord gave him victory wherever he went. I don’t think it’s surprising to see David defeating the Philistines in the West in v1, we see them fighting many times. It is surprising though, to see him defeating the Moabites in the East in v2, and very violently at that lining up and executing many Moabite soldiers. We shouldn’t forget that his great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabite. So why fight against them if he’s got some Moabite blood in him? Well, some ancient Jewish traditions believe the Moabites executed Boaz and Ruth at a later time, not everyone agrees with that but perhaps that could be one of the reasons.[4] After this we see David in v3-6 defeating Zobah as well as Sryia in the North. Here also we run against something foreign to us as we see David hamstring almost 20,000 horses. Don’t impose a modern notion of fairness or animal rights onto this text. David as king likely didn’t want to acquire numerous horses like Deut. 17:16 says, and likely wanted to ensure these horses couldn’t be used against them for war so he saw to it that they could only be used for agricultural work. And also, remember Psalm 20:7? “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” David did what he did to these nations, these enemies, and their horses and wrote this Psalm because he knew where Israel’s trust ought to be.

v7-12 continue to show these things, “And David took the shields of gold that were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. And from Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took very much bronze. When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the whole army of Hadadezer, Toi sent his son Joram to King David, to ask about his health and to bless him because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him, for Hadadezer had often been at war with Toi. And Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold, and of bronze. These also King David dedicated to the LORD, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued, from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah.”

Here we find a description of what David did with all the spoil and plunder he received from his victories. Within this passage there is a brief mention of another king named Toi in v9-10. Apparently Toi, king of Hamath, had often been at war with David’s enemies and upon hearing of their defeat Toi made sure he was in good terms with David. Toi is one example of a nation that wasn’t subdued by David but submitted to David. Toi actually did what Psalm 2 calls kings to do. In Psalm 2:10-12 we read, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Because of this Toi brought to David more silver, gold, and bronze. And do not miss it, all David won from the nations he defeated and the gifts he received he brought to Jerusalem and dedicated it to the Lord.

v13-14 concludes this first section saying, “And David made a name for himself when he returned from striking down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. Then he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.”

David as king was, for Israel, a man of war. And by warring against their enemies well he made a name for himself. Even so, as David was victorious all around, as David gained much plunder from the nations, and as David set up outposts in his conquered nations to ensure their reign over them we hear the repeated refrain once again, “And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.”

Think about these first 14 verses as a whole. In v1-12 we see David expand Israel’s borders to the West, to the East, and to the North. Here in v13-14 we see David expanding their borders to the South by defeating Edom. Israel’s borders through the wars of David in v1-14 expanded to the four points of the compass, and symbolically to the four corners of the earth.[5] That we notice this, really matters. Why? Because Israel under David has not only expanded its borders massively, it has expanded its borders covenantally. By that I mean this. David didn’t just attack who he did by whim, there was purpose in it. Israel’s new and larger borders secured through David were the exact borders of the land God promised to Abraham back in Genesis 15 and to Moses back in Numbers 34. Lesson? First, this is the definitive reason why David attacked where he did. God was fulfilling His promise to Abraham through him. Second, though war is thick here in this chapter the main point to see here in this chapter isn’t war. The main point for us to see here today is that God keeps His promises to His people.[6]

And so we remember 7:9-11. There God makes a promise to David and His people saying, “I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.” This passage says on one hand that God has already cut off all their enemies and says on the other hand that God will give them rest from their enemies. Which is it? Has God done this already or will He do it soon? Well, the answer is a simple ‘yes.’ By the time we arrive at 2 Samuel 8 we can clearly see that God has been doing this for His people and that God will continue to do this for His people. So as we view these victories in our text then, fix your gaze not most prominently on David’s wars but on the God who’s made such great promises and brings those great promises to pass![7] Twice in v1-14 we read the main thrust “And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.” Abraham didn’t see the promised borders expand this much, Moses didn’t get to enter the promise land, and Joshua, who won many conquests didn’t get to see the promised borders expand this much. David not only did get to witness it, he got the joy to be instrument through whom God would expand the borders this much.

That’s what the original readers of this book would’ve picked up on and rejoiced in, and in their joy and rest in God’s faithfulness we can have joy and rest as well. We will unpack what this means for us today, but first let’s finish out the text. 

We’ve seen David’s achievements in his victories in v1-14, now see the achievements in…

David’s Officials (v15-18)

“So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people. Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder, and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Seraiah was secretary, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and David’s sons were priests.”

After his victories we now see David’s officials. This last section begins in v15 with a statement, “David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people.” Well, how did David reign and administer justice and equity? See v16-18, by installing people within his royal administration whom he believed fit those requirements. And though not perfectly, David did by and large put the right people in the right positions within his kingdom. In this way David was a good king, administering justice and equity to all the people.

Conclusion:

Now, what does all of this mean for us? Well, earlier I told you this chapter isn’t only sobering to us in many ways, it also contains a rich, deep, and abundant hope to grab ahold of. What hope? A rich, deep, and abundant hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Man of War. We can joyfully say after lingering on such a chapter that David’s kingdom while not perfect, is a preview of Christ’s Kingdom. How so? In the following ways:

In his wars David overthrew the powers of evil that surrounded him, made many of his enemies his servants in the process, gained a vast amount of wealth from these nations, received honor and made himself a name, and fulfilled promises of old. That’s what David did here. All of this that David did militarily Jesus did spiritually.[8] He overthrew the powers of evil that surrounded Himself in His life by His death and resurrection. Through His gospel He made and is now making many of His enemies His servants. He gained a vast amount of wealth and riches by plundering sinners out of the Devil’s house. And in all of this He made Himself a great name by fulfilling ancient promises of old. But do not believe this work of Jesus is over. Jesus didn’t just do this for us spiritually in the past in His First Coming, He will do this for us militarily in the future at His Second Coming. On that Day King Jesus will fully and finally overthrow all His enemies on earth. On that Day He will fully and finally force His enemies to bow before Him in humility. On that Day He will fully and finally receive a vast amount of riches as the wealth of nations stream into His everlasting Kingdom. And on that Day He will fully and finally make Himself a great name by bringing to pass ancient promises of old and reigning over all things for all eternity in perfect justice and equity!

Church, do not try to soften the strength or try to mute the might of Christ as if you were embarrassed by His holy warring ways. There will be conflict and conquest as King Jesus establishes His Kingdom with His own armed might in the end. But on that Day His conquest will give way to consummation as He casts the wicked into hell and brings His Bride, the Church, to Himself in glory. It might seem like sin, Satan, and death are winning this fight in the present moment and we might be tempted to despair, but we know the great hope for all who now know and all who come to know this King by faith. The gospel message and gospel offer of salvation is now extending as David’s kingdom did, to the four corners of the earth. And like Toi submitted himself and all he had to King David you too can submit to Christ the King now and receive welcome, pardon, and entrance! All who don’t submit to Him He will subdue to Himself. Hear how Paul says it in 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-10a, “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction that comes from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…”


[1] Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Revised edition (Fearn, Ross-Shire Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 112.

[2] Thankful to Brian Walls and his Publicans 2019 conference message for this insight.

[3] John L. Mackay and J. Gary Millar, ESV Expository Commentary: 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles, ed. Iain M. Duguid, Hamilton Jr James M., and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2019), 343.

[4] Mackay and Millar, 344.

[5] Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003), 225.

[6] There is debate as to when the events of chapter 8-10 took place. Some see these victories not as chronological, but as thematic, showing how great David’s kingdom has become. Others would differ and say it is more chronological than it appears. I tend to agree with both of these views. I don’t doubt that there are both thematic and chronological elements to these chapters, but I think the author of 2 Samuel wants our focus elsewhere. Where does he want it? On God who keeps His promises.

[7] Leithart, A Son to Me, 225.

[8] Richard D. Phillips, 2 Samuel (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2018), 171.

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