Studying the life of David is such a great adventure. His life is an encouragement to any believer, as he experienced great victories and was used in mighty ways by God, and at the same time we see his weaknesses and failures. David’s life gives us all hope; hope that God’s grace and mercy covers a multitude of sins, and that our frail humanity doesn’t disqualify us from being useful in God’s kingdom.
In 2 Samuel 5, we get a small glimpse of David’s relationship with God. By this time, he has been established as king over all Israel. He’s been recognized as king in Judah for more than seven years, but just recently won the loyalty of the rest of the nation, after a lot of political intrigue, violent battles, and rivalries between his followers and those who remained loyal to Saul’s house.
God has finally fulfilled the promise to make David king, and he is beginning to confront Israel’s enemies. This particular passage tells the story of two confrontations with Israel’s hated enemy, the Philistines. Let’s take a look.
2 Samuel 5:17-21 – When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines came and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. 19 Then David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” 20 So David came to Baal-perazim and defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like the breakthrough of waters.” Therefore he named that place Baal-perazim. 21 They abandoned their idols there, so David and his men carried them away.
When David heard of the enemy’s advance, his first response was to go to the stronghold (Zion) and pray. For David, the stronghold of Zion was the city of David, which he had just captured. It was his place of refuge. He sought God’s wisdom before he did anything else. This is significant, because David had fought the Philistines many times before, even defeating their mighty man Goliath when he was just a boy. If he had looked at the situation with human eyes, he would have had every reason to believe he could go out confidently and defeat them again. But as king, he was responsible for all the lives of the people he ruled. He did not take anything for granted, but wanted to know if God was with him, and how God intended to defeat the Philistines. He knew he could not win any battle, even a battle he had won before, without God.
God answered David’s prayer, and released him to go up against the Philistines. The result? The enemy was defeated! God’s promise to be with him, and give them into his hand, was fulfilled.
What did David conclude about this first battle?
He recognized that the victory was God’s. I love how he says it: The Lord has broken through my enemies!
Not long after they were defeated, the Philistines came up against David again. And again, David’s first response is to pray – he asked God what he should do. God again assures David he will defeat the enemy, but not in the same way.
2 Samuel 5:22-25 – Now the Philistines came up once again and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. When David inquired of the Lord, He said, “You shall not go directly up; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. It shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the Lord will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.” Then David did so, just as the Lord had commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.
God gave David specific directions for how he was to engage the enemy. This would not be a direct, frontal attack, but a surprise attack from behind. And he would have the assistance of the Lord’s angelic armies to strike the enemy! David believed God, and obeyed. The result? The enemy was again defeated.
What spiritual lessons can we learn from this short passage?
Just like David, we are at war. We have a spiritual enemy who attacks us repeatedly. Just when we think we have gained some spiritual ground, he will show himself again, attacking from another direction!
How do we fight like David?
#1 – When your enemy attacks, run to the stronghold! Our stronghold, our fortress, is God.
2 Samuel 22:2 – He [David] said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortressand my deliverer.”
Psalm 31:1-3 – In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
Psalm 91:2 – I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”
God is our refuge. He is our fortress. He is our stronghold. Our first response when the enemy is attacking is to turn our focus and our attention toward God. We do this in two ways: we turn our hearts to Him in prayer, and our mind to Him through His Word.
#2 – Don’t assume you can defeat the enemy just because you won a previous battle!
David knew that no matter how many battles God had allowed him to win before, he still needed God’s presence and help to win the current one. He knew his own strength would not be enough.
As New Testament believers, it is especially dangerous to rely on our own strength as our battle is spiritual, not physical. Our enemy is the prince of this world, Satan. As believers, we are protected by God’s Spirit who indwells us, but we are foolish if we think we have any power in our human flesh to engage a spiritual enemy.
Ephesians 6:12 – For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Luke 22:31-32 – “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
#3 – Understand that it is God that gives the victory.
David understood that his victory was God’s work. The Lord has broken through my enemies. Don’t you love that?
· No heart is so hard that God cannot break through.
· No addiction is so strong that God cannot break through.
· No fear is so paralyzing that God cannot break through.
· No failure is so deep that God cannot break through.
· No obstacle is so big that God cannot break through.
· No sin is so evil that God cannot break through.
No matter what we face – whatever trial, temptation or battle – God can break through!
David defeated his enemy because he sought God first, he listened, and he obeyed. God brought the victory; David’s part was to trust, to stand firm, and obey.
We have an enemy, the ruler of this world. For a limited time, God has given him the freedom to influence and destroy. He has no power over a child of God except what we give Him, for our Father rules over him, and has defeated him by the power of the cross.
For His own sovereign purposes, God has allowed us to remain on the earth to engage the enemy in battle. We are members of Christ’s family, the body, the church. The gospel – God’s regenerating work in the human heart – has broken through our hard hearts, our self-sufficiency, our fleshly desires, our physical, spiritual, mental and emotional addictions, and the lies of the enemy. The gospel defeats the enemy, and rescues the prisoner of war held captive.
We must spend time in the stronghold, inquiring after God – seeking His wisdom, power and direction, if we are to live as victorious, being light and salt in this world. We must obey when He commands us to move forward. We must wait when He says wait. And we must give Him the glory for the victory when it comes.