Our reading today begins with more political intrigue. We already saw Abner turn on Ish-bosheth (3:9-10), and then Joab kill Abner (3:30). With the kingdom of Israel in disarray (4:1), we see the king’s own men turn on him. But not before we are introduced to Mephibosheth (v. 4). He will come back into play later. For now, we see that Ish-bosheth is killed (v. 6) and beheaded (v. 7), the beheading being symbolic of Saul’s house being forgotten. The murderers bring the head of Ish-bosheth to David in the hopes that he will reward them for killing his “enemy” (v. 8). Once again, note how this action is mistakenly thought to be of God. But again, David does not appreciate the gesture (like we saw in 1:15), and has the men executed (v. 12). David then buries Ish-bosheth with Abner, again showing humility and respect.
In chapter 5, the kingdom is united under David (5:3). We are told of David’s reign in Hebron, and the coming reign in Jerusalem. This is to set up the narrative in verses 6-9 of the taking of Jerusalem. The metaphorical taunt about the “lame and blind” by the Jebusites is a means of saying their weakest and most unfit for battle are stronger than Israel’s warriors (v. 6). The Jebusites are overconfident in the protection the physical stronghold can provide them. When David calls for someone to climb through the water shaft – an aqueduct of sorts that fed water into Jerusalem from the Gihon Spring – he uses the “lame and blind” as a metaphor for the impotence and lack of foresight by the Jebusites, leading to their defeat (we will see in 1 Chronicles 11 that Joab answers David’s challenge and becomes the leader of the armies of Israel). Note that the terms “Jerusalem,” “Zion,” and “the city of David” all refer to the same place.
In verse 10, we see that God sovereignly increased David’s power and reputation. In the gesture of subservience by the king of Tyre (v. 11), and David’s recognition of what God was doing (v. 12), the story seems to have taken a great turn for David and the people of Israel. However, we see in verse 13 that David’s weakness for women continues to grow. David was not perfect, yet was a mighty instrument in the hands of a mighty God. Just like any of God’s people. But his sin would eventually catch up with him. Just like any of us.
In verse 17, we see that the Philistines want to war against David. When they ready themselves for battle (v. 18), we see that David inquires of God what he should do (v. 19). And the Lord promises, and delivers, victory to David. At the next battle, the cycle repeats itself, with God now giving David explicit instructions (v. 23). In verse 24, we see that God will fight the battle for David. This miracle of hearing marching troops is a tactic God would use again to win victory for His people (see 2 Kings 7:6).
Having established himself in Jerusalem, David wants to bring the Ark there (6:2). However, we see that Israel is not obedient to God’s instructions for transporting the Ark (v. 3 – see Ex 25:12-14 and Deut 10:8), resulting in the death of Uzzah (vv. 6-7). Often, though history may repeat itself, we don’t learn enough from it (see 1 Sam 6:19). So history repeats itself again and the Ark winds up in the home of an Israelite, this time a Levite named Obed-edom (v. 10 – see 1 Chr 15:17-18). And we are told that the house of Obed-edom was blessed because of the presence of the Ark (v. 11), so David is encouraged to bring the Ark to Jerusalem (v. 12). David does so, acting as the High Priest (vv. 13-14). And there was a great celebration (v. 15).
But once again, this turn of events is not without its downside. Michal, Saul’s daughter, resents and hates David (v. 16), resulting, likely, in David ceasing his marriage relationship with her (v. 23). In his exchange with Michal, notice David’s humility before God – a stark contrast to Saul. Note once again that David is acting as the High Priest (vv. 17-19). God’s true King is also Priest.
Psalm 68 is believed to have been written by David when the Ark arrived in Jerusalem. We have seen that God promised He would choose a place for His dwelling (see Deut 12:11, 16:11 as examples). David believes that is Jerusalem. He is right, in the short term. God’s dwelling in physical Jerusalem points to His dwelling in the true Jerusalem, the church, and will culminate at our resurrection when God dwells with us, the New Jerusalem. As we read this Psalm, we can see that David writes of what God has done for Israel, but we can also see he is prophesying about what He has done, and will yet do, for His church through Jesus Christ.
68:1-3 speaks ultimately of the final judgment at the return of Christ. The praise in verse 4 is the praise the Old Testament saints sang, the praise the church now sings, and the praise we will all sing together for eternity (pictured in Rev 4:10-11). Verse 5 tells of what God did in Israel through His law (see Deut 10:18), and what He does through His church (see Jas 1:27). Verses 7-10 describe what God did for Israel in the Exodus, His preservation of them up through David’s day, and what He does for His church through Jesus Christ. God provides for the faithful “weak,” and judges the faithless “strong” (vv. 11-14). Verses 15-16 speak of God dwelling in Jerusalem, but also in His church.
In verse 18, David is speaking of God’s leading of Israel. Paul quotes this to speak of Christ and His church (see Eph 4:8). Like Israel was rebellious (over and over again) and yet God faithfully dwelt among them, so Christ was sent to a rebellious people to save them that He may dwell in their midst (see Rom 5:8, John 14:23). In verse 19-23, David speaks of the physical victory God gives and the physical death He saves from, but also of the Spiritual victory He gives and the salvation He provides from Spiritual death.
In verse 24, the word “sanctuary” simply means something holy. So while David speaks of the physical Tabernacle where God was worshipped, this also prophesies of the church. The Old and New Testament saints alike sing His praises (vv. 25-26). God’s chosen dwelling place – Jerusalem then, the church now – is where people will come and acknowledge God, and the rest – the greedy and the violent – will be destroyed by God (vv. 28-31). David concludes by calling the whole earth to sing God’s praises (v. 32), and praises His power (v. 33-34). This power He works through His people (v. 35), like He did through David.