II Samuel 21:15-22:1
15 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted.16 And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.” 18 In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha. 19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod. 20 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 21 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him. 22These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men. 1 David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.
David had a sword, a quill and a harp. He fought against Israel’s and God’s enemies with his sword, used his quill to write psalms that gave God glory and engaged his harp to sing to the Lord. You also have these or other instruments and skills. The title of this lesson is Swords, Quills and Harps because the lesson includes your instruments too and how you use them today. David used every tool and weapon at his disposal to honor the Lord. By his example he encourages us to do the same thing. Undoubtedly, you too have this desire.
The stories of Israel’s wars continue today. I recently read a book that recorded the wars that have occurred in Modern Israel since 1948 beginning with the War of Independence. Every story was interesting and similar to the stories we have been looking at in this series. In these verses we read of four specific conflicts with the Philistines involving Philistine giants, which apparently happened toward the end of David’s reign. The Bible’s war stories remind us of the spiritual wars we fight and how we win victories in the name of the Lord.
1. Wars Against the Philistines 15-22
David himself was engaged along with the army against the army of the Philistines and specifically with other giants. Verse 15 says, “Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted.” The Philistines began this war too. David was eager to go with the army even though he had now grown old. He had enough glory from victories and did not need more, but he was not fighting for glory rather for the good of his kingdom. Because of the giant in the enemy ranks, David got in distress and danger. He did not realize that he was not physically able to fight as he had before. His purpose was good but he lacked strength; “he became exhausted.” His physical strength did not match his moral courage. A Philistine champion sought to take advantage of this situation and wanted to—said he would—kill David.
Verse 16 says, “And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David.” With this apparent danger upon David, Abishai, David’s cousin, came to the rescue. Verse 17 says, “But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.” David learned that it was not easy for an active, motivated high achiever to retire, but he yielded to the physical reality and the advice of his loyal men.
We should pause to give some credit to Abishai who proved himself to be courageous and brave and loyal to his king and willing risked his own life to save the life of his king. And other credit belongs to God who spared David again—by bringing Abishai to David in his time of extreme need. Incidentally, we would not know who the “he” in verse 17 is—whether it was Abishai or David who killed this giant—except that verse 22 hints to us that David had a hand in it: “fell at the hands of David and his men.”
David, the model soldier, fainted, but he did not flee; even when his strength failed him, he bravely kept his ground. God sent him help in the time of need and David was once again a conqueror. Christ, when weak from prayers and fasting was strengthened by an angel. In spiritual conflicts, even strong saints sometimes grow weak and when Satan attacks them furiously they too need other soldiers to come along side and pray with them against whatever giant has become an adversary used by the adversary. David agreed to not go to battle against Absalom, but he was still willing to fight against his old enemy. A new rule was established that day, that never again would David be exposed to the danger of battle. The life of any soldier today who is as valuable to the work of the kingdom of God as David was to his kingdom should be protected and preserved by themselves and others. Experienced warriors in our battles are valuable and we want to protect them.
The rest of the giants recorded in this passage were killed by David’s servants. Saph was slain by Sibbechai, one of David’s mighty men as recorded in verse 18: “In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha.” A brother of Goliath’s was destroyed by Elhanan: “In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.” And yet another giant who was unusually large and had more fingers and toes than other people, and who had already witnessed the slaying these other giants, still defied Israel and went to battle and Jonathan the son of Shimea killed him.
Shimea, David’s brother, had another son too, Jonadab. Do you remember the son of Shimea who counseled Amnon about how to obtain his objective with his beautiful sister Tamar? Yes, that Jonadab was the brother of this Jonathan. Jonathan is known for his courage and Jonadab is known for his evil and cunning spirit. How is it that two brothers, raised in the same family, can be so different in character? Do not judge everyone in a family by the character of just the one member that you know. And just because one of your children loves righteousness and does well don’t assume that the others will too. Each child needs to be carefully raised and trained in the ways of righteousness, each in accordance with their own personality, temperament and inclinations. Be a wise parent.
These giants were probably the last remains of the sons of Anak and all these big and strong men were defeated by normal men—no not just by normal men, but by the God who worked through the normal men. And you, normal man and normal woman, you too can be a giant killer in the name of Jesus. Jeremiah said, “Let not . . . the strong boast of their strength.” (Jer 9:23) These giants would have been better off if they had heard and received that instruction. David’s servants were neither bigger nor stronger than others, yet with God’s help they mastered one giant after another.
Back in I Sam chapter 17, David began his glory days with the conquest of one giant and in the end as recorded in II Sam 21, even more gloriously saw other warriors, who served his same God conclude his glory years by killing four others. For the leader—a true leader—it is a greater joy, and a more important evidence of our success, to see others follow our example and on their own and to the glory of God do mighty conquests. We learn to be the guide on the side; not the sage on the stage. We don’t need people to laud and honor us; it is much more gratifying to see our disciples come to the fulfillment of their own destinies.
2. The Harp as a Weapon; Praising God as Warfare II Samuel 22:1
II Samuel 22:1 says, “David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” The entire 22nd chapter of II Samuel is a psalm of praise. With some minor alterations to make a private writing more useful to the public, you can see it again in Ps 18:1-50 with some little variation. II Samuel 22 is the form in which it was first used by David himself with his own harp. Public ministry comes out of private worship. We will never be more successful in the long-term, publicly, than we are privately in our own personal communion with our Lord. Whomever God used to be the inspired historian, that person wrote many chapters in I & II Samuel relating David’s deliverances and now very near the end of this volume he included this private Psalm of David as a fitting end of the record.
Whether David wrote this Psalm near the end of his life or at an earlier stage, we cannot say, but it appears to be a rather general all-inclusive summary of the way David felt and how he related all that he did and all that happened to him to his relationship with his God. God had blessed and preserved him from the beginning to this chapter near the end of David’s life. And we too should, in our praises, look back as far as we can refusing to allow the passing of time to reduce our appreciation for God’s blessings of long ago. Just as David had a variety of life experiences, so we will notice a variety of expressions of praise in chapter 22 at which we will look carefully in the next lesson.
David sang these words. Singing is different than recitation. We will notice David’s warm devotion and very great fluency with words, extensive vocabulary and bountiful poetic expressions. David was a gifted poet and psalmist. He gave glory to God and received comfort from Him. He intermixed his experiences of the past and his expectations of the future throughout this piece of literature.
Before we conclude this lesson, let us observe that the worship of God is warfare. A harp used in praising God is a weapon and the worshipper is a soldier. This is most clearly demonstrated by the story of Jehoshaphat when Judah defeated Moab and Ammon. II Chron 20:21-22 say, “After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’ As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”
A dog’s ears are very sensitive to certain high-pitched sounds. When they hear those sounds, they howl because of the pain in their ears. You have probably observed this. Demon’s, evil spirit’s and devil’s ears are sensitive too and they hate to hear the sound of praises being sung to God. It hurts their ears and they run away howling in pain. Meanwhile, God inhabits the praises of His saints. So when you and I praise and worship, singing with joy to the Lord, God is very present and the enemy leaves. Praise and worship is a weapon. When you praise the Lord, your faith increases and the Spirt to God works God’s wonders.
No one wants to follow a negative, complaining leader. The best way to be a buoyant, faith-filled, optimistic and joyous Christian leader, maintaining a positive attitude, is to love God and delight to worship him. People will follow a person with that kind of character. Praising God promotes optimism; complaining gives place for pessimism.
Because of inconsistency in our emotions we sometimes do not feel like singing. Is not feeling like singing—not having the emotional strength to lift up a voice or make a melody—a reason for not singing, or just an attempted excuse we sometimes make for ourselves? Did you know that the Bible tells us to sing? Eph 5:19 says, . . . speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” If we don’t sing, we are disobeying the Bible. God wants us to sing. David sang. Let’s sing.
In the New International Version of the Bible, the word “music” is found 128 times, “song” is found 110 times, “sing” is found 158 times, “sang” is there 21 times, “choir” is recorded 5 times and “instruments” is written 23 times. God wants us to sing. It is an effective way to do spiritual warfare.
There was a day in the life of Elisha when he needed to hear from the Lord in order to give good counsel to the people who were asking him for advice. But he evidently did not feel like sharing anything with them. What did he do? II Kings 3:15 tells us how he addressed his problem—what weapon he used in his warfare against the enemy who was oppressing him: “‘But now bring me a harpist.’ While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha . . .” Elisha knew the power of music and how it could help create an atmosphere in which the Spirit of God could operate.
The harp is a weapon. Worship can be warfare. Man of God, woman of God, sing, even if you don’t feel like it, sing! The choice of the instrument you use is up to you. Sing to the Lord and give Him glory. God will give you the advantage and triumph you need.