A Cause Worth Its Cost
2 Samuel 5:1-10
Dr. Jim Denison
Red Rountree is a 91-year-old man who walks with a cane, is hard of hearing, and pled guilty recently to stealing nearly $2,000 from a bank. According to the Associated Press, this is his third such robbery in less than five years. He held up a bank in Abilene, but a bank employee got his license plate number as he left the parking lot, and authorities arrested him 20 miles outside the city. He first robbed at bank a week before his 87th birthday, and was arrested within minutes. Less than a year later he robbed another bank, and was sentenced to three years in prison. Now he faces another 20 years in jail. If he does get out, he needs another line of work—he’s not very good at this one.
George Bernard Shaw wrote, “This is the true joy in life…being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.…I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
This weekend our nation remembers the 1.1 million men and women who have died in the service of America and freedom. How do we honor their sacrifice and further their cause? How do we hold up the torch they have handed to us? Is your life dominated by a mighty purpose, by a cause worth its cost and more?
David the warrior king
When we last left David, he was a fugitive from King Saul and Israel. After hiding in the wilderness and among the Philistines, he gathered 400 other fugitives into a guerrilla army stationed in a remote part of Judea. His brothers and family joined him there, as his band of warriors protected wealthy farmers in the area in return for their financial support. They were mercenaries, a security force of sorts.
Saul continued to hunt David. Twice the shepherd could have killed the king, but both times he refused to strike God’s anointed. After Philistine warriors killed Saul, the nation of Israel was thrown into chaos. The Philistines would grow stronger, and soon destroy the entire nation. If the Kennedy assassination had occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we’d have been in somewhat the same situation.
So the tribe of Judah made David, the shepherd-guerrilla leader, their king. One of Saul’s sons claimed the throne in the north, but reigned only two years before two of his officers assassinated him. Then the entire nation made David its ruler (2 Samuel 5:1-3).
The Philistines immediately attacked this united kingdom. And David’s well-trained troops just as quickly struck back, defeating their enemies (2 Samuel 5:17-20). David then initiated assaults against the Philistines, something no Jewish army had ever attempted (2 Samuel 8:1f; 1 Chronicles 18:1). As a result, he was able to secure the first peace the nation had ever known in Canaan.
Seven years after he began to rule the country, David led his armies on the conquest of Jerusalem. This fortified city was one of the most formidable in the ancient world. Its high walls stood atop Mt. Zion, and had repelled the invasions of countless other armies.
But David and his men were successful where others had failed (2 Samuel 5:6-9; 1 Chronicles 11:4-8). Apparently David knew of a secret water tunnel, a shaft which led behind the walls. Joab and others climbed through this shaft and captured the city. It is called the City of David to this day.
Here David reestablished the worship of Yahweh by bringing the long-neglected ark and installing it in a shrine in Jerusalem. Here his son would build the Temple in the next generation.
From this base David then consolidated his entire kingdom. He subdued the hated Philistines, then conquered Moab, Edom, and Ammon to the south and east (2 Samuel 8:2, 13f; 10:1f) and Syria to the north (8:3-12).
At Saul’s death, the kingdom of Israel was a weak vassal of the Philistines and other surrounding enemies, with no certain future of its own. Its army was in disarray, its leadership in chaos, its borders controlled by its enemies. At David’s death, the kingdom had reached its highest military power and stature, and become a secure nation through whom one day the Son of David would come to save us all. He had found a cause worth its cost and more.
Lessons from a warrior king
On this Memorial Day weekend, what do we need to learn from David the mighty and victorious warrior king?
My father fought in the Second World War, and his father in the First World War. Both fought for freedom, for America, for our survival and way of life. Today, some 138,000 men and women are deployed in Iraq, and multiplied thousands more in other troubled places around the globe. More than 800 soldiers have died in this war against terror, and others will likely pay the greatest price in the coming weeks and months as this conflict continues.
They are fighting for the same causes: to preserve and promote the freedoms we exercise by meeting for worship this morning. To protect us. In this war against terror, the president explains that our soldiers fight in Iraq so we won’t have to fight in America. They fight in the streets of Baghdad so we won’t have to fight in the streets of Dallas.