Kingdom warfare, dedication and service

Text 1 Chronicles 18 Time 27 01 21 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church (Zoom)

We can think of 1 Chronicles 18 as the first of three chapters on David's wars. The chapter draws heavily on 2 Samuel 8 and both are summing up sorts of chapter. On first sight, it may look like a rather uninspiring depiction of petty wars for control of trade routes and territory in the middle-east, something that to some extent rumbles on to this day. On closer inspection, however, we will see that it has more to teach us about the Kingdom of God and its advance.
David was no ordinary king. He was the Lord’s anointed and God had promised him victory over his enemies. He points forward to the coming Messiah of these last days and the advance of his kingdom by conflict and conquest. As one writer puts it, these verses are then both history and prophecy, report and preview. It does describe the advance of the kingdom in those far off and relatively primitive days but it also points forward to these last days when the kingdom of God has begun to come with power. These verses can help us in at least three areas.
1. Kingdom warfare - we are involved in kingdom warfare, let’s fight well
The opening verses tell us of four victories David knew over various enemies. One of the key words here is ‘struck’ or ‘smote’ defeated, subdued or struck down. David gained the victory over this series of enemies. Through conflict he gained victory and advanced the kingdom of God in its initial, introductory and very visible form. It was due, however, not to David’s own strength, but to the work of the Lord - The LORD gave David victory wherever he went (6).
  • Firstly, to the west, 1 In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Metheg Ammah (2 Samuel 8 Gath and its surrounding villages) from the control of the Philistines. Metheg Ammah may be a place name or may refer to the mother city or Gath and surrounding villages.
  • Then to the south, 2 David also defeated the Moabites and they became subject to David and brought him tribute. 2 Samuel 8 tells us that He made them lie down on the ground and measured them off with a length of cord. Every two lengths of them were put to death, and the third length was allowed to live. David’s parents had found refuge in Moab at one time. Why the Moabites were dealt with so harshly we do not know. This fulfils Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls all the sons of Sheth. This subjection continued until the death of Ahab.
  • And to the east, 3, 4 Moreover, David defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah, in the vicinity of Hamath, when he went to set up his monument (2 Samuel 8 restore his control) along the Euphrates River. David captured a thousand of his chariots, even thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses.
  • And finally to the north, 5, 6 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought him tribute. The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.
There is also a mention of the overthrow of Edom in verses 13, 14. The words Edom and Aram look quite similar when written down. It is possible that Edom to the south was meant.
There are some little problems here in our understanding of the text but the main point is clear - that God gave David great victories that made him Lord of all the territory from the far north to the deep south.
All this reminds us that as believers we are called to kingdom warfare. We are to fight the good fight wearing our Christian armour and keeping it bright. We are to stand up for Jesus as Christian soldiers marching as to war. One writer notes a number of particular things arising from the text here.
Remember the certainty of victory for the people of God despite what her enemies may throw at her. Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Our enemies may do much but they won’t prevail in the end. A chapter like this reminds us of the fact.
Remember that God judges the wicked at the hands of his people, led by his anointed. Again this arises from the text. In 1 Corinthians 6:2 Paul says Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Of course, in New Testament terms, this does not mean using the sword or any such means. It involves rather preaching the gospel. Here we must be careful, however. One commentator complains about this hymn
For not with swords’ loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
With deeds of love and mercy The heavenly kingdom comes.
You can see his point. Victory does not come through some bloodless coup. There has to be conflict before conquest. The Christian ministry is a savour of life to some but an aroma of death to others.
Remember that warfare is part and parcel of daily Christian living. We are not called to take up a literal sword or wear literal armour as David and his men did but we are called upon to take up the sword of the Spirit and to wear the spiritual armour that Paul describes in Ephesians 6. Without these there will be no victory.
We can add here that this chapter encourages us to remember that victory is certain for our Saviour Jesus Christ. While we look to him there is hope for the future. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will be triumphant. He goes forth conquering and to conquer. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25).
We are in a heavenly fight, a holy war, so let’s fight manfully to victory
2. Kingdom dedication – let’s dedicate all we have and are to the glory of God
In verses 7-12 we have a catalogue of the spoils David and his armies collected from conquered and subservient peoples.
David not only won a great victory over Hadadezer king of Zobah but also, we are told in verse 7 that David took the gold shields that belonged to the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. And further (8) From Tebah {and Kun} and Berothai, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, King David took a great quantity of bronze (which we learn in 2 Samuel 8 Solomon used to make the bronze Sea, the pillars and various bronze articles.)
Then also (9-11) When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer king of Zobah, he sent his son Joram {Hadoram} to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Joram brought all kinds of articles of gold, of silver and of bronze. King David dedicated these articles to the LORD, as he had done with the silver and gold taken from all these nations: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. It would seem that rather than being defeated, Tou voluntarily submitted himself to David’s rule – he kissed the son before he was angry and so did not perish. The application, I trust, is obvious. No nation had to be crushed by David – there was always the option of willing submission. So today all who render up their swords and humble themselves before the Lord have hope.
To this is added another victory (12, 13) Abishai son of Zeruiah struck down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. It is said again to underline it The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.
David clearly had a policy, then, of amassing treasure, all the plunder he gained (gold shields, bronze, articles of silver and gold and bronze, silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued) and dedicating it to the Lord – to be used in the building of the temple by Solomon.
Again, following the lead of a modern commentator, we make two applications:
Are you dedicating all your gifts and graces to the Lord? This was David’s policy with the plunder that he gained from his God-given victories over others. Surely we ought to have a similar policy in making use of the blood bought gifts and graces that are ours through Jesus Christ. What right have we to withhold them when they have been won at such a cost – the cost of Christ’s own blood?
However famous we may become we must be careful nevertheless to give all the glory to God. We learn from 2 Samuel 8 that David became famous after he returned from the striking down of 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt but he did not let that victory go to his head. He took care to put garrisons throughout Edom. He knew the possibility of rebellion was a real one. ‘To God be the glory, great things he hath done’. As with all the other victories, the plunder from Edom was dedicated entirely to God. Let’s dedicate all we have and are to the glory of God.
3. Kingdom service – let’s take up the work that God has given us to do and serve him
Sometimes people will criticise a particular leader for being more interested in foreign affairs than in home policy. There is always the danger for a leader of that happening. It was not a trap that David fell into. We are told in verse 15 that David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. He did what was just and right for all his people.
He was no megalomaniac either but was very good at delegation – something that some of us find rather difficult to be good at. He was good at this on all fronts –
  • Military (Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; .... Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites)
  • Civil (Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; Shavshah or Seraiah was secretary;)
  • Ecclesiastical (Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelech son of Abiathar were priests;)
We are also told that David’s sons were chief officials at the king's side (royal advisers). Perhaps we are to learn here from Christ’s own example of delegation. Certainly in whatever office we are called to in the family, in the church or some other sphere we are to recognise that it has a kingdom role and we are to be careful to exemplify a kingdom lifestyle in the way that we conduct ourselves. A little bit of heaven should come down into our particular role, whatever it may be.