Not a Cookie Cutter God

David was now the king. He's 30 years old by the time he is actually coronated. He's been waiting in the wings. Yes, he was anointed a long time ago. (Some commentators and scholars suggest it was about thirteen years.) More than a decade prior the prophet Samuel had delivered him the message that he would be king. He heard that word as a teenager, but the intervening years had been filled with hiding in caves and running from multiple attempted murders at the hands of the madman who sat on the throne he was ordained to succeed. 

But David was the king now. And kings are to lead their people in times of war. 2 Samuel 5:17 says that when the Philistines heard that David was king they mobilized their forces to capture him. David was told they were coming. He just got in office and war is a part of his first-term agenda.

Now let us look at David's behavior as king. Remember, he is the king now. He is at the top of the proverbial food chain, he's the head man in charge, the point guard, the team captain. But look at what he does. The Philistines are out in full force. They were spread out across the valley of Rephaim. And the King ... makes no decision. He didn't hesitate to make a decision because he was paralyzed with fear. He just realized that despite his position as king over all Israel, He still needed God's guidance. 2 Kings 5:19 says that David asked the Lord two questions: 1. Should I go fight the Philistines? 2. Will you hand them over to me?

Should I Go Fight?

Should I go fight? Not everyone who picks a fight with you is worthy of your time and attention. (It has taken 40 years to learn this lesson!) David was in the stronghold. He wanted to know from God if this is a fight that God had ordained. There are other stories in the Bible of Divine intervention where the Lord has done all the work without human intervention. David knew that his resources were limited. He wanted to know, should I put my fighting men in harm's way for this? Is this a battle I'm supposed to fight? That's a great question. Some of us are always ready for a fight. Before you go wasting your energy and risking your life (or reputation), ask the Lord, "should I go fight?"

Will YOU Hand Them Over to Me?

But the second question is equally important: will you hand them over to me? I suppose on the one hand David was suggesting that while he and his men were willing to die, he just wanted to know. Lord, if you aren't going to hand them over to me, I'll go to my death fighting for you. I just want to know so I can kiss my wife a little longer and squeeze my children a little tighter before I go. But more importantly, David's second question ("will you hand them over to me?") underscores David's awareness that success is not in his own hands; it's in the Lord's. Lord, if I go fight, I'm still depending on You for victory. Will YOU hand them over to me? I'll be your instrument, but You have to give us the victory.

The Lord told David yes. And the biblical record says that David defeated the Philistines at Baal-perazim.

But like the sequel to a horror movie, the Bible says "after a while the Philistines returned." I don't know how many movies were in the Nightmare on Elm Street film series, but Freddie Krueger just kept coming back! It's something how the Lord will bring you through a situation and you'll get a little breather, but after a while you'll face that challenger again. It is no wonder, even when Jesus defeated the Devil in the Temptation, the Scriptures say that the Devil "departed from him for a season" (Luke 4:13).

So here the Philistines are AGAIN. And this is where we ought to pay close attention. The Philistines came the first time to fight. David sought the Lord the first time. And God gave David the victory the first time. David figured that thing out. So when the Philistines came back, guess what David did? Verse 23 says "again David asked the Lord what to do."

The Lord answered David, BUT He changed the strategy. God is not a cookie cutter God.

Assumption Would Have Proved Fatal

It is a grave mistake to assume that you know how God works and so decide based upon how you know He has worked in the past, to go ahead and do it the way you usually do. No! No! It's right there recorded for us in verses 23-24. God changed the strategy. "Do not attack them straight on. Instead, circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees. When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, be on the alert! That will be the signal that the Lord is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistine army."

David did as the Lord instructed, and was again victorious.

I want to remember to seek God's face in every situation, even when it looks just like the last one. I want to know God's will, even when we've faced the same enemy and whooped his tail before. I don't want to be on the battlefield with my enemy and my ego. I need more than that! I want to hear the Lord tell me what to do. I don't want to be on the field running old plays. See, God knows when your enemies have been in the locker room watching old tapes from the previous Superbowl when you sent them home with their tails tucked between their legs. God knows they have been studying your plays and have built an offense to counter your defense. God knew what David COULD NOT have known. So, God said, I'll go before you and bring you around a different way. They won't be ready for what we got for them this time either.

I am encouraged by this story. It reminds me that the same God who was ready to hear David in his troubles is available to hear me in mine today and to hears yours as well. What battle lay before you? What challenges are you facing? Maybe you are facing an old enemy that you've defeated before. Don't be cocky and get cut down. Seek the Lord! Listen for His direction.

David didn't write these words, but his son Solomon did. I think it's a lesson his father must have taught him: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).


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