The Secret to Success

II Samuel 7-10

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
October 2021

We have been studying the life of King David, Israel’s greatest king.  Last time, we looked at II Samuel 7.  Today, we are going to look at the next three chapters of the book.  They are short chapters.

We see in these chapters that David was not passive.  He was a man of action.  He wanted to do things.  David asks three very important questions.  These are questions that we should ask ourselves today.  These three questions all boil down to loving God and loving people.

The FIRST QUESTION question is, “What can I do for God?”  David had a passion for God, and he wanted to do something for him.  He wanted to build God a temple. God said, “No” but the desire itself was good.  What do we want to do for God?

The SECOND QUESTION is, “What can I do for my country?” The country had enemies that hated the Jews.  It had enemies on all sides which attacked, mistreated and abused his people, as we see in II Samuel 8 & 10.

David smote his enemies.  You say, “That is not very Christian.  Aren’t we supposed to forgive our enemies?”  On a personal level we are.  That command is given to individuals, not nations.  David was the leader of a country.  He was a king.

The THIRD QUESTION is, “What can I do to people in need? What can I do to help people who are suffering? How can I bless people?  How can I show kindness to people?”  He asks this question in II Samuel 9.

II Samuel 9 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  It is perhaps David’s greatest hour.  Someone commented that everyone knows the story of David and Goliath.  Everyone knows the story of David and Bathsheba but not as many know the story about David and Mephibosheth.[1]  It is a powerful story.  It is one of the coolest stories in the Bible.

Today, we are going to talk about success.  Everyone wants to be successful in life.  No one wants to be a failure.  People want to be successful, no matter what they do.  How does that happen?

How do we become successful, not just successful in ministry but in other areas of our life, like at work or at home?  What is the secret to success?  In these three short chapters, we will see the secret to success.  David was extremely successful.

David was at the high point of his career.  He has victory after victory.  He has success after success.  What caused his success?  Why was David so successful?  Today, we are going to look at four principles of success from the life of David.

Before we do that, let’s look at his success in these chapters.  These chapters focus on David’s MILITARY SUCCESS.  They deal with David’s empire.  They are about foreign conquest.  These chapters are violent.  They are bloody.  A lot of people die.  There are mass casualties.

That’s what happens in war.  David kills twenty-two thousand Zobahites (II Samuel 8:5).  He kills eighteen thousand Edomites (II Samuel 8:13).  He kills forty-one thousand Arameans (II Samuel 10:18).

Many criticize what David does in the other two chapters.  If you have a problem with what David does here, you will have a problem with what the Son of David will do in the future.  When Jesus returns to earth, He will return as King of Kings.

Preachers do not talk about this too much but when Jesus returns, there will be a bloodbath.  A lot of Gentiles will be killed.  The Book of Revelation talks about a river of blood that is five feet deep.

What seems hard to understand is what David does to the Moabites.  He had Moabite blood in him.  His great grandmother (Ruth) was ethnically a Moabitess (Ruth 4:17). David left his parents in the care of the king of Moab (I Samuel 22:4) and yet David executes these Moabites.

Why was he so harsh on these Moabites?  We don’t know.  According to Jewish tradition, the king of Moab betrayed David’s trust and killed his parents and possibly his brothers.  That is what Rabbinic tradition says but we don’t know this for sure.

David also defeated the Moabites. 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. So the Moabites became subject to David and brought him tribute. (II Samuel 8:2 NIV)

It seems cruel and barbaric but there is another way to look at this.  This may actually be a sign of mercy.  I Samuel 27:9 says, “Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive” (NIV).  Here, two-thirds are put to death and one-third are spared.  It is more humane.  He could have killed them all as God’s enemies, but he does not do that.

David does not completely destroy any of these nations.  He doesn’t wipe them off of the map.  He defeats them and he subjugates them.  They pay him taxes, but he doesn’t exterminate them.

Today, we want to talk about the secret to success.  The first ten chapters of II Samuel deal with the TRIUMPHS of King David.  David is on his way up.  By the time we get to these chapters, David is at the top of his career.

He is the definition of success.  He has fame (II Samuel 8:13).  He was a national hero.  There were songs sung about him.  He has wealth, the wealth of a king.  He is living in a brand-new fancy palace.  He has all these beautiful wives.  The country is united.  It is not divided, like our country is today with red states and blue states, liberals and conservatives.

On the battlefield, he has victory after victory and success after success.  He defeats all of his enemies in every direction, north, south, east and west.  He defeated his enemies to the north (the Arameans).  He defeated his enemies south (the Edomites).  He defeated his enemies east (the Moabites, the Syrians) and west (the Philistines).

The last one was a big deal.  The Philistines were a big problem for the Jews.  They were the ones who killed King Saul and his son Jonathon.  David finally defeats them, and you don’t hear about them again unto the time of Hezekiah.  Just by looking at a map, you can see how successful David was.  Israel looked much bigger under King David than it looks today in the modern state of Israel.

The Empire of David

Israel Today

Four Principles of Success

What caused David’s success?  There was only one thing that caused it.  It was God.  Two times in II Samuel 8 we see the words, “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.”  We see it in II Samuel 8:6 & II Samuel 8:14.

That is the only reason that he was successful and it is the only reason that we are successful today but there are four principles of success that we see in these chapters.

1) Put God first in your life

How did David put God first?  He wanted to build God a temple.  He wanted to bring the ark (the presence of God) to Jerusalem.  When he defeated his enemies, he dedicated the spoils to God.

David took spoils from his enemies and used them to build the temple, articles of silver, of gold and of bronze (II Samuel 8:10). King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued (II Samuel 8:11 NIV).

This is very interesting.  The temple was built by the Gentiles.  They provided a lot of money to build it.  That is a type or picture of NT truth.

The NT describes the church as a temple.  We are a temple to God, a spiritual temple. What is this temple made up of?  It is mostly made up of Gentiles.

But seek FIRST his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

Do we put God first in our life?  Does He come second, third or last?

2) Follow Scripture

If you are going to be successful, you have to obey God.  You have to follow Scripture.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8 NIV)

David does this here.  Everything he does here is in the will of God.  David expands the territory of Israel, but David is not an imperialist.  He is not trying to conquer the world.  He’s not Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.  He is not Adolf Hitler.

These were territories that God gave to the Jews.  They were deeded to Israel.  God owns the whole earth, and He gave certain land the Jews.  He has a right to do that.  He created it.  He owns it.

Are we obedient to the Word?  Do we even know what it says?  Jesus said, “If you love me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 KJV)

3) Live a life of integrity

David did that.  We see that in II Samuel 9.  II Samuel 9 is all about a promise kept.  Jonathon died.  David became king and twenty years later, he remembered a promise he made to Jonathon.

Do you keep your promises?  It is a test of character.  Many don’t.  Many make promises but don’t keep them.  Politicians make campaign promises and don’t keep them.

David promised when he became king that he would always watch out for Jonathon’s family.  He kept that promise even after Jonathon died and even after Jonathon’s dad tried to kill him for years.

David could have held a grudge.  Instead, he kept his promise.  He made a covenant with Jonathon.  He swore an oath to Jonathon, and he kept it.  Do we live a life of integrity?  Would non-Christians say that we live a life of integrity?  Do we keep our promises?

The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind (Psalm 15:2-4 NIV)

4) Show compassion to people in need

A fourth thing that David does in these chapter is that he shows kindness to people.  He not only shows kindness, he goes out looking for someone to show kindness to.  He goes on a kindness search.

David showed kindness TWICE in our section (once in II Samuel 9 and once in II Samuel 10).  He showed kindness to a Jew in II Samuel 9.  He showed kindness to a Gentile in II Samuel 10.

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show KINDNESS for Jonathan’s sake?” (II Samuel 9:1 NIV)

In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. 2 David thought, “I will show KINDNESS (same word) to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. (II Samuel 10:1-2 NIV)

He showed kindness to a member of a rival dynasty (Mephibosheth) and he showed kindness to the king of an enemy nation (Hanun).

One act of was received and one was not.  Hanun didn’t trust David.  He thought he was up to no good. When you try to do good to some people, they get suspicious but, in both cases, David had no ulterior motives.  He just wanted to be kind to people.

Does that describe us?  Every Christian should be kind to people.  Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22 ESV).  We are to be clothed with kindness.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12 NIV).  Are we clothed in kindness?  Do we go out of our way to show kindness to people?

What we learn about David is that he was also a man of mercy and compassion.  He had a heart for people who were suffering.  That is interesting.  David was a strong leader.

He was strong enough to lead a nation and subdue his enemies.  He a military man.  He killed people on the battlefield but there was another side to David.  We see his true nature.

David was kind and compassionate.  He had a compassion for the needy.  Many mock and ridicule these people.  David had a heart for people who were disabled and handicapped.  He had a heart for people with special needs.

The Life of Mephibosheth

That brings us to the story about Mephibosheth.  It is a true story.  What do we know about Mephibosheth?

1) Mephibosheth was a son of Jonathon, David’s best friend

Jonathon was the son of Saul.  That made him Saul’s grandson.  He had royal blood in him.  Saul was Israel’s first king.  Mephibosheth was a physical descendant of Israel’s first king.

2) Mephibosheth experienced incredible tragedy in his life

When he was five years old, three bad things happened to him.  They all happened on the same day.  He lost his father.  He lost his grandfather, and he became crippled (II Samuel 4:4).  He was crippled by a fall. He was hurt by other people.

Many of us are like Mephibosheth.  We have been hurt in life by someone.  Some people hurt you intentionally.  Mephibosheth was hurt because of an accident.  His nurse was trying to help him, but she hurt him accidentally.

3) Mephibosheth was completely dependent on others

Mephibosheth was dropped when he was five.  Now he is a grown man.  This is twenty years later or longer and he is lame, not on one foot but on both feet.  He is permanently disabled.

He can’t walk.  He can’t work.  He cannot earn money.  He has to live with someone because he can’t support himself.  A man named Machir let him live with him.  Machir was a wealthy man.

4) Mephibosheth had a negative self-image

How do we know?  Mephibosheth said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” (II Samuel 9:8 NIV).  Mephibosheth did not say that he was a living dog but a dead dog.  He does not even feel like a real man.

He is married and has a son, but he thought bad about himself.  He could have been a successor to the throne, but he was dropped and then he was damaged and broken permanently.  He had no future. He had no hope.

He had royal blood in him, but he did not see himself as a prince but as a piece of garbage.  He saw himself as completely worthless, like the rest of society saw him.  He did not look good.  He was physically deformed.  He looked like a freak.  He was a social outcast.  Every day, he was angry, bitter and depressed.

5) Mephibosheth lived in hiding every day

Mephibosheth is not only a poor man, living with Machir, he is hiding from David.  Why was he hiding?  Kings in that day typically wiped out the old dynasty.  There was a dynastic slaughterer.

Today, if Democrats take over the White House, Republicans just lose their job or vice versa.  In that day, the old dynasty was slaughtered, so Mephibosheth has to hide.  He hides far away in a place called Lodebar.

Lodebar was a barren wasteland.  It means “a land of no pasture.  It is a place of dryness and negativity.  It was a desert wasteland where many live today.  It was far away from the king.

There is a river between him and King David (the Jordan).  He is living in total fear.  Every day he thinks he might die.  He could be killed at any time.  He was always looking over his shoulder.  He is afraid he might be found.

6) Mephibosheth’s worst fear was finally realized

Job said, “What I always feared has happened to me” (Job 3:25 NLT).  Mephibosheth lives in fear every day and then, one day, it happened.  He was located.  A servant ratted him out.  Mephibosheth hears a big knock on the door.

Who is it?  We are here from the royal palace in Jerusalem.  We are under direct orders to take you to King David immediately.  Mephibosheth was shaking in his boots.

Mephibosheth did not know anything about a covenant between him and his father.  He assumed the worst.  All he knew is that King David was the one his grandfather tried to kill for years and that now the most powerful man in the country suddenly wants to see him and he is absolutely terrified.  He is petrified.

7) Mephibosheth was rewarded beyond his wildest dreams

There is a plot twist in the story.  David does not punish Mephibosheth.  He rewards him.  He expected to be executed on the spot.  Instead of facing the sword, he is rewarded by King David.

David makes him an instant multi-millionaire.  He grants him all of the land that his grandfather Saul owned.  I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul (II Samuel 9:7 NIV).

He goes from completely broke to owning all of his grandfather’s land in Gibeah.  That is great but he can’t take of that land, so David gave him thirty-five people to help him take care of the land he just gave him.

This ugly deformed man was allowed to eat with David’s family as one of his sons.  They adopted him into the family.  He also got to eat at the king’s table, which was a place of honor.  He never has to cook.  He is treated as royalty.

The Gospel of Mephibosheth

What does this say to us today?  What is the lesson for today?  This is a beautiful picture of the gospel.  All of us are like Mephibosheth.  We have all been crippled by a fall.  We have been crippled by the fall of Adam.  All of us have been made lame by sin.  We are helpless.  We have no hope and no way to save ourselves.

We were not seeking God.  We were hiding from Him.  We were running from Him.  God has to see us out.  Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).  We are saved the same way Mephibosheth was saved.  We are saved by grace.

Chuck Swindoll says, “The story of Mephibosheth is the greatest illustration of grace in all the Old Testament”[1]  He did not deserve to sit at the king’s table.  He did not do anything to earn it.  It was given to him.  It was given to him, not because of anything he had done but because of what someone did on his behalf.

He received grace because of an agreement made between David and his dad before he was even born.  We were chosen in Christ before we were born.  We were chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

David accepted Mephibosheth just as he was.  He did not say that once he could learn how to walk that he could eat at his table.  For the rest of his life, he never learned how to walk but he was always accepted at David’s table.

David gave Mephibosheth a new identity.  He adopted him as one of his sons.  When we get saved, we get a new identity.  We become a child of God.

God accepts us just as we are and welcomes us into His family.  He adopts us into His family.  We get to eat at the king’s table.  Because of our salvation, we get to have a person relationship with the Son of David (who was greater than David).








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