ISRAEL'S HISTORY: ANCIENT

Miraculous Breakthrough—Winning Strategy

Miraculous Breakthrough—Winning Strategy
By Charles E. McCracken
GROW January 28

 

TODAY’S TEXT: 2 SAMUEL 5:17-25

 

So David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted His kingdom for the sake of His people Israel. 2 SAMUEL 5:12

 

David’s first official act as Israel’s king brought unprecedented unity to the nation of Israel. Around 1003 B.C., he successfully established the capital of the unified tribes of Israel in Jerusalem; and, history supports only one location—the capital of Israel is Jerusalem.

Living in the capital city, David reflected on his situation, that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted His kingdom for the sake of His people Israel (1 Sam. 5:12). David humbly recognized his success was not proof of his own wisdom or ability; God was blessing His Chosen People, Israel, by exalting David’s kingdom.

The Philistines discovered that Israel had crowned David as king and also recognized the significance of David’s coronation—they were not happy.

David had a reputation. As a teenager, he had accepted Goliath’s challenge that resulted in the humiliating defeat of the giant and the Philistine army (1 Sam. 17:40-51).

In Saul’s army, David was known for unparalleled success in battle with the Philistines (1 Sam. 18:5-7).

The Philistines had little concern about David while he was exiled and hiding from King Saul. They were indifferent to David as king of Judah while he was preoccupied fending off attacks from loyalists in Saul’s army led by Abner. But, when the unified tribes of Israel anointed David King of Israel, it was an entirely different matter.

Suddenly, all the Philistines went up to search for David . . . and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim (1 Sam. 15:17-18).

The Philistines traveled to Jerusalem undoubtedly using the ancient trade route from the coastal plain through the Elah Valley and up the Valley of Rephaim. On a broad plane a little over three miles southwest of Jerusalem, just before the valley narrowed into a steep-walled canyon, the Philistine army established battle lines and waited.

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Emek Refaim Street sign (lit. Valley of Refaim Street; a Jerusalem street that descends into the Valley of Rephaim). (שלט רחוב עמק רפאים) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons ~ Enhancement: MKM Portfolios

Hearing of the threat, David secured his fortress and inquired of the Lord,

Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand? And the LORD said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand” (v. 19).

Responding to God’s assurance of victory, David and his men engaged the Philistines.

David’s attack was like water breaking through a dam scattering the Philistines in every direction. As a result, the place became known as Baal Perazim—“the Lord who breaks through” (2 Sam. 5:20). (1)

The retreat was so swift, the Philistine soldiers abandoned the idols and good luck charms they superstitiously carried into battle.

While it was customary for ancient armies to use images of their gods or related items to boost their prospect for victory, the goal was to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy who would parade the idols through the streets as trophies of conquest. 

In the text, we are told, David and his men carried them away (v.21). The word translated “carried away” is actually “burned” (Heb. wayisaem, וַיִּשָּׂאֵ֥ם). After removing the pagan symbols from the battlefield, David burned them in accordance with God’s Law (Deut. 7:5).

With just enough time to regroup and re-hone their defensive strategy following their unceremonious retreat, the Philistines reemerged onto the battlefield with renewed threats to destroy David and the capital city of Jerusalem. Unbelievable as it sounds, they set up their camp in the exact same location—a situation that borders on humorous.

Careful not to take anything for granted David again inquired of the Lord for guidance.

Unlike the previous occasion, this time God gave David a specific strategy:

You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines (vv. 23-24).

PikiWiki_Israel_42681_Old_mulberry_tree_in_Kibbutz_Hanita_too

Old mulberry tree in Kibbutz Hanita. Image courtesy, Dr. Avishai Teicher, Pikiwiki Israel, [CC BY 2.5] via Wikimedia Commons ~ Enhancement: MKM Portfolios

Circling around the Philistine camp, David cut off the enemy’s escape route and waited until he heard rustling in the mulberry trees, as God had instructed. The result was another decisive routing of the Philistine army.

With God’s help, David chased the Philistine army 25 miles— all the way to Gezer into the Philistine-controlled area of the coastal plane.

Rather than relying on his own wisdom and ability, David habitually consulted the Lord in all his endeavors.

God gave David two decisive victories over the Philistines—the first, a miraculous breakthrough—the second, a winning strategy.

God also used David’s faithfulness to firmly establish Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel not only during his lifetime, but forever (1 Kings 11:36).

Just like King David of old, when we trust God as we face the realities of our daily experience, He will often give a miraculous breakthrough; at other times a winning strategy. In either case, we are assured of having all that we need to succeed living in faith God’s way.

ENDNOTES:
1) Although the Canaanite peoples worshipped a pagan god named Ba’al, the “term” ba’al used in 2 Samuel 5:20 is a common Hebrew word that simply means lord or master.

© Charles E. McCracken 2016, text content only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author.