2 Samuel 21 … Consider Him Who Spares Because of His Covenant

“But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the oath of the Lord which was between them, between David and Saul’s son Jonathan,” (21:7).

King David finds himself in that place, where human wisdom offers no remedy, where human intervention is not the solution. After three years of drought, “David sought the presence of the Lord,” (21:1).

The Law of War; so much I simply cannot comprehend. But Scripture is clear; the land was under judgment and Saul’s excessive brutality, “his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death” is deemed the cause of God’s famine upon the land, (21:1).

But wait! Weren’t the Gibeonites pagans living in the Promised Land? And hadn’t God instructed His people to take possession of the land, and typically this meant war? War is bloody. How could Saul have been guilty of blood in war? Samuel inserts a parenthetical clarification. “…(now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah), (21:2).

We find the detailed account in the book of Joshua. In Joshua 9, the fame of God and the conquests of His children had spread to the surrounding nations, and the Gibeonites were terrified. Moved by fear, they concocted a plan to trick the Israelites into believing they did not live in Canaan, but in a land far away; and then asked to enter into a peace treaty covenant with the Jewish nation. Rather than consulting God, the men of Israel agreed, and the Gibeonites enjoyed safety as a result.

Until Saul… in his zeal, Saul discounted the covenant. But God takes covenants seriously and David understood this.

“Thus David said to the Gibeonites, “What should I do for you? And how can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord?’” (21:3).

David’s people had sinned and atonement was needed. The word in Hebrew translated atonement is defined by Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance as the following:

” כָּפַר kāp̱ar: A verb meaning to cover, to forgive, to expiate, to reconcile. This word is of supreme theological importance in the Old Testament as it is central to an Old Testament understanding of the remission of sin. At its most basic level, the word conveys the notion of covering but not in the sense of merely concealing. Rather, it suggests the imposing of something to change its appearance or nature. It is therefore employed to signify the cancellation or “writing over” of a contract (Isa. 28:18); the appeasing of anger (Gen. 32:20[21];”

Saul’s actions needed to be covered, cancelled, written over in order to appease God’s righteous anger.

The Gibeonites seemed to understand too, as they were not seeking a bribe or revenge.

Then the Gibeonites said to him, “We have no concern of silver or gold with Saul or his house, nor is it for us to put any man to death in Israel,” (21:4).

Atonement must be made, and seven of Saul’s sons would suffer execution as a result. Seven, the symbolic number in Scripture signifying completeness. Seven sons would symbolize a complete atonement over Saul’s household to remove the judgment of famine over the land, a famine perhaps ushered in by the withholding of rain, “And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until it rained on them from the sky;” (21:10 emphasis added).

What? Seven, who were guilty merely by birth, would be put to death to cover Saul’s disloyalty? Chalk this one up alongside the multitude of Biblical accounts I cannot comprehend.

But then, overshadowing my befuddled thoughts, these words rose up, almost as though off the page.

“But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the oath of the Lord which was between them, between David and Saul’s son Jonathan,” (21:7).

King David spared the son of Jonathan because of the covenant between them!

“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself,” (2 Samuel 18:3).

A covenant established in faith, ratified by love. And suddenly it all made sense!

His Word explicitly explains our rightful destiny.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Ephesians 3:23)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 6:23)

His Word details the demand for atonement.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement,” (Leviticus 17:11).
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness,” (Hebrews 9:22).

His Word unequivocally unveils our only hope is in Him Who Spares Because of His Covenant. We too are guilty by birth. And atonement must be made to remove the judgment upon us. In Jesus Christ alone, the completeness of God’s wrath is appeased, and the debt we owe, the debt we could never repay is cancelled, written over as paid in full.
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14).

Consider Him Who Spares Because of His Covenant

  • He Spares Because of His Covenant established by faith.
    • “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast…12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ,” (Ephesians 2:8-9, 12-13).
  • He Spares Because of His Covenant, ratified by His love.
    • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
  • He Spares Because of His Covenant, and He is moved by prayer.
    • “…and after that God was moved by prayer for the land.” (21:14).
    • “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
      And His ears attend to their prayer,
      But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,”
      (1 Peter 3:12).

How are we to respond to Him Who Spares Because of His Covenant?

It is only as we receive by faith His atonement through the blood of Christ, His payment for our sins, that we will be spared. Oh, if you are uncertain of your destiny, please don’t let another moment pass to receive His gift of grace! He is faithful to His promise to Spare Because of His Covenant.

“…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,…” (Acts 16:30-31).

His love cannot be earned, but it must be valued through lives and hearts of obedience. Let us not take His love for granted, but live with gratitude in submission and service to Him Who Spares Because of His Covenant.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

When we turn to Christ for salvation, we have been spared from eternal condemnation and death; but sin still bears consequences in this life. When our sin brings times of famine, times of the rain of His blessings withheld, let us go to the Lord in humility, confession and repentance, trusting Him Who Spares Because of His Covenant, to again be moved by prayer and send His refreshing presence.

 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19).

Let’s Grow Together!

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