During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. 2 Samuel 21:1
Perhaps someone might think, ‘Why did David turn to God? Don’t natural disaster occur all the time. It’s just part of life.’
King David knew by faith that nothing happens by chance, certainly not famines for three years in a row! Secondly, David understood that God at times brings judgment on a sinful nation to get their attention and draw them back to Himself.
We don’t often think about God’s relationship to the nations but the fact of it runs through the pages of Scripture. God is deeply concerned about the righteousness of the people who make up each nation. The book of Jonah is a great example of this principle!
There are four things in this chapter of 2 Samuel that deserve our attention.
First of all, David’s action here demonstrates the character of a responsible leader. The Bible says, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people.’ (Proverbs 14:34) And ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.’ (Psalm 33:12) When a leader sees widespread sin or disasters that come in response to the sinfulness of the nation, it behooves him to seek God and take action, which is exactly what David did.
Secondly, when David inquired of the LORD, God answered him. We learn that there IS an explanation for tragedies; there IS a God in heaven who cares deeply about people and will intervene as a heavenly Father to get our attention when we are drifting far from Him. The real tragedy is when a nation does not recognize the discipline of the LORD and continues in its sinful ways.
Third, our God remembers. When God replied to David’s inquiry He said: “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” @ Samuel 21:1 What does this mean?
Joshua, many years earlier had sworn an oath to the Gibeonites that Israel would not harm them. It was an historical agreement and binding on successive generations. Saul ignored it and tried to exterminate all the Gibeonites.
The honoring of solemn agreements between one nation and another is something God takes seriously, even when succeeding leaders or generations don’t.
Some might way that it’s not fair for David’s subjects to suffer for something they did not do. That sentiment does not take into account that as citizens of a nation, we all have responsibility to uphold its values and morals. God remembers what a new generation may disregard.
The Bible warns, ‘Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.’ (Proverbs 22:28)
Fourth, we learn the right way to handle such situations. King David summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them: ‘David asked, What shall I do for you? How shall I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?’ Amazingly the children of the Gibeonites who survived Saul’s slaughter did not want any financial compensation. Instead they asked for seven of Saul’s descendants to be handed over and they killed them as ‘satisfaction’ for the crime of Saul against them. And the Bible says that after the seven had been killed, God lifted the curse from upon Israel. Keep in mind that all this occurred under the Mosaic covenant.
The worst kind of judgment a nation can experience is not an earthquake or a missile attack; it is not famine or economic collapse. The worst judgment that befalls a nation is what the prophet Amos called ‘a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.’
In our day every nation needs to hear the Word of the LORD. Every nation needs to turn from our wicked ways, repent and seek the LORD that He might heal our lands and draw us as individuals and nations back to Himself.