Speaker: Pastor Don Woke
Key Passages: 2 Samuel 21
Today, I will speak on what I have titled Bringing the Famine to an end. At the end of this message, someone here should be able to say “The Famine is Over”. In the Bible we find, a few instances of famine in Israel, as we see in our scripture (2 Samuel 21). Famine is a period of extreme and severe scarcity, especially of food. Famine is a time of lack, people die because there is no food. Famine can occur because of a prolonged drought, the ground becomes scourged, and crops are unable to grow. Because there is no harvest, people are hungry, and die from starvation.
There are different types of famine: scarcity of finance, or spiritual dryness, where the sweetness of fellowship is absent. Whatever famine we can relate to or identify with, the word of God shows how we can return to plenty. If you look at the Bible, you will see that God never planned for his people to suffer famine. In fact, you will find that a famine is an indication that things are not right with God: in Deuteronomy 28, God lists famine as a consequence of disobedience. Now, you will understand why David was worried that there was famine in the land (2 Samuel 21). He had been on the throne for probably 10 years when the famine occurred. After the third year of dryness, he decided to seek the Lord. He got an answer- the famine was the expression of judgment or a curse upon the Land. The previous King Saul, out of zeal for Israel had killed Gibeonites, to whom the Israelites had sworn a covenant of protection by Israel.
Saul violated the covenant of protection by murdering Gibeonites. There was no immediate consequence, but in David’s time a famine occurred. David asked the Gibeonites how he could make amends, and offered monetary payment, but they demanded the death of the descendants of Saul following the principle laid out by God in Deuteronomy 21: 22-23: “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God”. David gave the Gibeonites 7 sons of Saul as atonement, and asked them to bless the land of Israel.
Sowing and Reaping/Cause and Effect
There is a law of cause of effect. Biblically, it is called the law of sowing and reaping. Saul made choices and decisions, the consequences of which his children suffered. In those days there was a saying in Israel: the fathers ate sour grapes, but the children’s teeth have been set on edge. In Ezekiel 18: 2 God said he would bring that to an end. If you do not understand how to get out of certain situations, you may suffer the consequences of what other people have done. God judged the land because of the violation of the covenant made between Israel and Gibeonites. If you go back to Joshua 9, you will wonder why God punished Israel: the Israelites had been tricked by the Gibeonites into making the covenant. Years later, Saul decided to destroy them by genocide. But God decided to punish Israel for breaking their oath.
Brethren, there are things we take for granted, or treat with levity, but God takes them seriously. In fact the relationship of God’s with man is on the basis of covenant. When covenants are violated, God makes sure that justice is done. God was not answering the prayers of the Israelites simply because of the violation of their covenants with the Gibeonites. Are there covenants or oaths that we have violated? For example, we are all familiar with the marriage covenant: 1 Peter 3:7 says “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered”.
In Malachi 2:13, we see the consequences of violating a covenant;
“And this is the second thing you do:
You cover the altar of the Lord with tears,
With weeping and crying;
So He does not regard the offering anymore,
Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands”.
God says he will hold us accountable to covenants that we enter into. I have known people living below God’s best for them because they treat the covenants of God lightly. Are there commitments in our lives which we have not fulfilled? When we fail to honour commitments we attract consequences to our lives. God is faithful, and he expects us to be faithful. Time does not change this principle. I’m sure there are people who have been suffering for years, experiencing famine in the lives, and want a way out.
The Gibeonites asked for atonement, they asked to be appeased by the blood of the person who killed them. They were following the Old Testament law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24). In trying to solve this problem, David was careful not to violate his covenant with Jonathan, the son of Saul (he spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth). He made sure the covenant he made with Jonathan was upheld as he solved the problem of the famine. Many of us, in trying to solve a problem, we create another one, many times by violating the principles of our lives and the principles of our faith. We allow need to violate our sense of judgment.
In our scripture, we see the woman Rizpah, Saul’s concubine who watched over the hung bodies of Saul’s sons to make sure their bodies were not mutilated. Even after the sons of Saul were hung, the famine did not come to an end, and prayers were not answered. David was told what Rizpah did (protecting the bodies of the slain sons of Saul), after which he went to retrieve the bodies of the sons of Saul, to give them proper burial. After he did this, prayers were answered in the land of Israel: God’s law demanded that bodies were not to be hung on the tree for more than 1 day (Deuteronomy 21: 23). The bodies of the sons of Saul were hung for 6 months. As bad as Saul was, he who caused judgment to come on the land, God made sure justice was done to the house of Saul. It was only after David did the proper thing that God decided to answer the prayers of Israel. God upholds his principles at every point. God will not bend his rules for any of us.
Are there pending issues in our lives that must be brought to closure?
The picture of Redemption is so vividly painted in this story: the shedding of the blood of 7 sons of Saul was enough to lift the curse from the land, to bring about the end of famine in Israel. The atoning of the offence of Saul against the Gibeonites satisfied Divine Justice: both God and man were satisfied and the famine was lifted. Through the experience of Israel, Galatians 3: 13-14 became clear to me: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”.
Through this story, we see a picture of what Jesus did for us: the sons of Saul were hung to lift the curse on the land. God sent his own son Jesus, and he was crucified. As a result, the curse upon our lives has been lifted. That’s the good news of the gospel, that when Jesus was on that cross, the demand of Divine Justice concerning our lives, concerning humanity was satisfied. Whatever our parents have done, whatever choices and decisions they have made that have brought famine upon our lives and families: Jesus became a curse for us.
Curses are a popular teaching in Nigeria, and we hear about the bizarre things people do supposedly to lift curses. Do they understand Redemption? We have not been able to confront our problems in the light of the sacrifice of Jesus for us. If the death of ordinary men could appease judgment, then the death of Jesus is more than enough to lift curses and bring the blessings of God into our lives. If you do not understand this, you may continue to live below God’s intended plan for you. Jesus’ death on the cross lifted the curse of the law of violation of God’s covenant upon our land. We have a better place to stand to believe in God for blessing: the sacrifice of the son of God. If you have given your life to Jesus, if you are saved, you are not under a curse.
I want you to know how to apply what Jesus has done to your life. Until this becomes a personal revelation to you, you will be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and fanciful preachers. Jesus has met every demand upon your life. The blood of animals or mere men could not satisfy God. The next time someone comes to tell you that you are labouring under a curse, please respond I am NOT under a curse. Today we will enforce a principle of scripture. If you have violated principles, we will ask God for forgiveness. All we do is lay hold on what God has provided, and ask God for mercy.
“Lay hold on mercy today”