I am thankful for Bible commentaries, without which I would be hopeless lost for a chapter such as this. My favorite one is free online, in you’re interested.
Chapter 21 starts with a three-year famine in Israel. When David asks God about it, He says it was a direct result of a national covenant that Saul broke.
It seems odd that God would cause a famine toward the end of David’s reign for something that Saul had done years before. It’s not completely clear, but this section may be out of chronological order. Some scholars believe it took place not long after David brought Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son) to his palace earlier in his reign. In context, there’s nothing that indicates it happened earlier, so I don’t know. Given that the next section talks about David getting too old of fight effectively, it seems likely to me that it was in chronological order. Does it exactly matter when the events occurred? Probably not.
What does this passage say about God, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit?
The fact that the land of Israel was in famine during David’s reign for something that Saul did illustrates that God takes covenants seriously. Joshua made a covenant with the Gibeonites that they would not be harmed. Years later, Saul broke the covenant (the Bible doesn’t say how), and it resulted in the entire nation of Israel being cursed (famine).
The interesting thing about the covenant that Joshua made were that the Gibeonites tricked him into thinking they were foreigners, when in actuality they were some of the people that Joshua was supposed to exterminate from the land. Even though the covenant was made deceitfully, the binding nature of the covenant was recognized both by the people of Gibeon and Israel. And also by God.
What does this passage tell us about people, life, or faith?
It was interesting that when David realized that the land was under famine because of a broken covenant with the people of Gibeon, he didn’t decide himself what to do. Instead, he invited the Gibeonites to tell him what would satisfy them. There is wisdom here for repairing relationships. If we decide what will satisfy others, we run the risk of doing something yet still missing the mark. The fact that David made them tell him what would satisfy them seems wise to me.
Why did God put this passage in the Bible?
It shows us that God takes covenants seriously. That should make us feel better. If he takes even a deceitfully entered covenant seriously, how much more seriously will he take the promises he made to us?
How does this passage relate to my life?
Ugh. I don’t know. We’re not under the law anymore. Not exactly, anyway. Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. So the national covenants of Israel don’t really apply to us. However, we should still be obedient to God. So maybe that’s it?
How can I put this truth into practice?
The two greatest commandments: Love God with all my heart, soul, and mind; love my neighbor as myself. Easier said than done.
It’s like we live within a fog. With so many distractions around us, it’s hard to tell where the path is, much less where it is leading. But God is like a light in the fog. As long as we head toward the light and trust that he will place before us what we are to do, we don’t need to see clearly all around us.