2 Samuel 5:1-10

Martin Luther King, standing in Washington, D.C., once heralded his cry to the millions, “I have a dream!” On the basis of such inspired vision, black and white Americans were able in time to surrender the heat in their smoldering prejudice.

Karl Marx wrote in his famous Thesis XI, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” (cited in Klaus Bockmuehl, The Challenge of Marxism [Downers Grove, Ill., InterVarsity Press, 1980], p. 27.)
To see the better way and offer our perception is a way to heal — all vitality in churches or corporations roots itself in such perception.
Vision! Vision! Vision! It drives and inflames us and pushes us forward!
Visioning is the new centerpiece word of corporate existence. Companies crave it. Leaders lust after it. Churches which have it thrive, those which don’t fall quickly away in membership. Proverbs 29:18 calls out a great truth, “Where there is no vision, a people perish.”
Perishing is the most common result of visionless living. Always life drifts when vision sleeps at the wheel. Israel wandered for forty years in the desert, walking refugees without a homeland. These meandering sojourners had rejected the wondrous vision, and without their vision they were as blind men before the purposes of God.
In Acts 9:15, Saul, the Christian killer, receives a vision that changes his life:
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man [Saul] is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).
Saul, the night-stalker, now sees and the hunter becomes the hunted. Saul became inflamed with a new vision of himself in the plan of God.
Some years ago I was on a very prominent religious campus whose world-famous chancellor had just had a vision of a 900-foot Jesus. The whole nation was talking about the Jesus Gargantua; some were critical of its size. In some ways the vision seemed a little excessive, even to me, but when I left the campus, it seemed to me that I have seen Christianity suffer more because of people who live without any vision of Jesus. Having a 900-foot vision must be better than visionless living.
The admen sell fastest when they deal in vision and image. Posters that say, “Be all you can be in the Army!” draw a high-schooler toward his macho, martial destiny. Most all of us are sold products on the basis of a better self image.
Some years ago I saw a men’s cologne commercial on television. I’ve never forgotten the impact it had on me. The commercial pictured a half-clad man, going through the jungle. He followed a black panther he held on a short leash. Ever and again, the savage man would stop and growl. Then the camera would switch to the panther and it, too, would snarl and growl. Obviously this was a very macho cologne.
As they thrashed their way through the jungle, they finally got to the end of the trail, where they stopped and growled together. It was all so savage, so macho, so “much like myself,” it seemed. The commercial concluded with this beautiful Sheena-queen-of-the-jungle type of woman stepping from the foliage, leaning her head against his aboriginal, feral chest, and growling to herself.
I was overwhelmed with macho. I went forthwith down to the department store and bought a bottle of this primitive potion of power. I practiced growling all the way from the store. I dabbed a bit on and went in the house, leaned up against my wife and growled.
“Why can’t you ever pick up your socks?” she said. I felt wimpish and non-savage! Then I doused myself more liberally and went to the deacons meeting, growled and was nearly fired. I decided then and there not to buy any more of that stuff! No matter what the ads say, they were selling an image that just did not work for me.
I want to suggest to you that real vision in the life of a leader does not come in terms of bogus image. It does come in terms of a couple of things: Number one, vision always inspires enthusiasm. David had walked around his capitol city, Jebus, for a long time. As he walked around it, he could never get over the truth that Jerusalem belonged to somebody else! This great walled city was right in the middle of his monarchy, but it wasn’t his! His fellow countrymen were entirely intimidated by it. Realistically, David knew he had to lay siege to Jebus, for you can’t have a kingdom without a capitol.
He seemed to inflame his men with vision:
David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus. The Jebusites who lived there said to David, “You will not get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David.
David had said, “Whoever leads the attack on the Jebusites will become commander-in-chief.” Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command (1 Chronicles 11:4-6).
Vision is as contagious as plague, and it was Joab who caught the vision!
Joab’s vision fired enthusiasm. The word “enthusiasm” really comes from two little words. One of those words is the word “en” which means “to be in.” The other is the word “theos,” which means “God.” “Enthusiasm” is really “in-theos-iasm,” or “in-God-iasm.” Vision always inspires “in-God-iasm”! Once you get the sense of God on the inside, great things can begin to happen in your life.
Second, vision inspires tenacity. I like what happens when people get a vision clear in their hearts and minds about what God wants with their lives. When they do, they can hang on in spite of all kinds of obstacles.
Business meetings — like Pearl Harbor — have a way of living “in infamy.” Years ago one such terrible business meeting (the church was annually undecided about how much they should pay me to work there), some people wanted me to have a pay raise and some didn’t. It was an awful time.
My wife is a beautiful person who manages to sit in silence only when she’s in a congregation of semi-holy people. When the business meeting was over, we got into the car in silence and remained silent all the way home. We had made a firm decision to be angry with all the angry deacons, and so we didn’t speak. Our post-business meeting hostility was obvious to our children, who knew that they, too, had best be quiet if they knew what was good for them.
When we got into the house, Barbara erupted! She grabbed our two-year-old son, sat him hurriedly down and said to him, “If you ever become a preacher, I’ll beat you to death!” Needless to say, he grew up to join the army as fast as he could. Why did we not leave our calling in such hours of hostility? We made it through those long, disconsolate nights because we were serving a vision.
Vision ever enables you to hang on when the going gets tough!
I. Vision Unites (2 Samuel 5:1)
Vision always unites. In2 Samuel 5:1, there’s a very dear affirmation of togetherness.
All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns” (2 Samuel 5:1-2).
The Israelites, inspired by David’s leadership, cry out, “Saul was our king, but you were our leader. You came to us with a vision. We are one with you — unified!”
The word “inspire” comes from two little words which mean “to breathe in” in Latin. Each time you breathe in, you inflate outwardly. You become more than you otherwise could have been. The word “inspire” really means to be “inspirited.”
What kind of church do you really want for your own? A drab and dreamless church or one that’s “inspirited” with Christ? What kind of life do you want to live? A mundane life where you drift off to sleep watching TV each night, or do you want to live one that’s driven by a dream? And your career? Would you rather have a career that is lackluster or one “inspirited.”
I am pleased with the inspiring architecture of our new church, but even here I must remind myself of the exact nature of our vision. Is this church here merely to build buildings?” Hardly! The church exists to be the protector of a better vision. We celebrate here a great hope: every man, woman and child we touch as a congregation has a right to life in Jesus Christ.
You can’t be a leader in this world until you understand a vision is a mighty dream — one that fills and inspires and unites. A vision makes all one.
David is not just a conqueror after a walled city. David is a partisan in the dream of God. Each of you is partisan too. You must find your spiritual gifts because, until you make a decision about that, you cannot find out the way that you relate to the dream of God. The dream of God is the great energizer communicating to every child of God. Life must know a vision or every man be blind.
II. Vision Dominates Inner Conversation
(2 Samuel 5:6)
Vision not only unites and inspires, it dominates our inner conversation.
The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here” (2 Samuel 5:6).
Each time David passed Jerusalem with his army, the Jebusites were careful to stand the halt and the blind on the wall. The halt and blind would shout over the ramparts of Jerusalem, “You can’t get in here … You can’t come in here. The lame and the blind can defend this.”
In David’s heart their obnoxious song became a child’s taunt: “You can’t get in here. Nyah, nyah nyah nyah nyah!” David’s inner life rehearsed their mockery till his dream became ever powerful, talking back to him incessantly.
The twenty-fourth Psalm is one of David’s great poems. I have a feeling that David may have written this poem while he was under the spell of this inner conversation. Over the Jebusite taunt, David began to repeat his determination. He pictured himself inside the walls of Jebus, sitting as a king in Jerusalem. He saw those forty-foot gates surging open to his army, and the walls standing silent as Israel marched into the city of God. His poetry enflamed his vision. He would establish Zion as a center-place of God’s presence forever.
In this glorious inner conversation with his vision, David began writing this beautiful poem. To the arrogant Jebusites, he cried, “You do not own Zion — the world is God’s!”
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
(Psalms 24:1-2)
How small in lieu of this claim was the ego of Jebus! The citadel and its gallant mountain was Civitas Dei.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
(Psalms 24:3-6)
Now the vision cries aloud! David’s vision sings as he addresses those forty-foot gates behind which all his taunting, jeering enemies live.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and might,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty —
he is the King of glory.
(Psalms 24:7-10)
And in time David’s vision — like all good visions — became the parent of reality.
Years ago while in seminary in Kansas City, I worked for Hallmark Cards. I would often go down on the fifth floor when I got a break from the mundane world of greeting cards and meet with Bill, a seminary friend. In our prayer times, Bill would pray and he would say, “More than all else, I want God to use my life as a missionary in Africa.” I wanted to start my own church. And I’d say, “Lord, help me start my own church.”
Now it is thirty years later, and he is the Foreign Missions Secretary for West Africa, and I did indeed start my own church. Those were powerful dreams and we came to realize them as their vision dominated our inner conversation.
III. Vision Inspires Greatness (2 Samuel 5:10)
Vision ever inspires greatness. David became more and more powerful because God was with him.
The Hebrew word for “salvation” is yasha. What yasha really means is to make room. When God saves us, He creates space and makes room in our lives for something larger than ego. God creates this room in the space we give Him. Here this bright, Sunday morning, there are lots of dreams that haven’t worked out. Still, the dream is glory! It teaches us our place in larger visions than our own.
The artisans of the guilds of the Middle Ages were often asked the question, “What are you doing?” as they worked on cathedrals that often wouldn’t be finished for three hundred years.
Some would merely say, “Laying brick,” but the wise would answer, “Building a cathedral.”
I have to stop every once in a while and clarify what my own vision is. If somebody asks, “What are you doing?” my first answer might be, “Building a church.” But if I examine my vision, I know I’m participating in the dream of God.
The dream of God is ever eternal. David knew Jerusalem was transient. Certainly this church building is! Someday this new and well-appointed church won’t be here. Still, for time and eternity, there are going to be men and women that I have been honored to lead to Christ. I will sit down with these uncertain saints in the presence of God. These are the heart of my best vision. They alone will outlast the stars; treasures in heaven will they be. Yet in the meantime they remain my companions in His glorious dream.
IV. Vision Overcomes Hurt (2 Samuel 5:10)
2 Samuel 5:10 implies that great vision overcomes all the barriers of pain.
Vince Lombardi, it is said, once walked back into the locker room at halftime one game. (If all that Lombardi is said to have said was printed, the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.) As he saw his men overcome in complaining about bad ankles or sore knees or minor sprains of one sort or another, he reminded them that it’s okay to celebrate a little pain in the locker room. But every great game in life is won by those who played with a lot of little hurts. Vision directs achievement undeflected by hurt.
Milton wrote his beautiful and colorful descriptions of Eden in darkness. Beethoven wrote great symphonies in silence. Barb and I once walked around central Spain to try and track down Cervantes, always reminded that he wrote the world’s first novel, Don Quixote, with his left hand because his right one had been amputated in battle. Great vision inspires great achievement over all the barriers of hurt.
In the church, so often, pettiness rules! People get mad and “stomp out,” saying things like, “This church really hurt me.” Probably it did. It’s not easy to be with people in any organization for very long without being hurt. But vision holds your place as you overcome the hurts of life.
Peter Weiss, who became a communist, said he couldn’t find an admirable cause in Christianity. “Purpose is looking for something to believe in, something to live for, something to sacrifice for.” Another great communist wrote, “I joined communism because I wanted a life of experience and danger and travel and imprisonment and to be member in a great family with a clear and firm objective, as the cornerstone of a new world.”
I’m a Christian because I believe there is no finer way to live my life. I’m a pastor because I believe I serve the driving vision of God, and that, for me, is the only vision that matters. But whatever vision drives you, remember: when this world is gone and nothing remains, what will have counted in your life is how you saw God and your obligation to all you saw.
I used to wonder about Lindbergh on that lonely, many-hour flight across the Atlantic. The lone eagle, the first man to do it. In the whine and drone of a motor he prayed it would not quit until he reached France. He said on that long night he was prodded into awareness by the dreams of loved ones; men and women he knew, family members who believed in him. And he wrote, “Death no longer seems the final end it used to be but rather the entrance to a new and free existence.” What his vision had given him was freedom from the hindrances of smaller hurts.
How do you see God? How do you see your own purpose in Jesus Christ?
I read Peter Jenkins’ book, Across China. He talks about those mountain climbers who were outside of Lhasa, getting ready for the Tibetan challenge of Mount Everest.
“The climbers were like boxers before a world-title fight. Each one was totally consumed with his vision of the fight, the battle in which someone much more powerful would do anything to knock him out. The Summit and Living were their two goals, and each became increasingly possessed by it. I want the summit. I must live. I must have it. I want to live.” [Peter Jenkins, Across China (N.Y.: William Morrow & Company, 1986), p. 135]
I believe in Jesus Christ for so simple a reason as the vision he gave common folks. On a mountaintop He sent out a most unlikely crew: prostitutes and fishermen who were fired with the idea that God was in love with the world. He actually inflamed ordinary people like you and me with a dynamic reason to exist — the vision!
And talk about playing out a dream over the barriers of pain, consider Jesus! His vision knew no stopping place. Cross-dying, inflamed with pain, He might have quit. Yet like those Tibetan climbers, He said to Himself, “To please My Father is the summit of My career.” So He won the great prize, pleased His Father, and God caused the portals of heaven to swing on hinges of a wondrous anthem. “Lift up your head, O ye gates, and the King of Glory will come in.”
From the cross He had addressed his achievement in three words, “It is finished.” He did not lament in self-pity, “I am finished.” He exulted, “It is finished.” The passionate dream of God was done. Men and women could come from hopelessness to claim their own chunk of vision, and that vision would be for all the world the deliverance, yasha, in a crowded world where larger hopes could grow and sunlight would fall full on every possibility!

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About The Author

Calvin Miller (1936-2012) was a longtime pastor, author and seminary professor. He wrote more than 40 books, including his million-selling The Singer Trilogy. For 25 years he pastored Westside Church in Omaha, Neb., which grew during his pastorate from 10 members in January 1966 to more than 2,500 members. From 1991-1998 Miller was professor of communication and ministry studies and writer-in-residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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