Friday, December 30, 2011

Hospitality and Gratitude

Reflections on 2 Samuel 19:31-40

The scene at the Jordan River crossing near Gilgal was chaotic. An entire royal family was trying to cross the river, two groups were seeking bragging rights for being the first to welcome them, others were trying to atone for previously insulting the king, and one was trying to save himself from slander. In the midst of this confusion is a tender story of loyalty and love.

HOSPITALITY. Barzillai had provided for David and his family while they were in Mahanaim. Providing room and board for a large, royal family would have required great resources, but Barzillai was both willing and capable for he was a wealthy man. Then despite his 80 years, he accompanied his guests from Mahanaim to the Jordan crossing near Gilgal. The distance Barzillai accompanied his departing guests, at least 20 miles, was a measure of his great respect for them.

TACT. At the Jordan River crossing, David said to Barzillai, "Cross over and stay with me in Jerusalem, and I will provide for you." Barzillai tactfully rejected the king's offer saying that his age prevented him from enjoying the pleasures of the court and would make him a burden to David. In addition, residence in Jerusalem would remove him from his home where he wished to die and be buried. Still, Barzillai suggested two ways he was willing to acknowledge David's gratitude. First, he would accompany David across the Jordan a short way. Then he would send Kimham, probably a son, to accept David's gratitude saying that David could do for him whatever he wished.

GRATITUDE. David was pleased to show his gratitude to Kimham, and promised to do for him whatever Barzillai wished while still insisting he would do for Barzillai himself whatever he desired. Then when Barzillai had crossed the river, David kissed Barzillai and blessed him. Barzillai returned to his home, and Kimham continued with the king to Jerusalem.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dividing a Candy Bar Fairly

Reflections on 2 Samuel 19:24-30

When we were young, Mom would occasionally divide a candy bar between my brother and me. When she did, we often argued over which one got the biggest piece. I am sure this annoyed Mom because when we were old enough to cut the candy bar ourselves, one of us cut the candy bar, and the other got first choice. Something about that process eliminated the arguing. King David had to settle a conflict between two of his subjects: Mephibosheth and Ziba. He divided Saul's lands between them equally. We may never know exactly what dividing the lands accomplished, but this we do know,
As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.
-- Proverbs 25:3
SUSPICION. Like Shimei, Mephibosheth rushed out with the other Benjamites to meet the king at the Jordan River. Also like Shimei, he had reason to fear the king's return. As a sign of distress and sorrow, he had not taken care of his feet, trimmed his mustache, or washed his clothes since David fled the city. David immediately asked him, "Why didn't you go with me when I fled Jerusalem?" With the exception of his personal agents whom he had left in the city, all David's household had fled with him. Because Mephibosheth ate at David's table, he expected Mephibosheth to go with him. Accordingly, David was suspicious when Mephibosheth failed to do so.

EXPLANATION. Mephibosheth explained that he had desired to go with David, and had even asked Ziba to bring his saddled donkey for him to ride, but Ziba had misled him and never returned with his donkey. Not only that, but Ziba had gone to the king and slandered Mephibosheth, saying that he was hoping to become king in place of David.

DILEMMA. David remembered Ziba's accusations against Mephibosheth, and he remembered that he had given all of Mephibosheth's lands to Ziba. So, who was telling the truth? David seemed annoyed and refused to make further investigation. He abruptly directed that the lands be divided between Ziba and Mephibosheth. Was this a judgment or a test? If a judgment, it seems unfair. Was David afraid to alienate Ziba and the other Benjamites who had come to support him? If a test, like Solomon's command to divide the living son and to give a half to each of the women (1 Kings 3:16-28), it lacks a conclusion. Whether judgment or test, Mephibosheth's response was important. When he said, "Let Ziba take everything now that you have returned safely," he made it clear that he had no personal ambitions. Like the woman who begged Solomon to spare the child, so Mephibosheth wished to preserve David's kingdom. Saul's family supported David and would never entertain royal ambitions. It played no role in the developing rift between the house of Joseph and the tribe of Judah which would become apparent soon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eating Humble Pie

Reflections on 2 Samuel 19:16-23
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

When David fled Jerusalem, Shimei had cursed him and pelted him with stones. Shimei assumed that David had lost the throne and would never return. Now David was returning again as king. Shimei had two choices. One was to hide from the king, but that would have been nearly impossible because he lived so near Jerusalem. The second was to try to make amends.

SERVICE. When the men of Judah went to bring King David back across the Jordan, Shimei and a thousand other Benjamites went with them. When they got to the Jordan, Shimei and his men did not hesitate. They rushed across the Jordan to bring the king's household back across the river and do whatever else the king wished. Shimei tried to make amends by providing useful services to the king.

SUPPLICATION. While the men with Shimei were helping the king's household across the Jordan River, Shimei found the king, he fell prostrate before him, acknowledged his guilt, and begged forgiveness. He made no excuses. He ate humble pie.

SUPPORT. Finally, Shimei noted that that very day he had been the first of the "whole house of Joseph" (i.e. the northern tribes) to meet the king, to welcome him back, and to give him their support. Certainly, he hoped that his zeal in gathering support for David would help make amends.

Shimei had a good recipe for humble pie. Even though Abishai tried to dissuade the king, David promised on oath that Shimei would not die.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Putting Humpty Together Again

Reflections on 2 Samuel 19:9-15
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

Although David's men had defeated Absalom, David did not march back to Jerusalem with his victorious army to reclaim the throne. Instead, he waited for popular support to arise because he wanted the people to bring him back. Like Solomon after him, he knew that "without subjects a prince is ruined" (Proverbs 14:28).

ISRAEL. Support arose for David first in the northern tribes. Those who wanted to bring David back began making their case. "Who," they asked, "could be a better choice than David? He is the one who delivered us from our enemies, and Absalom is now dead." David was encouraged by Israel's desire to restore him as their king and anxiously waited for news from Judah.

JUDAH. Surprisingly, David's own tribe did not ask him to return. They had been the first to give their support to Absalom, and may have feared reprisals. Accordingly, David asked Zadok and Abiathar to assure them of his favor. Through them, David reminded the men of Judah that he was from their tribe and offered to remove Joab from being commander of his army and to replace him with Amasa, who had been Absalom's commander. This move not only pleased the men of Judah but also punished Joab for disobeying his command regarding Absalom. The men of Judah asked David to return as their king and to bring his men with him.

MERCY. So why didn't David march back to Judah and punish those who joined Absalom's rebellion? David knew by experience that Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together with a hammer. When he had sinned, God had shown him great mercy. Though he suffered the consequences of his sin, God had forgiven him, made an everlasting covenant with him, and restored his fellowship with God. As one who had who had experienced God's mercy, he knew he should show mercy to others (see Matthew 18:33). He knew that mercy could put the nation together again but that cruelty never would:

A kind man benefits himself,
but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.
-- Proverbs 11:17 NIV

When Jesus, the son of David, came to this earth, people often asked him for mercy (Matthew 9:27; 15:22; etc.). His mercy reunites us with him. We love him because he first loved us.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Royal Party Pooper

Reflections on 2 Samuel 19:1-8
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

David was a highly emotional person who experienced both great despair, as when he was hiding from Saul in the Desert of Ziph (1 Samuel 23:16), and great elation, as when he brought the ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:14-16). Both emotions molded a great part of his lyric poetry and music in the psalms. Often, he was able to express his emotions in a way that comforted, encouraged, or motivated Israel, but on this occasion, his inconsolable grief over the death of Absalom nearly cost him the kingdom.

CELEBRATIONS CANCELED. David's victorious army returned to Mahanaim only to find David weeping uncontrollably above the city gate. No parades or celebrations greeted them. Instead, David's grief shamed them so that they entered the city like defeated, cowardly soldiers afraid to show their faces. Their "enthusiasm was soon depleted" (Bergen, 2001, p. 425). Unless David changed his behavior quickly, those who stole into the city would steal out of the city and leave David and his family deserted and vulnerable.

SAVED LIVES FORGOTTEN. David's army had saved David's life, the lives of his sons and daughters, the lives of his wives, and the lives of his concubines, but instead of rejoicing with his army over the many lives they had saved, David mourned for a single life that had been lost. The army, not congratulated and feeling unappreciated, would soon slip away unless David showed them his gratitude.

LOYAL LOVE SPURNED. David's army had served him loyally with the love they had covenanted with him when he became king, but David appeared more devoted to a rebel who had not only renounced covenant love but filial love as well. Joab put it more bluntly, "You love those who hate you and hate those who love you." Those he "hated" might soon oppose him unless David returned to them the covenant love they had shown him.

Joab was a pragmatic and blunt military officer who had often exasperated King David, but he usually observed courtly protocol in the presence of the king. On this one occasion, he cast aside all protocol to rebuke the king and command him to go out and encourage his men that very day. David put aside his private grief for the public good. He went down to the city gate, reviewed the victorious troops, and saved the kingdom.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A King's Grief

Reflections on 2 Samuel 18:19-33
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

If only I had died instead of you-O Absalom, my son, my son!
-- King David, 2 Samuel 18:33 NIV

The agonized sobbing of David as he climbed the stairs to the room over the gateway to the city of Mahanaim is one of the most memorable scenes in the life of David. It evokes both pity for the man who had been a great warrior and king, and perhaps even contempt for his weakness and failure. Yet, in the scene, there remains a hint of the divine love that would characterize his son, Jesus.

INCONSOLABLE. The messengers brought the good news that David's enemies had been defeated, but when David understood that Absalom was dead, David's body trembled uncontrollably, and he left sobbing, "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom." His inconsolable grief stands in stark contrast to his reactions to both the death of Jonathan and the death of Bathsheba's first son. In the first case, he composed a tribute to his friend and taught the song to Israel, and in the second case, he rose from his mourning, washed himself, worshiped the Lord, and ate. Why was David so inconsolable in this case?

ALIENATED. David grieved because he had alienated his son. David had not provided justice for Absalom's sister, Tamar, when Amnon raped her. After Absalom avenged the rape of his sister by murdering Amnon, he fled to Geshur where he lived in exile for 3 years (2 Samuel 13:38). David eventually recalled Absalom from exile, but he still refused to see Absalom for two more years (2 Samuel 14:28). Absalom finally forced an audience with David (2 Samuel 14:33), and David kissed him, but the effort was too little and too late. Absalom's resentment continued to grow. David had not treated either him or his sister fairly. Absalom felt he was more capable of providing justice than David (2 Samuel 15:4). Alienation led to resentment and rebellion, and rebellion had led to death. Death cut off the possibility of reconciliation forever. David mourned for this reason.

UNRECONCILED. Reconciliation escaped David because he learned the depth of reconciling love too late. His love was too shallow to make him willing, even eager, to forgive in order to achieve reconciliation. Recalling Absalom from exile yet refusing to see him did not communicate that willingness. Furthermore, his love was too shallow to seek forgiveness by confessing his own offense. David had not confessed his own failure to punish Amnon for raping Tamar, and his failure remained a hindrance to reconciliation. But now, too late, he understood that he desired reconciliation so much that he would have been willing to die in Absalom's place. "If only I had died instead of you-O Absalom, my son, my son!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Divine Conspiracy

Reflections on 2 Samuel 18:1-18
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
-- Proverbs 19:21

Absalom had big plans. He was going to trap David in Mahanaim like a caged bird, pull down the city's walls, and kill his father so that he would be the undisputed king of Israel. God had different plans. He had determined to bring disaster on Absalom (2 Samuel 17:14).

POWERLESS TO SAVE ABSALOM. Although King David was fighting to save himself and his family from Absalom, he did not want to destroy his son. He instructed his army commanders to "be gentle with the young man Absalom." However, David's wishes were unable to save Absalom. The army of Israel had answered Absalom call to arms, but Israel's army could not save Absalom. One of David's soldiers who had heard David's instructions to the commanders refused to kill Absalom, but even that did not save him. God's purpose would prevail.

DEADLY PROVIDENCE. Absalom's army never attacked Mahanaim because David's army attacked his forces in the Forest of Ephraim where the forest happened to consume more of Absalom's army than the sword. Absalom fled, but he happened to meet some of David's men. He tried to escape from them on his mule, but as he rode through the trees, his head happened to get caught in the branches. The mule did not stop, and Absalom was left hanging from the tree like one cursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:23). Unarmed and defenseless, he died like a criminal rather than a soldier. What happened was not mere coincidence; it was determined by God.

ABSALOM'S MEMORIAL. David's soldiers took Absalom's body down from the tree, threw it into a pit, and covered it with stones. The heap of stones over Absalom's body was a more fitting memorial for a rebellious son (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) than the pillar Absalom had erected for himself earlier in the King's Valley near Jerusalem.

Misleading and Repetitious

This is a review of a book I recently read. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

LIVING CLOSE TO GOD WHEN YOU'RE NOT GOOD AT IT by Gene Edwards begins by describing the difficulty of developing an intimacy with God during the course of a work day. He remembers a time when he would return from work and realize that he had not thought of God even once during the course of his work day. He had been, for all practical purposes, a "temporary Christian atheist." Even when Mr. Edwards was working in full-time Christian ministry, he felt a lack of fellowship with his Lord. This early description of human frustration with finding fellowship with God is perhaps the best part of the book. After this, he begins telling how he found that fellowship, and I found this part misleading and overly repetitious.

The book is misleading because Mr. Edwards says that he found that the traditional recommendations of prayer and Bible reading to be of little value, and that books on spiritual formation and the lives of the saints were also of little value because they were also about prayer and Scripture. He says he was a man of action. He could not imagine praying for an hour each day, and he failed to find that Bible reading made him feel any closer to God. He sought other ways, but ironically, and apparently without his awareness, what he discovered to create that fellowship and intimacy with Christ was prayer and Scripture! The reason he failed to notice that he had discovered other ways to read Scripture and to pray, which are actually described in books about prayer and spiritual formation, is because he had several misconceptions.

Misconception #1: A person does not need to read Scripture to be spiritual. What convinced him of this is that illiterate people can be spiritual. That is true enough, but even an illiterate person must hear God's word being read or recited. Whether read or heard, we must do more than recognize a sequence of words. We must be active listeners or readers. As active listeners or readers, we remember or memorize portions (often quite small), meditate on them, listen to God speaking to us in them, recall them in spare moments during the day, and use them appropriately. This active reading and listening is, in fact, what Mr. Edwards recommends, but he does not call it Bible reading.

Misconception #2: Prayers of spiritual giants are always long, often an hour or more. On the contrary, many of the prayers of David and Paul were quite short. Prayer need not be long. We can talk to God during spare moments in a day, as Mr. Edwards suggests, and those short talks with God are indeed prayers even if they are short.

Misconception #3: Prayer is asking, nothing more. Again, Scriptural examples show prayer to be much more than asking. Expressing our praise, awe, and love for God is entirely appropriate in prayer whether spoken silently, whispered, or even sung. Mr. Edwards learned to express his love to Christ in words, and in so doing he was praying whether he calls it praying or not.

So if you are not good at living close to God, don't disparage Bible reading and prayer. If your Bible reading and prayer is not communication with God, you may need to enrich your communication. Study of Scriptural prayers and reading books on spiritual formation may then be useful in helping you find ways to enrich your communication with God. Read in this way, even Mr. Edwards' book may be helpful.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Actions Louder than Words

Reflections on 2 Samuel 17:24-29
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.
- Edgar Watson Howe

A DESPERATE NEED. David had been a fugitive when he was young, a shepherd boy turned soldier. He was a fugitive again as a mature man, a king who had been settled in a palace ruling a vast territory. Israel's army, which he had formerly led to numerous victories, was camped in Gilead ready to attack him. Judah, his own tribe, had given their support to Absalom at Hebron. Jerusalem, his city, was divided and no longer safe. Many of his own family now opposed him: Amasa, David's nephew, was commander of Israel's mutinous army, and Absalom, his own son, had proclaimed himself king. David had fled leaving most of his household possessions behind. He and his family were hungry and tired.

APPROPRIATE ACTIONS. More than sympathetic words, David needed helpful actions, and God sent true friends who proved helpful (see Psalm 55:22). Mahanaim, a fortified city which had served as Ishbosheth's capital after Saul's death (2 Samuel 2:8 ff.), gave David and his family refuge. Still, David's large family, which fled its home hurriedly, needed bedding, kitchen utensils, and a pantry full of food. Three friends anticipated these needs and generously supplied them. None of these friends were close relatives. Makir and Barzillai were from cities in Gilead and probably belonged to the tribe of Manasseh. Shobi was an Ammonite from the royal family of Nahash. They didn't merely offer their sympathy and say, "If there is anything you need, let us know." They demonstrated their sympathy by doing something appropriate.

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
-- James 2:15-16 (NIV)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Treacherous City

Reflections on 2 Samuel 17:15-23
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

We don't know when Psalm 55 was written, but it describes quite well how David felt when he fled the Jerusalem with Shimei cursing him, pelting him with rocks, and throwing dust in the air.

Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;
hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
at the voice of the enemy,
at the stares of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering upon me
and revile me in their anger.
-- Psalm 55:1-3

David's primary concern was to find a place of rest and safety for himself and his family.

My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death assail me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest-
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert; Selah
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm."
-- Psalm 55:4-8 (NIV)

JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM. The city David left behind was a treacherous place. Many within its walls were allied with Absalom, and looked at others suspiciously. David's friends were in danger, so he prayed,

Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
-- Psalm 55:9-11 (NIV)

FRIENDS. Hushai, David's friend, faced great danger. He had infiltrated Absalom's council of advisers to learn Absalom's plans and disrupt them if possible. If his real mission were exposed, he would surely have been executed. Zadok and Abiathar, priests of God, also faced danger. They were longtime allies of David both in worship and in war. They were also ears and intermediaries between Hushai and David. Jonathan and Ahimaaz were messengers who would carry the intelligence gathered in the city to David. Their mission was so dangerous they could not risk being seen in the city. They hid by a spring outside the city walls. A servant girl relayed the information from the priests to the messengers near the spring. Her life was at risk. When the messengers were seen by a friend of Absalom, they fled and hid in a well on the far side of the Mount of Olives near Bahurim. The owners of the well covered it with grain spread out to dry in the sun. By hiding the messengers, they put their lives in danger.

FOES. David's primary foe was Absalom, his own son. David's most dangerous foe was Ahithophel, who had formerly been one of his closest advisers. In anguish, David cried out,

If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were raising himself against me,
I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave,
for evil finds lodging among them.
-- Psalm 55:12-15 (NIV)

God answered David's prayer. God confused the wicked (Psalm 55:9) and turned the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness (2 Samuel 15:31). In a short time, death would claim Absalom by surprise. For Ahithophel, who had betrayed God's chosen king, death came even sooner. When he saw his advice had not been followed, he went home, put his affairs in order, and hung himself. Centuries later, another man who betrayed God's chosen king would also go out and hang himself.

Blessed are those who are faithful to God's chosen king. No risk is too great; they remain faithful in the midst of treachery.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pampering a Superstar

Reflections on 2 Samuel 17:1-14
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

If superstars don't demand pampering, someone will pamper them for their own purposes. Absalom was a superstar, and his advisers spent a lot of time pampering his ego. Absalom's swollen ego led to his downfall.

AHITHOPHEL. Absalom was already basking in the adulation of the multitudes. Although some had fled with David, Ahithophel assured Absalom that they too would return to him if David were dead. "Let me," he advised, "lead a sudden attack on David while he is still in flight. Let me take 12,000 men to surprise and overpower him. Our only goal will be to kill the king. Then all the people will return to you." Ahithophel's advice was brilliant because David had not yet joined up with Joab, who was apparently on the other side of the Jordan, but had only a small bodyguard protecting him and his family. Ahithophel's advice won initial approval, but it had one weakness: the fame for killing David, a fierce and crafty warrior, would go to Ahithophel instead of Absalom.

HUSHAI. "On previous occasions," Hushai told Absalom, "Ahithophel's advice has been good. This time, however, it is not good because David's men are fierce, experienced warriors who will not leave David open to attack and who are undoubtedly preparing an ambush." Therefore, Hushai suggested a better strategy: "Absalom, you yourself should gather and lead such an immense army against David that neither David nor his men will be able to escape alive." In giving this advice, Hushai appealed to Absalom's pride and raised questions about Ahithophel's motives without making any direct accusations.

ADVISERS. Normally, it is good for kings to have many advisers. After hearing Ahithophel, Absalom also sought out Hushai in accordance with Proverbs 24:6, which says, "For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers." In this case, seeking additional advice backfired because "the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom." Hushai was actually David's agent, and he cleverly appealed to Absalom's vanity to overturn Ahithophel's advice so that David might have time to escape and gather an army. When Absalom approved of Hushai's advice, his advisers proved to be "yes" men instead of astute advisers. Unlike David, Absalom had no prophets or priests among his advisers who were unafraid to confront his sin or expose his vanity.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Achilles' Heel

Reflections on 2 Samuel 16:20-23
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

The counsel Ahithophel gave Absalom to lie with his father's concubines on the roof of David's house was brilliant, but it had a fatal weakness.

BRILLIANCE. Ahithophel's advice was brilliant because it gave a sense of justice being done for a royal crime that appeared to have been ignored. It was an "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" kind of justice which the public understood and perhaps even made Absalom a hero. Furthermore, when Absalom disgraced David's concubines, he made it clear he was not merely seeking to be named heir or designated coregent. He made himself such a stench to David that reconciliation was impossible. He declared he would be king, and nothing less. Such a bold action was sure the embolden Absalom's supporters.

WEAKNESS. Although Ahithophel's advice was brilliant, it had an Achilles' heel. It flaunted the basic principles of morality. First, it paid no heed to the example of Reuben, who slept with his father's concubine, and forfeited the inheritance of the firstborn as a consequence (Genesis 35:22; 1 Chronicles 5:1). Absalom's right as the oldest living son to sit on David's throne would go to another. Second, Ahithophel's' advice also gave no heed to the Law, which designated a death penalty for the son who had lain with his father's wife (Leviticus 20:11). Before many days had passed, Absalom himself would be dead.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but in the end it leads to death.
-- Proverbs 14:12

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Master of Double Entendre

Reflections on 2 Samuel 16:15-19
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves.
-- Carl Jung

The proud person thinks that he is the most important person on the earth, so it naturally follows that he thinks all praise and honor belongs to him. His first inclination upon hearing words of praise and honor is that they are directed to him. Herein is the potential for the proud person to be deceived. Hushai, David's loyal friend, deceived Absalom precisely because Absalom could not imagine anyone else receiving the praise Hushai gave.

KING. When Hushai met Absalom, Hushai said, "Long live the king! Long live the king!" Of course, those words are usually said when meeting a king, and Absalom naturally thought Hushai was recognizing him as king even though Hushai had never mentioned his name. For his part, Hushai was undoubtedly thinking, "Long live King David!" Certainly, he would work to that end. Absalom, however, could hardly believe his good fortune in attracting another of his father's best counselors. Laughing inwardly he asked, "Is this the love you show your friend? Why didn't you go with your friend?" (Absalom could have been suspicious, in which case his deception was delayed a short time.)

CHOSEN. Hushai replied with more apparent flattery. "No," he said, "I will remain with the one chosen by the LORD, by these people, and by all the men of Israel." He seemed to imply that recent events had convinced him that God and the people had chosen Absalom (Smith, 2000, p. 462), and Absalom absolutely loved it. Inwardly, however, Hushai was proclaiming his loyalty to David whom God had truly chosen (David was often called God's chosen, but Absalom never. See Youngblood, 1992, p. 1006). As for the people and leaders of Israel, they also had chosen David, and many of them were still loyal to him (2 Samuel 15:23).

SERVE. Hushai continued with a rhetorical question, "Whom should I serve?" He answered, "I will serve the son," but the real question is, "How would he serve the son?" Hushai said he would serve Absalom with the same loyalty he had shown David. Absalom, blinded by his ego and Hushai's flattery, thinks Hushai will serve him, but Hushai inwardly means that he will serve Absalom as a loyal friend of David (Bergen, 2001, p. 410).

The Scripture says that pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). In Absalom's case, it not only went before his destruction, it also set him up for destruction. His egotism blinded him to the danger posed by Hushai who never wavered in his loyalty to David in word or deed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sticks and Stones

Reflections on 2 Samuel 16:5-1
Use the frame on the left to read these Scriptures.

The old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," is not entirely true. Although words do not damage the physical body, they do cause emotional pain. Consequently, self-control and faith are required to keep from retaliating when attacked verbally. David exemplified that self-control and faith when Shimei cursed him as he fled Jerusalem.

INSULTS. Shimei yelled at David like one would chase away a troublesome dog, "Get out, get out!" Then he called David a "man of blood" equating him with a common murderer for the way he had treated Saul's family (a false accusation, by the way). He also called him a "scoundrel," which means something like "worthless" or even "pernicious" (later, Belial would become a name for Satan). When David didn't respond, Shimei threw stones at him as if David was a fleeing dog and threw dust in the air. Shimei felt justified in his verbal and physical insults because he saw what was happening as the Lord repaying David for his evil deeds.

SELF-CONTROL. In response, Abishai insulted Shimei calling him a "dead dog" when he requested permission to kill Shimei. David refused to retaliate. He did not have the vengeful disposition of his nephews. Perhaps surprisingly, David recognized that Shimei's curses were perhaps part of God's discipline, not for his treatment of Saul's family but for his sin with Bathsheba which was the cause of his family problems and with Absalom. He would not himself punish Shimei if this all was the Lord's doing.

TRUST. Instead of retaliating, David chose to trust God. He thought that perhaps God, seeing the evil accusations that he endured patiently, would repay him with good. David entrusted himself to the Lord, who judges justly. God did repay him with good, and brought him back to Jerusalem. When he returned, Shimei met David in humble submission, like a dog with his tail between his legs.

David was patient and self-controlled partly because he knew his afflictions were the Lord's discipline and, more importantly, because he trusted the Lord to do what was right. His promised descendant, Jesus, who was without sin, also endured affliction patiently leaving us an example that we should follow.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
-- 1 Peter 2:21-23 (NIV)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stealing from a Lame Man

Reflections on 2 Samuel 16:1-4
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The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
-- 1 Timothy 6:10

Ziba had managed Saul's estate for years. He managed it after Saul's death, and he continued to manage it when David gave Saul's estate to Saul's grandson Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:1-12) to keep a promise he had made to Jonathan. Ziba's life was in the estate, and his heart was in it, too. The only problem was that it was not his. In this episode, Ziba revealed himself to be both shrewd and greedy. His greed led him into sin.

SHREWD. If Absalom was able to secure the throne, he would undoubtedly confiscate Saul's property and make it part of his royal estate. Ziba astutely perceived that the best hope for preserving the estate was to gamble that the rebellion would fail, so he cast his lot with David. He quickly gathered donkeys and supplies that would be useful during flight and brought them to David. In this way, he obtained David's favor. Ziba knew that "a gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great" (Proverbs 18:16).

GREEDY. What Ziba really wanted was to make the estate his own, and he saw his opportunity in the confusion of the moment. In David's hurry to leave Jerusalem, he would not have time to investigate an accusation thoroughly, so Ziba slandered Mephibosheth accusing him of staying in Jerusalem in hope that Saul's kingdom would be given to him (cf. 19:26-27). He guessed correctly. David gave the estate to Ziba without a second witness or thorough investigation as required by Law (Deuteronomy 19:15; see also Proverbs 18:17; 25:2).

It would have been absurd for Mephibosheth, crippled as he was, to expect restoration of the throne to Saul's family, but Ziba's accusation was believable because a pathetic character like Mephibosheth might be expected to entertain such a fantasy. Furthermore, Ziba gambled that, in the confusion of Absalom taking over the city, Mephibosheth would be killed or neglected and left to die. Hopefully, when David finally returned to the city, no one would be able to prove his slander, and the estate would be secured for himself and his children forever.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Grace for the Humble

Reflections on 2 Samuel 15:24-37
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Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
-- James 4:10

David had to swallow his pride to flee from his son Absalom and allow him to occupy the royal city. Not only did David swallow his pride, but he also humbled himself before God.

RESPECT. David showed the utmost respect for God when he sent the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. The ark was the symbol of God's presence in Israel. When Israel had been traveling from Egypt to Canaan, the ark went with them. Indeed, it led them. But now God had given Israel their inheritance and no longer led Israel from place to place. Now he had chosen Jerusalem as his dwelling place (2 Kings 21:7-8). David respected God's choice, and he believed that God could bring him back to Jerusalem if he found favor in God's sight. Therefore, he commanded Zadok, "Take the ark of God back into the city."

HUMILITY. Moreover, David was willing to accept whatever God chose for him. As he left the city, he wept. He did not weep for what he was leaving behind, but he wept in humble repentance knowing that God was disciplining him for his sin. Therefore he covered his head and removed his sandals as he ascended the Mount of Olives just as Moses had hid his face and removed his sandals at the burning bush on Mt. Sinai.

PRAYER. As David was leaving the city, he was told that his trusted advisor Ahithophel had joined Absalom's conspiracy. Ahithophel had a reputation for giving counsel that was like the counsel of God (2 Samuel 16:23), so David knew that he had to depend on God to nullify Ahithophel's advice. Showing his dependence on God, David prayed, "O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness."

PROVISION. God saw David's humility before he fled the city or knew his need, so God had already made provision for him. God's priests, Zadok and Abiathar, had remained loyal to David. David was able to send them back into the city where they could collect valuable information and relay it on to David. When David prayed that God would turn Ahithophel's advice to foolishness, God had already planned for Hushai, another of David's wise counselors, to meet him. David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem to infiltrate Absalom's inner circle, nullify Ahithophel's counsel, and pass Absalom's plans to the priests Zadok and Abiathar, who would then inform David.

David did not depart the city a proud and defiant man. He did not stand at the top of the Mount of Olives overlooking the city and vow, "I shall return." In his humility, he left his future in the hands of God. God saw his humility and chose to lift him up. David wisely used the help that God gave him.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Curious King

Reflections on 1 Sam. 17:55-18:1

Saul asked the same question of two different people at two different times. First, he asked Abner while watching David going out to meet Goliath, “Whose son is this youth?” Second, he asked David when he returned from striking down the Philistine, “Whose son are you, young man?” He may not have been asking for the same reason each time.

FOOLISH. The first time, he may have been thinking, “This is crazy. He’s only a kid, and he’s going to get slaughtered by that veteran Philistine (see 17:33). I’m going to have to notify his dad that he got killed.” Then he turned and asked, “Abner, whose kid is this?”

NAÏVE. Or he may have been thinking something like this the first time. “This kid is naïve, but I like his pluck. If he harasses the Philistine and somehow survives to grow into a suit of armor and to learn to wield a sword, he’d make a good recruit” (see 17:38-39). Turning to Abner, he asked, “Whose kid is this?”

VALIANT. The second time Saul asked the question, David was returning with Goliath’s head in his hand. Then Saul may have been thinking, “He isn’t just plucky. He’s valiant and lucky too. I’m going to have to make his dad’s family free from taxation” (see 17:24). Then Saul said to David, “Young man, whose son are you?”

What kind of faith do people see in you? Do they think it nothing more than foolish talk? Do they think that you are merely naïve and that experience of real life will destroy your idealism? Or do they see that you live your faith even in difficult circumstances and that you come through those trials even stronger in faith?

(I place the killing of Goliath before David is introduced to Saul as a “man of valor, a man of war” (1 Sam. 16:18), before Saul sent to Jesse to ask that he be relieved of his duties with the sheep and be sent to him (1 Sam. 16:19-20), and before he had become familiar with armor and weapons as Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Sam. 16:21).)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hurried Flight

Reflections on 2 Samuel 15:13-23
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Soon after Absalom had been proclaimed king, a messenger came and told David, "The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom." David immediately decided to flee from Jerusalem. Why would he abandon Jerusalem?

LACK OF TROOPS. God had given Israel peace from the surrounding nations, so David had sent the militia their homes. The messenger's report suggested that the hearts of many who served in the militia were now with Absalom (The phrase "men of Israel" appears to refer to the militia in Judges 7:23; 20:11 ff.; 1 Samuel 7:11; 14:24.). David's only force in Jerusalem was his personal bodyguard consisting of the Kerethites and Pelethites along with 600 Gittites.

FAMILY DANGER. God had promised David would be followed on the throne by a son whom God would love. When God had made it clear that he loved David's son Solomon, David had promised Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next king (see 1 Kings 1:13). Absalom was not the one God had chosen, and if he was willing to depose his father, he would not hesitate to kill Solomon. David fled with his family to protect the heir to his throne from intrigue and murder.

DOUBTFUL LOYALTY. If David had remained in the city, he could not have depended on the absolute loyalty of those within the city walls. Two hundred men of Jerusalem had gone with Absalom to Hebron, so David could not be sure of the loyalty of their families. If the citizens were divided, some supporting Absalom and some David, danger could be as great inside the city as outside. David had been well aware of this kind of danger earlier when he fled Keilah (1 Samuel 23:12-13). Therefore, David fled with only those absolutely loyal to God and himself. Even Ittai, a Philistine warrior from Gath, swore loyalty to David, much as his great-grandmother Ruth had sworn loyalty to Naomi, before he was allowed to go with David.

Fleeing Jerusalem was probably the best for David himself, but that was not the major reason he fled. He was actually thinking more of others than himself (Philippians 2:3-4). By fleeing, he saved the city from civil strife. By fleeing, he protected God's chosen heir to the throne.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Reflections on 2 Samuel 15:7-12
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Four years after Absalom returned from exile when he had gained sympathizers throughout Israel, he began to carry out his plan for a coup d'état. He went to his father and asked permission to fulfill a vow by worshiping God in Hebron. David suspected nothing and sent Absalom away with his blessing, "Go in peace."

PLACE. Hebron was an ideal city from which to launch the coup. It was far enough away from Jerusalem (20 miles) that Absalom could carry out his plan without immediate detection, but close enough that he could launch a surprise attack on David's capital. Furthermore, Hebron was the leading city in Judah, perhaps the most influential tribe in Israel. It had been David's former capital, and may, therefore, have resented its loss of influence when David moved the capital to Jerusalem. With Hebron on his side, Absalom removed David's oldest base of support.

PEOPLE. Absalom invited 200 citizens of Jerusalem to Hebron. Although they were unaware of Absalom's plot, they played an important role. Even if none of them could be won over, their presence would give the appearance of popular support and guarantee that their families in Jerusalem would be reluctant to resist Absalom when he attacked the city. In addition, Absalom called Ahithophel, who had been one of David's trusted advisors, from Giloh, his hometown near Hebron. Because Ahithophel was called from his hometown instead of Jerusalem, he may have already left his position as David's advisor (see Smith, 2000, p. 454). Ahithophel may have joined the coup because he was Bathsheba's grandfather (2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34) or because he wanted to restore Judah's influence in the kingdom (Smith, 2000, p. 454 footnote). His presence gave Absalom's regime legitimacy.

PLAN. The sacrifice that Absalom planned in Hebron was really a coronation feast. Absalom sent messengers throughout Israel so that trumpets might be sounded throughout the land coinciding with the coronation feast. When the trumpets sounded, the messengers would announce Absalom's ascension to the throne of Israel.

Absalom was declared king at a sacrifice just as his father David was anointed at a feast, but their careers bore little resemblance thereafter. The Spirit rushed powerfully on David (1 Samuel 16:13), but Absalom's "conspiracy gained strength." David waited patiently for the throne and refused to raise his hand against King Saul. Absalom seized the throne as soon as possible, raised an army against King David, and publicly insulted David's concubines in Jerusalem. David's reign thrived on righteousness, but Absalom thrived on disorder and wickedness because he was motivated by selfish ambition. As James 3:16 notes, "Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Consummate Politician

Reflections on 2 Samuel 15:1-6
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In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.
-- Charles de Gaulle
Absalom was a keen observer of how David's government operated. He saw an opportunity to exploit the system to undermine his father and advance his own royal ambitions, which he exhibited by riding in a chariot and sending fifty men to run ahead of him just as Samuel had warned that kings would do (1 Samuel 8:11).

FINDING GRIEVANCES. Absalom observed that people unhappy with decisions of their city elders brought their complaints to the king. Absalom decided to greet these people before they got to the king. Greeting the people in this way would make them feel that they were important.

PRETENDING SYMPATHY. Not only did Absalom make the people feel important, but he also assured them that their complaint was important and just. Nevertheless, he warned the people that the king didn't even have any representatives to hear their complaint. Indeed, the people may have had a difficult time getting a hearing if they had not been sent by their city elders because the case was too difficult for them (Deuteronomy 17:8-10). If for any reason a hearing was denied or delayed (to collect evidence or gather witnesses, for instance), then these people would think favorably of Absalom who not only met them but also would have already ruled in their favor.

STEALING HEARTS. Absalom identified himself with the people. He did not allow the people to bow down to him. Instead, he reached out to them, gave them a hearty hug and kissed them. His informality and intimacy contrasted with the formal greeting given royalty. In this way he "stole" the hearts of the people. In other words, he took their hearts with stealth or secrecy (TWOT, #364). By refusing to allow the people to bow down to him, Absalom could always "prove" that he had no aspirations to the throne (see Bergen, 2001, p. 397).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pretension and Protocol

Reflections on 2 Samuel 14:23-33
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Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem where he was restored to his wife and children. However, David did not accept him in the royal family or as an heir to the throne. David refused to see Absalom personally.

PRETENSION. Absalom had a kingly appearance much like Saul before him. While Saul was praised for his height, Absalom was highly praised for his appearance. But God had warned Samuel not to put confidence in appearance, and the people should not have put confidence in Absalom's appearance. Nevertheless, the people praised him. They were still looking for a king like the kings of the nations around them. Absalom, their choice was vain about his appearance and especially his hair. Nevertheless, the appearance of virility was an illusion. Though he had three sons, they all died before Absalom himself (2 Samuel 18:18). In the end, even his hair would become his undoing just as it was the undoing of Samson.

PROTOCOL. Absalom felt his position in Jerusalem was intolerable. It stood in the way of his ambitions. After two years, he was tired of being treated as an inferior. He sent servants to fetch Joab as a member of the royalty might call an inferior. The commander of David's army did not think the demand fit proper protocol; he did not feel compelled to answer the summons of one not admitted into the royal family. At the same time, Absalom, who felt his rightful position was heir apparent, was not about to go crawling to Joab, so he commanded his servants to set fire to Joab's barley fields. Though he would probably be required to pay for the burned fields (see Exodus 22:6), he anticipated that the benefits of his action would far outweigh the costs. As Absalom foresaw, Joab came personally to see him. Through Joab, Absalom was able to get an audience with the king. He acted according to protocol himself. He bowed down with his face to the ground before David, and David kissed him.

Absalom acted according to protocol when he met his father, but his actions were pretentious. He didn't want merely the king's recognition. He wanted the king's crown. Restored to the royal family, Absalom would soon be acting the part of a king. Soon, people would be bowing down to him, and he would kiss them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Drama in the Courtroom

Reflections on 2 Samuel 14:1-22
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As king, one of David's responsibilities was to judge difficult cases according to law. Often enough, plaintiffs and defendants dramatized their cases, and David had to separate fact from fiction. In 2 Samuel 14, the entire case is a fabrication. A woman of Tekoa played the part of a widow in a play written by Joab. As a superb actress, she changed David's behavior toward his son Absalom.

BROTHERS IN A FIELD. The woman stated the case quite simply: "I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him" (2 Samuel 14:6). Immediately, David would recall the story of Cain, who killed his brother in a field. Though Cain was guilty of murder, God had spared Cain and even protected him from being killed himself (Genesis 4:15). Without denying her son's guilt, the woman artfully prepared the king to make a judgment favorable to her.

CLAN'S QUESTIONABLE MOTIVE. As would be expected, the elders of the clan asked that the remaining son be turned over to them so that they might kill him to avenge the death of his brother (see Numbers 35:16-25), but the woman insinuated that the clan was more concerned with profit than justice because they had said that when they got rid of the murderer, then they would "get rid of the heir as well" (2 Samuel 14:7).

BURNING COAL. Finally, the woman revealed her own motive for wanting to spare her son. He was the "only burning coal" she had left. Housewives used a glowing coal from the previous day's fire to start a fire for the coming day. If only one ember was left, it was very important to preserve it until the fire was started for the next day. Her son was her husband's one remaining descendant. If he was executed, her husband would have "neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth" forever.

The woman acted superbly, and she obtained the judgment she desired though at first it appeared half-hearted. Then when she applied her story to Absalom, she also obtained the judgment Joab desired. Joab wanted David to show mercy to his son who had killed a brother just as God had shown mercy to Cain. Joab, through the woman, also insinuated that David's motive for not recalling Absalom may not have been justice so much as a desire to "get rid of the heir" so that David could give the throne to young Solomon. David immediately suspected Joab's role in the plot, but he relented. Joab was relieved because he knew he had forced David's hand. David sent Joab to recall his son from Geshur.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweet Revenge

Reflections on 2 Samuel 13:23-39
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Revenge is sweeter than life itself. So think fools.
-- Juvenal

Absalom waited two years to exact his revenge on Amnon, the heir apparent who had raped his sister Tamar. During that time, he had apparently confided his intention to a few friends perhaps including Jonadab (2 Samuel 13:32 NIV and NET). He planned his revenge during sheep shearing festivities at Baal Hazor, a mountain about 15 miles NNE of Jerusalem. Absalom's revenge mirrored Amnon's sin in many ways (Bergen, 2001, p. 385).

DECEPTION. Just as Amnon deceived King David about his intentions, so Absalom deceived the king. When the king declined Absalom's invitation to the feast, no doubt as Absalom expected, he asked that, in lieu of the king being the honored guest, the heir apparent be the guest. David appeared suspicious but relented when Absalom called him his brother.

TRAP. Just as the king had sent Tamar into a trap devised by Amnon, so now the king sent Amnon into a trap devised by Absalom.

VIOLENT MEAL. Just as the little meal Tamar prepared for Amnon turned violent when Amnon overpowered her, so the feast Absalom prepared for Amnon turned violent when Absalom's men killed him. The other sons of David rose in terror and fled.

The first news to reach Jerusalem was that Absalom had killed all the king's sons. Immediately David rose from his throne just as his sons had risen from the feast. Then he tore his clothes just as Tamar and torn her clothes in grief (Youngblood, EBC, 1992, p. 970). The king, whose adultery with Bathsheba was mirrored by Amnon's rape of Tamar, and whose murder of Uriah was mirrored by Absalom's murder of Amnon (Youngblood, EBC, 1992, p. 969), was overcome with grief. The sword had turned upon his own house. Furthermore, Absalom had just proved himself a fool. Eventually, the sword would consume him also.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fodder for a Family Feud

Reflections on 2 Samuel 13:1-22
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Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
-- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, first sentence

Family feuds have a cast of characters. Some cause trouble, some find trouble, some feed trouble, some are victims of trouble, and some stumble into trouble. Amnon's behavior was fodder for a family feud that David was unable to contain. It ripped through his sons and daughters, their cousins and uncles, and even his own wives killing some and wounding all.

CARNAL SON. Amnon was David's firstborn, the son of Ahinoam from Jezreel in Judah (2 Samuel 3:2). Being the son of a powerful king whom he would probably succeed made Amnon a privileged person. Despite his privilege, he lusted for his beautiful half-sister Tamar, a woman who was forbidden to him by law (Leviticus 18:9) just as his father had lusted for a woman forbidden to him. Amnon's lust for Tamar so consumed him that several people guessed his thoughts. Absalom had observed his lustful looks and immediately knew the cause of Tamar's grief after Amnon raped her (v. 20). Jonadab watched his unsatisfied lust turn to self pity and suggested a way for him to satisfy it. Amnon's lust was not love for Tamar. He did not hesitate to use his strength to overpower Tamar despite her protests. Then when he had proved her weak and vulnerable, he loathed her even more than he had desired her. He threw her out of his house and barred the door. The consequences of his sin proved him to be the fool that Tamar saw him to be.

SHREWD COUSIN. Jonadab was David's nephew, the son of Shimeah (Shammah), who was the third of Jesse's sons (1 Samuel 16:9). He was a shrewd judge of human weakness. He observed Amnon's self pity, and knew David to be a doting father. He was willing to exploit the moral weakness of his uncle and to purvey sexual fantasies to his cousin knowing full well that Amnon would not stop at watching Tamar lustfully but would also rape her.

VIRTUOUS SISTER. Tamar was the daughter of Maacah, the daughter of the king of Geshur and mother of Absalom. Tamar appealed to Amnon not to do anything wicked saying, "Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don't do this wicked thing.... You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel." She plead with Amnon that her virtue might be preserved: "What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace?" Finally, in desperation, she begged Amnon to ask the king that she be given to him in marriage. Although this was forbidden by the Law (Leviticus 18:9; Deuteronomy 27:22), she saw this was a way of preventing a rape (Deuteronomy 22:28). Her pleas were ignored. After Amnon raped her, she tore her virgin's garment as a sign of sorrow and shame. Though beautiful, she remained desolate in the house of her brother Absalom.

INEFFECTUAL FATHER. Although Jonadab and Absalom had seen lust written on Amnon's countenance, David failed to see it. When asked, he granted Amnon's desire to have Tamar sent to his house failing to see that it was not prudent. David was incapable of preventing his own sin from corrupting his children. Then, after Amnon had raped his sister, David failed to punish Amnon for his sin even though David was very angry. Perhaps David was reluctant to discipline Amnon because of his own adultery, or perhaps he was unsure what punishment to mete out according to Law (Deuteronomy 22:28-29; Leviticus 18:9, 29). Regardless, David's silence, his total failure to rebuke Amnon, made David an impotent judge in this case. Where there is no justice, wickedness and every evil work prospers.

PENT-UP BROTHER. Absalom provided refuge for his disgraced sister, but he never said anything to his half-brother Amnon. He waited and saw David's silence and impotence, but Absalom's silence was not the silence of impotence. It was the silence of a man who intensely hated his brother and who was intent on revenge (see Robert Atler, The Art of Biblical Narrative, p. 79).

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Child of Promise

Reflections on 2 Samuel 12:24-25
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After Bathsheba's son died, David comforted her, and she bore a second son who would later sit on his father's throne in Jerusalem. The names given to her second son are significant.

SOLOMON. David named his son Solomon, which means something like "His [Yahweh's] Restoration/Peace" (Bergen, 2001, p. 376). By giving his son this name, David expressed his confidence that God had forgiven him and restored the relationship that had been broken by his sin (TWOT, 1999, #2401, p. 930: "The general meaning behind the root š-l-m is of completion and fulfillment-of entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship.)

JEDIDIAH. The Lord confirmed that Solomon was a special son. He sent a message by Nathan the prophet to give Solomon a second name, Jedidiah, which means "loved by the Lord" (see footnote in NIV). Hence, this son would build a house for God, and God would love him as his own son and establish his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:12). Solomon had older brothers who would try to usurp the throne, but Nathan the prophet would be an advocate for God's choice and help anoint Solomon as the next king.

The Lord renews his mercies every day!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Genuine Repentance

Reflections on 2 Samuel 12:13-23
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Nathan's rebuke occurred at least nine months after David's sin. Although David was occupied with the final assault on the Ammonites during those nine months, he had not been able to hide from his own guilt. Undoubtedly, his guilt weighed heavily on his heart as when he wrote Psalm 32:3-5a:

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD"

NO EXCUSES. David was quick to acknowledge his sin and accept full responsibility for it when confronted by Nathan. He said quite simply, "I have sinned against the Lord." He was not like Saul who at first denied his sin (cf. 1 Samuel 15:13, 20) and blamed others (cf. 1 Samuel 15:21). Neither was he like Saul who, even after he reluctantly acknowledging his sin, still excused it (1 Samuel 15:24) and asked to be honored as if there were no shame in his sin (1 Samuel 15:30). David knew he could not hide his shame from God. In Psalm 51:4, he confessed, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight."

FORGIVENESS. In his repentance, David did not desire honor before men but God's mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. - Psalms 51:1-2

FELLOWSHIP. Forgiveness was the means to an even greater desire, that his fellowship with God might be renewed.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. - Psalms 51:10-11

FREELY GIVEN. God freely forgave and restored fellowship to the penitent king. Though God did not change the consequences of the sin, David saw the death of the son not as God's refusal to forgive but as evidence of God's faithfulness. If God said he was forgiven and his son would die, and if God kept his word with regard to his son, then he was assured God kept his word with regard to his own forgiveness. He washed and went to worship the Lord. His fellowship with the Lord was restored, and the Lord would sustain him in the troubles he would face.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Severe Mercy

Reflections on 2 Samuel 12:1-12
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We all know that God was merciful to David and forgave him, and we usually assume that God's mercy removed the severity of his punishment. While God's mercy certainly removed completely the eternal punishment of his sin, God did not in his mercy reduce the severity of the consequences of his sin. God's severe mercy is justified by the parable Nathan told David.

THE PARABLE. The parable stresses three things. First, it stresses the great difference in the wealth of two men. The rich man had a "very large number of sheep and cattle," but the poor man had a single ewe lamb that he had bought. Second, the story stresses the intimacy between the poor man and his ewe lamb. It lived in his house like a pet. It ate his food, drank from his cup, and "slept in his arms" ("lay in his bosom" - KJV). The lamb was like a daughter (Heb. bat, which is the same as the first syllable of Bathsheba). Finally, the story emphasizes the rich man's heartless treatment of the poor man. The rich man had no pity and slaughtered the poor man's dear pet to feed a traveler.

THE KING'S JUDGMENT. David was enraged because the rich man had no regard for the feelings of the poor man. David declared, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die." The fourfold restoration for the sheep required by the Law (Exodus 22:1), and which guided David's final judgment, could not restore the object of the poor man's affection. The Law's penalty was a woefully inadequate for the callous act (EBC, 1992, p. 943). David's declaration recognized the inadequacy of even fourfold restoration and left him no room to protest the Lord's judgment.

GOD'S JUDGMENT FOR MURDER. As soon as David gave his verdict and noted its inadequacy, Nathan declared, "You are the man who had no pity, you are the man who deserves to die. You are the rich man who had many wives while your poor neighbor had but one. Nevertheless, you killed Uriah with the sword (in other words, in battle, for he was killed by archers on the wall) and took his wife. Therefore, the sword will never depart from your house." The actions set in motion by David's sin could not be stopped with David's death. The sword would not devour one man, David, but many in David's family instead. David's earlier reply to Joab, "the sword devours one as well as another," would haunt him repeatedly as the swords of lust, revenge, rebellion, and selfish ambition devoured his own sons. David learned that the God whose law he had despised, was the God who said, "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me" (Exodus 20:5). What a great punishment God handed down!

GOD'S JUDGMENT FOR ADULTERY. After sentencing David for murder, God turned to the charge of adultery. Just as David had taken the wife of a man close to him, so one close to him would take his wives and lie with them openly. What David had done to Uriah would be done to him, "wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Exodus 21:23-25), but with a painful twist. Not merely one of his wives would be taken, but many; furthermore, they would not be taken secretly, but openly. What a dreadful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God!

Monday, November 7, 2011

White-washed Sepulcher

Reflections on 2 Samuel 11:14-26
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Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
-- John 3:20

David did not want his sin exposed. He was afraid of the consequences. Therefore, he committed even fouler deeds to keep his dark secrets hidden.

BRAZEN. David, the man who restrained his own men from killing Saul and who punished Recab and Baanah for murdering an innocent man in his bed, decided to have a faithful and innocent soldier killed and brazenly sent the death warrant by the hand of Uriah himself. David, the leader who mourned the death of Jonathan, brazenly commanded Joab to act imprudently in war so that not only was Uriah killed but also several other innocent soldiers. All this he did to hide his adultery. God's light had gone out in David's heart.

PHONY. Because his heart was darkened, David became a pretentious phony. After word came of Uriah's death, David told Joab not to get discouraged because "the sword devours one as well as another" as if what happened was merely a matter of chance. He even pretended piety when he allowed Bathsheba to observe the usual thirty days of morning (see Numbers 20:29 and Deuteronomy 34:8) before taking her as his wife. David had become a white-washed sepulcher concealing the bones of dead men.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Drunken Soldier, Sober King

Reflections on 2 Samuel 11:6-13
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After Bathsheba informed David that she was pregnant, David attempted to remove any suspicions that he was the father of her child. David's attempts soon impaired his sober judgments.

A CONSCIENTIOUS SOLDIER. David recalled Uriah from battle with hopes that Uriah would go home and spend a night or two with his wife. In that way, Uriah might assume that he was himself the father when a child was born eight or nine months later. Even if he had suspicions, nothing could be proved, and David would be free from any consequences for his sin. Uriah, however, slept with David's servants at the entrance of the palace. When David asked why he had not gone home, Uriah said he could not in good conscience enjoy homemade cooking or lie with his wife at home while his fellow soldiers and the ark of God were camped on a battlefield.

A SOBER KING. If at first they don't succeed, even kings try again. David asked Uriah to stay another day and dine with him. David made Uriah drunk hoping he would forget his scruples and go home for the night, but Uriah slept again with David's servants. Uriah drunk remained more pious than David sober (Ackroyd in Smith, 2000, p. 424). Although David was not intoxicated with wine, his thoughts were impaired by a consuming desire to hide his sin. Sobriety would fail him.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Tragic Sin

Reflections on 2 Samuel 11:1-5
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So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
1 Corinthians 10:12

Few sins related in the Bible are as tragic as David's sin. David had made a name for himself as a warrior who trusted in the Lord and so defeated Israel's enemies. Rabbah, the capital of Ammon, was about to fall. Plunder from Aram, Moab, and Edom had been dedicated to God. More than that, he had shown zeal for God. He had brought the Ark of God to Jerusalem and established a just and righteous government. He was at the peak of his career. But at that very moment when David appeared to be standing firm, he fell. He acted like one of the kings of the nations. Samuel had warned that such kings would take the daughters of Israel to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers (1 Samuel 8:13), but David did much worse.

UNBRIDLED PASSION. From the rooftop of David's palace, David could see inside the walled, private residence of Uriah where Bathsheba was bathing. Instead of retiring quickly from the rooftop until the bath was over, he lingered to gaze at her beauty and then inquired about her. He foolishly allowed his physical desires to gain control of his thoughts and entice him to sin (James 1:14).

BROKEN LAWS. David's informant told him that the woman's name was Bathsheba, and that she was the wife of Uriah. This information should have served as a warning. She was a neighbor's wife. The Law was explicit: "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife" (Exodus 20:17). But David paid no heed. He sent messengers to get her, and he slept with her breaking a second command which said "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14).

BETRAYED FRIENDSHIPS. David's deeds were treacherous. He betrayed Bathsheba's husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 23:39), who was one of his Thirty Mighty Men. Furthermore, he betrayed her father, Eliam, another of his trusted mighty men (2 Samuel 23:34). Finally, David betrayed Bathsheba's grandfather Ahithophel, who was one of David's trusted advisors (2 Samuel 15:12; 23:34). David's sin could not be excused or white-washed. He had betrayed three loyal and honored servants: one the husband, one the father, and one the grandfather of Bathsheba.

DAMNING EVIDENCE. If David thought he was too big to fail, or above the law and shame, his delusion did not last long. Bathsheba sent him a message: "I am pregnant." Soon Bathsheba's whole family would know she was pregnant: her husband, father, and grandfather. Because Uriah had gone to war against Rabbah, they all would suspect something was amiss. Furthermore, David knew that Bathsheba had not been pregnant when he slept with her because she had been purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness when he saw her. David could not escape the conclusion that he himself was the father of Bathsheba's child.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unusual Kindness

Reflections on 2 Samuel 9:1-13
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The justice and righteousness of David's reign was demonstrated in his treatment of Mephibosheth, who might lay claim to the throne, though he was lame, because he was the the grandson of King Saul. Saul, of course, had become the mortal enemy of David and had driven him out of his homeland. If David had modeled his reign after the kings of the nations, he would have killed Mephibosheth and never looked back. But David did not do that.

COVENANT LOYALTY. Instead, David remembered his covenant with Mephibosheth's father, Jonathan. David and Jonathan had been best friends even while Saul was consumed with jealousy knowing that God had chosen David to be the next king. They had agreed that regardless of what happened they would show kindness to other's offspring (1 Samuel 20:42; 24:21-22). Accordingly, David wanted to show loyal kindness to any descendants of Jonathan who might yet be living. Such loyalty and kindness was a supreme virtue among God's people.

LAWFUL OBEDIENCE. When Mephibosheth appeared before David, he was understandably afraid. His uncle, Ish-Bosheth, had been king for two years and was murdered by traitors trying to please David. David, however, never sought revenge against Saul, and he would not punish Saul's descendants for the sins of their father in accordance with the Law which stipulated, that "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers" (Deuteronomy 24:16).

COMPASSION. So David did not kill Mephibosheth or banish him, but he showed him kindness by restoring to him the property that had originally belonged to his grandfather, King Saul, and assigning Saul's steward, Ziba, to manage the property for him. Furthermore, he gave Meshibosheth a permanent invitation to dine at the royal table even though it might be inconvenient to accommodate a person who was lame in both feet. David showed not only faithfulness to a covenant and obedience to the law, but also genuine kindness to a person with disabilities. David showed that he still had the heart of God.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Good Government

Reflections on 2 Samuel 8:15-18
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"The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it's so rare."
-- Daniel P. Moynihan

David was not only a great military leader, he was also a good ruler. A single, often overlooked verse (2 Samuel 8:15) notes his greatness as a ruler, yet his reign set the standard by which all later reign were judged and most often found deficient.

ACTIONS. During David's reign, he did what was just and right (administered justice and equity - ESV). Doing what was "just" meant not only that he and all the courts throughout the land made correct judgments (see Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:8-13; and 19:15-21), but also that all in his administration thought and acted accordance to right judgments (see BDB, #6666). Doing what was "right" meant that all those in authority acted in accordance with an ethical or moral standard (TWOT, 1999, #1879). Hence, every function of government was carried out according to Mosaic Law. Later, God calls David "my servant" because he "kept my commandments and my statutes" (1 Kings 11:34).

ADVOCACY. A part of the Mosaic Law which David carried out was advocacy for the poor. Even before he was king, the distressed, the debtors, and the discontented found refuge with him (1 Samuel 22:2). When he became king, he continued to do what was just and right "for all his people," for the poor, the weak, and the alien, as well as the rich. David was bound to defend the poor by the Law. He did this not through government programs but through judicial regulation and priestly instruction. Accordingly, he did not allow anyone to oppress the alien (Exodus 23:9) or take advantage of the widow and orphan (Exodus 22:22-24); instead, he made sure generosity was shown to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). He provided for safety by requiring parapets around rooftops (Deuteronomy 22:8) and he required that runaway slaves be given refuge (Deuteronomy 23:15-16). He did not allow the people to charge their fellow Israelites interest (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20), nor to take a person's means of livelihood as a pledge for a loan (Deuteronomy 24:6). nor to keep a cloak as pledge overnight, nor to enter a house to obtain a pledge (Exodus 22:26-27; Deuteronomy 24:10-13). He required that wages be given to a laborer at the end of each day (Deuteronomy 24:14-15) and that corners of fields and fallen grain be left for the poor (Deuteronomy 24:19-22). He prevented cheating in the market by requiring merchants to keep but one scale and to use it for both buying and selling (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

APPOINTMENTS. Part of the reason that David succeeded in promoting justice and righteousness is because he gave priests and Levites prominent positions in his government. The priests and Levites had been appointed by God to teach the people all that God commanded in the Law (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:8-13; Malachi 2:7). Three of the men mentioned as a part of David's government were Zadok and Ahimelech, who served as priests, and Benaiah, a Levite (see 1 Chronicles 27:5) who promoted what was just and right in the military. Thus, justice and righteousness were promoted in all institutions by priests and Levites, whom Saul had alienated along with God's prophets.

ASPIRATION. The kings who came after David often did not follow his example of doing what was just and right. Isaiah 5:7 notes the failure of later kings:

The vineyard of the LORD Almighty
   is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
   are the garden of his delight.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
   for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

Because their ways were evil, God admonished them in Isaiah 1:16-17 to return to the just and right ways practiced by David:

Take your evil deeds
   out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
   learn to do right!
Seek justice,
   encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
   plead the case of the widow.

Few kings lived up to the ideal established by David. Accordingly, the prophets and the righteous who listened to them looked for a king, the Messiah, who would again aspire to justice and righteousness. Isaiah 9:6-7 foresaw that king:

For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
   there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
   and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
   with justice and righteousness
   from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
   will accomplish this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

God's Grace

Reflections on 2 Samuel 7:18-29
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David dreamed of building a house for God, but God promised to make a lasting house for David. He promised to make his seed king and establish his throne forever. The promise had certain similarities with the promise God made to Abraham about his seed, and David responded by addressing God as Sovereign Lord, the same name used by Abraham to address God when he reaffirmed the covenant in Genesis 15. Not once in his prayer did David express any disappointment with not being allowed to fulfill his dream.

UNWORTHY. David expressed no disappointment because he was overwhelmed with the magnitude of God's undeserved gifts (vv. 18-19). His family was insignificant, yet God had made him king of Israel. David's sins were great, yet God made promises concerning the future of his family. Such unmerited favor was beyond comprehension. In wonder he asked, "Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?" All Scripture demonstrates God's answer, "Grace is my usual way of dealing with men who seek me."

REDEEMED. David expressed no disappointment because he, like Israel, had been redeemed (vv. 22-24). David had not been bigger or stronger than his brothers, and he not been more righteous than others. At the very moment God was giving him victory over his enemies, David had broken the 6th and 7th commands. Still, God had chosen him. Similarly, Israel had not been stronger than other nations, but slaves in Egypt, when God chose them. Neither had Israel been more righteous than other nations. Israel had broken the 1st and 2nd commands just weeks after God had led them out of Egypt. Nevertheless, God had redeemed Israel and David. For both, God had performed great and awesome wonders in driving out the nations before them. David marveled that the Great and Sovereign Lord had become their God forever.

LONGING. David confessed that what God promised him, and Israel with him, fulfilled the deepest longings of his heart (vv. 26-25). He urged God to do as he promised, not because he was afraid God would fail to keep his word, but because he so earnestly desired for all to know that "The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!"

COURAGE. Because God had revealed his compassion and mercy through this covenant, David found courage to pray to God, not only to thank him, but to ask him for greater and more precious promises than he could have imagined on his own (vv. 27-29). Without such promises, he might have been satisfied with asking for much less!

My chronology of David's reign appears on an extra page. You can find a link to that page in the "Pages" section below and left.

Monday, October 24, 2011

David's Dream

Reflections on 2 Samuel 7:1-17
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David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem despite an initial setback, he brought it into the city with celebrations and thanksgiving, and he placed it in a tent he prepared for it. But David's dream was bigger. He eventually wanted to reunite the altar in Gibeon with the ark in Jerusalem so that all Israel could worship God in the place God had chosen.

DAVID'S OATH. Sometime later, David compared the tent where the ark was with his own palace and was perhaps embarrassed. He dreamed of something grander for God. He dreamed of building a "house for the Name of the Lord my God" (1 Chronicles 22:7). Psalm 132:1-5 reveals the intensity of his dream when it says that David had made an oath that he would not rest until he had found a dwelling for the Lord:

O LORD, remember David
and all the hardships he endured.
He swore an oath to the LORD
and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
"I will not enter my house
or go to my bed-
I will allow no sleep to my eyes,
no slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob."

GOD'S DENIAL. Nathan's initial response to David's dream was favorable, but Nathan had not consulted God on this matter. He was merely expressing his own private opinion. God had different plans. God told Nathan that night that he had never asked anyone before David to build him a house, and that he was not asking David either. God did not require a majestic temple as a dwelling place. What God really wanted was to dwell in David's heart and in the hearts of every Israelite.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
"I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite." (Isaiah 57:15)

GOD'S PROMISES. After God refused to allow David to accomplish his dream, God set about reviving his heart. First, he enumerated what he had already done for David (vv. 8-11a). He had taken him from the pasture and made him ruler. He had cut off his enemies and made his name great. He had given Israel a secure homeland free from oppressors, and given them rest. (The NIV puts many of these statements in the future tense, but notice that v. 1 says that "the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him." Hence, all the verbs up through 11a should be understood as past as in Young's Literal Translation. In Hebrew, the perfect is used not only for past actions, but also for future actions in prophecies and promises. This double use of the perfect is what creates the confusion in this passage.) These promises are ones basically given to all Israel and had been fulfilled through David's military conquests recorded in chapters 8 and 10.

GOD'S COVENANT. Second, God declared what he would do for David in the future (11b-17). He said he would build a house, or dynasty, for David by causing his seed to succeed him. Three promises are made concerning this seed. He would build a house for God. He would be treated as a son; when he sinned God would not reject him but would discipline him. Finally, his kingdom would be established forever. Each promise has reference to both Solomon (the first of his seed to reign) and to the Messiah (the last of his seed to reign). Solomon would build the temple in Jerusalem, and the Messiah would build a spiritual temple of lowly and contrite people in whom God dwells (Matthew 16:18; 1 Peter 2:4-6; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21). When Solomon and his descendants departed from following God, God often disciplined them as sons removing the peace and security he had given them through David and causing them to be oppressed by their enemies. The Messiah too was God's Son (Luke 1:35), and though he did not sin, he still learned obedience by the things that he suffered (Hebrews 5:8). And finally, when Judah was carried into Babylon captivity, it was not clear how David's kingdom would be eternal until the Messiah took his seat upon the throne at the right hand of God (Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:32-36; Ephesians 1:20-21).

God vetoed David's dream, but he replaced it with an even grander dream. David would not be allowed to build God a house, but God would build a house for David which would last forever.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Michal's Folly

Reflections on 2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23
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When the Ark of God entered Jerusalem, the whole city turned out just as it would have if David were returning victorious from battle. At such times, even the women rushed out, mingled with the festive crowd, and participated in the celebration. Normally, the king and army officers would have had the place of honor, but when the Ark entered the city, God had the place of honor, and King David celebrated with the citizens, leaping and dancing with them in the presence of the Lord.

CELEBRATION DESPISED. Michal did not get excited about the arrival of the Ark as she would have at an earlier time when David had returned from a successful campaign. She did not rush to the street in excitement, but remained haughty and aloof at her window. Just as her father had neglected the Ark during his reign, so she failed to celebrate its arrival in Jerusalem. In fact, when she saw David celebrating with the crowds, she despised him.

HUMILITY MOCKED. Later, David entered his house to bless it, but Michal interrupted the blessing with sarcasm. "Today," she said, "the King of Israel has distinguished (honored - ESV) himself by disrobing himself in front of servant girls!" No, David had not disrobed in public, but he had discarded his royal apparel and replaced it with priestly garments, which were, by the way, quite modest. Michal's problem was not that David was naked, but that his dress lacked royal dignity. She wanted a king for a husband, not a man who looked like a mere priest and acted like an ordinary citizen.

HUMILITY DEFENDED. David reminded Michal that God had rejected her father, who was not humble before God, and chosen him instead. No matter how undignified it appeared to Michal, David would celebrate before the Lord. David would humble himself not only before others, but also in his own eyes. David understood that "A man's pride brings him low (as Saul's pride had), but a man of lowly spirit gains honor" (Proverbs 29:23). Michal did not understand. As a young woman, she had fallen in love with a brave warrior, but now she was married a man who gladly humbled himself in order to exalt God.

BLESSING LOST. Michal refused to celebrate the arrival of the Ark and interrupted David's blessing with sarcasm. Consequently, she herself missed out on God's blessing. Michal died childless.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Neglected No Longer

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 16:4-43
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The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord had been neglected while in Kirjath Jearim during the reign of Saul (1 Chronicles 13:3), and David did not want the Lord to be neglected any longer. The zeal of the Lord that came on him when the Spirit rushed upon him at his anointing and that burned within him when he heard Goliath blaspheming the Lord still burned within him. He wanted Israel not merely to turn to the Lord, but to follow the Lord. Accordingly, he made plans for the continued worship of God by the people of Israel.

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. David wanted the worship to continue in Jerusalem where God had directed him to place the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:4-6, 37-38). He appointed Asaph to make regular thanksgiving and praise to God with singing and music. He also appointed Obed-Edom and his family as gatekeepers.

THE ALTAR. Although the ark was in Jerusalem, the tabernacle and altar remained in Gibeon. David was diligent to make sure sacrifices and worship continued there also (1 Chronicles 16:39-42). He appointed Zadok and his priestly family to present offerings regularly as required by the Law of Moses. He also appointed the Levites Heman and Jeduthun to be in charge of the music there. The sons of Jeduthun were gatekeepers there

THE MUSICIANS. The leading musicians appointed by David were godly men. 1) Asaph was a Levite (1 Chronicles 6:39-43) and a seer (2 Chronicles 29:30). Several psalms are attributed to him or a descendant with the same name (Psalms 50, 73-83). 2) Heman, who served in Gibeon, was a Levite (2 Chronicles 5:12) and the grandson of the prophet Samuel (1 Chronicles 6:33-34). Like his more famous grandfather, Heman was a seer (1 Chronicles 25:5). From the time of Samuel, there had been a close connection between the prophesying and musical accompaniment (1 Samuel 10:5-6; 1 Chronicles 25:1). 3) Jeduthun was also a Levite and a seer (2 Chronicles 35:15). He is to be distinguished from the father of Obed-Edom. His six sons are listed in 1 Chronicles 25:3. Psalm 39, by David, is dedicated to Jeduthun. Psalm 62 and 77 are "after the manner of Jeduthan." These three seers did not act presumptuously when they accompanied worship with instrumental music (1 Chronicles 25:1-5). This music accompanied by musical instruments was prescribed by the Lord through David and the prophets Gad and Nathan. When Hezekiah restored temple worship years later, the Scripture (2 Chronicles 29:25) says that

He stationed the Levites in the temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets.

THE GATEKEEPERS. The gatekeepers, both Obed-Edom in Jerusalem, and Jeduthun in Gibeon, were Levites (1 Chronicles 26:1-4). David did not pick their names out of a hat, but before he was king and even before the death of Samuel, he had discussed these appointments with Samuel the prophet (1 Chronicles 9:22-23). All of David's steps with regard to worship at Gibeon and Jerusalem were directed by the Lord.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good Intentions Not Optional

Reflections on 2 Samuel 6:12-19
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Good intentions are not sufficient, as David learned when he tried to bring the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem the first time. Neither are good intentions optional. Thus, David put his good intentions to work again when he saw that God blessed the house of Obed-Edom where David had left the ark after Uzzah died. He was assured that God would bless all Israel as he had Obed-Edom, if the ark was brought to Jerusalem, so David resolved to bring it to Jerusalem in accordance with the instructions God had given Moses. This time, David would be well informed in addition to being well intentioned.

AN HONOR GUARD. Again, an honor guard accompanied the ark. This time it included priests, Levites (1 Chronicles 15:14), and the elders of Israel as well as the commanders of the army (1 Chronicles 15:25). Thus, the procession resembled the procession of the Israelites as they traveled from one place to another in the wilderness (Numbers 10:17-28). This would be the ark's final journey.

CONSECRATED LEVITES. This time, David did not transport the ark of the Lord on a new cart. Instead, David consecrated Levites to carry the ark (v. 13). Neither the oxen nor the cart were Levites. Uzzah and Ahio may not have been a Levites either. Levites alone were to carry the ark (1 Chronicles 15:2, 12-13), and they "carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 15:15; Numbers 4:15; 7:9; Exodus 25:13-14). The priests, who had also consecrated themselves, offered sacrifices after the Levites had carried the ark six steps.

WHOLEHEARTED CELEBRATION. In his enthusiasm for the Lord, David appointed some Levites to sing, and others to play musical instruments (1 Chronicles 15:16, 19) so that the procession was accompanied "with rejoicing" (v. 12), with dancing (v. 14), and "with shouts and the sound of trumpets" (v. 15). The people's hearts overflowed with heartfelt joy and thanksgiving.

A PREPARED TENT. In addition to discovering that the ark was to be carried by Levites, David also learned that the ark was kept in a tent. Accordingly, he pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem before it arrived (v. 17; see also 1 Chronicles 15:1). The tent that originally housed the ark had for years been in Shiloh, but Shiloh was apparently destroyed by the Philistines (Jeremiah 7:12-14) after they captured the ark. The tent and its furnishings that survived the destruction at Shiloh were transferred to Gibeon, and David assigned Zadok to serve as priest there (see 1 Chronicles 16:39-40; 21:29). Sacrifices continued to be offered on the altar at Gibeon until an altar was built in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the ark of the Lord had traveled to Philistia and then back to Kirjath-jearim, where it had been neglected for years. David prepared a new tent for the ark in Jerusalem because God had told David that he had chosen Jerusalem as the place for his Name (Deuteronomy 12:1-7; 2 Kings 21:7-8). In all David did, he showed great respect for the will of God.

OFFERING AND BLESSING. David purchased burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. The people shared in the feasting and fellowship. David blessed the people in the name of the Lord and provided a generous gift of food to each one attending the celebration. This time the journey of the ark was not aborted by a tragic death. Rather, the journey was completed, and the lives of the people were blessed by God's bountiful favor.