Tuesday, January 31, 2012

God's Choice Acknowledged

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 29:21-25

GOD'S CHOICE. Like Saul and David before him, Solomon was anointed as king both privately and publicly. Solomon was anointed hastily the first time because his brother Adonijah had proclaimed himself king. Zadok and Nathan anointed him as God's chosen and seated him on the throne before Adonijah could claim it (1 Kings 1:38-40). Similarly, Samuel anointed Saul the first time as a sign that God had chosen Saul (1 Samuel 10:1). Likewise, Samuel anointed David privately the first time to declare him as God's choice to replace Saul (1 Samuel 16:12-13).

CHOICE ACKNOWLEDGED. Solomon was anointed a second time before all the leaders of Israel. All Israel (officers, soldiers, and the king's sons) acknowledged Solomon as their king at the second anointing. Similarly, David was anointed again publicly both when Judah acknowledged him (2 Samuel 2:4) and when all Israel acknowledged him as God's chosen king (2 Samuel 5:3). (Saul was also later acknowledged as king, but a second anointing is not mentioned; see 2 Samuel 10:24; 11:14-15.)

JESUS, THE ANOINTED ONE. The Scriptures seldom mention whether later kings were anointed. It seems likely that most in Judah were anointed, but still it is seldom mentioned. However, the Psalms and prophets often speak of an ideal, anointed (messianic) king, and it is this king that was the hope of Israel. Jesus fulfilled the promised hope. He is spoken of as the Christ/Messiah/Anointed One. Jesus said that the words of Isaiah were fulfilled in him:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
-- Luke 4:18 (NIV)
Similarly, Peter declared that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power" (Acts 10:38). Today, Jesus is God's chosen king. God has anointed him, and we should acknowledge him and submit to him in all things.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A National Assembly

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 28:1 - 29:20

After Solomon had been anointed king and set on the throne, David called the leaders of the government and the leaders of the Levites to Jerusalem to meet with their new king and put them under his command. Undoubtedly Solomon met with many of these leaders privately, but David also planned a national assembly while the leaders were in Jerusalem. Although David had been weak and confined to his own room in the palace, David rose to his feet on this occasion to address the whole assembly.

GOD SELECTED (28:1-7). First, he explained that he had wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but the Lord had not chosen him for the task. The kingdom was the "kingdom of the Lord" (v. 5), and God would exercise his sovereignty over his kingdom. He had chosen Judah to be a leader in Israel, he had chosen David to king over all Israel, and he had chosen Solomon to succeed David and build the temple in Jerusalem.

DAVID DIRECTED (28:8-10). David then charged Solomon to follow the Lord's commands carefully, to acknowledge God and serve him wholeheartedly, and to be strong and complete the building of the temple. He promised that if he would do these things, he would possess the land and pass it on as an inheritance to his descendants forever.

DAVID DELIVERED THE PLANS HE HAD RECEIVED (28:11-19). Then David gave to Solomon the plans for the temple that the "Spirit had put in his mind" (v. 12) and David had then put "in writing from the hand of the LORD" (v. 19).

DAVID ENCOURAGED (28:20-21). David encouraged his son with these words, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished" (v. 20).

DAVID ENABLED (29:1-9). David understood that the plans for the temple called for abundant materials because the structure was to reflect the glory not of man but of God, so he gave freely from his own treasures so that Solomon might have the resources to build the temple. The leaders of the people also gave freely for the project, and the people rejoiced greatly at the willing response of their leaders.

DAVID PRAISED THE LORD (29:10-20). David concluded his address to the national assembly with a song of praise to a majestic and powerful God before whom he and all Israel stood in awe because of their own insignificance. The public assembly not only solidified Solomon's position as king over all Israel, but it also motivated all Israel to help in building a temple for God.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Power Forward

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 27:1-34

When the leaders of Israel assembled in Jerusalem, David gave Solomon the reins of power which would enable him to rule Israel. David was able to give Solomon a kingdom and the glory that attended that kingdom because God had blessed him.
A large population is a king's glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined. -- Proverbs 14:28 NIV
OFFICIALS OVER THE ARMY. The army he transferred to Solomon was divided into twelve divisions. Each division, which consisted of 24,000 soldiers, was on duty one month during the year.

OFFICIALS OVER THE TRIBES. The thirteen officials over of the tribes of Israel were put under Solomon's authority. Two tribes, Gad and Asher, were omitted for unknown reasons bringing the number to ten. To these ten, three were added: officers over Levi, Aaron, and the half tribe of Manasseh in Gilead.

OFFICIALS OVER THE ROYAL PROPERTY. Officers over the David's property were put under Solomon's command. His lands included vineyards, fields of olive and sycamore-fig trees, and pastures in the plains of Sharon and the valleys. His herds included camels, donkeys, sheep, and goats. He also had storehouses in Jerusalem and outlying districts. There were also officers over the field workers and over David's sons. David's remaining counselors were also turned over to Solomon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Enduring Legacy

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 23:1 - 26:32

During David's lifetime, David reorganized the Levites including the priests. This reorganization would be fully implemented under Solomon when the new temple was built, and it would be retained after the return from Babylonian captivity and endure to the time of Christ. When David counted the Levites, there were 38,000 over the age of 30. He divided them into four groups. The first supervised the work of the temple, the second acted as officials and judges, the third were gatekeepers at the temple, and the fourth praised the Lord in music at the temple. David called the leaders of the priests and Levites to Jerusalem to introduce them to Solomon, the new king who would build the temple where they would soon serve.

TEMPLE WORKERS (1 Chronicles 23:6 - 24:31). David retained the three divisions of Levites, but they were assigned different duties because a temple placed permanently in Jerusalem made their responsibilities in carrying the tabernacle unnecessary (1 Chronicles 23:26). Instead, they were put in charge of the courtyards and side courts, of purifying the sacred utensils, of making the bread, of overseeing all measurements, and of praising God (1 Chronicles 23:28-31). The priests were divided into 24 courses, 16 descended from Aaron's son Eleazar and 8 from his son Ithamar.

SINGERS (1 Chronicles 25:1-31). The singers appointed by David prophesied, gave thanks, and praised God with the accompaniment of harps, lyres, and cymbals (25:1-3). The singers were sons of three men: Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman, a grandson of Samuel (1 Chronicles 6:33). They were divided into 24 groups which corresponded to the 24 courses of priests. They had served at the tabernacle and in Jerusalem since the day David brought the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 6:31-32; 16:39-42). David's instructions for their service in the temple came from the Lord (1 Chronicles 28:19; 2 Chronicles 29:25).

GATEKEEPERS (1 Chronicles 26:1-28). The first gatekeepers were assigned their positions at the Tent by David and Samuel (1 Chronicles 9:22-23) and at the ark when it was brought to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:23-24). Their duties would be greatly expanded when the temple was built. Treasurers were a special section of the gatekeepers.

OFFICIALS AND JUDGES (1 Chronicles 26:29-32). The Levites who served as officials and judges were divided into two groups: one group consisting of 1,700 men served west of the Jordan, and a second group consisting of 2,700 men served east of the Jordan. They all served in matters pertaining to God and in the affairs of the king.

The long lists of names makes it is easy to lose sight of David's accomplishments with regard to the worship of God. What he did was make it easier for Israel to remember their God and transfer that knowledge to coming generations. This is exactly what God wanted.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
-- Psalm 78:5-7 NIV

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Success Planned for the Successor

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 22:2-19

One responsibility of leadership is to prepare the way for a successor. Although it appears David was slow to designate Solomon as his successor, he had prepared the way for him.

PLAN AND CHARGE. David had wanted to build a house for the Lord, but God had forbidden him because he was a man of blood and war. Still, God promised that his son Solomon would be a man of peace and that he would build a house for God. When Solomon had been appointed king, David called him in and charged him to build a house for the Lord. David prepared the way for his successor by giving him a clear objective.

INEXPERIENCE. David may have been slow to designate Solomon as co-regent because Solomon was young and inexperienced. Solomon could not have been born much earlier than halfway through David's 40-year reign (he was born after the conquest of Ammon), but he did have a son before he became king (cf. 1 Kings 11:42 and 1 Kings 14:21), so he was probably about 20 years old. At that age, he would not have had the same experience in managing any of the royal property as brothers who were 10 to 15 years older (Absalom had had charge of sheep and sheep shearing; 2 Samuel 13:23). This may account for David's apparent reluctance to name a successor.

PREPARATION. Because David was passionate about his dream and because Solomon was young, David had already enlisted many of the laborers (stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and men skilled in working with gold, silver, bronze, and iron) and donated materials (cedar logs, bronze, iron, silver, and gold) needed for building the temple.

BLESSING. After David instructed Solomon to build the temple and told him the preparations he had already made, he blessed his son wishing the Lord to be with him and to give him discretion, understanding, and success. Finally, he charged him to obey the Lord, to be strong and courageous, and never to be afraid or discouraged.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lastest and Leastest

Reflections on 1 Kings 1:41-53

While Solomon was being anointed and led back to the throne in the city accompanied by a growing, noisy, and festive crowd, Adonijah dallied at the party he had thrown at En Rogel Spring.

ANXIOUS. Adonijah and his guests were just finishing their feast when they heard the trumpets in the city and the noise of the crowds. Joab, always on guard, immediately asked, "What's the meaning of all the noise in the city?"

ABANDONED. Just at that moment, Jonathan arrived with news from the city. Adonijah was hoping for good news, but Jonathan announced that Solomon had already ascended the throne and that the whole city was rejoicing with him. Adonijah's supporters at the feast, insignificant compared to the population of the city, fled the feast in fear for their lives.

ALARMED. In fear of his life, Adonijah fled to the altar (perhaps the altar in Gibeon, but more likely one that had been built in Jerusalem (see 2 Samuel 6:17 and 24:25) where he sought refuge and pardon. Solomon sent for Adonijah when he learned where he was, but Adonijah refused to come until he had been promised safety. Only then did Adonijah leave the altar and go to the throne. He was the last to reach it, and he came, not as king, but as supplicant without even one person supporting him.

Solomon arrived at the throne firstest with the mostest; Adonijah arrived lastest with the leastest.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Decisive Action

Reflections on 1 Kings 1:32-40

When David learned that Adonijah had proclaimed himself king, he acted promptly and decisively. After reaffirming his promise to Bathsheba, he called in three trusted men to execute his plan.

THE KING'S MULE. David commanded that Solomon be placed on his own mule and ride through the city accompanied by his own servants. Passage through the city would attract the attention of the expectant citizens, and riding on the king's mule would assure them that Solomon had David's blessing.

GIHON SPRING. Solomon's procession ended at Gihon Spring. Because Gihon Spring was nearer the city than En Rogel where Adonijah was celebrating, the news of Solomon's anointing would gain the attention of Jerusalem more quickly than Adonijah's earlier but more distant celebration.

PUBLIC ANOINTING. Zadok the priest anointed Solomon with the oil from the sacred tent showing that Solomon was God's choice rather than man's choice. Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, who was of the priestly family as well as a commander (1 Chronicles 27:5), were present to confirm God's choice. The public responded with shouts of "Long live King Solomon" and music and rejoicing that shook the ground.

DAVID'S THRONE. After the anointing, the procession returned through the city gathering larger crowds as it went, and Solomon took his seat on the throne of his father David. Although Adonijah made the first move to claim the throne, Solomon was the first to sit on the throne. In this case, possession was more than nine-tenths of the law because God had chosen Solomon. Solomon's initial humility and the peace that would predominate during his reign were symbolized by the mule he rode that day. God rejected the pride and war symbolized by Adonijah's chariots and horses.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

David Informed of a Problem

Reflections on 1 Kings 1:11-31

Most of us don't like problems that come to us when we are exhausted. David was weak and weary from advanced age, but a problem was developing again within his own household about who would follow him as king. He was unaware of the problem, so Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba found it necessary to inform him. PROMISE. Through Nathan, God had promised David a son whom the Lord would love and establish on David' throne (2 Samuel 7:14-16). Later, Nathan identified Solomon as that son and gave him the name Jedidiah, which meant "loved of God" (2 Samuel 12:24-25). David then had promised Bathsheba that her son Solomon would be the next king (vv. 13, 17). This promise was also known within the family and by Adonijah, who ominously failed to invite Solomon to the party he was throwing near En Rogel Spring just outside the city walls.

EXPECTATION. Although David had expressed his intention about the throne within his family, he had never made a public announcement about which son would follow him as king. Because David's health was failing, the nation was anticipating such an announcement at any moment (v. 20; Accordingly, the public assembly in 1 Chronicles 29:22 could not have already happened.)

SHOCK AND DANGER. With David's health failing and the nation in expectation, Adonijah decided to preempt the king and proclaim himself as David's successor (vv. 13, 18, 25). With the support of a significant portion of the government, namely Joab the army commander and Abiathar the priest, Adonijah would surely treat Solomon and Bathsheba as criminals because he would see them as endangering his rule and authority (v. 21).

Though weak and weary, David needed to act decisively. He would because he was still a leader at heart.
Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader.
-- Gen. George S. Patton

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Plotting Against the Lord

Reflections on 1 Kings 1:5-10

Israel still had a hankering for a king like the nations, one who would conquer the nations and provide them with pomp and pageantry. David's sons Absalom and Adonijah wanted to be such a king.

AMBITION. Like Absalom, Adonijah was handsome and ambitious. Being the oldest living son, he promoted himself by sending chariots, horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. Then he secured the support of David's army commander, Joab, and one of the priests, Abiathar, who had been a companion of David from the time Saul killed the priests in Nob (1 Samuel 22:20). Finally, he invited many of the royal family and leading men to a sacrifice at En Rogel, a well not far southeast of Jerusalem, where he proclaimed himself king.

DEFIANCE. Adonijah knew that his father planned to make Solomon king after him, but he defied his father's wishes. He did not invite Solomon or any of David's inner circle including Zadok the priest, Benaiah the commander of David's personal bodyguard, and Nathan the prophet. No doubt Adonijah did not want them to know what he planned before it was done. Once he had been proclaimed king, he apparently felt quite sure that the doting and aging king neither would nor could remove him from the throne.

What Adonijah did not realize is that he wasn't plotting against his father but against the Lord. Because God had chosen Solomon to be the next king, no plan would successfully displace him.
There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.
-- Proverbs 21:30

Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting Old

Reflections on 1 Kings 1:1-4

David was probably now approaching his 68th or 69th year having reigned 38 or 39 years. He would live but a short time longer, but he evidently had not formally announced his intention to make Solomon the next king, perhaps because he did not wish to offend his older sons (see 1 Kings 1:6) or he feared that Solomon was still too young at about age 20 (1 Chronicles 22:5; 29:1). Nevertheless, he needed to do something because he was obviously growing older.

PHYSICAL DECLINE. David was not able to keep warm, so a beautiful girl from Shunem by the name of Abishag was chosen to keep him warm. She attended David in his private quarters not only during the night, but also during the day for it is there that Bathsheba and Nathan went to see David when Adonijah proclaimed himself king (1 Kings 1:15). David apparently was not able to go with those who anointed Solomon the first time (1 Kings 1:33 ff.), and when Solomon actually took the throne, David worshiped on his bed (1 Kings 1:47). Even in 1 Chronicles, which details a national assembly David called to anoint Solomon a second time, David rose to his feet only once (1 Chronicles 28:2), and only once addressed the assembled leaders of Israel (1 Chronicles 29:10).

NO MENTAL DECLINE. David still acted promptly and decisively when he needed to, but most of the extensive plans for the temple and the organization of the kingdom recorded in 1 Chronicles had probably been done in preceding years. They were merely handed over to Solomon formally at the national assembly. Certainly David had started dedicating treasures midway through his reign when he was defeating the surrounding nations (2 Samuel 8:11-12). Nevertheless, David apparently did not experience serious mental decline late in life.
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
-- Psalm 90:10 NIV

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sacrifice for Sin

Reflections on 2 Sam. 24:18-25 & 1 Chron. 21:18 - 22:1

David was so greatly troubled by the plague ravaging Israel that he offered himself that the plague might be stopped. If David had been the only one to sin, his death might have satisfied justice, but David was not the only one who had sinned. God had been angry with Israel as well (2 Samuel 24:1), so they also had sinned. That being the case, either Israel had to die or an appropriate substitute who was not himself condemned. David, of course, was a sinner who was himself in need of a sacrifice. He could not be a sacrifice for Israel. God, however, had a plan whereby both David and Israel could be saved by a sinless and perfect sacrifice. That plan progressed on the hill where Araunah was threshing wheat.

AN APPOINTED PLACE. At that time, the altar of burnt offering was at Gibeon a short distance north of Jerusalem, but David was afraid to go there because of the angel spreading the plague (1 Chronicles 21:29-30). God had chosen another place, Araunah's threshing floor, as the permanent site for the altar, and his angel had halted at that place. Gad instructed David to build an altar there and offer sacrifices. This was the place where Abraham had brought Isaac and God had provided a sacrifice for him (Genesis 22:2). This would become the site of the temple and the altar of burnt offering (2 Chronicles 3:1).

AN APPROPRIATE PRICE. When David approached Araunah to buy his threshing floor, Araunah offered to give the threshing floor and animals to David. Such offers were part of the negotiation process (see Genesis 23), so it is not surprising that David insisted on paying even though he was king. Still, his reason for insisting is significant. He said, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." Sin is costly, and David did not wish to make a sacrifice that denied that cost.

ACCEPTABLE PROPITIATION. David offered blood sacrifices on the altar that he built, and the Lord showed his acceptance of the sacrifice by sending fire from heaven to consume it as he had at Mount Sinai (Leviticus 9:23-24) and as he would when Solomon's temple was dedicated (2 Chronicles 7:1). God accepted David's sacrifice, not because the blood of bulls and goats could atone for sin (they could not, Hebrews 10:4), but because he himself had already planned to provide the perfect sacrifice for sin, his only begotten Son, on this very mountain.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unlikely Hero

Reflections on 1 Sam. 18:6-9

When I was young, a small university was playing in a national championship game. With only a few seconds left on the clock, one of their players fouled out of the game, and the opposing team hit free throws giving them a one-point lead. The coach was just about out of players. Reluctantly, he put his own son in the game. Although his son was a senior, he had played in only a few games. After the team inbounded the ball and called a time out, the coach drew up a play to get the ball to their best shooter on the court. When the team tried to inbound the ball again with only a couple of seconds left, no one could get open except the coach’s son near midcourt. He put up a desperate shot which hit the back of the rim and popped high above the basket as time ran off the clock. After what seemed an eternity, the ball came back down through the basket for the winning score, the only basket scored all year by the coach’s son. All season, others had carried the team. Others had put the team in the championship game, but on this night, a bench warmer came into the game, shot the winning basket, and became the player of the game!

MIGHTY WARRIOR. Saul was a mighty warrior who had led Israel to many victories. When Nahash the Ammonite had threatened to gouge out the right eyes of all the people in Jabesh Gilead, Saul had immediately gathered a force and marched to Jabesh where he routed the Ammonite army and saved the city. He had fought “valiantly” on many occasions and delivered Israel “out of the hands of those who plundered them.” Among the armies he had defeated were the Moabites, the Edomites, the kings of Zobah, the Philistines, and the Amalekites (1 Sam. 14:47-48). Undoubtedly, his name had been sung on many occasions when his victorious army returned home.

PLAYER OF THE GAME. On this occasion, however, David was the “player of the game.” He had killed Goliath and inspired the army. As the victorious army returned home, the women sang, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7 ESV). Knowing that Samuel had told him that God was going to take the kingdom from him and give it to another, Saul felt insecure when he heard the song which credited David with slaying more enemies than he had. Although Saul had won more battles and killed more enemies, he feared his grasp on the kingdom was slipping. Consequently, he “eyed” David from that day on (1 Sam. 18:9). The word “eye” in Hebrew sounds like the word that means “transgress,” and suggests that Saul was watching David for an opportunity to harm him from this day on (Bergen, 1996, p. 201).

A Good Shepherd

Reflections on 2 Sam. 24:11-17 & 1 Chron. 21:9-17

God took David from the pasture where he followed the sheep and said to him, "You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler" (2 Samuel 5:2). Indeed, David did shepherd Israel. He protected citizens from marauders, showed compassion to those who were discouraged and in debt, gave hope and courage to soldiers in battle, showed sympathy to the weak and weary, and ruled the people with justice and equity. His treatment of Uriah was the one exception to his just and benevolent rule of Israel, but David repented and was disciplined of God. He was again a man who put the interests of the people above his own (cf. Philippians 2:4).

CHOICE. After David numbered the people, his conscience smote him, and he confessed his sin. Through Gad the prophet, God gave David the choice of three punishments: three years of famine, three months of fleeing before his enemies, or three days of plague. The choice was difficult for as the time diminished from three years to three days, the severity of the punishment increased. In all three, many of the people would die, so David cast himself, and all Israel, on the mercy of God asking only that they not fall into the hands of men. God sent a plague, and seventy-thousand men (soldiers?) died throughout the land.

APPEAL. When the plague was approaching Jerusalem, David was distraught for the people and fell face down before the approaching angel. He prayed to God, "Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O Lord my God, let your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people" (1 Chronicles 21:17). It is especially noteworthy that David shouldered full responsibility for the census even though the people had also done something that angered God!
David offered himself and his family to the plague in order that God might spare the people of Jerusalem. In this, he demonstrated that he still had the heart of a shepherd who cared for his sheep. He foreshadowed the coming Messiah, who had committed no sin yet gave his life for those who had. He said,
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. -- John 10:11-13

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Happened?

Reflections on 2 Sam. 24:1-10 & 1 Chron. 21:1-8; 27:23-24

Recently I passed an accident on the highway just as the first patrolman was arriving. Heavy black skid marks slanted from the right lane toward ditch where a vehicle was resting on its side. A half dozen people were milling around it. An 18-wheeler was on the shoulder just beyond the vehicle in the ditch. Soon traffic on the highway would slow as people would try to see. Each would ask themselves, "What happened?" Some would say this, and others that. Many answers might be given. Several might be right, and many would probably be wrong.

When we look at the account of David numbering the people of Israel as recounted in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24, we get two explanations as to what happened. 2 Samuel says the Lord incited David against Israel, but 1 Chronicles says that Satan incited David to take a census of Israel. Are these explanations contradictory, or could both be true? What really happened?

FIRST. Satan rose up against Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1). This is surely due to his malice against God, against God's people, and even against God's ruler. He tempted them to be dissatisfied with God's rule and to desire to be like the nations.

SECOND. The Lord's anger burned against Israel (2 Samuel 24:1). Israel had displeased the Lord by falling to Satan's temptation. They had rebelled against David, the Lord's anointed, who provided righteous rule, directed their devotion toward God, and gave them safety from their enemies. They had wanted a king like the nations, a king like Absalom.

THIRD. David sinned (2 Samuel 24:10; 1 Chronicles 21:7). After the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba, David's faith may have wavered. God tested him. Would he rely on God, or would he be anxious about the strength of his army? Anxiety won over faith. Even though God had not commanded him to take a census as he had commanded Moses on two occasions (Numbers 1:2; 26:2), David ordered that the people be numbered. In this, he also would have been thinking like the nations, relying on military strength instead of the Lord. David's command to number the people was "evil in the sight of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 21:7).

FOURTH. Wrath came on Israel on account of the numbering (1 Chronicles 27:24). Israel may have found satisfaction in David's numbering of the people capable of bearing arms. David had started acting like a "real" king in measuring the strength of his army. He had never done this before. The numbering was a way for them to "flex their muscles."

So who incited David to take the census? God tempts no one to sin, but he did test David, and Satan used the occasion to lure both Israel and David into sin. Numbering the people was a sin both for David and for Israel. However, even though Satan meant harm, God would purify Israel with his wrath and establish a place for his name to be glorified through David's confession and intercession.
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
-- James 1:13-14 NIV

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Land Polluted by Bloodshed

Reflections on 2 Samuel 21:1-14

Sometime during the reign of David, probably shortly after David moved to Jerusalem from Hebron, a famine came upon the land for three years. David sought the face of the Lord so that the Lord might look favorably on Israel again.

THE OFFENSE. God told David that the problem was that Saul and other members of his house (family) had killed the Gibeonites (v. 1). The Gibeonites were not Israelites, but they lived in several villages in Benjamite territory. Joshua had made a treaty with them promising not to kill them, and the Israelite leaders had confirmed the treaty with an oath (Joshua 9:15). Saul, however, in his zeal for Israel had plotted against them and tried to annihilate them (v. 2). Many had been killed (v. 5), and others had fled their homes to save their lives (see also 2 Samuel 4:2-3 which reports that the Gibeonites of Beeroth had fled to Gittaim and lived there as aliens). They had not been able to live anywhere in Israel safely (v. 5).

THE ATONEMENT. When David asked the Gibeonites how atonement or reconciliation could be made, they said they had no right to demand money or to put anyone to death. Such a statement, however, was the beginning of a bargaining process (cf. Ephron's negotiations with Abraham in Genesis 23:11 and 2 Samuel 24:22-23). When asked again, they requested that seven male descendants of Saul be killed before the Lord. David turned over seven male members of Saul's family to the Gibeonites who executed them at the beginning of the barley harvest.

FAMINE'S END. The Gibeonites exposed the bodies of those they executed, and Rizpah, the mother of two of them, protected their bodies from the birds and wild beasts until the rains came. At that time, David retrieved the bodies of Saul and Jonathan from Jabesh Gilead and buried them in the family grave in Benjamin along with those who had been executed. After atonement had been made for the land, God heard Israel's prayers and lifted the famine.

A PROBLEM. Although Canaanite law apparently permitted killing the children of a person who had violated a covenant (Youngblood, 1992, p, 1054), God's law stipulated that children could not be punished for the sins of their fathers (Deuteronomy 24:16). Had these descendants of Saul participated in the slaughter of the Gibeonites? Possibly they had for verse one indicates that Saul's family had participated in the bloodshed. However, the text also says that David spared Jonathan's son Mephibosheth not because he was innocent (he was only five at the time of Saul's death - 2 Samuel 4:4) but because of the oath David had made to Jonathan. Furthermore, Merab did not marry Adriel until after David slew Goliath (1 Samuel 18:19), so her sons, who could not have been more than teenagers at the time of Saul's death, probably did not participate in the slaughter. (A textual problem complicates the issue of which daughter of Saul was mother of five of the men. While some Hebrew and Greek manuscripts read "Merab" in 2 Samuel 21:8, most read Michal. However, Saul gave Michal to Paltiel in 1 Samuel 25:44, and David recovered her from him in 2 Samuel 3:15. Saul gave Merab to Adriel in 1 Samuel 18:19.) Whatever the solution to this problem, God revealed to David that Saul's sin had led to the famine, and God accepted the atonement and blessed the land again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

War and Peace

Reflections on 2 Samuel 20:14-22
A time for war and a time for peace.
-- Ecclesiastes 3:8
David's wise son Solomon observed that there is a time for everything, including war and peace. Sheba had declared himself no longer loyal to David and persuaded the northern tribes to return to their homes instead of accompanying David to Jerusalem. Was this a time for war, or a time for peace?

WAR. David clearly thought it was a time for military action lest Sheba gather support and begin another armed rebellion. Joab had regained control of David's army and was leading it in pursuit of Sheba. Sheba passed through Israel trying to gain support but apparently found none except among the Berites, who followed him. Pursued by Joab, Sheba and the Berites took refuge in Abel Beth Maacah in the far north. Joab put the city under siege, building a siege ramp and battering the walls. Given time, he undoubtedly would have succeeded in destroying much of the city and capturing Sheba.

PEACE. A wise woman of the city discerned that this was not a time for war, but a time for peace. She saw that although the men of the northern tribes had gone home when Sheba sounded the trumpet, they were not in a state of rebellion against the king. Few had followed Sheba. It was senseless to defy the king's army when the city had no argument against the king. The city was a "mother," a leading city in Israel where people sought counsel. Its leaders were wise, peace loving, faithful and loyal. Now was not the time to ruin its reputation with senseless defiance of the king's army which would lead to senseless destruction of a part of the Lord's inheritance. Accordingly, she called for Joab, and sought terms of peace. Learning what Joab wanted, the city leaders wisely executed the rebel Sheba, and Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

Wise words proved more powerful than a ruthless army and saved a city from destruction.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Jealousy and Treachery

Reflections on 2 Samuel 20:4-13

David's commanders, Amasa and Joab, were opposites though both were David's nephews. Amasa was promoted to commander even though he lost the only battle he was known to lead. Joab was a successful commander credited with many victories including the capture of Jerusalem. The two men crossed paths while David was trying to prevent Sheba from organizing a rebellion.

AMASA. When the men of the northern tribes became frustrated with the men of Judah, Sheba had convinced them to return to their homes, but he had not yet organized a rebellion. David wished to prevent Sheba from organizing any resistance, so he said to Amasa, his newly appointed commander, "Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself." Amasa, however, was negligent. He failed both to gather the army in three days and to report to David. David could not afford further delay, so he sent Abishai to pursue Sheba after putting him at the head of Joab's men and his own personal bodyguard.

JOAB. Joab was a shrewd man always on guard and ever protective of his own interests. He was inclined to treachery from the beginning of his career to the end. Years earlier while pretending to greet Abner, he had stabbed him in the belly to avenge the death of his brother whom Abner had slain in battle (2 Samuel 3:27). Joab had been a co-conspirator with David in deserting Uriah, one of David's mighty men, in the heat of battle so that the enemy might kill him (2 Samuel 11:14-17). More recently, Joab had ignored David's plea to deal gently with Absalom, and slew him while he hung helplessly from a tree (2 Samuel 18:14). In response, David had demoted Joab and replaced him with Amasa, making them rivals.

THE ENCOUNTER. Amasa joined Abishai's forces at Gibeon where he met Joab, who harbored malice in his heart for the man who had replaced him at the head of the army. Unlike Joab, Amasa was not wary or vigilant. In fact, he might even be called gullible. He was not suspicious when Joab dropped a dagger and picked it up with his left hand. He was not wary when Joab took hold of his beard with his right hand to give him a friendly kiss. While kissing Amasa, Joab stabbed him in the belly and then left him to die while writhing in his own blood. This act of treachery nearly stalled the pursuit of Sheba. All who saw Amasa wallowing in his own blood stopped. They could not help Amasa, but they could not abandon him either. Finally, a soldier drug Amasa off the road and covered him with a garment so the pursuit could continue. David, however, would not forget what Joab had done (1 Kings 2:5-6). From this time on, Joab was living on borrowed time.
A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
-- Proverbs 26:24-26

Monday, January 2, 2012

War of Words

Reflections on 2 Samuel 19:41 - 20:3

The welcoming celebration for the king had been unplanned, and the northern tribes were underrepresented when it occurred. Words were spoken, accusations made, feelings hurt, and the northern tribes went home in disgust instead of escorting David back to Jerusalem.

ACCUSATION OF STEALING. Perhaps the northern tribes should have been embarrassed that more of them had not met the king, but instead of faulting themselves, the northern tribes directed attention on the tribe of Judah. "Why," they asked David, "did our brothers, the men of Judah, steal the king away and bring him across the Jordan?" By using the word "steal," they hoped to remind David that they had been first to call him back as king, and they implied that Judah wanted to separate the king from the rest of Israel.

JUSTIFICATION. Of course, the men of Judah overheard. They responded that there was nothing unusual about their eagerness to welcome the king because they were more closely related to David, who was of the tribe of Judah. "Why," they asked, "are you angry with us? Have we used our relationship to the king for any selfish or unscrupulous purpose?"

ACCUSATION OF SHOWING CONTEMPT. The northern tribes responded that they had ten shares in the king and therefore deserved more from their relationship to him. Since Judah did not recognize their greater share, they accused Judah of treating the rest of Israel with contempt. Judah's contempt was confirmed, they suggested, by their refusal to credit the northern tribes with being the first to speak of recalling the king.

HARSH WORDS. The men of Judah responded with even harsher words. What had begun as unplanned but joyous welcome for the king became a harsh war of words. Rather than resolving the differences, Sheba, a troublemaker who lived in the hill country of Ephraim (2 Samuel 20:21), convinced the northern tribes to go home while the men of Judah escorted the king to Jerusalem.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
-- James 3:6