Be Careful that You Don’t Fall

2 Samuel 11

March 11

The story of David and Bathsheba is probably familiar to most of us.  King David, described elsewhere as a “man after God’s own heart”, had a little too much time on his hands while his army was away fighting.  One evening, he got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace; and from his roof, he saw a beautiful woman taking a bath.  I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

You might be tempted to stop right there and ask what this beautiful woman was doing taking a bath in public. Wasn’t she inviting unwanted attention? Presumably, she was in her own fenced backyard, and nobody could see her unless someone was on the roof of the palace next door – and who would be walking around on a roof?  Regardless, she isn’t the real topic of the story, David is.

The fact remains that David took a long look at her.  David lusted after her.  David violated one of the 10 commandments: “Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife…”.   Lust is a trap, especially for men – even for a “man after God’s own heart”.  David should have stopped right there, confessed, and asked God for forgiveness.  Instead, he asked one of his servants who she was.  He was definitely showing too much interest.

Once he found out that she was the wife of Uriah, one of his bodyguards, and the granddaughter of Ahithophel, his chief advisor, he certainly should have walked away.  But she was gorgeous, so instead, he invited her over and slept with her.  David violated another of the 10 commandments: “Don’t commit adultery” – and the punishment for this one was supposed to be death.

When David found out that Bathsheba was pregnant, he recalled her husband from the battle so he could go home – to try to hide the fact that David was the father.  But Uriah didn’t cooperate; he didn’t go home.  Ultimately, David then schemed to have Uriah put on the front line of the battle, and have everyone else withdraw, so Uriah was killed.  And so he violated another of the 10 commandments: “Don’t kill”.

David seemed to successfully hide all of this until after the son was born.  But God sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront David.  Nathan told David that God was going to discipline David, according to his sins.  

David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba.  In this psalm, we find in verse 1, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions.”  In verses 11-12, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your Salvation…”  David’s heart was broken, he confessed, and was reconciled to God.

The discipline came a little later.  During Absalom’s rebellion, Absalom slept with 10 of David’s concubines in public;  David’s daughter Tamar was raped by her half brother Amnon; four of David’s sons died: this baby, Amnon, Absolam, and Adonijah; and David had problems for the rest of his life.  God forgave David’s sins, but David still had to live with the consequences of his sins.

God’s discipline isn’t punishment handed out by an angry God bent on vengeance, it’s difficulty allowed by a loving Father who wants to see his children develop godly character.  Otherwise, it would be too easy to just accept and live with sin, and God loves us too much to let that happen without a fight.

This brings us to our application for us today.

Do you consider yourself to be Godly?  If so, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  If you don’t consider yourself to be Godly, what do you think your long-term future (eternity) looks like?  Isn’t today the best time to solve that problem?

Look at the progression in David’s life.  A glance, lust, adultery, then murder.  Are there places in your own life where you are at that “glance” stage?  The “lust” stage?  Further down the path (to destruction)?  Wherever you find yourself, don’t continue down the path of sin.  Turn around.

Was David’s wild fling worth it?  Absolutely not!  Is the pleasure of your sins worth it?  It never is!  I’m reminded of Hebrews 11:25-26, where we’re told that Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time… because he was looking ahead to his reward.”  Are you strong enough to forgo “the pleasures of sin for a short time” and instead look ahead to your reward?  If not, ask God to help you.

And when you do sin, don’t just try to hide it.  Remember 1 John 1:9, where God promises, “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  It was only after David’s confession that he was reconciled with God.  The same is true for us.

You may be tempted in similar ways as David, or you may be tempted in other ways, but you will be tempted.  1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

-Steve Mattison

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In your own experience, have you ever observed (or are currently in) the downward spiral of sin where one sin leads to another? Where would have been the best place to stop? How? How do you turn around now – look at David’s example (Psalm 51 is a beautiful place to start).
  2. To avoid the painful and long lasting consequences of sin in your own life how can you build your resolve to forego the “pleasures of sin” which last a short time? What can you do now to help yourself stand strong when you are tempted? What can you do when you are right in the the middle of a strong temptation? How can you help others stand firm against their temptations?
  3. Like David, sometimes we need our sin pointed out to us before we reach a point of confession. Read 2 Samuel 12. Have you ever needed a Nathan to help you see your own sin? Pray to see your own sin clearly. Then confess it. Have you thanked those who have helped you see your sin. Then, as David said in Psalm 51 – with a pure heart he could, “Then…teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.”

Who Gets the House?

2 Samuel 7

March 9

I love David’s heart to serve and honor the Lord. He decides it is time to build an impressive temple for God to replace the tabernacle tent which had been the symbol of God’s dwelling since the time of Moses. He tells Nathan the prophet his thoughts and Nathan gives him the go-ahead. It truly sounds like a generous and highly appropriate way to honor God. Both the king and the prophet agree – it’s time for God to get a house!

However, that night God revealed to Nathan that, no, that was not what God needed, wanted or had planned. Rather than David providing a house for the Lord God, God said “the Lord himself will establish a house for you (David):  When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.  But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11b-16 NIV).

That’s an unexpected twist.

God doesn’t want David to build him a house. David could be disappointed or even a bit offended at God rejecting his offer and plan. Except that, God revealed a bigger and better plan. David’s son would build the house for God, but even greater, the house, kingdom and throne of David, passed down to his son would endure – forever! This was big news! A king certainly has dreams of creating an impressive dynasty – but none of them expect it to last forever. Not too many years ago David had been a shepherd boy, the youngest and least of his family line. And now he was being told he and his descendent would have a kingdom and throne that would endure forever. That’s a plan of God you don’t argue with. David gets the house.

And the really great news is that this forever house and kingdom and throne wouldn’t just benefit David and his son – but all generations could be blessed by this, including you and I and our children. For this promise for David (often referred to as the Davidic Covenant), was pointing to the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of David. His coming was prophesied as fulfilling this covenant (Isaiah 9:6,7). The virgin Mary was told, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33). Born in the line of David (Matthew 1:6), Jesus was worshiped as a king by the wise men (Matthew 2:2, 11). He taught of a kingdom, and he was crucified as the King of the Jews. But that is not where the story ends. Forever is still coming.

Before his death, Jesus said – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.” (Matthew 25:31). The disciples were looking forward to this time and after his resurrection, just before his ascension, they asked him if that was when the kingdom would be restored. Jesus replied that the time was not for them to know – but that in the meantime they were to be his witnesses. Then Jesus ascended to heaven in the clouds, and the angels promised he would return in the same way. (Acts 1:6-11)

We are still waiting for the return of the Son of David/Son of Man who is also the Son of God. At Jesus’ spectacular return to earth, all the final steps will be set into motion – resurrection of the dead, judgment, the defeat of the Evil One, and the beginning of the perfect kingdom prepared for the resurrected, faithful children of God which will last forever. Can you imagine the smile on resurrected David’s face and the joy in his heart when that day comes? God’s plan and timing is always better than man’s. No – David didn’t build a house for God as he wanted. But, God is building a house through David’s family line, through Jesus Christ. Will you have a place in this house, in this kingdom that will last forever?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of any time (past or present) where you were wanting to honor God, but perhaps it wasn’t the way He wanted you to be serving Him at that time? How do we avoid serving God the way WE want to serve Him, rather than the way HE wants us to serve Him?
  2. Do a little Bible research on the kingdom that will last forever. Where will it be? When? Who is reigning? Who is included? Who is not included? (If you want some specific verses to start your research, leave a note in the comments.)
  3. As we wait for Jesus’ return, how will you be a witness? Who else needs to hear about the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant?

What is Right?

2 Samuel 6

March 9

Sometimes we have a hard time distinguishing – what is right? But God doesn’t. God is right.

In 2 Samuel 6, David was excitedly bringing the ark of the covenant, which was a physical symbol of God’s throne and sovereignty, to the royal city of Jerusalem. He wanted to honor God and set an example for the Israelites by showing the proper respect, worship and awe of God and he wanted to bring God’s presence into his holy city. This was a very good and right plan. God likes to be honored.

However, the Levites were supposed to be responsible for moving the ark of the covenant by following the law given by God as to HOW to move the sacred ark. God had earlier given rather specific directions on how it was to be moved. It was not to be touched. Covered with layers of curtain, sea cow hides, and a blue cloth, the ark was to be carried on poles stretched across the shoulders of the Levites. Generations before, God had specifically said, “They must not touch the holy things or they will die.” (Numbers 4:15). But, those rules and consequences had been given so long ago…

Rather than following God’s rules, they were doing things the way they had seen others do. They were following what had been advised and done by the pagan Philistines who had earlier captured the ark of God, been greatly afflicted because of it, and returned it to Israel on a new cart. (That is also a great account about the ark of the covenant found in 1 Samuel 5 & 6. )

So now the Israelites were moving the ark of God on a new cart, just as they had seen others do before. The oxen stumbled and the cart jerked and the ark shifted and well-meaning, but wrong, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark. He died immediately for touching the holy things that God had said to not touch.

It is so much easier getting into trouble because we don’t do things the right way when we dumbly follow the example of the ungodly rather than the law of God. And it’s not just the Israelites of David’s day, it is a common problem with Christians today as well. What are things that God has said are wrong that society says are fine? And way too many of God’s people are following in the ways of the world instead of remaining firmly rooted in God’s directions for holy living? We aren’t supposed to do things the way we see others do them: lying, cheating, gossiping, divorce and remarriage, addictions, abortion, living together before marriage, one night stands, disrespecting our parents and leaders, homosexuality, course joking, hurting others, touching the ark of the covenant. There are reasons for God’s rules and they are right. He is a righteous God and there are and will be consequences for disregarding God’s right way.

At Uzzah’s sudden death, David was angry and afraid of the Lord. It seemed God was harsh and cruel. This is often what happens when a righteous God does what He says He will do when people who are wrong fail to follow God’s right way and heed His warnings.

Luckily, David doesn’t stay in this mindset. After leaving the ark behind for three months, they try again. THIS time David makes sure they do it the right way. The Levites are ready to do the job the way God had designed and instructed. There is no cart and no touching the ark. The story is also retold in 1 Chronicles 15 and there it specifically records David as saying to the Levites, “‘It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.’  So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites 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 15:13-15 NIV)

Rather than continuing to be angry with God, David searched to see what was right. How could they fix the mistake they had made? How could they try again to do it right in the eyes of God? And God was pleased as they entered Jerusalem with the ark upon the shoulders of the Levites.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what way(s) have you followed what you have seen others do, rather than what God has directed? Have you already seen any negative consequences? How can you try again to fix the mistake and do it God’s right way instead? In nothing comes to mind, pray about it.
  2. What would be wise to do when we find we are angry with God?
  3. When David’s wife Michal saw David worshiping and praising God with dance (in his linen ephod – a sleeveless hip-length garment worn by those in service to God) she despised him. Why? What did God think of her reaction? Are you ever guilty of being more concerned about appearing proper and dignified and “royal” than lowering yourself to give God the praise He deserves? How are you willing to be humiliated in your own eyes (2 Samuel 6:22) in order to worship God?

Prayer for Peace – and More

2 Samuel 3-4 and Acts 11

“The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.” (2 Samuel 3:1). So begins today’s Old Testament reading. The “young” country of Israel was experiencing great turmoil as some remained loyal to Saul’s remaining relatives, and a growing number were excitedly backing the champion David. The commander of Saul’s army, Abner, becomes angered by an accusation made by Saul’s son and heir, Ish-Bosheth. Abner vows to help bring all Israel under David’s kingship. But the army commander under David, Joab, has a lasting feud with Abner, still distrusts him and kills him for revenge. David mourns and instructs Israel to do the same. When 2 thugs kill Ish-Bosheth they expect to be warmly received by David as they have helped clear the way to David’s legitimate rule. Instead, similar to his reaction to the Amelekite who announced the death of Saul, David orders the death of the two murderers. David sought for peace within the young nation and an end to the hostility, bloodshed, revenge, and distrust. He tried to show a better way.

Today there remains great tension and hostility in the land of Israel, and this week it has bubbled again to the surface with the worst outbreak since 2014. Last night after reading the Bible passages for today I read one more email before bed – it happened to be a request for prayer from an organization called Jewish Voice whose goal is to bring salvation to the Jews, that they may believe in Jesus as God’s Promised Messiah. I will include a few quotes from their email…

“Terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 1,700 rockets and mortars at major Israeli cities and Israel has responded with more than 700 airstrikes on terrorist targets…

To make matters worse, unexpected riots and clashes between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis have broken out in multiple cities across Israel…

Please join me in fervent prayer for Israel and the Jewish people. Pray supernatural peace for Israelis who have been under continual fire for four days and may have to endure more. Pray safety for the IDF personnel as they battle terrorist forces and wisdom of Israel’s military leaders to know the right course of action. Pray for an end to the violence both between Israel and Gaza, and reconciliation between Arab and Jewish Israelis. Finally, let’s pray that these times of trouble would lead the Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah.”

As David wrote more than 3,000 years ago – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…Pray for the sake of the house of the Lord our God.” Psalm 122:6,9 NIV

In Acts 10 we saw God remove the barrier between Jew and Gentile. Now both could believe in Jesus and be saved. Jews and Gentiles could now remove the hostility between themselves and become brothers and sisters in the family of God! It was unheard of! And it was such an amazing event that Peter explains it all again in Acts 11. The Christians needed to know – the world needed to know. Jews and Gentiles don’t need to live in hatred to one another. Together, they can both be saved. But without the Jesus glue…it falls apart.

Paul would expand upon the prayer of David. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1 NIV). Just peace is not enough. But with Jesus comes salvation which brings brotherly peace even amongst Jews and Gentiles.

And, here we are today – needing the prayers of David and Paul just as much. For the nation of Israel, and for our neighbor across the street. We pray for brotherhood created by the blood of Jesus. We pray for peace. We pray for salvation for us, our families and churches and also salvation for those different from us. We pray for an end to hostility and take steps to love others. We also know that as followers of Jesus we will face many enemies and we pray for wisdom and strength in confronting them. We pray and long for the day when Jesus returns and a lasting peace will reign in New Jerusalem as God’s Kingdom is set up on earth.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 3-4 and Acts 11

Love Your Enemy

2 Samuel 1-2 and Acts 10

How do you treat people you don’t understand, people who are different than you, people who have hurt you, people you feel threatened by, people who are troubled, those who have become your enemy?

Both our Old Testament and our New Testament reading today offers some options.

The relationship between King Saul and David began back in 1st Samuel 16. “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (vs 14 – NIV). His advisors had heard of a fine young man who spoke well, played the harp well and bravely fought well. David was brought to the king and Saul liked him very much. It began as a helpful, mutually beneficial relationship. The shepherd boy David received a royal position as armor-bearer and musician. And Saul received relief from the evil spirit when David played his soothing music. It was a win-win – until the little harp-playing armor-bearer bested the Philistine giant and EVERYONE in Israel went gaga for the good-looking brave young hero. Saul became jealous and it isn’t long before Saul is pursuing and trying to kill David. How does David respond? He could have very likely led a successful revolt right from the start. He had many faithful followers at a time when Saul’s popularity was greatly declining. He also had many strong and logical reasons to oust the king. Wouldn’t the whole country of Israel be better off if led by a hero favored by the Lord rather than a has-been tormented by an evil spirit? He even had the support of the king’s son Jonathan. How long can you be loyal to a mentally unstable person who is trying to kill you?

But David, who made a practice of inquiring of the Lord, would not respond as so many others would have. Even when given the opportunity (at least twice) to kill Saul, he instead protected his life. David saw and respected Saul as God’s anointed king and so it didn’t matter how Saul treated him, he would not harm Saul. Revenge was not even in his vocabulary. He placed God’s desire above his own, even when it was hard and didn’t make sense to the rest of the world.

In 2nd Samuel 1 the Amalekite brings word that Saul and Jonathan are dead. He even takes credit for ending the life of the severely wounded king (even though this isn’t mentioned in the passage of Saul’s death in 2nd Samuel 31). But whether he did or he didn’t, he took the crown that had been on Saul’s head and brought it to David, the logical new king. I am sure he was expecting to be rewarded. It seems a logical thing to expect. It seems David would now be relieved, he didn’t have to kill the king personally, but it was done and he no longer had to hide and fear for his life. He could now become king. What good news!

But, no. His loyalty had been no act. He sincerely loved and cared for and wanted what was best for the tormented king, regardless of how he had been treated personally. The peaceful reconciliation he had hoped for had not come. David was in deep grief for his faithful friend Jonathan and for the troubled king who had been the Lord’s anointed. Rather than doing what had been expected of him long ago – killing the king – he now had the messenger who took credit for killing the king killed. And, in his grief he turned again to music, writing a lament to teach Israel to grief the deaths as he did.

In Acts 10 we see a different kind of fractured relationship – one that had never been allowed to develop – because Jews had always seen Gentiles as unclean. Jews and Gentiles had different upbringings, different religions, different nationalities, different goals, different understandings. God had been sanctifying the Jews – removing them from their worldly surroundings to keep them the holy, chosen people of God, untainted by others. And, so there had been many Jewish rules about not associating with Gentiles and with good reason at the time. But times were changing…and God was about to show what entering the new covenant was going to look like. The grace, love, and spirit of God was now going to be poured out on all who believed and followed Jesus, the perfect lamb and Son of God sacrificed for all regardless of whether they were a physical descendent of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (a Jew) or not (a Gentile).

It is hard to overcome centuries of isolation and distrust. Different is different and too often it becomes a barrier to compassion, understanding, brotherhood, and working together for a common goal – sharing Jesus with the world. It took the good Jewish Peter 3 visions from God and a perfectly timed God-ordained appointment with the devout and God-fearing Gentile Cornelius to be willing to accept that God indeed wanted him to change his view of Gentiles and reach out to them with the saving news of Jesus as well.

How are you doing in your view of those different from you? Do you see their need for Jesus and what you can do to bring Jesus to them? Do you react with compassion, eager to share the good news of Jesus to all, not full of judgement and isolation? How do you react to those you might have once considered impure or unclean? Do you want what is best for those who have hurt you or misjudged you? Does God’s desire and love for the troubled and lost motivate you to put off selfish desires and rise above what others expect of you? How are you doing at loving your enemies?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 1-2 and Acts 10

Sorrow, Grace & Accepting the King

2 Samuel 19-21

2 Samuel 19 1 NIV sgl

At the beginning of chapter 19, David is admonished by Joab to get his priorities in order. He is mourning the death of the son who has betrayed him. Joab explains that by mourning his son, he is actually discrediting all of the efforts that his army had made in protecting him and fighting for him. David sees the error of his ways, cleans himself up and goes out to honor his army. 

We must focus on the things that God has done for us in this life instead of living in sorrow for the things we do not have or have lost. We have to trust that God sees all that we face and will carry us through even the darkest of times. 

As the story continues, we see many instances of grace being given to some and wrath being taken out on others in order for David to be reestablished as the rightful king. We should always adhere to and respect the will and order of our heavenly father. Although we do not see in our day the same brutality that we see in 2 Samuel, he is still a jealous God and he does demand our faithfulness and devotion.

We should always seek truth and be willing to stand firm for the things that God has established in our lives. Being willing to fight for the things set forth by God is absolutely critical in our walk of faith.  We should also be willing to have mercy along the way when it is warranted, but also be willing to stand against those who we know are against God and his will even if it means we are faced with the possibility of loss. 

Our time in this life is temporary as are the relationships we establish here. The kingdom of God is eternal. The life we lead now should be preparing us for that eternal life in the Kingdom. Just as God determined that David would be King, he has established his son Jesus as the eternal King of his Kingdom. Only those who accept his son as king will share in the joys of the kingdom with him. 

No one should think that they can just determine their own path or forge a different way than what God has determined. In 2 Samuel, it is made very clear that those who do not adhere to the will of God will see his wrath. We should not think that we can stray from his will in our lives either. We will not inherit the Kingdom of God if we do not obey his commands.

Leslie Jones
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+SAMUEL+19-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 5, 38 & 41-42 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

In the Midst of a Dirty Situation

2 Samuel 16-18

2 Samuel 16 18 NIV sgl

In my job I semi-frequently get cursed at and called all sorts of names. This normally happens when the kids are in crisis themselves and are lashing out at others in their anger or, like everyone under the sun, are getting told to do something they don’t want to. The kids use their anger to try to hurt people – that is the result they are aiming for. Sometimes this results in physical violence where a kid will take a swing at you and hit their target.

I remember one day a girl was in crisis and was getting violent with all the male staff. She was stuck in the hallway between the units. Which unfortunately for her there is no emergency exit in the hallway like there are in the units. Unfortunately for us, the male staff, that meant it was impossible to walk in between the units without getting hit. She can’t really throw a punch. So, don’t think I am walking away bruised and bloodied here but no one really enjoys getting hit. Think of a 12-year-old with poor coordination hitting you and not aiming at the face because she knows that she would get put in a restraint for that. Somehow this girl had gotten into the staff break room. The go-to move for kids when in crisis is to try to destroy as much as possible and wreak havoc. In the staff break room there is a semi full refrigerator. I was in the staff break room when she broke in. So of course, she went right for the refrigerator to try to cover the walls as creatively as she could with condiments or whatever else was in there. So, since I couldn’t really stop her or drag her out of there, like your parents would to you or like you would to your children, I just stood in front of the refrigerator so she couldn’t access it. While I’m standing there, she is hitting me. I just ignore it and wait for her to get tired or bored and move on to something else.

The story of Shimei and David really resonates with me. This story is 2 Samuel 16.5-14. As a reminder, Shimei was a relative of Saul – who definitely didn’t like David. He was calling David names and throwing rocks at David and his men. This seems a lot like my normal day to day life. David’s reaction here and what he does is very intriguing. Abishai, one of David’s future commanders of a thousand, asks David essentially please let me kill this guy. I think any normal commander would have been angry at a man throwing rocks at his men. David didn’t act on this anger instead he cited a couple of reasons why Shimei could be doing this. David offers the explanation that this is God’s judgement on him for his actions, he says my son is after me why should I care about this guy? He also says that maybe God will repay me with good for this wrong done to me.

This last reason by David is crazy from an Old Testament perspective. The rule then was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and David is deciding not to take justice into his own hands and hurt Shimei. David is in effect saying, “I am putting the justice into God’s hands.” He is even saying something greater here as well.

David says that for an evil action done to me God may repay with good. David didn’t look at the harm done to him and get angry. David’s statement says something about what he believed about God and the world and everything that is going on in it. David sees suffering and says that God may bless him because of it. David didn’t play the victim card and say, “Look at me, poor David. My son took over my kingdom and now I am getting called names, getting dust kicked up at me, and getting rocks thrown at me.” His mind didn’t go there. He instead looks at his suffering with God in his view and says that God may repay me good for this. David believed that there was a God and that this God took action in his life. David believed that when God saw him suffering that he may repay him with good.

I don’t go into work with the mindset that when people call me names and try to hit me that this may ultimately be to my benefit. The thought never crossed my mind. Who really sees their suffering at the hand of other people as to their benefit? NO ONE. Yet, David did. How do you view it when people do you wrong? Can we look at these instances in those moments and say “God may repay me good for this evil done to me?” Are we going to believe that God is a god of justice and leave the justice in his hands? The way we frame things in our mind will allow us to not be bitter or angry but to maintain our joy and love for that person through difficult moments.

Daniel Wall

I really enjoyed writing all these devotions. Honestly, it has been a total blessing for me. I hope you guys have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. If you read something interesting and wanted to reach out to me on Facebook or email at danielaaronwall@gmail.com or if you see me in person let me know you read them. It would be great to actually meet the people who have been reading the devotions.

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+16-18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 26, 40, 58, 61-62 & 64 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Repairing Relationships

2 Samuel 13-15

2 Samuel 14 14 NIV sgl

Have you ever been in a conflict where you feel extremely wronged in a situation? Everyone is like yes and amen. The story of our lives. Haha. Now secretly, to a really close friend you may be able to admit that you also did some wrong stuff, too; but there ain’t no way that anyone else is finding out about that. In fact, to all your friends you portray yourself as something resembling Jesus in the situation. I hope that you aren’t so disillusioned that you actually believe this has never happened to you. We really enjoy this social feedback loop.

There are other situations that come up in life where you have a single incident and then everything spirals out of control and that one incident ends up messing up everything in that relationship. I have totally had one of those.

It seems that there is nothing new under the sun because that is exactly what has happened with Absalom and David. The worst and most ridiculous thing about this story is that the catalyst to this relational tension didn’t even involve them. As you’ve read, this caused years of tension and problems and separation between father and son.

I am not going to speculate on whether David was right in not sentencing Amnon to death after rapping Tamar or whether Absalom should have killed his brother. There comes a certain point at which what has happened in life has happened. There is nothing you can do to change it and now you just need to live your life with the future in mind. In most of these cases keeping the tension and the bad blood in the relationship isn’t profitable to our own spiritual health and doesn’t promote godliness.

The section of today’s reading that I would like to discuss is 2 Samuel 13.37-39 and 2 Samuel 14.21-24, 28.  After Absalom killed Amnon, in worry and anxiety he fled to Geshur. It says that David mourned for his son in 2 Samuel 13.37. I am not sure which son he was mourning for but I believe that given the context of the paragraph and the verses around it the verse is telling us that David mourned for Absalom. This is also supported by v.39 where David says he longed to go out to Absalom. So why didn’t he?

David didn’t go out to seek his son Absalom, even though, he wanted to. He left him out in Geshur for 3 years. In fact, it wasn’t even David’s prompting that brought him back. Joab had to step in as mediator and be the counselor in this situation for Absalom to return. I think the responsibility falls on David to take the initiative to mend the relationship with his son instead of just leaving the situation in the wind. David essentially stuck his head in the sand and ignored the problem. Ultimately, this just caused problems between David and Absalom later on.

Finally, after Joab’s prompting David brings Absalom back to Jerusalem but tells Joab that Absalom can’t enter his presence. Absalom spends 2 years in Jerusalem before any action is taken in this relationship and the initiative once again wasn’t taken by David. It took Absalom saying it would have been better if I hadn’t left Geshur than to live like this and I would rather just have David do what seems right to me. Absalom hit the point where he would rather die if he had any guilt in him than live with this relational separation.

Surveying this whole situation, we see problems on both sides but I think the judgement ultimately lies with David. He took none of the initiative to repair this relationship. There is a real danger to leaving things unsaid that should have been said. I believe David’s longing to see his son at Geshur should have moved him to take action and confront the problems in relationship instead of just waiting. David longed for his son but out of pride or anger or stubbornness didn’t take the initiative to reconcile with Absalom.

When you consider the intensity of distress Absalom must have felt at the tension and loss of relationship that he would be willing to die if he had any guilt it is obvious that this weighed heavily on him. The two men’s reconciliation is sweet but was so long overdue that I think irreversible damage was done to the relationship given what happens in Chapter 15.

So, what can draw we from this? Firstly, to not let our conflicts go on forever. Secondly, when it is on your heart to apologize or you are longing for someone who you are in conflict with it may be God working on your heart to repair the relationship. Thirdly, get a mediator or a counselor involved if needed. Don’t wait until someone else feels like something needs to be done. Fourthly, you are responsible for taking the initiative to reconcile or apologize for what you have done. Fifthly, don’t be afraid to let someone have the ability to go second. In this final scene where Absalom goes to his father, his father embraced him and kissed him. I have a feeling that David had longed for this moment. I can remember a moment in my relationship with Shelby where we were in conflict and I had my defenses up to keep myself from over apologizing or taking too much of the blame. I remember so vividly her apologizing first and immediately all the weight was lifted, my defenses dropped, and I was no longer looking out for myself but I was looking for the good of the relationship. It gave me the freedom to really say the things I wanted to say when, at first, I may have even been hostile.

Finally, our relationships will only be as good as our communication in them. Remember it is wise to address conflicts as soon as possible. Do not leave things unsaid or problems unaddressed. They don’t just go away.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+13-15&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 3-4, 12-13, 28 & 55 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Works with Broken Spirits

Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122

psalm 51 10 niv sgl

Have you ever done something and lacked the words to express everything to God? Saying, “God, forgive me” seems to fall short of what my sin deserves and how I feel about what I have done. If any of you have grown up in a church that was severely focused on obedience but didn’t give a full picture of who God was then you probably have felt this way, too.

Today as I was reading over Ps. 51, which is one of my favorite Psalms, I was conflicted about what I really wanted to write. What I really wanted to write about was Ps. 51.17 and correlate that back to Matthew 5.3. I actually wrote a devotion on Matthew 5.3 earlier this year and didn’t want to just duplicate the material. So today I am going to look at this Psalm in a new way.

This Psalm at its heart is a psalm of complete repentance. It expresses David’s emotion right after being confronted on his sin with Bathsheba. David’s heart is over flowing with that godly grief while in the moment of confrontation and writing his prayer to God he may have laid out a model for us to use in our own repentance. I want to break the Psalm down in sections and look at it in parts.

I think verse 1-2 provide a good preamble for what David is going to prayer for. I don’t think there is real reason to dive too deep into it.

Verse 3-6 is our first real section of the Psalm. Until recently when I looked at this section I thought lines seemed unconnected and kind of thrown together. I have changed my view on this now. I now know that all of these verses are looking to serve one purpose. In verse 3 David confesses of his sin and acknowledges that his sin is before him. Verse 4 is extremely interesting setting aside the “against you and you only” I think that this verse is referring back to 2 Samuel 12.9. David is acknowledging, according to God’s response through Nathan, that he did evil in God’s sight. By acknowledging that what God says is true is an act of obedience and submitting to God’s truth. David in line 3 and 4 says that he is admitting his fault in order to acknowledge the judgements of God as righteous and true. Verse 5 David admits that he has a deep sinfulness rooted inside him from his mother’s womb. Verse 6 is where we have the truth shine through. David says that God delights in truth in the inner being and he teaches him wisdom in his secret heart.  This is a strange statement in context at first glance. David starts out this section with confession and ends it with God delighting in truth. What is confession at its root? It’s simply telling the truth. David is acknowledging throughout this whole section his sin before God and confessing God’s truth to him. He is acknowledging God’s judgements are true and the full depth of his sin. The drive of this section is confession. We can’t ignore this last line either. God teaches him wisdom in his secret heart. This sounds almost exactly like the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made David fully aware of his sin before God. So, to close this section out verses 3-6 are entirely about confession.

The next section comprises verses 7-12. They articulate exactly what I want God to do to my heart. Verse 7 in summation is, “God cleanse me, wash away my sin”. In verse 8 he is asking God to bring joy back into his heart. His sins had just drained the joy from him. In verse 9 he is asking God to overlook his sins and remove his iniquities. In verse 10 David asks God to create in him a clean heart and to put a steadfast spirit within him. In verse 11 David is asking God to not cast him away from his presence and not remove the Holy Spirit from him. In verse 12 David asks God to restore the joy he once found in how God saved him and help him have a willing spirit. I think you probably get the point but in every one of these verses David is petitioning or asking God to help or cleanse him from his sin.

I want to really delve into each one of these verses in the section 13-17 but I don’t want to wear out your attention here. So, I am just going to give away my point. In each one of these verses David is telling God his response. In each one of these verses David is ascribing an action or a change that David is making in his heart. True repentance always comes with with a new set of actions or a change in heart.

To pull all these together, David started out in verses 3-6 with a pure confession and a confession of God’s truth in the world. In verse 7-12 David petitions God to cleanse and purify him, to replace his heart, uphold him, give him a right spirit and finally to restore his joy. In verses 13-17 David tells God what he is going to do in response. David says he will teach transgressors God’s ways, his tongue will sing aloud of God’s righteousness, his mouth will declare God’s praise and finally give God the true sacrifice which is a broken or contrite spirit. This model of confession, petition of cleansing, and response is a great example for us. It firstly acknowledges our sin, then asks God to cleanse us and then gives God the response to our sin. This model allows us to do what we can do and allows God to do what ultimately only he can do. It is our responsibility to acknowledge our sin but ultimately, we can’t cleanse ourselves or restore our joy. Those things are dependent on God and David in this section of scripture acknowledges that fact. David doesn’t just stop his life, though. He acknowledges that he can still praise God and he can still offer up the proper sacrifice of a broken spirit through which God can work.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+32%2C+51%2C+86%2C+122&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 13-15 as we progress on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Stay in His Program

He is for you

2 Samuel 11-12 & 1 Chronicles 20

2 Samuel 12 8 9 NIV sgl

A couple of weeks ago I was working on my unit as a residential counselor for severely traumatized and troubled youth. There is a younger kid on my unit named Mike, for the sake of this story, he has a history of violent aggression and has anxiety issues which can lead to this violent aggression. In order to help him when he gets anxious to avoid his going into crisis and having a violent episode, we take him for safety walks or he can go for a walk outside by himself as long as there are no other youth outside.

Mike and I have a pretty good relationship and I have been able to calm him down and deescalate the situation to keep him from going into crisis. I have also helped him work through the aftermath of a crisis. At the current moment because the whole country is shut down my background check from Georgia has not come back. I am not allowed full clearance to be alone with any of the children until that clears, unfortunately. This has caused a lot of problems and has interfered with my effectiveness at work.

Mike was starting to get anxious a couple of weeks ago so he asked if he could go on a walk by himself. Unfortunately, there was already another child outside on campus going for a walk. So, the only way that I could get Mike outside for a walk was if he went with a staff member. Due to the restriction I couldn’t take him unless another staff member went with me. So, I start running around seeing if there were any additional staff to take him. I asked the supervisor who could take him and he told me to find another staff. In order to let Mike know I was working on it I went back to my original unit and let him know. Otherwise his anxiety levels would continue to rise. After that I went and found the staff member and asked them to take him for a walk. They said yes. So, I go back on to the unit and tell him they are coming, just give them a minute.

A few minutes go by and I can see his anxiety levels rising and could tell that he was about to hit the crash bar or emergency exit. The crash bar when its hit sounds an alarm and also means that the client is out of program and an incident report needs to be filed. This means that Mike would have consequences for leaving without a staff member. So, in a rush to try to keep Mike from the crash bar I go get the other staff and urge them along to try to keep Mike in program. I wanted desperately to keep Mike in program and to not have him suffer the consequences of acting impulsively by not waiting for a staff member.

I talk to the staff member and they grab their jacket and we walk on to the unit. Where Mike had literally just hit the crash bar and went outside by himself and out of program. All Mike needed to do was wait 15 more seconds. 15 more seconds was all that he needed for a consequence free walk.

This was so frustrating. I remember saying this is so stupid. It was so stupid. 15 more seconds. I was frustrated because I went running around talking to different people and he still went out of program. I wanted so badly for him to have another good day and stay within the rules.

This more than anything I think is the feeling portrayed by God in 2 Samuel 12.7-15. In my case, if Mike had waited 15 more seconds, he could have realistically been one more day closer to going home. I think we all know the story of David and Bathsheba. So, I am not going to rehash it.

I want to look at God’s response through Nathan.

“I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Samuel 12:7-9)

Does God condemn David for his actions? Totally, but he also says something else here as well. God goes over all that he did for David to try to set him up for success. He saved him from Saul and anointed him and made him King over Israel, he gave him peace, gave him his wife, Saul’s daughter, back, and made him the beautiful covenant promises that we saw in 2 Samuel 7. Was there any more God could have done for David? Yet David still did this absolutely terrible thing. The last line in verse 8 really gets me. God tells David He would have done much more for David. If David had waited 15 more seconds and stayed in God’s program what would God have given him? God was actively rooting for David and trying to help him stay in his program. His program that gives life and peace and a relationship with God.

In verse 9 I can hear the sadness in God’s voice. Why did you despise my words? Why did you go astray and hurt yourself? Why did you hurt me, God, by doing this? Why did you have to make me see you do that? Why did stray from me?

I’m not framing it like this to heap grief on us for our sins. I am framing it like this because I want you to see there is someone actively working to help us follow Christ. The way that leads to peace, life, love, and grace. He is actively with us trying to help us keep on his way. I want you to know the depth shown in scripture of how the Lord cares for us and how he is seeking our good through righteousness. In our times of temptation, we have a loving God alongside us to ask for help. He is seeking our good far more than we seek our own. Fulness of life is found when we hold true to his way to love God.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+11-12%2C+1+Chronicles+20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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