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

Positive Reactions to Negative Events

1 Samuel 29-31

Today’s Old Testament passage continues the story of David and his men while they were living with the Philistines away from Saul. In 1 Samuel 29, David is about to go fight with the Philistines, but several of the Philistine leaders are worried that David is still loyal to Saul and will turn against the Philistines in battle. So David and his men are sent back to their home, Ziklag. Unfortunately, “When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive” (NIV, 1 Samuel 30:3). This event alone would be quite devastating to David, but in addition, some of David’s men were then considering turning on him and stoning him based upon the recent misfortune. 

This rough series of events would be hard to get through alone, but verse six states that “David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). His positive reaction to these negative events can be used as an example. Instead of immediately taking revenge on the Amalekites for destroying his home and taking his family and friends, he decides to ask God first. David’s initial response can be used in many situations to choose the wisest action instead of simply reacting in the first imaginable way that is likely unwise. 

After God responds, David and some of his men successfully chase down the Amalekites and get everything back that was stolen. Although they retrieved all their possessions again, some of the men weren’t willing to give back part of the goods to those that didn’t participate in the raid. However, David’s response to this situation is again a positive example that can be applied to many other situations, even today. David disagreed with those men and instead insisted that even those that didn’t participate should receive part of the plunder. He argued that what they had received had actually come from the LORD, not from those that had actually participated in the fight. Further, David didn’t just divide up the plunder between him and his men, he also then gave gifts to others that had been kind to them in the past. As one people united with a common goal to serve and follow God, it is important to remember to share the possessions that have graciously been given by God.

-1st time Devotion Writer who Preferred being Anonymous

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1st Samuel 29-31 and Acts 9

See What You Can Do

1 Samuel 25-26 and Acts 7

In 1 Samuel 25 we are introduced to Abigail. If you haven’t yet – go read her story now. Abigail – intelligent and beautiful, a safe place for the servant to come speak truth, she “lost no time”/”quickly” – woman of decisive action, generous gift-giver, humble and contrite, willing to accept blame (even when it more rightly belonged to her husband instead), thinking ahead to future ramifications, eloquent, known and praised for good judgment, discerning and a peacemaker. Not promoting peace by just keeping her mouth closed or looking the other way, but from speaking up and standing up for what is right and just.

I can learn a lot from Abigail, as well as from her servant. The servant who warned Abigail of her husband’s foolish treatment of David confided in her and said, “Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his household” (1 Samuel 25:17). Think it over – and see what you can do. Wise words of advice from the servant. I too often overthink myself into non-action. I get stuck in the ‘think it over’ stage. I might feel I have discerned a situation well and see the foolishness, wickedness or injustice but become paralyzed by what to do about it by overanalyzing or fear of getting personally involved. Or, just as unhelpful – I can come up with lots of solutions of what other people could or should do to fix the problem. But not Abigail. She thought it over and saw what she could do and “lost no time” in getting it done. Twice it says she “quickly” mounted or dismounted her donkey. She is wasting no time hem hawing around. There is action to be taken – and she will do it.

However, even though Abigail acts decisively and quickly – she also avoids erring on the side of rash, reckless behavior she might regret later. When she returns home to a drunk husband she doesn’t engage him then but waits til morning to tell him of all that had transpired. She still takes the time to wisely interpret a situation and choose the best time, not necessarily the first chance, to intervene and speak.

And, God takes care of the rest. I imagine it was scary for Abigail to approach David and then confront her husband – not knowing how either of them would react or what it would mean for her future. When we are called to act we usually don’t know what the results will be – either short or long-term. But we can know that God is faithful in providing for His children who have stepped out in faith to right wrong and peacefully pursue justice.

But wait – how did God provide for faithful Stephen in Acts? Like Abigail, Stephen was also a courageous, eloquent person of action and wisdom who boldly served his master and spoke for his king, Jesus, in the face of wicked opposition. He saw that disaster was hanging over all those who had rejected Jesus and he had considered what he could do – speak in Jesus’ name. And he did it faithfully, regardless of the outcome. A life cut short and the agony of being stoned to death doesn’t seem like much of a reward for bravely doing the right thing. But, when you read the description of Stephen there is an amazing amount of peace. He is not in fear or second-guessing his words or actions. He is full of the Holy Spirit and he is allowed a glimpse into heaven and sees, “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55). Even at his last moment before “falling asleep”, he is at peace with his Lord Jesus and even with his adversaries.

We don’t need to know the immediate outcome before courageously taking action and speaking up for what is right. Disaster is indeed hanging over so much of the world today. It is time for God’s children to think it over and consider what each one can do. And then take action, quickly mount your donkey, open your mouth, speak His words. You can be confident – you might not know the outcome, but God’s got His children.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 25-26 and Acts 7

Sin is Serious – And So is Mercy

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 35 & 36 and Matthew 18

I have watched just enough mobster movies to know the awful fate of those who anger the mafia boss and receive the “cement shoes” treatment. That is the vision that always comes to mind when I read of the seriousness of leading a child to sin. “And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5,6 NASB) Jesus was giving a pretty heavy answer to the disciples who had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom. He answered that instead of trying to be great, they should focus on being childlike instead – not immature (we see enough of that), but humble, knowing that they don’t know everything and they need a Father and a Savior. And while the child is standing in their midst – Jesus commends those who welcome a child and blasts those who recklessly (or accidentally?) lead a child to sin. As a parent and a Christian this is a strong warning that I will be judged based on how I am spiritually leading and guiding God’s children. I do not know where the line will be drawn. We might be able to safely point out some cases that would definitely receive Jesus’ condemnation (those who exploit children and youth for sex trafficking, pornography, cults or gangs). But what of the parent who signs their child up for the youth sports, campouts and Sunday morning jobs knowing it will take them away from opportunities for God’s little children to grow closer to Him? I don’t know. But it seems wise to do my best to err on the side of caution. What else can I be doing to spiritually guide His children away from sin? Life is easier when you don’t feel the weight of a millstone around your neck or cement hardening in your shoes.

And, if that isn’t scary enough – Jesus broadens the picture next – to all people and sinners and the extreme measures that need to be taken to keep oneself from falling into sin. “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7 NIV). And then comes the gruesome cutting off of body parts that causes you to sin. This gives a strong mental picture of doing whatever it takes to hold oneself accountable and keep oneself from sin. If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out, to save yourself from judgment and hell. This is definitely true in a metaphorical sense. We need to do all we can, even what would be considered extreme measures, to keep ourselves from sin. And, sometimes that will mean cutting off the influence some people hold over us – cutting off a friend or family member or social media/entertainment who entices us to sin. It’s a hard thing to do, just like cutting off your hand – but it could save your eternal life. And, we must watch ourselves to make sure we are not the ones enticing others to sin!

While I love the parable of the lost sheep and it hurts to skip over it…I am going to skip ahead to the next two passages in Matthew 18 which both deal with the brother who sins against you. Having just established the seriousness of sin, the consequences for those who lead others to sin and the extreme measures we are to employ to keep us from sin – it is easy to assume that the best course of action is to shun all sin and sinners. But, wait, what kind of cut off, silent, lonely, bitter world would that be? While we are all sinners – God gave us a way to be forgiven and to restore relationships. Jesus begins to explain it here.

First, if a brother sins against you – go and talk to him. Matthew 18: 15-17 goes through an important series of steps to work towards either resolution or healthy distance and cutting off -and it starts with talking to the “offender”. Too often when we feel someone has sinned against us we talk to others about it. I know I am guilty of this and need to do a better job of lovingly confronting the person I have an issue with – first. So the steps Jesus laid out are: talk privately to the person, if he doesn’t listen take 1-2 witnesses and try again, if he doesn’t listen tell the church, if he still doesn’t listen cut him off. The goal is always to win him back to ‘God’s saving side’, not to humiliate, point fingers or feel better about ourselves or peace at any cost. But, sometimes repentance doesn’t happen, and then we must be willing to cut the ties that would bring others down to sin as well.

So, let’s assume we correctly followed the steps Jesus left. Peter asked how many times he needed to forgive a brother who sinned against him. He thought 7 sounded like a lot. But Jesus said no – 77 or 70 x 7 or whatever number you want to use to remind yourself to keep forgiving – the same way you want others to forgive you. And the same way God has forgiven you. I think we can safely assume this is not the brother who was unrepentant and cast out of the church, but a brother who was repentant and seeking to live a godly life – but still tripped up – like you and me. And so Jesus lays out the powerful Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (make sure you read it again). Now the harsh words and judgment are not for the sinner who tripped up, or even the one who caused him to sin, but for the one who didn’t forgive. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matthew 18:32-34).

It isn’t that sin is nothing – and easily forgiven. Sin (of all kinds) is something huge and serious and able to block us from eternal life. If we could see how much our sin hurts others, handicaps ourself and damages our relationship with God we might more readily run from it. But we don’t always, and God in His mercy still lays out a way for us to restore a relationship with Him, ultimately it would cost Him the death of His Son Jesus. To accept the forgiveness offered to you, but not extend it to others puts you again in grave danger. Sin is a big deal – and so is mercy.

-Marcia Railton

Counterintuitive Wisdom

Proverbs 27-29

Proverbs 27 6 NIV sgl

The Proverbs are, in many cases, fairly self explanatory. Don’t be lazy, don’t be a wicked ruler, don’t be foolish but be wise, be a righteous ruler, be diligent in your work. Each Proverb has it’s own meaning but they go along those lines. But some are not so self explanatory. They are counterintuitive.
A short example is found in 28:27. If you want to be prosperous and blessed, to never be in want, then we give our money to the poor. The world, our own sinful heads, and many economists believe that the way to grow our wealth and not be in want is to hoard our money. But that’s not the way God works. It is only in generosity and giving that we will be blessed. This comes from the fact that God will bless and many times he blesses us through the care of others in our time of struggle and hardship.
Also, 27:5-6 doesn’t seem to be true in the moment. I don’t like to be rebuked. I don’t like it when a friend calls me out on the garbage way I am acting. But the Proverb teaches us that we should delight when a friend rebukes us because their correction comes form a place of love and they want our life to be one of wisdom and righteousness. This is especially true for  our brothers and sisters in our local church. Many times, we may feel judged by the people of our church, but more often than not, they are wanting the BEST for us. The “wounds” they give are better than any kisses of those who tell us we have nothing wrong with us. There could be people who act like a friend and hurt you in terrible ways, but here we mean TRUE friendship, TRUE companionship, TRUE love from a brother or sister in Christ. That true love is shown in forgiveness and compassion, especially in our moments of weakness and humility. Many times, when we are sinning and are fearing the rebuke of those people, we hide our sin away, like 28:13 says. But counterintuitively, by hiding our sins, we only hurt ourselves more when they are brought to light in some other way. We need to confess our sins and turn away from them. When we do, compassion and forgiveness are waiting for us from the people of God and from God himself.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+27-29&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Ecclesiastes 1-6 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

To Answer a Fool – or Not?

Disagree – Wisely

Proverbs 26 4 5 NIV

Proverbs 25 & 26
Proverbs is hard to write ONE devotion about. From chapter 10 forward, nearly the entire book is a collection of pithy quick sayings that were meant to produce wisdom in those who learned them. (Only chapter 31 is different, but that will be for another author to work through!) Today, for chapters 25 and 26, I want to focus on just one set of verses.
There are two authors to every word of the Bible. The first is the human author, a person who lived in a specific place and time, thought and wrote in a specific language and who was fallible and failing just like the rest of humanity. Also, Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. This means that God directed the author so that the words, ideas, and stories are those by which God wanted people to live and that everything in the Bible is true. Short and simple, the Bible is not full of lies and misinformation, and it doesn’t contradict itself. (1)
That seems like a hard standard to hold when we read Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5.
26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
DO NOT X & DO X. That is a pretty clear contradiction, right?
Well, yes and no; let me explain. It is clearly contradiction if we believe that all the Proverbs must be followed all the time, like the laws of the Torah. But this is not how the Proverbs were intended to be used.
Proverbs were meant to make people wise, and therefore were to build wisdom AND BE USED WITH WISDOM. Every Proverb doesn’t always give what must be done in every situation always, but instead tells you a general way of living that should guide you in the moment to make a wise decision.
The question we are hard-wired to ask is : Is it right or wrong to answer a fool? But,  THAT’S A BAD QUESTION! Instead we should be asking : Is it wise or foolish to answer this fool right now? Sometimes you debate with a person in private who will never change his or her mind, and you have to throw up your hands and say, “Not worth it” or you could be dragged into the mud and muck of folly and error. Sometimes, you need to correct someone for the foolish thing he or she has said or done, or they go on being foolish forever. Either approach could be wise or foolish; it is the wisdom of God that will sort out which way we should go.
Thus, God’s word is kept from our bad interpretation and we recognize that there is no contradiction!
Jake Ballard
(1) Rarely, if ever, is something truly “short and simple.” There are lots of implications and theological, historical and scientific questions that come up, but sadly, we don’t have time for that at the moment.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 27-29 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God’s Way Wins

Proverbs 19-21

Proverbs 21 30 NIV sgl

I encourage you to read these chapters focusing again on what stands out to you.  Depending on where you are at in life right now, different words of wisdom might stick.  Here are some that stuck out to me:

19:11 – A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

I’m someone who tends to hold grudges.  Especially if I wasn’t asked for forgiveness.  When someone asks, I am usually willing to offer it, but the thing is, people don’t always ask.  And sometimes I perceived I was wronged when the other person doesn’t see it that way.  This proverb reminds me that it is better to forgive and move past an offense than to let it sit and weigh me down.

19:20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Accepting correction isn’t easy.  I tend to bristle at it (especially when I know it is something I did wrong, or need to change).  It puts my defenses up, and I imagine many others feel the same.  But when we accept proper discipline, we come out better.  We learn and grow, and don’t continue to make the same mistakes.  It is an important part of life to heed Godly advice and discipline, even when we don’t like it.

21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.

This one is an encouraging one to end today’s thoughts.  Sometimes it can feel like in this world, evil is winning.  That people have made their plans, and they are succeeding despite it being contrary to God’s ways.  So here is your reminder: they won’t win out in the end.  Nothing can succeed if it is against the LORD.  We might feel weighed down and defeated when we see evil prevail, but we know how it ends.  We know who wins.  And it isn’t evil.

I’m writing this while life is weird.  We are stuck at home, not going to church (I don’t think I have ever not been to church on Easter Sunday), many people not going to jobs, not having dinner with families, not enjoying a dinner out.  But we can have peace when we remember that no matter what is happening now, God has a plan, it will come to be, and we can look forward to eternal life.

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

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

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 22-24 as we continue seeking and growing in God’s way during our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Don’t Be a Hater

Proverbs 10-12

Proverbs 10 12 NIV sgl

I have a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling in my head after the death of George Floyd and all the events surrounding it afterward.  There is a lot to dig into and talk about, but I am going to keep this devotion simple by sharing some very pertinent verses from our reading in Proverbs today.

Proverbs 10:12 starts out by saying that hatred stirs up conflict.  Well, that has certainly been proven true.  If you want to dig to the core of this whole problem, racism, you will find hatred there.  People have chosen to hate someone based on the color of their skin.  Some of this hate is intense, and unfortunately leads to death at times, but there are also many people that carry with them a milder form of hate that still makes the problem worse even though it may not be so blatant.

So how should we combat hatred?  The second part of verse 12 says that love covers over all wrongs.  Love is what is needed to make this situation better.  Considering everything that has happened, you might not be feeling that right now.  There is a lot of anger out there, and it is ok to get angry sometimes.  Some things are worth getting angry over. However, that anger can’t last.  It will ruin you and those around you if you hold on to anger for too long.  There have been many wrongs through the years that can’t be undone, but love can cover those wrongs, and forgiveness needs to be part of that love.  The wrongs can be forgotten with forgiveness and love.

You have a choice to make.  Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?  Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  You can speak harshly and blame people for their wrongdoings.  You might even be accurate about what you are saying, but if your tone is cruel and insensitive, it is like piercing them with a sword.  A wise person’s words are softer, gentler, loving, and empathetic, which brings healing.

I think it is safe to say that most people have been feeling anxiety over what has been happening.  The first part of Proverbs 12:25 says that anxiety weighs down the heart.  I’m sure many of you have experienced that during these trying times lately.  The good news is that there is a cure for your heart.  The second part of verse 25 says a kind word cheers it up.  Again, you can choose to speak harshly to others about what they have done wrong and make the wounds worse, or you can say something kind to help make their heart glad.

Proverbs 12:20 goes one step further by saying those who promote peace have joy.  Peace feels so good and it is what most of us strive for.  If you can promote peace, even in very small ways, it will bring joy to your heart.  The only thing that will completely end racism is the return of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up until then.  I encourage you to make this world a better place one person at a time.  You can’t solve this whole problem by yourself, but you can make it better by being a light to the individuals you come into contact with in your daily life.

I am not saying we all need to pretend nothing happened and try to live happily ever after.  There are many conversations that need to take place and changes need to occur.  I am saying that we need to embrace the wise words from scripture and go into those conversations with love, not with hate boiling on the inside.  You also need to search your own heart to see if there is any hatred there, no matter how strong or mild it may be, and rid your heart of that hatred.  Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.

Rick McClain

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+10-12&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 13-15 as we find more of God’s wisdom on our 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

A Perfect Opportunity for Revenge

1st Samuel 21-24

1 Samuel 24 12 NIV

In today’s reading, we see more examples of Saul’s rebellion against God and his hatred of David.  Ahimelech the priest had inquired of the Lord for David. In his rage, Saul ordered that not only Ahimelech, but all the priests must be killed – so Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul’s goons, killed 85 priests, then went to their town and killed every man, woman, and child (and its cattle, donkeys, and sheep).  In chapter 23, Saul chased David and tried to kill him multiple times.

 

In chapter 24, David finally has his opportunity for revenge.  Saul was again chasing David. David and his men were hiding in the Desert of En Gedi.  Saul and 3000 chosen troops were in hot pursuit. Along the way, Saul needed to go to the bathroom.  He wanted a little privacy, so he stepped into a cave to relieve himself. Little did he know that David and his men were hiding further back in that very cave.

 

If you were David, what would you have done?  Would you have eliminated the threat to your life, and ushered in your reign as king?  To be perfectly honest, I think that’s exactly what I would have done. David’s men encouraged David to kill Saul, but instead, David crept up to Saul, and cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.

 

Afterward, David was conscience stricken and said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

 

Wow!  Clearly Saul was a scoundrel, but David spared his life because God had made him king.  I think we can learn a lesson or two from David’s respect for the office of authority, even when the man in the office wasn’t worthy of respect.

 

This is exactly what we’re told to do in 1 Peter 2:13-14 – “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.”

 

David’s actions also remind me of Romans 12:17-18 – “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

 

So too, we need to submit to authority, even when we don’t like the person in authority, or what they are doing.  Also, we need to be intentional about never repaying evil for evil.

 

To finish today’s story, because David had spared Saul’s life, Saul promised to leave David alone, and returned home (for now).  David and his men went up to their stronghold. God had protected David yet again.

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+21-24&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 7,27,31, 34 and 52 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan