Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday - II Samuel 18 - Justice and Misery

Because of the time that Hushai bought for David, he had the opportunity to settle down and organize his loyal few. So, he divided his lone battalion into companies and batteries under Joab, Abishai and lttai. They were to go and fight the attacking forces of Absalom, who were led by Amasa (Joab, Abishai and Absalom's cousin). It was more than just another civil war... it was a major family feud; a bloody and bitter conflict that would take the lives of thousands of men. And, in this case the old timers were destined to come out on top.

Now, David offered to go out into the battle with his army, but they would not allow it.  He had crossed a line in circumstance (if not in chronology) that made him more valuable back at headquarters than on the battlefield. This point comes for almost every good man who lives long enough. It is time to give advice and leadership and let the grunt work be done by the grunts. The down side of this is that sometimes things don't get done quite the way the old man wants them to be done. And, such was the case for David. He explicitly instructed his captains to fight against Absalom's troops, but not against Absalom himself (II Samuel 18:5). But, that was not to be. When Joab found Absalom hanging inexplicably by his hair from an oak tree in the middle of the battle, he wasted no time striking darts through the wicked prince's heart.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday - II Samuel 17 - God Watches Over His Own

David's former advisor, Ahithophel, gave the new king Absalom good strategic advice. He told him to go after David immediately. And, if he had done that, he would have had an advantage. But, David had sent Hushai to cancel the counsel of Ahithophel. And, he had prayed and asked God to prevent Ahithophel from prospering. So, Absalom followed the "wait-and-see" approach that Hushai recommended and rejected the "quick-strike" method that Ahithophel had proposed. This was such a devastating turn of events for Ahithophel that it drove him to suicide.

The end of Ahithophel was the work of God as was the protection of 2 messenger boys, Jonathan and Ahimaaz, who were sent to warn David about Absalom's intentions.  Even more so did God work through the generosity of three men, Shobi the Ammonite, Machir of Lodebar and Barzillai the Gileadite?

After David crossed the Jordan River going east, these men brought beds, cookware, food and animals to relieve the hungry, weary, thirsty refugees as they hid in the wilderness. God was watching out for David even while He allowed him to suffer the temporary loss of his kingdom.  Even in wrath, God can remember mercy.  What a wonderful and marvelous God we serve!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday - II Samuel 16 - The Influence of Evil Men

The Bible is explicitly clear that Ziba was opportunistically kind to David and unkind to his master, Mephibosheth. But you can't find that perspective in THIS chapter. One must consult II Samuel 19:24- 30 to discover Ziba's motives. In this context we not only see the actions Ziba, but also treachery of Shimei and Ahithophel. Now, Ziba actually brought a significant amount of food to David, but as I said, we will learn later that he was setting himself up to move from servant to master. He not only brought supplies, he brought lies; lies about his master Mephibosheth.

If David had been at the top of his game, so to speak, perhaps he would have picked up on the lying strategy that Ziba was employing. Why would Mephibosheth have thought that a struggle between David and Absalom would have produced an opportunity for him to become king? But, David was at the bottom. I mean, he was just about as low as you can get. Not only had his son and his chief advisor turned on him: he was temporarily homeless, he had lost the loyalty of many of his people, he thought Mephibosheth was ungrateful for the kindnesses that had been shown to him, he was journeying further and further away from the house of God, he had reasons to reflect on his checkered past with deep angst, and on top of that there was this guy, Shimei, who pestered David and his traveling party mercilessly, throwing rocks and cursing.  It was bad enough that Joab's brother asked David for permission to go decapitate the jerk.  But, David refused to allow it. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday - II Samuel 15 - Dark Days

We may imagine that life should pass without inhibitions, difficulties or heartaches, but deep down we know better. Life can be very hard; even cruel at times. Such is the case in which we find David in this chapter. The very son whom David had forgiven (and to whom he had extended amnesty) had turned on him and stolen his throne. It was a dark and weary path that David was treading when he walked out of his palace, out of Jerusalem, away from the Tabernacle, away from the Ark of God and into the wilderness to hide for his life.

Perhaps he could have stayed and fought, but he recognized the power of persuasion and the influence of his most ambitious son. So, as soon as word came to David that Absalom had risen in a coup and had successfully declared himself to be the new king, David high-tailed it out of town.  At this juncture, Absalom was reigning in David's old capitol city (Hebron) and David was fleeing for his life.  David crossed the Mount of Olives with bare feet and tears flowing.  Now, despite Absalom's wickedness, David loved him. Surely David had many reasons to mourn.  No doubt David reflected on his past moral failures as he plodded along in retreat. The loss of all that he had become accustomed to was an added burden.  The realization that he had been rejected by his own nation would have been bitter medicine for him as well.

In the departure of David and his court (well, some of his court), it becomes apparent that David had many true friends as well as some very sly and opportunistic political groupies. Take special notice of 2 (in particular) who are mentioned here: Ahithophel and Hushai. One of them was wise, but self-absorbed. The second was loyal and brave. Stay tuned for their story another day. The priests also played an important though somewhat unusual role in this part of the story of David's life. Zadok, Abiathar and their sons served as political spies for David during these days. We will find how much of a risk they were taking as we continue to read.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday - II Samuel 14 - The Return of Absalom

After Absalom killed his half-brother, he got out of town, and apparently set his sights on his father's throne. Perhaps he was emboldened to aim for that after he realized he had gotten away with killing his brother.

Now, Joab had constant access to David, and yet he was obviously hesitant to speak his mind before the king concerning Absolem. So, he set David up so that he would have an excuse to do what he wanted to do, but for some reason felt unable to do. Joab recognized that David missed Absalom but felt obligated to restrain himself because of what Absalom had done. So, Joab sent an actress in to pull at David's heart strings and to persuade him that everybody wanted Absalom to be brought back home.  And, it worked.

David hesitated though, once Absalom was in the act of returning. He refused to allow him to come to the court. So, Absalom tried to use Joab to PRY his way back into the palace. Joab ignored him. He got pushy (he burned Joab's crops). Joab begged David to let Absalom come to see him. Absalom came to see his dad. Everybody lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. Absalom began to woo the hearts of the populace away from David, but that's another story.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday - II Samuel 13 - Wild Oats Bear

David had sown his wild oats, and there came a time to harvest. David’s fields bore their wild grain in abundance. David's stubborn willingness to obtain what he desired by whatever means necessary was passed down to his children. Naturally, this was not a good thing. In this chapter, we find the infinitely sad story of David's son (Amnon) and his incestuous rape of his own sister, Tamar. Amnon passionately craved his sister (well, half-sister). He desired her physically with such intensity that it affected his health. And, unfortunately Amnon had a cousin named Jonadab who contrived a scheme by which Amnon could get what he wanted.

With Jonadab’s help and under the guise of needing a nurse, Amnon finagled his way into being alone with Tamar. Then he did his wicked deed and sent her away in shame. Perhaps the saddest part in this whole story is the perspective that Tamar had. II Samuel 13:13 indicates that she would have been willing to marry Amnon if he would have followed the proper cultural procedures of their day.  Sadder still, she was willing to stay with him after he had forced himself upon her (11 Samuel 13:16), but his evil heart had turned and he suddenly hated the very thing that he had thought he loved.

Then in a vengeful reaction against Amnon, Tamar and Amnon's brother Absalom aimed to set matters straight. After 2 years of stewing, Absalom had all his brothers over for dinner and had Amnon killed while he was sitting at the table drinking.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday - II Samuel 12 - Back on Track

It's hard to imagine that David could be forgiven, just like that. Wasn't he a crude, rude, lewd and wicked dude? He had stolen his friend's wife, killed his friend to protect his own skin, and had seemingly gotten away with it. Yet, this chapter is the story of David getting back on track with God… and with his kingly duties.

God sent Nathan the prophet to David with a parable. The parable was a very thinly veiled metaphor revealing David's guilt. Amazingly, II Samuel 12:5 indicates that David's moral discernment had remained intact even if his immoral misbehavior would naturally lead us to imagine otherwise.

Now, Nathan's sermon moved quickly from indirect to direct speech as he pointed his finger in the face of the guilty king (II Samuel 12:7). Thankfully David was just as straightforward in his admission and repentance (II Samuel 12:13). And, while we are pointing out frank statements, let's not miss the best one of all. God forgave David with no uncertainty. Although the damage which he had done was not repaired, his relationship with God and his fellowship with God were both restored.  David could not be rewarded for his faithfulness, but the situation was ultimately redeemed through God’s faithfulness.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday - II Samuel 11 - Uh-Oh!

This is the story of David and Bathsheba. David's escapade (a misstep in an otherwise stellar testimony) illustrates James 1:15 with agonizing clarity. "When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death." You have likely heard the digression described before.  David was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He saw his beautiful neighbor Bathsheba in some stage of indecency.  He looked; he lusted; he yielded to the temptation; he invited her over; she came; he committed adultery with her; he went to great lengths to cover his tracks; many people died because of David's tryst.

Although Uriah (Bathsheba's husband) was one of David's mightiest and most loyal military specialists (II Samuel 23:8 & 39), David ended up killing him. Then, the son who was born from their sinful union was slain by God as part of the David's punishment (II Samuel 12:14). And, several Jewish soldiers died during the cover-up of Uriah's murder (2 Samuel 11:17). Additionally, as you watch David's biography unfold, you will find that death dominated his household in accordance with II Samuel 12:10, where God said, "The sword shall never depart from your house; because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife." In short, "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday - II Samuel 10 - Fighting the Foes

David was known to be a warrior, so much so, that sometimes even his generosity wasn't trusted.  Here we read that when David sent men to comfort Hanun the king of the Ammonites in the loss of his father, the Ammonites assumed that he had treacherous motives. So, Hanun embarrassed those benevolent emissaries unnecessarily by shaving half of each one's face and by altering their robes to make very inadequate miniskirts for them.

To make a long story short, the Ammonites soon regretted their foolish maltreatment of David's men. Even though the Ammonites hired thousands of Syrians to ward of David's revenge, they were no match for David, Joab, Abishai, Israel and Israel's God. Both of those gentile nations were routed soundly and the Syrians never again agreed to work as mercenaries for the Ammonites.

This scenario is still played out today in the lives of believers. We may set out to show some kindness to a person in their grief, and yet our attempts may easily be interpreted to be inadequate or even hostile. But, if God is on our side, who can stand against us (Romans 8:31)? Even if those who have it in for us go out and garner additional forces to come against us, if we are walking with God, Satan is our ultimate enemy and against him we CAN prevail. Put on the whole armor of God, Christian friend... we are in a war! Gird your loins with truth, wear the breastplate of righteousness, keep your gospel shoes on, use your shield of faith, strap on the helmet of salvation, wield the sword of the Spirit & pray earnestly as you stand in your post (Ephesians 6:14-18). And, in all of this, please fight the enemy (Satan). Don't turn on your own company. Your fellow-saints are not the foe.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday - II Samuel 9 - Grace for Mephibosheth... and for Me

After David had been king for a while and had settled in securely, he evidently remembered the covenant that he had made with Jonathan. So, he inquired whether there were any surviving relatives or descendants of Saul remaining. Wonderfully, there was one of Saul's grandsons, Mephibosheth (Jonathan's son), who was still alive. We were introduced to him back in II Samuel 4:4. Remember, he was crippled at age 5 on the same day that his father had died in battle.

Now, David desired to "show the kindness of God unto him" (II Samuel 9:3). But, Mephibosheth was doubtlessly somewhat afraid of what David might have had in mind for him (II Samuel 9:6 & 7). He had nothing to fear though. David gave him all that had belonged to his grandfather, King Saul, and he gave him a place at his own royal table. Neither Mephibosheth's family name nor his lameness hindered David from caring for him or from showing him kindness and generosity.

There is a remarkable correlation between Mephibosheth's plight and ours. Before God showered His saving grace upon us we were the offspring of a defeated king, Satan. We were helpless and weak. We were powerless and at God's mercy. And yet, for no reason other than His own good nature and character, and in keeping with a promise that he had made to our ancestor Abraham, God reached down to us and exalted us to sit at His table beside His only begotten Son, Jesus. It is a story of compassion and generosity. It is a story about how God has taken the initiative in bringing us to a place of royal fellowship; a place to which we could never have attained by our own attempts, no matter how noble or diligent.