Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jumping the Gun!

China's Legendary Liu Xiang Withdraws From Olympics After False Start

If you could get a jump on the competition, you would be more likely to win, right? Well, that isn't seen very favorably in world class sports, like the Olympics.

It didn't work terribly well in king David's time either.

The king was old. Not dead yet, but pretty close. His oldest son, Absolom, tried to take the kingdom by trickery and force, but had failed, and was now dead. His second son, decided it was his time...

5 -6 "At this time Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, puffed himself up saying, "I'm the next king!" He made quite a splash, with chariots and riders and fifty men to run ahead of him. His father had spoiled him rotten as a child, never once reprimanding him. Besides that, he was very good-looking and the next in line after Absalom."

There didn't seem to be any resistance, so he went full steam ahead.

9 -10 "Next Adonijah held a coronation feast, sacrificing sheep, cattle, and grain-fed heifers at the Stone of Zoheleth near the Rogel Spring. He invited all his brothers, the king's sons, and everyone in Judah who had position and influence—but he did not invite the prophet Nathan, Benaiah, the bodyguards, or his brother Solomon."

But a group went in to the old king and told him what was happening.

"Go immediately to King David. Speak up: 'Didn't you, my master the king, promise me, "Your son Solomon will be king after me and sit on my throne"? So why is Adonijah now king?' While you're there talking with the king, I'll come in and corroborate your story."
15 -16 Bathsheba went at once to the king in his palace bedroom. He was so old! Abishag was at his side making him comfortable. As Bathsheba bowed low, honoring the king, he said, "What do you want?"
17 -21 "My master," she said, "you promised me in God's name, 'Your son Solomon will be king after me and sit on my throne.' And now look what's happened—Adonijah has taken over as king, and my master the king doesn't even know it! He has thrown a huge coronation feast—cattle and grain-fed heifers and sheep—inviting all the king's sons, the priest Abiathar, and Joab head of the army. But your servant Solomon was not invited. My master the king, every eye in Israel is watching you to see what you'll do—to see who will sit on the throne of my master the king after him. If you fail to act, the moment you're buried my son Solomon and I are as good as dead."
22 -23 Abruptly, while she was telling the king all this, Nathan the prophet came in and was announced: "Nathan the prophet is here." He came before the king, honoring him by bowing deeply, his face touching the ground.
24 -27 "My master the king," Nathan began, "did you say, 'Adonijah shall be king after me and sit on my throne'? Because that's what's happening. He's thrown a huge coronation feast—cattle, grain-fed heifers, sheep—inviting all the king's sons, the army officers, and Abiathar the priest. They're having a grand time, eating and drinking and shouting, 'Long live King Adonijah!' But I wasn't invited, nor was the priest Zadok, nor Benaiah son of Jehoiada, nor your servant Solomon. Is this something that my master the king has done behind our backs, not telling your servants who you intended to be king after you?"

In the end, Solomon is established, Adonijah is killed, and the kingdom goes on...

Lesson? Don't jump the gun. It might not turn out as well as you had envisioned.

Friday, May 29, 2009

David blesses God

It is funny how some of the most enduring things we do in life are a sideline, an afterthought, a thing that we did while the main part of our life was charging full steam ahead.

For David, his main thing was winning the wars, establishing the kingdom, making peace and prosperity for his nation.

But a passion of his was to create a marvelous place for God to be worshipped. He wanted so badly to build it, but God said "no." His hands were bloody from too much war and killing. So he prepared everything necessary for his son to build the temple. The temple became one of David's enduring legacies. Listen to him talk to his people about it...

"...this is not just a place for people to meet each other, but a house for God to meet us. I've done my best to get everything together for building this house for my God, all the materials necessary: gold, silver, bronze, iron, lumber, precious and varicolored stones, and building stones—vast stockpiles. Furthermore, because my heart is in this, in addition to and beyond what I have gathered, I'm turning over my personal fortune of gold and silver for making this place of worship for my God: 3,000 talents (about 113 tons) of gold—all from Ophir, the best—and 7,000 talents (214 tons) of silver for covering the walls of the buildings, and for the gold and silver work by craftsmen and artisans."

Men, materials and money. All were prepared and ready. He turns to the people...

"And now, how about you? Who among you is ready and willing to join in the giving?"
6 -8 Ready and willing, the heads of families, leaders of the tribes of Israel, commanders and captains in the army, stewards of the king's affairs, stepped forward and gave willingly. They gave 5,000 talents (188 tons) and 10,000 darics (185 pounds) of gold, 10,000 talents of silver (377 tons), 18,000 talents of bronze (679 tons), and 100,000 talents (3,775 tons) of iron. Anyone who had precious jewels put them in the treasury for the building of The Temple of God in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite.
9 And the people were full of a sense of celebration—all that giving! And all given willingly, freely! King David was exuberant."

There was a sense of national celebration. David took his inward habit of blessing and praising and worshipping God and let it flow into his public expression...

10 -13 "David blessed God in full view of the entire congregation: Blessed are you, God of Israel, our father from of old and forever. To you, O God, belong the greatness and the might, the glory, the victory, the majesty, the splendor; Yes! Everything in heaven, everything on earth; the kingdom all yours! You've raised yourself high over all. Riches and glory come from you, you're ruler over all; You hold strength and power in the palm of your hand to build up and strengthen all. And here we are, O God, our God, giving thanks to you, praising your splendid Name.
14 -19 "But me—who am I, and who are these my people, that we should presume to be giving something to you? Everything comes from you; all we're doing is giving back what we've been given from your generous hand. As far as you're concerned, we're homeless, shiftless wanderers like our ancestors, our lives mere shadows, hardly anything to us. God, our God, all these materials—these piles of stuff for building a house of worship for you, honoring your Holy Name—it all came from you! It was all yours in the first place! I know, dear God, that you care nothing for the surface—you want us, our true selves—and so I have given from the heart, honestly and happily. "

He was the leader of the people in the fullest sense. He now talks to God about the people...

"And now see all these people doing the same, giving freely, willingly—what a joy! O God, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep this generous spirit alive forever in these people always, keep their hearts set firmly in you. And give my son Solomon an uncluttered and focused heart so that he can obey what you command, live by your directions and counsel, and carry through with building The Temple for which I have provided."
20 David then addressed the congregation: "Bless God, your God!" And they did it, blessed God, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped reverently in the presence of God and the king."

At the end of his life, as he had done all through his life,

David blesses God...

Sunday, May 24, 2009


In yesterday's story David was the shmuck. He went against his conscience. 70,000 people were killed by the angel of God. The announced punishment was only a third of the way done.

Today he is the hero again, a position we are much more comfortable with...

David had chosen to accept the punishment of having God stike down the people of Israel for three days, choosing to throw himself on the mercy of God.

"The angel of God had just reached the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David looked up and saw the angel hovering between earth and sky, sword drawn and about to strike Jerusalem. David and the elders bowed in prayer and covered themselves with rough burlap.
17 When David saw the angel about to destroy the people, he prayed, "Please! I'm the one who sinned; I, the shepherd, did the wrong. But these sheep, what did they do wrong? Punish me and my family, not them."

That prayer, and that humility, effectively stopped the slaughter. God spoke to David through His prophet.

18 -19 "That same day Gad came to David and said, "Go and build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." David did what Gad told him, what God commanded." No time lost. David wanted to do WHATEVER God said.

20 -21 "Araunah looked up and saw David and his men coming his way; he met them, bowing deeply, honoring the king and saying, "Why has my master the king come to see me?"
"To buy your threshing floor," said David, "so I can build an altar to God here and put an end to this disaster."
22 -23 "Oh," said Araunah, "let my master the king take and sacrifice whatever he wants. Look, here's an ox for the burnt offering and threshing paddles and ox-yokes for fuel—Araunah gives it all to the king! And may God, your God, act in your favor."

This loyal subject, a little intimidated by the king's presence, offers anything he has for the king's use. Here is where David's greatness is demonstrated once again.

24 -25 "But the king said to Araunah, "No. I've got to buy it from you for a good price; I'm not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice."

This principle rings true today as well. We call our offerings "gifts". That is the wrong word. It implies that what we have is ours to do with as we will. It implies that what we give to God is discretionary. We can give, or not, based upon our whim. I think the word "sacrifice" explains better that we recognize that God is God. He own it all.

"So David bought the threshing floor and the ox, paying out fifty shekels of silver. He built an altar to God there and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. God was moved by the prayers and that was the end of the disaster."

David paid full price for the land and the ox that was to be sacrificed. The coolest part of this story, is that God was moved. God was pleased. God was impacted by what David did.

Big lesson there!


Today's story does not make sense to me...

Here's how it starts in 2 Samuel 24.
1 -2 "Once again God's anger blazed out against Israel. He tested David by telling him, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."

Each of those three phrases is confusing. God's anger blazed against Israel? You have to assume they were worshipping idols again, but it doesn't say that. At the end of the story a very large number of people are killed. So God's anger is pretty serious.

He tested David by telling him... My greatest intrigue all along has been how we hear from God. How we know it is Him. And how when we obey His voice His blessings follow. So this flies in the face of all of that. God TOLD David to do something bad? And David obeyed? And something terrible happened? THAT is confusing...

"Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." That was the great crime? Find out how many people are in the kingdom? Every nation does that on an ongoing basis. So how is it wicked and deserving of great punishment? THAT is confusing...

"David gave orders to Joab and the army officers under him, "Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number." THAT was the great sin. I don't get it...

Somehow Joab, the mighty general, David's faithful warrior, knows that this is a bad thing. How did he know? What am I missing?

3 "But Joab resisted the king: "May your God multiply people by the hundreds right before the eyes of my master the king, but why on earth would you do a thing like this?"

Of course, the king is the king. 4 -9 "Nevertheless, the king insisted, and so Joab and the army officers left the king to take a census of Israel." It takes them over 9 months (didn't they have a computer network back then?) and they report back.

10"But when it was all done, David was overwhelmed with guilt because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics. And David prayed to God, "I have sinned badly in what I have just done. But now God forgive my guilt—I've been really stupid."

A couple of things. If David knew this was wrong, why did it take his consciense nearly a year to kick into gear? Did he know somehow that it was wrong, but lived by the latin american phrase, "Its better to ask forgiveness than ask permission?" The other thing - how did he know it was so wrong?

11 -12"When David got up the next morning, the word of God had already come to Gad the prophet, David's spiritual advisor, "Go and give David this message: 'God has spoken thus: There are three things I can do to you; choose one out of the three and I'll see that it's done.'"
13 Gad came to deliver the message: "Do you want three years of famine in the land, or three months of running from your enemies while they chase you down, or three days of an epidemic on the country? Think it over and make up your mind. What shall I tell the one who sent me?"

The result is that God's angel killed 70,000 people. That's more than all the US soldiers killed in Vietnam in the 10 years we were over there. That is a pretty big deal!

During the rest of this story, God never speaks directly to David again. Only through this never-before-mentioned prophet - Gad. But David knew it was God, speaking to him through this man.
So in this story, God talked to David directly to test him, and talked to him through a faithful friend and also through a spiritual leader. Does this indicate that David's relationship with God had cooled as his reign progressed? Did prosperity and ease dull his spiritual edge?

I have way more questions than answers from this story. I find it confusing...
ps. - 1 Chronicles 21 sets up this story with a different beginning. 1 -2"Now Satan entered the scene and seduced David into taking a census of Israel." THAT certainly makes more sense to me...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Inner Life

We all have an outer life. It is what the people around us see. That includes what we look like, how we dress, what we do, where we go, how we speak.

But we all also have an inner life. Few, if any, people know us there. That is why we are sometimes shocked that monsters like the BTW killer went to church, or that someone admired or respected can have nurtured secret sins for so long.

David had an amazing inner life. It came out in his writings, his poems, his songs and his worship.
Here is one of his inner conversations...

2 Samuel 22
1 David prayed to God the words of this song after God saved him from all his enemies and from Saul.
2 -3 God is bedrock under my feet,
the castle in which I live,
my rescuing knight.
My God—the high crag
where I run for dear life,
hiding behind the boulders,
safe in the granite hideout;
My mountaintop refuge,
he saves me from ruthless men.
4 I sing to God the Praise-Lofty,
and find myself safe and saved.
5 -6 The waves of death crashed over me,
devil waters rushed over me.
Hell's ropes cinched me tight;
death traps barred every exit.
7 A hostile world! I called to God,
to my God I cried out.
From his palace he heard me call;
my cry brought me right into his presence—
a private audience!
8 -16 Earth wobbled and lurched;
the very heavens shook like leaves,
Quaked like aspen leaves
because of his rage.
His nostrils flared, billowing smoke;
his mouth spit fire.
Tongues of fire darted in and out;
he lowered the sky.
He stepped down;
under his feet an abyss opened up.
He rode a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
He wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black rain-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness burst through,
a grand comet of fireworks.
Then God thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout.
God shot his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurled his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean were exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lay uncovered
The moment God roared in protest,
let loose his hurricane anger.
17 -20 But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!
21 -25 God made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I cleaned up my act,
he gave me a fresh start.
Indeed, I've kept alert to God's ways;
I haven't taken God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works,
I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
and I'm watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
26 -28 You stick by people who stick with you,
you're straight with people who're straight with you,
You're good to good people,
you shrewdly work around the bad ones.
You take the side of the down-and-out,
but the stuck-up you take down a peg.
29 -31 Suddenly, God, your light floods my path,
God drives out the darkness.
I smash the bands of marauders,
I vault the high fences.
What a God! His road
stretches straight and smooth.
Every God-direction is road-tested.
Everyone who runs toward him
Makes it.
32 -46 Is there any god like God?
Are we not at bedrock?
Is not this the God who armed me well,
then aimed me in the right direction?
Now I run like a deer;
I'm king of the mountain.
He shows me how to fight;
I can bend a bronze bow!
You protect me with salvation-armor;
you touch me and I feel ten feet tall.
You cleared the ground under me
so my footing was firm.
When I chased my enemies I caught them;
I didn't let go till they were dead men.
I nailed them; they were down for good;
then I walked all over them.
You armed me well for this fight;
you smashed the upstarts.
You made my enemies turn tail,
and I wiped out the haters.
They cried "uncle"
but Uncle didn't come;
They yelled for God
and got no for an answer.
I ground them to dust; they gusted in the wind.
I threw them out, like garbage in the gutter.
You rescued me from a squabbling people;
you made me a leader of nations.
People I'd never heard of served me;
the moment they got wind of me they submitted.
They gave up; they came trembling from their hideouts.
47 -51 Live, God! Blessing to my Rock,
my towering Salvation-God!
This God set things right for me
and shut up the people who talked back.
He rescued me from enemy anger.
You pulled me from the grip of upstarts,
You saved me from the bullies.
That's why I'm thanking you, God,
all over the world.
That's why I'm singing songs
that rhyme your name.
God's king takes the trophy;
God's chosen is beloved.
I mean David and all his children—

Later in the good book David is given a beautiful designation.
He is called a man after God's own heart.

Because of his inner life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Financial squeeze? Solution!

I had never seen this before.

After all the drama of the civil war and all, David went back to Jerusalem and was running the country as king.

Then there was trouble. Here is what it says...

1"There was a famine in David's time. It went on year after year after year—three years. David went to God seeking the reason." (2 Samuel 21)

WE have been in an economic famine during OUR time. And IT has gone on year after year after year. We (that is me and my wife) are fully vested in real estate, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Our retirement, our income, our business - everything was vested in real estate. So we have been hit hard. But the whole country has been hit hard. As I deal in the foreclosure market, I see people from every walk of life devastated. Even those who kept 6 months of savings aside, did not have enough for 2 years of downturn. And it isn't over yet.

THAT caught my attention. But what came next even more so!

"God said..."

Hold on a minute! How did David KNOW God said? HOW did God speak? How was David SO SURE that it was God? Especially WHAT God said. It seems a little bizarre. Was David just making this up? Here is how the story unfolds...

"God said, "This is because there is blood on Saul and his house, from the time he massacred the Gibeonites." (2 Samuel 21)

REALLY? Did God just speak those words out loud? Did God "impress on his heart"? Can you imagine being on David's cabinet, and at the next daily briefing, the leader of the land says, "This is because there is blood on Saul and his house, from the time he massacred the Gibeonites?" Would you not think he was crazy? So here is how the story played out...

2 "the king called the Gibeonites together for consultation. (The Gibeonites were not part of Israel; they were what was left of the Amorites, and protected by a treaty with Israel. But Saul, a fanatic for the honor of Israel and Judah, tried to kill them off.)
3 David addressed the Gibeonites: "What can I do for you? How can I compensate you so that you will bless God's legacy of land and people?"
4 The Gibeonites replied, "We don't want any money from Saul and his family. And it's not up to us to put anyone in Israel to death."
But David persisted: "What are you saying I should do for you?"
5 -6 Then they told the king, "The man who tried to get rid of us, who schemed to wipe us off the map of Israel—well, let seven of his sons be handed over to us to be executed—hanged before God at Gibeah of Saul, the holy mountain."
And David agreed, "I'll hand them over to you."

He did. And here is how the story ends.

"They did everything the king ordered to be done. That cleared things up: from then on God responded to Israel's prayers for the land."

Are you in a financial squeeze? The solution...

Listen to God.

And do what He says...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sheba lost his head!

The civil war was very short.

One day king David was fleeing from Jerusalem across Jordan. A week later, or so, he is coming back across the Jordan, victorious as King again.

Lots of funny stories (at least, from my warped sense of humor). Here's one...

On the way out, Shimei lets his true feelings be known... 5 -8 "When the king got to Bahurim, a man appeared who had connections with Saul's family. His name was Shimei son of Gera. As he followed along he shouted insults and threw rocks right and left at David and his company, servants and soldiers alike. To the accompaniment of curses he shouted, "Get lost, get lost, you butcher, you hellhound! God has paid you back for all your dirty work in the family of Saul and for stealing his kingdom. God has given the kingdom to your son Absalom. Look at you now—ruined! And good riddance, you pathetic old man!"
9 Abishai son of Zeruiah said, "This mangy dog can't insult my master the king this way—let me go over and cut off his head!"
10 But the king said, "Why are you sons of Zeruiah always interfering and getting in the way? If he's cursing, it's because God told him, 'Curse David.' So who dares raise questions?" (2 Samuel 16)

On David's way back in (a week later) this guy is in a pickle... "Even Shimei son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, hurried down to join the men of Judah so he could welcome the king, a thousand Benjaminites with him... 18 -20 Shimei son of Gera bowed deeply in homage to the king as soon as he was across the Jordan and said, "Don't think badly of me, my master! Overlook my irresponsible outburst on the day my master the king left Jerusalem—don't hold it against me! I know I sinned, but look at me now—the first of all the tribe of Joseph to come down and welcome back my master the king!"
21 Abishai son of Zeruiah interrupted, "Enough of this! Shouldn't we kill him outright? Why, he cursed God's anointed!"
22 But David said, "What is it with you sons of Zeruiah? Why do you insist on being so contentious? Nobody is going to be killed today. I am again king over Israel!"
23 Then the king turned to Shimei, "You're not going to die." And the king gave him his word." (2 Samuel 19)

But one event was not funny. Not funny at all.

I guess Sheba got inspired by Absolom. 1 "Just then a good-for-nothing named Sheba son of Bicri the Benjaminite blew a blast on the ram's horn trumpet, calling out, We've got nothing to do with David, there's no future for us with the son of Jesse! Let's get out of here, Israel—head for your tents!
2 -3 So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri." (2 Samuel 20)

How would you like to be called a "good-for-nothing" in the holy book? Just a thought.

Anyway. The thought didn't last long. David sent the army to hunt this guy down. They laid seige to the city. A wise woman talked to Joab, who asked for the young man's head. The head was thrown over the wall. The insurrection was over.

You could say Joab travelled a long way to get a head!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Civil War!

"David went up the Mount of Olives weeping, head covered but barefooted, and the whole army was with him, heads covered and weeping as they ascended."

OK - It was a rather unusual civil war.

Started out with David taking on 6 then 7 wives, and having all kinds of children with them. Then his sin of adultery, cover-up and murder.

Nathan the prophet exposed the sin and prophesied that, "Because you treated God with such contempt and took Uriah the Hittite's wife as your wife, killing and murder will continually plague your family. This is God speaking, remember! I'll make trouble for you out of your own family... You did your deed in secret; I'm doing mine with the whole country watching!"

Boy did that ever come true! Next piece in the story is the rape of one of David's daughters by none other than David's oldest son. The son is never disciplined. Absolom, the girl's sister, takes revenge and kills the perp. Absolom is never disciplined.

Next Absolom spends 4 years cultivating the people of the kingdom. Once he is ready, he goes to Hebron and has himself announced as king of the land.

Word comes to David. What was his response? 13 "Someone came to David with the report, "The whole country has taken up with Absalom!"
14 "Up and out of here!" called David to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem. "We've got to run for our lives or none of us will escape Absalom! Hurry, he's about to pull the city down around our ears and slaughter us all!"
15 The king's servants said, "Whatever our master, the king, says, we'll do; we're with you all the way!"
16 -18 So the king and his entire household escaped on foot. The king left ten concubines behind to tend to the palace. And so they left, step by step by step, and then paused at the last house as the whole army passed by him..."

David decides not to fight. He was a great warrior. I suspect he could have beat any army his son would put together pretty handily. So why did he flee instead? Was it guilt? Did he accept this as God's punishment? Would he rather abduct the throne than plunge the country into a bloody civil war? What was his motivation? Perhaps it was all about his love for his son.

Later, Absolom gets into Jerusalem, and decides to pursue his father to kill him. It takes a little while to muster the army and chase his father down. The civil war has one and only one battle. David's army kills 20,000 of their fellow countrymen. Absolom dies.

David is heartbroken. While Absolom had no compunctions at all about killing his father to get the kingdom, David did not at all want to harm his son. Quite a character difference!

Chapter 18 ends with this touching lament:
33 "The king was stunned.
Heartbroken, he went up to the room over the gate and wept.
As he wept he cried out,
O my son Absalom, my dear, dear son Absalom!
Why not me rather than you, my death and not yours,
O Absalom, my dear, dear son! "

And with that, the civil war was over.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

RAPE! - and Revenge...

1 -4 Some time later, this happened: Absalom, David's son, had a sister who was very attractive. Her name was Tamar. Amnon, also David's son, was in love with her. Amnon was obsessed with his sister Tamar to the point of making himself sick over her. She was a virgin, so he couldn't see how he could get his hands on her. Amnon had a good friend, Jonadab, the son of David's brother Shimeah. Jonadab was exceptionally streetwise. He said to Amnon, "Why are you moping around like this, day after day—you, the son of the king! Tell me what's eating at you."
"In a word, Tamar," said Amnon. "My brother Absalom's sister. I'm in love with her."
5 "Here's what you do," said Jonadab. "Go to bed and pretend you're sick. When your father comes to visit you, say, 'Have my sister Tamar come and prepare some supper for me here where I can watch her and she can feed me.'"
6 So Amnon took to his bed and acted sick. When the king came to visit, Amnon said, "Would you do me a favor? Have my sister Tamar come and make some nourishing dumplings here where I can watch her and be fed by her."
7 David sent word to Tamar who was home at the time: "Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare a meal for him."
8 -9 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house. She took dough, kneaded it, formed it into dumplings, and cooked them while he watched from his bed. But when she took the cooking pot and served him, he wouldn't eat.
9 -11 Amnon said, "Clear everyone out of the house," and they all cleared out. Then he said to Tamar, "Bring the food into my bedroom, where we can eat in privacy." She took the nourishing dumplings she had prepared and brought them to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she got ready to feed him, he grabbed her and said, "Come to bed with me, sister!"
12 -13 "No, brother!" she said, "Don't hurt me! This kind of thing isn't done in Israel! Don't do this terrible thing! Where could I ever show my face? And you—you'll be out on the street in disgrace. Oh, please! Speak to the king—he'll let you marry me."
14 But he wouldn't listen. Being much stronger than she, he raped her.
15 No sooner had Amnon raped her than he hated her—an immense hatred. The hatred that he felt for her was greater than the love he'd had for her. "Get up," he said, "and get out!"
16 -18 "Oh no, brother," she said. "Please! This is an even worse evil than what you just did to me!"
But he wouldn't listen to her. He called for his valet. "Get rid of this woman. Get her out of my sight! And lock the door after her." The valet threw her out and locked the door behind her.
18 -19 She was wearing a long-sleeved gown. (That's how virgin princesses used to dress from early adolescence on.) Tamar poured ashes on her head, then she ripped the long-sleeved gown, held her head in her hands, and walked away, sobbing as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, "Has your brother Amnon had his way with you? Now, my dear sister, let's keep it quiet—a family matter. He is, after all, your brother. Don't take this so hard." Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's home, bitter and desolate.
21 -22 King David heard the whole story and was enraged, but he didn't discipline Amnon. David doted on him because he was his firstborn. Absalom quit speaking to Amnon—not a word, whether good or bad—because he hated him for violating his sister Tamar.
23 -24 Two years went by. One day Absalom threw a sheep-shearing party in Baal Hazor in the vicinity of Ephraim and invited all the king's sons. He also went to the king and invited him. "Look, I'm throwing a sheep-shearing party. Come, and bring your servants."
25 But the king said, "No, son—not this time, and not the whole household. We'd just be a burden to you." Absalom pushed, but David wouldn't budge. But he did give him his blessing.
26 -27 Then Absalom said, "Well, if you won't come, at least let my brother Amnon come."
"And why," said the king, "should he go with you?" But Absalom was so insistent that he gave in and let Amnon and all the rest of the king's sons go.
28 Absalom prepared a banquet fit for a king. Then he instructed his servants, "Look sharp, now. When Amnon is well into the sauce and feeling no pain, and I give the order 'Strike Amnon,' kill him. And don't be afraid—I'm the one giving the command. Courage! You can do it!"
29 -31 Absalom's servants did to Amnon exactly what their master ordered. All the king's sons got out as fast as they could, jumped on their mules, and rode off. While they were still on the road, a rumor came to the king: "Absalom just killed all the king's sons—not one is left!" The king stood up, ripped his clothes to shreds, and threw himself on the floor. All his servants who were standing around at the time did the same.
32 -33 Just then, Jonadab, his brother Shimeah's son, stepped up. "My master must not think that all the young men, the king's sons, are dead. Only Amnon is dead. This happened because of Absalom's outrage since the day that Amnon violated his sister Tamar. So my master, the king, mustn't make things worse than they are, thinking that all your sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead."
34 Absalom fled.

The man who did this ought to be lynched!

Oh king, oh king! I have a story to tell you. Could you please help solve this situation? Nathan the prophet approaches the king.

"There were two men in the same city—one rich, the other poor. The rich man had huge flocks of sheep, herds of cattle. The poor man had nothing but one little female lamb, which he had bought and raised. It grew up with him and his children as a member of the family. It ate off his plate and drank from his cup and slept on his bed. It was like a daughter to him.

4 "One day a traveler dropped in on the rich man. He was too stingy to take an animal from his own herds or flocks to make a meal for his visitor, so he took the poor man's lamb and prepared a meal to set before his guest." (2 Samuel 12)

The trap is set. King David, the righteous judge, is about to give a verdict.

5 -6 "David exploded in anger. "As surely as God lives," he said to Nathan, "the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!" (2 Samuel 12)

The most damning words David has ever heard come from the man of God next:

7 -12 "You're the man!" said Nathan." (2 Samuel 12)

(And, of course, it was no compliment. In case you thought Nathan was ahead of his time and was being hip)

David sat in stunned silence as Nathan's words began to sink in...

"And here's what God, the God of Israel, has to say to you: I made you king over Israel. I freed you from the fist of Saul. I gave you your master's daughter and other wives to have and to hold. I gave you both Israel and Judah. And if that hadn't been enough, I'd have gladly thrown in much more. So why have you treated the word of God with brazen contempt, doing this great evil? You murdered Uriah the Hittite, then took his wife as your wife. Worse, you killed him with an Ammonite sword! And now, because you treated God with such contempt and took Uriah the Hittite's wife as your wife, killing and murder will continually plague your family. This is God speaking, remember! I'll make trouble for you out of your own family. I'll take your wives from right out in front of you. I'll give them to some neighbor, and he'll go to bed with them openly. You did your deed in secret; I'm doing mine with the whole country watching!"


To his credit, David doesn't hire 175 lawyers to defend him, like Bill Clinton did. David's response was heartfelt and immediate.

13 -14 Then David confessed to Nathan, "I've sinned against God."

Nathan pronounced, "Yes, but that's not the last word. God forgives your sin. You won't die for it. But because of your blasphemous behavior, the son born to you will die."

How does the saying go? "Be sure your sins will find you out?"

But this saying is even more powerful. "God forgives your sin..."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Intrique - and MURDER!

"OK Uriah, I gave you lots of chances (to cover up my sin). You have left me no choice. This is not MY fault, its YOUR fault. Now you have to die..."
"Sorry buddy. It was nice chatting with you in the palace and all... Man you are stubborn. I mean, you really didn't have to die. If you just weren't so STUBBORN! Oh well, between your life and my sin being exposed, it really is an easy choice..."

14 -15 "In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In the letter he wrote, "Put Uriah in the front lines where the fighting is the fiercest. Then pull back and leave him exposed so that he's sure to be killed."

16 -17 "So Joab, holding the city under siege, put Uriah in a place where he knew there were fierce enemy fighters. When the city's defenders came out to fight Joab, some of David's soldiers were killed, including Uriah the Hittite. 18 -21 Joab sent David a full report on the battle. He instructed the messenger, "After you have given to the king a detailed report on the battle, if he flares in anger, say, 'And by the way, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.'" (2 Samuel 11:14-21)

Finally! Problem solved. It was harder than it needed to be. And yeah - an innocent and noble man had to die. BUT, that was all done with and now David could get on with his life.

"Then David told the messenger, "Oh. I see. Tell Joab, 'Don't trouble yourself over this. War kills—sometimes one, sometimes another—you never know who's next. Redouble your assault on the city and destroy it.' Encourage Joab."

26 -27 "When Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead, she grieved for her husband. When the time of mourning was over, David sent someone to bring her to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son."

David doesn't worry over this poor woman's broken heart. He gets her as his seventh wife, and at least he is taking care of her. That's pretty noble and all, isn't it. I mean, the poor woman is a widow. What's a king to do?

The lesson here? One sin leads to another to another to another. At some point there needs to be repentance, confession and forgiveness. David's time is coming...

A Man of Principle Who Refused to Bend

Not too long ago, David was an honorable young man, running for his life from the king. King Saul was committed to killing David, using whatever resources the state had. What had David done wrong? Nothing. He had simply saved the nation from defeat by stepping up in battle, and had gone on to be a battle hero - appreciated by the entire country.

Fast forward to today. (Today's story, that is)

Now David is king. He lusted over a married woman, and had her brought to him (while her husband was nobly fighting a war on behalf of the country). Don't forget, he had 6 wives and 10 concubines at the time. Any way, he had sex with her and sent her away. That should have been the end of the story.

But no - it was just the beginning...

"Before long she realized she was pregnant. Later she sent word to David: "I'm pregnant." (2 Samuel 11:5).

What did king David do? Well, he needed to fix the problem. The "fix" was really rather easy...

6 "David then got in touch with Joab: "Send Uriah the Hittite to me." Joab sent him.
7 -8 When he arrived, David asked him for news from the front—how things were going with Joab and the troops and with the fighting. Then he said to Uriah, "Go home. Have a refreshing bath and a good night's rest."
8 -9 After Uriah left the palace, an informant of the king was sent after him."

Bring the honorable soldier home, pay him some kingly attention (certainly a great honor for a rank and file soldier), then send him home to his beautiful wife. He couldn't resist her charms after a long time with the dirty smelly men, sleeping on the ground, eating military rations... Could he?

Well, the king sent an informant, just to make sure. Uriah has sex with his wife, she turns up pregnant, Uriah doesn't know he is actually raising the king's baby and not his own, and nobody is any wiser. The wife isn't going to say anything - her husband might divorce her and even disgrace her. So, the plan was flawless...

Oh, but there was a problem!

"But Uriah didn't go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance, along with the king's servants." (2 Samuel 11:9)

What is wrong with this guy? He calls the guy back in to see the king. (Wow, what an honor!)

10 "David was told that Uriah had not gone home. He asked Uriah, "Didn't you just come off a hard trip? So why didn't you go home?" (2 Samuel 11:10)

11 "Uriah replied to David, "The Chest is out there with the fighting men of Israel and Judah—in tents. My master Joab and his servants are roughing it out in the fields. So, how can I go home and eat and drink and enjoy my wife? On your life, I'll not do it!" (2 Samuel 11:11)

What is WRONG with this guy?

Incidentally, do you remember the Ark? David risked his life to get it. Celebrated so hard when it was brought into Jerusalem that he was dancing before the Lord? David seems to be in a different place spiritually right now than he was then. But Uriah - honorable, noble Uriah - had not lost respect for God, for the ark, and for his comrades in arms.

Of course, David is not done with Uriah. "Maybe if I get him drunk" David reasons, "then he'll forget his principles and go have sex with his wife. This shouldn't be SO HARD!"

12 -13 "All right," said David, "have it your way. Stay for the day and I'll send you back tomorrow." So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem the rest of the day.
The next day David invited him to eat and drink with him, and David got him drunk. But in the evening Uriah again went out and slept with his master's servants. He didn't go home." (2 Samuel 11:9)

So David - once a man of intense spirituality and conviction - is on the wrong side of everything right now.

He was lazy. He lusted. Now he is trying to coverup his sin. But he has run into a man of principle who will not bend. And David is frustrated.

More tomorrow...

Sex Scandal in High Places

History has recorded the following statement as the most remembered words that Bill Clinton ever spoke.
"I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," he said.
Why was it such a big deal? Well, he was the leader of the most powerful country in the world.
And, of course, it was a bold faced lie.
And, it was a coverup to the latest in a long line of sexual sins he had comitted...
But of course, he was not the first leader to engage in sexual scandal. Long before Bill Clinton, David did the same thing...
2 -5 "One late afternoon, David got up from taking his nap and was strolling on the roof of the palace. From his vantage point on the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was stunningly beautiful. David sent to ask about her, and was told, "Isn't this Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite?" David sent his agents to get her. After she arrived, he went to bed with her. (This occurred during the time of "purification" following her period.) Then she returned home. Before long she realized she was pregnant.
Later she sent word to David: "I'm pregnant."
David sees the woman. Sends for her. Has sex with her. And sends her home.
End of story. No one needs to know. His faithful staff will not tell anyone. Just one more event in the life of the king.
Of course, God saw. And God knows.
This story ends up being a story of God's grace and forgiveness.
But before that, there is cover up, and it gets even worse.
More on the story tomorrow...

Easy Street

It seems to be a wide spread dream to get to "easy street." The very beautiful, the very talented, the very skillful, and the very accomplished seem to end up with the double accolade - "rich and famous." They fill the media, with their fabulous homes, and outrageous expenditures of money.

Being rich has its own problems. For one thing, you never know whom to trust.

In today's story, there is an altogether different problem.

The problems with "easy street:"

1. Too much liesure time.
1"When that time of year came around again, the anniversary of the Ammonite aggression, David dispatched Joab and his fighting men of Israel in full force to destroy the Ammonites for good. They laid siege to Rabbah, but David stayed in Jerusalem.
2 -5 One late afternoon, David got up from taking his nap and was strolling on the roof of the palace. "

David was talented in many areas. But what had rocketed him to prominence was his boldness, his courage, his ability in war. He had subdued all his enemies. All the countries around were sending huge taxes to the treasury. He didn't really have any mortal enemies at the moment. It was time to take it easy. He was living on "easy street."

2. Our own sinful nature.
When we have a lot of free time, just think of all the good we could do!
Yeah, that's true...
But most people with a lot of free time follow the inclinations of their sinful nature, instead of using the extra time for godly purposes.

That's what happened to David. He should have been in the battle, at the head of his troops. Instead, what was he doing with his free time?

Important things. You know, business of the state... Like, taking a nap. 2 -5 "One late afternoon, David got up from taking his nap and was strolling on the roof of the palace."

Oh yeah - and strolling around on the roof of his huge mansion, that he had recently built for himself.

So while he was using his free time for - well - liesure...
"From his vantage point on the roof he saw a woman bathing."

This monster building didn't used to be there. He built it, as king, for a monument to himself. It was the biggest, baddest crib in town. And from the top, he could look down on everybody. (Literally, as well as figuratively)

Well, when he saw this woman, bathing as she always had, in her shower without a roof on it, he should have cleared his throat, looked the other way, and sent the following letter:

"Dear Uriah,
Since I have built my monster mansion right in the middle of town, I notice that I can see right down into your house. I'm sure you don't realize it, but I can actually see right into your shower. (Yeah, I know. Stinks, doesn't it) Well, this is just a friendly notice from your king. You might want to put a roof on that shower. You're wife is very attractive. (Don't ask me how I know).
So, I'm just saying - You know? Consider putting a lid on it...
Your King,

Well, he didn't send the letter. Instead we read, "The woman was stunningly beautiful."
David wasn't thinking about no letter!

3. Unbelievable power over others.
A third problem with being rich is that people will do almost anything for money. Obviously they dedicate their waking hours at their job - for money. People in sales give themselves body and soul to the endeavor of making money. And many people will even do crimes, or kill, or prostitute themselves - for money.

So here is what happens in THIS story.
"David sent to ask about her, and was told, "Isn't this Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite?" David sent his agents to get her. After she arrived..."

So David asked ABOUT her, then sent FOR her. What happens next? That's tomorrows story...

Just don't be too anxious to spend your life trying to get to "easy street."

It may not be as "easy" as it seems...

Monday, May 11, 2009

OOPS! Don't assume you know people's motives

Have you ever jumped to conclusions?

What someone was after was obvious to you, so you reacted accordingly?

You assigned bad motives to behavior, then punished the person?

I have.
It can have disastrous consequences.

Here is today's story, from both sides:

1-2 "Some time after this Nahash king of the Ammonites died and his son succeeded him as king. David said, "I'd like to show some kindness to Hanun son of Nahash—treat him as well and as kindly as his father treated me." So David sent condolences about his father's death." (1 Chronicles 19) The old king, Nahash, had sent lots of gifts to David, to make sure the two kingdoms were friendly to each other.

2 -3 "But when David's servants arrived in Ammonite country and came to Hanun to bring condolences, the Ammonite leaders warned Hanun, "Do you for a minute suppose that David is honoring your father by sending you comforters? Don't you know that he's sent these men to snoop around the city and size it up so that he can capture it?" (1 Chronicles 19)

Hanun's Response:
4 "So Hanun seized David's men, shaved them clean, cut off their robes half way up their buttocks, and sent them packing."

David's Initial Response:
5 "When this was all reported to David, he sent someone to meet them, for they were seriously humiliated. The king told them, "Stay in Jericho until your beards grow out; only then come back."

Reality begins to sink in for Hanun:
6 -7 "When it dawned on the Ammonites that as far as David was concerned, they stank to high heaven, they hired, at a cost of a thousand talents of silver (thirty-seven and a half tons!), chariots and horsemen from the Arameans of Naharaim, Maacah, and Zobah—thirty-two thousand chariots and drivers; plus the king of Maacah with his troops who came and set up camp at Medeba; the Ammonites, too, were mobilized from their cities and got ready for battle."

David's Full Response:
9 -13 "The Ammonites marched out and spread out in battle formation at the city gate; the kings who had come as allies took up a position in the open fields. When Joab saw that he had two fronts to fight, before and behind, he took his pick of the best of Israel and deployed them to confront the Arameans. The rest of the army he put under the command of Abishai, his brother, and deployed them to deal with the Ammonites. Then he said, "If the Arameans are too much for me, you help me; and if the Ammonites prove too much for you, I'll come and help you. Courage! We'll fight might and main for our people and for the cities of our God. And God will do whatever he sees needs doing!"
14 -15 But when Joab and his soldiers moved in to fight the Arameans, they ran off in full retreat. Then the Ammonites, seeing the Arameans run for dear life, took to their heels and ran from Abishai into the city.
So Joab withdrew from the Ammonites and returned to Jerusalem."

Hanun's Reply to David's Response:
16 "When the Arameans saw how badly they'd been beaten by Israel, they picked up the pieces and regrouped; they sent for the Arameans who were across the river; Shophach, commander of Hadadezer's army, led them."

End Result:
17 -19 "When all this was reported to David, he mustered all Israel, crossed the Jordan, advanced, and prepared to fight. The Arameans went into battle formation, ready for David, and the fight was on. But the Arameans again scattered before Israel. David killed seven thousand chariot drivers and forty thousand infantry. He also killed Shophach, the army commander. When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been routed by Israel, they made peace with David and served him. The Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites ever again."

Did you catch that? "David killed seven thousand chariot drivers and forty thousand infantry. He also killed Shophach, the army commander."

40,000 guys died! All because of a misunderstanding!

Don't assume you know people's motives...
And don't jump to conclusions...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Feels Good to do Right

Ever served food at the local mission? Given out sandwiches to the homeless? Built a house for someone who could never afford one?

It feels good to do right. Our culture has realized that and promoted it. Sometimes it is called the "benefits of benevolence" or other terms.

Well, a long time ago, King David demonstrated that it feels good to do right.

Here is the story:

1 "One day David asked, "Is there anyone left of Saul's family? If so, I'd like to show him some kindness in honor of Jonathan."
2 It happened that a servant from Saul's household named Ziba was there. They called him into David's presence. The king asked him, "Are you Ziba?" "Yes sir," he replied.
3 The king asked, "Is there anyone left from the family of Saul to whom I can show some godly kindness?"
Ziba told the king, "Yes, there is Jonathan's son, lame in both feet."
4 "Where is he?"
"He's living at the home of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar."
5 King David didn't lose a minute. He sent and got him from the home of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.
6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan (who was the son of Saul), came before David, he bowed deeply, abasing himself, honoring David."

You remember that King Saul chased David for years, trying to kill him. But David and Saul's son Jonathan were fast friends, and Jonathan protected and defended David from his father. Now, all these years later, King Saul is dead, Jonathan is dead, and young David is king of the land. He never forgot his friend, Jonathan.

So here is Jonathan's son, fearing for his life. But David extends kindness to him.

7 "Don't be frightened," said David. "I'd like to do something special for you in memory of your father Jonathan. To begin with, I'm returning to you all the properties of your grandfather Saul. Furthermore, from now on you'll take all your meals at my table."
8 Shuffling and stammering, not looking him in the eye, Mephibosheth said, "Who am I that you pay attention to a stray dog like me?"
9 -10 David then called in Ziba, Saul's right-hand man, and told him, "Everything that belonged to Saul and his family, I've handed over to your master's grandson. You and your sons and your servants will work his land and bring in the produce, provisions for your master's grandson. Mephibosheth himself, your master's grandson, from now on will take all his meals at my table." Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.
11 -12 "All that my master the king has ordered his servant," answered Ziba, "your servant will surely do."
And Mephibosheth ate at David's table, just like one of the royal family. Mephibosheth also had a small son named Mica. All who were part of Ziba's household were now the servants of Mephibosheth."

David was an honorable man.

He proved to everyone in his kingdom, and us too, that it feels good to do right.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Eloquent Words!

Did you know I like rap music? I love how the words and the beat are the whole thing, with a repetitious rhythmic music line. The words roll off the tongue, being stretched and emphasized.

Well, today David is a rapper. Not only are the words of Psalm 36 eloquent, but the thoughts are so powerful, reassuring, comforting.
I don't know about you, but I can hear the rap beat going on this one, with the group coming in on unison on the emphasized words...
From Psalm 36

5 -6

God's love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.

7 -9
How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are
to run under your wings,
To eat our fill
at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards
with Eden spring water.
You're a fountain of
cascading light,
and you open
our eyes to light.
5 -6
God's love is meteoric,

his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Life Skills 101

College classes that are at the basic level are labeled 101. When I read Psalm 101 this morning, it seemed like a good way to remember it. I am calling it the basic Life Skills class 101.
So, for three credits, read on...

Psalm 101
A David Psalm

1 -8 My theme song is God's love and justice,
and I'm singing it right to you, God.
I'm finding my way down the road of right living,
but how long before you show up?
I'm doing the very best I can,
and I'm doing it at home, where it counts.
I refuse to take a second look
at corrupting people and degrading things.
I reject made-in-Canaan gods,
stay clear of contamination.
The crooked in heart keep their distance;
I refuse to shake hands with those who plan evil.
I put a gag on the gossip
who bad-mouths his neighbor;
I can't stand arrogance.
But I have my eye on salt-of-the-earth people—
they're the ones I want working with me;
Men and women on the straight and narrow—
these are the ones I want at my side.
But no one who traffics in lies
gets a job with me; I have no patience with liars.
I've rounded up all the wicked like cattle
and herded them right out of the country.
I purged God's city
of all who make a business of evil.
Life Skills 101
(From Psalm 101)
  1. God is the center of my life.
  2. My goal is to live right
  3. Right living shows itself at home first
  4. I refuse to contaminate myself
  5. No association with the crooked in heart and those that plan evil.
  6. No gossip is promoted or even accepted
  7. Pride will not be a part of my life.
  8. I will associate with, and work with: honest, humble, straight, people-of-integrity
  9. No liars. No association. Don't want to hang out with them. Don't want them working for me or around me.
  10. The wicked and the evil are not accepted, allowed, promoted or tolerated in my sphere.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


King David was the first American!

One of the hallmarks of American culture is "be the best you can be." Some of our sales mantras, like "when the going gets tough, the tough get going..." or
"it takes 99 "nos" to get to 1 "yes"", describe our culture. We were formed out of the toughness of the frontier, and the self reliance and rugged individuality learned over a couple of centuries are still part of the fiber of American life.

In business, one of the rallying cries is "take no prisoners," or "Business is war!" In war, we recently coined a term "shock and awe!"

In this passage David, the warrior, is cleaning up his territory and going on to dominate the entire region.

1 "In the days that followed, David struck hard at the Philistines— brought them to their knees and took control of the countryside." 2 Samuel 8

I don't know if you have been reading along, but that is a dramatic difference from not too long ago. Listen to how it was during the beginning of Saul's time as king...

6-7 "When the Israelites saw that they were way outnumbered and in deep trouble, they ran for cover, hiding in caves and pits, ravines and brambles and cisterns—wherever. They retreated across the Jordan River, refugees fleeing to the country of Gad and Gilead." (1 Samuel 13)

Hiding. Fleeing. Abandoning the fight... And completely dominated and beat down.

19-22 "There wasn't a blacksmith to be found anywhere in Israel. The Philistines made sure of that—"Lest those Hebrews start making swords and spears." That meant that the Israelites had to go down among the Philistines to keep their farm tools—plowshares and mattocks, axes and sickles—sharp and in good repair. They charged a silver coin for the plowshares and mattocks, and half that for the rest. So when the battle of Micmash was joined, there wasn't a sword or spear to be found anywhere in Israel—except for Saul and his son Jonathan; they were both well-armed." (1 Samuel 13)

No more! After David got the Philistines subdued to the west, he took on the eastern borders.

2 "He also fought and defeated Moab. He chose two-thirds of them randomly and executed them. The other third he spared. So the Moabites fell under David's rule and were forced to bring tribute. 3 -4 On his way to restore his sovereignty at the River Euphrates, David next defeated Hadadezer son of Rehob the king of Zobah. He captured from him a thousand chariots, seven thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand infantry. He hamstrung all the chariot horses, but saved back a hundred." (2 Samuel 8)

Then he turned his attention to the northern areas...

5 -6 "When the Arameans from Damascus came to the aid of Hadadezer king of Zobah, David killed twenty-two thousand of them. David set up a puppet government in Aram-Damascus. The Arameans became subjects of David and were forced to bring tribute. God gave victory to David wherever he marched.
7 -8 David plundered the gold shields that belonged to the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. He also looted a great quantity of bronze from Tebah and Berothai, cities of Hadadezer." (2 Samuel 8)

No peaceful negotiation here! It was total domination! As a result, all the surrounding nations paid taxes to King David.

14 "God gave David victory wherever he marched.
15 Thus David ruled over all of Israel. He ruled well—fair and even-handed in all his duties and relationships." (2 Samuel 8)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Does God speak? How do you know?

You can tell I am fascinated with the proposition that God speaks to us. It is in the title of the blog.

Again and again in the Bible is the phrase, "and the word of the Lord came to..." or "God spoke to..." But how did it happen? How did they know it was God? Were they ever mistaken? It was very interesting to read at the start of Samuel that "This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen." And when little Samuel heard God speak to him, the comment was, "This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally." Interesting!

So today's story is about something else - David's desire to build a house for God. But around that story is a "misfire" in hearing from God.

Here is the story...

1 -2 "Before long, the king made himself at home and God gave him peace from all his enemies. Then one day King David said to Nathan the prophet, "Look at this: Here I am, comfortable in a luxurious house of cedar, and the Chest of God sits in a plain tent."
3 Nathan told the king, "Whatever is on your heart, go and do it. God is with you." (2 Samuel 7)

David is talking to the man of God, like we would talk to a pastor today. David has a noble and God honoring concern. He lives in a grand palace. The God of Glory is in a pitched tent. Doesn't seem right, and David plans to do something about it. He tells Nathan the prophet. Nathan does not consult God. Why should he? This idea is wonderful. It is appropriate. It would bring honor to God. "Sure, do it" Nathan says. "God is with you."

It would be normal for king David to take that word from the man of God as a word from God Himself.


4 -7 "But that night, the word of God came to Nathan saying, "Go and tell my servant David: This is God's word on the matter: You're going to build a 'house' for me to live in? Why, I haven't lived in a 'house' from the time I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt till now. All that time I've moved about with nothing but a tent. And in all my travels with Israel, did I ever say to any of the leaders I commanded to shepherd Israel, 'Why haven't you built me a house of cedar?'
8 -11 "So here is what you are to tell my servant David: The God-of-the-Angel-Armies has this word for you: I took you from the pasture, tagging along after sheep, and made you prince over my people Israel. I was with you everywhere you went and mowed your enemies down before you. Now I'm making you famous, to be ranked with the great names on earth." (2 Samuel 7)

Long message. It is from God. Nathan heard clearly. It came at night. Nathan later called it a vision. He relayed it in full detail to king David the next day.

So I have some questions. How did Nathan know it was God? How did he remember it the next day? Why did he not chalk it up to a dream he had that night? I guess all my questions come from the fact that I have never had God talk to me in a vision at night. Have you? Please let me know...

The message is long. And VERY encouraging. Although David is denied the opportunity to build the house for God (what we now call the Temple), God made some wonderful promises to him.

11 -16 "Furthermore, God has this message for you: God himself will build you a house! When your life is complete and you're buried with your ancestors, then I'll raise up your child, your own flesh and blood, to succeed you, and I'll firmly establish his rule. He will build a house to honor me, and I will guarantee his kingdom's rule permanently. I'll be a father to him, and he'll be a son to me. When he does wrong, I'll discipline him in the usual ways, the pitfalls and obstacles of this mortal life. But I'll never remove my gracious love from him, as I removed it from Saul, who preceded you and whom I most certainly did remove. Your family and your kingdom are permanently secured. I'm keeping my eye on them! And your royal throne will always be there, rock solid." (2 Samuel 7)

17 "Nathan gave David a complete and accurate account of everything he heard and saw in the vision." (2 Samuel 7)

The story goes on... It is very moving.

But my enduring question is,

Does God speak? How do you know?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

And there was joy! there was JOY! there was J-O-O-O-Y!!!

8 -19 Thank God! Call out his Name!
Tell the whole world who he is and what he's done!
Sing to him! Play songs for him!
Broadcast all his wonders!
Revel in his holy Name,
God-seekers, be jubilant!
Study God and his strength,
seek his presence day and night;
Remember all the wonders he performed,
the miracles and judgments that came out of his mouth.
Seed of Israel his servant!
Children of Jacob, his first choice!
He is God, our God;
wherever you go you come on his judgments and decisions.
He keeps his commitments across thousands
of generations, the covenant he commanded...
23 -27 Sing to God, everyone and everything!
Get out his salvation news every day!
Publish his glory among the godless nations,
his wonders to all races and religions.
And why? Because God is great—well worth praising!
No god or goddess comes close in honor.
All the popular gods are stuff and nonsense,
but God made the cosmos!
Splendor and majesty flow out of him,
strength and joy fill his place.
28 -29 Shout Bravo! to God, families of the peoples,
in awe of the Glory, in awe of the Strength: Bravo!
Shout Bravo! to his famous Name,
lift high an offering and enter his presence!
Stand resplendent in his robes of holiness!
30 -33 God is serious business, take him seriously;
he's put the earth in place and it's not moving.
So let Heaven rejoice, let Earth be jubilant,
and pass the word among the nations, "God reigns!"
Let Ocean, all teeming with life, bellow,
let Field and all its creatures shake the rafters;
Then the trees in the forest will add their applause
to all who are pleased and present before God
—he's on his way to set things right!
34 -36 Give thanks to God—he is good
and his love never quits.
Say, "Save us, Savior God,
round us up and get us out of these godless places,
So we can give thanks to your holy Name,
and bask in your life of praise."
Blessed be God, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.

Then everybody said, "Yes! Amen!" and "Praise God!"

This is David's finest hour. Zeal for God led him to gather all of Israel together to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. It happened in two stages, but finally they are all worshipping and praising God as the ark comes rolling into town.

"So David... went and brought up the Chest of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David, celebrating extravagantly all the way, with frequent sacrifices of choice bulls. David, ceremonially dressed in priest's linen, danced with great abandon before God. The whole country was with him as he accompanied the Chest of God with shouts and trumpet blasts."

There is a side story to the celebration. Michal was David's first wife, who was given to him by her father king Saul, then taken away by force and given to another, then later taken from him by force and taken back by David. She is Lutheren, and observed all this dancing and carrying on with some disdain. "Not very dignified," she told her husband.

His retort? "In God's presence I'll dance all I want! He chose me over your father and the rest of our family and made me prince over God's people, over Israel. Oh yes, I'll dance to God's glory—more recklessly even than this. And as far as I'm concerned...I'll gladly look like a fool..."

David - passionate in worship. Michal - a little more reserved. OK - so even in very spiritual and leadership families you can have marital difficulties. These two had lots of troubles. But in this case David was right in his all out dedication to God.


The story is dramatic!

David conquered Jerusalem, the impregnable fortress. He is now king over a united Israel. He was respected enough in the international community that the king to the north, Hiram, sent him a peace offering and gesture of friendship:

11 -12 "It was at this time that Hiram, king of Tyre, sent messengers to David, along with timbers of cedar. He also sent carpenters and masons to build a house for David. David took this as a sign that God had confirmed him as king of Israel, giving his kingship world prominence for the sake of Israel, his people." (2 Samuel 5)

Not all the neighbors were so friendly. The Philistines were a coastal people, but they dominated a large area, and David's upcoming kingdom was a clear threat to their power and wealth. So they gathered to wipe David out.

17 -18 When the Philistines got word that David had been made king over all Israel, they came on the hunt for him. David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. When the Philistines arrived, they deployed their forces in Raphaim Valley." (2 Samuel 5)

When you read this story, that does not seem like such a big deal. If you take the time to look it up on a map, IT IS A BIG DEAL! They didn't gather way out on the coast, or half way between the coast and Jerusalem. No way! They brought all their forces the the Valley of Raphaim, which is really really close to Jerusalem. These dudes owed the territory!

I took the effort to put a map in here. Can you find Jerusalem? Pretty close to the red balloon!

So the next thing David does is pray:
19 "Then David prayed to God: "Shall I go up and fight the Philistines? Will you help me beat them?" 20 -21 "Go up," God replied. "Count on me. I'll help you beat them."

"David then went straight to Baal Perazim, and smashed them to pieces. Afterward David said, "God exploded on my enemies like a gush of water." That's why David named the place Baal Perazim (The-Master-Who-Explodes). The retreating Philistines dumped their idols, and David and his soldiers took them away." It's the age old combination of God's direction, God's favor, and man's action. We have to GET this in our walk with God. We pray to God. He says "Yes", then we deploy our energy, our talent, our effort, our diligent work, to accomplish His will.

Is it all done by God? No, not usually. Can man do it by himself? The pagan man does - all the time. Sometimes very successfully. The Christian does not. The Christian seeks guidance. Waits for guidance. Gets guidance. Along with the guidance is the promise of God's favor.

So what is the difference between king Saul and king David? They both attempted to obtain God's direction and God's favor, because their very lives, their prosperity, their power - depended on it.

But David sought God with all his heart, and pretty much always obeyed God. Saul liked the goodies of God's favor, but didn't want to put up with the annoyance of obeying God. Especially when it cramped his style a little bit.

The result here? David attacked with fury. No hesitation. No self doubt. He smashed them to pieces, and in giving God glory for the victory, he says, "God exploded on my enemies like a gush of water."

Rather be a David than a Saul...

Friday, May 1, 2009

How do you rate?

One of the advantages of a free society is that you can rise to your own level. You are not restricted by what your parents did, to doing that and nothing else the rest of your life. And according to your skill, your drive, your talents, good health, and perhaps good friends (or connections) you can make your own way in life.

It was that way in David's time as well. The primary skill that was needed and lauded, was that of being brave, and being able to defeat the enemy in battle. Wars happened every spring. The outcome of the war led to either poverty, slavery and death on the one hand, or victory, extraordinary wealth, glory, and accumulation of land, goods, slaves, cattle, etc. on the other hand.

So the warriors were the undisputed heroes of the land.

Here are David's fighters:

38 -40 "All these soldiers came to David at Hebron, ready to fight if necessary; they were both united and determined to make David king over all Israel. And everyone else in Israel was of the same mind—"Make David king!"

Outstanding Soldiers:
"battle-seasoned warriors who came down from the north to David at Hebron to hand over Saul's kingdom... carrying shield and spear.. battle-ready... stalwart fighters... fierce fighters and famous in their hometowns... well-equipped veteran warriors, unswervingly loyal... men heavily armed.. veterans, battle-ready... heavily armed." (I Chronicles 12:23 -37)

Soldiers worth 1000 men.
8 -15 "There were some Gadites there who had defected to David at his wilderness fortress; they were seasoned and eager fighters who knew how to handle shield and spear. They were wild in appearance, like lions, but as agile as gazelles racing across the hills... These Gadites were the cream of the crop—any one of them was worth a hundred lesser men, and the best of them were worth a thousand." (I Chronicles 12:8-15).

Among the Mighty Men
1 -2 "These are the men who joined David in Ziklag; it was during the time he was banished by Saul the son of Kish; they were among the Mighty Men, good fighters. They were armed with bows and could sling stones and shoot arrows either right or left-handed."

The Mighty Men:
22 -25 "Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a Mighty Man from Kabzeel with many exploits to his credit: he killed two famous Moabites; he climbed down into a pit and killed a lion on a snowy day; and he killed an Egyptian, a giant seven and a half feet tall. The Egyptian had a spear like a ship's boom but Benaiah went at him with a mere club, tore the spear from the Egyptian's hand, and killed him with it. These are some of the things Benaiah son of Jehoiada did. But he was never included with the Three. He was highly honored among the Thirty, but didn't measure up to the Three. David put him in charge of his personal bodyguard.
26 -47 The Mighty Men of the military were Asahel brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo of Bethlehem, Shammoth the Harorite..." (I Chronicles 11)

"Jashobeam son of Hacmoni was chief of the Thirty. Singlehandedly he killed three hundred men, killed them all in one skirmish.
20 -21 Abishai brother of Joab was the chief of the Thirty. Singlehandedly he fought three hundred men, and killed the lot, but he never made it into the circle of the Three. He was highly honored by the Thirty—he was their chief—still, he didn't measure up to the Three. " (I Chronicles 11).

This is a pretty impressive list of mighty men. Yet it gets better...

The Big Three:
15 -19 "The Big Three from the Thirty made a rocky descent to David at the Cave of Adullam while a company of Philistines was camped in the Valley of Rephaim. David was holed up in the Cave while the Philistines were prepared for battle at Bethlehem. David had a sudden craving: "What I wouldn't give for a drink of water from the well in Bethlehem, the one at the gate!" The Three penetrated the Philistine camp, drew water from the well at the Bethlehem gate, shouldered it, and brought it to David. And then David wouldn't drink it! He poured it out as a sacred offering to God, saying, "I'd rather be damned by God than drink this! It would be like drinking the lifeblood of these men—they risked their lives to bring it." So he refused to drink it. These are the kinds of things that the Big Three of the Mighty Men did.
12 -14 Next was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite, one of the Big Three of the Mighty Men. He was with David at Pas Dammim, where the Philistines had mustered their troops for battle. It was an area where there was a field of barley. The army started to flee from the Philistines and then took its stand right in that field—and turned the tide! They slaughtered the Philistines, God helping them—a huge victory." (I Chronicles 11)

The Lead General:
"David had said, "The first person to kill a Jebusite will be commander-in-chief." Joab son of Zeruiah was the first; and he became the chief." (I Chronicles 11)

The Leader:
David himself was a Mighty Man, someone with the courage, strength, boldness and skill to engender the respect and loyalty of all these amazing warriors.

So how do you rate? Have you risen to the level you should be at? Are you satisfied with where you are in life? Are your talents, skills and energy being appropriately rewarded where you are? Or should you claim your spot among the "mighty men"?