Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trust? Or Suspicion?

David was an honorable man.

But he was also a warrior, a political leader, and very cunning.

In today's reading of Samuel 25 - 27 there are many great stories. I am struck today by the very last one, where David goes to live among the enemy - the Philistines.

2 -4 "So David left; he and his six hundred men went to Achish son of Maoch, king of Gath. They moved in and settled down in Gath, with Achish. Each man brought his household; David brought his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, widow of Nabal of Carmel. When Saul was told that David had escaped to Gath, he called off the hunt."
So this king took in David, his 600 fighting men, and their families. Should he have trusted David? Well, the deception has just started.

5 "Then David said to Achish, "If it's agreeable to you, assign me a place in one of the rural villages. It doesn't seem right that I, your mere servant, should be taking up space in the royal city."
6 -7 So Achish assigned him Ziklag. (This is how Ziklag got to be what it is now, a city of the kings of Judah.) David lived in Philistine country a year and four months."
David didn't want to be right under the nose of the Philistine king, because he would have been exposed sooner or later. So he asked to take over a town on the outer edge of the king's territory.

8 -9 "From time to time David and his men raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites—these people were longtime inhabitants of the land stretching toward Shur and on to Egypt. When David raided an area he left no one alive, neither man nor woman, but took everything else: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, clothing—the works. Then he'd return to Achish."
Achish thought he was keeping tabs on his enemy, but he didn't do due diligence. He accepted the answer at face value.

10 -11 "Achish would ask, "And whom did you raid today?"
David would tell him, "Oh, the Negev of Judah," or "The Negev of Jerahmeel," or "The Negev of the Kenites." He never left a single person alive lest one show up in Gath and report what David had really been doing. This is the way David operated all the time he lived in Philistine country.
12 Achish came to trust David completely. He thought, "He's made himself so repugnant to his people that he'll be in my camp forever."
Didn't happen that way. Once Saul was killed by the Philistines, David would rise to be King of Israel.
Be careful whom you trust...


Friday, April 17, 2009

Abigail

Samuel died.

But it is only FIRST Samuel 25. There is more to First Samuel, then there is all of Second Samuel. So I'm guessing that Samuel didn't write these books!

So David, still on the move, goes to Maon, which I gather is the Siberia of Israel.

He is now a guerilla warfare warrior, whether he wanted to be or not. 600 men, moving around from place to place, need a lot of food and supplies. They are also a rather terrifying presence to have move into your area.

A rich man called Nabal lived in Maon, married to Abigail.

"The woman was intelligent and good-looking,
the man brutish and mean. "

So, how this THESE two get together? I guess wives were assigned in those days, rather than being wooed and courted. Reminds me of the joke, "We got married for better or for worse. He couldn't do any better. She couldn't do any worse!"

4 -8 "David, out in the backcountry, heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep and sent ten of his young men off with these instructions: "Go to Carmel and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, 'Peace! Life and peace to you. Peace to your household, peace to everyone here! I heard that it's sheep-shearing time. Here's the point: When your shepherds were camped near us we didn't take advantage of them. They didn't lose a thing all the time they were with us in Carmel. Ask your young men—they'll tell you. What I'm asking is that you be generous with my men—share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to me, David your son.'"

David needs food, Nabal is the big landowner of the area. We protected you, now cough up the dough. Nabal isn't impressed...

"Nabal tore into them, "Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I'm going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I've never laid eyes on? Who knows where they've come from?"

Now it's David's turn to not be impressed.

12 -13 David's men got out of there and went back and told David what he had said. David said, "Strap on your swords!" They all strapped on their swords, David and his men, and set out, four hundred of them."

Enter Abigail.

18 -19 "Abigail flew into action. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes, and she had it all loaded on some donkeys. Then she said to her young servants, "Go ahead and pave the way for me. I'm right behind you." But she said nothing to her husband Nabal.
20 -22 As she was riding her donkey, descending into a ravine, David and his men were descending from the other end, so they met there on the road. David had just said, "That sure was a waste, guarding everything this man had out in the wild so that nothing he had was lost—and now he rewards me with insults. A real slap in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his misbegotten brood aren't dead meat by morning!"
23 -25 As soon as Abigail saw David, she got off her donkey and fell on her knees at his feet, her face to the ground in homage, saying, "My master, let me take the blame! Let me speak to you. Listen to what I have to say. Don't dwell on what that brute Nabal did. He acts out the meaning of his name: Nabal, Fool. Foolishness oozes from him...
25 -27 " Now take this gift that I, your servant girl, have brought to my master, and give it to the young men who follow in the steps of my master.
28 -29 "Forgive my presumption! But God is at work in my master, developing a rule solid and dependable. My master fights God's battles! As long as you live no evil will stick to you.
If anyone stands in your way,
if anyone tries to get you out of the way,
Know this: Your God-honored life is tightly bound i
n the bundle of God-protected life;
But the lives of your enemies will be hurled aside
as a stone is thrown from a sling..."

David is impressed. VERY impressed.

32 -34 "And David said, "Blessed be God, the God of Israel. He sent you to meet me! And blessed be your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and taking charge of looking out for me. A close call! As God lives, the God of Israel who kept me from hurting you, if you had not come as quickly as you did, stopping me in my tracks, by morning there would have been nothing left of Nabal but dead meat."
35 Then David accepted the gift she brought him and said, "Return home in peace. I've heard what you've said and I'll do what you've asked."

End of the story? She returns home to find her husband rolling drunk at a big party he threw.

She waits until morning to tell him what happened.

He has a massive heart attack and dies!

David (who was VERY IMPRESSED with Abigail) loses no time. He sends for her to be his wife.

She agrees, and marries him.

Drugs, sex and violence. Sounds like a modern movie...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blogging - Old Skool


The Story
David had done nothing wrong.
He was running for his life.
He went to the priest, and asked for something to eat. The priest gave him the holy bread, and Goliath's sword.
One of the king's officials happened to be there. He accused the innocent priest of aiding and abetting the enemy. Saul had the priest killed, plus 85 other priests. David was furious!

The Blog
So David worshipped, and fumed, and prayed.
And wrote down his jumbled thoughts.
Here they are - blogging old skool...

A David Psalm, When Doeg the Edomite Reported to Saul, "David's at Ahimelech's House"

1 -4 Why do you brag of evil, "Big Man"?
God's mercy carries the day.
You scheme catastrophe;
your tongue cuts razor-sharp,
artisan in lies.
You love evil more than good,
you call black white.
You love malicious gossip,
you foul-mouth.
5 God will tear you limb from limb,
sweep you up and throw you out,
Pull you up by the roots
from the land of life.
6 -7 Good people will watch and
worship. They'll laugh in relief:
"Big Man bet on the wrong horse,
trusted in big money,
made his living from catastrophe."
8 And I'm an olive tree,
growing green in God's house.
I trusted in the generous mercy
of God then and now.
9 I thank you always
that you went into action.
And I'll stay right here,
your good name my hope,
in company with your faithful friends. (Psalm 52)

Seasons


The sunshine came out yesterday.
This morning the birds are singing before dawn.
I think Spring has come to the Northwest.
Our winter was long, and cold, and dreary. Snow several times. Cold (for us) even in April. Lots of rain for a long time.

But life has seasons.
For a long time I was in a very good season. This time is a hard and bitter one for me. But it will pass, and better times will come again.

David in the Bible had seasons too. Right now he is running for his life. There are plots to kill him all around. Many folks are deceptively nice, but intend to betray him and hand him over to the out-of-control king. Fortunately for us, he liked to journal. Listen...

1 -2 God! God! I am running to you for dear life; the chase is wild.
If they catch me, I'm finished:
ripped to shreds by foes fierce as lions,
dragged into the forest and left
unlooked for, unremembered. (Psalm 7)

Be kind to me, God—
I'm in deep, deep trouble again.
I've cried my eyes out;
I feel hollow inside.
My life leaks away, groan by groan;
my years fade out in sighs.
My troubles have worn me out,
turned my bones to powder.
To my enemies I'm a monster;
I'm ridiculed by the neighbors.
My friends are horrified;
they cross the street to avoid me.
They want to blot me from memory,
forget me like a corpse in a grave,
discard me like a broken dish in the trash.
The street-talk gossip has me
"criminally insane"!
Behind locked doors they plot
how to ruin me for good." (Psalm 31)


A David Prayer—When He Was in the Cave
1 -2 I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy.
I spill out all my complaints before him,
and spell out my troubles in detail:
3 -7 "As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away,
you know how I'm feeling,
Know the danger I'm in,
the traps hidden in my path.
Look right, look left—
there's not a soul who cares what happens!
I'm up against it, with no exit—
bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out:
'You're my last chance, my only hope for life!'
Oh listen, please listen;
I've never been this low.
Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;
I'm no match for them." (Psalm 142)

Most of his writings (probably after a pause) end with praise to God.
10 -11 I'm proud to praise God,
proud to praise God.
Fearless now, I trust in God;
what can mere mortals do to me?
12 -13 God, you did everything you promised,
and I'm thanking you with all my heart.
You pulled me from the brink of death,
my feet from the cliff-edge of doom.
Now I stroll at leisure with God
in the sunlit fields of life. (Psalm 56)

Some seasons are great. Some seasons suck.
All seasons pass.
God's love and goodness are the only constants...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who do you trust?

Who do you trust?

As you get older you get more cynical. It is the inevitable result of seeing more, and experiencing more, of the deceptions and betrayals that people do to each other (and to you).

David came fresh from the country, as a young man, to the palace of the king. He was a talented musician, so he got to be IN THE PRESENCE of the king! Imagine. Right there with the king himself. In the same room!

Well, time went on, and he became a celebrated warrior, and part of the royal family (by marrying the king's daughter). So things should have been great, right?

Well not exactly. The king first tried to kill him by hurling a spear at him. Not once, but three times. Enough to make you a little paranoid!

It got worse. Finally it was all out war. David had 600 men. And went from place to place, trying to hide, and avoid the king, who was out to kill him.

Could he trust his wife? Well, she saved his life, so, probably. However, eventually she was given to another man as husband.

Could he trust the Samuel? Yes he could, however, Saul sent men to kill him when he visited, and only God's miraculous intervention saved his life.

Could he trust the priests? Yes, Ahimelech the priest took him in, and gave him the holy bread to eat, and the sword from Goliath to use. But later Saul had Ahimelech and 85 other priests killed for this act of kindness.

Could he trust his enemies? No. He fled to one of their towns and they recognized him. He pretended to be crazy and got out with his life.

Could he trust a town he and his men rescued? The Philistines attacked the town of Keilah so David and his men attacked the Philistines and beat them. David and his men settled into the town - local heroes. Saul and the army soon set out to fight against the town. David asks the Lord, "Will Saul attack the town?" The answer came back, "Yes." "Will the people of the town turn me over?" The answer came back, "Yes".

Whoa! David beat it out of there...

Who can you trust?

So how did David survive in this crazy, treacherous, world he was in?

Here is the answer...

  • Psalm 27
    A David Psalm
  • 1 Light, space, zest— that's God!
  • So, with him on my side I'm fearless,
  • afraid of no one and nothing.
  • 2 When vandal hordes ride down
  • ready to eat me alive,
  • Those bullies and toughs
  • all flat on their faces.
  • 3 When besieged,
  • I'm calm as a baby.
  • When all hell breaks loose,
  • I'm collected and cool.
  • 4 I'm asking God for one thing,
  • only one thing:
  • To live with him in his house
  • my whole life long.
  • I'll contemplate his beauty;
  • I'll study at his feet.
  • 5 That's the only quiet, secure place
  • in a noisy world,
  • The perfect getaway,
  • far from the buzz of traffic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dysfunctional Family

It's the first Royal Family in Israel.

Only one son is mentioned, and two daughters. Saul had two other sons who are only mentioned when they died.

David has come on the scene, first as a paid musician, then as a battlefield hero, then a permanent resident of the royal house. He spent some time as musician and soldier, then as son in law. Now he is a hated enemy and threat both to Saul and eventually, to his heir - Jonathan.

Saul has desended into bipolar disorder accompanied by a lot of family violence and double dealing. He offers David his oldest daughter in marriage, then renigs. The next daughter is in love with David, so he gives her to him. Three times he throws his spear at David. Three times David ducks in time to not get impaled to the wall. Apparently he was deft enough to get his harp out of the way as well, because he continued to play it.

Now his violent anger explodes on his son.

30 -31 "Saul exploded in anger at Jonathan: "You son of a slut! Don't you think I know that you're in cahoots with the son of Jesse, disgracing both you and your mother? For as long as the son of Jesse is walking around free on this earth, your future in this kingdom is at risk. Now go get him. Bring him here. From this moment, he's as good as dead!"
32 Jonathan stood up to his father. "Why dead? What's he done?"
33 Saul threw his spear at him to kill him. That convinced Jonathan that his father was fixated on killing David.
34 Jonathan stormed from the table, furiously angry, and ate nothing the rest of the day, upset for David and smarting under the humiliation from his father. "

This is the first family of the nation. The Royalty. The rulers.
They had all the "goodies" available at the time.
But I don't think there was a lot of happiness.

Did someone say once, "money doesn't buy happiness?"

Monday, April 13, 2009

What impresses God?

Wouldn't you like to know?

What impresses God.

Is it looks?
That has always been a powerful advantage over the ages. Never more than now, in the age of television. The very good looking are rewarded, and lauded, and given huge amounts of money, and fame. Their every movement is watched, and every event of their life recorded and broadcast.

Is it talent? In America we reward all kinds of talent richly. The best in their field are given hundreds of millions of dollars a year. God is the giver of talent. Is He impressed by talent?

Is it strength or physical dexterity? We reward people who are the best in feats of physicality, whether in sports, or the Olympic Games, or other feats of strength. Is God impressed by that?

In today's passage Samuel is sent to anoint the next king. He knows the king is going to come from the house of Jesse.

He has called everyone together to worship God. Jesse's first son presents himself. Hmmm, Samuel thinks to himself. Tall, dark and handsome. This is the one...

6 "When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "Here he is! God's anointed!"
7 But God told Samuel, "Looks aren't everything. Don't be impressed with his looks and stature. I've already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart."

God looks at the heart!

All the sons present themselves. None of them is the chosen one.

11" Then he asked Jesse, "Is this it? Are there no more sons?"
"Well, yes, there's the runt. But he's out tending the sheep."
Samuel ordered Jesse, "Go get him. We're not moving from this spot until he's here."
12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health— bright-eyed, good-looking.
God said, "Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one."
13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.
Samuel left and went home to Ramah. "

God looks at the heart.

He can use the talent. He can use the looks. He can use the strength, or bravery, or dexterity, or competetive spirit.

But what He cares about above all is the heart.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Greed, Hypocrisy, Lying, Manipulation, Disobedience


We all have a legacy.

How would you like this title to be your legacy?

Saul commits all of these in Samuel chapter 15.

Here is the story

1 -2 Samuel said to Saul, "God sent me to anoint you king over his people, Israel. Now, listen again to what God says. This is the God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaking:
2 -3 "'I'm about to get even with Amalek for ambushing Israel when Israel came up out of Egypt. Here's what you are to do: Go to war against Amalek. Put everything connected with Amalek under a holy ban. And no exceptions! This is to be total destruction—men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys—the works.'"

So God wants this people wiped out. That would seem like an unsavory task to us now a days. In fact, the term "ethnic cleansing" sends shivers of revulsion down our spine.

However, that part caused Saul no pause at all.

7 -9 Then Saul went after Amalek, from the canyon all the way to Shur near the Egyptian border. He captured Agag, king of Amalek, alive. Everyone else was killed under the terms of the holy ban. Saul and the army made an exception for Agag, and for the choice sheep and cattle. They didn't include them under the terms of the holy ban. But all the rest, which nobody wanted anyway, they destroyed as decreed by the holy ban. "

What he had a hard time doing, was destroying all that great booty. After all, the reward for winning a war was that you got to take over everything they owned. It was all or nothing. You either lost your life (and everything you owned), or THEY lost their life, and you got the land, the houses, the fields, the clothes, the gold - you got it ALL.

So Saul had rallied the troops. They had wiped out all these people. They had wiped out a lot of good booty. But to completely destroy ALL of this great property? It seemed like a waste of a good war.

So he kept the king alive - and a lot of the best sheep and cattle.

Of course, his conscience bothered him, because Samuel had been pretty clear about what God had said. "Put everything connected with Amalek under a holy ban. And no exceptions! This is to be total destruction—men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys—the works.'"

So his greed was in play. But he wasn't finished demonstrating bad character.

In a different playing field altogether, God and Samuel were talking. 10 -11 "Then God spoke to Samuel: "I'm sorry I ever made Saul king. He's turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him."

Samuel's reaction? 11 -12 "Samuel was angry when he heard this. He prayed his anger and disappointment all through the night. He got up early in the morning to confront Saul."

Here comes the hypocrisy... Samuel finds Saul trying to appease his guilty conscience by sacrificing some of the plunder (that he was not supposed to have) to God. Saul sees Samuel coming and says, "God's blessings on you! I accomplished God's plan to the letter!"

OK. Hypocricy AND lying.

Saul doesn't know that Samuel has heard from God and has spent the night praying and sorrowing over Saul's disobedience.

If you are going to lie - lie big! 15 "Only some Amalekite loot," said Saul. "The soldiers saved back a few of the choice cattle and sheep to offer up in sacrifice to God. But everything else we destroyed under the holy ban."

Oh! And some manipulation also. The SOLDIERS kept some, in order to sacrifice them. Saul had NO control over his soldiers. They just did whatever they pleased. (YEAH RIGHT!)

Samuel confronts him. So does he repent? No way! He justifies himself, lies again, and tries to manipulate his way out of the situation.

20 -21 "Saul defended himself. "What are you talking about? I did obey God. I did the job God set for me. I brought in King Agag and destroyed the Amalekites under the terms of the holy ban. So the soldiers saved back a few choice sheep and cattle from the holy ban for sacrifice to God at Gilgal—what's wrong with that?"

That is the end of Saul's reign. Oh he is still king for some 13 years. But God is finished with him, and his reign is over in God's eyes.

Saul's legacy is Greed, Hypocrisy, Lying, Manipulation, Disobedience.

What's mine going to be?

Yours?

Irrational

What followed was simply - Irrational

Jonathan and his guys are busy killing Philistines. 25 -27 "There were honeycombs here and there in the fields. But no one so much as put his finger in the honey to taste it, for the soldiers to a man feared the curse. But Jonathan hadn't heard his father put the army under oath. He stuck the tip of his staff into some honey and ate it. Refreshed, his eyes lit up with renewed vigor. "

Saul doesn't hear from God, so decides (quite on his own) to consult God through the priest and see who has "sinned"

42 "Next Saul said, "Cast the lots between me and Jonathan—and death to the one God points to!"
The soldiers protested, "No—this is not right. Stop this!" But Saul pushed on anyway. They cast the lots, Urim and Thummim, and the lot fell to Jonathan.
43 Saul confronted Jonathan. "What did you do? Tell me!"
Jonathan said, "I licked a bit of honey off the tip of the staff I was carrying. That's it—and for that I'm to die?"

Right here - Saul had a choice. Follow common sense, or press forward in his foolishness.

44 Saul said, "Yes. Jonathan most certainly will die. It's out of my hands— I can't go against God, can I?"

Fortunately, the soldiers had more sense than their new leader. 45 "The soldiers rose up: "Jonathan—die? Never! He's just carried out this stunning salvation victory for Israel. As surely as God lives, not a hair on his head is going to be harmed. Why, he's been working hand-in-hand with God all day!" The soldiers rescued Jonathan and he didn't die. "

Leadership is a tricky skill. Part art part temperament part wisdom part courage.

In this incident, Saul blew it. In today's politics, he would have been thrown out of office. Although he stayed on as king, I'm sure his soldiers had less respect and admiration for him after this event.