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...