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—
always.

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!"

Ouch!

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..."