Archive for February 2008

“You are the man!”

February 29, 2008

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”
(2 Samuel 12:7-14; NIV. Please read 2 Samuel 11-12. This would also be a good time to read Psalm 51.)

Read again the prophet’s rebuke. It is blunt – harsh – righteous. God exposes the shamefulness and selfishness of David’s sin … in terms that will leave no doubt … there was no excuse of this unholy behavior. There is no doubt that God is angry, and that David stands condemned and will face the wrath of God’s judgment.

 Read again the sinner’s confession. It is simple – humble – true. David makes no excuses … mentions no extenuating circumstances … offers no justification for what he did and why. He admits it and stands before God ready to accept whatever judgment – whatever consequences. He knows that he is wrong and that God is right.

 Read again the Lord’s promise. It is immediate – undeserved – amazing. God takes David’s sins away … even though Uriah is still dead, his family still grieves, David and Bathsheba marry and expect their “love” child. God spares David’s life … even though the Law condemns to death both adulterers and murderers.

ON SECOND THOUGHT:   To rebuke sin is righteous. To confess sin is simple (not necessarily easy). To forgive sin is God. May God help me to be like Nathan, when I must rebuke a sinner … like David, when I must confess a sin … like God, when I must forgive the prodigal. It is interesting that Nathan neither expects more of the confession or imputes more consequences than the Lord.

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“… courage to offer this prayer …”

February 28, 2008

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:

“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?
20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.
22 “How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel-the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?   24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.
25 “And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.
27 “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. 28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
(2 Samuel 7:18-29; NIV. Please read 2 Samuel 5-10.)

David asks for permission to build the Lord a house, and God promises to bless David’s house. David asks for the right to build in his lifetime a temple for God, and the Lord blesses the house of David – forever. 

David knows that God has already blessed him beyond what he might have ever imagined.

David knows that God has given these gifts and worked these wonders to establish His will and magnify His glory.

And yet, David finds the courage to ask for even more.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: If you were going to thank God for every blessing in and of your life, what would you dare to ask Him now … even after all He has done? What would you ask for beyond what He has already given?  

“… the king had no part …”

February 27, 2008

Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the gateway, as though to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the LORD concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house! May Joab’s house never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”

30(Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)

31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.

33 The king sang this lament for Abner:

“Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
  34 Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered.
You fell as one falls before wicked men.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.
(2 Samuel 3:26-37; NIV. Please read 2 Samuel 1-4.)

Inside any government – even that of the kingdom of Israel – you will find political intrigue. The maneuverings and manipulations by those in power or by those who want to be be in power make for dramatic movies and spell-binding novels … but within the kingdom of God they only expose the shamefulness of man and the patience of God.

In this particular situation Joab may have been justified “politically” in his actions, but David refused to approve what was done or to celebrate the benefits that might surely come to his position of power. He honors Abner – shows his grief over a fallen comrade – and demonstrates to all of the people that “the king had no part” in this scheme.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I remember being a young preacher, listening to an elder talking about “politics” in church. In my naivete I was aghast. “Politics” in church – God forbid. After 30 + years of teaching and preaching … I still hold that naive disgust at the thought of those in power maneuvering or manipulating things in order to stay in power or to get in power. (I have seen it up-close and personal in the last few years.) But just as it was true in the kingdom of God back then, it will be true in the kingdom of God now … men will always find ways to “get their way” or to protect their “image”. While we may never be able to rid the Lord’s church of “politics”,  we can rise above it and live in such a way that we will make it clear to all the people that we “had no part” in these shameful and worldly ways.

“… took his own sword …”

February 26, 2008

Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3 The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically.

4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”

But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.

7 When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.
(1 Samuel 30:1-7; NIV.  Please read 1 Samuel 27-31.)

When it was time for him to receive the crown as king, he “had hidden himself among the baggage” … afraid to accept God’s assignment.

When it was time for him to march against the enemy, he stood with his men “quaking in fear” … afraid to claim God’s promise of victory.

When it was time for him to destroy the Amalekites, he “gave in” to the people … afraid to execute God’s vengeance.

When it came time for him to give up the crown to David, he hunted him down “like a dog” … afraid to respect God’s anointing.

When it was time for him to die, he “took his own sword and fell on it” … afraid to face God’s reckoning.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I know that there is no way to avoid “feeling” afraid. Even men and women of great faith felt it: Abraham, Moses, David, Esther, Mary, Peter, John, Paul … and Cline; but they did not let “fear” make their decisions. There will always be things that we will be afraid to do … but if those things are the will of God, we must do them – in spite of our fear. The life lived in fear ends in death – even the second death. 
 

“… judge between you and me …”

February 25, 2008

Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”
(1 Samuel 24:8-15; NIV. Please read 1 Samuel 24-26.)

He is a champion … a hero … a star. Women chant his name, and men fear his wrath. He has been anointed and will be the king of Israel, not chosen by the people but by God.

And yet, when he has the chance to “end this madness” – the chance to take out his vengeance on Saul – he refuses. His advisors counsel him to kill Saul, and his men seem eager to “take Saul out” (won’t have to hit him twice) – but he refuses.

David’s behavior is “governed” by: (1). David’s view of God. (2). David’s view of Saul. (3). David’s view of himself.

(1). If God appointed Saul, then God can “dis-appoint” him. (It is always right to agree with God. Right?)

(2). Saul had been a “father” to him. He does not forget that – nor overlook the goodness that might still be in him.

(3). David knows that he is not that kind of man. No matter what others say or do – David will be true to himself.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I was not innocent like David, when “religious” men pursued me – to embarrass me – to hurt me. I deserved every consequence of my sin that God loosed into my life (and even more); but these men were wrong to do what they did. I had not “wronged” them. Therefore, I beg God to judge between them and me, and I will leave the verdict up to the righteous judge.   

“… knit with the soul …”

February 24, 2008

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
(1 Samuel 18:1-4; NIV. Please read 1 Samuel 19-23.)

These days – running for his life – are among the most difficult in David’s life. I am not sure that will compare to the horror of his guilt over his adultery or the betrayal and death of his son; but at this point in his life – he is desperate. He needs a friend … a faithful friend.

In the “soap-opera” of jealousy and betrayal there is one young man, who loves David like he loves himself. (Sound familar?) He loves David so – that God notes that “… the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David …”. 

Jonathan was willing to risk the wrath of his father – the loss of his privileged position – and even his inheritance of the throne – for David.  He was not just willing – he willed it so.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I have cherished this friendship since I first read of it 35 years ago. I marked these verses, when I read them for the first time – in February 1973. I began naively – but very soberly writing the names of men and women, who I honestly thought loved me – as I loved them – with our souls knit together. Over the years, as I became more aware of what true friendship means and demands, I added names less frequently and sadly marked through other names. Then when I betrayed my Lord and marriage vows, I learned that the only way you can really know if you have such a friend – a “soul-knit” friend is when you have given all of your other “so-called friends” a way out. Well … I have such “soul-knit” friends. They have risked their money – their reputations – and even their peace of mind to love me – to protect me – to save me. I know who they are … and I will never forget them.

“… the Lord looks at the heart …”

February 23, 2008

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.”

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”
(1Samuel 16:6-12; NIV. Please read 1Samuel 16-18.)

This is David … the shepherd boy who will kill the lion and bear – the faithful son who will deliver the bread and cheese – the courageous (though unlikely) warrior who will defeat the giant – the gifted psalmist who will soothe the king – the hunted servant of the king who will honor the King – the loyal friend who loved the prince – the dynamic leader who rallied the desperate and indebted – the anointed king who ruled the nation – the lustful adulterer who betrayed the Lord and his mighty men – the forgiven sinner who praised God for the cleansing – the distressed father who lost the son – the dying servant who chose the next king.

These things and so many more that document the words and deeds of the man, named David, begin with these words: “… the Lord looks at the heart …”. It will be said of him that he was – according to God – “a man after God’s own heart”.

For all of the great things he did – for which he will be remembered … for all of the shameful things he did – for which he will also be remembered, is there any better epitaph than, “I have found David … a man after God’s own heart”? 

ON SECOND THOUGHT: God is the only one who would ever have the right to acknowledge a man or woman in such a way, but what might be those characteristics – those qualities – that might make you consider that someone is a man or woman “after God’s own heart”?