Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Promises, Promises

Today's passage:  II Samuel 15
      It looks as if David's reign as king is over.  David can not know any differently.  After all, he has sat on the throne for a while now.  The one who wants to take his throne is his own son.  It is not as if God has not kept his promise to David.  The Lord told David that his kingdom would continue on, that his line would sire the Messiah.  Both parts of God's promise will still be fulfilled if Absalom's rebellion is successful.  Now David (a much older man by now) is weeping in the wilderness, wondering whether he will die here.
     That beguiling son of David had charmed the people into thinking he should be king now, instead of when David died.  He convinced the people that David did not care about the problems of the common man.  He disciplined himself (good to know he was disciplined about something) to wake and arrive early at the city gate each morning.  He greeted and campaigned, listened to the people's gripes and offered his solutions.  Sounds a little like a presidential candidate.  Only Absalom doesn't want to wait for an election, he wants to oust his father and replace him.  Why the hurry?  Absalom was the next successor to the throne.  Why shouldn't he bide his time?  I think partly because he wants to hurt his father.  His feelings of pride at not having been received by David as soon as he was invited back to the palace are still strong.  He wants to show good old Dad that he will make a better king.  He certainly can't do that when the old man is dead, so he must prove it to him while he is living.

Absalom's rebellion (cropped)--Taken from Religion in the Home (Part 4)  The United Kingdom
By Charlotte M. Yonge, Illustrated by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld
Published by George W. Bertron, 1913

     David can't be sure that God is not in this usurping.  He knows it is not the way God would have done things, but he does not know if this is not a plan of God to teach some lessons.  He can not be sure that his kingship is over, that God will move him onto new things, that maybe He will move him into Heaven.  David has no way of being able to see ahead to know any differently.  He can see his mistakes.  He is looking back at the way Absalom was raised and realizing what he could have been wiser.  He is praying that he will have another chance to do things right by Absalom, to be the leader God wants him to be.  All those years in the wilderness, preparing for the monarchy, did not prepare him that he would one day be back here.  All the opportunities he had to take Saul's life, and spared him, was not taken into account for his own throne.  Where was the law of sowing and reaping?  David had showed such high regard for the man God allowed to wear the crown.  Why wasn't God allowing David to have some measure of that respect shown towards himself?  Why is God allowing David to be so dishonored?  I know David's possible folly in rearing Absalom will bring about consequences.  But isn't it strange that the consequences God should choose to allow come to David would be in something he would never have been involved?  David would have never plotted against Saul, looking for ways to win the hearts of the people (even though he had those hearts early in Saul's reign).  David could have whispered all of the court secrets about Saul's moodiness around the palace, influencing them that he should no longer be their leader.  David could have abused this and taken the throne from Saul.  David could have raised an army of supporters while in the wilderness and stormed the castle, ousting Saul from his position.  David could have made Jonathan (the next in line) his enemy rather than his bosom friend. It just seems odd that God would choose this set of circumstances.  I think that if it had not been David's own flesh and blood leading this coup, he would have had his armed men destroy the usurper.  Since it was his own son, not only would he not want to harm him, but he could not know whether his time on the throne had expired, and God was allowing his son to reign in his stead.  David knew what God had promised him, but he did not know just how God was going to keep this promise.  Remember this covenant?
II Samuel 7:12-15
12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14  I will be his father, and he shall be my son.  If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
15  But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
16  And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee:  thy throne shall be established for ever.  
     There is nothing in this promise that says how long it will be before David will sleep with his fathers.  This could be the time for that.  David does not know.  Absalom is his seed, so God is honoring the covenant He established with David.  It is David's prayer that this is not the end, but he can't know for sure.  And I can't be critical of David's seeming lack of faith, because given the evidence, David's time might be up.
     I can remind God of His promises, but I can't tell Him how to carry them out.  David knows this too.  He is humbled by what God is doing in his life.  He knows God has given him a promise and he will cling to that, but he can't know just how God will fulfill it.  God has promised us a lot of things in His Word.  Some of those things will be realized while I am living but some of them won't be realized until I am sleeping with my fathers.  And I don't know how soon that may be.  It may be tomorrow, it may not be for another forty years. In any case, when God surprises me yet again with the way He chooses to do things, and it wasn't the way I expected, I have to trust and believe that He will get more glory doing it His Way.
      Why does God allow David to go through this?  Why does He allow his reign to be compromised in a most disrespectful way?  I can't say.  I know that David was not wrong to be an honorable follower under Saul.  I know that David did not do that thinking in the back of his mind, "When I am king someday, people will show me the same respect."  The sowing and reaping principle does not always parallel our lives exactly.  The loyalty that David displayed will be realized in the son who will eventually take the throne.  God has to prepare the way for Solomon, in order to carry out His Word to David, and getting Absalom out of the way is how God will get there.
     God's promises have never failed.  Not then, not today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Height of Hypocrisy

Today's passage:  II Samuel 14
     Absalom is a petulant child.  In reality, he is a young man (he has four children already), but he behaves like a petulant child.  "But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty:  from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him."  Obviously, Absalom is a good looking fellow, not surprising since he has King's David's DNA.  Can I say this?  Be very careful with your beautiful children.  All of our children are beautiful, but sometimes there are stand-outs.  You can tell this, because everywhere they go, they are admired.  People dote on them, talk to them, stare (in a good way) at them, admire them.
     My oldest son and I had a talk about this just the other day. My eight year old and my two year old are best buddies.  Firstborn takes very good care of him, but often spoils Youngest.  Now Youngest happens to be a very beautiful child.  Of course, I say that because I am his mother, but I get compliments everywhere I take him.  People naturally are taken with his blond curls and charming smile.  As nice as it is to have these compliments, Youngest is already learning that being cute can be very rewarding.  And since he is two, the tantrums when he does not get his way have increased.  I was correcting Youngest for this behavior the other day, when Firstborn asked me to be lenient.  "Oh Mom, he's just so cute!"  I explained to Firstborn, that is exactly why he needed correction.  Perhaps he is cute at two, but that behavior will not be cute at five or six.  Firstborn saw the logic in this, and let me proceed.
     I do not want to raise an Absalom.  I'm wondering if Absalom's mother, or perhaps nursemaids gave into his tempers and rewarded him with all that his heart desired--he was such a good-looking boy.  Youngest has already learned that he does not necessarily have to throw a tantrum to get his way, instead, he is learning that people give in when he flashes his sweetest smile and lowers his lashed eyelids.  Maybe that was Absalom's approach.  Parents, be careful you don't fall for that act too much either.  I can't say for sure that Absalom was spoiled as a child, but I'm guessing as handsome as he was, he was probably indulged.  A lot.  Selfish traits don't usually just spring up in adulthood, they have been carefully fostered throughout the years.
     In this passage, we see how Joab has finagled a way to get David to bring Absalom back into the fold.  But David still refuses to see his murdering son.  Joab is responsible for Absalom's return, but quickly sees that he will lose favor with the king if he gives in to any more of the prince's demands.  Absalom wants an audience with his father, and calls for Joab to mediate.  Joab refuses to come.  Absalom calls for Joab again.  Again, Joab does not comply.  So what does Absalom do?  He has his servants burn Joab's field. Are we talking about adult behavior here? I mean, that kind of thing probably worked in the palace nursery as a boy when the governess refused to give him his way, but really?  He's a grown man.  Joab seeks out Absalom (which is exactly what Absalom knew would happen) about this immature behavior.  Absalom simply responds with, "Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither,"  as if that is a good enough reason to destroy someone's property.  Absalom's action is grossly disproportionate to Joab's conduct.  But what is the most disturbing is that it works.  Joab does exactly what Absalom manipulated him to do.  If Joab had refused, Absalom would have upped the ante and probably burned his home as well, or killed Joab's servants.  The degree of selfishness in Absalom is equal to the weight of his newly shaven hair.
David Forgives Absalom--Taken from Treasures of the Bible (United Kingdom)
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
The International Publishing Company, 1894
     It is probably too late to corral Absalom's selfish ambitions.  He has been a selfish being for too long to be able to mend his ways now.  Of course, God can do that in him, but even then, it would take time.  David was always repentant when he had done wrong, but we don't see that in any of his sons.  I'm sure David taught the boys about the Lord, but unfortunately some of David's actions were so contrary to what he taught, that they saw the hypocrisy and walked away from God.  We all have some degree of hypocrisy in our lives, and our children will see it above all else.  We will never be perfect people, and we will never do everything exactly as we should.  But David's refusal to welcome Absalom back (despite his vengeful act of murder against Amnon) was the height of hypocrisy in Absalom's mind.  Why?  Hadn't David been a murderer?  Hadn't David had a man killed so that it would not be discovered he had been intimate with the man's wife?  In Absalom's mind, David's murder was so much worse.  Absalom reasoned that at least when he had his brother killed, it was retribution for dishonoring his sister.  Where was the nobility in what David had done?  David repented, and I'm sure Absalom refused to do this.  But perhaps the wise thing for David to have done, would be to have this conversation with Absalom and persuade him that his actions were unconscionable.  Maybe Absalom and David had these letters by messenger, but this was David's son--a face-to-face talk should have commenced.  Again, it is easy to sit in my office chair, play Monday-morning quarterback hundreds of years later, and advise David on what would have been a better way.  I'm sure if and when things go wrong in my life, others will do the same of me.  Still, God puts these things in His Word so we can benefit from David's triumphs and his mistakes.  God wants me to glean what I can on how to raise my children (or how not to) so that I don't have to go through the trials and tribulations that he endured.  It is too bad that David had to be the example, but I'm thinking that David had examples he could have watched.  Did he take advantage of that?  Did he have the privilege of talking to his father who had raised eight boys?  I don't know.  I just know that I do have that advantage, and I must grab hold onto any knowledge the Lord will give me.  I don't want to raise a petulant man/child.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Cookie Crumbles

Today's passage:  II Samuel 13
     This is not a passage for the faint of heart.  It is one of the more difficult passages of the Bible because of the adult content in it.  In fact, trying to deal delicately with such subject matter must be a difficult job for a preacher, because there is little way to handle it delicately and still deliver the message that needs to be presented.  It is a chapter that causes me to cringe.  And yet, there is something here God wants us to learn.  Probably several somethings.
     One thing that God wants us to know is that marrying several women can create complications among the children.  I've said it before, and I will say it again, because I assure you, the movement is on the horizon.  Polygamy is trying to make a big comeback in this country.  There are TV shows promoting it, and while maybe not advocating for it, trying to pave the way for acceptance.  I don't watch any of them, but I have heard of at least 2 or 3 shows where a man has more than one wife.  And the entire point is to make them seem like a normal family.  Well, it is not normal.  God never designed for man to have more than one wife.  If He had, Adam would have had Eve #1 and Eve #2.  It happened a lot in the Old Testament, and in every instance it was trouble.  As early back as Abram and Sarai, when Hagar is introduced into the picture and Ishmael is born, multiple wives produced complications.  And that is a complication that has continued on to this day, with the Muslim world declaring Ishmael to be God's heir when clearly it was to be Isaac. The ancestors of these two children are still fighting.  It was not necessary.  Unfortunately, David's marriages were going to cause another kind of trouble among his children.  I'm sure there must have been a lot of arguing about which wife had preeminence, and therefore which son would be the next king.  It was natural that these jealousies would arise. Would they have surfaced had all the children been from the same woman?  Yes, it was likely that could have happened too, but everyone would eventually agree that the firstborn was heir to the throne.  In David's case, he had a firstborn with Maachah (Absalom), and a firstborn with Abigail (Chileab), and a firstborn with Ahinoam (Amnon) and a firstborn with Bath-sheba (the firstborn died, but the first to live was Solomon).  I mean there would be a lot of disputes as to whose son was the real firstborn.  But having so many wives with children from each wife also brings about other difficulties as seen in this passage.
     God also would want us to realize that love and lust are two completely different things.  Amnon does not love his half-sister.  He tries to convince others he does because that sounds nobler than to say he just wants to rob her of her virginity.  There is no love involved here.    Love does not deceive a young maiden into being a nursemaid for a person who is not sick in order to prey upon her.  Love does not turn to hatred within minutes. Love does not force a person against her will, and then having its way throw the person out into the cold. That is not true love.  Those are the characteristics of lust.  This poor, poor girl.  After the act is committed against her, she is more horrified because no other man will want her now, and Amnon doesn't even have the decency to take her as his wife, now that he has stolen the most precious gift she had to offer any man.  It is no wonder that when Tamar's full-blood brother Absalom learns of it, he is enraged.
     But here is the most shocking thing of all in this passage, and I can't wrap my head around it.  Maybe I'm too unfamiliar with Middle Eastern culture to understand, but David finds out about this horrific deed and does nothing.  "But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth."  That's it.  That is all that is said about the matter.  It is obvious that he didn't deal with the situation, or if he did he must have been extremely lenient, because it is what drives Absalom to take matters into his own hands and avenge his violated sister.  And really, I can't say I blame him.  I cheer for vigilante justice sometimes in the movies, and this just seems to be another brand.  But really, what was David thinking?  How could he let such an act go? This was his oldest son, the future king behaving this way?  It is obvious that Amnon was indulged, perhaps because he was the successor to the throne.  But being an indulgent father, and a father who completely looks the other way are two different things.  It is shameful.
     Two years go by, and Amnon is still strolling about the palace, possibly smugly smiling at Absalom like the cat who ate the canary every time he passes him by.  Very likely, sneering at Tamar any time he has the chance.  Absalom shows remarkable restraint.  "And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad:  for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar."  What is that saying--  "Watch out for the quiet ones." ? This is one of those cases.   Absalom waits two years to carry out revenge.  And I'm not saying he was right to do it, but it is easy to see why he would when King David did nothing.  Amnon continued to bait Absalom all the while.  I'm starting to think that David's family put the dys- in dysfunctional.  Actually, that may have started with Jacob and his several wives/several children brood.
     This is just not a pleasant chapter to read.  It goes from bad to worse.  Absalom is not punished for murdering his brother, which conveniently puts Absalom as next in line for the throne.  No power motives there, right?  David's boys must have been used to having things done their way, and if in the past they have not suffered consequences for their actions, it is no wonder they think this.
     What can I learn here?  As awful a parent as David is in this chapter, there are going to be times in my life when I really will not know what to do with my children, or how to deal with them properly.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Today's passage:  Hebrews 4:12
     I will admit it.  I believed in Santa until I was twelve years old.  Well, let's say for a couple years I started to have doubts, but since I never came out and asked the question, my parents allowed me to continue to defend Mr. Claus.  I was certain that my parents did not have the money to put all those gifts under the tree, especially for five kids.  By sixth grade, I was seriously getting made fun of (sorry, Mom, if you didn't realize all this).  But loyal person that I am, I was insistent that he was real.  Of course, this meant I had to lay down a case for Easter Bunny and my personal tooth fairy, Angelique.  My tooth fairy even wrote me a letter in beautiful handwriting that was not my parents, so I knew she was real.  The day came when I discovered it was Mom and Dad.  My Dad came into the room to switch out a coin for a tooth, and pretending to be asleep, I spotted him.  I continued to pretend to be asleep not wanting to startle him with a "Gotcha!"  Confronted the next morning with my discovery, my Dad insisted that I was asleep because he checked.  It's called pretending, Dad, something I have always done very well, thus my penchant for theater.  Yes, I still debate this point with him even though he has been in Heaven these seven years now.  I'm sure he is refusing to cede this point.  Well,   this was a very difficult idea to let go of.  I had believed in these imaginary figures for about ten years.  That is a long time to believe in something and find out it is not true.  I wasn't thrilled that I looked pretty foolish among the other sixth graders who had long ago given up the notion.  I know my parents weren't trying to be cruel or subject me to undue ridicule, they wanted me to be a kid for as long as possible.  Keeping Santa alive, was one way for them to do that.
     Before we had kids, my husband and I discussed the Santa Claus/Easter Bunny/Rudolph/Tooth Fairy conundrum.  Do we let them believe, or do we tell them the truth.  Now, I am not trying to persuade anyone to do what they have already decided to do.  I am not going to think you are a horrible person if you do the Santa Claus thing.  I believe that is a decision every family has to make on their own.  But my husband and I decided that if we were to allow them to believe in these fictional characters, when they finally discovered that they were not real, how much would they think it was pretend, and how much of it would they think was Mommy and Daddy lying to them.  It is possible that they would understand it is like a joke you tell, and be fine when they discovered the punchline.  But we felt that there was a real distinct possibility that they might look at it as being deceitful and lose trust.  If Mommy and Daddy lied about that, maybe they lied about Jesus, maybe they lied about the Bible.  Again, I'm not trying to convince anyone to do anything differently, I'm just revealing our thought processes on the matter.  My husband and I came to the conclusion that it was a chance we were not willing to take, not when our sons' souls might be at stake in the future.  So we choose not to include Santa in our Christmas festivities.

     Here is the real reason for this post, and I hope you have been able to tune in long enough to hear it.  We have repeatedly explained to our boys that Santa is not real.  My eight year old gets it.  My four year old is less certain.  After all, St. Nick is everywhere.  On the radio, in the stores, in the sales papers.  The other day, as I was finishing up my food prep for Thanksgiving Day, my four year old calls to me, "Mom, come here quick!"  I rush into the living room and see a snippet of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on the TV.  On the float is none other than the jolly old fellow himself bellowing out "Ho, ho, ho!"  My four year old, eyes all innocence, looks up at me and says, "Well, Mom, I guess we were wrong."  Seeing that real, live man dressed in a Santa Claus suit completely changed his mind about the legitimacy of Santa Claus.  Needless to say, I had to explain the man was just pretending to be Santa Claus.  I know he really wants to believe in him.
     Thinking about that, we have God's Word that tells us exactly who Jesus Christ is.  How is it we are more willing to believe what is on a TV set than what is in our own Bible?  Why do we have people who will believe anything they hear on the radio or in the newspaper, but not from God's own Word?  People believe what they want to believe.We have a Book that gives us all the truth we need.  Why do we have to be more convinced that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, than we need to be of aliens or vampires?  God's Word is more real than Santa Claus.  It is more tangible than the Easter Bunny.  It is more faithful than the Tooth Fairy.  Believe in those things if you want, but make sure you believe in the real thing.
     Back to II Samuel on Monday.  Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Time to Give Thanks

Today's passage:  Nehemiah 12:8
     Nehemiah records the ceremony and dedication when the Jerusalem wall was finally rebuilt.  I thought the following verse was interesting:  "Moreover the Levites:  Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren."  I guess I was amused that they actually assigned people to make sure the people were thankful.  I'm wondering how much thanks we would give if we didn't have this holiday?  Would we take time to count our blessings?  Would we set aside time each day to tell God thanks for all He has done in our lives?  I'm thankful for a day when we are encouraged to remember all the blessings in our lives.  I have so many, but here are a few on my thankful list for this year.

  • My salvation.  I can't imagine living life here without having peace about my next life.  I'm so thankful for how God found me and saved my worthless soul.  I had a childhood of knowing about God, but not really knowing Him, and I'm grateful that as a teenager, God brought me to a place where I could hear the simple plan of salvation and accept Christ's payment for my sins.
  • God's Word.  I'm thankful that God gave me a Book to know exactly what He wanted me to know about Him.  I'm glad God didn't leave me in this Christian life as a clueless wanderer, wondering where to go or what to do next.  He gave me a manual to tell me how to live.
  • Prayer.  I have a power on earth greater than any sorcerer.  When I kneel before Him, giving Him praise for who He is, getting my heart right from convicting sin, thanking Him for all He has done and is doing, asking Him to help me and others in all aspects of life, I can see miracles happen.  Sometimes I'm envious of all that the disciples were able to witness when Christ was here on earth, but I have that same privilege every time I go to God, and see Him answer.
  • My husband.  God knew the exact partner that would need my strengths and complement my weaknesses.  He knew the exact man who would tolerate all my flaws and foibles.  He gave me a man of God who is devoted to me and devoted to his children.  My husband is a hard worker who always puts our needs before his own.  He has a teachable spirit, willing to ask for help when he is unsure.  He enjoys simple pleasures and a simple life.
  • My children.  The three boys God has given me to raise have such diverse personalities.  I see a little of God in each one of them.  My oldest has an intelligence beyond his years.  His charisma and enthusiasm allow him to be a natural leader.  He wants to live for God, and is already encouraging his younger brothers to do so.  He is a wonderful big brother.  My middle son has the energy of ten boys.  He already asks me to tell him Bible stories, I think his day of salvation is near.  He is my Jacob, helping me with anything around the house.  Then there is my baby, my youngest.  He has such a sweet temper.  He is easily led, with a big heart for his family and animals.  He enjoys being outdoors, already expressing wonder at God's creations.
  • My extended family.  I never realized how strained relationships could be between parents and children, in-laws and parents, brothers and sisters.  I never knew it because God has blessed me with a family that gets along.  That is a great credit to my parents.  When we lived overseas, it was often only us, and we did things together as a famly that have kept us close even today.  I am thankful for marrying into a family who has embraced me.  I cherish the holidays I get to spend with each side of the family.
  • A home.  In this economy, I don't count this as a light thing.  God gave us a house 10 years ago that has not been a money pit.  How thankful I am for that.  We have made improvements, there have been repairs, but God has kept us afloat when the mortgage seemed higher than we could pay.  Somehow, the money is always there, even on a one-person income and we have not fallen into any kind of foreclosure danger.
  • My husband's job.  Again, when jobs are hard to find, this is a big blessing.  He has been able to be employed in the same place for seventeen years.  His job is difficult.  It is stressful.  He needs wisdom every day on how to handle situations, because any one of them could result in complaints or accusations of misconduct.  I'm thankful that God has given him an even temper, not prone to vengeance so that he can handle people in the most appropriate fashion.  This whole last year he was able to be on the day shift.  For the first time in our marriage, we were able to eat dinner together every night, put the kids to bed, and have alone time.  It has been very nice.  And we just found out that he will be on days for this next year as well.  Thank you God!
  • My health.  More than ever, I understand the saying, "Well, you still have your health."  I have not suffered from any illnesses or diseases.  Neither has any of my family.  
  • My church.  I'm so happy to be in a place of worship that is concerned about the whole world.  I never worry about not getting truth. The people I worship with are my family.  They are my brothers and sisters and when they hurt, I hurt.  When they rejoice, I rejoice.  It is a joy to worship in a place that is a picture of Heaven, believers united from many different countries.  
  • The United States of America.  I could have been born in a third world country. God could have placed me in the slums of India or Communist China.  But he didn't.  He allowed me to be born in a country of freedom.  Because of that, I have been able to learn about Him.  I am able to celebrate as the Pilgrims did that I can freely worship Him.  

     Obviously, I could go on and on.  God has given me so much for which to be thankful.  I didn't even touch on His protection, His provision, and His graciousness.  He is gracious to me because when I am ignorant of what I am doing wrong in my life, He gives me time to grow and learn and change.  When so many others are rushing on to the next holiday, I'm glad we have a time set aside to remember to be thankful.  Aren't you?  Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heads or Tails

Today's passage:  I Samuel 12
    Heads, you win.  Tails, you lose.  I think some people think this is how God handles our lives.  That somehow God is up in Heaven flipping a coin, and depending on which side faces up is how He will deal with us.  I'm thankful that my God is so much more complex than that.
     Reading this passage about David's brokenness over the consequences for his sin, reminds me a bit of "Heads or Tails", not because that is how God deals with Him, but because we are apt to think that if David says some kind of magic prayer, he will end up with the heads side of the coin and everything will be hunky-dory.  God does not work that way.  If our lives were just a coin to God, why is it so many people have more Tails than Heads?  If our lives were just a flip in the air, leaving things to chance, then we would have no reason to live in a way that was pleasing to God, because the outcome would never have any connection to how we lived.
The Death of David and Bathsheba's Son--Taken from Treasures of the Bible (The United Kingdom)
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
The International Publishing Company, 1894
     In this passage, God could have spared David's unborn child.  He could have considered David's heartfelt pleas and stayed His Hand.  But He doesn't.  It is not because David got the Tails side of the coin.  It is because God knows how best to handle David's heart.  He knows how best to handle mine.  When I was a teen, there was a song by a pop music parody master that said, "I'd rather rip my heart right out of my rib cage with my bare hands and then throw it on the floor and stomp on it til I die..."  Humorous, but haven't we all had those moments?  Those times in our life when it felt like God was ripping our heart out of our chest and holding it in His bare but capable Hands?  Or worse, throwing it to the floor and stomping on it?  David's face to the ground, his eyes overflowing with tears, his heart too full for food or company is pleading for God's mercy.  Doesn't God hear him?  Shouldn't God spare him?  I can't answer that.  I can't understand God's ways.  I know that David is not the only one who had sinned.  Who knows that God's decision to bring this judgement might not have been for Bathsheba?  He was holding her heart too.  God was not up in Heaven, laughing deviously, flipping a coin, saying, "Well, let's see how this all comes out.  I'll let this nickel decide."  God is purposeful.  God is just.  God wants my worship.  God wants my best.  He knows best how to achieve those things in my life, and in the lives of others.  And since I am not a navigator of hearts, I am not a spelunker of those inner caverns, I cannot pretend to know what God already does.  He holds that pulsating center of thoughts and emotions in His hands, and He knows how tightly to squeeze to get it pumping again.  He knows just how much pressure to apply to make it pulse for Him.
     Poor David.  I can say that, and my emotions be little affected because I didn't know him.  I can objectively read this passage and not be touched by his pain.  But there are people who have impacted my life, who may be in a similar situation as David was.  No, they may not be about to lose a child (or they may be), they may not have sinned as egregiously as David did, yet their sin is costing them.  God may have their heart that is in no way connected to mistakes or unholiness.  Those Davids may be beseeching God for mercy in their lives.  And God will give it.  But not necessarily in the situation they are in.  After God took David's child, despite the broken heart, the earnest prayers, God was merciful.  How?  God gave David another son, Solomon.  And He allowed him to win another battle against the Ammonites, the battle they should have won when Uriah was killed.  God created us.  He knows how best to keep us alive and afresh for Him.  Just because I say it doesn't make us automaton's devoid of emotion and reason, yahooing every difficult circumstance in our lives.  But it makes me feel a whole lot better knowing that the One who created my heart, knows exactly what to do with it.  And that gives me much more peace than a coin flip.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Did it My Way

Today's passage:  II Samuel 11
     Maybe the reason we have so many bumps in our road in this life is because when we have too many victories, too many successes, we lose our way and wander from God.  I can only believe that is what happened to David in this chapter.  What happened here?  How did David go from being a man who asked God what to do, who quelled his enemies (all Jehovah haters) to such depravity in this passage?  It is hard to fathom.  But it certainly shows me how careful I must be.  It is a warning that each day we must live anew and devoted to God.  I can not assume that because yesterday was a "good" day, that today will not be a bad one. I can not depend on the Bible reading and prayer from last week to get me through this week.  I need to be searching for God each and every day of life.  I need to grasp hold of His wonderful mercies, of His Words of Life every day that I can.  Does it mean I still may fall?  Yes.  But the more of God's Word I have in me, the more of His wisdom I have.  The more wisdom I have, the more able I am to discern situations and hopefully steer clear of ones that could doom me.
     Let me point out one more thing in this passage.  Sometimes if we want to do things our way long enough, God says okay.  What am I talking about?  After David has committed this sin with Bathsheba, after he finds out they are going to have a child together, he does everything he can to make it look like Uriah fathered that child.  He calls him back from battle and encourages him to go home to his wife.  This backfires because Uriah has an inordinate sense of duty which dictates to his conscience that he should still act the soldier even back on the home front.  So then, David keeps Uriah off the battlefield for a few days, apparently getting him drunk so that his conscience will be dimmed, and then perhaps he will go home to his wife.  This doesn't work either.  Too intoxicated, Uriah can only stumble as far as the servant's quarters, where he spends the night.  David is getting frustrated.  Does it seem that maybe God is giving David an out here?  I mean, in both of these instances, David could have made this situation right.  He could have owned up to his sin, asked forgiveness of this brother, and let God handle the matter.  But David is still plotting and scheming.  He gives Uriah a note to deliver to Joab when he returns to battle.  David has assessed enough about Uriah that his loyalty will have him deliver his own death warrant to the general, unopened and unread.
Nathan Confronts David
Original source and illustrator unknown

     Think about that.  Wasn't Uriah even a little curious as to what the letter contained?  Wouldn't he have wanted to sneak a little peek?  God could have had that happen.  That certainly would have been an awkward scenario.  But God lets David carry out this treacherous plan.  Uriah delivers the letter with David's wishes to have him killed, Joab reads and seems to immediately understand the situation.  Maybe Joab had been accustomed to David's wandering eye.  David did have a few wives already.  Joab does not ask questions.  He does what his king orders.  The move he makes is contrary to any he would make at other times.  Joab is too good of a military leader to do what he does here.  He moves his troops ridiculously close to the enemy wall.  In Judges, there is a similar story, where Gideon's son, Abimelech goes close to the wall and a woman drops a millstone on his head, which injures him enough that he could die a slow suffering death.  He chooses to have his men to run him through so that his death is quick and so that a woman does not get the credit for his demise.  Joab refers to this incident when he sends a messenger back to David to inform him of Uriah's death.  He basically tells him, "Ordinarily, we wouldn't have been so close to the wall as our forefather, Abimelech, but you did want Uriah dead, and we achieved that objective."
     David is relieved.  Little does he know that God allowing him to have his own way, is going to bring greater grief than David feels he can bear.  Sometimes God lets us have our own way.  Many times He gives us chances to make things right, to come clean, but if we refuse, God will allow us to bear the full consequences of our choices.  I will make mistakes.  I will make big mistakes.  Prayerfully, at the first opportunity, I will make it right, and not compound it with more foolish choices.  Prayerfully, I will allow His Word to saturate my decision making to avoid the mistake in the first place.  God allows me to do things my way, but it doesn't mean I will get away with sin.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Today's passage:  II Samuel 10
     The new king of Ammon had a lot to learn about foreign policy.  His father had died, and now he is suddenly leading his country.  As is custom today, and apparently at that time, King David of Israel sends dignitaries to pay their respects for the old king's death.  Only Hanun, the new king, listens to bad advice.  His counsellors are certain that David only means to send spies into the land, so that they can get some kind of advantage if they choose to make war on them.  Hanun could have sent David's emissaries away.  Instead, he chooses to insult them in the worst way possible.  You can read about his actions in verses 4-5.  What he does brings great humiliation to these ambassadors.  And it was unnecessary.  If he was concerned about war with Israel before, he should be doubly concerned now.  Was he trying to entice David into battle?  I don't know.  David and Hanun's father had mutual peace since the whole reason David sent these men was because "his father shewed kindness unto me."
     Hanun knows what will happen when David's men return to Israel.  He is expecting a war.  So he hires Syrian soldiers to aid them in battle.  All the countries know what a formidable warrior David and his men have proven to be.  Hanun is not foolish enough to think that Ammon can fight this war alone.  He knows he needs an ally.  Syria is willing to help, with payment for their services of course.  So when David's military leaders, Joab and Abishai arrive, they strategize as to the best way to take out these two countries.  Syria is stationed on the front lines, which I guess is a pretty good plan since their motivation to fight would be a lot less than Ammon's.  The Ammonites are guarding the castle, they are the last line of defense.
     Joab is a clever strategist.  He takes on the Syrian front, while Abishai, his brother, leads the front against Ammon.  Joab's battle is going pretty well.  He even returns to Jerusalem.  This gives Syria time to send for reinforcements.  With this news, David decides to lead his men.  He crosses over the Jordan River and destroys the Syrians at Helam.  Those remaining, surrender and agree to be David's servants from this time forward.  Syria also decides that they will never assist Ammon in battle again.  Apparently, Hanun did not make a great military leader.
     When I read this passage, it shows me that when provoked, it is necessary to show our might.  So many people protest that we are fighting a war across the world.  But we were provoked into that war.  Maybe in the past we have gone into countries without provocation, but this was not the case with this last war we have been involved.  Like David's emissaries, we were disgraced, and on our own land.  We had not given any reason for enemies to attack us.  Except that we stood for something they were envious of, except that we are despised for what we believe.  Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and we have been able to maintain freedom for over 200 years.  The Judeo part is what really disturbs many countries of the world.  We were propagators for establishing Israel as a nation, and we continue (at least in part) to be Israel's friend.  When we do those things, we are naturally going to have and keep enemies.  And there will be times we will have to display our strength to assure our enemies that we will not back down on those principles.  I worry about those who do not understand this.  I am concerned for people who preach against war and say "Thou shalt not kill" forgetting the entire Old Testament, where war was a very necessary option exercised to maintain Jehovah worship.  And what about Revelation?  I mean, it is not exactly a peaceful book.
United States of America flag waving in wind--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Four
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O. A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1927
     Do not misunderstand me, I am not a fan of war.  I have three boys.  I do not look forward to the day when they might decide to join the military and serve our country in a battle overseas (although I would be proud if they did).   I know that the toil war takes on our young men and women is psychologically and emotionally devastating.  But I also know that if we don't show our might, if we kowtow to every dignitary, proclaim a pacifist approach to every situation, we will not be sending our men and women overseas to fight a battle, they will have to protect us here on our own soil.  Sometimes we have to take the defensive, and I know that is something that is very controversial.  But I think this passage is proof that when provoked, we have to take action.  We cannot sit and wait for the war to come to us.  We have too much at stake to risk that.  We have freedoms that the world envies.  We have a country with opportunities that other countries can only dream of.  Might does not always make right, but might does make other countries think twice about challenging us.  With an upcoming election, and more and more candidates jumping onto an isolationist bandwagon--leave the world to itself, let's only worry about us approach--it concerns me.  The minute we say we are going to do that  is the minute our enemies (and yes, it is good versus evil in this wicked world) will up the ante.  Not going to retaliate?  Let's just see about that.  Hijacked airplanes flown into buildings was just the beginning.  There is no end to their evil imaginings.  And at some point we will have to retaliate because we will have enemies in our own country declaring war on us.  We will live in a state of fear, all because of misapplying "Thou shalt not kill".  All because we do not want to be politically incorrect.  Well, we can take that path, but it will be our destruction.  David went on the offensive.  He destroyed the Ammonites and Syrians before they had a chance to cross over the river and take him down.  He did not invite war, he was provoked.  And it was necessary to combat the evil that would try to destroy him.  Peace on earth is a nice saying, but trying to keep to ourselves will never achieve that.  Peace on earth will only happen when the Prince of Peace returns.  Until then, unless there is Peace in people's hearts, there will always be war.  And guess which country has the most Peace to offer?  Ours.  We can offer Peace, we can offer Freedom, but if we are no longer a nation with the liberties we have, we will never be able to offer anything again.  We cannot keep to ourselves.  We have too much to offer.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Servant's Choice

Today's passage: II Samuel 9
     David's kindnesses to Mephibosheth is a familiar story.  I've taught it in Sunday school on many occasions.  It is a beautiful application of God's love for us.  In case, anyone reading this is not that familiar with this narrative, I will give a quick overview.  Years before, David and Jonathan (Saul's son) had made a pact that they would take care of each other's families should something happen to either of them.  I guess you could say it was their last will and testament.  Jonathan and his father were killed in battle, which ushered in the time for David's reign.  He has been on the throne for a little while now, but is just now able to fulfill his promise.  He has Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth brought to the palace and assures him that he will be treated as one of his own sons.  Mephibosheth became lame when a nursemaid dropped him as a boy, trying to secure his life when Saul and Jonathan were killed.  It really is a nice story.  But I'm more interested in the part of the story that rarely gets told.  I'm thinking about the man who reported to David that Jonathan's son was still alive.
     The name of the servant who gives David this pertinent information is Ziba.  I'm really glad God chose to give us his name because referring to him as Mephibosheth's servant each time is a lot of typing and a mouthful. We don't know a lot about Ziba.  But I think his part of the story tells much about him and even more about David.
David Shows Kindness to Jonathan's Son, Mephibosheth--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
      It was the custom at that time for kings to destroy any future threats to the throne.  Usually, the first order of business when a king put a crown on his head was to make sure there was nobody else who could do so as well.  We've already seen this happen at the very beginning of David's reign when Ish-bosheth, that other son of Saul, was established over the rest of Israel.  Everyone was expecting David to destroy this usurper.  But he didn't .  And if he had, I think he may have never been able to keep his promise to Jonathan.  David summons Ziba to the court because he is one of the few men remaining from Saul's household.  The king asks him a very direct question with little wiggle room.  "Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him?"  Ziba can now make a choice.  He can choose to tell the king he doesn't know, he can choose to tell him that there is nobody remaining, or he can choose to tell him the truth.  Ziba chooses the last option.  I think he chooses it because of David's character.  Ziba could have believed that this was a false facade David was putting on to ferret out his enemy and have him destroyed.  David had used deceit in the past (although I'm not sure Ziba would have been privy to that).  But David's desire is to show God's love to this unknown person.  And I think anyone who has met David knows his love for God is real and he would never use God as an excuse for a masquerade.  So Ziba believes his request to be genuine and is able to give him this important information.
     After David meets with Mephibosheth, he calls for Ziba again.  David realizes that Ziba could have lied to him.  He fully understands that this was a great risk for Ziba to reveal this information.  It was dangerous for him and it was dangerous for the man he was trying to protect.  So when David chooses to give Mephibosheth back all the land that had belonged to his father and grandfather, and knows that someone will need to take care of this land (since Mephibosheth will now be living comfortably in the palace) he chooses the man who risked the most to make this reunion possible.  He chooses Ziba.  And here is the kicker, Ziba had fifteen sons.  It also says he had twenty servants.  Now, I'm not sure if that means he was in charge of twenty servants, still in hiding from Saul's demise, or if they were servants in his own household, but that's a lot of people living in one house.  Ziba was being rewarded for making the right choice.  Maybe he wasn't sure at the time if it was right, but given David's history, he had to trust that the king would spare another successor.  And since he did, his family would have a lot of land to roam.
     Sometimes, I am presented with decisions where it doesn't seem like there is a right choice or wrong choice.  I am kind of in that predicament right now. Sometimes there is no past history to observe to be able to know whether to trust someone.  Sometimes there is no past precedent to be able to base my decision on.  When this happens, I have to study God's Word, pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to give me peace about what I choose.  God has given us a past history to observe, and that history is that I can always trust Him.  He has given precedents, landmarks, that show He will always be faithful and that His Word never fails us.  I can make a servant's choice anytime I choose Him.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Today's passage:II Samuel 8
     "And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen:  and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots."
      I had no idea what it meant to hough a horse.  Fortunately, my study Bible provided a definition, and then using the handy-dandy internet, I was able to look up some more information.  Houghing meant to cut the hamstrings.  In a horse, this would hamper its ability to run at full speed. Most articles I read claimed that houghing would cripple the horse, but obviously that wasn't so since David used them to drive chariots.  I also read that you never want to approach a horse from behind.  Instinctually, a horse will kick anyone who comes at him from behind.  This is because animals who would prey on a horse will get him by the neck and by the hamstring to disable him.

      David used some of these horses for battle.  Some of them he used for his own personal pleasure.  I'm not sure how he determined which horse would do what, but I know that it was necessary to "hamstring" them (as we call it today) to be certain they could properly perform their duties.  How does that apply in my life?  Lately, I've felt a little hamstrung.  This is because God has been teaching me a new way to think.  I've already written about how God has been dealing with me on family issues.  I had been putting everyone else first, thinking I was serving God, and putting my family and particularly my husband last.  My housework was never getting done, my husband (who never complains or gripes at me) was silently bearing my gripes and complaints because of my frustrations at never getting everything done. My children were used to walking on crummy floors, waiting for wet underwear to finish in the dryer because Mommy was behind on laundry, searching for any school supplies buried under bills and papers.  This has been my life.  And I've hated it.  It is not that I'm not organized.  It is just that I had neglected my duties at home for so long that everything kept piling up.  I wasn't trying to neglect them, I just was running around doing everything else that I left little time to do things here.  I just kept thinking, well, the housework will always be there.  And will always be there.  And will always be there.  And it still is here.  But the problem is now I am playing catch up.  Now I'm having to train my children to do better.  Now they are bewildered by my orders to put the shoes away or hang up their coats or clear the table.  They just left all that before and Mommy didn't seem to mind.  Actually, Mommy always minded but when there was so much to be done, it didn't seem like those little things would make much difference.  I'm making new habits.  But it has meant not running around doing everything for everyone else.  It doesn't mean that I will not help out with other things.  But it means that I must make time to keep my family in order.  It has been difficult for me.  Whenever I see a need, I want to fill it.  But my family needs me too.
     This is why I say I have felt that God has cut my hamstrings.  But this isn't a bad thing.  I mean, He really could have slowed me down in a physical way if He had wanted to.  He has shown me the error of my ways, and I am learning to slow down myself instead of God putting some kind of physical impairment in my path to force me.  He could hamstring me, or He could let an enemy do that.  Since an enemy would only do this to harm or destroy me, I think I would prefer to let God do it.  Also, David used some of those houghed horses to drive his own chariots.  If they were still running wild, hamstrings intact, it would have been difficult for them to serve him.  This is how I have to view my limited mobility in serving others.  It is not that I can't still do that, but I need to stop being the wild stallion who gallops off in every direction, unwilling to be tamed.  I have had to be domesticated.  It is the tamed horses that David chose to drive his chariot.  Instead of bemoaning this process, I am trying to embrace it, realizing that God is still working with and in me.  He may have me going at a slower pace, but I am still moving in the right direction.  Some of those hamstrung horses were warriors.  Some of them were David's escorts.  Right now, I feel like the escort horse instead of the warrior horse.  But when I'm ready, when my family is ready, I can go out onto the battlefield again.  For now, I'm content to stay bridled to God's chariot and let Him take the reins.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Quiet Heart

Today's passage:  II Samuel 7
     David can rest.  At long last, many of his immediate enemies have been put down.  Israel and Judah have been reunited after over seven years of following separate kings.  Strategies planned, armies trained, battles won.  These things have taken up a lot of David's time.  Ever since leaving those Bethlehem fields, David has been moving.  Moving towards a giant, moving out of range from Saul's javelin, moving through the wilderness with his mighty men, moving against his enemies to hang on to his throne.  When has David had time to be still? In his shepherding days, he had a lot of that.  He had time to meditate, play his harp, dwell on God's goodness. Since that time, he hasn't really been able to stop.  This is not sin, by the way.  He also has a family who requires his time (of course, had he chosen to stick with just one wife, that might have alleviated some responsibility--poor decision making that cost him in more than one way).  We all go through seasons of life when we can meditate more on God.
David tells Nathan his desire to build a Temple for God--Taken from  Standard Bible Story Readers (Book Six)
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1929
     I have been reflecting on that lately.  It seems no matter how early I get up, I can never seem to get these finished without boys up and screaming in the background.  I feel guilty, because I want to have my time with God, and yet I shouldn't neglect my kids either.  God has given me these three lives, and they don't understand that Mommy on the computer is time with God.  Why would they?  It just looks like I'm playing around on the computer.  So then, some days I'm rushing trying to put something up here, not really feeling proud of what I have written because the quality isn't to my liking, or I can't seem to capture that central idea.  When I was in college, I had more time to sit and listen.  Not so much anymore.  But do you know what?  God knows I try.  I don't think He is unhappy with the time I spend with Him.  He knows it is different now.  He knows that part of my quiet time is not going to be quiet.  He knows that as early as I try to meet Him in the morning, my boys may get up just as early to meet me.  I guess that is why this first verse in Chapter 7 really speaks to me.  David finally had time to rest.  God had accomplished a lot in his life.  There were things that had to be handled, had to be addressed.  David was not sinning in doing any of those things.  It just left little time for meditation.
      My sister gave a devotion recently at a sister-in-law's baby shower that really stuck with me.  "Don't wish things away."  Her point was that as new Mommies, as much as we treasure that little one, we spend a lot of time wishing for the next phase.  I have done that a time or two.  She has four beautiful children, and the youngest just started school this year.  I know it has been a difficult transition for her.  I don't want to wish away these mornings when my children get up and need me, that I have to hurry up and get finished to help them start their day.  All too soon, there will be time for that.  In short time, they will be getting ready on their own.  My oldest is already doing that more than I would care to think.  Someday I will be able to read, sit and listen.  Someday I will be happier with what I have posted.  Someday I will be able to hear God speaking to me in my heart because I have not been handling and addressing boys fighting or mismatched socks, or growling tummies.  Those days will come.  And then I will be wishing for more interruptions.  A quiet heart is good.  It is satisfying.  But so is the noise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Miserable Michal

Today's passage:  II  Samuel 6
     David's wife, Michal, did not have the advantage of reading many of the verses in Proverbs.  But I believe she had the examples of many women who had gone before her. I'm sure that those women told her how a wife ought to behave.  Solomon may have observed Michal's behavior, or many of his father's wives, years before God chose him to write these words.   He also had the experience of having numerous wives himself, and I'm guessing that probably a few of those thousand fell into these categories:
"A foolish woman is clamorous:  she is simple, and knoweth nothing."  Proverbs 9:13
"A jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion."  Proverbs 11:22 
  "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband:  but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones."  Proverbs 12:4 
"It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house."  Proverbs 21:9
"It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman."  Proverbs 19:19
"It is better to dwell in a the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house."  Proverbs 25:24
"A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike."  Proverbs 27:15
"For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:...For an odious woman when she is married..."  Proverbs 30:21, 23a
     Am I the only one who has ever been a Michal?  I hope I am not alone in this.  I hope, however, I am alone in how often I have been like her.  David's love for God is enthusiastic.  His love for God is sometimes uncontained.  The ark of God is about to arrive.  David's excitement is at fever pitch.  He starts to dance and sing with the people.  He is handing out bread, meat and wine by way of celebration.  He is so happy to finally have the ark of God back where it belongs.  Is it no wonder David is zealously celebrating?  He abandons his kingly robes in favor of being like one of the commoners.  This day, he is making a point that they are all alike.  And in God's eyes, they are.  He wants the people he rules over to understand that when it comes to Jehovah worship, they all come to God the same way.
David Celebrates Before the Ark--Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D. D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     Michal has been watching.  She is embarrassed and humiliated by David's behavior.  I think she may be a little jealous too.  For some reason, she can not join in his abandon.  She can not throw off her reserve and allow herself to be so free.  She wants to maintain control.  Always control.
     When David arrives home, had she greeted him differently, he might have swooped her up in his arms and swung her around, carrying her out into the street and dancing with her.  Instead, it is like being slapped in the face.  She reviles him.  She glares at him.  She rolls her eyes and sneers at what she deems a disgusting display.  Can you imagine his bewilderment?  Moments before, he was dancing and celebrating, at the height of worship, and in a few seconds he is plunged into ridicule.  Perhaps, this is why God allowed Saul to break his promise to David.  Perhaps, God knew that Michal would be a hindrance to David and allowed Saul to marry her off to that other fellow.  It was David's choice to go after her when he became king.  It was David's choice to have his servants fetch her.  I think God knew better.  David feels his bones rotting already.  How sad!  What was Michal's problem?  Because David did not worship God the way she felt it was to be done?  When did she ever give God worship anyhow?  And when did she become the expert on how worship should be demonstrated?
     I'm sorry to say, I have too often been like this contentious, brawling woman.  She did not have access to  the many verses in Proverbs that I have.  What is my excuse?  When did I become my husband's Holy Spirit?  When did I have divine revelation from God as to all things spiritual?  When did I become his mother?  I can read Michal's response to her husband and think, "If she would have just let him celebrate."  If she couldn't do so herself, let him have his moment.  Why do so many of us feel compelled to make our husband's do things in what we think is the right way?  And what is David's reaction to Michal?  Her behavior does not achieve the desired result.  I'm trying to think of any time that I have talked to my husband disrespectfully and it produced a closer walk in our marriage.  No, I may have gotten my way at times, but not without resistance or without eroding my husband's authority.  Why do I always feel I am right, and he is wrong?  I am always wrong when I am not submitting to him.  I have come a long way from our first years of marriage, when all I ever did was bark and expect him to follow my orders like a drill sergeant and his cadet.  But I have a very long way to go.  I'm sure the people nearby who heard Michal's derision of their king, rolled their eyes and thought, "Here she goes again."  How awful.  Michal was not earning respect as their queen.  She may have thought this attack would change the people's hearts towards their king, but she was diminishing respect for herself.
     Michal is exactly the wife men do not want to have.  Michal is exactly the woman I do not want to be.  She is that drip drip of rain.  She is the brawler whose voice echoes throughout the palace.  Who wants to be her?  Raising and waving my hand wildly here, "I don't, I don't."
     "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD."  Proverbs 18:22

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Today's passage:  II Samuel 5
     The Philistines were still not convinced that Israel's God is greater.  When David (years ago by this point) killed their most ferocious warrior, they believed it to be one battle of many battles that Israel happened to win. I don't say this simply because they come up against now King David here in this chapter.  I say this because of what I read in verse 21.  After David prays and asks God if he should go up against the Philistines, which God approves, the Israelites are once again able to pummel the Philistines.  One thing I wonder about here.  In chapter 17, we don't see David asking God if he should go up against Goliath.  These are the same Philistines, why would he ask here?  I think in that instance, it was only him.  He wasn't in charge of an army.  He knew that Goliath had challenged God's power, and David was willing to sacrifice himself to take down anyone who defied the living God.  In this case, he is now the commander-in-chief over hundreds of men.  To simply assume God will be with them is not a risk David is willing to take with other lives involved.  If it had only been him, he may have taken that chance.  After all, just like Joshua and Ai, just because David's heart was right, didn't mean that the hearts of his soldiers were right, and a slaughter because there was "sin in the camp" would have significant consequences.  David prays, God says yes, the Israelites destroy.

  "And there they left their images, and David burned them."  Why would the Philistines bring their idols with them?  My guess is that they wanted to prove to Israel that their gods were far more powerful than Jehovah God.  This was more than just a battle between two nations over territorial rights, over land disputes.  This was a battle to find out whose God was Sovereign.  And anytime that kind of battle takes place, God will always win.  David uses them to build a bonfire.  Perhaps when the remainder of the Philistines see a fire in the city, they assume their men have been successful, because a second regiment goes in against David's army
.  This time, God tells David to wait.  He tells him to send some troops in behind them and wait for the signal of the moving mulberry trees.  God says He will go out before them, and He will destroy them.  David follows God's instructions and the Philistines soon wish they had never challenged Israel's God.  Again.
     The Philistines may have thought that since so much time had passed, that since they brought their gods with them, that they would be able to conquer Israel.  But Israel's God is constant.  He is always powerful, not just when His people are faithful to Him.  His power is not dependent on our submission.  Their gods only performed for them, and they could never be sure when something they had or had not done might "change" their gods' minds.  I'm grateful for a God who is unchanging, unaltered, unwavering in His love for me.  I'm proud to serve a God I can rely on no matter how much time has passed.  And I'm certain that David recognized that about his God as well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Peace and Paranoia

Today's passage:  II  Samuel 4
     The Israelites would soon learn that they were serving under a very different king.  After Abner's death, Ish-bosheth is afraid for his life and his kingdom.  He depended on Abner's counsel.  Actually, I think he depended on Abner's decisions, since it doesn't appear Ish-bosheth ever makes one.  He will not get a chance to prove he can do things without Abner's help either, because two of his father's military men murder him in his own bed.  They had apparently not heard what happened to the Amalekite who assisted, or said he assisted, in Saul's demise.  They believe this action against Ish-bosheth will result in David's confidence.  Saul would have rewarded them for such an act (well, maybe not against his own son).  They were used to working for a king who pursued enemies, real or invisible.  They had been accustomed to alleviating paranoia by eliminating any potential threats to the throne.  They think they are showing loyalty, but it will not be a brand of loyalty David appreciates or rewards.
     When these men present Ish-bosheth's trophy head to David, he responds by having these same men's hands and feet cut off, and then hanging their bodies for display above a pool.  I'm thinking this is probably not what they were expecting.  David wants to send a clear message, since the Amalekite's death did not seem to do the job, that the new king will not tolerate anyone who takes these matters into their own hands.
     What was the main difference between Saul and David?  Saul encouraged his men to destroy his enemies, even if he just believed them to oppose him.  David trusted God to take care of the opposition.  David knew that God had placed him on the throne.  He trusted that if God had put him there, then God would handle those who tried to usurp him.  David is not a worrier.  He does not pace the floor, wondering when the rest of the tribes will fall in line and recognize his leadership.  He leaves those things to the Lord.  This is not to say he didn't have armed guards or watchkeepers.  This does not mean he didn't have a military strategy in place should enemies storm the castle.  He would defend his kingdom, but he did not see the need to go on the offense, and mow down regents or anyone else in Saul's line who might be Ish-bosheth's successor.
     Saul, on the other hand seemed consumed with securing his throne.  He could not rest easily unless he or his men were pursuing any threats to his reign.  Perhaps, he never really felt confident that God had put him in that position.  I only know that Saul and David's  approach was different because their trust was different.  Saul believed it was his kingship.  David believed it was His kingship. 
    That one letter changes a person's perspective. When I leave everything in His hands, I don't have to worry about my enemies, my opposers, my critics.  God will take care of those who try to sully my name, who make false accusations, who paint me in a bad light.  Should I be ousted from my position, if He is the One who put me in it to begin with, I have to trust that He knows what He is doing and is taking me out of that position for a little while.  I don't have to go looking for my enemies, they will always be around.  But God could be using them in my life to either build up my faith in Him, to allow me to be a witness to them, or to show His strength and His ability to handle the situation.   David trusted in God when he was on the throne, before he was on the throne, and during the times he was taken off the throne.  He always knew that if it was God's plan, he would be put back in his rightful place, and if it was not God's plan, than His plan was better.  With that perspective, with that foresight, David was able to be one of Israel's greatest kings.  He made mistakes, he wasn't perfect, but David trusted God to even help him in his messes.  God can help me in mine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trust Issues

Today's passage:  II Samuel 3
      Abner was a crafty fellow.  He obviously was in this king-making business for how it benefitted him.  Most people in politics are in it for what they can get, and I think that is why we become so disillusioned with them.  Backroom deals, compromises, loophole promises pave the way for power and influence.  Abner was no exception to these schemes.  "Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David:  but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker."  Abner is on a sinking ship, and he knows it.  The numbers would seem to be in Ish-bosheth's favor.  After all, most of the tribes had gone with him.  But God was on David's side, and that makes up for any weakness in numbers.  When Ish-bosheth accuses Abner of a liaison with his father's concubine, Abner makes a great deal of being offended.  He makes it clear to Ish-bosheth that all he need do is say the word and Ish-bosheth will be ousted.  It is obvious who is running the show.  I think Abner was looking for any excuse to go work for David.  David's kingdom was on the rise, and Abner now realizes he picked the wrong side.  He also remembers what happened at Gibeon.  He knows that Joab will never rest until he has avenged the death of his brother, Asahel.  Ish-bosheth knows that Abner can dethrone him and doesn't push the concubine matter any farther.
     Still, Abner decides to do some under-the-table dealings anyway.  He contacts David and assures him of his allegiance, and the future allegiance of the other tribes.  David accepts with the condition that Abner will bring Michal, the wife Saul had promised to him so long ago but then married off to someone else.  David feels it is time that Saul's promise be honored.  So Abner arrives, treated like a guest.  It is fortunate for him that Joab and his men are in battle, because he may have not been received so graciously.  Abner leaves with an assurance from David that he will leave in peace.  I believe this is all Abner was really after.  Unlike that other king, Ish-bosheth, David was in command of his men.  Abner knows this.  He knows that if David makes a promise, it will be kept.  He knows that if David says to withhold harm from Abner, he will be given safe passage. 
     When Joab gets word of Abner's visit, treated like a respected ambassador, Joab is furious.  He confronts David about the matter.  He tells David he is being played, just as Ish-bosheth had been.  David apparently does not give Joab the answers he is looking for, because Joab sends servants to retrieve Abner, without David's knowledge. 
     Under other circumstances, Abner might have had cause for concern.  But he knows David.  This is the man who spared Saul's life in the cave.  This is the man who tiptoed around Abner's sleeping men to confiscate Saul's spear and water canteen.  Abner had become quite familiar with David's character.  He knew that he was not given to deceit or masquerades.  So when Joab requests a private conversation with Abner, Abner doesn't worry.  I'm sure he smiled smugly at Joab, knowing there was little Joab could do.  Although Abner may have known David's character, he obviously did not know Joab's.  Joab takes Abner's life in the same style Abner had taken his brother's. 
     When David learns of the news, he orders Joab to mourn this man.  Joab had his revenge, but Abner will have the last play.  Joab must humiliate himself by being respectful of this man's death.  The man who had murdered his brother would be given a statesmen's burial.  I'm surprised that David does not require a more stringent punishment upon Joab.  This action would make it appear that Joab was calling the shots.  It might make David appear weak.  It might make people question David's word.  But Joab is also family.  He is David's nephew.  Asahel was David's nephew.  Maybe just a little part of him knew that Abner got what was coming.  So for now, Joab is spared any further punishment. 
     Abner played the political game.  His allegiance was with whoever he thought was the rising star at the time.  When it was Saul, he was loyal to Saul.  When he thought it would be Ish-bosheth, he was loyal to Ish-bosheth.  Now that David's influence had increased, he became loyal to David.  In reality, he was only loyal to himself.  Shifting allegiances make a lot of enemies.  Abner thought if he befriended his enemies, that would cause them to forget their grievances, or at least be controlled by them.  He thought he had cleverly ingratiated himself to David enough that his nephew could only follow his lead.  He didn't take into account that like himself, Joab had a mind of his own.  He didn't trust Joab, but he trusted his pact with David, and he assumed that Joab was loyalty bound as David was.  It was his undoing. 
     This is what David says at Abner's memorial:  "Died Abner as a fool dieth?  Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters:  as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou."  Abner's life and death are reminders that we can never be too sure of others.  Our trust is only entirely safe in one place.  In Him.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Games People Play

Today's passage:  II Samuel 2
     At long last, David becomes king.  Of Judah, that is.  Despite what Saul's military captain, Abner, already knew, he decided to take matters into his own hands.  He staged a sort of coup by convincing Saul's still living son, Ish-bosheth, that he should be the next ruler.  He secures Ish-bosheth across the Jordan River in Mahanaim, Manasseh country.  He is then able to procure the loyalty of all the remaining tribes, installing Ish-bosheth as the king over the whole of Israel.  Only Judah recognizes David as king.
      It is amazing what people will do, even though they know what God's will is.  I'm not talking about when we are not sure.  I'm not talking about when we take step by step by faith because we are waiting on God to show us what to do.  I'm talking about when God has clearly shown us, and we think by doing the exact opposite, we are somehow going to change what God intended.  Abner, like his leader before him, did not bother to ask God for wisdom in this matter.  All Abner could see was that his power and control were about to end.  Maybe he even thought he was in danger because he had been Saul's number one guy.  He didn't know David very well.  Abner had been a loyal servant to Saul.  David set great store by loyalty.  The likelihood that Abner would have been rewarded, maybe even promoted was pretty high.  This stunt would cost him.  Had Abner asked God what should be done, he may have been given a pension and been enjoying retirement.  But Abner seems to be an ambitious man.  I don't know that Ish-bosheth had any plans of taking the throne when his father died.  I'm sure he had been told by more than one person that David was to be the next king.  That this is what God had ordered.  I can't believe that Abner did not know this too.  But the hunger for power can be devouring.  With the support from the lead strategist from his father's household, it was probably not a stretch for Ish-bosheth to imagine that they could pull off this coup.  Here is where the power struggle really begins.
     David's military man, Joab, and Abner meet in Gibeon.  They size each other up.  They evaluate each other's armies.  "And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us.  And Joab said, Let them arise."  Abner views this meeting as a chess match.  Both sides have kings. Who will declare "Checkmate"? Joab and Abner play bishop, rook or knight, and the rest of the soldiers are pawns in their little game.  How many casualties will there be?  How many men will be taken out, turn by turn before one is declared the winner?  Abner's army seems to be losing the match at one point.  Then Joab's brother, Asahel, another important piece, pursues after Abner.  He is determined to take him out of the game.  He ignores Abner's taunts and distractions, focused on eliminating this very important player.  But Abner makes the better move, and slays Asahel.  Abner knows Joab will come back with his fiercest move yet, but sometimes anger fuels us, and sometimes it backfires on us.  Abner knows this, and is counting on the latter.  Joab continues the pursuit, causing Abner to retreat into a defensive position.  As Abner gets closer to Ish-bosheth country, he is reinforced by Benjamin's tribe.  Joab has to settle for a stalemate.  Another game will have to be played another day.  He is not willing to lose any more men on this day.  Losing a brother was enough.  So, Abner returns to his king, and Joab returns to his.  Both men, more intent on playing a game than seeing the loss of life, until one of those lives was dear.  Joab and his remaining men bury his brother.  It is a sad reminder that war costs something. 
     I know that some believe that leaders play political games with soldier's lives.  And while that may be true in other countries, I have never thought it to be the case in America.  I don't believe it was a game to David, but I'm pretty sure Abner was not in the least concerned about his men, as long as he came out on the winning side.  In some countries, militia are used as pawns in a chess match.  And although many have accused our country of doing the same thing, I refuse to believe that.  Maybe I'm ignorant, but I'm convinced that when our military has to make a move, it really is to protect our interests, and to protect freedom.  I'm not saying that every display of our military power is always the best move, but I have never believed that our leaders have ever dealt carelessly with those lives, willing to throw them away as long as we win.  I don't believe that of our current President, and I don't believe that of our former President.  I don't believe that of our generals.  There are always power-hungry people, but as the daughter of a military man who served under some pretty high-ranking officials during his career, even though in a relative time of peace, I knew the character of some of these individuals, and I know they only had the best interests of the country and those who served under them.
     Ish-bosheth seemed to be a puppet king, succumbing to the string-pulling of his father's military captain.  Abner refuses to yield to God's will, and although he returned home safely, many of his men gave their lives for a fruitless cause.  That is selfishness at its highest, and though I haven't read ahead, I'm guessing that Abner will be taken out of the game in the next match.  The best move?  Heed God's will when we know it.  Ignoring it, avoiding it, fighting against it never plays out the way we planned.  God's strategy is always best, and we can never outplay Him.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lasting Loyalty

Today's passage:  II Samuel 1
     At the end of I Samuel, Saul is killed (see post:  Comparatively).  In the beginning of II Samuel, David is just receiving this news.  An Amalekite emerges from the Israelite camp, appropriate mourning attire, reporting that King Saul and his son are dead.  This fellow has a definite agenda.  I can tell this because he knows to go straight to David (who is to be the next king) with this information.  He also thinks he knows that David will be overjoyed at this news.  Who wouldn't?  The man who had been pursuing David for years was now dead.  His son, Jonathan, who should be next in line for the throne is also dead.  This means two things for David.  He can stop running.  And he is about to become the next king of Israel. 
Picture in Public Domain from Standard Bible Story Reader, Book Three by Lillie A. Farris
Illustrated by O. A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland, The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     I've read a lot of books about England's kings and queens, the intrigue and power struggles at court, and it seems that the successor is always a little happy about the death of the previous monarch.  Usually they put on a good show about being sad, but they were often pretty excited about making their own mark on the country.  Although the events in II Samuel take place well before European courts, wouldn't it stand to reason that a lot of posturing was already taking place?  Weren't people already elbowing for the king's favor?  Didn't they all want to find grace and hopefully lands, titles, wealth under the new king?  I'm pretty sure this Amalekite did.  This is why he makes it clear to David, that although Saul fell on his own sword, he finished him off.  He doesn't say this joyfully, but I have no doubts that a smirk dwells under the frown.  He misjudges David.  A normal person would reward this man for disposing of his enemy and propelling him towards the monarchy.  But David was no ordinary man.  He had an extraordinary loyalty, not only to God, but to the man God placed as king.  A king who was often not worthy of his devotion.  A king who only wanted him dead.  A king who was disobedient to God.  And yet, he was still the king.  David does not reward this Amalekite.  He has him killed.  This man thought he would be showered with affection, with favors. I'm sure Amalekite kings would have done that for him.  He did not understand David, or David's God.
     This passage convicts me about our own leaders.  I have said before that I should pray more earnestly for them.  But I should also give them my allegiance while they are in office.  This doesn't mean I will agree with them, or agree with their decisions.  But I should be respectful, not speaking malicious words or wishing for bad things to happen to them.  David never once wished for Saul's death.  Why not?  I think probably because he knew him personally.  It would be easy for David's mighty men to be critical and harsh against Saul.  All they could see were his negatives.  And although David knew those things about Saul too, he had lived with him in the palace and knew there was more to the man. I think it is far easier to be critical of a man's actions when you don't know him, than when you do.  Not that I'm expecting to form bonds of friendship with my mayor or the President.  That is highly unlikely.  They are not evil villains, just as the men before them were not evil villains.  They are in positions of leadership that can change the course of our cities and country.  Sometimes they will make very bad decisions, as all leaders do.  Sometimes they will make very good decisions, and we should acknowledge when they do.  Either way, judging every move they make, threatening to move out of the country (still by far, the greatest country in the world), vowing to bring these men down, questioning their motives behind even their good decisions is not being a loyal citizen.  I'm sure David disagreed with Saul far more than he agreed.  He probably made a list of the things he would do differently as king.  The difference in what I see today is that David kept that list to himself.  If he had announced it to his men, if he acquired a megaphone and shouted it from the caves, it might have caused dissatisfaction among the people.  They may have rioted, they may have tried to get David on the throne sooner.  David knew it was not his time until God said so, not when the people said so.  We have an election every four years.  Campaign season has already started, but the dissatisfaction started as soon as the new President took office, and actually when election night results had been viewed.  I'm not saying I rejoiced at those results.  I have pretty much disagreed with just about everything our present President has done.  That is my right.  But I also believe, God has allowed him to lead our country for the time being, and agreeing or disagreeing, he is my President too.  Just as our city has elected a new mayor (who happens to hail from the present Presidential administration) and who has already made some controversial decisions with which I disagree, he is still my mayor.  I should pray for him.  I should be a good citizen for him (at least until the next election, when I can choose to vote for someone else).  But until I cast my vote in the booth, weighing decisions of new candidates, I need to be careful that I am not trash talking my current leaders.  Disagree with them, yes.  But respectfully.  And I find far too little of that, even in Christian circles.  David was loyal.  He would not tolerate insubordination to the man God put on the throne.  We may want to argue that God did not put "that man" in the White House or in the Governor's Mansion or in City Hall, but now that God allows us to make those decisions, He has had a hand in it.  We have to trust that God knows what He is doing, just as David trusted God.  And until we have an opportunity to make a new decision, we should be as loyal as David, and should encourage others to be loyal too.
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