Posts Tagged 'David'

David and Solomon, Part 1

Israel was never supposed to have a king. In God’s plan, Israel was supposed to be a completely different of nation from any nation on earth. According to Greg Boyd –

Functioning as a microcosm of humanity, and as part of their priestly-servant role to other nations, it seems God wanted to manifest his original plan for humanity by raising up a nation that had no need of a human king, for they had God as their king. According to the biblical narrative, this is how it was for the first several hundred years after their deliverance from Egypt. Moreover, throughout the OT we find the Lord commanding his people to place no trust in human rulers, weapons or armies, but to rather find all their security in him.

That Israel ended up with the likes of King David was a concession of God to His stubborn people. Read carefully what Moses said to the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert wilderness –

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us…” (Deuteronomy 17:14 | NIV84)

That’s a concession; that’s not what God ever wanted for His people, look at the wording carefully: “Let US set a king over us like all the nations around us.” But they weren’t supposed to be anything like the nations around them; Israel was created to be different, yet they wanted to be just like everybody else. That was their downfall. Back to Moses, here was how the king of Israel was to behave –

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:16-17 | NIV84)

Good luck with that! Israel wanted a king and God let them have one. Saul, their first king, was a real piece of work. Mentally disturbed doesn’t begin to describe King Saul. Things didn’t end very well for him –

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. (1 Samuel 31:4 | NIV84)

Even though Israel’s desire for a king wasn’t what God wanted for them, He could still work through a king, and God set in motion events that put His man on the throne.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”(1 Samuel 16:1 | NIV84)

God chooses David, 1 Samuel 16:1 – 13

Samuel, Israel’s national and beloved prophet, was devastated that God had rejected Saul, but God wouldn’t let him sit around in his misery for long. He was given a new mission. Saul’s dynasty would not be allowed to continue. If Israel would have another king, Samuel would have to leave the past behind and move forward. Moving forward brought Samuel to Bethlehem. The Lord’s choice for Saul’s successor would be found among the eight sons of Jesse. Jesse was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. In an interesting twist of history, Ruth was a Moabitess and Boaz’s mother was also from outside of Israel. Her mother was Rahab of Jericho.

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,Obed the father of Jesse,6 and Jesse the father of King David. (Matthew 1:5-6a | NIV84)

It was tricky for Samuel to obey God’s directions in verse one. To go to Bethlehem from Ramah, Samuel would have to pass through Gibea, Saul’s capital. Given Saul’s mental and spiritual decay, he was taking his life in his hands. Samuel didn’t exactly lie to Jesse, but there was a little subterfuge going on –

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”. (1 Samuel 16:2-3 | NIV84)

The sons of Jesse paraded in front of Samuel but the prophet was given some advice from the Lord:

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.”. (1 Samuel 16:7 | NIV84)

God’s standards are certainly not the same as ours! We are quick to judge by appearances, but appearances can be very misleading. And yet, oddly enough, when they finally got around to the son God wanted, we read this –

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.”. (1 Samuel 16:12 | NIV84)

God chose the handsome one after all. But it was what was inside David that counted. God doesn’t look for people that look good or are of a certain height and weight or age, rank or position. God chooses whom He will and He sets His Spirit in those whom He accepts.

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13 | NIV84)

David’s confidence in God, 1 Samuel 17:32 – 54

Even though the events of chapter 17 seem to occur right after those of chapter 16, some years have passed between David’s anointing and his encounter with the giant, Goliath. By this time, Saul’s mental state had deteriorated greatly. His mood swings were wild, from depression to rage at a moment. This was God’s judgment on him for his willful, sinful disobedience. Far from a child, David was a young man in chapter 17 and we catch a glimpse of his ability to lead, rule, and inspire people. It also demonstrated that David was not only a man of unwavering faith in God, but also keen military strategist.

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. (1 Samuel 17:36 | NIV84)

David was anointed but was still waiting in the wings; Saul was still the king and David was still tending his father’s sheep back at Bethlehem. In verse 36, David was trying to convince King Saul that he could defeat the “uncircumcised Philistine.” Goliath was his name and he’s a bit of a mystery. He was a “giant,” probably clocking in at almost 10 feet tall. He was tall and powerful, arrogant and proud. He was probably a descendant of the sons of Anak, who had struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites before the conquered the Promised Land.

The people are strong and tall–Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” (Deuteronomy 9:2 | NIV84)

Apparently David thought he could stand up against one Anakite: Goliath! But David’s “self-confidence” wasn’t based in his abilities. He was riled up against Goliath because Goliath was defying “the armies of God,” or, in effect, God Himself. David’s confidence was in God, not in himself even though he had already demonstrated his skills in defeating adversaries, such as lions and bears.

When David faced Goliath with no armor on, and no weapons in his hands save a slingshot and some smooth stones, the giant’s pride was offended. He cursed David, but David stood his ground and warned Goliath that the giant’s time on earth was quickly running out. And then he announced the theological purpose of is mission.

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands. (1 Samuel 17:47 | NIV84)

David’s guaranteed victory over Goliath was going to be so much more than that. It was to demonstrate to the Philistines – and others – that God exists and that He will deliver His people no matter what. The size of an enemy’s army or the strength of their weapons is of no consequence. This victory did just that, and it also showed David’s true character. The victory was the Lord’s, not his, and everybody knew it. He made his faith known and he inspired others.

You may wonder if David was afraid facing this giant. He wouldn’t be a human being if wasn’t! But David knew the secret of winning a battle. Sinclair Ferguson, Scottish Reformed theologian, remarked,

The fear of the Lord tends to take away all other fears. This is the secret of Christian courage and boldness.

Not only that, there’s also this:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools a despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7 | NIV84)

And onlookers, including crazy King Saul, could see that David feared God more than he feared man and they sensed that there was something very special about this young man.

David increases in knowledge and influence, 1 Samuel 18, various verses

The sun was setting fast on Saul’s dynasty while David’s star was rising.

When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns. (1 Samuel 18:15, 16 | NIV84)

David’s fear of the Lord was bringing him victory upon victory over Israel’s enemies, and he was being noticed and respected. Saul, on the other hand, feared David, and his sanity slowly slipped away. To Saul, David became THE enemy, and he tried to kill David repeatedly.

And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day an evil c spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. (1 Samuel 18:9 – 11 | NIV84)

Reading the accounts of Saul’s attempts on David’s life, it’s tempting to chuckle. Saul had become a pathetic character. Saul even put David on the front lines of battle, apparently hoping he’d be killed. The exact opposite happened. Saul just couldn’t kill David. Saul imagined that David was his enemy, but in reality Saul had no better friend than David. He was loyal to the king and made sure the king wasn’t killed by the enemy. He treated crazy, dangerous King Saul with courtesy and respect even though he certainly didn’t deserve it. The Lord, who had abandoned Saul, was with David and He blessed David continuously.

 

 

God Chooses the King

091908-Ballot-Box

Life never just happens. It may seem like random events occurring randomly, but there is nothing random about life. The Bible tells us that God is intimately involved in the lives of His people.

The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand. (Psalm 37:23, 24 TLB)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14 TLB)

God’s ways of leading are as numerous as the number of people He leads. Sometimes His guidance is obvious, other times He speaks in a “still, small voice.” But lead His people God always does.

This is even true in our civic and spiritual leaders. We hold elections, of course, but the Bible decrees we get the leaders we deserve. That’s not to say our vote isn’t important, but God has a plan and He knows what, or who, is best for us. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a certain person has been called by God to pastor a church or why another has been called to be a mechanic. For reasons and purposes known only to God, He puts the right people in the right place for the good of His people and the advancement of His plan on earth.

During Samuel’s time as Israel’s judge and prophet, the people clamored for a king. God Himself was to be Israel’s king, but He relented, gave them one, and the people chose Saul. Saul looked like he walked right out Central Casting. He looked like a king. His heart, though, was the heart of coward and a scoundrel. Saul was a disaster. Israel’s next king was chosen specifically by God Himself. David, apparently, didn’t look like a king at all. But David had one quality Saul never possessed: He met God’s spiritual standard.

Sadness leads to an opportunity

Samuel never saw Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him; and the Lord was sorry that he had ever made Saul king of Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 TLB)

Saul was an unmitigated disaster as a king, but his sad state broke both the hearts of Samuel and the Lord. It no doubt sickened the Lord to see the damage one, rebellious man could inflict upon His people. Because of Saul’s stubborn refusal to do what he was told, Israel’s very future as a nation would be put in jeopardy. The unintended consequences of our disobedience to God can be equally as devastating. No wonder God and Samuel were so mournful.

Saul’s failure became an opportunity for God to act; for God to do something great for His people. He was fair. God gave the people a chance to choose their own king. Now He would choose one for them. God’s king would have a big job to do. He would not only have to lead a spiritually dull people, but he would have to clean up Saul’s mess.

Finally the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul, for I have rejected him as king of Israel. Now take a vial of olive oil and go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse, for I have selected one of his sons to be the new king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Then call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint.” (1 Samuel 16:1 – 3 TLB)

The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Samuel mourned for Saul; how long his bitter disappointment and depression lasted, but it had to come to an end. It ended with a new plan. This time, God Himself would choose Israel’s new king. The Lord didn’t intend to give Saul yet another chance to get it right. In fact, God had given Saul many chances, yet each time Saul acted in a rebellious manner. God was finished with Saul and it was time for Saul’s tenure on the throne to wind down. In chapter 16, we see God finding a way to slip His man into the royal house. God will brilliantly contrast David and Saul so that even the people will see the difference. The people needed to see how they failed in choosing a man based on something as slim as appearance, and Saul needed to see what God’s man really looked like.

It would be an awkward time, and Samuel was concerned for his life. Saul was, at best, highly unstable. He couldn’t be trusted. But Samuel had to trust God. His anointing of one of Jesse’s sons would take place in public, so the Lord concocted a stealth plan. B.B. Warfield observed,

Nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without God’s ordering, or without its particular fitness for it place in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise.

God’s clever plan

Like it or not, Samuel was a sort of celebrity in his time, and his arrival in the little town caused quite a ruckus.

So Samuel did as the Lord had told him to. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the city came trembling to meet him.

“What is wrong?” they asked. “Why have you come?”

But he replied, “All is well. I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.”

And he performed the purification rite on Jesse and his sons, and invited them too. (1 Samuel 16:4, 5 TLB)

Jesse and his family lived in Bethlehem. Jesse, as it turned out, was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth, the Moabitess. In an ironic twist, the mother of Boaz was also not an Israelite. She was a prostitute from Jericho named Rahab, a point not missed by Matthew, who mentions it in his genealogy of Jesus.

Samuel knew that the next king would be one of Jesse’s boys, and he was pretty sure he knew which one it would be. He was wrong. As spiritual as he was, he was still not living by faith. He was undoubtedly obedient to God, but slightly carnal in his thinking. God set him straight, though.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by a man’s face or height, for this is not the one. I don’t make decisions the way you do! Men judge by outward appearance, but I look at a man’s thoughts and intentions.” (1 Samuel 16:7 TLB)

This is a classic verse that explains the inner workings of God’s reasoning mind. In this chapter we are given some powerful spiritual principles. In the previous chapter, we were given another classic verse:

“Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him.” (1 Samuel 15:22 TLB)

Our love for Jesus Christ is measurable. We demonstrate our love for Him by being obedient to Him. There are lots of people, even Christians, who don’t understand this simple, yet profound principle. Telling Jesus that you love Him doesn’t count for a lot. You can say anything, but that proves nothing. What Jesus wants is precisely what Samuel told Saul. It not what we say about Jesus, it’s what we do. We manifest our love for Him by being obedient. The Christian life is reality, nothing else.

We learn something about God, too. He looks at us from the inside. He sees us as we really are, not as we appear to be. Character is vitally important to God. Samuel thought he knew whom God would choose, but Samuel couldn’t see inside Eliab, David’s older brother. Perhaps Eliab looked kingly, but he obviously didn’t have the heart for the job. It’s not that Eliab was a bad person, he just wasn’t God’s person.

God sees the heart. We human beings aren’t terribly good at doing that. Even Samuel, as close to God as he was, made the same mistake the people Israel did.

John Newton’s words are worth remembering:

God often takes a course for accomplishing His purposes directly contrary to what our narrow views would prescribe.

God makes His choice – the right choice

So Jesse sent for him. He was a fine looking boy, ruddy-faced, and with pleasant eyes. And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.” (1 Samuel 16:12 TLB)

Given the fact that God looks at the heart and isn’t concerned with appearance, this is a very curious verse. After what we were told, it seems as though God would choose a homely, unattractive man to be king. But we are told David was a “fine looking boy.” God doesn’t despise beauty. He can use anybody, and obviously there was a quality or qualities in David that nobody else saw, save the Lord. David may have been handsome, but that is not why God chose him. David is an interesting character. Of course we know that he failed God a number of times. Yet David possessed a faith that never failed.

So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the olive oil he had brought and poured it upon David’s head; and the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him and gave him great power from that day onward. Then Samuel returned to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13 TLB)

At the moment God’s Spirit came upon David, He left Saul. It seems as though David’s brothers were unaware of what this anointing ceremony was all about. Why would they even suspect that their younger brother had just been anointed king? He’s not the type they would have chosen.

But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking like that, he was angry. “What are you doing around here, anyway?” he demanded. “What about the sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know what a cocky brat you are; you just want to see the battle!” (1 Samuel 17:28 TLB)

God more than qualified David for the job to which he had been called.

Saul’s decline

Even though David had been anointed king, Saul was still on the throne. It wasn’t yet time for David to succeed him. Saul’s days were numbered, and he was in decline.

David continued to succeed in everything he undertook, for the Lord was with him. When King Saul saw this, he became even more afraid of him; but all Israel and Judah loved him, for he was as one of them. (1 Samuel 18:14 – 16 TLB)

As was noted earlier, it was important in God’s scheme of things for the people to see a clear difference between Saul and David; between their choice and His, between a man overcome by his passions and one full of the Spirit of God. After the Lord’s presence left Saul, his decline seemed to speed up. Saul was now completely forsaken of God, a choice Saul made and God honored. David was brought in the palace to play his harp. The people don’t know it yet, but they were listening to their new king.

ABRAHAM: JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

Romans 4

Paul had just taught a doctrine known as “justification by faith.” To the first century Christians he was writing to, this must have sounded too good to be true, especially among the Jews, where works were so important. What if there were some readers of this letter who thought this “justification by faith” was a brand-new doctrine? Back in 1:7, Paul made the declaration that in the Gospel a righteousness from God was “revealed.” This might well suggest to some that this “justification” was a new thing, invented during this new Christian era, maybe even by Paul himself. So, now, Paul takes his readers back to the Old Testament to point out to them that this was no new doctrine at all. In fact, it is as old as Abraham! Justification by faith is just another part of the continuing plan of God for the redemption of mankind through His eternal purposes in the work of His Son.

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (4:3)

Abraham, a man held in the highest esteem by Israel, had a right standing before God. This was achieved, teaches Paul, not through Abraham’s good works, but through faith. Abraham’s sin was placed on Christ’s account, and Christ paid the full price. What was true for Abraham is true for believers today. If we view our life of sin as a kind of debt we owe God, then Jesus assumed our debt and our account has been completely settled by Him.

Paul’s choice of Abraham as an illustration of a person being justified by faith is a stroke of sheer brilliance. The Jews respected Abraham—he was the father of their nation, after all! But he was also a Gentile—a pagan Chaldean—who was credited with righteousness as a result of his faith. The truth about Abraham, though, is that he, like any believer, is received by God, not on his own merit, in his own name, but in the rights and in the Name of Jesus Christ. Abraham did nothing to earn his declaration of righteousness.

1. Contradiction?

Is that message at odds with the teaching of James 2:21—24?

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

There really is no contradiction between the teachings of Paul and those of James; they are in reality two sides of the same coin. Romans 4:2 declares simply:

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.

The justification that Paul is talking about is “justification by faith”; it is being justified before God, not before man. James, on the other hand, is talking about the evidence of Paul’s justification. The person who claims to have saving (justifying) faith in Christ is obliged to prove it to the people around him. How does he do this? Unlike God, man cannot see this “justification by faith.” But man can see how we live our lives! So the proof of our new position in Christ and before God must be manifested in our good works.

Paul, in writing about Abraham’s being justified by faith, quotes from Genesis 15. James, in writing about Abraham’s works took his illustration from Genesis 22. This incident in Abraham’s life is further explained by the writer to the Hebrews:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:17—19)

What does teach us about justification by faith? Simply this: when we are justified by God, we are given a new position in Christ. It is up to us to live up that new position.

2. Wages and gifts

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. (verses 4, 5)

The the thing that distinguishes wages from gifts is work. Paul has established that justification by faith is a gift from God; it is undeserved and unearned by the one justified. This is the difference between wages and gifts: work. When a person works, he gets what he deserves—he exchanges his time and efforts for his employers money. In other words, the worker’s wages are an obligation to him from his employer. When a person does not work, there is no obligation for anybody to give that person anything. Anything that non-working person receives must be viewed as a gift; such is righteousness from God.

All of man’s work, his good work, is not good enough. No human being can live long enough to perform enough good deeds to tilt the scales anywhere near his favor, therefore, there is no obligation for that man to be paid a wage—he cannot be credited with the wage of righteousness. If a man is credited with righteousness, it is strictly because he has believed God; he has claimed God’s gift of salvation and God’s promises in faith.

3. David

David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (verses 6—8)

Abraham, a pagan Gentile who lived long before the Law, was justified by God. Now, Paul gives his readers another example of one justified by faith, but this time he uses a man born under the Law: David.

Verse 5 teaches that it is God who justifies the ungodly. Immediately after that, Paul begins a short discussion about David, a man we would never consider to be “ungodly!” What is Paul trying to get across to his readers? The key is the quote, taken from Psalm 32, verses 1 and 2. This psalm is David’s great “penitential psalm.” It is the confession of his great sin with Bathsheba and his acceptance of its consequences. Paul’s point in quoting this psalm is to illustrate that David’s works were evil; they were the acts of an ungodly man. What he did to Uriah and the sin of adultery were absolute evil in the sight of God. And yet David, because he experienced God’s forgiveness and justification, was able to write:

Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them… (Psalm 32:2)

Though David didn’t use the words, he is essentially describing what Paul is teaching: justification by faith! God treated David better than he deserved to be treated! God credited righteousness to David because his sins were forgiven. We know that David did nothing to merit this forgiveness except to exercise faith: he agreed with God about what he had done and how he needed to be forgiven. We all know the story: Nathan the prophet confronted David with the awful truth of David’s sin and deceitfulness, and David owned up to what he had done:

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. (2 Samuel 12:13)

From the mouth of two witnesses, three if you count Paul, then, comes the undeniable fact that under both the Old and New Covenants, man is justified before God by faith; there is no other way.

4. A sign and a seal

Some sharp-eyed readers of this letter during Paul’s day might have argued that since both Abraham and Paul were circumcised—that is, they acted in obedience to the Law—then obedience to the Law must be part of justification. In essence, works, in the form of obedience, precede justification. To this, Paul notes:

It was not after, but before! (verse 10b)

Paul exclaims that Abraham was justified by faith years before he was circumcised! What was the point of circumcision, then, as far as Abraham was concerned? It was merely a sign, an evidence that he had been justified by faith. One Bible scholar aptly observed:

We cannot doubt that circumcision was delayed in order to teach the believing Gentiles of future ages that they may claim Abraham as their father, and the righteousness of faith as their inheritance.

Another way to look at this is to conclude that Abraham was justified by faith as a human being, not as a Gentile or a Jew. Faith, not religion, is the standard for all human beings.

We now know from extra-Biblical writings that Paul’s message of justification by faith was understood by at least one member of the Roman church. Clement, the bishop of Rome from 90—100 AD wrote this:

It is through faith that Almighty God has justified all that have been from the beginning of time.

It wasn’t just to the Romans that Paul taught this landmark doctrine. In Galatians 3:7, he put it like this:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.

Jew or Gentile; it’s immaterial to God who it is that comes to Him in simple faith. He freely justifies both.

5. Primacy of faith

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (verses 13—15)

The Roman believers have just learned that faith came before circumcision. In these two verses, Paul goes even further by stating that faith also takes priority over the Law. If circumcision, which was instituted only 14 years after Abraham was declared righteous proved that circumcision had nothing to do with anything, then the Law, which was instituted 430 years after Abraham was declared righteous, proves that that it had even less to do with anything!

The promise given to Abraham did not depend on his or his descendants keeping any kind of Law, because Abraham had been justified by faith! What exactly is this “promise?” It, naturally, has to do with Abraham becoming the father of many nations, but it specifies something in particular:

...all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)

God gave that promise, which also has a messianic implication, to Abraham long before either circumcision or the Law had been introduced. The great blessing of the promise came to Abraham from God on the basis of faith, not works.

6. What faith depends on

The remainder of this chapter speaks of the strength of Abraham’s faith. In the face of old age, Abraham’s faith in God remained young. How was this possible? Why did Abraham have such strong faith in God? The secret to strong, unwavering faith lies in verse 21:

being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Faith is as strong or as weak depending on how we perceive the Object of our faith. If God is the Object of our faith, it will be rock solid and immovable. But if our faith is in our talents or our resources or the circumstances of our lives, it will be weak. We, like Abraham, must be “persuaded” that God is able!

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

MAKING DISAPPOINTMENTS GOD’S APPOINTMENTS

2 Samuel 7

In this, we learn something about King David’s amazing faith in God and something of how God works in the lives of people like David; people who have an earnest desire to do something to the glory God.

1. A heartfelt desire to glorify God, verses 1—3

After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”

The chapter opens with King David settled into his royal palace. He has, with God’s help, triumphed over all his enemies, both domestic and abroad, and David’s status and king over the united kingdom of Israel is beyond dispute. As if to stress this fact, this one-time shepherd boy is referred to as “the king” three times in these opening verses in the original Hebrew.

We may well imagine this warrior king standing in the middle of his regal house, looking at what his years of fighting had achieved—a secure kingdom, peace and prosperity for all, and a palace beyond compare—and remembering that God had no proper home in which to dwell. More than anything else, David loved Yahweh and he ardently desired giving God a proper dwelling place. As far as David was concerned, respect for God meant building a temple for Him worthy of His majestic Presence.

The contrast between his own house and that of the Lord at this time was stark: the earthly king had settled into a sumptuous palace; the ark of God’s presence remained in a mere tent. While it is true that this “tent” was originally constructed of the best materials available and it’s workmanship superlative, the royal palace dwarfed, in size and splendor, the resting place of God. To the king, this situation was intolerable and greatly troubled him.

Being a godly man, David consulted another godly man, his prophet Nathan. Nathan and David went back a long way and had a sturdy relationship. Probably nobody on earth knew the heart of the king like Nathan did, and the prophet’s response to David’s ambition indicated that David’s heart was right; that his desire to build a temple for God was purely motivated. There was nothing in this project for David; he would do it all for the glory of God. In fact, we might go so far as to think that in this matter, King David had “the mind of Christ.” Would that believers today would be so motivated! Think about what great exploits could be achieved if only they were done for God’s sake and for His glory alone. Rarely are our motives that unadulterated.

2. God’s refusal, verses 4—11

When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. (verse 12)

David was a spiritually sensitive man. His spiritual instinct told him that it was wrong for God to dwell in a tent while he was living in luxurious splendor. There was an incongruity between the transitory and impermanent nature of a man living in a permanent house while the eternal and everlasting God was relegated to being “put up” in a temporary shelter. What could possibly be wrong David’s desire to build God a permanent home?

To the prophet’s Nathan’s understanding, his friend’s desire was a good and noble one; right and sound, motivated only by love and devotion to God. But something was wrong, and it took a visit from God to point it out.

The work of building God’s house belonged to another. It was not God’s will for David to undertake that task. Throughout Nathan’s message from God to David, the king is now referred to as “my servant David” as opposed to “the King.” While God made David king over the people of Israel, in relationship to God, David remained His servant, a description he humbly accepts.

The essence of God’s response to David’s desire is three-fold:

  • God has never commanded any leader in Israel’s past to build Him a temple, nor has He commanded David to do this, verses 6, 7.
  • The choice of the person to head up such a project would be God’s, verse 5.
  • The denial of David results in something very positive: David’s son would be given the honor to build God’s house.

But God’s refusal to allow David to fulfill his righteous ambition is not without grounds. There are two main reasons why God refused David:

  • The king is far too busy waging war with his enemies: You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the LORD his God until the LORD put his enemies under his feet. (1 Kings 5:3)
  • David was a warrior; he had shed much blood: But this word of the LORD came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. (1 Chronicles 22:8; see also 28:3).

It should be noted, however, that these reasons are not in any way given to denigrate King David. David fought his enemies at God’s behest; he could never be punished by God for caring out God’s wishes! In fact, far from being punished, God’s message to David contained a magnificent covenant for both king and kingdom:

Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. (verses 9b—11)

This “divine grant” was divided into two parts: promises that would be realized during David’s lifetime (verses 8—11a) and promises to be fulfilled after his death (verses 11b—16).

But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.

Who could ask for than that? No, David would not be allowed to build God’s house, but God’s blessings upon David, his family, and his kingdom were incomparable.

Yet, there is another reason why David was not allowed to build God’s house. David represents Christ as suffering and conquering, but not being able to establish an earthly kingdom to its fullest extent. This would be done by Solomon, an earthly “prince of peace.” Only he could be allowed to build God’s house. When Christ returns, He will be our heavenly Prince of Peace, and He will at last establish an earthly kingdom and temple; He will accomplish upon His return what He could not accomplish at His first advent.

3. God’s plan, verses 12—17

He is the one who will build a house for my Name… (verse 13a)

David’s dynasty would continue through his sons and grandsons, and would never be set aside as was the case with the house of Saul. What a superlative plan it was! Any disappointments David may have had at being refused the singular honor of building God’s temple must have been mitigated. This is always the way it is with God’s will; we always fare better when we obey it rather than follow our own, not matter how glorious our own appears to be.

A lot of people misinterpret verses 14 and 15 and cite them as proof that a child of God can never be lost and that those who wander from God will only be disciplined and not condemned. However, what hangs in the balance here is not Solomon’s personal salvation, but the status of David’s dynasty.

Also, a careful and right-minded reading of God’s promises to David reveals that these “kingdom promises” are fulfilled, not entirely in Solomon, but in David’s “greater son,” the Lord Jesus Christ. No mere man’s earthly kingdom could last “forever!”

There is a statement in the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 17:17) in which David’s heart is laid bare and we see why God loved this man so much—

And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You, LORD God, have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men.

David knew he was not, yet God treated him as though he were.

4. David accepts God’s plan, verses 18—29

“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, 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.” (verses 20, 21)

This heartfelt prayer of David to God is surely one of the most moving prayers in all of Scripture. Throughout this prayer, the king humbly expresses his gratitude to God for graciously revealing His will to him through his friend Nathan and, significantly, declares his own desire that God keep all His promises to the greater glory of God.

The prayer can be divided into three parts:

  • Gratitude for God’s blessings in the present, verses 18—21;
  • Praise for what God has done in the past, verses 22—24;
  • Prayer that God will fulfill His promises in the future, verses 25—29.

David was at a loss for words as he expressed himself to God and acknowledged God’s sovereignty and purposes. Would that we could do the same! Too often we pray with chagrin when God’s will is at odds with ours; we expect the Almighty to bend to our wishes instead of it being the other way around! Not so with David, who found joy God’s will even though it was not what he had wanted.

The king never forgot the past; he never failed to praise God for personal and national blessings that fell long ago. But most of all, David wanted God to fulfill His revealed will so that God Himself may be glorified. David’s prayer stands alone as a shining example of humility and honesty before God. We are reminded of what John the Baptist said when Jesus appeared on the scene—

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30, KJV)

Despite the surpassing blessings David had experienced and would continue to experience, his concern was that God get all the glory, not him or his house. Any good that may befall the house of David or the kingdom of Israel must be seen as coming from God; that was David’s paramount concern.

David ended his marvelous prayer in great confidence that God’s Word was absolutely dependable and he ended with the petition—

“Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.” (verses 28, 29)

(c) 2010 WitzEnd


Adonijah: Rebel without a clue

1 Kings 1, assorted verses

The historical books of 1 and 2 Kings continue the history of Israel began in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel.  The early chapters of 1 Kings give us details of Solomon’s reign, which after his father David’s, was the most significant period of peace, prosperity, and political unity in Israel’s checkered history.

The historical account in Kings begins with the very sad circumstances of Solomon’s ascension to the throne and the pathetic behavior of another son of David, Adonijah.   Like so many Jewish men of the time, Adonijah had been given a promising name by his father David in hopes that he might live up to it; “Adonijah” means my Lord is Jehovah, but as we will see, Adonijah’s heart was, in reality, full of himself.

1.  Setting the scene, verses 1—4

When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him.  (verse 1)

David’s roller-coaster of a life was drawing to a close, and verse 1 indicates that he had grown feebler as he aged.  As the story opens, King David is around 70 and in very poor health, likely due to the years he spent in exile and the rigors of battle, not to mention the stresses that came with managing a massive kingdom as well as a highly dysfunctional family.  It is hard for us conceive of David as being a feeble, senile, and indecisive old man; we always picture him as either as a shepherd boy or as a handsome, vital King.  But the years had piled on David and they had not been kind.

In the New Testament, we read a verse that serves to sum up David’s life:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow.  (Galatians 6:7)

This “rule of the universe” applies equally to every person, even David, who was so dearly loved by God and who returned that love in kind.  Despite that close relationship, David was a sinner, like us all, and like us all he suffered the consequences of a terrible decision he made.  Because of his disgraceful act of adultery and the indirect murder he committed to cover it up, a series of disasters was let loose on him and his family that, probably more than any other factor, caused the King to govern sloppily and indecisively in his declining years, contributed to his poor health, and led to the problems he was about have with his son, Adonijah.  This awful chain of events included Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar; his subsequent murder by his half-brother Absalom, Tamar’s full brother; Absalom’s failed political coup which led to his death; David’s ill-conceived census which led to a terrible plague; and Shibni’s revolt.  All of these horrendous experiences, together with the knowledge of his sin—though forgiven by God and his people—robbed King David the mental, physical, and even spiritual prowess he possessed in his prime.

That brings us to the story of Adonijah, the young man who wanted to be king of Israel.  These verses give us a clue as to why Adonijah was the way he was:

Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)  (verses 5, 6)

2.  Adonijah exalted, verses 5—10

It seems as though Adonijah and many others in the court were well aware of God’s selection and David’s declaration of who the next king of Israel was to be.  Nevertheless, Adonijah, aided and abetted by David’s once-faithful military chief of staff Joab, and Abiathar, one of two high priests, conspired to take advantage of David’s ill health and seize the throne.   There is a great lesson here as we realize how utterly tragic it was that these two men, life-long loyal supporters and friends of David, would turn against him.  Joab had stuck with David for years, but now he sees David failing and, wanting to be on the winning side, chooses to support Adonijah.  Abiathar the priest had been the sole survivor of King Saul’s merciless massacre of Israel’s priests.  He had come to David while young David was in exile and had served faithfully as the King’s high priest for years.  This only serves to illustrate that the only One a person can truly depend on is God, not any man.  Man will always let you down.

These men, and especially the priest Abiathar, must have known that this coup was in direct opposition to God’s will and David’s explicit wishes.  But Adonijah, like Absalom before him, was self-willed, selfish, and full of himself.  He apparently was never properly disciplined by his father, which only added to this rebellious nature.

Adonijah then sacrificed sheep, cattle and fattened calves at the Stone of Zoheleth near En Rogel. He invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon.  (verses 9, 10)

He followed Absalom’s pattern and exalted himself; he put forth himself as the natural successor and obvious successor to the throne.  There were, however, some influential men who did not support Adonijah.

  • Zadok, a warrior and priest who served alongside Abiathar.  Zadok was a descendant of Eleazar, the third son of Aaron, the high priest.
  • Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, was well-known as one of the greatest of David’s “Mighty Men.
  • Nathan, the prophet, who, though far behind the scenes, played such an important role in David’s reign.

These men would have nothing to do with Adonijah and were not part of Adonjah’s carefully crafted scheme to impress and bride other influential men.

What we see happening with Adonijah reminds us of what Jesus taught in Luke 18:14—

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

3.  Adonijah ignored, 11—40

Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.  (verses 39, 40)

It was Nathan the prophet who took the lead in initiating a plan that stifled Adonijah’s political ambitions.  The wise prophet correctly understood that should Adonijah be successful, both Bathsheba and Solomon would be mortal danger.  As the favored wife of the King, Nathan knew that David would listen to her, so he urged her to speak to him about what Adonijah was doing and to remind him that Solomon was already chosen to be king.  Nathan would later follow Bathsheba by confirming what she said and tactfully urge the King to act.

The validity of Solomon’s claim to the throne was not the issue; David’s continued inaction was.  The King needed to be roused to action; the feeble old monarch needed to be pushed in making a decision; the future of the kingdom and of Bathsheba and Solomon, depended upon it.

My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.  (verse 20)

Act David did, and act quickly!

King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon.  There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.”  (verses 32—35)

Even while Adonijah and his cohorts were celebrating, Solomon was being anointed the true king.  The people of the nation obviously saw that Solomon was the true successor to his father’s throne.  The fact that he was mounted on his father’s royal mule demonstrated to everybody who saw Solomon that this anointing had David’s complete blessing.  Had Nathan, Bathsheba, and Zadok not urged David to “do the right thing,” it is likely that the people would have supported Adonijah’s bogus claim to the throne.

Today many people continually exalt themselves above Jesus, who is our anointed King.  Does that offend you?  If you are a believer, it should.  But take heart!  Anybody who tries to exalt themselves at our Lord’s expense will find their feeble claims on His throne or our freedoms will find themselves completely ignored by the Lord.

No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.  (Isaiah 54:17)

4.  Adonijah confronted and saved, verses 42—49

At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed.

Can you imagine the shock?  Right in the middle of their celebration, the real world invaded.  Notice that Jonathan, the messenger, held nothing back.  The truth has a way of hurting but it also has a way of setting one free.

The gospel is like that.  For those of us who love the Lord and are serving Him, the Word of God is a comfort; but at times, when we fail Him, it can hurt.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  (Hebrews 4:12)

In the case of Adonijah, the truth both hurt and freed.  What happened to Adonijah shows us something of God’s loving forgiveness.  Consider the following:

(a)  Adonijah was scared of Solomon, verse 50a.  And properly so!   Solomon was now king, finding favor in his father’s eyes, in the people’s sight and in the heart of God.  Poor Adonijah was on the exact wrong side of God’s will, and he knew it.  Adonijah was right to be afraid.  The fact is, when anybody sees how awful they truly is when compared to the perfection of God will, they will fear.  There is no living creature that can live out of God’s will without some measure of fear or anxiety.

Here is something a lot of preachers don’t want you to know:  Fear can be a wonderful motivating factor in a sinner’s salvation.  Not fear of man, of course, but fear of an all mighty, all powerful and holy God; this can move a sinner to confession and repentance.  The message of God’s love may move some to seek Him, but some people will only be moved by the fear of God.

(b)  Adonijah’s fear drove him to the altar of God, verse 50b.  It is interesting; the altar held no attraction for the would-be king until the fear of death seized him.  Brought face to face with the magnitude and humiliation of his brought Adonijah to the place of seeking God.  In grabbing the horns of the altar, he was literally binding himself to the altar; he was making a sacrifice of himself!

(c)  Adonijah’s whole life changed, verse 53.  Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.” Back in verse 5, we see Adonijah exalting himself but now we see him bowing down before the king.  This rebellious man had been turned into a servant of the King.  Solomon, for his part, treated Adonijah far more fairly than he deserved to be treated!  Obviously Solomon didn’t read Machiavelli!

Adonijah expected to be severely punished by King Solomon because that is exactly how he would have treated Solomon if the roles had been reversed.  But Solomon was far more gracious than Adonijah could have imagined; he guaranteed Adonijah’s safety as long as he behaved himself.

“If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.”  (verse 52)

To “be worthy” in the context of this verse means that Adonijah would have to renounce any claim he had to the throne and that he would become a supporter of King Solomon.   Solomon, co-regent with his father at this time, bids Adonijah to go home in peace.  The rebel had found peace through the altar of sacrifice.

What a marvelous picture of what our King, Jesus Christ, has done for each repentant sinner.

(c)  2010 Witzend

GOD’S ANOINTED: David’s Offering

2 Samuel 23:15—17

David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. 17 “Far be it from me, O LORD, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.  Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.

There are many fascinating incidences in King David’s life.  David was, like all of us, a complicated human being who made many mistakes and did many great things over a lifetime.  The reality of David is far removed from the mythology of David.  He was far from perfect, yet he never claimed to be anything more than what he was:  an imperfect man after God’s own heart.  The thing we like about David is that he never tried to outrun himself; when he sinned; he owned up to his sin, confessed it, and very often paid a dear price for it.  But he did even more than that; he took advantage of God’s grace and mercy expressed to him by demonstrating that same grace and mercy to others.  This is what sets David apart from other people.  He was very human, yet demonstrated divine traits when he allowed the Holy Spirit to use him.

It seemed that for his entire life David struggled within himself to, on the one hand, gratify his own lusts, and at the same time do right by his God.  Despite his transgressions, King David understood the words of Herbert:

My God must have my best.

Here, near the end King David’s life, we see a demonstration of this humble attitude, as David offers God a special kind of offering; an offering that sprang from his need.

1.  Context

Chapter 23 of 2 Samuel records “David’s last words.”  More accurately, verses 1—7 record the latest words written by David at the zenith of his power; he had been restored to power and restored spiritually.  The King’s family and his soul had been healed and, given the words of verses 3 and 4, the king had learned a lesson—

The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me:  ‘When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, 4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.’

In verses 8—39, we have an account of David’s Mighty Men and some of their exploits.  Who were these “Mighty Men?”  These were the heroic men who had been following David since the young man was anointed king.  These men were a breed apart, for they followed David as king before he ascended to the throne, often at great risk to their own safety.  These men gave up normal lives to follow David in faith believing that one day he would be king of Israel.  David, for his part, kept these loyal friends with him as he became king; they never left his employ.

Here is a marvelous picture of Christ and His followers.  The world has rejected Christ, even though one day the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of Christ and He will rule over them.  But for now, like David before Him, Christ is rejected, yet He has His loyal band of faithful followers.  Those who serve Him in faith are His “mighty men” and women!  And like Christ, David was the captain of his Mighty Men.

In the midst of describing the Mighty Men, the writer relates a curious incident that occurred during harvest time, in the cave at Adullam.  Historically, this event likely finds correlation with the events in 5:17—25.  This brief account is one of the most enlightening anecdotes of David’s career for it reveals the king’s heart.  An act of unselfish bravery and loyalty is matched by an act of gratitude and chivalry, and we see in the Mighty Men and in David the most admirable and desirable qualities all believes should strive to cultivate in their own lives.

Hiding in a cave from the Philistines, it was natural that David, the thirsty warrior, should offhandedly remark as he did—

“Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”  (verse 15b)

As a youth, David probably stopped at that nearby well to quench his thirst.  But much had changed for David; he was no longer a youth, no longer a shepherd.  Now he was a warrior, fighting for his life, shepherding his followers.

We can imagine his surprise when some of his loyal followers broke rank and risked their lives to get him, their captain and friend, a cup of water—

So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.  (verse 16a)

Friends like that are rare indeed!  But David was even rarer:  instead of quenching his thirst, he made an offering to God.  Let’s consider this most remarkable offering.

2.  It was common

Rather than drink the cool, refreshing water, David offered it to God.  In fact, David did not just offer some of it; he poured it all out to God.  No sacrifice is too small for God.  Sometimes, in our zeal to serve God, we miss the smallest of opportunities to show our heart’s devotion of God.   Who would think of making a cup of water an offering to God?  Especially when the offerer was in desperate need of that same water?   David did, because he not only loved God, he proved his love by making an offering based, not on the abundance of what he had, but his lack.  It is easy to give God from our overflow because it is painless and costs us nothing.  But giving to God when we can least afford it shows that we place God ahead of all else in our lives.  It also shows that we have faith in God to meet and supply all our needs.

What need does God have of water?  None!  That is not why David offered it to Him in the first place.  By a simple act of faith and devotion, David demonstrated how much he loved and trusted God.  He also paid the highest honor to his friends, incidentally, in taking their gift to him and passing it along to the Lord.  David did not miss an opportunity to worship God.

3.  It was costly.

While the water was common, it was incredibly costly—

Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?  (verse 17a)

A common thing was made precious because it was purchased with a great price.  Men risked their very lives for this water!  The water derived its value from what these men were willing to trade for it:  their blood for David’s water.

Have you ever stopped consider your worth?  Did you know you are of infinite, incalculable value to God?  You are worth what it cost God to acquire you:  the blood of His only Son.   If the shed blood of Jesus Christ is so precious we write hymns about it, then you must be equally as precious because you were redeemed by that same shed blood.   We may be sinners, but we are sinners saved by the precious blood of Christ!

This magnanimous act of David’s seemed to a way of life for him.  Notice what he did in the very next chapter—

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.  (2 Sam. 24:24)

There are those who give God the leftovers; the shattered reputations, the crippled lives, and the sick days.  People like that give God only what they no longer want or need.  But from the book of collected wisdom, Proverbs, comes this piece of advice—

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.  (Proverbs 3:9)

David desperately wanted to drink that water, yet he gave it to God.  Are we that generous with our possessions?  Or our lives?

4.  It was desirable.

Verse 15 makes this clear—

David longed for water

When David made this offering to God, he was not giving up something he had used or something he really didn’t want; David “longed” for this water!   It is always easy to give God things we no longer need or have the capacity to enjoy.   Think about how many people leave their wealth to charity after they’ve died!  What kind of sacrifice is that?  Anybody could do that; that kind of giving means nothing because it cost nothing.

When David poured out that precious water, he was giving God the very best he had at that moment.   God is never concerned with what we give, or how much we give, but rather with the quality of what we give.  He expects those who claim to love Him to give the best to Him; the best time, the best talents, the best attitudes, the best income, the best attention.  If it is something difficult for us to give away, God wants it.

5.  It could not be taken back.

Once that water was poured out on the ground that was it!  David couldn’t scoop it back up again.  What is given to God is His forever.  David knew, as he held that cup of cold water in his  hands, as soon as he poured it out to the Lord it could never again be his.

Do we realize what that means?  Do modern Christians have even the barest concept of “sacrifice?”  Sure, many of us every Sunday morning give our tithes and offerings faithfully to the Lord, and just as faithfully we claim that giving on our income tax forms so we can get some of it back.  How many of us would be as generous if we knew once we gave our offering we would never see it again in any form?  That is true sacrificial giving!

Not only that, but if we have given ourselves to the Lord, then we no longer belong to ourselves and it is the highest, most offensive sacrilege in the world to take back for our own self-gratification that which rightfully belongs to God.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.  (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)

This year, let’s all understand just what David did in that cave so long ago and try to emulate it.  Let’s try to understand what Jesus did on the Cross so long ago, and try to emulate that.  Let’s try to understand what God did in giving the life of His only Son, and try to emulate that sacrifice.

What Thou has given me, Lord, here I bring Thee,
Odour and ligt, and the magic of god;
Feet which must follow Thee, lips which must sing Thee,
Limbs which must ache for Thee ere they grow old.

(c)  2009, WitzEnd

GOD’S ANOINTED: Like Father, Like Son

OR, REAPING WHAT YOU SOW

2 Samuel 13—18


David was a great man, but his sins were also great.  The awfulness of sin is always plainly seen by God, who is offended by each transgression we commit, whether against him or another human being.   Most of the time we are oblivious to sin’s true hideous nature.  Thanks to Christ’s redemptive work, no Christian will ever be condemned on account of his sins—

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

However, while we stand forgiven, that sin has not gone unnoticed by God, and He allows us to experience the consequences of our sins to show us how truly despicable they are in his sight.  As painful and as humiliating as those consequences may be, the sin that precipitated them is far worse in the sight of God.

In the case of David, he not only committed adultery with another man’s wife, he was directly responsible for her husband’s murder.  Furthermore, his sin caused the name of God to be disdained among other people.  An immediate consequence of the adulterous affair was a baby boy, who also became the first consequence of the sin, losing his life.

How this must have broken David’s heart!  Generally, David’s heart was upright before God, and as we read his psalms we sense that was his strongest desire; to be righteous and pure.  Yet when David became wealthy, powerful, and influential, he began to stray from the path of dependence on God, which is produced by faith.  David, though loving God and loved by God, was a deeply flawed man, and his flaws are seen no clearer than in the life of his son, Absalom.

John Donne wrote,

No man is an island unto himself.  Are we all part of the string of life?

The fruit of David’s iniquity was passed on to his offspring, to Absalom, especially.  David’s partiality for Absalom brought with it a host of even more consequences for the House of David.  How painful is it to see the man who conquered a giant driven from his own home and throne by his beloved son, and that allowed by God?  If God had not allowed it, it would have never happened because David, remember, was God’s anointed to lead Israel.  It reminds us of what the prophet Daniel learned—

[H]e sets up kings and deposes them.  (Daniel 2:21)

The terrible things David experienced during the latter years of his life demonstrates the justice of God, for  God’s Word is like a sharp, double-edged sword that cuts deep, as the king is learning.  But make no mistake:  David and Yahweh were bound together like no other.  It was because of that transcendent relationship that David was allowed to feel the pain of sin the way God does.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child.”  (Hebrews 12:5, 6)

I’d like to take the focus off David and place it on his son, Absalom.  David was not a sterling example of fatherhood, but Absalom serves as a beacon of warning to all who would be seduced by the lust of the eye and the pride of life.  Let’s consider the following:

1.  Absalom’s natural advantages.  14:25

In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him.

This young man had it all!  Not only was he the son of a king, but he was drop-dead gorgeous to boot!   Too bad what was in his heart was so ugly; what a contrast!

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness.  (Isaiah 1:6)

If the story of Absalom teaches us anything it is that hereditary advantages or disadvantages don’t make or break a person.  Starting off well in life may be desired but a good start doesn’t guarantee a good end.  A runner may start well ahead of the pack, but still lose the race.

Absalom had so much going for him; he was Mr. Personality, the consummate politician—

Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.  (15:6)

And he thought nothing of taking his father’s kingdom from him.  We can see how Absalom felt about his father with this single verse—

Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face.  (14:28)

Absalom, the son David loved so much, wanted nothing to do with his father.  David never saw his grandchildren, yet they were all living in the same town.

2.  Absalom’s vengeful, deceitful attitude, 13:23—28;

Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.”  (13:28)

Absalom’s murder of his brother Amnon took place a full two years after Amnon raped Tamar.  Two years of silent hatred festered in Abaslom’s heart.  On the outside he was calm, cool, and his words were like honey, but deceit lurked in his heart.  This handsome, talented, young man had everything going for him, but a horrible event—the rape of his sister—caused hatred and bitterness to lodge themselves in his heart.  He had all kinds of resources at his disposal to take care of this, but he waited two full years to catch his brother off guard and kill him.

The question is, why? Why did Absalom take matters in his own hands and dispense the kind of justice he felt was necessary?   The bigger question, which provides the answer to the first question, is, where? Where was David while all this was going on?  Like so many Old Testament fathers, David was missing when his family needed him the most.  David was real good at acquiring wives and producing children, but he was no father.

Here we see how David’s sin had woven itself into the fabric of his sons.  Just as he had taken Bathsheba, so Amnon took the woman he lusted after, his sister Tamar.  Instead of disciplining Amnon as God had David, he is missing in action, leaving Absalom to avenge Tamar’s “living death” as a shamed old maid.  To Absalom’s way of thinking, his sister had to be avenged and his brother had to be punished.  Who wouldn’t think that?  The problem was, Absalom was acting exactly like his father did on so many occasions; doing the right thing in the completely wrong way.   There was a way to take care of this situation, but murder wasn’t it.

Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  (Romans 10:3)

Absalom may have looked the part, but his actions belied the fact that he was not a godly man in any way.  He was outwardly perfect, yet inwardly horribly deformed.

3.  Abaslom’s second chance, 14:33

So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom.  (14:33)

Fleeing to Geshur to escape the wrath of his father, it would be a number of years before Absalom would be restored to David’s favor, thanks to the influence of cousin Joab.

David was a man who knew well that God is a God of second chances.  And third chances.  And fourth chances!  He had experienced the magnanimous side of God many times in his life.   Now Absalom has been given, by the grace of God, a second chance at a fresh start in life.

What would Absalom do with this second chance?  If experience is a good teacher, then many of us could answer that question without reading on.  God has given man multiple chances to get right and time and again man has snubbed his nose at God’s good graces.

4.  Absalom’s arrogance, 15:1—6

And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”  (verse 4)

David’s grace and the love of a father turned Absalom even more against his father.  An unregenerate sinner will turn the grace of God into a license to sin.  Absalom had been blessed by his father and he had taken those blessings to enhance his own pride and glory.  In fact, we might say that, while God the Father had given the kingdom of Israel to David, Absalom was about to take that kingdom from his father to make it his own.  He hated his father so much; he wanted to be just like him.

5.  Absalom’s rebellion, 15:10

Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ ”

The inner, secret purposes of Absalom’s heart are now exposed.  David’s beloved son has now openly declared himself an enemy of the state;  he wants the kingdom to himself.  Why wouldn’t he?  David hasn’t disciplined him for murdering his brother.  Absalom played the part of a father in taking care of Tamar.  Why not just go all the way be king; what’s David going to do anyway?  Write a psalm about it?  Open rebellion against the will of God—David was put on the throne by God—is always the fruit of a secret, self-centered life.

He had his followers, and verse 11 describes them succinctly—

Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter.

They were ignorant!  They didn’t know anything!  But they made Absalom feel good.   A narcissist like Absalom always has his sycophants, but having followers and having people fawning all over someone doesn’t make that person right.

6.  Absalom’s untimely death, 18:9—14

When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”  (18:10)

It was father against son for a while.  And for a while, the son eclipsed the father.

A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.”  Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”  (15:13—14)

Absalom’s plan was now complete.  He had taken over the palace; the kingdom was his.  But it wasn’t Absalom’s plan.  Remember what Nathan the prophet told David—

Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.  You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’  (12:—-)

Compare that to what Absalom did—

So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.  (16:22)

In the course of time, Absalom, trying escape David’s men, got his hair all tangled in a tree and was left hanging there.

Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree.  (18:14)

Those who strike out against God and who stubbornly pursue their own will face forces they never dreamed of.  Absalom never thought for a moment he would be hanging in an oak tree by his hair!   A believer puts himself in a very precarious position when he steps out of God’s will for they step away from His protection.

Joab, for his part, did what he thought was right in getting rid of this usurping trouble maker.  But vengeance belongs to God.

7.  A sad dad, 18:33

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David loved his son, no doubt.  In fact, in all likelihood David was the only one shedding tears for Absalom that day.  The depths of a father’s love can never be plumbed or understood.

Absalom was not easy to love.  He was a hateful son to his father and an arrogant, narcissistic, self-centered man.  Verse 18 shows the height of his folly—

During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.

He erected a great pillar; a kind of tower of Babel on a smaller scale, yet in an ironic twist, we read this—

They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him.  (verse 17)

The man who thought nothing of his father, was treated as less than nothing in his death.

Yet David mourned greatly for this lost son.  This is a picture of the love of God who, while we were yet sinners, sent His only Son to die for us.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem, as He weeps today over those who are lost.  God’s love is always ready to manifest itself in the forgiveness of sins.  Sadly, there are many like Absalom, who disregard this amazing love, preferring to pursue their own selfish desires.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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