Sunday, April 8, 2012

2 Samuel 23:1-7

1 These are the last words of David:
“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
the hero of Israel’s songs:
2 “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
3 The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people 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 grass from the earth.’
5 “If my house were not right with God,
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire.
6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
which are not gathered with the hand.
7 Whoever touches thorns
uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie.”

Points of Interest
  • ‘when he rules in the fear of God’--David was a fearless king. He faced enemies who seemed much stronger than him, constant war, insurrection, even plague; and he never flinched. His only fear was a fear of God. It’s not so much that he was scared of God, as that he deeply respected God. And he valued his relationship with God. He knew the one thing that would allow him to survive everything else was maintaining his deep connection with God.
  • ‘surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation’--I wonder if David has in mind a particular episode of trouble from which God saved him, was thinking of all of his troubles as a unit, or is looking forward to a further rescue even beyond death.
  • ‘thorns, which are not gathered with the hand’--you don’t grasp on to a thorn; you drop it as soon as you feel the prick. God never dropped David. Since God held David firmly in God’s hand his entire life, David can go to the grave with a clean conscience, knowing that God loved him and was pleased with him.
Taking it Home
  • For you: David takes time at the end of his life to recount what he has learned and what his relationship with God has been like. Take time today to reflect on Lent and write down a summary of how it was for you. What have you been praying for? What were highlights of things God did? What were you disappointed about? What have you learned during this time? How have you grown? Ask God to show you what he would like you to take away from this season and carry over into the next.
  • For your six: Pray today that your six would one day have a story like David’s of how they came to know, trust, and love God. Ask God to show himself to your six today. Pray that the story of Easter would be captivating, make sense, and be something that draws your six towards God.
  • For our church: Thank God for what he has done in our church during Lent. Pray that we would grow closer to God and see God more clearly than we ever have before. Pray that our church would have the same confidence in and joy of God’s presence as David articulated in some of his last days in Psalm 108:1-5:
“My heart is confident in you, O God;
no wonder I can sing your praises!
Wake up my soul!
Wake up, O harp and lyre!
I will waken the dawn with my song.
I will thank you, Lord, in front of all the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations.
For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God above the highest heavens.
May your glory shine over all the earth.”
  • For families: What has Lent been like for your family? What are things you have seen God do? Look back to your posters, if you made any, at what you have been praying for, at what God has done and what you think he might be calling your family to do as a project. What do you notice as you look back at these things? Can you see ways that individuals in your family have grown in their relationship with God in this time? Can you see ways you have grown? Are there things you want to make sure you take as you move into the next season of your life? Find a way to write this down or make this concrete in some way. Spend some time sharing and wrapping up this time together. Listen together to God and see what God has to say about this time for you as a family.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

1 Kings 2

1 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.
2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, 3 and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go 4 and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’
5 “Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. 6 Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.
7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.
8 “And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ 9 But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”
10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.

Points of Interest
  • ‘the way of all the earth’--despite Bathsheba’s kind wishes in yesterday’s passage, David will not live forever. In this regard, he’s just like everyone else. He lived life on a grander scale than most, but he’s not actually larger-than-life.
  • ‘do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace’--it’s a tad disappointing that practically David’s final act is to order a string of executions. It’s chilling, like that scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone has all of his father’s old enemies killed at the very same time he’s standing as godfather to his nephew. I think it has to be done, though. Even David could not quite control Shimei or, even more, Joab. There’s no way Solomon could be safely established with those two running amok. David himself probably should have taken care of them long ago. Since he didn’t, Solomon must, to start his reign with a clean slate and a free hand.
  • ‘show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead’--there’s also someone David didn’t quite have the chance to reward properly during his own lifetime. At least it’s not just killings David is leaving to Solomon.
  • ‘Then David rested with his ancestors’--I like that David’s death is described as ‘resting.’ David has had a long and busy life. In one way or another, he’s been on the move since he was a teenager. It’s about time he got some rest.
Taking it Home
  • For you: It’s hard to know what to make of David’s death-wish list that he gives to Solomon. It would have been so much nicer to get to the end of David’s life and find pretty picture of happily-ever after, but even to the very end everything is not so neatly wrapped up. David has somehow learned to navigate the tides of life’s complications and still find God in the midst of problems not being entirely solved. How do you respond to the messiness of life? What are some problems you are facing that just don’t seem to be getting solved? Ask God for more of him in those situations. Ask God to give you a glimpse of the bigger picture and how to navigate the challenges you are facing while not losing sight of God. Ask God to use these situations to draw you closer to himself. Tell God you want more of him.
  • For your six: David calls Solomon into his position as king, leaving him with clear words of direction. Ask God to call your six into what he has for them. Pray God would clearly guide your six. Pray that God would be a part of whatever pressing decisions your six currently face.
  • For our church: A large part of Solomon’s ability to have his throne firmly established was because he was following in the footsteps of his father and building upon what had happened before him. New England has an incredible legacy of God doing great things. Pray that our church would be a part of that and would learn from and build upon what has happened before us. Pray that we would follow in the footsteps of great people of faith and movements of God that have happened right here.
  • For families: Parents, are there things now, in life, that you want to pass on to your kids? Often we wait until the end of our lives or until we are under some type of pressure to think about these things. Spend some time thinking about what you want to be passing on to your kids, both now and at the end of your life. What are some of your hopes for them? What are things you want to say to them or encourage in them now? Choose a couple of these things and talk with your kids about them. Ask your kids if there are qualities or skills they see in you that they really want to take on for themselves. Pray together that God would help you be a family that walks faithfully before God with all your heart and soul.

Friday, April 6, 2012

1 Kings 1:28-53

28 Then King David said, “Call in Bathsheba.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before him.
29 The king then took an oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”
31 Then Bathsheba bowed down with her face to the ground, prostrating herself before the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”
32 King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, 33 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. 34 There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 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.”
36 Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the LORD, the God of my lord the king, so declare it. 37As the LORD was with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord King David!”
38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. 39 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!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.
41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, “What’s the meaning of all the noise in the city?”
42 Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.”
43 “Not at all!” Jonathan answered. “Our lord King David has made Solomon king. 44 The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites, and they have put him on the king’s mule, 45 and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That’s the noise you hear. 46 Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. 47 Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed 48 and said, ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.’”
49 At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. 50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’”
52 Solomon replied, “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.” 53 Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.”

Points of Interest
  • ‘Call in Bathsheba’--I don’t exactly understand the ins and outs of what’s being described here. I was under the impression that Bathsheba was already in the room.
  • ‘’May my lord King David live forever!’--it’s interesting that even as they plan together for who will take over once David dies, Bathsheba offers this wish that he would live forever.
  • ‘have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him’--in many ways, Adonijah has the upper hand: he is older; he has the support of the other brothers; and he has the master strategist Joab on his side. But Solomon has two practically unbeatable advantages, in Nathan and David. David gives Solomon his own limousine and the throne itself. And Nathan anoints him. Thus, it becomes immediately clear that Solomon is both David’s choice and God’s.
  • ‘Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites’--when Joab took command of the army after Amasa’s death, Benaiah took Joab’s old job as commander of the Kerithites, Pelethites, and other special forces.
  • ‘so that the ground shook with the sound’--Solomon’s people are blowing trumpets and pipes and doing whatever else they can to express their support as loudly as possible.
  • ‘all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed’--the spectacle works. Adonijah’s guests are intimidated, and they all suddenly remember that they’re late for another appointment.
  • ‘took hold of the horns of the altar’--Adonijah figures that no one would be willing to shed blood in such a holy place.
  • ‘Solomon replied’--up until now, everyone--David, Bathsheba, Nathan, Zadok, Benaiah--has been acting on Solomon’s behalf. This is the first time he speaks for himself. Solomon rises to the occasion, behaving like the king he will soon be.
  • ‘Adonijah came and bowed down’--he’s surrendering, and recognizing Solomon as king.
Taking it Home
  • For you: Contrasting David’s response here to his response several years earlier when Absalom tried to take the throne is impressive; if he had a therapist I’m sure she would agree that David is progressing well. In contrast to the time with Absalom, David doesn’t react to or seem afraid of Adonijah. He has learned that he doesn’t need to feel threatened by such situations—something I can see it might take a little while to learn. What situations are you in that feel threatening? What relationship or scenario causes you to suddenly feel like you need to protect your sense of self, your well-being, or your livelihood? Ask God to give you a sense of abundance and security in those situations. Tell God that you trust God to provide for you and to look out for your best interest. Ask God to show you how you might respond next time a threatening situation occurs.
  • For your six: Adonijah’s poor guests get caught in the middle of a potentially fatal family feud. I’m guessing they attended the feast because it sounded like a fun, inviting party with friends—only to find out later it was a palace coup. Who do your six spend the most time with? Where do they go to celebrate and have a good time? Ask God to give your six friends who are looking out for their best interest. Pray that your six wouldn’t end up in volatile situations like Adonjiah’s guests did.
  • For our church: Solomon effectively sends Adonijah to his room for a time out. It seems like maybe we are all prone to have some childish outbursts whether we like it or not. Pray that God would give us an incredible amount of maturity to deal with all the ups and downs that life can bring. Pray that God would keep our church clear-headed and focused on God.
  • For families: Talk about any of the ways that you see each other growing in your relationship with God and in faith during this Lenten season. What are some things you see as a family member that others might miss? Talk about the ways in which you see each other taking that first step toward more faith. Pray for each other that God would walk with each of you and help you take the next steps.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

1 Kings 1:1-27

1 When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”
3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.
5 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. 6 (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.)
7 Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support. 8 But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei and Rei and David’s special guard did not join Adonijah.
9 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, 10 but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon.
11 Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David knows nothing about it? 12 Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: “Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and add my word to what you have said.”
15 So Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. 16 Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king.
“What is it you want?” the king asked.
17 She said to him, “My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the LORD your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ 18 But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. 19 He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. 20 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. 21 Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.”
22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 And the king was told, “Nathan the prophet is here.” So he went before the king and bowed with his face to the ground.
24 Nathan said, “Have you, my lord the king, declared that Adonijah shall be king after you, and that he will sit on your throne? 25 Today he has gone down and sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep. He has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. Right now they are eating and drinking with him and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he did not invite. 27 Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”

Points of Interest
  • ‘Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king’--I get the impression that there was some sort of scandal over Abishag. Rumors persisted even to the time of the writing of this history that David had an affair with a much younger woman at the very end of his life. The author is assuring us that Abishag was only David’s nurse; David was too weak to keep himself warm or get out of bed, for goodness’ sake. It does seem odd, though, that even as he’s denying there’s anything to the rumors, he focuses an awful lot on how young and pretty she is.
  • ‘He was also very handsome’--it seems that David has no shortage of good-looking, older sons who feel it’s their right to be king. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through this story, it’s that it doesn’t work that way with God or with David. You need more than a birth certificate and a nice head of hair to be the kind of king God is looking for.
  • ‘His father had never rebuked him’--unfortunately, it seems that David never learned the trick of avoiding over-indulging his older sons.
  • ‘But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet’--at the very end, David’s most loyal supporters are splitting up. Many of these men have been with David all the way since the outlaw days when they were running from Saul. All of them stuck with David during Absalom’s rebellion. But now half of them are siding with Adonijah and half with Solomon. Abiathar and Joab go one way, Zadok and Benaiah the other. Each of the sons has one of David’s faithful priests and one of his best generals.
  • ‘near En Rogel’--En Rogel is in Judean territory. Just like Absalom did, Adonijah is appealing to his tribal base in his claim for the crown (Walton et al).
  • ‘He invited all his brothers’--Adonijah takes Absalom’s tactic and adapts it. Absalom also made his move with a party for all of the brothers, but he caused a panic when he killed one of them. Adonijah instead uses the big family banquet to entice his brothers into supporting him over Solomon. It creates the impression of all against one, instead of one against all.
  • ‘Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother’--it’s curious that Nathan talks to Bathsheba rather than Solomon himself. I think it must mean that Solomon is too young to be fully in charge of his own affairs. His mother has to act as his agent.
  • ‘our lord David knows nothing about it’--David is bedridden, and perhaps Joab is restricting the news that gets to him.
  • ‘I will come in and add my word’--this conspiracy is too strong even for just one of Bathsheba or Nathan to counteract. They need to work together to convince David of the seriousness of the situation.
  • ‘Is this something my lord the king has done’--I don’t think that Nathan seriously suspects David’s involvement in Adonijah’s actions. He’s trying to remind David that, bedridden as he is, he’s still the king; and he has the power to do something about what’s happening.
Taking it Home
  • For you: When hearing the troublesome news, Bathsheba doesn’t get worked up into a frenzy but instead goes straight to David to discuss what’s been going on and clarify what he had said. Bathsheba’s immediate go-to-David response seems like a helpful model for how we might approach God. Whatever is on your mind or in front of you today, try going to God with it—to get perspective, to talk about it, to ask him to change it, or to thank him for it. Today, try as often as you can, whatever comes your way, to go directly to God to check in with God about it.
  • For your six: It’s peculiar how similar Adonijah’s banquet-throwing-to-assert-the-throne tactics are to his older brother Absalom’s. It almost seems like in it’s in his blood—and maybe it just so happens it is in his blood. We seem to inherit both good and bad from our families. Ask God to bless your six’s families and to protect your six from and put a stop to any unhelpful patterns that keep getting passed down from generation to generation. Ask God that the behaviors that come naturally to your six would point them toward God.
  • For our church: David pretty diligently preparing to transfer power over to Solomon, only to have Adonijah throw a huge wrench in the plan. Ask God to help our church in both the making and executing of plans. Pray that God would give us grace, agility, and wisdom to best respond when plans suddenly change.
  • For families: Do you have any elderly family members who are nearing the end of their lives? Spend some time talking about these people. We can often push these people aside as having little to offer. They might have limited capacities, do things really differently, or just be difficult to hang out with. But sometimes God might want to use these people to give you bits of wisdom you might not get anywhere else. Spend some time as a family praying for any aging family members you have. Ask God how he sees these people. Ask if God would like you to spend time with any of these people and if there are any things God would like you to ask them in this season of their lives.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

1 Chronicles 29

1 Then King David said to the whole assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for human beings but for the LORD God. 2 With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God—gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble—all of these in large quantities. 3 Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: 4 three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, 5 for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the skilled workers. Now, who among you is willing to consecrate yourself to the LORD today?”
6 Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. 7 They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. 8 Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the LORD in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. 9 The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.
10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, LORD,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 LORD, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”
20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the LORD your God.” So they all praised the LORD, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the LORD and the king.

Points of Interest
  • ‘I now give my personal treasures’--everything David has mentioned up until now has been collected from the state’s resources. Now, David is pitching in what must be a very large portion of his own wealth.
  • ‘gold of Ophir’--Ophir was particularly famous for fine gold.
  • ‘They gave toward the work on the temple’--inspired by David, all the rest of the people throw themselves and their resources into the project as well. Even David can only do so much on his own.
  • ‘Wealth and honor come from you’--even while David and the others are giving so generously toward the building of the temple, David wants to remember that he is not out-giving God. They owe everything they have to God.
  • ‘Our days on earth are like a shadow’--our lives are so short and insubstantial that, like a shadow, they don’t even make an impression in the ground.
  • ‘that you test the heart’--it’s not so much the dollar value of their donations that matters. It’s their faith, their gratitude, their love of God, and their desire to accomplish something great together.
  • ‘the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel’--God promised Abraham--and his son Isaac and grandson Israel--hundreds of years ago that God would make them a great nation, give them the land, and make them an overflowing blessing to the rest of the world. Now, it looks like those promises are finally coming true.
Taking it Home
  • For you: The Israelites are so inspired by the vision of the temple that they are willing to give anything and everything to make it happen. They seem to offer up whatever they have to God. What are things right in front of you that you can offer up to God? It could be money, a degree, a house, a skill or talent. Spend a moment asking if God wants you to give over any of those things to him for a purpose right now. Tell God you want to give that thing, and ask God to use it for his good. If you feel resistant to what God brings up, that’s okay; talk to him about that.
  • For your six: As the Israelites were responsive to God, they found themselves part of a plan much bigger than themselves. Ask God to show your six the big plans he has for them, and pray that they would feel compelled toward it.
  • For our church: I love that David asks God to help the Israelites ‘keep their hearts loyal’ to him. He seems to be aware that humans are prone to forget and to be sort of wishy-washy. Ask God to help keep our church loyal to pursuing God no matter what happens. Just like New England will always want the Celtics to win and always want the Lakers to lose, pray that our church would have the same immediate enthusiasm and commitment to whatever God is doing—that we would always turn to what God wants and always turn away from what he doesn’t want.
  • For families: Spend some time talking as a family about some of the things you give toward financially. For parents, share with your kids why these things are important to you. Often, giving can be of our time and our talents, too. Share about those things as well. Spend some time praying together about whether there are things God would want you to give toward and in what ways.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1 Chronicles 28

1 David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the mighty warriors and all the brave fighting men.
2 King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. 3 But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’
4 “Yet the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the house of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. 5 Of all my sons—and the LORD has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. 6 He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7 I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.’
8 “So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.
9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”
11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. 12 He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things. 13 He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the LORD, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service. 14 He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service: 15 the weight of gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps, with the weight for each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand; 16 the weight of gold for each table for consecrated bread; the weight of silver for the silver tables; 17 the weight of pure gold for the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers; the weight of gold for each gold dish; the weight of silver for each silver dish; 18 and the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense. He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and overshadow the ark of the covenant of the LORD.
19 “All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the LORD’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”
20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. 21 The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing person skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.”

Points of Interest
  • ‘the footstool of our God’--I like this. David knows that even his grand plans don’t amount to something worthy of being a house for God. At best, it’s an ottoman.
  • ‘he has chosen my son Solomon’--just like David, Solomon has many older brothers, perhaps more qualified than him. But being king in this nation isn’t about being the oldest, or looking the best, or even having the right father. Solomon will be king in the same way David became king: by God’s choice.
  • ‘with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind’--this is a nice combination of David calling his son to follow in his footsteps and David letting Solomon be his own person. Wholehearted devotion is David’s thing, and he wants it to be Solomon’s as well. But Solomon will apply it differently from David. David is a soldier and an artist; Solomon will be a thinker.
  • ‘if you forsake him, he will reject you forever’--David is reminding Solomon not to take God or the kingship for granted. Saul was chosen just as much as David or Solomon, but God wasn’t afraid to take the kingdom away from him. God promised David that the house of David would last forever, but God doesn’t necessarily need Solomon to make that happen; God can find another way to put a descendant of David on the throne.
  • ‘the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts’--David is completely consumed by this temple project. He’s thought of every detail, from the smallest room to the exact weight of gold for all the furnishings.
  • ‘instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites’--the Levites are the tribe that specializes in religious service, the priests being the Levitical family particularly responsible for conducting religious ceremonies. The temple David has in mind will vastly increase the responsibilities of the Levites. So, having thought through every detail of the building itself, David has also taken a crack at reorganizing their job duties.
  • ‘as a result of the LORD’s hand on me’--the same God who inspired David’s music and empowered him to kill a giant has also made him into an architect.
  • ‘the LORD God, my God, is with you’--this job is far too big for Solomon. But that doesn’t matter. It’s not too big for God, and God will be right there with Solomon all the way.
Taking it Home
  • For you: What’s going on right now in your life that makes you feel afraid or discouraged? David knew that in the face of the daunting project of building the temple--not to mention running a country--Solomon needed a steady stream of encouragement. If David were living now, he’d be sending repeated text messages to Solomon reminding him again and again to be ‘strong and courageous.’ Just as David spoke the words to Solomon, picture God saying those words directly to you: “__________, be strong and courageous”. Take some more time to listen to God, asking God to remind you of any specific ways that he would like encourage you.
  • For your six: Ask God to really know the hearts of your six. Pray that he would give them hearts that are opened and turned toward God. Ask God to bless all the ways, even the most covert, in which your six are actually seeking after God.
  • For our church: I know the saying goes that ‘the devil is in the details,’ but this passage shows us God in the details too. With the temple, God has even the smallest of things, from the serving-ware arrangement to the lampshades, figured out and perfectly arranged. Whether you love details or hate them, in the end you know that they matter, for good or ill. Ask God to take care of all the details of our church’s big dreams and plans. Pray that for every great, big plan that God gives us he would equally take care of the millions of things that need to come together for it to actually happen. For the situations where we find ourselves stuck in the details, ask God to give us a way out. Ask God that to give our church the ability to be impossibly great at the details.
  • For families: Everyone needs encouragement sometimes, and families can be great places to get that encouragement. What feels like a big challenge to you? How can your family encourage you? Let your family know about ways of encouraging that work well for you when you are facing a big challenge. Pray that God would make you a family that is great at seeing opportunities to encourage one other.

Monday, April 2, 2012

1 Chronicles 22

1 Then David said, “The house of the LORD God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
2 So David gave orders to assemble the foreigners residing in Israel, and from among them he appointed stonecutters to prepare dressed stone for building the house of God. 3 He provided a large amount of iron to make nails for the doors of the gateways and for the fittings, and more bronze than could be weighed. 4 He also provided more cedar logs than could be counted, for the Sidonians and Tyrians had brought large numbers of them to David.
5 David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death.
6 Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. 7 David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. 8 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. 9 But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. 10 He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’
11 “Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. 12 May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. 13 Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.
14 “I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the LORD a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. 15 You have many workers: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as those skilled in every kind of work 16 in gold and silver, bronze and iron—skilled workers beyond number. Now begin the work, and the LORD be with you.”
17 Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon. 18 He said to them, “Is not the LORD your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the LORD and to his people. 19 Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD.”

Points of Interest
  • ‘The house of the LORD God is to be here’--you may remember that ever since David built his own palace, he’s had building a house for God on his mind (Monday, April 4th, 2 Samuel 7). Ever since the wanderings in the desert in the time of Moses (about 400 years earlier), God’s ‘dwelling’ has been a tent. David wants to give God a more permanent address in Jerusalem. When they first discussed it, God’s response to David, ‘No, thanks. I like my tent just fine.’ At the time, God told David that the real priority was for God to build David a house--that is, a royal dynasty--not for David to build God one. I think David feels that that job is now complete. He has no more enemies, and there is peace on every side. All of his external enemies have been quelled or conquered, and all of the conflict within his family and within Israel has also been resolved. So, David turns once again to the idea of building God a house. I get the sense that David is still much more excited about this project than God is, but this time around God doesn’t stop him. Perhaps God senses from David a positive change in attitude. It’s not so much that David thinks he can help God out here, but that David is so grateful for all of the ways God has helped him. The temple is like a great, big thank you card from David to God.
  • ‘gave orders to assemble the foreigners’--I don’t think this means that every single foreigner will be put to work on the temple. After all, much of David’s family and many of his most important warriors are foreigners; it’s hard to imagine a bunch of generals, queens, and princesses picking up chisels and cutting stones. The foreigners referred to here are probably the prisoners of war from David’s various battles; they’ll be made into a work detail for this huge public work detail David has in mind.
  • ‘more cedar logs than could be counted’--it might sound funny for the king to bother himself with such small things as nails and two by fours, but actually in David’s time and place wood and iron were quite hard-to-get commodities. It would take a lot of time, money, and diplomacy to gather enough of them for the building David has in mind.
  • ‘So David made extensive preparations’--God had said quite explicitly that David would never build God a house. David is technically abiding by their agreement, but he can’t help himself: he has to play a role in this temple. So, while he doesn’t actually break ground on the building site, he puts everything in place for the future.
  • ‘because you have shed much blood’--at least in the story we read, that’s not exactly what God said. The earlier story we read was from the Samuel version of David’s story, and this passage is from the Chronicles version. So, maybe the Chronicler is introducing a different conversation between God and David on the same subject, or maybe Chronicles and Samuel have a different interpretation of the same conversation. There is some commonality between the two; in both versions, God is saying that David will be too busy fighting wars (with God’s help) to spend time building a temple. However, there seems to be a moral edge in Chronicles that’s missing in Samuel; the intimation here seems to be that David’s hands are too bloody with which to build a temple. Maybe God did, in fact, say this to David at another time. Or maybe David misunderstood God’s reasoning.
  • ‘He is the one who will build a house’--again, this isn’t precisely what God said, at least in Samuel. God did indeed say that a descendant of David would build God’s house, but he didn’t say it would be David’s immediate heir. In fact, many people, including Jesus himself, think that the ‘Son of David’ God had in mind was Jesus, not Solomon. In that line of thinking, God never had a temple in mind. He was essentially telling David, ‘Look, I don’t care so much about palaces and temples; I care about people. So, I’m going to build your family up; and then someday a son of yours will build my family up.’ Nonetheless, Solomon may be a little foreshadowing of Jesus; and Solomon’s temple may be like a metaphorical architectural model for the ‘house’ Jesus will someday build.
  • ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged’--David isn’t an easy act to follow. And David wants Solomon not only to take over from him, but to exceed him, accomplishing something he never did. That could be daunting.
  • ‘ordered all the leaders of Israel to help’--this isn’t something Solomon can do on his own. He’ll need everyone’s help to pull it off. David is calling on them to back Solomon as solidly as they did him--in fact, even more.
  • ‘Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God’--I’m not sure exactly how excited God is about this temple idea. But I bet that God is entirely pleased by this encouragement from David. The truly great thing about David is that he has almost always thrown everything he has--heart, soul, body, slingshot, cedar planks, and iron nails--into seeking and following God. Even more than the temple, that’s the legacy worth Solomon and these other leaders continuing.
Taking it Home
  • For you: It took David awhile but he eventually accepted the reality that it wasn’t his job to build the temple. He didn’t give up on his dream, but he learned to check in with God to see what his part in it all was. What are the all the roles that you are currently trying to fulfill in your life? My guess is that there are lot. Ask God to show you specifically what role he wants you to play. Pray that he would make it clear what things are yours to do and what things are somebody else’s to look after. Pray some of David’s word from Psalm 16:
5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
  • For your six: David is able to see and encourage Solomon’s gifts and talents before Solomon has even had the chance to show them. Take some time today to listen to God for your six. Ask God if there is anything he wants to show you about your six’s gifts, skills, and direction in life. Find a way to share those things with your six.
  • For our church: David has big dreams in mind. He thinks beyond himself and his own lifetime, and instead aims at leaving a lasting legacy on God’s behalf. Pray that our church would just as audaciously dream beyond ourselves and 2011, and that we would leave a godly legacy in New Haven, New England and, why not the entire world for centuries to come? Pray that God would use our church in remarkable ways to connect more people with God’s love and goodness than can even be imagined.
  • For families: Take some time to bless the members of your family today. Pray for each other, lay hands on one another, and practice just blessing each other with good things from God. If you see specific gifts or talents in your family members, call those talents out and bless your family members to use them for God’s purposes. Prayers of blessing can take different formats, but are often simple. For example, “I bless you with health, I bless you with the ability to love others well, etc...”

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1 Chronicles 21

Sunday, April 1st:
1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”
3 But Joab replied, “May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. 5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
6 But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him.7 This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.
8 Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
9 The LORD said to Gad, David’s seer, 10 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”
11 So Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Take your choice: 12 three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
13 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
14 So the LORD sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, the LORD saw it and relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
16 David looked up and saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown.
17 David said to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? LORD my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.”
18 Then the angel of the LORD ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 19 So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the LORD.
20 While Araunah was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the angel; his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21 Then David approached, and when Araunah looked and saw him, he left the threshing floor and bowed down before David with his face to the ground.
22 David said to him, “Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.”
23 Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.”
24 But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
25 So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site. 26 David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.
27 Then the LORD spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. 28 At that time, when David saw that the LORD had answered him on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he offered sacrifices there. 29 The tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time on the high place at Gibeon. 30 But David could not go before it to inquire of God, because he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

Points of Interest
‘Satan rose up against Israel‘--this is a surprise appearance. I guess now that all of David’s human enemies have been taken care of, a spiritual one appears. Satan is a powerfully evil spiritual being who is a genius at finding and exploiting character flaws, particularly through temptation and accusation; in fact, his name means, ‘Accuser.’
‘incited David to take a census’--it’s a little curious that this, of all things, is Satan’s nefarious plan. A census seems innocuous enough, boring even. I must be missing something, though, because Joab immediately recognizes the census as a foolish and reprehensible idea.
‘from Beersheba to Dan’--that is, from the far south to the northern tip.
‘May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over’--Joab points out that with David, it’s never been about the number of his troops, but about God’s support. Time and again, when he was running from Saul, when he faced Goliath, as far back as the lion and the bear in his shepherding days and as recently as Absalom’s rebellion, David has been outgunned, but with God’s help he has emerged victorious. Perhaps that’s why the census is such a bad idea. Having relied on God all this time, David now decides that he’d rather depend on the numbers of his army.
‘are they not all my lord’s subjects?’--counting them doesn’t change how many of them there are anyway.
‘Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering’--he doesn’t have the heart for the job and stops before he’s done.
‘Gad, David’s seer’--it seems like David has developed a personal staff as well as his government administration. Zadok and Abiathar are the national priests; Ira is David’s household priest (verse 26 from yesterday’s passage). Nathan is the national prophet; Gad is David’s personal prophet.
‘three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, or three days of the sword of the LORD’--by taking the census, David has said he’d rather rely on his numbers than God. God is now saying, ‘Well, let’s see how your numbers stack up against just one of the terrible things that can happen.’
‘Let me fall into the hands of the LORD’--just as after Uriah’s murder, even now, David trusts that God will ultimately prove merciful.
‘with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem’--David and his councilors come upon something truly terrifying: a huge destroying angel, with a drawn sword, apparently on his way to Jerusalem. What they don’t know is that God has just instructed him to stop. They catch sight of him just as he is about to sheath his sword, but it probably looks to them like he is drawing it instead.
‘I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong’--it does seem unfair that the people are paying for David’s mistake. However, if you’ll remember from the beginning of our story, before Saul, the people didn’t have kings, but were governed directly by God. Against God’s objections, they insisted that they wanted a king instead. I guess an unavoidable part of the whole monarchy package is that the lives of everyone hinge on the decisions of one man. Even with a pretty good king like David, that can sometimes come back to bite you, as it does in this instance.
‘let your hand fall on me and my family’--granting what I say above about the inevitable pitfalls of having a king, it’s still good to see David respond with humility, sorrow, and a desire to take the punishment for his actions on himself. All along, through his ups and downs, David’s saving grace has been that he’s a different sort of king. He’s generally humble before God, and he usually sees himself as the people’s servant rather than their master. With this census, he has momentarily forgotten both of those things. Upon seeing the suffering that results, he snaps back to his old self.
‘No, I insist on paying the full price’--out of deference to the king and in light of the emergency circumstances, Araunah is willing to cede his threshing floor to David as eminent domain. But David wants to be very certain here not to take advantage of one of his subjects. Assuming royal privilege is what has gotten into trouble in the first place, after all.
‘with fire from heaven’--by sending fire from heaven, God is dramatically demonstrating acceptance of David’s offering.
‘he put his sword back into its sheath’--I bet everyone breathed a big sigh of relief here.
‘at that time on the high place at Gibeon’--the tabernacle is the tent that represents God living among humans. It’s a little surprising to hear that the tabernacle is at Gibeon. Last we heard, the ark of the covenant was in Jerusalem; and the ark and the tabernacle should go as a set. Did the tabernacle and the ark somehow get separated? Is the ark on tour? Regardless, the reason it’s significant here is that offerings are only supposed to be sacrificed on the altar found in the tabernacle. But the official altar is too far away for David to get to it under the circumstances; you don’t want to keep an angel with drawn sword waiting. Still, breaking the normal rules must have been a bit unsettling. After all, last time they departed from the proper ritual, by carrying the ark on an oxcart, Uzzah ended up dead. In this case, however, it’s the sword-wielding angel himself who suggests the new altar.

Taking it Home
For you: One last time, we respond to the day’s reading with a psalm. If you need them, you can look to the note at the beginning of the week for suggestions about what to do with the psalm.
Psalm 38
1 LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
5 My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
6 I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
7 My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
8 I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.
9 All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.
13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak;
14 I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
15 LORD, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”
17 For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
19 Many have become my enemies without cause
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
20 Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.
21 LORD, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.
For your six: I’m impressed by David’s ability to stay in it. He is kind of like a marathon runner, who just keeps at it. In the face of his own mistakes, God’s punishment, and incredible pain and frustration, David just keeps pressing in and connecting with God...even when he might not be on the best of terms with God or at all like what God is doing. Pray that your six would have the same endurance to push through to connection with God. Pray for any ways that your six have been hurt by churches or people of faith or have had troubling experiences of God that make it hard for them. Ask that God would be with them through their struggles and questions and that he would reveal himself to them.
For our church: Pray that God would give our church the tenacity to plead before him, like David did. Pray that collectively as a church we would lift up large concerns and boldly ask God to come through for us, for our city, and for the world. Ask God to raise up people who feel specifically called to help lead our initiatives to pray together.
For families: It can be easy to want to rely on how things look in this world rather than exercising faith in what God can do. Talk with your family about things you each want to see happen, things that seem impossible based on the numbers or facts of this world. Then talk about some things God has come through on in the past that have seemed impossible. Pray together that God would give you the faith to believe for this thing you want regardless of how it might look on the outside.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

2 Samuel 21:15-22:51

15 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. 16 And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.”
18 In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha.
19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.
20 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 21 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him.
22 These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.
2 Samuel 22
1 David sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said:
“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
from violent people you save me.
4 “I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and have been saved from my enemies.
5 The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
6 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
7 “In my distress I called to the LORD;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
8 The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens[l] shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
9 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The LORD thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the LORD,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.
17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
21 “The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
25 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight.
26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
29 You, LORD, are my lamp;
the LORD turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
31 “As for God, his way is perfect;
the LORD’s word is flawless.
He shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the LORD?
And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer
and causes me to stand on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You make your saving help my shield;
your help has made me great.
37 You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.
38 “I pursued my enemies and crushed them;
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
39 I crushed them completely, and they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
40 You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
41 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
42 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the LORD, but he did not answer.
43 I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.
44 “You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples;
you have preserved me as the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
45 foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
46 They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.
47 “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
48 He is the God who avenges me,
who puts the nations under me,
49 who sets me free from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
from violent people you rescued me.
50 Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name.
51 “He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.”

Points of Interest
  • ‘he became exhausted’--David isn’t as young as he used to be. He doesn’t have the stamina to fight a long battle anymore. This guy Ishbi-Benob is no Goliath--his spearhead is only half as heavy as Goliath’s was--and yet David can’t handle him on his own.
  • ‘These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath’--this chapter feels to me a bit like the tying up of loose ends. David has only four remaining enemies, these sons of Rapha. One by one, they are hunted down and defeated by the Mighty Men. And with the defeat of the last son of Rapha, David finally has complete peace on every side.
  • ‘the horn of my salvation’--the horns of an animal are a common image of strength in the Bible’s poetry.
  • ‘He mounted the cherubim’--you may or may not remember from the description of the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6) that cherubim are God’s angelic attendants. Apparently, at least for the purposes of this song, David imagines these angels as being in animal form. Not only are they God’s servants or guardians, but steeds God can ride as well. Some people think that the people of David’s day pictured the cherubim as being like sphinxes or griffins; but we’re not really sure.
Taking it Home
  • For you: Chapter 22 is like a medley of a number of David’s psalms, recounting the ways that God has worked over the course of David’s life. If you were to compile your own list of the ways God has helped you or the different seasons you’ve had with God what would it look like? Start at the beginning of your life--or maybe even just the beginning of this week--and reflect on what God has been doing in your life. If you’re still in the middle of a season where you haven't seen God ‘rescue you’ or don’t feel like he has brought you into a ‘spacious place,’ that’s okay; it doesn't have to be rosy. Use the time to be honest with God about how things are going, telling God the ways in which you really do need him to rescue you.
  • For your six: The image of God reaching down from on high to take a hold of us might be one of my favorites. It’s a comforting image of God looking out for us and a reminder that God is the one who willingly and actively pursues us. Pray that God would increase the ways that he is reaching out to your six. Pray that your six would see how God is working, and know that God sees them and is drawing them out of whatever deep waters they may be in.
  • For our church: David recounts how God took him from a place of angst, trouble, and heartache to a place that felt spacious, abundant, and resourced. Ask God to give our church a sense of that same abundance. Pray that we wouldn’t feel tired, down, over-responsible, and driven, but instead that we would feel connected to the bigness of God’s love and generosity. Pray that the decisions we make, programs we run, and initiatives we start would be based upon and would reflect God’s abundance.
  • For families: Look at the poster that your family made listing your Lent prayers (if you don’t have a poster, just talk about your prayers). Take time to praise God for the things he is doing to fulfill these prayers. Also, take time to praise God for all the other things he is doing that you maybe weren’t even praying for or expecting.

Friday, March 30, 2012

2 Samuel 20

1 Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted,
“We have no share in David,
no part in Jesse’s son!
Everyone to your tents, Israel!”
2 So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bikri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
3 When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.
4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.” 5 But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.
6 David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bikri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.” 7 So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.
9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.
11 One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” 12 Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. 13 After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
14 Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maakah and through the entire region of the Bikrites, who gathered together and followed him. 15 All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maakah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down, 16 a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.” 17 He went toward her, and she asked, “Are you Joab?”
“I am,” he answered.
She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.”
“I’m listening,” he said.
18 She continued, “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it. 19 We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the LORD’s inheritance?”
20 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.”
The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.”
22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.
23 Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; 24Adoniram was in charge of forced labor; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 25 Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest.

Points of Interest
  • ‘a troublemaker named Sheba’--as the last chapter ends, after the collapse of Absalom’s rebellion, all of the tribes are clambering over one another trying to show that they’ve always been loyal to David. They’re all so insistent that they start to get on one another’s nerves. Sheba uses the confusion of this moment of bad temper to start yet another rebellion.
  • ‘He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them’--these ten concubines have been through a lot. And it would just be too much, for everyone, for them to be passed back and forth between father and son. So, David gives them a quiet retirement.
  • ‘the king said to Amasa’--as part of the peace settlement after the battle with Absalom’s forces, the king makes Amasa, Absalom’s general, the commander of the army.
  • ‘he took longer than the time the king had set for him’--Amasa’s weakness as a general seems to be slowness to muster. Just as he let David get across the Jordan to a fortified position, he’s now letting Sheba get away.
  • ‘Take your master’s men’--that would be Abishai’s brother Joab’s men. In the reorganization of the military caused by Amasa’s promotion, Joab is made the commander of special forces: the Kerithites, the Pelithites, and the Mighty Men.
  • ‘Amasa came to meet them’--Joab’s special forces roll out quickly and catch up with Sheba, but Amasa finally arrives with the bulk of the army before Joab’s men have a chance to engage in battle.
  • ‘Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand’--Joab is what I call a complicated man: one part voice of reason, one part psychotic killer. He often shows better military and even political judgement than David: he’s the one who brokered the earlier peace between Absalom and David; he kept his head during the whole Rabbah campaign and Uriah incident when David did not; he kept the army together and avoided a wider war during the battle with Absalom. Again and again, he proves himself a good general and statesman. And yet, he’ll murder a personal rival without so much as a blink of an eye. There’s no way he’s going to let this young upstart give him orders.
  • ‘whoever is for David, let him follow Joab’--regardless of what David might say about it, Joab regains command of the army.
  • ‘Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maakah’--what at first looked like a widespread rebellion turns out to be just Sheba’s own clan. Joab is able to quickly contain him.
  • ‘Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy!’--this reminds me of a mafia godfather saying, ‘I’m a family man, a simple importer of olive oil.’ The guy who just poked the king’s son through with javelins and stabbed his rival in the gut with a hidden dagger is saying, ‘Who, me? I’m a man of peace.’ To his credit, though, he has proven willing to avoid unnecessary bloodshed in battle.
  • ‘they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab’--he may be family and all, but in the end, the town is not willing to die for the sake of Sheba’s ill-conceived, slapdash rebellion.
  • ‘Adoniram was in charge of forced labor’--the soldiers of defeated armies were often assigned hard labor as a punishment. The point of this paragraph as a whole, by the way, seems to be that David has re-established control. His administration is firmly in place again.
Taking it Home
  • For you: As we’ve done all week, we’re responding to today’s passage with a psalm of David. See the beginning of the week for some thoughts about how to use the psalm.
Psalm 5
1 Listen to my words, LORD,
consider my lament.
2 Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
6 you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, LORD, detest.
7 But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
  • For your six: You have to think it was rather devastating for David to have Sheba turn on him just as the trouble with Absalom was ending. ‘Who’s next?’ he must have wondered. Ask God to comfort your six over any ways that they have been abandoned by people--whether it was recently or long ago. Pray that they wouldn't continue to carry that feeling of abandonment, but that God would give them a sense of belonging. Ask God to take away any feelings of loneliness they might be experiencing and to give them a strong community of support.
  • For our church: The woman from Abel Beth Maakah becomes an unlikely ally to Joab and his troops. Ask God to give our church alliances with unlikely people, institutions, and sectors of society. Pray that God would make the dream our church has of influencing secular culture a reality, and that he would do so through unique and creative partnerships.
  • For families: Take a look at your family’s Lent poster on the project God is calling you to as a family in this time. Have you already taken any actions on this? How is it going? Ask God to show you any unlikely people that might help you take the next step toward his idea for your family. If you sense that he’s giving you a name, go talk to that person and see what they might offer.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

2 Samuel 18:19-19:8

19 Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.”
20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.”
21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off.
22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”
But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”
23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.”
So Joab said, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.
24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.
The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the runner came closer and closer.
26 Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!”
The king said, “He must be bringing good news, too.”
27 The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”
“He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.”
28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.”
29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”
30 The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.
31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The LORD has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”
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!”

19:1 Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
5 Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”
8 So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.
Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.

Points of Interest
  • ‘You are not the one to take the news today’--this is considerate of Joab. Joab is the one who actually killed Absalom, and he is convinced it was the right thing to do. But he’s under no illusion that David will be happy about it. He doesn’t want young and eager Ahimaaz to bear the brunt of David’s displeasure.
  • ‘Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.”’--while kind to Ahimaaz, this puts the Cushite in a difficult spot. Maybe Joab thinks that this Cushite will be more capable of delivering the news with the required gravity, while Ahimaaz is a bit over-enthusiastic; or maybe he just cares less about what happens to this Cushite. Then again, David’s later interaction with the lookout might indicate that Joab is just trying to get his signals right. If the messenger is someone he knows, David will expect good news; if it’s a stranger, he’ll know there’s bad news involved. If David is prepared well for the bad news, he’ll be less shocked, and perhaps be less likely to do something rash to the messenger. If David is expecting good news, but gets bad news, who knows what might happen? Cush, by the way, is modern Sudan; this man has traveled a long way to end up in David’s army.
  • ‘sitting between the inner and outer gates’--for purposes of defense, the outer walls of a city would be quite thick, and there would be a series of gates. I think that here, though, the point is that David is eager to hear the news; he can’t stand to be fully inside the city. It’s like he’s standing by the screen door, waiting.
  • ‘If he is alone, he must have good news’--David can’t wait to hear the message, but instead takes his signals from what he can see from a distance. What he sees makes him cautiously optimistic. If the battle went truly poorly, you might see whole groups of soldiers retreating to the city.
  • ‘the first one runs like Ahimaaz’--Ahimaaz overtakes the Cushite, which would be more impressive if this were a race. Ahimaaz is a very speedy messenger, but he’s much less competent on the whole message part of being a messenger. David is eagerly looking for news on two subjects: 1) Did his army win the battle? and 2) Did Absalom survive? Ahimaaz has only half an answer for him. Ahimaaz’s very incompetence perhaps saves his life, though. He doesn’t even know the bad news that would give David a nasty shock.
  • ‘If only I had died instead of you’--David’s first reaction is as a father, rather than a general; of course, no parent wants to outlive their child.
  • ‘Now go out and encourage your men’--David’s reaction isn’t entirely fitting to the occasion. All of David’s soldiers have put their own lives at stake to protect David’s life, and now--after the fact--he’s saying that he wishes they hadn’t succeeded. The army has done their duty and done it well, but they’re left feeling as if they’ve done something wrong. Joab reminds David that his position doesn’t afford him the luxury of a personal reaction to his son’s death, at least in public. His soldiers’ duty was to fight for him; and now his duty is to congratulate them on a job well done.

Taking it Home
  • For you: For those of you just jumping in at this point in the week, in our ‘For you’ section this week, we’re reflecting on and praying from psalms.
Psalm 143
A psalm of David.
1 LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.
7 Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
11 For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.
  • For your six: Joab reminds David that regardless of David’s own conflicted emotions upon hearing about Absalom’s death, all of David’s men currently need encouragement from him. Ask God to encourage your six today. Pray that they would feel cheered by good news and hopeful about their circumstances in life. Ask God if there is something you could do specifically to encourage them.
  • For our church: David’s response to Absalom’s death makes me think that David would have gladly forgiven Absalom if Absalom had just come home and said he was sorry. Despite all the competing interests and conflict, we get the picture that David really loved his son. Ask God to make our church one that really, really loves people, even when it’s most difficult.
  • For families: Is there anything that’s happened in your family that is hasn’t been forgiven? Whether it’s something that’s fresh or that has been pushed aside for a while, if it’s still bothering you consider bringing it up today and telling your family member how you feel. Ask God for the right words to use in this conversation. Try your best to both give and receive forgiveness. And pray that the air would be cleared between you.