Category Archives: David

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 496 – David’s Story – Wrappin’ Things Up

06/19/16 – 496 – David’s Story – Wrappin’ Things Up

Yes, I know it’s Sunday. I even remember we finished with David’s story yesterday. Just had a few more thoughts from his story that might actually relate to our worship today.

You might have heard it said that ‘life is a series of battles’. This was certainly true of David, wasn’t it? From the time he was a boy shepherd, fighting off wild animals to defend his sheep (there’s a word picture for us, no?) until the day he died he always seemed to be fighting someone or something. Also, while he was fighting those ‘real’ battles – the wars with spears and swords and things – he was fighting the same internal battles that most of us face.

These were the battles with temptation, depression, fear etc. If you don’t believe me, just read the Psalms. In fact, here’s a list that John Piper put together:

  • Loneliness: “I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalms 25:16).
  • Love: “I love you, O Lord, my strength” (Psalms 18:1).
  • Awe: “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him” (Psalms 33:8).
  • Sorrow: “My life is spent with sorrow” (Psalms 31:10).
  • Regret: “I am sorry for my sin” (Psalms 38:18).
  • Contrition: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalms 51:17).
  • Discouragement and turmoil: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me” (Psalms 42:5)?
  • Shame: “Shame has covered my face” (Psalms 44:15).
  • Exultation: “In your salvation how greatly he exults” (Psalms 21:1).
  • Marveling: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalms 118:23).
  • Delight: “His delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalms 1:2).
  • Joy: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalms 4:7).
  • Gladness: “I will be glad and exult in you” (Psalms 9:2).
  • Fear: “Serve the Lord with fear” (Psalms 2:11).
  • Anger: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Psalms 4:4).
  • Peace: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep” (Psalms 4:8).
  • Grief: “My eye wastes away because of grief” (Psalms 6:7).
  • Desire: “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted” (Psalms 10:17).
  • Hope: “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalms 33:22).
  • Brokenheartedness: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).
  • Gratitude: “I will thank you in the great congregation” (Psalms 35:18).
  • Zeal: “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (Psalms 69:9).
  • Pain: “I am afflicted and in pain” (Psalms 69:29).
  • Confidence: “Though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalms 27:3).

 I want you read all those before church this morning, and you’ll truly be prepared for anything.

Just kidding – I know most of you would probably miss church! Really, I want you to notice one thing from all this – there are battles, but there are many victories as well! God always comes through for David. Even when David does wrong, He is able to reconcile with God. Sometimes there was punishment. But that’s the punishment that Jesus Christ took on His shoulders when He went to the cross for us.

Don’t get me wrong. We still have to reconcile – but for us it’s about confessing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and about repenting of our sins. This means real change in our lives.

Hebrews 9:26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins

 Scary, eh? Only if you never really allowed the Holy Spirirt to change you after you were ‘saved’.

But today, I want to end on a high note. I’ll borrow this (maybe literal) ‘high note’ from one of David’s songs:

Psalm 33:22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

If you are one that has never allowed the Spirit in to change you – make today your day. If you are one fighting one of those internal (or external) battles, find it in the list above and start your prayers there. If you’re all good – hallelujah! You better be saying THANK YOU, because you’re one of the few. If you’re one of the many, don’t forget our last verse – we all have hope in Jesus Christ.

Now, you’re ready. Go and worship.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 495 – David’s Story – Wrappin’ Things Up

06/18/16 – 495 – David’s Story – Wrappin’ Things Up

Well, we’ve certainly spent a long time with David, and walked through some great adventures with him, haven’t we? But as they say, all good things must come to an end.

There were more battles, and Samuel talks a little more about David’s ‘Mighty Men’, and the problems caused for Israel when he decided to take a census of all the fighting men in Israel and Judah. That one cost the lives of 70,000 people in 3 days of pestilence, according to the text.

But before these last reminiscences, the scripture gives us this:

2 Sam 23:1-7

23 These are the last words of David:

“David, the son of Jesse, speaks—David, the man who was raised up so high, David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, David, the sweet psalmist of Israel.

 2 “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; his words are upon my tongue.3 The God of Israel spoke. The Rock of Israel said to me: ‘The one who rules righteously, who rules in the fear of God, 4 is like the light of morning at sunrise, like a morning without clouds, like the gleaming of the sun on new grass after rain.’

5 “Is it not my family God has chosen? Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail. He will ensure my safety and success.6 But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away, for they tear the hand that touches them.7 One must use iron tools to chop them down; they will be totally consumed by fire.” NLT

The question is, as always, what does this mean for us? For starters, verse 2“The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; his words are upon my tongue” might look a bit conceited` at first glance. But it was not, because it was true. It was true of David because of what he said in verse 5 – “Is it not my family God has chosen? Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail. He will ensure my safety and success.”

The answer to the above question is a question. Aren’t those same things true of you and I today? Hasn’t Christ chosen you as His child? Hasn’t He made an everlasting covenant with you? If so, shouldn’t His Spirit be speaking through you, His words on the tip of your tongue? (Hint: If you call yourself a Christian, but you speech doesn’t reflect that – there’s a problem somewhere.)

There is one thing I would take issue with in David’s last words, though. That is the last 2 verses, 6&7 where he says “But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away, for they tear the hand that touches them.7 One must use iron tools to chop them down”.

David was speaking from the viewpoint of a warrior trying to protect God’s kingdom and people from enemies like the Philistines and all the ‘ites’ that wanted to kill them. Jesus hadn’t yet come, and David certainly wasn’t thinking that the someday messiah was coming for the Gentile as well as the Hebrew.

We who know Christ must come from the viewpoint that the ‘godless’ are those that need Him – and it’s our Great Commission to present the Gospel to them if there is any way possible that they are willing to listen. Even if they are not, we are called upon by Christ to love our enemies, not to “use iron tools to chop them down”.

Always remember the importance of context in reading scripture. If you’re not sure, look it up or ask someone who knows (like your pastor – he knows everything). Yes, I’m kidding.

Anyway, this will end our long walk through David’s life. I’m still not sure what story we’ll start on Monday, so it will be a surprise to me too! But the Holy Spirit hasn’t let us down yet, has He? Let’s pray today and thank Him for that, and for the example of a great man who, although He was a king, never forgot that he was also a shepherd, and never forgot his love for and dependence on God

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 494 – David the King, David the Dad

06/17/16 – 494 – David the King, David the Dad

As happens with most of us, I think, David blinked and found he had grown old. I know there are many days I look in the mirror and wonder ”Who is that old man looking back at me?” Then I’ll put my socks on and wonder how in the world I got my dad’s legs!

There were more battles against the Philistines – giants like Goliath. Relatives of his, in fact.

2 Sam 21:18-22

18 In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha.

 19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed 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. NIV

David couldn’t fight these battles personally, but he could still lead his kingdom. I think that’s hard for many of us to understand, especially as we grow older. Leadership is not doing everything yourself, it is empowering, equipping and allowing others to do things – even though they may not do them exactly the way you would have done them.

There are 2 diseases that many of us suffer from. One is ‘perfectionism’ (which has to be a misnomer, since none of us is perfect anyway) and the second closely related is micro-management. Why am I bringing this up here – in a devotional? Good question.

We are called to make disciples. Which means we are called to reach people for Christ according to His example. Look at Jesus’ life. He taught people principles to live by. He didn’t micro-manage. He didn’t get frustrated because they weren’t getting it and do everything Himself. He just wanted them to understand the doctrine – those principles – and apply them to their lives. As He does with us.

When we teach people (maybe our own kids) that what they do isn’t good enough – right down to the least detail – what are we really teaching them? That it’s about what they do, rather than who they are. That no matter how hard they try, they’ll never make the grade because there will always be something that could have been better (in your eyes, anyway).

Think about how frustrating it would be if there were no set standard – if the bar kept moving. Think about how it would be if no matter how well you did the standard were always moved a little higher.

Thank God we have a standard given to us in His Word that never changes. That standard is Jesus Christ. Yes, I know we aren’t Him. I know we aren’t perfect. But that’s not what’s expected of us.

Gal 2:20-21

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. NIV

Let today’s prayer be a prayer of recommitment, of re-affirmation of your covenant with Him. Thank Him for loving you enough to allow you to be His disciple rather than a robot that He just micro-manages through life. Thank Him for loving you enough to truly desire a relationship with you.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 493 – David the King, David the Dad

06/16/16 – 493 – David the King, David the Dad

So, what did you think about that comparison between 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 yesterday? Pretty close, eh? Yes, I know. We’re all busy. Just remember – failure to do your ‘homework‘ does not qualify you for a refund if you don’t get what you’re hoping to!

On second thought – why not? I’ll be happy to give you all a money back guarantee – 100% refund if not fully satisfied, no questions asked.

OK, I’ll get serious. First, we would be seriously remiss if we ended our study of David without taking a look at some of his songs, since that was a huge part of his life. In this case, the song he apparently wrote (or at least wrote previously that came to mind again) when he was about to be killed by Philistine warriors was the one found in these 2 passages. By the way, there are differences, but very small ones.

2 Sam 22:4-19

 I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am 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 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 arrows and scattered [the enemies], bolts of lightning and 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. NIV

Wow! What a picture of God literally coming out of His throne in heaven to rescue David! How much more powerful if you can just come to the realization that He will do the same for you!

This is what it means to be in covenant with the God who created the universe. This is what it means to have that covenant partner fighting for you.

This is what it means to have God’s protection.

It’s not just some benign little bubble that the bad stuff bounces off of. It’s El-Gibhor (the “Mighty God of Isaiah 9:6) scrambling to confront our enemies and rescue us when the battle is about to overwhelm us.

Back in the early 1980s, when the first Star Wars movie came out, we in the fire service had a big problem. We found that our (often black) coats, helmets & masks combined with the sound our air packs made looked and sounded a lot like the villain Darth Vader – especially in a smoke-filled room. Kids were hiding from us instead of calling to us for help, and at least a few died, even hiding in dresser drawers.

When we figured our what was going on, it triggered a years-long massive PR campaign to teach kids that we weren’t the bad guy Vader, but we really were the people that would come to save them.

Here’s the question. When God comes to save you, will you recognize Him? It’s not a trick question. Sometimes he comes the way David describes. Sometimes he comes as a small, soft-spoken rabbi. Sometimes we get to watch the battle. Sometimes we have to realize – the battle’s already been won.

However, whenever, wherever He has saved you, take time now to pray a prayer of gratitude for that, and that He is still there – watching over us, protecting us, and fighting for us.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 492 – David the King, David the Dad

06/15/16 – 492 – David the King, David the Dad

First, let me apologize for being late this morning, there are still a few ups and downs from my recent illness. Let’s hope the rest of the day brings more ‘ups’ than ‘downs’.

2 Sam 21:15 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.”

I think I can empathize with David a little bit here. While I was in the hospital, my wife (representing David’s men in the story) informed me that we needed to “have a talk” (in the story that equals “swore to him”) about all the things I’ve bee involve in and about future plans for things (like mission trips to faraway places). Sometimes she is so much wiser than I am, and I’ve learned that I need to listen when she speaks to me.

It’s not that I can’t do any of these things, it’s that I can’t do all of these things any more. When I got sick a few months ago after returning from Peru, the doctor called it a “perfect storm” of moderate factors. None of the problems by themselves or even in combination of a few together would have been serious enough to do what they did, but there were just too many at the same time, and they simply overwhelmed my heart.

So, like David, I guess I need to learn to delegate, to prioritize, to figure out what others can do and what I have to do myself. And what needs to be done at all.

As I write, I just realized it sounds like I’m writing you a goodbye letter! I’m not – at least not yet. One thing I promise you – my priorities will be based upon what God has called me to do, and one of the main things He has called me to do is to write. I’m now quitting this yet, or anytime soon as far as I can see!

Not that I consider myself ‘the lamp of Israel’, but it would be nice if I could bring a little light into someone’s light now and then. And since I am called to preach and teach after all, and don’t have a church to lead, you are it 😉

So what does an old man do when he can’t go out into the battle himself anymore? Obviously, in my case, he writes. In the case of former president Jimmy Carter, he builds houses. In David’s case, he writes music and poetry. One of his greatest is recorded in the next chapter, 2 Samuel 22, and with minimal changes in Psalm 18.

Do yourself a favor today. Read it as you go through the day. Mark the familiar parts, and/or those that touch your heart. Remember where David must have been emotionally when he wrote it – after he was exhausted in the battle, with Philistines standing over him to kill him and him without enough strength to raise his sword. Then make that song your prayer for today.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 491 – David the King, David the Dad

06/14/16 – 491 – David the King, David the Dad

As we wind down to the end of our study of David’s story, I just want to remind you all that you are welcome to suggest or request any stories that you would like us to work through. I find that very often the prompting of the Spirit comes through other people, and if you’re feeling that special urge to know more about something in particular, there are probably others out there who need it as well. Just reply or comment to any of my posts, or email me at pastorvogel01@att.net. Thank you.

I told you yesterday that there was more to this part of the story. David had turned over 7 of Saul’s son’s and grandsons to the Gibeonites to be put to death. This was because Saul had broken the treaty made by Joshua in Joshua 9 (that they would not be harmed) by trying to commit genocide. Now there was a famine, and God told David that this was the reason.

We learned yesterday that the 7 bodies were impaled on poles and put on display until the rains came and the famine was ended. So… a long time. In Israel, one of the worst insults that could be done was to leave someone without a proper burial, preferably by nightfall on the day they died so that the animal would not begin to eat their flesh. Think about it – how often in scripture do we hear the threat of that ‘the birds will eat your flesh’ and the like?

Now the 2 sons of Saul that had been executed were born to a concubine named Rizpah. She was not about to let that happen.

2 Sam 21:10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had taken them secretly from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.

14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land. NIV

I can’t imagine (or maybe I just don’t want to imagine) a more grisly job than guarding 7 ripe dead bodies and trying to keep the animals away from them. She can’t have gotten much sleep during that time. The text doesn’t say exactly how long this was, but apparently it was not just a few days. All I can say is, that was one determined mom!

I know 2 of these bodies were her own sons, but the other 5 were not. Yet she protected all of them simply because it was the right thing to do! There seems to be a shortage of people like her nowadays, doesn’t there? Even among the Christian Community? We’re willing, as long as it’s not too much trouble. We’ll help people out, but they have to be connected somehow because otherwise who knows what they’ll do with the money?

Giving of ourselves seems to be the hardest – especially when the job is distasteful. I think we have to get down to brass tacks. When you become aware of a need, immediately pray. I don’t care if it’s in a church announcement or seeing that guy on the exit ramp with the cardboard sign. Ask God what He wants you to do in that particular situation. Then do it. Sometimes it will be simple. Sometimes it will be hard. But it will always be the best; most rewarding thing you could ever do – because you are living directly in the will of God.

Let’s pray today that the Spirit would always prompt us, when we see a need, to pray for God’s direction, and give us the strength to be obedient every time.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 490 – David the King, David the Dad

06/13/16 – 490 – David the King, David the Dad

Once again I must thank you all for being patient while I’ve been a patient. That which began as a severe pneumonia triggered serial migraines that triggered a serious cardiac arrhythmia. Suffice it to say I’m never an easy patient.

This kind of experience does make you think, though, about life and death, about one’s own mortality and so on. I often feel that I’m already here on borrowed time. I just had my 62nd birthday about 2 weeks ago, and there where many times in my life I never thought I’d live to see it.

So while I was lying in my hospital bed going through crisis after crisis, I’m thinking ‘Really? Are you kidding me? You let me make 62, but not a week more?’ Not angry, just frustrated. Frustrated that I still haven’t finished some of the things that God has called me to do. Realizing that whether He gives me another month or another 20 years, His assignments have to be my first priorities. Period.

I don’t know – maybe in a way I’ve been afraid to finish them. As though if I finished, my time would be up. In m head Ii know He doesn’t work that way, but you know as well as I do that our emotions and our minds aren’t always in sync.

I’ve said all that to say 2 things. First, thank you. I know I don’t have hundreds of readers. I never expected to when I started this devotional. There are ways I could make it easier, simpler, and shorter, less challenging/convicting that would gain more readers. To put it simply, I have absolutely no interest in that audience.

If that’s what you want, there is any number of ‘one-minute devotionals’ out there. The problem is, unless you’re a brand new Christian, you need to get out of the shallow end of the pool some time. Seriously, most of those that I’ve seen wouldn’t even qualify as the ‘shallow end’ – more like the foot bath before you get in the kiddie pool.

They’re designed and/or used as an end in themselves, to make people feel like they’ve done their daily duty for God in a few minutes, without danger of any kind of conviction or discomfort or even deep thought. And sadly, that’s as far as they go. Even more sadly, there are many more that don’t even get that far in their daily walk with the Lord.

Thank you for being serious about digging deeper into the Word with me, about getting closer to God, about growing in Christ – no matter where it takes you. You are the kind of reader to which I was called to teach.

The second is that I do plan to continue these devotionals – starting tomorrow we’ll get to wrapping up David’s story. If you have any requests for another, short or long, let me know. I had know ide David would take us as long as it has, but what a ride it’s been, no? Let’s finish up today with one of his songs, and make that our prayer as we prepare our hearts to get back on track.

Ps 13

1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?

How long will you look the other way?

2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,

with sorrow in my heart every day?

How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!

Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.

4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”

Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love.

I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

6 I will sing to the Lord

because he is good to me. NLT

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 489 – David the King, David the Dad

06/02/16 – 489 – David the King, David the Dad

The rebellions were finally over for now, but the troubles for Israel were not. The first thing mentioned in the ensuing text is this:

2 Sam 21: During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”

The Gibeonites were descendants of the Amorites, and of course you remember who they were, right?

{Sound of crickets chirping}

That’s what I thought.

Ok, I’ll tell you. When the Israelites were in the process of taking the Promised land from its original inhabitants, the Gibeonites heard about it and were afraid that they would be wiped out also. God had told the Israelites that they were not to make treaties with any of these people, but were simply to wipe them out if they wouldn’t leave.

When Joshua and his army got close, the Gibeonites sent men dressed like they had been traveling for months. They tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them (him thinking that they lived far enough away that they were not in the Promised land). God was angry, but Joshua had made a covenant. So the Gibeonites were not to be killed, God said, but would become “woodcutters and water carriers” to the Israelites. You can read about it in Joshua 9. This covenant was binding for all the kings of Israel, however, one of them had broken it. Let’s keep going:

Verse 2 The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to [spare] them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) 3 David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”

 4 The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.”

 “What do you want me to do for you?” David asked.

 5 They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, 6 let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul — the Lord’s chosen one.”

 So the king said, “I will give them to you.” NIV

What???? Sounds pretty harsh, no? But David did as they asked. He turned over 2 of Saul’s sons and 5 of his grandson’s (although not Mephibosheth because of his covenant with Jonathon). The Gibeonites put them to death and impaled their bodies on poles until the curse was lifted and the rain came.

The first question is ‘why would David go along with such a thing? Remember, we have to read this in the context of the time and culture of which it was written. Apparently Saul had, at some point, tried to wipe out the Gibeonites in spite of their agreement. According to the law, the worst defilement of the land was to have innocent blood spilled on it – and Saul had done that in a big way. He tried to commit genocide.

Go back and re-read verse 1 – David had asked God, and been told that this was the cause of the famine. The only way to make it right was blood for blood. Unfortunately, innocent blood – as far as we know.

There’s more to this part of the story we’ll look at tomorrow. For today, let’s take the obvious. Innocent blood shed to cleanse the stain of sin. Sound familiar? Since the very beginning of the Bible, blood has been necessary to cover our guilt – starting with the animals that had to die to provide clothes for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness.

I can’t tell you why. I can only tell you that I’m glad we have a Savior who was willing and able to come and be that atoning sacrifice for me. I think today would be a good day to think about what He suffered to do that – and thank Him. Don’t you?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 488 – David the King, David the Dad

06/01/16 – 488 – David the King, David the Dad

After murdering Amasa, Joab took command of his troops and went after Sheba, who had picked up a good number of followers of his own as he fled. (Which is kind of funny, if you think about it. All those people in a hurry to join the guy who’s running away.) Anyway, He made it to a fortified city called Abel Beth Maacah. Joab and his men built a siege ramp and began working on knocking down the gates to take the entire city. Finally, someone showed up who seemed to show a little wisdom.

2 Sam 20:15 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 Bicri, 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 Bicri 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. NIV

Basically, this woman reminded Joab that according to the law given in Deut 20:10, that when a city was about to be attacked they were first to be given an offer of peace. She also let him know, although possibly not in so many words, that the people in the city weren’t necessarily siding with Sheba. After all, they hadn’t started this fight nor invited him in.

Fortunately, Joab saw her point and gave the city a chance. We don’t know what the woman said to the people inside. But we do know that Sheba’s head came over the wall like a Michael Jordan 3-pointer! So once again, the wisdom of an unnamed woman saved countless lives.

I wish we knew who she was, but in another way, I’m glad we don’t. I think that too often we get the idea that the only people that can really make a difference in the world are the people like King David or Jesus’ 12 disciples. I think that when we begin to think that way, it’s the beginning of a line of rationalization that ends with – ‘I’m not anything special, so it’s OK if I don’t even try’.

We don’t witness because we’re not preachers (like Billy Graham). We don’t give because we’re not rich (like Bill Gates). We don’t volunteer because we’re not like Mother Theresa. These all sound like great excuses, don’t they? Do you think God will buy them?

We all know the truth. We all have something to give. We all have a unique gift or set of gifts, given to us by God for the express purpose of sharing them with others. This nameless woman, with the gift of wisdom, saved a city. Maybe you won’t. But you know what you will do, if you use the gifts God gave you? Exactly what He wanted you to do when He created you. And that, my friend, is enough.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 487 – David the King, David the Dad

05/31/16 – 487 – David the King, David the Dad

After Joab’s last tirade against David (which admittedly stirred him out of his funk and got him moving back toward Jerusalem after Absalom’s death), David had removed Joab as commander of all his armies, and given that job to Amasa, son of his wife Abigail. So, I guess even Joab couldn’t say whatever he wanted to the king and get away with it completely. Now that this “troublemaker” Sheba had started up, and had all too easily convinced people to follow him, David had a problem.

So soon on the heels of Absalom’s rebellion, I’m sure it looked like a) the 10 northern tribes would follow just about anyone, and b) if this was the beginning of a new uprising he had better nip it in the bud! So David sent Amasa to muster the troops once more to pursue Sheba and his men. Amasa was to gather as many men as he could and report back to David in 3 days. Turns out there was one small problem – Amasa was late.

We don’t know why he was late. We do know that when he didn’t show up David reacted swiftly, in a way that pretty much showed that any trust he may have had in Amasa was gone. That’s sort of funny when you consider that David had made him his military Chief of Staff! Maybe it was because Amasa had been commander of Absalom’s army during the uprising. Maybe David thought he had turned against him after all and joined Sheba. Maybe Joab still had David’s ear.

Regardless, David called Abishai, Joab’s brother and commander of one third of David’s troops during the recent revolt, and sent him to hunt down Sheba. For some reason, Joab tagged along even though he had no official place. Shortly after they left, they met Amasa coming in to meet David! Unfortunately, Joab (who had murdered before in order to do what he felt had to be done ‘for king and country’) saw him coming. Amasa had no idea what treachery Joab had in mind.

2 Sam 20:8 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 Bicri.

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, all the men went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bicri. NIV

This is the danger of rationalization. Joab had done bad things for what he thought were the right reasons. We could get into a thousand ethical and moral debates about this, like ‘is it OK to torture a terrorism suspect’? The problem is that when we stop allowing God to have control, and instead believe that we are the only ones who are qualified, and therefore whatever we do is OK, we are on a very slippery slope.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary at times. But I also know that God is in control. He must be, or we’re all done. I’m sure Joab talked himself into believing that he was doing this for the greater good. He very likely talked his brother Abishai into believing that also. But it really doesn’t matter who believes it.

All that matters is the truth. God’s truth. God’s Word is pretty simple. When we read His law, and follow by saying, yes, but… Stop right there. Pray. Because you’re going to need it.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 486 – David the King, David the Dad

05/30/16 – 486 – David the King, David the Dad

Back to our story. David had met with many people on his way back to Jerusalem after Absalom’s rebellion. It seems that everyone had an agenda. Either they wanted to excuse themselves for staying back when David left, or set themselves up in the newly shaken-up hierarchy left by Absalom’s followers.

This finally seemed to be taking its toll on David and company, who really just needed to get back to the business of running the kingdom. So representatives from the tribes of Judah, along with men from about half of the 10 northern tribes of Israel escorted David across the Jordan River into Jerusalem. For the nation, this should have been the moment that brought the people back together, a unifying moment of victory. Unfortunately, The attitude of the people made it anything but.

2 Sam 19:41 Soon all the men of Israel were coming to the king and saying to him, “Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, steal the king away and bring him and his household across the Jordan, together with all his men?”

42 All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “We did this because the king is closely related to us. Why are you angry about it? Have we eaten any of the king’s provisions? Have we taken anything for ourselves?”

43 Then the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king; and besides, we have a greater claim on David than you have. So why do you treat us with contempt? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?”

But the men of Judah responded even more harshly than the men of Israel. NIV

I’m not sure that it was any kind of particular honor to escort the king, just more of a ‘marking your territory’ kind of thing. The northern tribes argued that they had 10 shares for 10 tribes whereas Judah had only 2, as if David was a company stock or a chocolate cake (I’m not sure which). To me, it sounds so childish as to be ludicrous. Yet, wars have been started over much less – and continue to be.

Anyway, a man named Sheba – the text calls him a ‘troublemaker’ called for the northern tribes to desert David because of this – and of course, they had the good sense not to listen. Right. (You know, it’s hard to get sarcasm to come through clearly in writing – you have to really work at it.)

Wouldn’t you think that immediately following one rebellion (that was put down by David and his loyal followers), people would think twice about starting up against him again? Then again, maybe that’s why they were called the children of Israel. (There – sarcasm come through OK that time?)

The northern tribes followed Sheba son of Bicri and deserted David, starting a whole new batch of trouble.

Why is it that every time one evil leader is out of the picture, there seems to be another waiting in the shadows to step up and take over? Worse yet, there never seems to be a shortage of people ready and willing to follow? And, worst of all, this doesn’t only happen out in the world. It happens within the church – the group of people that is supposed to be the body of Jesus Christ Himself.

I’m afraid the only answer I have for the ‘why’ question is that everyone – even everyone within the church – has yet to surrender himself or herself completely to the transforming work of Christ. The sin nature (self-centeredness) is still in control.

What can we do about it? Well, we could go back to the biblical tradition of stoning (sarcasm!) Actually, there is one place we can absolutely make a difference – within ourselves. We can examine ourselves (in light of the Word and with the help of the Spirit) and make sure that we are not one of those that are acting like the children of Israel.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 485

05/29/16 – 485

 Prov 4:4-7 Then he taught me, and he said to me,

    “Take hold of my words with all your heart;

    keep my commands, and you will live.

Get wisdom, get understanding;

    do not forget my words or turn away from them.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;

    love her, and she will watch over you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.

    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of people are taking this advice these days, does it? Sometimes, even in the church! (At least I didn’t say especially in the church.) Yet as I read this passage, it sounds like wisdom is something that’s extremely important, doesn’t it? I know I’ve done this a number of times, so I’ll just do a quick review:

Intelligence is your ability to think – how your mind works.

Knowledge is what you know.

Wisdom is the ability to apply the first 2 to everyday life.

We can, and often do, have a wealth of knowledge yet can’t seem to use it to make our lives any better, or improve the world around us. And yes, this happens all too often in the church. We have people with the capacity to learn, but not the willingness to learn new things. We have people with decades worth of knowledge (presumably) gained by church attendance, Sunday school, Bible study etc., but the only thing they seem to want to do with it is to pull out a snippet of a verse here and there to justify keeping things the way they’ve been comfortable with. That, I’m afraid is not wisdom.

I know a church that hired a new lead pastor last year. They were very blessed to have found one with a Master’s degree in Missional Leadership. He had a good measure of experience in the practical application of that kind of leadership. The church board and congregation recognized that they were sort of stagnant, and needed someone who could lead them to where God wanted them to be. Yet, with each change there was push-back. There was resistance. It seems that everyone knew better how to do it than the pastor who made it his life’s work. If only you would do it “the way we did it when…”

Let me make an analogy. Say you discovered that your muscles were atrophying, turning to jelly and disappearing from lack of use, even though you know how to use them – you just haven’t been.       So you decide to hire a physical therapist to lead you back to health. Not just any therapist, but one who has gone beyond what most do and earned more advanced degrees, gained more experience than most others. Do you listen to him? Or do you argue with him, tell him the right way to get you back in shape without leaving your armchair and TV?

When you get sick, and go to a specialist, do you listen to his or her advice? Or, when he says something you don’t like “Sorry, but you have to lose some weight”, do you balk and tell him how to treat you? Full disclosure – as an ER nurse, I’ve seen many people come in and tell us how to treat them, so this might not be the best example. Then again, maybe it is. It’s about wisdom, or the lack thereof, remember?

When you have the expert counsel available, do you take their advice? Do you apply it to your life and to that of the church – even if it means change that you may not like? That, my friends, is wisdom. To disregard that person’s knowledge and intelligence, especially if this is a godly leader who applies his counsel to his own life, is not wisdom. It’s foolishness.

Maybe the reason wisdom is so precious is not just because it’s so important. Maybe it’s because, like a precious gem, it’s so rare. Make sure you know how to recognize the real thing when you see it.

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Have a great worship today. Don’t forget to pray for your pastor.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 484 – David the King, David the Dad

05/28/16 – 484 – David the King, David the Dad

Another person that came to see David as he returned to Jerusalem was Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth. You may recall (if your memory is better than mine) that he met David on the way out of town with donkeys and a whole lot of provisions for his hungry army. He had told David that Mephibosheth, his master (son of Jonathon, who was King Saul’s son and David’s closest friend until he was killed in battle)      had decided to stay and side with Absalom.

At that point David had given all that belonged to Mephibosheth to Ziba, thinking that Mephibosheth was a traitor. Of course, that was a lie. Mephibosheth was crippled, so he needed Ziba to help him travel to make that journey, but Ziba had abandoned him when he saw an opportunity.

However, Mephibosheth also came to David, and David asked the big question:

2 Sam 19:25 When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?”

26 He said, “My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me. 27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever pleases you. 28 All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who sat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?”

29 The king said to him, “Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the fields.”

30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has arrived home safely.” NIV

We have to remember the relationship here to get the full meaning of the story. Meph’s (I’m really getting tired of typing his whole name) dad was Jonathon, David’s covenant partner and the closest friend he’d ever had. His granddad was Saul, who had spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to kill David purely out of jealousy.

The two were killed together by the Philistine’s at the battle of Beth-shan, which brought David to the throne. When that happened, the normal (and smart thing, according to the culture of the day) would have been for David to eliminate any potential threat to his throne by eliminating Saul’s bloodline. In other words, David should have killed all of Saul’s relatives.                                                                                                                                                                                    Instead, David sought them out to take care of them in honor of Saul, and when he learned that His friend/covenant brother Jonathon had left a son, he brought him into his own house and treated him as one of his own. So if Meph had turned against him, it was as though another son had rebelled in addition to Absalom, an adopted son that had been given everything he had, his life, lands, a home, and all that lavishly, just because David loved his father.

You might also be scratching your head at this; why did Ziba still get half of Meph’s belongings? I’m afraid I don’t have an entire answer other than this possibility. David had given a general amnesty for everyone connected with the rebellion. This even included Joab, who had killed Absalom against David’s orders. So, amnesty means forgiveness, and apparently, it means that for everyone whether they ‘deserve’ it or not. Maybe this is simply a picture of grace.

OK, think about this. Here’s a hint – it’s another one of those word pictures I talk about all the time. Who else does this describe? Who else has been brought into a royal household (instead of being given a death sentence), given life freely and abundantly, a home (not just here, but forever) and has had all his or her needs supplied, just because the King loved his or her father(s), and is willing to honor the covenant that was made with them? If you still haven’t guessed, I’ll give you one more hint. Got a mirror handy?

So, the thought for today is this – how much must it hurt our adopted Father when His children rebel against Him – whether those children are the first ‘Chosen’ (Jews) or the adopted (Gentile Christians – most of us)? We deserved a death sentence; instead He gave His own life for us. Instead of punishing us, He gave us grace, and forgiveness.

Let’s simply take a day today to think about that, and thank Him.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 483 – David the King, David the Dad

05/27/16 – 483 – David the King, David the Dad

We closed yesterday by saying this – “If you are allowing yourself to be controlled by your emotions, you’re in a very dangerous place. It’s time to hand over the reins to someone else – at least temporarily”.

David, upon finding out that Absalom had been killed, was completely overwhelmed by grief. It was to the point where he was putting his entire army to feel shame for having won the victory over Absalom and the rebels that followed him! This was not good, to put it mildly. Once again, his friend and confidant Joab stepped in.

2 Sam 19:5 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 upon 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. NIV

The Bible Exposition Commentary points out that at this point, David probably didn’t know that it was Joab who had killed Absalom, or he may have responded a little differently. But he did need to go out and meet the men who had fought so valiantly for him. In the meantime, the people of Israel were unsure of what to do. David was still out of the country even though Absalom was dead, and they didn’t understand why.

David’s greatest desire at this point was to unify the kingdom – all 12 tribes. He naturally saw the best place to start as Judah. After all, Judah was home, and both the capital and temple were there. So he contacted the 2 priests Zadok and Abiathar to lead the way in returning him to Jerusalem and re-seating him on the throne. At the same time, he made Amasa (his nephew) commander of his armies. The text doesn’t tell us why, but we can surmise that maybe by this time he found out about Joab’s having killed Absalom.

Interesting things began to happen as David approached Jerusalem. All the people who had been so bold as David was leaving were now back, angling for a way to squirm out of the fix they had gotten themselves into. One such guy was Shimei, the man who had come out cursing David and throwing rocks at him as He walked out of town. David’s men were more than willing to execute him (which should have been the punishment for that crime), but David wouldn’t allow it. Instead, he pretty much declared an amnesty that day for everyone. That must have been really hard, because that would have included Joab (who had just killed his son) and many others who had hurt him or his loved ones.

But wouldn’t you know it – forgiveness is like that. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover many times, in a number of versions in 2 different languages. I just can’t find anything that tells me how to bestow ‘partial’ forgiveness. It just doesn’t work. It’s like being obedient. Partial obedience is…disobedience. Partial forgiveness is…unforgiveness. David couldn’t forgive some and not others. A lot of people had made some really bad choices, and there were some really bad consequences.

David’s focus now was on healing the country, putting things back together as best he could. Punishing some while forgiving others would only have been more divisive. Forgiving someone of only a portion of his or her sin is just as unhelpful and confusing. Neither one can find peace until the wound is closed.

How is your forgiving going today? Anything you need help with? That’d be a great thing to pray about this morning, don’t you think?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 482 – David the King, David the Dad

05/26/16 – 482 – David the King, David the Dad

Yesterday we started to look at David’s emotional reaction to the news of Absalom’s death. The problem wasn’t that he was grieving for his lost son. The problem was that he didn’t seem to care about anyone else, including the men who had given so much for him – even loved ones of their own!

How must they have felt when the king they fought so hard for didn’t even ask about casualties or needs for his own troops – but only about 1 man – and that man the enemy who had caused all of this? Those who lived should have come home to a hero’s welcome and a huge victory celebration. Instead, they came home to a crying, inconsolable leader, and this:

2 Sam 19:1-4 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!” NIV

So not only did those men have to conceal their joy in victory, but they were made to feel as though they had done something wrong. I know all of you readers are not old enough to appreciate this, but the closest thing I can think of is the shameful way this country as a whole ‘welcomed’ home our returning veterans from Viet Nam during that war.

They were sent there to do a dirty job, many of them against their will through the draft, and when it was done they were met with protesters crying names like ‘Murderer!’ and ‘Baby Killer!’ The government that forced them to do this job in the first place stood ready to throw them under the proverbial bus the moment anything questionable was made public, like the use of chemical weapons. They weren’t even allowed in some veterans organizations or given certain benefits for many years, because Viet Nam wasn’t a ‘war’, it was a ‘police action’. Is it any wonder that this group still has the highest suicide rate of any within the US?

Bad enough that this was a situation built by bad government. In the case of David, in a monarchy, it was personal. And it must have felt that way, because once again Joab stepped up, put his life on the line and intervened. We’ll look at Joab’s response tomorrow.

For today, let’s continue to examine ourselves and our own emotional make-up. What about those times when your emotions have been so out of control that you’ve hurt others? Have you used that as an excuse, or have you gone to them and made amends, asked forgiveness?

We’ve said it before – emotions are difficult, and sometimes overwhelming. But, they do NOT have to be in control unless you allow them to be. If you are allowing yourself to be controlled by your emotions, you’re in a very dangerous place. It’s time to hand over the reins to someone else – at least temporarily.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 481 – David the King, David the Dad

05/25/16 – 481 – David the King, David the Dad

Let’s see, where were we? Oh, yeah. Absalalom sort of left us hanging yesterday. Or maybe it was the other way around. (Sorry)

Absalom’s beautiful head of hair had become entangled in some low-hanging branches as he rode beneath them, and his mount kept going while he was left dangling helplessly. The soldier who reported seeing this to Joab had refused to kill him because of David’s order that he not be harmed, even though Joab had apparently offered a pretty good reward to the man who killed Absalom.

Joab, for his part, had finally run out of patience.

2 Samuel 18:14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.

All I can say is…wow. I guess Joab wasn’t taking any chances.

 Verse 16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes. NIV

This may not sound like much, but it was an incredibly significant statement on the part of Joab. Even most of the evil kings and upper class family members of Israel, when they died, were given proper burials, and their bones buried with those of their ancestors. By getting rid of Absalom’s body in this way, Joab was making sure he would never be given any honor as a legitimate member of Israel’s royal family.

Once the Israelites saw what had happened to Absalom, they ran for their homes, and that pretty much ended the rebellion – but not the fallout. The next order of business was to tell David that Absalom was dead. As you might expect, David took the news pretty badly. He was waiting at the city gate for news when the runners came to tell him that his enemies had been defeated.

But David had only one question – was Absalom OK?

2 Sam 18:33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you — O Absalom, my son, my son!” NIV

This is where we get into (quite literally) a royal conflict of emotions in David. I don’t think anyone could or would fault him for grieving the loss of his son, or the fact that the son he had loved so much had turned so hatefully against him. I think that there are many of us (fathers as well as mothers) who can empathize with the grief of ‘losing’ a child to a sinful lifestyle, or to death.

On the other hand, there were many, many others who had suffered losses in that battle as well – and they did it out of loyalty to (if not love for) David. You may recall that battle took 20,000 lives! Many of the people fighting for David weren’t fighting out of duty, they weren’t even Israelites. Yet, for David, they fought.

Any time we begin to examine human emotions, it becomes more than a 1 or 2-day study. Let’s face it – emotional issues are never easy, and the stronger they are, the more complex, the more facets there are to the issue. I say ‘issue’ rather than ‘problem’ because even though emotions can be difficult and painful at times, they are also what allows us to feel joy, love and happiness. They are a HUGE part of that image of God in which we are made.

Let’s just let this rest today, and ask God to help us sift through this wild mix of emotions that David must have been feeling. At the same time, I know that many of us are likely dealing with a myriad of emotions even as I write this devotional. So, let’s pray for the Holy Spirit’s help in those situations as well.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 480 – David the King, David the Dad

05/24/16 – 480 – David the King, David the Dad

So, David’s army marched out to meet the armies of Israel led by Absalom. It was to be a tough fight. But then, if this is really a representation of the battle between good and evil, isn’t it always? Let’s follow the story:

2 Sam 18:6 The army marched into the field to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There the army of Israel was defeated by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great — twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword.

The Hebrew word used here for ‘forest’ doesn’t mean a wooded area like we might picture. It means more of a very rough area of rocks, scrub and brush with a tree here and there. Kind of like the set of an old western movie. In that kind of terrain, on foot and with little water or other resources, it’s understandable that “the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword”.

Now, remember Absalom, the brand new king? The guy who wanted to lead his troops into the fray, and kill everyone (instead of only David) so that he would personally get the glory? The same guy who only cut his hair once a year because it was so beautiful? The guy that everyone loved because he was so handsome and charming?

Verse 9: Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

 Whoops!

Verse 10: When one of the men saw this, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”

11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”

12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lift my hand against the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy — and nothing is hidden from the king — you would have kept your distance from me.”

Now we can’t be certain, but it sounds suspiciously like Joab had put a bounty on Absalom’s head in spite of David’s wish that he not be harmed. Of course, this wasn’t the first time he had gone against David’s wishes (for David’s own good, of course). You might recall Joab’s killing of Abner, and his orchestrating Absalom’s reconciliation with David in the first place. However, it doesn’t sound like the soldier was too sure that Joab would have his back when David found out if he had killed Absalom.

We have to pause here for today, which is a shame. We’re just at the most exciting part! Yet what a great picture of our own daily battle against evil. Think about it. We really are in spiritual warfare. We’re fighting in some rough country, spiritually speaking – and it gets worse every day. If you don’t believe me, turn on your TV for about 10 minutes. Pick a channel. Keep a pen & paper, and just count the number of sinful things you see either acted out or endorsed as being OK or even normal. If you pick a ‘news’ channel, get some extra paper.

We are under attack constantly, to the point where we can never rest. Yet we have to. This is only one of the reasons that none of us can be ‘solitary Christians’. We need the support of other believers. We need someone to watch over us while we rest from the battle, we need the strength that is found in numbers. We are meant to be part of the unified body of Christ, not solitary pieces of flesh.

If you are part of the body, and truly connected, thank God today for that blessing. If not, get connected. Join a small group, find a mentor, a disciple. Talk to your pastor about starting up a regular relationship. If you don’t attend a church – find one. Rather that looking for the one you like, find the one Christ wants you to be in. That’s the trick.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 479 – David the King, David the Dad

05/23/16 – 479 – David the King, David the Dad

Saturday we saw that Hushei was able to convince Absalom to wait to attack David by playing on his overblown ego, buying time to get a message to David. This he was able to do through the sons of the 2 priests Zadok and Abiathar. After the spies made it through to David, we read this:

2 Sam 17:21 When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. NIV

Why do you suppose he did that? It seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? I mean, for someone who has been a king’s counselor most of his life, there has to have been a time or 2 that his advice wasn’t followed, right? Actually, even though the text doesn’t give us a specific reason, there are many parallels in the story we’re currently studying and that of Jesus Christ. This is one of them.

In Ahithophel, we have one of the inner circle, a trusted friend and advisor of the true king of Israel. He has betrayed that king (David), and given his allegiance to another (Absalom). The truth is that his advice was good. Very good. David and his people were still trying to cross the Jordan River – exhausted and vulnerable. Had they gone after them with 12,000 fresh troops they probably would have won easily.

Ahithophel knew that Absalom’s only real chance to take the throne was tio kill David, and the only chance for that was to do it quickly. He knew that by waiting, David had been given the advantage he needed to regroup and rest. He knew that not all would rally behind Absalom, etc. He knew David would one day soon walk back into that throne room, and he would have to answer for his betrayal. He had chosen to serve the wrong king. Sound like anyone that ‘hung around’ with Jesus? (Sorry) Yep! Just like Judas, rather than face the music, he chose to kill himself.

He was right in most of that. David did get his people to safety, he was able to regroup, get reinforcements and prepare to meet Absalom in battle. David split his army into 3 parts, giving command of those to Joab, Abishai and Ittai. At their insistence, he stayed back at the city of Mahanaim where he would be better protected and could continue to gain more support if needed. Still, as the 3 commanders left for battle, David’s thoughts were still with his beloved son.

2 Sam 18:5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders. NIV

Believe me, I can understand his father’s love for his son. At the same time, I can only imagine what must have been going through the minds of those thousands of men who were about to give their lives for him because of that very same son! I honestly wonder why they didn’t just walk away. Then I remember – this is God’s work.

From a human level, there is no reason that most of this army should have been ready to fight and possibly die for David. But they were. Which should teach us at least one thing today – that God’s plan will be done. No matter what, no matter how much we mess things up. He is greater than all our mistakes, all our weaknesses. And isn’t that a good thing? I say today’s prayer time is simply to try to absorb that fact. Think about how He has worked in your own life – in spite of you.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 478

05/22/16 – 478

Well, here we are at Sunday again, and it’s time for our weekly break. And we were just getting to the good part! As my beautiful wife Jill and I enjoyed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains this week, I had a lot of time to think about God, His work in the world He gave us, and how we worship (or how we should, anyway).

I’ll admit I’m no geologist, but I can’t look at the various magnificent mountain peaks, the rock formations, the colors and configurations and such, and consider even for a moment how these things could have happened the way they have been ‘explained’ to us by the (self-named) scientific community. I have heard many theories about how the earth was formed, citing everything from meteors to glaciers. But I’ve never yet read of any proof.

You know, things like experiments done on a smaller scale under controlled conditions that would show me that a flowing stream of water the size of the Colorado River could carve out of solid rock something the size of the Grand Canyon. Then suddenly stop making it bigger. Or why other rivers, some even larger, haven’t done the same thing in all kinds of soil bases? Shouldn’t the Nile and the Amazon be in canyons that make the Grand Canyon look like a scratch in the mud?

Thee bottom line is this: even if God chose to use water to carve out a canyon, or a meteor to move a mountain, I don’t care. The brush the artist uses doesn’t change who He is – it’s merely a tool He uses to move the beauty within to a state where others can take part in it as well.

I say remember that as you prepare to worship this morning. Think of God as the greatest artist, and this universe on of His greatest works. Zoom in a bit and you’ll see that it was designed and created to contain an even more special work – earth. Look closer still and again you’ll see that the entire earth and everything in it was designed and created for God’s greatest artwork of all – you and I. Man.

That’s why at the end of each day of creation God called His work ‘good’, but at the end of the 6th day, when He created man and woman, He called it ‘very good’. Elsewhere Solomon wrote:

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

How about a prayer of gratitude this morning for a God who made you this beautiful world, and who made you so beautiful as well? Remember that as you worship this morning.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 477 – David the King, David the Dad

05/21/16 – 477 – David the King, David the Dad

Well, Absalom took Ahithophel’s advice and slept with his father’s 10 wives, making sure it was well witnessed. Ahithophel thought he was on a roll! So his next piece of advice was to advise Absalom to let him take 12,000 men and go after David. If he went right now, he said, they would be exhausted and exposed, He would go after David and kill him, and that would end things. He could then bring the rest of the people home in peace.

But this time, Absalom didn’t take the advice immediately. Maybe he was worried, or maybe he was already getting too full of himself playing the king. He called for Hushei, the counselor who had stayed back to work undercover for David for just such an occasion. Hushei realized that he needed to buy time for David, and get a warning to him. He convinced Absalom that Ahithophel’s advice was foolish, that if they attacked now, David’s men (who were already famous for their fighting ability) would fight back “like a mother bear defending her cub”.

2 Sam 17:7-14 Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 8 You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. 9 Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave.

11 “So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba — as numerous as the sand on the seashore — be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. 12 Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not even a piece of it can be found.”

14 Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom. NIV

Notice how Hushei played on Absalom’s great ego (which was by this time out of control)? First he suggested that defeat would be associated with his name (not Ahithophel – v9). Then he fed into his delusion of grandeur by convincing him that he could be powerful enough to destroy David and his followers completely (of course with no risk to himself while getting all the glory).

Absalom swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Isn’t it amazing how easily we buy into almost anything when someone strokes our ego a bit? Actually, the right answer is – no, not really. The very heart of our sin nature is self-centeredness. The serpent got Eve to take a bite of the fruit by telling her that was all that kept her from being like God, right?

Could this be why our culture seems to be becoming so evil so quickly? In the last couple of decades we’ve gone from teaching our children how to become people of good character (regardless of faith), to making sure that every one of them has high ‘self-esteem’, regardless of achievement or character.

I hope you all think well of yourselves – for all the right reasons. I also hope that you think realistically of yourselves, using the Holy Spirit and the Bible as your guides instead of your ego. That would be a great prayer today, don’t you think?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 476 – David the King, David the Dad

05/20/16 – 476 – David the King, David the Dad

Yesterday we said that David’s prayer that Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom would be foolish would be answered – and it was. But I’m sure it wasn’t anything like what David had in mind. Have you ever heard ‘be careful what you ask for’?

2 Sam 16:20-17:1 Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your advice. What shall we do?” 21 And Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father. The hands of all who are with you will also be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. 23 And the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one inquired of the word of God; so was all the advice of Ahithophel regarded by both David and Absalom. NASB

To be clear, Ahithophel’s advice was that Absalom publicly rape the 10 concubines that David left behind to care for his house. It was pretty much the ultimate act of disrespect and contempt – at least I can’t think of one that would have been much nastier! At the same time, if we go back to the prophet Nathan’s prediction of God’s punishment to David for his sin with Bathsheba, we see this:

2 Sam 12:11-12 “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your companion, and he shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 ‘Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'” NASB

So, not that this makes it OK, it’s just one more example of how God can use all things for His own purposes – even those who have turned against Him. Here’s another thing that bothers me about the passage above. Notice verse 23?

And the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one inquired of the word of God; so was all the advice of Ahithophel regarded by both David and Absalom.” NASB

I don’t care who it is – when we get to the point where we give one person so much authority over us that their advice is like God’s Word to us – we’re in dangerous waters. God’s Word is the measure against which all else should be measured and tested. Period. I’m not saying everyone will end up turning evil, but we are all human – from the newest Sunday school teacher to the Pope. (Yes, I know – we’ll just have to agree to disagree.)

Was Absalom so blinded by hate that he couldn’t see that this act would be a heinous sin against God, and probably detestable even in the eyes of the people he wanted to rule? And what about Ahithophel, who had been a great advisor and counsel for David for many years?

Here’s the thing. None of us are immune. The reasons don’t matter. The change in us does. The only way to prevent it is to never let it get a toehold, and the only way to do that is through Christian accountability. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s time to buy your pastor a cup of coffee and find out. It could be the best insurance investment you ever made.

Let’s pray today that God would provide someone in each of our lives that would be our accountability partner, that we would be able to keep each other on His path according to the only guide that’s really reliable – His Word.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 475 – David the King, David the Dad

05/19/16 – 475 – David the King, David the Dad

It seems that when we have trouble everyone wants to give their opinion. Once in a while there is one who truly wants to help. Once in a while there is someone who really wants to return good for good. Much of the time we get so rattled we don’t know who to trust any more.

Remember Mephibosheth? He was one of the last of Saul’s line (Saul’s grandson, Jonathon’s son) when David became king over Israel. He was crippled in both feet. Instead of killing him as a potential threat, David brought him into the royal household and treated him like one of his own.

2 Sam 16:1-5 Now when David had passed a little beyond the summit, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them were two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred clusters of raisins, a hundred summer fruits, and a jug of wine. 2 And the king said to Ziba, “Why do you have these?” And Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride, and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine, for whoever is faint in the wilderness to drink.” 3 Then the king said, “And where is your master’s son?” And Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.'” 4 So the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” And Ziba said, “I prostrate myself; let me find favor in your sight, O my lord, the king!” NASB

Scratching your head yet? It was suspicious that Ziba showed up with all these things, but without his master Mephibosheth. David knew Ziba wasn’t necessarily the most honest guy around, as he knew him from the days when he lived with Saul. Yet he believed Ziba’s lie about Mephibosheth, and immediately gave him everything that belonged to him – should they ever return to Jerusalem.

Let’s face it, Satan always attacks when we’re at our weakest. David was in an emotion crisis, deeply hurting, worried about his people, his future and his son Absalom. Here were a lot of badly needed supplies. And a lot of other people were turning against him – why not one more?

As David and his troop continued on their journey, another of Saul’s relatives named Shimei came out and began cursing David and throwing stones at him. Pretty crazy, considering David was surrounded by a whole bunch of men with swords. But David stopped them from killing him, saying that if God wanted the man to curse him, they should let him.

In the meantime, David’s prayer that Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom would be foolish sure seemed to be getting answered. More on that tomoorow

For today, let’s pat attention to the way our minds work when we operate on our emotions. Not very long ago we saw David making every major decision with the guidance of God through the high priest and the ephod, and prayer. Now we see him emotionally defeated, retreating again into the wilderness, but in all of this it hasn’t been mentioned that he has prayed or sought god’s counsel. Hmmm…

Let’s not make the same mistake. Whatever it is that’s going on in your life today, now is the time to ask God for His guidance, His counsel, His comfort. Use that as your guide, not your emotions. You’ll be glad you did.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 474 – David the King, David the Dad

05/18/16 – 474 – David the King, David the Dad

Hi folks, I guess I owe you an apology for missing yesterday without an explanation. Been just a bit under the weather again, plus traveling yesterday to meet my daughter and family in Colorado for a few days of badly needed R & R. I had grand plans to write during down time at the airport, but it turned out that most of that was spent standing in the lines they’ve been talking about on the news. Then by the time I finally got to sit, I was frankly too tired to concentrate. Sooo. . . sorry.

We left David gathering his loyal followers and high tailing it out of Jerusalem before he had to face Absalom in battle – a battle that not only would have pitted father against son, but would certainly have cost many innocent lives as well. Yet in all this, we see no anger in David, but mourning or even heartbreak.

2 Sam 15:30-32 And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot. Then all the people who were with him each covered his head and went up weeping as they went. 31 Now someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O Lord, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness.” NASB

I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a picture of Christ’s reaction when we rebel. We often hear about his wrath, but I have a feeling (as a father) that more often than not, His overarching emotion isn’t anger – it’s the pain of a broken heart. Notice that David didn’t pray for death for his enemies, only that their plans would be made foolish so things wouldn’t come together as they wanted. And he didn’t have to wait very long for God to answer his prayer.

2 Sam 15:32-34 It happened as David was coming to the summit, where God was worshiped, that behold, Hushai the Archite met him with his coat torn, and dust on his head. 33 And David said to him, “If you pass over with me, then you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city, and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant in time past, so I will now be your servant,’ then you can thwart the counsel of Ahithophel for me.

Hushai was a friend of David’s, one of his special counselors. In this way he would act as a spy for David, getting information out through the sons of the priests Zadok & Abiathar – if Absalom bought it!

Verse 37 So Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem. NASB

It took me years to realize that if I want to understand at all what God might be thinking or feeling, I have to look at Him from a parent’s point of view. Just as many of us have children who rebel, go their own way, etc. When this happens, it’s not enough just to say ‘it happens”, or “Oh, well”. We have to treat every incident as though it the one that could separate our child – your child – from God for eternity! Why? Because it is. It could be the linchpin event in his/her life that makes all the difference.

I know its tough. I know it hurts – sometimes more than it seems you can bear. Hang on just a little longer, and keep praying. God will come – and He will be on time. I have to be honest though. In this situation even God doesn’t have the final say. Why? Because of that pesky old ‘free will’ thing again.

If you could take away your child’s freedom to choose to love you, to force him/her to obey you like a pawn on a chessboard, would you? Think hard. What meaning would your relationship have if you did? Right, zero. It’s the same with us and our Father. He does have the power to force us, but chooses not to use it, in order that when we decide freely to return His love, our relationship will truly have meaning.

The flip side is the hard one. When we don’t, there’s a lot of pain. I believe that He uses models of families like David’s to teach us these things. Let’s pray today for conviction and forgiveness for all the pain we have caused our earthly parents and our heavenly Father, and ask His help and comfort in working through our own relationships with the children He has entrusted to us here on earth.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 473 – David the King, David the Dad

05/16/16 – 473 – David the King, David the Dad

Back to our story – Absalom now had 200 of his father’s top counselors and officers basically under his control in the walled city of Hebron, basically prisoners of his new regime. It didn’t take too long for word to reach David.

2 Sam 15:13-18 Then a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.” 14 And David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise and let us flee, for otherwise none of us shall escape from Absalom. Go in haste, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down calamity on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” 15 Then the king’s servants said to the king, “Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king chooses.” 16 So the king went out and all his household with him. But the king left ten concubines to keep the house. 17 And the king went out and all the people with him, and they stopped at the last house. 18 Now all his servants passed on beside him, all the Cherethites, all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men who had come with him from Gath, passed on before the king. NASB

What a dilemma David found himself in! He really didn’t have any good choices. Option A – he could have gathered his troops and fought, which would have meant killing his own son Absalom (whom he obviously loved). Option B – he could have surrendered himself to Absalom, and I think we know where that would have ended up. Absalom was so far gone by this time there would have been no way David would have been allowed to live.

So, he took Option C, which had to go completely against the grain for a warrior such as he. He gathered what he could and ran. It was the only way to avoid all the bloodshed. But the price would turn out to be higher than David imagined. Notice verse 16, in which he left 10 concubines to care for the house. We’ll come back to that later.

All his servants had chosen to remain loyal to him, as well as the 600 Philistine men who had been with him since he was running from Saul in the wilderness. Now it seemed like they were headed that way once more.

As David and his band crossed the Kidron valley to leave the city, his 2 main priests Zadok & Abiathar showed up with the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant. However, David had them return it to its place in the temple, saying that if it was God’s will, he’d be back. If not, it still belonged in God’s house. He also asked the 2 men to basically act as spies for him, and let him know when it was safe to return.

Many of us have been in a position where someone – maybe one of our own children has betrayed us. Like Absalom, they show no signs of remorse, and ask no forgiveness. They seem to only want to take whatever they can get.

Like David, you love them. But that’s not enough. Sadly, sometimes it isn’t. The problem is, I think, that they have that same free will that you and I have. So, realize that you don’t have to allow yourself to be sacrificed to them, nor do you have to go to war with them. Sometimes, all you can do is distance yourself, and pray for them. Let’s make that our prayer for today.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 471 – David the King, David the Dad

05/14/16 – 470 – David the King, David the Dad

Absalom worked on winning people over to him and against David for 4 years. Hmmm, that’s the same length of time as a Presidential election. Probably just coincidence. Anyway, when he was ready to make his move, he went to David and got permission to go to Hebron, saying that he had made a vow to God while he was living in Geshur and needed to go to Hebron to make sacrifices. But it was really a way to gather his leaders without David or anyone else being too suspicious – especially considering what had happened the last time he threw a big out-of-town party! (He had invited all his brothers to sheep-shearing and had Amnon killed.)

2 Sam 15:9-12 And the king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.'”  

11 Then two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem, who were invited and went innocently, and they did not know anything. 12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom. NASB

We need to notice a couple of things here. The 200 men that Absalom brought with him would have been prominent men in the nation of Israel, but they had no clue as to what was going on. By bringing them, Absalom would have them under his control. My guess is that once it looked like Absalom was in charge with the people behind him, they would get on board. If they didn’t, they were in a place where they could be dealt with easily.

The other is that although Absalom had a lot of people with him, he still needed that one. That special sidekick. The guy who gets everything done, kind of like Joab had been for David. So he sent for Ahithophel. Why him?

Remember Ahithophel, who was not only David’s smartest counselor, but Bathsheba’s grandfather? Bathsheba whom David had violated and whose husband David had murdered? That guy?

Maybe this represented a chance for him to avenge those things for his granddaughter, I don’t know. But he certainly doesn’t seem to have hesitated in not only joining Absalom, but he pretty much ran the rebellion from then on. For Absalom’s part, what a slap in the face for David and even more ‘proof’ that he should be king – that David’s top counselor has switched sides!

Absalom may not have been too smart in some areas, or maybe he was just blinded by his anger and bitterness. But he certainly knew how to use and manipulate people, how to draw them into his pit of hatred.

Really, he’s a picture of Satan in the flesh, isn’t he? The most beautiful to look at, the most pleasant to talk to? He tells us what we want to hear until we’re convinced that God doesn’t really love us, that he is the only one that will give us what we want?

If that’s true, then we really need to pay attention to the rest of this story, don’t we, and remember it whenever we’re tempted to be drawn to the wrong side just because things aren’t going the way we think they should. Let’s make that our prayer today, for wisdom and discernment that we would be able to know with whom we should stand. We may have to decide this on a daily basis, or once every 4 years. But we all do. Let’s do it with God’s help.