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 – 472

05/15/16 – 472

Congratulations! You made it through another week! How was yours? If it was anything like most of the people in the world, you had some good days, and some not-so-good. You had some ups and some downs. Maybe you had more downs than ups this time around.

It seems that in this world, there are more valleys than mountaintops. But then again, if we believe the Word, we should not only be OK with that, we should be downright thankful! Remember this one?

James 1:Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

And skipping ahead:

Verse 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Talk about some hard sayings of the Bible, eh? How do we learn to do that? How do we get to a place where we can actually find joy in our struggles, when all we really want to do is give up, or maybe just sit down and cry? Maybe this will help.

I’m not one for pithy little catchphrases; I think those are much easier to say than they are to live by. Usually the people saying them haven’t had to face the same kind of problems as the people they’re advising anyway. But I do think there are things that can help us remember, and help us focus on the things that really can help.

For instance, one of my problems through much of my life has simply been forgetting to pray when a crisis hits. I need something to jog my memory. One powerful tool for many of us is music. Get the right song ‘stuck in your head’, and that’s all the memory aid you’ll need for a while!

In our church we learned a new song last week that I think is destined to become a classic. It’s by a group called Passion, the song is (ironically) called Remember. It’s all good, of course, but what really strikes me is the chorus, especially the last 2 lines. How often when I’ve been sick, worried or depressed has the thing that I’ve truly forgotten been the one thing that’s more important than anything else – the empty grave. His empty grave.

Here are the lyrics, or you can listen to it here:

 

My heart hangs on every word that You speak

I need You, Lord come find me, Holy Spirit breathe

I’ve been walking through deserts

I need more of Your Presence

I’m weak Savior be my strength

[Chorus]

Down in the valley, when waters rise

I’m still believing

Hope is alive

All through the struggle and darkest day

I’ll remember the empty grave

[Verse 2]

Your touch bringing me closer

Your hand healing what’s broken

My prayer, Father meet me here

My life for all of Your glory

Your grace let it surround me

Let faith change the atmosphere

[Chorus]

Down in the valley, when waters rise

I’m still believing

Hope is alive

All through the struggle and darkest day

I’ll remember the empty grave

[Bridge]

Hallelujah, death is done

All of hell is overcome

Jesus, You are alive

(2x)

[Chorus]

Down in the valley, when waters rise

I’m still believing

Hope is alive

All through the struggle and darkest day

I’ll remember the empty grave

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.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 470 – David the King, David the Dad

05/12/16 – 470 – David the King, David the Dad

Absalom’s methods were unorthodox to say the least, but they got the job done. Joab finally paid attention to him (after losing a crop of barley), and got him an audience with David. As soon as he humbled himself before his father, Absalom received what must have been quite a surprise. He was ready to challenge David to either kill him or forgive him, but before he could say a word, David kissed him. That’s when he knew that David still loved him. What a chance to mend the relationship – to make things right! Unfortunately…..

In order for 2 people to reconcile their differences, both have to want to, or at least be willing. Obviously David was ready. Absalom, apparently, didn’t have that same desire. Instead, he would exploit David’s love for him as a weakness, and use it against him.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘carrying a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die’? Well, Absalom had been drinking that poison for about 5 years, ever since his sister Tamar had been raped by Amnon. Instead of settling his differences with David, he concocted a plan to take the throne of Israel away from his father.

Of course, he didn’t make his motives known at first. He just started ‘politicking’. We already read that he was well liked because of his good looks and long blonde hair. (I always picture the male model Fabio.) Then, he added a few things.

2 Sam 15:1-6 Now it came about after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men as runners before him. 2 And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and it happened that when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.”

4 Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me, and I would give him justice.” 5 And it happened that when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. 6 And in this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel. NASB

Does that sound like just about any one of our contemporary politicians, or what? Absalom knew this much – if he was going to do anything to punish David the way he had Amnon, he had to have the people on his side. Whatever he did would have to be big, and it would have to be decisive. You can’t just kill the king – even if he is your father. You have to have control of the kingdom when you do it – if you want to stay alive yourself.

Absalom kept at it for a while – 4 more years of hating and plotting. Four more years of sipping that poison. When he was finally ready to make his move, David never saw it coming.

We don’t know why, in all that time, no one ever went to David and said “Excuse me, Your Highness, but I think Absalom might be up to something.” My guess is this. David’s forgiving Absalom of Amnon’s death by that very public kiss was likely only one of the ways David let his love for his son be known. After all that, and without hard evidence, would you be the one to go to David and accuse Absalom? I know I wouldn’t!

Also, when one person truly loves another, trust is part & parcel of that love. Real trust carries with it a certain amount of openness and vulnerability. Then there’s the old ‘love is blind’ thing. In my experience, it may not be blind, but it sure can be nearsighted and cross-eyed sometimes!

These are the things I was talking about when I said that Absalom would use David’s love against him. We voluntarily give the person we love the ability to get to us where we can be hurt the most. That’s why it hurts so badly when that person betrays us.

Let’s pray today for 2 things. First, if you’ve been hurt by someone you love because you’ve allowed them the ability to do so, or you know someone who has – pray for the Spirit’s healing touch.

If you are in an ongoing abusive relationship – get help and get out. Pray while you’re packing – if there’s time to pack. I’m not kidding. I know this may be a ‘rabbit trail’, but I feel so strongly led I have to add this. I know that person has apologized and seemed sincere, over & over. But I promise you – it will NOT stop, it will ALWAYS escalate unless the person obtains serious help. Even if they do, the time to think about rebuilding the relationship is waaaaay down that road – if ever. Until then – you are NOT safe, neither are your kids if there are any.

The second thing I was going to suggest is that we pray for the Spirit to examine us once more. Is there any part of us that is using someone’s love for us as leverage to get something, to take advantage, whatever? If so, ask for His help to make things right.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 469 – David the King, David the Dad

05/11/16 – 469 – David the King, David the Dad

David may have been a bit slow on the uptake at times, but eventually he figured out that it was Joab who had put the woman up to telling him the made-up story of her sons. He finally allowed Joab to go and bring Absalom back to Jerusalem. However, David didn’t go so far as to welcome him back as completely forgiven.

2 Sam 14:21 Then the king said to Joab, “Behold now, I will surely do this thing; go therefore, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22 And Joab fell on his face to the ground, prostrated himself and blessed the king; then Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, O my lord, the king, in that the king has performed the request of his servant.” 23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face.” So Absalom turned to his own house and did not see the king’s face.

So, if you’re the crown prince of Israel, back home but basically under house arrest, what do you do with all your free time? Why, you grow your hair and your family, I guess!

Verse 25 Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him. 26 And when he cut the hair of his head (and it was at the end of every year that he cut it, for it was heavy on him so he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head at 200 shekels by the king’s weight. 27 And to Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a woman of beautiful appearance.

 28 Now Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and did not see the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. So he sent again a second time, but he would not come.

See the problem yet? Absalom was already full of bitterness and anger at his father. Now he’s had 2 more years of being shunned not only by David, but by Joab, the man who had worked so hard to get David to bring him home. Now, it’s understandable that Joab was pretty much in the middle of a bad family situation and let’s face it, David was the king. His boss. I suppose it’s also understandable that Absalom got tired of Joab not answering his messages. So he decided to send one that couldn’t be ignored!

Verse 30 Therefore he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab arose, came to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 And Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent for you, saying, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say,” Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me still to be there. “‘Now therefore, let me see the king’s face; and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death.” 33 So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom. NASB

I guess we can criticize Absalom’s communication methods all we want, but we can’t say it didn’t work! Seriously, though – I do NOT recommend setting your neighbor’s anything on fire just because they don’t return your calls or emails.

I don’t believe that family dynamics are ever easy. There are always issues and disagreements; it’s really just a matter of degree. But no matter how big or small the problems between people – especially within families, the key is this: we need to respond in a Godly way. Even when the other person chooses not to – we must. It boils down to this – if we do as God asks us to (which is to be Christ-like), then He will use all things for good. That’s hard to see sometimes – especially if your field is on fire. But that’s where trust and faith come in. That’s our prayer for today. That we can model Him in our own relationships, and trust Him for the outcomes.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 468 – David the King, David the Dad

05/10/16 – 468 – David the King, David the Dad

So, what was yesterday’s ‘take-away’? Oh, yeah. It was pretty much this – be involved with your kids. Actively teach them God’s Word, and what it means to live as a Christian. (Hint: I put the word actively in there for a reason.)

None of this ‘I’m not going to push my beliefs on my kids. When they grow up they can make their own decisions’ stuff. I hate that one. You believe (or say you believe) that you know something that will determine how your child will spend eternity – yet you want to keep it a secret from them?

The truth is they won’t be equipped to make that decision unless you teach them properly while they are young. By the way, did I say ‘your child’? Sorry, what I should have said was ‘God’s child that He has entrusted to you for a while’. See the difference? Maybe if David had looked at those children from that viewpoint he would have treated them differently. I know I would have mine, had I realized it earlier in life.

Anyway, Absalom spent 3 years in Geshur. We said that his anger, bitterness and hatred grew and festered for the 2 years before that, ending in the murder of Amnon. What we didn’t say was that He was not only mad at Amnon for hurting Tamar, he was mad at David for not doing anything about it!

So, Amnon’s death wasn’t the end of it, but just the beginning of the end, really. Absalom was on a steep downhill slope. He spent that 3 years in exile wallowing in his anger and hatred of his father David. David, on the other hand, finally found peace with Amnon’s death and simply wanted to forgive Absalom and have him return home.

2 Sam 13:39 But as King David became reconciled to the death of his son Amnon, he was increasingly filled with longing to see Avshalom. CJB

Eventually David’s friend and commander of his armies, Joab, noticed that David was missing Absalom badly. Also, as Israel’s military leader he probably had some concern that the ‘crown prince’ was in exile, and the king wasn’t getting any younger. Apparently he tried to convince David to give Absalom permission to return to Israel without success.

In his defense, David must have been pretty conflicted, maybe even convicted in all this. He may have finally felt responsibility for the parenting issues. He wanted to bring Absalom home, but how could he unless he was sure it was the right thing to do?

So Joab came up with a plan. He hired a ‘wise woman’ to dress up in mourning clothes and tell David a story about her 2 sons, one of whom had killed the other. She said that her family wanted to kill the remaining one but that would end the family for good as there were no other heirs. She said that she would take the guilt herself. David offered protection for both her son and for her, at which point she basically asked David the question, then why haven’t you done the same for your own house? Got him there!

That David sure was a sucker for a good story, wasn’t he? This is all in 2 Sam 14:1-17 – too long to put here, but please take a little time to read it.

So, we continue to see more of ourselves in David, don’t we, in that we do learn, but sometimes it takes a long, long time? The problem (we’ll see tomorrow) wasn’t solved between David and Absalom by David’s dragging his feet. In fact, that slowness made things significantly worse than they might have been otherwise.

Why do we do this kind of thing? We know what God wants of us, or what we should do, yet we wait; we procrastinate; we delay. If there is a problem (i.e. we need to reconcile with someone) it doesn’t just disappear. It festers and grows until it’s huge, and beyond repair. I think that’s our prayer for today, that through the prompting of the Spirit, He would help to move us not just in the right direction, but also at the right time.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 468 – David the King, David the Dad

05/09/16 – 467 – David the King, David the Dad

Saturday we read about Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar, after which he turned on her and had her thrown out of his house, literally giving new meaning to the phrase ‘adding insult to injury’! We also read of David’s reaction in 2 Samuel 13:21.

2 Sam 13:21-22 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.

Before we get to Absalom’s part of the story, we unfortunately have to ask ourselves another of those questions for which there is no good answer. Why? Why would David, who was “furious”, do nothing to punish Amnon or even try to comfort Tamar? If it had been someone outside his family who had done this, that person would probably have been put to death without hesitation. So why not Amnon?

Many scholars describe David as being a great king and man of God, but a lousy father. I’ll withhold my opinion and give you a chance to form your own. Amnon may well have been shown favoritism, as he was the oldest, and at this point first in line for the throne after David. This was very much a patriarchal society in which women were considered more as property than people in most cases – yes, even daughters.

So, from David’s point of view, even though the incident showed bad judgment on the part of Amnon and made the royal family look bad, it wasn’t worth killing his firstborn. Tamar was being cared for in the home of Absalom even though it was basically a life sentence of shame and singleness for her.

What David failed to consider was that relationships and feelings go deeper than cultural dictates. Most likely he thought that by not addressing the issue, it would fade from memory. In fact, the opposite happened. You see, Absalom loved his sister Tamar, and he was also furious with Amnon. When David did nothing to punish him, and he watched her day after day in his home, that anger festered and grew into hatred, then a plan for revenge.

Two years later, at sheep shearing time, Absalom talked David into sending all of his sons to the place where his men were working. When Amnon got drunk, Absalom’s men killed him. The rest scattered, but eventually regrouped and made their way home. Absalom fled to Geshur and gained refuge with his grandfather Talmai the king. He stayed there for 3 years.

Have you been taking notes? So far, David’s lack of parenting has cost him 2 sons and a daughter’s life ruined. All for ignoring the problem. Of course, the reality is that the problems began long before the rape of Tamar. Although I’m sure the family dynamics in David’s household were quite different from any of ours, God gave the same model of a family to all of us. Therefor the same principles apply.

So, instead of trying to make excuses for David, we’d be much better off just learning from what we see there, and trying not to repeat the same mistakes, right? I know there are no guarantees. The best parents can have kids that turn out the worst, and some of the most loving, godly people have come out of the most abusive homes. Still, scripture is clear:

Deut 6:6-7 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go,

    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 467

05/08/16 – 46

Well here we are at Sunday again. I’ll bet you’re all anxious, anticipating a nice rousing, convicting sermon this morning, right? Don’t you just love it when the preacher puts something right out there – and you just know that he’s talking about you? Oh sure, there may be one or two others in the room, but you know that he was thinking of you when he wrote that part! The nerve!

The truth is, the pastor probably wasn’t talking about you at all, and probably wasn’t even thinking about you when he wrote what he wrote for the message. If he was doing his job, he was following the leading of the Holy Spirit to deliver the message that God wanted to be heard by the people that would be there that day, at that church. In other words – you. But he didn’t know that at

But again, that conviction of the spirit, that’s not something a pastor really has the power to do, even if we wanted to. That is the job of Jesus Holy Spirit.

John 16:7-11 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

In fact, I would say that if you aren’t so blind that you can still feel that guilt, you should be thanking God and repenting, not blaming the pastor for making you feel bad. There are many who are beyond that point.

John 12:40 “He has blinded their eyes

    and hardened their hearts,

so they can neither see with their eyes,

    nor understand with their hearts,

    nor turn—and I would heal them.”

So listen today to that message, and treat that feeling of conviction as you would a chest pain. Take care of it before it’s too late. I can’t tell you how many people die each year of ‘silent heart attacks’ – meaning they don’t feel the symptoms. So, when you pray, thank God for allowing you to keep your eyes and heart open, so that you can still feel that feeling.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 466 – David the King, David the Dad

05/06/16 – 465 – David the King, David the Dad

In order to move ahead to David’s family problems, we just have to remember that while he was living in Hebron as king of Judah only, still at war with Saul’s last remaining son, he married a few more wives and had a few sons of his own. I’m sure you all remember their names, so we can just move on, right?

Okay, if you’re going to be difficult:

2 Sam 3:2-5 Sons were born to David in Hebron:

His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel;

3 his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel;

the third, Absalom the son of Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;

4 the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;

the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; 5 and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah.

The ones we’re concerned with right now are Amnon and Absalom, and really, the important thing to know is that they had different mothers. Another important tidbit is that although female children weren’t usually listed in the records, every so often one of them became really important.

Absalom had a sister named Tamar. This, of course, made her the half-sister of Amnon. Still, Amnon fell hopelessly in love with her. One day, as he was wallowing around like a love-sick puppy, his friend and cousin Jonadab couldn’t help but notice. When Amnon told him, he gave him some friendly advice.

‘Why don’t you pretend you’re sick? Your father will come to see you and ask you what will help you, and you can ask him to send Tamar to your house to make food for you.’ Now Jonadab is described as ‘crafty’ or ‘shrewd’, which is usually not a good thing in scripture. It’s kind of like the serpent in Eden.

Anyway, the plan worked. Only when Tamar tried to get Amnon to eat, he refused and sent all the servants out. Then he begged her to come to bed with him. She begged him not to make her, even to the extent of suggesting he ask David for permission to marry her. But by then Amnon was flying on pure emotion, and raped her. Then, I think, guilt and shame hit home. I wish I could say that he at least did something right, but he just kept digging that hole deeper:

2 Sam 13:15-18 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of here and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her.

Because of course, why wouldn’t you blame Tamar? Of course in that society, it didn’t matter whether it was her fault or not. What mattered was that she was no longer a virgin. She was now a disgraced woman, with no chance of a marriage or a respectable life. So she lived with her brother Absalom.

What strikes me as very odd is that this is all we hear of David’s reaction:

2 Sam 13:21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. That’s it.

We’ll look at David’s parenting (or lack thereof?) more tomorrow. I’d say for today let’s thank God for how far our society has come in situations like this, and at the same time, recognize that we still have a long way to go – and need His help to get there.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 465 – David the King, David the Dad

05/06/16 – 465 – David the King, David the Dad

I actually thought we were going to leave our beloved David at this point, but it looks like we have one more journey to take with him. Yesterday I gave you a very brief summary of what God’s punishment would bring him. I had planned to come back to that another day from another point of view, but it seems I just can’t get that sense of completion yet. In praying about our next story, the Spirit just keeps telling me to finish this one. So here we go.

In our last 2 readings about Nathan’s convicting parable, I left out a portion of his specific prediction of David’s punishment. Here it is for you now.

2 Sam 12:9-12 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

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

We know that the child did die, and very quickly. David, the text says, comforted Bathsheba by getting her pregnant again. This child would be called Solomon. In the meantime, Joab was still at war, conducting the siege against Rabbah. When it was finally close to being taken, he called David to come with the rest of the army, so that David would get the glory and not him. In this seemingly small act we see 2 big things. One is that even though he had been there for months, maybe years doing the work, Joab wanted his king to have the glory. The message he sent David was this:

2 Sam 12:27-28 “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”

I call this a ‘big thing’ because even though as Christians, we are called to give our King the glory for the good things we accomplish, we very often fail to do so. Even when we can’t take credit, we often attribute things to ‘good luck’ or even things like karma or whatever. Remember, we must give God the glory that is due Him. If it weren’t for His grace, I don’t believe there would be any good in the world – if indeed there were still a world at all.

The second is this. Most commentators seem to agree that this was a sign of God’s forgiveness of David, that He was once again allowed to fight for God. That’s another thing we must remember in our own lives as the battle for our faith comes closer and closer to home. It’s not only our obligation as a part of our covenant with Him – it’s our privilege and honor to fight at His side. That doesn’t mean it can’t be scary. It just means you’re never fighting alone.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 464 – David & Bathsheba

05/05/16 – 464 – David & Bathsheba

Yesterday we read of David’s confession. Today we add the rest of God’s response.

2 Samuel 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

Everything did come to pass just as Nathan predicted. The child born to David and Bathsheba became ill and died. After that child died, Bathsheba became pregnant again, this time she gave birth to Solomon, the same Solomon who would eventually become king in David’s place.

David’s household was filled with strife like most of us could never imagine. His son Amnon would fall in love with his half-sister Tamar and rape her. Her brother Absolom would kill him to avenge her, then flee the country for 3 years, breaking David’s heart.

When he finally returned, he attempted to take the throne away from his father David, and ended up being killed after getting his long blonde hair caught in some tree branches.

So, even in the short version, there are some obvious questions. If the Lord took away David’s sin as Nathan said, why did David still have to be punished? Why did the child die – he did nothing wrong?

Well, as I often do, I can only give you my best guess, but here it is. When we sin, there are consequences. Consequences are not punishments or rwards in themselves – they are the natural results (good or bad) of the actions we take and/or the decisions we make. Forgiveness does not necessarily erase those results.

If I decide to drive while intoxicated, run into someone and they lose a leg, they may forgive me – but the leg is not going to grow back. When David and Bathsheba did what they did in defiance of God’s Word and law, there were consequences. As far as the child dying – think a moment. Do you really think that skipping the pain and turmoil of this life and going directly to be with God for eternity is a bad thing? Remember, the punishment was David’s – not the baby’s.

Yet David was still the ‘man after God’s own heart’ – why? I think it’s simply because even though he was all that he was – God’s anointed, King of Israel and all that – he was still a man. He was as flawed as you and I. BUT, he did his best to live up to the covenant he made with the Lord. When he broke it, he confessed – then he repented. We can all pray his most famous prayer of repentance, written after this time. We don’t have room for the whole thing here, but I’ll get you started:

Ps 51:1-4 Have mercy on me, O God,

    according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

    blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

    and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

    and done what is evil in your sight;

 

And then to verse 10-12:

 

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,

    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence

    or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.