Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2 Samuel 13 Amnon and Tamar

Thamar by Alexandre Cabanel.Image via Wikipedia
In Scripture, there are only a few vignettes of David's family life.   And, in all of  Scripture, it is difficult to find anything as devastating, cruel, and possibly as  avoidable as the events in the account of Amnon and Tamar.

In this disturbing family drama, there was no conversation or discussion or any attempt to bring any justice or resolution to Tamar's rape.  Tamar was forced to live as a desolate woman in her brother's house as she watered her pain with tears. Tamar nursed her hurt of being violated and betrayed by both  her step-brother and her father.  King David betrayed his daughter when he didn't stand up for her.  I wonder why didn’t David do something other than be furious?  If David confronted Amnon with his guilt, urged him to acknowledge his guilt and then to seek forgiveness from Tamar, wouldn’t that have made for better family relations?  Maybe, if guilt were properly ascribed, Tamar and Amnon could ultimately have been  married.  David’s fury did not resolve or assuage Tamar’s pain because she was still a violated woman, with no man championing her cause.  Her brother Absalom counseled silence which prevented her from properly expressing her pain.  The facade of normalcy was doomed to crack.

Tamar's brother Amnon continued to live in the palace, enjoying his life as the King's first-born son. His act was neither chastised nor addressed. 

Since David had many wives, most of his children were half-brothers and half-sisters living in a large compound without really feeling as though they were part of a close-knit nuclear family.  Ahinoam of Jezreel was the mother of Amnon, David’s firstborn son. Macaah, daughter of the King of Geshur, was the mother of David’s third son Absalom and of his daughter Tamar. 

While Amnon professed to be in love with his sister Tamar, he didn’t understand that God wanted love to be expressed in marriage.   Rather, Amnon pined for Tamar and acted on his uncle’s bad advice to get Tamar into his chambers deceitfully, yet with his father’s blessings. Amnon pretended to be ill and said that he wanted only Tamar to prepare bread for him and to feed him.  When all of the servants were dismissed from his chambers, he grabbed Tamar.  In spite of all her protests and her appeals to reason, he viciously raped her and then hated her. After raping her, Amnon had Tamar thrown out of his chambers, further humiliating her.

Tamar did not creep away silently.  She left in a torn robe, weeping loudly with ashes on her head.  She was a mess;  no-one who saw her could possibly have misunderstood what had happened.

Her brother Absalom advised her to quietly live in his house.  When King David heard about the rape, he was furious.  Meanwhile, Absalom appeared to have cut off relations with Amnon.

Absalom's reticence, which implied equnimity, actually hid his growing, festering anger against his brother. After two years of smoldering anger, Absalom arranged for a party to which all of his siblings, including Amnon, were invited.  After everyone was inebriated, Absalom had Amnon murdered.

I think that if this family had an open, honest conversation, Absalom wouldn’t have felt that the only way to avenge his sister was by murdering his brother.  If silence were not the chokehold on their relationships,there could have been an open discussion in which hurts could have been aired and addressed. Perhaps, if Tamar saw any contrition in Amnon,  she could have found a way to forgive her brother.  If David acted as the spiritual leader of his family, he could have guided his children into a better way of dealing with the evil that was perpetrated. Maybe David could have effected some sort of punishment for Amnon that would have satisfied the other two siblings.

It is possible that David’s sin with Bathsheba made him feel that he was no longer qualified to make moral or judgment calls.  Maybe he thought, “I’ve failed, so who am I to call Amnon to account.” Maybe he was afraid that his own sin would be thrown back at him.  Nevertheless, the biggest failure here was each party forgot that the sin was primarily against God.   Each person had to bring his hurts to God and pray that the pain would be resolved through God’s love for David and his family. 
But as it was, each player receded to his corner nursing his wounds while planning revenge.  No-one was consulting with God or seeking wisdom.  Through this incident, Scripture shows us David, the man, the ineffectual father. 
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

2 Samuel 10,11,12 David and Bathsheba

Francesco Salviati 001Image via Wikipedia
When referring to these chapters, one almost immediately thinks of Davis and Bathsheba, of an illicit steamy love affair.  Well, that is framework but the real theme is about David and his relationship with God.

One spring, David, an aging, tired monarch opted to stay at home rather than to go off to another battle.  After resting all day, he decided to step out on his roof to admire the sunset.  And then, not too far away, probably on a neighboring roof, he just happened to spot Bathsheba taking a bath. Without examining his heart or his conscience, David, seduced by her beauty, acted on his desires.

Even though he learned that she was married to Uriah, one of his most trusted generals, David asked his servants to bring her to him.  He jumped into an adulterous encounter.  Maybe David thought that it could be overlooked as a one night indiscretion; something no one had to know about.

Unfortunately, David had completely dismissed the impact his sin may have had on the lives of those servants who were party to his adultery.   Though his servants were not politically important individuals,  they were fellow Israelites who both witnessed and participated in a sin they knew was punishable by death.  David sinned, but the effects of that sin may have rippled in their lives perhaps by allowing them to regard sin as insignificant in God's eyes.  Maybe by thinking less of God, they could have slipped into some form of idolatry which would later ensnare Israel.

Though David thought that he sinned privately, God let the sin become very public.  At least a month later,  Bathsheba notified David that she was pregnant with his child.  David tried to cover up his culpability by bringing Uriah home from the battle.  But, Uriah would not spend time with Bathsheba because he felt that he would be disloyal to God and to his troops if he indulged himself while the battle was raging.  So, David  brought Joab into his web of deception by asking him to arrange for Uriah's death in battle.

David sinned by committing adultery with his eyes first.  Then, as David indulged his sin and then attempted to cover up for it, his sin grew in magnitude:  adultery, deception, conspiracy to commit murder, murder, and lies.  David thought that once he married Bathsheba, they would quietly have their child and then continue to live happily ever without ever being accused of any impropriety or sin.

God Himself seemed reticent.  Only, sometime after the child was born  God sent Nathan, the seer, to confront David about his sin.  When David saw the prophet Nathan, he did not rush to confess his sin.  It  appears that David thought that he somehow hid it from God's eyes or maybe he thought that God wouldn't hold him accountable for sin because he was such a good king or person.

Basically, David was so blinded by the deceptions he wove that he couldn't see his own guilt before God anymore.  Yet, God loved David so much that He gave Nathan a story to deliver which would pique David's sense of justice.  Once David understood how God saw his sin, he repented and received God's forgiveness. (2 Samuel 12: 13).

According to the Law, adultery was a sin punishable by death.   So, God extended His mercy by exacting the penalty of death from the child rather than from David.  No where in this account was Bathsheba blamed or held accountable for this sin.  She was probably as much a victim as David's servants were.

Though God forgave David, He didn't allow the consequence of this sin to go away.  In 2 Samuel 12:9, God asked David," Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in His eyes?  You struck down Uriah with the sword and took his wife to be your own."    If God allowed there to be no obvious consequence for David's sin, many of the people affected by this sin might have thought lightly of sin and of becoming estranged from God.  Sin piled high doesn't go away.

But God loved His own so much that He wanted David and others to understand just how grevious sin was and just how much it damaged the loving and intimate relationship God yearned to have with His own.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

2 Samuel 8,9: Pivotal Points in King David's Life: Part 1

"David and Jonathan," by Rembrandt. ...Image via Wikipedia
King David did what all of Israel probably expected the king to do; he claimed and won the territories promised to Israel in God’s covenant with Abraham.  In claiming God’s promises, King David aligned himself with God and exalted God with his life.

And then scripture gives us a few vignettes into the heart of this beloved and almost legendary king.  Though David was wronged by Saul, he never sought revenge. Later, after many years passed since David was anointed  monarch over Israel, he began to wonder if anyone from the house of Saul was still alive.  Having grown closer to God, David wanted to extend God’s mercy and kindness, Hebrew חֶסֶד (hesed), to the family of King Saul who led Israel before him. 

2 Samuel 9:3 And the King said “Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness (חֶסֶד) of God unto him?”

One would think that after all of the grief and difficulty that David suffered at the hand of Saul, that he would want to eliminate any man from Saul’s line so that no-one could contest his right to the throne.    But, David wanted to seek out  Saul’s survivors so that he could show God’s kindness thus honoring the covenant he made with Saul’s son, Jonathan. 

Hesed implies faithfulness to a covenant and mercy when referring to those who experience misfortune. Hesed is not a reflection of the worthiness of its beneficiary. Rather hesed is a godly attribute dependant entirely on God’s desire to be merciful, kind, and to honor His end of the covenant.

When David wanted to show covenant honoring love to the Saul’s house, he was in fact illustrating to Israel how God honored His covenant with Abraham.   While David conquered land that was promised to Abraham, the people of Israel were in no way deserving of God’s mercy or kindness.   Idolatry and pagan worship were acceptable to many in Israel.  Many in Israel tolerated numerous gods and their worship without really seeing or understanding how deeply God was grieved by their sin.  Israel failed to see just how much their sin separated them from their God who only wanted to embrace them with His mercy and covenant honoring love. 

Here, through David’s life, God illustrated that He keeps His promises; that He honors the covenants which He initiated.  When the people of Israel saw that David restored all of Saul’s property to Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, and that he permanently invited him to eat at his table in Jerusalem, they no doubt understood that David never meant any harm to Saul, God’s anointed King.  They also understood that David did not forget his promise to be merciful to the descendants of Jonathan, Saul’s son. 

Through David, God again demonstrated that He would never abandon or reject Israel, the people with whom He made an everlasting covenant.

Genesis 17:19  “And God  said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed: and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”

As an object lesson of a sort, Mephibosheth, Saul’s deposed and impoverished grandson, lived with another family for a few decades before David restored his land and status to him.  David honored the covenant he made with Mephibosheth’s father Jonathan.  Why it wasn’t done sooner, can only bring speculative answers.

 However, I can see a parallel between Mephibosheth and  Israel.  For a time Israel was scattered throughout the world, but God remembered His covenant with Abraham and brought His people back into their land (1948).  I am confident that God will accomplish all that He promised, all that He covenanted with Israel.  One day, Israel will sit at God’s table and enjoy His unique favor. God’s covenant is eternal.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for checed (Strong's 2617)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 25 Mar 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=H2617&t=KJV >
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Monday, March 21, 2011

2 Samuel 6, 7 God's Promise to King David

Study of King David. Depicts Sir Henry Taylor....Image via Wikipedia
Throughout Biblical history, God made very specific promises to only a few people:  most notably Abraham, Moses, and David.  In Genesis 17:7 God said to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan, where you are now as an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and to your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Abraham neither asked nor bargained with God.  Rather, God simply announced this to him.  Over the course of Abraham’s life, God fine-tuned this covenant by specifying that Isaac, and his descendants, were heirs to this promise.  In essence, God made a promise that would span eternity.   No matter what the circumstances appear to be, in God’s eyes, the land of Canaan belongs to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and for all eternity, God remains the God of Israel. God appointed Himself to be the God of Israel, for all eternity.

God spoke to Moses to reconfirm His covenant with Abraham by virtue of appearing to Moses after Israel had been enslaved by Egypt for 400 years, which was predicted to Abraham in  Genesis 15: 12 -19.  God was not deaf to Israel’s suffering.  Rather, it was ordained that a certain period of time had to transpire first.  Through Moses, God gave Israel laws that created a lawful society that attempted to live in a manner that testified of their faith in the One True God, Yaweh, I AM THAT I AM.

When God spoke to David through Nathan, the prophet, He promised that through David’s line, a king will arise whose kingdom will be established forever.  2 Samuel 7:16: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

And David, ever humble before God, prayed in response to Nathan’s revelation, “You have established your people Israel as your very own forever and you, O Lord, have become their God.”  2 Samuel 7:24.

By telling David that his throne and kingdom will be established forever, God is reiterating that Israel will always be a distinct people on the land God had given them; since there is a people, there is a leadership which will last forever.  “You house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7: 16.

To David, God confirmed the distinct nation of Israel, the land of Israel, the eternal throne over Israel, and His eternal relationship with the people of Israel. When David prayed, he repeated God’s Word back to Him and prayed that God’s Will be done.

The Messiah was prophesied to come out of the house of David. And through the Messiah, the throne of David is indeed eternal and established forever. As King David prayed, “O Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy.” 2 Samuel 7:28.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

2 Samuel 5: King David and רוּחַ, Spirit of God

Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the...Image via Wikipedia
"All hail King David! Long live the King!!"  And so began a new era in the history of Israel.  During the forty years of King Saul's rule, Israel lived in an atmosphere of fear.  Battles with the Philistines were reactionary rather than offensive campaigns.  King Saul was obsessed with establishing a dynasty in his own name rather than securing the nation of Israel in God's Name.

As soon as David was accepted as King over all of Israel, he, in the spirit of Joshua,  launched an attack against Jebus, a city that came to be known as Jerusalem.  When Israel entered the Land of Canaan, God told Israel that He gave them this land and that they were to dispossess the inhabitants.  While Joshua and a few generations after him sought to accomplish God's will, the people of Israel generally began to slack off in their conquest of the land; they sought to fit in rather than to live according to God's command.  King David saw a city fortress, humanly impossible to defeat, and claimed it as a victory for Israel in God's Name.

Standing on God's Word and on God's Promises to Israel, David defeated the proud Jebusites and established his fortress there.  Long before David's time, Abraham was sent to the mountain, in the region of Moriah, on which Jerusalem was built, to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.  Of course God did not allow Isaac to be sacrificed.  In his place God provided a ram and Abraham understood another dimension of God's character: The Lord will Provide (what He sees is needed),  Hebrew יְהֹוָה  יִרְאֵה (Yĕhovah yireh). (In Genesis 22:8, Abraham made a statement of faith that God will see what is required and that He himself will provide.)  

 "So Abraham called that place "The Lord Will Provide".  And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided."   The Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time and said, "I swear by Myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your decendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all the nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me."   Genesis 22: 14 - 19

Similarly, King David knew that God had given this fortress city to Israel.  He went against the city, fully confident that God would provide him with a military victory, since he was obeying God's will by attacking Jebus.   So, David began his rule over Israel as a conquering King;  fully committed to God's plan for His people; fully in dwelt by God's Holy Spirit, the Hebrew רוּחַ (ruwach), (1 Samuel 16:13) which gave him power and ability to discern God's Will.  

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit7307 of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up , and went to Ramah.  1 Samuel 16:13

 In the strength of the Spirit of God, David's first conquest, the fortress of Zion, the City of David, became the seat of Israel.  And, Jerusalem, the seat of Israel, is tied to the place where God blessed Israel for all generations,  for the benefit of all nations.  

Israel, as a nation, today comprises less than 0.5% of the entire world population.  Yet, Jewish people, between 1901 and 1990, were awarded 22% of the Nobel Prizes for Science.  In the 21st century,  Jewish people have won 32% of all Nobel Prizes awarded.  Most of these awards have translated into scientific and technological achievements through which mankind has benefited enormously.  God's Promises are as eternal as the great I AM THAT I AM.  

 So many decades passed between King David and Joshua, that it was possible to think that God's plan was applicable only to Joshua's time. However, David stood on God's eternal covenant with Israel; on God's revealed character; on God's revealed Will for Israel.  David stood in the faith that God would do exactly as He promised and that time was a function of man's experience not of God's eternal reality.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for Yĕhovah yireh (Strong's 3070)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 19 Mar 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=H3070&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for ruwach (Strong's 7307)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 19 Mar 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=H7307&t=KJV >
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2 Samuel 1-4: David's Patience

"Death of King Saul", 1848 by Elie M...Image via Wikipedia
Even though it was well known throughout the land that David was God's anointed choice for King,  Saul was still, in the eyes of the nation, the established head of the new monarchy.  His sudden death left the nation divided and confused.   Openly grieving  the death of Saul and Jonathan, the twenty-three-year-old David wrote a psalm of lament, which may have prompted the nation to feel orphaned and seeking security in the familiarity of the House of Saul.

After grieving, David settled his men and their families in Hebron, where Judah anointed him as their King.

The rest of Israel remained loyal to the House of Saul.  Though much civil unrest followed, none of it was initiated by David.  In fact it would appear that David's seven years in Hebron were primarily focused on family and on waiting for God to accomplish His Word.  Six sons were born to him during this period of indecision and unrest.

During this period, some of David's biggest troubles were with members of his own family: his three nephews, sons of his sister Zeruiah: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel (2 Samuel 1:18).     Ordinarily nephews are younger than the uncle, however here, these nephews were considerably older and probably, by virtue of their seniority, experience, and blood relationship, felt that they could make good political decisions on David's behalf.    They initiated a frivolous battle which cost the tribe of Benjamin 360 men; Asahel forced Abner into slaying him; Joab assassinated Abner to avenge Asahel's death.    Yet in all of these instances, David's nephews alone were responsible for the bloodshed.

When Abner, a military leader from the House of Saul, defected to David's camp,  he promised to deliver to him the rest of the nation of Israel.  As Abner set out to accomplish this task, he and David parted parted peacefully, as close friends.

But Joab, only focused on his seething hatred for Abner, called Abner back to Hebron and assassinated him.

As David waited patiently for God to fulfill His Word concerning him, he lamented the needless bloodshed and complained that he couldn't control the "sons of Zeruriah."  During this time, the people of Israel watched him and understood his heart; they saw that he would never have killed Saul or any of his family; they saw that he denounced the death of Abner, and lamented over him.

In this account, David is portrayed as a king who led by waiting patiently for God's direction and who conquered the hearts of Israel, by loving them and God their Creator, deeply.  David denounced senseless violence and called on God "to repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds."(2 Samuel 3:39).

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

1 Samuel: 26-32 Demons, Psychics, and King Saul

Witch of Endor (detail of "The Shade of S...Image via Wikipedia
Today the Doctor Oz Show featured John Edward, a psychic who communicates with the dead.  The audience displayed a spectrum of emotions ranging from outright enthusiasm to cautious approval at his revelations.  In every instance this man communicated something from the dead which indicated that the deceased were in some way still participating in the lives of friends and family members who survived them. 

It was a disturbing episode which I chose not to watch too closely.  But, it does correspond to these chapters from 1 Samuel.

Before King Saul’s last battle, he saw the Philistine army and was overcome with terror. Forty years earlier, when the Spirit of God left him, the spirit of fear presented itself in Saul when he defied God’s commands.  Without the restraining effect of God’s Spirit, the evil spirit which tormented Saul simply flourished unchecked.  Its fruit was more fear and more terror.  So, Saul, a seasoned warrior, was afraid of entering into this battle.

The evil that flourished in him had now expressed itself as overarching fear.  And Saul was so terrified in every level of his being that he even searched out the Witch of Endor, a medium. Saul wanted to know what he would face in this battle.

“1 Samuel 28: 7 (KJV)  Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit (Hebrew אוֹב ), that I may go to her, and enquire of her.  And his servants said to him, Behold there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.

The Hebrew אוֹב, for familiar spirit denotes the idea of being possessed by a python, or soothsaying demon; of being like a bottle filled with an external substance.  Soothsayers evoked the manes of the dead by incantations and magical songs in order to give answers about future or doubtful things.  Both in Leviticus 20:6 and in Leviticus 19: 31, God specifically prohibited Israel from engaging in necromancy or in sorcery. Mediums were not to be tolerated or consulted.  God clearly stated that there was danger in dealing with demons.

So Saul, who couldn’t obey God during his forty year reign over Israel, was finally overcome by a spirit of fear which ruled his life after he rejected God’s authority.  Through this psychic, Saul talked to a spirit he perceived to be the prophet Samuel.  While this spirit said nothing that would be inconsistent with Samuel, it basically further fed Saul’s terror by underscoring that God had departed from him and had become his enemy.  This spirit amplified Saul’s fears and probably so demoralized him that he could not lead a successful military campaign against the Philistines.  This spirit served to so discourage Saul that the Philistines would be virtually guaranteed a victory over Israel.

Satan, the great liar, who also knows everything about us, can allow a demon to impersonate anyone.  I feel that Satan’s minions, his demons, can play on our desire to communicate with the dead by allowing his minions to talk as though they are spirits we know, while really promoting Satan’s kingdom.

When God spoke to men before battles, He would say things like “Be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:7)  Whenever God spoke or a prophet spoke in God’s name or an angel bearing God’s message spoke, it was always an encouraging, uplifting, assuring word.  God’s Word always dissipates fear. 

So, it seems to me, that Saul, completely in the hands of an evil spirit, also communicated with an evil spirit who pretended to be Samuel; with a spirit who wanted to drive more nails into the coffin that had become Saul’s life; with a spirit who stood opposed to Israel; with a spirit who wanted to inflict losses and casualties on a people God had chosen as His own.

With regard to Dr. Oz’s show today, I would caution anyone from seeking out someone with a familiar spirit because it is not from God; because it is a demon which will settle into your life and will only generate terror while pretending to be something benignly spiritual.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for 'owb (Strong's 178)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 15 Mar 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=H178&t=KJV >

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

1 Samuel 25: Abigail, a Woman of Wisdom and Discernment

Blade Shearing demonstration at the New York S...Image via Wikipedia
The prophet of God, Samuel, who anointed David to be King of Israel has died.   Without Samuel's  corroborating witness regarding God's plan for him, David may have suddenly felt very alone and isolated.  Maybe he was  extremely discouraged.  David must have felt no closer to the throne than he was months earlier.

Instead of engaging in battle with the Philistines, David settled his troops in Carmel where a wealthy landowner, Nabal and his wife Abigail, were beginning the daunting task of shearing three thousand sheep.  Perhaps yearning for the familiarity of a lifestyle he knew in his youth and perhaps because his troops needed provisions, David assigned  some of his men to protect the vulnerable shepherds against theft and loss of sheep.  David knew that the shepherds could not be as vigilant over their flocks while they were also shearing them.

After the shearing was completed, David sent ten of his men to Nabal to ask for renumeration. Though Nabal was greeted kindly and presented with the report of David's men having successfully protected the shepherds and livestock, he scorned David as some sort of usurper of the throne; as an untrustworthy lowlife who dared to presume upon him; as a worthless, runaway servant.

Maybe Nabal was worried that King Saul would seek vengeance against him if he were reported to have assisted David in any way.  Even though King Saul wanted to kill David, David was nevertheless the King's son-in-law and a military hero of legendary proportion.  After all, everyone knew that David slew the Philistine giant with a sling-shot.  Though not yet fully recognized as King, David was recognized as an important man in Israel.

But, if Nabal's heart were in the right place, he could have spoken to David differently.

Nabal's arrogant attitude incited David to plan revenge against every male member of Nabal's household (1 Samuel 25:22).

Fortunately, one of Nabal's servants informed Abigail of  Nabal's response to  David's request for compensation for protecting the sheep and the shepherds during the shearing process.  Even though women were not supposed to countermand a husband's authority, Abigail fully comprehended who David was in God's scheme of things.  She immediately ordered provisions for a few hundred men and set out to meet David.

Before David had the chance to exact vengeance on an entire household,  Abigail fell before his feet and proceeded to remind him of his position in God's plan.  She reminded him of how God prevented him from avenging himself with regard to Saul and to other enemies.  Maybe inspired by the Spirit of God, Abigail reminded David that God intended to make him into a lasting dynasty.  Abigail said "when" God accomplished His promises to David, not "if" He did as He promised.

At a time when David really needed to have God's Word reaffirmed, God sent him Abigail who prevented him from sinning by avenging himself on a fool.  Though Samuel was now gone, God used Abigail to adjust David's perceptions so that he could continue to look at  God's plan rather than at his own disappointments.  By listening to God, Abigail was able to rise above her social constraints, thus preventing the slaughter numerous innocent men; thus preventing David from acting rashly and outside of God's will.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

1 Samuel 20 - 24: David's Path to Kingship

Judean DesertImage via Wikipedia
David, the newly anointed King of Israel, began to serve his country as a musician/exorcist for King Saul.  Over time he was also the armor bearer for King Saul, a giant slayer, and later a military leader.  To the degree that God blessed him with success in all that he did, King Saul hated him and sought to kill him.  Finally, David, after a few attempts on his life, continued to serve God by running from King Saul.

It is interesting to note that David's ascent to the throne was not effected through mass rebellion against the existing King.   David persevered through years of perilous circumstances, forever fleeing his enemy whom he would not fight because he was God's anointed.

Even though Saul was a godless scoundrel who wanted to establish a dynasty by his own strength, David chose to let God bring His own plan to fruition.  Rather than to overthrow King Saul, David chose to live in the hostile Judean hills, where he waited for God to act.

So, for years David's life was that of a fugitive.  As the discontented and disenfranchised elements of Israel aligned themselves with him, David  kept his focus on God's will, constantly reminding himself that what God had promised, He would bring about.

During these wilderness years, while David struggled with reconciling God's will for his life with the harshness of his reality, God inspired him to write incredible psalms which, even today, speak to the soul of man.  David's music calmed the demons that tormented Saul. Spanning millennia, David's lyrics calm the hearts of men and refocus troubled spirits to ponder God's eternal promises.

While David eventually took his place in the history of Israel as a king who loved God and who led his nation wisely, his most lasting legacy was his prophetic poetry.  The psalms of David are a testimony of a man's growing love for God as he wrestled with the seeming discrepancies between what God's promised and the reality in which men live.

In the end, all of God's promises were realized.  David's faith in God's Sovereignty allowed God to work out the details.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good Spirits and Evil Spirits Are Not Equal: 1 Samuel 18, 19, 20

Painting Of The King Saul.Image via Wikipedia
When Samuel anointed David to be King of Israel, the Spirit of God came upon David in power and stayed with him his entire life. About that same time, the Spirit of God departed from King Saul and an evil spirit settled upon Saul. (1 Samuel 16: 13 – 23)

Scripture almost casually introduced these two spirits which controlled how David and Saul lived and how their lives affected the history of Israel.  Although these were two spirits they were not by any means equal.  The Spirit of God, which settled in David, is the Spirit of the Living God, who was first introduced in Genesis 1:2. 

God also is One, but has three parts of His being: God, the Father; God, the Son; God, the Spirit.  I can understand God as being similar to a hard boiled egg.  There is a shell, the egg white, and the yolk.  Yet, these three parts constitute one egg.

When God created man in His own image, He made man to have a body, a spirit, and a soul.  So, technically, we can exist simultaneously in three different dimensions: in this physical world; in the spiritual world; yearning for the heavenly.  Yet, each man is only one being.

The Spirit of God left Saul when he publicly showed his absolute disregard for God and for His Word.  Very possibly, Saul didn’t believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Possibly, God was a concept Saul acquiesced to in order to gain acceptance of his people.  Nevertheless, though anointed as King by God’s prophet Samuel, he neither revered God nor considered Him important.

When God left Saul to fend for himself, an evil spirit began to torment him.  The evil spirit or demon was not an equal to God or opposite of God.  Rather, this is a sort of spirit that can exist only where God is not.  Evil is not the opposite of God, but the absence of God’s presence.

When Saul was woefully tormented by his demon, Saul’s attendants suggested that harp music might calm the demon.  So, initially David was brought into King Saul’s presence as a skilled harpist, who was able to assuage the evil spirit by his playing. In fact before the battle with Goliath, David was already serving King Saul as both a harpist and armor bearer.  The evil spirit left when David, filled with the Spirit of God, played the harp.

After David slew Goliath, he became a military leader who met with striking success in all of his battles against Israel’s enemies.  God blessed him so much that soon he was a prominent, well liked public figure. To the degree that the people of Israel loved David, Saul hated David.  Since he was unable to perceive and understand God’s will for Israel, Saul became insanely jealous of David.  Though tormented by the evil spirit, Saul could not identify his hatred toward as stemming from the demon that blinded his eyes to God’s plan for Israel.

In his own wisdom, Saul could not see past his ambition for himself and his family; he wanted to establish a dynasty in Israel.  However, he completely failed to see that God Himself was the only true Sovereign King of Israel.  God gave the land of Canaan to Israel and God promised to protect His people.  Saul failed to recognize that a godly king of Israel could only bless the nation of Israel; he failed to see that a godly king would be a better leader because he sought God’s will before his own.  Saul didn’t understand that God covenanted to give Israel the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession; that God covenanted with Israel, through all generations, to be their God.

Saul attempted to protect Israel, but at best, it was in his own strength and wisdom.  And as such, he could not succeed. 

God required a King who would honor Him; who would have a relationship with Him.

King Saul failed to recognize that David was God’s choice for Israel; that David, anointed in God’s Spirit, would always have the advantage over all enemies of Israel because God would fight with him.

In the relationship between David and Saul, we can see the spiritual battle that is fought continuously for the minds and hearts of men.   Everyone knows, on some level, that there is a spiritual world which parallels our physical world.  These worlds themselves are a neutral medium in which good and evil contend for control.  Evil can attach itself to men with the intent of destroying lives, muting vibrant lives, creating ineffective lives, or just allowing evil hearted men to amplify their own defiance of God in a world that denies God.

I think that it is amazing that David neutralized or calmed Saul’s demons by playing music.  David also wrote many psalms, or songs, which even when recited are often comforting.  I feel that David’s praise songs not only glorified God but also served to ward off demons that he personally saw at work in the lives of people around him.  Maybe one of David’s legacies for us are the psalms, the praise music, which enable us to focus on God’s Sovereignty, on God’s character, on God’s love for us, on God’s justice, on God’s mercy. 
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