To Build Up.

2 Samuel 23-24, 1 Corinthians 14

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. – 1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV

As David neared the end of his life, it appears that he was somewhat reflective, and felt compelled to do something to evaluate the success of his reign. He was a warrior and as such, part of his perceived worth would have been based on the numbers of his victories and the size of his army. So David determined to conduct a census in order to ascertain just how large his fighting force really way. It appears that the sin David committed in doing so was in placing his trust in his army rather than God. Actually, the passage doesn't tell us exactly what David had done to deserve the anger and punishment of God, but it is clear that he had sinned. Perhaps part of David's sin was that he had become focused on his own reputation rather than God's. It is interesting that the previous chapter speaks of “the mighty men whom David had” (2 Samuel 23:8 ESV). These mighty warriors were part of David's inner circle. They were valiant fighting men who had accomplished great deeds on behalf of David. But the passage makes it clear that their exploits were actually the result of God's actions. “And the Lord brought about a great victory that day” (2 Samuel 23:10 ESV). “And the Lord worked a great victory” (2 Samuel 23:12 ESV). It would have been easy for David to lose sight of the fact that his reputation, reign, and apparent success as a king were all the result of God's divine influence over his life. Numbering his troops could have given David a false sense of self-accomplishment and independence. It seems from the passage, that David was driven by a self-obsession that focused more on himself than on God or the people over whom he reigned.

What does this passage reveal about God?

When God determined to punish David for his sin, he gave the king three options from which to choose. He placed David in a very difficult position, forcing him to decide between three equally unattractive forms of punishment: Famine, the sword or pestilence. It would appear that whichever one David chose, the end result would be similar in its outcome. While the famine would last three years, it would take longer for its full impact to be felt on the lives of the people. The sword and pestilence, while shorter in time, would be swifter in their devastating influence on the lives of the people. No matter which one David chose, there was going to be innocent people who died as a result. David's selfish sin was going to have a significant impact on the lives of others. Unable to choose, David told God, “I am in great distress, Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14 ESV). In essence, David chose NOT to accept the sword as an option, but rather asked that God would choose between the other two. David was willing to accept the punishment of the Lord and count on Him showing mercy. So God chose to bring pestllence for three days, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 men. While we may struggle with the events recorded in this passage, we must understand that God acted righteously and justly. His actions were well within His rights as God. Sin had been committed, and the degree of the punishment reflects just how great David's sin really was.

What does this passage reveal about man?

In chapter 23, we read the last words of David. It is interesting to note what he said. “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes the grass to sprout from the earth” (2 Samuel 23:3-4 ESV). A king who rules justly, in the fear of God, has a positive, healthy influence on the lives of those over whom he reigns. It would appear that David's decision to take the census was done without any fear of God. He didn't think about what he was doing. He was too focused on his own life and interested in his own reputation.

Over in 1 Corinthians 14, we see an apparently different scenario at play. Paul is writing to the Corinthian believers about spiritual gifts and their role within the body of Christ. It would appear that the Corinthians were struggling with pride and jealousy over the allocation and use of the spiritual gifts. Evidently, there was some belief that the gift of tongues was superior to any of the other gifts. It was more flamboyant and extraordinary. Perhaps they believed that those who practiced this particular gift were somehow linked in significant to the apostles because that is the gift they exhibited at Pentecost. But Paul repeatedly warns the Corinthian believers to remember the whole point behind all the gifts: the building up of the body of Christ. He tells them to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV). He warns them that, while speaking in tongues, they may experience some personal satisfaction and benefit, “but the other person is not being built up” (1 Corinthians 14:17 ESV). Paul makes it clear: “Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV). This is a continuation of his theme in chapter 13. The point behind all of the gifts was mutual edification motivated by selfless love. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV). The gift of tongues, practiced without love, was worthless and completely non-beneficial. God was the originator of the gifts and He handed them out according to His divine will and wisdom. They were intended to build up, not divide. They were to be selfless, not selfish. Like David, the Corinthians had taken their eyes off of God and placed them firmly on themselves. They had turned the spiritual gifts into a competition.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I love the line Paul writes to the believers there in Corinth: “Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind” (1 Corinthians 14:20 NLT). Don't act like children, selfishly focusing on your own desires. Don't make it all about you. Think like adults, remembering that God gave you your gift for the good of the body, not just for your own personal pleasure or to satisfy your ego. It's interesting to note that in his opening to this letter, Paul writes the Corinthians and reminds them, “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Corinthians 1:7 ESV). The church in Corinth had every spiritual gift represented. God had given them exactly what they needed to build up the body of Christ. But they were jockeying for position, fighting over the gifts and selfishly attempting to one-up each other by comparing and contrasting the significance and value of their particular gifting. And in doing so, they were missing out on the whole purpose behind the gifts: to build up the church. Had David kept his focus on God, he would have spent less time worrying about his own significance and reputation. Had he remembered and lived by the words he wrote, he would have ruled justly, in the fear of God, having a positive impact on the lives of his people. But instead, his self-centered actions brought death. It's interesting to note that the Corinthians, in attempting to practice the very gifts God had given them, were having a negative influence on not only the local fellowship they were called to build up, but on the lost community around them. Nothing harms the name of Christ more than believers who can't get along. Nothing damages our witness as believers like infighting, pride and jealousy. But if our focus is on building up the body of Christ, and our motivation is mutual love, the church prospers and the lost are attracted like moths to a flame.

Father, may our churches be increasingly more recognized as places where the building up of the body is more important than the building up of our own reputations. Forgive us for making more of ourselves than we make of You or of the well-being of Your people. Open our eyes so that we might see You more clearly. Help us to love You more by loving others more than we love ourselves or our own reputations. Amen

The Love of God.

2 Samuel 21-22, 1 Corinthians 13

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

We tend to sentimentalize love. It can easily become the sweet and saccharine staple of Valentine's cards and Hallmark made-for-TV movies. But real love is about much more than hearts and cherubs, sweetness and sentimentality. The kind of love God exhibits and expects from His people is not for the weak. It is not a byproduct of our emotions that shows up as a warm feeling or simply as a response to being loved by another. Love is an active, aggressive, powerful force that can manifest itself in a myriad of ways. As David grew older and more reflective, he couldn't help but see the loving hand of God all over his life. In 2 Samuel 22, he paints a vivid picture of his God, that is really an expression of his understanding of God's love for him. David describes God as his rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, salvation, stronghold and savior. He writes of responding to his cries and rescuing him from trouble. God provided him with security, strength and skill for battle. It was God who gave him victory over his enemies. David knew that his kingship was all God's doing. He fully understood that any success he had experienced was due to the hand of God in his life. And all of this was simply a visible expression of God's love. David wrote, “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever” (2 Samuel 22: 51 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is love. It is the essence of His being. All that God does is filtered through His love. God can do nothing without love. Even His judgment is an expression of His love. Love is not an attribute that God possesses, but the very nature of who He is. So when God rescued David from his enemies, it was an expression of His love for David. When God punished David for his sin with Bathsheba, it was because God loved David enough to teach him the life lessons he needed to learn in order to be the king God intended him to be. When God allowed David to spend all those years in exile, living under the constant threat of death at the hand of King Saul, it was because God loved David and wanted to prepare him for his future kingship by allowing him to go through a period of trial and training. God loved David and this fact did not escape David as he looked back on his life. He could SEE the love of God expressed in a variety of ways. God's love appeared as protection and provision. It could be seen as strength for battle, deliverance from difficulty, stability in the midst of uncertainty, victory over enemies, and peace in the midst of the storm. God's love was far from sentimental. It was practical, powerful and undeniable.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Paul gives us a wonderful description of the kind of love that God expects to see from those who claim to be His children. It differs greatly from the self-centered, what's-in-it-for-me kind of love we see modeled by the world. The love Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13 is the love of God. It is heavenly, not earthly. It is spiritual, not natural. This kind of love is indispensable and non-negotiable. Without it, everything we do becomes worthless and without value. Life lived without love is pointless. Words spoken without love become meaningless and just so much noise. Knowledge without love leaves me ignorant. The ability to perform miracles is a waste of time if it is not based in love. Even the willingness to sacrifice my life, if it is not done out of love, is in the end just wasted effort. Love is the most important thing we experience from God and it is to be the most common attribute that we express as children of God. Love is not self-centered. Love is not done for the sake of payback or mutual satisfaction. It is selfless, sacrificial, patient, enduring, hopeful, abiding, and all-encompassing. It is not just an emotion. It is a way of life. It is the way of God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The best way to measure my own love is to look at the love of God. That's what David did. He saw the loving hand of God all over His life. He had learned to see God's love in every area of his life. David didn't just see God's love when things went well or when everything turned out the way he expected. He saw God's love in his difficulties. He saw God's love revealed as patience and constancy. David saw his own strength and skill for battle as an expression of God's love. Love is sometimes best expressed in ways that aren't recognized as love. Loving discipline is not always welcome, but it is necessary. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6 ESV). Preparing someone to handle the difficulties of life and allowing them to go through them on their own is an expression of love. Watching our children endure hardship is hard to do as parents, but sometimes it is the best way we can show our love to them. Allowing them to learn life lessons through personal experience may be the most loving thing we can do for them. Love ultimately has the best interest of the one being loved in mind. Love is not based on how the other one WANTS to be loved, but on what will be best for that individual in the long run. Love must be measured from God's perspective, not our own or anybody else's. What would God have us do? How would God have us love? It will almost always involve sacrifice and selflessness. It will be focused on the one being loved. It will expect nothing in return. It will endure. It will be patient. It will hope for the best. It will sacrifice.

Father, Your love for me is amazing. Your constant, consistent, unwavering love shows up in so many ways in my life every day. Show me how to express that same kind of love to others. May my life be characterized by the kind of love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Amen

A House Divided.

2 Samuel 19-20, 1 Corinthians 12

“We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel.” – 2 Samuel 20:1 ESV

No sooner had David been restored to his rightful place as king of Israel, then everything seemed to fall apart right before his eyes. Absalom was dead. The insurrection had been defeated. But a rift had developed between Israel and Judah. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were slow to recognize David's restored kingship and had not yet invited him back into Jerusalem. It took some persuasive words from David to finally convince them to welcome him back as king. But the ten tribes to the north became jealous, and complained to David, “Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David's men with him?” (2 Samuel 19:41 ESV). This all results in an argument between the people of Judah and Israel, with David stuck in the middle. It created the perfect atmosphere for Sheba, “a worthless man,” to lead the tribes of Israel in a rebellion against David. “So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 20:2 ESV). So while David was back on his throne in Jerusalem, he reigned over a divided kingdom.

What does this passage reveal about God?

At first blush, it would appear that God is virtually absent from the narrative of 2 Samuel 19-20. He does not speak. He is not even mentioned. But we know that He was there. Much of what we see taking place is a result of His curse on David for his sin with Bathsheba. God had told David, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Samuel 12:9-10 ESV). David was still reaping the consequences of his sin. God was allowing things to unfold just as He had predicted they would. God had restored David to his throne, but his difficulties were far from over. The circumstances surrounding David's life at this time were not an indication of God's absence. He was there. He was still in control. But David was learning the painful lesson that our sins always have consequences.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Division amongst the people of God is not a new thing. Jealousy, pride, self-importance and the constant need for recognition are always lurking in the hearts of those who are called to be brothers and members of the same family. So much of what we see taking place in the story recorded in 2 Samuel 19-20 has to do with the sinful attitudes of men. The men of Israel are driven by jealousy. Rather than rejoice that David is being restored to his throne, they are jealous that he is returning to Judah and once again making Jerusalem his capital. They feel slighted. They feel betrayed. In this story, David replaced Joab with Amasa, making him the commander of his army, because David had never forgiven Joab for killing Absalom. As a result, Joab murders Amasa, taking back his generalship and restoring himself to power. The amazing thing is that all of this is taking place within the household of God. Jews are rising up against Jews. Brothers are rebelling against brothers. The people of God are destroying one another.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Even in the New Testament, long after Christ had come and the good news of salvation had begun to spread, division was still a problem, even among the growing numbers of believers. Paul had to deal with disunity and division within the church at Corinth. They were even fighting over spiritual gifts. They were experiencing jealousy over who had particular gifts and how they were being used. There were those who were teaching that some gifts were more important than others. This created a hierarchy of gifts, leaving some gifts looking as if they were sub-par or less significant. But Paul reassures them that all the gifts come from the same source: the Spirit of God. And all the gifts have one purpose: to build up the body of Christ. The gifts were intended for the common good of the body. They were not meant to be signs of individual significance and worth. One gift was not any better than another. But the presence of jealousy, pride, egos, and selfishness was turning the gifts of the Spirit into a cause for division and disunity. But Paul reminded his readers, “God arranged the members in the body, each on of them, as he chose” (1 Corinthians 12:18 ESV). There was no need for jealousy. There was no cause for arrogance or pride. “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26 ESV). The key was unity. The goal was mutual love and accountability. A house divided cannot stand. When we allow jealousy and our own self-importance to infect our community as believers, we destroy our effectiveness. We damage our witness. The greatest threat to God's kingdom is when His people try to establish their own kingdoms and make their will more important than His.

Father, we can find ourselves so easily fighting one another, rather than focusing our attention on the enemy. Too often, we allow jealousy and pride to rob us of power and destroy the unity that You so long for us to experience. Our sin natures get in the way and tend to cause us to focus on ourselves rather than the common good of the body of Christ. Help us to see that we all part of one body and that we have been gifted and equipped to serve one another, not ourselves. Amen

Disunity and Division.

2 Samuel 17-18, 1 Corinthians 11

But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. – 1 Corinthians 11:17-18 NLT

The house of David was divided. His own son, Absalom, had turned against him, taking over his throne and occupying his royal city. Ever since Absalom had taken revenge against Amnon for raping his sister, Absalom and David had been in a less-than-ideal relationship. They had never fully healed the wounds between them. Absalom had developed a growing resentment for David and had lost respect for him as both a father and a king. So he plotted to take over his father's throne and was even determined to take his father's life in order to solidify his own kingship. The amazing thing to consider is that this is all taking place within the nation that had been hand-picked by God to be His chosen people. The Israelites were to be an example of what it was like for a people to live under the leadership of God Himself, experiencing His presence and power, and obeying His righteous commands. But ever since the days of Moses, they had struggled with the concept of unity, constantly finding themselves arguing and whining against one another. Division, disunity and in-fighting were a constant problem among God's people. We can only imagine how the Philistines and the other enemies of Israel must have loved watching Absalom destroy the nation of Israel from within. The enemy has always preferred watching the followers of God destroy themselves, which is why he has made division and disunity such a high priority in his war against the people of God. It is also why Jesus prayed for our unity in His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17. “ I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Unity is important to God. It was important to Jesus. The Father and the Son enjoyed perfect unity. There was no division between them. They were unified in their love for one another, their love for mankind and in their plan to provide a solution to man's sin problem. Jesus knew that our unity was just as important, even intimating that the unity of the people of God would be a testimony to the world of God's presence among us. Jesus went on to pray, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:22-23 ESV). Our unity is a work of the Spirit. It is not human or natural. It is made possible by the power and presence of God in our lives. And our ability to live in unity is a testimony to God's love, Christ's redeeming work and the Spirit's power. Without God's help, we are prone to selfishness and self-centeredness. Division and disagreement are a constant threat because they are manifestations of man's sin nature. But God's love has unified us. We share a common Savior and have been made part of the body of Christ. Paul writes, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit” (1Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV). Our common dependence upon Christ's saving work has unified us into one, unified body. We share all things in common. None of us are more deserving of God's love than anyone else. We have no more value in God's eyes than any of His other children.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But even among the people of God, disunity and discord can raise its ugly head. Just as Absalom was led to see himself as superior to David and worthy of taking his place as king, so too can one believer view himself as more important or worthy than another believer. Paul witnessed this very problem taking place among the believers in Corinth. He wrote, “when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you” (1 Corinthians 11:18 ESV). In other words, when they gathered together for their church services, they were doing so with divided hearts and a spirit of disunity. Their times of corporate worship were marked by selfishness, self-centeredness and an unhealthy spirit of arrogance. Even their marriages were being impacted by this disunity, as wives and husbands failed to properly maintain their god-given roles and responsibilities. Husbands were failing to lead spiritually and their wives were abusing their new-found liberties in Christ to the point that they were undermining God's order of authority and responsibility. The end result was disunity. There was a spirit of independence that had infected the church and was destroying not only their unity, but their witness in the community. Which is why Paul reminded them, “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12 ESV). Their self-centeredness had caused them to remember that it was God who was to be at the center of the homes, marriages, and worship services. He was to be the focus, not themselves.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Absalom was driven by anger, resentment, pride, arrogance and a growing self-centeredness that eventually caused him to forget that God had chosen his father to be the king of Israel, not him. Absalom's will had taken precedence over God's will. He had no problem dividing the kingdom God had established in his efforts to create his own kingdom. And as a result, many would die needlessly, including himself. His actions would bring shame on the nation of Israel and joy to the hearts of the enemies of Israel. How much easier it is to sit back and watch us destroy ourselves from within. If Satan can get us to live together in DISunity, he has won a major battle. If he can divide us from within, he has won a major battle without having to lift a finger against us. This is why Jesus prayed so fervently on our behalf, “the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:14-17 ESV). Like the people of Israel, we are surrounded by a world that is hostile to our very existence. Which is why our unity is so important. We cannot afford to allow internal strife, division and disunity to weaken us. We cannot allow our pride and selfishness to get the best of us. We must remember that God has joined us together. He has placed us in His family. He has unified us through a common faith in His Son's death, burial and resurrection. Together, we make up the body of Christ. But it is our unity that makes us effective. It is our love for one another that proves we are His disciples. It is our supernatural harmony that witnesses to the world of God's presence and power among us.

Father, the world longs to see what true love, harmony and unity looks like. They are dying to see marriages that are marked by Your power and presence. They desperately need to see believers who have been transformed by Your Spirit loving one another regardless of color, class, nationality, income or social standing. May we truly be one as Your prayed that we would be. So that the world may believe in Your Son. Amen

Staying Faithful When Life Gets Stressful.

2 Samuel 15-16, 1 Corinthians 10

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

Life can get messy. There are times when things don't go quite like we expected them to go. Sometimes this is a result of living in a fallen world. Other times, we may be experiencing the consequences of our own sin. But regardless of the cause of our particular circumstances, the real test will be whether we remain faithful to God in the midst of them. David's life seems to have been a series of ups and downs, successes and failures. While he was a man after God's own heart, that does not mean his life was free from difficulties or moments of despair. Even as God's chosen and anointed king, David had to face his fair share of trying times. He had to bear the news of his son Amnon's rape of his half-sister, Tamar. Then he had to learn of Amnon's death at the hand of his brother, Absalom. And David knew that these events were in fulfillment of the prophet Nathan's words, spoken in response to David's sin regarding Bathsheba. “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house’” (2 Samuel 12:10-11 ESV). Absalom would end up running away and living in exile. And even when he finally allowed by David to return, Absalom would plot a conspiracy against his father's throne that would end with David abandoning the city of Jerusalem and escaping to the wilderness once again.

What does this passage reveal about God?

In the midst of this soap-opera-like story, David exhibits an unlikely reliance upon God's sovereignty. He was sad. He was likely disappointed in the outcome of his life, but he continued to place his life in the hands of God. “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 15:25-26 ESV). David did not fully understand his circumstances. He didn't necessarily like them either. But he did his best to trust God with them. Even when David was on his way out of the city and found himself subjected to the curses and rants of a disgruntled relative of Saul, he refused to let his men rebuke his assailant. Instead, he said, “ It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me,and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today” (2 Samuel 16:12 ESV). While his life appeared to be falling apart all around him, David did not abandon his trust in God. He believed in the sovereignty of his God and would place his life in His hands. David knew that nothing happened by luck or happenstance. His God was in control.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It is amazing to think that one family could be so dysfunctional. Lust, rape, murder, conspiracy, and rebellion – all in one family. But not just any family – the family of the king of Israel, the mighty David, son of Jesse and the man hand-picked by God to lead His people. The depth of the sin described in these chapters is staggering, but it should not be surprising. The sin nature of man is active at all times, even in godly families. And the consequences of our own sinful actions will always catch up with us eventually. While David had been forgiven for his sin with Bathsheba, he still had to face the ramifications of his poor choices and disobedience against God. There are two truths when it comes to life: First, that sin is a real and ever-present reality. But the second is even more important. God is always fully aware of our circumstances and always there. We tend to be surprised by the first and doubtful of the second. But David knew that the only real constant in his life was his God. He was familiar with the instability of life and the constant possibility for sin to rear its ugly head. But he also knew that God could be trusted even when everything seemed to be falling apart all around him.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul reminds us, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV). In this passage, Paul was discussing the Israelites and their journey out of slavery in Egypt. While all of them had experienced the same miraculous deliverance by God and enjoyed the same provision of their needs, they didn't all remain faithful. Some turned away from God and put their trust in idols, and as a result, they never made it into the Promised Land. And Paul tells us that these things happened to them as an example for us. They gave in to their physical appetites. They put God to the test. They grumbled against God because they didn't like their circumstances. So Paul warns us to watch out so that we don't repeat their mistake. We must remember that God is faithful. There is no circumstance in life that He is not aware of and that He has not provided for us a way of escape. We don't have to rebel. We don't have to give in to our physical appetites or natural, sinful desires. We don't have to end up putting God to the test. We can trust. We can remain faithful. We can place our hope in Him and wait to see what He is going to do to bring about a resolution. As Paul writes in that often quoted and yet seldom believed verse, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). David was going to leave his life in the hands of his God. We would be wise to do the same thing.

Father, life is messy and sometimes a bit confusing. But help me to keep my eyes focused on You, not my circumstances. You are the one constant in life. You never change. You never leave. You never run out of strength, power or love for me. May I seek You and see You in all that happens to me and around me. Amen

Rights Run Amuck.

2 Samuel 13-14, 1 Corinthians 9

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 9:12 ESV

We put a high priority on our rights. But the problem with rights is that they can become expectations, and those expectations, when unmet, can lead to disappointment which can culminate in sin. So much of what we label as rights have more to do with what John refers to as “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16 ESV). There are things in this world that we believe are “rightfully” ours to have. It could be a new car, a bigger house, nicer clothes, a better paying job, respect, popularity, good health, or more money. And while God has not necessarily promised us these things, if we convince ourselves that we somehow deserve them, we will not be content until we have them. We will see it as our right, and anyone who stands in our way of fulfilling that right will be seen as our enemy. Many of the things we want or believe we deserve are perfectly fine to have, but the issue is less about rights than it is about lust. And when our perceived rights become an obsession for us, the result is an incapacity to love those around us. Our love of our rights takes precedence over our God-given responsibility to love others.

What does this passage reveal about God?

When asked what the two greatest commandments were, Jesus was quite specific. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV). So according to Jesus, we are to love God and love others. Everything else found in the law of Moses and in the writing of the prophets could be summed up in these two commands. But our rights have a way of hindering our ability to faithfully fulfill either command. If I don't get what I think I deserve or what I believe is rightfully mine to have, I will become frustrated with God. I might even find myself falling out of love with God, because I am disappointed in His failure to give me what I want. But my obligation to love God should take precedence over any obsession I may have regarding “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life.” I must be willing to die to my rights for the sake of loving God and loving others. Paul knew this well and lived it out in his everyday life.

What does this passage reveal about man?

What an amazing contrast there is between the life of Paul and the life of Amnon. At first glance, you might think there is little to compare between these two men, but at the heart of both passages is the subject of rights. Amnon believed he had a right to satisfy his lust for his half-sister, Tamar. The author makes it quite clear that Amnon desperately wanted Tamar, and while it says that he loved her, his real attraction seems to have been sexual in nature. He was so obsessed with her that he literally made himself sick. “Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar” (2 Samuel 13:2 ESV). And with encouragement from “crafty” friend, Amnon eventually demanded his rights, forcefully raping Tamar against her will. He believed he had a right to what he wanted, and he did whatever he had to do to get it. Interestingly, the passage says that “Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her” (2 Samuel 13:15 ESV). Not only had Amnon failed to love God by violating His commands, he had allowed his rights to get in the way of his love for Tamar. Lust superceded love. Perceived rights got in the way of doing what was right in God's eyes.

But Paul gives us a model of what it means to hold on to our rights loosely. The entire ninth chapter of 1 Corinthians has to do with the issue of rights. Chapter eight dealt with a problem in the Corinthian church regarding meat offered to idols. There were more mature believers who were demanding their right to eat this meat because they knew that there were no such thing as other gods. They were spiritually mature enough to know that the meat was perfectly fine to eat. But Paul was telling them to give up their rights out of love for their weaker brothers. If someone else, who had just come out of a pagan religion where those false gods were very real, still believed that eating meat sacrificed to those gods was wrong, the last thing you would want to do is to flaunt your rights and cause them to violate their own conscience. Paul refused to make a big deal out of his rights. “Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12 ESV). Rather than demand his rights, Paul died to them. He didn't want anything to stand in the way of the gospel, including his rights.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is so easy to let our rights get in the way of our primary objective as followers of Christ. We are to love God and love others. Our focus is to be outward, not inward. But as soon as I start making a big deal out of my rights, I lose focus. It becomes all about me. But Paul would remind us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV). Put others first. Don't make it all about you. Be willing to die to your rights. And Paul provides Jesus as a perfect example of this very attitude. In fact, Paul tells us to have the same attitude that Christ had: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV). Jesus gave up His rights as the Son of God and came to earth. He gave up His divine privileges and position of power and honor next to the Father. He set aside His rights in order to love mankind. Rather than look out for His own personal interests and demand His rights, He placed our well-being ahead of His own. When we allow our rights to rule us, we will end up loving ourselves more than we love God or others. Amnon is a perfect example of this truth. But Paul provides us with a viable alternative. He gave up his rights, so that he might keep his eye on the prize: the faithful presentation of the gospel and the unselfish expression of God's love for others through his own life and ministry.

Father, forgive me for making far too much out of my rights. Don't let me be like Amnon, who was driven by his own desires and convinced himself that his rights were worth doing anything for. I want to be like Paul, willingly giving up my rights for the sake of the gospel and out of love for others. May I increasingly have the same attitude that Christ had. Amen

When Physical Passions Become Spiritually Destructive.

2 Samuel 11-12, 1 Corinthians 8

So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13 ESV

As human beings, our physical appetites can get us into trouble. Our love of food can cause us to overeat, making ourselves sick and even overweight. Our love for sexual pleasure can cause us to have immoral thoughts or even put those thoughts into action. The simple pleasure of good wine can turn into drunkenness. There is nothing inherently wrong with physical pleasures or even the desire to fulfill them, but we must always understand that our sin nature will attempt to transform these God-given appetites into opportunities for sin. The apostle Paul knew this well. “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17 NLT).

In the story of David and Bathsheba we have a sobering illustration of what can happen to a good man who allows his physical passions to get the better of him. David found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. When he should have been at war, he was at home, with far too much leisure time on his hands. While his men fought, David was relaxing on his rooftop, and that's where his trouble began. He saw Bathsheba taking a bath on an adjacent rooftop. David lusted. But rather than stop there, he allowed his passions to take control of him. David experienced what James warned about. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15 ESV). David's desire turned into full-blown adultery. He satisfied his sexual appetite in an immoral and improper way. And the result was death.

What does this passage reveal about God?

David's sin was against God. He would later acknowledge that in the Psalm he wrote in response to his sin and God's response to it. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4 ESV). Yes, David's actions were damaging to Bathsheba. He coerced her to sin against God and her own husband. David even resorted to taking the life of Uriah in an attempt to cover up his sin. But at the end of the day, David had sinned against God. He had broken God's commands and allowed his physical appetite to become his god. The apostle Paul wrote about this very thing. “…there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth” (Philippians 3:18-19 ESV). David let his sexual appetite control him. He obeyed his desires rather than obey his God. And the result was death.

What does this passage reveal about man?

This is a constant reality for all of us. Our physical appetites are real and ever-present. But we cannot afford to be ruled by our passions. We can't let our physical desires become our gods. When we allow them to control us, the results are rarely good. “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:16-17 NLT). “Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away” (1 Corinthians 7:31 NLT). We should never let the temporal things of this world control us. David's sexual appetite was God-given and good, but when he let it control him, and he gave into its desire for something outside of God's will, he sinned. Gluttony is a serious sin in the life of the believer. It literally means “to gulp down or swallow.” It has to do with over-indulgence and over-consumption. It is to take the desire for something good and to turn it into an overwhelming and uncontrolled obsession for even more. David had wives. He had appropriate means for expressing and fulfilling his sexual desires. But when he let his passions control him, he wasn't satisfied with what he had. He wanted more. His god was his appetite, because he obeyed it rather than do what God had commanded him to do.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The enemy loves to distort and twist the truth. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve with forbidden fruit. God had give Adam and Eve all the fruit of the garden and had only denied them access to one particular tree. But it was that ONE tree that Satan used to tempt Eve. He tried to confuse her by twisting the words of God. “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 NLT). He appealed to her sense of right and privilege. He preyed upon her physical appetite. “She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too” (Genesis 3:6 ESV). And the result was death. Eve knew better. She was fully aware of what God had said. But her appetite for food and her desire for power got the best of her. She gave in to her physical passions and disobeyed God.

But there is another area in which I can allow my desires to end up in death. Paul deals with it in 1 Corinthians 8. I may have every right to satisfy my physical desires by eating certain foods or partaking in certain activities because they are NOT sinful. But if I have a weaker brother in Christ whose conscience is uneducated and who wrongly assumes that those activities are sin, I must be willing to give up my rights for his good. “But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:9 NLT). I may have the right to drink wine, but if my doing so causes another brother to sin against his own conscience, I have sinned against Christ. “And when you sin against other believersby encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12 NLT). I must never allow my physical appetites to rule or run my life. Paul was willing to give up eating meat altogether if he thought it might cause a brother to stumble. What am I willing to give up in order to protect my brothers and sisters in Christ? Too often, we allow our physical appetites to control our lives. But all these things are temporal and fading away. They have little to no lasting value. We eat, only to get hungry again. When we try to satisfy our lives with temporal pleasures, we always end up wanting more. The things of this earth cannot satisfy. Only God can.

Father, forgive me for letting my physical passions rule and reign in my life. I am so prone to giving in to my appetites. Give me the strength to say no when necessary. I don't want my stomach to be my god. I don't want sexual desires to control me. I want to be under Your control. I want to do what You could have me do. But this sinful flesh is always at war within me. Give me the power I need to say no to the flesh and yes to Your Spirit. Amen

The Kindness of God.

2 Samuel 9-10, 1 Corinthians 7

So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king's table. Now he was lame in both his feet. – 2 Samuel 9:13 ESV

The story of David and Mephibosheth is a remarkable picture of the grace God has extended toward undeserving mankind. After becoming king over all of Israel, David could have taken vengeance out on any of the descendants of Saul. After all, Saul had repeatedly tried to eliminate David as the God-ordained successor to his throne. It would have made perfectly logical sense for David to eliminate any of Saul's potential heirs in order to solidify his rule. But instead, David sought out the remaining household of Saul, not to destroy them, but to show them mercy and grace. David said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” (2 Samuel 9:3 ESV). David's words are significant. He wanted to show the kindness of God – the same kindness God had shown to him. David recognized that his position as king of Israel was not deserved. He had not earned it. It had been made possible by the grace and kindness of God. So he wanted to extend that same kindness to the remaining heirs of Saul. When Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, was brought before David, he was told, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always” (2 Samuel 9:7 ESV). Shocked by this news, Mephibosheth could only respond, “What is your servant that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (2 Samuel 9:8 ESV). Mephibosheth knew he was undeserving of David's kindness. He did not merit the grace, mercy and unbelievable generosity of the king.

What does this passage reveal about God?

As has been said before, David was referred to by God as a man after His own heart. He had a sensitivity to the ways of God. In this story, we see that David was fully aware of God's kindness and grace towards him, which made him predisposed to turn around and extend that same kindness toward others – not because they deserved it. What is amazing is that David was willing to extend this kindness to a young man who had nothing to offer in return. The passage makes it clear that Mephibosheth was crippled. He wasn't even a real threat to David's kingdom. He was lame in both of his feet and would never have been considered a viable candidate for the kingship of Israel. But David showed him kindness anyway. And what David did for Mephibosheth was shocking. He restored to him all the lands that had belonged to his grandfather, Saul. He gave him a permanent place at his royal table. David made Mephibosheth a part of his royal family, and Mephibosheth is stunned by this turn of events. He recognizes his undeservedness and couldn't help but marvel at David's astounding kindness. But all of this is just a shadow of what God has done for us as believers in Jesus Christ. He has taken sinful men like us and made us His heirs and permanent residents of His eternal kingdom. Paul reminds us, “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10 ESV). To the Colossian believers Paul wrote, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21-22 ESV). There was a time when all believers were in the same state as Mephibosheth. We were living in exile, separated from God, deserving of death, and incapable of doing anything to save ourselves. But God showed us mercy. He extended to us grace. He showered us with kindness. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Mephibosheth had everything going against him. He was not only the grandson of Saul, David's arch enemy, he was crippled. In that day and age, to be lame was seen as a curse from God. The Jews believed that physical illness was directly tied to sin. Even when Jesus and His disciples encountered a blind man, the disciples asked, ““Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 ESV). The disciples wrongly assumed that the man's blindness was a result of sin. As a crippled man, Mephibosheth would have been viewed with disdain. He would have been an outcast, even as the grandson of the former king of Israel. And as a descendant of Saul, Mephibosheth would have had another strike against him. He would have been seen as an enemy of David, a constant reminder of the former regime and fully deserving of the wrath of the newly appointed king. But again, Mephibosheth represents us. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Like Mephibosheth, I am undeserving of God's kindness. I was a sinner, as good as dead, unable to save myself or do anything to redeem myself from the righteous judgment of a holy God. And yet, I was shown mercy and grace. I was the recipient of God's kindness and love – not because of me, but in spite of me. David had experienced the kindness of God. He had been rescued from his exile in the wilderness where he was hiding from the wrath of Saul. He had been restored to fellowship with the people of God. He had been placed on the throne of Israel as their king. And none of this escaped David's notice. In return, he wanted to show that same kindness – the kindness of God – to others. He chose to show it to the “least of these.” David extended mercy in the same way that he had received it. He didn't base it on merit. He didn't do it in order to get something in return. Paul makes it clear that the mercy we have received from God was undeserved – “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5 ESV). I must be willing to show others the same kind of mercy, grace, and kindness I have received from God. Not based on their merit. Not based on what they can do for me in return. But solely based on the kindness that God has shown me.

Father, what an amazing picture of Your grace. I was Mephibosheth, crippled, hopeless and helpless, and yet You showed me kindness. You restored me to fellowship with You and made me Your heir. You have given me a permanent place at Your table and now call me Your Son. Help me to extend that same amazing kindness to all those I meet, whether I think they deserve it or not. Amen

Such Were Some of You.

2 Samuel 7-8, 1 Corinthians 6

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV

It would be easy to read the story of David and assume that he was somehow a better person than Saul. God must have looked down from heaven, taken stock of the two men and concluded that David was spiritually superior to Saul. After all, God did refer to David as a man after His own heart. But to conclude that David somehow deserved God's selection of him would be in direct contrast to God's law and His nature. David was a sinner just like Saul. Yes, he had a heart for the things of God, but that is not why God chose him. From the opening chapters of the book of Genesis to the final words of the book of Revelation, the Bible is the story of the grace of God – His unmerited favor poured out on the lives of undeserving men, and David was no different. David was far from perfect, as the rest of his life's story will clearly reveal. He was a sinner just like Saul. And yet God had chosen him to be His servant and to lead His people. He would give him victory in battle and anoint his kingship. God would even promise to extend his kingdom long after the day of his death, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:12 ESV). David didn't deserve these blessings. He had not earned God's favor. And David seemed to recognize that fact. “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant's house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God!” (2 Samuel 7:18-19 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

“And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went” (2 Samuel 8:6 ESV). God's hand was on David. He chose to prosper David. He had a plan for David's life that went well beyond David and his ability to live faithfully and obediently to the will of God. God's promise to extend David's kingdom and to “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13 ESV), project far beyond the life of Solomon to the coming of the Messiah, the true King of Israel. David was part of God's plan to redeem mankind through His own Son, Jesus Christ, who would be a descendant of David. God would use a flawed man like David to accomplish His divine will for mankind. God made it clear to David that this was all His doing. “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth” (2 Samuel 7:8-9 ESV). The story of David is really the story of God, working through the life of David. It gives us a glimpse of how God works behind the scenes, orchestrating the affairs of me to accomplish His divine will and, ultimately, bring about His plan of redemption for mankind.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Being chosen by God could lead anyone to conclude that he was somehow special or deserving of God's love and mercy. But the apostle Paul reminds us that “the unrighteouswill not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9 ESV). Elsewhere he wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). All men are sinners. All have rebelled against God and deserve His righteous judgment and punishment. Paul makes it clear that “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV). And before any of his readers can proudly assume that this list does not include them, Paul adds, “And such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV). They were just as guilty, just as sinful, and just as deserving of God's penalty of death. But Paul reminds the, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV). This was God's doing, not their own. God had mercifully, graciously chosen them for redemption, not because they deserved it, but because He lovingly chose to do so. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God chose David. He placed His Spirit within him. He gave him victory in battle. He promised to extend his kingdom and prolong his reign, long after he was gone from the earth. God even chose to bring the Savior of the world through the lineage of David, in spite of the fact that David was far from sinless and anything but perfect. Even in these two short chapters in 2 Samuel, we see God blessing David and giving him victory in battle. But we also see David violating the law of God. “And David took from him 1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but left enough for 100 chariots” (2 Samuel 8:4 ESV). God had specifically commanded the kings of Israel not to do this. “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again’” (Deuteronomy 17:16 ESV). Why? Because where it could all lead. “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1 ESV). The kings of Israel were not to mimic the ways of the world or turn to the nations of the world for help. He had a different standard for His kings and His people. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7 ESV). David's greatness was a result of David's God. His triumphs were the result of God's presence in his life. So rather than trust in chariots, David was to trust in God. The same thing is true of me today. I must continually learn to trust in God. He chose me. He redeemed me. He graciously provides me with His presence and power. Not because I deserve it, but simply because He chose to call me His own, so that He might accomplish His will through me.

Father, like David, I was undeserving of Your selection of me. I had done nothing to deserve Your choice of me as the beneficiary of Your love, grace and mercy. I was a sinner just like everyone else. Never let me forget that fact. I stand before You, not because I earned that right, but because You graciously, lovingly redeemed me and gave me life when I was dead, hopeless and helpless. Amen

The Curse of Compromise.

2 Samuel 5-6, 1 Corinthians 5

Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? – 1 Corinthians 5:6 NLT

Sin has a subtle way of creeping into our lives and into the church, and it left untreated, it can spread like a cancer, causing all kinds of damage. But the temptation is always to compromise our convictions and see sin as something far less serious than God does. We tend to justify our own actions and excuse the sinful behavior of others, even though we know they are in direct violation of God's Word. But we have to realize that God has called us to live lives of holiness – set apart and distinct from the world. We have a different standard for our conduct, and any time we begin to compromise our convictions and tolerate obvious sinful behavior, we leave ourselves open to spiritual discipline and the further spread of sin in our midst.

The story of the life of David is one that is filled with examples of faith and failure. He exhibits for us how to live in obedience to God, seeking His will and following His commands; but he also shows us just how easy it is to walk in the flesh, allowing sin to creep into our lives and bring about devastating consequences.

What does this passage reveal about God?

It is clear that it was God's will that David be the king of Israel. He had anointed him to be the next king, and He had protected David all those years he spent running from Saul. God had arranged for Saul's defeat and death in battle. He had orchestrated David's acceptance as king by the people of Judah and, eventually, his anointing as king by the tribes of Israel. During the early days of David's kingdom, he regularly sought out God's will and tried to rule and reign according to God's direction. As a result, “David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him” (2 Samuel 5:10 ESV). God's hand was on David. But this did not mean that everything David did was in full compliance with God's will. David was still a man and like all men, he had a sin nature. He was sometimes prone to doing things his way or, at least, doing things without seeking the direction of God. When David turned to God for help and guidance, things always seemed to turn out well. God answered. God directed. And David prospered.

What does this passage reveal about man?

There are subtle indications that David didn't always do things the right way – God's way. His life is marked by seemingly small sins that, on the surface, don't look that serious, but their impact over the long-haul was huge. We read, “And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David” (2 Samuel 5:13 ESV). God had made it clear that the king “shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away” (Deuteronomy 17:17 ESV). And yet, David did just that. When David attempted to move the Ark of the Covenant from Baale-judah to his new capital of Jerusalem, he didn't follow God's directions for how to transport the Ark. Rather than have it carried by Levites, he put it on a cart and had it pulled by oxen. It all sounds innocent enough, but it was in direct violation of God's law (Exodus 25:14-15). As a result, the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark, and God struck him dead. God had warned that anyone who touched the Ark would die (Numbers 4:15), but David compromised and took the easy road, and Uzzah died as a result. David was a man after God's own heart, but he was also a man with a sin nature. He had the capacity for great faith and subtle sin. As God's chosen king of Israel, David was expected to live a life of distinctiveness and set-apartness. He was not to be like all the other kings. He was God's man, leading God's people. He was not to compromise his convictions or rationalize his behavior. He was not to tolerate sin in his own life or among the people of God. But this would be a constant temptation and struggle for David.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul confronted them about sin in their midst. They were tolerating the presence of a young man who was having a known sexual relationship with his stepmother. And the church was not only well aware of this sin, they were openly tolerating it. They refused to deal with it, and Paul was appalled. He called them out and demanded that this young man be removed from their midst. He was like a cancer in their midst. Rather than mourn this situation in their fellowship, they were arrogantly tolerating it, acting as if nothing was wrong. But Paul knew that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6 ESV). If left unattended, this sin would spread and infect the whole fellowship. Sin always has consequences. And their sin of compromise and toleration was going to have dire consequences for the future health of the church. Which is why Paul so strongly demanded, “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:12 ESV). That sounds so harsh and judgmental, but Paul knew that unrepentant sin was a dangerous thing. Sin in the midst of the fellowship of God's people must be dealt with. Paul makes it clear that we as believers have an obligation to judge one another, refusing to tolerate sin within the fellowship – “…it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning” (1 Corinthians 5:12 NLT). This is always to be done in love, but it is to be done nonetheless. We can't afford to tolerate sin and compromise our convictions. David did and it cost him dearly. The Corinthians believers did and they risked the further spread of sexual sin in their midst. Compromise is a dangerous threat to the life of any Christian, and yet it is a constant reality. We must encourage one another to live differently and distinctively. We must take sin seriously and treat our calling to holiness with the utmost respect.

Father, compromise comes so easy. The temptation to tolerate sin in my own life is always there and the pressure to look past the sins of others for fear of coming across as judgmental is always a reality. Help me to take sin seriously and to recognize that You have called Your people to live lives of holiness, not compromise. Amen

Faithfulness to God.

2 Samuel 3-4, 1 Corinthians 4

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:2 ESV

One of the primary things that set David apart from Saul and just about every other Israelite of his day was his heart for God. It wasn't just an internal thing that difficult to see, but it showed up in how he lived his life and how he interacted with others. David had a healthy love for and fear of God. In spite of all that he had been through over the years and the injustices he had suffered, he refused to compartmentalize his life and live with a secular-sacred split. But the temptation for all followers of God is to view life as a kind of dichotomy that includes the spiritual as well as the secular dimensions. In other words, we can easily see church and Bible study as one part of life and work and recreation as another. We can end up acting one way on Sunday and another way the rest of the week. But for David, there was only one set of behaviors that were appropriate: those that honored God. So when two men showed up at his door with the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, they were expecting to receive a reward from David. “And they said to the king, ‘Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring’” (2 Samuel 4:8 ESV). But instead of a reward, they lost their lives. David remained faithful to God. He did not place himself as judge over Ish-bosheth any more than he had over Saul. David's response was not what these two men were expecting. “But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, ‘As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, when one told me, “Behold, Saul is dead,” and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?’” (2 Samuel 4:9-11 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God desires our faithfulness. He wants His followers to view life from His perspective, not their own. It would have been easy for David to have seen the actions of these men as beneficial to his kingdom cause, but he knew that, ultimately, his kingdom was up to God, not himself. It was not his job to act as judge over Ish-bosheth or any other descendant of Saul. David seemed to know inherently what Paul would write centuries later: “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2 ESV). David knew that God wanted him to remain faithful – not to his own kingdom, but to God Himself. This was not about David's kingdom, but God's. The whole reason Saul's reign had ended poorly was because he had lost sight of his role as nothing more than a servant of God. Saul had neglected to see himself as nothing more than a steward of God's kingdom. When he saw that David was to be his likely successor, rather than rejoice in God's choosing of him, he attempted to kill him – all in an attempt to prolong and protect his own kingdom. But the Israelites were God's people, not his. The throne was God's, not his. The kingdom was God's, not his.

What does this passage reveal about man?

One of the things we men struggle with most is the biblical concept of servanthood. We have been conditioned to make everything about ourselves. We have been trained to put ourselves at the center of our world. We have developed a highly myopic outlook on life that focuses all our attention on ourselves. But as believers, we must always remember that God is to be the focus of our attention. We exist for His glory, not our own. David was not seeking glory, but instead, he was seeking to remain faithful to God. That's why he did not rejoice in the death of Saul or Jonathan. He wasn't grateful to the young man who claimed to have killed Saul. He wasn't happy when Joab killed Abner, the commander of Saul's armies. He didn't reward the two men who took the life of Ish-bosheth. Because David wasn't focused on his kingdom. He was focused on God's. When we focus all our attention on us, we can become cocky and proud. Paul saw this attitude in the Corinthians believers. “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!” (1 Corinthians 4:8 ESV). But like David, Paul had a different perspective. “We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13 ESV). For Paul, faithfulness was more important than popularity or significance. Honoring God with his life was more important than receiving the honor of men.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

David may not have looked like a king, but he acted life one. His actions reflected the heart of a man who had a heart for God. When David mourned the death of Abner, rather than celebrate it, the people of Israel noticed. “And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people” (2 Samuel 3:36 ESV). His actions were pleasing to men because David was attempting to please God. His focus was on remaining faithful to God. When I get that reversed and attempt to please men rather than God, it never goes well. If I attempt please me, it ends up even worse. My life is to be lived out with God as the focus and my faithfulness to Him as the objective. Paul would remind me, “So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NLT). I am to live my life with an eye on pleasing God, both now and in the future, when I stand before the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ. I am to live with a future perspective, not a temporal one. My rewards are coming later, not now. If I seek the praise of men now, that will be my reward. But if my actions today are motivated by the future praise of God, they will exhibit my faithfulness to Him and protect me from making self-centered decisions and seeking the praise of men.

Father, I want to be faithful servant. I want my life to be an example of what it means to live with Your kingdom s the focus, not my own. Thank You for this timely reminder from the life of David and the pen of Paul. Amen

The Wisdom of this World.

2 Samuel 1-2, 1 Corinthians 3

 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. – 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 ESV

After years of running for his life, you would have thought David would have rejoiced over the news that his archenemy was dead. But instead, David mourned, wept and fasted. He found no joy in Saul's death, and even executed the young man who claimed to have taken his life. Having come upon the slain body of Saul, this young Amalekite came up with the brilliant idea to take Saul's crown and arm band, bring them to David, and present himself as the one who took the life of Saul's mortal enemy. Conventional wisdom told him that David would reward him. But instead, he was put to death. “David said to him, ‘How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?’” (2 Samuel 1:14 ESV). God had not given David permission to take the life of Saul, so why did this young man think he could do so? Worldly wisdom proved to be folly in his case.

With David's anointing as king over Judah, there appears to be a turning point in the life of the people of God. He will prove to be a different kind of leader than Saul. David was a man after God's own heart. He had a sensitivity to God and a desire to do things God's way. When he heard the news of Saul's death, he didn't rush into Israel demanding to be crowned king. He had every right to do so, because he had been crowned king by the prophet of God. Instead, he sought the mind of God. He wanted to know what God would have him do. He wanted God's wisdom, not the wisdom of men. This characteristic of David would set him apart from his peers. It would mark him as God's servant. He didn't always act wisely or seek God's will entirely, but David attempted to live his life according to God's direction.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had always wanted to guide and direct the lives of the people of Israel. He wanted them to submit to His will and obey His commands. He had promised to bless them if they would. But they had a track record of disobedience and unfaithfulness. They had an insatiable love for the world. Paul could have been referring to them when he wrote, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:1 ESV). They were driven by their passions and controlled by their sinful nature. You see in this story the actions of sinful men acting out in selfish, unspiritual ways. Abner refuses to recognize David as king, anointing Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, the king of Israel instead. There are murders, intrigue, deception, political positioning, and revenge killings. Everyone is doing what they perceive to be right. But few, if any, of them are doing what God would have them do. The only one who seems interested in seeking the will of God is David. Everyone else simply does what is right in their own eyes. But Paul reminds us, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19 ESV) and “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:20 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

It was God's will that David be the next king of Israel. But men muddied the water. Abner refused to acknowledge David as king, putting the heir of Saul on the throne instead. So for a number of years, there was a divided kingdom. On top of that, there was war between the people of Judah and the people of Israel. This unnecessary conflict resulted in the deaths of countless Israelites, including Asahal and Abner. It resulted in a curse on the house of Joab. The wisdom of this world is futile and results in folly. No matter how good it may sound, worldly wisdom will always disappoint. It will never deliver as promised. It is marked by jealousy, strife and conflict, because it is almost always self-centered and selfishly motivated. It is centered around man's glory, instead of God's.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

When Paul accused the Corinthians of being people of the flesh, he was referring to their petty divisions regarding who had baptized each of them. They had actually allowed divisions to develop within the church over who was baptized by Paul and who was baptized by Apollos. Some were claiming to be followers of one or the other. And Paul told them that they were “behaving only in a human way” (1 Corinthians 3:3 ESV). Rather than focusing their attention on God, they were making it about men, and they were missing the point. The key to discovering true wisdom is recognizing our own stupidity. Without God we are all lacking in wisdom. What we have is a human wisdom that is ultimately futile and foolish. God is not impressed with our wisdom. “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:20 ESV). So we need to recognize that man's wisdom, no matter how impressive it may appear to be, is no match for the wisdom of God. And there is no reason to boast about or place our hope in men. Like David, we must turn to God. We must seek His will and desire to know His wisdom. James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV). God's wisdom is available at all times. He desires to give it. All we must do is recognize our need and ask Him for it.

Father, I need Your wisdom each and every day. There are so many things that happen in a given day that require me to make decisions or choices. If I rely on the wisdom of this world, it almost always results in disappointment. I need Your wisdom. I want to live according to Your will. Help me recognize my need and turn to You for help. And give me the patience to wait until I hear from You. Amen


Recognition. Repentance. Responsibility.

2 Samuel 24; Psalm 30

David's conscience began to bother him. And he said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly and shouldn't have taken the census. Please forgive me, LORD, for doing this foolish thing." ­– 2 Samuel 24:10 NLT

This is a fascinating passage and one that is full of confusing and seemingly contradictory content. It starts out with God angry at Israel. We're not tol why, but He is upset enough that He takes action against them and He chooses to use David as a tool to accomplish His will. We are told that God "incited Dvaid against them." I don't think this means that David suddenly got angry with Israel and set out to harm them. But David made a decision, in the divine pan of God, that would bring harm to Israel. Over in 1 Chronicles 21, the companion passage to this one, we are told that "Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the Israelites" (1 Chronicles 21:1 NLT). So now it appears as if Satan is involved. But the word for Satan can also simply mean adversary. With that in mind, the New English Translation renders this verse "An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had." Whether Satan himself was involved or not, it would seem that David has tempted to take a census in order to find out just how many troops he had so that he could face a possible war with confidence. In essence, he was checking the balance on his checking account before making a significant purchase. So was this wrong? Was David sinning in taking a census? Even Jesus, in one of His parables, tells the story of a king who sat down and took stock of his troops before going to battle. "…what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?" (Luke 14:31 NASB).

So what is going on? God is angry with Israel. He determines to somehow use David to punish them. And David, in reaction to a possible threat of battle, finds himself tempted to take a census in order to determine just how many battle-ready soldiers he has. But consider this: David's sin was not in taking the census. It was in failing to trust God. It's obvious that David took the census to determine his military strength, and this was not necessarily sin. After all, we have other accounts in Scripture where God directed Moses to take a census of the people (cf. Exod. 30:11-12; Num. 1:1-2). So census taking was not the problem. It seems that David's sin was placing confidence in the number of his soldiers rather than in the Lord. Now keep in mind, this is the same David who wrote the words, "Some nations boast of their armies and weapons, but we boast in the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7 NLT). For whatever reason, at this point late in his reign, he finds himself doubting God and turning to an earthly source for his protection and confidence. God would use David's decision to punish the people of Israel. David's sin would have consequences on the entire nation.

The result is a plague sent from God that destroys 70,000 of the people. David is horrified and pleads to God. He recognizes his sin and takes responsibility for it. He repents. He even asks God to spare the people and pour out His wrath on him. "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are innocent -- what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family" (2 Samuel 24:17 NLT). God commands David to offer up a sacrifice as a payment for his sin. It required him to buy a piece of land where he could erect an altar to the Lord. When the land owner offers the land free of charge and all the animals to make the sacrifice at no cost, David refuses. "No, I insist on buying it, for I cannot present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24 NLT). David knew that his sacrifice had to be just that – a sacrifice. It had to cost him something. For his sacrifice to have value, it had to be worth something. A sacrifice that costs nothing is no sacrifice at all.

In his commentary on this passage, Dr. Thomas L. Constable says, "Whenever someone whom God has chosen for special blessing sins he or she becomes the target of God's discipline, and he or she also becomes a channel of judgment to others. Only repentance will turn the situation around. When David agreed to obey God's will revealed through Gad, he began at once to become a source of blessing again." This reveals a lot about David and shows why he was considered a man after God's own heart. While other men would have become angry at God over His punishment of Israel or simply allowed the people to continue to die as long as his own family was safe, David took responsibility for his role in the whole affair. He knew he was responsible for the well-being of the people as their shepherd. He also knew he was responsible for their suffering. He owned up to his role in the situation. He repented and made restitution. He restored his relationship with God and God relented.

What's fascinating is that God would use His punishment of Israel to bring them future blessing. The very land that David bought to erect his altar to God would become the site on which Solomon's temple would be built. Dr. Constable goes on to say, "Solomon's temple became the centerpiece of Israel for hundreds of years. It was the place where God met with His people and they worshipped Him corporately, the center of their spiritual and national life. Therefore the mention of the purchase of Araunah's threshing floor was the first step in the building of the temple, the source of incalculable blessing to come (Genesis 23:3-16).

Isn't that the way God works? He is angry with Israel over some sin they have committed. He uses the pride and self-sufficiency of their king to bring punishment on them. That same man, whom God had chosen to begin with, recognizes his sin and repents. He obediently listens to God and buys a tract of land in order to sacrifice to God, and God uses that very same land to have His temple constructed. Just coincidence? I don't think so. God had a plan all along and He was working it to perfection. He can even use our sins and disobedience to accomplish His divine will. He can bring blessing out of our rebellion.

Father, You are always working Your will. Nothing I do can get in the way. My sins don't diminish it, distract from it, or derail it. You even bring blessing out of our rebellion. You can turn our sin into opportunities to shower us with Your grace and mercy. The key is repentance. Keep me repentant Father. Don't let me become hard of heart and stubborn in my response to sin. May I quickly recognize it, take ownership for it, then repent of it. Amen


God: My Everything.

2 Samuel 22-23

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold, my high tower, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. ­– 2 Samuel 22:2-3 NLT

What does God mean to you? If you had to come up with a list of adjectives or nouns to describe your relationship with Him, what words would you use? How would you tell others about His involvement in your life? For many of us, what we know about God we have been told by others. We have been taught about His attributes in Sunday School or in Bible studies we have attended. But our first-hand experience with God is probably somewhat limited. We could probably say God is all-powerful, but could we give examples from our own lives to prove it? We could confidently state that God is omnipresent – or is everywhere all the time. But how come we feel like He is nowhere to be found at times? We could tell others about God's faithfulness and love, but could we tell them specific ways in which He has shown us either one in the last week?

You see, God is a personal God and He wants to show Himself real in our personal lives. He doesn't want our knowledge of Him to be limited to what we read in the Bible or what we hear from a sermon. God wants to involve Himself in our lives and does so every day. But sometimes we fail to recognize His activity in our lives. But David didn't. And in 2 Samuel 22 we are given an up-close and personal glimpse of what David thought about God. His descriptions of God are far from academic. He didn't get them out of a book. He isn't just reciting doctrine. He is describing exactly what he has learned about God over the years as he has watched God work in his life.

…my rock

…my fortress

…my shield

…the strength of my salvation

…my stronghold

…my high tower

…my rescuer

…my deliverer

…my light

…my strong fortress

…my solid rock

…my helper

…the rock of my salvation

How did David learn these things? Through the experiences of life. It was through some of the most difficult times of life that he learned the most valuable lessons about who God really is. David had experienced the truth and reality of every one of these characteristics of God by going through the difficulties of life. He had read about them in God's Word, but it wasn't until he experienced them first-hand that they became real for him. God wants to show Himself strong in my life and in your life. He wants to prove to you and me His faithfulness, strength, and unfailing love. And He sometimes chooses the trials of life to reveal Himself. But we so often want to escape the trials of life. We want to avoid them. We don't want the Red Sea experiences. We don't want to face enemies that appear to be unbeatable or battles that seem unwinable. But those are the times that God's strength are the most apparent. It is in our weakness that we get to see His strength. God wants our testimony about Him to be real. He wants what we have to say about Him to be from experience. He wants us to be able to say like David, "For this, O LORD, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing joyfully to your name" (2 Samuel 22:50 NLT).

Father, I want my description of You to be from my personal experience, not just what I read about in the Bible. I want to be able to describe You in ways that are real and reflect what I have seen You do in my life. Sometimes it's just a matter of recognizing that You are already doing incredible things in my life, but I have failed to see them. Other times, I rob You of glory by trying to win all my own battles and solve all my own problems. I fail to experience Your power, because I am relying on my own. Like David, I want to be able to describe You in such a way that everyone knows You are my everything. Amen


When Righteousness and Justice Reign.

2 Samuel 21

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. ­– 2 Samuel 21:1a NLT

As we have seen, David was far from perfect. He made a lot of mistakes as a father and as a king. But the one thing that set David apart from Saul and the vast majority of the kings who would follow him, was his devotion to God. He truly was a man after God's own heart. He cared for and was passionate about the things of God. He desired to do God's will and obey His commands. When he failed to do so, he willingly accepted God's rebuke and patiently sought His forgiveness. We see time and time again where David sought the face of the Lord. He wanted to rule according to the will of God. He wanted God to be the one to guide and direct His steps. And chapter 21 shows once again how David was able to rule righteously and justly. He sought God's face. He turned to God for wisdom.

David found himself ruling during three years of extreme famine. The land was suffering and so were the people. So David sought God to find out the cause of this event, and God gives him the reason. It was because Saul had been unfaithful to Israel's covenant with the Gibeonites. Saul had evidently refused to acknowledge Israel's treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) and put some of them to death. As a result, God punished Israel with a famine (lack of fertility). When God informed David about the cause of the famine, he determined to right the wrong, according to the Mosaic Law. He made sure that justice was done. He asked the Gideonites what it was going to take to bring them satisfaction (propitiate) and remove (expiate) the famine from the land. But at the same time, David acted justly by keeping his promise to Mephibosheth, he son of Saul. He protected Mephibosheth and did not turn him over to the Gibeonites. David also removed the bodies of the seven men who were executed and gave them proper burials, along with Saul and Jonathan. In this whole affair, David acted righteously and justly. And because of David's actions, God restored fertility to the land again.

David's actions illustrated that he was a covenant-keeping, righteous-ruling king just like God. He did what was right, even if it meant correcting a wrong that someone else had committed. He willingly cleaned up the mess that Saul had made and restored God's blessing on Israel in the process. This chapter gives us a glimpse of what it looks like to rule righteously and justly. And this can apply to a father in his home, a business owner at their office, a pastor over his flock, or a politician over his constituents. And it begins with seeking God's face. David was able to do what was right and just because he had a right relationship with God. He knew the heart of God. He also knew the law of God. He was not at a loss as to what was going to be required to right his wrong. So he was able to respond quickly, appropriately, and justly.

Father, may we learn to rule and reign like David, regardless of the size or scope of our "kingdom." May I learn to administer justice in my home in a godly way. May I learn to respond to the spiritual famines in my life by seeking Your face and doing Your will in order to see justice done. Give me a heart like David had. Amen


The Loving Rebuke of a Friend.

2 Samuel 19-20

Now go out there and congratulate the troops, for I swear by the LORD that if you don't, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than you have ever been. ­– 2 Samuel 19:7 NLT

These two chapters read like a television soap opera. There are so many plots and sub-plots it's difficult to follow what is even going on. There are stories of deception, jealousy, murder and betrayal. David is returning to Jerusalem after the death of his rebellious son, Absalom. But rather than rejoicing with his successful troops, David is in mourning. He is weeping over the loss of Absalom. And his response is having a negative impact on his troops. Instead of seeing their king celebrate their victory and his triumphal return to power, they are watching him mope about as if he had lost everything. Once again, David's leadership skills and decision-making abilities come into question. And the only one who is willing to confront him about it is his good friend Joab.

Joab gets fed up with David's behavior and boldly challenges him. He is willing to risk all in order to issue a wake-up call to David. His words are difficult, but are filled with love and truth. He is concerned for David and his kingdom. He knows that if David continues down the path he is going, he will lose the loyalty of his army and things will be worse off than when Absalom took over his throne. Sometimes the hardest people to confront are the ones who are in authority. We act as if we don't have the right to tell them the truth and we fear possible reprisals. But Joab was willing to lose everything. He knew that this was a critical time in David's reign. Things were unstable. David was not acting rationally. So Joab intervened and said what needed to be said – out of love. There comes a time in each of our lives when we have to be the bearer of truth to one we love. Joab loved David enough to tell him the truth. Just as Nathan loved David enough to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba.

Joab's words were a wake-up call for David. They shook him out of his lethargy and caused him to take appropriate action. The people of Israel needed a bold, decisive leader at this juncture of their history. Things were volatile. The nation was a powder keg of emotion and the last thing they needed was an emotion-driven king who could not lead effectively. So Joab's words were timely. His rebuke was lovingly appropriate. He said what needed to be said and risked everything to do it. Would we be willing to do the same thing for a friend?

Father, most of us fear confrontation. We run from it. And yet there are times when we need to step up and speak up. We need to be Joab to the Davids in our lives. We need to boldly confront out of love. Help us to recognize those occasions and to obediently listen to Your Spirit's leading. May we listen to Your promptings and take the risk to say what needs to be said. Amen


A Hollow Victory.

2 Samuel 18

O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son. ­– 2 Samuel 18:33 NLT

This chapter should strike a chord with any parent. Here we have David having to deal with a rebellious son who has turned on him and is now out to take over his throne and eliminate him altogether. What would it be like to go through that as a parent? Some of us might have had children who were rebellious or who have been out of control, but I doubt any of us have had sons who have tried to kill us. Can you imagine the mixed emotions David was feeling? On the one hand, this is a man who killed one of David's sons in cold blood. He is also the man who attempted to turn the citizens of Jerusalem against David and then successfully took over his kingdom. He also raped all of David's concubines he had left behind in the city when David had to flee. This son had made David's life a living hell. He had caused untold pain and discomfort for David. And David knew the only thing that was going to resolve this conflict was a battle. Lives were going to be lost, possibly his own or the life of Absalom.

Then the inevitable happens. The troops of Absalom do battle with the troops of David and Absalom is killed by Joab, David's friend and military commander. Can you imagine how David felt when he heard this news? It was a victory, but a hollow one. He had won, but at the expense of his own son's life. While his troops were probably rejoicing, David reacted with mourning. He missed his son. He wished he had died instead. This was the natural reaction of a loving parent. David regretted that his sins had led to Absalom's death. God had warned him that, as a result of his sin with Bathsheba, family conflict would a permanent part of his future. "From this time on, your family will live by the sword" (2 Samuel 12:10 NLT). "Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you" (2 Samuel 12:11 NLT). David knew that he was ultimately responsible for Absalom's death. He had failed to deal with Amnon's rape of Tamar, forcing Absalom to take matters into his own hands and murder Amnon to avenge his sister. David also failed to deal with Absalom's actions, allowing him to run away instead. Every step of the way, David failed to do his job as a father and the king. Now he was reaping the sad results.

David's conflict was over. But at a steep price. He had won the battle and lost a son. So he did what any parent would do. He mourned. Perhaps this is the same way God feels every time one of the sons or daughters He has created rebels against Him and refused to accept His free gift of grace. Absalom's rebellion against David could not go unpunished. Man's rebellion against God cannot go unpunished either. But God sent His own son to pay the price for our rebellion. Jesus died on a cross as a payment for our sin and rebellion. But unless we accept that free gift, we remain guilty and unforgiven. We stand to be punished for our sin and that punishment is death – resulting in permanent separation from God. David would never see Absalom again. And while there is a certain joy in victory over a rebellious enemy, David would have preferred restoration and redemption. So would God.

Father, You don't rejoice over having to punish men for their sins. You see them as sons. You long to see their rebellion repented of and their hearts returned to You. You have even provided a way for them to return and receive forgiveness for their sin and rebellion. Yet so many continue to reject You and Your generous offer. Thank You for Your love that continues to reach out to those who have turned against You and long to remove You from the throne of their lives and put themselves there instead. Amen


A Man After God's Own Heart. Really?

2 Samuel 11-12

"Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged," David said. "The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!" ­– 2 Samuel 11:25 NLT

Unbelievable! Wow! Incredible! I can't believe what I'm reading! Is this really David – the same David that killed Goliath, trusted God all those years he was running from Saul, wrote a huge percentage of the Psalms, and was referred to by God as a man after His own heart? Really?

These are two of the most sobering chapters in the word of God. They offer one of the clearest representations of the depravity of man and the deceitfulness of the human heart. Here is David, the king of Israel, handpicked by God Himself, and we get a ring side seat to one of the most dramatic falls from grace in history. And with each turn, the story just seems to get worse. It all started out innocently enough. David, who should have been at the battle front with his men, had decided to stay back in the palace. You might say he was in the right place but at the wrong time. Rather than be with his troops, David had chosen to stay home. And while taking a leisurely walk on the roof of the palace one afternoon, he spied a woman taking a bath on a neighboring roof. And his initial look quickly turned to lust. His lust turned into inquisitiveness. He wanted to know who she was and so sent a servant to get the details. You would have thought that when he discovered that Bathsheba was the wife of one of his soldiers, who was off at war, he would have come to his senses, taken a cold shower, and ended the whole thing right there. But instead, David sent for Bathsheba, committed adultery with her, and then began an elaborate, if not inept, attempt to cover up the whole "affair".

David's lust turned into action and, ultimately, resulted in the death of Bathsheba's husband. And David was responsible for it all. He had fallen far and hard. As the chosen king of Israel, he was not immune to temptation or sin. He had within him the whole time the capability of committing the most heinous of sins. In fact, I think David had an ongoing lust problem. He loved women. God had commanded that His kings not have multiple wives. "The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will lead him away from the LORD. And he must not accumulate vast amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself" (Deuteronomy 17:17 NLT). David had at least eight wives and an assortment of concubines. You would think that this would have met David sexual demands, but it seems that he struggled with lust. When he saw Bathsheba, he had to have her. And he was willing to do anything to get her. Even if it meant having her husband killed.

What is really say is that David was trying to cover up his sin. It does not appear that he loved Bathsheba. He just did not want the truth out that Bathsheba's unborn baby was his! So he tried to concoct a plan to make it look like Uriah was the real father. But David's plan backfired at every step. He was left with only one option. Eliminate Uriah. At what point did this unbelievable and repulsive idea begin to sound viable to David? How could he bring himself to kill another man in order to cover up his own sin? And when he took Bathsheba as his wife after Uriah was killed, how could he live with himself? How could he stand to look at himself in the mirror? Somewhere along the way, David had learned to rationalize his behavior and excuse his conduct. After all, he was the Lord's anointed.

It wasn't until God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David that he finally confessed to his sin. Who knows how long David might have gone had not Nathan pointed out David's hypocrisy as he shouted, "You are that man! The LORD, the God of Israel, says, 'I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you his house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah and stolen his wife.'" (2 Samuel 12:7-9 NLT). By doing what he did, David had shown contempt for the word of God. He had snubbed his nose at everything God had said regarding adultery and murder. He had taken all that God had given him and said, "It's not enough!, I want more!" Anytime we sin, we are doing the same thing. We are telling God that what He has given us is not enough. We are telling Him that we know what is best for us. Even if His Word denies it, we will go ahead and grab it. We tell ourselves that we deserve it. We've earned it.

David ultimately confessed his sin, and the amazing thing is that God completely forgave Him. "'I have sinned against the LORD.' Nathan replied, 'Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won't die for this sin'" (2 Samuel 12:9 NLT). There would be consequences for David's sin. He and Bathsheba would lose the child their affair had produced. David attempted to get God to spare the life of the child, but to no avail. And upon hearing that his child had died, David immediately turned to the Lord and worshiped. He returned to the one who offered him forgiveness in spite of his sin. He returned to the one who remained faithful in spite of David's unfaithfulness. And God would go on to give David and Bathsheba another son – Solomon. God's grace is indeed amazing. You see it all through this story. In the midst of our greatest failures, God extends grace, mercy, and forgiveness. David could do nothing to earn it or deserve. There was no way he could pay God back for what he had done. He had to rely fully on the forgiveness and faithfulness of God.

This story should give every one of us hope. We, like David, are fully capable of falling, but as God's chosen ones, we can never fall from His grace. His grace never runs out. He knows our weaknesses. He knows our failings and faults. He offers forgiveness. And all He asks in return is that we return – to Him. That we come back in repentance and dependence on Him – for His grace, mercy, and forgiveness. David would go on to accomplish great things for God. God would do great things through David. His sin did not disqualify him. It simply revealed who he was and what he was capable of when he stepped away from the protective presence of God.

Father, what a story. What a reminder. What a wonderful, gracious, and forgiving God You are. Thank you for this timely reminder. Amen


The Unmerited Favor of God.

2 Samuel 8-9

And from that time on, Mephibosheth ate regularly with David, as though he were one of his own sons. ­– 2 Samuel 9:11 NLT

We have in these two chapters of 2 Samuel, a dramatic contrast. On the one hand, you see David, the conquering king experiencing victory after victory – all because God is with him. "So the Lord made David victorious wherever he went" (2 Samuel 8:6b NLT). On the other hand, you see David the gracious king, extending kindness to the grandson of his old nemesis, Saul. In these two contrasts we see a picture of God and His relationship with mankind. God is the conquering King, the warrior-God, before whom no king or nation can stand. He is all-powerful and nations fall before His might. Yet, He is also the gracious King who extends mercy and favor to those who do not deserve it and could never earn it. David had the hand of God upon him. He was unstoppable. He was winning battle after battle against anybody and everybody. And while he could have justified a desire to search out and destroy any descendants of Saul, thus eliminating any claim they might have to the throne, he instead seeks out Saul's descendants in order that he might show them grace – unmerited favor.

Mephibosheth is a picture of you and me. We are crippled by sin, weak and defenseless before the mighty King. We deserve His wrath and judgment. We have inherited the legacy of our "grandfather" Adam. We are sinners just like he was. We stand before God as guilty. We are usurpers to the throne of God. And while we deserve His wrath, He instead extends to us His grace. He seeks us out. He invites us into His throne room. He gives us what we do not deserve – which is grace. And He does not give us what we do deserve – which is mercy. No, like Mephibosheth, we find ourselves standing before God as guests in His home, eating at His table, enjoying the benefits of His grace.

Those of us who are in Christ have been extended the same grace as Mephibosheth. We stand before God as His children. We enjoy the benefits of His mercy and grace each and every day. Crippled by sin and powerless to provide for ourselves, we eat at the King's table and take advantage of His remarkable kindness. What an honor. What a privilege. What a God we serve.

Father, may I never lose sight of the magnitude of the kindness You have extended to me. May I never stop marveling that I am Your child and that I enjoy the benefits of Your grace, instead of Your wrath – all because of what Your Son did for me on the cross. Amen


You Can't Out-give God

2 Samuel 7

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and prayed, "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" ­– 2 Samuel 7:18 NLT

David wanted to build a temple for God – a dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant. He had been able to build a palace for himself and God had allowed his kingdom to experience a period of peace. David had been able to complete to a great degree what Joshua had begun – to occupy the land of Canaan. And now David wanted to do something for God. He wanted to build Him a dwelling place fit for the God of the universe. When you think about it, it really was a grandiose dream. How in the world could a mere man, even the king of Israel, hope to build a suitable home for God? But David's heart was in the right place.

But God had other plans. Just when David thought he was going to do something great for God, he ends up being the recipient of God's blessing yet again. God informs David that he is not going to get to build God a house because He does not need one. He never even asked for one. Instead, God would build a house for David, but not a literal house. No, He was going to build a dynasty for David. In this chapter we have the Davidic covenant. God promises not only to let David's son ascend to the throne after him, but He promises to establish David's throne forever. This does not mean that there would be an unbroken chain of David's descendants on the throne, because that possibility was eliminated when the people of Israel and Judah went into captivity. But God was promising David that one day He would reestablish the throne of David and place on it a descendant who would reign forever. That descendant is Jesus Christ, and He will sit upon the throne of David at the time of His second coming.

Here was David hoping to build a temporal home for God and yet God was promising to build a permanent dynasty for David. Even when Solomon was given the opportunity to build a dwelling place for God, it would not last long. It would be destroyed. But the house of David would last forever. Isn't that just like God? When we think we are blessing Him, He turns around and blesses us. We can't ever out-give God. And David's response was one of praise. "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you––there is no other God. We have never even heard of another god like you!" (2 Samuel 7:22 NLT). David recognized that He could never out-give God. He could never do more for God than God could do for him. Even if those blessings were completely undeserved. And like David, we have received blessings from God that are for greater than our capacity to return the favor. God has given us eternal life and the promise of unbroken fellowship with Him. David owed everything he had and everything he was to God. Now he owed the future of his kingdom and the promise of his future house to God as well. Regardless of enemies or the sinful failings of future kings who sat on the throne of David, nothing could prevent God from fulfilling His promise that David's throne would one day have a descendant who reigned forever. And that king is Jesus.

Father, You give and You give and You give. You have done far more for me than I could ever deserve or repay. Just when I think I am doing you some kind of a favor by my efforts on Your behalf, You remind me that nothing I do adds value to who You are or merits any worth in your eyes. You don't need my sacrifices. You don't need my praise. You have no needs. But my praise and my efforts on Your behalf are simply the response of a man who has been given so much – undeservedly. You have given me eternal life. You have given me forgiveness of sins. You have given me the righteousness of Your son, in exchange for my unrighteousness. How could I ever even think I could somehow repay You?  Amen