God’s People, part 54: Filicide

Read 2 Samuel 18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The king covered his face with his hands and kept on crying, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’” (2 Samuel‬ ‭19:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 54: Filicide. We’ve experienced David the shepherd. We’ve experienced David the brave giant-slayer. We’ve experienced David the warrior. We’ve experienced David the husband, David the King, David the cheater, David the murderer, and David the proud. With that said, we have yet to look at David the father. After all, David was the father of 21 children, 19 of whom made it to adulthood. The other two died, with at least one (probably both) of them dying in infancy.

Out of the 19 children, one of them was a woman named Tamar. One would think that an only daughter might be precious to the King; however, David seems to fall short in being a good dad to her. For one, she becomes one of many victims in the dysfunctional family that David has built. David’s eldest son, Amnon, ends up lusting after his half-sister (remember, David had many wives), and rapes her.

Of course, it would be wrong to relegate the rape to just being a result of lust. Rape always comes down to power, and David’s children were all vying for power, just as their father had. The children did not fall far from the tree. After raping her, the battered and broken Tamar told her brother Absolom who, in turn, brought the terrible news to David. What did David do to defend his daughter’s honor and seek justice? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Consider this the beginning of the end Absalom’s relationship with his father. In complete disgust and outrage and after taking Tamar into his home where she “remained desolate”, Absalom avenged his sister’s rape and had Amnon killed two-years later.

Following the murder, Absalom fell out of favor with this father and was exiled for three years. Alhough David had thought he had restored the trust of his son following the three year exile, Absalom had no trust or respect for his dad. He began to build support and ended up stealing the hearts of the people of Israel. After four years, Absalom declared himself king and David had to go into hiding.

We will discuss Absalom’s treachery in more detail later; however, in the end, David was able to gather his troops and plan an attack against Absalom. Again, we see that age old pattern of David’s. He orders that Absalom be captured and not killed; however, Absalom gets his hair stuck in a tree and David’s commander Joab, pursuing him, runs Absalom through and kills him. David later replaces Joab and eventually advises his son Solomon to have him killed.

We could take this account simply at face value, or we can read between the lines here. Absalom’s treachery was unacceptable and David, being the politician and king that he was, had to punish his son for plotting against him and usurping his authority. While I am sure it did grieve the king, there is little doubt that David knew that Absalom would be killed and may have even secretly ordered it.

As you can see, a life of sin amounts to a whole lot of death. David’s sins had completely and fully caught up to him and the weight of those sins had a profound and horrific effect on his family. They suffered because of his sinful and, sometimes, evil choices. His treachery toward God, the one who chose him and loved him, begot the treachery of his family. The treachery of his family led David to kill his own son, committing the horrific act of filicide.

How do we lead treacherous lives? How do we fall short of what God has called us to do. How do we harden our hearts and fail to live up to being God’s people! David was, perhaps, Israel’s greatest and most noble king; however, as you can see, he still fell way short of perfect. Yet, if God loved (and still chose) David despite all of his sins, do we have any excuse for thinking we are not loved and chosen by God? Let us put down our excuses and open our hearts, once and for all, to the love of God and loyalty to God’s purpose for our lives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Saint Paul (Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

PRAYER

Lord, help soften my heart and help me remove my the treachery within it. I am yours, and want to be faithful in serving your kingdom. Amen.

God’s People, part 53: King’s Pride

Read 2 Samuel 7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But God said to me, ‘You must not build a temple to honor My name, for you are a warrior and have shed much blood.’” (1 Chronicles 28:3 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Eugène_Siberdt_-_The_Prophet_Nathan_rebukes_King_DavidPart 53: King’s Pride. I am hoping that by now we are seeing the complexity of King David. We’ve seen the best of humanity in him, seeing him step up in faith and face giants. We’ve seen his skill as a commander, his faithfulness as a friend, his humility, his artistry and musicianship. We have also seen the worst of humanity in him. We have seen how manipulative he could be, how deceptively he could operate behind the scenes, how politically motivated he was, how over-the-top ambitious he was, and how he would stop at nothing, including murder, to get what he wanted.

On the one end, David was a person after God’s own heart, on the other end he was a person that acted in ways that were far removed from God’s heart. It also would not be fair to David to not mention that he was repentant for the sin of his sexual relationship with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, the Hittite. So, today’s scriptures may seem a little harsh on the part of God, right?

All David wants to do is build God a temple, a house for the God of Israel to dwell. What is so wrong with that? Why would God not allow David to move forward with such a “glorious” endeavor meant to inspire all of Israel to hold God in awe and worship the Creator of all things. Didn’t David admit to and repent of murdering Uriah? Why did God then throw the fact that David had “blood on his hands” at him. Doesn’t God forgive and forget?

As far as David’s repentance of the Bathsheba/Uriah scandal and murder, yes, he had repented; however, he did so only reluctantly after being caught, shall we say, with his pants down. Yes, David was humbled by the prophet Nathan, and did allow humility to win the day in his response. Yes, he did eventually accept responsibility for his actions.

But that is just one of a plethora of David’s sins. Let’s not forget that this is the man who killed, then circumcised, 400 Philistines “for God”. Okay, they were in war and killing is a part of war, but circimcising the dead? Really?!?! Let us not forget that David is the one who seemingly was offing his political opponents, and then executing the ones who carried out the orders in order to “save face” and put on a good, calculated, political show. Of course, as has been mentioned, it takes a bit of reading between the lines to see this, and there is nothing explicitly said in the Bible that shows David doing this; however, there is reasonable suspicion here.

This is the man who married a woman for political motivations and then abandoned her and married someone else, even though he was still married to her. This is the man who loved to hear the crowds cheering his name as the victor and savior of his people. I could go on and on regarding David’s flaws. The question we have to aks ourselves is this, was David repentant of all of those things? Did the Nathan scolding change David’s heart completely, making him acknowledge and repent of all of his sins?

While we cannot judge David’s heart, God can and we see the answer in God’s response: “You must not build a temple to honor my name. You are a warrior and have shed much blood.” It seems that God did not feel David’s heart was where it ought to be, and that the temple was more an exercise of David’s pride than it was an endeavor to bring God’s glory. After all, great kings are often known by their magnificent buildings, and the temple went down as Solomon’s (David’s son) crowning achievement. What’s more, let us not forget, also, that God’s response to David happened prior to his murdering Uriah, not following it.

The point of this is not to pick on David, but to learn from him. David’s pride knew no bounds and God knew the real intent for David to build a “home” for God to live in. Here’s the thing, can any building made of stone and wood house the Lord of all Creation? Of course not. Besides, the only home God requires is the human heart. If all the people of the world opened their hearts to God…now that WOULD bring God glory. Let us learn from David that our pride is our worst enemy when it comes our relationship with God and with others. Let us lay aside the king’s pride, and adorn ourselves with the humility of the Good Shepherd!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – Saint Augustine

PRAYER
Lord, I hand my pride over to you and seek to serve you in humility. Help guide me to fulfill this prayer. Amen.

God’s People, part 52: A King’s Sin

Read 2 Samuel 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife.” (2 Samuel 12:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Study_of_King_David,_by_Julia_Margaret_CameronPart 52: A King’s Sin. David and Bathsheba, it has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? David and Bathsheba, the names of two people who were involved in the affair of all time. When we think of historical affairs, we think of Antony and Cleopatra and we think of David and Bathsheba. My guess is, if I were to be honest, most of us (especially Christians) think of David and Bathsheba over Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra.

But it is really a mistake to think of David and Bathsheba as a mere love affair. Marc Antony and Cleopatra had a famous love affair, even as Antony was married to Octavian’s (aka Caesar Augustus) sister. That affair centered on both love and politics; however, David and Bathsheba centered on power, and the Bible is not even clear on the details of the relationship between the two.

While we will later look at Bathsheba’s character, right now we are still focusing on King David. When examining their relationship, one must ask the following questions: Who was Bathsheba? What was her socio-economic status? Did she desire David’s sexual passes, or did those come unwanted and unsolicited? While, each of these questions leads to an interesting character study of one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible, ultimately the answers are irrelevant to the truth that needs to be expressed. Never has there been a more relevant time to express this stark truth to this messed up world.

All that matters in the story of David and Bathsheba is this: David’s actions amount to no less than rape. You may find yourself questioning this conclusion; however, I want you to pause and think about it. David was Bathsheba’s king, and she was his subject. Regardless of whether the relationship was consensual or not, David’s seducing Bathsheba is a gross abuse of his power as king and ruler of God’s people.

Think of it this way. Imagine if David were a teacher and Bathsheba was his 16-year-old student? Even if the sex they had was consensual, it would still be considered rape. This would be so if David were her professor and she were 22, or if David were her boss and she was his 40-year-old employee. The fact of the matter is that David abused his power to have his way with a married woman.

He objectified Bathsheba for his own lustful pleasure. On top of that, he tried to conceal her pregnancy from her husband and, when he couldn’t, he had Uriah murdered. Yes, Bathsheba did end up becoming David’s wife, but what choice did she have in all of that? What David did here was nothing short of depraved, and he knew it. That is why, when Nathan calls David out on behalf of God, David is humbled and forced to admit and repent of his egregious sin.

Of course, there was no amount of repenting that was going to take away the consequences of David’s actions. Eventually, the sin would lead to the death of Bathsheba and David’s first child, the death of his oldest child who rebelled against him, and ultimately the dividing of Israel into two different kingdoms at war with each other. There was nothing that David could do to reverse the ripple effect of his actions. Yet, he did repent and take ownership for what he did and, as such, David’s line did continued on.

Eventually, though many who succeeded him as king brought even more sin and destruction to their people, one of David’s descendants would not only be the MESSIAH, but would be IMMANUEL (God with us) and would be the HOPE and SALVATION of the world. Let David be a reminder to you that we, as humans, have the propensity to do some pretty egregious and sinful things; however, we also have the ability to choose humility and goodness by the power of God through Jesus Christ. All we need to do is humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus’ Lordship over our lives. That may not erase the consequences of all that we have done; however, it will put an end to the hell that consumes us when we live in sin.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Jesus Christ, Luke 5:32

PRAYER (taken from Psalm 51)
Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, O Lord, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

God’s People, part 51: King David

Read 2 Samuel 4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then David called one of the young men and said, ‘Come here and strike him down.’ So he struck him down and he died.” (2 Samuel 1:15 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Weltchronik_Fulda_Aa88_286r_detailPart 51: King David. When people think of David, they think of shepherd boy, they think of a poet and a songwriter, they think of a giant killer, and they think of a “sweeping”, somewhat wrong, romantic affair between him and Bathsheba. Usually that latter one gets brushed over because, after all, the affair resulted in the eventual birth of Solomon the wise. Maybe I am overstating this a little bit; however, if so I am only overstating it A LITTLE BIT.

On the one hand, David was called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14); yet, on the other hand, David was a man far removed from the heart of God. If you read the Bible closely, between the lines of the sometimes seemingly flowery accounts of David’s life and reign, you begin to piece together a starker, and more disturbing, portrait of the “great king”. In fact, some of David’s patterns and actions are downright loathsome.

First, while David claims to harbor no ill will toward Saul’s family following Saul’s death, family members start turning up dead left and right. The pattern is always the same, 1) David commands his men to do no harm to a specific person. To make this easier to follow, we’ll call said person “Bob”. 2) Someone from David’s men go rogue and kill Bob anyway. 3) The rogue agent returns to David all proud and happy that he did his king a favor. 4) David is infuriated with the rogue agent, is “grieved”, and has the rogue agent put to death.

This happens in nearly every case, including in the case of his eldest son, Absalom. Let’s pause and stop to consider this. As a king, David has absolute power over his army, over his subjects, and over his whole kingdom. That is a fact of monarchy. This means that one of the following is true: either 1) David is an incompetent leader who has absolutely no control over his own kingdom/army and, subsequently, commands no respect from his subordinates, or 2) David ordered his men to do things that he later covered up by acting outraged and having the assassin put to death.

While we would like to think the former, I think the pattern gives us a reason to suspect the latter. David was a skilled warrior, a top notch general, and a brilliant strategizer. He conquered and unified a divided kingdom, and he defeated all the enemies surrounding Israel. What is the likeliness that this leader, this king, would have no control over his men and would command no respect from them? Also, even if one or two did make the mistake of going rogue, wouldn’t the others have seen the consequences of that and not fallen into the same pitfall?

I think David deserves more credit than being labeled incompetent, and so do his men. Unfortunately, that also means that David comes out a lot less “a man after God’s own heart” than we would like him to, which makes perfect sense when we look at his sordid, scandalous affair with Bathsheba, an affair that ended with the loss of a child, causing a major division of his family and, ultimately, causing the destructive division that split the very kingdom he fought so hard to unite. But we will talk more about that major faux pas in the next devotion.

The point is, David was sometimes a great man, a great artist, a courageous leader, and a great king; however, there was a much darker side to him as well. Sometimes David was a despotic tyrant and a monster. What we see in David is, if we are honest, what we see in ourselves: great complexity. God created us good and fashioned us in God’s own image. God made us human beings after God’s own heart; however, our sinful nature has removed memory of that fact far from us and we often find the monsters (or demons) within us coming out with relish. The challenge today is to, like David did in Psalm 51, recognize our sinful nature and repent of it to our Lord Jesus Christ. Only through repentance can we find the gift of redemption that awaits us through Christ our Savior.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY Through David, the worldly messiah (messiah means “anointed one”), came tyranny, division, destruction and an end. Through Jesus, God’s Messiah and only begotten Son, comes reconciliation, redemption, salvation, sanctification and a Kingdom without end.

PRAYER Lord, clear the way to you in my heart that I may find my salvation and sanctification in you. Amen.

God’s People, part 50: Fugitive

Read 1 Samuel 20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“This made Saul very angry. ‘What’s this?’ he said. ‘They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!’” (1 Samuel 18:8)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

thefugitive3Part 50: Fugitive. Back in the early 1990’s there was a Harrison Ford film that came out, called Fugitive. It was a remake of an earlier television series and it tells the story of Dr. Richard Kimble who comes home from performing emergency surgery to find his wife has been brutally murdered. What’s more, he gets accused of being the murderer, convicted and sentenced to death. On the transfer to the State Penitentiary, the inmates being transferred pull off an escape and, though he had nothing to do with the planning of that, Richard Kimble finds himself a fugitive on the run.

The whole film centers on Kimble’s struggle to keep his newfound freedom all the while solving the mystery surrounding his wife’s murder. He’s out to find out who killed his wife and exonerate himself in the process. Imagine being accused of something you never did, and imagine having to also deal with the grief of losing the one you loved in the process. Imagine the tragedy, the pain, and the horror of that scenario.

This story is not a new one. In fact, it is quite ancient. The story of David and King Saul is a similar story. David had loyally served the king; however, the king knew that his days were numbered and he had a hunch, as strong hunch even, that David was going to be the end of him. As such, King Saul sought to kill David at every turn, including using family and friends closest to David to lure him to his death. That plan ultimately backfired and Saul’s paranoia became a self-fulfilled prophecy; however, much of David’s early adult years were spent on the run and in hiding as a fugitive.

Like Dr. Richard Kimble, David was innocent in that he had not actively sought to undermine or overthrow the king. Yet, the king was not without reason for distrusting David. First, Samuel had told Saul that his reign would end and that he was going to find a replacement for him, someone who was not of his bloodline. David was anointed by Samuel and, no doubt, word of that had to have reached the king’s ears.

What’s more, while David could display great restraint and humility, he also had an ego. He was a successful warrior and was being cheered on like celebrity, over and above the king. At one point the crowd shouted, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7 NLT)! Also, there’s no evidence that David did anything to stop the crowds in their cheering.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that David did anything to “deserve” Saul’s treatment. Saul was wrong, period. Saul’s reaction to David was further evidence that he didn’t have what it takes to be King, and his ego was even larger than David’s. So, the weakness we are addressing today is that of the ego. Every human being has one, some just have larger ones than others. But we all have them.

The challenge today is to open our hearts and allow Christ to put our egos in check. It is okay to think well of one’s self, to be proud of one’s accomplishments and to want to succeed in what one does. Those things are good qualities; however, there is a fine line we ought not to cross. Open your hearts and allow God to soften them so that your egos don’t run away with you, making yourselves or those around you into unnecessary fugitives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You can either be a host to God, or a hostage to your ego. It’s your call.” – Wayne Dyer

PRAYER
Lord, help me to find freedom from my ego so that, in humility, I may be a host to you and one of your vessels of service to others. Amen.

God’s People, part 49: Underdog

Read 1 Samuel 17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after His own heart. The LORD has already appointed him to be the leader of His people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:14 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Harry-Potter-and-Lord-Voldemort-harry-potter-and-lord-voldemort-7716478-932-424Part 49: Underdog. David, like all human beings, was a complex, multi-faceted, and contradictory character. On the one end he was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 NLT); however, he was also a flawed man who often allowed his ego and his impulses to drive him. Today, we look at young David, the one whom God saw as being of the same heart. This day, we are looking at David the underdog, the one who was underprivileged and overlooked.

We all love an underdog story. Rocky was one such story that captured the hearts and minds of Americans hoping to live up to the American dream. The story followed an underprivileged, aspiring boxer who hoped to be given a shot to “go the distance” in the boxing ring. It told of how this one man, after being overlooked and told he could not possibly compete, fought his heart out against Apollo Creed (who was this story’s Goliath, if there ever was one). Though he lost the match by decision, he went the distance and, ultimately, was the winner by doing so.

Another story that captures the hearts of countless people, is that of Harry Potter. His parents having been murdered by “he who shall not be named”, Harry grew up in a dysfunctional home and became the recipient of his Uncle, Aunt and Cousin’s judgmental, fear-filled ire. Forced to sleep in a closet, Harry never imagined that one day he would be the one to bring justice to the wizardly giant, Voldemort, and establish balance and order to the world of magic.

It is the fact that David starts as an underdog that makes his story tick. He was chosen by God because of his humility and his humble station in life. He was the youngest of eight brothers, nothing more than a servant to his family, and wasn’t even counted among the sons by his own father. It was this David that God had chosen to become the next king of Israel, a mere shepherd boy who would rise to be the leader of God’s people.

His first major foe was his own family, who opposed him when Samuel was looking to anoint the next king, as well as when he started questioning the Israelite army for cowering to the giant, Goliath. The giant would become David’s next foe and David did not cower before him like the army had. Rather, he called the army out on their cowardice and said, “Who is this pagan Philistine, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26 NLT)? With that David went out to meet, and ultimately killed, the boastful giant.

Do you ever feel like you are the underdog? Do you ever feel like the entire world is standing against you? The story of young David reminds us that our God is on the side of the underdog. Our God does not leave the underprivileged and overlooked alone, but chooses them to stand before and conquer giants.

Remember that when you are the underdog, God’s got your back if you are doing what it is that God has called you to do. On the other hand, if you are opposing the underdog because of your pride and selfishness, remember that you are ultimately opposing God, which is always a losing battle. For who can stand against God? Therefore, place your trust in the one who brings honor to the humble, and humility to the proud.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ The voice of truth says, ‘This is for my glory.’ Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.” – Mark Hall

PRAYER
Lord, help me to learn to listen to the voice of truth. Whether I be the underdog, or in the way of the underdog, let truth win out in my heart so that my faith can grow. Amen.

God’s People, part 48: The Boys

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. ‘What are you doing around here anyway?’ he demanded. ‘What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!’” (1 Samuel 17:28 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

HarryPotter-DursleysPart 48: The Boys. While there is not enough time, or text for that matter, for me to spend dealing with each of David’s brothers individually, we can certainly spend some time talking about them collectively. We certainly can gather the way they treated their brother just in the few verses that they show up in.

The fact of the matter is that it becomes clear that David, being the youngest, was the least privileged in his family. As the youngest, he would have only been given the scraps of the inheritance (if any at all). Chances are, with the amount of older brothers he had, David would have been on his own to make his way in the world. Certainly neither his father, Jesse, or his brothers seemed to pay him any mind. When Samuel asked to see David’s sons, Jesse brought all of them but David to the prophet.

In today’s Scripture reading, we can see that David’s brothers were no better. With his oldest brother, Eliab, being the spokesperson for the siblings, we can see the condescending (and even contentious) attitude the brothers have toward David. “What are you doing around here anyway,” Eliab demanded to know. “What about those sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle” (1 Samuel 17:28 NLT). Indeed, his brothers treated him much in the way that the Dursleys treated Harry Potter. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that David was sleeping in a closet in the family house.

It is amazing what privilege and jealousy, when mixed together, can do to the human spirit. Jesse’s boys had a chance to take David under their wing, to be a good and encouraging influence on him, and to share with him their status as Jesse’s sons; however, the boys did the opposite of that, evidently with the blessing of their father. What a shame.

It is no wonder, then, that God passes them by as the next in line to replace the wicked and wayward King Saul. It is no wonder that Samuel says to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these…are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:10-11 NLT). Why would God choose people who were too privileged to see that God had given them everything they have? Why would God choose people who put themselves over and above God and who would discriminate against those they perceived as “less” than them?

The challenge for us is to evaluate our own hearts? Are we privileged in ways that others aren’t? Do we get treated differently than others because of our status in society? Are we of the “privileged” skin color, age, economic status, sexual identity, and/or gender, while others in society are not? Do we cherish this privilege in ways that cause us to resist others being able to share in the benefits we have? Do we resist social change to maintain the façade that we are “better” than “those other people”?

These are not easy questions to answer, but honest answers they demand. Know this, our God is a just God. Our God is seeking those who are after God’s own heart, those who are humble before the Lord, and God humbles the proud and those who are resistant to the Holy Spirit. Will we ultimately deny and reject God’s authority, will we stand opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit by denying the righteousness (aka justice) of God? Or will we open our hearts to what God is doing in our midst and humble ourselves in righteous obedience to a most righteous, loving, and inclusive Creator God? The choice is ours.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
It is better to lose everything you have to keep the balance of justice level, than to live a life of petty privilege devoid of true freedom.” – Bryant H. McGill

PRAYER
Lord, I acknowledge that you are just and that your Holy Spirit is seeking to bring your just Kingdom into this world, where all are treated equally and where all share in the privilege of being your beloved Creation. Amen.

God’s People, part 47: Jesse

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).” (Matthew 1:5-6)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Jesse-Shepherd-DavidGod’s People, Jesse. We all know the story, right? Samuel was disgusted with King Saul, who seemed hellbent on doing things his own way. Ah, it’s good to be the king, you know? Well, it was for a while; however, when Samuel learned that Saul had captured and kept alive the king of the enemy he was supposed to have destroyed, Samuel flipped out on him. Saul had been notorious for being a rogue agent, doing things his own way for his own gain and God, through Samuel, cut him and his family off from the throne.

While this change didn’t happen overnight, Samuel did immediately go searching for the one who would replace Saul as king of Israel. On his quest, God led him to the town of Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse who was a farmer, breeder and owner of sheep.

Once there, Samuel peformed a ritual sacrifice and then asked Jesse to bring forward one of his sons. One by one, Samuel looked at the sons that Jesse brought before him. Each time, Samuel believed that the person standing before him must surely be God’s’ next annointed one. Each time both Jesse and Samuel were wrong in their judgment. Though each of the young men looked the part of a king in the eyes of Samuel, God chose none of them. Each of the young sons were the ones Jesse thought worthy of bringing forward; however, they were not worthy of being King in the eyes of God.

Finally, Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all your sons you have?” In reply, Jesse admitted that, “There is still the youngest, but he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.” Samuel demanded that he be sent for at once. When David arrived before Samuel, the LORD said, “This is the one; anoint him.” So, obeying God, Samuel annointed David as Saul’s successor, as the next king of Israel.

The question for us is this, how many times do we pass over God’s choice because, by the sight of our own eyes, someone or something is simply not worthy enough. How many times do we limit people in our perception of them. How many times do we not see the divine worth in the people around us because we think we know them and they just couldn’t be up for the task at hand? How many times do we not see that someone is anointed by God, because we see ourselves or others as better than they are?

Today we are being challenged to lay down our preconceived opinions and perceptions of others. Like David, there are plenty of people who don’t look the part but have been called by God. Like Samuel and Jesse, we have proven time and time again that we are not the best judges in the world. We have shown that our perceptions are often way off the mark, and that we don’t know the people around us as much as we think we do. What’s more, we certainly don’t know them as well as God. Today we are being challenged to drop those perceptions, to step out of the way, and to join with God in encouraging those around us to see their call to be leaders in the Kingdom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Seeing reality for what it is is what we call discernment. The work of discernment is very hard.” – Lewis B. Smedes

PRAYER
Lord, give me the discernment to separate my perception from reality, and give me an open, compassionate heart so that I may see the true value of others. Amen.

God’s People, part 46: Michal

Read 2 Samuel 6:16-23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“In the meantime, Saul’s daughter Michal had fallen in love with David, and Saul was delighted when he heard about it.” (1 Samuel 18:20 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

MichalPart 46: Michal. In all honesty, when we get into the kings, we could spend a lifetime accounting for each of the kings and their families. King Saul, alone, had a wife with whom he had four sons and two daughters. He also had a concubine with whom he had two more sons. For the purpose of these devotions, I will limit my focus to the major children of the kings.

Michal was the youngest of King Saul’s daughters and, as such, she almost doesn’t even have a story to tell in the Bible. Indeed, her older sister Merab was originally offered to David as a wife; however, David did not feel worthy of being the son-in-law of the king (1 Samuel 18:17-19). King Saul did not really want David for a Son-in-Law (and I believe David knew that), but was obligated because he promised to give his oldest daughter to him if he defeated the Philistines in battle. When David succeeded, Saul was obliged to hand over his daughter.

Yet, David did not take her as his wife, but passed her off (in good patriarchal fashion) to someone else. But David would, as it turned out, be the son-in-law of of King Saul, who’s youngest daughter fell in love with him. Saul was overjoyed about this as he saw it as another chance to have David killed by the enemy. Great father-in-law, right? Can anyone blame David for not wanting to marry into that family? All the same, Michal’s dreams came true and she did end up being David’s wife.

Yet, here’s where the dream turns into a nightmare for yet another one of our beloved women of the Bible. Michal knew her father was absolutely jealous of her husband, and so she helped David escape out of her window and stuffed her bed to make it look like David is sleeping there. Unfortunately, that is the last time she will ever see her husband again. David does not try to send her any word, at least not that the Bible informs us of, and during David’s years of hiding her father marries Michal off to another man. What’s more, David took several other wives during this same period.

After Saul’s remaining son took the throne of Israel, and David was king of Judah, David demanded that Michal be given back to him in order to maintain peace between them. Nice, right? Michal was being treated as nothing more than a pawn between two saber-rattling people. Having the daughter of Saul as his bride would, of course, reinforce his legitimacy to the throne over all Israel. Make no mistake, David had his sights on being the sole ruler. Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, agreed to David’s demand and Michal was forced to leave her new husband (Palti) and she was sent to David. I think it is important to quote the Bible here. “Palti followed along behind [Michal] as far as Bahurim, weeping as he went. Then Abner told him, ‘Go back home!’ So Palti returned.” (2 Samuel 3:16, NLT)

Needless to say, there was much love lossed between David and Michal. She was nothing to him but a pawn in a game of political chess. Michal, on the other hand, lost everything. She lost her family, she lost David (who was her first love), she lost her husband who clearly loved her, and was forced to be David’s wife a second time (which really made her nothing more than a political prisoner). When David becomes king over all of Israel, conquers Jerusalem, and dances his way naked into it as they carried in the Ark of the Covenant, it is no wonder that Michal coldly chastises him (2 Samuel 6:20).

While Michal’s character flaws are less on display here than are King David’s, perhaps we can say that she put a little too much stock in the one she had fallen so helplessly in love with. All of the men in Michal’s life, barring perhaps her second husband Palti, were ruthless, meglomaniacal, abusive men who did not view her for her true worth. My guess is that she probably see her own true worth either. After all, how could she. The question of us today is this: Do you see your true worth to God? Do you see your divine value, given to you by the one in whose image you were created? Don’t put too much stock in people or what they think of you; rather, look to God and to Jesus Christ and know that God LOVES YOU more than life itself!

Michal

God’s People, part 45: Jonathan

Read 1 Samuel 18:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘That’s not true!’ Jonathan protested. ‘You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!’” (1 Samuel 20:2 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

DavidCarosel04Part 45: Jonathan. One thing I know is true, Jonathan was, at the very least, David’s best friend. I don’t think there could ever be a more loyal friend than Jonathan, who was the eldest son of King Saul. Being the eldest, that made him the heir to his father’s throne. In fact, his being the next in line only complicated the Jonathan and David’s friendship; however, the ties between them were too strong for it to dismantle their relationship.

As we read in our last devotion, King Saul grew to be a very jealous and tyrannical leader. There are a number of reasons for that. Samuel had outright told Samuel that he was going to be replaced, that God had removed favor from him or his household and that another had been anointed and would eventually replace him. That never goes over well with a king.

Then there was David and all of his success. He, as a shepherd, saved all of Israel from the Philistines in a way that Saul could not. He had everything going for him. He was handsome, he was poetic, he was musical, and he was a heck of a warrior and military leader. To put it in today’s terms, David was a rock star! And Saul had to have known that God had put his favor upon David, which irked him to no end.

Yet, to make matters worse, David became best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. We don’t really know the extent of the friendship; however, the Bible says that there was an “immediate bond” between Jonathan and David. Saul initially encouraged the friendship, and scripture says that “Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as himself.”

Scholars have argued back and forth over the type of relationship Jonathan and David shared. The Bible is rather vague in its description of the relationship. The word for love used in the quote above is ‘âhab (אָהַב, pronounced aw-hab’), or ‘âhêb (אָהֵב, pronoucned aw-habe’), and means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise).” It can also mean “to be loved, lovely, or a lover,” as well as to “like”, or “friend.”

It matters not the extent of the relationship between David and Jonathan; what can be said with certainty is that the two were extremely close and loved each other. This love, I believe, caused Saul to grow even more jealous and resentful of David. Of course, that was not always easy for Jonathan to see.

There were many times that David confided in Jonathan that he thought his father was looking to kill him (David). Yet, on multiple occasions Jonathan denied that, and could not come to admit his father’s hatred for David. One such time Jonathan insisted, “’That’s not true!’ Jonathan protested. ‘You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!’” (1 Samuel 20:2 NLT)

Jonathan’s love for both his father and David ended up putting him in awkward places, where he had to both encourage his friend, but also defend and support his father. Eventually, his dad’s envious ire got the best of him and of Jonathan. Long after David had fled for his life, Jonathan stood by his father’s side on the battle field and marched against Philistines, a march that would lead him, his two brothers, his father, and the army of Israel to their deaths.

Like Jonathan, we often remain loyal to the people we love. We hold these people in high regard and cannot fathom that they would do anything morally wrong or horrible. We defend them, even when others claim to be victims of their harmful or abusive behavior. We remain in denial because it is too hard for us to face the fact that some people, including family members, are not all that we hope them to be. The challenge for us is to, no matter how hard it is, view ourselves and those around us with sober and honest eyes. The challenge is to set up graceful, loving systems of accountability so that we can mutually encourage each other in our strengths and guide each other in our weaknesses. This is what God wants us to do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Accountability breeds response-ability.” – Stephen Covey

PRAYER
Lord, help me be responsible in my relationships, and to have mutual accountability built into my relationships with others. Amen.