Tag Archives: David

God’s People, part 60: Adonijah

Read 1 Kings 1:5-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11 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.

Macbeth_illustration14_001Part 60: Adonijah. The story of Adonijah much reminds me of Jesus teaching about humility in Luke 14, just prior his telling of the Parable of the Great Feast. In that teaching he warned the gathered people to not sit in the places of honor, but at the lowest place at the table. In doing so, one would avoid being dishonored by being asked to move to a place of lower status in front of all the people at the table and would, more than likely, be honored when the host asks one to move from the lowest place to a place more prominent.

Jesus’ words are wise and they are not meant merely as a “play it safe rather than sorry” suggestion. Jesus is, rather, guiding those who will be taught by him to not think too highly about themselves. Humility, simply, is knowing one’s place. It is not self-denigration; however, it is not self-engrandizement either. While Jesus’ teaching refers to social status, his wisdom is regarding Spiritual Humility. Such humility recognizes that none of us are better than “the least of these” because, from the least to the greatest, we are all God’s created children.

If only Adonijah had been given those wise and timely words. It’s never easy being less than the eldest brother in the royal family. Only the eldest could be the heir to the throne. Only the eldest could one day be king, unless the eldest died. Even then, Adonijah was not second eldest but third eldest. He was third in line. He could pretty much bank on NEVER being the King, not because he was unqualified (as he could not think of anyone more qualified than he was) but because of circumstance.

Yes, I am writing this a bit tongue-in-cheek; however, it is clear that Adonijah thought pretty highly of himself and he was quite thrilled (I mean, who wouldn’t be?) when his two eldest brothers died and were no longer in his way. It was Adonijah chance to rise up and take the throne for himself! He would be the one in power and could rule the kingdom!

The only problem with that comes in one word: SOLOMON. Because of his love for Bathsheba, David had declared that he willed for Solomon to be his heir. So, rather than rightfully taking the throne, Adonijah actually stages a coup and tries, like his brothers before him, to usurp David’s kingdom. As can be seen in the scriptures, it doesn’t go well for Adonijah. In the end, he fled for his life and was temporarily spared only to be killed by Solomon once he assumed power.

Adonijah could have served a great purpose for God. Who knows what God had in store for him; however, the corruption of his father and brothers spread to him and he sought power and authority rather than God. As a result, he ended up cutting what ties may have been left with his half-brother Solomon and betraying his father’s trust. All that did, in the end, is lead to his demise. The question for us is this, how do we allow our earthly ambitions to get between us and our God-given purpose? Be challenged by that question and seek out God’s will over your own!

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

PRAYER
Lord, protect me from becoming proud so that I might be honored to serve you in the exact ways you created me to. Amen.

God’s People, part 56: Bathsheba

Read 2 Samuel 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah…” (Matthew 1:6 NRSV)

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.

bathsheba-icons-of-the-biblePart 56: Bathsheba. Now we get to the character of Bathsheba. For the first part of the story she was treated little more than a prop to get us from the widely celebrated King David to the largely scorned and scrutinized King David. She was a literal prop in that David objectified her and lusted after her in order to fulfill his own self-indulgent, sexual whims. She was also a literary prop used to expose the selfish, cowardly, tyrannical, despotic side of David.

Following being named in 2 Samuel 11, the scene where David sees her bathing on a roof and being summoned to David’s room, she is not named again until after her first child with David died. In that time, she is merely referred to as “Uriah’s wife” or “the woman”, and is not given much of a character to develop; rather, she is utilized in a way that continually points to David’s sin. Much like in real life, Bathsheba is yet another person abused and silenced by those in power.

But who was Bathsheba? We know very little about her because her character goes largely undeveloped. Some have tried to suggest that Bathsheba’s bathing on a roof, in plain sight of the palace, indicates that she wanted to be “seen” and that she was complicit (at least) in the affair; however, the Bible does not write it in such a way that hints at her guilt. Instead, the Bible states that David “sent” (2 Samuel 11:3), “took”, and “lay” (verse 4). Bathsheba, who is only further objectified by the author as being “a woman of unusual beauty”, is shown to have acted passively or submissively to the king. The Bible states that she “came”, “returned” (verse 4), and “conceived” (verse 5).

The textual evidence, though scant, provides us with a fairly clear picture. David was the one who acted in authority and, naturally, Bathsheba did as her king commanded. Even if the relationship were consensual, King David’s act is nothing short of rape given the power differential between him and his subject. Yet, using the language it does, the Bible does not paint a portrait of consensual sex; rather, it tells the tale of a King whose power went to his head and who treated his subjects as playthings for him to indulge upon. What’s more, the Biblical author(s) never refer to the sin as Bathsheba’s sin or both of their sins. The Bible only ever refers to the sin as “David’s sin”.

Later in life, Bathsheba too finds herself wrapped up in power. Typically, in monarchies, the heir to the throne comes from the legitmate, first-born, male child of the King’s first marriage. Sucession, should anything happen to that child (as it did in the case of David’s eldest, Amnon), continues down that line to the the next oldest male child. Yet, Bathsheba gained great favor with the King, and she used that favor to ensure her son would become the next king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.

Indeed, Solomon, her son, did end up taking over his father’s kingdom; however, that political manuevering came with a heavy cost. While David’s family was, no doubt, rocked by the scandal of David’s sexual relationship with Bathsheba, this particular act ensured that the fracturing of the Davidic family was complete. Two of David’s children openly rebelled against him (Absalom and Adonijah), and both ended up dead for it. The first was killed by Joab, King David’s general, and the latter was killed by Solomon. What’s more, without doubt, Bathsheba played a role in Adonijah’s death.

The reality is that, as we see, Bathsheba was a victim of David’s; however, as is sometimes the case, the abused ends up becoming an abuser. Bathsheba learned to play the game of power once that power was given to her. She learned how to politically manuever so that her son, and with him her legacy, would out live David and his former wives. How many times have we been victims of psychological, emotional or physical abuse, only to eventually find our own actions mirroring that of our abusers? Perhaps some of us have, and others have not, but we all have the ability to fall into the same power trap that Bathsheba found herself. Let us be mindful of that and turn to God to help us avoid those pitfalls.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix

PRAYER
Lord, help me to avoid the pitfall of power, and to rely only on your power. 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 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 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 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.

God’s People, part 44: Saul

Read 1 Samuel 15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Saul groaned to his armor bearer, ‘Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.’ But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it.” (1 Samuel 31:4 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.

The BiblePart 44: Saul. Well, we come to yet another character in the Bible that people think they know pretty well. Right? We who grew up in the church, we know who that nasty, no good, wicked, egotistical, jealous, power-crazed, heavy-handed King Saul was. There’s no need to discuss him, right?

He was that king who promised to follow God and then didn’t follow through. He was the king who refused to do as God instructed, but went his own way. He was the one who, though anointed by God, he led like he was in league with the devil.  He was an inefficient leader, one who became increasingly paranoid, who murderous in his paranoia and, let’s face it, the dude totally tried to kill the epic, rockin’, swave David. What is up with that?

Well, to be honest, David really wasn’t as rockin’ or swave as people give him credit for. Epic? Sure. But that discussion is for another time and place. In this devotion, we are dealing with Saul and, as much as we would like to view Saul as the villain, he really is more of a tragic hero. Do you know what I mean about that, he is the hero that has it all going for him, the guy who was on the rise until his character flaw got the best of him and he came crashing down, taking others (including his family) with him.

Let us not forget that, when the people rejected the judges, God led Samuel to discover and anoint Saul as their king. Saul was God’s child, God’s chosen leader, and had the potential to be a great king. I am sure that Saul had really good intentions on the way in too; however, you know the phrase: the power went to his head.

Instead of leading by example and pointing the people to be faithful in their relationship with God, instead of ruling God’s people in a holy manner, Saul became more concerned with establishing and solidifying his reign and his dynasty. Instead of taking no prisoners, as God commanded of him and the Israelites, Saul not only took prisoners of war but he took them as slaves.

In fact, it was that disobedience that caused Saul to fall out of favor with God. One might want to have pity on Saul because he chose to keep the King alive (which would seem like an act of mercy); however, he did so only for his own gain, not because he had any sort of benevolent heart within him. He didn’t spare anyone else but the king who he could display as his war trophy.

What’s more, we need to understand that the Amalekites were not good actors, but were attacking the Israelites and trying to eradicate them. A ruler is supposed to do what is in the best interest of his/her people, and keeping one’s people safe and ensuring their survival is at the top of the list. Yet, in his disobedience, Saul showed that all he really cared about was his own vainglory and popularity.

In the end, Saul was rejected by God and he further fell into the abyss from that point on. David was chosen to be the next King (more on that later) and that literally drove Saul mad. He spent the rest of his years chasing after David in order to kill him so that his sons could maintain the throne, and he ultimately failed. Saul, once the hero of his people and the first king of Israel, died defeated in battle along with his sons, his armor bearer, and his entire army.

While it is easy for us to look at Saul as villain, how much harder is it to see ourselves in him; however, is he that different from us? Have we not been chosen by God to reflect the true king, Jesus Christ? Have we not also, time and time again, let our own vainglory (aka excessive pride in ourselves and our achievements) stand in our way? Have we not sought to take control away from God so that we can be in control? Have we not lived our lives with the motto, “my kingdom come, my will be done”, which is the antithesis of the Lord’s Prayer?

Each of us has missed the mark in one way or the other, just like Saul did. The challenge is to repent and turn back to God, rather than letting our desire to be God bring us to our own demise. Repent, profess Jesus as your Lord, and be filled with love, grace, and the God-given power to transform this world through and through.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – John Emerich Edward

PRAYER
Lord, help curb my pride and remind me of the need to humble myself before you. I am not Lord, you are. Forgive me. I accept your Lordship over my life. Amen.

The Christmas Story According to the Bible

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When the the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke sat down to record the birth story the Christ-Child, they saw a correlation between what the prophet Isaiah said and the birth of their Lord:

Isaiah 7:10-14

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6-7

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Each Gospel writer saw the significance of Christ’s coming in different ways. For Mark, the first of the writers, Jesus’ birth was of no concern; rather, he started with Jesus’ baptism as the advent of the Christ. Matthew, on the other hand, did include the birth story of  Jesus who, for Matthew, was the KING of all kings, the new Moses, the One who came to teach and to fulfill the Law.

Matthew 1:18-2:1-23

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

For Luke, Jesus was not the KING of kings. After all, it was the kings who had been corrupted with power and greed. This Christ-child had to be more than just a KING of kings. Who did Jesus spend his time with? Who did Jesus do ministry with? Kings? Nope. Jesus’ ministry was with the poor, and when rich people came to Jesus…he advised them to sell all of their possessions, give the earnings to the poor and follow him! It was the kings of the world that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. It was the kings of the world, seeking to have power over their subjects that brought the KING to the town of his ancestor David. Jesus was a KING…indeed! He was the KING of the poor and the oppressed. He was the champion of all of those the world had shunned and turned away!

Luke 2:1-18

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

For the author of the Gospel of John, Jesus’ earthly birth and the details therein were unimportant. For this Jesus was indwelt by the very Word of God, the very Spark of all of Creation. Jesus preexisted his earthly form and preexisted all of Creation. For the author of John and his community, Jesus was so much more than a KING of kings, or than a KING of the poor. Jesus was KING and LORD of all Creation, who then took on flesh and made his dwelling place among us, full of grace and truth. Behold the true light of GOD as come into the world, and not even the darkness can snuff it out.

John 1:1-5, 14

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.

May you have blessed and profoundly meaningful

Christmas!

 

All Scripture passages are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.

 

The Lord is My Shepherd

Read Psalm 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“David said further to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

ShepherdWhen you stop and think about it, life can be an extremely crazy ride. Which one of us can look back on our lives and say that we lived everyday perfectly? Which one of us can claim to have nothing but mountaintop experiences all the way through life?  My guess, is that there isn’t a single person alive who could claim such things.

Today I was reading the 23rd Psalm, which is traditionally held to be written by King David.  Upon reading the Psalm, I began to reflect on the life story of David.  He started off as a “ruddy-faced”, handsome shepherd boy (1 Samuel 17:42). Small and insignificant, his ruddiness was all he had going for him. But that ruddy-faced boy is the same boy that Samuel anointed to be King of Israel, the same boy who knew how to defend his sheep against wolves and bear, the same boy who slew the Philistine giant, Goliath with a single stone launched from his sling.

This ruddy-faced boy grew into a great warrior and, no matter which way you paint David’s story, that means he killed lots and lots of people. David did not live a perfect life. He was known for being ruthless and he sought battle against the Philistines in which he circumcised their dead corpses after the battle. He was known for being a politically savvy manipulator…one who would have no qualms about silencing his opponents. He was a womanizer and an adulterer, who scandalously had an affair with Bathsheba and made their love-child, Solomon, the heir of his throne. He even had her husband murdered in order to keep him from finding out about the affair.

In David, we see a person who lived life imperfectly. He had his good moments and his not-so-good moments; and that is what makes him such a powerful character for us when we read about him in the Bible.  One gets the sense that David is for real…and we can relate to him on so many different levels. While many of us will never be a King, or have someone murdered, we can certainly relate to David’s propensity toward imperfection. Each of us, like David, have our good moments and our not-so-good moments. We have all shared in mountaintop experiences where nothing seems to be able to bring us down. But we have also shared in the long, lonely and desperate walk through the valley of the shadow of death, where the weight of the world seems to be crushing the very breath of life out of us.

While scholars may argue back and forth as to whether or not David actually wrote the 23rd Psalm, it certainly speaks to the kind of faith that he had in God. It speaks of a life that was not perfect, a life that was filled with twists and turns, pastures and barren wilderness, mountaintops and valleys.  It speaks of the constant danger of enemies, and yet the eternal, calming, loving, reassuring presence of God.  The 23rd Psalm was a poem, as song, from the depths of the soul of a person who knew that no matter what happened, no matter things were right or wrong, God was always there to be a guiding, loving, caring presence.  Let the 23rd Psalm remind us of the the same thing: that God is with us always. God will never leave us nor forsake us nor fail us. God will be with us always, even to the very end of the age.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

It’s as if God is singing to us, “There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you.”

PRAYER

Lord, help me to recognize your presence no matter where I am. You are my shepherd, I shall not want. Amen.