Tag Archives: King 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 55: King’s Will

Read 1 Chronicles 28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Then David died and was buried with his ancestors in the City of David.” (‭1 Kings‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭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 55: King’s Will. God, through the prophet Nathan had specifically told David that he was not the one to build a Temple for God to “live” in. First, God questioned David’s motives and thinking by asking, “Did I, who brought Israel up out of slavery in Egypt, ever ask for such home? Do I require a temple of cedar, or a home to be boxed into? No, you will not build me such a home; rather, I will build a home, a dynasty, for you! I will raise up your seed following you and will establish his throne forever” (2 Samuel 7:11-13, paraphrased).

What’s more, in 1 Chronicles 28:3, the author has David reveal that God said he had too much blood on his hands and was not fit for building God’s Temple. What is important to note here is that both of these texts (2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles) were written after the time of David and Solomon and so these texts are recording the history of these two EPIC characters as remembered by the people of a time long after David and Solomon had passed.

Thus, it is fair to ask this question. Was the “seed” that God spoke of referring to Solomon, or someone else. Was Solomon the one to whom God gave the honor to build the Temple? Was Solomon the one who’s rule would last forever? Or, was seed referring to one of David’s descendants…down the line…someone, shall we say, such as Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the son of God? That certainly could easily be read into this text, coming from a Christian perspective, as Jesus was of the line of David.

The word “seed” can mean both immediate offspring, or it can mean descendant and different English translations come down differently in translating that word. On top of that, we know that Solomon’s rule did not last forever and, following Solomon’s death, the Kingdom of Israel divided and broke up, with the Kingdom of Israel in the North and the Kingdom of Judah in the South. These two Kingdoms would war against each other throughout the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures and the animosity they had toward each other lasted right up until the Assyrian Infiltration of the Northern Kingdom and the Babylonian exile of Judah. Even beyond that, the animosity still existed in Jesus’ day (e.g. the Samaritans).

So, it is debatable as to whether or not God ever intended David, or Solomon, to build God’s temple. In fact, it is debatable as to whether God, who is imageless and demands that no images (and houses are an “image” of sorts) be built for worship, ever wanted a temple built in the first place. Perhaps, the temple God that God says David’s seed will build is the same temple that Jesus refers to in various places…the temple of the human heart, where God most wishes to have a home.

Yet, King David ends up asserting his own will over and above God’s. In 1 Chronicles 28, David instructed his son Solomon on how to construct the Temple. In other words, even if David was not be the one to see the building to completion, he still had his imprint on how it was to look. God said, “No” to David’s request to build a Temple, but David found a loophole and ensured his will, NOT God’s, was carried out. While the Temple is a debatable disobedience of God, there are other sins David committed (e.g. taking a census of God’s people in 2 Samuel 24) that are explicitly shown to be sinful.

We, like David, are prone to put our will above God’s. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done”, but often are actions are reflecting the opposite of that prayer, “My kingdom come, my will be done.” The question for us is this, will we go on making idols of ourselves? Will we carry on in our sinful self-worship, or will we finally open our hearts as holy Temples for the living God? The choice is ours.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You are believing not in your god but in yourself if your god knows no better than you do…and yet, in this alone, I am afraid, you have already been fooling yourself.” – Criss Jami

PRAYER

Lord, you are God. I am not. Remind me that to worship you I must submit to your will for my life and trust that your ways are better than my own. Amen.

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 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

Ixnay the Cliché

Read Micah 6:1-15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)

highway-to-gloryThe end justifies the means. That is a cliché that I think is predominant in our society and/or culture. The end justifies the means. All we need to do is turn on television and watch any of a plethora of television shows, all we need to do is to go to the theater and watch any given movie and we will see a whole lot of that cliché being played out. We see heroes compromising their values in order to bring about some supposedly better end…and using any means necessary to make that happen.

Beyond television shows and movies, politicians will often use any means necessary to bring about what they believe to be a better end. Politicians who cut people down and use political action committees to destroy the reputation of their opponents, simply because they believe they’d make the best leader. Businesses who look at the bottom dollar as the end goal and use whatever means necessary in order to make the bottom dollar work out in favor of the company. Often times, the means to attain that end involves coldly getting rid of people and treating employees as expendable numbers, rather than being compassionate and not treating people as if they are expendable.

We also see this cliché play out in our communities. We see our government take people’s homes and property away, declaring it as eminent domain, in order to better commercialize and bring more money into a town and/or region. We see people who will cut people off on the road to ensure they’re not going to be late getting to work, or to a play, or to the nearest roadside coffee shop. I have even witnessed people cutting around funeral processions in order to avoid getting stuck in those situations.

The point here is this, in order to live by the cliché of “the end justifying the means,” we have to ultimately compromise our character and our moral code. The cliché certainly, and explicitly, announces that. The end justifies the means. That is really a nice way of saying the following: while normally taking this action would be deemed bad and/or immoral, it is okay to do so here because, in the end, things will work out for the better. The end justifies the means. Whatever means it takes to reach the end is justified by virtue of the end that is trying to be reached.

The end justifies the means…or does it? When we look to Scripture we see a ton of examples as to how the end never, ever justifies the means. David is, perhaps the most compelling and obvious of people to look at in this regard. David would do just about anything to be king, and once he became king he did just about anything to keep himself and his family in power. He slept with Bathsheba and to avoid scandal had her husband killed. He offed his political rivals with shrewd and shady expediency, looking as if he had nothing to do with it. He knew he was God’s chosen king and that God was going to establish his kingdom forever, and he let that go to his head. As a result his kingdom, his reputation, his power, and his entire family came crashing down.

Not only does the end never justify the means, the reality is that often times the means changes and/or destroys the end. What’s more, the means changes and/or destroys us in the process. Let us not be a people who justify any and every means to reach an end. Let us not be a people who justify evil by the end we are trying to reach. Remember that our call, first and foremost, is to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, regardless of the end. In fact, there should be no other end but that, and that end will dictate the means. Live justly, love mercy, walk humbly. It’s simple, it’s honest, and it’s the narrow way that leads to God’s Kingdom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Jesus, the Christ (Matthew 7:12-14)
PRAYER
Lord, I want to follow you in all that I do. Lovingly hold me accountable to your way and steer me clear of sin and evil. Amen.

I WILL BE

Read 2 Samuel 7:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
God said to Moses, “I [WILL BE] WHO I [WILL BE].” (Exodus 3:14)

foZt7gKLimited. If there is one word I can come up with when thinking about human beings, it is “limited.” We are limited in our perceptions, limited in our abilities, limited in our vision, and limited in just about every other aspect of our being. This is not a negative judgment, but rather an observation. In our minds, we love to imagine ourselves as being limitless. We watch TV shows and movies about superheroes who seem to be unlimited in their abilities, heroes who can literally fly to the moon and back in a single bound.

Yet, our reality is far different from the ideal we hold in our heads. The truth is that, as much as we would love to not have limits or bounds, we are totally limited. We are limited in our physical abilities, our psychological abilities, and we are limited emotionally as well. While all of this seems pretty pessimistic, and I am sure you are wondering what kind of point I could possibly be leading up to in this dour opening to a reflection, the truth is that this is not pessimistic. In fact, it is neither pessimistic or optimistic; rather, this is realistic.

What’s more, not only are we naturally limited in our capabilities but we limit ourselves in ways we should not be limited. While this is the case in a wide range of things, and across a wide range of people, I want to focus on Christians. While we are called to be a people of faith, we limit ourselves by our fear. We allow our fears to take over in our lives and we make them our lord rather than following our true Lord and Savior. We limit our understanding and conception of God as well. We build up church institutions, create polity to govern and control them, raise up church buildings, and fill those buildings with people. Over time, the people get so caught up in the institution, the polity, the buildings and their own little cloistered community that they end up limiting God to their own time, place and context.

In other words, they try and box God in. That’s not to say that God is actually boxed in or that God is actually limited; rather, it is people’s perceptions of God that are limited. This is nothing new, David wanted to box God in when he wanted to build God a house. God’s response to David was this: “Do I need you to build me a house? Am I not the God who created the world and all that is in it? Am I not the God who wandered with my people through the wilderness without any temple or house to live in? Do I really need a home? No, David! You will not build me a house.”

God WILL NOT be boxed in. Up on Sinai, when Moses asked who he should tell had sent him to free the Hebrews, God responded by saying “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them that I AM has sent you to them.” That phrase, “I AM WHO I AM”, can in Hebrew also be translated as “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.” God’s message to Moses, and to us as well, is that GOD IS. That God is with us, that God is always present with us. I AM WHO I AM. On top of that God is also reminding us, perhaps even warning us, I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.

We cannot box God in. We cannot contain God and we can not have control over who God is or how God will manifest in the lives of others. Are you boxing God in? If so, in what ways? I challenge you to ask yourself those questions. Wrestle with them, for God wants you to trade in your perceptions for the reality and the universality of God’s presence and God’s love. GOD WILL NOT BE BOXED IN. The only house God wants to reside in is our hearts. I pray that, if you haven’t already, you open your hearts to the GOD. I pray that you are filled with the great I AM WHO I AM and that you are opened to the limitless possibilities of a God who WILL BE WHO GOD WILL BE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Boxes are square or rectangular, have a beginning, an end, and are not infinite or eternal. God is not a box; rather, God is a circle of which has no beginning, no end and is both infinite and eternal.

PRAYER
Lord, help me not to limit who you are in my life or in my world. You are the great I AM, as well as the great I WILL BE. Amen.

Anointed

Read Isaiah 45:1-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NLT)

anointing_of_fresh_oilWhen you hear the word Messiah, who do you think of? When you hear the word Christ, what do you think of? Some of you may know that the words Christ and Messiah mean the same thing, that “messiah” is the English equivalent of a the Hebrew word “mâshı̂yach” (מָשִׁיחַ) and “christ” is the English equivalent of the Greek word “christos” (Χριστός). My guess is that when most people hear the phrase “messiah” or “christ”, whether they or Christian or not, they immediately think of the man who ended up becoming the figure head of the Christian religion, Jesus of Nazareth. Some may even mistakenly think that “Christ” is Jesus’ last name!

I am very certain that when most people hear the words “messiah” or “christ”, they do not think of Cyrus. In fact, if I were a betting person, I would bet that most people would not even know who Cyrus actually is. As it happens, Cyrus was the king of Persia. He ended up being the ruler who took over the kingdom of Babylon after it fell to the forces and the might of Persia. Within Babylon were the people of Judah who had been exiled there because of their trying to ally with Egypt against Babylon. When that happened, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon beseiged Jerusalem and, upon overtaking it, forced all of the leaders, the Temple priests, the scribes and people of import were exiled from Jerusalem and relocated in Babylon.

Once Babylon fell to Persia, King Cyrus (who was not a Jew and had no in depth knowledge of the Jewish religion) let the Jewish people return back to Jerusalem. What is even more striking than that, is that Cyrus seemingly had no agenda other than to just let them go home. He didn’t require them to send any money back to him, or pledge their loyalty to him in any way; rather, he simply let them go home to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its Temple. In response to that, the Jewish priests and scribes wrote of Cyrus that he was the LORD GOD’s “anointed one”, or Messiah (which is “Christ” in Greek). Let me reiterate that. Cyrus, the non-Jewish, polytheistic, war mongering Persian King was the Messiah…the Christ…the LORD’s anointed one.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with such richness that really help point us to the nature of God. If we read Scripture carefully, there were many messiahs. Saul, David, Solomon, and every other King of Israel were all the LORD’s anointed ones. That’s different than being “the Messiah”, the one that some of the first century Jews were looking to come and rid them of their oppressors and reestablish the line of King David forever; however, there were many messiahs and each one of them were anointed by the LORD’s prophets. There really is nothing unusual about a king, or others, being called messiah. What is unusual is that this particular king does not even know, let alone worship, the God of Israel.

What does that say for us? It says that God constantly exceeds our expectations. It says that God will anoint anyone who is willing to have compassion, who seeks justice, who loves mercy, and who walks in the path of humility. Whether that person is a Jew or a Gentile, whether that person is a Christian or a Muslim, whether that person is a monotheist or a polytheist, whether that person is a male or a female, God will work in and through anyone who is willing to humble themselves and let LOVE rule the day. The fact is that God was calling Israel to live in that love, to be God’s chosen, and God worked through Cyrus to remind them of that. The fact is that God is calling us to live in that LOVE, to be God’s chosen, and once again is using Cyrus to remind us of that. Be reminded and live a life of LOVE that witnesses to the LOVE of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“This is not the time to shrink back in fear. This is the time to move forward in Faith. Get up every morning knowing you are anointed. You are equipped. You are empowered. You have everything you need to fulfill your destiny.” – Elton Sibiya

PRAYER
Lord, allow me to step out in faith, to see that you have anointed me to fulfill the work of love, compassionate justice, and mercy that you began at the outset of the world. Allow me to act upon that knowledge in service of others. Amen.