Tag Archives: Sin

God’s People, part 82: The Bronze Snake

Read Numbers 21:4-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.” (2 Kings‬ ‭18:4‬ ‭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.

img_1005Part 82: The Bronze Snake. For today’s devotion, I want us to travel back in time for a moment. Before we do, I would like to remind you that that King Hezekiah was a godly king who lived in the ways of the Lord and brought the people of Judah back into a right relationship with God. One of the things that he did was destroyed all of the foreign shrines and idols and enforced that all worship be done in the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem.

One of the idols that he destroyed was named Nehushtan. That, according to 2 Kings, was the bronze serpent mounted staff that Moses made hundreds of years earlier. It is written that Hezekiah destroyed this relic “because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it.”

Now let us time travel back to the time of Moses. If you recall, Moses had led the people out of Egypt and they had been wandering around the wilderness for 40 years. The reason it took them so long to cross what was relatively a short distance was because they were constantly griping, complaining, and disobeying God. The greatest of those instances came when they abandoned God and demanded that Aaron build a golden calf for them to worship.

According to Numbers 21:4-9, the people were in such crazed fit, angry at God and at Moses for leading them out of Egypt. Now imagine this, they had been miraculously liberated from slavery in Egypt; yet, there they were complaining that God and Moses had led them to where they were. Were they hungry? No. Were they thirsty? No. They had been provided for by God from the beginning.

So, you might ask, why were they angry? Well, they were pulling what kids often pull on their parents. “Dad, we have nothing to eat, nothing to drink in this house.” Of course, if you open up the refrigerator you will see plenty of food and drink; however, what is really being said is, “we don’t have what we would like to eat, we are tired of eating this stuff.” That is exactly what the Hebrews were doing. They were griping against eating the manna that God was sending them, calling it “nothing.” How ungrateful.

So, angry, God sent out poisonous snakes to bite them. Okay, this seems like an outlandish response, but suspend disbelief and bear with it for a moment more. Moses, naturally horrified, prayed to God and repented for the people. He stated, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes” (Numbers‬ ‭21:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬). So, God instructed Moses to create a bronze snake and put it on staff. God then instructed the people to look at the snake. Once the people did, they were instantly healed from the snake bites. God’s point was made.‬‬

Unfortunately, what was once holy and healing became perverted into an idol that people worshiped. What was once a reminder of God’s sovereignty and God’s holy presence, became a god unto itself. People forgot that the healing source of the bronze snake was God, and instead worshiped the snake as if it had the power to heal. So, for this reason, Hezekiah destroyed the idol and redirected people to the Temple, where the one, the true, the imageless God was to be worshiped!

What has God done to bring healing and wholeness into your life? How have you taken such things and made idols of them? How have you forgotten what God has done for you? How have you forgotten the sovereignty of God? How have you forgotten our gracious, holy God and how have you turned your eyes away toward other, less-than-holy things? Today is the day for honesty. What has become your bronze snake? What has become your idol. Today’s challenge is to assess what those things are and to eradicate them, as Hezekiah eradicated the bronze snake, from your life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.” — John Calvin

PRAYER

Lord, purge me of my idols and set my heart and eyes back toward you. Amen.

God’s People, part 80: Ahaz

Read 2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.” (Matthew 1:9 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.

KingAhazPart 80: Ahaz. Oh boy. We’ve all heard that phrase, “The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.” Well, this was certainly NOT the case for Ahaz who wasn’t even a quarter of the king his father Jotham was. With that said, Ahaz didn’t grow up in a vacuum and the things that his father let slide during his reign, ended up manifesting in his son, Ahaz, who “did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done” (2 Kings 16:2 NLT).

If you recall, King Jotham was mostly a good king; however, he carried on some of his father, Uzziah’s, policies. The policy that ended up affecting Judah the most was the one that allowed the foreign shrines to remain and the idol worshipping to continue. More than likely, this was done in order to be welcoming of foreigners traveling through the land and the more welcoming a nation is the more money it generates through tourism and other such things. Think about all the money being offered to the gods at the pagan shrines, and then you might begin to see, from the king’s perspective, the benefit to leaving them there.

With that said, the question should always be, “do the benefits outweigh the risks?” Would Jotham have followed those policies if he knew what would become of his son…or his grandson? 2 Kings 16:3 tells us that Ahaz “had his son pass through the fire.” Though there is some discrepency as to what that means, the probable meaning, as you can imagine, is that he sacrificed his son to the gods by burning him alive. Nice, right? I am pretty sure Ahaz didn’t make “father of the year” that year.

What’s more, when people attacked him, and large portions of his people were exiled to Damascus in Assyria (2 Chronicles , he allied himself and made himself a “vassal”, or subordinate) to the King of Assyria. He even visited Damascus (in what is modern-day Syria) and admired the altar to the gods they had set up there. So, he instructed his high priest to design a duplicate altar for God’s Temple and to remove the bronze one for the king’s own personal use. He also had a canopy that was used for the Sabbath removed from the Temple, among other things. What’s more, the Chronicler recorded that Ahaz ended up closing the temple so no one could worship there, and set up shrines to Baal all over Jerusalem. Yikes.

In the end, there was no direct consequence to Ahaz for his actions; however, he left Judah forever weakened, vulerable, and a subordinate to an enemy state that would one day come in and threaten the safety and sovereignty of Judah, in which Jerusalem would eventually be beseiged by the Assyrians. Similarly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel (whom the Ahaz followed the ways of), would be attacked and held captive by the Assyrians.

The challenge for us is to realize that just because God is our God, and just because we are God’s people, does not mean we are immune to sin and evil. What’s more, we asbolutely must recognize the sovereignty of God and trust that God’s way is better than our own ways.

Our actions have a greater impact than we realize. It is not just us who experience the consequences of our sin. In fact, sometimes we are not the ones at all who experience those consequences, but the ones we love and the ones who follow us. Let us turn to our God, who is graceful and sovereign, and fully rely on the Holy Spirit, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to lead us from where we are to where God is calling us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If our sins do not catch up with us, they will fall like bricks on the ones we love and those who follow after us.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for your grace and your forgiveness of my sins. Lead me to where it is you are calling me. Amen.

God’s People, part 79: Jotham

Read 2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.” (Matthew 1:9 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.

Uzziah_-_Jotham_-_AhazPart 79: Jotham. Different people see things differently and history is always in the point of view of the historian. This is true in the Bible, as much as it is in any historical account. No matter how objective people try to be, they cannot completely shake their biases and/or agendas. This is human nature. We are subjects that try to be objective; however, subjectivity and objectivity are not the same and we can never fully know anything objectively due to our subjectivity.

This is seen in the accounts of King Jotham, son of King Uzziah. The first eleven years of his rule, he was a co-regent ruling along side of his father. Of course, it is inaccurate to say “along side” because his father was living in isolation due to having contracted leprosy. Thus, essentially, Jotham was ruling in his father’s place due to his illness.

The Chronicler records that Jotham did what was pleasing in God’s sight. It is also recorded in Chronicles that he did everything that his father had done as King, with the exception of making the same mistakes. Thus, Jotham learned from his father’s arrogance and did not repeat it. He did not think himself holy enough to enter the inner sanctuary of the Temple and burn incense to the Lord, disregarding the authority and role of the High Priest, as his father had foolishly done.

With that said, 2 Kings presents a more cynical account of his reign. While he may not have followed in his father’s footsteps in terms of his arrogance, it seems that he followed his father in some of his policies. For instance the author of 2 Kings writes, “Jotham did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight. He did everything his father, Uzziah, had done. But he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there. He rebuilt the upper gate of the Temple of the LORD.” (2 Kings 15:34-35)

Thus, even while he was building gates to the Temple of the LORD, he was permitting idolatry to persist in the land. The consequences to that were not immediate; however, over time Judah fell further and further away from their devotion to God. What Jotham, and those before him, did not realize was that future generations would begin to reject the prophets of God and would eventually face devastating defeat and exile at the hands of their enemies.

This was not God’s doing, it was their own. This is a powerful lesson for us as well. We are always being invited to destroy and abolish the idols that take precedent in our lives. We are being called to clean house within us and we are being called to turn our hearts back to God. We are being invited back toward faithfulness to the one true God, in whom there is peace, love, joy, hope, wholeness, and eternal life. Failure to do so, failure to put our full trust in Jesus Christ, is to choose our own way over God’s way. Sadly, our way leads to sin, to exile, and to death. Let us choose Christ and turn back to God and to the everlasting life God is offering us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Jesus Christ gives us the power to be defiant to sin and death.

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for my unfaithfulness. Keep me on the narrow pathway, and lead me in through the gateway to your kingdom. Amen.

God’s People, part 78: Uzziah

Read 2 Chronicles 26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram. Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.” (Matthew 1:8 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.

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-1669; King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy (?)Part 78: Uzziah.  Uzziah, as he was known to the author of 2 Chronicles, or Azariah as he was known to the author of 2 Kings, was king in the ancient kingdom of Judah. He was 16 years old, if you can imagine that, when he became king. The first 24 years of his reign he shared as co-regent with his father, King Amaziah. The remaining 28 years following his father’s death he ruled as the sole king of Judah. Thus, King Uzziah was ruler of Judah for a total of 52 years. Quite a reign for a king in the ancient world.

Both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles state that Uzziah had ruled Judah well and that he had “what was right in the sight of the LORD.” The Chronicler (aka the person/people who wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles) wrote that the king followed the instruction of a spiritual menor named Zechariah, not to be confused with the prophet who wrote the eponymous book in the Hebrew Scriptures. According to the Chronicler, Zechariah imparted the visions and deep respect of the LORD to the king.

While this spiritual mentor lived, Uzziah sought the guidance of God through Zechariah. He declared war against the Philistines, the Arabs of Gur, and the Meunites. He was able to get the latter group to pay Judah an annual tribute in order to maintain peace. As a result of this, he had become a very powerful and influential king the his fame spread to even Egypt. His army was massive, his fortifications were improved upon, and Judah was a force to be reckoned with.

As a result, the king’s pride and ego grew with his power and fame. This should not be surprising for it is nothing new. His pride and his ego led to his ultimate downfall. He wrongfully entered the sanctuary of the LORD, where only the high priest was permitted to enter, and personally burned incense on God’s altar. The high priest, along with eighty other brave priests, called him out on his egotistical sin. They told him to get out of God’s sanctuary, but the king was furious and refused to listen.

As a result, he broke out with leprosy, an infectious skin disease that rendered him unfit to rule, unfit to live in the palace, and unclean (which would have banned him from the Temple altogether). His son, Jotham of Judah, took over as “co-regent”. Though his father was still seen as king to the end of his life, it was his son who really began to rule at that point onward. Uzziah’s pride got the best of him; however, he was still one of God’s chosen kings and one of God’s people. The proof of this would come approximately 738 years when, as Matthew records, Uzziah’s descendant was born. That descendant, of course, was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God.

Let us learn a lesson from King Uzziah. We, who are God’s people, find ourselves empowered by the Holy Spirit when we are open to the guidance and the presence of the LORD. With that said, when we allow our pride and/or our egos to take the place of God, we can find ourselves facing unintended consequences for our corrupted hearts and actions. Those consequences are brought on by ourselves; however, they do not remove us from the grace, the love, and the ultimate mercy of our Lord and Savior. Let us be a people who, rather than go down the hard road of unintended consequences, keep our egos in check and remain fully dependent on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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

PRAYER
Lord, humble me and fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I may grow in my dependence in you and rely on your guidance to lead me to where you are calling. Amen.

God’s People, part 77: Jehoshaphat

Read 2 Chronicles 18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Some time later King Jehoshaphat of Judah made an alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel, who was very wicked.” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:35‬ ‭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 77: Jehoshaphat. What a name, right? Jehoshaphat was the son fo King Asa. As we discussed the last devotion, Asa was a fairly righteous king; however, in the end he chose to make alliances to secure his own security and power, rather than relying and trusting God. He was scolded for that by his prophet, whom he had imprisoned and put in stocks. So, while he was certainly a decent king in comparison to the wicked kings, he was far from perfect.

The same could be said about Jehoshaphat, who became king when he was 35 years old and whose rule lasted for 25 years. Over all, as the Bible attests to, he “was a good king, following the ways of his father, Asa. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight.” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬). What’s more, the Chronicler says that, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father’s early years and did not worship the images of Baal.” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭17:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬‬‬

Unlike other kings in Judah, and certainly unlike the kings of Israel, Jehoshaphat distanced himself from “evil practices” and followed the commands of God. He destroyed shrines and altars to Baal and tore down Asherah poles. He sent priests with his officials on a tour of the kingdom of Judah, carrying with them the Torah, and they taught people the laws of the LORD. In doing so, Jehoshaphat brought people back to the God they were in covenant with, the God who saved them, through Moses, from slavery in Egypt.

Jehoshaphat was so respected, and his God was so respected, that no one dared to declare war on Jehoshaphat and his kingdom experienced prosperity and peace under his rule. In fact, the Philistines even brought the king gifts of silver as a tribute and the Arabs brought him 7,700 rams and 7,700 male goats as a gift. As the king grew more and more powerful, he fortified Judah and secured it with great storage of food and supplies.

With all of this said, Jehoshaphat was not perfect, and he did make mistakes. He, like all kings, as a politician and tried to be diplomatic where he could. This is not a bad thing per se, but it can lead to unhealthy compromise. He allied himself with King Ahab of Israel, even in arranging for his son to marry Ahab’s daughter. This alliance led him directly into a battle that was against what God wanted. The prophet Micaiah had prophesied and warned them from going; however, Ahab dismissed this and Jehoshaphat went along with Ahab. This almost cost him his life and Ahab did lose his life in the battle.

The Bible also says this of Jehoshaphat, “During his reign, however, he failed to remove all the pagan shrines, and the people never fully committed themselves to follow the God of their ancestors” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:33‬ ‭NLT‬). So, for all the good he did, some of his compromises ultimately countered any progress he made and set the Kingdom of Judah up to fall in the future.‬‬

There’s wisdom to be learned here. How many of us make seemingly small compromises in our faith and in our spiritual discipline that, overtime, add up to set us back BIG TIME. Or if those compromises don’t set us back, perhaps they have had lasting negative effects on our families. The challenge for us is to maintain our spiritual discipline, grow in our faith, and not compromise on what God is calling us to do. Healthy compromise is good; however, when it comes at the cost of our relationship with God, that is not healthy. The challenge for us is to remain faithful to God and to have the humility to return to God when we find we are not. By our own power, this is not possible…but in God, all things are possible.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”” — Jesus the Christ (Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

PRAYER

Lord, apart from you I am hopeless; however, in you, I am empowered and through you all things are possible. I put my trust and my faith unwaverinly in you. Amen.

God’s People, part 57: Amnon

Read 2 Samuel 13:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So at Absalom’s signal they murdered Amnon. Then the other sons of the king jumped on their mules and fled.” (2 Samuel 13:29 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.

Jan_Steen_001God’s People, part 57: Amnon. We have discussed, at length, the character and person of King David. Now it is time that we turn our attention to some of David’s more prominent children. I will not go into nearly as much depth with them as I have with others, nor will I be bringing up David’s sins (for the most part) as excuses for what his children did. No doubt, David’s sins played their part and I think that is clear enough that I do not need to reiterate that point over and over again. The first son we will will look at is Amnon.

We do not know too much about Amnon, but that he was the eldest son of David and Ahinoam (who was the woman David married after leaving his wife, Michal, behind while fleeing from King Saul). The reality is that David was polygamous and had many wives who, in turn, had many children. If you think sibling rivalries happen in the nuclear, monogamous family, you can only imagine how much more challenging the family dynamics are in polygamous families such as David’s.

All that Amnon is really known for is the terrible and horrifying sin he committed against his half-sister Tamar. Being David’s eldest son, Amnon was set to be the heir of his father’s throne. He had everything going for him and, I can imagine, felt a good sense of entilement given his status as heir to the throne.

Amnon, according to the Bible, was lusting after his half-sister Tamar. His desire for her grew into an obsession, and eventually he acted out on his lust. His friend helped him devise a plan to pretend he was ill and request that Tamar be the one to serve him food and care for him while he was sick. Once that request was granted, Amnon made his sexual advances toward her, which Tamar rebuffed.

Amnon would not be told no, as is the case with predators, and he raped his half-sister. Once he had his way with her, he sent her away from his room and refused to have any dealings with her, let alone any sort of relationship. This act of evil brought shame to the entire family and left Tamar completely scarred and broken. The Bible states that she never recovered from it and, seeing his sister completely destroyed in body and in spirit, Absalom sought out and enacted vengeance against Amnon. He waited two-years to complete the deed, but he eventually had Amnon put to death in order to avenge his sister.

This story is an extremely relevant one, as allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and rape are coming out of the woodwork against politicians, business people, clergy, church members, and Hollywood stars alike. Rape is nothing new; however, it is one of the most egregious and evil acts that one could ever commit against someone else. Rape has nothing to do with sex, nor does it have anything to do with hormones.

Rape has to do with power. Amnon did not rape Tamar because he had the hots for her (which would alone was sinful given that she was his half-sister); rather, he raped her because he could. Because he wanted her and she wasn’t going to tell him otherwise. With him, as with all rapists, it came down to power. He had it, she didn’t, and he was going to show her that she had no business telling him no.

What’s more, rape need not have to be committed sexually at all. We can rape people in more ways than just sexually. We can rape them emotionally, as well as spiritually. Rape is an act of dominance, of power, where we take what is not rightfully ours to take…because we can. Because we want it. Because we put ourselves over and above the other. How many of us have been guilty of this? How many of us have sought to exert our power over others in ways that are, in effect, raping them?

I know, I know. This is not a comfortable topic; however, with the amount of rape being had out there, it is a topic we ought to be reflecting on. We are called to love people, not manipulate them. We are called to honor and respect the divine dignity in all people, not rape them and rob them of it. Let us be a people who are challenged by what we see going on in the media and respond in a self-reflective and honest way, by repenting of our sinful and/or evil actions to our Lord Jesus Christ, and by allowing Christ to transform us into agents of the Kingdom of God and of reconciliation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“How can we excuse David from the sin of Eli; who honoured his sons more than God?” – Rev. John Wesley

PRAYER
Lord, turn me away from my selfish need for power and control. Steer me away from being a manipulator so that I may not walk the pathway of Amnon, but that of Jesus Christ. 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 34: Jephthah

Read Judges 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
But I say, do not make any vows! Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:34a, 37 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.

1909 Jephthahs DaughterPart 34: Jephthah. Daughter, O daughter, wherefore art thou daughter? I wonder if you have even heard the name Jephthah before. He was, believe it or not, one of the major judges who rose up to deliver Israel from her enemies. He was a judge for a period of six years and was a great, great warrior. Yet, like all of God’s people, Jephthah was far from perfect.

The Bible indicates that Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a prostitute, who lived in the land of Gilead. Given the nature of a prostitute’s job, this might mean that his father was not named Gilead, but was unknown. In other words, his father could have been any one of the men of Gilead consorting with a prostitute. So, the great and mighty warrior’s story starts off with the detail that he was an “illegitimate child”.

Yet, this child (as all children are) was created and loved by God, and he rose up to defend his people against the Ammonites. With that said, he was reluctant to at first, because of the way he had been treated by his own people, the Israelites. Since his birth was scandalous, he was shunned and driven out of Gilead by the residents there. He was told he would have no inheritance in his father’s house. Again, his father might have been named Gilead, or this might be symbolic of not being welcome in his home town due to the scandalous nature surrounding his mother.

When asked to defend Israel against Ammon, Jephthah refused to do so unless they made him a permanent ruler over all the Israelites. The people, desperate for his help, vowed an oath under God to make him the permanent ruler. So, Jephthah agreed to lead the Israelites against the Ammonites. Scripture tells us that he was filled with the Spirit of God; however, Jephthah wanted to ensure victory and, in doing so, made a tragic and fatal mistake. He vowed that if the Lord would give him victory, he would sacrifice the first thing that walked through the front door of his house.

What a silly, silly vow. Why would he vow such a thing? Didn’t Jephthah know that the first thing that would walk through his door was his one and only daughter? This is, yet again, another one of more vile texts we find in the Bible, for Jephthah does indeed hold true to his vow to God and sacrifices (aka murders) his daughter. He lets her wander the hillside with her friends for two months but, following that, he sacrifices her.

The Bible is not clear as to whether or not God wanted such a sacrifice, or whether God wanted Jephthah to carry that sacrifice through. All we have is the vow that he made and the action that he carried out. With that said, God’s silence does not mean that this is what God wanted, let alone what God demanded. The reality is that people do all sorts of evil and sick things, and God does not come down out of the heavens (as was the case with Abraham) to stop them from carrying it forward.

The point of this story is not to take it literally and get hooked on the gory and horrific details. The point of is to learn something about ourselves in it. Had Jephthah trusted that the Spirit of the LORD was with him, he would not have made such a rash, foolish and ultimately tragic vow. Had he merely trusted in God’s presence, he would have simply led his people out to victory and won. Instead, by trying to secure his victory through bartering with God, he put himself and his daughter in a situation that should have never existed.

I believe that Jephthah should have never carried that vow out to conclusion, just as he should have never made the vow to begin with; however, he did what he did and we’re left horrified by the whole scenario. Let this be a reminder to us that we need not barter with God, as if God can be bought by our silly vows and promises. All God asks of us is to seek to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the LORD, our God. The challenge for us is to be satisfied in our faith, to be satisfied with the assurance Scripture gives us of God’s presence in our lives, to be confident in the hope that GOD will not abandon us, and that salvation and deliverance will come. Why? Because God delivers and is faithful. Let us be faithful back to God and place our trust in the Holy Spirit within us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Those that vow the most are the least sincere.” – Richard Brinsely Sheridan
 PRAYER
Lord, your Holy Spirit is within. Give me the assurance to trust in your presence. Amen.