2 Samuel 17:15-29 (Part 2 of 3)
David Escapes Through the Wilderness

Have you ever told a lie that kept your sibling or your friend out of trouble? If you have been in a war, have you ever told a lie to an enemy just to save the lives of your fellow soldiers? Is it OK for a Christian to lie to save a life? Just think about those rare Christians in Germany during World War II that harbored Jewish families against Nazi law. Just think about having to lie to the German SS soldiers to ensure the safety of the Jewish family. Was that OK? Is it ever OK?

Man, that is a question that I have struggled with and why I did not publish a blog yesterday as I struggled with this question. Is it possible to be a person who fears the Lord, walks by faith and yet feels constrained in extreme, life-threatening situations to oppose evil by lying? There are several stories in the Bible where this is exactly what happened.

Let’s review a couple of cases:

In Exodus, Pharaoh decides to weaken the people of Israel by killing every newborn boy (Exodus 1:16, NRSV). But the midwives disobey and let the boys live. When the king of Egypt asks them why they’re doing this, they answer, “The Hebrew women … are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them” (Exodus 1:19).

Now, regardless of how vigorous the Hebrew women are, this statement is a lie. It is meant to lead Pharaoh to believe a falsehood—namely, that the midwives were doing their best to obey but just couldn’t get there in time. Does their dishonesty displease God? It doesn’t seem like it, according to the next verse: “God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.” They’re not rebuked; they’re blessed.

Another example is found in Joshua 2. Joshua sends two men to spy out Jericho, and the king of Jericho finds out. They go to Rahab, a prostitute, and she hides them. When the king’s messengers come looking for them, she says: “The men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them” (Joshua 2:4–5). The rest of the chapter tells how she believes in God and is delivered when Jericho is attacked. So the biblical interpretation of her action is that it was done from a heart of faith—even though she lied.

Is this situational ethics? Does the Bible, in effect, say that the absolute truths and commands are temporarily suspended when God’s people are in danger in the face of evil. That’s the $64,000 question. Let us consider this as we read about the unnamed man and woman that harbor the messengers that are on their way to David to advise him of Absalom’s military plans. Let’s read the passage now:

15 Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, what Ahithophel had said to Absalom and the elders of Israel and what he himself had advised instead. 16 “Quick!” he told them. “Find David and urge him not to stay at the shallows of the Jordan River[a] tonight. He must go across at once into the wilderness beyond. Otherwise he will die and his entire army with him.”

17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been staying at En-rogel so as not to be seen entering and leaving the city. Arrangements had been made for a servant girl to bring them the message they were to take to King David. 18 But a boy spotted them at En-rogel, and he told Absalom about it. So they quickly escaped to Bahurim, where a man hid them down inside a well in his courtyard. 19 The man’s wife put a cloth over the top of the well and scattered grain on it to dry in the sun; so no one suspected they were there.

20 When Absalom’s men arrived, they asked her, “Have you seen Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”

The woman replied, “They were here, but they crossed over the brook.” Absalom’s men looked for them without success and returned to Jerusalem.

21 Then the two men crawled out of the well and hurried on to King David. “Quick!” they told him, “cross the Jordan tonight!” And they told him how Ahithophel had advised that he be captured and killed. 22 So David and all the people with him went across the Jordan River during the night, and they were all on the other bank before dawn.

23 When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.

24 David soon arrived at Mahanaim. By now, Absalom had mobilized the entire army of Israel and was leading his troops across the Jordan River. 25 Absalom had appointed Amasa as commander of his army, replacing Joab, who had been commander under David. (Amasa was Joab’s cousin. His father was Jether,[b] an Ishmaelite.[c] His mother, Abigail daughter of Nahash, was the sister of Joab’s mother, Zeruiah.) 26 Absalom and the Israelite army set up camp in the land of Gilead.

27 When David arrived at Mahanaim, he was warmly greeted by Shobi son of Nahash, who came from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and by Makir son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and by Barzillai of Gilead from Rogelim. 28 They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, 29 honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him. For they said, “You must all be very hungry and tired and thirsty after your long march through the wilderness.”

In this passage, we see that the unnamed husband and wife who apparently lie to save the messengers. Without their deceit, the messengers most likely would have been discovered, detained and maybe even killed. If their message does not reach David, he and his soldiers quite possibly could have been overwhelmed by Absalom’s troops and David captured and killed. So, their deceit, aided the people of God in the face of evil. It all worked out well but the success of David’s military response hinged on getting the message in time. It hinged on the deceit of this unnamed husband and wife.

First, we must recognize that the Bible is about real people in real situations that actually occurred in real human history. It is not some fantasy. The Old Testament gives us the history of God’s people from the Creation all the way up til about 400 years before Christ’s birth. It is about real people. It is about sinful people. So, to say that these passages are condoning acts that God forbids elsewhere in the Bible is not God contradicting himself. His ways are higher than our ways. His truth is eternal and unchanging. What He says in one part of the Bible is not contradicted by publishing the acts of sinful man in the pages of the Bible. The sinful acts committed by the humans in the Bible, both the people of Israel and the nations that they interact with, are examples to us of just how sinful they were (so as to help us identify that we are the same as them – sinful people in the hands of a pure and just God). We often learn the best lessons in the Bible of what not to do by the character’s actions in the Bible. The Bible gives us a mirror to our own sinful state by the actions of the people in the Bible. So, having said that, the world since the Fall of Man in the Garden is just a bad, bad place and people do evil on purpose to gain advantage for themselves. In this passage, Absalom is trying to usurp the throne from David just because he is a spoiled brat of a man who is self-centered and self-serving. His evil sets all kinds of activity that is evil into action. In this maelstrom of evil activity, we find this, apparently, God-fearing husband and wife put into a situation by evil.

OK, the world is an evil place and has been since Adam and Eve. We get that. We, as Christians, buy off on that. It is that fact that we accept that we are born into sin ourselves and are evil at heart when we truly examine ourselves. It is the fact that the world is full of evil through us fallen creatures descended from Adam that demands that there be Jesus. Without Jesus and his covering of righteousness, our best behavior is but filthy rags before the just and righteous God. We commit sins daily and often times we do not even realize that we are committing them until the Holy Spirit brings it to our attention. Even after accepting Christ as our Savior, we are still sinful by nature. We still commit sins. It is only through a lifetime of interaction with the Holy Spirit in our souls that we begin to identify and turn away from our sins. We only become, however, fully sinless when we are perfected in Christ in heaven on that joyous day when we go home to heaven to meet Him. So to think that we are automatically perfect at salvation is a lie itself. We are a work in progress until the day we go home to heaven.

OK, the world is evil. We are evil by nature. Evil sometimes puts God’s people in bad situations. The Bible is confirmation of these exact facts. Then, let’s deal with it. Is it OK to lie when we are placed into situations where we or others may be harmed or killed?

I think that we will all be held accountable for each and every lie that we tell – even those that saved someone else from harm or death. That’s the only conclusion that you can come to by the weight of biblical evidence. We must account to the Lord for the lies that we have told, each and every one of them, the bold faced lies that gave us an advantage, the bold faced lies that preserved something for us, the white lies like “that dress does not make you look fat!”, and the lies that we have told even to help others survive in bad situations. They are all lies no matter the intent. There is no gradation of sin. Sin is sin.

Sure, because of the evil world in which we live, we are just plain out walking through a mine field as Christians. The world is full of lies. The troubles that we see around us are the culmination of the sins of man throughout the centuries culmulatively piled on top of each other. The weight of sin of man makes the earth itself groan. In that world, we live. However, that does not give us license to lie with impunity and think that it’s OK as Christians.

In these hard borderline cases of life and death, we would like to say yes it is OK to life in God’s grand plan of redemption for mankind. In these borderline cases of life and death, we would like to say it is OK to suspend God’s otherwise eternally applicable laws of the universe. However, that is and just cannot be the case if God’s Word means anything at all.

Thus, I think the true test of a Christ follower is in these extreme borderline cases where lives are at stake or the victory of evil over good all hinges on us telling a lie to save people. We must look at the heart. In these extreme cases, we may lie to save a life because we have a love of God’s people and of God’s victory over evil. However, what should happen in our heart is that we have the greatest moral dilemma of our lives. It should trouble us that we are going to have to tell a lie – even to save lives. Further, after we have lied, we should feel remorse. We should feel horrible rather than happy. We should feel like that we have violated God’s law (because we have). We should see that lie (even though it was for good reason) is a permanent stain on our soul for which we cannot recover and for which we will stand condemned on our own merits before the Lord. That’s what we through ourselves at the feet of Jesus and BEG for forgiveness for having violated God’s standards of holiness. That lie by itself just that one disqualifies us from standing in the presence of God in heaven. That is where our heart matters. We know this when we are telling the lie to save lives. We are heartbroken over it – for being forced into that situation by an evil world. We are distraught. We are to bow before God to ask forgiveness. Jesus will examine our heart and provide us the forgiveness that we need and desire.

We as Christ followers are not to abuse the grace of Jesus Christ. We should be mortified in and of ourselves when we have to lie – even to save a life or many lives. We should not say it’s OK to lie and do it repeatedly because of the grace of Jesus Christ is out there for us. No, we should hate the sins we commit and be revolted by them – even when there are situations where our lies save lives. It should be the greatest moral dilemma of our lives. We should pray before doing so. We should be revolted by having to do so. And then we must throw ourselves at the Lord’s feet seeking humbly the forgiveness that we desire. God will see our heart.

Amen and Amen.

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2 Samuel 17:15-29 (Part 1 of 3)
David Escapes Through the Wilderness

This passage at a surface level reading is simply historical and genealogical and seemingly does not provide you with some great nugget from God that you can apply to your life. However, when you really think through this passage to see what’s there. There are several things that I have picked out that are worthy of a blog. There are three things that I picked out of this passage that are worthy of discussion. First, there is the fact that there are several people in this passage, mentioned nowhere that I can think of in the Bible, that helped David in his time of need. These are some of the unsung heroes of the Bible. Second, one of these unsung heroes must deceive Absalom’s soldiers so as to protect David’s messengers. That raises the question in my mind of “is it OK for God’s people to deceive when faced with evil?” or, maybe the question is better put as “Is it OK for God’s people to lie to save a life?” Finally, there is Ahithophel. He commits suicide after having put his affairs in order. What does all that mean? These last two questions deal with some pretty heavy ethical issues and we will save those for the next two blogs.

For today, though, let us look at the unsung heroes in this story. There is an unnamed man and an unnamed woman in this story that hid the messengers to David. And then at the end of the passage, there are three men who showed David hospitality. There is Shobi, Makir and Barzillai. These five people, two of which are unnamed, are nowhere else mentioned in the Bible. They are background characters. However, without them, Absalom’s soldiers would have captured David’s messengers. David would have stayed near the Jordan River without crossing it. As a result, Absalom with the might of the entire Israelite army would have easily defeated David’s small brigade of warriors. However, by God’s providence, the unnamed husband and wife hide the messengers, David and his entourage cross the Jordan, and make it to the village where Shobi, Makir and Barzillai live. There, they are given food and supplies and rest. With the kindness shown by Shobi, Makir and Barzillai, David and his men found support and confidence that their fight was worth fighting. Not only were their supplies replenish, their bodies refreshed through food and peaceful sleep, their souls were uplifted by finding the kindness they found. This kindness made them realize that there was still support for King David in Israel, not all had been deceived by Absalom’s good looks and charm, and that hope was not lost. They were able to fight on because of this moment of kindness when they were in great need. This fact was not lost on the author of 2 Samuel. These background players in this grander play of David’s life receive special mention. They were crucial in the sense that they aided David in a critical time in his life.

That is the thing I thought about today. I thought about how these people, especially the two unnamed individuals showed kindness to David and his people when they needed it the most. It reminds me of the ministries at my church that report to me – collectively known as Guest Services. Let’s read the passage now and think about these background players and how it relates to modern day service to our churches. Let’s read the passage now:

15 Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, what Ahithophel had said to Absalom and the elders of Israel and what he himself had advised instead. 16 “Quick!” he told them. “Find David and urge him not to stay at the shallows of the Jordan River[a] tonight. He must go across at once into the wilderness beyond. Otherwise he will die and his entire army with him.”

17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been staying at En-rogel so as not to be seen entering and leaving the city. Arrangements had been made for a servant girl to bring them the message they were to take to King David. 18 But a boy spotted them at En-rogel, and he told Absalom about it. So they quickly escaped to Bahurim, where a man hid them down inside a well in his courtyard. 19 The man’s wife put a cloth over the top of the well and scattered grain on it to dry in the sun; so no one suspected they were there.

20 When Absalom’s men arrived, they asked her, “Have you seen Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”

The woman replied, “They were here, but they crossed over the brook.” Absalom’s men looked for them without success and returned to Jerusalem.

21 Then the two men crawled out of the well and hurried on to King David. “Quick!” they told him, “cross the Jordan tonight!” And they told him how Ahithophel had advised that he be captured and killed. 22 So David and all the people with him went across the Jordan River during the night, and they were all on the other bank before dawn.

23 When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.

24 David soon arrived at Mahanaim. By now, Absalom had mobilized the entire army of Israel and was leading his troops across the Jordan River. 25 Absalom had appointed Amasa as commander of his army, replacing Joab, who had been commander under David. (Amasa was Joab’s cousin. His father was Jether,[b] an Ishmaelite.[c] His mother, Abigail daughter of Nahash, was the sister of Joab’s mother, Zeruiah.) 26 Absalom and the Israelite army set up camp in the land of Gilead.

27 When David arrived at Mahanaim, he was warmly greeted by Shobi son of Nahash, who came from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and by Makir son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and by Barzillai of Gilead from Rogelim. 28 They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, 29 honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him. For they said, “You must all be very hungry and tired and thirsty after your long march through the wilderness.”

In this passage, we see these unnamed and minor characters in the grand play that is David’s life in the Old Testament give aid to David in multiple ways. I am sure that the three men that were named were not thinking at the time that they would get their names in the Bible. I am sure that the unnamed husband and wife did not think at the time they were helping the managers as to whether they were going to get a mention in the Old Testament. They gave of themselves because they saw it as a way to honor the God they believed in. They saw people in need and they helped. They did this to honor God by keeping his commands to assist those in need.

In our guest services ministries at Calvary Church, we have several teams. There is the usher team. There is the greeters team. There is the security team. There is the parking team. There is the medical team. There is the offering collections team. There is the connections center team. These are the background teams of the church on Sunday morning. They do not get the limelight of the senior pastor who is the most recognizable face at our church and rightfully so – he is the senior shepherd of our church who is gifted pastor and preacher. They do not get the limelight of our worship pastor and his team. Our worship pastor is such a perceptive and gifted musician and worship leader. He just seems to know when to extend songs, when to move to voices only, when to slow a song down and when to speed it up. He is the second most recognizable face in our church. His team, too, is recognizable as they are the stage musicians, lead singers and backup singers. They do not get the limelight of the family pastor who leads the family ministries from babies to children up to the high school/college age crowd. He is talented with ways to reach children and youth with the gospel message with innovative ways tailored to the “born with a phone in their hand” generations. His team of volunteers are known throughout the families of our church because they interact with the children of the adults of our church.

The guest services teams are less in the limelight than any of these teams. They are the people that hold the door open for you when you come to the church and tell you hello. They are the people that take up the collection and ensure its security each Sunday. They are the ones who manage the connection center and help people find out more about our church. They are the ones who provide a safe and secure environment for you and your kids as you worship on Sunday – the ones that protect us and hope we never have to rely on their skills in an emergency situation. They are the ones that deal with medical issues when and if they arise. They are the unsung heroes of Sunday morning. They do not serve because they want people to remember their name or whether they are seen doing what they do. They do what they do because they love the Lord and love our church. They don’t care if they get a mention on Sunday mornings from the stage. They simply want to make sure those who worship with us on Sunday – members and guests alike – have the most uplifting experience possible. I love these guys and gals. I am their biggest fan. They are the people who do the necessary nuts and bolts work of a Sunday morning service. They are true servants for they simply serve – to serve the Lord.

It is gratifying to see people doing God’s work because they have a servant’s heart. It is gratifying to see people love on the people that come through our doors because that’s just what Christians do. It is part of our DNA, or it should be, to love people to life even when we are not going to get a headline for it. We are to give to the Lord of our time, talent, and resources not because it gives us a checkbox to check. We serve because we are so grateful for what God has done in our lives through our salvation and sanctification that we cannot help but serve Him in whatever way possible. We give of ourselves humbly in service to the Lord without expectation of notoriety because we see it as an act of thanksgiving to a merciful God. That is why we serve – whether it be on stage, or in the kids or youth ministries and in the unsung ministries such as guest services – to go humbly before the Lord and thank Him for what He has done for us by our service to others. We can’t help it. We just thank the Lord for saving us so we serve Him no matter if it gets us a mention in the Bible or not. We just love the Lord so we serve.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 16:15-17:14
Ahithaphel & Hushai Advise Absalom

Sometimes, when we have to make a decision, we may get differing advice from people that we trust and we may even get differing advice from the same person at different times. Sometimes, no matter what you do there will be someone who offers opposite alternatives no matter what you bring forward. This is so often true not just in leadership but also just in our personal lives. How do you know what advice to follow?

As a leader or when making decisions in our personal lives, it can be difficult to determine what is the best thing to do. It can be maddening at times because every suggestion for what to do has its drawbacks as well as its positives. As a leader or just personally, you want to make decisions that provides no downside. We want to make decisions where everyone is on board and where there are no negative impacts. However, that is often impossible. In fact, it is often rare that leadership or personal decisions have no downside. Virtually every decision we make will leave someone angry or disappointed. Many times we can become paralyzed by the fear of disappointing others. Making decisions requires choices and someone is going to lose on most decisions we make. Often, we get paralyzed by the choice between advice alternatives.

Advice can be conflicting at times, too, even from the same person. What if someone gives you advice one way one day and then seemingly opposite advice a couple of hours, days, or weeks later? That can be as paralyzing as receiving conflicting advise before you take any action. Such situations can make you start second-guessing yourself and keep you from moving forward with you plans. Then, to boot, there are people who will inevitably say B anytime you say A. You know the type. They always hear what you have to say and then list every reason why want you have decided to do, won’t work. We see this in American politics right now more so than at any other time in history. We all have had experiences with our magnetic polar opposite whether it be in your personal life or your professional life. It can be paralyzing to the point that you are scared to put an idea forward for fear of your magnetic polar opposite.

It can all be mindboggling as a leader or just as a person trying to make the right choice in your personal life. What to do? When to do it? Minimizing discord over your decision. Realizing that someone is not going to be happy with any decision you make. The second-guessing by yourself and others. Advice! Whose to take? What are going to do? We all face this dilemma in life in some shape or form. It is easy to give advice but it harder to actually be the one making a decision.

That idea, that struggle is what I thought of today as I read through 2 Samuel 16:15-17:14 – how we have make decisions sometimes with conflicting sets of advice and how we resolve that in our minds. That idea is a valid struggle for us all at the very least in our personal lives but it is also something that leaders have to deal with when it comes decision-making in organizations. In our personal lives, if we cannot learn to navigate this issue, we can have a rough personal life. In our leadership lives, if we cannot learn to navigate this issue well, we will be hampered in our quest to be a good leader. Let’s read the passage, now, and see how Absalom handled the conflicting sets of advice that he received:

15 Meanwhile, Absalom and all the army of Israel arrived at Jerusalem, accompanied by Ahithophel. 16 When David’s friend Hushai the Arkite arrived, he went immediately to see Absalom. “Long live the king!” he exclaimed. “Long live the king!”

17 “Is this the way you treat your friend David?” Absalom asked him. “Why aren’t you with him?”

18 “I’m here because I belong to the man who is chosen by the Lord and by all the men of Israel,” Hushai replied. 19 “And anyway, why shouldn’t I serve you? Just as I was your father’s adviser, now I will be your adviser!”

20 Then Absalom turned to Ahithophel and asked him, “What should I do next?”

21 Ahithophel told him, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, for he has left them here to look after the palace. Then all Israel will know that you have insulted your father beyond hope of reconciliation, and they will throw their support to you.” 22 So they set up a tent on the palace roof where everyone could see it, and Absalom went in and had sex with his father’s concubines.

23 Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice, just as David had done. For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.

Chapter 17
1 Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. 2 I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek.[a] Then you will be at peace with all the people.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
Hushai Counters Ahithophel’s Advice

5 But then Absalom said, “Bring in Hushai the Arkite. Let’s see what he thinks about this.” 6 When Hushai arrived, Absalom told him what Ahithophel had said. Then he asked, “What is your opinion? Should we follow Ahithophel’s advice? If not, what do you suggest?”

7 “Well,” Hushai replied to Absalom, “this time Ahithophel has made a mistake. 8 You know your father and his men; they are mighty warriors. Right now they are as enraged as a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs. And remember that your father is an experienced man of war. He won’t be spending the night among the troops. 9 He has probably already hidden in some pit or cave. And when he comes out and attacks and a few of your men fall, there will be panic among your troops, and the word will spread that Absalom’s men are being slaughtered. 10 Then even the bravest soldiers, though they have the heart of a lion, will be paralyzed with fear. For all Israel knows what a mighty warrior your father is and how courageous his men are.

11 “I recommend that you mobilize the entire army of Israel, bringing them from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south. That way you will have an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. And I advise that you personally lead the troops. 12 When we find David, we’ll fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. Then neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 And if David were to escape into some town, you will have all Israel there at your command. Then we can take ropes and drag the walls of the town into the nearest valley until every stone is torn down.”

14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “Hushai’s advice is better than Ahithophel’s.” For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom!

In this passage, we see that Ahithophel was an advisor to Absalom. Most rulers had advisers to help make decisions about government affairs and political matters. But God made Ahithophel’s advice seem foolish, just as David had prayed in 2 Samuel 15:31. Hushai appealed to Absalom through flattery and Absalom’s vanity became his own trap. Hushai predicted great glory for Absalom if he personally led the entire army against David. When we are taking advise from others, we will often get conflicting advice and that’s the tough part – which advice do I follow?

How do we reconcile conflicting advice? Well, there is no reference here as to Absalom going to the Lord in prayer over this conflicting advice. All we see is him making the choice that was potentially going to give himself the greater glory. That seems to be the lesson of this passage. Absalom was doomed to failure because of his vanity. His vanity was his weakness. This Hushai knew. He knew that he could divert Absalom away from the best advice (the advice given him by Ahithophel). Hushai knew if he got Absalom to think about what would give him more fame and notoriety, that Absalom would be like a fish going after a baited hook. Absalom did not have the faith of his father. Absalom had life handed to him on a silver platter and he was so good looking that he pretty much always got whatever he wanted. He was prideful and self-centered. He was jealous of his father’s fame and wanted to be more famous than his father without paying the years of sacrifice and hard work that had marked David’s ascendancy to the throne. So, the advice that gave him the potential for the greatest glory was the candy in the candy store window for him. No mention here of prayer. No mention of spending time alone with the Lord.

That’s the thing that we must do when we are presented conflicting advice for our personal lives or in any role of leadership – seek the Lord. We must study Scripture and compare the spirit of what we have read on the subject in Scripture to what advice we have been given. We must then pray for the Lord to enlighten us as to what to do. Any decision we make no matter how large or how small should be bathed in Bible study and prayer. Sure, there are decisions where we must make snap judgments about the advice we have received, but if we study Scripture enough and pray enough on a regular basis that we should begin to know God’s heart. We should begin to know what is consistent with God’s character and what is not. But no decision has to be made so quickly that a quick prayer for Holy Spirit guidance cannot be offered up.

Absalom’s decision here, as we shall see in the coming chapters of 2 Samuel, will lead to his demise. He followed the wrong advice because he was a prideful man who was not in relationship with God. Absalom shows us what not to do. People will give us advice that’s all over the board. Some advice is contrasting. Some advice contradicts. Some advice serves the advice giver’s interests more than yours. Some advice given is not well thought out. How do we make sense of it all? Seek the Lord.

Proverbs 3:6 (NLT) gives us the best advice on advice…”Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 16:5-14
Shimei Curses David

This passage today so easily could be transported today’s world. This problem is not limited to ancient Israel some 3,000 years ago. It is oh so timely. Today, our nation is Shimei and David. Since the elections of Obama and Trump, I have never seen our country so polarized. And, particularly, since Trump was elected and the fact that social media has become so firmly entrenched as part of our lives, we have seen this polarization reach new heights. Lack of journalistic integrity has come to be part of the American landscape.

There was once a time in our land that journalism was a science as well as an art. The news media had standards of proof that were self-imposed. Every claim made in an article in a newspaper or an investigative piece on television had to be corroborated. When we watch the movie, All The President’s Men, or even deeper, read the book by the same name, we see how difficult it was for Woodward and Bernstein to investigate and publish articles about what became “the Watergate scandal”. Sources making claims had to be corroborated from multiple sources before anything got published. It was the standard of journalism. Verify. Verify and then verify again. It was similar to what police detectives must do in their significant capital cases. They must investigate, verify, follow leads, and get to the truth. Accusations must be verified and verified again.

Today, we have social media posts where people of certain positions vilify their opposition with facts presented that are often not corroborated or only present a portion of the information. Political spin is the name of the game today. My version of the truth is what matters. The ends justify the means is what matters. Truth is no longer an absolute. Good news articles in years past would present all points of view on a subject and allow the reader to make their own judgments. Even if the journalist was pro one way or the other, they were required to present all views on a subject as simply the understood part of journalistic standards of behavior. With social media, it is only required that you have an opinion and good photoshop skills. And it is not just those who create social media viral feeds but it is us as consumers of social media that are to blame as well. We see and believe what we see on social media far too easily. We see what supports our opinion and take it as gospel. We see what is in opposition to our opinion and call it fake news.

We were once a nation where compromise was part of the political landscape. The very foundation of our country was a compromise. Just look at how our legislative body in was constructed. There were those states that were already becoming more populous than others so there was fear by the smaller (typically Southern) states that the larger states would impose their will upon the smaller states with impunity. Thus, the equal bodies of the Senate (with two representatives from each state regardless of size) and the House of Representatives (with the size of each state’s delegation dependent upon the population of each state). It was a compromise to ensure that the smaller populated states did not get trampled upon. Throughout American history, landmark legislation was often made through compromises among competing interests of the representatives and senators. Our nation became a great power through compromise – people getting some of what they want but not all, assigning priorities for the nation as to the order of things that were to be accomplished through the competition of needs in Congress, and so on. Although people back then were as passionate about their positions as people are today, they respected results as part of the American system.

The cries of “Not My President” that we hear today are simply not of the American spirit of compromise. We have become a nation that wants to quit the game if we do not get our way. Politics has become gridlocked because we cannot any longer fathom that someone can have a different opinion from us. We would rather shut the government down to prove a point that reach an understanding with our enemies. We think our truth is the only truth. It is a product of the culture in which we live today. Because we live in a relativistic society, truth is no longer absolute. My truth is my truth and I have a right to believe it. Conservatives and liberals vilify each other as being Satan’s children because we no longer see truth as absolute. We can only see the rightness of our position and do whatever it takes to support that position. Even if supporting that position includes creating news stories based on half-truths and distorted factual evidence. Truth is relative to my own needs. My truth is my truth and your truth is your truth. Truth is a possession of individuals now rather than something that is independent of us and owned by God. Rather than pray for our enemies, we would rather see them as completely out of touch with reality – my reality.

Responding to social media posts based on half-truth and distorted factual evidence is a losing game. We have become so relativistic in today’s world that we can no longer see another person’s point of view. Thus, social media arguments about the truth of a situation can go on ad nauseum because admitting that “hey you may have a point there” is no longer a value. Thus, descending into the fray of social media misinformation is a fruitless endeavor even though it may make your blood boil by what you see and read.

That is what I thought about this morning as I read through this passage, 2 Samuel 16:5-14. How this Shimei dude is like the world in which we live today. He was firmly convinced that what he was saying was true without even knowing the real facts nor caring what the real facts were. He simply did not like David because he was not Saul. So, in that way, he is very modern. He could fit right into our world today. Let’s read the passage now:

5 As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. 6 He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. 7 “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. 8 “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”

9 “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!”

10 “No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”

11 Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul[a] have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. 12 And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged[b] and will bless me because of these curses today.” 13 So David and his men continued down the road, and Shimei kept pace with them on a nearby hillside, cursing and throwing stones and dirt at David.

14 The king and all who were with him grew weary along the way, so they rested when they reached the Jordan River.[c]

In this passage, we see that Shimei kept up a steady tirade against David. Although his curses were unjustified because David had no part in Saul’s death, David and his followers tolerated the abuse. Maintaining composure in the face of unjustified criticism can be a trying experience and an emotional drain. However, if you can’t stop criticism, it best just to ignore it. Remember that God knows what you are enduring and He will vindicate you, if you are right.

What we need to be doing today is praying for our enemies and praying for the resurrection of absolute truth. We must pray that people will learn to admit when they are wrong. We must pray that we can admit when we are wrong. We must pray that we do not endanger the gospel message by descending into pointless arguments that cannot be won. We must pray that we discern what are the hills to die on. We must pray to have discernment as to whether it is personal pride that is offended or the gospel message that is offended before we respond to things. We must respond in ways that leave us opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus to others. Help us oh Lord, to pray en masse for the end of moral relativism and the return of our nation to a godly pursuit of God’s absolute truths and moral absolutes. Help us oh Lord to become a less polarized nation by dropping our dogged senses of pride. May we see truth as your ownership and that truth is independent of each of us and not something that WE own. Help us oh Lord to remember that we are here to please you and not honor ourselves and denigrate others. We are all here to give you glory and not ourselves.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 16:1-4
David and Ziba

This passage is one of those you just want to shake David and say “Yo! Dude! Wake up! Why can’t you see that this dude is lying to you to get what he wants!” But David just accepts what he has to say and promises him the moon and stars, so to speak. David does not even think of the fact that Mephibosheth was most likely the most loyal person to David ever. It was customary that when a ruler was defeated that his family would be killed as well so that there would be no lineage of that ruler left to reclaim the throne. However, we find in 2 Samuel 4 that Mephibosheth survives.

Mephibosheth had grown and had a son of his own when King David inquired of his whereabouts. King David and Jonathan had been very close friends and became as brothers. Because of their relationship and an oath David made to Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:15-16, 42), he wanted to honor it by finding and caring for Mephibosheth.One of Saul’s servants was questioned and told King David of the young man’s location. Mephibosheth was summoned to appear before the King. Though afraid, Mephibosheth came not knowing if he would be killed or what might happen to him. He was a cripple, had lost his heritage, and lived in a desolate place named Lo Debar. Translated, the name literally means “land of nothing”. Mephibosheth had been reduced to having nothing.

2 Samuel 9 describes the meeting of Mephibosheth and King David. The young man humbly bowed and David told him to not be afraid. “I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul and you will always eat at my table” (2 Samuel 9:7). Mephibosheth bowed and asked why David would “notice a dead dog like me?” in verse 8. Mephibosheth was made the promise that he would be honored with restoration of profits from his grandfather’s wealth and would always eat at the King’s table. This was despite Mephibosheth’s low self-worth, physical handicap, and shame brought to him by his grandfather’s sins, defeat and resulting suicide.

David had shown him great kindness (because of no other reason than he was Jonathan’s son) to take him into the royal household after Mephibosheth’s dad and grandpa died in battle. Being a crippled person in ancient Middle Eastern culture would have meant that, without family, he would have had to resort to begging on street corners and at the entrances to public gathering places such as government buildings, etc. His existence would have been miserable. But by the grace of David wishing to honor the memory of his best friend, Jonathan, Mephibosheth was given a place of honor within David’s palace. He was taken care of and treated with the utmost respect. His life turned out to be far better than it could have been had David not taken him in. You don’t think that Mephibosheth was eternally loyal to David as a result?

So, it simply boggles the mind that David did not ask any questions in this situation. It is probably pretty certain that Mephibosheth over the demonstrated his loyalty to David over the years. But here, David was just so easy to believe what Ziba was saying about Mephibosheth.

That then is the thing that has troubled me since yesterday morning when I first read this passage. What is it that God is trying to teach us in this passage? There is no wasted passage in the Bible. Each passage has something to teach us when we really study a passage. Sometimes, at a surface level reading, we may think of certain passages as throw-away. You know like filler in between important sequences. Like a commercial in strategically placed places in the flow of a movie on television. Strategically placed commercials in a movie give you a break between the heavy action or heavy issue parts of movie where you can catch your breath. It can even be a bathroom break. When we read the Bible at just a surface level some passages just seem like that – you know when you can say I read the Bible in 90 days or something where you speed through it but not really understand or delve into what you are reading. Not that there is anything wrong with a 90 day crash course in reading the Bible from beginning to end (often we need to do that just as a discipline development technique). At a surface level, this seems like a commercial break between the intense passages of 2 Samuel. But when you want to read deep in a passage, this passage kind of stumps you. What is that nugget that God wants us to see? What is that universal truth that God pours out in this passage to help us become more Christ-like.

So, let’s read this passage together and try to figure out what is that single truth that comes out of this passage that God wants us to learn:

Chapter 16
1 When David had gone a little beyond the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth,[a] was waiting there for him. He had two donkeys loaded with 200 loaves of bread, 100 clusters of raisins, 100 bunches of summer fruit, and a wineskin full of wine.

2 “What are these for?” the king asked Ziba.

Ziba replied, “The donkeys are for the king’s people to ride on, and the bread and summer fruit are for the young men to eat. The wine is for those who become exhausted in the wilderness.”

3 “And where is Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson?” the king asked him.

“He stayed in Jerusalem,” Ziba replied. “He said, ‘Today I will get back the kingdom of my grandfather Saul.’”

4 “In that case,” the king told Ziba, “I give you everything Mephibosheth owns.”

“I bow before you,” Ziba replied. “May I always be pleasing to you, my lord the king.”

In this passage, we have to remember who Mephibosheth was. Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of King Saul and a special friend of King David. When Mephibosheth was five years old, his father Jonathan was killed in battle. Fearing that the Philistines would seek to take the life of the young boy, a nurse fled with him to Gibeah, the royal residence, but in her haste she dropped him and both of his feet were crippled (2 Samuel 4:4). He was carried to the land of Gilead, where he found refuge in the house of Machir, son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.

Some years later, when King David had conquered all of Israel’s enemies, he remembered the family of his friend Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:1), and, wishing to display his loving loyalty to Jonathan by ministering to his family, David found out that Mephibosheth was residing in the house of Machir. So he sent royal messengers there, and brought Mephibosheth and his infant son Micah to Jerusalem, where they resided from that point on (2 Samuel 9).

Later, when David invited the Mephibosheth to be part of his court, he entrusted the family property to a steward, Ziba. In this situation, it is more than likely than Ziba was lying in hopes of receiving a reward from David. What blows our mind here is that David believed Ziba’s charge against Mephibosheth without checking into the story or even being skeptical. Once again from David, we learn a lesson in what NOT to do. We cannot be hasty to accept someone’s condemnation of another, especially when the accuser may profit from the other’s downfall. David should have been skeptical of Ziba’s comments (especially knowing the relationship he had with Jonathan’s son and checked the story for himself before he made a snap judgment.

So, I think the issue boils down to one word – discernment. Ziba is doing and saying all the right things here. He is making himself available to the king – bring him transportation, food, etc. In this passage he is making himself look awesomely before the king. However, he is doing it at the expense of others, particularly someone he works closely with and serves – Mephibosheth. We all know or have known someone like this that we have worked with whether it be in volunteer situations or in your office or factory where you work for compensation. There is always that one person that is the slick talking politician type. The one who does whatever it takes to gain the confidence of the boss, CEO, or whatever the head of the organization or department is called. They say all the right things. They are usually very quick thinkers and convert thoughts to speech quickly. They are the ones that will subtly subdue others with their words and slick speech to the point that you admire them. We all know the type. The kind of person that would throw you under the bus and have very beautiful flowery language that almost sounds spiritual as to the justifications for their actions. Discernment is called for with such types of people.

That’s where David fails here. He does utilize discernment and he ends up putting himself in a bad situation. Ultimately, he must fulfill a promise that he should have never made. He should have remembered the loyalty of Mephibosheth and how it did not square with what Ziba was saying. When we hear something about a friend, a co-worker, another volunteer, another church member, another anyone that does not square with what we know about that person, then, we have a duty not to automatically accept the negative words of another person. We must say stop right there. We must say I need to check this out with the person you are talking about. If it is true, I will believe what you are saying. However, right now, I just cannot square what you are saying with what I know about that person. Man, would that stop some gossip in this world! Man, would that stop some organizational politicking in this world!

Discernment is a gift from God. It allows us to see things as they really are rather than what others may want to paint them as being. God is a God of order and unity so we must use the discernment He gives us that bring about discord and disorder. Discernment helps us question things when they are inconsistent with what we know to be true. Discernment helps us apply God’s Word to everyday situations. Discernment helps us to pray to God to reveal the truth to us in controversial situations. Discernment helps us not to jump of the slick politician type’s bandwagon to quickly so as to allow true colors to be revealed. Discernment helps us to remember that we are not here to please people but rather to please God. Discernment helps us to keep the truths of God in the center of everything we do. Discernment helps us to divide popularity seeking from true loyalty. Discernment helps us divide truth from error.

Discernment is a gift from God that David does not seem to have anymore. The whole Bathsheba/Uriah incident seems to have so occupied his mind, heart and soul that he can’t even think straight anymore. When you take David’s life as a whole, he lasting memory is that he was a wise king and a great king but wow in this sequence of his life, his sins have him so wracked with guilt that he just does not display the normal qualities of the godly man that he is. He could have used some discernment before the whole Bathsheba/Uriah incident and maybe he would not be in the position that he is in right now – fleeing from Jerusalem and believing the worst about a dear friend.

Discernment. So that’s the thing we learn from this transitional passage between two heavy hitting sequences of David’s life. Discernment. And you know it leads us to the point that discernment comes from prayer. Discernment comes from God just as wisdom does. Thus, we must ask God to grant it to us through constant prayer. God’s Word provides this gift as well. Watching the completely flawed individuals here in the Bible teaches us about what to do and what not to do. Discernment comes from God. Let us pray for it and cultivate through constant study of God’s Word.
Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 3 of 3)
David Escapes from Jerusalem

As I stated a couple of blogs ago, this series of chapters we are in right now about David and his unruly children could easily be formed into a sermon series about being a father. David shows us in this sequence of chapters, often, what not to do as a dad. Today, we return to that theme of fatherhood. However, this time teaches us, as dads, a valuable lesson of the fact that sometimes we must simply get out of the way and let life teach our children the lessons they need to learn.

With my youngest child, she is now almost 28 years old, I have spent the last few years doing just that – allowing life to teach her the lessons she needs to learn. Often, life lessons learned on our own can teach us so much more than our dads ever could. As I have stated before here, my youngest child never really knew what life was like in a normal household. From the time she was about 2 years old, marital strife was the home that she knew. By the time she was that age, her parents’ marriage (in which God was not the center of it due to our not being Christ followers) was winding its way to its ugly end. Then, after the divorce and my remarriage, I failed her miserably as a dad during the 9 years of my second marriage. Then, while I was single those six years before I married my wonderful and final wife, Elena, I spoiled my youngest girl rotten. Anything she wanted she got. Any immature behaviors were never dealt with. I spoiled her, I admit it, to the point she did not mature as she should have. She was so spoiled that she did not get her first job until she was almost 20 years old. I would bail her out financially at every turn such that she had no incentive to really make something of herself. Her behavior was that of entitlement and expectation that things would be handed to her.

Finally, a few years ago when she was in her mid-twenties, I finally had to say enough is enough after one final act of kindness. We gave her Elena’s car and said this is it. You are on your own now. No more financial assistance. You’ve got to do this yourself. Since that time, she really has not had that much to do with me except when she emerges from her “radio silence” and acts as though she wants to restore our relationship but really she is simply looking for another handout. I have had to show her tough love these last few years. It has pained me terribly. I miss the closeness we once had where she and her crew that she hung around with as teenagers thought I was “the cool dad.” But now, she hardly speaks to me. The last time that I talked to her was probably six months ago in a text exchange by phone. The last time that I talked to verbally was by phone was almost a year ago. The last time that I saw her in person was maybe over a year ago. I hate it. I mean, it is not like I am so angry at her that I do not want to speak to her. I love her so much. But it is by her choice that she does not want to have a real relationship with me anymore. If she showed up here in Illinois at my house right now, I would wrap my arms around her and hold her and cry tears of joy.

However, she did not even come to say goodbye to me the day Elena and left the Upstate of South Carolina to move to northwest Illinois. She has effectively cut me out of her life because I cut her off financially. However, that is how being a dad is sometimes. You have to do things that are going to make your kids hate you at the moment and just let life play out in their lives. It’s not because you hate them. It’s because you love them. Some kids, like my oldest child, who want to become independent and self-sufficient and they will do it. Those kids you can give advice and they will heed it. However, some kids, you just have to let life teach them their lessons that they need to learn. With this type of child, you just sometimes have to quit protecting them and let life happen to them. They may get angry at you for taking the safety net away but you are doing them no maturity favors by keeping the safety net there. You have to take it away, let life happen to them, and just know that you love them regardless of whether they believe that fact or not. That is where I am at with my youngest.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37 – that idea that sometimes, as a parent, you just have to step out of the way and let life happen to your kids. Let’s read the passage now:

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”

16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.[a]

19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.[b]”

21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”

22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.

23 Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.

24 Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices[c] until everyone had passed out of the city.

25 Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle[d] again. 26 But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”

27 The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look,[e] here is my plan. You and Abiathar[f] should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River[g] and wait there for a report from you.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.

30 David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 31 When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”

32 When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. 33 But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. 34 Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, 36 and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.

In this passage, we see that David, knowingly or not, teaches us another lesson in parenting. Here, we see him just get out of the way and begin to let circumstances play themselves out for Absalom. He could have rushed forward with his army and attacked Absalom by surprise and maybe even captured him before he tried to seize the capitol city. He maybe could have saved face for himself and even Absalom. He could have approached this situation by clandestinely meeting with Absalom and pulled the father/king card in a face to face meeting. However, he chose to step aside and let circumstances begin to play out. Eventually, in the coming passages, Absalom proved that he was not ready to be king like he thought he was. Experience was to be a better teacher than any parental lecture could have been.

Often, we must do the same as parents as David has begun doing here. Sometimes, we must let our children learn the facts of life, so to speak, the hard way. And in many ways, this is often how God deals with us as his children. Because He has set boundaries for us (for our own good not because He wants to keep us from doing things), He lets sin and its consequences play out in our lives so that we can learn the price of sin. Many of us are hardheaded because we love our sins and blame God for holding us back from what we want to do. Many of us blame God when we get in a jam and He has not miraculously pulled us out of the consequences of our sins. We get angry at Him for not bailing us out. We get angry at Him but yet it is our sin, our decisions to sin and rebel against Him, that ensnarls us. It is often NOT that God is punishing us but rather it is that sin always has negative consequences. Our sins often cause our pain. Our sins often cause the jams we get into in life. Our sins create these tangled webs of events and decisions in life that bring us to our knees. It is often only through letting our sins play themselves out in our lives that we are ready to kneel before God in all humility and say “Lord I have truly messed up my life and I need your help!” Even when we do that, God will not erase the long-lasting effects of our sins. He will let them play themselves out so that we learn from them and turn from them. It is when we have that a-ha moment that it is ourselves that is the enemy and not God that we are ready to stand before God and beg Him to provide us with the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Some of us are smart and heed God’s Word and accept Christ as our Savior as a young person and follow Him wholeheartedly all of our lives. Some of us are smart in this way and use God’s Word as the standard for their lives from a young age. I admire these folks. They have troubles too but man the impact that such people can have for the kingdom when they follow Jesus from an early age is far beyond what I will ever achieve. Some of God’s children are like me, fools! We lived life hard. Running from God and His Word for most of our lives. Life and the consequences of sin must be our teachers. We learn the hard way from real life examples in our lives of the hard road that sin brings us. For people like me that have to learn the hard way, the road to the cross is long, hard, and filled with cuts, scrapes, bruises, and broken bones. For God’s kids like me, we come to Him only after we have been down the road and find ourselves at the bottom of the valley and have hit rock bottom. I was age 39 when I finally came to my senses and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Man, if I could go back and do it all over again, it would have saved me so much heartache and pain, but that’s the past. My mess is part of my message. I learned the hard way to the cross. But just as I would run to the street to greet my youngest daughter and give her a great big welcome home hug if I saw her right now, God is waiting for you and me with a great big hug and tears of joy…if you will just come home!

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 2 of 3)
David Escapes from Jerusalem

Over the weekend, my senior pastor (and my boss) lost his father to death. Although his dad’s death has been anticipated for a while now, it does not take away the shock of the finality of death. I can feel for Pastor Tim and his family. My wife can too. My mom passed away in November 2010 and Elena’s dad passed in March of this year. In each of these cases, death came almost as a relief. Each was ready to go meet Jesus and was just waiting around and suffering til the time came in God’s providence.

My mom passed away in November 2010 at the fairly young age of 70. Although the last six months of my mom’s life was like watching some other person occupy my mother’s body. Her mind had degenerated into dementia and she was not the mother that I had once known. She had become paranoid and delusional because of the dementia. She was in excruciating pain from her back (where she had surgery on various parts of her spine 4 times in the final 6 years of her life). Crippling arthritis made even the smallest move of her body difficult. It was difficult to watch my mother suffer both in mind and in body. It ripped holes in my heart watching her suffer particularly those last 6 months of her life. We had been anticipating her death those last six months. However, it was that last 6 days where she was at death’s door. We were ready for it. The Sunday before she died on Thursday we waited at the hospital ICU for her to pass on, but she fought it. She was a feisty woman all her life so she wasn’t going to die without a fight. Finally, the day came. Not long after I got to work on that Thursday, I believe it was, my dad gave me a call and told me that I needed to get to the nursing home as quick as I could. The hospice nurse had told him that the end was within hours.

I was able to get to the nursing home in the little town of Starr, SC (the town where my dad was pastoring a small United Methodist church on a part-time basis at that time) pretty quickly. It was the middle of the morning and the drive down from the Greenville area was pretty smooth as rush hour was over. When I got there mom was breathing heavily in labored breaths and was totally incoherent. Her body was simply functioning. Her mind had already checked out. It was just her soul still making things happen in her body. She did not respond to any stimuli. As the remainder of the morning progressed, the breathing was not as labored but the breaths were beginning to be further and further apart. I finally was able to muster the energy to hug my mom and whisper in her ear that it was OK to let go and go be with Jesus and to see her mom and dad and brother. And within the half hour after that, she just…just stopped breathing. And that was it. No grand cataclysmic event. She was there one second and then she was gone. It was a peaceful passing. She just stopped breathing and it was finished.

I am getting a little choked up as I write this because even though it has been almost 8 years now since my mother’s passing, I can get choked up by thinking about her if I let myself think on it long enough. I miss my mom. I really do. I miss dreading having to answer the phone because I knew I would be stuck on the phone for 30-45 minutes. I miss her being all up in my business. I miss her unique Carolyn Bowling way of loving me. Since she has been gone, I have come to realize that mom was the glue that held us together (my dad, my brother and me). Family get-togethers do not seem quite as special now. My mom made our family time seem special. I miss that. I miss her.

But the thing that always keep coming back to is that I know my mom was a believer in Jesus Christ. I know that she is now in heaven. I know that she has been spending almost 8 years, by how we reckon time on this side of eternity, praising her Savior all the day long. She is fully healthy now in heaven. She is no longer ravaged by dementia. She is no longer in severe back pain. She is experiencing joy immeasurable.

That’s the believer’s promise. That is what we have in store for us in heaven when we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and have spent the rest of our lives making Him our Lord. No matter how tough things get. No matter how deep the valley. No matter the physical pain. No matter the troubling circumstances that we must go through in our lives, we will emerge on the other side on top of the mountain in heaven in victory for eternity. Eternity in heaven experiencing perfect joy and praising the Savior. That is how we as believers emerge from the valleys of this life is in the hope that we will one day be in heaven. Things may seem dark now on this side of heaven. You may be going through a valley that never seems to end but heaven is our reward.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37. Let’s read the passage now:

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”

16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.[a]

19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.[b]”

21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”

22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.

23 Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.

24 Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices[c] until everyone had passed out of the city.

25 Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle[d] again. 26 But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”

27 The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look,[e] here is my plan. You and Abiathar[f] should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River[g] and wait there for a report from you.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.

30 David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 31 When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”

32 When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. 33 But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. 34 Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, 36 and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.

In this passage, we see that the Kidron Valley is mentioned for the first time in the Scriptures. The Kidron Valley runs below the southeast wall of Jerusalem, separating the city from The Mount of Olives to the east. It then turns southeast from Jerusalem and follows a winding course to the Dead Sea. The Kidron Valley is nearly always dry but does have a waterflow during rainy season. Here, we see the first reference to the valley when David and his people crossed through the valley over toward the wilderness. This strategic move would give them a way of escape if the forces of the rebel army of Absalom decided to attack the city. The people and the king wept bitterly during the move because it had such a depressing significance – they were abandoning the city without a fight.

Later Shimei was forbidden by Solomon to cross the valley on the penalty of death if Shimei did so (1 Kings 2:36-38). Josephus, the Jewish historian, mentions the wicked queen Athaliah was put to death in the Kidron Valley (see “Antiquities” 9.7.3). Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his crucifixion (John 18:1). Because of David’s sad crossing and Jesus’ sad crossing, the valley has come to symbolize suffering. We may have our own “Kidron Valley” to pass through; stay true to God, and he will stray true to you throughout your sufferings.

Each of us has hope in Jesus Christ. Once we accept Christ as our Savior and begin to grow in making Him the Lord of our lives, we have our eyes opened to one immutable reality. No matter how deep the valley or how severe the trouble, we have hope in a God that promises us deliverance. It may not always be on this side of eternity. Someone once said that “what’s the worst that could happen? I die and go to heaven? I can live with that!” Our ultimate prize is heaven as believers. That gives us comfort even in the toughest times. That gives us comfort when a loved one who was also a believer dies. We may miss them terribly but we know where they are. They have emerged from this valley called life into their victory on the mountaintop on the other side. Jesus gave us this hope through His resurrection. Death could not hold him. He arose from the dead to prove to us that He was our Messiah, Savior and Lord. He arose from the dead to show us that we have hope in everything that the Bible tells us. Jesus had His Kidron Valley moment but He emerged victorious in the resurrection.

So whatever you are going through including the loss of a loved one, take heart. Celebrate that there is a reward for being faithful to God even in the valleys of life. We have all eternity to celebrate with our Savior in heaven.

Amen and Amen.