Archive for May, 2018

2 Samuel 3:31-39
David Mourns Abner’s Death

Sometimes, we just have a difficult person in our lives. If it were up to us, we wish we could just get rid of them and not have them in our lives at all. But sometimes in life, difficult people are in our lives and we cannot get our personal preference – to get rid of them from our lives completely. Because of circumstances, these difficult people are in our lives and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. You know this experience, right? Maybe, it’s an employee working for you. Maybe, it’s your boss. Maybe, it’s a co-worker that you have to deal with on a daily basis. They seem to be opposed to everything you say. They seem to be a loose cannon and do things their own way. And their own way often impacts you in a negative way. They seem to be the one that always has a different opinion on how to do things. They second guess you as boss, subordinate, co-worker, whatever in every decision that you make. They are the ones that if you say something about how you had an experience with the issue at hand that chimes in that they have done it and done it better. They are the ones that always one-up you. They are the ones that are passive-aggressive toward you. Little comments here and there intentionally to belittle you and its not just a rare thing – it’s a pattern of passive-aggressive veiled negativity. They are the ones that lump you in veiled comments that generalize the kind of person you are. You know the ones. We have all had to deal with these types of people in the workplace. They just get your goat and just being around them makes you uneasy and puts you on the defensive. For as long as you both work at the same place, you are going to have to deal with this person. You’ve been there. You know the drill. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

In your personal life, maybe it’s an ex-spouse who happens to be the other parent of your children. You can’t get rid of them (without doing prison time! LOL!). You must deal with them. They know your “hot buttons” and they regularly push them and it is often just to aggravate us for sport. They do things the opposite of the way we want things done for our children and seem to glory in the fact that it was in opposition to our way. Maybe, you are a daughter and your mom is the one that gets to you. Maybe, she criticizes your home’s appearance. Maybe, she criticizes your appearance. Maybe, she criticizes how you raise your kids. Maybe, she does all these things. Maybe, she not only criticizes you constantly but in every case she offers examples of how she did it better when she was in your stage of life. Maybe, you are a son and your father is the one that gets to you. Nothing ever meets his expectations of you. Nothing is every good enough. You could have always done it better. This is how I would have done is often heard. Maybe, its your older brother or older sister. Maybe, it’s a person that you volunteer with at church. It can be anybody. We all have those people in our lives that we cannot control. We have those people in our lives that seem to always do things in opposition to our opinion, our role as a leader, as a parent, as a fellow church member, you name it. Into every life, a difficult person falls into it. Some you can avoid but many you cannot.

That idea of having a difficult person on your staff at work, a difficult person in your personal life, whatever the case may be, is what came to mind as I read about how David had to handle this situation of critical national importance (the murder of Abner) that had been caused by someone who was critical to the success of David unifying the kingdom under his rule. He had a difficult person in his life, Joab. Here, we see the beginning of a very rocky relationship between the two. It got me to thinking about how we must deal with difficult people in our lives that we must deal with each and every day – whether it be at work or in our personal life. With that idea in mind, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:31-39, now:

31 Then David said to Joab and all those who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on burlap. Mourn for Abner.” And King David himself walked behind the procession to the grave. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king and all the people wept at his graveside. 33 Then the king sang this funeral song for Abner:

“Should Abner have died as fools die?
34
Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not chained.
No, you were murdered—
the victim of a wicked plot.”

All the people wept again for Abner. 35 David had refused to eat anything on the day of the funeral, and now everyone begged him to eat. But David had made a vow, saying, “May God strike me and even kill me if I eat anything before sundown.”

36 This pleased the people very much. In fact, everything the king did pleased them! 37 So everyone in Judah and all Israel understood that David was not responsible for Abner’s murder.

38 Then King David said to his officials, “Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel? 39 And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah—Joab and Abishai—are too strong for me to control. So may the Lord repay these evil men for their evil deeds.”

In this passage, we see that David ordered everyone (including Joab) to mourn, possibly because few people were aware that Joab had committed the crime and because David did not want any further trouble. If this is true, David was thinking more about the kingdom than about justice. Joab and Abishai were the two sons of Zeruiah David mentioned. David had an especially hard time controlling Joab because, although he was loyal to David, he was strong-willed, preferring to do things his own way. In exchange for his loyalty, however, David was willing to give him the flexibility he craved.

Joab’s murder of Abner is an example of his fierce independence. While David opposed the murder, he allowed it to remain unpunished because (1) to punish Joab could cause the troops to rebel, (2) Joab was David’s nephew and any harsh treatment could cause family problems, (3) Joab was an influential member of the tribe of Judah and David did not want any rebellion from within the tribe/land that he had already under his control, and (4) to get rid of Joab would mean losing a skilled commander who had been invaluable to David’s military prowess. Certainly, Abner paid for his prideful rebellion against David. He did not want to subject himself to David’s rule until the handwriting was on the wall that David was going to win this civil war. Personally, watching Abner’s moves here in these passages, I am not sure that I would have trusted him as David did. But David was a far greater man than me. He saw the big picture and sometimes I do not.

So, David’s in kind of a pickle here. What to do? What to do? We all have had or still have difficult people in our lives. As leaders, we often have people on our staff that are highly talented, brilliant people who seem to purposefully push against us in our leadership. Questioning everything. Offering alternatives sometimes for the sake of offering alternatives. You tolerate it because you need the skills that this person possesses. In our personal lives, there are often people in our lives that we have to deal with and there is nothing that we can do about it. They drive us nuts. They anger us. It seems that they are there in our lives just to be a thorn in our sides. They criticize us in everything we do. Often if it was up to us, we would rid ourselves of this person but for whatever reason these “difficult people” are in our lives for good and we must learn how to navigate in, through, and around them. Whether they are an employee or a just a person in our personal life, they force us to be prepared. They force us to think things through. They can be exhausting because we have to always be on our game when around such persons.

The one thing that we must figure out is why we find this person so difficult. What do you do with the difficult people in your life? Do you go to Jesus for strength, for courage, for wisdom, for love, in order to deal with them? I think, as Christ followers, in an employment setting or in our personal lives, we must look at how we respond to difficult people. First, we must ask ourselves if the way we respond to them gives glory to God. We must ask how best to represent Christ in the situation. Second, we must examine how we, ourselves, are contributing to the contentious nature of the relationship. Does this person push our buttons because they expose our weakness, insecurities, our sins, our jealousies? Are they more talented than us and we feel threatened by it? Are we insecure in some area of our life and they seem to be a flash point, a spotlight on our own insecurities? Let us examine just exactly why this person “gets our goat”! Third, we need to simply be honest with this person and let them know the exact things that they do that get us all in a knot. Usually, we just complain to others and talk behind that person’s back rather than deal with the person and the issues head on. It will be amazing (in most cases, not all) what a little straight on honesty will do to solve a contentious relationship. Finally, work to reconcile the relationship after having examine our own contributing factors, after confronting the person in love, then, pray for ourselves and that person to be reconciled. Pray for understanding of how that person operates. Pray for that person to understand you. Pray that God will enlighten both of you as to the need for unity among you. Instead of disliking them, go against your grain and show kindness to them. See their good qualities. Even though your stomach churns at first when doing, pay them compliments. Intentionality and prayer will lead us to see them as flawed human beings in need of Christ’s love just like us. That changes everything. Love wins over hate every time.

Amen and Amen.

 

Advertisements

2 Samuel 3:22-30 (Part 2 of 2)
Joab Murders Abner

In my first marriage there was much trouble. There were very few good years and those were early on. I will admit that my first wife had a rough row to hoe when it came to life. Her dad was killed in a head-on collision that also left her mother in a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. Miraculously, Lisa and her brother survived with just a few broken bones and some bruises (and this was back in the day when there were no seat belts in the back seats of cars). Her mother raised a son and a daughter from a wheelchair and she did the best she could with the help of close-by family members. However, because of the way Lisa had to grow up, people always made exceptions for her behavior and she blamed all the problems in her life on the way she had to grow up. Then, two weeks before we got married, her brother was also killed in a single car accident in the wee hours of June 28, 1980.

With that backdrop and the blow of her brother dying just before we got married, it was not long before Lisa began abusing drugs and became increasingly violent toward me. Her drug use was even unknown to me for much of these years between 1980-1984. She sobered up for awhile when she became pregnant with our first child, Meghan. It was after Meghan was born that her abuse of prescription narcotics began again and reached heights where I was basically parenting alone and cleaning up both my wife’s literal and metaphorical messes. During her first rehab visit in 1987, she had an affair. I don’t want to say I am a saint or anything but I tried to keep the marriage together. I would like to say it is because I was a Christian man and was trying to redeem what was broken. However, the real truth of it was that I was 25 years old, a father of a two year old of which I would have been granted custody, and I was simply too afraid to handle all that responsibility myself when I, myself, was still a kid, so to speak. During the following year in 1988, Lisa had a run in with the law that she could only escape by going into rehab once again. This time, it was a twelve-step program and not the mental health hospital approach of the previous rehab. She came away from that second rehab clean and sober (which would last quite a few years). Our second daughter, Taylor, was born during this period of sobriety. However, with her addictive personality, she became addicted to purchasing things – whether we had the money or not. Back in those days, the early 90’s, checks were still in vogue and I was chasing her bad checks constantly because she was spending more money than we had. All of these factors left me disillusioned, bitter, angry, tired, alone, fed up, and just profoundly sad all the time. That led to many fights that further enforced my defeatist feelings about life. I was in a dark place emotionally and spiritually.

In these pre-salvation days of mine, even I thought divorce was not a viable option. Not because of the high ideals of God about marriage, but because I knew how Lisa would react to it. I also knew of my own internal fortitude that I could not stand up to the expected mental and emotional onslaught that I knew she would give me. I knew that she would use my kids against me. Meghan and Taylor were the reasons that I got up each day in this marriage. So, leaving them just was something I was afraid to do. Leaving them with Lisa, I knew that they would be poisoned against me. It was a price I was not willing to pay. I was a chicken plain and simple. I was not willing to stand up for myself nor was I willing to walk away from kids. In these pre-salvation days, what is the best answer in a situation like this. Well, it disgusts me to think about it now, but in those days I was a different person. I played the martyr real well and said I deserved it and, well, Lisa had previously had her own affair. It was now my turn. It was OK. God just wanted me to be happy, right? I deserved it, right? When I look back at it, the whole thing was revenge for all the hell that Lisa had put me through over the years of our marriage.

I would like to say that our marriage survived the two affairs, hers and mine, but it did not survive mine. It was the beginning of two to three years of physical violence, and emotional terrorism (at home, while I was at work, you name it) on the part of Lisa. Finally, it came to the point that I had to leave or someone was really, actually going to die in that relationship. It had gotten that bad. From that point forward, although I had removed myself from a violent home and a emotionally abusive home, the physical violence may have stopped by the terrorism did not. For three full years after we split up, there was constant emotional terrorism. She became so consumed by revenge that it affected the rest of her life.

Although the public nature and the intensity of the terrorism stopped when Lisa remarried some 3 ½ years after we split up, she remained bitter toward me for the rest of her life. It consumed her. To hate me was her reason for existence. You were either for her or against her. She was so consumed by hatred and revenge that it spread to other people in her life to the put that she and her second husband ended isolated and alone. It was in part, I think part of the reason that she died at the early age of 55 years old (now 3 years ago). I will never forgot thinking that revenge killed her.

It was that idea of revenge, mine toward Lisa (in the years before I came to Christ as my Savior and Lord) and the all-consuming revenge of Lisa toward me, that came to mind when I read this passage again this morning. Now, with that backdrop from my life, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:22-30:

 

22 But just after David had sent Abner away in safety, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much plunder with them. 23 When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety.

24 Joab rushed to the king and demanded, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? 25 You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers to catch up with Abner, asking him to return. They found him at the well of Sirah and brought him back, though David knew nothing about it. 27 When Abner arrived back at Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gateway as if to speak with him privately. But then he stabbed Abner in the stomach and killed him in revenge for killing his brother Asahel.

28 When David heard about it, he declared, “I vow by the Lord that I and my kingdom are forever innocent of this crime against Abner son of Ner. 29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy[a] or who walks on crutches[b] or dies by the sword or begs for food!”

30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because Abner had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.

In this passage, we see that Joab killed Abner in a rage of revenge. Seeking revenge will ruin your own peace of mind and create an environment of hatred that destroys everything in its path and increases the changes of a continuing tit for tat cycle of retaliation. I remember a movie called “The War” where kids fought over a tree fort and the fighting got so intense with their tit for tat violence toward one another that finally the tree fort ended up getting burned down to the ground. Nobody had anything then. Revenge is like that. It is like fire that consumes all the oxygen in its path.

Revenge is pride on a rampage. We take matters into our hands. We make ourselves God. We play God. We make it our god. Revenge can affect families for generations as we will see in the coming books in the Old Testament after 2 Samuel. The legacy of this murder extends in the book of 1 Kings (see 1 Kings 2:31-34). Revenge wins nothing but a temporary sense of victory and then we must prepare to receive retaliation.

As Christians, we must be the ones who stop the cycle of revenge. We must love those who hate us. We must pray for them. We must not take their attacks on us personally. We must take the high road and not respond in kind. We may through our prayers and our not responding in kind bring the other person to the table to resolve the issues once and for all and move on. We may not be buddy buddy with this person going forward but revenge gains nothing but a burnt fort. Revenge gains nothing but a burned out soul. Revenge belongs to the Lord. We must pray for the ones who seek revenge against us. We must love them as Jesus loved those who persecute them. Those who seek revenge are ruled by pride and not by God. Those who seek revenge should be looked on with eyes of sorrowful love. Retaliation and revenge only lead to an ever-widening circle of destruction that leaves us alone and isolated standing in our burned out tree fort.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 3:22-30 (Part 1 of 2)
Joab Murders Abner

We often hear those who wish to live life according to their own desires say that the Old Testament is no longer applicable and should be disregarded. They quote the Apostle Paul, particularly Romans 6:14, frequently in support of their claim that the law is invalid to us in the post-crucifixion era.

Certainly there are ceremonial aspects of the law that were laid out at the beginning of the civilization that we know as the Israelite nation that were only applicable to them. God had to set them apart from the pagan rituals and belief systems that they had grown up in so those aspects of the law were Israelite-specific. Those aspects of the law are not applicable to us in a day to day living sense of things but we are to understand the spirit of those laws for Israel. Again, they were meant to set Israel apart, to make them more orderly, less savage or chaotic, more holy, less unholy, more focused on God, less focused on selfish desires, more cleanly, less susceptible to the diseases of the day. Those laws, we must study what God was trying to accomplish for the Israelite nation. It was to draw them out as different, set apart, a holy nation that stood as a beacon for the rest of humanity. They were to be set apart, different, and holy to draw the attention of the world to them for it was to be threw them that Jesus Christ would come to save the world.

When I hear people completely discount the law in the Old Testament and fall full throttle into grace without concern for God’s law, I want to ask them if murder is OK now since it was one of the laws. I want to ask them if adultery is OK since it was one of the laws. I want to ask them if worshiping idols is OK since the prohibition of worshiping them was one of the laws. This is why it is important for us not to take Bible verses out of context. If you read the whole body of thought of the Apostle Paul in his various letters, it is clear that what he meant in Romans 6:14 is that we are freed from the judgment, the penalty of the law, that we rightfully deserve, through the work that Jesus Christ did on our behalf on the cross. All of us are condemned by the law by our first sin and are more than amply sentenced to hell by the lifetimes of sins that we commit to follow up on that first sin. We deserve condemnation but Jesus sets us free from the rightful and justified verdict of the law. The law is written in our hearts (Romans 2:14-15) when we are created, even when we do not recognize Jesus as Savior and Lord. We know right from wrong even as non-believers. That’s the law. We are free from the penalty of the law which is death and sentencing to hell. It is only through Jesus Christ that we are freed from its penalty. That makes Jesus even more important when we view the law correctly in this way. Through Jesus and the freedom he gave us, we should embrace the spirit of God’s law and study them to see what their general spirit can tell us for our lives today – even the ceremonial stuff, but definitely the moral aspects of the law given to God’s people Israel. By doing so, we fall more in love with what Jesus has done for us. When we realize the gravity of the penalty under the law that we deserve, it makes us fall in love with Jesus all the more.

With that idea of the law still being alive and a body of work from which we can learn much to apply to our lives in the 21st century, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:22-30:

 

22 But just after David had sent Abner away in safety, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much plunder with them. 23 When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety.

24 Joab rushed to the king and demanded, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? 25 You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers to catch up with Abner, asking him to return. They found him at the well of Sirah and brought him back, though David knew nothing about it. 27 When Abner arrived back at Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gateway as if to speak with him privately. But then he stabbed Abner in the stomach and killed him in revenge for killing his brother Asahel.

28 When David heard about it, he declared, “I vow by the Lord that I and my kingdom are forever innocent of this crime against Abner son of Ner. 29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy[a] or who walks on crutches[b] or dies by the sword or begs for food!”

30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because Abner had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.

In this passage, we see that Joab took revenge for the death of his brother instead of leaving justice to God, but that act of revenge will later backfire on him (see 1 Kings 2:31-34). God will repay those who deserve it (Romans 12:19). Refuse to rejoice when you enemies suffer, and don’t try to get revenge. Seeking revenge will ruin your own peace of mind and increase the chances of further retaliation. Here, in this passage, too, it should be noted that Abner had killed Joab’s brother in self-defense. Joab then killed Abner to avenge his brother’s death. There was selfish motivation too to save his position of military leadership. If you remember, God declared that there would be cities of refuge for people who killed someone else accidentally or in self-defense (see Numbers 35:22-25). The cities of refuge were to allow for a hearing of the circumstances of the case by the religious leaders of the city of refuge. Joab show disrespect to God’s law by killing Abner out of revenge ironically IN a city of refuge, Hebron.

God’s law here provides for an orderly society by establishing a system of justice that hears out issues concerning the law and requires objective third parties (the religious leaders of the cities of refuge) to hear the case of murder and make a fair and just ruling according to God’s law. In the absence of God’s law, anything goes. That is what we have here. Joab ignoring God’s law and taking matters into his own hands. It creates chaos. Too often today, we take matters into our hands instead of trusting them to God. We want what we want and we think we are the best determiner of what that is. Then, we use God as the backup validation for our own desires.

Let us see the lesson of this passage. Let us learn from God’s law not throw it away and take matters in our own hands. Let us trust God. Let us honor the law for it is without the law that we do not know how great of sinners that we are. The law is our mirror of our sinfulness. The law points us to Jesus Christ. The makes us love Jesus Christ even more and appreciate what He did for us even more. Thus, I thank God for the law.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 3:6-21 (Part 3 of 3)
Abner Joins Forces with David

No matter how you slice it divorce has its consequences that effect families for generations. Even if you are living in a loveless marriage, an abusive marriage, or whatever, it has its consequences. Even if it is best for everyone involved to admit a mistake was made and move on, divorce has its consequences. It is usually the kids that pay the cost. That is why it is important for us to allow God to choose our spouse for us rather that let our families or our own passions determine who we marry.

Unless you were living under a rock for the last week, you know that yesterday was the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Prince Harry is a modern day example of the affects of divorce on children. Because his mother thought she married for love and found out that her husband did not, it was a marriage set for disaster from the beginning. The royal requirements of the time called for Prince Charles to marry a virgin single woman who could bear him children quickly and who was of noble heritage. Diana fit the bill perfectly. She came from a family with a background of noble heritage. She was young, single, never been married, and was a virgin. However, such things are not the basis of God’s idea of marriage. In the royal idea of marriage, women were nothing more that breeders to continue the royal line. Love really had nothing to do with it. Diana, being naïve, thought Charles really loved her. These conflicting senses of what marriage was about set up the relationship for divorce. It was not founded in love. It was not founded in mutual love for one another. Respect for one another. And honor God’s ideal of a man and a woman becoming one soul who face the world together in unity and love. God’s ideal for marriage is more than just sex. It is a union of souls where the man and woman subject themselves to the marriage and make it bigger than their individual needs and desires as an human example of how we subject ourselves to God’s dominion over our lives. That is why God’s standard of marriage is greater than ours. That is why marriages based on God’s biblical principles last and marriages entered into for any other reason do not. Marriages based on sexual attraction alone do not last. Marriages arranged because the marriage is of political or monetary advantage do not last. Marriages arranged just so the couple can have kids is not God’s ideal either.

As we saw Harry grow up, he saw his mom’s marriage disintegrate before his very eyes. The divorce was ugly and public. Although we praise Diana as a great princess who changed the way the British throne views marriages and as a great humanitarian, she played as great a role in making the divorce a public relations disaster as did Prince Charles with his oh not so subtle relationship with Camila. After the divorce, Diana kind of went wild with dating men wealthy men who would piss off the royal family. All the games of one-up-manship between her and Charles was a childish game that drew more and more attention to Diana and that in part contributed to her death, not the least of which was getting into a car with a drunken driver just to sneak away from the press. However, the high profile of the divorce and her subsequent death all came together to send Harry into a tailspin for much of his pre-teen and teen years. It was not until he went into the military that he regained his footing and became the engaging young man with a desire to continue to the humanitarian legacy of his mother that he is today. But there for a while, you saw the classic child of divorce. Divorce itself is almost like a death in the family. The bedrock of children’s lives are changed and forever altered. They no longer have that foundation that they can count on in an uncertain world. Harry acted out in his teen years and early twenties. He was a party bad boy. He had scrapes with the law and other people. If he had not been royal, he would have been arrested several times. It took him a long time to get over (1) his parents divorce and (2) his mother’s death.

It is a modern day example of the affect that marriage for the wrong reason has on kids and the long-term consequences that divorce has on children. It is a reminder that marriage should be based on the godly reason of agape love for a member of the opposite sex that provides the basis for family and long-term love that is unconditional, strong, and weathers the storms of life. I know that my own children were affected in numerous ways by the divorce of their mother and me. Even now, they show the effects of it in how they react to life. My youngest still is seeking to find her way in life because of, not solely, but in part due to nasty nature of the divorce by her mother toward me. My oldest is a peacekeeper and often does not stand up for herself because she wants everyone to get along, not solely, but, in part, due to the divorce’s mean spirit. Her mother made it her life’s work to hate me after our divorce. It affected my daughters in opposite ways – much like the princely children of Diana and Charles. We can claim that divorce has no long term effects on our children but it is just not true.

As I watched the highlights of the wedding last night, I thought about the divorce of Harry’s parents and the effects that it had on his life. I thought about the fact that marriage for the wrong reasons lead to divorce. With that idea in mind, let us read this passage now:

6 As the war between the house of Saul and the house of David went on, Abner became a powerful leader among those loyal to Saul. 7 One day Ishbosheth,[a] Saul’s son, accused Abner of sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, a woman named Rizpah, daughter of Aiah.

8 Abner was furious. “Am I some Judean dog to be kicked around like this?” he shouted. “After all I have done for your father, Saul, and his family and friends by not handing you over to David, is this my reward—that you find fault with me about this woman? 9 May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t do everything I can to help David get what the Lord has promised him! 10 I’m going to take Saul’s kingdom and give it to David. I will establish the throne of David over Israel as well as Judah, all the way from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.” 11 Ishbosheth didn’t dare say another word because he was afraid of what Abner might do.

12 Then Abner sent messengers to David, saying, “Doesn’t the entire land belong to you? Make a solemn pact with me, and I will help turn over all of Israel to you.”

13 “All right,” David replied, “but I will not negotiate with you unless you bring back my wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come.”

14 David then sent this message to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son: “Give me back my wife Michal, for I bought her with the lives[b] of 100 Philistines.”

15 So Ishbosheth took Michal away from her husband, Palti[c] son of Laish. 16 Palti followed along behind her as far as Bahurim, weeping as he went. Then Abner told him, “Go back home!” So Palti returned.

17 Meanwhile, Abner had consulted with the elders of Israel. “For some time now,” he told them, “you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now is the time! For the Lord has said, ‘I have chosen David to save my people Israel from the hands of the Philistines and from all their other enemies.’” 19 Abner also spoke with the men of Benjamin. Then he went to Hebron to tell David that all the people of Israel and Benjamin had agreed to support him.

20 When Abner and twenty of his men came to Hebron, David entertained them with a great feast. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go and call an assembly of all Israel to support my lord the king. They will make a covenant with you to make you their king, and you will rule over everything your heart desires.” So David sent Abner safely on his way.

In this passage, we see that Michal had been married to David. If you remember correctly, Saul had arranged the marriage as a reward for David’s acts of bravery (1 Samuel 17:25, 18:24-27) Later, in one of his jealous fits, Saul took Michael away from David and forced her to marry (1 Samuel 25:44). Now, David wanted his wife back before he would begin to negotiate peace with the northern tribes. Perhaps, David still loved her. Perhaps, more likely, he thought that the marriage to Saul’s daughter would strengthen his claim to rule all Israel and demonstrate he held no animosity toward the house of Saul. Palti was an unfortunate victim caught up in the web of Saul’s jealousy.

Palti was a sad victim of a political game over marriage. He was the unlucky pawn in a marriage game. Marriage here was nothing but a political game just as the marriage of Charles and Diana where Harry and William were the fallout victims. My children were the victims in my divorce from their mother. Marriage for any other reason that godly love is going to lead to disaster.

We often mistake passion today for love. We often mistake biological clock reasons for love. We do not listen to God when it comes to marriage. We should be praying for God to bring us the mate that He intends for us. We should be slow to marry and wait for God to reveal who that person is. We should pray that he brings us someone who complements us, who challenges us, who will love us through thick and thin, who will join us in making our marriage greater than us individually. We must see that someone we fall in love with and project 10 years, 20 years down the road, without the clouds of passion and see if that is a person we are compatible with. My mother always told be that when looking for a wife, I should determine if that person is some I can be best friends with in the living room as much as in the bedroom. Let us be the generation that returns marriage to God. Let us be the generation that seeks to marry those whom God has ordained for us. Let us seek God advice when we are seeking a mate. Let us seek marriages for the long haul and not just til someone better comes along. Let us fight for our marriages.

 

2 Samuel 3:6-21 (Part 2 of 3)
Abner Joins Forces with David

Do you or I have what it takes to stand up for what is right no matter if the political tide or popular opinion is against us? Never has this question been more important to Christians in America than it is now. Do we stand up for Christian values or do we cave in to public opinion and conform to the society even though biblical standards are in opposition to the general public’s view. As we grow further and further into a society that is biblically illiterate and a society that is often opposed to the Bible, it is a question we must answer, do we conform just to get people in the doors of our churches or do we stand on the Bible in areas where it is in opposition to the Bible?

We have been fortunate for centuries here in America to be able to worship Jesus Christ freely and for biblical values to be the norms and measure for societal will. That tide is changing and very noticeably in many areas as we become a country of slippery political correctness (afraid to offend anyone’s preferences) rather a nation whose values are based on the timeless and absolute morals enumerated in the Bible. We see denominations of Protestant Christianity deviating from bedrock theology developed over the millenniums of Judeo-Christian history just to seem relevant to a society that has departed from biblical values. We see people who do stand on their Christian values castigated publicly for their out-of-step values and sometimes, like in Oregon bakery owners’ case a few years, even prosecuted for standing on their biblical convictions.

We have been fortunate but the time is coming where we will have to make a choice to be unpopular as Christians or to cave into public pressure and join in the politically correct parade. The time for armchair Christians is coming to an end. There will be a day when saying that you are a Christian will be a liability for us in this country rather than a neutral or positive trait. We have taken for granted our freedom to be Christians for so long and it has cost us nothing for so long, will we be prepared for the day when saying you are a Christian or standing firm on Christian values may cause you to lose your job, may cause you to be jailed, or, worse yet, cause you to be killed. Are we ready for those days? In some ways, those days are already starting. Are we ready as the tide of political correctness towers over us like a wave crashing ashore in Hawaii? Are we ready to stand against the tide? There is an old saying that is applicable to this idea. It goes “if you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Do we cave in on accepting behaviors that are clearly anti-biblical just so that we can fit in to society with the least amount of inconvenience? Or do we have the guts to stand out like the prophets of old speaking to Israel in the Old Testament? The day is coming where being a Christian will be inconvenient and even deadly. How many of us will go to church when going to church will get you arrested? How many of us will have the spiritual conviction that North Korean Christians and Chinese Christians have about holding their secret house churches when the threat of arrest and imprisonment is ever present? Do we have that kind of guts to stand against that which is against God’s Word? I pray that when it really counts that you and I both have that conviction to stand on God’s Word no matter the cost.

With that idea in mind, let us read this passage now:

6 As the war between the house of Saul and the house of David went on, Abner became a powerful leader among those loyal to Saul. 7 One day Ishbosheth,[a] Saul’s son, accused Abner of sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, a woman named Rizpah, daughter of Aiah.

8 Abner was furious. “Am I some Judean dog to be kicked around like this?” he shouted. “After all I have done for your father, Saul, and his family and friends by not handing you over to David, is this my reward—that you find fault with me about this woman? 9 May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t do everything I can to help David get what the Lord has promised him! 10 I’m going to take Saul’s kingdom and give it to David. I will establish the throne of David over Israel as well as Judah, all the way from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.” 11 Ishbosheth didn’t dare say another word because he was afraid of what Abner might do.

12 Then Abner sent messengers to David, saying, “Doesn’t the entire land belong to you? Make a solemn pact with me, and I will help turn over all of Israel to you.”

13 “All right,” David replied, “but I will not negotiate with you unless you bring back my wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come.”

14 David then sent this message to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son: “Give me back my wife Michal, for I bought her with the lives[b] of 100 Philistines.”

15 So Ishbosheth took Michal away from her husband, Palti[c] son of Laish. 16 Palti followed along behind her as far as Bahurim, weeping as he went. Then Abner told him, “Go back home!” So Palti returned.

17 Meanwhile, Abner had consulted with the elders of Israel. “For some time now,” he told them, “you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now is the time! For the Lord has said, ‘I have chosen David to save my people Israel from the hands of the Philistines and from all their other enemies.’” 19 Abner also spoke with the men of Benjamin. Then he went to Hebron to tell David that all the people of Israel and Benjamin had agreed to support him.

20 When Abner and twenty of his men came to Hebron, David entertained them with a great feast. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go and call an assembly of all Israel to support my lord the king. They will make a covenant with you to make you their king, and you will rule over everything your heart desires.” So David sent Abner safely on his way.

In this passage, we see that Ishbosheth may have been right to speak out against Abner’s behavior, but he didn’t have the moral strength and character to maintain his authority (see 2 Samuel 3:11). Lack of moral backbone in the kings of Israel become the root of the nation’s problems over the next four centuries. In the upcoming books of the Old Testament, we will see that only 4 kings after the kingdom split in two out of a total of 40 kings were called “good” by the Scriptures. It takes courage and strength to stand firm in your convictions and to confront wrongdoing in the face of opposition. When you believe something is wrong, do not let yourself be talked out of your position. Firmly attack wrongdoing and uphold what is right.

Here, Ishbosheth was afraid of Abner more than he was willing to stand on his convictions. That is where we stand today as American Christians. We have the choice to cave in to the mounting pressure to adjust our values to meet the popular mood of our country or to stand against the tide when it is in opposition to the Bible. What we see today is just the beginning, I fear. Will we have what it takes? Will we stand up for biblical values when society glories in thumbing its nose at God? Will we quietly complain about where the country is headed but do nothing? Will we adjust our theology to adapt to the prevailing social sentiments and call it good and thereby water down and eliminate the values of Christianity? Or do we have the guts to take our values to the mat? Will we have the guts that Paul had to be willing to be stoned, imprisoned, marooned at sea, kept under house arrest and all the indignities that he suffered just so he could spread the gospel? Do we have those kind of guts?

My prayer is that when it really counts that you and I have what it takes? May we take the attitude of Paul that even in prison God has us where He wants us? May we have the attitude that even in persecution we can speak loudly for Jesus. May we have that kind of guts!

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 3:6-21 (Part 1 of 3)

Abner Joins Forces with David

There is a song that sometimes get played in commercials nowadays that actually dates back to a 1946 Broadway musical (had to google that to find out), Annie Get Your Gun. It was called “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”. No you can’t! Yes, I can! No, you can’t! Yes, I can! You know the chorus. The most famous use of it is in the Michael (Jordan) vs. Mia (Hamm) Gatorade commercial from a few years back. The idea of that song came to mind this morning as I read this passage for today, 2 Samuel 3:6-21. I could imagine Abner singing this song to the king of the northern tribes, Ishbosheth.

You can see it in successful sports teams, where the players jockey for position amongst each other and certain players think they are bigger than the team. There are certain players that think they are bigger and more important to the team and its fans that the owner (and sometimes, founder) of the team. We’ve seen it before. Where a team is successful for a long-period of time but then money and pride get in the way and then the backbiting begins, then the team becomes a locker room mess with all the egos and pride abounding. Then, people start thinking they are bigger than the owner or the other members of the team. Then, owners are forced to trade away a problem player to return the team to its main focus – winning ball games. You can look back and say yes this team was great for a period of time, but pride and greed snuck in and destroyed the chemistry that was there. Always evident in great teams is the willingness of individuals to submit themselves to their leadership and to make the needs of the team greater than their own personal needs. Always absent in teams in decline or teams that never got anywhere is the absence of this humility. You can have the most talented individuals in the world on your team but if they cannot or will not submit to leadership or do not have the humility to submit their needs to that of the team, you will see a team that always underachieves.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage for the first of three reads. That idea that great teams require great humility by the members of the team before anything great can be achieved. That idea is transferrable to any organization not just sports teams. With that idea in mind, let us read this passage now:

6 As the war between the house of Saul and the house of David went on, Abner became a powerful leader among those loyal to Saul. 7 One day Ishbosheth,[a] Saul’s son, accused Abner of sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, a woman named Rizpah, daughter of Aiah.

 

8 Abner was furious. “Am I some Judean dog to be kicked around like this?” he shouted. “After all I have done for your father, Saul, and his family and friends by not handing you over to David, is this my reward—that you find fault with me about this woman? 9 May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t do everything I can to help David get what the Lord has promised him! 10 I’m going to take Saul’s kingdom and give it to David. I will establish the throne of David over Israel as well as Judah, all the way from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.” 11 Ishbosheth didn’t dare say another word because he was afraid of what Abner might do.

 

12 Then Abner sent messengers to David, saying, “Doesn’t the entire land belong to you? Make a solemn pact with me, and I will help turn over all of Israel to you.”

 

13 “All right,” David replied, “but I will not negotiate with you unless you bring back my wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come.”

 

14 David then sent this message to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son: “Give me back my wife Michal, for I bought her with the lives[b] of 100 Philistines.”

 

15 So Ishbosheth took Michal away from her husband, Palti[c] son of Laish. 16 Palti followed along behind her as far as Bahurim, weeping as he went. Then Abner told him, “Go back home!” So Palti returned.

 

17 Meanwhile, Abner had consulted with the elders of Israel. “For some time now,” he told them, “you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now is the time! For the Lord has said, ‘I have chosen David to save my people Israel from the hands of the Philistines and from all their other enemies.’” 19 Abner also spoke with the men of Benjamin. Then he went to Hebron to tell David that all the people of Israel and Benjamin had agreed to support him.

 

20 When Abner and twenty of his men came to Hebron, David entertained them with a great feast. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go and call an assembly of all Israel to support my lord the king. They will make a covenant with you to make you their king, and you will rule over everything your heart desires.” So David sent Abner safely on his way.

 

In this passage, we can understand that to sleep with any of the king’s wives or concubines was to make a claim to the throne, and it was considered an act of treason. Because Ishbosheth was a weak ruler, Abner was, in fact, running the country. Thus, he may have justified sleeping with the king’s concubine because he felt he deserved it. Ishbosheth, however, saw it as Abner trying to usurp his power and that Abner’s power and his view of his place in the kingdom was becoming too great. He called him out on it.

In this passage, Abner was unable to submit himself the leadership of the more rightful king. Sometimes in life, we cannot be the leader even though we think we can do it better than the one who is. Sometimes, we have to learn humility and simply serve those who are above us. We must pray for them to be great leaders and serve them knowing that God will use them in some way. We must have the humility to see that God has us in a support role for a reason. We are to learn. We are to submit ourselves. We are to learn to be advisers and how to give good advice. We are learn what we need to know that we do not know now. Leaders, believers or not, are allowed to be in the positions that they are by the grace of God. Thus, we must honor they roles and the position that we are in right now. God always has us at the place he wants for the season that he wants us there. It is up to us to humbly understand God’s plan. He does not randomly place us in situations. There is always something to be learned regardless of whether you are the leader of an organization of one of those who report to him or her. God has you right where He wants you right now. He will let you know when it’s time to lead. He will let you know when it’s time to follow. He will let you know when it’s time to go. In the meantime, we pray daily for those who are over us. We support them in every way that we can. We learn as much as we can from them. And that all begins with humility.

Abner let his pride get the best of him. His pride then caused him to leave what was a good situation for him and forced him to “get traded to another team.” He thought he was bigger than the king and more valuable to the nation than the king. As a result of pride, he took the attitude that this is my rightful thing since I am the REAL leader of the country. As a result of pride, he crossed the line. As a result of pride, he switched teams. As a result of pride, he ended up dead. If Abner had been less prideful, maybe he would have lived to an old age.

Let us take heart from the tale of Abner. It is really about the sovereignty of God vs. our personal desires. We must see where we are as part of God’s plan. We must see that He has us where he wants us and that when we are not the top guy, we are there to serve and to learn. We must take this attitude in whatever we encounter. What does God want me to learn or do because I am where I am right now and you are where you are right now? Look at Paul in prison. He didn’t whine and complain that he was not outside the prison doing what he thought God intended for him. He used the prison to witness to others. There is something for you and me everywhere we are. Everywhere that God places us. Every position that God allows us to hold is a position that he wants us in right now. We soak it all in and serve until He commands us to do something else. We serve our leaders. We pray for them. We learn from them. We must be humble and learn even if we are in a position for 1 year, 10 years or 20 years until God puts us in our next season. He’s got a purpose in it. Do not get out ahead of it.

Abner tried to short-circuit God’s plan and it cost him his life ultimately. Let us be wise and discerning enough to not try to get ahead of God as Abner did.

 

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 3:2-5
David’s Sons Born in Hebron

Who says the Bible is not current? Just look at this passage for today, 2 Samuel 3:2-5. Though it is short, it gives us a glimpse into one of David’s flaws. He loved women just a little too much! In this short passage we see that his six sons were by six different women. Whoa! Talk about getting around! David knew that this was against God’s Word but he justified it by the culture in which he lived. In the ancient Middle East, kings could take as many women as they wanted – wives, concubines, whatever. So, does this passage justify the sexual revolution that we have seen in our culture. Does it validate that you can have sex with as many women as you want? Does it validate alternative sexual behaviors since this is clearly anti-law here. Or is there something greater going on here? Is this the seed of the troubles that David will experience in governing later in the Old Testament? Do we see parallels into the ills of our society today because of freedom to have sex with whomever we want? Let us read this passage and then think about that concept.

2 These are the sons who were born to David in Hebron:

The oldest was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam from Jezreel.
3
The second was Daniel, whose mother was Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel.
The third was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.
4
The fourth was Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith.
The fifth was Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital.
5
The sixth was Ithream, whose mother was Eglah, David’s wife.

These sons were all born to David in Hebron.

In this passage, we see that each one of David’s sons were born of a different mother. As we progress through the life of David in the Old Testament, we are going to see that David suffered much heartache because of his many wives. Polygamy was a socially acceptable practice for kings in the ancient Middle East at this time in human history. David’s practices with regard to taking many wives was reflective of the times in which he lived, although God specifically warned against it (see Deuteronomy 17:14-17). Sadly, the numerous sons born to David’s wives caused him great trouble. Rape (2 Samuel 13:14), murder (2 Samuel 13:28) rebellion and civil war (2 Samuel 15:13) and greed (1 Kings 1:5-6) all resulted from the jealous rivalries among the half-brothers, all sons of David. Solomon, one of David’s sons born later after this passage was written, when he ascended to the throne after his father, David, passed away also took many wives (some of whom were pagan women) eventually got Solomon so wracked in sin that he wandered away from God (see 1 Kings 11:3-4).

Just because the culture says it is OK and other people are doing it does not mean that we should join in with the practices that are considered acceptable by the culture. Our first measure as to whether a cultural practice is something we should participate in should be God’s Word. If God’s Word prohibits or warns against the practice directly or by inference, we should stand against the practice and not participate in it. God’s laws are not intended to inhibit us but rather protect us from that which is harmful to us. Many cultural practices today are now considered fashionable and OK though the Bible stands against such things. In order to say such things are OK, you either have to say that the Bible is old-fashioned and out of date and out of step with the times and thus no longer valid and applicable to our times. Alternatively, you have to play academic and theological gymnastics to interpret passages in such a way that support that the social practice is, indeed, “biblical.”

As we can see here in this passage, David probably had a really good time bouncing around from woman to woman. Mel Brooks in his movie, “History of the World”, a hilarious and by today’s standards politically incorrect satire on the history of the western world, coined the phrase, “it’s good to be the king!” every time he would as King Louis of France make a flirtation or sexual advance toward a beautiful woman in his court. I am sure David would have used this phrase when thinking about the women he had sex with to produce these sons. However, it is clear from God’s Word that sex should be confined to one man and one woman in a marriage covenant. The weight of biblical evidence in this regard is heavy. To use this passage as support for sexual freedom is to take it out of context of the biblical narrative of David’s life. It was his willingness to have sex with as many women as possible and sire sons by these women that almost brings down his kingdom. Further, even after all the stuff that happened because of these rivalries born of David’s multiple sex partners permanent crippled David’s kingdom after the civil war that was the culmination of these rivalries. The kingdom of Israel went into maintenance mode after that and was finally split in two within one generation after David’s death.

I think all of us in the church have seen the effects of the sexual revolution on our culture. You sometimes have to have a playbill to know what kids belong to who nowadays. Daddies, wives, and children all with different names. The destructiveness of divorce and remarriage on our culture is tangibly real in crime statistics, drug abuse, and so on. It is clear that though we can have sex with whomever we want (there is nothing stopping us from doing so) but that does not mean it is we can or should.

Let us become a nation that turns back to God because we realize that his prohibitions and warnings against certain behaviors are not mean to hold us back from what we want but rather to protect us from the effects “of eating such fruit”! Let us become a nation where we think long and hard before we marry. Let us become a nation where we work our problems out instead of changing spouses like we change underwear. Let us become a nation that makes our marriages comply with biblical standards. Let us become a nation where we place our marriages above our won personal desires. Let us become a nation that sees the Bible’s guidance as valuable, timeless, and for our protection from our own foolishness.

Amen and Amen.