Archive for July, 2018

2 Samuel 18:1-18 (Part 4 of 4)
Absalom’s Defeat & Death

When I was a teenager, I thought that I knew more about what was best for me than my father. I was ready to be grown up and out of the house. I hated all my father’s rules and his age-old saying, “As long as you put your feet under my dining room table, you will do as I say.” That is a metaphorical way of saying that as long as I was living at home and he was feeding and clothing me, that fact alone gave him the right to his power over me. At the time, though, I thought I knew better than him. My dad was the dumbest man in the world to me when I was 14-18, those final years before I left home.

He got a little smarter when I moved out on my own when I started college and got married and had my apartment. I had worked since I was 14 years old to garner my spending money and pay for my car. The paying for my car irked me because I knew friends whose parents simply gave them their cars. However, I knew in marriage and living on my own that everything was on me, not my dad. I knew that and it seemed logical and fair to me. However, I was not prepared for all that comes at you financially when you are on your own at age 18. My dad became a little smarter then. His advice seemed a little more valuable. But yet I still as a typical teenager, though married, still resented his parental authority over me. Not rebellious angry but simply wondering when he would treat my like an adult.

Then after 5 years of marriage, we had our first child and then everything sped up – the bills, the living from one paycheck to another, the details of life on a grand scale. Then, as my child grew to age 5 ½ we had another child and the pace quicken more. During these years, I began to see that my dad’s toughness on me was worth it all. I was growing up and seeing that those lessons he was trying to teach me were for a reason. He became smart all over again. When I was child and pre-teen my dad was 10 feet tall and the smartest man in the world. As a teenager, I hated all his rules and expectations and his requirements of me. As I left home, he became a little smarter. Then, after I had children of my own, he became brilliant again. All that stuff he imposed on me, I began imposing on my own children. His ways became my ways as I waddled through the child-rearing stage of life. He was what I compared all my parenting to. He went from being dumb as a rock to me as a teenager to a brilliant man as I parented. It’s funny how that works. We want to grow up and grab the gusto of life without learning what needs to be learned. We want to be our own boss and all that when we are teenagers but little do we know is that at that age we don’t know a thing. Sometimes, waiting and maturing and learning from our fathers is what we need to do instead of impetuously and foolishly charging off on our own. It is only when life hits us in the face that we learn that our dads were bringing us along to be grown ups as we demonstrated the ability to handle things. But in those teen years we want none of that maturation and waiting stuff. We want to be large and in charge right away.

Let’s read this passage, 2 Samuel 18:1-18, for the fourth of four times before we move on to the next passage and see why this idea came to my mind today.

Chapter 18

1 David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains[a] to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”

3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us,[b] and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”

4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.

5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.

6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.

9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair[c] got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”

11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver[d] and a hero’s belt!”

12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,[e]” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”

14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.

In this passage, we see that Absalom dies because of his pride and his vanity. The first issue is his pride. Absalom was leading his forces against David’s forces, despite having no previous combat experience, in part because of his pride. When Ahithphel advised him to send out troops immediately after David, part of what convinced Absalom to follow Hushai’s advice to wait for more troops was that Hushai also advised Absalom to lead the troops himself. So, here we have Absalom out on the battlefield. The second issue is his vanity. In an earlier passage we are told that he only cut his hair once a year when it became too heavy. In the same passage it tells us that Absalom was a handsome man. It is clear from that passage that Absalom took a lot of pride in his appearance, in particular his long hair. On this occasion, his pride in his long hair causes him trouble because his hair gets tangled in a tree and he cannot flee from David’s men.

This story is filled with betrayal. Absalom seems to trust anyone who will ingratiate themselves to him. He believes the wise Ahithophel, who encourages him to have sex with all of David’s concubines to demonstrate his conquest. Of course, that is the last thing Absalom should do because it will cause a permanent fissure Absalom and his father, David. Ahithophel, since he is a traitor, wants to make sure the father and son combo never get together to turn on him (and when it is clear that Absalom’s defeat is imminent, Ahithophel kills himself). His pride would not let him wait for what would be rightfully his at the right time. He wanted what he wanted right now and didn’t want to wait for it. When we charge off into situations, because of our pride, that we are not ready for, we will fail.

Absalom’s main problem is that he could not wait for the throne. His inheritance from his father was coming. But as he ventured out of his second act, he couldn’t wait for it. He wanted his glory so bad, he took 20,000 other men down with him. May we learn that nothing comes immediately, especially maturity. We get irritated about having to go through a process! Things take time. Maturity takes time. You can’t be a senior pastor til you have matured sufficiently that God will trust you with a flock of His children. Your two-year-old won’t become rational in a day. You won’t pay off your debt in a second. Things take time. Move with them.

Father in heaven teach us patience and teach us to appreciate that you have us where we are to learn what we need to learn. Even as adults, we are still learning each and every day. You have us in situations right now to teach us what we need to know to move to the next phase in life that you have in store for us. Teach us to be patient and soak in where we are now. Teach us to be patient and learn what you have for us to learn. Help us to trust you. Help us to have patience.

Amen and Amen.

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2 Samuel 18:1-18 (Part 3 of 4)
Absalom’s Defeat & Death

What’s up with Joab? He killed someone again after David had given an order for them not to be killed. We see a pattern starting here, don’t we? Joab later here in the book of 2 Samuel will kill again, when told not to do so when he kills Amasa. When you think about these killings, each one was politically advantageous to Joab in either retaining his position as the head of David’s armies or getting that position back. Abner would have been a rival for Joab’s position so…he took him out. He mortally wounded and then had his men finish off Absalom. Absalom would have been a threat to his position as well had he been allowed to live. David would have most assuredly granted his son a position in the army after having watched him lead the revolt against him. David would have seen leadership skills in his son that he had not noticed before the civil war. Thus, it is likely that Absalom may have displaced Joab in the general’s seat in the army of the king. Finally, he will later kill Amasa who had taken his position as general (because David demoted him after he found out that Joab was responsible for the murder of his son, Absalom).

David never really punished Joab in any real way (other than taking his position away temporarily) for these acts of direct disobedience to the king’s orders. Why? Joab was skilled at war and at making himself seem indispensable. Joab was very talented at the art of war. He was personally never defeated when he was in command of any troops – as far as I can tell in the Bible. Thus, he was very talented and very valuable to the king. David knew, or at least, felt, that there was probably not another man in Israel that could lead his armies as well as Joab. To David, Joab was a superstar. In that sense, David overlooked these acts of disobedience.

Joab was kind of the Johnny Manzel of college football. If you remember the brash, cocky quarterback for Texas A&M, Johnny Manzel, he was an amazing college quarterback. He could extend plays that seemed doomed and then make some wacky unbelievable pass to bail himself out that always seem to go for major yardage or even a touchdown. He would sometimes scramble for 30 yards back and forth to get away from the defensive rushers and then make a throw that made the scrambling all worth it (and would demoralize and exasperate the defense). However, though he was an amazing talent, he was the classic case of person who was very talented but knew it. He was literally a spoiled brat who did not care what he said or did. He figured his talent would make up for his misdeeds and people would overlook it. He had always been bailed out because he was a star quarterback. He was good and he knew it and people would give him a pass when he misbehaved. Joab was kind of like that. He was good and he knew it and David would give him a pass when he misbehaved – because he was the star quarterback of David’s military team.

Let’s read this passage, 2 Samuel 18:1-18, for the third of four times, and see why Joab directly disobeys and order from his king.

Chapter 18

1 David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains[a] to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”

3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us,[b] and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”

4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.

5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.

6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.

9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair[c] got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”

11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver[d] and a hero’s belt!”

12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,[e]” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”

14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.

In this passage, we see Joab again disobeys an order from David. He cannot plausibly claim ignorance of the order this time (as was the plausible situation with Abner). Joab was right there with David when the order was made. He knew David did not want Absalom killed. Why did he do it?

Joab had loyally supported David and, for the most part, obeyed his orders, even when they were contrary to his own better judgment. But there were three cases in which Joab acted against the king’s wishes by killing men whom David wanted to live: Abner, Absalom, and Amasa. Here Joab’s own interests were mixed in with service to the king. These men were threats to his own position. We can reflect that no one’s motives are as pure as the driven snow, except in their own eyes. We can be serving ourselves even while claiming to be serving Jesus and the church.

The story of Joab is a warning sign to us all. We must check our motives for what we are doing in service to our King – King Jesus. Are we serving so we can be seen serving? Are we serving so as to meet our own objectives? Can we submit to authority above us or do we submit as long as our personal objectives are being met? Do we strike out on our own if those in authority over us do not do things the way we want them done?

We must determine why we serve the Lord. Is it for ourselves or is it so that God will be glorified? Do want the bright lights and the spotlight or do we serve where God has us right now because we trust in Him completely? We must trust God that He has us right where He wants us. Sure, we should compare the motives of those in leadership over us to Scripture and act accordingly but we should examine ourselves first to see if our disdain for the orders given us by those above us is personally motivated. Is our disdain righteous or simply a hurt ego? If we see that those in power over us are following God and His Word then we must examine ourselves and our motives. We must be willing to set our ego aside and submit to the authority of those placed in authority over us by God himself. There are no coincidences in God’s plan for us. If He has us under the authority of another, we must seek to find God’s will for their leadership over us…and learn what we need to learn at this point in our walk with God…and trust that God will move us along His developmental plan at His pace.

Just think about Joseph in prison. He became the best prisoner he could be and became a trusted inmate. If he had not done that (and trusted God with the rest), he would not have been in a position to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream and then eventually become the second most powerful man in Egypt. Without being in that position, he would not been in position to save His people. Just think about Moses, he spent 40 years in Midian learning to be a shepherd, learning the rough life in the wild that he would have never learned in Egypt, and becoming a more humble man such that God could use him to free his people. Just think about Jesus – God in the flesh. He was born as a baby in human flesh, grew up as a boy into a man, worked hard with his earthly dad. He did all that for 30 years before He launched his public ministry. He learned what it was like to be a human being in a fallen, broken world. When he wept over Jerusalem and when he wept over the death of Lazarus, it was real. When He preached, it was not only based in the fact that He was God in the flesh but it was also based on the fact that He knew what it was like to be human. He submitted to 30 years as a son of human beings, as a brother, as a worker so that He could not only teach us but relate his teaching to everyday life as a human.

If even Jesus submitted to the Father and trusted Him completely with the process of preparing for His ministry, we can submit to those who God has placed over us and trust Him with the rest. Coach Dabo Swinney is a man of many catchphrases but one of his that is my favorite, “bloom where you are planted.” Basically, he is saying that God has a plan for where you are at right now. It is part of a bigger plan. Trust Him with that. Be the best you can be right where God has you right now. Trust Him. Trust Him. Be the best where you are at right now for the Lord.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 18:1-18 (Part 2 of 4)
Absalom’s Defeat & Death

How would you like to have been in this guy’s shoes? You are a soldier. You find the leader of the enemy forces hung up in a tree, dangling there, with no way to get down. He would be easy pickings. Just kill him and the civil war would be over and you would get the accolades for having killed the leader of the revolt. However, in this case, the leader of the revolt was the son of the king. What would you do? You could kill him and nobody would know the difference. You could claim whatever you wanted to claim. You could kill him. Cut him down from the tree and then throw his body somewhere where the wild animals in the wilderness could tear him apart. You could claim that the wild animals killed him. You could get away with it and nobody would be the wiser. But instead, you tell your commander that you saw the king’s son dangling from a tree. Then, the commander questions you as to why you did not kill him. However, the commander, you and all the troops heard David say not to harm Absalom, his son. This was a bad situation to be in, a no-win situation. You did the right thing by not disobeying the king’s orders but you get shamed by your commander for not doing the deed. You know, too, that Joab would have thrown you under the bus if you had killed the king’s son. Talk about your no-win scenarios.

It kind of reminds you of the Starfleet Academy captain’s test. Yes, I am a Star Trek geek. It reminds you of the The Kobayashi Maru. The Kobayashi Maru exercise is a training exercise in the fictional Star Trek universe designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario. The Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek. Screenwriter Jack B. Sowards is credited with inventing the test. The test’s name is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario, a test of one’s character or a solution that involves redefining the problem.

The notional primary goal of the exercise is to rescue the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru in a simulated battle with the Klingons. The disabled ship is located in the Klingon Neutral Zone, and any Starfleet ship entering the zone would cause an interstellar border incident. The approaching cadet crew must decide whether to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew – endangering their own ship and lives – or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction. If the cadet chooses to attempt rescue, the simulation is designed to guarantee that the cadet’s ship is destroyed with the loss of all crew members.

James T. Kirk took the test three times while at Starfleet Academy. Before his third attempt, Kirk surreptitiously reprogrammed the simulator so that it was possible to rescue the freighter. Despite having cheated, Kirk was awarded a commendation for “original thinking”. This fact is revealed in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as Kirk, Saavik and others are marooned. Saavik accuses Kirk of never having faced the no-win scenario. Kirk replies that he does not believe in it.

Each of us have to face those ethical situations where doing the right thing may get you ridiculed or we do what Kirk did and basically bend the truth to suit our needs. Have you been in a situation like that? Do the right thing and get ridiculed, fired, or lose something or take advantage of a situation by bending the truth to meet your own needs! We have all been there at some point in our lives. If not, there will come a day where you have to make that tough choice.

Let’s read this passage, 2 Samuel 18:1-18, for the second of four times, and see how this soldier deals with the no-win situation.

Chapter 18

1 David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains[a] to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”

3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us,[b] and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”

4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.

5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.

6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.

9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair[c] got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”

11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver[d] and a hero’s belt!”

12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,[e]” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”

14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.

In this passage, we see that this man had caught Joab in his hypocrisy. He knew Joab would have turned on him for killing Absalom if the king had found out about it. Joab could answer the man and simply dismissed him. Those who are about to do evil often don’t pause to consider what they are about to do. They don’t care whether or not it is right or lawful. Don’t rush into action without thinking. Consider whether what you are about to do is right or wrong.

Often as Christ followers, we are presented with situations where we have the option to “be like Jesus” in private or revert to our base sinful self and take advantage of a situation. What are you like when you are alone? Are you striving to be like Jesus? Or when no one is around, do you revert to your sin-self. When no one is looking, what are you like? How far are you taking this Christ follower thing? Do you want to be like Jesus when you are alone? What are you like when no one is looking?

As Christ followers, you and I both know that we have opportunities everyday to demonstrate if we take being a Christ follower seriously. We all have those no-win scenarios at some point where being a Christ follower will be of disadvantage to us. We must choose the way of Jesus Christ or the way of the world. Probably, we all fail in these situations more often than we win. The key is I think to recognize when you get in those situations and ask that clichéd question, “What would Jesus do?” Not to be flippant, but really ask that question with a humble heart that is submitted to Jesus Christ. What would Jesus do in this situation. The key is recognition. Our base self is a sin filled dark soul that will default to evil without even thinking about it. Thus, recognizing when we are in a no-win situation and asking the question of ourselves every time when get into questionable situations will help us to gain a Christ-like perspective. Staying in God’s Word helps us internalize the difference between right and wrong in God’s eyes. Prayer about doing the right thing helps us to hear God’s voice about specific situations.

Then, what would Jesus do? is not a difficult question to answer. Our heart becomes molded toward pleasing God and not on what will preserve my rights in a sin-filled world. Pleasing God becomes more important that our position in the world. Pleasing God is what we want to do rather than have to do. Pleasing God rather than pleasing ourselves is our new perspective.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 18:1-18 (Part 1 of 4)
Absalom’s Defeat & Death

There’s an old saying, “You’re too close to the forest to see the trees!” You’ve heard it before. Obviously, so have I! These old sayings are old sayings because they have great truths in them. We all have had situations in our lives where we are “too close to the forest to see the trees!” Have you ever been so close to a problem that you can’t make a good decision because you are “too close to the problem” or you have your heart invested in a situation too much or you are so “married” to a certain course of action that you cannot see a wiser choice. I think that we all have been there a time or two in our lives. This passage is about that kind of thing. There is a lot in this passage and we will spend four blogs on it, but for today, we will focus on David’s decision not to go to war with his troops.

The last time David did not go to war, at least as far as it is documented in the Bible, it did not turn out too well. The last time, he was back at the palace feeling like a king and not leading his troops he got in trouble by commandeering another man’s wife, having sex with her, getting her pregnant, trying to cover up the pregnancy, and ultimately ordering that the woman’s soldier husband be killed. Not exactly David’s finest hour.

Now, this time, David, as we think of him as this mighty warrior and skilled military tactician, seems to give in too easily to advice and stays behind … again. Is David getting soft? He doesn’t argue too much at all. He takes the advice pretty quickly and decides to stay behind. After what happened in the Bathsheba/Uriah incident, you’d think he’d be all-guts and ready to fight in this situation so as to prove to others and to himself that he was back to his old self again – cocked, locked, and ready to rock. However, he simply heeds the advice without much of an argument and remains behind. Is David being soft or is he being wise?

Let’s read this passage, 2 Samuel 18:1-18, for the first of four times, and then think this situation through. Let’s see if David is being soft or if he is being wise?

Chapter 18

1 David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains[a] to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”

3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us,[b] and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”

4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.

5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.

6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.

9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair[c] got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”

11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver[d] and a hero’s belt!”

12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,[e]” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”

14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.

In this passage, we see that David shook off the funk he had been in since the Bathsheba/Uriah incident many years before. He had been floundering in indecision particularly when it came to his children. There had been no mention during chapters 12-17 about the expansion of the kingdom of Israel. It was all about how David’s young adult children had been running amuck and creating problems within the kingdom and within the royal family. What a mess this has been as we have seen.

Finally, now, with the kingdom is disarray and in the midst of a civil war that could well destroy the royal family and the kingdom itself, David awakens from the fog that he has been in. David took command. He wants to charge forward and save the kingdom. He seems to want to prove himself the mighty man he had been before sin wracked his life. However, in this instance, the best advice for him would be to stay behind. In this instance, he could not be objective. In this particular civil war, he was not fighting against some unrelated rebel with some ax to grind against the king. He was going to be leading the charge against an army led by his own son. How could he be objective in this situation? His love for his son would blind him to the military tactics that would assure victory and even the death of his son. With the death of Absalom, the uprising would be put down. That would be the objective for David’s men. Take Absalom out. Eliminate the threat. The same would be true for Absalom and his men. However, an angry, self-absorbed child like Absalom would have no qualms about eliminating his father. Thus, David, being a dad, would be at a military disadvantage in this case if he were to lead the charge into battle. He would have made decisions based on loving his son rather than trying to eliminate an opposing military leader.
The smartest thing David does here is to recognize his lack of objectivity. He recognizes that he would be making decisions that could put his men at a disadvantage and could lose many men trying to preserve Absalom’s life. He is wise enough here to realize that he needed to step back from the situation and allow his, more objective, military leaders to handle the fray. They would think tactically and not emotionally. He was smart enough to take the advice. He was smart enough to realize that he was too close to the situation to make wise military decisions. He would have made military decisions based on being a dad rather than a military leader.

So, what does that teach us that we can use here in the 21st century? I think that it teaches us that we sometimes have to admit that we cannot be objective about a situation and step away and allow ourselves time to see a situation clearly. Sometimes, we have become too married to a certain course of action that we cannot give up on it. We won’t to ram it through because it is our idea. We won’t admit the flaws of our plan because it is our plan. We get so married to our idea that pride kicks in. We get so married to our idea that we refuse to see its flaws. We get so married to our idea that it becomes part of us and thus any attacks on our idea is an attack on us.

Similarly, we sometimes are like David when it comes to our kids too. We cannot see the hard things that we need to teach them and must teach them. However, because we can sometimes be so unobjective when it comes to our kids that we keep giving them the benefit of the doubt and delay those hard decisions in raising them until it’s too late. There are things that we are not willing to see about our kids and we enable them and keep bailing them out. We keep thinking that if we just give this help they will get over the hump and grow up. We keep thinking that they are too naïve to learn the lessons they need to learn. We often refuse to see that they are manipulating us and know the key words and key phrases that will press our hand open with the handout. I know that I made these mistakes with my youngest daughter. And often the hard lesson is that in teaching them the hard lessons of life early on, it will pay off later. They will respect you and have a good relationship with you as they mature. However, if you fail to be objective and fail to be a real parent to your child instead of trying to be the cool parent, they will force your hand one day. When you do have finally be a hard parent to your child, they see it as taking their entitlements away rather than making them grow up. They will go into civil war mode with you.

I should have taken advice about showing my child a harder line. I should have not so spoiled her as I did. I should have not enabled her laissez-faire lifestyle such that she did not get her first job until she was almost 20 years old. When I did finally take away the final vestiges of support and took away those yes-es to the “daddy I need $100 til my next paycheck” and never demanding my money back, she went into a mode now where our relationship is about as strained as it can be. I still love her and would accept in my front door right this minute if she would just come home to me. However, I do realize that I did her a disservice by not being objective about the lessons she needed to learn in life.

Sometimes, we just can’t be objective when we need to be. In those cases, we must realize it and seek the advice of those who are not so close to the situation and that can see the situation objectively. That’s as about as practical advice as there is from the Bible.

Amen and Amen.

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

It is a subject that we rarely talk about in general conversation in secular settings much less among believers in Jesus Christ. Suicide is just a subject that is not talked about generally and it is a subject that we should be talking about. After 50 or 60 years of the prevalence of moral relativism where God has been moved out of much of life by many, desperation and hopelessness and the search for the meaning of life is on the rise and, thus, so suicide is on the rise. I personally have friends who have dealt with suicide within their extended family so I do not write this blog flippantly and not without a significant amount of prayer over the past three days. I do understand the pain and suffering of those left behind in the wake of someone taking their own life. I have seen it in my two friends who lost their nephew in this way. I have along with a few of their closest friends been part of their grief process. So, this is not written without knowing or caring of its sensitivity. Having said that, let us consider today one of the issues presented by this passage – Ahithophel taking his own life.

Within the church, it is an issue that is rarely talked about even amongst believers who are close with one another and trust each other completely. But suicide is part of the landscape of a fallen world. Here are some facts. In March 2015, CBS News reported these findings:

“The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 5,178 suicide deaths among young people aged 10 to 24 in the U.S. in 2012. Suicide was the second leading cause of deaths in that age group, after accidents. The suicide rate increased for young people of both genders since 2007. And it remains three times higher for young males than young females. But the female increase has been steadier.

Suicide rates for younger people have varied over the years, with a recent upward trend starting around 2007. There were 4,320 suicide deaths in 2007; the toll was 5,264 in 2013. Suicide rates for older adults tend to be higher, in the range of 15 or 20 per 100,000. Since 2007, suicide rates have increased for older age groups, too.”

Though we do not talk about it much in both secular and Christian circles, there are several instances in the Bible where suicide occurs. There are seven accounts in the Bible of people who took their own lives. Probably the two best-known examples are:

1) Saul, who took his life to avoid the dishonor of being captured, abused, and killed (1 Samuel 31:1-4), and
2) Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then hung himself (Matthew 27:5).

Others who committed suicide are:
3) Abimelech (Judges 9:54) – to avoid the dishonor of being killed by a woman
4) Samson (Judges 16:28-31) – to defeat the Philistines who had imprisoned him
5) Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:5) – to follow his king, Saul, into death
6) Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23) – in defeat, when he realized his counsel was not followed
7) Zimri (1 Kings 16:18) – in defeat, to avoid capture
That brings us to the question – what if a Christ follower commits suicide? What does that mean in God’s view of that person?

It is a sad fact that some Christians have committed suicide. Adding to the tragedy is the that some believe committing suicide automatically consigns one to hell automatically. Many believe that a Christian who commits suicide will not be saved. Let’s clear that question up right now – This belief is not supported in the Bible.

Scripture teaches that, from the moment we truly believe in Christ, we are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39). No “created thing” can separate a Christian from God’s love, and even a Christian who commits suicide is a “created thing”; therefore, not even suicide can separate a Christian from God’s love. Jesus died for all of our sins, and if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, commits suicide, his sin is still covered by the blood of Christ.

According to the Bible, suicide is not what determines whether a person is granted entrance or is denied entrance into heaven. If an unsaved person commits suicide, he has done nothing but “expedite” his journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because he committed suicide (see John 3:18). We should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he or she died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that a person who commits suicide could have a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy. We leave such judgments to God (1 Samuel 16:7).

Why do I speak of this hush-hush subject in today’s blog? It is in this passage. When you read through the Bible sequentially, book to book, in the order that they are presented in the Bible, there are things that you encounter that are real life issues. To avoid them is to not allow our faith to be tested on the real issues of our time. We must consider the tough issues presented in Scripture that we can display to others a true understanding of our faith. To consider them requires careful study. What does the weight of biblical evidence say about the issue. Is what I think consistent with the weight of Scripture on the subject? Is what I think consistent with the nature of God? Let’s now look at the passage where Ahithophel takes his own life.

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 must ask What’s going on here? Why would such a seemingly minor thing drive Ahithophel to such drastic action? Was he a sore loser? Was he on some kind of power hungry kick with an ego so big he couldn’t stand losing to Hushai? At first blush Ahithophel looks like the kid who because he doesn’t get to bat first quits the game & takes the ball home with him. But as we dig into his story we realize that’s not the reason for his suicide. It’s much deeper and more troubling. Ahithophel was a bitter man who threw in his lot with Absalom for one reason–to get back at David; to exact revenge. Though they’d been friends, Ahithophel now hated David and ached to destroy him. That’s why he was so eager to press the final attack personally. But when Absalom preferred the folly of Hushai’s plan to the wisdom of his counsel, he realized he’d thrown in his lot with a fool and the rebellion was doomed. So he went home, put his affairs in order, and killed himself.

Why was he so bitter? You see Ahitophel was the one person who was in the know when David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He was in the Palace, in the confidence of the King, and he was Bathsheba’s Grandfather (see 2 Samuel 11:3)! Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam whose father was Ahitophel. Here is the seed of betrayal that years later became the motivation to turn on David and join Absalom. Grandfather Ahitophel carried that grudge for years, and David never knew it.

So what can we learn from this passage as believers in today’s world? As we go through life, we’re going to be hurt & offended and get angry as a result. We must never let that anger drive us to sin, either the sin of lashing out right away – Or the more subtle sin of stuffing our anger & turning it to a hate that slowly morphs into bitterness, and provides a beachhead in our soul for the devil to work death. Before the day passes, we need to take our hurts to God for His healing touch and the grace to let go of the right and desire to get even. Ahithophel wanted to play God and take his own vengeance. And when that backfired, he then thought that David would kill him for his treachery and decided to take his own life.

We do not know Ahithophel’s relationship with God. If he was not a true believer, this sin of suicide is just piled on the top of the sins of pride, vengeance and making revenge an idol among all the other sins for which he will be condemned before God. The weight of sin evidence including the sin of suicide is what will condemn him before God not just one particular sin. Living life on unrepentant sin before God is to say to Him that you do not believe in Him and that you it your own way.

But to say that even a believer in Jesus Christ is automatically condemned to hell because of the act of suicide itself does not square with biblical authority. Sure, suicide is a form of murder, though self-inflicted, and is thus a sin but it is no different than the any sin that we commit during our earthly life. A Christ follower’s salvation is not cancelled out by this one sin. It is another of the sins that we must account for before God at our judgment day. This sin and any other sin we have committed will be on full display before the Lord on the day of our judgment. It is then that we will feel the full weight of all our sins and realize, the most that we ever have, that we truly do not deserve the grace of Jesus Christ but will be eternally joyful when Jesus says this one is mine. I have paid for all these sins by my death on the cross. He is mine. He belongs here in heaven because of me and the work that I did for him on the cross.

Suicide is not unforgiveable. The only unforgiveable sin is rejecting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. In the absence of Jesus Christ, any single one, just one, of our sins (including suicide) committed in our life is sufficient to condemn us to be separated from God in hell not to mention the lifetime of sins that we commit. There is no one sin that is greater than another. Our first sin condemns us and all other sins are nails in the coffin as to what we deserve. Thus, in the body of evidence of the sins of a lifetime, we have no recourse and no excuse before the Lord and thus all sins are equal in God’s eyes. To single one sin out as being more grievous and more damning than another is just not true. All sins condemn equally.

That’s the danger. The danger is dying by own hands or any other means without having proclaimed with our heart, mind, soul and lips that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. Everything else can be forgiven before the Lord if we repent of those sins before God and proclaim Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord.

Amen and Amen.

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.

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.