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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 16:5-14
Shimei Curses David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 16:1-4
David and Ziba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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