Archive for October, 2018

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Part 3 of 3)
Solomon Judges Wisely

At least in Western culture, even those who do have no knowledge of the Bible do know about the saying “to split the baby!” From the standpoint of the two opposing sides of a conflict, it can mean that one party is so intent on hurting another party that they are willing to “split the baby” where victory is the sole goal. In this scenario, one person is so intent on victory that it does not matter whether a solution is best for everyone but rather it is more important to inflict the highest amount of pain and suffering on the other party.

In today’s world, we often see this in divorce situations. You have probably seen it or experienced it yourself. One party sees the other as the cause for the divorce and that they have no contributing factors in it at all. In this situation, you often see one spouse try to destroy the other spouse through harassment, false accusations, large legal claims, using any children in the relationship as pawns in an ultimate power game. You often see this spouse also try to poison the minds of the young children of the relationship with spiteful and hateful information or even lies about the spouse that left. You so often see this spouse become so consumed with the destruction of the other spouse that they forget to live. The destruction of the other spouse becomes their sole purpose in life. The most famous bitter divorce that many of us have seen in the movies (which was based on a true story) was a movie called, The Betty Broderick Story: A Woman Scorned.

In this movie, Betty became so obsessed with the destruction of her spouse that she drove away her children, all of her friends, and anyone who remotely had anything nice to say about her ex-husband. She harassed him for years and years. Once she even drove her vehicle through the front of her ex-husband’s house. This was just evidence of an escalating pattern of hatred that consumed Betty. She lost focus on her own life and living it. She became obsessed to the point that destruction and whatever victory was for her over her husband was the only goal. Ultimately, she ended up murdering her husband and his new wife as they slept (after she broke into their house during the night). It was a sad, sad story with a drastic ending. Betty would rather have gone to prison for murder than release her hurt and pain and move on with life. It destroyed her. She split the baby solely to gain victory.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Are you this? That’s what I thought of this morning, when I read about the mother in this story that was willing to have the baby split into in this story. To her, the baby was not life, it was a possession. Let’s read this passage one last time before we move and look particularly at this mother who was willing to split the baby:
16 Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. 17 “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. 18 Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house.

19 “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. 20 Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. 21 And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”

22 Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.”

“No,” the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so they argued back and forth before the king.

23 Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. 24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king.

25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

26 Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”

But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

27 Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

28 When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.

In this passage, we see the woman who was willing to split the baby as a person who was solely concerned with inflicting pain on the other mother in this case. The baby was of no consequence to her. The baby was simply a pawn in a power play. She was hurting and she wanted the other mother to hurt as much as she did. She wanted to win no matter the cost. Victory to her was to have her friend feel as bad as she did. Victory to her was to scorch the earth so there was no winner. Hurt people are the ones that most often hurt people.

In our illustration, Betty Broderick was willing to split the baby. She was so intent on destroying her ex-husband that she basically lost her mind. She became so focused on whatever her definition of winning was that she did not ultimately care about her kids, her friends, her own talents to contribute to the world, and ultimately her freedom. Even in prison, at the end of the movie, she still did not see that she had done anything wrong (murder). She was defiant and arrogant as if she was the victim and the heroine of the story. She had won. But at what cost? She had split the baby and gained nothing.

Are you so intent on destroying someone else that it has become an obsession? Release it. You have value outside of the person that you are trying to destroy. Release it to the Lord. Give your pain to Him. Ask Him to help you get on with life. He has so much more in store for you. When you become obsessed with the destruction of another person, you have made them your god. You are placing someone other than God on the throne of your life. Even if you hate them with every ounce of your body, you have made them and the hate your god. It is a false god when it is other than the one true God. There is no satisfying other gods. We think if we can just win this battle everything will be better. Then, that battle becomes another and another and another. Let it go. Let God heal your heart. Let God teach you about becoming like the true mother in this case. She was willing to let her baby go so that it might live and thrive. You’ve got to let your hate go so that you can live and thrive.

Seek counseling. Find a church with a divorce care group. Let God heal you. Don’t let hate have the ultimate victory where you are a slave to the idol of hate. Are you tired of it all? Let it go! Give it to God. He loves you and sees you as being of great value in and of yourself. He wants you to live and thrive. Quit splitting the baby and let God heal you and change you into the wonderful child of God that you can be!

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 3:16-28 (Part 2 of 3)
Solomon Judges Wisely

Before anyone has children, they cannot understand the love that you have for a child. It is a love that just cannot be explained until you experience it yourself. I remember when my firstborn child, my oldest daughter, was born. Prior to her birth, yes, I saw my wife at the time, my first wife, pregnant and I understood it all from a technical standpoint. Yes, we were overjoyed at the pregnancy as we had been trying for a year when she finally became pregnant. It was a joyful concept to think of a child being born to us. It was neat buying clothes for the child, setting up a nursery, and dreaming of what it would be like. But it was all very conceptual. We had no experience at being parents.

I remember after Meghan was born that first time that the nurses and staff left us alone with the baby there in the hospital room. Lisa was asleep from a long labor and it was just me and Meghan. The awesome responsibility of being a parent washed over me at that moment. I was scared to death. This was not some toy but a child. This was not somebody else’s baby, she was mine. Trying to determine what an infant wants for a first time parent is an overwhelming experience. However, at the same time, when she looked up at me with that look of utter dependence on me, this love that I had never known washed over me as well as the previously stated fears. That moment began a bond between her and me that only has grown stronger over the years. I was scared to death and madly in parental love with this child. That first few days was weird. I was scared I was going to break her. I was scared I was not going to be able to satisfy her needs (as babies do not have a digital screen on them telling you what the problem is). Yet, at the same time, I began to intuitively know what to do. Sure, at first, it was hit and miss as to figuring out what this child needed. But the love, that indescribable love guided my actions.

I remember as she grew older, she became my shadow. She thought her daddy was the most awesome man in the world. Whatever I was doing, she had to be there with me. I missed her so much when I was at work and when I got home she would wrap herself around my leg and I would walk to the bedroom with this little child wrapped around my leg as I walked to the bedroom to put down my stuff and she would be giggling hilariously all the way. These are the moments you remember of this pure love for a child and her for you. You don’t know any of this kind of love until you have your first child.

And when our second daughter, Taylor, came along when Meghan was 5 years old, we were much better prepared for the parenting but I wondered during the pregnancy as to how I could love another child as much as my shadow, my oldest daughter. However, God expands our heart to create a new love that you had never known before. Taylor, I love just as much as Meghan because it is a separate love. A love especially designed for Taylor just as my love for Meghan is especially designed for her. These girls are different as night and day but yet I love each of them in an immensity that either of them will ever know. My oldest is beginning to understand that love as she has a 2 year old daughter of her own. For each of these girls, I would give my life so that they might live. And then there is my step-daughter, Michelle. I didn’t think I could l love her the way I do but over the past decade she has made her way deep into my heart as well. Each of these girls have my love just for being who they are. A love I never knew until I became a parent and step-parent.

That’s what I thought of this morning, when I read about the true mother of the child in this passage. She loved this child so much that she was willing to give the child up so that it might live. That’s a love that you will never understand until you are a parent:
16 Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. 17 “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. 18 Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house.

19 “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. 20 Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. 21 And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”

22 Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.”

“No,” the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so they argued back and forth before the king.

23 Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. 24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king.

25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

26 Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”

But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

27 Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

28 When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.

In this passage, we see the love that a parent has for a child. It is the same love that Jesus Christ has for us. Maybe that is why we become parents. So, that we can understand in a real way about his love for us. A parent’s love for a child is enduring and never fails. Even when we are disappointed in how they live their lives, we still love them. It is the same for us with Jesus Christ. Although it grieves Him when we stray from how He taught us to live, He still loves us. He still has hope for us. Just as we have hope, eternal hope, for our children. Even in multiple failures of our children, we still have love and hope for their future. We give them mercies anew on a daily basis. Jesus does the same for us as sinners. Jesus longs for the day when we will return home to Him and begin living lives imbued by the Holy Spirit. A parent longs for the same for their children. We disappoint God and He lets us live out the consequences of our sinful decisions but that in no way lessens His love for us.

In this passage, we see the sacrifice that a parent is willing to make for her child. In Jesus Christ, he sacrificed it all so that we would have a way to be reconciled to the Father. The true mother in this passage desires the best for her child not to be torn apart by sin. Jesus does the same on the cross for us. He was willing to give up his life, just as the mother is willing to give up her rights to the child, so that we could have a hope and a future free of the consequences of sin.

How much do you love your own kids? Would you be willing to give them up so that they would live? Our Father in heaven does the same. The love for our children is God’s way of demonstrating His own love for us. He gave up His Son so that we might live. That’s how much He loves us. So, next time, you look adoringly at your own children, remember…that is how much God loves us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Part 1 of 3)
Solomon Judges Wisely

As some of you may know, my dad passed away one week ago today on Monday, October 22, 2018. That is why I have not posted on here in a week. I had to make the trip from where we live now in Illinois back to South Carolina for his funeral. Solomon’s story here kind of reminds me about some of the things that I admired about my dad.

I always looked to him for wisdom and he was the prototypical Southern gentlemen who was born at the tail end of the Great Depression on March 12, 1939 and just a year and 9 months before Pearl Harbor pulled America into World War II. Thus, he grew up in the Southern culture with all its quippy sayings. One of my dad’s favorite sayings that he often used with me was, “such is life!” That was a saying he used quite often when there was nothing that could be done about a situation. When you explained to him about some unfair thing that had happened to you and how you were outraged by it, he would simply quip, “Such is life!” That was what he said when there was no explanation to be given, no wisdom to be dispensed on how to correct a situation. Just, “such is life!”.

In that saying, though, there was great wisdom. It may have sounded like a cop-out to me when I was in the middle of whatever situation I presented to him and he gave me that quip. However, there was great wisdom in those three words, “such is life!”. In those three words was a reminder that sometimes in life, you are going to be in no-win situations. Sometimes in life, you gotta take you lumps and just survive. Sometimes in life, unfair things happen to us and we can either be devastated by them, use them as an excuse for the future, or we can get knocked down, get up, dust our pants off, and go about the business of recovering from the unfair thing that happened to us. There is an old saying similar to my dad’s three-word saying that says “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it!”

One of the things that I admired about my dad was the fact that he always had what was best for me in his mind. He raised me with an eye toward the man that he wanted me to become in the future and never compromised that. It meant there was discipline and consequences and no negotiations about any penalties to be paid for bad behavior. He was also a very approachable dad who gave me wisdom in our conversations about things I was facing in life. I went to mom when I just needed somebody to hug me but I went to dad when I needed advice and wisdom. “Such is life” was sometimes the response which meant that I just needed to accept the wrong that was done and recover from it. Sometimes, you just gotta get over it and move on and keep living. Don’t get so caught up on what happened to you but do get busy getting over it and moving on. That’s wisdom that many people need to hear today.

I thought of my dad with his sage, Southern wisdom when I looked at how Solomon handled this situation in 1 Kings 3:16-28 today. Solomon shows great wisdom here. He cares about the most important thing and that is the child. Let us see how he handles this situation as we read:
16 Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. 17 “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. 18 Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house.

19 “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. 20 Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. 21 And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”

22 Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.”

“No,” the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so they argued back and forth before the king.

23 Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. 24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king.

25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

26 Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”

But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

27 Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

28 When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.

In this passage, we see Solomon’s settlement of this dispute as a classic example of his wisdom. This wise ruling was verification that God had answered Solomon’s prayer and given him an understanding heart. We have God’s wisdom available to us as we pray and request it. However, we must, like Solomon, put it into action.

Just as my dad sometimes had to tell me what I needed to hear such as “such is life” so, too, does Solomon wisely discerns that the most important here is the child and its relationship with its mother. In this situation, the one who was willing to give up her own child so that it may live was the true mother. To the other mother, the child was simply a possession. To the real mother, the child was the most important thing. The wisdom of Solomon pushes this reality to the surface with the absurd notion of cutting the baby in half, which of course would have killed the baby. The true mother’s love is forced to the surface at the thought of killing her child just to win an argument. Solomon had just the right thing to say here to resolve the situation that seemed to be unresolvable at first.

My dad was the same way with me. He had a way to getting to the heart of the matter when I discussed things with him. Sometimes, the response has to be “such as life” because that is the case. Sometimes, the greatest wisdom seems so absurd at the time. Cutting a baby in half or “such is life” seems cruel in one case and uncaring in the other. However, in both cases, the truth of the matter is forced to the surface. With my dad, “such is life” was his way of saying, “ok, Mark, I know what happened to you was unfair but from what you have said, there is nothing that you can do about it other than accept it and move on.” Sometimes, we need to hear that. Sometimes, we need that truth forced to the surface.

Thanks, Dad, for telling me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:1-15 (Part 2 of 2)
Solomon Asks for Wisdom

That legendary rock and roll icon, Tom Petty, once had a song where the title and part of the chorus was “the waiting is the hardest part.” I would like to usurp that line today and change it a bit to the following: “the listening is the hardest part!” As we move through this blog, you will see why that change to Tom Petty’s lyric is appropriate.

Have you ever thought that God’s will for your life was a certain thing and you fully believed that but yet things did not turn out as you thought they would? We’ve all been there, maybe more than once or twice in our lives. You think that it’s God will for you to do this or do that. Then, you find out that it turned out to be something quite different than you had imagined as God’s will. What I am talking about kind of reminds of that old show from the 1970s that was wildly popular at the time, Fantasy Island.

In that show, guests would pay what was assumed to be significant amounts of money to come to this unnamed island resort somewhere in the Pacific Ocean owned by Mr. Roarke. They would pay Mr. Roarke for a two-week adventure where they could live out their fantasy of being this or being that. They would get to live out their dream, their fantasy of something that they wanted do all their life. There would usually be three guest stars who would play ordinary people coming to the island to live out their fantasy. The show would follow the same formula every week. The guest stars would arrive and Mr. Roarke would greet the guests and then he would tell his assistant, Tatoo, about each guest and their back story and what their fantasy was to live out while they were there on the island. Each guest would then settle in and go to their separate parts of the show and we, the audience would follow each one. With each guest, the formula would be (1) intro into the fantasy they had chosen, (2) things seemed awesome for a while (3) something would happen that would cause a moral dilemma for the guest where the fantasy seemed to backfire on them and (4) the resolution where the guest would figure out that their current life was pretty good and they learned something from the experience. The idea was kind of simple, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

Sometimes, we are that way with God. We pray for our personal desires rather than for God’s will. We sometimes wish for what we want and not for what God’s plan is for us. We sometimes confuse what our personal desires are with the will of God for our lives. Sometimes, we get so busy telling God what we want for our lives that we forget to listen for what His will is for our lives. We pray to God as if he is a vending machine. I want this so I push this button and God will vend that right then and there. We then push ahead with our desires and not realizing that it may not be what God desires for us. Then, like in Fantasy Island, something goes wrong with the desire that we have followed and we wonder why God has failed us. Haven’t you been there?

That was the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through 1 Kings 3:1-15 a second time. How we forge ahead with our personal desires and confuse those desires with God’s will and then get angry with God because what we called “his will for our lives” did not turn out like we planned. That is pretty much the opposite of what Solomon prays for in this passage and that is what makes it remarkable:
Chapter 3
1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and married one of his daughters. He brought her to live in the City of David until he could finish building his palace and the Temple of the Lord and the wall around the city. 2 At that time the people of Israel sacrificed their offerings at local places of worship, for a temple honoring the name of the Lord had not yet been built.

3 Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. 4 The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. 5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

6 Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

15 Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet.

In this passage, we see that Solomon ask for wisdom, not wealth, but God gave him riches and long life as well. While God does not promise riches to those who follow him – most often it is quite the contrary, he gives us what we need if we put His kingdom, his interests, and his principles first (Matthew 6:31-33). If we put God and His interests first, we may not always find earthly riches in it but we will come to find satisfaction in the joy of the Lord and being in and doing His will. In asking for wisdom, Solomon was asking for the discernment to do God’s will. He did not ask God to do his job for him but he was asking God to shine his wisdom through him. Solomon was asking the ability to understand and know God’s will in everything that he did. When we chase after our own desires, we sometimes mistake our own ego-driven desires for the will of God. When we pray about things going on in our lives, we must pray as Solomon does here. We must seek His will and the wisdom to understand what that is.

That is the takeaway this morning as I ponder and pray upon what I have read. Wisdom is as much discernment as it is anything else. Discernment is in part listening and then considering. When we spend our prayer time bringing our petitions before God, we must take the time to listen and consider. So often, we pray to God but we do not wait and listen. We place our order and think that because we prayed what we prayed, that it is now a God’s will thing. Sure, we in our state of the flesh must grapple with things before the Lord. We should have earnest conversations with him about our highs, our lows, our problems, how we see that those problems should be fixed. We should come to our Abba Father as an open book. We should come to him and lay everything all out before him. Just as we often do with our earthly dads, we should lay out the issue before God, and tell God what we think about it and how we should be proceeding. We then wait for our earthly dads to give us their sage advice as to what to do in the situation. As we grow up, we often find that our resolution to the situation gets more similar to our dad’s way (but not always). As we grow up in Christ, we find that our resolutions to situations may become more closely aligned with His will for our lives, but not always. We are all flesh so we cannot know God’s will perfectly. However, instead of listening as we do often with our earthly dads, we often treat God like hopping in Santa Claus’ lap – this is what I want and then hop down.

What I will takeaway from Solomon’s request for wisdom today is that wisdom is knowing and understanding God’s will in the situations of our lives. Wisdom comes from making the right choices based on discerning the various options. Discernment comes from listening. And there lies the learning thing for today. Listen to God. How can we know God’s will for our lives if we do not listen for His response to our petitions? Sometimes in our prayer life, instead doing all talking, we should spend some time just being quiet and listening. That’s hard for us in this world of constant multimedia input into our lives. Be still and listen. God is not our vending machine. He is our Father. He is Lord. He is Creator. Let us gain his universal and eternal wisdom and purpose for our lives by listening in our prayers as much or more than we do the talking.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:1-15 (Part 1 of 2)
Solomon Asks for Wisdom

Haven’t you heard it before? “I love Jesus but I am not really a churchy kind of person!” or “Oh, I don’t go to church very often. I’d rather stay at home and listen to Christian television or radio programs, or listen to Bible-teaching tapes.” Others reluctantly admit to me, “We only go to church when we can work it into our family schedule” or “I go to church as often as I can,” which usually means not very often. While connecting with people, helping those in need, fighting injustice, and resting are all necessary things, we should not prioritize them above God himself. God alone is preeminent (Colossians 1:18). These activities should flow from life-giving connection with Christ and his people. When we make good things central we give them God’s position, and they become idols.

One of the dangers of not attending church and meeting with other believers can lead to what we find in this passage. Mixing non-scriptural beliefs with those that are scriptural. Although Solomon was a wise king and great king in the history of Israel, he over time played loose with his belief systems. We can do the same thing as those who love the Lord. God ordained in Hebrews that we should gather together as often as we can to stir each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25). And I am not saying that a church is a building with a steeple. There are churches in countries where being a Christian is a dangerous public proclamation where they meet in the night in people’s houses. So, I am not talking about brick and mortar monoliths that we construct here in the United States but the church in the sense of the gathering together of fellow Christians. And I am not saying that vocational full-time pastors are the arbiters of our faith because churches in China may have been started by vocational missionaries but there are perpetuated by part-time pastors with little formal education, if any. Certainly, the apostles that created the church as we know it were just common guys who had been exposed to Jesus Christ himself and were empowered by the Holy Spirit. So, churches are not building. Churches do not have to be led by vocational pastors. I am also not saying that it is not of great advantage to have brick and mortar buildings and to have formally trained and experienced pastors. That is great if you have those assets. What great things can be accomplished when you have those assets.

But what I am saying is that being a lone-wolf Christian can be dangerous. It can lead you to having what religious experts call syncretism. Syncretism is where you merge non-Scriptural beliefs to the doctrines that come out of the collective and cohesive source of our beliefs, The Bible. Syncretism will allow to consider, for example, that all religions are equal and that each is just a different road to God but yet at the same time read in the Bible that Jesus says blatantly that no one comes to the Father except through Him. And there are a number of false doctrines in our culture of tolerance of all beliefs that we can easily slide into when we attempt to be lone-wolf Christ followers.

So, similarly, we see the seeds of the same kind of thing in this passage as Solomon begins his reign as king of Israel. Introduction of foreign idol-based religions and modifying prescribed biblical teaching to suit the moment can be seen in the actions of Solomon as he begins his reign. These seeds ultimately lead to a fractured nation after Solomon’s death. Solomon is an interesting figure that we will begin to follow through the coming passages. In this passage alone, we see both the seeds of his downfall but also the seeds of his greatness as king. Today, we will focus on the seeds of his downfall that appear right away. In the next blog, we will look at his request for wisdom as the seeds of his greatness as king. For now, let us read this passage with the idea of mixing non-biblical with the biblical in mind:

Chapter 3
1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and married one of his daughters. He brought her to live in the City of David until he could finish building his palace and the Temple of the Lord and the wall around the city. 2 At that time the people of Israel sacrificed their offerings at local places of worship, for a temple honoring the name of the Lord had not yet been built.

3 Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. 4 The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. 5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

6 Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

15 Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet.

In this passage, there are so many things to see, but two things are of interest for today are the not so wise aspects of Solomon’s behavior. First, we see that Solomon marries a daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt to solidify an alliance between the two nations and ensure peace. Marriage between royal families was a common practice in the ancient Middle East and was a common practice among nations of Europe and elsewhere right up until the early 20th century. Although Solomon’s marital alliances built friendships with surrounding nations, they were also the beginning of his downfall. Those relationships became inroads for pagan ideas and practices. Solomon’s foreign wives eventually lured him into idolatry.

Second, God’s law said the Israelites could make sacrifices only in specified place (see Deuteronomy 12:13-14). This law was to prevent the people from instituting their own methods of worship and allowing pagan practices to creep into their worship. However, many Israelites, including Solomon, made sacrifices in the surrounding hills. This condition took the offerings out of the watchful care of priests loyal to God and opened the way for false teaching to be tied to these practices.

Just as Solomon mixed and matched what he was willing to follow from God’s Word, so, too, are we in danger of doing the same thing when we do not gather together with other believers and take a lone-wolf approach to being a Christ follower.

Why then is it important for us to gather together as frequently as we can with other believers? We are at a crossroads in our nation on the importance of going to church. According to research, church attendance by most research is declining while our nation’s population has steadily grown at a rate of about 2% per year since the end of the “Baby Boom”.

The “Church” never connotes a single, individual, lone-wolf Christian just going about his Christian duties, and never gathering together to worship with other believers. The “Church” by its very nature means multiple believers, who “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

This is both the Biblical and historical pattern set forth for us by the first followers of Jesus. They would get together weekly to worship God together, and at times even daily. They would also share community together in each other’s homes. Paul and the other Apostle’s letters were actually sent to these church communities that gathered in various cities to be read aloud together. Church means getting together with other believers to worship Jesus Christ, and hear the Scriptures together, and encourage one another in the faith.

And part of encouragement is accountability. We may be challenged by fellow believers and leaders about non-biblical practices that we accept as normal behavior for a Christian. We may get challenged about sins in our lives that we do not even know to be sin because Satan often blinds us to our sins. Part of encouragement is learning the true doctrines of the faith that sometimes fly in the face of culture. Part of encouragement is seeing others who are more mature in faith than we are to see how they live their lives and how they apply the doctrines of the Bible to their lives. Gathering regularly with other believers becomes a refining process whereby we help each other, pray for each other and encourage each other to want to follow Christ more wholeheartedly. It is a truly beautiful thing.

Let us take heed from Solomon’s actions here. We cannot decide for ourselves as lone-wolf Christians as to what we will believe and what we will not believe. We need Christian community so as to encourage us on to become more and more like Christ daily and to hold us accountable for the unchanging doctrines of our faith that spring forth from the pages of Scripture.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 2:13-46 (Part 3 of 3)
Solomon Establishes His Rule

Normally, in my blog posts, my typical writing pattern is to share a personal story from my own life, someone I know, or current events as a set up for the Scripture passage, then share the Scripture passage, and after the passage share some life application for the meaning of the passage. However, today is going to be a little different. Today, it’s going to be a character analysis of one of the Bible’s bad guys – Shimei – and what we can learn from him. No personal stories just analyzing this dude, Shimei.

Sometimes, the Bible is just raw and real and we often just jump over such passages because they present uncomfortable truths. When you follow the Bible sequentially and not topically, you run across passages that present uncomfortable topics. In this passage, to do it justice, you have to deal with Shimei. The Biblical account of Shimei, son of Gera, is a brief one but he appears more than once and you think, “Oh yeah, I remember this guy!” What is God trying to teach us through this guy? He is mentioned, briefly, in four different places in the story of David and Solomon. Therefore, he is a character that needs to be analyzed.

Shimei was of the same family as King Saul and evidently opposed the accession of David to the throne of Israel. We first meet him on one of the darkest days in King David’s life. David’s son, Absalom, has gained the upper hand in his bid to replace his father on the throne. David and his entourage flee Jerusalem in disarray. Adding to the humiliation of the hour is a young Benjamite running parallel to the road, cursing David and pelting him with dirt and stones.

In 2 Samuel 16:9-12, we read that David’s reaction was this:

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[b] 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[c] and will bless me because of these curses today.”

In this 2 Samuel account, we as Christ followers admire David for his forgiveness of those who curse you. He shows great humility. We know that at this time in his life, David was overcome with guilt for his sins. He was so overcome with guilt that he failed his children and he failed his kingdom. Why, then, does David tell Solomon to deal with Shimei? It seems, though, that Shimei was a thoroughly despicable man, however, and that he persisted in his opposition to David. On his deathbed, David charged Solomon with the task of executing Shimei: “Do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood” (1 Kings 2:9). The only reason Shimei was still alive was that David was honoring his oath to allow him to live that he made in 2 Samuel. Solomon showed Shimei mercy, giving him one final chance: as long as Shimei remained in Jerusalem, he would live (verses 36–37). Shimei agreed to the pact, but three years later he left the city. When King Solomon found out, he called for Shimei and told him, “You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the Lord will repay you for your wrongdoing” (verse 44). Shimei was then executed (verse 46).

Then, how do we relate this story to our lives in the 21st century? I think we can relate to this story in three ways.

First, we must be willing to accept criticism even when we don’t want to hear it. David demonstrates that to us in 2 Samuel and he carries that restraint through the remainder of his life. Sometimes, there may be more truth in our enemies’ words than in the counsel of our friends. Perhaps their eyes are sharper than our friends’ eyes, or our friends may be aware of our weakness and unwilling to tell us. Love is quick to note our faults, but sometimes slow to point them out and correct them. Charles Spurgeon once said,

“Get your friend to tell you your faults, or better still, welcome an enemy who will watch you keenly and sting you savagely. What a blessing such an irritating critic will be to a wise man. What an intolerable nuisance to a fool.”

We should search our hearts to see if the criticism is true before dismissing it or treating it with disdain. Before we reject harsh comments, we should go to the Lord in prayer about what has been said and ask the Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts about the truth of what has been said.

The second thing that we can learn from this account of Shimei is that we must trust the Lord and He will reveal intentions of others in His timing. Here, Shimei, ultimately shows Solomon that he really doesn’t care what Solomon ordered him to do. Ultimately, he held David and his descendants in great contempt. He acted one way toward the Davidic dynasty in public but his real feelings are ultimately displayed when he ignores the command of King Solomon. It took three years for his true feelings to come out. Solomon shows great restraint for three years but ultimately Shimei real feelings are exposed. He had total disregard for the Davidic dynasty. In this, we must learn to trust the Lord and He will reveal what needs to be revealed.

The third thing is about how Shimei let his disdain for David and his descendants consume him and it ultimately cost him dearly. First, it imprisoned him in Jerusalem and then ultimately cost him his life. Let us take this point to heart as much as the first two. Let us be ones who seek reconciliation rather than continued conflict. It is all about losing our pride and saying that we must take steps toward each other rather than continuing a conflict to preserve our pride.

From David and Solomon, we learn three valuable lessons. With that in mind, let us re-read this passage one more time before we move on to the next passage:

13 One day Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, came to see Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. “Have you come with peaceful intentions?” she asked him.

“Yes,” he said, “I come in peace. 14 In fact, I have a favor to ask of you.”

“What is it?” she asked.

15 He replied, “As you know, the kingdom was rightfully mine; all Israel wanted me to be the next king. But the tables were turned, and the kingdom went to my brother instead; for that is the way the Lord wanted it. 16 So now I have just one favor to ask of you. Please don’t turn me down.”

“What is it?” she asked.

17 He replied, “Speak to King Solomon on my behalf, for I know he will do anything you request. Ask him to let me marry Abishag, the girl from Shunem.”

18 “All right,” Bathsheba replied. “I will speak to the king for you.”

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak on Adonijah’s behalf. The king rose from his throne to meet her, and he bowed down before her. When he sat down on his throne again, the king ordered that a throne be brought for his mother, and she sat at his right hand.

20 “I have one small request to make of you,” she said. “I hope you won’t turn me down.”

“What is it, my mother?” he asked. “You know I won’t refuse you.”

21 “Then let your brother Adonijah marry Abishag, the girl from Shunem,” she replied.

22 “How can you possibly ask me to give Abishag to Adonijah?” King Solomon demanded. “You might as well ask me to give him the kingdom! You know that he is my older brother, and that he has Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah on his side.”

23 Then King Solomon made a vow before the Lord: “May God strike me and even kill me if Adonijah has not sealed his fate with this request. 24 The Lord has confirmed me and placed me on the throne of my father, David; he has established my dynasty as he promised. So as surely as the Lord lives, Adonijah will die this very day!” 25 So King Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada to execute him, and Adonijah was put to death.

26 Then the king said to Abiathar the priest, “Go back to your home in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not kill you now, because you carried the Ark of the Sovereign Lord for David my father and you shared all his hardships.” 27 So Solomon deposed Abiathar from his position as priest of the Lord, thereby fulfilling the prophecy the Lord had given at Shiloh concerning the descendants of Eli.

28 Joab had not joined Absalom’s earlier rebellion, but he had joined Adonijah’s rebellion. So when Joab heard about Adonijah’s death, he ran to the sacred tent of the Lord and grabbed on to the horns of the altar. 29 When this was reported to King Solomon, he sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada to execute him.

30 Benaiah went to the sacred tent of the Lord and said to Joab, “The king orders you to come out!”

But Joab answered, “No, I will die here.”

So Benaiah returned to the king and told him what Joab had said.

31 “Do as he said,” the king replied. “Kill him there beside the altar and bury him. This will remove the guilt of Joab’s senseless murders from me and from my father’s family. 32 The Lord will repay him[a] for the murders of two men who were more righteous and better than he. For my father knew nothing about the deaths of Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and of Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. 33 May their blood be on Joab and his descendants forever, and may the Lord grant peace forever to David, his descendants, his dynasty, and his throne.”

34 So Benaiah son of Jehoiada returned to the sacred tent and killed Joab, and he was buried at his home in the wilderness. 35 Then the king appointed Benaiah to command the army in place of Joab, and he installed Zadok the priest to take the place of Abiathar.

36 The king then sent for Shimei and told him, “Build a house here in Jerusalem and live there. But don’t step outside the city to go anywhere else. 37 On the day you so much as cross the Kidron Valley, you will surely die; and your blood will be on your own head.”

38 Shimei replied, “Your sentence is fair; I will do whatever my lord the king commands.” So Shimei lived in Jerusalem for a long time.

39 But three years later two of Shimei’s slaves ran away to King Achish son of Maacah of Gath. When Shimei learned where they were, 40 he saddled his donkey and went to Gath to search for them. When he found them, he brought them back to Jerusalem.

41 Solomon heard that Shimei had left Jerusalem and had gone to Gath and returned. 42 So the king sent for Shimei and demanded, “Didn’t I make you swear by the Lord and warn you not to go anywhere else or you would surely die? And you replied, ‘The sentence is fair; I will do as you say.’ 43 Then why haven’t you kept your oath to the Lord and obeyed my command?”

44 The king also said to Shimei, “You certainly remember all the wicked things you did to my father, David. May the Lord now bring that evil on your own head. 45 But may I, King Solomon, receive the Lord’s blessings, and may one of David’s descendants always sit on this throne in the presence of the Lord.” 46 Then, at the king’s command, Benaiah son of Jehoiada took Shimei outside and killed him.

So the kingdom was now firmly in Solomon’s grip.

In this passage and by reference to the previous reference to Shimei in 2 Samuel 16, we learn that:

(1) take heed of the harsh words of another. Is there truth in it? Is there something that we can learn from the searing words of others. David showed restraint because he felt as though God had a purpose in the harsh words of Shimei. May we have the humility of David to examine ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit to see our flaws as being pointed out by the harsh words of another.

(2) We must have patience and trust the Lord. We must understand that there may be some nugget of wisdom from God in the harsh words of someone who opposes us and we must take that to heart. We must also have patience and allow the Lord to shed light on the intentions of others and trust Him to show us how to deal with people who oppose us. Ask Him to shed light on why the person opposes us and help us to bridge that gap – which leads to the final lesson of this passage – see (3) below.

(3)  Shimei failed in his relationship with someone he did not like and eventually he suffered grave consequences. Thus what about us as Christians. Do we desire reconciliation? Each of us often will have differences, but how do we deal with them. Even as Shimei was, we all will be called into account when we go before the throne of God for what we did, said, or had in the secret recesses of our hearts and minds. In the Old and New Testament, God tells us through the biblical authors to always seek reconciliation and to disdain pride. Thus, we are commanded more than once to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking. Put away all malice. Let us not forget the lesson of Shimei. Be forgiving as you have been forgiven. Trust the Lord with it all.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 2:13-46 (Part 2 of 3)
Solomon Establishes His Rule

Joab was quite the character in David’s kingdom, was he not? But to be fair, his actions, though loathsome, are all too familiar to us. He’s what you might call  a “political pragmatist”. He makes his own way! He is keenly aware of who stands in his way. He is the definition of a Machiavellian politician. Machiavellianism is a term that some social, forensic and personality psychologists use to describe a person’s tendency to be detach themselves from conventional morality in an effort to achieve their own goals. They are the classic “the end justifies the means” kind of person.

Joab fits that description. He is someone who takes brutal views and a tough guy approach to problems because he thinks that’s the only reasonable way to behave. Joab seeks revenge against Abner, killing him for murdering his brother, and he executes Absalom against David’s orders (though he spins the events to show himself to actually be serving David’s best interests afterwards). His most aggressive act might be when he treacherously guts and kills Amasa, who had replaced Joab as David’s chief general. It’s an extremely jealous and rather mean thing to do. Don’t forget he has the goods on David because he also helps David carry out his treacherous plot to kill Uriah the Hittite. Like David keeps saying about Joab and his brother, Abishai, they’re simply “too violent.” You never see Joab seeking after the Lord but rather trying to politically position himself or to defend the position that he has obtained.

We do not have to go far to see this in the movies. There was the movie, Primary Colors. Primary Colors is a 1998 film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Elaine May was adapted from the novel Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics, a thinly-veiled fictional tale that anyone could deduce was about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992. This film masterfully shows the inside of a political campaign in which morality goes out the window in a no-holes barred attempt to grab the White House. There are no boy scouts in this film. It shows politics is as a dirty a game as the participants are willing to take it. It was certainly an indictment of the Clintons as the “say and do whatever is necessary to win” candidate couple. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether the film is true to the political careers of the main characters of this “fictional” film. It is an indictment of us as the American voting public that we do not require more depth of character and morality from our candidates for public office.

The thing that is striking Joab and the main characters in Primary Colors is how much like him we all can be. We want to control our own destiny. We want to make our own way. We want what we want and we want it now. When it all doesn’t work out for us or we get caught doing the wrong thing, we then turn to God. God is our God of last resort. We often try to figure out every way to fix or solve our problems ourselves as opposed to putting it in God’s hands. When this doesn’t work out for us we decide to turn it over to God, because we have no other option.

Whenever we find ourselves in “a situation”, whether it be small or significant, we typically have multiple choices as to how to handle it. Just look at all the self-help or self-actualization books out there. We all are looking for ways to get a leg-up on our competition. But there is always emptiness that comes with our efforts. There is always somebody to that we have to be weary of. There is always somebody that’s gonna simply be better than us at what we do. There is always going to someone that is better positioned than you. And when you get to where you want to be, as you see it, then it all becomes about defending the fort at that point. It can be maddening and tiring to say the least. We all are aware of these kinds of people in our lives. We may actually be one of these people and not even realize it and, then, like we said, there are plenty, o’ plenty, examples in the political landscape at the federal, state and local levels that you and I can think of immediately. That’s what makes a character study of Joab so topical to us in the 21st century.

It is that type of “making your own destiny at all costs” kind of personality that kind of sums up Joab as he runs to the altar as a last resort that I thought of when I read this passage one more time today. Let’s read this passage together again now:

13 One day Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, came to see Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. “Have you come with peaceful intentions?” she asked him.

“Yes,” he said, “I come in peace. 14 In fact, I have a favor to ask of you.”

“What is it?” she asked.

15 He replied, “As you know, the kingdom was rightfully mine; all Israel wanted me to be the next king. But the tables were turned, and the kingdom went to my brother instead; for that is the way the Lord wanted it. 16 So now I have just one favor to ask of you. Please don’t turn me down.”

“What is it?” she asked.

17 He replied, “Speak to King Solomon on my behalf, for I know he will do anything you request. Ask him to let me marry Abishag, the girl from Shunem.”

18 “All right,” Bathsheba replied. “I will speak to the king for you.”

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak on Adonijah’s behalf. The king rose from his throne to meet her, and he bowed down before her. When he sat down on his throne again, the king ordered that a throne be brought for his mother, and she sat at his right hand.

20 “I have one small request to make of you,” she said. “I hope you won’t turn me down.”

“What is it, my mother?” he asked. “You know I won’t refuse you.”

21 “Then let your brother Adonijah marry Abishag, the girl from Shunem,” she replied.

22 “How can you possibly ask me to give Abishag to Adonijah?” King Solomon demanded. “You might as well ask me to give him the kingdom! You know that he is my older brother, and that he has Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah on his side.”

23 Then King Solomon made a vow before the Lord: “May God strike me and even kill me if Adonijah has not sealed his fate with this request. 24 The Lord has confirmed me and placed me on the throne of my father, David; he has established my dynasty as he promised. So as surely as the Lord lives, Adonijah will die this very day!” 25 So King Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada to execute him, and Adonijah was put to death.

26 Then the king said to Abiathar the priest, “Go back to your home in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not kill you now, because you carried the Ark of the Sovereign Lord for David my father and you shared all his hardships.” 27 So Solomon deposed Abiathar from his position as priest of the Lord, thereby fulfilling the prophecy the Lord had given at Shiloh concerning the descendants of Eli.

28 Joab had not joined Absalom’s earlier rebellion, but he had joined Adonijah’s rebellion. So when Joab heard about Adonijah’s death, he ran to the sacred tent of the Lord and grabbed on to the horns of the altar. 29 When this was reported to King Solomon, he sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada to execute him.

30 Benaiah went to the sacred tent of the Lord and said to Joab, “The king orders you to come out!”

But Joab answered, “No, I will die here.”

So Benaiah returned to the king and told him what Joab had said.

31 “Do as he said,” the king replied. “Kill him there beside the altar and bury him. This will remove the guilt of Joab’s senseless murders from me and from my father’s family. 32 The Lord will repay him[a] for the murders of two men who were more righteous and better than he. For my father knew nothing about the deaths of Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and of Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. 33 May their blood be on Joab and his descendants forever, and may the Lord grant peace forever to David, his descendants, his dynasty, and his throne.”

34 So Benaiah son of Jehoiada returned to the sacred tent and killed Joab, and he was buried at his home in the wilderness. 35 Then the king appointed Benaiah to command the army in place of Joab, and he installed Zadok the priest to take the place of Abiathar.

36 The king then sent for Shimei and told him, “Build a house here in Jerusalem and live there. But don’t step outside the city to go anywhere else. 37 On the day you so much as cross the Kidron Valley, you will surely die; and your blood will be on your own head.”

38 Shimei replied, “Your sentence is fair; I will do whatever my lord the king commands.” So Shimei lived in Jerusalem for a long time.

39 But three years later two of Shimei’s slaves ran away to King Achish son of Maacah of Gath. When Shimei learned where they were, 40 he saddled his donkey and went to Gath to search for them. When he found them, he brought them back to Jerusalem.

41 Solomon heard that Shimei had left Jerusalem and had gone to Gath and returned. 42 So the king sent for Shimei and demanded, “Didn’t I make you swear by the Lord and warn you not to go anywhere else or you would surely die? And you replied, ‘The sentence is fair; I will do as you say.’ 43 Then why haven’t you kept your oath to the Lord and obeyed my command?”

44 The king also said to Shimei, “You certainly remember all the wicked things you did to my father, David. May the Lord now bring that evil on your own head. 45 But may I, King Solomon, receive the Lord’s blessings, and may one of David’s descendants always sit on this throne in the presence of the Lord.” 46 Then, at the king’s command, Benaiah son of Jehoiada took Shimei outside and killed him.

So the kingdom was now firmly in Solomon’s grip.

In this passage, we remember that Joab had spent his life trying to defend his position as David’s commander of Israel’s armed forces. Twice David tried to replace him, and both times Joab treacherously killed his rivals before they could assume command (See 2 Samuel 3:17-30, 2 Samuel 19:13, and 2 Samuel 20:4-10). Because Joab was in his service, David was ultimately responsible for these senseless deaths. However, for political and military reasons, David decided not to publicly punish Joab. We can suspect that Joab’s political “ace in the hole” with David was his knowledge of the inner workings of the Bathsheba/Uriah incident. Additionally, Joab was far and away the most skilled military tactician that Israel had to offer.

Instead of deposing Joab as he should have done long ago, he put a curse on Joab and his family (see 2 Samuel 3:29). Solomon, in punishing Joab, was publicly declaring that David was not a part of Joab’s crimes, thus removing the guilt from his father’s throne and placing it on Joab where it belonged. It is interesting to note that Joab, usually taking matters into his own hands, runs to God, literally, when he saw no way out of paying for his crimes. With his political games at an end, he runs to God.

How often do we do the same thing? We try to control our own destiny and get upset when things don’t go our way. We worry and we fret about who is doing what and how we can counteract it. We plan and scheme as to how to react to the things that happen in our lives. We take actions that are in our self-interest and no one else’s. We allow pride to determine our reactions to the world around. We allow our self-worth to be defined by our circumstances. When all else fails, we turn to God. We try everything our way first and then we turn to God just as Joab does here in this passage. God is only God when we need Him to do something for us. Otherwise, it’s all about us and how we can handle our lives.

When researching for this blog, you know what I ran across, a psalm from David himself. It is my wife’s favorite passage in the Bible. It is from Psalm 121. David writes the following:

I lift up my eyes to the hills –
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you –
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Are you tired of trying to control your destiny which is not yours to control? Are you just tired of the rat race of actions and reactions and more actions and reactions after that? Are you tired of the latest self-help book that inspires you for a couple of weeks then leaves you empty and right back where you started from? Is it not time to trust your life to the Lord? Is it not time to have a real, day-to-day relationship with Him? Is it not time to go deeper in your trust in the Lord? Are you tired of constantly worrying about what you’ve got to do to react to the world around you? Have you ever really placed your life and your entire trust in the Lord? The Lord provides for those who trust and obey. How real is your trust in the Lord? There’s an old saying that is almost cliché now in Christian circles, but it is something that we really should take heart in, “Let go and let God!” Do you trust him? Really trust him?

Or do you want to continue living the life of Joab, forever fearful, forever protecting your turf, forever putting fingers in the leaking dam of your life? Let go. Let God.

Amen and Amen.