Archive for the ‘10-2 Samuel’ Category

2 Samuel 20:1-26 (Part 2 of 3)
The Revolt of Sheba

Have you ever had someone in your life that is the counterpoint to your point? They are the B to your A. They are the west to your east. No matter what it is, they are going to offer up a differing opinion than the course of action that you are supporting. I think we all have had one of those in our lives. How does that make you feel? Does it grab your goat (as the old saying goes)? Does it anger you? Do you think, “ok here come the words out of my mouth and … wait for it … differing opinion coming…now!” Does it frustrate you? How do you handle it?

In life, there are certain things we can control and certain things we cannot. The main thing that we can control is ourselves and how we react to things. So, then, in these situations, let us examine ourselves. That’s what we can control. Why is it that we are being frustrated by the differing opinions? Are we so prideful that we cannot see another point of view? Maybe, we have come to associate our chosen actions with our ourselves and that differing opinions are an attack on us personally. Maybe, we need to step back and separate our chosen course of action from ourselves. What is it we are after here? Are we not here to do what is best for our family, if that’s the situation, or our company, if that’s the situation, or our church, if that’s the situation. Are we so prideful that we associate anything that we do with our ego? If someone questions our choice of action, then, they are questioning our value as a person, right? Let us examine if our own pride is making the situation more stark that it really is. Maybe, this person loves you and wants you to make the right choice for your family. Maybe, this person wants to see you and your function/group within the company to steer the company toward success. Maybe, this person wants your church to be successful and just wants the right choices to be made.

Let us lose our pride and really look at the situation. Is it pride? That’s usually it! Almost always. When we have to make choices of courses of action for a family or your job (for your department, for your whole organization) or your church, it’s not about you. It’s about what’s best for your family or what’s best for your company or what’s best for your church. Being able to step back and see that is growing up as a person and as a child of God. When we become so married to our chosen course of action, it’s just prideful not to be able to examine alternative courses of action that are either more efficient, or less time consuming, or uses less resources or produces more revenue or creates the more ideal outcome. It is a mark of a man to be able to say, “you know what? The course of action that you recommend is better than what I had come up with! Let’s go with your idea?” Or “I had not considered that ramification! Let’s modify the plan I developed to incorporate what you have said!” Or “You know! I really do see what you are saying! We don’t have time at the moment to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to it but let me think on it for a day or two and get back to you.” Sometimes, that time to consider other options through prayer will allow you to see the flaws in your own chosen course of action or it may allow you to say well on the whole my idea is better but there are certain aspects of what you say that I can incorporate into the course of action that I have chosen. It’s all about thinking of the team more than thinking of yourself. It is the essence of teamwork to be able to consider other points of view without taking it as a personal affront.

It is this idea of losing our pride and doing what is best for the people that we live, work and play with is what I thought about this morning. Here, for once, Joab does something that we can admire about him. Rather than continue down the path he was on, a path that would have cost many lives and many resources, he listen to someone else’s opinion about what to do in this situation. Let’s read now the latest in the episode “Joab: The Commando!” in 2 Samuel 20:1-26:

Chapter 20
1 There happened to be a troublemaker there named Sheba son of Bicri, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. Sheba blew a ram’s horn and began to chant:

“Down with the dynasty of David!
We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Come on, you men of Israel,
back to your homes!”

2 So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed with their king and escorted him from the Jordan River to Jerusalem.

3 When David came to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to look after the palace and placed them in seclusion. Their needs were provided for, but he no longer slept with them. So each of them lived like a widow until she died.

4 Then the king told Amasa, “Mobilize the army of Judah within three days, and report back at that time.” 5 So Amasa went out to notify Judah, but it took him longer than the time he had been given.

6 Then David said to Abishai, “Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us more than Absalom did. Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified town where we can’t reach him.”

7 So Abishai and Joab,[a] together with the king’s bodyguard[b] and all the mighty warriors, set out from Jerusalem to go after Sheba. 8 As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was wearing his military tunic with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he slipped the dagger from its sheath.[c]

9 “How are you, my cousin?” Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him. 10 Amasa didn’t notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground. Joab did not need to strike again, and Amasa soon died. Joab and his brother Abishai left him lying there and continued after Sheba.

11 One of Joab’s young men shouted to Amasa’s troops, “If you are for Joab and David, come and follow Joab.” 12 But Amasa lay in his blood in the middle of the road, and Joab’s man saw that everyone was stopping to stare at him. So he pulled him off the road into a field and threw a cloak over him. 13 With Amasa’s body out of the way, everyone went on with Joab to capture Sheba son of Bicri.

14 Meanwhile, Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel and eventually came to the town of Abel-beth-maacah. All the members of his own clan, the Bicrites,[d] assembled for battle and followed him into the town. 15 When Joab’s forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah. They built a siege ramp against the town’s fortifications and began battering down the wall. 16 But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, “Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.” 17 As he approached, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he replied.

So she said, “Listen carefully to your servant.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

18 Then she continued, “There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ 19 I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel.[e] Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?”

20 And Joab replied, “Believe me, I don’t want to devour or destroy your town! 21 That’s not my purpose. All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand over this one man to me, I will leave the town in peace.”

“All right,” the woman replied, “we will throw his head over the wall to you.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba’s head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the ram’s horn and called his troops back from the attack. They all returned to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.

23 Now Joab was the commander of the army of Israel. Benaiah son of Jehoiada was captain of the king’s bodyguard. 24 Adoniram[f] was in charge of forced labor. Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian. 25 Sheva was the court secretary. Zadok and Abiathar were the priests. 26 And Ira, a descendant of Jair, was David’s personal priest.

In this passage, we see that Joab’s men were attacking the city and looked as if it were going to be destroyed (most assuredly after expending much effort, time, resources and people). Though women in the ancient Middle East were usually expected to be quiet in the presence of men while in public, this woman spoke out. She stopped Joab’s attack not with weapons but with wise words and an alternative plan of action.

What can we learn from this episode of “Joab: The Commando!”? I think that there are three things. First, as we have discussed, we must not be so prideful that we cannot or are not willing to see alternative courses of action that are better than the one we have chosen. Often, we get so tied up with the path that we have chosen that we often see others’ alternatives as a personal attack on us. That’s just pride. Let us lose our pride and do what is best for the people we have influence over – whether it be at work, at home, or at church. Second, I think we learn from this woman that we should not just be people who complain about a leader’s chosen course of action but rather be ones who can offer up better, faster, cheaper, smarter options for the leader to consider. Let us not just complain but be solution seekers. Let us not be part of the problem but be part of the solution. Third, it reminds us that we are all part of a team anywhere we go in life – whether it be with family, co-workers, or fellow volunteers at church. We should always put the good of our team ahead of our own prideful needs. If we come at a problem, let’s work together to come up with solutions.

Jesus put his divinity, his royalty, aside to do what was best for mankind. He came to earth to live a sinless life and then offer himself up as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could be reconciled to the Father and be covered in His righteousness. He did not HAVE to do that. He did that because He loved us that much. He did that because that was what was best for us. He did that even though it took great humility to do so. He thought of us before He thought of Himself. Why then are we so prideful at home, at work, at church? Let us demonstrate the humility of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and do what is best for others even if it means that we have to set aside our pride and our personal desires. Let’s be all-in for the teams we play on in our lives and humble ourselves for what is best for the team rather than what is best for us personally. That means sometimes listening to someone’s B to your A and then deciding that B is better than A.

Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

2 Samuel 20:1-26 (Part 1 of 3)
The Revolt of Sheba

Currently, as I had mentioned recently, I have begun the third semester of four of course-based studies for my D.Min. degree. After that fourth semester, the fun part (yeah, right!) begins – the dissertation. This third semester, I am taking a class about Missions & Evangelism. There are two required books to read and then we must select on average 5 other books from the recommended reading list so that our total pages read for the first half of the semester will be around 2,000. I have plowed through the first two books, the required texts. Now, I am reading one of the five books that I personally selected to read. This one is called The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Thomas Rainer and Jess Rainer.

It has been an interesting read so far. It confirms some knowledge that I had of millennials (people born between 1980-2000) from my own experience with my Millennial generation daughters and stepdaughter and from what I have seen in the workplace in recent years. I take issue with some of the findings as if the Millennials are vastly different than previous generations. First, the authors really harped on the fact that Millennials desire to make a difference in the world to a greater degree than previous generations. I simply think that is finding that is just not true. Yes, currently, in 2018, the Millennials are ranging in age from as young as 18 to as old as 38 and as such as the young generation. And as such, being the youngest adult generation, they are indeed most likely more hopeful of making a positive impact on the world. I would agree with that data in the sense that is always true of the youngest adult generation alive at the time. Generation X (those born from 1964-1980) and Baby Boomers (those born from 1946-1964) were both hopeful at these ages. Thus, it is my contention that the data suggesting that Millennials are America’s most hopeful generation is simply a function of their age and that their hopefulness is cross-generation when each generation has had its “time in the sun” as the youngest adult generation.

One of the confirmations that I have taken from the book so far is that I had an assumption that the Millennials, in general, were the least religious of any American generation in our nation’s history. They were most likely raised in homes where their parents were not attending church at all. Although there are about 13% of Millennials that define themselves as devout Christ followers, most do not see religion as a critical part of their lives. 65% of Millennials do not attend church and do not consider themselves even mildly religious. Most of them grew up in homes where they parents had divorced and of those a majority split time in homes where both of their birth parents had remarried. Thus, their lack of Christian upbringing and living in homes where a failed marriage, divorce, and remarriage was common, this generation is one of tolerance and mediation. They just want everybody to get along. This desire for their to be equilibrium in relationships has brought about this desire of all to tolerate one another. Since they grew in the homes of Baby Boomers where questioning traditional values was the mark of that generation, they have come to define tolerance as a key thing in their lives. In this desire for everyone to get along, there has come a relativistic attitude toward spiritual matters. What is true for you is OK for you. What is true for me is OK for me. Although this generation is spiritual, it is self-defined. Biblical illiteracy is a significant issue since church attendance and deep involvement in the discipleship processes of a thriving church are not important to them. As a result, the moral compass of the Millennials is defined by a centrist desire for tolerance. Since morality is defined by general consensus rather than a belief in a morality defining God, their moral values are and will most likely be situational.

It is this idea of a generation of Americans that is now the largest segment of the population (the ones born between 1980-2000) where the great majority no longer cares of believes in a morality defining God and believes that man defines his own morality is the idea that I thought of this morning when we run into Joab once again. Here, he is murdering again to protect and/or regain his position as commander of the king’s armies. It is clear that Joab has situational ethics. Let’s read now about his latest murder in 2 Samuel 20:1-26:

Chapter 20
1 There happened to be a troublemaker there named Sheba son of Bicri, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. Sheba blew a ram’s horn and began to chant:

“Down with the dynasty of David!
We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Come on, you men of Israel,
back to your homes!”

2 So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed with their king and escorted him from the Jordan River to Jerusalem.

3 When David came to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to look after the palace and placed them in seclusion. Their needs were provided for, but he no longer slept with them. So each of them lived like a widow until she died.

4 Then the king told Amasa, “Mobilize the army of Judah within three days, and report back at that time.” 5 So Amasa went out to notify Judah, but it took him longer than the time he had been given.

6 Then David said to Abishai, “Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us more than Absalom did. Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified town where we can’t reach him.”

7 So Abishai and Joab,[a] together with the king’s bodyguard[b] and all the mighty warriors, set out from Jerusalem to go after Sheba. 8 As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was wearing his military tunic with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he slipped the dagger from its sheath.[c]

9 “How are you, my cousin?” Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him. 10 Amasa didn’t notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground. Joab did not need to strike again, and Amasa soon died. Joab and his brother Abishai left him lying there and continued after Sheba.

11 One of Joab’s young men shouted to Amasa’s troops, “If you are for Joab and David, come and follow Joab.” 12 But Amasa lay in his blood in the middle of the road, and Joab’s man saw that everyone was stopping to stare at him. So he pulled him off the road into a field and threw a cloak over him. 13 With Amasa’s body out of the way, everyone went on with Joab to capture Sheba son of Bicri.

14 Meanwhile, Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel and eventually came to the town of Abel-beth-maacah. All the members of his own clan, the Bicrites,[d] assembled for battle and followed him into the town. 15 When Joab’s forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah. They built a siege ramp against the town’s fortifications and began battering down the wall. 16 But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, “Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.” 17 As he approached, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he replied.

So she said, “Listen carefully to your servant.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

18 Then she continued, “There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ 19 I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel.[e] Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?”

20 And Joab replied, “Believe me, I don’t want to devour or destroy your town! 21 That’s not my purpose. All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand over this one man to me, I will leave the town in peace.”

“All right,” the woman replied, “we will throw his head over the wall to you.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba’s head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the ram’s horn and called his troops back from the attack. They all returned to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.

23 Now Joab was the commander of the army of Israel. Benaiah son of Jehoiada was captain of the king’s bodyguard. 24 Adoniram[f] was in charge of forced labor. Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian. 25 Sheva was the court secretary. Zadok and Abiathar were the priests. 26 And Ira, a descendant of Jair, was David’s personal priest.

In this passage, we see once again that Joab has not changed a bit. Here again, he murdered someone who was a threat to his position as commander of the king’s armies. If you asked Joab, he would probably give you many reasons as to why these murders were completely justified in his mind. Eventually, as we shall see early in 1 Kings that justice did catch up with him. It may seem that sin and treachery often go unpunished, but God’s justice is not limited to this side of eternity. Even if Joab’s life had not been cut short by his execution and he had died of old age, he would still have had to face his day of judgment before the Lord.

As we close out this blog, first let me say that I am not anti-Millennial by any means. My daughters and stepdaughter are Millennials. Each of them, I am very proud of. My oldest daughter has found salvation in Jesus Christ. However, as is typical of her generation, she does not see it as terribly critical for her and her family to be active in a local church. Then, with my stepdaughter, she is right on the edge of accepting Christ as her Savior if she has not already. She, too, does not seem to evidence a desire to be deeply involved in church life. However, she does often have deep discussions with her mother about matters of Jesus Christ, Christian morality, and so on. My youngest daughter is still searching for meaning in life and is trying to find her way in the world so I am just not sure where she is at with regard to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, as examples of this generation, these three girls of mine make me proud in the sense that when my generation retires that we will leave this world in the hands of a generation that does care about making the world a better place. So overall, I am pro-Millennial.

However, the concern that I have with the Millennials is the fact that they do not see religion as important. Yes, they consider themselves spiritual on the whole but organized religion seems to turn them off as a generation as a whole. Thus, their understanding of the Christian faith is so completely limited. They see the Christian faith as do’s and don’t’s and not as it should be, a relationship with Jesus Christ. Because of their general lack of understanding of the Christian faith, they see Christianity as just another option in a menu of self-actualization spiritualities. It is a take-it-or-leave-it, no impact decision either way to them. It is certainly not a central core of life thing to them. Thus, morality then becomes self-defined over time. Morality tends toward what is right for me is OK for me and what is right for you is OK for you.

In this passage, we see Joab in the same light. He is a higher up in the kingdom of Israel. He knows the Word of God because of his position within the hierarchy of the kingdom of God’s people. However, he twists God’s Word into what is best for him at any given moment. He is defining what morality is. He is picking and choosing what he wants to believe and uses only that which serves his self-interest. His morality is situationally based. Though the thing that disturbs me is that he is the commander of David’s armies. David is known as a man after God’s own heart. But yet, here’s Joab committing murder because it suits his morality of the moment. Then, where is David’s discipleship? He must have worked closely with Joab! Why was their no guidance given? Why was there not greater influence on Joab’s life?

Likewise, with the Millennial generation, we as the church must wake up and recognize that the Millennials are not going to come to us. They generally don’t know anything about us. What they do know about us is negative based on media reports. Therefore, we must engage them. We must go to them. We must teach them about the gospel message in a way that breaks down their stereotypes of religion and do’s and don’ts. We must go them and teach them about Jesus Christ and his transforming power than changes us from the inside out. We must get them to understand that there is a Creator God that loves them so much that He gave His only Son to give them a way to be reconciled to Him. The Millennials are big on relationships. That’s where we begin. Developing relationships with Millennials and teaching them about the relational nature of Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 19:41-43
An Argument Over the King

Jealousies not dealt with properly are jealousies that will destroy. Just look at our nation’s history. Almost from the beginning of our nation, there was a long-standing distrust between the northern colonies and the southern colonies. This distrust was more than just the seminal issue of slavery (the morally reprehensible issue that it is). It goes far deeper than that. Southern states were populated typically more by former English rural tenant farmers (not the landed gentry) and by the Scotch and Irish peasants, all of which who suffered under the English caste system and of English oppression of Scotland and Ireland. Thus, in America, they created able to shed themselves of the long-established caste system of England (and Europe as a whole).

The north with its access to more and different raw materials and simply more people coming there developed more wealth more quickly. More favorable summer weather helped keep diseases down and populations grew rapidly. Large cities began to emerge. And generally, the northern colonies were settled by the wealthier and more educated citizens. By the late 17th century, the economies of many northern states had moved away from farming to industry. A lot of people in the North worked and lived in large cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. The southern states, however, had maintained a large farming economy and this economy was based on slave labor. While the North no longer needed slaves, the South relied heavily upon slaves for their way of life.

The idea of states’ rights was not new to the Civil War. Since the Constitution was first written there had been arguments about how much power the states should have versus how much power the federal government should have. The southern states felt that the federal government was taking away their rights and powers. The reason that our form of government is so unique is because of this issue. The northern states were already vastly more populated than the southern states by the time of the Constitutional Convention. Thus, the southern states were highly worried about any democratic form of government where population size would determine policy. By the sheer disproportion of population between the North and the South, the southern states feared that complete democracy would find them returning to the old ways of England where things would be forced down their throat and just have to accept it. Thus, the bicameral form of legislature was adopted. The Senate to give each state an equal voice and the House to give each state a voice based on size of population. The electoral college system for electing our President traces its roots to this distrust issue over size vs. voice in government.

Compromises were reached but the issue of the status of slaves was not solved at all and the distrust of the north by the south continued to fester. Fundamental ideological differences developed. To the South, it was the North forcing its will on the South. To the North, the South was backward in its thinking on the value of human life. To the South, the economy was dependent on slave labor. To the North, in the absence of an agragrian economy, it was simply a human rights issue from afar. This issue of self-determination so incredibly important to Southern political movers and shakers led us to the civil war. But the deep-seated distrust of the South toward the more populous north and fear of losing control of its political destiny made slavery the issue from which there was no return. Even after the civil war, the South was resistant to federally mandated programs all the way up through the 1960s. The South has had a jealousy issue of its big northern brothers forcing their will upon them that did not die with the end of the civil war. With the explosion of industry and the population migration to the South since 1960s, we see an easing of Southern jealousy toward the North but its still there. Just look at an electoral map when we hold presidential elections. Republican political philosophy for half a century or more now has been “less government, lower taxes”. That idea plays well in the South even in the 21st century. In the South, government, especially the federal government, is seen as an enemy to self-determination and there is still a sense in the South even with its more diverse population now that the northern states want big government and have government solve all social ills.

These are jealousies that date all the way back to pre-colonial migration from the United Kingdom to the new world. Social caste systems in England and its conquered lands of Scotland and Ireland play a role in the history of the United States and the divisions between the North and South. Jealousies started in England between classes of people spilled over to the new world. Differences in climate and natural resources added to the differing developments of the colonies. The issue of slavery thus became the backbreaker of philosophical differences between the north and the south. Jealousies not dealt with properly are jealousies that will destroy. These jealousies have caused friction between the north and south for centuries.

Jealousies have been part of family existence, it seems, since the beginning of time. Big brother vs. little brother. Little brothers jealous of the big brother for the things he has. Little brothers jealous of big brothers for the things they get to do first. Big brothers jealous of little brothers for how the little brother seems to get pacified by the parents to just get them to shut up.

In today’s passage, we see the deep seeded jealousies between the southern and northern tribes of Israel. Jealousies here fracture the stability of Israel. David and Solomon are able to hold the country together for another 80 years or so from this point, but ultimately the jealousies displayed here in this passage will rip the country apart. Further, this is not the beginning of jealousies between the northern and southern tribes of Israel. It is just the latest episode. With our own history in the United States in mind and how jealousies can destroy, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 19:41-43, now:

41 But all the men of Israel complained to the king, “The men of Judah stole the king and didn’t give us the honor of helping take you, your household, and all your men across the Jordan.”

42 The men of Judah replied, “The king is one of our own kinsmen. Why should this make you angry? We haven’t eaten any of the king’s food or received any special favors!”

43 “But there are ten tribes in Israel,” the others replied. “So we have ten times as much right to the king as you do. What right do you have to treat us with such contempt? Weren’t we the first to speak of bringing him back to be our king again?” The argument continued back and forth, and the men of Judah spoke even more harshly than the men of Israel.

In this passage, we see that, although Israel was united kingdom, it was still made up of 12 tribes. These tribes often had difficulty agreeing on the goals of the nation as a whole. Tribal jealousies had originally kept Israel from conquering the entirety of the Promised Land (see the book of Joshua) and now tribal jealousies were threatening the stability of David’s reign. David’s return to Jerusalem was marked by the quarreling factions of Northern and Southern Israel, each being jealous of the king’s favor. There was something in that situation which is reminiscent of the quarrels initiated by the tribe of Joseph, first against Gideon, and later against Jephthah, the latter erupting in a bitter war that destroyed forty-two thousand of the tribe of Joseph (Judges 8:1-3; 12:1-6).

This tribal jealousy and bitterness marred what otherwise would have been a happy ending to the rebellion. A great catastrophe like Absalom’s rebellion could not end without leaving profound effects. Here we see one of those effects. The long standing mistrust between northern Israel and southern Israel, again broke into the open; and the fierce words that followed eventually issued in the divided kingdom. That the origin of their mutual animosity reached all the way back to Jacob, Leah and Rachel.

What can we learn for our personal lives as Christians from our own nation’s history and from the history of Israel? I think it comes down to pride. One of the principles of democratic government is that our competing self-wills will lead us toward a centrist set of actions and the good of the overall country will prevail. However, when people fail to yield their pride and want what they want and when they want it, jealousies begin. Pride leads us to jealousies. Pride leads nations to rip themselves apart. Pride leads us to jealousies of others. Jealousy leads us to fight against them just because its them. Jealousy leads to gossip and back-stabbing. Jealousy leads to conflict. Jealousy leads to words being said from which we cannot return. Jealousy comes from pride. Pride keeps us from admitting we are wrong (just like the South in admitting that slavery was wrong, just like the northern tribes of Israel getting uptight to the point of splitting Israel into two countries eventually that made both kingdoms weaker, just like two siblings who fight like cats and dogs all their lives). Pride keeps us sticking to our guns no matter the consequence. Pride keeps us from seeking peace with others. Pride keeps us from resolving differences in ways that are constructive for both parties. Pride breeds jealousy. Jealousy not dealt with is jealousy that will destroy.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 19:15-40 (Part 3 of 3)
David Returns to Jerusalem

I can only imagine what it will be like. You know the song. “I Can Only Imagine” (sometimes shortened to “Imagine”) is a single recorded by Christian rock band MercyMe. Written and composed by lead vocalist Bart Millard, the song, based around a main piano track, was inspired by the death of Millard’s father and considers what it would be like in Heaven and to be standing before God. The song was first issued as a track on MercyMe’s 1999 album “The Worship Project“, which was released on an independent record label. The song was re-recorded and included on their 2001 major-label debut album “Almost There” as the fifth song on the album. “I Can Only Imagine” was released in 2001 as the album’s lead single. It gained significant airplay on Christian radio formats before crossing over to mainstream radio formats such as adult contemporary and Top 40 in late 2003 and into 2004. It charted on several formats, including the Billboard Adult Contemporary (where it peaked at No. 5) and the Hot 100 (where it peaked at No. 71). In 2002, “I Can Only Imagine” earned the Dove Awards for ‘Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year’ and ‘Song of the Year’; Millard earned the Dove Award ‘Songwriter of the Year’ at the same ceremony. With 2.5 million copies sold, it is the best-selling Christian single of all time, having been certified 3x platinum by the RIAA. As of 2018, it is the only Christian song to reach that milestone.

That song came to mind as I thought on the character of Barzillai in today’s passage. The song lyrics go like this:

I can only imagine
What it would be like
When I walk by your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes would see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
To my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
When that day comes
When I find myself
Standing in the Son

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
To my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still

Will I stand in your presence
To my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine yeah
I can only imagine yeah yeah
I can only imagine yeah yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine yeah yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine

That’s the thing that I have to remind myself when I get sideways about my journey into full-time ministry. I must remember that I am just lucky to be serving Jesus. Be faithful in the small things. Keep plowing the field in front of you. These are the things that God tells me through the influence of the Holy Spirit. Just trust Him as you serve Him. He is preparing you for what’s next. He has never failed yet in proving out to you that His process is what is best for you. Just serve Him. Just trust Him. Because when the race is run and the day is complete, we will be there before the king and he will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

No matter what it is, we are lucky and privileged to be serving the Lord. What we deserve is to be nowhere his places of holiness. What we deserve is to be crushed by our iniquities. When I reflect on the person I was before I met Jesus, when I reflect on the person I was when I was a baby Christian, when I reflect on the person I was a Christian even 10 years ago or 5 years ago makes me ashamed before the mighty righteous One. When I think of the fact that I am now privileged to serve in the Lord’s house in any fashion, it is simply a miracle of God. The man I used to be long ago would have laughed at you if you had said that at age 55 that I would start my career over and be working full time at a church as its administrative pastor. Even now, when I get all worried about my progress in this position, I have to remember to enjoy the ride right in the place that I am at ride now. It is a just a miracle that I am here and serving the Lord. When I think back on my life and the direction it was heading, it is just a raw miracle that Jesus brought about intersections with people that changed the course of my life – Virgil & Debbie Whitted, Luke & Felisha Brower, Humbert Perez, Tim Lyda, Mike Blackwood, Jeff Hickman, and most of all, Elena Bowling, my beautiful bride. The value of these intersections is immeasurable. And here I stand now continuing in the steps of the process with new intersections of people that are part of God’s plan for my life – Jeff Duncan, Milton Mazariegos, and Tim Bowman. I am in awe in retrospect of how these people – all of them, in my past and in present – are part of God’s plan to mold me for what’s next continually. I have to keep remembering that when my pride gets in the way. I must remember that Joseph, Moses, and, even, Jesus waited, learned, and were faithful no matter the assignment and no matter how long that assignment took.

Then, when I get to heaven, man, what will that be like. Right now, I think of how in awe of God I am for what he has done for me, this lowly man that I am. I can only imagine how I will feel when I get to heaven. What awe I will feel then. There, I will reflect on how sinful I was on this side of eternity, and I will fall on my face in awe that I actually belong in heaven. Not because of what I did on earth but because of what Jesus did. How awe inspiring will that day be. It will make me cry I am sure. All those times on earth where I almost cried and held it back as hard as I could will come gushing out it this one unimaginable huge cry. A cry of joy. A cry of thankfulness. A cry of awe before the Mighty Righteous Judge.

That’s the idea that came to mind today as I focused on Barzillai in this passage, 2 Samuel 19:15-40, this morning (as part of three blogs on this passage). Over this blog the previous two, we have been focusing on the three characters that are presented (Shimei, Mephibosheth, and Barzillai). Today, we look at Barzillai. So, let’s read the passage now and think on Barzillai:

15 So the king started back to Jerusalem. And when he arrived at the Jordan River, the people of Judah came to Gilgal to meet him and escort him across the river. 16 Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin, hurried across with the men of Judah to welcome King David. 17 A thousand other men from the tribe of Benjamin were with him, including Ziba, the chief servant of the house of Saul, and Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed down to the Jordan to meet the king. 18 They crossed the shallows of the Jordan to bring the king’s household across the river, helping him in every way they could.

As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. 19 “My lord the king, please forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. 20 I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel[a] to greet my lord the king.”

21 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shimei should die, for he cursed the Lord’s anointed king!”

22 “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah!” David exclaimed. “Why have you become my adversary[b] today? This is not a day for execution, for today I am once again the king of Israel!” 23 Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, “Your life will be spared.”

24 Now Mephibosheth,[c] Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem. 25 “Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” the king asked him.

26 Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey[d] so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. 27 Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. 28 All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?”

29 “You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.”

30 “Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”

31 Barzillai of Gilead had come down from Rogelim to escort the king across the Jordan. 32 He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim. 33 “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.”

34 “No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem. 35 I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king. 36 Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need! 37 Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.”

38 “Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.” 39 So all the people crossed the Jordan with the king. After David had blessed Barzillai and kissed him, Barzillai returned to his own home.

40 The king then crossed over to Gilgal, taking Kimham with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel escorted the king on his way.

In this passage, we see that David showed tremendous mercy and generosity as he returned to Jerusalem. He spared Shimei, restored Mephibosheth, and rewarded the faithfulness of Barzillai. Barzillai was just being a God fearing soul when he showed hospitality to David and his men when they were fleeing from the capital, Jerusalem. He just was that kind of guy. He loved the Lord so he was going to serve others as if he was serving the Lord.

So, when he comes before the king, he is humbled by the king’s favor. The king recognized that he had been a good and faithful servant. He passed his favor on to his own servant in humility. He was still serving the king and thinking of the king when he passed off his favor to one of his household. He was faithful. He was humble. He was serving the King because he was doing it as unto the Lord. No real favor needed. Just knowing the king wanted to show him favor was enough.

That’s the hope. Be faithful. Be humble. Serve those around you because you are doing it unto the Lord. Learn what you need to learn. Then the Lord will show you favor.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 19:15-40 (Part 2 of 3)
David Returns to Jerusalem

No matter how good we have been, we are but filthy rags before the spotless, blameless, pure, righteous and holy God. That’s the plain truth of it all. Not only is God the Creator of all things. Not only is God all powerful, all knowing, ever-present, he is righteousness. He is holiness. He is almighty. Before Him, we are small and insignificant. Before Him, we are imperfect. Before Him, our best is like an ant on a skyscraper compared to Him.

That’s how I felt back in December 2001 when I was sitting in Abundant Life Church in the Berea suburb of Greenville, SC watching a play where the main character’s name was Mark, ironically. It was a play where we see a young man living the party lifestyle never having time for God. The character saw the whole spiritual thing as an impediment to the fun he was having in life. He thought he was a good enough guy. He thought that did more good than bad. He had situational ethics. He would been the moral laws of God that most of us know even when we don’t know God and rationalize away that it was OK. He didn’t really think that being part of the church or having an official relationship with God was for him. He was having too much fun. He wanted to be able to party it up. Have flirtations that might go a little too far. He wanted to party on the weekends. He didn’t really care for all this responsibility stuff that has been thrust upon him as he has grown older. So, the party lifestyle was his way of dealing with it. Then, right about a third of the way through the play, he is involved in a car accident. The scene where they were working on him was so realistic it was amazing (this was a church production but man the production values of this play were so professional). When the lights came up after the sounds of the accident, we see our main character standing above the body as the EMS folks attended to the person below. The central character, Mark, is watching the action and is bewildered and wondering what is going on and begging the medical personnel to bring that person back to life and slowly realizes that it is him they are working on.

As he is standing there watching, he gets weary and passes out and the scene goes black. When we wakes up as the lights come back up, he finds himself in the presence of Satan. Mark is bewildered and wondering how the hell he ended up in hell. He tells Satan there has been some kind of mistake. Mark pleads with Satan, dressed sharply in a black suit, sunglasses (even though it’s dark), a red power tie, etc. (no horns and stuff like that). Mark pleads that he has been a good person basically. And Satan laughs and gives Mark the lowdown on the holiness required to be a citizen of heaven. They then proceed to review Mark’s life through photos and video on the church’s two large video screens. Satan keeps reminding Mark how each of these photos and videos are daggers in his holiness and that each one of these scenes alone is enough to disqualify him from citizenship in heaven. With each photo and video, Mark begins to realize that he is sunk. With each successive one, his pride drops further and further. With each successive one, he realizes that his idea that he’s been good enough is far outweighed by the sins that he has committed in his life. All of it is overpowering and overwhelming to him. The false façade he had created for himself that he could deal with God later is crashing down on him realizing that he is in hell. It’s too late. He melts to the floor sobbing in wails of torment and regret. The person playing Mark had absolutely real sobs and wails. Even though he was playing a character in a play, you could tell he was reliving his own experience. Then Satan calls his sharply dressed attendants, his demons, to come “take this one away” and we see them bodily carrying Mark away with him screaming in anguish over his eternal fate. And the scene goes black.
The next thing we hear and see in the play is that sound of a heart monitor and we are watching a video on the screen and one of the EMS attendants shouts “I’ve got a pulse” and they begin furiously working to get Mark back to life. After we in the video them arriving at the hospital and rushing him in the door the video goes black and the live production on stage comes back up to lights. This scene is like maybe three months later and we progressively see by the conversations that Mark is changed man. And then at the end of the play, the central character looks toward the audience and everything goes black behind and it’s just him in a single spotlight. He explains how he learned from the car wreck and called to the Lord to be His Savior right after he regained consciousness in the recovery room. He said this was different than all his previous warm-fuzzy spiritual experiences, this was real. He said that he was a changed man and then began a plea in tears to each one in the audience that does not know Jesus as their Savior and how the “I do more good than bad” idea is just Satan’s way of deluding us. We are imperfect and unholy and do not deserve citizen in heaven on our own. It is only through Jesus that we find salvation and the pardon of our sentence to hell that we truly deserve. Hell is real he said. I’ve been there he said. The house lights came up and the pastoral staff came on stage and the lead character began the altar call process.

I was there. I came down. The irony of the main character being named Mark just added to this encounter with the Holy Spirit who had been on me for a few months since I started going back to church in October 2001. I remember this play in vivid detail as you can see. The play was about me! Every bit of it I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and my head throbbing, because this was my moment! This was my salvation moment. It was the moment that all my pretenses and defenses fell away. I am nothing but filthy rags before God and I am at His mercy. I truly deserved hell and still do in the absence of the wondrous work of Jesus Christ on my behalf. I will take half of what I am entitled to in heaven through Jesus just to say thank you to him. I would be the lowliest of the low in heaven just to show Jesus how thankful I am for what He has done for me that I don’t even in any way deserve.

That’s the idea that came to mind today as I focused on Mephibosheth i in this passage, 2 Samuel 19:15-40, this morning (as part of three blogs on this passage). Over this blog and two others, we will focus on the three characters that are presented (Shimei, Mephibosheth, and Barzillai). Today, we look at Mephibosheth. So, let’s read the passage now and think on Mephibosheth:

15 So the king started back to Jerusalem. And when he arrived at the Jordan River, the people of Judah came to Gilgal to meet him and escort him across the river. 16 Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin, hurried across with the men of Judah to welcome King David. 17 A thousand other men from the tribe of Benjamin were with him, including Ziba, the chief servant of the house of Saul, and Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed down to the Jordan to meet the king. 18 They crossed the shallows of the Jordan to bring the king’s household across the river, helping him in every way they could.

As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. 19 “My lord the king, please forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. 20 I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel[a] to greet my lord the king.”

21 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shimei should die, for he cursed the Lord’s anointed king!”

22 “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah!” David exclaimed. “Why have you become my adversary[b] today? This is not a day for execution, for today I am once again the king of Israel!” 23 Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, “Your life will be spared.”

24 Now Mephibosheth,[c] Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem. 25 “Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” the king asked him.

26 Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey[d] so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. 27 Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. 28 All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?”

29 “You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.”

30 “Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”

31 Barzillai of Gilead had come down from Rogelim to escort the king across the Jordan. 32 He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim. 33 “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.”

34 “No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem. 35 I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king. 36 Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need! 37 Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.”

38 “Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.” 39 So all the people crossed the Jordan with the king. After David had blessed Barzillai and kissed him, Barzillai returned to his own home.

40 The king then crossed over to Gilgal, taking Kimham with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel escorted the king on his way.

In this passage, we see that David showed tremendous mercy and generosity as he returned to Jerusalem. He spared Shimei, restored Mephibosheth, and rewarded the faithfulness of Barzillai. He restored Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was so thankful for the king’s mercy that he was willing to give all his property away just to show thanks to David for sparing him. Regardless of whether he thought he deserved it or not, Mephibosheth knew that the king could do away with him simply for not coming to him in that critical time of civil war. Mephibosheth knew that David could have him killed so there was no pretense in him. He was literally filthy rags before David. He was overjoyed when David showed him mercy to the point that he willingly gave away everything that he owned.

Are you thinking that you can deal with Jesus later? Are you living as though you got it all under control? Do you think that you are good enough? The reality is that you cannot do enough good to make up for even one sin. One sin convicts us and we are done. We are no longer candidates for heaven when we commit our first sin. We are done. We are out. We are finished. Then, when the Righteous Judge reviews the evidence of our lifetime of sins, we are convicted without recourse. We are habitual sin criminals. We are a third strike criminal with no recourse but banishment to the eternal prison of hell. But we have one and one only hope. His name is Jesus Christ. He has taken the punishment for our sins. Cry out to Him and believe that He was the Son of God who willingly went to the cross to die for our sins. Cry out to Him and believe that He was risen from the dead to give you hope about eternity in heaven. Cry out to Him ask him for mercy before the Father. He is your only way out of the sentence you have on your head.

Think about it. I did. I throw myself at the mercy of my Savior and have been living a life of thanksgiving to Him ever since. He snatched me out of my bus to the prison called hell. I will willingly be a janitor in heaven just to say thank you to Jesus for saving me. Please come to Him. There is no later. There is only now.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 19:15-40 (Part 1 of 3)
David Returns to Jerusalem

According to the General Social Survey performed by three American universities working together to do the research and publish the results found that 80% of the 58,000 participants surveyed believe that there is some sort of afterlife. It seems that we are innately programmed to believe that there is. It does not matter the social strata in which you live, your religious background or lack thereof, or your family history. We believe in the afterlife. It’s not just an American thing. Every culture has some form of belief in an afterlife state that occurs after the death of the body. Romans 1:20 tells us,

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

Thus, just because we profess that God does not exist and some actually spend their lives railing against His existence, it does not mean that He does not exist. There are just things that cannot be explained away without the existence of God, the Supreme Being, the Creator. Every culture believes in the afterlife, not by coincidence, not be cultural mandate to create controls over behavior, no, we are wired to believe in the afterlife by God himself. He programs it into our very fabric and essence of who we are. It is no coincidence. However, the statistics of our nation having “evolved beyond the need for God” are alarming according to the survey that I mentioned earlier.

Fewer Americans say they believe in God or pray regularly. According to an article at nbcnews.com, concerning the survey, “In recent years, fewer Americans prayed, believed in God, took the Bible literally, attended religious services, identified as religious, affiliated with a religion, or had confidence in religious institutions,” the team wrote in the journal Sage Open. “The large declines in religious practice among young adults are also further evidence that millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history,” said psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University, who led the study. “Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 30 percent had serious doubts by 2014, more than twice as many as in the late 1980s (12 percent).” Fewer also believe the Bible is the actual word of God. “It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed but more believed in an afterlife.” “In 1984, 14 percent of Americans believed the Bible ‘is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men’ rather than the word of God; by 2014, 22 percent of Americans believed this, a 57 percent increase,” they wrote. In 1998, 49 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds said they were moderately or very religious in 1998. By 2014 this had dropped to 38 percent. And while 15 percent of adults said they were “not religious at all” in 1998, 20 percent did in 2014. “It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed but more believed in an afterlife,” Twenge said. “It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality – thinking you can get something for nothing.”

There is something to the comment about the “entitlement mentality” in the present living generations. The vast majority of Americans living now did not or have not experienced war on a global scale nor have they seen the economic disaster that was The Great Depression. Virtually all Americans living now think the opulence that we Americans take for granted is simply the way it is. As part of that entitlement mentality, we want to conform the universe toward our desires rather than conforming to the desires of a Supreme Being. Thus, we have created a world where we believe in the afterlife but we determine for ourselves how we get there. We thumb our nose at God and his Word as being a fable and a creation of man himself. When we discount the existence of an omniscient Creator, we can then construct the afterlife of our own choosing. We make the rules of our own end game. We determine how good we are ourselves. Like asking a kid to grade his own paper, we always come out good enough to get to heaven by whatever roads we determine for ourselves.

The kicker of it all is going to be when we do come to the end of our earthly lives and find that there really is a God that is not of our own creation. That there is a God who created us. That there is a God who created all things. That there is a God who inspired men to write His Divine Word and that we will each be judged by its divine and eternal and everlasting truths. While on earth, we make kick dirt at God and throw rocks at him, metaphorically speaking, but we will come to our end and really be judged by Him. What a shocker that is going to be to those who blatantly choose to say that He does not exist and that the afterlife is not some nirvana state of our favorite things but rather the judgment between heaven and hell. What a shocker is that going to be when we find that it was true all along – the whole God thing, the whole sin thing, the whole Jesus is the only way to the Father thing, the whole Bible thing.

That’s the idea that came to mind today as I focused on Shimei in this passage, 2 Samuel 19:15-40, this morning (as part of three blogs on this passage). Over this blog and two others, we will focus on the three characters that are presented (Shimei, Mephibosheth, and Barzillai). Today, we look at Shemei. So, let’s read the passage now and think on Shimei:

15 So the king started back to Jerusalem. And when he arrived at the Jordan River, the people of Judah came to Gilgal to meet him and escort him across the river. 16 Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin, hurried across with the men of Judah to welcome King David. 17 A thousand other men from the tribe of Benjamin were with him, including Ziba, the chief servant of the house of Saul, and Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed down to the Jordan to meet the king. 18 They crossed the shallows of the Jordan to bring the king’s household across the river, helping him in every way they could.

As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. 19 “My lord the king, please forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. 20 I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel[a] to greet my lord the king.”

21 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shimei should die, for he cursed the Lord’s anointed king!”

22 “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah!” David exclaimed. “Why have you become my adversary[b] today? This is not a day for execution, for today I am once again the king of Israel!” 23 Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, “Your life will be spared.”
David’s Kindness to Mephibosheth

24 Now Mephibosheth,[c] Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem. 25 “Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” the king asked him.

26 Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey[d] so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. 27 Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. 28 All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?”

29 “You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.”

30 “Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”
David’s Kindness to Barzillai

31 Barzillai of Gilead had come down from Rogelim to escort the king across the Jordan. 32 He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim. 33 “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.”

34 “No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem. 35 I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king. 36 Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need! 37 Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.”

38 “Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.” 39 So all the people crossed the Jordan with the king. After David had blessed Barzillai and kissed him, Barzillai returned to his own home.

40 The king then crossed over to Gilgal, taking Kimham with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel escorted the king on his way.

In this passage, we that David showed tremendous mercy and generosity as he returned to Jerusalem. He spared Shimei, restored Mephibosheth, and rewarded the faithfulness of Barzillai. With regard to Shimei, if you remember correctly, when King David was forced to flee from his son Absalom, who coveted his father’s throne, Shimei met the king along the way: “As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left” (2 Samuel 16:5–6). Shimei blamed David for King Saul’s death during a battle with the Philistines. Saul had, in fact, fallen on his own sword to escape capture by the enemy; however, Shimei accused David of murder and announced that this was the reason Absalom was taking over the kingdom.

David’s men wanted to kill Shimei then and there, but David, in his despair, believed the Lord had sent Shimei to curse him (2 Samuel 16:11–12), and he refused to allow his men to kill Shimei. David and his party resumed their journey, and Shimei continued to follow, cursing and throwing stones and dirt at them (verse 13).

Eventually, Absalom’s rebellion was put down, Absalom was killed, and King David was restored to his throne. Shimei knew that he was now on shaky ground, so he gathered with him over a thousand Benjamites and went to meet David (2 Samuel 19:16–17). Falling on his face, Shimei apologized for his past behavior and begged the king not to hold it against him (verses 18–20). Again King David’s men asked leave to kill Shimei, but again David refused and gave Shimei his oath that he would not kill him.

It seems 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. 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).

Shimei so much reminds us of much of America today. We act as though God does not exist. In fact, we are continually moving toward less and less respect for our Creator. We kick dirt in his face and throw rocks at him by saying that his Word is antiquated and out of step with modern times. We say that God’s Word is no longer valid to a culture that has evolved past its need for universal moral truths. We kick dirt in God’s face by saying that we have evolved to the point that we can determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. We are now our own enclosed moral universes. We decide what is right and wrong within our own moral universe and you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong within your own moral universe. We kick dirt at God and throw rocks at Him and say that this whole Jesus thing is too hard to believe for one thing. Next, we, then, equalize all religions and say that they all are mere self-help and self-improvement techniques and then move on to say basically as long as you believe in something you will go to heaven. We are Shimei to David when we act in this manner.

However, just as Shimei finds out. The King will return. Then, when we realize that God is real. When we realize that Jesus is real and is the only way to the Father. Many of those who have professed that God does not exist and define their own reality will then be contrite before the Lord. We already see this type of behavior frequently in America. When some disaster strikes in an individual’s life or some regional scale disaster affecting thousands or just anything that rocks us individually or corporately, we break out our God playing cards and start recognizing some form of his existence. Matthew 7:21 tells us, “”Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”

Shimei is trying to bargain with the king (David) to make sure his life is spared. He feigns allegiance to the king here but it is only to save his own skin. As we will see in future passages, David knew what Shimei is doing in this passage and ultimately provides Shimei with the justice that he deserved all along. Are you kicking dirt in God’s face but yet try to negotiate with him in hard times? Are you prepared to find out the realities of the afterlife that God defines in His Word? Are you willing to bet your eternity on the fact that you get to define what is right and wrong for yourself? Are you willing to bet your eternity that you are good enough to go to heaven?

The simple truth is that God exists. The simple truth is that since almost the beginning of man’s existence, after being created by God, we have been saddled with sin. The simple truth is that in order to go to heaven and exist in the presence of God, we must be perfect – not just more good than bad. The simple truth is that each one of is disqualified by sin because it makes us imperfect. The simple truth is that one sin, our first sin, disqualifies us from existing in eternity in the presence of God. The simple truth is that our disqualification is compounded by the fact that after our first sin (which is enough by itself and itself alone), we commit lifetimes of sins, mountains and mountains of sin. We are habitual sinners who then will come before God in judgment. On our own merits, with our first sin (plus a lifetime of sins to add on top of that) we are unworthy to go to heaven. On our own merits we should be relegated to the prison that is hell. The only hope that we have is to call on Jesus. We must fully believe that we need him. We must fully believe that He is the Son of God who sacrificed himself on the cross for the sins that you have committed. In is only believing in Him and that He did this most wonderful thing for you that the righteous judge will accept you into his presence for eternity. Only Jesus has the purity and righteous that can overcome our death sentence. It is only through Jesus that we are saved from our just and rightful eternity in hell.

Are you willing to bet your eternity on your current track of thinking? Are you willing to kick dirt in God’s face and throw rocks at Him. You will have to meet Him one day! You will be judged! Saying He does not exist and acting like He does not – does not make Him go away. This is real! Are you willing to bet your eternity on it?

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 19:1-14 (Part 3 of 3)
Joab Rebukes the King

The year was 1968 and America was a troubled nation. At the end of the winter season, President Johnson withdrew his name from the candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President. He was not going to run because he had become the lightning rod for both liberals and conservatives. Liberals hated him for his Vietnam policies. Conservatives hated him for his civil rights legislation. Into that political vacuum (without a sitting president running for re-election), the nation seemed to descend into chaos.

The spring of that year had seen two of its seminal leaders assassinated, Martin Luther King (April 4th) and Robert Kennedy (June 6th). That summer the inner cities of America’s great cities burst into flames. Race relations in the major cities were at the boiling point. The South was struggling with school desegregation. It was struggling with the race issue presented by desegregation but also with the fact that it was forced on the Southern states by the Federal government. State self-determination by Southern states had been a cry by its leaders since the end of the American Revolution. Add to that, desegregation signaled the end of the traditional race-based social caste system that had been in place in the South for centuries. In that changing culture, everyone was on edge about what could happen, what might happen, etc.

That fall in America, many college campuses were filled with protest against the war in Southeast Asia. The younger generations seemed at complete odds with the older generations. The traditions of the American past were all in question. Everything was tense. Everywhere you went in the country, regardless of region, there just seemed to be a powder keg feel to our country – as if people were ready to march in the streets at any moment.

As the time for the presidential election neared, it seemed as if the entire nation was unraveling at the seams, that we could no longer get along, that we couldn’t talk to each other anymore. There was some thought that America could not even survive. One of the turning points came during the presidential campaign, with a stop in a little town called Deshler, Ohio – about 45 minutes south of Toledo. The rural Ohio village was popular among whistle-stopping presidential candidates as two main lines of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad crossed there. However, by 1968, train stops by presidential candidates were no longer in vogue but stopping in Deshler still was and Nixon went “old school” and used a train to pull into town.

There, a photographer happened to catch a moment when a little 13-year-old girl picked up a placard, that somebody else had printed, from the side of the road. She found it, and as the motorcade passed she raised it over her head. The photographer captured that moment and it went across the nation and captured the imagination of the American people. It became, indeed, the slogan for that campaign. On that placard four words had been written: “Bring us together again.”

Cole was an eighth grader in Deshler; her father was the local Methodist minister while her mother taught third grade. On October 22, 1968, the day of Nixon’s stop in Deshler, Cole attended class as usual. hat afternoon, Cole attended the rally. The Nixon train pulled in, and the police lowered the rope which kept the crowd clear of the tracks. In interviews, Cole related that as the crowd surged forward, she dropped her sign amidst the pushing and shoving. Cole stated, “I wanted a sign to wave. I had lost my own placard and as the crowd moved forward as the train approached I saw this sign lying in the street and I just picked it up and held it high, hoping Mr. Nixon would see it.” That photo was seen by many in the Nixon camp and it became part of the Nixon campaign rhetoric from that point on in the 1968 elections.

As the 1960’s came to a close, with Nixon in the White House during his pre-Watergate years, what did bring us together again really mean? Were we longer for the past where we did not deal with the issues that were so broadly and openly discussed and just accepted things as they were? Were we wanting to “bring us together” by bashing our opponents into submission and getting them to acquiesce to our point of view.

1968 sounds pretty familiar then when we read today’s passage. Israel was a political mess after the Absalomic revolt. The nation had thrown itself behind Absalom for the most part. So much so that its rightful king, David, had to flee the capital city. Now, Absalom was dead. David was still alive. Everything was a mess. Political nerves were all exposed. In any other situation, in the ancient Middle East or even in modern times where there was failed coup, the rightful king would have destroyed and killed those who had thrown their support behind the defeated rebels. There were no hidden allegiances. Everybody was standing there in their underwear so to speak. Everybody was exposed. Tensions were high. Some did not want David back for fear that he would continue to be inept as he had been for several years since the Bathsheba/Uriah incident. Some did not want him back for fear of his retribution against his political enemies. Some did not want him back because David had arrogantly sinned. Some did not want David back because it was evident that he could not control his children. And then there was the rebel faction of the Israelite army. Things were just a big old fat mass. There needed to be a king. The country was a monarchy now. But David had enemies and he had baggage but he had the right to the throne. It was kind of like 1968 AD. The country was in turmoil.

Let’s read the passage, 2 Samuel 19:1-14, and see how David handles this very serious time in the history of Israel where the country seems to be falling apart at the seams from within:

Chapter 19
1 Word soon reached Joab that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom. 2 As all the people heard of the king’s deep grief for his son, the joy of that day’s victory was turned into deep sadness. 3 They crept back into the town that day as though they were ashamed and had deserted in battle. 4 The king covered his face with his hands and kept on crying, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

5 Then Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, “We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves. 6 You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. 7 Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before.”

8 So the king went out and took his seat at the town gate, and as the news spread throughout the town that he was there, everyone went to him.

Meanwhile, the Israelites who had supported Absalom fled to their homes. 9 And throughout all the tribes of Israel there was much discussion and argument going on. The people were saying, “The king rescued us from our enemies and saved us from the Philistines, but Absalom chased him out of the country. 10 Now Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, is dead. Why not ask David to come back and be our king again?”

11 Then King David sent Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, to say to the elders of Judah, “Why are you the last ones to welcome back the king into his palace? For I have heard that all Israel is ready. 12 You are my relatives, my own tribe, my own flesh and blood! So why are you the last ones to welcome back the king?” 13 And David told them to tell Amasa, “Since you are my own flesh and blood, like Joab, may God strike me and even kill me if I do not appoint you as commander of my army in his place.”

14 Then Amasa[b] convinced all the men of Judah, and they responded unanimously. They sent word to the king, “Return to us, and bring back all who are with you.”

In this passage, we must reflect on David’s appointment of Amasa as the leader over the royal army. Why would David do that? He already had a commander-in-chief over his army in Joab. He had held this position for an extended period of time already. Why then would he remove Joab and install Amasa? When you really think about this appointment, it is a shrewd move on David’s part for several reasons.

First, Amasa had been commander of Absalom’s rebel army. By making Amasa his commander, David would secure allegiance of the members of the armed forces that had aligned themselves with Absalom. Second, by replacing Joab as the commander of the armed forces, David punished Joab for his previous disobedience (the killing of Abner and the killing of Absalom). Third, it is apparent from this passage alone (see 2 Samuel 19:14) that Amasa was a man of influence over the general public of tribe of Judah. All of these moves would help David restore unity in the kingdom of Israel. That was the most important thing to David. He wanted to restore unity. Even if that meant that he had to swallow his pride and offer a position to a rebel leader, he was willing to do that. Reconciliation was what was important to David. Moving the country beyond these years of malaise and rebellion was what David was about.

OK, so it makes sense in the political landscape of the kingdom Israel in the post-civil war period in the Davidic dynasty. It is a politically savvy move, yeah. However, what is it in this passage of Scripture that “we can take home” and apply to our lives. Before we get to the takeaway, let’s set the stage for it.

When you really think about it, not that not much has changed from David’s time to ours. And not much has changed from 1968 to 2018. In 2018, the history of fifty years ago seems to be repeating itself. We are a divided nation now in 2018 in ways that are somewhat like 1968. Back then, it was just the sheer volume of conflicts and the length that those conflicts had commanded attention, people just generally had frayed nerves nationwide. Tempers were short and division and violence seemed to be the only answer. We seem to be at the precipice of that same national attitude in 2018. We have lived now through probably a decade or more of partisan politics where neither side is willing to compromise. Add to that, we now have a President that seems to the Lyndon Johnson of this decade. We are an eerily similar nation in 2018 that we were in 1968. Normally, you would say “what a difference 50 years makes!” but now you would have to say, “what little difference 50 years makes!”

David held up the sign “bring us together again” when he appointed the commander of the rebel forces to be his new commander. What guts that took! This man would have just a day before killed David if he had come upon the opportunity. If David can reach across the political divide 3,000 years ago. Why can’t we do that today? Where is humility and seeking the greater good in 2018. The answer to the deepest problems that we have in the world today is not to be found in Washington? It is not with the Republicans, it’s not with the Democrats, it’s not with the Independents. The answer is with Jesus Christ, who came 2,000 years ago not to separate but to bring people back to God and to bring people together who have been separated by sin. We need reconciliation with God. Our world is broken and hurting because of millennia of cumulative sins of mankind under the sultry influence of Satan. In a world that is dying and bleeding. In a world that is permeated by hate. In a world where the gap between the rich and the poor is expanding. We are to be messengers of reconciliation. In a world where hate and political grandstanding are the norm on both sides, we are to be messengers of reconciliation. Only through reconciliation is there change. Only through reconciliation is there progress.

There is a better way that what we have right now. Jesus, bring us together again. Let it begin with us as Christ followers. Let us love those who are enemies of our political beliefs. Let us love those who are far from God. Let us be the ones that set the example to the rest of the world just as David does in this passage. Let us be the ones who hold the sign, “Bring Us Together Again!”

Amen and Amen.