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2 Kings 2:19-25 (Part 1 of 2)

Elisha’s First Miracles

The world in which we live now in the Western world is one of high levels of technology and equally high common knowledge of how to use this vast array of technology in everyday life. We talk to our phones, it responds. We talk to our cars, it responds. We have remote start for our vehicles. We can set our thermostats at home while sitting at work. We watch a delivery man leave a package at our front doors on our computers. We can talk to our remote control to our television and ask it to find a certain type of program or a specific show on the five hundred channels that we have on our cable television subscription. We have subscriptions to media services that will allow us to watch whole seasons of a television show all at one sitting. All of this is of course being watched on at least a 48” screen or more hooked into a wireless sound system that will rival any movie theatre. We have home assistants that can turn on, dim, or turn off the lights on voice command. We can ask our phone questions about things we don’t know and it looks up the answer for us. We live in an amazing time. What we take for granted today as simply part of our the “necessities” of life were things of science fiction dreams only 10 years ago. The pace of technological advancement of inventions that make our life just that much easier to live is staggering.

We are a spoiled people here in the United States. We have so much and we take it for granted as it being “that’s just the way life is supposed to be!” Just think how helpless we all feel when the wi-fi network goes down at home or something goes wrong with the internet or your network infrastructure at work. Everything comes to a screeching halt. We cannot operate without our technology it seems. We no longer no what to do. I remember as late as 1995, most people did not have computers on their desk at work and it was less common for a home to have a desktop computer. Before 1995 when technology exploded, we actually used spreadsheets in accounting – literal spreadsheets, ten-column spreadsheets. Before 1995, major accounting functions and financial reporting was done through main-frame computers that took up whole rooms in the basements of large businesses. The pace of change in technology over the quarter century is equivalent to all the technological advancements in human history prior to that.

Has it made us a better society? I am not sure that it has. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and am a gadget geek. I stand in awe of the technological advances made just in my lifetime (where my iPhone in 2019 has more computer capacity than the Apollo 11 command module that held land man on the moon back in 1969 – when I was a little kid of 6 and 7 years old that year). I embrace technological advances rather than fear them. However, the question remains, “is our society better for it?” I think that question is really an unfair one because technology no matter how vast and amazing it is, is simply a by-product of man. The real question is…as we have progressed in technology and ease of life, are we a better people because we have time to focus on things that matter?

We have the finest of everything. The best cars. The best homes. Even our poorest people in this country are more wealthy than the 97% of the world’s population. We’ve got it all. We’ve got it made. Does that make us closer to God though? Has the ease of life enabled us to become closer to God? The answer is sadly no. As we gather more and more wealth, it seems that we are as a nation drifting farther and farther from God. The town is beautiful but the water is growing more and more murky.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through 2 Kings 2:19-25, this morning. Jericho was this beautiful, successful town but its water was horrid. It is symbolic of how that city was enamored with its own wealth and beauty but in the basic thing of life, its water, it was putrid. It took a miracle of salt to change things. That is us, as Christians today, we are the salt that can change things. Let’s read the passage now:

19 One day the leaders of the town of Jericho visited Elisha. “We have a problem, my lord,” they told him. “This town is located in pleasant surroundings, as you can see. But the water is bad, and the land is unproductive.”

20 Elisha said, “Bring me a new bowl with salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went out to the spring that supplied the town with water and threw the salt into it. And he said, “This is what the Lord says: I have purified this water. It will no longer cause death or infertility.[a]” 22 And the water has remained pure ever since, just as Elisha said.

23 Elisha left Jericho and went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, a group of boys from the town began mocking and making fun of him. “Go away, baldy!” they chanted. “Go away, baldy!” 24 Elisha turned around and looked at them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them. 25 From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel and finally returned to Samaria.

In this passage, we see that the story is short and simple, yet its truth is profound and far reaching. This was a city controlled by Israel and in which there was a small seminary (a school of the Prophets), but the water of the city was bad and caused unfruitfulness in the land. If you will notice, in 2:19 the men of the city of Jericho reported, “the situation in the city is pleasant.” At first glance things looked prosperous in the city. There were beautiful buildings, trees, gardens, and much activity – but no actual fruitfulness. Literally the Hebrew says, “the land causes barrenness.” This may indicate the water contained mineral deposits which hindered growth or fruitfulness. Things grew, but before they produced fruit, the fruit would drop off or the plants would wither. The men recognized the authenticity of Elisha as a prophet of God who had walked across the Jordan, an evident token of the power of God in his life. So they came to Elisha and requested help for their problem. Elisha then requested a new jar filled with salt, casts it into the spring, and by a miracle of God the water was purified with permanent results. Evidently, the spring to this day is okay. Please note in 2:21, Elisha gives God the credit. It was not Elisha and it was not the salt – it was God. Elisha was only a representative agent of God and the salt a symbol.

Salt was important in man’s history all the way up to the invention of refrigeration. Salt helped prevent decay of meat. It was a preservative. It was and is a flavor giver. It is often a purifying agent. That’s the symbolism for us as Christians in this passage. We must be the change agents in society. Scripture calls us to be like salt on several occasions. We are to be the ones to prevent decay. We cannot as Christians be content to sit on the sidelines and watch society destroy itself. We cannot sit on the sidelines and simply provide sad commentary on the state of the world. We are called to be the salt of the earth – that which prevents its decay. We must be used by God and thrown into the water to create the miracle of clean water. We must be the change agents. We must no longer be sideline sitters. We must get in the game and change the world by sharing the love of Jesus Christ with our neighbors one person at a time. Let us be the salt thrown in the water to create the necessary chemical reactions.

Let us be the salt thrown in the water!

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 2 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

For the last few weeks, we have had a group of friends/couples over to our house that we have grown to love deeply over the past year. These are couples that we have forged some deep connections with because we have been part of significant events in their lives over the past year. In these first three weeks we have gotten together, we have shared our journeys to the cross with one another. Since we were the common bond among these couples that we were bringing together and the other couples did not know each other beyond knowing that we all go to church together, I felt the best way for us to get to know each other was to share our salvation stories with one another as we shared meals and conversation.

What a better way to get to know one another than to share your life story of how to got to the cross, how Jesus saved you, and what life has been like since! We have shed tears together over the last three weeks that we have been together. We have shared laughter. We have seen each person let down the masks that we often put up to the outside world. As a result, the bond that was through getting connected with one another through God’s local church has grown deeper. The couples that did not know each other have forged instant bonds with one another because the honesty required by sharing your road to the cross with another person. The common thread in each salvation story shared among the four couples in these three meetings is a term that probably someone else coined but true nonetheless is “the God-sized hole”.

We all have the “the God-sized hole” in our soul. Some people are lucky and get it filled with the right thing at an early age and I thank God for those people. They don’t have to go through the struggles that most of us do. Many people are not so fortunate. Many, including myself, have lived a large portion of our lives seeking to fill our God-sized hole with other things that do not fit. All the stories shared during our first three meetings of these couples are individual stories and sometimes couple stories of trying to fill our God-sized hole with other gods. In the 21st century, we may not worship Asherah poles or images of Baal like they did in the Old Testament but we are often no different that ancient people. We stray from the one true God to find and fulfill our desires of the flesh and hope that those desires fulfilled will fill the God-sized hole. It may be our jobs. It may be our relationships, even bad ones. We may use drugs or alcohol to attempt to fill the God-sized hole. It may be defining our self-worth through approval of others. It may be defining our self-worth through sexual conquests. It may be trying to fill the hole with money and property. It can be so many things. But as God’s Word tells us in so many ways and so many times, that worshiping something other than God always leads to destruction.

We always come up empty in the God-sized hole when we try to fill it with gods that are man-made. It may not be an elaborate religion such as we see here in this text from the Old Testament but our gods are no less elaborate and man-made and ultimately useless in today’s world. That’s the come thread to all the stories shared so beautifully over the last three meetings is coming up empty in the God-sized hole.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 about how the elaborate but false religion of the people of the northern kingdom failed when it counted. It reminded me of the common thread of the salvation stories of many, many people is that when it comes down to it we come up empty when we try to fill our God-sized hole with something other than God:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that, although the prophets of Baal “raved all afternoon” no one answered. Their god was silent because he was not real. Baal was a man-made creation. It may have had all the trappings of something supernatural with trinkets and physical representations of what this “god” looked like, but it was fully unreal. The gods of our day may not have idols in the same sense as ancient man-made religions but they are just as false and dangerous because they cause to depend on something other than God. Power, status, appearance, material possessions, drugs, alcohol, sexual validation, all of these things can become our gods if we devote our lives to pleasing those desires in our lives. However, in times of crisis, and we desperately call out to our gods, they will only be silence. We are all built with a God-sized hole in our soul than only God can fill. Our gods of our mind and flesh can offer no true answers, no guidance and no wisdom.

Whether we believe it or not (and if you do not believe in God that belief does NOT make Him NOT exist), we are born to seek after and worship God. He, the Creator of All Things, designed us to worship Him. He wired us that way, plain and simple. Satan may deceive us into believing that God does not exist or that we have evolved beyond the myth of religion and God. We may pride ourselves in our “evolution” and may even ridicule those who still believe in all that God stuff. However, convincing yourself that God does not exist and that you have evolved beyond “the myth of God” does not make Him stop existing. It does not make Him not exist. God designed us to be worshipful creatures toward Him. However, in Sovereignty as God, He chose to give us free will. He wanted us to worship Him not as robots but rather as free will beings who worship Him from the heart, soul and mind.

In that free will and because of the sin of Adam and Eve that we have inherited through the generations since, we choose to sin and walk away from God. We try to fill the God-sized hole with things that give us pleasure. We worship our own pleasure. We try to fill the God-sized hole with the things that we like and that we begin to worship. We worship money, power, position, drugs, alcohol, sex, and all sorts of pleasure giving activities instead of God. The path that these gods lead us down is one that leads to destruction. Why are we so hard-headed? Why does it take being brought down to our knees by the emptiness of the pursuits of the flesh before we cry out to God? Why is it that we try to fill the God-sized hole in our soul with something other than the one true God? We come up empty in the God-sized hole because our gods do not fit and are not intended to fill the God-sized hole.

Just that hundreds of priest of a false and empty religion came up empty when it came to bringing the rain so, too, do we come up empty when it’s crunch time in our lives and our gods of our own making fail us. Only God can fill the God-sized hole. Only God can bring the rain we cry out for. Only God is real. We are programmed by Him to worship Him and Him alone. Stop trying to seek the gaping hole in your soul with false gods of your own making and come to the Lord. Only He is designed to fully fit the hole in your soul. He will bring the rain which you seek. When you seek after Him you will begin to see the promise that you seek. You will see deliverance from the drought of your life. You will see a cloud coming that brings the promise.

The cloud is coming with promise to fill the hole in your soul. I think Elevation Worship says it best when they penned the song, There is A Cloud, and it goes like this:

Hear the Word, roaring as thunder

With a new, future to tell

For the dry, season is over

There is a cloud, beginning to swell

To the skies, heavy with blessing

Lift your eyes, offer your heart

Jesus Christ, opened the Heavens

Now we receive, the Spirit of God

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Every seed, buried in sorrow

You will call, forth in its time

You are Lord, Lord of the harvest

Calling our hope, now to arise

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love!

And with great, anticipation

We await, the Promise to come

Everything, that You have spoken

Will come to pass, let it be done!

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 9:10-14

Solomon’s Agreement with Hiram

Speaking in culinary terms, the colloquial term, “leftovers” brings to mind food that was not chosen at the meal at which it was originally served. It was the food thought to be good enough for a snack or a smaller meal at a later time. It was not the choice meat. It was not the choice vegetable. When one mentions to his/her family that they will be served leftovers at their next meal, it generally brings a lackadaisical response and not closely comparable to the response elicited by a freshly cooked meal. Oh boy! We’re having leftovers for dinner tonight! (infuse statement with sarcasm).

Leftovers do not elicit the idea of what you best is. Leftovers bring to mind the taking of the best already andleaving behind that which is the dregs. In this Christmas season that we are inright now, how often do we give “leftover” gifts to those that we have to givegifts to as opposed to those that we want to give gifts to. You know, those giftsyou HAVE to buy. Those ones that you run into Wal-Mart and pick up a gift cardfor Amazon in the smallest denomination possible. Those obligatory gifts thatyou do not put much thought into. These types of gifts are the ones thatsatisfy the custom but have no heart in them. The kind of gift that when youreceive it you go…well…ok…ummm…thanks. That nephew or niece or that person thatyou rarely see but are required to give a gift to but you have nothing investedreally in their lives. These are the gift card or regifting people on yourlist. It kind of reminds you of the movie, ChristmasVacation, starring Chevy Chase. In that movie, the old lady, AuntBethany, had a penchant for wrapping up presents from things that were aroundher house for Christmas presents for this annual extended family get-togetherat Christmas. As she had grown senile by the time we see her in this movie, shehad actually wrapped up her cat in one of the boxes! LOL! So, you get thepicture of what I am talking about, we have those gifts that we give that wereally don’t invest ourselves in selecting because the person we give the giftto is not a high priority.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read 1 Kings 9:10-14 – how Solomon just kind of gave Hiram a thoughtless gift, a leftover gift, an oh-here gift, when he should have really invested in an amazing gift for Hiram, his closely allied king in the region. Hiram was insulted by the gift to the point that he turned it into a transaction rather than accepting the gift as a gift. He did not honor Hiram the way he should have. Let’s read what happened:

10 It took Solomon twenty years to build the Lord’s Temple and his own royal palace. At the end of that time, 11 he gave twenty towns in the land of Galilee to King Hiram of Tyre. (Hiram had previously provided all the cedar and cypress timber and gold that Solomon had requested.) 12 But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the towns Solomon had given him, he was not at all pleased with them. 13 “What kind of towns are these, my brother?” he asked. So Hiram called that area Cabul (which means “worthless”), as it is still known today. 14 Nevertheless, Hiram paid Solomon 9,000 pounds of gold.

In this passage, we see that Solomon had built his own house, and God’s house, with all the materials that Hiram had provided, and they had this good relationship — so now it says: “King Solomon gave Hiram 20 cities in the land of Galilee”, evidently as a gift for all he had done for him, and as an expression of good will for the relationship they had. This “gift” from Solomon apparently was insulting to Hiram in exchange for gold that apparently Solomon needed. Apparently, Hiram did not think that these 20 cities were worth 9,000 pounds of gold. Because of the relationship that they had in the past, Hiram was expecting the land and the cities in it to be beautiful, useful land.

However, Solomon gave him the worst of his kingdom. Galilee, as you may remember from the New Testament, is a land from which nothing good ever came out of. The land that Jesus grew up in was a poor area with limited resources which caused people there not to be able to afford good educations, good jobs, and so on. Nothing good every came out of Galilee, as the saying went in the Bible. This kind of disrespect is something that we must think about when it comes to how we treat God when it comes to our gifts to God – our time, our talent, our resources.

So what can we take away from this short passage? What is it that we can apply to our daily lives here in the 21st century as modern Christians? I think it has to do with how we honor God. Do you know the Bible tells us that we can insult God by what we try to give Him? Repeatedly God tells us in His word that there are “gifts” which people try to give to Him which He rejects. In Malachi 1 the people of Israel were bringing their blemished animals and offering them as sacrifices to God instead of bringing their first and best. So God said in Malachi 1:10, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates … I am not pleased with you, says the LORD of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from you.” God told those people, your “gift” of these unwanted animals is an insult to Me. He said in v. 1:8, “Why not offer it to your governor?” You wouldn’t give something like that to him — why would you give it to Me?”

Malachi puts it simply, “In your tithes and contributions (3:8c).” Malachi says, using the robber motif, that the people have been, in effect, stealing from God. As a consequence, the Lord has withheld blessing. Their covenant faithfulness is lacking in comparison to God’s faithfulness. They again were picking and choosing which covenant stipulations to observe. They had withheld their tithes or at least the full extent of them that the Law commanded them to bring to God (Leviticus 27:30, Deuteronomy 12:5-18, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Numbers 18:21-32). This rebuke is not something isolated to a few individuals. It is a national rebuke when the Scripture says, “the whole nation of you (3:9c).”

Maybe, this rebuke is part of the vicious spiral of degeneration that Malachi observed. With the failure of the people to support the Levitical priesthood as God commanded, it is possible their passion for their job was correspondent to the amount of support that they received. Neither has pleased God. Service to God should not be contingent on the amount of support received for the effort. All parties of Israel are somehow shocked that they have not been blessed. The command was to teach faithful obedience. It was to be an act of trust in the Lord. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The requirement of a tenth was a benchmark of obedience. Paul’s message is that of loving willingness rather than ritualistic adherence. His expectation was that believers should give above and beyond as they had means. The message is that one should give liberally not out of compulsion. As Hemphill states, “the giving of tithes and offerings in Scripture cannot be separated from the heart condition of the giver.” 

Malachi calls into question whether the Israelites place God first in their lives since they have a spirit of disobedience. In our passage today, Solomon shows a similar disrespect to Hiram. By contrast, those who give God the best of their wealth, God’s response will be to “open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing for you until there is no more need” (3:10b). Malachi shows that obedience provides blessing. Malachi praises a humble and giving heart. Similarly, the saga of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 deals with this very issue of holding back and giving God what is left over but yet at the same time publicly displaying piety. In this scene from Acts, one understands the biblical imperative that all of our resources come from God not just the tenth that is considered the minimum to return to the Lord. When His people usurp their place and begin keeping what they wish to themselves, it is dishonoring to their loving Father. Further, this lack of obedience calls into question whether His people can be trusted to be His representatives here on earth. If God acts to preserve the integrity of His name to the nations through his representatives here on earth (through the rebukes to His people announced through Malachi or the deaths of hypocrites in Acts), these corrective actions produce increased confidence in the truthfulness of God’s message itself.  What remains after rebuke and repentance is a message that God is primary in His people’s lives. He is not the God of leftovers. As Polaski states, “Those who do not wish to live in covenant with God fail to reverence God. The job of the covenant community is to reverence God and thus to oppose such conduct…in the context of God’s faithful devotion to an unfailing covenant.”

Modern day people of God should worship God fervently with their hearts daily – more than just on the Sundays one finds it convenient to go to church. Modern day believers should display worship of God in their daily lives. One’s service to God should be more than serving the body of the church or the world outside only when it does not interfere with work, or school or our favorite hobbies. Our finances should reflect God. Biblical financial behavior honors God. When one gives God the first fruits of one’s finances, it honors Him. The believer should order his finances in a manner that God get the best meat of one’s finances, not the leftover fat.

Do we respond to Him with leftovers? Are giving God thoughtless gifts in the same way that Solomon gives this gift to Hiram? Or do we respond to him with the best food of our lives, the first check that we write, the “get to serve at church” rather than the “have to serve at church”, the thinking of how does this honor God in everything we do? Those who believe in God want to make His glory known to the world so that others may come unto Him. How does that happen? Lives are lived where everything is done to honor God not oneself. Stop bringing God your leftovers. Honor Him with the best of everything that you do (your time, your talents, your resources). To be uncommonly devoted to the Lord in everything that we do rather than being like the culture is what draws the world unto Him. Put God first in your finances (and every other area of your life) and honor Him with your best gifts! Treat Him like the person you most want to buy a gift for rather than someone your run into Wal-Mart for and get a gift card of the lowest denomination on your way to the party.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 8:1-11 (Part 1 of 2)
The Ark Brought to the Temple

I remember my college graduation for what is wasn’t and for what it almost was. In June 1983, Ronald Reagan was our President and George H.W. Bush was our Vice-President. The school that I graduated from, Furman University, in Greenville, SC had landed quite a coup for our graduation. We were to have Vice-President Bush for our commencement speaker. It was quite the big deal. However, it was not to be. For some reason that I cannot remember, VP Bush had to cancel at the last minute. So close to graduation it was, our university president ended up having to give the commencement speech.

At Furman, a small school of about 3,000 students and is a school that plays football at the division of NCAA football just below the big boys known then as Division 1-AA, we held our graduations in our football stadium that holds about 20,000 people – the home side of the stadium being about 12,000 of that total. On the home side of the stadium you can observe Paris Mountain in the distance, some 3 miles away from the stadium. It is a beautiful view. So, families and friends of the graduates were sitting in the home stands and the graduating seniors were sitting in folding chairs on the football field in front of the graduation platform that held all the dignitaries, special guests and other participants in the late afternoon of early June. It was a beautiful day but hot as blazes as it often is in the South in the summertime. It was so humid that day I remember it clearly as I remember sweating a lot underneath the graduation gown and my suit and tie. As was usual in that time of year, with all the heat and humidity, summer afternoon/evening thunderstorms were bound to pop up. Well, on this day, it was no different. As we proceed through all the festivities, you could see this large dark group of clouds approaching. During the various speeches, it was creeping ever closer and ever closer. Our university president, Dr. Johns, was the final and keynote speaker before the conferring of degrees. Since the stage was facing the graduates and the home side stands in the football stadium, the approaching clouds were behind the dignitaries. I think Dr. Johns was oblivious to the approaching storm. Maybe, it had been a while since he had given a commencement speech, but he seemed to go on and on and on. And the clouds kept getting closer and closer to the stadium. Finally, he was done.

The thunderstorm cloud was now such that you could no longer see Paris Mountain in the background and the skies were gray above us. We proceeded to get through all the degrees being handed out and the final charge to the graduates and the final prayer and then of course the tossing of our mortarboards into the air after we were declared graduates of Furman University forever the Class of 1983. Then the rains came and it poured for about a half hour. So, we came oh so close to having to walk across the stage in an active thunderstorm. But God was kind to us and held the rain off until we began exiting the field as graduates. Thank goodness we could all mill around in the concession area/concourse underneath the upper stands as the storm passed.

Isn’t funny though how you remember little details like that of your life? The mile markers of life. I remember graduation from college, my graduations from graduate school and seminary, my marriage ceremonies, the births of my children, the day of my salvation, moving days, both of Clemson’s national championship games in football, and other important and seminal events in my life. This is how we measure life – by the mile marker moments in them. What are the mile marker moments of your life?

Those mile marker moments of life are what I thought of this morning as I read this passage, 1 Kings 8:1-11, for today. This moment in Israel’s history is momentous. It is a mile marker in the history of Israel. In the history of ancient Israel, this moment when the Temple was finished is a reference point. It is that moment that things happened before and things happened after. It is a mile marker in history. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 8

1 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of the Israelites. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 2 So all the men of Israel assembled before King Solomon at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn in the month of Ethanim.[a]

3 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests picked up the Ark. 4 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark of the Lord along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 5 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

6 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 8 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place, which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 9 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[c] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left the land of Egypt.

10 When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 11 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Solomon gathered the people not just to dedicate the Temple, but to rededicate themselves to God’s Service. Solomon could well be speaking these words to us today as he did later in this chapter in 1 Kings 8:61 when he said, “And may you be completely faithful to the Lord our God. May you always obey his decrees and commands, just as you are doing today.” Thus, as the university president did at my college graduation and his charge to us to be difference makers in the world, so too does Solomon use this opportunity, this mile marker moment, to remind the Israelites that they are God’s people and that they must continue to be faithful to him. The establishment of a permanent Temple was a moment for them to realize that God has blessed them mightily and that He has shown them favor, often when they did not deserve it. It was a moment to realize that they were no longer wandering from place to place. They now have what God promised them – a homeland where they could be at peace and serve the Lord and be a beacon to the rest of the world.

It is in these mile marker moments of life when they happen right in front of us that we can take time to realize how far we come and where we have to go. It is a time to celebrate and a time to realize what comes next as we stand here in this moment. As Christians, we have mile markers too. We reference our entire lives and the history of God’s people by the greatest mile-marker moment in history – when Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, my sins, your sins, the sins of all men of all time. Without that mile marker moment, none of us would have any hope. We should reflect on this mile marker moment every day and be thankful and grateful for what Jesus has done for us. Without that moment, we are left to the condemnation of our mountains of sins that we commit every day.

Another important mile-marker moment for Christians is the day of their salvation. I can still remember the sights, sounds, and smells of that day, the Sunday before Christmas in 2001 (December 23, 2001). It was the moment that I realized that if I continued to live in the false security that I had about my general goodness that I was destined for hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. It was that moment that the reality of my sins overwhelmed me and thrust me at the feet of Jesus – begging for his mercy. It was a seminal moment in my life and our salvation day is a seminal moment in each Christian’s life. I often think that we should celebrate our salvation day anniversary with the same fervor that we do our birthdays. It is that important. It is that mile marker by which my life is measured – before salvation and after salvation. It is a mile marker moment that should be remembered and treasured. Do you remember your salvation day? Let us not forget that moment when our life changed forever. Let us remember that joy that we felt that day. Let us remember the sights, sounds, and smells of that day. Let us always remember the tears of joy, the moment when the burden seemed lifted, that moment when everything changed. That mile marker moment!

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 4:1-19
Solomon’s Officials and Governors

Lee Corso, one of the college football personalities on the show, College GameDay, which airs on Saturday mornings during the college football season has a saying when he disagrees with one of the three other personalities on the show. That saying is “Not so fast, my friend!” That seems appropriate here in this passage. The first impression you get is, oh no! Not another list of names! However, when you dig deeper into it and think about this passage, it has much to teach us.

When you have a lot of different areas for which you are responsible, it is impossible for you to manage it all yourself. Solomon understood this concept. He was a ruler of a vast geographical area as well as over millions of Israelites. He just could not do it all himself. He had his closest advisers and then he had governors for twelve districts (these districts roughly approximated the boundaries established for the twelve tribes of Israel). His closest advisors included secretaries that were responsible for various functions of the national government. He had a historian which would be the equivalent of a secretary of state in today’s world. He had a guy in charge of managing the various and sometimes competing issues of the various district governors and several other guys who had defined responsibilities. For each region/district, there was a governor who managed the affairs of each region so as to keep all but the most important issues from having to reach the king in Jerusalem. It all sounds very modern and efficient and it most likely was.

Solomon understood that he could not be tied down with every decision with the nation and the government itself as large as it was. He needed to have people working for him that would take care of specified avenues of responsibility. We know that Solomon had the reputation in Israelite history as being the wisest of kings. So, there are certainly things that we can learn from his organization of his government that we can use in our lives whether we lead in churches or in secular organizations.

Let’s read about the organization of Solomon’s government now in 1 Kings 4:1-19:

Chapter 4
1 King Solomon now ruled over all Israel, 2 and these were his high officials:

Azariah son of Zadok was the priest.
3
Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, were court secretaries.
Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian.
4
Benaiah son of Jehoiada was commander of the army.
Zadok and Abiathar were priests.
5
Azariah son of Nathan was in charge of the district governors.
Zabud son of Nathan, a priest, was a trusted adviser to the king.
6
Ahishar was manager of the palace property.
Adoniram son of Abda was in charge of forced labor.

7 Solomon also had twelve district governors who were over all Israel. They were responsible for providing food for the king’s household. Each of them arranged provisions for one month of the year. 8 These are the names of the twelve governors:

Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim.
9
Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elon-bethhanan.
10
Ben-hesed, in Arubboth, including Socoh and all the land of Hepher.
11
Ben-abinadab, in all of Naphoth-dor.[a] (He was married to Taphath, one of Solomon’s daughters.)
12
Baana son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, all of Beth-shan[b] near Zarethan below Jezreel, and all the territory from Beth-shan to Abel-meholah and over to Jokmeam.
13
Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead, including the Towns of Jair (named for Jair of the tribe of Manasseh[c]) in Gilead, and in the Argob region of Bashan, including sixty large fortified towns with bronze bars on their gates.
14
Ahinadab son of Iddo, in Mahanaim.
15
Ahimaaz, in Naphtali. (He was married to Basemath, another of Solomon’s daughters.)
16
Baana son of Hushai, in Asher and in Aloth.
17
Jehoshaphat son of Paruah, in Issachar.
18
Shimei son of Ela, in Benjamin.
19
Geber son of Uri, in the land of Gilead,[d] including the territories of King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan.
There was also one governor over the land of Judah.[e]
In this passage, we see that just as the story of the mothers contending over one baby was an example of Solomon’s great wisdom, this chapter also shows Solomon’s wisdom. The wise way he selected, trained, empowered, and supervised leaders is clearly seen. Solomon was a leader of leaders. No wise leader does it all themselves. They know how to delegate responsibility and authority and get the job done. Solomon’s great wisdom enabled him to see the needs to get, train, and employ the right people to meet those needs.

Solomon’s government was structured much like that in modern nations. He had officials who served as ministers or department secretaries over their specific areas of responsibility. Jehoshaphat, who had served under David (2 Samuel 8:16; 20:24), continued as historian. As such he was more a chief of protocol than a ‘remembrancer’ or recorder of the past. His status was almost that of a Secretary of State. Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each one made provision for one month of the year. Twelve governors were responsible for taxation in their individual districts. The districts were not strictly separated by tribal borders but often according to mountains, land, and region.

So, earlier I said that there is something that we can learn from Solomon’s organization of his government that we can use whether we are working in churches or in secular organizations. The things that I see are Solomon had defined responsibilities and boundaries for each position.

Each job had its responsibility and everybody had a supervisor. In this way, Solomon was able to keep the number of people reporting directly to him to a minimum and he allowed his supervisors to manage their people below them without interference. This freed Solomon up to deal with the big issues of the nation and to be boat captain who decides the direction of the ship rather than dealing with any and every issue. That issue I think is evidenced particularly by the fact that he had a supervisor for the 12 regional governors. Instead of having to deal directly with the region specific issues of 12 guys himself, Solomon placed a supervisor over them that could deal with their specific issues and then only pass up to the king those issues that require a national rather than a regional answer. As well, there were boundaries for each position. Each person in the chain had defined responsibilities and defined authority. They were empowered to manage their very specific responsibilities and only bubble up those things to those above them that required a more broad or even national answer.

We see in Solomon’s story how society depends on the work of myriad people, coupled with structures and systems to organize large scale production and distribution. The human capacity to organize work is evidence of our creation in the image of a God who brings order out of chaos on a universal and then earthly worldwide scale (Genesis 1). How fitting that the Bible portrays this ability this passage on the organization of Solomon’s government. Perhaps what we take away from this episode is that God is intensely interested in the art of coordinating human work and creativity to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. We see time and time again how God organizes his people to achieve his goals in the world – the organization of the Israelite tribes, the division of the tribes into legal units, the organization of the tabernacle and temple priests, the organization of the disciples (the twelve and the inner three), and ultimately the organization of the church under Paul’s supervision.

So, let us celebrate that God is a God of order and not chaos and examine what we can do to better define and organization our lives to reduce the amount of chaos in it. Whether its our personal finances by defining our budget of income sources and expenses, whether it’s the division of labor in our marriages (agreeing to what is each spouse’s responsibility), whether it’s sitting down with our kids to define their chores or to define their behavior expectations, whether it’s looking at our jobs and assessing ways to make changes that will help us better stay on top of what we are responsible for, you name it! We can all operate better when we reassess our situation and think of ways to be better organized. We can spend less time worry about little things and more time worrying about what wants us to do for Him in the world as His image bearers as the sons and daughters of God.

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.

2 Samuel 14:1-24
Joab Arranges for Absalom’s Return

In this passage, the question that strikes me again is, “where is David in all of this?” He is an absentee father when it comes to his kids in this horrible sequence of events that has come upon his family. To be considered such a great king over Israel, he was mysteriously absent when it came to handling his own children. He never acts when action is needed. Maybe, it’s because he was mired in his own sins and their consequences. Maybe, it was that he did not want to discipline his own kids because of his own situation. Maybe, he thought there would be hypocrisy in that. But you just can’t quit being a parent just because you are jammed up by sin yourself. Sometimes, we have to set aside our own anguish over our sins and be a parent to our kids when discipline is called for.

Maybe, this is where we have to decide to live according to God’s Word instead of our desires. We must let go of those things that set poor examples to our children. Children watch us. Every move we make is catalogued by them and just more likely will be repeated. We cannot allow cycles of sin to continue in our families. They watch us. They imitate us. They think we are the source of what is acceptable and what is not. This fact was driven home to me when I was less experienced as a dad.

When Meghan was about 3-4 years old and was about 26-27 years old, she was my shadow. This was a time period when she was an only child – about a year or two before her sister was born. She thought her daddy was ten feet tall and bullet proof. Lisa, my first wife and mother of my kids, simply was not an affectionate parent so not only did Meghan get her affectionate embraces and hugs and kisses from me but it was that daddy-daughter thing. I thought she was the cutest thing ever and everything she did was just sooooo cuuuuute. She thought I was the most awesome man in the world. So, wherever daddy went, there was Meghan. Whatever I did, Meghan wanted to be with me. There was then this one Saturday we were going to have my parents, Meghan’s grandparents, over for dinner. And, Lisa was major cleaning the house so she had multiple projects that she had assigned to me – outside the house. One of which was to hang one of those plant hanger thingies beside the side door to our house – the entrance pretty much everybody used. So, here I was with hammer and nails. And Meghan was right there beside me to help me as she normally did at that age when I had a project. And of course, you guessed it, while I was hammering a nail through the awkwardly positioned holes in the plant hanger, I missed and hit my thumb about as hard as you can hit it yourself. Oh man, it was painful. I still remember that moment 30 years down the road at this minute as I write this. I step down the stepstool and was holding my thumb and in those few seconds where the pain of such an accident is its most intense, I let go an expletive that rhymes with truck about three times – with little Meghan standing right there. She was worried about her daddy in pain at that moment but the words were recorded in that little mind.

That evening, we had dinner with my parents as planned and the meal was great. Conversation was real and honest and there was lots of laughter. Then it was time for dessert. At that age, Meghan wanted to prove to everyone that she could do grown-up stuff so she wanted to help her mom bring the dessert over to the table from the kitchen. She did it all very successfully. She brought everyone their dessert without any problems. Then it was time for her and her mom to bring their desserts over to the table. As Meghan was walking over to the table with her dessert, she stumbled a bit and the dessert fell out of her and the plate landed upside down on the floor with the dessert smushed to the floor underneath. At that moment she let go of an expletive that rhymes with truck three times just as I had done earlier in the day. Talk about your Southwest Airlines moments – “want to get away?” That moment taught me that our kids watch and record in their minds everything we do and say. And we must be mindful of how we present ourselves to our kids. I should have learned more that day. My kids grew up to be great adults despite all my sins and sorrows and those they mom as well. But when I think about parents who live lives in front of their kids that involve abuse of a spouse, drug or alcohol overuse or abuse, and then wonder why their kids turn out the way they did, we must be mindful. We must live according to God’s Word and be examples to our kids that are positive and glorifying to God.

Having said all that, let us read today’s passage with an eye toward “where is David in all of this?” Let us read it with an eye toward learning that we cannot walk away from our responsibilities as parents because we are having too much fun with our sins or because we feel as though we cannot discipline our kids because of our sins. Let’s read it now:

Chapter 14
1 Joab realized how much the king longed to see Absalom. 2 So he sent for a woman from Tekoa who had a reputation for great wisdom. He said to her, “Pretend you are in mourning; wear mourning clothes and don’t put on lotions.[a] Act like a woman who has been mourning for the dead for a long time. 3 Then go to the king and tell him the story I am about to tell you.” Then Joab told her what to say.

4 When the woman from Tekoa approached[b] the king, she bowed with her face to the ground in deep respect and cried out, “O king! Help me!”

5 “What’s the trouble?” the king asked.

“Alas, I am a widow!” she replied. “My husband is dead. 6 My two sons had a fight out in the field. And since no one was there to stop it, one of them was killed. 7 Now the rest of the family is demanding, ‘Let us have your son. We will execute him for murdering his brother. He doesn’t deserve to inherit his family’s property.’ They want to extinguish the only coal I have left, and my husband’s name and family will disappear from the face of the earth.”

8 “Leave it to me,” the king told her. “Go home, and I’ll see to it that no one touches him.”

9 “Oh, thank you, my lord the king,” the woman from Tekoa replied. “If you are criticized for helping me, let the blame fall on me and on my father’s house, and let the king and his throne be innocent.”

10 “If anyone objects,” the king said, “bring him to me. I can assure you he will never harm you again!”

11 Then she said, “Please swear to me by the Lord your God that you won’t let anyone take vengeance against my son. I want no more bloodshed.”

“As surely as the Lord lives,” he replied, “not a hair on your son’s head will be disturbed!”

12 “Please allow me to ask one more thing of my lord the king,” she said.

“Go ahead and speak,” he responded.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

15 “I have come to plead with my lord the king because people have threatened me. I said to myself, ‘Perhaps the king will listen to me 16 and rescue us from those who would cut us off from the inheritance[c] God has given us. 17 Yes, my lord the king will give us peace of mind again.’ I know that you are like an angel of God in discerning good from evil. May the Lord your God be with you.”

18 “I must know one thing,” the king replied, “and tell me the truth.”

“Yes, my lord the king,” she responded.

19 “Did Joab put you up to this?”

And the woman replied, “My lord the king, how can I deny it? Nobody can hide anything from you. Yes, Joab sent me and told me what to say. 20 He did it to place the matter before you in a different light. But you are as wise as an angel of God, and you understand everything that happens among us!”

21 So the king sent for Joab and told him, “All right, go and bring back the young man Absalom.”

22 Joab bowed with his face to the ground in deep respect and said, “At last I know that I have gained your approval, my lord the king, for you have granted me this request!”

23 Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. 24 But the king gave this order: “Absalom may go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence.” So Absalom did not see the king.

In this passage, we must ask the question, “Why is so much attention paid to Absalom in this and the next few chapters?” His revenge against Amnon and rebellion against David were the beginnings of the decline of David’s kingdom that had been prophesied back in 2 Samuel 12:10-12. The cycle of lust and murder had begun with David’s own moral disaster in the Bathsheba/Uriah incident. By killing his half-brother Amnon, yes, he did gain some revenge for the rape of his sister, Tamar. But when you look at the murder of Amnon in light of Absalom’s upcoming rebellion against his father, King David, his murder of Amnon removed him from succession to the throne as Amnon was the firstborn son of David. Clearly, Absalom had his sights set on being Israel’s king and he did everything in his power to obtain that goal. Absalom was handsome and popular like his father but he lacked his father’s heart for God.

Specifically, in this passage, we see that Joab was the one who had initiated the retrieval activities with regard to Absalom. There is no mention of David. What is up with David? When it comes to his kids, we see none of the boldness that made him a great warrior. We see none of the wisdom that made him a great king. We see only his kids running wild. There is no discipline by David toward Absalom that we can tell from this passage. Should not have David been the one to seek consult with the king of Geshur. Absalom’s maternal grandfather and David’s father-in-law through his marriage to Maacha, one of David’s many wives. It was his son. But it is Joab that makes the arrangements. Why is David so absent when it comes to his kids? There is a lesson in that for us. We must be present in our children’s lives. We must participate in their parenting. Regardless of what’s going on in our own lives, we must continue to parent our children.

Even if we are not perfect (and none of us are), we cannot abdicate our parenting of our children to their environment of friends and the culture in which they live. We cannot give up on discipline of certain behaviors because we have committed that same sin and may be still are suffering the consequences of those sins. We must approach such things from the point of view that we do not want our kids to suffer our same fate. We must approach such things as being able to teach our children from our own sad experiences.

Let us resolve to be involved parents who strive to live according to God’s Word through the grace of Jesus Christ and point our kids toward godly lives through our obedience to His Word.

Amen and Amen.