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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.

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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.

 

2 Samuel 5:6-16 (Part 1 of 3)

 

David Captures Jerusalem

 

 

 

Yesterday, I took another step in this process of becoming a pastor at Calvary Church. I had to speak publicly. Although I am like this major social person (always talking to complete strangers, “working the room” at church (speaking to people I do not know yet and welcoming them, man-hugs for the guys I know, church-hugs for the ladies at church I know)) and am unafraid of being in a crowd of people that I do not know, public speaking still makes me feel like this introvert being pushed into the spotlight with nothing but my underwear on. So, yesterday, went well. I think I did better in the first service than the second, but the main thing was that I did not truly fowl things up in doing the announcements and welcoming our guests.

 

 

 

I had a lot of ground to cover yesterday (i.e., a lot to remember). I had five things I had to hit during my time on stage – (1) opening remarks to segway from the previous thing (the opening song) into the welcome/announcement segment, (2) welcome the first and second time guests (and explain how we needed them to fill out a “connection card” and then stop by our “connection center” after the service), (3) pray over the offering that was about to take place, (4) talk about our junior high summer retreat (called Sprummer), (5) introduce the new members that have joined the church through our quarterly membership class and pastoral interview process that follows – we had 18 new members this time, and pray over the new members. The five minute segment seemed like 25 minutes to me. Being the goofy guy I am, I tried to throw in humor here and there. But even that seemed forced to me. I think the first service crowd got my humor more than the second! LOL! It was a lot to remember. I had to take a paper up there with me to remember all the stuff. I know if you were there Sunday, you probably noticed my biggest flaw – the memory vs. speaking notes vicious circle. I have not yet learned to memorize even bullet point ideas and thus need notes. Then, because of nervousness, the notes become a crutch and I become hyper-focused on them. But the one thing that I did not want to forget was how I wanted to open my remarks yesterday. So, I had to get that down on paper.

 

 

 

The opening has to be a way to tie out the first song so that it makes for a good transition into the welcome and announcements. I felt like that had to be a home-run if nothing else I said was. So in studying the order of service on Saturday and listening to the song that would precede me coming on stage, “On The Throne”, the segway then came to me – celebrating who God is. Here are the lyrics from that song below. Pay particular attention to the chorus and the bridge in the lyrics:

 

 

 

VERSE 1

 

I will walk through the fire

 

Walk through the darkest night

 

I will walk through the flood

 

I won’t be overcome, I won’t be overcome

 

 

 

VERSE 2

 

I will walk through the trial

 

Walk through the valley of fear

 

I will walk through the storm

 

I won’t be overcome, I won’t be overcome

 

 

 

CHORUS 1

 

For the Lord is, He is able

 

He is faithful, Higher than the mountains that I face

 

Every season, I will press on

 

For God alone is on the throne

 

 

 

VERSE 3

 

I will walk in Your promise

 

Walk in Your victory

 

I will walk in Your power

 

I won’t be overcome, I won’t be overcome

 

 

 

CHORUS 1

 

For the Lord is, He is able

 

He is faithful, Higher than the mountains that I face

 

Every season, I will press on

 

For God alone is on the throne

 

 

 

BRIDGE

 

On the throne

 

Glorious, Victorious, Sovereign over all

 

On the throne

 

Infinite, Magnificent, Reigning over all

 

 

 

 

 

That’s what I led off with in my remarks – because it is Scriptural truth and it was very true for the task I had on Sunday. I am sitting here reminded this morning of this truth once again as I completed reading 2 Samuel 5:6-16. Here, we see the false security that the Jebusites had in their own power. We see that the Jebusites were defeated because they placed their hope in their own power whereas the Davidian troops through David placed their hope in God:

 

 

 

6 David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. 7 But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.

 

 

 

8 On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites.[b] Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.[c]” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”[d]

 

 

 

9 So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces[e] and working inward. 10 And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.

 

 

 

11 Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. 12 And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

 

 

 

13 After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters. 14 These are the names of David’s sons who were born in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.

 

 

 

In this passage, we see that the Jebusites had a clear advantage militarily. They boasted of their security behind the impregnable walls of Zion. However, they soon discovered that their walls would not protect them. David caught them by surprise by entering the city through the water tunnels. It is a clear example to us that only in God are we truly safe and secure. Anything else is false security. Whether you are surrounded by might walls of stone, a comfortable home, a secure job, no one can predict what tomorrow may bring. Our relationship with God is the only true security in life. It is the only thing that is truly secure.

 

 

 

Just as I am being pushed into what I consider non-comfort zones of public speaking, God is pushing me beyond my normal comforts. He is pushing me to step outside my walls of security. He is pushing me to go where I have never gone before. He is taking me places that are unknown, insecure, and foreign to me. I must rely on Him. Yesterday’s public speaking was just the beginning. This journey is going to push me farther and farther into things that make me uncomfortable and insecure. That is where I must find my total dependence on Him. For if I had it my way, I would not do these things. Outside my comfort zones is where I must rely on Him – the certain, the eternal, the secure God.

 

 

 

Just as the Jebusites counted on their constructions of life, their comfort zone that they had built up on their own, they were defeated because they relied on that which is not eternal. They relied on that which is self-constructed. On the other hand, David relied on God to do what would have been impossible for him and his men alone. David was always the one to seek God’s guidance on how to succeed against seemingly impossible odds. His greatest victories in life came when He totally relied on God and knew that God was the mighty Creator and Ruler and he was just His servant. David’s greatest failures came when he got prideful and relied on his own estimations of situations. He failed miserably when he took matters into his own hands.

 

 

 

We must rely on God – always. We must seek His guidance – always. We must trust Him when all things seem impossible – always. We must humble ourselves before Him – always. That’s because:

 

 

 

For the Lord is, He is able

 

He is faithful, Higher than the mountains that I face

 

Every season, I will press on

 

For God alone is on the throne

 

 

 

On the throne

 

Glorious, Victorious, Sovereign over all

 

On the throne

 

Infinite, Magnificent, Reigning over all

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

2 Samuel 1:1-16 (Part 2 of 3)
David Learns of Saul’s Death

“Mentiroso! Mentiroso, pantelones en fuego!” For English speaking folk, that would be “Liar, liar! Pants on fire!” That childhood chiding is more than just a cute little rhyme. There is great truth in the statement. If your pants are on fire, there is a great likelihood that you are going to be in pain as a result. There is great truth in the fact that telling a lie will bring pain or at least a frantic emergency in your life. It always seems that a lie always comes back to haunt you. They say, those great experts that “they” are, maintaining a lie takes great effort whereas telling the truth is simply effortless.

When we tell lies we are constructing an alternate reality to the truth of what happened in the past. The human mind, despite all of its impressive capabilities that are just now are only beginning to be mimicked by artificial intelligence, has limited capability about how much thinking it can handle at any one given time. The mind is impressive, for sure, and it takes pages and pages of programming code for artificial intelligence programs to come even close to the capabilities of the mind. Thus, since there is a load limit to simultaneous thinking, lying requires a cognitive load that is much greater than telling the truth. In lying we must know the truth and then construct an alternate set of circumstances to oppose the series of facts that are the reality of what happened. It’s difficult for a child to maintain a lie for any length of time and it does not get easier as we grow older.

We all remember telling lies to our parents as children to keep from getting in trouble. We begin learning how to lie at an early age. It is amazing how quickly that lying becomes part of our nature of self-preservation or to get what we want. If we ever wonder if we, as human beings, are sinful just by our very nature, just look at how soon our kids will tell a lie to prevent negative outcomes with their parents. I dare say by age two a child learns to lie. Sure, at that age, it is minimal in nature like lying about who knocked over the plant in the foyer of your house or how juice got spilled on the carpet or how something got broken. But lying is not something that we teach our kids, it’s just innately part of our sinful nature. I am sure I told lies to prevent punishment when I was a kid. I know my own children did. I know my granddaughter who is now 21 months old either will tell a lie very soon or already has. The only difference between small children and adults is how accomplished we become at doing it. With small children, you can tell almost immediately when they are telling a lie. They won’t look at you in the eye. They will move around as they are talking. When children are small, their innate understanding of right from wrong that God programs into us shows through when they are lying and trying to cover up the truth of an incident or a set of circumstances. Further, because of the fact that lying requires you to understand both the truth and the lie at the same time, children fail miserably in their attempts at lying because of the cognitive load that is required by lying.

The sad thing though for us all is that we get better and better at it as we grow older. We can tell some elaborately constructed lies as we grow into adulthood. Murders have gone unsolved for decades because of the elaborate lies constructed by adults. Marital affairs have gone on for months and even years because of the ability to tell elaborate and seemingly plausible lies. People have gone to prison for decades unjustly because of the lies of others. Wars have started because of lies. We have gotten so good at in the modern world that we have given it a new name, “spin”. Spin is when you develop an elaborate explanation for events that take the truth of a situation and twist our negative or immoral actions into positive ones with technicalities, twisting of the truth, and outright lies.

Just think of the “spin” that was required of the Clinton administration to explain away his moral failures while in office. Just think about that movie, “Primary Colors”, with John Travolta and Emma Thompson and Kathy Bates. It was a fictional account of a Southern governor running for President but everybody knew it was an inside look at the Clinton machine on the road to the White House. It was sadly hilarious about how the candidate’s handlers would construct alternate truth so easily to explain away things that the candidate did presently and in his past. They would lie and twist the truth to their candidate’s advantage or to minimize the damage to him. They did it with impunity. They did it with ease. They would have skull sessions on how to craft their version of the truth. They would spend great deals of time, money, and effort to bury the truth, minimize it, and turn the situation to the candidate’s advantage.

Just think about how far that lying has advanced with the advent of the internet and 24 hour news cycles. Just think about all the fake news that passes for the truth now in your news feeds on Facebook. Lying to garner support for your position is commonplace now. It has gotten so on the internet that it is truly hard to tell what is the truth and what is not. Just recently a friend of mine back in South Carolina was taken in by a lie on Facebook. Apparently someone with an axe to grind with In-N-Out Burger began circulating a meme that showed the bottom of an In-N-Out burger cup. A photograph shows the phrase “Hail Satan” printed on the bottom of a cup from the In-N-Out Burger chain. It is completely false. In actuality, the bottoms of these cups show biblical scripture references. But this meme got wide circulation and people took it as the truth. I had to correct her, not only because of my love of the burgers at In-N-Out but in defense of the Christian founder of this business. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lies being passed off as the truth in today’s world.

Although lies have reached epic proportion in today’s world, lying is as old as the Bible itself. It began with Adam and Eve in the Garden. With that idea of lying being a part of our sinful nature, let’s read this passage, 2 Samuel 1:1-16 now:

1 After the death of Saul, David returned from his victory over the Amalekites and spent two days in Ziklag. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s army camp. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show that he was in mourning. He fell to the ground before David in deep respect.

3 “Where have you come from?” David asked.

“I escaped from the Israelite camp,” the man replied.

4 “What happened?” David demanded. “Tell me how the battle went.”

The man replied, “Our entire army fled from the battle. Many of the men are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.”

5 “How do you know Saul and Jonathan are dead?” David demanded of the young man.

6 The man answered, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear with the enemy chariots and charioteers closing in on him. 7 When he turned and saw me, he cried out for me to come to him. ‘How can I help?’ I asked him.

8 “He responded, ‘Who are you?’

“‘I am an Amalekite,’ I told him.

9 “Then he begged me, ‘Come over here and put me out of my misery, for I am in terrible pain and want to die.’

10 “So I killed him,” the Amalekite told David, “for I knew he couldn’t live. Then I took his crown and his armband, and I have brought them here to you, my lord.”

11 David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day.

13 Then David said to the young man who had brought the news, “Where are you from?”

And he replied, “I am a foreigner, an Amalekite, who lives in your land.”

14 “Why were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?” David asked.

15 Then David said to one of his men, “Kill him!” So the man thrust his sword into the Amalekite and killed him. 16 “You have condemned yourself,” David said, “for you yourself confessed that you killed the Lord’s anointed one.”

In this first passage, we see that the man identified himself as an Amalekite from Saul’s camp (2 Samuel 1:2). Hey may have an Amalekite under Israelite jurisdiction, but more than likely he was a battlefield scavenger. Obviously, the man was lying both about his identity and about what had happened on the battlefield (when you compare his story to the account in 1 Samuel 31:3-4). Because he had Saul’s crown with him, something the Philistines would not have left behind, we can infer that he found Saul dead on the battlefield before the Philistines arrived (1 Samuel 31:8). A life of deceit leads to disaster. The man lied to gain some personal reward for killing David’s rival, but he misread David’s character. If David had rewarded him for murdering the king, David would have shared his guilt. Instead, David had the messenger killed. Lying can bring disaster upon the liar, even for something he had not done but for which he tried to take the credit.

Lying is a part of our nature from the time that we can string sentences together as a young child as young as probably two years old. That simply points out to me that there is simply no way that we can say that we can be good enough to go to heaven. Just think about the fact that each of us probably tells lies each and every day without even thinking about it – because it is such a part of our sin-filled nature. There was a song from the movie, The Lion King, where Zazu is singing to entertain Scar. He sings the chorus from the Monty Python song, A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, and it goes like this:

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts
There they are, all standing in a row
Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head

We are that way with lies. Big ones. Small ones. Some as big as your head. Lying is such a part of our nature that we don’t even realize that we are telling them sometimes. What does all this mean? We are sin-filled creatures. When we think that all we have to do is more good than bad to reach heaven then we are sadly mistaken. We don’t even realize that we commit the sin of lying multiple times a day, even if they are simply innocuous or if they are to spare someone’s feelings or whatever. Add that to the sins that we purposely commit periodically through our lives and then lie about them, the preponderance of evidence against us when we stand before God on our own merits is laughable. If we were in court with this mountain of evidence, we cannot claim that we did more good than bad.

When we think about how sinful we really are it screams out our need for Jesus Christ. It is only when we realize how dreadfully sinful that we are and how Satan misleads us into thinking that we are good enough that we see our need for the One who paid it all for our sins. We cannot be good enough no matter how hard we try. We need Jesus to stand and cover us before God. He was the only sinless one and he took the punishment for our sins on the cross. Why is that the case? Because God said that is what He did on the cross. He took on God’s wrath for sin through His sacrificial death on the cross. Though He was sinless and perfect, He took our punishment on the cross. The Father poured out all His wrath against sin on His Son that day on the cross so that we would not have to suffer our just punishment. It is only through believing this fact that we are set free. It is believing that Jesus was the Son of God and that He died this historically verifiable death on the cross for our sins that we are set free from our just punishment before God. It is through believing in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb and that He arose from the dead bodily that we are forgiven for our lies and deceits that offend God. It is the only way. We are liars on our own merits. We are sin-filled creatures deserving hell on our own merits. We tell big ones. Small ones. Some as big as your head throughout our lives. We need Jesus more than we even realize.

Amen and Amen.