Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther King’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

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Matthew 8:18-22
The Cost of Following Jesus

It is quite amazing to me how cohesive that the Gospels are together and within each one individually. Often, when you just do a cursory read of the Bible each passage in Matthew can sometimes seem disjointed. However, when study each passage and get into the meat of what it really means and then move onto the next passage and do the same, you see a continual building up of what the Matthew is trying to get us to see about Jesus. In Matthew 8:14-18, we saw that real belief in Jesus removes those stains that prevent us from being what God planned for us all along in our lives – to serve and glorify him. We see that serving Him is a natural desire resulting from Jesus’ saving grace. We see that there is sacrifice that comes with it. We learned too that God will make provision for those who serve Him. Moving on into Matthew 8:18-22, we learn that there is a lot more to service to Jesus than we initially think. The passage reads:

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 9 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

There are several things that I think we can pick out of this passage that are important to our walk with Jesus. First, I am going to say that most of us are like Peter’s mother-in-law, we are serving him in our comfort zone. Second, there is real sacrifice often thrust upon us when we go beyond service in our comfort zone. Finally, let’s look at what Jesus says by saying “Follow me”. When you look at Jesus’ life, that is a pretty loaded statement don’t you think? We will look at that.

Let’s look at my first point a little further. Yesterday, we saw Peter’ mother-in-law, after being healed by Jesus, get up and start immediately serving everyone in her house. Most of us are like Peter’s mother-in-law in that we serve Jesus in our comfort zone. I am not knocking Peter’s mother-in-law in any way. The previous passage is the only scene in the Scriptures where we see her. She may well have been a good and faithful servant to the cause of the Lord. But, at this very moment that we see her she is in her comfort zone as a former wife, as a mother – serving the people in her home. Serving Jesus certainly was joyful for her at that moment, no doubt. However, it was no great stretch for her to be serving Jesus much less anyone else…in her home…in her comfort zone. Would Peter’s mother-in-law been as joyful leaving the family home and following Jesus day to day as Peter was doing?

For us, is going to church on Sunday and saying “Teacher I will follow you wherever you go”…but going to church on Sunday is as far as that goes? Is going to Men’s Bible Study as much as we are willing for our “following” to cost us? Is serving on Sunday morning, as far as we are willing to take it? Are we willing to follow that call that God has put on our heart. Are we willing to be like Tim Lyda? Are we willing to leave a really good job at a little manufacturing company here locally also known as BMW Manufacturing USA and set off from our church to plant a church in Manchester, CT, trusting totally that God will provide? Do we have that 100% faith? Do we have that 100% trust? Do we have such faith and trust in God that we will answer His call and follow His lead? Do we have the faith to build an ark like Noah simply God told us to do so? Do we have that full faith that as Noah did that God was going to send the rain that would flood the entire world that we knew just ‘cause he said so? Serving God often will call us outside our comfort zone – the way we would like to serve God – own our own terms. On our own terms is what we know. However, God knows more that we do about what we are good at, about what we were intended for when he created us. Can we trust that? Can we step out of our comfort zone when God pushes, suggests, nudges, creates opportunities? Can we be truly happy in the eternal sense, if we do not have Tim Lyda-like faith? If you are feeling some yearning, some incompleteness, is it because there is a hole in your soul? An empty place because you have ignored God’s calling? Is it because God is calling you to take it up a notch? Is it because God is calling you to be more, to give more of yourself than you currently give? Faith my friends is taking that first step like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom when you see no visible way for it to work. Faith is taking that first step anyway. Comfort zones are comfortable but boldly stepping out in faith leads to growth and spiritual rewards beyond any earthly measure. Give God a “yes” instead of a no or “maybe next week” or “maybe the next mission trip” or “maybe the next church plant”…Give God a yes in complete and total faith and see where it leads. He will be there after the yes. He will never forsake us.

I have felt God’s call to full-time ministry for many years in my life, but there was always an excuse. In my past marriages, I would use the excuse (and it was probably true too) that my wife at the time would never go for it. I was putting my need for approval from my spouse before my calling from God. I used the excuse that I needed a seminary education to be a full-time pastor (and in most cases that is true too). I would say that I did not have time or the resources to quit work for three years and simply trust the Lord. I had kids and stepkids over the years to take care of. Lord, ain’t nobody got time for that. These were my excuses over the years not to leave a career that I was good at and totally depend on God to provide. These excuses were effective enough to keep me away from seeking my calling from the Lord. Satan smiled at the effectiveness of his excuse factory in my brain. What does God do? He removed every excuse and blatantly showed me that it was He that was doing it. He led me to fall in love with a woman that would follow me anywhere. He led me to a woman who wanted me to seek my calling. He led me to a woman whose heart is after God as much as anyone I know. Excuse gone. He also led me to North Greenville University’s graduate seminary program where most classes are held at night so that I could get my seminary education while working. Excuse gone. He led me to LifeSong Church where the elders are working with me to groom me up to be a full-time pastor. Excuse gone. Now at some point this will become full-time. It will be crunch time between me and the Lord. What now? Time for that Tim Lyda-like faith. Step out. Trust God to provide.

The next point I want to talk about is that real sacrifice may be called for after we leave our comfort zone. Do you think it was easy for Tim & Lynn Lyda to leave the comfort zone of Lyman, SC? I am willing to bet there have been many, many financial sacrifices, emotional sacrifices, physical sacrifices along the way. I bet there have been many days when they wondered how they were going to make it. But there is that faith that Tim and Lynn have. They have a burning desire to do this. Their passion to see the gospel spread in a cold, spiritual place outweighs any of the comforts that they had previously known. They have giant faith that they will have what they need even if times look bleak and things aren’t going well. There will be costs if we truly leave our comfort zone. Think about it. God often calls us to impossible tasks! He calls us to these tasks because they are the right thing to do and He made us for the job. Do think Tim and Lynn have doubts? Sure they do! But their faith is equal to and can beat doubt’s butt!

Do you think that Martin Luther King wanted to be the civil rights leader that he was? I doubt it. It would have been easier to stay simply as the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL and quietly lead his flock there. But God calls us to the opportunities for which he created us. Martin Luther King heard the call. Overcame his fears and became the seminal figure in the struggle for racial equality in the United States. He heard the call and accepted it. It had a cost. His life was constantly in danger during the last 13 years of his life – from the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 to his assassination in 1968.

Look at Gandi in India. He was thrust into the fight for India’s independence from British rule. For 30 years after his return to India in 1915 until he was assassinated in 1948, he fought against the oppression of British rule through civil disobedience and non-participation such that after his assassination, Britain finally did, “quit India.” His lifestyle for the pursuit of truth and non-violence has become a model to oppressed people everywhere. You think he wanted to be the lightning rod for British wrath. I am sure that at points he had his doubts and would have just rather been a quiet philosopher/lawyer. His faith in the truth, which I call God, led him to bring down British rule of his country without civil war.
Look at Oskar Schindler, the famed Schindler of the movie, “Schindler’s List”. Here is an example of God working on us and putting us into situations where he knows we will be changed and motivated to a higher calling. Being an opportunistic German businessman, he rushed into Poland after Germany conquered Poland and bought up enamel wares and ammunitions factories because he could get them for cheap. He then employed Jewish forced laborers in these plants because they were cheap labor. Schindler soon adapted his lifestyle to his income. He became a well-respected guest at Nazi SS elite parties, having easy chats with high-ranking SS officers, often for his benefit. Initially Schindler may have been motivated by money, but later he began shielding his workers without regard for cost. He would, for instance, claim that certain unskilled workers were essential to the factory. While witnessing a 1943 raid on the Krakow Ghetto, where soldiers were used to round up the inhabitants for shipment to the concentration camp at Plaszow, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many of the Jews who had been working for him. He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all of his skills to protect his Schindlerjuden (“Schindler’s Jews”), as they came to be called. Schindler went out of his way to take care of the Jews who worked for him, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations. Whenever “Schindler Jews” were threatened with deportation, he claimed exemptions for them. Wives, children, and even handicapped persons were shown to be necessary mechanics and metalworkers. After the war, Schindler and his wife fled to Austria’s U.S. zone, escaping prosecution by dressing in prison clothes and carrying a letter testifying to their heroic actions. By the end of the war, Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers. Virtually destitute, he did not prosper in postwar Germany. In fact, he was reduced to receiving assistance from Jewish organizations. He died penniless in 1974. Do you think that he decided one day, hey I am going to save as many Jews as I can and spend my entire fortune to do such that when I die, I will have nothing! I am sure he had his doubts. But God pushed and nudged him into a situation where he could no longer ignore the inhumanity of the Third Reich to the point that he would and did give his last dime to save people that were being discriminated against just because they had the last name Weinberg, etc. He began to ache to save as many lives as he could. Gosh it would have been so much easier to just cash in on the business of supplying the German war machine.
These men all knew there was a cost in what they were doing, death or financial ruin – “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Tim Lyda knows that he may meet failure in an area where less than 2% of the people go to church on a regular basis. He may find himself despised. He may find himself wondering why he even came to Manchester, leaving his grown sons and his amazingly cool job at BMW behind. Herein lies what Jesus says in Verses 21-22, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Here we often see Jesus’ statement as somewhat callous. Doesn’t Jesus want us to care for our families particularly in moments like the one suggested here. Remember, I have said in this study often, Jesus often chose words for their shock value to get people’s attention. Jesus was demonstrating here that failure to follow God’s call IMMEDIATELY often will lead to not following at all. If we let other things become more important than following God’s call for our lives, what does that say about His place in our lives? Also, what does it say will happen the next time when THAT detail is taken care of like God has eliminated every excuse I have ever used? Often, we will then manufacture another excuse to take its place. Our focus should always been on answering God’s call on our lives and then relying on God to provide us with the ways and the skills to take care of the details our lives.
You and I both know this one. At work, let me answer these three more emails and then I will get to what I have to get done today. Yeah, that project is due in Japan in the morning, but these emails can be easily answered. Just let me do them and then I will get on to what’s really important today! Next thing you know, you have like and hour and half to do a project that was to take all day. Jesus’ call is the project that we can’t ignore with those time consuming non-project related distractions. Just think about George Bailey in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”….he got so bogged down in the details of his life that he never got to travel. Is our service to Jesus so unimportant that we can put it off til next year! Next decade! All of a sudden our life is over and what are we going to say when we stand in judgment…give me another week, Lord, I will make you important then? It is never convenient to put God’s call on our live at the top of the list. There are going to be radical changes to the life we know outside the comfort zone. It ain’t gonna be easy serving God. If it was everybody would be doing it. There would have been Martin Luther Kings in every street corner in the South. There would have been Gandis all over India. There would have been so many Schindlers in Germany and its occupied lands that were would have been no Holocaust! Jesus knew this himself. He know that he would be tortured, beaten, and killed for saying the things he said. He knew human suffering. He lived a human life. He knew that his death was going to be painful. He endured it because his faith in his Father’s purpose was a big enough bully to kick fear and doubt’s butt!
Do you and I have the same ache to do what God asks us to do, nudges us to do, points us to do? Does that aching end when we see that it will radically change our lifestyle? Do the aching end when we see that it will cost us our fortune? Does it end when we see that it will potentially cost us our very lives? Or is our faith a big enough bully to kick doubt’s butt? Or fear’s butt? Are you willing to trust God so completely as Jesus did? As great Christian men and women of history have? To do God’s bidding? To do what God asks of us, nudges us to do, puts us in situations where we have to choose what he designed us to do! Do you have that kind of ache? That kind of faith? Do you operate inside the house like Peter’s mother-in-law and ignore his call to come out of the house like Peter and throw your cares of comfort and security on Jesus and do that which he has called you to do? It’s God and you at the table! It’s God and me at the table? No one else is there. No crowd to follow or leverage quippy sayings from. God is calling you and me to be the clutch player. He is calling us to put everything on the line for him. Will you do it? Will I do it?

Amen and Amen.