The Shepherd King – Part 24 November 29, 2016

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and he said:  Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family that you have brought me this far?  And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, You have also spoken about the future of the house of Your servant.  Is this Your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?

2 Samuel 7:18-19

gratitude

In the verses just preceding these, the LORD had given David the amazing promise we saw in last week’s lesson:

The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:  When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.  2 Samuel 7:11-14, 16

Look at David’s response to this outstanding promise of God to him:  He is humbled and He worships.

There is not the slightest hint of vainglory or self-exaltation; rather we see something profound about David in his spoken response.  Few passages give us such a clear perspective on the depths of David’s passion for the LORD.  All of the glory goes to God and David is deeply aware of why.

What more can David say to you? For You know your servant, O Sovereign LORD.  For the sake of Your word and according to Your will, have You done this great thing and made it known to Your servant.  How great You are, O Sovereign Lord!  There is no one like You, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.  2 Sam. 7:20-22

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the goodness of God in your life?  David was stunned by the promise God made to not just him, but his descendants as well.  What greater gift could God give any parent than the assurance that He will be with their children and their children’s children throughout their generations?  David is as overwhelmed with humility at the same time that he is stunned with the possibilities.

The only reasonable response in a moment like that is worship and praise.

Taking the gifts and graces of God for granted is inexcusable.  What have any of us received that did not come ultimately from God?  Whatever talent, skill, intelligence and wisdom we may have is a gift of God, pure and simple.  Assuredly, it is our responsibility to develop the gifts He has given us, but never at the expense of forgetting where the gift came from!  There truly is no such thing as a “self-made man”.

A few days ago, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day.  Should not every day be filled with thanksgiving?  His mercies are new every morning; great is His faithfulness, the scriptures declare.

Is your first thought on awakening to thank God for a new day? That you woke up in health, with a roof over your head, with food to eat and clothes to wear?

Those precious moments when we are overwhelmed, like David, with the goodness of God need to spill over into a daily attitude of thanksgiving.

Application:

How often do you thank God for His goodness to you? To your family?  Do you take your blessings for granted?  Everyone of us will do well to increase our attitude of gratitude on a daily basis, never having far from our thoughts that all we have is His loving gift.

The Shepherd King – Part 23 November 22, 2016

Now it came about when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet: ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’  2 Samuel 7: 1-3

The running, the struggling, the fighting is finally over for David and ‘the LORD had given him rest.’  At last, he sits on the throne that was promised to him so many years earlier and as he does, we notice something that I believe we can all relate to.  His mind is very active.

How often have you gone to bed at night, tired and needing rest, yet though your body reclines, your mind refuses to ‘shut down’?

David’s life was now calm; his enemies had been overcome and as he sat on his throne, perhaps suddenly he looked around the palace, so vastly different from the caves where he used to take refuge and the sober realization hit him like a lightning bolt.  “What am I doing here in this beautiful home ‘while the ark of God remains in a tent?”

king-david

The first thing to notice is how David’s thoughts turn to the LORD, rather than focusing on his newly acquired palace, wealth and honor.  We have seen him seek the LORD in times of danger and trial and we easily relate to that.  But like him, do we turn just as quickly to the LORD when blessings pour into our lives?  David did.  Dressed in his regal attire and positioned as ruler over all of Israel, there is still something more important on David’s mind: exalting the God of Israel to whom he owes infinite gratitude. There is no sign of gloating over the demise of his enemies nor of pride in his regal status.  His humility remains untarnished in exaltation.  In Proverbs 27:21, we read: The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and each man is tested by the praise accorded him.

We may think that praising God when things are difficult is laudable – and it is.  But keeping our minds and hearts focused on God when we are blessed is perhaps even more laudable for the things of this earth have a seductive power; wealth, honor, new homes, new cars, etc. can all steal our focus as we turn our attention to the enjoyment of our blessings and too often, forget the One Who sends the blessings!  David’s humility kept him focused on the LORD.

The prophet’s first response to David’s comment at the beginning of this chapter is to agree with the king and urge him to go ahead with his plan.  But that very night, God spoke to Nathan not about David’s desire to build Him a house, but about His relationship with David.  The full message from the LORD is in 2 Samuel 7: 5-16 and contain several amazing promises, some to David personally and others to the nation of Israel as a whole and several to the king’s ‘offspring’.

The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:  When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.  2 Samuel 7:11-14, 16

Wow – what a profound promise!  What a covenant between the king of Israel and the King of the Universe!

David’s son, Solomon, would indeed build a magnificent temple for the God of Israel and this promise would be fulfilled in the natural realm but do not miss its spiritual implications.  Ultimately, this promise signals through the ages that David’s greater son, the Messiah, will come and it is HE who will build a ‘house’ and a kingdom that will last forever.  From the beginning, God wanted a community that would corporately be a ‘house of His glory’ on this earth, a nation whose love for Him and whose manner of life would be a ‘light to all the nations’.  When Israel sinned after the giving of the Torah, God commanded Moses to construct the Tabernacle and position the tribes around it so that day and night, they would visibly ‘see’ a demonstration of what they, as a community, were called to be – a dwelling place for God’s glory. For, as the scripture says elsewhere, God’s delight is not in to dwell in buildings of stone but in the hearts of men whose lives give evidence of His presence among them.  This is exactly what God said to Nathan and to David: ‘I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day.  I have been moving from place to place with a tent as My dwelling.’  2 Samuel 7:6

We also notice in this chapter that the prophet Nathan has come on the scene and has a relationship with the king.  This reveals another virtue of David’s: he did not presume to know everything, to need no one else, to be above needing good advice; and he was willing to be accountable to someone else.  As we look at what happened here, we see two things:

First, Nathan’s initial response to David’s idea was to affirm it and encourage him to go ahead.  But God corrected the prophet and essentially said to him, ‘Don’t assume that My leaders will always be right!  Though I am with him, any decision he makes without first consulting Me is questionable.’

Secondly, to David God said, ‘Though you are a man after My own heart, you must realize that every bright idea you get is not necessarily from Me!’

It was a necessary lesson for both of them and echoes what we read in Isaiah 40:31:  They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength…’  Every plan, every ‘bright idea’ we get must be taken before the LORD in our prayer time and we need to ‘wait’ – to take the time to pray and ask: LORD, is this from You and if it is, how do You want me to carry this out?

Application:

We need, like David did so often in his life, ‘seek the LORD’ about our decisions and our way of life.  Our minds are very active; ideas float in and out of our consciousness all the time.  It is incumbent upon us to develop the practice to ‘test’ every idea before the LORD as we pray.  Ask Him: Is this what You want me to do? Please, lead me and direct me.

Impulsively following every idea without seeking the LORD is a recipe for disaster.  Wait upon the LORD and HE will guide us in His ways.  Then, as we read in Joshua, we will have success.

The Shepherd King – Part 22 November 15, 2016

2 Samuel 6

One would think that David’s success in conquering Jerusalem and defeated the army of the Philistines might be considered his greatest achievement.  Yet in his mind and heart it wasn’t.  Now that the war with the Philistines is over, David turned his attention to an issue dear to his heart. He assembled thirty thousand men to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem, its true home.

According to Exodus 25:10-16 and Numbers 4, the Ark of the Covenant was to be transported only by the Levites (priests) who were to carry it on poles inserted through the rings on either side of the Ark.  David, for an unexplainable reason, had the Ark of God put onto ‘a new cart’. (2 Sam. 6:3)  This was a serious error.

God’s desire was that His glory, represented by the Ark, should literally rest on the shoulders of His priests.  The tribe of Levi was chosen to conduct the priestly functions in the Temple.  They served as representatives of the people whom the Bible designates as a ‘priestly people’.  In other words, all people who adhere to the faith of Abraham have a certain priestly character about them and should be ‘bearers of His glory’.  This is another way of saying that we are to be a ‘light to the nations’.  Positioning the Ark of God on a wooden cart drawn by animals imitates what the Philistines did when after possessing the Ark for seven months and suffering devastation in their camp because of it, they loaded it onto a cart and sent it back the Israelites.  We would think that David would have remembered the Torah’s instructions and not replicated the actions of the Philistines.

But he didn’t.

And so, while ‘David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord,’ (vs. 6-7) one of his men named Uzzah reached out to keep the Ark stable on the cart and when he did so, God struck him dead.  Here they were, celebrating with exhuberance and passion and in the midst of it, disaster.  David was devastated and his response was anger and fear.

Yes, David was angry at God.  The ‘man after God’s own heart’ got angry at the God He loved so much. Perhaps you’ve been shocked in life by a devastating event or situation and can identify with David’s feelings. But did you do what David did?

Here is the key to why he continued as a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ He translated his anger and fear into seeking God more intensely in order to understand why this happened.  You see, David’s faith rested firmly on who God is.  It was not dependent on what God did.

I dare say that no one has ever become angry at God for Who He is. We only get angry at Him when He does something that disappoints or distresses us and, like spoiled children, we get mad that we didn’t get our way!

What we must remember is that His ways are NOT our ways; that because we are limited human beings, we will NOT always understand why certain things happen.  But when our faith, like David’s, is firmly rooted in Who God IS, not what He DOES or DOESN’T do, we will maintain our spiritual or emotional stability when things don’t go our way.

At first glance, it may seem as if the death of Uzziah was the work of a ‘harsh’ and ‘demanding’ God.  On the contrary, it was the work of a HOLY God.

Faith like David’s understands that everything God does is right, good and just.  He does nothing haphazardly or thoughtlessly.  His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, wrote the prophet Isaiah.  His is God; we are not.

One thing we can recognize immediately from this event is that God wanted His people to be different from the rest of the world.  Any lack of attention on our part to His way of doing things is important to Him!  To transport the Ark on a cart drawn by animals constituted an attempt to substitute man’s ways for God’s.  It was His holiness that reacted.  David along with all of his men needed to be reminded that doing God’s work must be done in God’s way.

After Uzziah died, David left the Ark at the home of Obed-Edom, some eleven miles from Jerusalem.  It became quickly apparent that the blessings of God flowed abundantly into Obed-Edom’s home.  David saw and learned.  After some time he went a second time to bring the Ark to Jerusalem but this time his attitude was different.

Difficult lessons in life can make us bitter – or better.  David chose the latter.  This second time he made sure the priests carried the ark and with every six steps, David offered sacrifices and ‘danced before the LORD with all his might.’ (vs. 6:14)

daviddance

Spurred by the freedom that always comes with repentance and correcting one’s ways, once the Ark was secure in Jerusalem, David made his way home to ‘bless his household’ (vs. 20).  He was filled with the joy of the Lord…but his wife was not.  She ridiculed his dancing before the Lord with a disdain that hurt, but even the disgust of his wife at his expression of worship, did not deter him.  His response to her was ‘It was before the Lord!’(vs. 21).  In other words, I wasn’t dancing for you, Michal, I was dancing for God!

David resolved that whether or not his wife agreed, whether or not his family joined him, whether or not the whole nation thought he was crazy, ‘I will celebrate before the Lord!’

I suggest that David did not necessarily understand more about Uzziah’s death but he understood more about his God which made the loss of Uzziah more tolerable.

Application:

We will not always get ‘our way’; in fact, we shouldn’t for our ways are often NOT God’s ways.  When situations or events don’t go the way we wish they did, let us imitate the faith of David, trust that God is doing what is right and best and though we may not understand until much later, let us cultivate a heart like David’s that even in distress, turned TO God, not away from Him.

 

 

The Shepherd King Part 21 November 8, 2016

Years have passed since the prophet Samuel anointed David to be king.  Through times of heartbreak and being hunted down, surely David had some dark days and discouraging times.  But finally the prophet’s words are about to come to pass.

The LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel and you will become their ruler.’  2 Samuel 5:2

At this point, all the tribes of Israel came to David to declare him King.  The exciting day has arrived.  He was thirty years old when he became king in Hebron where he reigned for seven years; David now assumes the throne over all Israel and will reign for thirty-three more years.

kingofisrael

2 Samuel 5: 12 is a key verse: ‘David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.’  When I read that verse I wonder if during the fifteen years since Samuel anointed him, had he asked himself at times ‘why’?

Why did God choose me and then allow Saul to pursue me with such bitterness?

Why did my beloved friend Jonathan have to die?

Did the prophet Samuel really hear from God?

Will I ever reach the throne or is this a fantasy?

It was only after God had handed over to him the most fortified city in all Israel and all the tribes came and proclaimed him king, that David knew the LORD Himself had established his kingship.  Up to that point, it was a matter of faith.

Someone has said that FAITH is climbing onto the first step when you can’t see the rest of the staircase.  The prophet Habakuk wrote: The righteous man shall live by faith. (Hab.2:4)  During times of confusion and concern for his own life, the psalms testify to us that David maintained his faith and trusted the LORD. Certainly he had his moments for the psalms also testify to that, but even in the psalms which most graphically relate David’s struggles, there is a declaration of faith and trust before the psalm is over.  One example of many is Psalm 43.  Its opening words are a cry to the LORD:

Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! (vs. 1)

But the closing verse says this:

Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (vs. 5)

Those early years of intimacy with God out in the pasture with his father’s sheep had established in the young David a deep faith in his God.  It is any wonder that it is his own son, Solomon, who years later wrote: Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.  (Proverbs 22:6)  Parents, take note!

In this fifth chapter of 2 Samuel, we learn two more things about David’s life.  After he left Hebron for Jerusalem, David enlarged his already large family by taking more concubines and additional wives who bore him more sons and daughters.

Secondly, the Philistines had not forgotten his victory over their giant, Goliath so many years before.  When they learned he had become king over all Israel, they prepared for war.

How curious – as a teenager, they were the enemies of Israel and he conquered them by killing Goliath.  Later while feeling from Saul, the Philistines gave him shelter and protection.  He was not a threat then but a fugitive.  Now that he is king of Israel, to the Philistines he has reverted to being their enemy once more.  I wonder if it was the news that they were about to come after him that prompted David to write these words:

Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.  He is my loving God and my fortress; my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.  (Psalm 144:1-2)

Twenty-one weeks ago, we began this study with a young shepherd boy who spent his days tending his father’s sheep while his older brothers went off to war.  The word of the LORD spoken over him back then has finally come to pass.  David is King over all Israel.

And he is still ‘guarding sheep’ – not his earthly father’s anymore, but God’s sheep.  You will shepherd my people Israel…2 Sam. 5:2

Application:

One of the chief qualities which God so loves in His people is FAITH.  To immerse yourself in the study of God’s revealed Word, to embrace it with all your heart and to trust Him in all circumstances of life brings great pleasure to the heart of your God.  May David’s example of faith and intimacy with God inspire us all to a deeper relationship with our God.

The Shepherd King – Part 20 November 1, 2016

David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.  The LORD said, “Go up.”  David asked, “Where shall I go?” “To Hebron,” the LORD answered.   2 Samuel 2:1

davidking

It is now some fifteen years since the prophet Samuel visited the home of Jesse and anointed his youngest son, David, as the future king of Israel.  David is now thirty years of age and has already demonstrated certain qualities which stand forever as godly examples of how to conduct one’s life.

Notice in the verse quoted at the opening of this lesson that David inquired of God, not just in a general way, but kept on asking until he received specific direction.  David’s focus was not simply on ascending to the throne of Israel; he wanted to get there in God’s way and in God’s time precisely because he knew that God had ordained him to the task.

As we go through life, too often our day to day activities are virtually mindless.  We get into a routine and go on about our business without consulting the LORD for His direction.  At times we get a thought or an idea and are too often ready to immediately conclude that it constitutes a direction from the LORD.  Not always true.  Like David, we need to learn to be patient, to inquire of the LORD and wait for the FULL answer before moving out.

How often have overly zealous but undisciplined servants of God taken action before its time to find a disastrous end.  You may remember earlier in our study how Saul, impatient that Samuel had not arrived, took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice and because of that, was severely punished.

We need to know, not only what God wants of us, but when. David understood this principle and was careful to seek the LORD diligently until he had specific direction to follow.  That does not preclude the level of faith needed to carry out the task; to go to Hebron took courage and faith for it was not a ‘friendly’ place to live then anymore than it is now.  But as soon as David heard from the LORD precisely where to go, he obeyed without question or hesitation.

Hebron has been continually populated since about 3300 BCE.  It is about nineteen miles south of Jerusalem and was the scene of several important biblical events. It was at Hebron that Abram was told that Sarah would have a child in their old age. Hebron was given to Caleb by Joshua at the time of the distribution of the Land of Israel after the Israelites entered it.

David ‘settled’ in Hebron, this chapter tells us.  I would imagine that after years of moving around, escaping from place to place from the sword of Saul, the opportunity to ‘settle down’ for awhile was a welcome experience.

After settling “the men of Judah came…and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.” (2 Sam. 2:4)  Fifteen long years after their momentous occasion in front of his brothers and his father’s house, the anointing Samuel bestowed on him finally reached its first public manifestation.  Becoming the King of Judah was the first step towards becoming, seven years later, king of all Israel.

Application:

If there ever was a time when we needed to hear clearly from God, it is NOW! Many of the readers of this blog are in the United States.  At this moment, tumultuous events dominate the news media and a critical election looms ahead in just a few days time.  For Americans, but also for bible believers in every nation, it is paramount that we renew our dedication to seeking the LORD, inquiring of Him as David did, for big decisions and small ones – for every aspect of our daily lives that we may find ourselves kept and protected in the center of His will, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91)