The Shepherd King Part 28 December 27, 2016

In last week’s lesson Nathan the prophet confronted King David regarding his sin with Bathsheba.  As soon as David acknowledged and owned his own guilt and repented, God forgave him.  However that was not the end of the story.  Nathan continued to speak to the king.

‘Because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.’ 2 Samuel 12:14  Perhaps on hearing this David hoped the prophet was wrong.  But the narrative continues:

After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.  David pleaded with God for the child.  He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground.  The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused and he would not eat any food with them.  On the seventh day the child died. 2 Samuel 12:15-17

A very hard lesson indeed for the King of Israel.  And a profound lesson for us.

Decisions have consequences, even those decisions you make privately that you think no one knows about.  God knows and consequences are inevitable.  Our problem is that sometimes things happen in our lives and we fail to make the connection that what we are experiencing is a consequence of an ungodly decision. Failing to make that connection often robs us of the opportunity to learn an important lesson.  David’s response at hearing that his son had died is remarkable:

David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized that the child was dead.  ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked.  ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead.’  Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.  Then he went to his own house and at his request they served him food and he ate.

His servants asked him, ‘Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!’

He answered, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live. But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’  vs. 19-23

Perhaps vs. 2o – He went into the house of the Lord and worshiped – is one of the most beautiful verses in the scriptures.

The prophet had told him his son would die.  Yet David had fasted and prayed for mercy. But when the child died, his response was not to be angry or devastated.  Rather, he worshiped the Lord because David understood that the discipline of the Lord is always for our good.  He also understood a principle that we sometimes forget.

God told Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness.  Abraham prayed, ‘If you find fifty righteous…will You spare the city?’  When God couldn’t even find ten righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, they were utterly destroyed – because no repentance or righteousness could be found.

God sent Jonah to Nineveh to prophesy that in forty days He was going to destroy the city because of their wickedness.  But the people of Nineveh from the King on down, repented before the Lord in sackcloth and ashes and God spared them in response.

There are times when a word of judgment can be mitigated by prayer and fasting, by repentance and humble confession of sin.  There are other times when a word of judgment is ‘set in the heavens’ and no prayer or fasting will change it because it has been established in the heavens in the wisdom of God’s purposes.

David prayed in the hope that Nathan’s word might not come to pass but when it did, his response was to bless the Lord for His righteous discipline in the king’s life.

Though David was king and a man after God’s own heart, God treated him the same way he would have treated anyone else who committed the same crimes. Yes, His judgment was tempered with mercy for later on, Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon who became a great king and one of the wisest men who ever lived on this earth.  But where we are presently in David’s life, he knew nothing of the coming Solomon.  He knew only that he had sinned grievously in the sight of the Lord and that God’s judgment and discipline were right and proper.  Therefore he worshiped the Lord with all his heart.

Application:

When we are faced with trials and difficulties, it would do us well to ask the Lord whether this particular trial is the fruit of one of our own bad decisions.  And if He shows us that it is, then learn the lesson well!

To be sure, not ALL trials or heartaches fit into this category but many do and it is to our benefit to learn this principle so that, as an old friend of mine said, ‘Don’t waste your suffering’.  Let every trial or difficulty that we go through become a means of spiritual growth.

 

 

 

The Shepherd King – Part 27 December 20, 2016

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.  After the time of mourning, David had her brought to his house and she became his wife and bore him a son.  The thing David had done displeased the Lord. 2 Samuel 11:26-27

We saw last week how David failed to overcome temptation and committed adultery.  To cover up his sin, he then had Joav, his commander, place Bathseba’s husband, Uriah, in the thick of the battle to assure his demise.

One thing David forgot:  his sin was clearly apparent to God.  No cover up would work in the eyes of the Almighty.  It startles us when we think about it for here is a ‘man after God’s own heart’ who not only sinned grievously but appears to have no remorse!  How can that be? It was because the most blatant sin is also the most blinding. The conscious mind has a defense mechanism that blanks out information too painful to deal with. Psychology calls this ‘repression’.

However before we wag our heads or point a finger at David, we must look at ourselves.  The prophet Isaiah said: We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way. Isaiah 53:6  We often need someone else to help us see through ourselves and the humility to listen and receive their correction.

David was blessed with such a person.  Nathan, the prophet of God, came to the king and confronted him with his sin by telling him a ‘parable’ which is recorded in 2 Samuel 12: 1-7

‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it and it grew up with him and his children.  It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.  Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own shepp and cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him.  Instead, he took the one ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan: ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’

Then Nathan said to David: ‘You are the man’.

Nathan models for us what a true man (or woman) of God is like.  This is the kind of person you want for a friend.

First, a true man/woman of God knows how to be objective and will confront people with their sin, not with harshness but in a spirit of humility, knowing full well that they can also be tempted.  They will also do so in God’s timing.  Nathan confronted David nearly two years after the affair.  God’s desire and expectation is that when a person ‘after his heart’ sins, repentance would follow quickly.  David had time to repent.  God was patient. But when repentance was not forthcoming, he sent the prophet.  If we are to walk in the ways of God and sincerely long to have an intimate relationship with Him, then we must be willing to listen when a caring friend brings correction.  That is wisdom – and, by the way, humility which is a virtue near and dear to the heart of God.  At that moment, your friend is doing you a great favor.

Second, a true man/woman of God is concerned with God’s honor.  In vs. 14, Nathan said to the king, ‘By doing this, you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt.’  Nathan was grieved that God’s enemies had heard what David had done and scoffed at him.

Third, a true man/woman of God will apply the Word of God to the situation, not his or her personal feelings or opinions.  The chief aim of Nathan’s parable was to expose David’s sin and he had the grace to know that it would be easier for the king to repent if he approached him with a story rather than a harsh confrontation.

It is amazing that David didn’t see the point right away!  However, he was oblivious to his sin.  Could it be because of self-righteousness?  Had he justified (rationalized) it?

David’s initial reaction to Nathan’s parable teaches us three things about people who are self-righteous.

They are judgmental.  David was quick to point the finger at the rich man in the parable.

They are quick to see sin in others but often fail to see their own sin. Self-righteousness blinds us to the truth about ourselves, making it easy to criticize others.

They are unforgiving. David said the rich man ‘deserves to die’.  Note this: the inability or unwillingness to forgive is a sin just as heinous in God’s eyes as the person whose sin we are condemning.

Application:

God has three methods for disciplining His children.

First, He has told us in His Word what He expects of us so that we will recognize our own failures and repent.

Second, if we’re not paying attention to God’s Word, He may use adverse circumstances or difficulties to get our attention. Jonah experienced this when he refused to go to Nineveh.

Thirdly – and sadly – if we persist in our self-righteous rationalizing, we will face God’s judgment eventually when we stand before Him.  By then it will be too late to repent and we will have forfeited many blessings that could have been ours.

Let us be quick to repent, slow to justify our failures and seek after God with everything in us.

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In a few days, some of you will celebrate Hanukkah while others will celebrate Christmas.

To all of you, I send my warmest wish that in your celebrations you remember most the Holy One of Israel Whose love, kindness and compassion is new every morning for great is HIS faithfulness to His people.

The Shepherd King – Part 26 December 13, 2016

Having seen David rise from a lowly shepherd boy through multiple trials to ascending the throne of Israel, we now arrive at a point in his life that painfully demonstrates how even those close to God and with a passion for Him are not immune to temptation and failure.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.  From the roof he saw a woman bathing.  The woman was very beautiful and David sent someone to find out about her.  2 Samuel 11:2-3

davidbathsheba

The messenger came back with information that should have stopped David cold right there and then.  He identified the woman as Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s soldiers.

To appreciate what’s about to happen we need verse 1 of this chapter:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.  2 Samuel 11:1

So all of David’s army is on the battlefield, including one of his captains, Uriah.  But at the moment, David is blinded by lust and sends for the woman.  They have intimate relations and shortly thereafter, she sends a message to the king that she is pregnant.

It is important to realize that in the culture of the day, a woman had no rights.  It was unthinkable to deny the king anything he desired.  Whether or not Bathsheba was a willing accomplice to adultery only God knows.  The focus here is on David who was overcome with desire on seeing her bathing and acted impulsively to satisfy his own wants.

The first lesson derived from this scene takes us back to the Garden of Eden.  Eve looked at the tree and saw that the fruit was good and desirable…  Gen. 3:6  David looked and what he saw was desirable.  Do you see the connection? Theologians describe it as the ‘lust of the eyes’; that is, when our eyes become the entryway for sinful thoughts that lead to sinful actions.  Our five senses were given to be vehicles for holiness but how often do they become vehicles for sin, as David’s did in this instance.  He saw but instead of averting his eyes and going back inside the palace, what he saw prompted him to foolish action that led to sin.  David had risen to such a position of power that anything he wanted was done by willing servants.

Therefore, the second lesson flows from the first: David failed to reckon with the interval between ‘wanting’ and ‘getting’.  There is no ‘romantic’ excuse such as that so often used in our day to justify this kind of behavior.  Rather, amid all of his integrity and humility in other areas of his life, self-control in sexual matters remained a weakness.  In 2 Samuel 5 we learned that ‘David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem.’ (vs. 13)

This event is a heart-stopping warning to all of us.  The great King David, a man after God’s own heart, was nevertheless subject to a weakness that hurled him headlong into a reprehensible sin that later prompted the writing of Psalm 51 which says in part:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love;

According to Your great compassion, blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Psalm 51: 1-2

The alarming rate of infidelity, even among God’s people in our day, demands us to take a hard look at David’s fall. But the application is not reserved only for sexual sins but for ALL manner of sin.

Notice:

1) he saw and what he saw propelled his imagination down a road it should not have gone.

2) he turned those thoughts into words by commanding his servant to go find out about the woman.  Virtually all temptations go from the mind to the mouth before they become action.

3) he sinned in actuality.

Application:

We need to learn from David where to stop sin, any kind of sin.  If wrong thoughts lead to wrong words that lead to wrong actions, then the arena of self-control must begin in our thoughts.  That is where we flex the muscle of self-control and stop sin at its origin.  The book of Proverbs tells us: As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.  Prov. 23:7

Whatever our area of weakness may be, the formula is the same.  I encourage you to memorize these two verses of Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the everlasting path.

The Shepherd King – Part 25 December 6, 2016

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”  2 Samuel 9:1

By this time in his life, David has achieved great success and is honored throughout the land of Israel. His love for God was exceedingly well known and an example to all the nation. In this chapter we get a more intimate look at the man himself.

Surely as he surveyed the kingdom in private moments, thoughts of his deceased friend, Jonathan, with whom he had hoped to share the kingdom, came often to his mind.  To his dying day, David missed the best friend he’d ever had.  As this chapter opens, the king asks, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”  Can you hear the loneliness in his voice?

Ziba, a servant from the house of Saul who now worked in David’s palace responded: “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.” 2 Samuel 9:3

mephibosheth

In an earlier chapter the boy, Mephibosheth, had been mentioned briefly.  He was a young child when his father and grandfather were killed on Mt. Gilboa. When the news was relayed of their deaths, the nurse holding the toddler had dropped him causing serious injury to the child’s feet so that he was crippled from that day forward.  Given the culture of the day where physical deformities were considered a source of shame, the response of the servant, Ziba, conveys the idea that though a son of Jonathan, this Mephibosheth deserves no recognition.  However, the King thought otherwise.

David had Mephibosheth brought immediately to him and on his arrival said:  “I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather, Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed low before the king and replied: “What is your servant that you should notice a dead dog like me?”  2 Samuel 9:7-8

Try to picture this scene.  David is in the throne room, dressed in his royal robes.  A servant enters the room, followed by a crippled man, poorly attired and unable to walk.  Mephibosheth may well have had to drag himself along on the floor towards the king until he was right in front of him, then bowed with his head to the floor as was the custom. He had no idea why he was there and was most probably afraid.  I doubt it crossed his mind that the King was simply looking for someone to bless!

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family.  You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.”  2 Sam. 9:9-10

This is one of the most poignant scenes in all of Scripture that manifests the love of God in action through one of His people.  In the encounter between Mephibosheth and King David we come face to face with several characteristics of God Himself.

The Bible says that God shows loving kindness and compassion towards those who fear him and to their descendants.  The compassion of God is beyond description and His love is boundless.  It is always His desire to manifest that love towards us.  Imagine how different Mephibosheth’s life would have been from that day forward if he had refused the kindness of the king.  He would have died a crippled pauper, never knowing the love and provision the King desired to give him.

As a man after God’s own heart, David displayed God’s kind of love to a deformed cripple who did nothing to “deserve” such an outpouring of love and compassion. What an amazing example of God’s love for you and me.

Psalm 139 says “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”  vs. 16-17

Before Mephibosheth was formed in the womb of his mother, God had already ordained that this day of encounter with King David would come about.

Do you realize that He has decreed a plan for your life as well?  And that, not in generalities but specifics: ‘in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me…’

This is not just some poetic fantasy.  This is the Word of God.  Should we not, with all our hearts, desire to fulfill those days He has ordained for us in keeping with His good plan for our lives?

Notice also:  it was King David that initiated this encounter.  David went looking for someone to bless.  Mephibosheth did not go looking for an audience with the King.  The King came looking for him!  And…the King accepted him just the way he was – crippled feet and all.

I’ve met people – and perhaps you have,too – who say that they’ll turn towards God after they straighten out their lives.  Wrong! God calls us to Himself  just as we are and then by learning His Word and applying it to our lives, He is the One who straightens out our thinking, helps us change our behaviors and directs us in the path He has chosen for us.

By decreeing that Mephibosheth would eat at his table from that day forward, King David made the cripple a part of his own family.  Having crawled with difficulty across the floor to bow before his king, In a matter of minutes, Mephibosheth is transformed from a poverty stricken, disabled subject into a son of the King.

How life can change in a moment!

Application:

You and I – we are each a Mephibosheth.  God Himself calls us to come to Him, crippled feet and all.  God Himself decrees that we ‘sit at His table’ – that is, eat from His bounty for we read in Deuteronomy, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Deut. 8:3

There have been more than enough scandals in religious history to prove that outward religious observances alone are not enough to make anyone ‘holy as I am holy.’ Lev. 19:2  Unless we individually respond to God’s invitation to draw near to Him, to sit at His table, to ‘eat’ of His food, we will never know the overwhelming love of God.  We will never have our own Mephibosheth moment!