The Shepherd King #41 March 28, 2017

Now these are the last words of David.  David, the son of Jesse, declares, the man who was raised on high declares, the anointed of the God of Jacob and the sweet psalmist of Israel said, ‘The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me and His word was on my tongue.’  2 Samuel 23:1-2

Daviddeath2

These verses are commonly called David’s Last Words but no one really knows whether or not they really are his last words. Rather, it is more likely that this passage is David’s final legacy to his people.  There is wonderful encouragement in the entire passage – 2 Sam. 23: 1-7.

In the first section quoted above, David testified how God used him.  How blessed he must have felt, knowing well his own frame and the weaknesses to which he had succumbed, yet so aware that despite his failures, the Holy One of Israel had indeed used him.  How well we can all identify with this sentiment! Are you not amazed when God uses you to bless another person?

Some forty years earlier David had written what we know as Psalm 18 after God had delivered him from the hand of Saul. He would have been approximately 25 years old at the time with his whole life ahead of him. And it was that psalm which the writer of 2 Samuel included in his book, in fact just before what we call ‘David’s last words.’  Psalm 18 tells us about David’s early experiences with God.  It is the testimony of a young man before the serious sins of adultery and murder.  At that time he could truly say, ‘I have not done evil by turning from my God.’ (vs. 21 of Psalm 18)

By contrast, what we read in 2 Samuel 23 are the words of a man soon to meet death, a man who was reflecting on his life and on the amazing goodness of God towards him.

The second section of this chapter extols the covenant he had with the Almighty and the principle that guided him throughout his reign: He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. (vs. 3)  He left a warning to leaders of all kinds in every generation that authority requires of the one who possess it that he live a godly life and rule with justice.  He follows those words with a tone of regret: ‘although my house is not so with God…’  He is not too proud to admit his failures.  He confesses that he had failed as head of his family.  This is not the David who said in his youth, ‘The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness’ but a David who acknowledges, Would to God that I had always lived righteously!’

There is not a one of us who does not have something to regret for we have all failed in our walk with God.  As David approaches the end of his days, however, it is not his failures that he focuses on, though he does acknowledge them.  His attention is on the covenant which God made with him.

He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. 2 Sam. 23:5 David knows not to trust in his own righteous deeds but in the covenant of God whose promise never fails and whose mercy is without end.  David foresaw the day when God would send the Messiah through David’s human ancestry.  He also knew that his own hope of eternal life rested solidly on the covenant God had made with him and not on his own good works.

The third section of David’s last words issues a warning to the enemies of God. David knew by revelation and by experience that God’s enemies NEVER have the last word.  God does!

Application:

David lived to the age of 70; his friend Jonathan died in the prime of his life.  Death does not respect age or position.  Not a one of us is guaranteed tomorrow.  The people I have known throughout my life who stand out as deeply spiritual and highly worthy of imitation are those who live with eternity in view.  They have a deep awareness that death is not an end; it is simply a passage into the next world which will last forever.  To live in light of the reality of the world to come is to live with wisdom, humility and dedication; it is to live confident that despite our many failures, the covenant God has made with His people stands for the only thing God cannot do is fail.

The Shepherd King #40 March 21, 2017

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. 2 Samuel 21:1

Perhaps someone might think, ‘Why did David turn to God? Don’t natural disaster occur all the time. It’s just part of life.’

King David knew by faith that nothing happens by chance, certainly not famines for three years in a row! Secondly, David understood that God at times brings judgment on a sinful nation to get their attention and draw them back to Himself.

We don’t often think about God’s relationship to the nations but the fact of it runs through the pages of Scripture. God is deeply concerned about the righteousness of the people who make up each nation. The book of Jonah is a great example of this principle!

There are four things in this chapter of 2 Samuel that deserve our attention.

First of all, David’s action here demonstrates the character of a responsible leader. The Bible says, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people.’ (Proverbs 14:34) And ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.’ (Psalm 33:12) When a leader sees widespread sin or disasters that come in response to the sinfulness of the nation, it behooves him to seek God and take action, which is exactly what David did.

Secondly, when David inquired of the LORD, God answered him. We learn that there IS an explanation for tragedies; there IS a God in heaven who cares deeply about people and will intervene as a heavenly Father to get our attention when we are drifting far from Him. The real tragedy is when a nation does not recognize the discipline of the LORD and continues in its sinful ways.

Third, our God remembers. When God replied to David’s inquiry He said: “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” @ Samuel 21:1 What does this mean?

Joshua, many years earlier had sworn an oath to the Gibeonites that Israel would not harm them. It was an historical agreement and binding on successive generations. Saul ignored it and tried to exterminate all the Gibeonites.
The honoring of solemn agreements between one nation and another is something God takes seriously, even when succeeding leaders or generations don’t.

Some might way that it’s not fair for David’s subjects to suffer for something they did not do. That sentiment does not take into account that as citizens of a nation, we all have responsibility to uphold its values and morals. God remembers what a new generation may disregard.

The Bible warns, ‘Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.’ (Proverbs 22:28)

Fourth, we learn the right way to handle such situations. King David summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them: ‘David asked, What shall I do for you? How shall I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?’ Amazingly the children of the Gibeonites who survived Saul’s slaughter did not want any financial compensation. Instead they asked for seven of Saul’s descendants to be handed over and they killed them as ‘satisfaction’ for the crime of Saul against them. And the Bible says that after the seven had been killed, God lifted the curse from upon Israel. Keep in mind that all this occurred under the Mosaic covenant.

Application:
The worst kind of judgment a nation can experience is not an earthquake or a missile attack; it is not famine or economic collapse. The worst judgment that befalls a nation is what the prophet Amos called ‘a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.’

In our day every nation needs to hear the Word of the LORD. Every nation needs to turn from our wicked ways, repent and seek the LORD that He might heal our lands and draw us as individuals and nations back to Himself.

The Shepherd King # 39 March 14, 2017

2 Samuel 20: 1-22

Joav, David’s commander in chief over the army, was brilliant at military strategy and at times was sympathetic, courageous and caring. At other times he was disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, deceitful and heartless.  Why would David keep someone like him close by?

It seems that it was because of Joav’s fierce loyalty to King David.  No one understood David like Joav.  Yet no one caused him more grief and agony.  At times Joav acted without asking permission because he knew ahead of time that David would not agree to his plan.  He was the epitome of the slogan: It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

One of the tragic aspects of Joav’s loyalty was that he became too familiar with the king. When David lay dying, Joav assumed that David wanted Adonijah to become king after him so when Adonijah made a move to take the throne, Joav supported him.  All the while, David knew Solomon would become the next king of Israel but Joav never asked.  He assumed.

When David heard about Adonijah’s attempt, he abdicated and made Solomon king in his place.  Joav’s error in judgment resulted in his execution and because Adonijah continued to be a threat to his half-brother, Solomon eventually put him to death as well. (I Kings 2:25)

But what were some of the good things about Joav?

He was a fearless soldier who couragously captures Jerusalem (I Chronicles 11:4-9) He was fiercely loyal to David. When David and Absalom were not on speaking terms, it was Joav who interceded for a reconciliation between father and son. When David fled Jerusalem, Joav stayed wit him and it was under his command that David’s army defeated that of Absalom. When David isolated himself after Absalom’s death, it was Joav that reasoned with him, challenging him to return to his troops who’d sought so valiantly on his behalf. He was ruthless, yet very useful to David.

Unable to forget that Joav had killed his beloved Absalom, however, David demoted him and appointed Amasa as his commander in chief instead. Setting out for Jerusalem he encountered a troublemaker by the name of Sheba, son of a Benjamite, who cried out ‘We have no share in David, no part in Jesse’s son….so all the man of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba…but the man of Judah stayed by their King all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

David realized something had to be done quickly and as Amasa was delaying, he turned to Abishai and said, ‘Now Sheba, son of Bicri will do us more harm than Absalom did.  Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.’ Now Joav’s men and the Kerethites and the Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under tha command of Abishai. They marked out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bicri.  While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them.  (vs. 6-8)  Seeing an opportunity to be rid of his rival, Joav stepped forward and killed Amasa without hesitation.

In time, Joav and Abishai tracked Sheba to Abel Beth Maacah and immediately surrounded the city.  When a woman from the city appealed for mercy, Joav demanded the handover of Sheba.  The people of the city beheaded Sheba and threw his head over the wall to Joav.  Then Joav returned in triumph to Jerusalem confident that in light of his victory, David would ignore the fact that he had murdered Amasa without authority to do so.  David, in fact, rewarded him by giving him his old job back: commander in chief of the army.

Yet in the end, because of his over-familiarity with the king and his penchant for making decisions without due respect to authority, he was executed for the ‘sin’ of assuming what the King wanted and acting on that assumption.

Assumptions can be deadly and often are.  They ruin relationships, divide families, cause misunderstandings and conflicts that may last for generations.  They are MOST deadly when we make assumptions about those in authority over us.

What is an assumption?  We make an assumption when we think we know more than we actually do.

Assumptions usually include a judgment of someone else. You may assume that someone is angry at you because they passed you by without a word of acknowledgment.  Yet it could well be that something is going on in their lives that has so preoccupied their minds, they literally didn’t even see you!  But if you hold on to your assumption, your mind will conjure up all sorts of hurt feelings, maybe some anger and certainly an ill feeling toward that person.  All because YOU assumed.…..but your assumption was not grounded in truth.

This is why the Bible teaches us to refrain form judging others; why we are reminded that we rarely know what is going on in another person’s heart or mind, what battles they may be facing in their personal life, what struggles are wearing them down.  Instead of judging, we are called to be compassionate, to selflessly pray for the one who ignored you and maintain a positive attitude towards them.  You can be pretty well sure that 99% of the time you assume you know what’s going on, you’re going to be wrong.

Application:

Have you made assumptions about others – perhaps someone in your family or circle of friends – based on your observation?  If so, repent. Keep in mind that we see others through our own filters, not as they really are.  Learn to give the benefit of the doubt – always!! Be generous with graciousness for someday you, too will desire that others are gracious towards you.

The Shepherd King #38 March 7, 2017

Eating humble pie – surely you’ve heard that phrase before.  It was the ‘dish of the day’ for a number of people as David made his way back to Jerusalem after the defeat and death of Absalom.  Interestingly, it was the tribes of Israel who called for David to return while David’s own tribe, Judah, remained coldly aloof.  (2 Samuel 19:9-10)  To bring them around, David did two things: he reminded them they were his own kinfolk and he made an ingenious diplomatic decision.

King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: ‘Ask the elders of Judah, Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters? You are my brothers,my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the King? And say to Amasa [former commander under Absalom] ‘Are you not my flesh and blood?  May God deal with me be it ever so severely, if from now on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joav.’2 Sam. 19:11-13

By appointing Amasa commander, David appeased those who had supported Absalom and regained their loyalty.

He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man.  They sent word to the king, ‘Return, you and all your men.’ (vs. 14)

His diplomacy succeeded but there can be no doubt that it must have saddened David to have been put in a position where he needed to persuade his own people to support his return to the palace.  But to Judah’s credit, they did ‘eat humble pie’, albeit though it was sweetened with David’s graciousness.

But they were not the only ones.

You may remember Shimei, the man who had cursed David as he climbed the Mt. of Olives fleeing from Absalom.  He certainly would have most to fear that King David was again ruling in Jerusalem.  However, we see something very different, even surprising.

Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan. Shimei, son of Gera, the Benhamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David…When Shimei, son of Gera, crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, ‘May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.’  (vs. 15-20)

Shimei

Note the underlined words – I know that I have sinned…Shimei recognized his sin, admitted it to the king and repented, asking for forgiveness.  This little known biblical figure calls to every generation to do as he did – to ‘eat humble pie’ before those whom we have offended or abused.  In our present society, the responsibility to acknowledge and admit our failures is too little taught, even less carried out.  Under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ we say things unbecoming to our calling as the people of God. Sadly we often don’t even recognize that our speech is offensive not only to others, but also to God Himself.

Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want.  The greatest freedom is living in obedience to the Word and Ways of our God.

There’s still one more person who had to ‘eat humble pie.’  His name was Abishai.  He was incensed that David might forgive Shimei and welcome him back into the kingdom. Abishai had taken up an offense against Shimei because of what he had said to the King.

When Abishai questioned David, ‘Shouldn’t Shimei but put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed!’ (2 Sam. 19:21) the king’s answer put him in his place.

What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? This day you have become my adversaries! Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Do I not know that today I am king over Israel?  (Vs. 22)

Then the king turned to Shimei and said, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king promised him with an oath. (Vs. 23)

The Torah teaches that sin brings death. Yet King David, having been humbled himself when forgiven by God for his sin with Bathsheba, knew well the power of repentance.  Seeing it in Shimei, he gave to Shimei the same forgiveness that he himself had received earlier in his life.

Getting our feelings hurt is part of life.  It happens to all of us at one time or another.  Conflicts with others inevitably arise and wounded egos have a choice. We either massage our hurts and they swell out of proportion in our minds; or we forgive and put it behind us like King David.

People sometimes say, ‘It’s hard to forgive.’ I suggest to you today that:  NO, it’s not hard to forgive…IF WE REMEMBER that we ourselves have been forgiven by a loving God.  There is no person alive who has not sinned at some time or other.  We know from the word of God that if we return to Him with sincere repentance, He forgives us – He promised to do that in His infallible Word.  We are enjoined to imitate His behavior towards us by forgiving those who offend or hurt us.

Application:

King David demonstrated what I like to call Total Forgiveness. He not only forgave Shimei’s despicable behavior towards him, David even refused to apply any punishment for it.  He graciously welcomed the one who spoke evil against him back into the kingdom with no conditions or stipulations.  That, my friend, is how God forgives.  And the same God said to us: You shall be holy as I am holy.