The Shepherd King #43 April 18, 2017

We now come face to face with the final years of David, King of Israel. His life has been an open book before us, teaching us many important lessons along the way.  His final years are recorded in the beginning of I Kings and the ending of I Chronicles.

I Kings opens with this verse: When King David was old and well advanced in years… One of the most biblically documented life is facing the inevitable.  The rest of this verse says, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him.  (I Kings 1:1)

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Our minds revert to the young man who killed a lion and a bear; a young man who slew Goliath with one small stone and saved Israel from captivity; the one who had conquered nations and wrote magnificent words of praise to the God of Israel. It is jarring to consider him now as old and frail, particularly since he was facing death at a much younger age than many of the other biblical patriarchs.  David was just 70 years old.

How much activity, how much experience, how much faith and how much worship he had packed into those 70 years! He had known amazing success as well as abject failure and if there is anyone who understood our modern plague of stress, surely it was David. Most of his life had been lived in what we might describe as a roller coaster of highs and lows but the important issue is that David met God at every one of those moments.  His psalms prove it.  Now he is weak and chilled, struggling to stay warm.

Enter David’s fourth son, Adonijah.  Like his half-brother, Absalom, Adonijah took advantage of his father’s failing health and declared himself king.  He was the oldest surviving son so it was logical to expect that he would inherit the throne: inherit, not seize it!

Though we haven’t heard from Samuel for many years, the prophet suddenly re-appears. Joining Bathsheba, Samuel approaches the king to disclose the insolence of Adonijah for it was Solomon whom God had appointed to be the next king, not Adonijah.

Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, ‘Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggit, has become king without our lord David’s knowing it? Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son, Solomon.’ I Kings 1: 11-12

The prophet sent her to her husband.

Bathsheba bowed low and knelt before the King. ‘What is it you want?’ the king asked. She said to him, ‘My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the LORD your God: Solomn your son shall be king after me and he will sit on my throne.  But now Adonijah has become king and you, my lord the king, do not know about it.’  I Kings 1:16-18

Nathan then approached the king, testifying to the truth of what Bathsheba had said. David then confirmed his promise that Solomon was to be his successor and with an oath addressed his wife and the mother of his son, Solomon:

The king then took an oath: ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out today what I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel. Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.  I Kings 1 29-30

David, chilled by his impending death, revived and assumed control to perform the will of God.  He was still the king! And his devotion to God’s will being done had not wavered. When Bathsheba called on him for something only he could do, the need of the moment exerted enough life back into his soul that he rose from his bed and formulated a plan to ensure that Solomon would sit on the throne.

King David said, ‘Call in Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.’  When they came before the king he said to them: ‘Take your lord’s servants with you and set Solomon my son on my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zakod the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel.  Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ They you are to go up with him and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place.  I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.’  I Kings 1: 32-35

They did exactly what they were told and Solomon was enthroned as King.  He may not have been the ‘logical’ choice for he was not the oldest living son. However, Solomon stands forever as a testimony to God’s divine mercy, the very embodiment of the God of second chances.  He was the innocent one whose conception was shrouded with guilt. He – and not Adonijah – was God’s choice.

Our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness; He is a God of love.  Contrary to the notions of some, He is not an angry, vengeful God.  His love is eternal, overwhelming and boundless.  Solomon’s reign is one of many testimonies to that truth.

When the news was carried back to David that Solomon had been crowned, ‘the king bowed in worship on his bed and said ‘Praise be to the LORD.’  I Kings 1:47-48

This is the very last verse when the word ‘king’ is used in the Bible with reference to David.  It is stunning to notice that David’s reign ended the way it began: the praise and worship. On that earlier day, he danced with all his might before the LORD. On this last day, he bowed on his bed and worshipped.  Despite all of his ups and downs, his failures and his mistakes, there is one great consistency throughout the life of David: he was a man of worship and therefore, he was a man after God’s own heart.

His final piece of advice to the new king, his son, Solomon reflects the core motivation of his entire life: ‘Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God.’ I Chronicles 22:19

That advice is the closing lesson to each of us regarding the life of David.  It was spoken to Solomon but as it is quoted in the Scriptures, which are written to all of us, may it be the greatest lesson we all take away from this study of David over the last several months.

Application:

Now, my dear readers, devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Selah!

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We have completed our study of the life of David.

We will begin a new study on the first Tuesday of May.

May the Lord bless you and fill your heart with His presence and His peace.

Passover – Festival of our Redemption

April 10, 2017

At sundown this evening, the children of Israel around the world will gather for the traditional Passover Seder – a family meal but so much more than a family meal.

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We will read the Exodus story, put ourselves in the shoes of the Pharaoh’s slaves and walk out of that slavery by the miraculous Hand of the God of Israel into freedom and redemption.

Slavery is not just physical or geographical.  Slavery in its many forms can imprison men, women and children in every nation and every generation.

May this Passover be a time of complete deliverance from any form of ‘slavery’, oppression or depression in any of our lives.  May it be a week of great blessing – even unexpected, surprising blessings.

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Chag Pesach Sameach! May you have a healthy, peaceful and totally blessed Passover week.

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NOTE: Because of the Passover holiday, our next lesson in the life of David will be posted next Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Shepherd King #42 April 4, 2017

2 Samuel 24:1-14

One of the wonderful things about the Bible is that it does not hide the weaknesses of its heroes. We learn from the lives of such men as David that the best of God’s people are at times weak and do sin grievously. But since we are all frail human beings, we have no right to point the finger, criticize or judge another for as someone once said, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

A second wonderful thing about the Bible is the revelation of repentance.   The word ‘repentance’ means ‘to turn around’, ‘to change one’s mind’.  Ancient Rabbis taught that God created repentance before he created man.  Isn’t that an amazing thought!  Repentance is the pathway to forgiveness.

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That does not mean that we should take repentance lightly, as if it were an ‘easy way out’ that makes us less sensitive to sin.  Not at all.  To repent is to have a sincere heart and mind change about what we have done; to face it squarely, call it what it is – sin, and with an act of our will, turn away from it and seek God’s help in avoiding it in the future.

When King David sinned by committing adultery and murder, he repented to the depths of his soul when the prophet Nathan confronted him. (2 Samuel 12)  He was forgiven but at the same time, our decisions have consequences.  As we saw earlier, the child which Bathsheva bore to him died.  Later he suffered the heartbreak connected with his son Amnon. Then Absalom, another son, was killed.

Now we see yet another sin which David committed and would soon regret.  It may seem curious to you at first, but bear with me.  What was his sin?  He counted the warriors of Israel.

Now you might quickly say, ‘What’s so bad about that?’

Israel at that time was not the democracy it is today.  Israel was a theocracy, which means that God was truly the King and David served as His representative.  Moreover the children of Israel were God’s people and their army was His army.  David’s numbering of the warriors was as if he was telling God, “I’m not sure you have this under control. I want to know for myself how big my army is.”

We get some light that validates this interpretation from I Chronicles 21 which recounts the same event.   In verse 1 we read, Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 

The Bible does not contradict itself; it explains itself.  What Samuel didn’t write, the author of the Chronicles filled in.  And, as we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, we ought to appreciate this lesson.  2 Samuel 24 is an occasion where God permitted Satan to tempt the king for remember, Satan is God’s tool. A reading of the book of Job makes that immensely clear.

However, there are three things all of us need to understand about haSatan (as he’s called in Hebrew).  In tempting God’s people to sin, 1) he always goes too far and ends up being exposed; 2) when Satan is up to something, so is God; and 3) when Satan is up to something big, God is up to something much bigger.

Another thing to learn from this chapter is that sorrow follows sin, sooner or later. If you have any thought towards God, you will eventually regret what you did.  Look at 2 Samuel 24:10 David was conscience-striken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done.  Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.’

Recognizing his error, David doesn’t wallow in depression over his mistake.  He turns quickly to the Lord.  Realizing our failure and repenting quickly is a sign of spiritual maturity. The people most to be pitied are those who feel no sorrow for the evils they have done and at the final judgment it will be too late to repent.

David had learned well that God is gracious and merciful toward the sinner. In vs.14 he says: I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.’

Application:

Have you learned in life that God is often far more gracious with your sin than your fellowman? Have you learned that God is far more gracious towards you than you are to yourself? Repentance is a wonderful gift of God’s grace. It is He who grants us the ability and the strength to turn away from sin and turn towards Him.  He is just, yes; but He is also merciful and compassionate for He knows better than we do that we are fragile beings, dependent on His care for our very life.