Monthly Archives: November 2009

A CHRISTMAS THOUGHT

           (My study of David has taken me right up to the edge of the Christmas season. So far, I’ve considered how he  created one of the biggest scandals recorded in the Old Testament. In spite of all his accomplishments and contributions, it seems his career is tottering on the edge of ruin at the end of the eleventh chapter of II Samuel. It looks as if the only thing really going in his favor is the conclusion drawn and stated early in his youth, i.e. :”He was a man after God’s own heart.” (I Samuel 13:13-14). In light of the mess he’s made, his ‘comeback’ seems impossible at worst and an uphill climb at best. Soon we’ll continue the study of his come back. You haven’t yet heard the rest of the story. ~don)

Thoughts at Christmas


          It’s been my custom for quite a while to set aside the studies and thoughts I’ve had earlier and consider the Christmas narratives as though reading them for the first time. For my own benefit and to keep the real meaning of this eternal event in proper focus, I ponder some not so obvious lessons learned in Bethlehem.


DON’T BE AFRAID

         “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:27~33)

          More than once the Angel of the Lord told his audience “Don’t Be Afraid.” That seems to be a note worth striking again and again. For Mary, she was understandably startled and frightened at the sudden appearance of the Angel, and the responsibility that was about to be thrust upon her. Both were reasons for a teenage girl to be frightened. But the fear must have been relieved when the Angel calmed her fear and told her: “You have found favor with God.”

          I’ll bet she was unaware of that. She didn’t know God had a special role for her to fulfill! She was just a kid! How could she have possibly had an idea of such eternal enormity?! She certainly had no inflated idea of her own importance.

          This looks like a good place to stop and think about implications. Do you suppose there is the possibility. . . even a very slight possibility. . . that God may view YOU (and Me) in a favorable way. Is it possible, unlikely as it may seem to you at present. . . that God favors you and has a special purpose for you?

          The point the Angel is making is that God knows what He’s doing, even when His children don’t. Therefore, we don’t need to be afraid. This incident, which occurred even before Mary became pregnant, should serve to calm our fears and help us understand that God has great plans for his children. . . even for those who may be unaware of His intention to use them to bless others!

          When David was writing, he gave as his reason for being unafraid even though he had to walk “through the valley of the shadow of death”(Psalm 23). He felt he didn’t need to fear any circumstance, if in fact the Lord was with him.


          “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2: 10 ~ 11)

          Early in Luke’s account, apparently on the night of Jesus’ birth, some shepherds were taking care of their flocks outside the town and again the Angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to them. They were so startled and so afraid that it actually hurt physically. “They were sore afraid.” You’ve probably had such a sensation when something you weren’t expecting happened. If you can remember such a reaction, you probably know how terrified the shepherds must have been.

          The Angel (who isn’t identified in this instance) told them not to be afraid. This time, the reason given for their not needing to be afraid was the reason the Angel gave for his sudden appearance. He had an announcement to make which could allay their fears and ours as well: “ I bring you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

          In our world which seems at times to be spinning out of control, as fierce, wild, wicked forces run rampant, apparently determined to destroy our way of life, there is much reason for fear. We may attempt to amuse ourselves and try to avoid harsh realities that explode all around us and threaten our very existence. But, somehow the gaudy lights and the sounds and scents of Christmas do not mask or relieve the enormous, ominous sense of fear which stalks and haunts the world.

          One of the messages which emerges clearly in the Christmas story is that we do not need to be afraid. God is with us. The “good tidings of great joy” are sufficient to drive the darkest fears away and bring light and hope of forgiveness and eternal life.  That word of advice does not just appear here. It is a constant. A part of loving faith is that it casts out fear.

          When it looked as if the world seemed at its worst and people were ready to give up, beaten and broken, this is what God said: “Do not Be afraid.”

          At perhaps the worst possible time in one of the world’s remotest places the Light of the Word burst upon the ancient world and we were told: “Don’t be Afraid.” Later, in the middle of a lake in the middle of the night in the middle of a sudden squall, Jesus appeared to His friends saying: “It is I. Be not afraid.”

          To be sure there’s much to be learned as we stand in awe at the advent of the King of Kings. One of the things we most need and can  treasure is this simple, profound, beautiful sentiment:
                                                                                  “DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student
~donkimrey >

PLEASED. . . OR DISPLEASED?

“…the Lord was not pleased with what David had done.”                (II Samuel 11:27)

         I keep reminding myself of what I’m trying to do in this effort.  Sometimes I tend to go chasing rabbits or fireflies.  If I’m serious about this study, that is not the thing to do.  Please be patient with me, help me stay focused on my objective, and keep me on track.

         In studying some of the Biblical characters whom I’ve been calling “God’s Comeback Kids,” the questions which need to be asked seem self evident:  (1.) How or why did they stray or get knocked off course?  (2.) How did they deal with their battles and bruises?  (3.) So what?  What difference does it make?  What can I learn and use today in my own situation?

         This time, a new question is raised: (4.) What were the consequences of the spiritual “detour” they took? And that led me to consider the comment at the top of the page.  To be sure, there were nasty, ugly, hurtful results of King David’s moral collapse. But there were other consequences which, perhaps, had never even entered David’s mind when his temple was pounding with lust, or his heart was perplexed and heavy with guilt because of the mess he’d created.  We know no one sins alone.  Always we involve others in one way or another. What had just taken place between the King and his next door neighbor was not simply a momentary harmless dalliance between two consenting adults.  David and Bathsheba were not the only ones affected by what they did.  There was an unborn child, a kingdom compromised, innocent men murdered (Uriah wasn’t the only one killed in this clumsy, bungled attempt at a cover-up.  Other warriors were killed in David’s attempt to erase any potential for exposure of his adultery.  In spite of his notable achievements and contributions, and his basic decency, his reputation stands stained indelibly for all eternity because he dropped his guard. 

         Like a widening circle when a pebble is dropped into a pond, the repercussions kept spreading, affecting others.

         But perhaps the greatest consequence of David’s sin was that sentence concluding the eleventh chapter of II Samuel which revealed the whole sordid affair. Unless you’re searching for something, you’re apt to overlook something posted so inconspicuously, almost unnoticed.

         “God was not pleased with what David had done.”

         That looks to me like a classic understatement! 

         It has driven me to a conclusion which seems very logical.  In order for such a situation to be resolved, we need to consider all the damage done.  Before a disease can even begin to be healed, a surgeon needs to go into all the deep crevices and get to the base of the problem. It makes no sense to paint with bright, tacky colors over rotten, termite-riddled timber. 

         Once I heard someone observe: “Nothing is ever settled until it is settled right.  And nothing is ever settled right until it is settled with God.” 

         David had hurt a lot of people badly.  Nothing though, strikes me as foreboding as that haunting comment: “God was not pleased with what David had done.”

         I have no way of knowing how that affects you.  For my part, and as I’ve weighed every word of that singular idea for days, it seems the only proper response for me is to pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23-24 21st Century KJV)*                                     

            God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey 

(The problem I’ve been considering was God’s quiet, reserved reaction. Before David can even think about going forward spiritually, that has to be considered.  While the sins I’ve committed may not be the same as those of King David, they are sin, nevertheless.  And that is something God always takes seriously.  He loves us, surely.  But He also has standards for us and plans.  When we disregard His presence and His role and plans in our lives, that always displeases Him.) 



UH OH!

         I really hope folks who read what I write on this site will sense that I take it seriously. In order to offer even a half way intelligent comment on Scripture, it takes time* to think, and pray. And I must be honest with my self. Something has to make sense to me, or there’s no way I could possibly expect it to make sense to you or anyone else.

 

         There are some things about these stories which you and I will probably never be able to understand completely.  There are incidents which are absolutely horrifying and definitely not for mixed audiences.  Or for the faint of heart.  But I’m not so sure how far we’ve progressed.  Not sure there’s a polite, civilized way to kill someone.  Someday the clouds may clear away, or my understanding may be enlightened.  But in the meanwhile, there are things which I accept as information and simply withhold judgment.

         In considering “God’s Comeback Kids,” we must never overlook or excuse, or endorse the repeated examples of serious, obvious misconduct.  Nor does God.  To be honest with you, I sort of lost track of how many wives and concubines David had!  Or how many mistresses.  Some of our athletes and politicians would probably have to take a back seat to him if there were a marathon! 

 

         The Scriptures are cast in a specific time and place in history and in a culture which the modern western mind doesn’t grasp. Women in those days were considered barely more than chattel.  That is still pretty much the rule where the teaching and influence of Christ has not gone.  The Bible doesn’t usually go into lurid detail about sensitive matters, but unless you have an ostrich mentality you can get the picture.

 

         However commonplace it may have been then or may be now and in whatever circles it may be practiced, sexual immorality is always wrong and will always have its consequences.  You kid yourself if you think otherwise.

 

         There’s no way to count how many people died violently by David’s direct action or decree. If you don’t see that kind of contradiction in these pages, it is because you aren’t looking. God was dealing with sinful mankind, as He always has and as He still does today.  How He could tolerate some of the things all of us know is wrong and not just wipe His hands and be done with the lot of us is one of the reasons the writer entitled his song AMAZING grace!** For my part, there is simply no way to attempt to explain what I can not understand, so I’m not even going to try.

 

         While a cloak of mystery surrounds some things in Scripture, other things are not thus shrouded.  They are clear as crystal.  My concentration will be on those things.  My focus will continue to be trying to find sensible answers to these practical questions:  How did these “saints” get into such messes?  How did they deal with the crises and tests of faith? How did they manage to emerge? And, finally and most importantly: What difference does it make to us today?

 

         (The context for the episode currently being considered is the entire eleventh chapter of II Samuel. You’ll need to read it in context to understand what took place. Here the stage is set for David’s fall).

 

2 Samuel 11:1 “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. 2And it came to pass in an eveningtide that David arose from his bed and walked upon the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman washing herself, and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. 3And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”                                                                                  4And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her, for she was purified from her uncleanness; and she returned unto her house. 5And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”                                                                6And David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.”

         In attempting to sort out events in David’s ascent and descent, here’s what occurred.  In considering the event which created such a scandal and thinking about how it happened, there were several questions which I raised for my own benefit:

          

 

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         WHAT WAS DAVID DOING ?   One night he evidently had insomnia. When he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t have a refrigerator to raid or late night television talk shows to bore him back to sleep, so he went for a walk.  Up on the roof of his palace.

         As he scanned the city of Jerusalem that night, his eyes fell upon a scene which stopped him dead in his tracks and set his pulse pounding.

         There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this picture right now, unless you consider the next question.
         WHAT WAS HE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING?  The story says the incident took place in the spring when kings went to war. Just a few months before, he’d been personally leading his troops against the Syrians and routing the opposition. The other kings were at war. Maybe it was some kind of blood sport. You will recall that David had earned a reputation as a warrior, a leader, and a man among men. That was a large part of his persona. Remember, after all, in the wake of his defeat of Goliath, the tune about his exploits had been number one on the hit parade.***  He was a man of action. To be lazing around the palace while his men were in harm’s way was totally out of character.

         Any way you look at it, nothing seems right about a nation’s leader dallying with a young intern or one of his general’s wives while his soldiers were fighting.   

         WHAT WAS BATHSHEBA DOING?   Bathing.  In the nude obviously.  With the King living next door?  There’s something to be said for indoor plumbing!  Was she, perhaps, an exhibitionist? We don’t know, so we can’t say for certain. Who knows what she knew?  She may have been completely innocent and oblivious that anyone was paying any attention. But there are other possibilities, and speculation seems to be pointless.

         It doesn’t really seem to matter in this case.  The King was the person who could and should have taken control of his emotions and appetites.  If you don’t conquer them, they will conquer you.  We hold our leaders to a higher standard.  And we have a right to do that. No matter what Bathsheba’s motives or actions may have been, or how provocative she was, David was the king. He not only was an imposing figure.  He was king.  Kings had absolute authority. That included the power over life and death. No one said “no” to ancient monarchs.  He was in control of the situation, but he was not in control of his appetites. When he let go of the reins of self control and gave in to lust, and self-gratification, he turned loose destructive forces which cost an innocent man his life, almost destroyed the king’s legacy, set in motion some continuing consequences which stained his record, nearly cost him his kingdom, and left scars on his reputation which were never erased.

         There’s no way you can justify that kind of conduct.  And there is no way you can cover it up.  Eventually, the truth will emerge. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23) isn’t just a statement in Scripture.  It is an inviolable, eternal, universal principle. If it hasn’t, don’t give up.  It will.  Sooner or later.  “Whoever covers his sins will not prosper”(Proverbs 28:13.) is another of those principles which are engraved in granite. Robert Louis Stevenson put it another way saying that sooner or later everyone must “sit down at a banquet of consequences.”

         We’re free to make choices.  Even foolish choices.  But we are not free to choose consequences; and consequences always follow choices.

         When will we ever learn? 

         David is in a mess. Spin-doctors and image-makers now have a P.R. problem they’ll be unable to handle.  His biggest problem, though, isn’t that the scandal hungry press might pick up on the rumors and flood the market with salacious reports.  The greatest problem with which David must now deal is quoted in the last sentence in this chapter:

          “The Lord was very displeased with what David had done.”

(*Time…These posts don’t come easily or automatically for me. I can’t churn them out with what I call a “mimeograph mentality.”  Nor do I try.  My prayer is that, whether or not you accept my conclusions or thoughts, you’ll begin to approach the Scripture, as it deserves to be approached: with a thoughtful, inquisitive mind and a teachable spirit.  Your observations are always welcomed . . . and respected.  ~don)

** Amazing Grace is the title of a familiar hymn composed by John Newton, slave trader, infidel and libertine turned minister in the Church of England somewhere in the mid 1700’s

*** I Samuel 18:6-7  And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music: “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  This song made the rounds and eventually even found its way into some of the enemies’ camps.  Someone did a really fantastic job as David’s press agent following the giant slaying.  And his reputation grew even larger!

 

 

 

DAVID EMERGES FROM OBSCURITY

               There are several occurences recorded in the first book of Samuel which give us a pretty clear picture of how David came to the attention of the public and how he rose so quickly to a position of great prominence and respect.  The references are listed, and you’ll certainly want to consider them for yourself and form your own opinions about how such an unlikely candidate could be selected for such an important role in the history of God’s dealings with mankind.

1.)          Early years as shepherd, composer, harpist (Presumed)

2.)           David is selected and anointed as the second king of Israel.                (I Samuel 16:1-13)         

3.)           He’s recruited as musician to the King and also becomes his armor bearer.  (I Samuel 16:14-23)

4.)           A man of war versus a man of God (I Samuel 17~ Notice vs. 33, especially.  Armed with nothing but a simple, primitive weapon, courage, and faith in his God, he confronts a seasoned, feared enemy warrior.)

5.)           He joins the King’s court.  Growing public adulation angers Saul almost from the beginning. He rises in the ranks and becomes a public hero.

         When we first meet David, there doesn’t seem to be anything “kingly” or distinctive about him.  His country is having a crisis of leadership, and he’s probably totally oblivious to it.  There was no round the globe, round the clock news reporting, so he was probably blissfully naïve and unaware of the problems on the national scene. He was just a shepherd boy, taking care of business.  He wasn’t seeking glory.  He was doing his duty, herding sheep.  When the “Kingmaker” (the prophet Samuel) came to announce and anoint God’s choice for a successor to Saul, David didn’t elbow his way to the front. But although it may not have been apparent to me immediately, he possessed all the qualities you’d expect in a leader. From the outset, he strikes me as modest, courageous, dependable, loyal, and respectful. But he probably smelled like sheep!  Good thing it wasn’t raining when Samuel came calling!

         Again and again it seems God sees things in us that everyone else might overlook.

         As I began to get reacquainted with David, one of the things which kept being said is that: “the Lord was with him.”  There’s a key to his comeback! I’m not certain of all the implications in such a statement, but at the very outset it seems there was a love which went back and forth between him and his God.  There’s no doubt in my mind that such a bond was forged early in his life that nothing could ever completely sever it.  Enough is said about David’s time of solitude and a close relationship with his Creator that you can hardly miss it.  If he only wrote even a small percent of the Psalms attributed to him, there’s great evidence of appreciation and adoration for his God.  Those early memories and cherished experiences could not possibly be forgotten or simply cast aside.  Just now I’m in process of reading Just As I Am, the autobiography of Billy Graham.  In it he speaks often of times when he sought solitude.  When he would simply get away from the noise and distractions to meditate, and pray.* Those “quiet times” were as essential to the growth and service Billy Graham has  given for so long, so unselfishly, as they were for David.

           And they are equally invaluable to you and me, if we’re seriously considering serving God.

         I thought, for example, of the twenty third Psalm which is attributed to David.  If that’s the case, he probably wrote it in his mid or early teens!  Tell me what teenager you know who feels so deeply and writes so profoundly!

         So quickly he rose to notoriety.  Early it became apparent that he was on the fast track to fame.   A man of vision with a mission….How did he make it so quickly? 

         When you first meet him, he’s young, naïve, modest, and a simple shepherd.  As we learn more about him, it appears we’re becoming acquainted with someone destined for leadership.  Among Jews and Christians, his memory and contributions are honored, even revered.  In spite of his huge mistakes, he returns from what easily could have been the rubble and smoke of a ruined career and becomes one of the most respected figures in Hebrew history.  In fact, he might well be considered an ancient renaissance man before the historical period we know as The Renaissance.   From humble beginnings as a shepherd lad from a very modest family to be regarded as perhaps the greatest king ever to occupy the Jewish throne, he became warrior, poet, musician, kingdom builder, and disgraced and then restored, respected ruler.

         As he strides forth, humbly but confidently, he is a young man of great but simple faith, integrity,  and courage.  He handles himself magnificently in a great crisis, and as a result the people adore him.  And the soldiers trust his leadership and follow him.

         After an almost meteoric rise from obscurity, he soars far above the ordinary in both accomplishments and in potential.  

         There is little hint about the mess he’s about to make.  Or the consequences which he’ll be unable to escape. 

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, ~dk

*“On rainy days, I liked to sneak away into the hay barn and lie on a  pile of straw, listening to the raindrops hit that tin roof and dreaming.  It was a sanctuary that helped shape my character…at our home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, my favorite spot is a little path above the house where I walk alone and talk with God…” Billy Graham

( As a boy and in the early days as a young Christian, I did pretty much the same thing.  Try as I may, I have been unsuccessful in every attempt to erase memories of those experiences.  When I strayed away, they beckoned me back.  I came to understand what Augustine meant when he said: “Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” ~dk)