King of the Darkest Night

I. Introduction

We are nearly finished with the Old Testament studies for this year. The Chronological Bible has brought us from the Garden of Eden to our study of Esther today. Through it all, God’s people have continually rebelled against the Lord, but the Lord remains faithful to His people.

But the Lord has continually warned Israel that disobedience leads to captivity, and the people of Jerusalem have been in captivity, primarily in Babylon, but Chris taught us last week about Daniel’s prophecy that the Persian empire is rising. Not to free Israel, but to defeat Babylon in accordance with Daniel’s prophecy. And now the people are in captivity under Persia. But through all this, God has not forgotten His people.

II. Background History

We going to need more than our thirty minutes together to recap the book of Esther. The history, the life lessons, the imagery, the symbology in Esther is amazing. I encourage you to read this story in its entirety to see God’s faithfulness.

We have a movie today to review, full of twist and turns, love and betrayal, good versus evil. There’s a large cast of characters with many conflicting motives. Let’s talk about the book itself. The book of Esther is a historical novella, intended to teach the Jewish people of the history and significance of the feast of Purim. The book is interesting for what it does not mention. It doesn’t mention God, or the Law, or the Torah, or Jerusalem. It’s a story. A story of a simple Jewish girl and her uncle and how they live by faith in a hostile land.

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Both lived in the ancient kingdom of Persia under the king Ahasuerus, probably from 486-465 BC. Persia at this time was huge; the book of Esther, chapter 1:1, says it included 127 provinces. Modern countries which were once part of the Persian Empire include northern Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Abkhazia, Chechnya, Ossetia regions, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, parts of Libya and Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, parts of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Kyrgyzstan.

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That’s a huge swath of civilization. And somehow a simple Jewish girl in exile become the Queen of Persia and saved her people from genocide.

Well, you can’t have a soap opera without a cast of characters.
The good:

Mordecai the Jew. He’s the son of Jair, tribe of Benjamin. He lives in Susa in the center of Persia. The Talmud records his name as Mordechai Bilshan, and he’s also mentioned in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7 as one of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple under the Persian king Cyrus. We know that was in approximately 537 BC, which means Mordecai is about 64 years old. Interestingly, the Talmud also lists Mordecai as a prophet who prophesied in the second year of King Darius, and also lists Mordecai as a direct descendant of Kish who is the father of the 1st king of Israel, Saul.

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In Esther 2:7,

“And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.”

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So, Esther is actually Mordecai’s cousin, though Mordecai is the much older of the two, and since he adopted Esther as his own daughter, he’s also her uncle.

We also have Esther who is called Hadassah. She’s a Jewish orphan girl. Esther is her Persian name, Hadassah is her Hebrew name. Mordecai forbids Esther to reveal her nationality and family background, so when she’s around Persians, she’s Esther. She’s described as beautiful and having a lovely figure.

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The king of Persia is Ahasuerus, which is a weird name. Ahasuerus is a Latin word which is derived from a Hebrew word. Other translations begin with a Greek word and is translated Xerxes. Both are right, but since Ahasuerus is so hard to spell and pronounce, I’m going to call him Xerxes.

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Queen Vashti. Traditional Jewish teachings about Vashti describe her as wicked and vain, the great-granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. She’s married to Xerxes.

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Attendant-guy. He doesn’t actually have a name, unless it’s Harbona from Esther 7:9. But we need him to be an extra in our movie, but he doesn’t get his name listed when the credits roll at the end.

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III. Scene 1, Esther 1. The Old Queen is Vanquished.

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As our story of Esther opens in Esther 1:1, Ahasuerus, I mean Xerxes, is holding a massive celebration. And I mean massive. It is a celebration that last 6 months long. The sole purpose of the celebration was to demonstrate that Xerxes had a lot of money and could party for 6 months. And at the end of the 6 months of partying, Xerxes isn’t done. Xerxes then throws a banquet in an enclosed garden of his palace for his closest friends and advisors. There are wall hangings of the finest linen, couches made of gold and silver, on floors made with marble and mother-of-pearl. And it says in verse 8,

“By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.”

So at the end of this week long binge, Xerxes is completely drunk. He nudges his friends, “Man, my wife is hot. You guys want to see her? Hey, attendant-guy, whatever your name is, fetch my wife Vashti. Tell her to wear her crown.”

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Vashti is in the palace. She’s been holding her own banquet next door at the same time. The attendant-guy shows up and says to Vashti, “The Great and Powerful Xerxes summons you to the enclosed garden of drunk men. PS. Wear your crown.” Vashti says, “I don’t think so.”

So attendant-guy goes back to Xerxes and says, “Vashti says no.” And the king is mad. He’s furious that Queen Vashti won’t come parade before his drunk buddies wearing her crown. He asks his drunk friends what they think he should do, and they say, She can’t tell you ‘no,’ you’re the king. If this gets out, no wife will ever appear before their husband. On demand. Wearing a crown.”

I’m thinking that week-long drinking binge isn’t the best environment for making serious decisions. It’s clear from the context that Xerxes wasn’t trying to complement his wife, but to show her off as a trophy to his drunken friends. After she refuses, king Xerxes doesn’t lash out at her but instead looks for a way to manipulate the law of the land to punish her and redeem his pride.

Pretending he’s helping all husbands in the kingdom, Xerxes banished Vashti from ever seeing Xerxes again, and her position as Queen will be given to somebody else.

Exit Vashti, stage left. End Scene I.

IV. Scene 2, Esther 2. The New Queen is Appointed.

Slide12.JPGAs we move into chapter 2, Xerxes recovering from his hangover. One his advisors suggests that Xerxes should hold the world’s first Ms. Persia contest and then Xerxes can select whoever he wants. All of the beautiful young virgins throughout the kingdom are to be brought to the palace and given spa treatments until they’re ready to see the king.
Enter Mordecai and Esther. Esther’s taken to the palace and she placed in the trust of the king’s eunuch who takes special care of her. She’s provided with beauty treatments and special food and 7 girlfriends to take care of her, while Mordecai checks on her daily. He cautions her not to reveal that she’s a Jewish orphan. After a full year of beauty treatments, she’s taken to King Xerxes, who likes what he sees. Xerxes says, “Hey, attendant-guy, whatever your name is. Get this girl a crown.”

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Esther is made Queen of Persia. A simple Jewish orphan, now in the palace with a crown on her head. An incredible turn of events for her.
You know, we’ve been talking about how God equips us today for today, and the story of the faithful Jewish orphan girl demonstrates God’s gifts. Through a series of “coincidences,” Esther was elevated to a very high status, the Queen of Persia. How did she arrive here? Through submission to her faith, submission to her cousin who was her acting father, and because of her inner and external beauty. Her beauty was a gift from God, and like all gifts, we are entrusted by God to use it wisely, for His glory alone, in obedience to Him. The old Queen Vashti, we’re told, was very beautiful on the outside. But she was not going to use her God-given beauty to further God’s purposes, so she was removed, and Esther became queen. Esther has both external and internal beauty.

And Mordecai? He’s exactly where God wants him, too. During his daily visits to see Esther, he overhears a plot to assassinate the king. He passes the news to Esther who in turn reports it to the king. Mordecai’s courageous actions are recorded in the king’s diary in the presence of the king, Mordecai is given credit for thwarting an assassination, and he’s a hero. We’re supposed to be good citizens, for all governments serve at Gods command, and Mordecai is faithful to God. But by doing the right thing, Mordecai gains some unwanted attention. Up to now he’s been happy as just a simple Jew living in exile.

V. Scene 3, Esther 3. The Dark Side.

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In Chapter 3 of Esther, the plot thickens, mwahaha. Enter the villain of our lesson, Haman. In Esther 3:1-2,

After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.

I’ve always wondered about this. Chapter 2 ends with Mordecai foiling the assassination, and Chapter 3 begins with “After these events,” and Haman is honored. Is it because Mordecai was a Jew? Was it because Haman took credit?

This is ominous. Haman’s father was Hammedatha the Agagite, which means he was a descendant of Agag the king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites were a tribe from Canaan who have constantly been harassing the Israelites throughout history, from the Exodus out of Egypt throughout the reign of David. In Exodus 17:8-16, around 1440 B.C, just after Moses struck the rock and the water flowed, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites. Joshua led the battle against the Amalekites, and Moses stood on top of a hill with his arms raised in glory to the Lord while Aaron and Hur held his arms up. When the Amalekite army fled, Exodus 17:14-16 says,

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

 

Slide15.JPGThese are the Amalekites from whom Haman is descended. Then, 400 years later around 1040 B.C, the book of 1 Samuel chapter 15, Saul is commanded by the Lord. This is the same Saul from whom Mordecai is related. 1 Samuel 15:1-3, it says,

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “

God commanded Saul to put all of the Amalekites to death, but Saul gets this idea to spare King Agag of the Amalekites and keep the sheep and cattle and fat calves and lambs. The Lord was trying to protect Israel by ordering Israel to destroy the Amalekites, and the Amalekites kept coming back and attacking Israel.

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Now, another 500 years pass, and now we find Haman, an Amalekite and descendent of Agag, has been elevated to a position of power in the kingdom of Persia where the Israelites live. This is really bad news for the Jews like Mordecai and Esther living there.

King Xerxes orders all the royal officials to bow down and pay honor to Haman. Mordecai refuses to bow down. Now, it’s not against Jewish law to bow down and give respect. The Jews bowed down before their own kings in other books of the bible, like 1st and 2nd Samuel and in 1st Kings. And Mordecai also almost certainly bowed down to King Xerxes or he wouldn’t be alive.

Some scholars believe that one reason Mordecai would not bow may be that as a descendent of Agag, Haman would believe he was divine or semi-divine, a god. Mordecai would certainly not bow down before another god. Other scholars believe it was simply because Mordecai would not bow down before an enemy of God, an Amalekite who hated Jews.

Haman was enraged that this one man would not pay homage to him, and when Haman found out Mordecai was a Jew, he wasn’t satisfied with just killing Mordecai. No, Haman decided this would be his chance to destroy all the Jews. A religious, ethnic cleansing.  Verse 8-9,

Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business.”

Haman could not come right out and tell King Xerxes he wanted to kill all the Jews. Xerxes would know that the Jews were loyal subjects; Mordecai had himself saved King Xerxes life. So Haman mixes in half-truths… a “certain” people. They’re… “different.” They don’t… “obey.” You shouldn’t have to “tolerate” them. By laying out an incomplete picture with half-truths, Haman was able to convince the King that these “certain people” should be killed, and King signs the death warrant.

Persia was a big empire, and this ethnic cleansing could not happen immediately. Haman decided the annihilation would occur in the twelfth month of Adar, about a year away. All the royal secretaries were summoned, and the decree was written in every language of Persia and then distributed to all the governors in all the provinces. The Jews have a year to live.

VI. Scene 4, Esther 4. If I Perish, I Perish.

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Mordecai is troubled. By refusing to bow down before Haman, he had set in motion the destruction of all of his people within the year. Esther 4:1 –

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.

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Part of this was a public display against the orders of the king, but most of it was probably genuine grief. He’s going to die. All of his loved ones are going to die. All of the people of his faith are going to die. Verse 2,

But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.

Apparently they had some sort of dress code and Mordecai was not allowed inside. Verse 3,

In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

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All of the Jewish people are scared, mourning, praying, crying. Mordecai sends a message to Esther, who’s protected inside the palace. Mordecai tells Esther to go to the king and beg for mercy for the Jews.
This is a terrifying request to Esther. As queen, Esther did not have a husband/wife relationship like we understand it today. Esther was a servant of the king, and she could only appear to him when summoned. The law was strict – if you crash the king’s party, you die. There was a possibility that the king could hold out his golden scepter and your life would be spared. But whatever relationship Esther and the king had, it was not currently in the best of conditions. Esther had not been summoned by the king for 30 days. She was certain that to appear before the king would mean her death.

How do we understand God, who created us and everything we see? Do we decide who He is, and then assume God will do our will? Or do we decide to be obedient and try to understand what God wants? Do we stay safe, keep silent, avoid taking risks? Or do we try to be obedient?

Fear not. God’s got this. God’s will be done, whether we obey or not. We can choose to participate, be a spectator, or deny Him altogether, but we cannot thwart God’s will. God sees history all at once, past, present and future. God creates us for a purpose and plants us right where we are. Your job, your family, your pretty face, your intelligent brain, your feelings, your money, your talents have all come together for this one instant, this one instant that will never occur again. In another minute, in another hour, this moment will have passed.

Mordecai knows all this. Esther is exactly where God put her. God removed Vashti and placed Esther as queen. She had every resource she needed to do God’s will. But will she do it? Will she risk everything given to her to do what God wants her to do? God had given Esther so much. God gave her external beauty, and it was her beauty that gave her and her alone access to the king. Would she put her beauty on the line and risk death? God gave her position – she was queen and had access like nobody else. Would she put her position as queen on the line and risk death? Esther also had her inner beauty and love for her people. Most important, Esther had the entire kingdom of heaven behind her. She had everything she needed, but would she risk it, or would fear hold her back?

Mordecai delivers at this point one of the most memorable lines of the bible. He tells Esther that God will accomplish His purpose, nothing she does or does not do will change that fact. If Esther will not do it, the God will save His chosen people another way. Esther’s choice is whether she is going to participate in God’s plan and realize that her entire being, her beauty and position, was orchestrated by God, and God will accomplish His will through His obedient people. Mordecai also tells her that if she’s trying to save her own skin, she’s probably going to lose that, too. She’s a Jew – if the Jews are eliminated, that includes her. She cannot save her own life. All she can do is choose to be obedient, or not.

Mordecai says in verse 13-14,

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

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The entire purpose of Esther’s life had come to a point of decision. Her entire existence had a purpose. What was more important, being queen, or being the liberator of the Jews? God will not fail to keep His promises or fall short of His purposes, therefore, the deliverance of the Jews was certain. God had made Esther queen so that she could deliver His people. God places people exactly where they can serve Him.
And here’s how to be faithful, Esther’s response to Mordecai is equally as famous as his question in verses 15-16 –

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

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“If I perish, I perish.” Jesus says that his follower should not store up for ourselves treasure on earth, and that includes our very lives. And Jesus also says not to fear the ones who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Jesus holds our soul in the very palm of His hand, and nobody can snatch us away. As Christians, we are free of death so that we may live, and Esther’s response to the fear of losing her life is perfect. If I perish, I perish.

VII. Scene 5, Esther 5. Rise of the Queen

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Despite the decrees of the land and the fear of death, Esther dresses in her finest royal robes and enters the inner court of the palace in front of the king’s hall. And much to Esther’s surprise, the king is glad to see her. King Xerxes holds out his golden scepter, and Queen Esther approaches. And the king says, “Are you wearing a crown? That is so cool.”

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No seriously, he is so pleased to see her, the King tells Esther to ask for anything, and the king will give it to her.

Queen Esther bats her long lashes at Xerxes – actually, that part isn’t in scripture, but it’s easy to imagine it being true. She bats her eyes at Xerxes and says, “Would you like to come over to dinner tonight? I’d like to ask my favor of you over a nice candlelight dinner. Just you and me…. And Haman?”

And the king I’m sure is like, what? Haman? Sure. Why not. Let’s have dinner tonight. Somebody fetch Haman.

Haman’s should be having a good day. Scripture says in the latter half of Esther 5 that as soon as Haman sees Mordecai at the King’s gate, still sitting in sackcloth and ashes because of that dress code, Mordecai doesn’t rise for Haman, doesn’t bow to Haman, isn’t afraid of Haman. And Haman is filled with rage. And he is still filled with rage when he gets home.

Haman’s family and friends are there and Haman gets the invitation to the queen’s banquet. And Haman starts bragging. Look at all my wealth. Look at all my power. And I am the only person invited to have dinner with the King and Queen. But while Mordecai defies me, I will never be happy.

Haman’s wife says, just ask the king to hang him. You’re buddies, he’ll do that for you, right? And Haman smiles a wicked smile.

Haman erects a huge pole outside his house. Verse 14 days it’s 75 feet tall, and that’s like twice the size of a Texas pine tree and even bigger than the egos of most politicians! I mean, it’s huuuge. And when the king tells Haman it’s ok to hang Mordecai, he’s going to hang Mordecai high on this pole outside of his own house.

VIII. Scene 6, Esther 6. A Sleepless Night.

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Scene 6 opens with the King unable to sleep. I like to think the King is excited about his upcoming dinner date with his queen, Esther. And Haman. Apparently attendant-guy or somebody like him writes down everything that happens in the king’s life. Kind of like keeping a diary, but somebody else fills in the pages for you.

Do you remember all the way back to Scene 2 where Mordecai overheard about the plot to assassinate the king? The king is reading his own diary like it’s some sort of murder mystery novel and reads about this guy who saved his life. And the king says, did we give this guy a gold medal or something for saving my life? And attendant-guy says, nope. We didn’t do diddly squat for him. Diddly squat is the ancient Hebrew.

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So the king says, I need some ideas on how to honor this guy Mordecai. Who’s hanging around in the lobby? Haman, bring him in. Hey Haman, if I wanted to give somebody some special recognition, what do you think I should do?

And Haman thinks, “Wow, the king is thinking about me.” And Haman says, “A parade! A parade with horses and a special robe and trumpets and stuff!” And the king says, “Great idea! Haman, go get a fancy robe and throw a parade for Mordecai!”

And Haman does what the king says, but you know it just rotted his socks to put a fancy robe on Mordecai and parade him around the city. And after the parade, Haman rushes home and cries, I think. But he doesn’t get to cry long, the king’s eunuchs arrive to take Haman to that fancy schmancy dinner with the King and Esther.

End Scene 6.

IX. Scene 7, Esther 7. The Dark Side Destroyed.

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Scene 7, the banquet. The king is there. The queen is there, batting her eyes. Haman is there, grumpy from the parade he had to throw for Mordecai.

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The king and queen gaze longingly into each other’s eyes. And the king says, have you thought about what sort of present you would like?
Esther says, “There is a decree that all my people will be killed. Every one of us! Please spare me!”

Then verses 5&6, I think the King had no idea that there was a decree that would kill all the Jews,

King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”

The king immediately has Haman arrested, and then attendant-guy says, you know, there’s this huge pole, taller than two Texas pine trees, just outside of Haman’s house. Verse 9b-10,

The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.

X. Scene 8, Esther 8-10. They All Lived Happily Ever After. The End.

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Scene 8, they all lived happily ever after. The king gave Esther everything that Haman owned, Mordecai was given a place in the palace, and Haman’s order to destroy the Jews was revoked. The feast of Purim was established to memorialize the Jews rescued from certain death and destruction.

Even though God was not mentioned in the book of Esther, God’s hand was evident in the saving of His people. Even in captivity in a foreign land, God protected His people.

We, too, are protected, though we live in a foreign land. 1 Peter 2:11 calls Christians “foreigners and exiles” as we live in our pagan society. But God has not abandoned us here. His protection surrounds us, and God asks us to trust in Him for that protection.

And there’s still a huge pole that’s been erected, taller than two Texas pine trees, that saves us and destroys the enemy. Christ hangs upon that tree, defeating death and taking on our sins so that one day we too, live in eternity, happily ever after.

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The End. Or should I say, It is Finished.

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To God be the glory.

A King Experiences Revival

Introduction

Fifty years ago seems like a very long time ago. Probably because fifty years ago is a long time ago.

Fifty years ago, I was 8 years old and had hobbies like eating green apples from our tree in the back yard in Wheaton Illinois, and collecting frogs from the nearby pond to keep in our bathroom tub because hey, I was an eight year old boy and the bathroom tub is one of the few places inside where one can start a frog farm.

I remember my father calling to me on one day to come watch television with him for a news special. Eight year old boys detest news specials, but my dad told me this one would be important and that I should remember where I was when I watched it. And I saw Neil Armstrong step on the moon.   Absolutely historical, and I do remember it. And then I remember going back to my frog farm because those frogs were quite the escape artists.

I’m certain there’s some sort of connection to our scripture today, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is. Oh wait, here it is, 2 Chronicles 34:1-2 –

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.   And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

No mention of frog farms in the family bathtub. So far.   At eight years old, Josiah was king of Judah.

We are nearing the end of the Divided Kingdom Era in our Chronological study of the bible, and Josiah is one of the few good kings that reigned in Judah.

Josiah became King of Judah at eight years old. He was not elected to be King, he was merely born into the bloodline of David, the bloodline of the Kingdom.

Israel had become a monarchy like all the other nations with the first three kings being Saul, David, and Solomon. Israel was united under these three kings, though with the death of Solomon, everything changed. The kingdom that was once united, became divided into the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.

The northern kingdom retained the name Israel and had 10 of the 12 tribes of Abraham. The capital was Samaria. The southern kingdom was had the remaining 2 tribes and was called Judah, and the capital was Jerusalem.

Josiah was the King of Judah (the southern kingdom) at the age of eight years old. Judah had 20 different rulers, only eight of which were considered to be “good”. Josiah was the last of the eight “good” kings.

In looking at the summary of his life we see that Josiah was not just good, he was very special.

If you think about an eight-year-old boy becoming king and being known for doing “what was right in the sight of the Lord,” you might guess that he came from a great family background. That is not the case at all.

Josiah’s father and grandfather were some of the worst kings Judah had. Both were involved in child sacrifice as well as turning God’s people against God. His grandfather Manasseh who served as king for 55 years, did have a change of heart, but as it pertained to his influence as a king; it was too little, too late. His father, Amon served only two years before he was killed and never did have a change of heart. 2 Chronicles 33:23 –

And he (Amon) did not humble himself before the LORD, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more. Then his servants conspired against him and killed him in his own house.   (Chronological Bible, pg. 959-960, July 29th)

There was nothing about the leadership of Josiah’s father or grandfather that would have prepared Josiah to be a “good” king. Neither his father or grandfather were obedient to God; neither were humble in their role as king; neither embraced the Word and truth of God; neither led the people in worship or prayer towards God. Both were described as “evil in the sight of the Lord” in Scripture. And yet, Josiah somehow broke the cycle, even as a young boy king.

The scripture tells us of Josiah’s goodness, and his goodness came as a result of a desire to know God at a young age and by hearing the Word of God. There is power in the Word of God that should be embraced.   And one life, like yours or mine, committed to God can change a family, a neighborhood, a city and even a nation.

 

Realizing the Responsibility

The story of Josiah is a story of hope for all people of all ages. Even at a young age, Josiah realized the responsibility of being king. There was an opportunity to be different from those who had gone before him.   Even an 8-year-old boy knows the difference between right and wrong.

I’m certain that several in this this room could give testimony of what it is like to be brought up in a family that is not good or healthy or happy. Others may not have grown up in a Christ-centered family or home. And I can say almost positively without exception that each and every one of us, even well beyond the age of eight, made choices that were not in line with God’s Word and truth.

The hope of this story today is that our past does not define who we are in the present or who we will be in the future. If Josiah had let his past define him, he would have followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. If Josiah had let his past define him, he would have continued the sad tradition of leading God’s people away from God.   If Josiah had let his past define him, he would have settled for sad tradition rather than realizing the responsibility of change.

But Josiah realized the responsibility of being king. He wanted to be different from past generations. Though we don’t know much about his first several years of being king, we do know that at the age of 16 there was a radical change of direction.   2 Chronicles 34:3 –

For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

The first part of verse 3 tells us that in his eighth year of being a king at the age of 16, Josiah did something that his father and grandfather never did.   Josiah began to seek the God of his father David. Of course, David was his great, great, great, multiple generations past grandfather.

But Josiah knew two things about David.   One, that David was a blood relative; two, David sought Yahweh, the one true God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of the Covenant.

Josiah realized the responsibility as a descendant of David; the responsibility that he had as King of Judah and he broke the cycle of rebellion against God on a personal level. As a teenager, he sought God and began the process, as evidenced in the phrasing, “began to seek the God of his father David.”

Breaking the cycle did not happen overnight. Even though he was young, there was a stronghold in his family of radical rebellion against God to the point of sacrificing children and actively building altars to idols. Josiah wanted something different. He obviously had heard stories about David as King. But more importantly, he had heard stories about David’s relationship with God.

Josiah wanted a personal relationship with God, and it started with him choosing to seek God.   We do not know exactly how long that discovery process lasted or what he did in the process. More than likely the time was spent in prayer, seeking counsel from priests and from prophets of the day. We do know that four years later his relationship with God was so strong he acted very differently from his father and grandfather. He made choices as King that the people had not seen for generations.

 

Removing the Evil

2 Chronicles 34:3b –

“….and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

At the age of 20, Josiah had been king for 12 years and his relationship with God was so strong and personal that he could no longer accept the false idols that his father and grandfather had built. He wanted to remove that which led the people away from God.

Purging Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images are the first acts recorded of his kingship. Over this 12-year period there were certainly other things as well, but what is significant is that his desire to seek God at the age of 16 and the relationship that ensued led to this first true act as king. This was no easy task. The following verses go on to tell us he traveled as far north as Naphtali (North of Galilee) and as far south as Simeon and everywhere in between.     2 Chronicles 34:6-7 –

And so he did in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, as far as Naphtali and all around, with axes. When he had broken down the altars and the wooden images, had beaten the carved images into powder, and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

Removing the evil of his heritage was not easy, fast or popular. If you just take the leadership of his father and grandfather, you are looking at 57 years of evil in the sight of the Lord. 57 years of God’s people being led astray. Josiah felt so strongly about his relationship with God that he was willing to do whatever it took to “clean house”.

This process was intense and purposeful, going step by step to destroy each and every kind of altar regardless of what it was made of or how it was crafted.   2 Chronicles 34:4b –

“….he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.”

He broke them down to powder, making it completely impossible for anyone to put them back together. Josiah did not want to compromise at all. In modern-day terms, we would say he was “all in” with his relationship with God.

Josiah was not concerned about popularity as king, rather he was first and foremost concerned with his personal relationship with God and doing what would bring honor and glory to God. For Josiah that meant removing all evil from the land which God had entrusted to him.

Destroying the altars to the point of powder dust was a visual way of cleaning house and not leaving any sort of visual temptation to go back to the false gods and compromised leadership of his father and grandfather.   Josiah broke the chains of his past to set forth hope for his future and for the future of Israel.

His journey led him to rediscover the truth.

 

Rediscovering the Truth

2 Chronicles 34:8 –

In the eighteenth year of his reign (Josiah was 26 years old), when he had purged the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God. (Chronological Bible pg. 976, July 31st)

It had been 57 years since God’s people had been led by a godly leader. King Hezekiah was the last good King the southern kingdom of Judah had. The house of the Lord was in shambles. The feasts and festivals were ignored. The offerings and sacrifices were neglected. Josiah knew that it wasn’t enough to just remove the evil of the land, he knew that he had the responsibility to direct people to the Lord.   And that began with rediscovering the truth.

In the process of repairing the house of the Lord, they discovered the Book of the Law written by Moses. 2 Chronicles 34:15 –

Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan.   (Chronological Bible pg. 977, July 31st)

This was probably the Torah; the first five books of the Bible. This discovery of God’s Word was, in fact, the discovery of life-changing truth. The “book” had been completely and utterly buried beneath that which was intended to be a place of worship.

This discovery not only changed Josiah on a personal level, but it also changed a nation.   Notice what happened when Josiah heard the Word of God, 2 Chronicles 34:18 –

Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes. (Chronological Bible pg. 977, July 31st)

The Word of God has always been a revelation of God. When King Josiah at the age of 26 heard the words of the Law he tore his clothes. In that culture tearing your clothes was a sign of humility and grieving. The King was the most powerful individual in all of Judah, but he was showing the ultimate humility by tearing his clothes.

Josiah realized what he had been missing. Josiah realized what the people of the nation had been missing. Josiah realized that in finding the Law, he had rediscovered the truth. Josiah realized that God was not only a God of mercy but also a God of justice. 2 Chronicles 34:21 –

“Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for those who are left in Israel and Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.” (Chronological Bible pg. 977, July 31st)

God’s Word brings comfort but also conviction because there are consequences to choices. Josiah realized how far the nation had been led away from God’s Word. He was in a position to change what had been handed down to him. He had already broken the chains on a personal level, now it was time to break the chains of a nation, and it all began when he heard the Word of God.   Hebrews 4:12 –

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Word of God is the truth that penetrates the heart, even the heart of a king. Josiah would never be the same. This is a reminder of why we, as a church, have been challenged this year to read through the Bible chronologically; to rediscover God’s truth.

In no other time in history has the Word of God been more accessible than today, and yet we have buried it in our busyness. Biblical literacy in America is dwindling. People now prefer soundbites and snippets that can be absorbed in 10 seconds or less, but the bible cannot be understood in soundbites.

It may be hard for us to understand how the people in Josiah’s time could have lost the Law of Moses and then forgotten it in just two generations. However, written copies were scarce. Parents and the Levites conducted most biblical instruction orally. Only one generation separated the people from ignorance of God’s will. This has been true throughout history, and we see it becoming true again today.

The reading of God’s Word humbled Josiah to the point of repentance and revival. This discovery of God’s Word changed Josiah on a personal level, but it also changed a nation.

 

Reviving the People

Josiah did not want to keep the truth of God’s Word to himself.   He had a responsibility as King to share this truth with the nation.   2 Chronicles 34:29-33 –

Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. The king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem – the priests and the Levites, and all the people, great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD.   Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.   And he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. Thus Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not depart from following the LORD God of their fathers. (Chronological Bible pg. 980, August 1st)

Josiah led by example. Notice they were not merely following the words of an earthly king.   They were to follow the Word of God.   They were not ultimately following an earthly king. They were to “diligently serve” the LORD their God.

This revival both personally for Josiah and for the nation was not going to “just happen.”   There had to be purpose and determination. There was going to have to be sacrifices made both literally and figuratively. When Josiah became King, it had been 57 years since anyone had been challenged and led to observe a feast such as the Passover.   It had been 57 years since the Word of God had been read aloud. It had been 57 years since the people worshiped God publicly.

One man changed all of that. Josiah had been revived in his spirit by the reading of God’s Word to the point of action.   In 2 Chronicles 35:18-19 we are told of Josiah leading the nation to observe the Passover beyond what the people had ever experienced before.

There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept. (Chronological Bible pg. 981, August 1st)

The Passover was to be kept each year by each generation. In the Book of the Law that Josiah had read, it says in Exodus 12:14 –

So this day shall be to you a memorial, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.

The Passover had been neglected as had the Word of God, as had the temple, as had worship, prayer, offerings, and sacrifices. But Josiah reinstituted all of these things in accordance with Scripture.

Josiah led the nation of Israel into revival, starting with the reading of Scripture and continuing with putting into action what they had read, diligently serving the LORD God.

It all started when an eight-year-old boy became King. You never know how God is going to work in someone’s life.

 

Conclusion

This summer our church has seen young people make decisions to follow Christ at Beach Retreats and Vacation Bible School.

The benchmarks of Josiah’s life happened when he was 8 years old, 16 years old, 20 years old and 26 years old.

The benchmarks in the life of Moses and Abraham happened when they were 80 years old, 90 years old and 100 years old.   At any point in our life, we can either turn to God and make Him known to others, or we can spend our days doing the equivalent of wasting our time putting our metaphorical frogs in the bathtub.

Turn to God.   We are never too young or too old to trust in God, follow God, make a difference for God and lead others in doing the same.

Because of the leadership of Josiah, a nation was challenged to put God first without compromise. A nation was challenged to worship God unapologetically. A nation was challenged to diligently serve God regardless of circumstances.

God speaks through the written Word and communicates His character, man’s sin and the message of redemption and judgment. God acts to preserve the Word of God so that it is found by those who seek Him. God reveals the power of His Word to revive His People.

Whatever is in your past, whatever is in my past, don’t let it define our future. God’s Word is life-changing if we take the time to read, listen and apply the truth that is revealed. Every morning, put on the whole armor of God, and be a warrior for the Word and Truth.

To God be the glory.

The King Israel Wants

I. Introduction

We’ve been studying the bible chronologically this year, and we’ve covered a lot of ground.  God desires a relationship with man, but Adam sinned against the Lord and was cast out of the Garden of Eden, demonstrating man’s fallen nature.
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God continually reaches out toward man, but man continues rebel.  Cain slew Abel.  Men were so evil, the Lord flooded the earth and began again with Noah.  The Lord promised Abraham his children would be as numerous as the stars, but Abraham got impatient and slept with his maid.  Jacob was thrown into a well and sold into slavery, and the Lord reached out to rescue His people from Pharaoh through Moses.
And the people wandered in the wilderness until the unfaithful generation died off, then the people enter the Promised Land and begin the cycle that Chris taught about last week – rebellion leads to ruin, leads to repentance, leads to rescue, then repeat.

II. God’s Word about a King

All the way back in Deuteronomy, Moses gave the word of the Lord to the people that the day will come that they will need a king.  Deuteronomy 17:14-20,
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite.  The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.”  He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
In other words, the king should not build an army of horses which may give the people a false sense of security, nor build wealth.  He wasn’t to have multiple wives so as not to turn his heart from the Lord.  In short, this king was to be chosen by God from the people and lead by example of how to be a model follower of Yahweh.

III. The People’s Word about a King

So in 1 Samuel 8, the people finally ask the prophet Samuel for a king.  The Lord tells Samuel this is a bad idea – a king will take their sons and make them join the military, he will force them to serve the king with weapons and food and the best of their flock and their grain and the people will become slaves.  And the people will cry out to the Lord to be saved, but the Lord will not answer.
The people’s response?  “All the cool nations have kings, we want one, too!”
Samuel: “What about Deuteronomy 17, about a humble king chosen by God?”
The people: “Pfft.”
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The people wanted a king for all the wrong reasons, a king to lead them and fight battles.  The Lord pointed out to Samuel that the people were turning from their true, heavenly King to a human king.  But like so often happens between us and the Lord, I mean, between Israel and the Lord, the Lord gave them what they wanted, not what they needed.
The people chose Saul to be their king.  Not because Saul was devout, or humble, or obedient to the Lord.  No, the people chose Saul because he looked good.  1 Samuel 9:2 says,
Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
Instead of being the model servant of God, the people chose the man on the cover of the Israeli GQ magazine.
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Well, like I said last time I taught, if you can’t be a good example, then try to be a horrible warning.  What did Saul do wrong as Israel’s first king?  And if we study Saul as a horrible warning, what lessons can we draw that would help us live as good examples?

IV. Failure to Follow God’s Commands

First, Saul fails to follow all of God’s commands.  In 1 Samuel 15, the Lord has put Saul in charge of punishing the Amalekites.  Who were the Amalekites?  We have to go all the way back to the Exodus era in Exodus 17 to understand who the Amalekites are.  They’re one of the many -ites that trouble Israel over the centuries.  The Amalekites, the Amorites, the Canaanites.  The Meteorites.  The Snakebites.  The Parasites.  The Kryptonites.  Oh and the Off-whites.
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So the Israelites, led by Moses out of Egypt through the Desert of Sinai, are attacked from the rear by the Amalekites who are killing women and children that are straggling at the rear of the line.  You may recall Joshua led a battle against the Amalekites while Moses held his hands in the air.  Moses’ arms get tired so his arms are held up by Aaron and Hur.   Joshua wins that battle, but our God isn’t pleased that while leading His people to freedom that they are attacked.  In Exodus 17:14-16,
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.  He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
God’s justice will remove the Amalekites and blot out their memory.  Anybody here know any Amalekites?
So after Israel asks for a king, God chooses their king Saul to wipe out the Amalekites; 1 Samuel 15:1-3,
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.  This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.  Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”
The time for justice to be delivered to the Amalekites has come, but listen to how Saul carried out these instructions in 1 Samuel 15:7-9 –
Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt.  He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.  But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.  (April 13th, pg. 402)
In 1100 BC, capturing the king during a war meant riches for the winner.  The king could be ransomed off for a handsome profit.  And it would be a shame to kill all the animals, too, when there were so much better uses for them.
God sent a clear command to Saul through Samuel to completely wipe out the Amalekites and King Agog as an act of judgement.  Completely, in their entirety, leaving nothing.  Instead of obeying the Lord’s command, Saul keeps the spoils of war for himself.
Saul displayed a key character flaw during his time as king: he failed to fully obey the commands of God.  Saul had a habit of listening to God’s commands, and only following them halfway or sometimes not at all.  If Saul thought that he knew better than God, then he would do as he pleased.  Saul did this multiple times in key moments of his rule over Israel.  This disobedience from Saul grieved the heart of God so much so that God began to regret ever allowing Saul to become king over Israel.
Before we judge Saul too harshly, every one of us is tempted to disobey God.  There are many times that the commands of God and the teaching of Scripture will seem inconvenient, untenable, or unpalatable to us.  I see it in the news and it grieves me when entire churches decide which of God’s laws are acceptable and which ones are optional.  When we come across a truth from God that doesn’t make sense to us, we become tempted to either ignore it or only partially obey it.  We do this at our own risk.  God’s laws are not given to us to be restrictive or to make life difficult, but they are given to protect us, to help us thrive and become the people that God made us to be.  When we ignore God’s laws or pick and choose which law we will obey, it leads to destruction and pain for ourselves and those around us.

V. Giving Praise to Ourselves instead of to God

The second character flaw that Saul exhibited was his pride instead of humility.  Saul believed it was all about him.  In 1 Samuel 15:10, the Lord tells the prophet Samuel that the Lord is grieved because Saul didn’t carry out His command to wipe out the Amelekites, so Samuel goes to see Saul.  Let’s see what Saul is up to, 1 Samuel 15:10-12,
Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel:  “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”  (April 13th, pg. 402)
Samuel went to Saul find out how the battle with the Amalekites ended.  Samuel found out that Saul had won the battle and then built a monument to himself instead of worshipping God.  Saul awarded himself a participation trophy.
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We get another glimpse into Saul’s character flaws as a leader.  Not only did Saul not fully obey the command of the Lord, but he also had the gall to build a monument to himself after his disobedience.
Saul’s priorities were not with following the Lord or honoring Him.  Instead, Saul wanted to lift himself up to increase his own esteem and notoriety in the world.  Saul was overtaken by the deadliest of sins: pride.  Saul’s role king made him think that he was more important than anyone else in the world, and it is clear from his actions that he actually thought himself more important than God.  His first instinct was to do what he wanted to do and to have people honor him.  Saul wanted to worship himself instead of the God who gave him every good thing in his life.
Pride and self-importance are perhaps the deadliest traps for any of us who find ourselves in a place of leadership.  A true leader looks to the best of others and seeks to accomplish the task at hand.  An ungodly leader uses his status to elevate himself above others.
This trap lies in wait for any of us.  Why do we serve?  The bible has specific warnings to teachers who elevate themselves and who like to hear themselves talk, but the warnings are applicable to anybody who serves.  If we serve because we think we will gain the recognition and approval of others, then our service to the Lord actually offends the Lord.  Jesus tells us the same thing in Matthew 6:1-4,
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
In other words, it’s not about you.  We must all learn to walk in humility and do everything possible to avoid the trap of pride.

VI. Failing to Acknowledge Mistakes

Does Saul have any other character flaws we can learn from?  I’m glad you asked.  Remember, the Lord’s instructions to Saul were to utterly destroy the Amalekites.  Leave nothing.  And instead, Saul captured King Agog and kept the best livestock as spoils of war to make himself rich.  In 1 Samuel 15:13-15 –
When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”
But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
Or in other words,
Samuel: So Saul, did you obey the Lord?  Did you destroy all the cattle?
Saul: Why yes, I did.  Completely.
Cow: Moo.
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Saul refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his disobedience to the Lord.  First, he told Samuel that he had obeyed the Lord, and he said that he only kept the animals in order to sacrifice to God.  Saul’s denial is a form of “partial obedience.”
But did Saul obey?  Saul is in denial about his obedience.  “The Lord bless you, I have carried out the Lord’s instructions,” he says.  As Christians today, we have specific instructions, too.  But partial obedience is the same as disobedience.
If you told your child to do the dishes, how many dishes would he have to do for you to consider him to be obedient?  One?  Ten?  Or all of the dishes?
How faithful does a spouse have to be to be considered faithful?  Most of the time?
The scripture says we are to abstain from sexual immorality.  And yes, that includes weekends.
Scripture says God hates gossip.  God says we are to be patient.  God says we are to be kind.  God says to forgive one another.  Not occasionally, not sometimes, not unless we have a good excuse, but all of the time.
Samuel’s question to Saul – if you obeyed, why do I hear cows? – is a telling one.  First Saul denies he was disobedient, then Saul justifies to Samuel that partial obedience is more than enough.  1 Samuel 15:20 –
“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.”
That last sentence is almost incoherent.  I obeyed except when I didn’t.  The Lord said to destroy the Amalekites; Saul said of course he destroyed them except their king.
But you know what?  If we want to live a godly life, if we want God’s blessings to flow, if we want to avoid sabotaging God’s plan for our lives, we will read the scripture, we will put on the whole armor of God daily, we will do our best to be obedient without excuse.  We all have Amalekites of sin in our lives.  Yet, too often, we believe that we can pick and choose among God’s instructions, and then we act as though God should be appreciative of the bits and pieces that we do.  God defines obedience as total obedience.  We obey mostly, but we leave entire Amalekite kingdoms of sin in our lives.
Colossians 3:5-6 says –
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
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When Samuel further confronted him, Saul then shifted the blame to the men who fought with him, saying that they kept the animals.  1 Samuel 15:21,
The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.
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Saul thought he could appease the Lord by giving Him sacrifices, and then when that explanation didn’t fly, he decided to blame those under his leadership.  Worse, he claims his disobedience is actually for the Lord’s benefit.  But if we are not careful, we can blame our own disobedience on others.  I did obey the Lord, but the soldiers didn’t do right.   I had this great plan to serve the Lord, but somebody else messed it up.  Of course I made a covenant with my spouse for better or worse, but you don’t know my spouse.  Of course I can forgive my friend as soon as she asks for forgiveness. Sometimes we even blame God.  I lost my temper, sure, but God made me that way.
This disobedience is literally the oldest trick in the book.  Adam blamed his disobedience on Eve.  “It’s her fault!” And the Eve blamed it on the serpent.  The serpent, of course, didn’t have a leg to stand on.  But we cannot blame our own disobedience on somebody else.  God will see through that every time.
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I was recently reminded that this temptation to avoid taking responsibility and lay blame on others is ever present.  Last week, I returned from a business trip to Japan.  It was almost entirely business, but the weekend did have its benefits.
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But eventually it was time to return, and that morning, I was responding to last-minute emails since I would be traveling for the next 14 hours or so.  Then I shutdown, pulled the power plug (I always do that first since I read that is the most common thing left behind at hotels) and put it in my backpack.
Diane asked for some last minute assistance, a lidocaine patch for her shoulder to minimize pain on the return trip, and I was happy to help.  Then grab our bags, then catch a taxi, then transfer to an airport bus, then the airport ticket counter, then customs and immigrations, then security.  And if you have a laptop, you have to take it out of you bag for separate screening.
Imagine my shock when I opened my bag and there was no laptop.  Did somebody somehow steal it?  No, it was in my possession the whole time.  I looked in every section of the bag, and resisted the urge to check even the tiny pockets on the side that were too small anyway.
I called the hotel, who transferred me to housekeeping, who confirmed I had left my laptop in the hotel room.  Nothing that a dozen emails over the weekend and a credit card charge for a $200 to DHL couldn’t fix.  Definitely not a laughing matter, but my laptop was returned to me within the week.
But when I told co-workers – and in a situation like this, you *must* tell co-workers, unless you can explain why you’re just sitting at your desk and staring at a blank wall for the next 3 days – I was surprised at some of the reactions.  One person bluntly told me I should try to keep it a secret and not let anybody know I made a mistake.  That never even crossed my mind, I never claim to be mistake free.  I only claim to learn from my mistakes.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never leave a laptop behind again.
But when they asked me why I left it behind, I found I was tempted to say it was because I was distracted.  I was out of my routine.  I was helping my wife.  I felt the urge to find an excuse.  Certainly those things were true, but the mistake was entirely mine, and the right thing to do was to own up to it.  To be that horrible warning.
Saul, as our horrible warning today, first tried to claim he was obedient.  And when that explanation didn’t fly, he threw others under the bus.  If he failed, Saul reasoned, it was because of others.
God expects better of us.  God wants our heart.  1 Samuel 15:22-23, Samuel tells Saul what God thinks of Saul’s disobedience:
But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”

VII. Conclusion

In the life of Saul, we see an example of someone who wasted the opportunities given to him by the Lord.  Saul had all the natural tools to successfully lead the people of God, but he failed because he did not obey the Lord.  But we can use Saul as an example of a horrible warning because we are all capable of ignoring the Lord.  God has a calling for each one of us, and if we are obedient and trusting and loving, then we can experience fulfillment and joy.  However, if we are stubborn, selfish, and disobedient to the Lord, then we will lose our way and our walk with Him, just as Saul lost his opportunity to be a successful king of Israel.
Look to the Lord for His guidance, trust in His leadership, and be obedient to His Word.
To God be the glory.

 

Thankful

I. Introduction

We’re almost complete with our study of 2nd Samuel; Chris has the final lesson next week before we move into 3rd Samuel.

Today’s lesson is a little different from the messy soap opera we’ve been studying. Today we pause while David sings a song of praise to the Lord.

II. Similarities to Psalm 18

We know David wrote many of the Psalms, and today’s verses are essentially a psalm, a song of praise and worship. In fact, it’s nearly identical to Psalm 18. Let’s just look at both side-by-side, just the first 6 verses –

2 Samuel 22 Psalm 18
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield and the horn of my salvation.

He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—

from violent people you save me.

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and have been saved from my enemies.

The waves of death swirled about me;

the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me;

the snares of death confronted me.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and I have been saved from my enemies.

The cords of death entangled me;

the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me;

the snares of death confronted me.

Well, one or two lines are the same.

III. My Rock and My Fortress

It begins with “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.” David uses metaphors here that shows how powerful, how impregnable, how safe it is to be within the Lord’s will.

Slide3David throughout his eventful life relied on the Lord often, he trusted in the Lord for everything. We know through our studies of 1st and 2nd Samuel that for at least 10 years, David was pursued by Saul and his army and attempted to kill David on at least 5 separate occasions. And after he became king, David had to defeat the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Syrians, the Moabite, the Edomites, the Northern Lights, the Friday Nights, and the Stalagmites and the Stalactites. Well, ok, not those last 4. And after he became king, the pretenders to the throne by Ishbosheth, Absalom, and Sheba. Despite being chose by God to lead the kingdom of Israel, David’s life as king was filled with danger. What David knew, though, was that nothing could stop the will of the Lord. David was safe and protected inside the fortress of the Lord.

When you think of the Lord’s selection of David as king, what preconceptions might you have? That the path to be king was easy? That David’s foes would be minimal, that David would lead the people of Israel into decades of peace and prosperity? That everybody would love and admire and praise David?

David’s life was anything but peaceful. And a great many of the people of Israel sided against David when Absalom tried to overthrow David. But it wasn’t David who won the battles. David did only what the Lord asked him to do, and then David relied on the Lord. Every victory that David had, David gave credit to the Lord.

Slide4The Lord is our rock, our fortress. He is our mountain of strength, and he loves each and every one of us. The Lord longs for a relationship with us, and He tells us in Psalm 141 and Revelation 8 that our prayers to the Lord are pleasing incense to Him. Why the God who breathed the universe into existence is pleased to hear from us when we pray is a mystery to me, but he tell us the prayers of the righteou, those that dwell in Christ Jesus, are powerful. Our prayers with the faith of a mustard seed can move the mountain that is our God.

David knew this and gave credit to the Lord for every victory in his life. Despite David’s skill with a sling, despite David’s ability to command armies, David knew that his own power was weak compared to the all-surpassing power of the Lord God. The Lord is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer. The Lord is our shield and the horn of our salvation. The Lord is our savior.

IV. The Lord is Worthy to Be Praised

David goes on in verse 4 that he called out to the Lord, who is worthy of praise. These words from David, in this context, humbles me. I remember a few years ago going through a difficult time. An extended, difficult time. It seemed to me at the time that it would never end. And in the middle of the trial, my faith was strong.

Slide5.JPGBut after a couple of years, my faith wavered. Not that I ever doubted the goodness of the Lord, but I started wondering if maybe the Lord needed some help. And verses that are not in the bible, such as “The Lord helps those who help themselves” would come to mind. I thought patience was something I excelled at, but during this period I realized that the patience of God greatly exceeded my own. It was His will that the trials continued for me. Those days were hard. And I wish I could say that during this time that my first inclination was to praise the Lord for the trials I was going through.

Perhaps you’ve felt the same about something, or many somethings, going on in your life. Somebody is angry with you and you can’t seem to resolve it. You have a medical issue that never seems to get better. You have a family member that has passed despite your pleas to the Lord. You have a wayward child that has turned his or her back on you and the church, and you continue to pray but you aren’t seeing results. Is your first thought to praise the Lord?

Slide6Recently my wife and I went to the AD Players to see “God’s Favorite,” a Neil Simon play. It’s a modern retelling of the book of Job. You remember Job, he’s the guy in the bible that has more patience than me. In chapter 1 of Job, Job is introduced as “the greatest man among all the people of the East.” And God allows Satan to completely destroy Job’s life. A local tribe of enemies attacked and stole his oxen and donkeys, then killed all of Job’s servants. Then fire fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the remaining servants. The another local tribe attacked and stole his camels and killed those servants, then a mighty wind blew down the house of his oldest son and all of Job’s children were killed. And Job finds out about all of these calamities within the space of minutes.

I don’t know what your first reaction would be, but Job’s reaction was amazing. Job 1:20-21,

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Job praised God. If calamities happened to me like that, I’m not sure I can honestly say that praise is the first thing that comes to mind.

Just like David. David praises the name of the Lord.

V. A Man After God’s Own Heart

You know, each chapter we studied in Samuel about the life of David opened up new insights about David and new understandings about God. But throughout all of our study of David’s life, we often asked the question, “why was David considered a man after God’s own heart?”

Slide8We know David was a mess. As he amassed power, he amassed wives. He collected concubines like some people collect those little thimbles from roadside gift shops. He was a terrible father, a terrible uncle. David was seemingly indifferent to the rape of his daughter Tamar, letting Amnon go free which enraged David’s son Absalom to kill Amnon. Then later Absalom tried to overthrow David before being killed by Joab. And who can forget David’s greatest sin, the adultery with Bathsheba leading to the murder of her husband Uriah? So it’s natural to ask, Why was David considered a man after God’s own heart?

David’s messy life was just that – a messy life. I’m guessing your life isn’t a fairy tale, either, and I know mine is not. Scripture says we are all sinners, every one of us, including King David. What sets David apart is not his poor fatherhood skills or his affair with Bathsheba. What set him apart is David’s repentance and submission to God. What was David’s heart like that God found so appealing?

A. David Had a Faithful Heart

David had absolute faith in the Lord. The history of the kings that came after David were a mixed lot, and so many of them included phrases like “did evil in the sight of the Lord” or “did what was right in their own eyes.” How many times did the people of Israel stay? They sometimes worshipped the Asherah pole. After Moses came down from Mt. Sanai, the people had made a golden calf to worship. But David never wavered in his faith. He worshiped Jehovah God and no other. David wrote in Psalm 23:1,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

David recognized that he needed God, he was dependent on God to provide and protect him. The Lord God was David’s rock, David’s fortress, David’s deliverer, David’s shield, David’s horn of salvation, David’s stronghold, David’s refuge. David’s savior.

B. David Had a Seeking Heart

David actively sought God’s will for his life. Look at these scriptures –
1 Samuel 23:4,

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.”

1 Samuel 30:8,

and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”
“Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

2 Samuel 2:1

In the course of time, 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 5:19,

so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”
The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.”

2 Samuel 5:23,

so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees.

I’m detecting a pattern in David’s life. David brought every decision to the Lord, but more important, David waited for the Lord to answer before acting.

C. David Had an Obedient Heart

David loved God’s laws. David is credited with writing over half of the 150 Psalms in the Bible, often praising the perfect Word of God. Like Psalm 119:47-48,

“For I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.”

Because David continually looked to God’s word, the Lord granted David wisdom and understanding. Like Tony continually reminds us, every night and every morning read God’s word and put on the whole armor of God. Obedience to the Lord provides the lamp that lights our path, shows us where to walk and how far to walk and how fast to walk. Psalm 119:2-3,

“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.”

And when God said “no,” David humbly and graciously accepted God’s word. When God told David through Nathan that Solomon was to build the temple instead of David, here is how David responded in 2 Samuel 7:18-22.

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!
“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.
“How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.

D. David Had a Trusting Heart

David’s heart was trusting, and David’s heart was bold. When David came face to face with Goliath, David wasn’t afraid of Goliath’s reputation, size, ferocity, no. David instead focused on the power and promise of God. Standing before Goliath, David said in 1 Samuel 17:45-47,

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

David knew the Lord’s will because he sought God’s will, and then when the challenges came, David was able to trust in the Lord and stand fearless.

E. David Had a Thankful Heat

David was thankful to the Lord through both good times and bad. Psalm 26:6-7,

I wash my hands in innocence,
and go about your altar, Lord,
proclaiming aloud your praise
and telling of all your wonderful deeds.
David’s life was marked by periods of victory and prosperity, but also loneliness and despair. But David, never ever forgot to thank the Lord through it all. Psalm 100,
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

F. David Had a Repentant Heart

Despite David’s heart for God, he was still human and still sinned. Faced with temptation when he spied Bathsheba from his roof, David didn’t turn from sin or flee from temptation. David instead called to her and committed adultery. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David arranged to have her husband murdered. It says in the final verse of 2 Samuel 11:27,

‘The thing David had done displeased the LORD”.

The prophet Nathan confronted David, and David didn’t make excuses, didn’t try to justify what he had done. David humbled himself and said (2 Samuel 12:13),

“I have sinned against the LORD”

Perhaps his repentance led him to write in Psalm 51:10-12,

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

David still suffered the consequences of his sin, and the sword never left his house, but David’s heart was bowed to the Lord in humility, praise, worship, and devotion.

VI. Conclusion

When we wonder why David was considered a man after God’s own heart, we’re looking at David’s failures. To understand why David was considered a man after God’s own heart, we should look instead to David’s responses to his failures.

Because David sinned. You sinned. I sinned. And I thank the Lord that my sins do not disqualify me from an eternal life with my savior. Rather than look at David’s failures, we can try to be like David in the best ways, by being a people after God’s own heart. We don’t have to be perfect. David was a fugitive, a rotten father, an adulterer, a murderer. Yet he was also a man after God’s own heart.

Likewise, if we focus on our own sins, we miss out on being “a man after God’s own heart.” It’s not our failures that God sees, but our heart and what we do when we discover we are in sin.

God still seeks those whose hearts belong to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says,

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Slide31We can take the best David had to offer and apply it to our own lives. We can have a faithful heart, a seeking heart, an obedient heart, a trusting heart, a thankful heart, a repentant heart.

We can be someone after God’s own heart.

To God be the glory. Amen.

Averted

I. Introduction

We’re continuing our study of the life of David in 2 Samuel, and today we’re in 2 Samuel 20. This lesson was challenging to me at first. I reached out to Chris and a pastor here at Second for help, but what God would say to us wasn’t entirely clear to me.

II. Disgruntled Joab

So first let’s look at our scripture today and gain an understanding of what’s happening. Our cast for today’s episode consists primarily of Sheba, Amasa, Joab and David. We’ve met David and Joab in our previous studies, but two of these names are new.

Slide2

Joab was a remarkable nephew of David, a son of David’s sister Zeruiah. Zeruiah had 3 sons who each have a role in today’s scripture. The oldest is Abishai, then comes Joab, and the youngest was Asahel.

Slide3

We first met Joab when Ishbosheth, “Man of Shame,” had assumed the throne, propped up by Abner, even though both of them knew that David had been selected by God to be the king of Israel. At a showdown between David’s army and Ishbosheth’s army, Abner tried to flee, but Joab’s youngest brother Asahel chased him down. At the last second, Abner turned and thrust his spear into Asahel, instantly killing him. Joab has just lost his youngest brother.

In a short while, a truce is called, and Abner agrees as part of this truce to serve David. When Abner walks into the city gates to assume his role under David, however, Joab assassinates him, revenge for killing his younger brother.

Sure, Joab was in charge of David’s army, and helped David win many battles, but David was afraid of him. Far too often, Joab served the king in his Joab’s way, took matters into his own hands, and was ruthless about his revenge. In 2 Samuel 3:39, David says,

“I am the chosen king, but Joab and Abishai have more power than I do. So God will have to pay them back for the evil thing they did.”

Slide4

A few weeks ago, we studied about the insurrection of Absalom. He’s the arrogant but pretty son of David with a great head of hair. Joab was still David’s commander at this time. David had asked Joab to put down the revolution of Absalom, but be gentle with Absalom himself. After all, Absalom was still David’s son. Joab wasn’t gentle, though; when Absalom got his hair caught in the branches, Joab went to see him and threw three spears into body of Absalom to kill him.

Slide5

David was unhappy with Joab’s actions, and when he went to talk to Joab about it, Joab rebuked David for mourning over his son. After all, his son had tried to overthrow David. Chris did a masterful job last week talking about David’s flaws and Chris’s failure to get straight A’s in French, and how David’s army absolutely slaughtered Absalom’s army. It’s like Joab was saying, “David! Man-up and stop grieving. You won the battle! Yeah, I killed your son, get over it already.”

Eventually, David had to remove Joab from his position as the commander of Israel’s army. He had to – Joab would win battles, sure, but he outright assassinated Abner and then killed David’s son who was hanging helpless from a tree. David chose another nephew, Amasa, son of a different sister of David’s, to lead his army. Amasa and Joab were cousins to each other.

Slide6

This didn’t sit well with Joab. Besides being rivals and cousins, Amasa had led Absalom’s army when Absalom had tried to overthrow David. Joab considered Amasa a traitor, while David considered Amasa as far easier to work with than Joab had been.

III. The Failed Revolution of Sheba

Anyway, David had successfully put down the insurrection of Absalom with Joab’s help, but lost his son Absalom when Joab killed him. Joab gets pushed out of his role as commander of the Israeli army, now headed by Joab’s cousin Amasa, who Joab hates. Y’all got all that, who hates who?

And David’s troubles aren’t over. Absalom had almost succeeded in his revolt, but a man named Sheba, a distant relative of Saul, sees an opportunity. Which brings us to our scripture today in 2 Samuel 20:1-2,

Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted,
“We have no share in David,
no part in Jesse’s son!
Every man to his tent, Israel!”

Slide7

So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bikri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

If it isn’t one revolution, it’s another. Sheba manages to incite a great many people to follow him, though David still successfully rules Judah and Jerusalem. David then calls to his commander – no, not Joab, that other commander, Amasa, and told him to gather the troops in verse 4,

Then the king said to Amasa, “Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.”

Slide8

Amasa might have been in charge, but that doesn’t mean he was any good at his job. Verse 5 says,

But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.

I image David sitting at the window, checking his watch, and saying, “Where *is* that Amasa? He should have been here by now. We have an insurrection to go to that starts at 7.”

After 3 days, David tells Joab’s older brother – not Joab, but the Joab’s remaining brother Abishai– to take whatever troops are left and go after Sheba. No telling where Amasa is with the main regiment of troops. Verse 6-7,

David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bikri 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.” So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.

Slide10

So along the way, Abishai and Joab head after Sheba, when they run into Amasa. Amasa had apparently found some rocks to stand around, I don’t really know what he was doing there, and Joab sees his opportunity to do evil:

While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.
Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died.

Slide13

Joab and Abishai started out on their original mission, which was to pursue Amasa, but there’s a problem: there’s a dead body in the middle of the road:

Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.
One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.

Does this seem callous to any of you? It does to me. But wait, the callousness is not yet over. Joab and Abishai arrive at a little town called Abel Beth Maaka. There’s a city wall, protecting the city, and Joab builds a ramp and starts battering the wall down. A woman inside the walls comes out and says, “Who’s making all the racket? You kids better stop with all that noise! You kids get off my lawn!” Here’s the verses, 2 Samuel 20:14-19,

Slide16

Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maakah and through the entire region of the Bikrites, who gathered together and followed him. All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maakah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down, a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.” He went toward her, and she asked, “Are you Joab?”
“I am,” he answered.
She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.”
“I’m listening,” he said.
She continued, “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it. We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”

Joab responds, “Who, me?” I just want to kill Sheba.

The wise woman answers, “Oh, is that all you want? Well, we can cut off his head and toss it over the wall for you, if you’d like.”

Joab replies, “That’ll be fine, have a nice day.” You might think I’m making this exchange up, but that’s the way I read it.

“Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.”
The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.”
Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

So what’s the moral of the story?

I confess, I read this section several times, studied, prayed… I asked advice from a pastor here who told me not to lose my head about it. Really.

There are no good guys in this story, no moral high ground. To me just a bunch of people doing their own thing, not trusting in the Lord, reaping the repercussions of their decision. One of my favorite sayings is, “If you can’t be a good example, then do your best to be a horrible warning.” Maybe that’s what’s going on.

IV. The Sword Will Never Leave David’s House

Or on the other hand, step back and look at the big picture. We have to go all the way back 2 Samuel 12. Chris did an excellent lesson on confession and transgressions and Psalm 32 and a study of David’s infidelity with Bathsheba, as well as forgiveness and the promise of eternal salvation if we are faithful and confess our sins. And Theresa taught us about grief and one of the phrases in her handout struck me, it said,

When we do not obey God, grief with guilt and consequences will be the canvas where the episodes of our life will be played out.

Even though David is not a big part of today’s scripture, we are seeing that in force in today’s scripture. When David had Uriah the Hittite murdered, Nathan’s prophecy to David was in 2 Samuel 12:9-10, the Lord said,

Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

The sword will never depart from your house. David was guilty of a great many things, and when Nathan confronted David about it, David confessed that he had sinned. I think that’s one of the many reasons David was a man after God’s own heart – David’s first response wasn’t, “but he deserved it” or “I deserve this,” but “I have sinned.”

And the Lord is quick to forgive, but forgiveness doesn’t erase the repercussions. Christians cannot rob a bank and expect they will avoid jail time. Christians cannot drink to excess and expect that they will avoid cirrhosis of the liver. All sins have consequences, even seemingly minor ones such as gossip. Has anybody here ever gossiped? And that’s not everyone, at least that’s not what I heard.

I was thinking about these after meeting a couple on the beach recently. My wife, being a people person, does an excellent job of starting a conversation and turning it to theological questions. We were just walking by and I don’t remember why we stopped to talk. The couple apparently had been having a discussion about religion. She was Catholic and telling the man that he had to go to church to go to heaven, and going to church with her was probably necessary if they were going to continue dating. He was working on probably his 3rd or 4th beer of the morning, saying that Jesus loved everybody and so he was going to heaven even if he didn’t go to church. True story.
And then somehow we got involved. I just wanted to pick up seashells and dip my toes in the sand.

I don’t remember the nuances of the conversation. I’m pretty sure I took the position that there was some truth in what each of them were saying. For her benefit, I told her that only by placing her faith in Jesus as her Messiah would she be saved, that church attendance had nothing to do with salvation. Nor were there any works necessary to minimize purgatory, that Jesus told the thief on the cross that today he would be with Jesus in heaven, not stop in Purgatory on the way.

For his benefit, I told him how Jesus said many would say to him, “Lord, Lord,” and Jesus would reply, “Away from me, I never knew you.” And this is where the discussion got odd. He told me of course he knew Jesus, so Jesus must know him.

So I explained that Jesus meant something deeper than a passing acquaintance, that you had to place your trust in him. And he replied that’s exactly what he was doing, he just didn’t need to go to church or read the bible to make that happen.

So then I explained from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that our earthly works that did not further God’s kingdom would be burned, but the man would himself would be saved, he’d have that singed smell like a leftover campfire, and that our works that furthered the kingdom of God would be turned into crowns that we would then throw at the feet of Jesus.

He asked, well, what if he didn’t get a crown? I replied, well I suppose you’d at the back of the crowd, empty handed, wishing you had a crown to worship Jesus with.
He said, “I’d still be saved, though, right? I just wouldn’t have a crown?” And I said, “Yeah, probably, something like that.” He took another sip of beer and said, “I’m ok with that.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with that. My unexpressed opinion was that one could not possibly love Jesus without a desire to get to know Him better, but I realized how much of my life had been spent in just that state, trusting in Jesus, too lazy to get to know Him better.

One thing we did not discuss, though, ties into our scripture, how the sword will never leave the house of David. Or what I consider a related scripture, Exodus 34:7 (and multiple other places in scripture),

Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Sins just don’t affect us. They affect those around us, they affect our children, they affect our children’s children. I was asked recently why God punishes our children for things we do, but that’s not really a good question. God doesn’t punish our children, and God makes this clear in scripture like Ezekiel 18:20,

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

We are all responsible for our own sins, whose wages are death. But that doesn’t mean that others aren’t affected. It’s especially visible when a pastor sins – after all, pastors are people, and all have sinned. I used to read bible studies and listen to podcasts from the Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington. The church had grown to over 12,000 people attending weekly and was considered a role model for evangelism and emerging churches.

But then the pastor published a book, and then used church money to buy all the copies of the book so the book would skyrocket to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Pastors and congregation objected, considered it unethical, and the resulting notoriety had people looking into the actual book itself which turned out to have large sections plagiarized from other pastors. When confronted, the Mars Hill pastor went on the offensive and bullied his staff that disagreed with him. Within a year, the church – a megachurch – had disbanded and is no more. One man’s sin of pride had repercussions that affected thousands.

But God’s not punishing the congregation, no. But they are impacted by another’s sin.
Same thing in the house of David. David’s heart may have been for God, but he had plenty of actions that brought calamity upon his house. Sons that rebelled, sons that tried to overthrow him. David’s inconsistent role model set a poor example that brought collateral damage on his household, and the sword never left the house of David.
Joab probably looked at the life of David and saw an adulterer and a murderer who got away with his crimes. As a result, Joab probably saw nothing wrong with murdering David’s son Absalom, and then murdering his cousin Amasa, all to regain his position as commander of the Israeli army. And why not? David had Uriah murdered, didn’t he?

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V. Conclusion

I read no scripture when studying for this lesson that Joab had a strong faith in God, or any faith at all for that matter. He was a power hungry egomaniac with murderous intentions. He was certainly impacted by the sins of David, but David, despite his many flaws, loved the Lord. As a result of his love for the Lord, his eternal destination was secure. It was his temporal, earthy life that was so tumultuous. The sword never left his house, and family and friends alike were killed.

Our sins have repercussions. We are forgiven, for sure. When we enter the kingdom of heaven, God promises to separate us from our sins as far as the east is from the west. They are buried in the sea and forgotten.

But friends and family, children and grandchildren, are certainly left to deal what we leave behind, just as we are dealing with the sins of our parents and grandparents. None of us are perfect.

A quick look now at Romans 6:23,

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Have you ever noticed that we earn death, but eternal life is a gift? Our father in heaven loves us despite our many flaws and sins and freed us from the penalty of sin.

Praise be to our Father in heaven for the gift of life we do not deserve, and freedom from the death we do deserve.

To God be the glory. Amen.

Deposed

I. Introduction

We’re studying the life of David as told through the book of 2 Samuel, and when we get to today’s chapter 15, things are a mess in the kingdom.

Of course, God knows everything, and he told the people of Israel the kingdom would be a mess. Way back in 1 Samuel 8, when the prophet Samuel was still alive, the people asked for a king. The motivation of the people? 1 Samuel 5b,

“now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

All the other cool nations have a king, we want one, too. Samuel tried to talk them out of it with sound doctrine: Samuel said you already have a king, the Lord God. But the people continued to protest. Samuel warned the people the king would draft their husbands into the army and take a tenth of everything they owned. And also warned the people in 1 Samuel 8:18,

“When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Slide3Well, that day has come, and kingdom is a mess, and the people finally have their prayers answered, like it or not.

II. The Sword Will Never Depart

While King David may have been a brilliant warrior and a man after God’s own heart, David’s family life was a mess. David had many wives and concubines and at least 19 sons and 1 daughter that I could find in the scriptures. This set up a power struggle within David’s family since only 1 son could inherit the throne when David passed on.

Early on as a king, David commits adultery with Bathsheba, and worse, then tries to cover it up by having her husband Uriah murdered. When the prophet Nathan confronts David, David repents of his sin. And like each one of us, when we repent of our sins to the Lord, the Lord is just and merciful and forgives us of those sins. However, the Lord also tells us that in this life, we are responsible for the sins we commit, and we bear the consequences of those sins. Somebody that robs a bank, for instance, may come to Christ while in prison. But that doesn’t mean his jailers are going to open the doors and set him free. His freedom from his sin comes in the next life, and he may freely lay that burden down at the feet of Jesus. Here are the verses on forgiveness and consequences addressed to David in 2 Samuel 12:10-14. The Lord said to David through the prophet Nathan –

Slide5

Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

Slide6.JPGOur scripture today centers on the 3rd son of David, named Absalom. Ironically, Absalom’s name comes from the Hebrew meaning “father of peace,” and Absalom most definitely didn’t live up to his name. Absalom instead was central to the prophecy that the sword would never depart from the house of David.

The trouble started a few chapters back, when another son Amnon violated his half-sister Tamar as Theresa taught us last week on a wonderful lesson about grieving and the consequences of sin. Absalom, furious about this violation to his sister, waited two years and then setup an ambush to kill Amnon, then Absalom flees to Geshur and goes into hiding for three years.

David is, of course furious at Absalom, but eventually David’s heart begins to thaw. Absalom may have killed David’s son Amnon, but Absalom, too, is David’s son. David has Absalom brought back to Jerusalem, but it still takes another two years before David is willing to look at Absalom face to face.

III. Absalom the Demagogue

But Absalom aspired to ascend to the throne. He’s the oldest surviving son and heir to the throne, but Absalom is impatient and full of pride. One bible study commentary called Absalom a “demagogue.” Now, I confess my vocabulary limitations here. I don’t know how many stories or newspaper articles that called somebody a demagogue, and I guess I’ve always been too lazy to look up the definition. Well, no more. According to Random House Unabridged Dictionary,

Demagogue, noun, [dem-uh-gog, -gawg]
a person, especially an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.

Slide7Or as another put it,

One who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.Slide8

David might have been a mighty warrior, but Absalom was pretty. He’s described in 2 Samuel 14:25-26,

In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.

Two hundred sheckels is about 5 pounds of hair. I tried to find a picture of what 5 pounds of hair looks like for an illustration, and the closest I could find was this –

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Source.

This is only 3.5 pounds of hair, so Absalom had even more. And Absalom spent his days campaigning for the hearts of the people. Look at 2 Samuel 15:1-6,

In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

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So Absalom would greet the people and tell them that of course they are right, and whatever dispute they have should be settled in their favor. It’s flattery and pandering, but people are so swayed when they hear the words they want to hear. Reminds of me 2 Timothy 4:3,

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

And when anybody bowed down to Absalom as though he were a king, he’d take their hand and kiss them. And the people loved him for it.

IV. Absalom the King

Absalom did this for four years, about as long as the typical presidential election cycle, winning the hearts and minds of the people and undermining David’s rule by implying David wasn’t doing a good job. And after four years, Absalom made his move to overthrow David. 2 Samuel 15:7-10,

At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the Lord takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the Lord in Hebron.’”
The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron.
Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’”

Slide13And so the coup, the overthrown of King David by his own son Absalom begins. I note here that Absalom is using a religious pretext to begin the revolution. As far as David knew, this was going to be a religious feast in Hebron, but Absalom used religion as a cover for his sins.

As soon as Absalom was ready, the trumpets sound and the messengers quickly spread the word: “Absalom is king and reigns in Hebron!” The war has begun. Knowing that the first move in overthrowing the kingdom is to kill the old king, David moves quickly in verse 14,

Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”

Slide14David brings his personal bodyguards, and abdicates the throne. David is protecting the inhabitants because he knows that Absalom will kill everybody in resistance. Who will fight for David? The hearts of Israel were with that pretty demagogue from Hebron, Absalom.

But David has a miraculous army provided to him. David has visitors from out of town, 600 Gittites led by Ittai. David tells Ittai, sorry about the mess but you know how children are, why, just look at this place, and I’m sorry it’s time for you to go in 2 Samuel 15:19-21,

The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.”
But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

Slide15I find this interesting, David is the true king of Israel, but rejected by his people. The Gittites are gentiles, people outside Israel, that rally to the king with devotion. Like Jesus, rejected by His own as the true king of Israel. And like the Gittites, we are the gentiles that form the church that follow Him. Ittai of the Gittites expresses a commitment that should be a model for all Christians. “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

David goes to the Mount of Olives and weeps for Absalom, his son. All those years of his son being in exile, and the beginnings of a reconciliation, but not once did Absalom ever ask for forgiveness of his sins for killing his brother Amnon. Instead, using religion as an excuse, Absalom plotted the overthrown of his father and now occupies Jerusalem. By fleeing the city, David has spared Jerusalem a bloodbath, but now David is in danger. What is the future of the kingdom of Israel and God’ covenant with David?

V. The Fall of Absalom

But despite David’s failings, the Lord was with him. Absalom was full of pride and ambition, and we all know that prides goes before the fall. Absalom assembles an army to destroy David, but David has his army of gentiles led by his captain, Joab. David still loves his son, despite his son’s evil ambitions, and tells his captain Joab in 2 Samuel 18:5,

The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.”

Slide16The pain that David must have been going through, overthrown by his murderous son, yet… it’s still his son.

Scripture says David’s army marched out to the forest of Ephraim to meet Absalom’s army. It was a rout. David’s men slaughtered 20,000 of Absalom’s men, and Absalom, well, scripture tells this best, 2 Samuel 18:9-11,14.

Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”
Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”
Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree.

Slide17Absalom’s pride did him in, hung by his own hair. The battle was over, and when David hears that Absalom is dead, 2 Samuel 18:33,

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

VI. A Father’s Love

Was David’s affection misplaced? Absalom was wicked, unrepentant, prideful, a manipulator, a demagogue, and a control freak. And that was on his good days. In many ways, this is the exact opposite of the parable of the prodigal son. The son demanded his inheritance and then spent it all, and with his tail between his legs, took himself back home, hoping to be a servant in his father’s house. To his surprise, his father rand out to greet him with open arms and held a banquet for his son.

Absalom never put his tail between his legs to come home. All accounts seem to indicate he was unrepentant to the end and died by his own pride.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s our destiny without our savior. We are wicked, unrepentant, prideful, a manipulator, a demagogue and a control freak, destined to be undone by our own pride. Romans 3:23 says,

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

And yet, for all our sinful pride, our Father in heaven loves us. Romans 5:8 says,

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Slide21Understanding who we are in Christ also means understanding who we are without Christ. Without Christ, we are like Mephiboseth, lame in both feet and living in poverty and shame. Without Christ, we are enemies of God. Without Christ, we choose a destination of destruction.

VII. Conclusion

David, despite his many flaws, loved his son no matter the cost.

The very thing that David was willing to do – but could not do – was to save his son Absalom. Absalom chose his own way, a way of destruction not only to him but to thousands around him. But what David could not do, God has done for us through His son.

Even if David has his prayers answered, to die for Absalom, it would not have benefited Absalom. But God can do what we cannot, and God sent His only son to pay for our pride, our vanity, our demagoguery.

Psalm 103:13 –

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
Our father in heaven loves us with a love beyond our understanding.

Slide23To God be the glory. Amen.

Valued

I.    Introduction

We are continuing our study of 2 Samuel, and we’re up to chapter 9. Let’s recap some history to remember where we are. God, through the prophet Samuel, had selected David to be the future king of Israel. The previous king Saul was a mixed bag of nuts, sometimes trying to love David, most of the time trying to kill him, so David spent much of his early years hiding in the desert.

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David’s best friend was Jonathan, the son of King Saul. King Saul perished in a fight at Mount Gilboa against the Philistines, and King Saul’s son Jonathan also perished in that battle. David soon became king over Israel after a few skirmishes with Abner and Ishbosheth.

II.    Jonathan

You probably have a friend. I would hope so. Some of you with active Facebook accounts might have over 2000 friends. But you probably only have 1, maybe 2 or 3 people you consider to be close friends. A friend that’s been there through the best times, but also the worst. A friend you’ve had an awful fight with and yet stayed friends.

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Some people can make new friends at the drop of a hat. Me, I don’t know how to do that. At work, when I’m assigned to a new project, it’s almost like going to work for a new company. Most of the people on the team have never met each other.

It takes me about 6 months to feel like I’m integrated, part of the team, and able to relax my guard, show a little humor, make some work friends. You may have noticed it here in this class, when you first started attending and met me for the first time, thinking I’m way too stiff and formal. Give it 6 months. Then instead of stiff and formal, you’ll realize I’m goofy.

My 2 closest friends I’ve had for a long time. I met Sean in high school, went to Texas A&M with him and after some separation due to travel, we both ended up back in the Houston area. We’ve had a couple of issues that drove a wedge between us temporarily, but only temporarily. As soon as he realizes I was right all along, we get along.

And Dean I met at my first real job while I was still in college. We’ve both grown in faith over the years. Funny how we went from bar-hopping together to doing bible studies together.

The point is, I’ve known Sean for 42 years, and Dean for 36 years. I will never ever have a chance to make a friend and keep them for 40 years, so I’m keeping the ones I have.

David and Jonathan were best of friends from the time David, as a young boy, slew Goliath. Jonathan realized that David’s faith and courage were the same characteristics Jonathan admired, and both trusted in the Lord. And Jonathan was the son of King Saul, heir to the thrown by birthright! And yet Jonathan recognized God’s favor on David as the future king. Many times, Jonathan interceded to save David from Saul’s anger. How easy it would have been for Jonathan to step aside, let Saul kill David, and then inherit the throne! But Jonathan knew the will of the Lord was for David to be king, and spent his life seeking the Lord’s will.

No doubt, when Jonathan perished with his father Saul at the hands of the Philistines, David grieved for his best friend.

III.    David’s Compassion for Jonathan

Years go by, Jonathan thinking about his old friend, when he begins to wonder if there’s anybody left on that side of the family. He knows Saul and all Saul’s sons have perished, but maybe there’s still some family member still alive. He ponders in 2 Samuel 9:1,

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

Slide6Turns out that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth. Why don’t we give our children classical names like Mephibosheth anymore?

This wasn’t his original name, though. 1 Chronicles 8:34 says the son of Jonathan’s name was “Merib-Ba’al.” Remember our lesson about Saul’s youngest son Ishbosheth and how his original name was Esh-ba’al? The name “ba’al” had at one time been a generic term for “god” but eventually the formal name Ba’al was used for the pagan god Ba’al who the Philistines renamed Beelzebub. Esh-ba’al meant “man of the Lord,” but Israel no longer wanted to utter the name of Ba’al, they changed Es-ba’al to Ish-bosheth which translated as “man of shame.” Hardly an improvement, I know.

Same sort of thing is going on with Merib-ba’al which originally mean “fights for the Lord.” Since they no longer wanted to utter the name of a pagan god, they changed his name to “Mephibosheth” which means “Son of Shame.” Still not an improvement, in my opinion.

Slide8

Anyway, Mephibosheth started life off under a great deal of hardship. Back when King Saul and Jonathan died, well, let’s look at 2 Samuel 4:4,

Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.

Slide9A tough life indeed. Once part of a royal family, son of Prince Jonathan, heir to the King of Israel, now Mephibosheth is disabled, living in poverty. Probably still living in hiding, in fear that King David might try to wipe out what’s left of Saul’s family to protect the throne.

IV.    David Seeks Mephibosheth

But David, as we’ve heard, was a man after God’s own heart. In 2 Samuel 9, David is not remembering the times Saul tried to kill him. He’s remember how the son of Saul, Jonathan, tried to save him. And he asks,

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

A former servant of Saul tells David that there is one person left, a grandson of Saul’s, son of Jonathan, named Mephibosheth, living in poverty, lame and unable to walk. David sends for him to be brought to the king.

I wonder what Mephibosheth was thinking at this point. Certainly nothing good, to be summoned before the king. Mephibosheth had spent his whole life in fear of being killed, in poverty, unable to walk, and now suddenly King David himself sends for him.

V.    Greeting the King

In 2 Samuel 9:6-8, here is how the two greet each other:

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

That’s not a sneeze, by the way, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for 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 down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Mephibosheth was in no position to demand anything. Compared to David, Mephibosheth considered himself the worth of a “dead dog.” And David owed Mephibosheth nothing, he was the king over all Israel.

In fact, if we understand the times of David and Mephibosheth, it was common for the new king to kill the family of the old king. Mephibosheth was in line for the throne of the old King Saul; perhaps Mephibosheth feared that King David would have him run through with a sword, just to end the dynasty of King Saul.

But David didn’t follow tradition. David didn’t follow culture. David listened to the Lord.

All the blessings Mephibosheth were received were a gift. Mephibosheth wasn’t a great warrior, wasn’t a rich man, wasn’t anything of significance. And yet, the king bestowed blessings unmerited on him. In this Old Testament history lesson, David demonstrates the compassion of Christ. And before accepting Christ, all of us are Mephibosheth, hungry, lame, and in need of a savior.

VI.    Lovingkindness

When David considered the family of Jonathan, here is the verse from 2 Samuel 9:1 again –

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

I want to spend some additional time on the word kindness to show the motivation of David. The word used for “kindness” here is the Hebrew word “checed” or some spellings are “hesed,” and it’s usually translated at “lovingkindness,” sort of an archaic term. More modern translations seem to favor the word “love” or “mercy” which is less precise.

Slide13I also learned while studying for this lesson that “checed” is related to the Hebrew word “chasidah” which is their word for the white stork. Ever wonder where we get those fables about storks bringing babies? The Hebrews noted how well the chasidah cared for it’s young, and named it after “checed,” or lovingkindness.

Slide14

The Hebrew word “checed” refers to both love combined with action and also an implication the love is part of a promise or covenant to fulfill. In other words, love in action because it’s the right thing to do. It’s used 248 times in the Old Testament, with over half of them in the book of Palms.

In the book of Genesis, you might remember Joseph being tossed in a well by his brothers, rescued by a caravan, taken to Egypt where he rises in power and responsibility in Pharaoh’s service. Eventually Joseph’s father Jacob and Joseph’s brother come to Egypt because of a famine and lived in Egypt with Joseph.

When Joseph’s father’s life is coming to an end, he wants to be buried in Israel, not Egypt. God had promised Abraham that land, and Jacob wants to be buried there. In Genesis 47:29-30, Jacob says,

When the time drew near for Israel (Jacob) to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”

Slide15The word “kindness” here is the same word word “checed”. It’s love in action, to do something extraordinary because it’s the right thing to do.

We’re more familiar with the Greek word “agape” when it comes to love, but agape is different. Agape is self-sacrificing love for the benefit of another. Checed implies something more, fulfilling a covenant agreement and putting love in action.

It’s one of the many reasons our God is worthy of worship. He fulfills His promises. God has entered into a New Covenant with us, bound by the blood of Christ, to provide eternal forgiveness and salvation. We can trust in Him because God considers this “checed,” fulfillment of a covenant love by putting it into action. It is this “checed,” this unconditional lovingkindness to His people that distinguish our God from every other world religion and cult. Our Father fulfills His every promise.

VII.    The Gifts of the King

So David ponders in 2 Samuel 9:1,

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness [checed] for Jonathan’s sake?”

David had promised his lifelong friend Jonathan they would look after each other all of their days. David felt “checed” lovingkindness and an obligation toward Jonathan and whatever remained of his family. And when he finds that Jonathan’s son is alive, David adopts Mephiboseth as his own. David fulfills his promise with lovingkindness, love in action. And what does Mephiboseth receive? 2 Samuel 9:7,

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for 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.”

David provides everything Mephiboseth could dream of. It’s as if he’s been adopted by David, to sit at David’s table. Mephiboseth did nothing to deserve this, it’s entirely a gift from David to fulfil his checed.

Our heavenly Father does the same for us. The gifts from our Father in Heaven are many, here are 11 of them –

1. The gift of a Savior, Matthew 1:21 –

“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

2. The gift of God’s love, Jeremiah 31:3 –

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

3. The gift of God’s grace, Ephesians 2:8-9 –

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

4. The gift of God’s peace, John 14:27 –

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

5. The gift of God’s Holy Spirit, Acts 1:8 –

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”

6. The gift of a new life, 2 Corinthians 5:17 –

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

7. The gift of freedom from bondage and sin, Romans 8:1-2 –

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

8. The gift of supernatural strength, Philippians 4:13 –

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

9. The gift of purpose, Jeremiah 29:11 –

“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

10. The gift of prayer and direct access to God, 1 John 5:14-15 –

“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

11. The gift of hope, Romans 15:13 –

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

And through the checed, the covenant love through Christ Jesus, these gifts are irrevocable. They have been given to us for eternity, Romans 8:29 –

for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

And what did we do to deserve to sit at the Lord’s table? Nothing. Just accept the invitation.

VIII.    Conclusion

Like Mephiboseth, we are lame. We have nothing of our own to offer the Lord, nothing except the spiritual gifts that the Lord gave us so that we may give back. How wonderful that God has done it all for us, given us a place at His table, and had adopted us forever as His adopted children.

We spoke today about friendship – a lifelong eternal friendship with Jesus. We spoke about unmerited favor from the Lord and the good gifts He gives His children. And we spoke about checed, a lovingkindness provided by our Father in heaven that is irrevocable, lovingkindness that we can depend on because God never fails.

2 Corinthians 9:15,

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

Slide30

To God be the glory. Amen.