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.

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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.

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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.”

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To God be the glory. Amen.

Messy People

I.      Introduction

Sometimes I read the bible and the message is so easy.  Just one God, honor your Ma and Pa, don’t take things that ain’t yours, that sort of thing.  Other times, the message is obscure and difficult to plow through.  Ever sat down to read the bible and read it cover to cover?  How many of us got stuck in the begats, as in “Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enos, and Kenan and Mahaleel and hundreds of other unpronounceable names?”

Today’s study sort of starts that way, the message in the Word seemed esoteric, and I’m not even sure what “esoteric” means.   For instance, here’s our first study verse for today in 2 Samuel 3:8 –

Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman.

My first thought when I read this was, “what?”  But the key to understanding scripture is context, or as a pastor I heard put it, “location, location, location.”  I think we need some background before we can begin to understand this verse.

II.      Background of Messy People: David

So just in this first verse, I see at least 4 people discussed by name.  There’s Abner, Ish-bosheth, Saul, and David.  There’s also a woman mentioned, as well as brothers and friends of Saul.  I read ahead over the next several scripture verses – sometimes I do that when I’m studying – and there are several more people that will be mentioned later.  There’s another woman named Michal, a man named Paltiel the son of Laish.  And there’s at least two names that aren’t mentioned, Jonathan and Joab, that influence the events in today’s scripture. 

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Of all the names listed, David is probably the most familiar.  He’s also one of the most complicated.  David was a horrible failure and David was a wonderful success.  David committed murder in his later years and had an affair with Bathsheba.  And yet, David was described as a man after God’s own heart.  Sometimes when I read stories on David, I wonder what I’m missing. 

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But I think a key to understanding David is to recognize the sinner in all of us.  Are we a people after God’s own heart?  We might look at our own lives and say, well, no, It doesn’t look like I’m not a man after God’s own heart.  Look at all the things I’ve done that are bad.  If they could see who I really am, they would know me for what I am.  A sinner.  Just like David.

But God teaches us that what is important is not so much what we do, but what’s inside.  Back in 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel was seeking a king over Israel.  The Lord sent him to Bethlehem because the Lord had selected a son of Jesse to be king.  When Samuel got there, he saw Jesse’s son Eliab who apparently looked like Thor and said, “whoa…

“Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord answered in verse 7,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Slide4And there’s the answer.  David’s heart, despite his sinful nature, was always pointed at the Lord.  When confronted about his sin, David didn’t just confess his sins, he repented and went to the Lord for forgiveness.  When faced with overwhelming odds like when he faced Goliath the giant, David trusted in the Lord.  David meditated on God’s word and wrote over half of the Psalms.

       III.      Background of Messy People: Saul

So the Lord chose David to be king of Israel, but like I said, people are messy.  There was already a king in Israel, his name was Saul.  Saul also demonstrated successes and failures like David, but there was a big difference.  Even when Saul knew what the Lord’s will was, he often would do something else.  Including trying to kill David because of Saul’s jealousy. 

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Saul had 4 sons and 2 daughters.  Of the sons, Jonathan was the oldest; then came Abinadab, Malchishua and Ish-bosheth.  There’s some confusion that in 2 Samuel 21:11, 7 sons of Samuel are put to death, but those include grandchildren because at least one of them was a son of Jonathan.  And the two daughters, Merab and Michal.

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Saul’s jealousy was complicated; he seemed to alternate between loving David as a son and trying to kill David as an enemy.  David was close to Saul’s family; David’s best friend as a child was Jonathan, and Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David.  In 1 Samuel 18:17, Saul promised to give his oldest daughter Merab to David as a prize for killing Saul’s enemies.  But Saul double crossed David and gave Merab to some other man. 

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But since Saul was jealous of David and knowing David was in love with the younger daughter Michal, Saul promised David he could have Michal if David attacked the Philistines.  Saul was hoping David would be killed in the attack, but David won, so Saul had to give Michal to David for his wife.

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Saul tried to kill David outright at this point, but David’s wife Michal helped David escape.  That apparently made Saul mad, David not dying like he was supposed to, escaping with the help of his daughter.  Saul declares the marriage null and void, then Saul then gave Michal to different man, and Michal was married to Paltiel, son of Laish.

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Despite Saul trying to kill him, David didn’t retaliate against Saul.  If David was aware of the New Testament (which he wasn’t), he might have considered this verse, Romans 13:1-2,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

David may have been selected by God to be king, but David respected the office of King Saul.  David spent years hiding in deserts and caves while Saul hunted him.  One of my favorite stories about David is in 1 Samuel 24.  Saul is hunting David, and had to stop and tinkle.  So he went into a cave, but David was already hiding there.    While Saul is tinkling in a corner, David sneaks up and cuts a corner off of Saul’s robe to prove that David could have killed Saul but didn’t.  What I find funny about that story is that David feels guilty about it.  He should have never cut a piece of garment off of the king’s robe, that’s just wrong, even if the king is trying to kill him.

David had another chance to kill Saul in 1 Samuel 26.  Saul is hunting David, again, but Saul gets tired, so that night Saul lays down to sleep, but he has a bodyguard, Saul’s cousin Abner.  David sneaks into Saul’s camp, finds Saul sleeping next to a spear.  He could have easily killed Saul with Saul’s own spear, but instead David takes the spear, runs over to the next hill and taunts the bodyguard.  “Hey Abner!  Is that how you guard your king?  I could have killed him, but instead, I have his spear!  Neener neener neener!”

This goes on for many years, Saul hunting David and David hiding, but Saul has another set of enemies, the Philistines, and there’s a big battle brewing between Saul and the Philistines at Mount Gilboa.  Saul of course seeks spiritual advice, but Saul believes the Lord has stopped talking to Saul, probably because Saul is trying to kill the Lord’s anointed king, David.  So Saul consults a witch instead.  I’m going to suggest that if for some reason you cannot hear the Lord speaking to you, then spend time in the Word until you do.  Don’t consult a witch, ok?  In fact, let’s take a quick look at 1 Chronicles 10:13-14,

Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

Slide24So, don’t consult a witch, ok? 

 IV.      Background of Messy People: Abner and Ish-Bosheth

So Saul is dead, and David is finally king, right?  I told you people are messy.  Abner, Saul’s cousin and bodyguard, is very well-connected.  David becomes king over the tribe of Judah, but Abner takes Saul’s remaining son Ish-bosheth, and makes Ish-bosheth king.  Abner is able to get the other 11 tribes to unite around Ish-bosheth.  And I wish Ish-bosheth had an easier name to pronounce because saying Ish-bosheth several times in a row is a real tongue-twister.

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Actually, Ish-bosheth does have another name.   When Ish-bosheth was born, his name was Eshba’al which means “Man of the Lord.”)  Here’s a rabbit hole we’re going to follow for just a wee little bit: the definition of “ba’al” means “lord,” or alternatively “master” or “husband.”  The word had been around in early Hebrew as a generic term, but in later years the Canaanites started using “Ba’al” as the proper name of their pagan god.  The Philistines eventually started worshipping Ba’al but changed his name to Beelzebub.  In later Old Testament scripture, “Beelzebub” became known as a major demon, and Christians know the name Beelzebub as another name for the prince of demons.  In the year 1818, Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy wrote a book called “Dictionnaire Infernal” or a book on demonology who described Beelzebub as having the ability to fly.  He then became known as “The Lord of the Flyers,” or later, “The Lord of the Flies.”

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Anyway, yuck.  That’s enough of that rabbit trail.  Back to Eshba’al, Saul’s remaining son established by Abner as king over 11 tribes of Israel, the Northern Kingdom couldn’t bear to call him Eshba’al because it sounded like a profanity, being ruled by man of demons.  So they changed his name to Ish-bosheth which translates as “man of shame.”  Not exactly a flattering name, “man of shame,” but better than sharing the name of a demon.

Anyway, Ish-bosheth was sort of a puppet king over 11 tribes of Israel, controlled by Abner, and between them continued to wage war against David, the king of Judah.

I think they got tired of fighting so often.  In 2 Samuel 2, Abner’s men meet David’s men, led by David’s captain named Joab, at the pool of Gibeon, and they decide rather than everybody fight, each side would select 12 people to fight each other.  It says in 2 Samuel 2:16,

Each one of them seized his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together.

It sounds to me like everybody died, but commentaries say that David’s captain Joab won the battle.  Abner and his men run away, and David’s men start to chase.  Joab has a brother named Asahel who spots Abner and chases him, but when he catches up to Abner, Abner abruptly stops and kills Asahel with a spear.  Joab is inconsolable and vows to kill Abner some day, but for now, Abner escapes back to safety.  These two sides fight for the next 2 years with David’s army generally winning and Abner’s side generally losing.

So Abner gets back to Ish-bosheth, and Ish-bosheth makes an accusation.  The old dead king Saul, Ish-bosheth’s father, had a concubine named Rizpah.  Apparently Rizpah belongs to Ish-bosheth now, but Ish-bosheth accuses Abner of having an affair with Rizpah.  All of this background information just to bring us to the first scripture we’re supposed to study today, 2 Samuel 3:8 which we looked at earlier:

Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman.

Slide2Ah, now I have a better understanding of what’s going on.  Location, location, location.  Abner has spent his life playing political games, first with Saul and then propping up Ish-bosheth as the so-called king.  And this is how Ish-bosheth repays him, by accusing Abner of having an affair with Rizpah the concubine?  Abner is furious. 

I re-read this scripture several times and couldn’t help but notice Abner said he was innocent of the charges.  He’s just mad that he’s been accused.  In fact, Abner is so mad, he tells Ish-bosheth that he’s going to give the 11 tribes of Israel to David so David can finally be the king over all Israel, just like the Lord said he would. 

And Ish-bosheth is too scared to say anything.  What could he say?  Abner had all the power, Ish-bosheth was just a puppet.

             V.      Background of Messy People: David and Michal

So Abner goes to David and tells David, “hey, let’s stop fighting.  You agree not to kill me, and I’ll agree to give you the rest of Israel.”  David goes, “hmmm…. Let me think.”

And David agrees, on one additional condition.  Remember Michal?  Saul’s youngest daughter than Saul gave to David for his wife, then took Michal away and gave to another man named Paltiel?  David wants her back.  Abner can come work for David, and all David wants is all of Israel and his wife Michal back.

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Abner agrees.  I mean, it’s not like Abner is giving away anything of his own, right?  David sends a message to Ish-bosheth, and without Abner telling him what to do, Ish-bosheth doesn’t know what else to do.  Of course David can have Michal.  I mean, it’s not like Ish-bosheth is giving away anything of his own, right?  2 Samuel 3:15-16,

Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish.  But her husband went with her, weeping as he went, and followed her as far as Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” So he returned.

Aww. People can be pretty messy.  David might have loved Michal, but Michal had a new husband, and Paltiel loved her very much and followed her like a lovesick puppy until Abner stopped him and told Paltiel to go back home.

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All David’s conditions are met, Abner has surrendered, David has Michal back as his wife, and our study scripture for today ends in 2 Samuel 3:20-21a,

Then Abner and twenty men with him came to David at Hebron. And David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him.  Abner said to David, “Let me arise and go and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may be king over all that your soul desires.”

And David finally becomes king of all Israel, fulfilling the Lord’s selection as king.  I thought this was kind of a weird spot to end or story today, though.  Most soap operas continue week after week after week, but we get about 30 minutes, and we have a lot of unanswered questions.  Did they all live happily ever after?

          VI.      They All Lived Happily Ever After.  Not.

Short answer:  No.  Not really.

Michal was not happy to be returned to David.  In the years they were apart, David wasn’t exactly pining away for her.  During the years they were separated, David took a 2nd wife and then a 3rd, each time making political marriages to secure money and supplies.  While David was living in the dessert, Michal’s affection for David began to fade.  When Abner sent for he and gave her back to David, Michal pleaded to stay with Paltiel, the lovesick puppy. 

By all accounts, Michal and David never regained intimacy; the scripture says that Michal remained childless.  The last time we hear about Michal is after she and David fight when the Ark of the Covenant is brought back into Jerusalem, and scripture doesn’t mention her again.

Abner probably had aspirations of becoming a powerful figure under David, but those aspirations were unfulfilled.  Joab, David’s captain, had been away during this time, but when he returns and finds Abner at the city gate immediately kills Abner in revenge for killing Joab’s brother Asahel.

Joab stayed in Israel for many many years, serving King David, until later in David’s life.  David’s son Solomon is set to inherit the title of King from his father David, but Joab offers his allegiance to David’s oldest son Adonijah and eventually flees, assassinated years later and buried somewhere in the wilderness.

Ish-bosheth was assassinated shortly by two of his own army captains shortly after Abner gave away Israel to David.  David honored Ish-bosheth as a king and had him buried in Abner’s grave.

       VII.      Conclusion

There are lots of little lessons in todays scripture.  Perhaps you saw something in one of those characters that resonated with you.  Broken dreams of love.  Aspirations of power to rule.  Revenge against those who hurt you.  I wanted to focus just on the history today, just to lay a groundwork of how messy people can be. 

Probably what I found so compelling is that everybody was messy, everybody had problems, everybody made mistakes.  And yet, our of all thes dysfunctional people, David was considered a man after God’s own heart. 

And it occurred to me that a good summary could probably be the same thing the Lord told the prophet Samuel when David was selected over his older brother Eliab.  People look at what we say and what we do.  The Lord look at our heart.  It doesn’t matter if we succeed or fail, the Lord loves us for who He created.

David did indeed become king of all Israel.  David begat Solomon, and then a great many begats occurred in Matthew chapter 1 until approximately 1000 years later, our Lord Jesus Christ was born to show us how non-messy people are supposed to live.  And He has invited us to invite Him in, so that we are not defined by our own failures, but by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ who lives within us.

I don’t know if I’m as messy as David or Abner or Michal.  I know I make my own messy mistakes.  But praise be to Jesus that I’m not defined by what I made, but by what He made.

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David was a man after God’s own heart, and received an earthly crown.  If we seek Jesus, we too receive a crown.  Scripture mentions the joy of receiving these crowns, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Victory, the Crown of Life, the Crown of Glory, the Crown of Rejoicing.  In the times yet to come, the book of Revelation tells us we joyfully throw these crowns at the feet of Jesus when we all get to heaven.

When we all get to heaven

What a day of rejoicing that will be

When we all see Jesus

We’ll sing and shout the victory

To God be the glory.  Amen.

Our Protector

I.      Introduction

I see we all arrived safely at church this morning.  Raise your hand if you’re not here.

Today we’re going to study how the Lord protects us, and I thank the Lord He protected all of us this morning and brought us safely here.  I’m not sure we all stopped to think how the Lord hand a hand in our safety this morning.  The Lord’s protection is ever surrounding us.  Sometimes we notice, sometimes we don’t.  He protects us from the big things – there are many threats on the world stage right now, from North Korea threatening to nuke the US Territory of Guam.  Guam has a tiny population.  I’m sure when the news broke, three fishermen in Guam looked up and said, “What?  What did we do?”Slide2

And God protects us in the small things, closer to home.  How many saw Chris’ video of driving lessons with his daughter?  Chris, did you feel protected?Slide3

Let’s begin with Psalm 141, a prayer from David to the Lord for His divine protection.

II.      We Need His Protection

This Psalm of David begins with praise and worship to the One who deserves praise and worship.  Psalm 141:1-2,

O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.

It is right to give the Lord the praise He deserves, for the Lord alone can answer prayers.  We know that the Lord answers prayers, and we also know that the Lord works on His own timetable.  When David says, “hasten to me,” does He think the Lord is somehow far away?

No, not at all.  David is keenly aware that the Lord is always near.  I know we do not always feel like the Lord is near.  Sometimes it seems as though He is far away, but I once heard that if you’re ever feeling the Lord is far away, it’s not because He left you.  It’s because you left Him, and maybe it’s time to turn around and go back to the place where you left Him.

No, David’s prayer is for the Lord to act quickly, to answer his prayer now.  When we pray to the Lord, it’s ok to ask for the Lord to speed things up a little, to answer our prayers quickly.  Too often we dismiss our own prayers saying, “if it is the Lord’s will.”  And that is true, if it is the Lord’s will, He will answer.  But the Lord hears the pleas of the heartbroken who turn to Him, and we can ask for the prayers of our heart to be answered quickly.

Whether the Lord answers quickly or on a timetable that we can’t see, it is right to continue to praise the Lord.  David asks the Lord to consider his heartfelt prayers as incense, as an evening sacrifice.  And while offering tithes or service or other offerings to the Lord are sacrifices, nothing is as pleasing to the Lord as turning our hearts to Him and seeking His will.

III.      Protection from Within

David goes on in verse 3-4,

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness
With men who do iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

You know, we often cry out to the Lord to save us, but often we are our own worst enemies.  We eat too much, and then ask the Lord to help with our weight.  We sit in front of the television night after night, then ask the Lord to grant us the health that normally comes from exercising.  We say hurtful things to someone, then ask the Lord to repair our relationships.  We need the Lord’s protection from our own selves so that we do not corrupt ourselves.

First, David asks the Lord to keep watch over the doors of his lips.  I know this would be highly unusual, but have you ever said something you regret?  Ever?  I know, it’s a surprise to me, too.  But in this world, our flesh does not always obey the will of the Spirit, and we sin and go against the will of God.  And our tongues are the worst offender.  No wonder David prays for the Lord’s help to keep his mouth shut.

Let’s look at James 3 and see what the Lord says about our speech.  James talks about how small the tongue is, but also how powerful it is.  James 3:3-5,

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.  Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.  So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

We want our heart to be right with God, and God sees our inner beings first, but what we say, what comes out of our mouth, reflects who we are.  What we say reflects exactly who we are in Christ and where we are in our spiritual growth.  It’s more important than service or tithing or teaching.  Jesus says it this way in Matthew 15:18,

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

If you ever catch yourself gossiping, slandering somebody behind their backs, saying crude or vulgar things, remember this:  If it came out of you, it must have been inside you.

In the Psalm, David goes on to pray that the Lord will not only seal his lips, but also seal his heart.

Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness
With men who do iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

Let’s discuss something uncomfortable about the human condition:  sin is fun.  It must have an appeal to it, or people wouldn’t be drawn to the bondage of sin.  Let’s look for a second at what we call the Seven Deadly Sins.  This list has its roots in Proverbs 16, then refined by monks in the 4th Century, and finally listed in the form we know now in 590 AD by Pope Gregory I.  The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

Each of these seven deadly sins takes a gift from God and perverts it into a sinful desire.  Which of the Seven Deadly Sins am I tormented with?  Why, all seven of them, of course.  The only one I haven’t committed yet this morning is “sloth,” but that’s only because I haven’t gotten around to it.

Slide10

Lust: God provides beauty to demonstrate His majesty, and it is right to desire the good things that God desires.  But lust converts the enjoyment of beauty into a primal urge of disobedience.  It is considered the easiest sin that can be done within one’s own mind.  According to Henry Edward Manning, an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1800’s, the impurity of lust transforms one into “a slave of the devil.”

Slide11

Gluttony: God provides food for nourishment, to fuel our bodies in service to Him.  And Christ calls us not to live for ourselves alone, but to love and serve one another.  But gluttony worships the created food and not the Creator of the food, and places our own wants above the needs of others.

Slide12Greed:  God promises to provide for all of our needs, and remind us that our security is in Him and that we should trust Him to provide for us.  But who hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery?  Greed says I do not need to depend on God, I can rely on the world to provide all my needs.

Slide13Sloth: The Lord wants us to be diligent, to be His hands and feet for the church, but not rely on our strength.  We are to rely on the Spirit within us.  If we pervert that virtue, though, we let God do everything without participating at all.  The word “sloth” is originally from a Latin term that means “without care” and demonstrates a laziness in mental, spiritual, and physical states.

Slide14Wrath:  Jesus set an example of righteous anger when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers at the temple.  The moneychangers were taking what was meant for God and profiting from it.  But when we are angry, it is rarely righteous.  We get angry because we didn’t get our way.  In many ways, it is the opposite of love.  Wrath is hate.

Slide15Envy: God calls us to be compassionate toward others, and to be satisfied with the lot God has provided to us.  But envy says, it isn’t enough for me if somebody else has more.  I want what they have.  Envy is probably the second sin in the bible, as Cain slew Able, envious of the Lord’s favor.

Slide16Pride:  The father of all sins.  Christ demonstrated what it meant to serve with humility, even though as Lord of the Universe all things will bow before Him.  Yet Christ humbly washed the feet of His disciples.  Pride says I am too important to be humble.  Pride says I need not bow before God when it is I who deserves praise.

Protect me, Lord from myself.  I am full of sin and malice and evil thoughts, and the only way to overcome these seven deadly sins is to continually fill myself with the Holy Spirit so there is no room for anything except Your will.

The Seven Deadly Sins are everywhere.  Even on Gilligan’s Island.Slide17

  • The Skipper: Wrath. I thought he might be gluttony, but the skipper solved every problem with anger.
  • Gilligan: Gluttony. Ate everything he could and would do things he knew wasn’t right for a coconut cream pie.
  • Ginger:   She was constantly using her sex to try to manipulate others.
  • MaryAnn: Envy, always wanted what Ginger had.
  • Thurston: Greed. Everything was about the money.
  • Howell: Sloth. I never saw her lift a finger to do anything, ever.
  • Professor: Pride. His intellect made him better than everyone else on the island.

Another theological insight from Gilligan’s Island is that you can sing Amazing Grace to the theme song.  Just sayin’.

Another island I’m reminded of is the one on “Lost.”  Ultimately, regardless of who we hurt in this life, who we fail, the tasks we botch or refuse completely, there is one judge, the Creator, our Father in Heaven.  Some sins are against others or against ourselves, but all sins are against our Father and He alone has the authority and ability to judge us for what we have done and what we haven’t done.  I know that if there was a possibility that I could lose my salvation, I would have done it already a dozen times or more.Slide18

Ever heard this silly prayer?

Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossiped,
Haven’t lost my temper,
Haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I’m really glad about that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I’m going to get out of bed.
And from then on,
I’m going to need a lot more help.

The Lord protects me from myself; my salvation is secure, my security is in Him.

          IV.      Protection from Without

What were we studying?  Oh yes, Psalm 141.  So after David prays to the Lord to respond quickly and to protect him from his own sinful self, David then prays for protection from external enemies.  Let’s continue with Psalm 141, verse 5:

Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;
It is oil upon the head;
Do not let my head refuse it,

When my sinful self has taken control of my life, I am thankful I have Christian friends and family that will “smite me in kindness.”

This is probably one of the most important functions of the church, to strengthen one another in Christ.  I have a secular job as an engineer, and it’s in a diverse group of people, those with faith, some without, many with a different faith.  I’m blessed that I work with so many Christians, but it’s not the same as church.  I like what it says in 1 Corinthians 14:26,

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.

Each one of us has a role that only we can fulfill.  And when you fulfill your role and I fulfill my role, we build each other up so that the world outside may not tear us down.

Psalm 141, verse 5-6,

For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
Their judges are thrown down by the sides of the rock,
And they hear my words, for they are pleasant.

There is no doubt that David was praying for his enemies to be dashed against cliffs.  Unlike David, though, Christians have the Holy Spirit living within us, and Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies.

But let’s keep in mind that we reap what we sew.  Those that are hostile to the love of God often find themselves at rock bottom before they will consider that a superior God rules the universe.  I know someone who considers themselves a Christian, but you cannot tell from their lifestyle.  I used to be just like them.  And I know, and David gives me an example here, that it’s ok for us to pray for their difficulties, if that difficulty eventually leads toward God’s will.  I don’t pray for them to be thrown against a cliff, of course, but I sometimes pray that their dependence on others will fail them so they learn to depend on the God they say they trust.

You can tell David loves his enemies; he wished for their failure, but he also wished they will heed his pleasant words for them to do what is right.

Verse 7,

As when one plows and breaks open the earth,
Our bones have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

David is saying that those who don’t trust in God will eventually come to nothing.  Their bodies return to the earth, bones scatter at the entrance to Hades.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14,

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Slide23Before we become believers, we are lost and don’t even know it, rudderless ships headed to destruction.  Among those that do not consider Jesus as their Savior, I see a great many destructive philosophies and odd beliefs.  One distant relative of mine believes we are descended from aliens and when she mediates she can sometimes see alien being projecting their auras into our plane of existence.  Another relative believes we are constantly reincarnated after death, and our next life depends on the good or bad we do in this life.  In other words, whether he makes good choices or bad choices, eventually he’s going to get a do-over.  And friends that don’t want to talk about it at all, that this life will just simply end, and we “check out.”

There are many ways to end up at David’s “mouth of Sheol.”  And only one way to eternal life.  No one comes to the father except through the son.  And that is why in verse 8, David says,

For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord;
In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.

David focus his eyes on the one true God who is in control of all things.  With a focus on God, we have comfort that we do not worry about what the world may do to us.  When we contrast verse 7 with verse 8, we see the fate of the nonbeliever is destruction, but the fate of the believer is eternal safety and refuge from all evil.

Verse 7 is saying that the bones of those who ignore God will eventually rot to nothing because they have ignored Him.  In the meantime, I (David) am trusting in His guidance.

That last line, “do not leave me defenseless,” is from the NASB, but I’m not sure it’s a good translation here.  The Hebrew phrase literally translated asks God not to taking his soul, strip it naked, and abandon it.  I think the King James translation, “leave not my soul destitute,” is more accurate.

Verses 9-10,

Keep me from the jaws of the trap which they have set for me,
And from the snares of those who do iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I pass by safely.

And this brings us back to our trip to church this morning.  Genesis 3 tells us that, as a result of the fall of Adam, the land we dwell is cursed.  When we look at the horrible things that happen in this world, it’s easy to become frightened.  Terrorists in cars plowing through pedestrians.  Diseases that send people to hospitals.  North Korea still wants to nuke Guam.  I think that avoiding nuclear war in part depends on strong, dependable, and trustworthy world leaders like Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump.  That’ll keep you up at night.

            V.      Conclusion

God protects us from so many things.  He protects us from ourselves; He protects us from the sinful choices we make.  He protects us from evil from the world.  He protects us from the evils of our own sins.  He has given us every tool to protect us from the evils without and the evils within.  We equip ourselves with the armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-13,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Slide26The Lord’s protection always surrounds us, and always indwells us.  In the Lord may we find refuge, in the Lord may we find eternal life.

To God be the glory.  Amen.