Archive for August, 2012

2 Samuel 17

2 Samuel 17 has Absalom getting counsel about what to do with his father David.  He wants to attack and take David out, so he gets counsel from Ahithophel to do exactly that.  Recruit 12,000 men and go get David.  But Absalom decided to get another opinion, so he reaches out to Hushai who has a different opinion.  His direction was that attacking David would be a bad decision the way Ahithophel had advised.  So now Absalom has two different opinions to deal with.

Absalom decides “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel”.  This approach was to gather all the army and attack en mass.  But Hushai had some loyalty to David so he sends a couple priests to go warn David of the plan.  David needed to get the people across the Jordan so they weren’t easily attacked – and that is what happened.

The messaging to David was a bit challenging because as the messengers went, they were noticed so Jonathan and  Ahimaaz were hidden in a well until those looking for them took off to a different place.  “After they had gone, the men came up out of the well, and went and told King David”.  They had been saved by a female servant who hid them in a well and sprinkled grain over the cover.  The warning was heeded and David led his people across the river.

On the other side, David’s men “brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, 29 honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat”.  They were taking care of the people and getting them fed.  There was wisdom in meeting those needs and being sure the people were cared for.  For now, the attack has been stalled.

2 Samuel 16

2 Samuel 16 has David being met by Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth.  David and his men were met with a load of food that Ziba had prepared for him and his men.  “Today the house of Israel will give back the kingdom to my father”. David gave Ziba what was his and continued on his way.  As he reached Bahurim, Shimei was accusing David of all sorts of wrongs done to Saul.  It is interesting that he not only attacked David with words, but also “threw stones at him”.

That seems like a pretty big mistake doesn’t it?  Throw stones at the king.  And not just a little bit, but Shemei was walking along the road on the other side and kept throwing rocks at David.  His men wanted to get rid of Shimei, but David intervenes and looks to see if this was a message form God.  David was sensitive that this rock throwing maniac may have been a message from the Lord, so he refuses to allow the men to get rid of Shimei.  David just continued on and ignored this distraction rather than make it a big deal and take action.
Sometimes we just need to ignore the distractions and not react.  It would have been easy for David to just turn his guys loose and get rid of Shimei.  But that would not really have gained much.  By continuing the journey he just walked  away from the situation.  But as they continued their journey, back on the ranch David’s son Absalom was creating a different kind of havoc.  He went into David’s concubines and made himself “a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened”.  He did it in public by pitching a tent on the room where the concubines lived.  And he did it in the sight of all Israel.  That was quite a message to send to the king.

Psalm 55

Psalm 55 has the writer again calling out to God for a “plea for mercy”.  The writer is under attack, and is being continually attacked and pressed.  He is overwhelmed and desperate for God to protect him.  He fears ruin and oppression, and life is a challenge and struggle.  And the attack is coming from the inside – “it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend”.  Often the worst attacks come from those inside our camp – from those we know and trust.

The writer shows us what to do when we need God’s help.  “But I call to God, and the Lord will save me…..Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice”.  We need to seek God’s face – to lay our request at His feet.  He alone can save us.  He alone will hear our prayer and respond.  “God will give ear and humble them”.  God is the One who can take action and correct the challenges we face.  He alone can protect us. He alone can come to our aid.

The promise is clear: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved”.  That is a promise we can cling to.  God is our sustenance.  He will come along side and save us.  And as the psalmist shows us – the key is to put our trust in God.  “I will trust in you” is what we need to be praying and saying.  God is worthy of our trust.  He alone can handle the situation we are in.  But the key is that we have to come to Him with our burden and trust Him.  Are you trusting God with the challenges you face?

Psalm 28

Psalm 28 is a plea for God to come to the rescue.  The psalmist is asking God to separate him from those who do evil and should “go down to the pit”.  He pleads for God to “Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary”.  He asks God to “Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward”.  There is a definite difference between good and evil, and the psalmist is calling on God to treat the two differently.

Why should God show mercy on the psalmist?  “Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands”.  At the end of the day, that is really a key between good and evil – how we view God.  If we recognize who God is and the power He has, and fear Him as we should, we will not disregard God’s works and the power of His hands.  We will know that He is the Creator and the all powerful Lord of all.  It is when we lose sight of whom God is and how He is almighty and all powerful that we drift off into evil.

The psalmist shows us how we should act.  We need to give glory to God.  Here are the writers words, which make an awesome prayer and statement of who God is:

–       “Blessed be the Lord!

–       for he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy

–       The Lord is my strength and my shield

–       in him my heart trusts

–       I am helped

–       my heart exults

–       with my song I give thanks to him

–       The Lord is the strength of his people

–       he is the saving refuge of his anointed

–       save your people and bless your heritage

–       Be their shepherd and carry them forever

How do see God?  Is He in the right place in your life?  Do you regard Him as who He is – the Creator and Deliverer of mankind?

He is worthy of our praise.  He hears our pleas.  He is our strength.  He can be trusted.  He is our refuge.  He will save us if we come to Him and carry us forever.  God doesn’t move.  The question is whether or not we keep Him where He belongs and lean on His love!

Psalm 13

Psalm 13 is a chapter longing for God and relationship.  “Will you forget me forever….how long will you hide your face from me”?  It can feel sort of lonely at times in our walk with God.  We can convince ourselves that God doesn’t care, and that we are on the journey of life all by ourselves.  That is never the case – God is always there – but sometimes we just lose that connection.  How does it happen?  There are lots of things that can cause relationships to go dark and seem like they are ended.  That seems to be how the psalmist feels as he writes this chapter.

Our walk with God is truly a relationship – it is like any relationship we are in.  Relationships are two sided.  Relationships take investment and time.  Relationships are hard work.  I often find when someone says that God is gone – He is AWOL in their journey together – that a few common traits pop up.  Often they have stopped praying and reading God’s Word.  Often they blame God that He isn’t meeting them halfway.  Often they have something in their life that they know is wrong but they are unwilling to repent and give it up.  Often they have moved away from God themselves but want God to pursue them and do all the work.

The reality is that God doesn’t move.  So if you don’t feel close to Him, I can pretty much guarantee where the problem lies.  Take a good look in the mirror to discover that truth.  But God is always pursuing us. He is always trying to draw us back into relationship.  But that is what He desires – a relationship.  Not a time where we dump our problems and ask Him to fix them, and our way at that.  Not a situation where we can use Him when we need help and then put Him on the shelf when we think we have it under our control again.  That isn’t a relationship.  It won’t work.

The way to get back on a strong walk with God is to lean into Him when times seem dry.  It is to spend more time in prayer and in His Word when it feels like He isn’t speaking. You don’t build a relationship by sitting back and waiting to see what happens.  You build a relationship by doubling down in the tiem you invest, the work you do, the focus you place on it.  The psalmist finally comes to that realization when he writes: “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me”.  We need to remember God’s blessings and rejoice in them.  We need to sing praises to Him and honor Him for who He is.  We need to praise His holy name and recall His goodness.  That is how you restore a relationship – you focus on the other person – you become other centered.  You want to walk well with God – put Him first.  The rest will fall into place!

Psalm 12

Psalm 12 speaks of a very bad culture.  People have lost their way.  “The godly one is gone….faithful have vanished….everyone utters lies…double heart they speak”.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  As much as we may want to believe that man is good, we aren’t.  We are pretty pathetic in fact.  We have to be careful who we hang out with.  Being in the presence of people like these will only cause us to tend to fall into those same sorts of behavior.  We need to pay attention to those in our patch.

With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us”.  The tongue is a powerful thing.  It has the ability to build up or tear down.  With it we can speak things that impact people very positively, or we can destroy.  We have to handle our tongue well.  It is a powerful gift from God that can do so much good when used right.  It does require us to be intentional about how we use it however.  Anything less than intention will get us in trouble real fast.

God says “I will now arise”.  God is not held back.  He is able to do what He chooses.  He will complete His plan no matter what we may choose to do.  Our failure to control our tongue, our attitude, our choices, even our life will not limit what He can do.  God is able – more than able – to do all that He desires.  We also see here that “the words of the Lord are pure words”. God doesn’t have any agenda beyond truth.  He wants to have us understand His truth and live by it.  He is not in the manipulation business, or spinning things.  His Word is just plain truth.  We need to read it, and heed it!

Psalm 4

Psalm 4 has the writer calling out to God.  “Answer me when I call… gracious to me and hear my prayer”.  We need to seek God’s ear and lay our requests at the feet of His throne.  Too often we come to God last with our requests.  We do all we can to handle things alone and if it doesn’t work out we send the SOS up to God.  That is not how prayer should work.  We should start our day with Him.  We should spend time on our knees and in His presence seeking His love and grace.

God does answer.  The psalmist tells us “you have given me relief when I was in distress”.  God loves to show Himself strong.  But far too often we don’t ever give Him that opportunity.  We scheme and plot and do what we think is best on a hope.  If things don’t work out we go to plan B which is often to pray, quite fervently at that.  We have messed things up even more, so we know we need to be bailed out.  God isn’t our genie in a bottle.  He isn’t there just to fix our mistakes.  We need to pray very differently than most of us do.

We get some guidance on living in this chapter too:

–       “Be angry, and do not sin

–       ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent

–       Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord

We need to learn the power of self-control.  Just because we feel or think something doesn’t mean we should spew it around.  Sometimes we need to ponder and be quiet.  We always need to be in control of our responses.  That happens only when we put our trust in the Lord, not ourselves.

Who will show us some good”?  There is only one answer to that.  It is our Lord God.  I love what the psalmist says: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound”.  God is the source of joy.  It isn’t something we can muster up on our own.  He alone is the source.  He alone is the one who makes it happen.  And there is abundance in that joy – more than the joy of a great harvest.  The thing we have to do is seek joy from the source, not from things around us.  God alone can provide and produce it in us.  We need to seek His love and joy filled grace!

Psalm 3

Psalm 3 has the psalmist feeling a bit overwhelmed.  “How many are my foes….many are rising against me”.  Ever feel that way – that the trials of life and the people around you are all against you.  It is a lonely place, and it often happens to those who are leading.  We all are leaders in many ways.  Be it in our marriages, as parents, as part of our work, in church or other organizations we may serve – we are all leaders and sometimes it just feels like everyone is against us.  Life can be a very lonely place as the psalmist points out.

Sometimes that feeling of everyone being against us grows to people talking about us.  “Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God”.  Ever been smeared or had others gossip about you?  That too can be a lonely place to be.  Words can hurt, but the truth is more powerful.  We have to cling to the rock that will save our soul.  God is never far from us, even when it feels like we are all alone.  We just need to stop and make sure we are plugged into the source of all power.

The psalmist goes on to remind us these things about God who is:

–       “a shield

–       Glory

–       Lifter of my head

God is able to sustain us.  He is able to lift us up.  The writer here “cried aloud to the Lord” and guess what?  “He answered me”.  Does that surprise you?  That God listens and responds?  It shouldn’t as scripture is filled with promises about God and answering prayer.  My experience is that often God doesn’t answer prayer because we never ask it.  We don’t actually stop and sit at His feet and seek His face.  We just expect Him to know what we need and deliver.  It doesn’t work that way.

The writer goes on to say “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me”.  God is always there.  We can depend on Him.  And because of that, we should have the same response as the psalmist: “I will not be afraid”.  God is with us.  We can trust Him.  We need not live in fear but need to live in His presence.  “Salvation belongs to the Lord”.  He is the One who is in control.  We must seek Him and bring our cares and concerns to Him.  And then we can sleep and know that He will sustain and take care of us.  He is the great I AM.

2 Samuel 15

2 Samuel 15 is a chapter of deceit and power seeking.  Absalom is scheming to take over the kingdom from his father David.  He stands by the gates greeting people coming into the city to see the king, and intercepts them offering to be their judge and resolve their issues.  It wasn’t his place – but he stole the job and used it for his own gain.  “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” by serving them in place of the king.  Not with the king’s permission, but deceitfully just taking on that role.  Remember that Absalom is not only son, but also has been invited back to the kingdom after killing another of David’s sons.  This is a breach of trust at extreme levels.

After four years of this, the plan moves to the next level.  Don’t miss the fact that this was not some simple short term situation – Absalom intentionally worked to steal the hearts of the people for four years.  I can’t explain how this didn’t hit someone’s radar at the kings palace but somehow it went on under the radar.  And after Absalom thought he had enough loyal followers, “the conspiracy grew strong” and the motive became clear, he was out to overthrow the king.

David is warned of the pending effort and decides it is time to get out of Dodge while he still can.  So the king and his servants pack up and begin to head out of town.  The king stood and watched who was proceeding with him, and a couple of folks are stopped and talked with.  The first was Ittai the Gittite who had only recently came to the king.  David says “You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us”?  It wasn’t making sense that Ittai would become a fugitive as he hadn’t been with the king for long at all.

I love the answer.  “But Ittai answered the king, As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be”.  That is loyalty my friends.  That is putting the well being of another ahead of our own.  Ittai had no reason to make this choice other than the will to serve the king.  And that wasn’t looking like all that great of a decision at the moment.  But his loyalty was stronger than his desire to protect his own life.  He was committed to serving the king.  Want to make an impact for life – be loyal to those in your patch!

2 Samuel 14

2 Samuel 14 is the story of restoration.  Absalom has been living away after killing his brother Amnon for raping his sister.  He had fled to Geshur to escape being killed by the king and his men.  Joab knew that King David had a heart that “went out to Absalom”.  Even though he was angry that Absalom had killed his other son, he knew that deep down the king still loved his son.  So often we allow “life” to get in the way of relationships.  Something happens and we separate ourselves from those we love.  Absalom did a bad thing but David knew it was deserved.

Joab was a wise man.  He asked a woman named Tekoa to take a message to the king that would cause him to rethink the situation at hand.  Tekoa came and painted a story of mercy and grace.  She set up the picture perfectly, and when the king agrees that this situation had to be fixed she said this: “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again”.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  You hear the story and get involved to correct the situation only to find out that you are the one the story is about.

It took a lot of guts for Joab to get involved here.  He wasn’t sure what would happen or what the kings response might be.  Tekoa also showed great courage – she was the one who had to actually go deliver the message.  But God used here mightily to make peace and lead people to move toward restoration.  God took a servant’s heart and a willing messenger to begin to restore a relationship that had led to separation for many years.  The king said “go, bring back the young man Absalom….Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.”

Can you imagine the joy Joab had as he went and brought Absalom back?  Absalom lived apart from the king, but wasn’t satisfied with being unable to see his father the king.  So he made numerous requests to Joab to come see him, but Joab refused.  So Absalom sets Joab’s field of barley on fire.  That seems a bit over the top, but it did work and Joab came to see why he did that.  Absalom asks Joab to go to the king and allow him to come see him.  Joab does, the king agrees, and Absalom comes into the kings presence where he his greeted.  Restoration is hard work.  This would not have happened if not for the work of Joab and Tekoa who were willing to get involved in a messy situation to bring God’s grace and mercy into the middle of a very messy situation.  We need to listen to God’s leading as we too may be called to help restore relationships in our patch, starting with our own!

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