Category Archives: 2017 – July/Aug

Editorial: The Psalm Which Holds The Bible In High Regard (July/August, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

In keeping with the theme of this issue which focuses on David, we would be amiss if we did not mention the book of Psalms.  David authored a great many of the psalms in this Old Testament book, and there is much to be gained by us as Christians by studying the psalms found within it (cf. Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Within them David and the other inspired authors cry out to God during times of sorrow, despair and trouble and praise Him with gratitude and awe for His kindness, power and wisdom.  These deeply heart-felt and personal talks with the Almighty lend great insight to us as to how to greatly improve our prayer relationship with God, teach us how to lean on Him and revere Him instead of taking Him for granted, and show us that we are definitely not the first followers of God to struggle with sin, sorrow,  and severe trials which bring us low.

The Psalms also teach us about the importance of God’s Word and the impact it must have on our daily lives.  Perhaps no psalm teaches this in greater detail than Psalm 119.  The author of this psalm is not formally revealed in Scripture; some believe David wrote it while others tend to think it was written later during the time of Babylonian captivity.  Regardless of its human authorship, its ultimate Source is God Himself (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  176 verses in length, this psalm makes up the longest chapter in the Bible and is two chapters away from being in the exact middle of the biblical canon of Genesis-Revelation.  It is very interesting that the longest psalm in the book of Psalms and the longest chapter in the entirety of Scripture is completely dedicated to showing the great need to know God’s Word and the numerous benefits which come from meditating upon it and obeying it.  Thus, this editorial will examine several of the precepts found within this psalm in order for us to better clearly see the value of the Bibles we possess and how important it is to meditate upon them much more than we perhaps do and apply their commands to our lives.

The psalm begins by stating that those “whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord…who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart” are “blessed,” ’esher in Hebrew, literally “happy” (vs. 1-2).  We must note how verses 1 and 3 correlate “those whose way is blameless” and those who “do no wrong” with “those who walk in the law of the Lord” and “walk in his ways,” showing that one cannot be forgiven of sins by God without obeying His Word.

We then read how the psalmist states that God has commanded that His precepts “be kept diligently” (v. 4); Christians likewise are commanded to be diligent in keeping God’s command to add Christ-like qualities to their faith (2 Pet. 1:5-10).  The psalmist then prays that his ways “may be steadfast in keeping your statutes”, anticipating that “having my eyes fixed on all your commandments” will result in avoiding being “put to shame” (vs. 5-6).  Looking back over our lives, how many times can we see that we would have avoided being put to shame ourselves in various ways if we had only done what God had told us to do in the first place?

In a society which encourages giving priority and acceptance to the young, in particular the young who engage in and uphold debaucherously sinful immoralities, the question asked in verse 9 is more relevant than ever:  “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.”  Yet no young person will be able to do this unless their parents take seriously their charge to teach them God’s Word right from the beginning of their lives on a daily basis (Deut. 6:6-7; Eph. 6:4).

Want to overcome sin?  Be able to say along with the psalmist:  “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (v. 11).  Yet the only reason the psalmist was able to say this because he sought God whole-heartedly (v. 10), talked of God’s rules with others (v. 13), meditated upon His precepts and fixed his eyes on God’s ways (v. 15), and found just as much delight in “the way of your testimonies” and “your statutes” as he did in “all riches” (vs. 14, 16).  It is therefore no wonder that he had stored up God’s Word in his heart so much that it not only helped him avoid sin, but it also helped him to not forget it (v. 16).  Brethren, are we the same?  Do we find great delight in studying the Bible, so much so that we entreat God to teach it to us as the psalmist did (v. 12)?  What topic is discussed by us with others the most: politics, television, sports, the kids, gossip, complaints…or the laws of God?  Do we find it difficult to remember what the Bible says…yet find it easy to remember sports statistics?  Is God’s Word truly stored up in our hearts?  How much sin is in our lives will let us know.

We ask God to “deal bountifully” with us just as the psalmist did (v. 17), but is our purpose for wanting God’s blessings in our lives like the psalmist’s?  “…that I may live and keep your word.”  Could we honestly join the psalmist in saying, “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (v. 20)?  Are the “testimonies” of God found in His Word our “counselors” (v. 24)…or do we rely more upon our own wisdom or feelings for counsel?

Many believe they can be faithful in the sight of God without following the Bible.  Yet when the psalmist had “chosen the way of faithfulness,” he “set (God’s) rules before” him (v. 30).  He clung to the Lord’s testimonies (v. 31), ran in the way of His commandments (v. 32), and asked God repeatedly to teach him “the way of your statutes” and give him understanding in order to keep His law (vs. 33-34).  We rightly cite Paul’s words in Romans about how faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), but Psalms 119 shows us exactly how God wants us to hear His Word and the type of faith He wants it to produce.  Christians, are we like the psalmist?

Despite the protection from severe, life-ending persecution the First Amendment gives us in this country, many American Christians hesitate to openly speak of their faith to others because they fear ridicule and ostracism.  The psalmist was not like that.  He prayed, “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word” (vs. 41-42).  He acknowledged the ridicule thrown his way, but he trusted in God and His Word so much that he wanted to answer the ridicule.  He was not afraid to “speak of your testimonies before kings,” knowing that he would “not be put to shame” because “I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (vs. 46-47).  He saw that “the insolent utterly deride me,” but nonetheless “I do not turn away from your law” (v. 51).  No matter what, even “though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,” the psalmist was determined to “not forget your law” (v. 61).  Indeed, in spite of the persecution thrown his way he still acknowledged that God had “dealt well with your servant…according to your word” (v. 65).  He even saw the spiritual benefit of his hardships when he wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (v. 67) and “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (v. 71).  In fact, the psalmist saw the benefit of delighting in following the commandments of God when he said, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life” (vs. 92-93).  What an example for us to follow!

The psalmist loved God’s law so much that it was “my meditation all the day” (v. 97).  As a result of his continual daily study of God’s Word, he was “wiser than my enemies,” had “more understanding than all my teachers,” and “understand more than the aged” (vs. 98-100).  More importantly, it resulted in him being able to say, “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word” (v. 101).  Friends, if we can get to where studying and obeying the Bible is “sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103), then we will not only gain wisdom (“Through your precepts I get understanding”) but also come to “hate every false way” (v. 104).  That is how God’s Word can be “a lamp to (our) feet and a light to (our) path” (v. 105).

Do our eyes “shed streams of tears” because “people do not keep your law” (v. 136)?  Do we have a “zeal” which “consumes” us because our “foes forget your words” (v. 139)?  As I study Psalm 119, what continually keeps my attention is the evidence that the psalmist was a man whose whole life completely revolved around pleasing God, striving to be like Him in every way possible, and passionately wishing that everyone else could be the same way.  What great benefit could come if every Christian on earth could be the same way!

Much more could be said about Psalm 119.  An in-depth study is far beyond the scope of this piece.  So we shall close by examining one final passage:  “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (v. 160).  God’s Word will never pass away, and only by whole-heartedly taking into account everything it says will one come to know and obey the truth.  May we all come to know it and obey it more fully!

— Jon

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

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David And Bathsheba: The Cascade Into Sin — Tassie Smith

When is the last time you said to yourself, “Hmm, I think I’ll strip down and take a bath on the roof?”  Never?  Me neither!  I have also never committed adultery nor murdered anyone. But the familiar tale of David and Bathsheba reveals to all of us the nature of sin—how it cascades from “small” sins into greater ones, how we excuse sin to ourselves, and how the consequences are not only profound but generational.

The Cascade

The first sin in David’s story wasn’t actually lusting after Bathsheba.  David was a war leader, a general/king.  From the days when the women sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten-thousands,” David could not be defeated (1 Sam. 18:7).  Yet this year when spring dawns and the kings go out to battle, David doesn’t go.  The Ark of the Covenant goes.  The army of Israel goes.  But David?  He’s lounging about at home.  Not only is David avoiding his clear responsibility, but he sends the Ark. What laziness and blasphemous arrogance to send the Ark of the presence of God and stay at home himself (2 Sam. 11:1,11)!

Although “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” in David’s case Satan uses his idle eyes. In peeping Tom fashion from his roof-top perch, he sees Bathsheba bathing (2 Sam. 11:2).  I have heard much speculation on Bathsheba’s character.  Was she trying to seduce the king by showing off her assets for the world to see?  No.  Leviticus 12 and 15 suggest that customarily women bathed after their periods (2Samuel 11:4 lends support to this idea).  This bath served as a reminder of a single woman’s virtue.  Each month she had a way to say to the community, “I am innocent.”  For the married woman this bath provided a clear way to show the community that she was not bearing her husband a child this month.  Bathsheba’s bath follows both custom and law.

So far David has been guilty of three sins: laziness, arrogance, and lust. The detail, “Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite” adds a fourth—gross betrayal.  Uriah had been one of his mighty men, a trusted companion and loyal soldier since David fled Saul in the wilderness (2 Sam. 23:39). Knowing full well who she was, David took his friend’s wife to bed (2 Sam. 11:3).

When Bathsheba comes to tell David she is expecting his child, he has a problem.  There is no chance to pass this baby off as Uriah’s; Bathsheba has had her ceremonial monthly bath and Uriah is away.  So David calls for Uriah to come home.  Uriah condemns David with his honor.  The warrior won’t go take his ease at home with his wife while the army and the ark are out in the field (2 Sam. 11:6-11). So David tries again.  If Uriah is drunk, surely he’ll stumble home to be seduced by his wife.  No.  Uriah sleeps again at the king’s gate (2 Sam. 11:12-13).  When trickery won’t work,  David sends him back to the front to die of deliberately poor strategy.

The Excuses

Let’s review.  The sweet singer of Israel, the man after God’s own heart, has been lazy, arrogant, gawking, lustful, disloyal, adulterous, sneaky, and a murderer who drags a subordinate into murder with him. Sin piled upon sin.

How did David justify it to himself? What was going through his mind? We can only imagine.

Laziness — “I deserve a break.”

Arrogance — “The army will be successful if I send God with them.”

Lust  — “I’m just looking.”

Adultery — “It’s just once.”

Betrayal — “Uriah will never know.”

Guile — “I made this mess; I have to fix it!”

Murderer — “No one can know.  Why won’t Uriah cooperate?  It’s his fault.  If he weren’t so ‘honorable,’ he’d go home like I told him!  Soldiers die in battle all the time.  He knows the danger.”

What can break David out of this cycle of self-delusion?  A metaphor.

Nathan the prophet, always a loyal friend to the house of David, comes with a story.  Once a very poor man had a beloved pet lamb.  A rich neighbor had an unexpected guest and slaughtered his neighbor’s pet for dinner (2 Sam. 12:2-3).

David is enraged.  He can’t see the parallel to his own sin, but he can’t miss the evil of the story.  It’s not just theft; something precious has been destroyed by someone who has much more than he needs, someone without pity. Though the rich man deserves to die, David mercifully declares that he must pay back four times what was taken. Thus David declares his own doom because as Nathan said, he is the man (2 Samuel 12:7).

The Parallels

While I am happy to report that neither murder nor adultery are on my conscience. I can easily find parallels to David’s story especially his excuses.

“I deserve a break.”  Sometimes I get sucked into Facebook, Netflix, Pinterest, an online game, a novel or a nap when I really should be working.  Is there something wrong with rest?  No, rest is fantastic.  So good that holy rest made it into the Ten Commandments.  Yet there is a difference between true rest and neglecting our responsibilities.  If dinner is late and the kids are screaming because we’ve been binge-watching Gilmore Girls, perhaps we weren’t “resting” after all.

“I’m just looking.”  For women the temptation is different. Perhaps we are not as tempted to ogle a co-worker in his well-cut Wranglers as our spouses might be, but that does not exclude us from “looking.”  Women are especially vulnerable to friendships that go too far.  We might reconnect with an old flame on Facebook, or have intimate talks with a co-worker who seems kinder or more patient than our husband.  Then there is that handsome dad from soccer who always comments on how nice we look.  We’re not doing anything wrong, we’re just looking…

“Just this once.”  Satan has sunk all our battleships with this lie.  It won’t hurt to take this, touch him, wear those, drink that, go there, watch that, read this, say that—just this once.  This episode in David’s life is a lesson in the swamping consequences of “just this once.”

“No one will ever know.”  None of us are as successful at hiding our sin as we pretend to be.  Our sin is often an open secret.  Are we hiding our envy?  No, our friends are rolling their eyes behind our backs.  No one noticed the extra attention we pay our married co-worker, did they?  Yes, the whole office is gossiping.  But let’s suppose somehow we managed to actually hide our crimes.  Our Father sees in secret (Is. 29:15).  No sin is hidden from His face.  Nor will it be hidden on the last day when we all stand before Him to be judged for our deeds (Rev. 20:12). And don’t forget the closely related lie, “No one will get hurt.”  People do.  In David’s case, lots of people.

“I have to fix it.” The urge to “fix” our mistakes is deadly. Everything about taking responsibility, confessing, repenting, and reconciliation is good.  But “fixing it” values solutions over confessions.  And frequently those solutions take the form of more sin.  David murdered a friend to “solve” the problem of Bathsheba’s baby.  What sins in our life have we tried to “solve” with more sin?  One lie turns into ten.  We are feeling lazy, lie to our boss about being sick, miss crucial time at work, blame a coworker when our project isn’t finished, and then at the last minute desperately steal someone else’s work.

The Consequences

David’s punishment for these sins was profound.  When he declares that the man should repay four times what he had stolen, he announces his own destruction.  David had stolen a wife and all of Uriah’s future sons. Thus it was in the currency of wives and sons that David paid (2 Sam. 12: 1-14).

Did David repent?  Indeed he did.  Faced with Nathan’s story, he humbled himself and begged for God’s forgiveness.  And he received it.  But that did not stop the rush of consequences.  Bathsheba’s first child, the baby that he had tried everything to hide, dies (2 Sam. 12: 15-33).  Then Amnon, David’s son, rapes Tamar, David’s daughter.  What could be more devastating to a father?  Revenge served cold. Two years later her brother Absalom has Amnon murdered.  David has lost an infant, an adult son, a daughter to a life broken in her brother’s home, and now Absalom flees to spend 3 years in exile (2 Sam. 13).

David is only half done.  Two sons down, two to go.  Absalom finally returns from exile, but soon he begins to plot to overthrow his father (2 Sam. 14-15).  When the palace coup begins, David is forced to flee with all his servants for his life. Absalom has a tent pitched on the roof and takes his father’s wives “in the sight of all Israel”—a direct fulfillment of God’s promise that David’s wives would be taken openly like he took Bathsheba secretly (2 Sam. 16).  Still David wants those seeking Absalom to protect the young prince.  Joab, general and long-time friend to Absalom, kills him anyway (2 Sam. 18).  In this late grief, David is exorbitant as before.  He mourns, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Sam. 18:33).

The fourth doomed son, Adonijah, has himself crowned before David died.  Although he was not killed for this during David’s life, when he seeks the virgin who warmed David’s bed for a wife, Solomon has him killed (1 Kings 1-2).

The details of David’s sin seem to come back to haunt him.  David sent for Bathsheba but the text does not indicate that she was forced into his bed.  Yet Amnon takes David’s sin a step further.  Seeing a woman he wants, Amnon doesn’t just “take” her; he rapes her.  David’s wives are dishonored on the roof of his palace.  David betrays a loyal soldier. He is betrayed by not only his servants but his sons (Adonijah, Absalom, Ahitophel).  David’s idleness becomes princes with no proper work to do; they are not soldiers or leaders but just hangers-on.  With time on their hands they don’t just murder a friend; they tear their nation in half.

David has learned much.  He never takes the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of the presence of God, for granted again.  When Absalom’s advance drives him from Jerusalem, he sends the Ark back.  He acknowledges that God will decide if he will return to his place as king or not (2 Sam. 15:24-29)  No longer does he imagine that he is in charge of God. When the people go out to fight for him, despite his age, he volunteers to lead them (2 Sam. 18:1-5)  When faced with his sin (in numbering the people), he immediately repents (2 Sam. 24).

There are lessons for us in the end of David’s story, a final terrifying parallel to our own lives.  Sin is generational.  Children SEE their parents sin.  Of all the people we can imagine we can hide from, our children are the least likely. Plus, the sin they see is the sin they are most tempted to do or take a step further.  The worst part of David’s punishment had to be watching his mistakes played out again and again in the idleness, violence, immorality, and betrayal of his own sons. We should not imagine that our children are not the same.  Our sins echo down into their lives. Even sins we repent of can come roaring back in the next generation.

David and Bathsheba teach us about the profoundness of sin.  It compiles, humiliates, devastates, and echoes.  No matter what we do, we cannot hide it from the world, God, or our children.  David reminds us all that the wages of sin are truly death. 

Tassie and her husband were missionaries in China for almost 9 years.

 

The Ultimate Friendship — Stephen Hughes

Throughout my life I have had many friendships. There are people I knew at school and at work, those who lived near me, and especially those with whom I attended worship. Some of them I have cared about a great deal, but most of them were only acquaintances. With all of these friends and acquaintances, I have had very few relationships quite like the one that existed between David and Jonathan.

There are many lessons one can learn from the genuine friendship that existed between these two men. Such friendships are important in part because of the help that they can provide in times of trouble (Eccl. 4:9-12). First, let us consider how one ought to choose his friends, then let us look at how we should act when troubles come from within and also from without.

Be Selective

When Jonathan and David first became friends, David had just slain the giant, Goliath. Jonathan must have been amazed at David’s bravery and his faithfulness to God. “Now when [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1). Prior to this, David had been appointed the court musician to soothe King Saul’s troubled spirit (1 Sam. 16:23). Jonathan and David had likely met before since Jonathan was Saul’s son. Perhaps Jonathan had even heard David play the harp. He was most certainly a talented musician who would go on to write the majority of the Psalms. It was not until now, after the giant was slain, that these two men became fast friends.

Jonathan must have been very selective when it came to selecting his friends. This is a good practice, as Solomon wrote, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov. 12:26). Jonathan saw godly traits within David when he slew Goliath. He was a young man facing a heavily armored giant with nothing but a sling and a few stones. It was clear to everyone, especially Jonathan, that God was with David. Jonathan was likely aware that God was no longer with his father (1 Sam. 15:28). Jonathan still had loyalty to his father and king, but recognized that the Lord was with David now.

This is a practice we ought to follow—to choose our friends wisely. We should select righteous friends who will help us get to heaven rather than those who will drag us to hell with their evil deeds. As Paul reminds us, “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33).

Resist Resentment

Before David is introduced in the narrative, Jonathan is shown to be a capable warrior in his own right. When he had unwittingly broken an oath his father made on behalf of all the people, he was sentenced to death. The people, however, were not going to let this happen to Jonathan, saying, “’Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.’ So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die” (1 Sam. 14:45). He was such a great warrior that the people rose up on his behalf to save him. Saul, too, had many victories over the enemies of Israel. “So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side …. Wherever he turned, he harassed them. And he gathered an army … and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them” (1 Sam. 14:47, 48). These men were great warriors and commanders of the armies of Israel.

After the defeat of Goliath and the Philistines at Sochoh, Saul made David a commander of his army. Yet he was not happy when he heard how the people reacted to David’s continued victories over the Philistines. “Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?’ So Saul eyed David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 18:8, 9). Surely Saul remembered Samuel’s prophecy, that the kingdom would be torn from him and given to a neighbor better than he.  Jonathan probably knew of it too. It meant that Jonathan would not succeed his father on the throne. Despite this, though it is not explicitly recorded, it is clear that while Saul resented David, Jonathan did not.

We also should not resent our friends when they do better in areas where we also have accomplished much.  Remember that Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  He also reminded us that love “does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:5-6).  It is clear that Jonathan loved David as his own soul, even more than he did women (1 Sam. 18:1; 20:17; 2 Sam. 1:26).  Let us love our friends too, showing them the love a friend ought without a trace of resentment.  As Solomon wrote, “A friend loves at all times” (Prov. 17:17a).

Be Loyal

Jonathan had a choice as to whether to be loyal to his father or to his friend. Saul had become an angry man, driven to throwing spears at David in an attempt to murder him (1 Sam. 18:10, 11; 19:9, 10). Even so, Jonathan was not fully convinced that Saul was trying to murder David (1 Sam. 20:9). As a result, the two friends worked out how to determine Saul’s intentions without question. David would be absent from a New Moon gathering, ostensibly to offer a yearly sacrifice at his father’s home. If Saul responded to this news nonchalantly, then David could safely return. If, however, Saul became angry, then David must flee (1 Sam. 20:5-7).

Saul’s response was more than either man had expected. “Saul’s anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die’” (1 Sam. 20:30, 31). Saul’s outburst was unwarranted, but his intentions were made abundantly clear.

Not even this, however, had deterred the faithful Jonathan. “And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said to him, ‘Why should he be killed? What has he done?’ … So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had treated him shamefully” (1 Sam. 20:32, 34). Jonathan knew that his friend would likely take the throne in his place, but that did not matter to him. He was more concerned that his father had acted shamefully toward David than he was at the prospect of losing the kingdom. Jonathan warned his friend of Saul’s intention, and they wept together (1 Sam. 20:41, 42).

In the end, Jonathan died in the same battle as his father, but not after doing everything he could to safeguard his friend. David later wrote in the Song of the Bow, “Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided” (2 Sam. 1:23a). Despite all that had happened, Jonathan loved both his father and his friend. The choice between Saul and David was an extremely difficult one for Jonathan. He chose to be loyal to his friend because of his love for David and the shameful, sinful acts of Saul.

Let us be loyal to our friends and help them when they need us—even when it is inconvenient. Helping our friends is not often easy. True friends, however, will weather such difficulties faithfully by our side just as we will be by theirs. Solomon wrote, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Let us be friendly by sticking closely by our friend’s side in times of trouble.

Conclusion

Friendships are often fraught with difficulties from both within and without. If we choose friends that are godly, if we do not resent them for their success, and if we are loyal to them in the difficult times, then we might have a chance to withstand anything just as Jonathan and David did. Making such friends is important; otherwise we may fall alone (Eccl. 4:9-12). Let us do our best to make such friends and to be such a friend to others.

Stephen and his family worship at the Walterboro Church of Christ in Walterboro, SC.

 

The Kindness of David — Jake Sutton

No one owes you anything. You also owe no one anything. Let us be honest with each other for a moment and come to the realization that there is no earthly reason for any of us to do any good whatsoever.

Yet we as members of the body of Christ don’t live by earthly tutelage. The readers who see my words in this article most likely  “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). Thus we understand that goodness first originated from God and His marvelous benevolence (Mk. 10:18). David the psalmist wrote, “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes” (Psa. 119:68). It is from this verse and others like it that we examine the obedient faith of one soul who accepted such statues and applied it to his own life, even in darker days. Thus we know, as God’s elect, that we are very much in debt to every man in bestowing the good news of Christ (1 Cor. 9:19). Going back to our initial thought of goodness, may we make some observations.

Goodness Is The Fruit Of God

I grew up in the North Georgia foothills in the city of Adairsville. The Cherokee natives called it Oothcalooga.  They deemed it very prosperous to grow crops of all sorts because the ground was so fertile. Altitude-wise, Adairsville is the lowest point between Chattanooga and Atlanta. If there were such a thing as the “middle of town” we would be it. Horticultural folks will tell you that this would be a wonderful place for one to grow crops. The Cherokee didn’t know the altitude factor, but the “fruit” of the land bore witness to that fact. My point is this: goodness is the “fruit” from which we ascertain God’s benevolence.

Outside of Christianity, there are what the world will call “good ole Joe’s,” people who were in a good moral climate and go around doing good deeds. The reason for this is because the world is so permeated with the effects and influence of the Gospel. Most folks know the “Golden Rule” but they don’t trace it to our Lord’s words in Luke 6:31. They are good folks but biblically do not know our Lord. As the Holy Spirit would say, they “aren’t known of God” (Gal. 4:9) because they haven’t come to obedient faith of the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5).

Kindness is something every person can observe from God’s creation (Rom. 1:19-23) and those created in His image (Gen. 1:26). We can clearly see His consistent love in making a world and her inhabitants live and have their being by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). God has providentially loved us and shows unending kindness and not one honest person will deny that fact. With that in mind, we cannot be excused from exercising kindness to our fellow man in any regard. Even if you withhold a physical blessing from a man who will not work (2 Thess. 3:10), you are still to do so with kindness. Keeping their souls salvation in mind, we are commanded to deal with them in meekness (Gal. 6:1).

David showed us this in his treatment with the house of Saul during David’s reign as Israel’s earthly king. David asked the question in 2 Samuel 9:1: “…Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” With that question, you and I are reminded of the love that David had for Jonathan and that Jonathan had for David. These men had an affection for each other that was deeply rooted in trust and honor. It was evident that this was the case because it was custom for the king of a new dynasty to massacre those in cohort with the previous. However, David was the game changer and didn’t follow the custom of man; he followed the custom of God. Not only for the Lord’s sake did he do this, but also for Jonathan’s. David took an oath and made a covenant on behalf of Jonathan’s family, that he wouldn’t allow them to be absent from the kindness the two had for each other (1 Sam. 20:14-15).

Cripple Over Crown

Our text of 2 Samuel goes on to show that there was one soul left unblessed who was of the house of Jonathan, Mephibosheth. This would turn out to be Jonathan’s son who became a paralytic by accident (2 Sam. 4:4). For the faithful today, we have mighty men and women who are battle tested in the fires of spiritual war and we have a code of honor and trust with them like David and Jonathan. We consider those whom we can trust the best of friends; even their children are considered our own. An adopted nephew of David, Mephibosheth unfairly suffered physically because of the sin of Saul. David could have ended this poor soul’s life by living in the statutes of man, but chose rather to do favor to the cripple over his own crown.

David was simply reciprocating the kindness showed to him by God.  What a wonderful example to behold!  Are we not blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ?  Yes (Eph. 1:3).  Are we as New Testament Christians crowned as priests and kings?  Yes (Rev. 1:6).  But just as Moses said to the children of Israel, we must not forget that we were once strangers (Ex. 22:21) and are to treat the people “without the camp” with kindness.  The first lesson to see here is that we were all spiritual Mephibosheths before coming to Christ.  And like Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9:6), all we can do is pour out our soul and pledge allegiance to Christ by calling Him Lord (Acts 22:16) and giving our service to Him (Rom. 12:1). Recognizing we have nothing to offer for the Lord by merit, we are spiritually crippled (Matt. 5:3). Yet after dying in the waters of baptism, we rise to that newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Like David, we bless others with the divine kindness bestowed to us. Who are we to withhold that from the world? May we never choose the decor of our own crown over the spiritual cripples in our lives.

Humiliation Over Honor

May we also like David suffer worldly humiliation for the cause of Christ. David had every worldly right and physical stature to walk into a room with a lame and defenseless man and slaughter the final member of the house of Saul for his own honor. Bystanders within and without the camp of Christ will speak with disgust over you showing kindness to the undesirables of the world. May we keep in mind that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). The source of that persecution isn’t limited to our heathen friends but also includes members of the body. Some will gather their circles together and humiliate you and your name because you, like David, want to show the kindness of God to the weak of the world (2 Sam. 9:3).

Notice to where David gives credit the idea of kindness: the God of heaven! Take comfort in knowing that God will always give honor to His faithful ones and never to the proud ones (Matt. 6:1). Rest assured, those of us like David, when we take the worldly “low road” please know that  God considers it the “holy road.” Make no mistake about it. “The Lord knows them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). 

Jake preaches at the Moultrie congregation in Moultrie, GA.

 

 

 

 

The Cursing Benjamite — Dale Barger

It is quite interesting to consider the events which God preserved in His inspired Word. When you reflect on the many possible events throughout history, no doubt there are many happenings that have been lost to the annuals of time. However, God saw fit to preserve certain events in explicit detail even to the conversations that transpired. These have been preserved so that Christians can learn how God expects us to conduct ourselves in this life.

One such peculiar event is the interaction between King David and Shimei (2 Sam. 16:5-13; 19:15-23). David had been driven from Jerusalem by the attempt of Absalom to usurp the throne. As he reached Bahurim he encountered Shimei, a relative of Saul, who confronted him with cursing and false accusations. This event provides many lessons to Christians who seek to serve God acceptably.

Lesson #1:  Recklessness in Anger. Shimei approached the king and his mighty men in an aggressive fashion (2 Sam 16:5-7). Casting stones and cursing the king in the presence of his mighty men is foolish indeed….especially when you reflect upon these battle tested men and their accomplishments (cf. 2 Sam 23:8-39). Abishai, mentioned in verse 18 of that passage, was noted for having slain 300 men with the spear. Abishai desired to execute Shimei for his cursing. Shimei endangered his own life by foolish actions in anger.

Anger causes one to act foolishly. The wise man stated, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…” (Prov. 14:17). Actions in anger are not what God desires to see of His children. James states, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). How dangerous do our actions become when we lash out in anger? One often does things that harm others, damages our relationships and damages our reputation as well as the reputation of others. If you were to reflect on your life, how many times have you acted righteously when you were angry? We say and do things in anger that is contrary to the will of God. This event displays for us the folly of anger.

Lesson #2: We Are Not Alone. During this confrontation, David was probably at a very low emotional state. He was driven from his home by his own son who sought his life (2 Sam. 16:11). David had also left some of his family as well as some of his servants behind at Jerusalem. David perhaps thought that there was no one left one his side. The words of Abishai prove that he was still loyal to David. He was willing to eliminate the threat of Shimei against his king.

As Christians, we sometimes feel that we are alone. It may be an emotional time for us when things aren’t going our way. We need to be reminded that we have the family of God, the body of Christ with us on our side. Paul speaks of the body being many members yet one body (1 Cor 12:14). He further speaks how that all members of the body rejoice and all suffer together (1 Cor 12:26-27). Other passages likewise speak of multiple pieces making up the whole body (c.f. Eph. 4:16). These verses encourage Christians to realize that we are not alone. We have those on our side to help us when we are low and to strengthen when we are weak.

Lesson #3: Do Not Retaliate. How hard must it have been for King David to leave his capital city! His own son was seeking to depose him. How emotional David must have felt! Yet, David did not allow his emotions to cause him to act hastily. He could have easily commanded his mighty men to eliminate Shimei, which Abishai was desirous to do. However, he felt that this may have been a punishment sent from God. Notice David’s words: “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?” (2 Sam. 16:10). David was not going to stand and fight against God.  He realized the wastefulness of such an attempt. Had this cursing been from the Lord, David would have been fighting against God in retaliating against Shimei.

During the infancy of the Lord’s church conflict arose. As the council was seeking advice, a wise counselor told the Sanhedrin it was not possible to overthrow the work of God (Acts 5:34-39). If the church was a work of God they would be better not opposing the Lord.

David also was not going to retaliate against Shimei in hope that God would reward him (2 Sam 16:12). Even when things aren’t going our way it is never right to take our vengeance on others. Christian conduct demands a higher moral code. Paul taught, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:18-21). It may be a difficult thing to do; things may not be going well that day. However, David gives us a tremendous lesson in not seeking vengeance against our adversaries in this episode.

Lesson #4: Time for Humility. After David’s forces eliminated the threat of Absalom and even Absalom himself (cf. 2 Sam 18-1-17), David was called again to Jerusalem to sit on the throne. As David was returning, Shimei “hasted and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David” (2 Sam 19:16). Shimei approached the king with a different attitude and conduct in this meeting than previously. He realized the danger his conduct had placed him in and now sought forgiveness for his treachery. The record indicates that Shimei “fell down before the king as he was come over Jordan” (2 Sam 19:18). He wanted David to know that he felt differently and desired forgiveness. Shimei confessed, “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart. For thy servant doth know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king” (2 Sam. 19:19-20).

The confession of sin can be a difficult thing to do for those guilty of such prideful and arrogant actions as this man. However, he humbled himself before the king and his life was spared at this moment. Abishai however,  continued to plead with David that he should be executed for his sin of cursing the Lord’s anointed (2 Sam. 19:21).

Lesson #5: Time for Judgment.  Shimei was not punished by David at this time. David would not have that joyous occasion marred by the execution of Shimei. However, Shimei was not guiltless and would eventually be held accountable for his wickedness. As David was instructing Solomon of affairs concerning his kingdom, David gave Solomon notice of dealing with Shimei (1 Kings 2:8-9). As Abishai had pointed out Shimei was guilty of cursing the Lord’s anointed, David. Punishment was therefore in order. Solomon would place Shimei under restrictions which he would eventually violate and lead to his punishment.

As Christians, we learn from this that there are consequences for our actions. This makes the earlier discussion in this study so important. Just because emotions are high does not excuse our deeds of foolishness. We must ever be cautious to live according to the law of God. We will stand before God to give account of even the idle words that have been said (cf. Matt. 12:36-37).  If one speaks against the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38) and does not seek His forgiveness, he too will one day see punishment.

These lessons and a host of others can be gleaned from this episode between King David and Shimei. One thing is certain.  Mankind still faces the same struggles. We still fight the same urges. We still possess the same spirit as those who lived hundreds and thousands of years before our time. It is no wonder why God chose to preserve events such as this for our learning, “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4) and learn to live acceptably unto Him. 

Dale is a 2009 graduate of the Tri-Cities School of Preaching in Elizabethton, TN.  He preaches for the Wheeler Hill Church of Christ in Pikeville, TN.  Dale and his wife Lydia have three daughters.

 

 

Faith Shown In The Elah Valley — Jon Mitchell

The sun shines down on the valley of Elah.  The giant walks tall and proud close to the brook which meanders its way through the valley just north of Shochoh and northwest of Hebron.  Goliath stands at about nine and a half feet in height, the modern equivalent of the biblical record of “six cubits and a span” (1 Sam. 17:4).  James Coffman’s commentary on 1 Samuel cites John Willis’ estimation of the actual weight of Goliath’s armor.  With the bronze helmet on his head, the coat of bronze mail weighing “five thousand shekels” (17:5) or 125 pounds, the bronze armor on his legs, and the bronze javelin slung between his shoulders with a shaft “like a weaver’s beam” estimated to weigh 17 pounds and the head of the spear weighing in at “six hundred shekels of iron” (17:7) or 18 pounds, Coffman and Willis estimate that Goliath’s armor “probably weighed in the neighborhood of 200 pounds!”  It is definitely a physically formidable soldier who can fight so effectively while wearing such weight so as to be the champion of an entire army, which is exactly who Goliath was according to the inspired writer (17:4).  A champion soldier of the Philistines.  A confident killer.  A warrior who has successfully defied the entire army of Israel and struck great fear in their hearts (17:8-11, 23-24).

Facing him across the brook is the youngest of eight sons of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, a patriarch named Jesse (17:12-14).  The king of the Israelites, Saul, correctly recognizes this youngest son of Jesse to be “but a youth” (17:33), a na`ar in Hebrew, a child, a lad, nothing but an adolescent boy of no older than twenty.  Unlike three of his older brothers, this boy is no soldier (17:13-14), a fact not lost on his oldest brother Eliab who incorrectly thinks his little brother to be a foolish lark only interested in seeing a battle (17:28).  The boy is likely tall in stature like his king, considering that he was able to fit into the king’s armor when it was offered to him.  Yet he is still no soldier, at least not a full-time, professional military man who is fully trained to fight; he is not even ready or able to successfully test out Saul’s armor (17:38-39).  Rather, he is a shepherd boy used to carrying a staff, shepherd’s pouch, and sling (17:40).  The only reason he came to the Elah valley this day is because he is his father’s errand boy, sent to bring food to his brothers and their commander and  then immediately return home with some token from them (17:17-18).  The boy’s name is David.

If you spent any decent amount of time in Sunday School as a child, you know what happens next.  The shepherd boy chooses five smooth stones from the brook and puts them into his pouch.  Sling in hand, he approaches the Philistine giant (17:40).  Goliath approaches David disdainfully, mocking the boy and cursing him by his gods, promising to use his carcass to feed the birds and animals (17:41-44).  David replies, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.  And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand” (17:45-47).

The two approach each other, David running quickly toward the battle line to meet Goliath while taking a stone from his bag, slinging it, and striking the Philistine on his forehead.   “The stone sank into his forehead,” killing him (17:49-50).  David then cuts off the giant’s head with Goliath’s own sword (17:50-51).  Seeing their champion dead, the Philistine army flees and is pursued by the Israelites “as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron” (17:52), both of which were important cities in the Philistines’ own country.

The Hebrew writer would later allude to David while writing of the faith of the people we read about in the Old Testament (Heb. 11:32).  When he wrote that “through faith” David and others were able to “escape the edge of the sword” (11:33), he might have had the encounter with Goliath on his mind.  This would be with good reason, for it certainly would require an enormous amount of faith in God to prompt anyone to go up against an immensely strong nine-foot-tall giant who “has been a man of war from his youth” (1 Sam. 17:33).  What was it that made David’s faith in God so strong?

Past Experiences

When Saul protested David’s intention to fight the giant, saying, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth” (17:33), David replied that he had successfully killed both lions and bears as a shepherd defending his sheep (17:34-36).  Killing a hungry bear or lion is no small feat.  Both animals have been known to easily kill hunters who were likely stronger and more experienced than David.

David knew this.  He understood that it was not his own might and prowess that had delivered him from death from these predators.   Perhaps God had earlier bestowed upon David supernatural strength after his anointing when “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon” him, similar to what the Lord had given Samson (16:13; cf. Judg. 14:6).  Another possibility would be that God had providentially cared for David while he was fighting these beasts.  Regardless of the methods used, David was confident enough of the Lord’s involvement in his deliverance from death to say to Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (17:37).  He likewise told Goliath, shortly before he killed him, that “…the Lord will deliver you into my hand…” (17:46).

How could David have been so confident that God would protect him from death?  It was because he had remembered God’s promises.

God’s Promises

At some earlier point in time, Samuel had been sent by the Almighty to Jesse’s home because, as God told Samuel, “I have provided for myself a king among his sons” to replace Saul (1 Sam. 16:1).  After having had all of David’s older brothers pass by him and being told by Jehovah that none of them were His anointed, Samuel had asked Jesse if there were more sons available and was told that David, the youngest, was keeping the sheep (16:6-11).  After sending for him, the Lord told Samuel upon David’s arrival, “Arise, anoint him for this is he,” and Samuel did so (16:12-13).  From that day forward, the Spirit of the Lord was with David (16:13).

Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that David knew that he was God’s chosen anointed to replace Saul at some point.  Either Samuel had told him, or the Holy Spirit had somehow promised him that he would one day be king.  David therefore trusted God to keep his promise, so much so that he was willing to fight the giant Philistine while knowing that God would deliver him.

I am reminded of Abraham, whose faith in God was tested in a similar fashion at least three times. God had promised him that he would make of Abraham a great nation and would give the land of Canaan to offspring he had yet to produce (Gen. 12:2, 7).  Yet, Abraham’s faith in God at that time, while strong enough to obey His directive to leave his country and strike out for parts unknown (12:1ff; cf. Heb. 11:8), still faltered when he traveled to Egypt.  Rather than trust that God would keep him safe because He had promised him future offspring, he persuaded Sarah to lie in an effort to keep him from being killed by the Egyptians (12:10-20).  He did something similar later with Abimelech (20:1-18), again showing that his faith in God had faltered.  Yet when God told him later to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of his faith, Abraham unhesitatingly did so to the point where God had to stop him from killing his son (22:1-19).  He went through with it even though at that point Isaac had yet to marry Rebekah, produce more offspring, and thus bring God’s promise closer to fulfillment.  The Hebrew writer attributes Abraham’s willingness to obey what to any parent would  be an extremely difficult and agonizing command to faith that God would keep His promise to give Abraham more offspring through Isaac, a faith so strong and deep that he surmised that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead after the sacrifice (Heb. 11:17-19).  Clearly, Abraham’s faith in the promises of God, while in many ways already strong, had grown even stronger!

David undoubtedly had a similar faith in the promise that God would one day make him king of Israel, and his faith in that promise motivated him to defend the honor of God against those like Goliath who would oppose Him.  This was also a reason behind David’s decision to face the giant.

Righteous Indignation

Goliath had “defied the armies of the living God” (1 Sam. 17:26), and thus had defied God Himself (17:45), much like Saul of Tarsus would later persecute Christ by persecuting His followers (Acts 9:1, 4-5).  The Philistine did this repeatedly, morning and night, for forty days (17:16).  The Targum, a collection of uninspired Jewish commentaries of the Old Testament, records the Israelite tradition that Goliath claimed to have been among the Philistines who had captured the ark of the covenant and had personally killed the priests Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli (cf. 4:10-11).  If true, then the pagan giant had a history of openly opposing and showing contempt towards Jehovah God.

Upon arriving at the Elah valley, David heard Goliath’s blasphemous challenge for the first time (17:23-25).  His immediate response was to ask the soldiers around him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel?  For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26)  This earned a rebuke from his oldest brother Eliab, but his indignation over Goliath’s insults remained undeterred (17:28-30).  His angry rebuttal of the Philistine’s blasphemy reached the ears of Saul, who sent for David and was told by the young man, “Let no man’s heart fail because of (Goliath).  Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (17:31-32).

Lessons For Christians Today

This account of David’s encounter with Goliath is recorded in the Old Testament for a reason (Prov. 30:5).  God inspired the apostle Paul to inform Christians that what was written in the Old Testament was written to instruct and encourage us, give us hope, serve as an example to us, admonish us, teach us, reprove us, correct us, and train us to be righteous so that we may be complete and equipped for every good work (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Such is the case when we see the faith in God David displayed in the Elah valley that day and choose to compare it to our own faith.

We sing a spiritual song called Count Your Many Blessings.  The lesson behind the hymn is to remind us of our past experiences with Jehovah and all He has done for us, just as David had remembered how God had delivered him from predators.  Do we regularly remember with gratitude all the wonderful things which God has done in our lives?  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (Ja. 1:17).  Everything we have comes from God (John 3:27), not the least of which is an undeserved salvation from eternity in hell!  (Rom. 6:23; Tit. 2:11)  Do we take such blessings for granted and rarely remember their Source, or do we continually offer our heart-felt gratitude to Him in prayer (Col. 4:2)?  Our honest answer to this question has a direct impact on the strength of our faith and our resulting willingness to obey God, no matter the perceived cost.

Just as David had faith in God’s promise to make him king, do we trust in God’s promises to us?  He has promised eternal life to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9) and eternal condemnation to those who do not (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  How strong is our faith in those promises?  Satan wants to play the same trick on us that he successfully played on Eve: to trick us into believing that God doesn’t mean what He says (Gen. 3:1-5).  That’s why Christians who have been taught the will of God sin, you know.  Our faith is weak during those times.  We know what the Bible promises, but we deceive ourselves that God will make an exception on our part because He wants our immediate and temporal satisfaction which would come from “the passing pleasures of sin” to be fulfilled.  Thus, we would obey God only when convenient rather than choosing to risk the sacrifice of even our lives as David’s faith prompted him to do.

Finally, let us consider what easily arouses our anger and indignation.  James said that man’s anger does not produce God’s righteousness (Ja. 1:20).  Does God get angry over the same things which infuriate us?  Many typically get upset when our own honor is insulted and we don’t get our way, and tend to only shrug with mild irritation at best when we see the sin of others or our own.  Yet David was angry because he saw Goliath defying God and was motivated to defend his Lord.  Are we like him?

Think on these things, my friends.  Let David’s example motivate us to deeper faith and service!

carolinamessenger@gmail.com