May 31

May 31

Absalom’s Treason — Absalom’s insurrection & David’s escape.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 15

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 17:25-29

Reading 3: Psalm 3

David’s passive fathering leads to further upheaval as Absalom undermines David’s rule and sets himself up as king. This treason would have been enough cause for David to have Absalom executed, but in a further step of trusting God, David leaves Jerusalem and heads out into the wilderness, leaving a few trusted members of his household behind.

The Psalm he wrote at this time gives us clear insight into his trust in God and his reliance on God’s faithfulness. We would do well to follow David’s example when we face opposition or betrayal – God is big enough to handle it! If that is a struggle for you, try reading Psalm 3 aloud and make it your own.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 30

May 30

David, Amnon, Tamar, & Absalom — David, the passive father.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 13

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 14

Reading 3: Deuteronomy 22:25-27

Today we see further failure and sin in David’s life. It is often the case that sin repeats along family lines until repentance and forgiveness break the power of rebellion against God. In this case, Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar and her brother Absalom takes revenge by killing Amnon. Again sexual sin and murder beset David’s family!

This shows us that there is no such thing as a sinless human, and for any of us to pretend we are without sin is itself sin. And sin often leads to further poor judgment and self-pity, as in the case of Absalom’s rift with David that follows this incident. From our modern perspective, there seems to be dysfunction on both sides in this family feud – as is so often the case when families refuse to allow God to rule fully in their lives.

Eventually, Joab engineers a truce and there is a measure of reconciliation, but there is more trouble to come! As an aside, consider how these accounts validate the authenticity of the scriptures: if I was going to write a holy book I would not include all this unholiness! Thankfully for us, the power of sin is broken by the victory of Jesus on the Cross. We don’t have to settle for such broken patterns in our lives. Instead, we can ask the Holy Spirit (and the community of believers) to help us overcome sin’s destruction.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 29

May 29

David & Bathsheba — David’s sin, confession, judgment, & birth of Solomon.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 11

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 12:1-25

Reading 3: Psalm 51

Today there is so much in our readings it is hard to know where to begin!

David, the man after God’s own heart, shows his sinful humanity in several ways: he neglects his duty (to fight battles and win wars) which he was so sincerely fulfilling in yesterday’s readings; he takes advantage of his position in many ways, and he commits adultery and then murder. What a huge turnaround for the godly king!

The weakness in David has always been with his multiple wives and concubines. Whilst polygamy and the keeping of concubines were common practice among the powerful in David’s day, we do not find anywhere an instruction from God to follow this pagan practice. And David did much of this in secret, especially the adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Secrecy and sin go hand in hand: whenever a matter is concealed it is usually to avoid sin being discovered (a futile exercise because God sees everything).

Our reaction to David’s sin would be to condemn him (just as David reacted to Nathan’s story about the rich man taking someone else’s lamb for a feast). But whenever we point the finger of accusation at others we must humbly recognize our own sin too.

And we would do well to confess our sin openly as David finally did – he wrote a worship song about it! God longs to forgive and waits only for us to admit our need. He gave David another son, through his marriage to Bathsheba, and David knows that this son will be the one God promised – he names him Solomon – the son of peace who will grow up to build the Temple that David has been forbidden to build himself.

God is redemptive and forgiving, merciful and restoring. The only requirement is that we acknowledge and take responsibility for our sins. Psalm 51 is a great start – why not read it to God today and insert your own shortcomings where David lists his?

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 27

May 27

David & his Wars — David, the warrior for God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 8

Reading 2: Psalm 60

Reading 3: Psalm 144

After the disappointment of being told he cannot build the Temple, because he is too warlike, David turns his disqualification into his inspiration again and leads Israel’s armies to conquer yet more enemies. In this nation which had grown from little to great under God’s direction, there were still enemies to subdue in order that God’s people could be free to obey God. And David played a vital part in those victories, even though his heart was for God’s love and justice to be seen. In our minds sometimes those two concepts are opposites – killing enemies and displaying love and justice. But in David’s day, the culture was firmly in the “might is right” zone, and it was necessary for this new nation of Israel to fight against those who wanted to see them destroyed.

And David’s knowledge of God’s heart gives him the insight he needs to fight these battles – that God is against the ungodly, not out of vengeance but out of love for His chosen people. Just as a mother would defend her children to the death, so God wants everyone who seeks the destruction of His people destroyed.

This seems to be such a contrast to the man who would not harm Saul, and who disciplined those who delighted in killing (or claiming to kill) those they saw as enemies of God (or David). But the key is that David was close to God and valued God’s Word and Spirit more than any other relationship. Thus he could tolerate long years where God’s plan seemed not to be fulfilled, and also boldly fight for God’s victory in settings where others lost heart. Only in his desire to build the Temple is he disappointed, and he does not allow that to affect his relationship with God or his passion for God. Solomon will pick up the mantle one day, and be a very different king than his father.

There is a place in God’s economy for every gift. Some are gifted to be warriors, and some to be peaceful, wise builders. Each has their place in God’s plan. Only by listening to God can we follow that plan closely. Let’s be those who renounce presumption and make God’s heart our highest priority today!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 26

May 26

David & the Temple — David prepares for the temple after God forbids him to build it.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 7

Reading 2: 1 Chronicles 22

Reading 3: 1 Chronicles 29:1-9

Yesterday we saw David’s wise reaction to his mistakes and their consequences. Today we read about his ambition to build the Temple for God but see how he reacts when God says “no.”

Many of us, if we were prevented from doing something we had set our heart to do, would pout if we were told we could not do it. But David is different – instead of reacting, he makes provision for his vision!

He also shares the vision widely, encouraging support from all the leaders of Israel, and he spends time in worship and thanksgiving before God too!

What a great example for us today! What is the equivalent in your life, and how will you respond?

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 25

May 25

David & the Ark — The ark, the death of Uzzah, & David’s dance.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 6

Reading 2: Numbers 4:15-20

Reading 3: Psalm 30

Today we see the consequences of mistakes and learn from the way David refused to let mistakes keep him from God’s best.

After becoming king and conquering Jerusalem, now David’s heart for God motivates him to bring back the ark of the Lord from the home of Abinadab. He wants the symbol of God’s covenant presence to be at the center of the life of this newly reunited nation. Worthy motives indeed, but having worthy motives alone will not guard us against mistakes. We need a knowledge of God’s Word and the humility to obey God’s instructions.

Do you recall how the ark came to be in Abinadab’s house? About 20 years earlier (in 1 Samuel 4) the Israelites had used the ark as a kind of battle talisman in the wars with the Philistines, and the ark had been captured (an event which led to the death of Eli and his daughter-in-law). While the Philistines had the ark in the temple of their god, Dagon, it caused havoc: not only did Dagon’s statue fall over twice and break into pieces but all the Philistines were over-run with rats and afflicted by tumors.

So the Philistines put the ark on a new cart and sent it back (you can read the details in 1 Samuel 6) and it ended up in the home of Abinadab (one of Saul’s sons) in Kiriath Jearim (also called Baale Judah) (1 Samuel 7:1-2).

Now, twenty years later, Saul and Abinadab have died in the battle with the Philistines, but David is now victorious and wants to bring the ark back to the center of the nation. Unfortunately, his mistake is to repeat what was done before – to trust experience over obedience. He took all the elite troops in a show of military force, and put the ark on a new cart (the Philistine method for moving arks), trusting Uzzah and Ahio to guide it. Now, these men were not priests or Kohathites (the designated ark carriers) and did not have the right to move the ark. They were the sons of Abinadab so they had grown up with the ark in their home. It is dangerous to become too familiar with God’s presence! When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and was immediately struck dead.

So David’s presumption led to the death of the guardian of the ark! This shocked and scared David, so he left the ark at the home of Obed-Edom for three months. During this time God blessed Obed-Edom and prospered him. So then David returns to complete the task he started, but this time he is careful to follow God’s instructions. With priests to carry the ark (as God had commanded) and sacrifices to honor God, the ark is brought to Jerusalem.

Now it is the turn of Michal (David’s wife and Saul’s daughter) to make a mistake: she interprets David’s wholehearted worship dance as the cavorting of a vulgar man. Her mistake is to judge by outward appearance and previously acceptable standards of behavior. These are the mistakes of religion that falls short of obedience to God. And so Michal remains bitter and childless (a sign of the absence of God’s blessing in that culture) for the rest of her life.

So while Michal lived with the consequences of her wrong choice, and Uzzah died as a consequence of his wrong action, David learned from his mistakes, grew in his understanding of God’s will, and prospered through his obedience. May the same be true of us!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 24

May 24

David defeats Jerusalem & the Philistines — David’s battles & commitment to pray.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 5

Reading 2: 1 Chronicles 11:4-9

Reading 3: James 1:2-8

Today we see the conclusion of David’s path to the kingdom. He is finally approached by all the tribes of Israel and recognized as king. Scholars generally agree that David was about 15 years old when Samuel anointed him to be king, and today’s reading tells us he was 30 when he became king of Judah, so he waited 15 years to be recognized as the ruler God said he would be, and a further 7½ years to become the king of the whole nation.

Reflect for a moment on that journey – it took David as long to be recognized as king as it took to be anointed as king. The appointment was only the beginning of the journey. And even when he had kept a good attitude and obeyed God all that time, he still had half as much again to wait until he was recognized as the king of the united nation. Have you ever felt you were called to something and then found it took longer than you wanted?!  Maybe God is in the waiting?

Now the nation has united under his rule, David leads them to attack the stronghold of Jebus (Jerusalem). This was the strongest city of the original people of the land – whom God had commanded Israel to overthrow in their taking of the promised land.  Sometimes challenges are so great that they can only be faced in unity – and God will bring together those needed to face the enemy and emerge victoriously. Also, notice how the defeat of the Jebusites was partly due to their own pride (which had no doubt increased in all the years of resisting the incoming Israelites and all their other enemies). The Jebusites became complacent, saying “even the blind and lame could keep you out” but David saw the weakness of the city, and David’s nephew Joab led the army to victory.

So David becomes king of the united nation, and defeats the strongest city, making it his capital. Now all the enemies of Israel are drawn to fight, in fear that their freedom to oppress Israel is coming to an end. And David defeats them repeatedly, by following God’s instructions.

James confirms this for us. When we face challenges, God will often make us wait for a solution. During this time He is both strengthening our dependence on Him and preparing our opposition for defeat. Unifying His people and growing their faith and endurance are God’s strategies for bringing victory and directing them with wisdom.

May that be your experience today, and every day!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 23

May 23

Abner & Ishbosheth Die — The murders of General Abner & King Ishbosheth.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 2

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 3

Reading 3: 2 Samuel 4

David is beginning to come into his power as king: God tells him to move back into Judah and live in Hebron. At first, the people of his own tribe, Judah, make him their king. But Abner, Saul’s general, declares Ishbosheth king in Saul’s place. There is fighting between these two factions, and Abner kills Asahel, whose brother Joab is one of David’s generals. Over time, accusation gradually weakens Saul’s house. Ishbosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines, and Abner reacts angrily, vowing to make David king of the whole nation. After meeting with David, and being sent away in peace, Abner is pursued by Joab, who murders him in revenge for Asahel.

Then we see again David’s heart for justice and honor. He declares a curse on Joab’s family because Joab would not honor authority, rather taking matters into his own hands. David declares that Joab and his other brother Abishai are too strong for David to control, so he puts them in God’s hands.

Finally, we also see the same principles when two of king Ishbosheth’s soldiers kill their king, who is afraid of David. These men think they are doing David a favor (as did the Amalekite we read about yesterday) but they find again that David is completely opposed to those who kill God’s appointed rulers, and he has them executed for their sin.

So we learn from all these twists and turns to trust God when we face strong opposition and to resist the temptation to take matters into our own hands when we think we know what is right. Whether that is in politics, or the workplace, or in our studies, only God has the authority to overthrow rulers (and others who have authority over us); we do well to remember that in our actions and attitudes today, just as David did all those years ago.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 22

May 22

Saul & Jonathan Die — David mourns & God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Chronicles 10

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 1

Reading 3: Ezekiel 33:11

Today we reach the sad end of the account of Saul.  The once renowned king, who turned his back on God, finally meets his end in battle; not fighting, but committing suicide rather than fall into the hands of his enemies. What a tragedy that the one who stood head and shoulders above everyone, and had all the anointing of God in his life, chose to go his own way until he ends his life a defeated, fallen man.

Such was the sorrow of David and his men for the death of Saul and his sons (including his beloved friend Jonathan), that he writes a song of mourning and remembrance to be taught to his whole tribe. He also kills an enemy informant who is clearly lying to boost his own standing. The Amalekite thinks he is boosting his influence with David by saying that he killed Saul, since Saul and David were foes, but David’s love for God forbids him to count the Lord’s anointed as his enemy, instead bringing justice on the young messenger for his own confession that he killed Saul (even though David does not know at this point that the man is making up that part of the story).

David’s mourning over Saul and Jonathan reflects God’s heart revealed in Ezekiel: “I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?”

Let’s embrace that attitude ourselves as we face those in our own society who sin against God, even conspicuously. And let’s remember that we ALL sin and deserve death; repentance is the only path to life.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 20

May 20

David Chases the Amalekites — Finding strength in God during hard times.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 29

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 30

Reading 3: Habakkuk 3:17-19

Let’s reflect on David’s life for a moment. He is the youngest son in his family and overlooked when the prophet comes to select a new king. Then he is anointed as king but refuses to enforce his authority over the existing king, Saul. Gradually he comes to be the prime enemy of Saul, even though Israel and Judah are surrounded by other enemies as a result of their failure to fulfill God’s commands to them on entering the Promised Land. David is forced to flee and live among those enemies to be safe from Saul’s murderous self-focus. David’s life has been a string of setbacks and opposition.

Now today’s reading tells us of two more immense obstacles for David: first, his Philistine master, Achish, rejects him from battle because the other Philistine kings are suspicious of David’s loyalty. And then, on returning to his home, David and his men find all their wives and children have been kidnapped by another enemy group – the Amalekites.

Lesser men (including most of David’s soldiers) would have reacted in anger to this double setback. His men were talking of killing him. But David’s response is different. In signature style, David demonstrates his godliness. First, he strengthens himself in the Lord, and then he seeks God’s wisdom before acting. We do not know exactly how David “found strength in the Lord his God” (v6) but our reading in Habakkuk gives us some clues. Rejoicing despite afflictions, trusting in God’s provision of strength, declaring God’s promises; all these are ways we can strengthen ourselves in the Lord.

Then, after seeking God’s wisdom, David and his men set out to administer justice on the marauding enemies. It is noticeable that both the ungodly Philistine king and the pagan Egyptian slave are influenced by the godliness of David and his men so that both invoke God’s name as their reason for their actions – Achish sending David away without dishonor, and the slave helping David and his men find their families.

And when the victory is achieved, David decrees that there is just as much reward in supporting acts of righteousness and justice as there is in being on the front-lines. We all have a part to play in God’s Kingdom advance, and we all share in the rewards when victory belongs to the Lord.

Have a great day!

Mark.