He never gives up

2 Samuel 14:14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him. (NLT)

Have you ever noticed this about God?  If you read the Old Testament, you will see that God is always finding creative new ways to bring His people back to Him.  It seems as though He won’t give up on humanity.  He continues to pursue us.  He desires to bring us back to Him when we have been separated.

There’s this R & B song that declares, “whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it.  I want you back, I want you back for good.”  God’s like that with us, except we are the ones who said and did something wrong.  But He keeps loving us.  He keeps chasing us.   He wants us to know Him and be in relationship with Him.  He doesn’t want to see us cut off, stuck with death as our only option.

That’s why He sent His Son.  It was the ultimate plan to bring us back.  And it is His last and final plan.  Life is found through Jesus; relationship with God comes by Him.  Today, I rejoice in the heart of our God.  He made a way that I could be with Him.  So I will take Him up on that offer today.  I will choose to live my life to the fullest knowing Him and dwelling in all that Christ has offered me.

Oh… that’s what sin feels like

2 Samuel 13:12-15 12 “Don’t, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.  15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

Sin is such a filthy liar.  It tells you that it will be good, that it will satisfy your desires.  It tells you that it will feel good and give you a high.  But it leaves the part out about the giant crash after the high.  Sin is a trick, the ultimate bait and switch.  It promises excitement of life and delivers death.

Amnon learned first-hand the effects of sin.  He had a gross heart to begin with polluted by his uncontrolled thoughts.  He wanted to have sex with his half-sister.  He claimed to be madly in love with her.  But it wasn’t really love, it was out of control lust.  His cousin didn’t help, either.  He gave Amnon the bright idea of faking sickness to get alone with his sister, Tamar.  He trapped her in his room and asked her to come to bed with him.  She gave him an out – she called out his sinful heart and even went as far to saying she would marry him if he wanted her so badly.  But he wouldn’t listen.  Instead, he raped her.

That’s because sin must be satisfied now. It is impulsive and demanding.  It mocks self-control and demands its own way.  But it always disappoints.  In verse 15, it says that after Amnon raped Tamar, he hated her with intense hatred.  He had been duped by his wicked heart.  What he thought was love was really lust and temptation and wickedness.  And he felt the full effects of the let down of sin.  He felt hatred, guilt, and disgust.  That’s what sin will do to you.  It promises satisfaction then condemns you once you pursue it.  It is a false hope, a false happiness, a false everything.  Sin is a fraud and should be arrested on such charges.

So we have two choices:  we can either live with the determination to keep sin behind bars or we can let sin put us behind bars.  What will you choose today?

I can see your issues but not mine

2 Samuel 12:5-7a   5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”  7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

I’ve gotta tell you David, you walked right into that one.  Word to the wise: if a prophet comes to you with an obscure story asking for advice, it might be a setup.  Poor David, caught in his sin – sin that he thought would remain a secret.  Sin that he thought would just go away over time.  If he only would have realized that sin doesn’t do that.  It doesn’t go away, it just grows.

What I see in today’s scripture is a human epidemic.  It is a disease called: I can see your sin but not mine.  How easily David called the man in Nathaniel’s story out on the carpet.  How quickly he was ready with a fitting punishment.  “Justice must prevail,” was David’s cry.  But what if you are the one who needs the justice?  It changes things, doesn’t it, when those shoes are on your feet.

Maybe this is why Jesus told us to take a look at the giant beam of wood called sin in our lives before we start pointing out other people’s slivers.   We so quickly want others to drink from the cup of judgment while we sip from our cup of grace.  If we are going to grow to be like Christ, we must first assess our own hearts.  We must do our best to stand clean before our God and spend less time focusing on the sins of others.  We’ve probably got enough things of our own to work on, anyways.

Superhighway of YUCK!

2 Samuel 11:26-27 26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

Unchecked sin can get out of control pretty fast.  Just ask David.  He did things that I bet he would never have even imagined doing.  He cracked the door open for sin and things just went downhill from there.  It starts out subtle, of course.  I mean, what’s the big deal with watching a woman who is not your wife take a bath?  Well, okay – that’s actually not that minor of an infraction.  But in light of everything else that came next, looking at a naked lady was like driving 1 mile over the speed limit.

What came next is horrific.  What came next was a superhighway of yuck all started by an “innocent”
look.  It’s not like he was up on the roof looking for bathing ladies.  He was just minding his own business and there she was.  How could he not look?  If he had only been aware that small sin grows into giant destruction, maybe he would have looked away.  But he didn’t.  And sin grew up (as Paul puts it) and gave birth to death.

First, he slept with her.  She got pregnant. Then he brought her husband, Uriah, home from war and tried to get him to sleep with her in order to cover up his sin.  Her husband was loyal to God and to his country and wouldn’t do it.  So he gets Uriah drunk in order to get him to sleep with his wife, but no luck.  Then he has Uriah killed.  He went from a luster to a murder in a very short span of time.

Such is the danger of unchecked sin in our lives.  An innocent look leads to adultery.  Just one drink leads to flirting with death.  2 Samuel 11 concludes with this statement: the thing David had done displeased the Lord.  What thing is that referring to?  I believe it was the lust, the adultery, the lying, the deceiving, and the murder.  All of it displeased God.  David, a someone who was described as a man after God’s heart, chased the heart of his flesh rather than the heart of God.  Anytime that happens, we should be prepared for life to fall apart.  If we will just focus our eyes, our minds, and our hearts on God – we will avoid this downward spiral that David experienced.  And we will find life and fulfillment not in our sinful desires, but in the presence and peace of our God.

Opposite gestures

2 Samuel 10:1-4 1 In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. 2 David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.   When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite nobles said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending men to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun seized David’s men, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments in the middle at the buttocks, and sent them away.

C’mon now, this is downright funny!  Can you imagine watching these guys coming back into town with half beards and the butts cut out of their pants?  Hanun sure knows how to make someone feel stupid.  I imagine he got a good chuckle, himself.  I can almost see the giant grin on his face as he sent these guys away to go see David.  But why did he do it?  What caused him to take one gesture and trade it for another?

David had good intentions – he sent his men to pay condolences to Hanun because he had lost his father.  In return, Hanun flipped him off.  When we don’t know someone, we can easily default to not trusting their intentions.  This mistrust comes from our past hurts and life experiences.  We hear someone’s words and we filter them through the lens of our past.  We make a judgment on their character.  And if we judge wrongly, we lash out on someone with good intentions.

This is the hardest thing to determine, isn’t it?  People’s intentions.  Was he being sincere or sarcastic?  Did she care or was she mocking me?  I wonder what would happen if we just asked the person what their intentions were.  That’s an option, you know.  Hanun’s men convinced him that David was sending spies, not condolences.  But he could have asked them the real reason they were there.  He could have kept a close eye on them and heard what they had to say.  If he had done so, it would have prevented a war.

What you lookin at?

2 Samuel 9:3-7 3 The king asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”  

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”  

4 “Where is he?” the king asked.  

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

 5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

 6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.   David said, “Mephibosheth!”  

“Your servant,” he replied.

 7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Right when you think it’s going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy, David comes out with this extreme act of kindness.  The house of Saul has been mostly destroyed, but David really wants to show kindness to the former king’s family.  And wouldn’t you know it, the only guy left was a son of Jonathan.  That worked out well.  This guy’s name was Mephibosheth.  Say that 5 times fast.  Actually, try saying it one time fast!

There’s a wrinkle in the plan, however.  It’s a cultural wrinkle.  You see, anyone who was cripple was considered to be less than.  They weren’t treated as equal.  When David found out that Mephi was crippled in the feet, it didn’t detour his kindness.  He didn’t stop and say, “well I’m not going to help that invalid.  Isn’t there someone more fit to be blessed?”

He also didn’t pour out extra kindness because of his handicap.  He didn’t treat him funny or ask if he wanted to be carried.  He didn’t feel sorry for him or treat him like a charity case.  He didn’t stare at those feet, causing Mephi to ask, “what you looking at!?”  You know what he did?  He treated him like a human being.  His physical ailment didn’t change what he wanted to do: bless an heir of Saul.  So he blessed him.

We get so hung up sometimes on the condition of people we are trying to help.  We look at their appearance and determine how much we can help them.  We look at their lifestyle and decide if they are worth our time.  But we must keep in mind that Jesus didn’t come to give them a shower and get them all cleaned up; He came to clean up their hearts.  He came to the poor and to the wealthy.  He came to the disabled and to the physically strong.  He came for humanity and He sends us out to that humanity to show His love.  We have much to learn from David today.  He was a man who, like the Lord, looked at the heart of the man rather than the condition of his feet.

Gauging leadership effectiveness

2 Samuel 8:15David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.

I must say that I am greatly challenged and perplexed by this verse today.  As a leader, David did what was just and right for all his people.  How can this be?  How is it possible that he led ALL the people well?  There must be a secret to his success; because there is no way that you are going to be able to make everyone you lead happy with your leadership.  There is no way to always communicate your heart correctly.  You will be misunderstood and will certainly make mistakes.  But David… he led his people well.  They always got what they needed from him.  Or did they?

This is the part of Bible reading called “pondering.”  So give me a minute while I do so…

Okay, I’m back.  I’ve come to this conclusion.  David wasn’t a people pleaser and he wasn’t a perfect leader.  He probably offended some people.  So when he says that he did what was just and right, it is speaking to his standing before God.  You see, David strived to be right before God. He strived to be a leader who walked out his calling in response to the Lord.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t make mistakes.  It means that all that he did for his people was just and right in God’s eyes.

Now I guarantee you that some people didn’t agree that everything he did was right and just.  If there would have been a complaint box for the king, it may have been full.  But his greatest concern was that his decisions were right to God, not the people.  As leaders we must operate on the same conviction.  God’s view of our leadership MUST be our primary concern.  We can get focused on making people happy – it’s the same thing we do with our kids.  However, we should be doing what makes God happy.  This isn’t to be used as an excuse however.  You can’t say: “people think I’m a jerk but that’s their problem.  I’m just doing what God told me to.”  If you really had God’s heart, you wouldn’t be a jerk. My whole point is this: If we do what is just and right in His eyes, I believe our leadership will be lasting and effective.

Is this normal?

2 Samuel 7:18-19 18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:  “Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?

We focus so much on our lack, don’t we?  Our conversation with God seems to be a broken record of asking to be taken care of or blessed.   It’s because we seem to naturally focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do.  David had a house, clothes, a wife… well actually many wives (not advisable).  Keep in mind that David had spent many years running for his life having no idea where he would sleep at night or where his next meal would come from.  So his life has turned around 180 degrees and he is the king of Israel.

On this occasion, David had just received a prophetic word that God was going to establish his family forever and that his son would build a temple for the Lord.  I love David’s response to God; it was an overwhelmed type of response.  “God, you’ve already done so much for me.  You rescued me and put me in the highest place in the land.  But now you are going to tell me about the future greatness of my children and the promises you have for generations to come?  That’s just too good of you!  Do you normally treat people this way?”

It’s that last statement that really caught my eye – is this your usual way of dealing with man?  I love the awe and wonder David had of God.  He was not pretentious or assuming.  Here he was getting blessed like crazy and he asks God if this is normal.  What a great question!  Why me God?  Why have you chosen to bless me this way?

Now we don’t see that David stopped talking long enough for God to answer him, but I believe there is an answer to this question.  The answer is this: “no, not everyone gets blessed like this, David.  But then again, not everyone is after MY heart.”  And that’s the thing: God blesses abundantly those who pursue Him with their whole lives.  He takes care of them and pours out on them his glorious riches.  But look what David called God, Sovereign Lord.  He meant it too.  If we would just let Him be Sovereign Lord in our lives, I bet we would have questions about His abundant blessings too.

Dancing in undies

2 Samuel 6:21-22 21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’S people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

Everybody puts your hands in the air… and wave ‘em like you just don’t care.  That’s what David did.  But it wasn’t about him having fun at a rap concert; it was about worship.  This was a grown man, the king of all Israel.  He was supposed to be proper and reserved and well, kingly.  Instead, he danced in the streets in his undies – a move that would surely have made Tom Cruise’s “Risky Business” underwear dance look tame.  He didn’t care what people thought; he was free before his God.

What is it friends, that makes us grownups so boring?  What happens in our brain that causes us to stop having fun?  This summer while on vacation, I watched many parents interact with their kids.  Here’s what I saw: parents sitting on the shore (or poolside) in a chair while their kids played in the water.  I watched kids look at their parents hoping they would come join them and have fun in the water.  They wanted to be splashed, thrown, dunked, and carried.  But mom and dad didn’t want to get in, let alone get splashed.

This is not a commentary on bad parenting – there’s nothing inherently wrong with parents watching their kids play in the water.  This is however, an observation on the fact that parents were too dignified to get in and play.  Some moms didn’t want to be seen in a swim suit; some dads didn’t want to look foolish. However, I did see some parents jump in and play with their little ones.  It was those kids who squealed and giggled and splashed like crazy.  Those parents may have looked childish to other boring adults, but they were heroes that day in the eyes of their children.

Our problem lies with this quandary: what happens if I look foolish?  And by getting stuck in this self preservation, we rationalize away our freedom.  What will people think if I raise my hands during worship and sing at the top of my lungs?  What will people think if I dance to my God?  (Side note: please do not dance in your underwear at a church service.)  I would answer the previous two questions this way – does it matter to anyone but God?  We should concern ourselves far less with what other people think.  God was pleased with David; He smiled on his humility and willingness to be undignified.  So let us follow suit.  Let us set out on a passionate pursuit of a God who will make us free .  And in that freedom, may we find that the only view of us that matters is His. 

You get Him all

2 Samuel 6:6-12  6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD’S anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. 8 Then David was angry because the LORD’S wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. 9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household. 12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been mad at God.  It’s so taboo, isn’t it?  We think that if we get mad at God we aren’t quite spiritual enough.  We think that he will reject us or send us to hell if we express some anger His way.  So we try really hard to repress it.  The funny thing is, He knows how we feel.  He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good…. Oh wait, that’s Santa.  The point is, I think we have all struggled with not knowing what to do with our feelings toward God.  We feel that if we get frustrated with Him, we must not have very much faith or understanding of who He is.  That might be true.  But I love the honesty of this scripture today, as David just gets angry.  It’s an honest response to a relationship.

You see, earlier that morning, they had transferred the ark to another cart.  I’m not entirely sure if they touched it, but it’s likely that they did.  Then you have this guy Uzzah who reaches out to make sure the ark didn’t fall.  You wouldn’t want the presence of God to fall and get broken would you?  Surely God must need some help with this one.  So he reaches out with seemingly good intentions and God kills him.  This really got David frustrated.  “I don’t get you God!  He was just trying to help!”  We don’t understand why God does all that He does, do we?  Maybe Uzzah had an issue going on in his heart we don’t know about.  Maybe his problem was thinking God needed his help.  Maybe he simply violated one of God’s rules by touching it.  Who knows?  The reality is, God’s wrath showed up and that was the end of Uzzah.

Like David, we get pretty bent out of shape when we don’t understand why God does what He does.  We get frustrated when He doesn’t seem to show up on time, when He doesn’t heal.  But the truth is, we don’t understand His ways.  I don’t know exactly why God killed Uzzah and it frustrates me too, but it’s not up to me.  It was His decision.  I am not in sin for wondering or thinking it was mean.  I am free to take that to Him in the context of our relationship.

Look how God responded to David’s anger.  He didn’t retaliate, He just blessed someone else.  David learned that when you get God, you get Him all.  With the danger and mystery and wrath of the presence of God, also came great blessing and prosperity.  With the fear of the Lord also came great peace.   So what did David do?  He got over it and decided he wanted all of God.  He wanted that blessing and that covering.  He wanted the presence of God to be in his city, in his midst.   That’s what we get with God.  Our relationship with Him is not all about our blessing.  It is also about our sacrifice and the understanding that He is the Sovereign Lord.