Archives For King David

Blinded by the Light

November 7, 2011 — Leave a comment

Kaleb, my oldest son, was playing soccer early Saturday morning and for some reason he just was not going after the ball and playing as hard as I thought he should (of course ;)).  So I walked over to ask him if everything was OK and he told me something that made me think.  He said, “Everything’s fine dad I just can’t see.”  I chuckled a little because the nature of sports means you have to be able to see but at this time of the year, on this particular morning, it was difficult.  It was eight o’clock in the morning and there was a fair bit of dew still on the grass.  Kaleb’s team played facing the sun so it was very difficult to see where he was going and the reflection of the dew made it particularly distracting.

It’s hard spiritually went you can’t see isn’t it?  It’s hard especially when the other team seems to be able to see perfectly fine yet you are distracted and even blinded by difficult circumstances.  David penned these words in difficult times:

“Save me, God!  I am about to drown.  I am sinking deep in the mud, and my feet are slipping.  I am about to be swept under by a mighty flood.  I am worn out from crying, and my throat is dry. I have waited for you till my eyes are blurred” (Psalm 69:1-3; Contemporary English Version).

So how does one become able to focus in such difficult circumstances.  For Kaleb, all he needed were some sunglasses.  The sunglasses wouldn’t have taken away the fact that the bright light still existed but it would have made it a little more tolerable.  A relationship with God does not mitigate our pain but it does make us long for something better.  David closes the Psalm with hope much like you and I close our lives…with hope:

30 I will praise God in a song
and will honor him by giving thanks.
31 That will please the Lord more than offering him cattle,
more than sacrificing a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 Poor people will see this and be glad.
Be encouraged, you who worship God.
33 The Lord listens to those in need
and does not look down on captives.  (69:30-33; New Century Version).


The Old Testament is filled with stories of forgiveness both from God (David and Bathsheba) and forgiveness between man (Joseph and his brothers).  The concept of forgiveness as Christians perceive is not the sense in which the Hebrew Scriptures portrays it.  The Hebrew word (verb) meaning to forgive (calach) actually undergoes no change throughout the Old Testament and basically carries the same meaning throughout (Vine’s Dictionary).  Calach is the primary word for forgiveness in the Old Testament but other words (e.g. ‘awon, naca’ and kapar) can convey the meaning of forgiveness but the primary word throughout is calach.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary states that most of the occurrences of the word are found in the sacrificial laws of Leviticus and Numbers.  If a person (or, persons) sinned then they would go to the priests with animals (a bull)  to make an offering.  The priests (acting as mediators) would offer up the animal and this would be atonement (a price paid) for sin (see Lev. 4:1-35).  So you could imagine the priests were very busy killing animals and offering up sacrifices to God because of the sin of the community.  If you have your New Testament lenses on then this is all familiar to you as the Hebrew author said there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:20).  Not long after this the temple was destroyed and sacrifices were impossible but God still said he would bring Israel out of exile and would forgive them of their sins (Jer. 31:34).

This would apply even if people sinned against each other.  They still were to go to the priest (Lev. 5) and offer up animals as atonement for their sin.  If they couldn’t afford a bull they would get a lamb.  If they could not afford a lamb get two doves or pigeons.  If they could not afford two doves then they would get a “tenth of an ephah of the finest flour” so the priests could burn it on top of the altar.   There are different aspects of forgiveness that Psalmists share with the readers:

  • Forgiveness can happen even with the deepest of sins. “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12; cf. 25:11).
  • With forgiveness comes peace of mind. “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1).
  • There is totality in God’s forgiveness. “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3).
  • Forgiveness is a starting point for a relationship of God. “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you” (Psalm 130:4).

The Old Testament picture of forgiveness, by way of summary, is something only God can do.  The priests were nothing more than mediators of something that God was doing.  Forgiveness is something FREELY done by God to those who are genuinely seeking him.  The Old Testament seems to point to a time where forgiveness could be realized in its fullest sense where restoration, peace and a return to the Garden of Eden is inevitable.  It points to Jesus.

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18).

Looking into Cisterns

January 17, 2011 — 2 Comments

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it” (Genesis 27:23-24).

Most people know this story where Joseph is left to die in a cistern by his older brothers.  We could argue he had it coming (read Gen. 37:1-11) but at the end of the day nobody deserves the treatment Joseph received at the hand of his enraged and jealous brothers.  Joseph is sold to Potiphar and through providential circumstances years down the road he reunites with his brothers in a story only God could write.  Joseph famoulsy assured his brothers:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (50:20).

I am not here to discuss what the biblical writer recorded but what you don’t see in the text.  I wonder how many cisterns Joseph came across in his life as he stopped and recalled the painful experience.  I wonder if he jumped down into the very same cistern he was left to die in and prayed to God thanking him for the painful experience in his life.  I wonder if Joseph’s brothers felt remorse every time they passed a cistern thinking to themselves, “How could I have been so stupid?”  Every time they see a cistern is a moment of regret and for Joseph it is a moment of joy.  A preacher once told me, “The same sun that melts butter is the same sun that hardens clay” and I wonder if it made Joseph strong and the brothers weak.

Much of this is conjecture but I bet cisterns were a topic of conversation for the brothers for years.

What about you?  What are the cisterns (to allegorize) in your life that serve as reminders that God will always be at work among you?  Do you ever look at the stupid decisions you made and wonder what was going through your mind at the time?

How could I have done _________________

Why did I say _________________

Why didn’t I _____________________

The cisterns of our lives serve as reminders that God has done, is doing and will do amazing things in your life.  The same God that forgave Abraham, Jacob, David and Peter can and does forgive you.  The cisterns in our lives should serve as pivotal points where we turn towards God and boldly proclaim that His providence has directed our lives to this point.

So what cisterns are roaming about in your life?  How has God worked through those difficult moments?  What can you do to celebrate God right now?

I wanted to put the book down but I couldn’t.  I wanted to find a reason to dislike the book but I couldn’t.  What happened instead of engrossing myself in yet another self-help book disguised in Christian verbiage I discovered a refreshing (authentic) picture of what a Christian life could/should look like.  Mark Batterson’s Soulprint is a book about the possibilities of serving God in a way that is not superficial but vibrant and real.  I found myself underlining an important phrase on just about every page of the book.  Here are my favorites:

  • “All of us start out a one-of-a-kind originals, but too many of us end up as carbon copies of someone else” (p. 13).
  • “Every past experience is preparation for some future opportunity.  God doesn’t just redeem our souls.  He also redeems our experiences” (p. 22).
  • “Most of us wait to do something wrong until no one is watching, and we wait to do something right until someone is watching” (p. 72).
  • Quoting a popular saying…”If you is who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is” (p. 102).
  • “Sinful self-deception may be the only unlimited capacity we possess.  So I’m no longer surprised by sin.  What does surprise me is the person with the rare courage to confess” (p. 121).

Batterson’s main template for the plot of the book comes from the story of David.  With the finesse of a maestro he weaves through the story of David sharing lessons and probing the biblical text to show how David serves as the standard of righteousness for humans to follow.  Batterson invokes the attention of the reader by inviting us to participate in the biblical text as we move from story to story, thought to thought.

The book does have some idiosyncrasies that are not cumbersome to the reader but, in my opinion, did take away from the book itself.  First of all, like most preachers (me included), Batterson has the tendency to infuse trite sayings into his writing.  “Fulfill your destiny” and other cheesy sayings at times could have been avoided as it had the tendency to reduce discipleship to a cute saying.  Batterson also tended to allegorize much of the Davidic material which may or may not have been the thrust of the text.  For example, when talking about David dancing and stripping his robes (2 Samuel 6:20-22), Batterson made the comment that we too must strip our robes (symbolically…of course :)) to unleash who we really are.  That sounds great but may not have been the original thrust of the text.

Overall, the couple of weaknesses I have does not outweigh the incredible impact this book has had in my spiritual life.  It is not only a quick-read but it is a must-read.  You will not be disappointed.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I close this series with joy filled in my heart anticipating Christmas day.  I long for the time with family, the meals, the happiness, the presents but also the knowledge of why we are there.  “Advent” is a word that comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming.”  It is the Latin translation for the Greek word parousia which is used in the New Testament most often to describe the Second Coming of Christ (see 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11).  Apparently advent was started in the 18th century to recognize not only the birth of Jesus but also the coming of the Lord.  We live in a tension right now that all Christians live in from the time Jesus ascended in Acts 1 until the time of Jesus returns.  The tension is entangled in mystery and wonder knowing that God has wrought a day in which the Lord will return and we shall be like him and dwell forever.  But not yet…not now…not here…not long.  The advent season is about recognizing and celebrating the birth of Jesus but paradoxically anticipating the return of Jesus.  The fact is…Jesus is here and there are implications for you and I.  To really celebrate Christmas is to subvert the consumerism that society puts out and to make it more than simply “HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”  I saw last night where the ACLU sent memos to Tennessee schools warning them of celebrating one religious holiday to the exclusion of others.  That’s fine but the celebrations typically seen are incorrect for the real point of advent is to show that everywhere and anywhere Christ is the Lord who was born of a virgin from the seed of David.  Caesar was not Lord nor is the president today.  Our idols of power, freedom, pride, consumerism and safe-living all miss the mark for the only true Lord in this world is and was Jesus Christ.

So celebrate appropriately.  Decorations are only a hint of the beauty of Christmas as we celebrate the coming of God himself.  We celrbrate that JEsus is Lord.  We anticipate that one day all wrongs will be right and that true peace will reign at the coming of our Lord.  We long for that day but know there is much work for us to do while injustice and evil still reign.  Jesus, we welcome you in our lives as Lord.  Thank you for coming down to this earth and relinquishing your God-abilities to be human.  We recognize the work of your Father as the work we adhere to.  Forgive us this season for our consumerism and allow us to celebrate what is most important beyond the toys, decorations and false narratives sent by society.  Allows us to celebrate you.  Thank you for coming.  I love you.  Reign in my life and let my breath breathe the air that comes from only you.  Amen.

Below is an advent poem by W.H. Smaw and then a couple of songs I thought were worthy of note.  Peace.

I am. I was. I will be.
I am not coming soon I am here.

I was born on a cold night in a cold place
Unnoticed, unheralded by cold people
Who turned my mother away.
On that night were you listening?
On that night the “least of your brothers” was me.
Now do you see, do you hear and do you care?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In your life do you see me
In the ragged men and women
Who search the cold street
Looking for my reflection in your heart?
Do you hear my voice in
Their muttered plea or in their tear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
Do you hear me when your friend turns to you
To ask forgiveness and trust?
Do I not forgive you always?
Do I not give you a merciful ear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In this season I was born unto you
Fulfilling the promise of God’s care.
Look for me, listen to me…
I am not coming soon I am here.

Discerning the will of God for our lives is difficult because so often we think in terms of the weeks, months and years to come instead of the pressing moment.  It is hard for me to discern what God wants me to do in 2011 when a) there is no guarantee for tomorrow and B) I am not concerned of what I can do for God right now.  I am in 1-2 Samuel for my devotional studies and came across an interesting principle David enacted in leu of killing Saul.  He had a couple of opportunities (even one where Saul was going to the bathroom) but David refused because he would not harm the anointed one.  The second opportunity was at the Desert of Ziph in 1 Samuel 26.  David secretly (really it was the Lord) went over to Saul while he was sleeping and Abishai had the opportunity to kill him but David spoke up:

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” (1 Sam. 26:9-11).

In other words, David said, “Let this matter be placed before the Lord who has Saul’s fate in his hand!”  David was uncertain of Saul’s ending but what was certain to him was that he was not going to stand in God’s way and do His will for Him.  What’s next in our lives?  What are we going to do?  Where are we going to end up?  I am not sure if I can even explain this with the utmost clarity because plans change in a nanosecond.  Even as I am typing this blog post, plans I have made perhaps have changed without my knowledge.  That’s the beauty of it all though in that God is still under control. 

Tomorrow will be incredibly different for me…my family…my ministry…get ready for some change.

I learned something unexpectedly yesterday and I thought I would share it with you this morning.  One of my students came in and wanted to talk about what he had on his heart about the Guy’s retreat we are doing this weekend.  He said he had a Scripture that he wanted to speak from and so I was all ears in anticipation about this Scripture.  I asked him: “So what do you want to talk about?”  He said without missing a beat: “I was thinking about Amnon and Tamar.”  I tried to keep my composure but I am sure I was more than a little flabbergasted in my expression.  My thoughts at the time were: “What in the world drove you to choose this text?” “What could you possibly learn from this text that could help teenage boys?”  I was taken back but did not want to crush what God was doing with this conversation so I said nothing and he, Andrew (my intern) and I turned to 2 Samuel 13 to see what God had in store for us.  I want to tell you something: each time you go to God’s Word it seems that something new pops up to you.  Before you read this post click here and read 2 Samuel 13:1-22. 

Something that popped up to me in this reading was that it is so close to 2 Samuel 11-12 which, of course, is the story of David and Bathsheba.  Not only do we see how sin destroyed David personally but now we see it destroying his sons and his daughter.  I wonder why it is so close to each other like this?  Then I thought in the larger context of 1-2 Samuel and I thought about how Israel demanded a king (1 Samuel 8:1-9) and despite the warnings about a king (8:10-22) they still went forward and chose for them Saul and now (in our context) David.  As I was reading and pondering the greater context I quickly saw how badly things go when God is not our king!  David is the second king after Saul (technically the 3rd as Ishbosheth was 2nd, see 2 Sam. 2:8) and this glorious plan of the Israelites is quickly turning into a living and breathing nightmare.  You cannot get any worse than a king committing adultery and killing a husband and then his son raping and ravishing his daughter.  How quickly things turn evil when God is not in control. 

We also came up with an outline as we saw that lust was the main thrust of the passage and so this was the outline:

  • Lust Begins (13:1-2)
  • Lust Schemes (13:3-6)
  • Lust Consumes (13:7-14)
  • Lust Destroys (13:15-19)
  • Lust Chain Reacts (13:20-22)

From there the student is going to speak and give us a message on lust and what it does to men.  I am so thankful that he chose this text because it allowed me to look at God’s Word anew!  He truly blessed me.