Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2 Samuel 12:14 - 13:39 - Consequences

LINK: 2 Samuel 12:14 - 13:39

Because of David's sin, God pronounced two judgments on him. The first was that there would always be strife in his family, and the second was that the child would die. The baby only lived a week after birth, and the family strife began in today's reading with Ammon's rape of Tamar.

As long as there was hope that God could change his mind, David plead with God for the life of the child. But once he knew God had not relented and the child died, he accepted God's decision as final and worshiped him.

When we sin, we (as well as others around us) suffer the consequences. God is merciful, but he doesn't usually remove the natural consequences of our actions. And sometimes he imposes further consequences on us. He disciplines us because he loves us, and I believe this is what God was doing with David. We need to know that we can't "get away with" blatant sin against God. But God "disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). His goal isn't simple to punish us, but to make us holy.

Lord, I want to be made holy. I know that the process involved is sometimes painful, because you are a loving Father who disciplines us. But you also give us comfort. You require obedience but also walk beside us. Thank you for being the all-wise, perfectly loving Father. Because of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Psalm 51 - What God Wants

LINK: Psalm 51


Sometimes the realization of our sin surges over us and we lie exhausted and drained on the battered shore of our own self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction. What do we do then?

The titles of the psalms are part of the original Hebrew and so each is a part of the psalm it introduces. This title states that Psalm 51 was written by David after Nathan the prophet had visited him to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba. So that is the occasion of the writing of this psalm. But I think that David is dealing with more here than his physical act of adultery with Bathsheba, though that alone is an act that deserved punishment. Sin is conceived in the heart. So David comes to God for mercy and forgiveness for a heart that has been untruthful and rebellious.


I have read this psalm many times as I’ve meditated on it. It is healing to the spirit. How often do I fret and stew in my sin, refusing to admit it, reluctant to come to the only One who can deal with it?

Sin is not a popular word these days. We rationalize reasons for wrongdoing; we excuse sin as something that is a result of dysfunction. We call sins “mistakes.”

But you know, at its core, sin isn’t about me and how it hurts me (which it does). It’s not even primarily about how I hurt others (which I do). Sin is about rebellion toward God. That’s why David said, “Against you and you only have I sinned.” There is a freedom in recognizing the reality of sin in my life and confessing it to the only One who can forgive and cleanse and make new. If we don’t recognize our sinful heart then we can’t truly find forgiveness. Calling sin a “mistake,” making excuses for sin, rationalizing and refusing to admit sin – all of the coping mechanisms we use for dealing with guilt and wrongdoing – cannot give us forgiveness and freedom. There is a relief in recognizing my sin, because when I recognize it then I can turn to the One who can deal with it.

That’s what David does in this psalm. I see a progression here:

David admits his sin and recognizes that he deserves judgment from God for it (1-6). He’s not trying to make excuses or rationalize. He recognizes that the core of his sin is found in his heart, which has been untruthful. Isn’t that what making excuses and rationalizations are?

David asks for forgiveness and cleansing from a God He knows is merciful and loving (7). There is no indication of doubt that God will hear and answer. David knows His God. He knows that the Lord is full of tender mercy and lovingkindness. We certainly should know that this side of the cross. God came in the flesh to die for us. What more evidence do we need of His mercy and love?

David asks for restoration – for a clean heart – for renewal of a steadfast spirit (8-12). (I love that word steadfast – a faithful heart that stays steadily bound to God.) David asks for God to restore joy and and a willing spirit– which return after the sin is cleansed!

Look at the results of forgiveness – of restored relationship with God : service to others(13), worship of God (14-17) that flows from a heart broken open and relying on Him, and fellowship (18-19). Who doesn’t long for those?


Read this psalm several times. Meditate on it. Let its words soak into your spirit.

If you tend to take sin lightly think about this:

Ye who think of sin but lightly, Nor suppose the evil great.
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load.
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

We have God who forgives. We have a God who sacrificed Himself for us. We can have freedom from the guilt of sin. That is huge!

If you are convicted of unconfessed sin, then do what David did. Admit it and recognize that you deserve judgment; ask God to forgive and cleanse; turn from the sin and ask for restoration of joy and steadfastness. God will forgive and cleanse and restore. Believe Him.


Yesterday in church we sang a couple of songs that dovetailed with this psalm. I’m going to quote one for our prayer today.

Out of the deep I call,
To Thee, O Lord, to Thee
Before Thy throne of grace I fall;
Be merciful to me. Be merciful to me.

Out of the deep I cry;
The woeful deep of sin,
Of evil done in days gone by,
Of evil now within, of evil now within.

Out of the deep of fear,
And dread of coming shame:
All night till morning watch is near;
I plead the precious name; I plead the precious name.

Lord, there is mercy now,
As ever was, with Thee.
Before Thy throne of grace I bow;
Be merciful to me; be merciful to me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2 Samuel 2 & 3 - Fight for the Throne

LINK: 2 Samuel 2 & 3


Upon Saul's death, God sent David to Hebron to claim the throne. The people of Judah (in the south) anointed him king. Meanwhile, Abner, commander of Saul's army took Saul's son Ish-bosheth to Mahanaim and made him king over the northern tribes. This triggered a civil war with Joab leading David's men and Abner leading Ish-bosheth's men in battle. When Ish-bosheth accused Abner of being a traitor, Abner defected to David's side and swore he would bring the kingdom together under David. When Joab saw that David accepted Abner, he brought Abner back to Hebron and murdered him as an act of personal revenge. David mourned the death of Abner and cursed Joab for murdering him.


When Joab killed Abner, he was not acting in a military role. Rather, he was taking personal vengeance for the death of his brother Asahel by the hand of Abner (2:18-23). Hebron was one of the cities of refuge, so Abner should have been safe from Joab's vengeance there. And a trial was required before the avenger could slay a murderer. Joab ignored these laws, and David rightly condemned him for this murder.


When somebody wrongs you, do you seek revenge? Do you want to get even, get them back, make them pay in some way? When we do this, we become murderers in our hearts. (See Matthew 5:21-22.) To believers, Paul says, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." (Rom 12:19) We are commanded to seek peace with all men, even those who persecute us. Read and meditate on Romans 12:17-21. If you are struggling with conflict in your life, I would highly recommend the book Carol mentioned the other day called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande.


Today pray for anyone who has wronged you. Instead of seeking revenge, ask God to bless that person (and you leave the vengeance to God). Ask the Lord to change your heart toward that person. Determine to show kindness to him/her, thereby overcoming evil with good instead of perpetuating evil.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Psalm 78 - History Lesson!

LINK: Psalm 78


Asaph, the poet God inspired to compose this psalm, reminds the parents of Israel to tell their children the stories from history that they were supposed to have been told by their parents. What is the purpose in telling the history? It is so that their children might praise God for His power and provision; so that they will set their hope on God; and so that they can, in turn, pass the story on to their children as a kind of cautionary tale.

As we begin 2 Samuel and the reign of David as King of Israel, this psalm reminds us of the importance of what we’ve read so far in the Old Testament. We read in this psalm a summary of how God provided miraculously for the Israelites over and over again, and how, time after time, they rebelled against Him by refusing to trust Him. The message is clear. Learn from history! Don’t follow the pattern of disbelief that characterized the Israelites.

The psalm does end on an encouraging note, with David the shepherd king – a man who shepherded not only sheep, but people, too, with integrity of heart.


Sometimes the word “but” is so sad. It’s frequently a sad word in this psalm.

Look at the cycle that is repeated:

The psalm tells how over and over again God demonstrated His powerful care for His people. Just look at a little of what He does: God divided the sea so they could pass through, led them with a cloud by day and a fire by night, split rock and caused streams to flow from it so they could drink.

And then there’s that word “but.”

But they sinned even more against Him/ By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness./ And they tested God in their heart…”

Look at the rest of the psalm. Notice all that God did for His people. Yet they continued to sin by not trusting Him and His power. Verse 41 says, “Again and again they tempted God,/ and limited the Holy One of Israel./ They did not remember his power:/ The day when He redeemed them from the enemy.”

When I read this psalm I get impatient with the people of Israel. How could they respond like that to the God who cared for them so miraculously? How could they forget Him so quickly?

Then I realize that I often do the same thing. I have seen God's provision for me and my family. I have been told ways He was active in the past in my parents’ lives. I have been redeemed from the Enemy! How quickly I forget. How quickly I demand “food” I want. I am so quick to love myself and so slow to love God.

So I am thankful for the time that little word “but” is good news!

But He (God), being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,/ and did not destroy them. … He remembered that they were but flesh.”

I am so glad that God is merciful and full of compassion in the face of our weakness and sinfulness.


If you have the time, sit down with this psalm and list all the miraculous ways God provided for His people. Then list the ways they responded. How did they demonstrate their lack of trust?

Here are a few that hit me:

They disobeyed.
They willfully put God to the test.
They demanded food they craved.
They did not believe in God.
They were ungrateful.
They didn’t trust in His deliverance.
They lied to Him.
Their hearts weren’t loyal.
They were unreliable.

What do you see?

Learn from this psalm. That’s why it’s here. Don’t be like the Israelites.


Help us to learn from this parable from history, Lord. Thank you for your miraculous provision for us. Keep us from self-centeredness. Help us to respond to you in trust and obedience and integrity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

1 Samuel 29 & 30 - Katrina's Reflection, Application, and Prayer

I am reposting many of these posts in 2011, but I am leaving posts that others have written. Katrina and I combined on this particular post. So, I am  leaving her part of the post here for posterity. Thanks Katrina for all your labor in the first round of Bible Book Club!!!

REFLECTION with Katrina

The Lord is always at work, but from our perspective we don't always see it. God allowed the Amalekites to raid Ziklag and capture all who were there while David and the fighting men were gone. But he did not allow them to kill anyone before David rescued them. God allowed David to be called to battle by Achish, but he didn't make or let David go into battle against Israel. David's own men turned against him in their hearts, but God did not allow them to stone David. The Egyptian slave fell sick and was left behind to die along the road. But God provided for his rescue by David and then the Egyptian helped David. This slave was not only kept alive through his deadly circumstances, but he was also freed from his slavery to the Amalekites. All of these situations looked hopeless at a certain point to those in the middle of them. But God used these difficult situations for the good of these people in the end.

APPLICATION with Katrina

When David found himself at the end of himself, he "strengthened himself in the Lord his God." He pulled himself away from his circumstances and let God refresh him. When he was exhausted, he drew strength from God. When he wasn't sure what step to take next, he just flat out asked God to tell him what to do. We would do well to follow David's example. We can find strength in the Lord on a daily basis as well as in times of distress by spending time in God's word and in seeking his face. The Bible and prayer are sources of strength to us from God. The men came back from battle and didn't want to share with those who stayed behind, but David declared that those who stayed behind were just as important as those who fought and should share equally in the spoils. The same is true in the church today. Some people hav eministries that are much more visible than others. That doesn't make the others any less important or deserving of less reward. Whatever ministry God has given you, do with all your heart. The world's perspective has no bearing on God's perspective. Each member of the body of Christ is valuable and has been gifted to serve. So avoid comparison and competition (like Carol mentioned the other day), and serve in whatever capacity God has given you to serve.


Lord, we can't always see and understand what you are doing, but we know that you make all things work together for the good of those who love you. We love you and want to serve you. Help us keep our eyes off earthly values and focus on obeying and serving you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Psalm 56 - Fear and Faith

LINK: Psalm 56


Commentators aren’t certain exactly when David wrote this, even though the title says, “A Michtam of David when the Philistines captured him in Gath.” Gath is a city in Philisitia. Most think it corresponds with the time he feigned insanity in Philistia recorded in I Samuel 21. Regardless, it’s clear from the psalm itself that it was composed when David was surrounded by enemies, something true of him quite often during this period of his life when he was running from Saul.


Several parts of this psalm have ministered to me as I’ve meditated on it.

Verse 3 says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you (God).” We do fear. This psalm faces that as a reality. There will be times when I am afraid. But when I am, as soon as I realize it, I am to turn to God in trust.

How? How do I trust God when fear begins to take me captive?

Three times this psalm links trust with praising God’s word. “In God (I will praise His word),/ In God I have put my trust.” (4) “In God (I will praise His word), / In the Lord (I will praise His word), / In God I have put my trust; / I will not be afraid, / What can man do to me?” (10-11)

So when I fear (as I will), I am to remember and praise His Word. Remembering His promises and praising Him for them is an antidote for fear! David might have remembered promises such as those in the beginning of Deuteronomy 28. I have the whole Bible to choose from!

There are some beautiful metaphors in this psalm. David says in verse 8: “You (God) number my wanderings;/ Put my tears into Your bottle;/ Are they not in Your book?”

I had a friend once who told me that God never wastes pain. That has stuck with me. And that’s what these verses indicate. I love the image of God putting every teardrop of mine in His bottle. God knows and keeps track of what we experience - every hurt, every tear.

“What can man (flesh) do to me?” (4, 11) Sometimes when I feel fear and doubt, this is where I end up. What is the most man can do to me? People can hurt me physically and emotionally, but they have no power over my heart, over my soul. Who do I fear more, people or God? Fear of God will keep me from other fears.


In order to recall God’s promises, we first have to know them! I cannot stress enough the importance of soaking in God’s Word, of hiding it in your heart. So soak!

If you are struggling with doubt and fear, find a promise of God to cling to, to praise Him for. 2 Peter 1: 3-4 says, “…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” God’s promises help us to be conformed to His image, make us more like Him.

I don’t know what you’re going through. Maybe no one reading this is in a rough time. But if you’re struggling with fear or doubt and have no strength to find a promise of God to cling to, please let one of us know, either in the comment section or by email. We are your sisters and we want to help bear your burden.


Father God, when we fear and doubt help us to remember Your promises and cling to them, praise You for them. Help us to fear You more than we fear other people, so that we can live without fear – in trust and obedience. If someone who reads this is struggling with fear or doubt, I ask that You somehow bring to her mind one of Your promises, so that she can begin to praise you and not fear. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Psalms 46-47 - God: Our Refuge, Strength, and KING!

LINK: Psalms 46 - 47


Psalm 46 is the psalm that inspired Martin Luther to write his wonderful hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Both these psalms dwell on the sovereignty and might of God.


As I type this, Hurricane Gustav barrels toward my state. We have spent a large part of the past two days preparing for its onslaught. Right now I hear helicopters droning overhead, flying special needs evacuees to a shelter less than a mile from our home. These two psalms are just what I need to reflect on right now.

Are those of us who belong to God promised an absence of difficulties or struggles? No, of course not.

What we are promised is that God is our refuge and strength IN trouble, no matter what the trouble is. It could be a hurricane! It could be illness. It could be a country in chaos – a failure of the political system. It could be family problems. It could be spiritual attack.

The main point of these two chapters is that God is King. He is the peaceful river of life to those who are His, even in the midst of hard circumstances, even in the midst of chaos. It has been good for me to take some moments to be still and silent, as Psalm 46:10 says, to take a deep breath and realize that He is God, that He is among us and in us.

We live in a broken world – broken physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We will know trouble. But in Christ we have have a sure and certain refuge.

I am low on time for this post, so I’ll end with the words of Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe –
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He –
Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him –
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure:
One little Word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also –
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever!!


What troubles you? Be still and know that God is LORD and KING! Turn to Him.


Father, help us to trust you, to live for You. Help us not to worry about anything, but to turn to you in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving; help us to turn to you with our heart cares. Thank-you for your peace – a peace that passes all understanding. We are trusting you to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus so that we can truly say, no matter what our circumstances, that all is well.