Thursday, February 28, 2013


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“God is my strong fortress, and He makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights” (II Samuel 22:33-34, NLT).

“God is my strong fortress.” Let’s say you have a newly installed storm shelter when you hear a warning that an F-5 tornado is headed your way. You run into the shelter, but you’re terrified – you have no idea if this untested contraption is really going to keep you safe. But the storm rips through and, afterwards, you walk out of your shelter completely unscathed.

You’ve learned something: your storm shelter will protect you every bit as well as the installer told you it would. The next time you hear a tornado warning, you’ll head for your shelter confident that it can and will protect you.

Your experience taught you to trust the storm shelter’s security. Likewise, David’s experience with God taught him that God was his “strong fortress” in times of trouble. Untested faith has a lot of growing to do, and faith grows tremendously during our greatest difficulties. David had learned this through many troubles that, without God’s mighty intervention, could have easily taken his life. No doubt, many of you reading this have learned this the very same way.

“He makes my ways perfect.”
When you follow God’s plan for your life, your way is “perfect.” No, not a one of us manages to stay on track 24/7, but we avoid countless unnecessary heartaches and struggles when we seek to follow God’s leadership.

“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.”
David grew up working out in the fields with his father’s sheep. He’d undoubtedly watched the deer leap seemingly effortlessly from one rocky spot to another. They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t worry. They had no doubt as to their ability. David didn’t have confidence in himself, but he had absolute trust in the One who made him “as surefooted as a deer.” He knew God had worked throughout his lifetime to prepare him to face the challenges that came with his role as Israel’s leader.

“He trains my hands for battle”
(II Samuel 22:35a). This is huge, folks. Every difficulty – great or small – that God allows in our lives can be used to prepare us for things that lie ahead. Think about it this way: to a teen, a zit on prom night ranks a 10 on the crisis scale; but as we get older and face bigger challenges, we wouldn’t rank a zit as that big a tragedy. We weigh or rank crises according to our past experiences.

Note I said these things CAN be used to prepare us for things that lie ahead. It’s back to what the Christian life continually teaches us: we have to choose. When we choose to trust God in our bad times as well as our good, our faith grows and we learn to better cope with problems. Not only that, but our own experiences help us to encourage other who are going through tough times, especially ones that we’ve personally been through ourselves.

While some battles can definitely be avoided, many of life’s troubles hit us head-on and there’s no way to escape them. The one thing we can do is be prepared “for battle.” How do we this? By trusting God with our everything – the good, the bad and all in between; by staying in His Word; by staying in close fellowship with strong, like-minded believers; and by daily conversation with our Creator.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


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We’re still looking at David’s psalm of praise in Second Samuel 22: “For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?” (verse 31, NLT).

“For who is God except the Lord?” David knew how many false gods were worshiped in his time and he wanted to make it perfectly clear that there was only One True God and He was the one David sought to live for and honor.

Today we see many religions and cults, but there are plenty of other gods among us that aren’t quite so obvious. Countless people worship Hollywood stars; rock stars; materialism in general; and on and on it goes. Some people even worship their families; their children; their grandchildren. If we’re not careful to consciously keep Jesus Christ our number one priority, it’s far too easy to move Him to a lesser place in our lives; and folks, any place besides first place is the wrong place.

“Who but our God is a solid rock?”
David wanted people to know that his life had been built on a solid foundation – the One and Only True God.

When the Israelites were still wandering and grumbling their way through the wilderness, they came to Rephidim and “there was no water for the people to drink” (Exodus 17:1b). Moses cried out to the Lord for help and God told him: “‘I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.’ So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on” (Exodus 17:6).

Who was standing “on the rock” Moses was instructed to strike? The Lord.

Now look over in Numbers 20 and we see the Israelites this time in Kadesh, and – surprise, surprise – they’re grumbling and demanding that Moses and Aaron come up with a source of water. This time the Lord tells Moses, “As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water” (verse 8a).

But what did Moses do? Disgusted with the teeming mass of whiners he was saddled with, “he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out” (verses 10-11a).

While God had given Moses permission and instruction to “strike the rock” at Rephidim, He had specifically told Moses only to “speak to the rock” at Kadesh. Paul said of the Israelites “in the wilderness long ago… they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:1b, 4b).

“The rock” that was struck represented Jesus Christ, the one who “was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5a).

Throughout scripture we see previews of Christ in the imagery of “the rock.” You probably know the old hymn that says, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand.” David knew Him and praised Him. Do you?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


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“God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection” (II Samuel 22:30, NLT).

“God’s way is perfect.” When Moses passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua, he sang a hymn of praise before all the people. In it, he said of the Lord, “He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Undoubtedly, David knew this song of Moses and drew on it as he celebrated the Lord’s goodness.

“God’s ways" truly are “perfect.” He never has nor never will say, “Oops.” He makes no mistakes. Even when we can’t understand the way He’s working and even when we can’t see Him working at all, He is at work. And as Romans 8:28 tells us, we can rest assured that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (NLT).

Romans 8:28 has to be one of the most misunderstood and misused in the Bible. How can good come from a horrible illness? A tragic death? A heart-wrenching divorce?

But look at this passage in the light of what David and Moses said about God’s ways and deeds being perfect. God is not the author of evil. He despises evil. However, from the moment He created human beings, He gave them a choice: choose Me or choose Satan. Ain’t no third choice, folks – it’s either God’s way or the devil’s.

Given the freedom to choose, mankind chose evil and, in doing so, unleashed the curses that accompanied that wrong choice. Sin corrupted God’s perfect world. See, neither sin nor the results of sin are anything new – Satan isn’t capable of creating anything. What sin does and what Satan delights in is perverting for evil what God created for good.

But here’s the deal: in spite of the corrupted world we live in, God’s ultimate plan will prevail and that plan is totally and positively “for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will spend eternity with Him in a place of absolute perfection.

A lot of folks say they “love God,” but a lot of those folks are as lost as the proverbial duck in the desert. The proof is in the living, y’all. True children of God understand and live “according to His purpose for them.” Not their own personal agendas.

You can give your kids and grandkids all the worldly love and worldly stuff you can drum up, but unless you give them Jesus, you’ve given them nothing of eternal value. And that’s the only thing that’s going to count when your time or your loved one’s time on this ol’ earth comes to a close.

"God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection” (II Samuel 22:30, NLT). David could make this statement with absolute confidence because he fully trusted in the goodness and power of God.

Do you believe all God’s promises are true? Do you trust Him as your Shield and Defender?

Monday, February 25, 2013


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David’s psalm continues with another declaration of his confidence in God’s power to deliver him from enemies and obstacles: “In Your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall” (II Samuel 22:30, NLT).

“In your strength I can crush an army.”
David knew his own strength was futile. He’d learned as a youth as he fought the wild animals that sought to attack his father’s flocks that he needed the Lord’s strength to safeguard himself and those under his care. As he told Saul when he asked to fight Goliath, “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (I Samuel 17:37).

“With my God I can scale any wall.” Over and over throughout this psalm of praise we see David proclaiming “my God.” Even though the Lord was “the God of Israel” (I Samuel 10:18a), David also understood that He was a personal God and that any success David had in any struggle was dependent on his walk with the Lord.

In other words, David knew he could “crush an army” or “scale any wall” only when he was spiritually conditioned to do so. You may recall reading Proverbs 18:10 earlier in our look at David: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (NIV). A person must be physically fit to be able to run; likewise, to run to his spiritual “Strong Tower,” a person must be spiritually fit. Rather than falling apart in a crisis, a person who is “strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10a, NLT) will run to the One who can give him the strength to face the problem.

How do we become spiritually fit? By staying in close fellowship with God every single day. We cannot allow our lives to become so busy that we don’t have time for God. If we do that, we set ourselves up for disaster.

We may be super busy people, but we find time for the things that matter to us. A current survey shows that in the average American household, at least one TV is on for almost seven hours a day. In total, Americans watch an annual average of 250 billion hours of TV.

So while families, including professing Christian households, are consuming hours of TV every day, believers don’t take nearly as much interest in the word of God. In the recently conducted Transformational Discipleship study by LifeWay Research, only 19 percent said they read the Bible every day and 14 percent said they read it once a week. A whopping 22 percent said they read God’s Word once a month or a few times a month. And get this one: 18 percent said that, outside of church, they rarely or never read the Bible.

Which brings me to the most incongruous part of the LifeWay survey’s responses. Ninety percent of the respondents said, “I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do.” Ninety percent! The vast majority of the very same respondents that seldom or rarely read their Bibles said they wanted to “please and honor Jesus.” I believer that, my friends, is what we call “good intentions.”

Folks, we can’t be strong while weak in our knowledge and love for the word of God. And good intentions won’t cut it. That’s like getting around to losing weight or starting an exercise program or putting back money for that special vacation – it ain’t gonna happen until you’re truly committed to reaching that goal.

Let me leave you with a deep thought to chew on: if your faith doesn’t impact your own life enough to draw you close to God, how do you ever expect it to bring your lost family members and friends into a saving knowledge of Jesus?

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Yesterday we ended our look at David’s Second Samuel 22 psalm (song of praise) with a reminder of how, when we stay ‘fessed up before Him, God sees us as pure. And God blesses that purity by revealing Himself to us in deeper and deeper ways. Let’s move on and get a look at the flip side:

“To the pure You show Yourself pure, but to the wicked You show Yourself hostile” (II Samuel 22:27, NLT).

“To the wicked You show Yourself hostile.” “God is love,”
(I John 4:8 and 16). It’s not that He refuses to tolerate evil; He can’t. It’s so diametrically opposed to who He is that He simply cannot abide it. Which is why “to the wicked” He’s “hostile.” To be hostile is to show oneself to be an enemy.

We live in a horrendously wicked world that we are to be IN, not OF. In other words, you may have a pig sty on your property, but you still don’t have to wallow in it just because it’s there. Jesus plainly stated, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36a, HCSB). And James reminded us: “Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God?” (James 4:4b, NLT).

Yow! To be “an enemy of God” is to play for the opposing team. The eternal losers. No one with an inkling of understanding as to whom God is and the power He has could possibly want to have Him as an enemy.

Speaking of teams, think about this: if you’re on God’s team, your enemies are His enemies. And God doesn’t take kindly to anyone seeking to harm His children. Matter of fact, He doesn’t take kindly to those who so much as wrongly influence them:

“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck”
(Mark 9:42).

David knew he had the One and Only Powerful God on his side. If you’re His child, do you realize He’s your Defender, too?

David’s psalm continues: “You rescue the humble, but Your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them” (II Samuel 22:28).

While the Lord smiles on those who show humility, He is no fan of the prideful. Scripture after scripture warns of the downfall of “the proud.” Just one more example: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Simply put, pride focuses attention on self: Look what I did. See what I have. A humble person doesn’t seek to be recognized for what he has accomplished or possesses.

David had outshone the entire Israeli army with his takedown of Goliath. He’d risen from absolute obscurity as a backwoods shepherd to leader of his nation. He was rich. He was handsome. He was powerful. But he knew he couldn’t take credit for one bit of all that: it was all because of the Lord.

If you’re dealing with a haughty-spirited Christian, hand that problem to Jesus and wait, watch and trust. If this person isn’t a believer, remember that God doesn’t spank the devil’s children – they’re stacking up a big enough payday in eternity. Pray for him or her; treat them with kindness regardless of what you get in return, and have faith that God can lift you above this problem or any other when you call on Him to help you.

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“O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness” (II Samuel 22:29, NLT). I love all the scriptures that talk about God as a “lamp” or “light.”

But before we look into any of those, note the ownership in David’s two sentences: “my lamp.” David claimed God as his own.

Then David says “my darkness.” David knew that nothing dark in his life could be of God, whether it came from David’s own doing or elsewhere. David understood the truth of First John 1:5b:“God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.”
So if “God is light” and we’re His children, how is it we find ourselves so often surrounded by darkness? Because we don’t avail ourselves of the Light.

I’ve used this example before, but it bears repeating. You’re in the woods and it’s pitch black. In your hand is a flashlight. You can wander all over the place carrying that flashlight, but unless you turn it on, it’s not going to do you one ounce of good.

Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ has the indwelling Holy Spirit. But having Him and availing yourself of His power are two different animals. James 4:2b says that, “you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it.” While this isn’t a blanket name-it-and-claim-it offer, James is saying that we miss out on a lot of God’s help and blessings simply because we fail to ask. There’s so much more to that passage, but that’s for another day and lesson.

But let’s say you do have your flashlight and you do have it on. Point it out in front of you and guess what? You still can’t see your way out of the woods. All you can see is a few steps ahead. Which is my whole point: We are often surrounded by darkness even though we have the light. But as we take each tiny little step of faith, the light illuminates a little bit more of the pathway. And then a little bit more and a little bit more.

See, we don’t have to know the entire plan to start walking. We just need to trust Him enough to take the first step. And then the second one. And the third one. And the more we walk in faith, the more we see and the more we trust. Pretty soon, our fear is replaced by confidence in the One who is leading, and our timidly begun journey becomes a boldly advancing adventure.

Boldly. Advancing. Adventurous. That’s how David saw God working in his life. That’s I hope you and I see God working in ours.

Friday, February 22, 2013


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Continuing our look at David’s psalm of praise in Second Samuel 22:

“To the faithful You show Yourself faithful; to those with integrity You show integrity. To the pure You show Yourself pure” (verses 26-27a), NLT).

“To the faithful You show Yourself faithful.”
David may have had his faults, but by far, the vast majority of his life was spent in seeking to please God. Don’t ever think that your faithfulness isn’t being recorded in heaven. Remember, in His Parable of the Three Servants, He says of the two servants who wisely used all He’d entrusted to them: “Well done, My good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities” (Matthew 25:21b).

Did you catch that? “I will give you many more responsibilities.” If you want to do great things for God, first do the small things faithfully. Jesus also said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16:10a). David was a faithful young shepherd boy who became the greatest king in Israel’s history. Those who take small responsibilities and commitments seriously are always the ones who can best be entrusted with big things.

“To those with integrity, You show integrity.”
Integrity goes hand-in-hand with faithfulness. Integrity is defined as “soundness of moral character.” You don’t have to wonder how a person of integrity will respond in situations – you know they’ll do whatever’s right.

Case in point: my sweet husband. He once witnessed a woman drive off with a bank envelope full of money atop her car. It fell off and he picked it up. He wasn’t able to get her attention, so he took the money to the bank printed on the envelope and they were able to check their records and see who had cashed out the amount of money in the envelope.

It was never a question of, “Should I keep this or not?” Larry knew to the core of his very being the right thing to do. As Proverbs 11:3a reminds us, “The integrity of the upright guides them.” God blesses and guides those who walk in His ways.

“To the pure You show Yourself pure.”
I like this definition of the word “pure:” “free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind.” God is most assuredly pure, but what about His people? Mankind, created in God’s image, has managed to come up with a ton of ways to contaminate their lives with all sorts of inferior things that are completely different from God’s intent and purpose. And that’s not a new thing; people throughout time have found plenty of ways to rebel against their Creator.

I love that David can sing about purity in his old age. David, like all of us, recalled all too vividly the sins that he’d committed against His Lord. But he also knew it wasn’t God doing the reminding. God had forgiven him. Given him a clean slate. And David had received it and believed it.

Ditto for when David talked about being “faithful.” His unfaithfulness was history. Forgiven and forgotten. Except by the enemy. And David wasn’t concerned with that ol’ liar. His focus was on His Savior.

What about you? Do you believe the devil’s reminders of your shortcomings more than you believe the Living Word of God who promised His forgiveness?

In Peter’s vision concerning the Gentiles, God told him, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean” (Acts 10:15b). Listen to your heart. God is saying the same thing to you. If He’s forgiven it, He’s forgotten it. So stop believing the lies. Stop beating yourself up. You are clean and pure before Him. “Do not call something unclean… God has made… clean.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

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After an eye-popping description of his rescuing Savior, David adds: “They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me” (II Samuel 22:19, NLT).

“When I was in distress.” You’ve heard the expression about “kicking a man when he’s down.” This is precisely what the enemy specializes in. When you’re feeling your worst; struggling the most; this is when the enemy attacks. And as crazy as it may sound, that alone should show you what a weakling he really is. He needs to find your most vulnerable place in order to hurt you.

But our Great Rescuer will hear our cries for help and come to our aid, just as He did for David: “He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me” (II Samuel 22:20).

“He delights in me.” How does the Lord “delight in” us? First Samuel 15 holds a part of the answer: “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” (I Samuel 15:22, NASB). God delights in our obedience to His Word.

And this goes right along with what Paul taught in Romans 12:1b – that the life of a Christian is to be as “a living and holy sacrifice – the kind He will find acceptable” (NLT). The person God delights in is the one who obeys Him by living his daily life totally sold out to Jesus.

David continues: “The Lord rewarded me for doing right; He restored me because of my innocence. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. I have followed all His regulations; I have never abandoned His decrees. I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence” (II Samuel 22:21-25).

“I have never abandoned His decrees.” “I am blameless before God.” Huh? Is this the same David that sinned with Bathsheba? Is this the same David that sent her husband Uriah and the other soldiers around him to their premeditated deaths? Yes, one and the same.

How could David write such words after all he’d done? Bible scholars suggest that he wrote this (as seen in Psalm 18) earlier in his life – pre-Bathsheba. But David is old now and he’s still singing this song. How does that make any sense?

When David was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba, David immediately made a heartfelt confession that I believe had already been gnawing at his soul: “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13a).

God was just waiting for David to admit it. And when he did, God told Nathan to tell him, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you” (II Samuel 12:13b).

David understood the truth of Isaiah 1:18 where God calls out: “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.”

What David had confessed, God had forgiven. And what God had forgiven was no longer on David’s record. Other people might have reminded David of what he’d done, but God never did.

Folks, that little voice inside your head that keeps reminding you of what you’ve done wrong, if it’s talking to you about a confessed sin, it sure ain’t Jesus. That’s the enemy wanting to keep you feeling worthless.

If it’s under the blood, it’s over. Done. History. Walk in victory; refuse to live in defeat.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


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In this psalm of praise, David says that he had “cried to my God for help” (II Samuel 22:7a, NLT). He goes on to tell us the result of his cry: “He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears” (II Samuel 22:7b).

And then David goes into a detailed description of God’s reaction. Folks, God doesn’t merely hear our cries; He responds to them. This is what David said He did for him:

“Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the heavens shook; they quaked because of His anger.

Smoke poured from His nostrils; fierce flames leaped from His mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from Him.

He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath His feet.

Mounted on a mighty angelic being, He flew, soaring on the wings of the wind.

He shrouded Himself in darkness, veiling His approach with dense rain clouds.

A great brightness shone around Him, and burning coals blazed forth.

The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.

He shot arrows and scattered His enemies; His lightning flashed, and they were confused.

Then at the command of the Lord, at the blast of His breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.

He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me”
(II Samuel 22:8-18).

Wow! David says “the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the heavens shook.” Why? “Because of His anger.” What was God angry about? Someone seeking to hurt one of His children.

The Almighty God of the Universe came to David’s rescue incensed as a Parent protecting His child: “Smoke poured from His nostrils; fierce flames leaped from His mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from Him.”

This is such a huge passage. God “flew” to David’s rescue. But here’s what else I don’t want you to miss: “He shrouded Himself in darkness, veiling His approach with dense rain clouds.”

Child of God, it may seem dark, but God’s deliverance is on its way. When you cry out to your Heavenly Father, He’s going to answer. And He’s going to come to you. Maybe not in the exact way you want Him to. Maybe not in the exact way you expected Him to. But He’ll be there.

And take a look at this verse: “He shot arrows and scattered His enemies.” David’s enemies had become God’s enemies. When you’re living in obedience to Jesus Christ, your enemies are also His.

Your enemies may be “too strong” for you, but nothing nor no one is too powerful for God to vanquish.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


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“David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang: ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence’” (II Samuel 22:2-3, NLT).

“My rock.”
David had learned that as long as his feet were firmly planted on the Rock of Ages, he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by his difficulties.

“My fortress.” David also understood that his ability to run to the Lord in his moments of great need were dependent on his spiritual health. Let me put it this way: if you climbed into your car to go somewhere very important and found that your car wouldn’t start, would it be easier to ask for help from a neighbor that you’d hardly ever spoken to or one that you communicated with on a regular basis? God doesn’t want to His own children to treat Him like a stranger until they need something from Him; He wants us to spend time with Him daily.

Next, David calls God “my savior.” David could recall a jillion times God had delivered him from his enemies. He could also recall the times when God had delivered him from his own foolishness.

In two short verses, David offers at least seven descriptions of who God is in his life: “my rock;” “my fortress;” “my savior;” “my shield;” “the power that saves me;” “my place of safety;” “my refuge;” “the one who saves me from violence.”

Nine times David uses the word “my” as he describes who God is to him. David claimed God as his personal Savior. Do you?

Second Samuel 22 continues: “I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and He saved me from my enemies. The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears” (verses 4-7).

Verse 4 begins with two important elements: (1) David “called on the Lord.” The One True God is touchable, reachable. (2) He is also “worthy of praise.” While He stands ready to listen when you call on Him, He loves to hear from you when you don’t want a thing, but simply want to praise Him for who He is.

And what was the result of David’s crying out to the Lord? “He saved me from my enemies.”

Then David backs up and describes the sort of mess he had been in: “The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path.” David had been slammed on every side. He knew what it was like to suffer spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially.

But he also knew who to turn to: “In my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help.” Don’t miss this, y’all. David wanted everyone who heard this psalm of praise that he didn’t merely call out to “the Lord,” but to “my God.” In good times and bad times, David knew God as a personal God.

And David was ready to declare what had happened: “He heard me.”

Your Savior hears you, too. Your worries are His worries. Your cares are His cares. Your pain is His pain. “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall” (Psalm 55:22).

Monday, February 18, 2013


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Second Samuel 21 ends with the recounting of the death of the four “giants of Gath” (II Samuel 21:22b, NLT). Chapter 22 is one of David’s psalms of praise, and it’s very like the one recorded in Psalm 18; hope you’ll take the time to read both.

“David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul” (II Samuel 22:1).

“He sang: ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence’” (II Samuel 22:2-3).

Now look at its parallel in Psalm 18: “I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies” (verses 1-3).

Most Bible scholars believe Psalm 18 was written when David was still a young man, likely when he first became king after Saul’s death. What we see in Second Samuel 22 is an older and wiser David re-voicing this psalm as he looks back over the years and sees in even more vivid color the countless times his Faithful Master has protected him and stayed with him even when he was headed in the wrong direction.

At this point in David’s life, he knew God as the one who had delivered him from Goliath, Saul, Absalom, countless other enemies, and even his own sins. Look at how David identifies the Lord in Second Samuel 22:2: “My rock, my fortress, and my savior.”

First and foremost, we see that David knew God as a personal God. Yes, “God so loved the world,” (Jesus speaking, John 3:16a, KJV), but not in one big clump. He loves us individually. He knows us by name! He wasn’t A God or THE God. David said He was “My” God. Grandma’s faith can’t be your faith. Mama’s faith can’t be your faith. Is Jesus Christ YOUR God?

David starts with a stream of descriptions of just what kind of a god his God is: “My rock.” You’ve heard the song, “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” David knew this as absolute truth. Every time he’d stepped away from that solid foundation, he’d found himself mired in trouble. And so do we. We may have a multitude of problems in this life, but as long as our feet are firmly planted on the Rock of Ages, we won’t be overwhelmed by our difficulties.

David then calls God “my fortress.” This is so huge, y’all. What is a fortress? A fortified place of protection and safety. David had learned that, no matter how great the problem, the only safe place to be was in the “fortress” of the Lord.

Proverbs 18:10 declares: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (NIV). How do the “righteous” get to this “tower,” this “fortress?” They “run.” Folks, if you aren’t in top spiritual condition through daily prayer, Bible study and conversation – not monologue – with God, you aren’t able to “run.” You can barely walk!

And forget running the race as First Corinthians 9, Hebrews 12, Galatians 2, Galatians 5, Philippians 2 and Philippians 3 talks about. People of God, we can eat healthily, exercise regularly and keep our bodies in great physical condition; but until our spiritual condition becomes the greater concern, our priorities are sadly out of order. How’s your spiritual health these days?

“We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up”
(Hebrews 12:1b, God’s Word).

Sunday, February 17, 2013


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God sent David’s nephew Abishai to rescue David from the giant Philistine Ishbi-benob just as that mammoth warrior “was about to kill him” (II Samuel 21:16b). As New Testament believers we have the ever-present help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the “paraclete,” the “one who comes alongside” us, to help us in our struggles.

After Abishai rescued David from certain death, “David’s men declared, ‘You are not going out to battle with us again! Why risk snuffing out the light of Israel?’” (II Samuel 21:15-17, NLT).

“The light of Israel.” As God’s anointed leader for Israel, David reflected the light of God. No, David wasn’t perfect, but he was “a man after (God’s) own heart” (I Samuel 13:14b). Human frailties may have won out on occasion, but the vast majority of David’s life was spent in a passionate pursuit of the Almighty.

Israel wasn’t through having problems with the Philistines, though. “After this, there was another battle against the Philistines at Gob. As they fought, Sibbecai from Hushah killed Saph, another descendant of the giants. During another battle at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair from Bethlehem killed the brother of Goliath of Gath. The handle of his spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam! In another battle with the Philistines at Gath, they encountered a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in all, who was also a descendant of the giants. But when he defied and taunted Israel, he was killed by Jonathan, the son of David’s brother Shimea. These four Philistines were descendants of the giants of Gath, but David and his warriors killed them” (II Samuel 21:18-22).

David may have no longer been able to go out and fight alongside his men, but his years of service had set the example for them. They were the finest of military strategists; but most of all, they’d also learned that God and God alone was the one to who could give them these victories.

Note the giants who were killed in this last account: (1) Ishbi-benob, the one Abishai had stopped from taking out David; (2) “Saph, another descendant of the giants;” (3) an unnamed “brother of Goliath” killed by “Elhanan son Jair from Bethlehem” – First Chronicles 20:5 identifies him as “Lahmi, the brother of Goliath;” and (4) “a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.”

Four “giants of Gath.” If we look back at First Samuel 17, we read: “Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall!” (verse 4).

The young shepherd boy David had come to bring supplies to his older brothers who were fighting in this battle. But listening to Goliath’s taunts so infuriated David that he asked the men of Israel’s army: “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26b).

You know the story. David ends up going out to fight Goliath, “armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling” (I Samuel 17:40b). As David advanced toward the giant, “He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag” (I Samuel 17:40a).

Five stones. It took one stone to take down Goliath. David had been prepared to take out all five of them; but four lived to fight another day and were killed in subsequent battles.

Contrary to how the scripture words it, David had much more with him than a “staff and sling.” From the moment Samuel, in obedience to God’s instructions, anointed David as Israel’s new king, “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on” (I Samuel 16:13b).

Got giants in your life? None of them are bigger than the power of God indwelling you in the form of His Holy Spirit.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


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The famine over, what was next for David and the Israelites? Their problems may not be the same ones we face today, but their lives were definitely a series of ups and downs just like ours. In between the peaceful lulls were times of great stress and conflict. On this occasion, it was war:

“Once again the Philistines were at war with Israel. And when David and his men were in the thick of battle, David became weak and exhausted. Ishbi-benob was a descendant of the giants; his bronze spearhead weighed more than seven pounds, and he was armed with a new sword. He had cornered David and was about to kill him. But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue and killed the Philistine. Then David’s men declared, ‘You are not going out to battle with us again! Why risk snuffing out the light of Israel?’” (II Samuel 21:15-17, NLT).

“David became weak and exhausted.” David was no longer a young man and the fighting drained him of energy to the point that he was about to be killed. But his nephew Abishai stepped in “and killed the Philistine.”

David’s appointed time on earth wasn’t over. God still had work for David to do; so He sent someone to come alongside David and help him. Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the biggest assignments we have here on this planet.

In John 13:34a Jesus told His disciples: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.” Love isn’t merely a warm fuzzy feeling – I have a throw blanket that can offer that! Love is a verb and a verb means action. We aren’t to merely love in words, but also in deeds.

And in that same passage, Jesus went on to set the standard for that love: “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34b). We are to love like Jesus. Selflessly. Unconditionally. Not merely with the “phileo” love of friendship, but with the all-encompassing “agape” love of God.

When we do truly love others, guess what? A lot of them will love us back. Some will even see Jesus shining through us. Others will see us sharing the love of Christ and it will encourage them to do a little sharing, too.

Friday, February 15, 2013


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In spite of the trickery the Gibeonites had used in representing themselves as coming from far away, Joshua and the leaders of the Israelite tribes made a peace treaty “with a binding oath” (Joshua 9:15b, NLT), promising not to harm them. However, in making this decision, “they did not consult the Lord” (Joshua 9:14b). Big mistake.

Ignoring their “binding oath,” “Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out” (II Samuel 21:2). King David now had to deal with the backlash from Saul’s disobedience. The three-year famine, God told him, had “come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites” (II Samuel 21:1, NLT).

After meeting with the surviving Gibeonites, David agreed to give them seven of Saul’s family members to be executed to recompense for Saul’s actions. It’s important to note that there were two different people named Mephibosheth in Saul’s family. One Mephibosheth was handed over to the Gibeonites to be executed, but the Mephibosheth who was the son of Saul’s son Jonathan was kept from the Gibeonites.

David and Saul’s son Jonathan had loved each other like brothers and had vowed to protect each other. As part of that vow, Jonathan had asked David and David had agreed: “May you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love” (I Samuel 20:14-15a).

Even though David had committed to hand over seven of Saul’s descendants to the Gibeonites, he wasn’t about to break his vow to Jonathan. Nor would he break his agreement with the Gibeonites.

Saul, on the other hand, had no problem breaking the oath previously set in place by Joshua and the other leaders of that time. See, David understood that the vow was not merely an agreement between two earthly parties; it was also a sacred commitment, “a binding oath,” made before the Lord. As horrible as it was for Saul to kill the Gibeonites, the even bigger horror was his disregard for a vow before God.

As we’ve seen repeatedly throughout this study, no one sins without his wrongdoing affecting the lives of others. Dealing with what Saul did to the Gibeonites cost the lives of seven family members. But those certainly weren’t the only lives affected.

Remember, the seven men whom David handed over for execution were “Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab” (II Samuel 21:8a).

Rizpah was one of Saul’s concubines. None of the dead men had been buried; their bodies had been left out in the open to show that their deaths had been a judgment against them. Rizpah, agonizing over her two sons, refused to leave their bodies. She “spread burlap on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented the scavenger birds from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, the people of Jabesh-gilead stole their bodies from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hung them.) So David obtained the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed. Then the king ordered that they bury the bones in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin” (II Samuel 21:10b-14a).

David showed compassion for this hurting mother. He negotiated the retrieval of not only the bodies of Rizpah’s sons, but the bodies of the other executed men as well as the bones of Saul and Jonathan. David knew his own failings and he refused to let the failings of Saul prevent him from giving Saul a proper burial along with the other men.

“After that, God ended the famine in the land” (II Samuel 14b). David did the right thing for the right reason. And this pleased God.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


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David and the people of Israel were experiencing a famine. Upon David’s inquiry, the Lord plainly told him, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites” (II Samuel 21:1, NLT).

Since conquering other peoples was nothing unusual in those times, what was the big deal about the Gibeonites? Though they had lied to Joshua about living nearby, “Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath. But they did not consult the Lord” (Joshua 9:15, 14b).

Without first asking God if it was the right thing to do, Joshua and the rest of the Israelites “ratified their agreement with a binding oath” not to war against the Gibeonites (which were part of the Amorites). God takes agreements and oaths very seriously. He will never break His with us and He expects us to keep the ones we make. And that means following through on the promises we make, great or small.

Saul had decided keeping the Gibeonites around wasn’t in the nation’s best interest, so he broke this “binding oath” and no restitution had ever been made for Saul’s wrongdoing. “So the king (David) summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. The people of Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out” (II Samuel 21:2).

“David asked them, ‘What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s people again?’” (II Samuel 21:3).

“‘Well, money can’t settle this matter between us and the family of Saul,’ the Gibeonites replied. ‘Neither can we demand the life of anyone in Israel’” (II Samuel 21:4a).

“‘What can I do then?’ David asked. ‘Just tell me and I will do it for you’” (II Samuel 21:4b).

“Then they replied, ‘It was Saul who planned to destroy us, to keep us from having any place at all in the territory of Israel. So let seven of Saul’s sons be handed over to us, and we will execute them before the Lord at Gibeon, on the mountain of the Lord’”
(II Samuel 21:5-6a).

“‘All right,’ the king said, ‘I will do it.’ The king spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, who was Saul’s grandson, because of the oath David and Jonathan had sworn before the Lord. But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. The men of Gibeon executed them on the mountain before the Lord. So all seven of them died together at the beginning of the barley harvest”
(II Samuel 21:6b-9).

As brutal as this sounds, this was in alignment with Deuteronomy 21:23b: “anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God.” These descendants of Saul received the punishment Saul deserved for having broken a “binding oath.” Note that scripture says they were “executed… before the Lord.” In this pre-grace time, the death of these men delivered Israel from the famine-causing guilt of Saul’s transgression against the Gibeonites.

Pre-grace, the Law was all the people had to go by. Harsh remedies for misconduct were a part of it, which helps clarify what Paul meant when he wrote in Galatians 3:13: “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When He was hung on the cross, He took upon Himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”

I hope you’ll take the time to read Ezekiel 18. The Lord spoke to Ezekiel and said, “Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste?’” (Ezekiel 18:2). He went on to say, “‘What?’ you ask. ‘Doesn’t the child pay for the parent’s sins?’ No!” (Ezekiel 18:19a).

While our actions definitely affect the lives of others, each of us stands accountable to God for our own behavior, good or bad. And that, my friends, also means that growing up in church no more makes you a Christian than living in a garage makes you a car. Have you given your heart and life to Jesus?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


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Sheba lost his head – literally – in choosing to rebel against God’s anointed leader David. A wise woman saved her city by having the courage to speak to Joab and find out what it would take to stop his troops’ attack. A wise Joab listened and thereby eliminated a lot of needless bloodshed.

We move into Chapter 21 with a brand new problem for David. “There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord about it” (II Samuel 21:1a).

David knew that sometimes things just happened. But when the famine continued into the third year, he began to think that perhaps there was a spiritual reason for it. And he was right.

“The Lord said, ‘The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites’”
(II Samuel 21:1b).

What was that about? If we look back at the book of Joshua, we see that, after the death of Moses, the Lord appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites into the promised land. After they defeated the people of Jericho and Ai, fear of the people of Israel spread throughout the land.

“When the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy. When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us’” (Joshua 9:3-6).

“The Israelites replied to these Hivites, ‘How do we know you don’t live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you’” (Joshua 9:7).

“So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath”
(Joshua 9:14-15).

If you look back at the Israelites’ first confrontation with the people of Ai, you’ll see that Ai soundly defeated them. Why? Because after Israel defeated Jericho, they “violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord” (Joshua 7:1). This crime was committed by a man named Achan, but his sin affected the whole community. Once Achan was dealt with, God blessed them with victory over Ai.

But clearly, the Israelites still had more to learn. Against God’s instructions, they made an agreement with a local people, the Hivites or Gibeonites. How did this happen? “They did not consult the Lord.”

Folks, you can’t make decisions and ask the Lord to bless them after the fact. Life has enough unavoidable problems without adding unnecessary difficulties. The Israelites, you would think, would have realized that by now. But like the rest of us, they sometimes had very short memories that caused them to have to relearn some very hard lessons.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you” (James 1:5a).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


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Sheba started a revolt against David and David sent his men to put a stop to it. Amasa was supposed to have gotten the troops organized for David, but he failed to do so. Either he had been pathetically incompetent or willfully – and traitorously – stalling. After Amasa didn’t meet David’s deadline for assembling the army, David ordered Abishai to get the job done.

Joab, as always, would do anything to protect David and that included taking out his own cousin Amasa. Remember, Amasa, Joab and Abishai were all David’s nephews, sons of two of David’s sisters.

With Amasa dead, the men who’d been with him had a decision to make; and seeing Amasa’s writhing, dying body had to have made up their minds for them: they would join Joab and Abishai as part of David’s military forces in pursuit of Sheba.

“Meanwhile, Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel and eventually came to the town of Abel-beth-maacah. All the members of his own clan, the Bicrites, assembled for battle and followed him into the town. When Joab’s forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah. They built a siege ramp against the town’s fortifications and began battering down the wall. But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, ‘Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.’ As he approached, the woman asked, ‘Are you Joab?’” (II Samuel 20:14-17a, NLT).

“‘I am,’ he replied. So she said, ‘Listen carefully to your servant.’ ‘I’m listening,’ he said” (II Samuel 20:17b).

“Then she continued, ‘There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel. Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?’”
(II Samuel 20:18-19).

This woman was certainly brave! To call out to one of the leaders of the troops attacking her city took a great deal of courage. And Joab was courteous and wise enough to listen. She pointed out the value of her town, “Abel” (the shortened version of its name); and she declared herself a “peace loving and faithful” citizen. She wanted to know the exact intent of the attack by Joab and his men.

“Joab replied, ‘Believe me, I don’t want to devour or destroy your town! That’s not my purpose. All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand over this one man to me, I will leave the town in peace” (II Samuel 20:20-21).

“‘All right,’ the woman replied, ‘we will throw his head over the wall to you.’ Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba's head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the ram’s horn and called his troops back from the attack. They all returned to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem” (II Samuel 20:21b-22).

Sheba’s rebellion against God’s anointed one cost him his own life and undoubtedly other lives, too, but one unnamed wise woman and one wise man, Joab, prevented what could have been a great deal more bloodshed, including the destruction of an entire town.

A lesser man would have ignored this woman’s request to speak with him. But not Joab. Brutal though he may have been, he was faithful to David and wise enough to be willing to listen – even to a woman.

“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.” (Wilson Mizner)

Monday, February 11, 2013


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David hadn’t had time to catch his breath since his ordeal with Absalom and he was already dealing with another uprising where “the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri” (II Samuel 20:2a, NLT). Ticked off because only half of Israel’s men got to escort the king on his way back to Jerusalem while the whole army of Judah had the honor, Sheba played on their wounded spirits and enticed them away from David.

Folks, there’s a world of lessons in this. Just because things aren’t going your way isn’t necessarily the time to switch loyalties. There is no worse time to make a decision than when you’re emotionally distraught. Whenever possible, decisions should be made after things cool down, not in the heat of the moment.

Unlike the men of Israel, “the men of Judah stayed with their king,” (II Samuel 20:2b), showing loyalty. David was smart enough to know, as I said yesterday, that he had to follow Barney Fife’s advice and nip this revolt in the bud before it had time to fester into an all-out war.

He began preparations by ordering Amasa, who had served as Absalom’s military leader, to “Mobilize the army of Judah within three days, and report back” (II Samuel 20:4a). But Amasa didn’t get the job done. Either he was incompetent, which is highly unlikely, or he was intentionally – and traitorously – dawdling around.

So “David said to Abishai, ‘Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us more than Absalom did. Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified town where we can’t reach him’” (II Samuel 20:6).

“Abishai and Joab, together with the king’s bodyguard and all the mighty warriors, set out from Jerusalem to go after Sheba. As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was wearing his military tunic with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he slipped the dagger from its sheath” (II Samuel 20:7-8).

“‘How are you, my cousin?’ Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him” (II Samuel 20:9). This was a customary greeting in those days. Amasa was completely thrown off guard.

“Amasa didn’t notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground. Joab did not need to strike again, and Amasa soon died. Joab and his brother Abishai left him lying there and continued after Sheba” (II Samuel 20:10).

“One of Joab’s young men shouted to Amasa’s troops, ‘If you are for Joab and David, come and follow Joab.’ But Amasa lay in his blood in the middle of the road, and Joab’s man saw that everyone was stopping to stare at him. So he pulled him off the road into a field and threw a cloak over him. With Amasa’s body out of the way, everyone went on with Joab to capture Sheba son of Bicri” (II Samuel 20:11-13).

Most likely Amasa was disemboweled but still in the throes of death. For men accustomed to battle to shy away from the sight, it had to have been horrendous. It was necessary to remove Amasa from view to motivate the men to continue onward.

Sheba may have run, but he couldn’t hide. His rebellion against God’s anointed one was going to cost him dearly. No one ever has or ever will rebel against God and get away with it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


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“So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri’ (II Samuel 20:2a, NLT). The men of Israel, miffed because only half of them got to escort the king while the whole army of Judah had the honor, were ripe pickings for a man like Sheba. Playing on their wounded spirits, he enticed them away from David.

“But the men of Judah stayed with their king and escorted him from the Jordan River to Jerusalem”
(II Samuel 20:2b). The men of Judah showed loyalty. They hadn’t been swayed by Sheba’s speech. But the wound had been inflicted and would continue to fester.

In a quick side note, the Bible adds at this point: “When David came to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to look after the palace and placed them in seclusion. Their needs were provided for, but he no longer slept with them. So each of them lived like a widow until she died” (II Samuel 20:3).

Showing his absolute power as Israel’s new leader, Absalom had raped all ten of David’s concubines who’d been left behind to care for the palace. Having been defiled in this way, David could no longer have them as his own. But neither could anyone else. Absalom’s sin ruined the lives of these ten women. So David did the only honorable thing he could do: he provided for them the rest of their lives.

That taken care of, “the king told Amasa, ‘Mobilize the army of Judah within three days, and report back at that time.’ So Amasa went out to notify Judah, but it took him longer than the time he had been given” (II Samuel 20:4-5).

Let me add a little background here: Amasa had been appointed by Absalom to lead his troops against David. David, in an act of reconciliation, had kept Amasa as a leader for his own military forces. David may also have kept Amasa out of resentment toward Joab, David’s military leader who had disobeyed David’s order to “deal gently” (II Samuel 18:5) with Absalom and had instead made sure he died. Bear in mind, though, that Joab had merely been protecting David from an enemy, albeit David’s own son, whom, allowed to live, would not have stopped trying to kill David to take over his throne.

Amasa was the son of David’s sister Abigail – see First Chronicles 2:17 – and therefore, the cousin of Joab, whose mother Zeruiah was also a sister of David – see Second Samuel 17:25. This would mean that both Amasa and Joab were David’s nephews.

First Chronicles 2:16 and Second Samuel 2:18 list Joab, Abishai and Asahel as brothers and sons of Zeruiah. Joab had been David’s right-hand man from the beginning of his kinghood and had been the one to obey David’s order to send Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to his death – see Second Samuel 11:1-21. Abishai was also one of David’s faithful. Asahel, the youngest son of Zeruiah, ended up being killed by Abner in self-defense – see Second Samuel 2:18-26; his death was later brutally avenged by Joab and Abishai – see Second Samuel 3:22-30.

Twice David, in anger, shouted, “What do I have in common with you, you sons of Zeruiah?” (II Samuel 16:10 and II Samuel 19:22). What’s up with that? I speculate that Zeruiah was a strong-willed woman who was perhaps not David’s favorite relative. Whatever the reason, I don’t think David meant the phrase “sons of Zeruiah” as a compliment.

Back to our passage. David had ordered Amasa to “Mobilize the army of Judah… within three days” but Amasa hadn’t gotten the job done. So “David said to Abishai, ‘Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us more than Absalom did. Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified town where we can’t reach him’” (II Samuel 20:6).

David realized time was his enemy. The longer he waited to deal with Sheba, the more entrenched he and his followers would be. David wanted him stopped before he could cause any further trouble.

As Barney Fife would say, David wanted to “nip it in the bud.” We’ll see what happened tomorrow.