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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

May 2015

Consequences: On the Run, Discord, and Civil War

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II Samuel 15:13-37 (NIV)

We find David on the run from his son Absalom who has assembled a conspiracy to take over the rule of Israel.  It was a conspiracy that took years to unfold.  Carefully, deliberately, and methodically, Absalom “stole the hearts” of the people.  He acted against his father and was allowed by David to run wild and do willful acts that should not have been tolerated.

David had a nation to rule over and did not attend to his children, especially to Absalom when it came to raising him up in the faith and providing discipline and correction when that was needed.

Now, the unity of the nation is at stake.  Civil war arises again as Absalom assembles his warriors, army, and followers. And so the people, with David, wept at this calamity.

In contrast to David’s son Absalom, we read of Ittai the Gittite who has been with David but a day.  David wishing to spare him from the sorrow of warfare tells him to go back and stay with King Absalom.  David had an awareness of his failures and sin which had brought this trouble upon him and his loyal followers.  But Ittai pledges his loyalty to David, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”  What a difference compared to Absalom.

David shows wisdom in taking steps to counteract the rebellion which Absalom has organized.

Nevertheless, here in this story we see the consequences of neglect, willfulness, and sin being played out.  God is merciful and forgiving yet sin has it’s painful consequences in real life.  Sometimes, like David, we too find ourselves running from the seeds of sin we have sown.  Yes, the Lord is forgiving but sin brings painful realities to life.

Unlike David, may we choose to be faithful to the ways of God that we might not reap the inevitable consequences of sin. This chapter in David’s life is a reminder of Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Thank God that Jesus is still a friend of sinners.

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An Evil Plan

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2 Samuel 15:1-12

Absalom was a very mischievous man. And as you read the things he is doing continuously for 4 years every single day, you need to stop and ask the question: Why did the king never seen this coming?

A lesson like today is a reminder once again that the Bible is a great reflection of what real life is. A great way to capture day-to-day events, normal life, normal people doing life. You might even say: there is nothing new under the sun.

But here we are: Absalom planning and plotting against the king, and nobody seems to care. To my regret I had seen this in churches I served far too many times. People might give it different names to justify their actions, but in the end their actions end up causing hurt and division in the church. I have seen pastors falling under attack, good people leaving the church or gently being pushed to the outskirts because of some Absalom type of person that for too long had been left to do their own thing without anyone saying anything to them.

My prayer for us today is that none of us would be Absalom, or if you are caught in that type of game that God would give us the grace to change. I am also praying that we can look out for each other, encourage those that need encouragement to continue. But I also pray that we can have honest conversations with each other that would build the community around us and as a result God would be glorified.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

Relationships in our lives…

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2 Samuel 14

Isn’t it easy to exaggerate David?  Let’s face it, his life was filled with remarkable feats right?  Admiration…power…”a man after God’s heart”…wow!  Michelangelo sculpted a flawless David…the human body in perfection.   But David was far from flawless…the biblical narrative on David shows us this clearly.  And isn’t life like that as well?  Putting people on pedestals is a way of not having to deal with them, and the the God that is working in them, in real life.

In the last chapter, we have seen David being used in Amnon’s plot to rape Tamar…we have seen David’s less than kingly response to the rape…we have seen Absalom “take charge” in the face of David’s reluctance (at least as Absalom perceives it).

Today, we see that Absalom is stuck in exile and David is stuck in loneliness – and Joab gets things moving with a story…a story about David himself and Absalom – a story dealing with the conflict of a father’s love of son and the kingly duty to punish Absalom for the murder of his brother.  All seems to work – David sends Joab to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem but…David refuses to see Absalom – he can’t come into the king’s presence.  David’s emotional affection for Absalom doesn’t line up with this refusal.  What we are made to see in this narrative is the great chasm between what David feels and what he does.  We see David refusing to give Absalom what God has given David.

Then there is Absalom…desperate for a father.  Even ready to deal with punishment of death, Absalom is tired of being ignored.  David gives in…he receives Absalom but, as the old saying goes, it is a day late and a dollar short.  For Absalom it has been far too long coming…Absalom’s thoughts, as we are about to see, have shifted to now ambition to replace his father David.

Life is like that…relationships can hinge on our action or inaction…our refusing to give what God unconditionally gives to each of us.  Life relationships require work…hard work – every day.  There is no room for pedestals.

 

How Could it Happen?

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II Samuel 12 (NIV)

David has a sensitivity to injustice and a heart for what is good and just.  Throughout his life he has cultivated a sense of justice for the poor.  He is “a man after God’s own heart.”  No matter how terribly he sins, no matter the season of life, no matter how dark things look, David holds on to God.  Bottom line, he understands that his future is always in God’s hands.

So, he takes time to hear the words of the prophet Nathan.  He listens and takes the word of the Lord to heart.  The rich man who steals the poor mans lamb is wrong; no doubt about that in David’s mind.  The rich man had no pity and should die for such glaring greed and injustice.

But Nathan points out that David is the man!  David is the unjust one!  And David doesn’t fight that honest, authentic, true description of the darkness he has lived; the injustice he has hurled against a poor man—taking his wife and his life.

David admits his terrible sin, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  David accepts whatever the Lord chooses to do yet goes to God in prayer knowing that grace comes from God.

David, the “man after God’s own heart” fails miserably in living out his faith.  We might ask and wonder, how it was that David could completely overlook his faith and what was right and just and good, when he wanted to take Bathsheba to be his wife?

Perhaps there are times in our own lives when we completely disregard what God desires because we want something for ourselves?  Could we too wrap our minds around what is clearly wrong because we so desire to get what we think we deserve?  Could our judgment ever be clouded by greed and desire?

May this chapter in David’s life bring us caution and humility in our choices.  May we too say, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner” and have a humility about ourselves whenever we are tempted to compare ourselves to others.  May it encourage us to seek what is good, right, true, and of the Lord.  And finally, may we find joy in the good which God invites us to do.

A deeper story…

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2 Samuel 10

This passage can be seen on a couple of levels.  From one perspective there is David expressing condolences for the son of Nahash who at some time earlier was kind to David.  As humans can be sometimes, we find that Hanun’s treatment of David’s emissaries is humiliating.  And we see Hanun provoking David into war.  Well, as the old saying goes, “like father, like son” – Hanun appears to be cut from the same cloth.  It could also be said that David is not quite filled with a capacity for love in his sending of Joab and the enforcement team – David has not quite matured to the level of his descendant…Jesus.

The other side of this story is indicative of a large part of the Bible in general – there is a great deal of killing…David, the one who is “a man after God’s heart” or the writer of all those beautiful Psalms, is involved in a lot of killing.  So what do we say about moral balance here?  This story, in particular, is not intended overall to show us how to live.  David, like so many others in the Bible, is shown as someone with whom God works…with whom God still works today…people we see at work, church…even in the mirror every morning.  The Bible is not about utopian society nor a utopian history.  The Bible shows us that God works with all sorts of people for salvation…it is an ongoing story of God working within both the good and bad of the social, cultural, political and ethical world just as it is.  In fact, no where in the Bible does it say that morality is a precursor for holiness or salvation.  It is God who does the embracing of us…in all our sinful glory…working with us, through us, etc shaping our salvation.  This story like the whole of the biblical story is all about God working and not a moral handbook because, in the end, it is really about God’s best even at our human worst.

The Lord Giveth

2 Samuel 8

In this passage, we read about all of King David’s great victories over many enemies of Israel. In the end, “David reigned over all Israel” as it states in verse 15. To go further in verse 15, we find that David must have been a good ruler, because it states that David did “what was just and right for all his people.”

However, I want to focus not on who David defeated, or his style of leadership, although both were great. I would rather focus on something that is repeated twice in this passage, once in verse 6, and once in verse 14: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.” Furthermore, I want to focus on verse 11, where it states “King David dedicated these articles (silver, gold, and bronze) to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued.”

As great of a leader, and as victorious as David was as a king, his accomplishments didn’t come from his own greatness or wisdom, but from God. And David remained faithful by dedicating the riches gained to God. We can learn from this and apply it to our own meager lives. All of us have accomplished much in our lifetimes (maybe not entire kingdoms as David did, but still), and all that we have gained has been given to use by God. It may seem like we have done these things on our own through our own blood, sweat, and tears, but it is only because of the grace of God that we accomplish these things. So what should we do? Give thanks to God for all that He has given us; for helping us achieve all that we have done. We have not been alone in our “greatness.” Praise be to God!

Matt Blaser

Thanksgiving and Praise

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II Samuel 7:18-29 (NRSV)

David gives thanks to God for all of the good gifts that the Lord has given to him, his family and future generations, and the people of Israel.  God redeemed a people, made them a nation, and gave them a land that flourished.  God made a covenant with David to extend his house or family.

David gives thanks and prays that God will continue to bless him, his family, and the nation.  David also asks that the Lord’s “name will be magnified forever.”  Today, let us give thanks to God for all the good gifts we have been given, the blessings of this day, and all the good we may see throughout the day in any one’s life.  Throughout the day may we also give voice to prayers that praise and honor God.

Not you but the one after you

2 Samuel 7:1-17

Can you imagine hearing those words? Your life, your passion all the things that are firing you to live another day are gone come to fruition in the next generation, and you yourself will not see the fruits of your labor!

For most people those words would be desolating, depressing but for David that promise had made him look in to the future with hope and joy. As we know he did not stay passive in his quest to build a house for the Lord, he gathered and helped develop all the plans that  later Solomon will use to complete the temple.

In a way this story should illustrate our lives. We are to build legacies that would live on long after we are gone, in the people we invest in and poor our lives. After all our lives are indeed tools in the hands of a skillful master, that plants a garden that will come in bloom at the right time.

I pray that we all can look at our lives and ministries with the same joy and expectation that David had.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

ps. sorry for the late posting today.

Two Truths About Killing Phillestines

2 Samuel 5:17-25

I think we all wish life was this easy:
David: “God… will you give me the victory?”
God: “Yup.”
David: “That was awesome… will you give me the victory this time too???”
God: “Absolutely.”
David: “This is fantastic!!”

These kinds of stories always make me think, “God, when are you going to vanquish all my problems?”  When I ask that question I’m forgetting two truths.

1. That God actually has worked that miraculously in my life.
A few days ago Shelby and I had disagreement about switching gyms (silly.. I know).  It was an honest discussion and we had completely opposite opinions. It took us a while to see each other’s perspective.  When we first were married, that same discussion probably would have involved harsh words, a three hour argument and ended in several days of ignoring each other. Instead we worked it out calmly on the way to Costco.. with not a single personal slight or raised tone!  It was an unbelievably good disagreement!  God has worked in amazing ways in my life.. and yours too.   Don’t forget it.

2. That things weren’t always that easy for David.
David grew up a shepherd (a nasty job), was despised by his family and was under constant threat from Saul.  Later in his life he would have an affair, commit murder and his children would revolt against him.  Its easy to look at anecdotal evidence and think of how easy it was for him but it wasn’t.  He struggled just like me and you.

God has worked and is still working.  Lets pick up our heads and thank him for it.

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