Monthly Archives: September 2009

Romans 7

My Debt

I have a debt I can’t pay. The debt is solely mine. Even if I could borrow and beg from every one of my friends, even dare to steal from those not so friendly, I can’t come up with enough. The bill is gathering interest continually. There is seemingly no way out, and Lex, the collection man is getting closer each day.

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?  – Romans 7:24

There is an answer. If I die there is nobody to collect from. Since this debt is mine alone, the only thing that can be done with it is to write it off as uncollectible after my demise.

So this is the point: The law no longer holds you in its power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ on the cross. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. – Romans 7:4

Yes, I’m refering to my debt of sin. And when I willingly chose to die with Christ Jesus on his cross, accepting his payment, in full, for my sin-debt. It immediately became uncollectible.

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 7:25a

And now as a result of having the unpayable debt lifted from me, I am free to produce fruit that goes toward Christ and his kingdom, not toward a creditor – the law – that I could never hope to pay off.

Father, thank you for the gift of new life, a fresh start. In Jesus’ wonderfilled name, Amen.

Paid in full. Jan

Romans 6

Live for the Glory

St. Ireneus said that, “The glory of God is a man fully alive”.

In light of that statement I found the following verses of particular interest.

He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God. So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:10-11

What an unique way of looking at how the glory is revealed. I suppose we are like a seed planted in the ground. The seed, while fascinating, is not something glorious to behold. However, let it germinate and then flower; what glory bursts out! We too, are dark crusty seeds. Only when planted in the death of Christ, can the resurrection of our souls happen. Only then is the husk of our sinful nature shed to fully reveal the glory concealed within, a glory that was placed there at our creation.

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old. – Psalm 139:13-17

God made you and me to reveal his workmanship, his glory to the world. He knew exactly what type of unique flower would burst from the dead husk of my sin to grace a dying world with his beauty and fragrance. He made me come alive for his glory.

Father, may I reveal your glory in the way you intended. Please give me deep roots and plenty of nutrients – your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Push deep roots into his word and push high toward the son. Jan

Romans 5

Triumph in the Air

Many years ago, when Christian Rock was still somewhat of a novelty, I discovered an artist who had a unique operatic, epic quality to her vocals. Her band members were all accomplished in their own right, and together they made for an amazing presentation. They even had lights, lasers, and smoke generators! For a teenager it was all very exciting.

Now days most people know this person because of her involvement with Women of Faith or possibly with her past involvement with the 700 club on Christian TV.

As I read the following passage I was reminded of her.

The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:17

What specifically brought her to mind were the words “triumph over sin”. One of her songs was entitled “Triumph in the Air”.

Yes, it is Sheila Walsh. And she is still living in the triumph that Jesus provided for her. It is because of another item that stuck out in that same passage of scripture, the word righteousness.

You see, righteousness in the context above, is a gift; it is not something that we work toward, or somehow arrive at. No, God gave us righteousness.

That means that when he looks at you and me he see us as right in his sight.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life.  – Romans 5:18

And since we are right in God’s sight – righteous – we have eternal life.

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

Because we know that we will have triumph in the air, we can rejoice in all hardships. We can endure all scorn, shame, and deprivation. For we are friends of God.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. – Romans 5:11

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and his reconciling of us to you. Thank you for your kindness, for making this possible. May I never cease to be amazed by this gift. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Triumph indeed. Jan

Romans 4

I can’t break it

Just yesterday I went home for lunch and was informed that our “precious” puppy had torn a huge hole in my pool screen-enclosure, and had munched down on one of my hats. Aargh!

It reminded me of the joke, “If you want to see if something is truly unbreakable, give it to a 6 year old boy.” I don’t know of much that we creations of God cannot find a way to break. In the computer industry we have a saying that states, “If you make something foolproof, the world will simply invent a bigger fool.”

Today as I was reading in the book of Romans I came across the following passage in The Message version of the Bible.

If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. – Romans 4:14

My bundle-of-joy puppy doesn’t know anything about contracts or business deals. He simply knows that I provide for his needs, discipline him when needed, and give him affection. If there was a contract outlining expected behavior and consequences for infractions, he would be living somewhere other than my home by now. But, when we brought him home, he became a member of the family not of a corporation. We promised to care for him for the term of his natural life.

A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise–and God’s promise at that–you can’t break it. – Romans 4:15

So, since no contract full of fine print exists, merely our promise; Tanner, our puppy cannot break it.

Likewise, no contract exists between me and God. His love letter to me – the Bible – is not a book of fine print. It is a promise.  And since God has accepted me into his family, I know that he will never break his promise to care for me for the term of my eternal life.

Father, thank you for loving me despite the fact that I keep breaking things. Thank you that I cannot break a promise that you made. It is not mine to break. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You can’t break God’s promise. Jan

Romans 3

An Unpayable Debt

When I was about ten years old my brother and I had way too much time on our hands. My mother worked a late shift at a factory, and my father, exhausted from a long day of work gave us boys freedom – too much freedom.

Wherever they go, destruction and misery follow them.
They do not know what true peace is.
They have no fear of God to restrain them. – Romans 3:16-18

One evening we found ourselves in a condominium project that had apparently run out of money to complete the construction. Something is hard-wired in a boy to where they love to see things break and blow up… We found some chunks of concrete and started breaking things. To make a long story short; the event involved police, a ride in the back of a cruiser, humiliated and mortified parents, angry construction project owners, and two very guilty boys.

For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. – Romans 3:23

It was clear that my brother and I had sinned, sinned against the owners of the condominium, our parents, and against God. We had broken laws and hearts. Our parents could never afford to replace or fix the damage that my brother and I had caused…

Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. – Romans 3:24

I do not remember his name and I don’t know the exact details, but the owner had mercy on my parents. He worked out an arrangement whereby my brother and I would spend every day after school, and all day during summer, working in and around that condominium complex cleaning, doing whatever grunt work was required. We were forgiven a debt we could never repay and in its place asked to do, what now in retrospect was, light, easy work.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.  – Romans 3:27-28

There was nothing we could have done to make up for our sins, but we were forgiven. In comparison to our mountain of crime, our “good deeds” didn’t amount to a feather-pillow. Yet by the time our term of service was over we were free. We had faith that when the man in charge told us not to return that we would never face punishment for that crime again. The unpayable debt had been forgiven.

Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.  – Romans 3:31

Likewise, when we come to Christ Jesus we have a mountain of sin piled up that we could never remove ourselves. We must trust the man in charge who states, “I forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” By believing, accepting his words as true – that the sin is indeed paid-in-full – it is. And thereby the law and its need for retribution is fulfilled.

Father, thank you for sending your sinless son to do what I couldn’t. He took the weight of my sin and set me free. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Go and sin no more. – Jan

Romans 2

Revealed Truth

Ouch! Paul pulls no punches in this second chapter of Romans. He started out in chapter one by praising the Roman Christians, and then spoke about how sinful the world is. Now he lowers the boom on the Roman Christians.

You may be saying, “What terrible people you have been talking about!” But you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Do you think that God will judge and condemn others for doing them and not judge you when you do them, too? Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin? – Romans 2:1-4

I have to wonder, does he know about something specific, or is he simply laying out a foundation for more later?

As further chapters will reveal, that is exactly what he is doing – establishing groundwork for a discussion.

But, what about the Romans reading this letter. Would they have known nothing of Jewish laws and customs that Paul would write to them as if they were wholly ignorant?

In his Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus mentioned that in about 40AD 8,000 Roman Jews had sided with someone in a lawsuit. Since women and children were not permitted to take part in a lawsuit, that would mean that there were upwards of 40,000 Jews living in Rome around the time Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome. From inscriptions on ancient tombstones in the Jewish catacombs it can be determined that there were at least 12 different synagogues in and around the city of Rome. So it is not like there was no knowledge or awareness of Jewish laws and customs among the Roman Christians. Further, statistical probability would indicate that not all of the new converts were of non-Jewish origin.

From this evidence it is clear that there certainly should have been knowledge of Jewish laws among the Roman believers.

I think the following verse supports my thought that Jews were part of the Roman church.

If you are a Jew, you are relying on God’s law for your special relationship with him. You boast that all is well between yourself and God. – Romans 2:17

Paul is clearly working on ensuring that the foundation of the Roman Christians’ belief system is one that conforms to what he understands to be the truth as revealed to him personally by the Holy Spirit.

Dear brothers and sisters, I solemnly assure you that the Good News of salvation which I preach is not based on mere human reasoning or logic. For my message came by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself. No one else taught me. – Galatians 1:11-12

Therefore, since Paul knew exactly what it was to be a Christ-follower, he wanted to ensure that these converts, that he had no personal involvement with, would receive the truth as it was revealed to him; not as Jewish converts would have them believe.

For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people. – Romans 2:28-29

The truth is that an inward change, a change of heart produced by God’s Holy Spirit is the mark of being a believer.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Paul’s tenacity. It is because of his determination to ensure the complete truth was shared that we know what it really means to believe in your son Jesus. In his name, Amen.

Shalom, Jan

Romans 1

Miracle Grow

The first chapter of Romans is such an interesting chapter of the bible. Paul is writing to a church of non-Jewish believers that he personally had not started. He was somewhat pleasantly surprised to learn of their existence. He writes about hearing of their faith, praying for them, being proud of them. Then he writes the following:

One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can share a spiritual blessing with you that will help you grow strong in the Lord. – Romans 1:10-11

Miracle_Grow

I find it fascinating that he assumes, no he knows, that he possesses some spiritual blessing, some spiritual gift as other translations state, that they have not already received. This gift, when delivered will help them “grow strong in the Lord”.

I’m definitely curious as to what this miracle grow that Paul has to deliver is all about. What about you?

Well, hopefully as I continue reading in the book of Romans it will come into clearer focus.

Father, thank you for spreading your gifts among your people as you see fit. Please help us to willingly share them so that we can help others grow strong in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Do you have a delivery to make? Jan

2 Samuel 24

It stopped where it started

I’m still confused a bit about what really happened with God getting angry at Israel and the whole he “caused David” to sin thing.

The LORD became angry with Israel again, so he provoked David to turn against Israel. He said, “Go, count Israel and Judah.” – 2 Samuel 24:1

There is an alternate reading that blames Satan.

Satan attempted to attack Israel by provoking David to count the Israelites. – 1 Chronicles 21:1

No matter whom was to blame, God was not pleased with David having chosen the sin of pride and not following God’s way of conducting a census.

Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the LORD. Then there will be no plagues among the people as you count them. – Exodus 30:12

As a result God sent word that destruction would result.

When David got up in the morning, the LORD spoke his word to the prophet Gad, David’s seer. “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I’m offering you three choices. Choose the one you want me to do to you.’”

When Gad came to David, he told David this and asked, “Should seven years of famine come to you and your land, or three months during which you flee from your enemies as they pursue you, or should there be a three-day plague in your land? Think it over, and decide what answer I should give the one who sent me.”

“I’m in a desperate situation,” David told Gad. “Please let us fall into the LORD’s hands because he is very merciful. But don’t let me fall into human hands.” – 2 Samuel 24:11-14

In response, God sent the “three-day plague”. I wondered about this event, so I checked what Flavius Josephus wrote about it. Here is his description:

When the prophet had heard this, he declared it to God; who thereupon sent a pestilence and a mortality upon the Hebrews; nor did they die after one and the same manner, nor so that it was easy to know what the distemper was. Now the miserable disease was one indeed, but it carried them off by ten thousand causes and occasions, which those that were afflicted could not understand; for one died upon the neck of another, and the terrible malady seized them before they were aware, and brought them to their end suddenly, some giving up the ghost immediately with very great pains and bitter grief, and some were worn away by their distempers, and had nothing remaining to be buried, but as soon as ever they fell were entirely macerated; some were choked, and greatly lamented their case, as being also stricken with a sudden darkness; some there were who, as they were burying a relation, fell down dead, without finishing the rites of the funeral.

Now there perished of this disease, which began with the morning, and lasted till the hour of dinner, seventy thousand. Nay, the angel stretched out his hand over Jerusalem, as sending this terrible judgment upon it. But David had put on sackcloth, and lay upon the ground, entreating God, and begging that the distemper might now cease, and that he would be satisfied with those that had already perished. And when the king looked up into the air, and saw the angel carried along thereby into Jerusalem, with his sword drawn, he said to God, that he might justly be punished, who was their shepherd, but that the sheep ought to be preserved, as not having sinned at all; and he implored God that he would send his wrath upon him, and upon all his family, but spare the people.

When God heard his supplication, he caused the pestilence to cease, and sent Gad the prophet to him, and commanded him to go up immediately to the thrashing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and build an altar there to God, and offer sacrifices. – Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7 Chapter 13

Wow, what a nasty horrible way for the people to die!

Stay with me, here is where it gets good. The angel stopped his destruction of Israel at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David quickly goes there and tells Araunah that he wants to purchase the entire property.

Araunah said to David, “Take it, Your Majesty, and offer whatever you think is right. There are oxen for the burnt offering, and there are threshers and oxen yokes for firewood.” All this Araunah gave to the king and said, “May the LORD your God accept you.”

“No!” the king said to Araunah. “I must buy it from you at a {fair} price. I won’t offer the LORD my God burnt sacrifices that cost me nothing.”

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 1¼ pounds of silver. David built an altar for the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. So the LORD heard the prayers for the country, and the plague on Israel stopped. – 2 Samuel 24:22-25

Thus ends the book of Second Samuel. However, that is not the end of the property that was formerly Araunah’s! This land was one where an angel of the Lord was stopped from his destruction of Israel. If he had been allowed to go on for the full three days it is likely that nobody would have survived. After all, just four angels are enough to eradicate one third of the population of our planet (Revelation 9:15). Suffice it to say, this ground is pretty special now. It was set-apart to sacrifice to the Lord. It was now hallowed ground.

Then David said, “This is where the LORD God’s temple will be. Israel’s altar for burnt offerings will also be here.” – 1 Chronicles 22:1

Israel was saved here. This is the place where the Temple would one day stand. At this spot, at the rebuilt temple, Jesus was judged and mankind was saved. But there was one more salvation at this location. One that Josephus wrote about when he described what David did.

And when he had built an altar, he performed Divine service, and brought a burnt-offering, and offered peace-offerings also. With these God was pacified, and became gracious to them again.

Now it happened that Abraham came and offered his son Isaac for a burnt-offering at that very place; and when the youth was ready to have his throat cut, a ram appeared on a sudden, standing by the altar, which Abraham sacrificed in the stead of his son, as we have before related.

Now when king David saw that God had heard his prayer, and had graciously accepted of his sacrifice, he resolved to call that entire place The Altar of all the People, and to build a temple to God there; which words he uttered very appositely to what was to be done afterward; for God sent the prophet to him, and told him that there should his son build him an altar, that son who was to take the kingdom after him. – Antiquities of the Jews Book 7 Chapter 13

The birth of the nation of Israel came about through Abraham’s trusting of God; on this very spot his trust was proven. It was a foreshadowing of what our redemption would look like – a lamb being sacrificed in Isaac’s stead. Centuries later on this very spot, the Lamb of God would be condemned to be sacrificed in all of our steads.

Father, thank you for the sacrifice of Abraham, David, and Jesus. May I honor you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Special spot, ain’t it? Jan

2 Samuel 23

Rules Righteously

I read the following passage with some interest.

The God of Israel spoke.
The Rock of Israel said to me:
‘The person who rules righteously,
who rules in the fear of God,

he is like the light of the morning,
like the sunrise bursting forth in a cloudless sky,
like the refreshing rains that bring tender grass from the earth.’ – 2 Samuel 23:3-4

As I look at this I realize that this does not just apply to David and the kings of Israel, this applies to anyone in a position of power. So what does it mean to ‘rule righteously’?

The Hebrew word for righteously is “Tsaddiyq”, pronounced “Tsad-deek”. It means to be; just, lawful, correct, vindicated, righteous – in both conduct and character. It is derived from the root word “Tsdaq”, pronounced “Tsa-dawk”. This word means; to be just, to be righteous, to declare righteous, to be justified.

It reminded me of another scripture verse.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away. – Isaiah 64:6

So if Isaiah said that we are all infected, how then can David speak of his righteousness?

It is because the same Isaiah also wrote the following.

“Come now, let us argue this out,” says the LORD. “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.”  – Isaiah 1:18

This came true for me when Jesus’ blood cleansed my sins away.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also share his new life. – Romans 6:6-8

Just a few sentences later the writer of Romans also wrote the following.

Now you are free from sin, your old master, and you have become slaves to your new master, righteousness. – Romans 6:18

Since that new master is in charge of my life, and the fact that through Christ I am declared just, I am able to rule righteously. It is not my righteousness that makes it possible, it is his. And this brings great power.

We have faithfully preached the truth. God’s power has been working in us. We have righteousness as our weapon, both to attack and to defend ourselves.  – 2 Corinthians 6:7

As the scripture says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Father, thank you for declaring me righteous because of Christ. May I rule with the wisdom that you supply. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Rule Righteously. Jan

2 Samuel 22

Cringe Before Me

Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would’ve hidden from it in terror. – Ming the Merciless, Flash Gordon Movie 1980

We recently adopted a puppy in our home. Tanner was a 3 month old bundle of energy when we got him from the local animal shelter. We quickly found out that he has a rather strong will and absolutely no knowledge of what is proper decorum for a member of our family with his status – a pet. Tanner would recklessly hurl his body into whomever and whatever lay ahead of him. He had no inkling about the true nature of his existence or his new universe. He had to learn.

Tanner responds very differently with me vs. other members of my family. He is surprisingly observant and is aware that I am given deference by all as head of my household. Having had some experience with dogs in the past, I quickly established myself as the “Alpha Dog”. If I “growl” at him or shout a stern “No!” at him, he immediately stops what he was doing, often rolling on his back to demonstrate submissiveness. Observing this behavior I was struck by the similarity of a verse I read today.

Foreigners cringe before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they submit.

They all lose their courage
and come trembling from their strongholds. – 2 Samuel 22:45-46

The true nature of Tanner’s universe, and ours is that someone else is in charge. And unless we learn to submit to the authority over us we are in trouble. But, when we do submit as we are designed to do, we are blessed both in the here-and-now and in the life to come.

Father, thank you for being a just and righteous ruler, one who is not arbitrary. Please give me the grace to have proper fear of you, to understand the true nature of the universe. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If God is for me, who can be against me? Jan


2 Samuel 21

Nexus

nex⋅us [nek-suhs] – noun, plural nex⋅us⋅es, nex⋅us.
1. a means of connection; tie; link.
2. a connected series or group.
3. the core or center, as of a matter or situation.
4. Cell Biology. a specialized area of the cell membrane involved in intercellular communication and adhesion.

In reading second Samuel chapter twenty-one I came across a familiar name – Rizpah. I first saw her in second Samuel chapter three.

One day Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, accused Abner of sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, a woman named Rizpah. – 2 Samuel 3:7

Abner was a faithful righteous man. The accusation offended him so badly that he left Ishbosheth and pledged loyalty to David. It was this event that triggered David’s ascension to rule a unified Israel. Rizpah was at the center of it. She was the nexus.

Today I read that God was withholding rain from the land as punishment for Saul trying to eradicate the Gibeonites. David enquired of God as to what he should do. God instructed him to do whatever the Gibeonites required of him.

What they required was seven male descendants of Saul to pay for his crimes against the Gibeonites – a death sentence.

Two of the men were sons of Rizpah, the same Rizpah who was at the center of David’s receiving the full kingdom.

It is clear that she loved her sons.

Then Rizpah, the mother of two of the men, spread sackcloth on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented vultures from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. – 2 Samuel 21:10

What I found of particular interest was that the rain did not return, God did not stop his chastisement, until after David did the right thing for Rizpah and Saul’s family.

When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and asked for the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When Saul and Jonathan had died in a battle with the Philistines, it was the people of Jabesh-gilead who had retrieved their bodies from the public square of the Philistine city of Beth-shan.) So David brought the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed. He buried them all in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land of Israel. – 2 Samuel 11 – 14

Twice Rizpah was a nexus in David’s life. Once in establishing his rule, and the second time in ending a famine.

How many nexuses are in my life that I fail to notice? How about you? I suspect there are many more than we’ll ever guess.

Father, may I be mindful of those times when a choice presents itself, those that once taken shape the course of all that is to follow. Please give me eyes to see and wisdom to know the correct path. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When at a crossroad, stop and pray. Jan

2 Samuel 20

Sons of Zeruiah

When I wrote about second Samuel chapter nineteen I noticed how the phrase “Sons of Zeruiah” seemed to be used by King David as an epithet. As I was reading a little while ago I noticed another example of why their moniker should be considered as something derogatory.

Absalom’s rebellion had been crushed. Due to Joab’s harsh treatment of David in regards to his grief over the death of Absalom (2 Samuel 19:5-7), David had appointed Amasa, Joab’s cousin, as head of the army instead of Joab (2 Samuel 19:13).

David then sent Amasa to mobilize the army to suppress a growing revolt led by a guy named Sheba. He gave him three days to do so and return to him. On the fourth day David got nervous and sent Joab, his brother Abishai, and some elite guards to hunt down Sheba and stop the rebellion before it got traction.

So Abishai and Joab set out after Sheba with an elite guard from Joab’s army and the king’s own bodyguard. As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them, coming from the opposite direction. Joab was wearing his uniform with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he secretly slipped the dagger from its sheath.

“How are you, my cousin?” Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him. 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. – 2 Samuel 20:7-10

Amasa was on his way back to King David with the troops, as ordered. Joab murdered his own cousin so that he would regain control of the army, and his brother Abishai did nothing to stop him.

Sons of Zeruiah indeed!

Several times King David expressed that these “sons of Zeruiah” were too powerful for him to deal with. However, that does not mean that they got away with their crimes. No, God’s justice may be slow (he gives us time to repent), but it is sure.

Many years later, after David’s rule came to an end, he set his son Solomon up as king in his stead. Solomon dealt with Joab’s treachery and meted out justice.

Benaiah went into the sacred tent of the LORD and said to Joab, “The king orders you to come out!” But Joab answered, “No, I will die here.” So Benaiah returned to the king and told him what Joab had said.

“Do as he said,” the king replied. “Kill him there beside the altar and bury him. This will remove the guilt of his senseless murders from me and from my father’s family. Then the LORD will repay him for the murders of two men who were more righteous and better than he. For my father was no party to the deaths of Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. May Joab and his descendants be forever guilty of these murders, and may the LORD grant peace to David and his descendants and to his throne forever.

So Benaiah son of Jehoiada returned to the sacred tent and killed Joab, and Joab was buried at his home in the wilderness.” – 1 Kings 2:30-34

There is a definitely a difference in being a son of Zeruiah and being a son of David. The one exhibits grasping, jealous, self-serving behavior. The other exhibits wisdom in service to his subjects.

Father, may we too live our lives as sons of David. Thank you for adopting us into his royal lineage through the death and resurrection of your son Jesus. In his name, Amen.

Be a son of God. Jan

2 Samuel 19

Epithet

We have a rather colorful derogatory expression in modern English that compares a person’s maternal lineage to that of a female canine.

“You son of a bi…”

In reading the book of second Samuel I notice King David using a certain phrase quite a bit. 

And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah – Joab and Abishai – are too strong for me to control. So may the LORD repay these wicked men for their wicked deeds.” – 2 Samuel 3:39

“No!” the king said. “What am I going to do with you sons of Zeruiah! If the LORD has told him to curse me, who am I to stop him?” – 2 Samuel 16:10

“What am I going to do with you sons of Zeruiah!” David exclaimed. “This is not a day for execution but for celebration! I am once again the king of Israel!” – 2 Samuel 19:22

It makes me wonder if David didn’t like his sister very much.

And Joab, the son of David’s sister Zeruiah, led the attack, so he became the commander of David’s armies. – 1 Chronicles 11:6

“Sons of Zeruiah” certainly sounds like an epithet to me. How about you?

Lord, may my name be one that is honored; not one that is used as a curse. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Make your name an epitome of righteousness. Jan

2 Samuel 18

The Trees Joined In

In the Lord of the Rings movie Trilogy there is scene at the end of the Battle at Helms Deep where the trees of the forest join in the battle and destroy the fleeing Orc army.

Similarly, Absalom’s forces faced off against David’s in a great forest. Something quite unusual happened during the ensuing battle.

Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. The people of Israel were defeated there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. – 2 Samuel 18:6-8

The forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured?

Sounds like something supernatural happened there that day. Perhaps is looked like the scene from The Lord of the Rings. Whatever it was, God saw to it that his will was acomplished and his man was restored to the throne.

Father, thank you for using whatever means is necessary to grant us victory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be nice to the trees… Jan

 

2 Samuel 17

Symmetry

I noticed an interesting symmetrical set of circumstances in the following passage of scripture.

Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been staying at En-rogel so as not to be seen entering and leaving the city. Arrangements had been made for a servant girl to bring them the message they were to take to King David.

But a boy saw them leaving En-rogel to go to David, and he told Absalom about it.

Meanwhile, they escaped to Bahurim, where a man hid them inside a well in his courtyard.

The man’s wife put a cloth over the top of the well with grain on it to dry in the sun; so no one suspected they were there. When Absalom’s men arrived, they asked her, “Have you seen Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” She replied, “They were here, but they crossed the brook.” Absalom’s men looked for them without success and returned to Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 17:17-20

I see four parts to this balance of self similarity. They are: The servant girl, the boy, a man in Bahurim, and a woman in Bahurim.

  • The servant girl is the messenger. She set things into motion. The woman in Bahurim ensured that motion continued.
  • The boy revealed a secret and nearly spoiled plans. A man in Bahurim hid the secret and put plans back on track.
  • The younger initiated something. The older ensured the correct outcome.

Does this mean anything? Is there some great spiritual application? Probably not. But, I found it interesting.

Good night, Jan


2 Samuel 16

Who am I…?

King David, on the run from his son Absalom, encounters a relative of the late King Saul named Shimei. This guy starts hurling insults and curses against David and his people.

As David and his party passed Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, a member of Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded them. “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The LORD is paying you back for murdering Saul and his family. You stole his throne, and now the LORD has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, you murderer!” – 2 Samuel 16:5-8

However, David does something very unusual in response. He keeps his men from harming Shimei and then says the following.

“No!” the king said. “What am I going to do with you sons of Zeruiah! If the LORD has told him to curse me, who am I to stop him?” Then David said to Abishai and the other officers, My own son is trying to kill me. Shouldn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to do it. And perhaps the LORD will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses.” – 2 Samuel 16:10-12

Perhaps this is where Solomon first heard the following words of wisdom that he wrote down.

Do not rejoice when your enemies fall into trouble. Don’t be happy when they stumble.  For the LORD will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them. – Proverbs 24:17-18

Paul further expounded on that concept and raised the bar even further.

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else. – 1 Thesalonians 5:15

However, Jesus probably put it best.

“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48

Eventually Shimei did pay for his crimes. But it was he himself that brought that calamity on his head. David did not do it. God judged him.

Father, please help me to remember that you are the judge. I need to leave things in your hands more often than not. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m not God. Jan

2 Samuel 15

Revenge is a dish best served cold

Ahithophel was the royal adviser. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend. – 1 Chronicles 27:33

A few days ago I wrote a possible scenario regarding how Bathsheba came to live in Jerusalem. In that posting I wrote about her family lineage. In a list of King David’s “Thirty Mighty Men” Ahithophel, David’s royal adviser is mentioned.

Eliphelet son of Ahasbai from Maacah; Eliam son of Ahithophel from Giloh… – 2 Samuel 23:34

Ahithophel’s son, Eliam, one of the Mighty Men is Bathsheba’s father.

…She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam… – 2 Samuel 11:3

That means that King David’s trusted royal adviser was the grandfather of Bathsheba. Ahithophel was the king’s adviser, a member of the royal court, during the David’s episode in sin with Bathsheba. He knew what had happened.

The fact that Ahithophel had no qualms about supporting a coup against King David is proof that he had an axe to grind.

While he (Absalom) was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel, one of David’s counselors who lived in Giloh. Soon many others also joined Absalom, and the conspiracy gained momentum. – 2 Samuel 15:12

As further proof of his motive, look at his advice to David’s son Absalom upon reaching Jerusalem.

Ahithophel told him, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, for he has left them here to keep the house. Then all Israel will know that you have insulted him beyond hope of reconciliation, and they will give you their support.” So they set up a tent on the palace roof where everyone could see it, and Absalom went into the tent to sleep with his father’s concubines. – 2 Samuel 16:21-22

Ahithophel had Absalom commit a crime against David that was nearly identical to the one David committed against his own son-in-law Uriah.

Ahithophel bided his time. He waited until the matter that had happened between David, Bathsheba, and Uriah was cold for several years. Then when he felt the time was right, when the object of his hate did not expect it, he exacted his revenge.

But there is more. A chapter later Ahithophel has more advice for Absalom.

Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up to him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only this man’s life that you seek. Then all the people will remain unharmed and peaceful.” – 2 Samuel 17:1-3

What I found particularly interesting was that Ahitophel wanted to be the one to do it. The “I” portions jump off the page. The proverbial “smoking gun” is the statement about, “as a bride returns to her husband”. This is a clear allusion to Bathsheba having been taken from Uriah. Ahitophel had been plotting this revenge against David for quite some time.

However, God is the judge. Not man.

I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.’ – Deuteronomy 32:35

The Apostle Paul put it as follows.

Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19

Ahitophel’s revenge was fulfilled, but it cost him his position and his life in very short order.

Heavenly Father, may I leave room for your justice and mercy. If you forgive, may I not place myself above you and hold onto an offense. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t serve leftovers. Jan

2 Samuel 14

Run out like water

In July of 2007, in a rare loquacious moment, I had the opportunity to sit with my dad at his kitchen table. Fortunately on this occasion I had the presence of mind to pull out my trusty Garmin iQue3600 handheld and recorded nearly the entire thing. I recorded about 58 minutes worth of what is one of the few, if not only recordings of his voice. I now have, in his own words, some wonderful stories about his past.

Today I read about an old woman who came to King David and told him a story about her sons. But what jumped off the page to me was the following verse.

All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. That is why God tries to bring us back when we have been separated from him. He does not sweep away the lives of those he cares about—and neither should you! – 2 Samuel 14:14

My father at one point in the conversation was talking about all of the things he’s seen, places he’s been. And then he said;

“80 years, that is a lot to live through. And many many different changes. But what can you do… it has run out like water.” – Viktor Broucinek

“Our lives are like water spilled on the ground…” – Woman from Takoa

Life is truly short. But God is good. We are all separated from him, that is why he sent his only son to pay our ransom so that our separation from him could end. His greatest desire is for fellowship with us. He wants to sit at the table with us and welcome us into his home.

Father, please give me the strength, wisdom, desire, grace, whatever is necessary, to bring others to you. Help me to show them The Way, The One who bridged the separation, before their lives run out like water. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Like water held in a fist, our lives will eventually run out.

Jan

My father’s memorial video

For more information about my dad visit http://www.tinybeetle.us/dad

2 Samuel 13

Unfavorable Light

There are many narratives in the Bible which prove by their very nature that it is a reliable account of ancient history. The story of Amnon and Tamar is one such tragic example. It invovled several persons taking matters into their own hands. And it ended badly for all parties involved.

The quick summary is; Amnon was hot for his half-sister Tamar. He tricked her, raped her, and then threw her out. Absalom, Tamar’s full-brother, learned about it and eventually murdered Amnon in revenge.

And David mourned many days for his son Amnon. Absalom fled to his grandfather, Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. – 2 Samuel 13:37

If you were writing history about yourself and your family, would you include such an account in your journal? Perhaps you would, and perhaps you wouldn’t. But then, when some of your descendants are compiling a history of all that has gone before them, would they include this particular tale? I suspect not.

It is part of our nature to downplay the bad and to focus on the good. As someone once said, the writers of the Bible had no issue including “warts and all”. This is incontrovertible evidence that the authors of the Bible were much more concerned with accuracy than they were with being politically correct. They were willing to cast even heroes of the faith in an unfavorable light.

Father, thank you for not leaving things out of your word. You gave us examples of good to follow, and bad to avoid. May we learn from the lessons that others went through so that we don’t have to. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Bible is fully trustworthy. Jan

2 Samuel 12

Who caused the sin?

I have grown up in and around the church, so I have a pretty good grasp of theology and the nances of God and his character. But there are times that my paradigm is challenged. I have always understood that God does not do evil, that he only does that which is good.

No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. – James 1:13

The verse seems pretty clear. God is not tempted by evil, and conversely he does not tempt anyone with evil. So how do a verses like the following fit in with that belief?

‘From this time on, the sword will be a constant threat to your family, because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.

Because of what you have done, I, the LORD, will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will do this to you openly in the sight of all Israel.’ – 2 Samuel 12:10-12

Do you see who is going to cause this to come on David’s household? It is God! And, a son sleeping with his father’s wife is something God explicitly commanded against, something he calls evil worthy of death.

If a man has intercourse with his father’s wife, both the man and the woman must die, for they are guilty of a capital offense. – Leviticus 20:11

‘Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife, for he has violated his father.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’ – Deuteronomy 27:20

 
It would definitely seem to me that God is the one causing this, it is inescapable.
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? – Amos 3:6
Notice again who did the evil…
God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and He regretted and relented of the evil and said to the destroying angel, It is enough; now stay your hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. – 1 Chronicles 21:15
I am not in any way implying that God is evil. But it seems clear that God does use it for his own purposes and certainly can direct and cause it to come upon those he is punishing.
 
To be fair, I do need to point out that many of the instances of the word ‘evil’ are alternatively translated as ‘disaster’ or ‘calamity’. But the incident below is crystal clear. 
But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp… – 1 Samuel 19:9 
There is no mistaking that the Lord sent the evil spirit.
 
I don’t pretend to know what all this means. But, I do know this; I don’t want to anger God. I don’t want his judgment. I much rather prefer his mercy. Thank God for his son Jesus. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4

It isn’t that I never sin. However, that is no longer my nature. Christ living in me cleanses me from all unrighteousness.

Father, thank you for Jesus. Without him I would deserve all the evil that exists. May I bring honor to your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t cause evil. Jan