SOAP Journal – 16 November 2017 (2 Samuel 12:26-31)

So David gathered all the people and went to Rabbah, fought against it and captured it.

2 Samuel 12:29

Bookending the account of David’s sin with Bathsheba, attempted cover-up, and eventual repentance are two accounts of the Israelites at war. In the first instance, it is pointed out that David stayed home during the time when kings normally went to war. He should have been on the battlefield and was, instead, laying around the palace. In this second instance, no such information is given. The account states that Joab fought against Rabbah of the sons of Ammon and captured the royal city (v 26). I know that at least two years have passed between the other battle and this, because Bathsheba has been pregnant twice in that time. But I do not know when the battle took place. What I do know is that Joab is ordering the king around. Joab’s message is impertinent: Now therefore, gather the rest of the people together and camp against the city and capture it, or I will capture the city myself and it will be named after me (v 28). But David does it.

Earlier in his life, David commented that Joab and his brothers were too much for him (David) to handle. Instead of ridding himself of them in some fashion, David kept them around. They were good generals, after all.

The verses that close out 2 Samuel 12 record David being victorious in warfare, but the book is going to pivot to his home life in the next chapter and there is very little victory there. What I am reminded of is David’s tendency to not deal with things. He does not deal with Joab and his brother(s), so they become a thorn in his side. He does not deal with the sins of his children, so he has discord in his household.

Far be it from me to condemn him, as I am oftentimes guilty of the same thing. I am just as often aware of what needs to be done, but unwilling to do it for whatever reason. Maybe I just want to avoid conflict. Maybe I want to spare someone’s feelings. Regardless of the reason, I am wrong not to deal with things.

God has no such compunction. He is ready and willing to address things in my life and in the lives of all of His children. Jesus readily called out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Jesus never gilded people’s sin, but called it exactly what it was — sin — and told them to stop doing it. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sins of adultery and murder. The heart of God in these things is to see us repent; to see us turn from our wayward and rebellious way to the paths of righteousness. He is not addressing these things to condemn me, but to invite me to confess and be forgiven and move forward.

Thank You, Father, for Your willingness to address things in me and for the example of David that shows what sorts of things can happen when issues are left unresolved. Please not only show me the things that need to be done, but also give me the strength and endurance to do them and see them through to completion.

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SOAP Journal – 15 November 2017 (2 Samuel 12:24-25)

Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him and sent [word] through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah for the LORDS sake.

2 Samuel 12:24-25

This morning, I wanted to slow down and really consider just the two verses in front of me.

Five words into these verses and there is something that caught my attention. How Bathsheba is seen has shifted. She was Uriah’s widow (v 15) and is now David’s wife (v 24), even though David had taken her as his wife before the author referred to her as Uriah’s widow. I think that the writer of this book chose to refer to Bathsheba as Uriah’s widow in order to reinforce the idea that neither she nor David had actually dealt with their sin by the marriage. Their marriage, as far as this account seems to indicate, was nothing more than a metaphorical fig leaf loin covering until they confessed their wrongdoing and moved forward from that point.

The order of operations after their confession is that (1) David comforted his wife, (2) went in to her, (3) lay with her, and (4) she gave birth to a son. I notice that she is his wife before he goes in to her this time around. He does not comfort Uriah’s widow, but David’s wife. It is David’s wife to whom he went in and lay with. It is David’s wife who gives birth to a son. Everything has changed.

My Bible has a footnote about the pronoun involved in naming Solomon. The note tells me that some manuscripts say that she (Bathsheba) named the baby Solomon while others say that he (David) named the boy Solomon. Some might look at this and see it as a place where the manuscripts disagree and begin celebrating their perceived victory in declaring that the manuscripts are inconsistent. I do not see a problem. When my wife and I named our children, I would be hard-pressed to differentiate who supplied which name and when. Moreover, my wife and I agreed on the names. It was not a unilateral decision on either of our parts. She did not name our children and I did not name our children … we named our children. So, someone writing the story might say that I named our child since I dictated the name to the clerk who came in to record the name. Or that might have been my wife who did that. We were both a little sleep deprived and much of that first week of each child’s life is a blur of baby noises, congratulations from friends and family, visits from medical personnel, and an eventual crash into our own bed. Who named the boy Solomon? His parents did.

God had another name for the boy: Jedidiah — loved by the LORD. The same could be said of every child. God loves us. But God made it a point to tell David and Bathsheba that He (God) loved this boy. That statement would have been comforting to a couple who had just experienced the death of an infant son. Solomon’s elder brother was gone on to be with God before Solomon was born. God’s love for Solomon probably comforted Bathsheba every time Solomon sneezed. I am not a mom, so I cannot entirely understand a mom’s heart. But I suspect that her heart beat a little faster with concern every time Solomon was sick or out too long or suffered an injury. I also suspect that her worry eased a bit every time she recalled to mind that God loved that boy.

What does this have to do with me? This: God is pleased when I do the right thing in the right way at the right time. Trying to put a spiritual Band Aid over my sin does not cover up the gaping wound and God will not change how He views things. I must confess my sin so that my view of things changes. I must confess so that God can actually heal the wounds I have caused.

Father, against You and You only I have sinned.

SOAP Journal – 14 November 2017 (2 Samuel 12:15-23)

He said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:22-23

David and Bathsheba’s adultery resulted in a son. God told David, through the prophet Nathan, that the child was going to die. David, despite knowing what was said, fasted and prayed. This stems, I think, from David’s knowledge that sometimes God says things to prompt us. We do not always know what we should be doing, so God gives us indicators. As an example, God told Moses that He (God) would wipe out the complaining and faithless Israelites in the wilderness and start over with Moses. Moses interceded and pleaded God’s reputation being at stake. God did not wipe out the Israelites, but He did prompt Moses to model intercessory prayer and reveal that He (God) will sometimes say things to spur us to action. David, being a man of God’s Word, knew that this had happened. So David fasted and prayed and hoped that God was merely prompting him (David) to intercede for the child.

The child died. David, knowing that there was nothing else he could do, cleaned himself up and praised God in the tabernacle and had a bite to eat. God had told David that the child would die and the child was dead. This, I think, closed the book on things for David. This was not a matter of God prompting him (David) to intercede, but a prophecy.

The elders were puzzled at all of it. They saw David fasting and praying while the child was alive and were unable to make sense of it. Perhaps they heard the prophecy and accepted it as established fact, not knowing that God sometimes says things to spur us to action. Regardless of what they thought when the child was alive, they were worried when the child died. They saw the fasting and praying while the child was alive and thought that David would do himself a harm if he knew that the child was gone. He (David) heard their whispering and connected the dots. And his response puzzled them still more. He got up off the ground, bathed, anointed himself, worshiped, then came home for a meal.

This morning’s verses are David’s explanation. While the child was alive, David held out hope that there might be some way to change things; that God might be gracious — i.e., give David what he did not deserve. Once the child died, David understood that he could not influence God’s decision in the matter. And his last statement is profound. David states that he (David) will go to the child. This tells me that David believed the child to be in the place where the righteous go. Whether that was Heaven or merely a pleasanter portion of Sheol; the Grave — what might be Abraham’s Bosom, from Jesus’ account of Lazarus and the rich man.

Later, Jesus asked the Father to use any other method of saving mankind than the Cross if there were any other way. He knew that there was not. He knew that His Cross was before Him and He could not change it without leaving us all in our sins. Like David, Jesus knew what the Father said, but prayed for something else anyway being ready to accept the Father’s response, no matter what it was.

When God puts things in my life that seem certain and fixed from the human perspective, is my response like those elders — just accept it fatalistically and try to make the best of things — or do I join in with my Savior and with King David and pray that God would change things, being ready to accept that the Father’s answer may very well be “No.” Paul prayed for God to remove a thorn from his flesh and God said that His grace was sufficient for Paul — means “No.” God may very well respond to my entreaty in the negative, but He might also be gracious. Am I banking on His grace or His sovereignty? I should be banking on both.

Father in Heaven, thank You that You invite us to pray. You afford us a privilege that we can in no way deserve. You bid us come into Your presence and present our petitions. Such a thing should humble me in ways that defy description. Please teach me, Father, how to rely on both Your sovereignty and Your graciousness — to hear Your Words and to pray for You to be gracious nonetheless, knowing that I know very little indeed. Please kindle a hope in me that pursues Your graciousness and accepts Your sovereignty.

SOAP Journal – 13 November 2017 (2 Samuel 12:1-15)

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”

2 Samuel 12:13-14

After David and Bathsheba sinned and after David had Uriah killed as a cover-up, the prophet Nathan comes to David with a message from the LORD. The message is couched in a parable — the story of the wealthy man taking the poor man’s lamb to feed a guest (vv 1–4) — and David is rightly indignant about the actions of the wealthy man in the story (vv 5–6).

When Nathan confronts David with the idea that he (David) is the wealthy man from the story (vv 7–12), David confesses his sin (v 13a). It is worthy of note that David does not ask for forgiveness or try to make a plea bargain with God or any of the other things to which I find myself tempted. David simply admits that what he did was sinful. And David’s confession results in forgiveness of his sin (v 13b), just as I am told that I am forgiven if I confess my sin (1 John 1:9).

Nathan has one last piece of bad news for David: the son born to David and Bathsheba will die. The reason given for the child’s death is that David and Bathsheba’s actions gave occasion to LORD’s enemies to blaspheme. If God were to allow the child to live, the enemies of God might take that as a tacit approval of what David and Bathsheba had done. So, the child had to die. More, the child’s death as an infant is a piece of mercy compared to what the rest of David’s children will endure. David’s family is the poster family for dysfunction. Amnon will rape his half-sister Tamar and Tamar’s brother, Absalom, will murder Amnon for that. Later, Absalom will stage a coup and murder more of David’s children. Things get messy and this infant boy passes from life into eternity without enduring any of that.

This account brings me around to God’s forgiveness. The only requirement for me to receive God’s forgiveness is for me to confess my sin. David confessed his sin — I have sinned against the LORD — and was forgiven — The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. There is, however, an often-overlooked caveat to this: God forgives the punishment for my sin, the consequence may very well still follow. If I commit sexual sin, then it is entirely likely that unplanned pregnancies or disease may result. If I commit violence, then it is likely I will suffer violence. If I lie habitually, then I am likely to be caught in those lies or be lied to in ways that cause me harm. If I steal, then I am likely to be caught and suffer the consequences for that crime. I may even be stolen from. No action is without reaction and God’s promise is to forgive me my sin, not to take away the consequence of it.

Father, thank You that You are faithful to forgive me my sin and cleanse me of all unrighteousness if I will but confess my sin. Thank You that David is given as an example of that forgiveness. Please make my heart one that is willing and ready to confess when I sin and make my mind one that is aware that actions have consequences.

SOAP Journal – 10 November 2017 (2 Samuel 11)

Now when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. When the [time of] mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son. But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.

2 Samuel 11:26-27

The story is well-known: David sends the army out to war and stays home. He wanders around on the palace roof one evening and sees an attractive woman bathing. He could have left it there, but he did not. He makes inquiry and finds out who she is and brings her to the palace and sleeps with her and gets her pregnant. He then calls her husband back from the war and tries to get him (the husband) to sleep with his wife so the pregnancy can look okay. When the husband refuses on grounds of honor, David sends him back to the war with a letter that is his death sentence. The man dies. David marries the widow. Months later, a baby boy is born.

There is much blame that could be spread around between David and Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife/widow) with regard to their adultery. Looking at a couple commentators, there is always an attempt to understand why Bathsheba did not object to David’s advances. The Bible gives me no such insight. All I am told is that they — David and Bathsheba — are guilty of adultery.

But David adds to his sin. David goes on to indirectly murder Uriah. Had David merely sent Uriah back to the battle and he (Uriah) lost his life, then there would have been one less sin to David’s account. But David sends Uriah with the letter that places the mighty man (Uriah) at the place where the fighting was fiercest.

There is nothing new that I can add to the observations already made on this part of David’s life. It has already been observed that David ought to have been out at war with his armies and he would have thus avoided the temptation. It has already been said that he should have simply gone back into his house and put the bathing woman out of his mind. He had several wives already. And marriage is the place in which God condones sexual intercourse.

The chapter wraps up with the statement that the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD. Which thing? I suspect that the whole affair from lustful glance to murder is encapsulated in the thing that David had done. When the prophet Nathan comes to David to rebuke him, it is for the adultery. But the discipline comes for both the adultery (the child dies) and the murder (David’s family is plagued by internal problems from this point forward).

The application for me is this: Be where I should be and do what I should do and I will be less likely to see what I should not see and do what I should not do.

God in Heaven, thank You for not gilding those we see as heroes of the faith. Thank You for presenting them honestly, in all their humanity and limits and failures. It is an encouragement to know that You can still do mighty things in and through my life despite my limits and failures and faults and flaws. Please show me where I ought to be and what I ought to do and conform my will to want to be there and do that.

SOAP Journal – 09 November 2017 (2 Samuel 10)

Now when the sons of Ammon saw that they had become odious to David, the sons of Ammon sent and hired the Arameans of Beth-rehob and the Arameans of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob with 12,000 men. 

2 Samuel 10:6

King David hears about the death of a king who showed him kindness at one point and decides that he will pay it forward to that king’s son. David sends consolers to comfort the newly-minted king, Hanun, concerning his father’s passing. But the princes, Hanun’s advisers, think that the people sent to comfort Hanun are actually spies. So Hanun shaves half of the men’s beards off and cuts their clothes off at an embarrassing length and sends them away. The disgrace is enough that David goes from friendly to hostile. But David has not done anything to act on that hostility.

Hanun and the Ammonite princes, on the other hand, see the mistake they have made and, instead of trying to make it right, pay another king and his soldiers to come fight alongside them. David hears about this massing of forces and sends the army to deal with it. Things to not go well for the Ammonites and their paid allies.

The allies — the Arameans, to be specific — gather reinforcements and come back for more. It is at this point that David gathers every soldier at his disposal and he heads out with the entire Israelite fighting force. The battle does not go well for the Arameans. Aramean death toll: 40,000 horsemen, 700 charioteers, and the commander of the army.

David thought that he would show kindness to the son of a man who had been kind to him and that son thought David’s motives were other than advertised. There will be times when I want to do something kind and will be thwarted in that desire by a person or persons who think that I am motivated by something other than what is really motivating me. Every response that I see from David is measured and appropriate. He does not go into a rage over the shaving of the beards or the cutting of clothes, he just tells those men to spend some time in Jericho while their beards grow back and presumably sent them some new clothes. There is no threat of military action until Hanun starts marshaling forces. Even then, David only sends out a portion of the forces at his disposal. My response to a person or persons receiving my gestures of kindness in the wrong way must also be appropriate and measured. It is acceptable to be wounded and to feel that I have been ill-used, but I should not respond out of proportion to the thing done.

On Hanun’s side of the coin is the reality that sometimes things are what they appear to be. Sometimes kindness has no ulterior motive. Sometimes all of my advisers will be wrong. I need to take things as they are, not as I perceive them to be. And that can be a challenge.

Father, thank You for this reminder that kindness is not always well-received and that I need to accept things as they are. Please give me eyes that see things as they are and a heart that wants to show kindness no matter how it is received.

SOAP Journal – 08 November 2017 (2 Samuel 9)

Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

2 Samuel 9:1

While Jonathan was alive, David swore to him that he (David) would treat him (Jonathan) and his house well when he (David) became king. The friendship between the two men was such as made the promise unnecessary, but it was exactly the kind of extravagance toward which both men were inclined with regard to one another. As chapter 9 opens, David is secure in his kingdom and experiencing victory everywhere he turns. It is in this context that he remembers his promise to Jonathan.

It may very well be that he remembered the promise before, but knew that Saul’s line had been all but wiped out. So David wonders aloud if there is anyone left to whom he can make good on his promise to his friend, Jonathan. David expands on the promise, including all of Saul’s lineage in the pool of candidates toward whom he might show kindness when he only vowed regarding Jonathan’s descendants (cf 1 Samuel 20:42).

As it turns out, Jonathan’s son is still alive and David is able to follow-through on his promise, restoring the lands that had belonged to Saul to Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son) and giving Mephibosheth a place at the king’s table. This kindness is not lost on Mephibosheth, as he is loyal to David throughout his lifetime, just as his father had been.

Am I a man of my word? That is the question with which I am faced this morning. David made a promise to his friend and followed-through on that promise even after his friend was dead. I am left to ask myself how good my promise is and whether it can be counted on even if the person to whom the promise was made passes on.

Father, thank You that Your promises can be trusted. Please make me like You in that.