SOAP Journal – 30 October 2017 (2 Samuel 5:17-25)

When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard [of it], he went down to the stronghold.

2 Samuel 5:17

David has been established as king over all Israel. It is at this time that the Philistines decide that they need to do something about David. So they spread out in a valley and David asks God what he (David) should do. God tells David to go fight the Philistines. David obeys God and is victorious. The Philistines spread out in that same valley on another occasion and David goes to ask God again whether or not he should go fight the Philistines. God gives David a qualified “Yes.” this time around, giving David tactical directions. David obeys again and is victorious again.

The story is straightforward. David is threatened. David asks God what to do. God tells David what to do. David does what God told him to do. David is victorious.

The same pattern has been true in my own life. When things threatened — difficulties, dissolution of relationships, temptations — and I went to God for the game plan, I found victory if I obeyed and stuck to the game plan that God gave me. I often point to the end of an engagement many years ago as a prime example of asking God what to do and seeing it work when I was obedient. When I obeyed and did what God told me, I had peace in the midst of a difficult time and things moved along better than I thought they would. When I disobeyed, I found the peace departed and things no longer ran smooth. Just as straightforward as this account from the life of David.

The application is just as plain: Go to God for the plan when things seem threatening then obediently do what God tells me to and I will find victory. Victory may not be the thing that I would prefer it to be — sometimes relationships need to end and my life needs difficulties to increase my dependence on God — but it will always be what is best for me.

Father, thank You for this reminder from David’s life that seeking Your direction and obeying Your direction are the keys to victory. Please keep me mindful of this and obedient to Your direction.

SOAP Journal – 27 October 2017 (2 Samuel 5:1-16)

David became greater and greater, for the LORD God of hosts was with him.

2 Samuel 5:10

Verses 1 through 16 of chapter 5 read like the Good Idea – Bad Idea skits that used to be a part of the Animaniacs cartoon show.

Verses 1 through 12 are the Good Idea portion of the show. All of the Israelites come to David and anoint him king over the whole nation, thus reunifying the nation and stopping all the infighting for a time (vv 1-5). David then takes his men and conquers Jerusalem (vv 6-10), despite the inhabitants of that city thinking themselves impervious. And Hiram, king of Tyre, builds David a house. Things are just seem to be going great for David.

Then verse 13 arrives and David takes more concubines and wives. There was nothing culturally wrong with this, as polygamy was accepted at the time. However, God had expressly forbidden the king from having lots of wives, so this was definitely an area of sin in David’s life. What is more, these wives and concubines had children and these children sometimes came in conflict and these conflicts sometimes led to bloodshed.

This gives me several ways I could apply this to my life, but this morning I find myself focused on the idea that I can imitate the strengths of my heroes, but I should stay away from their faults. David has many excellent qualities that recommend him as someone I should emulate. He also has flaws that warn me against certain behaviors.

Father, thank You for the heroes in Your Word that are presented in all of their humanity — the good and the bad. Please cement in my mind their laudable behaviors and cause me to imitate those. Please give me a distaste for their faults that causes me to shun those behaviors.

SOAP Journal – 24 October 2017 (2 Samuel 3:31-39)

So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been [the will] of the king to put Abner the son of Ner to death.

2 Samuel 3:37

After Joab murders Abner, David hears about it and makes sure that Abner gets a proper funeral and burial. David sings a lament for Abner and fasts — refusing to eat even when the people try to persuade him to do so. This action communicates to the people that David was not the one who ordered Abner’s killing. David goes on to comment that he has a weak hold on his reign and points to Joab and his brother Abishai as evidence.

David calls attention to something that none of us likes to face: we never have as much control as it seems we do. David thought that making an agreement with Abner would be enough; that those who served him (David) would abide by the agreement and honor his wishes. Instead, he learns that Joab and Abishai are more concerned with revenge than they are with loyalty to their king.

I am struck by David recognition of his lack of control. I sometimes half-jokingly state that all I have is the illusion of control, but there is more truth in that than I would like to admit. I control very little of what goes on and my little sliver of control, while important to my life and the lives of my family, has very little impact on the world at large.

What I need to realize is that God controls everything while I control very little. David makes a statement along these lines when he says May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil (v. 39). David could have killed Joab and Abishai right then and there, but that would not have changed David’s lack of control. I need to come to the same conclusion that David did: God is in control.

Father, thank You for the reminder that I am not in control. Thank You for not ceding control to me, but for keeping it in Your own hands. I am quite certain I would make a shambles of things. Please keep me mindful that You are in control all things and that I am in control of comparatively little. Please keep me mindful, also, that I am accountable for that little.

SOAP Journal – 23 October 2017 (2 Samuel 3:22-30)

When Joab came out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah; but David did not know. So when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the middle of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the belly so that he died on account of the blood of Asahel his brother. 

2 Samuel 3:26-27

As I pick up the history this morning, Abner has made peace with David and things are in motion to reunify Israel. But this whole exchange had gone on while Joab was out raiding some place. When Joab gets back, he tells David that Abner was spying; trying to see where David’s weak points are. But I know, as the reader of this account, that Abner truly meant to make peace with David and to reunify the kingdom of Israel. In point of fact, everything I have seen Abner do has been done in integrity. He has never, that I have noted, been false in his dealings or untrue to himself. I also see, as the reader, that Joab was not quite so concerned with whether or not Abner was spying on David or not, but Joab was interested in avenging the death of his brother, Asahel.

I recall that Abner killing Asahel was an unwilling thing. Abner kept trying to dissuade Asahel from pursuing him but Asahel was having none of it and Abner eventually killed Asahel just to put an end to the pursuit (2 Samuel 2:18-23). What is more, Asahel’s death came in a battle. It is not a surprise that people die in battle. It is expected. This, apparently, meant nothing to Joab, who deceived Abner into returning to Hebron and killed him.

 

In this account, I am presented with two men held in contrast to one another. Joab, who is vengeful and deceitful and dangerously unsubmissive to his king. And Abner, who is an honest and loyal man.

Abner’s life and death serve as a reminder that integrity and uprightness are no guarantors of a long life or wealth. Those things — integrity and uprightness — can only guarantee that I will please God in my doings. It is possible to become blind to the fact that others do not live uprightly or walk in integrity and to forget that I must be cautious.

Jesus warned His disciples to be wise as serpents. Snakes are not interested in biting people, as a general rule. Snakes much prefer to be left alone. But, to accomplish that goal, the snake must be wise about the behavior of other creatures around it. The snake must be aware that larger animals may come trundling by and not be cautious about whether or not they harm others as they go.

Let me live a life like Abner: consistent and loyal and honest and walking in integrity. But let me be mindful, as he was not, that others may not want to live such a life.

Father, thank You for Abner’s character as an example and his death as a warning that I should live upright and not allow myself to lose sight of the fact that others will not. Please strengthen me to live rightly before You and to walk in integrity.

SOAP Journal – 20 October 2017 (2 Samuel 3:6-21)

Abner said to David, “Let me arise and go and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may be king over all that your soul desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

2 Samuel 3:21

This section of the book opens with reminding me that there was war between the houses of Saul and David and that Abner was the driving force behind the house of Saul. The very next thing mentioned is a controversy around one of Saul’s concubines. Ish-Bosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with the woman and Abner is so offended by the accusation that he vows to bring all of Israel under David’s reign. So Abner gets the ball rolling and David demands that Michal — definitely the first woman to whom he was engaged and maybe his first wife — be brought to him. Abner and Ish-Bosheth make that happen and Abner and David have a peaceful conference about transitioning the rule of Israel completely over to David. This section ends with Abner leaving David’s presence peacefully.

Ish-Bosheth serves as a reminder that accusations against loyal friends need to come with some serious credentials. The Bible does not comment on whether or not the accusation against Abner was true, it only tells me that Abner was so offended by the accusation that he switched sides in the conflict.

Let me learn from the error of a worthless man (Ish-Bosheth) and be certain that any accusation I entertain against those who have been loyal to me have a firm foundation.

Father, thank You for this reminder and the story of how dire the consequences can be. Please give me a mind and heart that believe the best of those who have been loyal to me and skeptical of accusations against them.

SOAP Journal – 18 October 2017 (2 Samuel 2:12-3:5)

Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; and David grew steadily stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker continually.

2 Samuel 3:1

Abner and Saul’s remaining loyalists tried to keep Saul’s kingdom; his chance at a dynasty intact. But the effort was futile. Saul’s loyalists continually grew weaker while David’s men grew stronger. An illustration is given in the form of the first conflict between David’s men and Saul’s remaining loyalists. 20 of David’s men die in that battle, but the total death toll for the battle is 360, meaning that 340 of Saul’s loyalists died in that battle. This ratio, if consistent, would have meant that the long war mentioned would have had losses of 18 to 1. That would not have been a sustainable rate of loss if the war was going to continue for an extended time. While it was called a long war, the term long is not a quantitative word. In one place (Jeremiah 29:28), the term is used to describe the time spent in Babylonian exile (70 years). In another place (Job 11:9), the term describes the depths and limits of God (we cannot reach those depths and there is no limit to God). So this word seems to be qualitative more than quantitative.

During this long war, David fathers several sons with several women. Based on what a couple of these boys get up to when they are older, it would seem that David was absent as a father. And this is hardly surprising, as he was fighting a civil war through at least some of their childhood.

As a father, I find myself challenged with the fact that David had children during a chaotic and difficult time in his life and that I know what becomes of those children. If I let circumstance get in the way of being present and raising my children, then my children will not be raised well. Amnon, one of the sons named, grows up to be an incestuous rapist. Absalom grows to be a murderer and insurrectionist. In the end, David feels responsible for what those boys become and rightly so. Had David been more present and more involved in their upbringing, it is possible that neither would have become what he did. When my children are grown, I will be responsible for what I have poured into their lives. If I have poured in love and discipline and Godly instruction, then I have done all that a man can do. If I have neglected to love and discipline and instruct them in God’s ways, then I have failed them as their father. This is not to say that they do not make their own choices, only that I am responsible for instructing my children in God’s ways and loving them and disciplining them. All else is out of my hands. This is also not to say that God cannot make good things happen in spite of me, but I would rather cooperate with Him than work against Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder that difficult circumstances will come and that life is going to continue to happen regardless of whether or not I take the time to notice and act appropriately. Please keep me mindful of the present and careful to pour into the people and moments You bless me with the things that will make for Godliness in both me and them.

SOAP Journal – 17 October 2017 (2 Samuel 2:1-11)

The number of days that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

2 Samuel 2:11

Saul is dead and has been buried and mourned. David then asks God if he (David) should go back to Israel and where he should go if the answer is yes. God tells him to go back to Israel and specifies Hebron (vv 1-3). When he arrives and settles in, the men of Judah come and anoint him as their king (v 4), essentially confirming God’s choice. The men of Judah also tell David who buried Saul’s body and David sends messengers to praise their good deed and let them know that he has been made king of Judah (vv 5-7).

I read also that Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, somehow escaped the battle that claimed Saul’s life and that he (Abner) set up Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth king of the rest of Israel. And this sets the stage for a brief civil war between Saul’s people and David’s people. It seems odd to me, since 1 Samuel 31:6 tells me that Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together. This account is some time later and Abner is still alive. This causes me some confusion and leaves me to wonder if Abner was counted among Saul’s men or not. Though I am flummoxed as to how to commander of one’s army would not be counted among one’s men. Maybe it is akin to David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:8-39) versus Joab being the commander of his army. Or maybe it was just the men specifically under Saul’s command. Who knows.

I think it interesting that David mourns the man who had been trying to kill him. I also note that David does not simply march his men back into Israel after mourning Saul, but takes time to ask God about the correct course of action. I wonder if I would have been so patient. Saul was dead. David no longer had any reason to fear for his life. Would I have taken the time to ask God what to do or would I have simply trotted back home thinking that everything was going to be awesome? I honestly do not know.

David had every reason to waltz back into Israel and attempt to take the throne that was his by right. Samuel had anointed him king of Israel and the previous king had died in battle. There was a job vacancy and the candidate selected to fill the position was ready to go. But David waited. David asked God whether or not he should go back to Israel. God might have told him to wait and David seems to have been prepared to do that. When God tells him it is clear to go back, David gets specific. Going back home sounds great. David wants to know where he should go back to. And God answers him specifically.

And that is my application this morning. It does not matter that God has made clear to me the general outline of what He wants me to do, I need to seek specifics. Is it the right time to do that thing and is this the right place? Knowing my general marching orders is good, but I should look for specifics when it is time to execute to those orders, lest I muck things up.

Father, thank You for David’s example in patience and seeking specifics in Your will. Please make my heart and will ready to wait on You until You have given specifics about how and when and where to do the things that I know You have called me to generally.