SOAP Journal – 29 November 2017 (2 Samuel 16:1-14)

“Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.”

2 Samuel 16:12

As David and his retinue leave Jerusalem, they have two disheartening encounters.

The first is a meeting with Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth. David had been taking care of Mephibosheth as a way to fulfill his promise to Jonathan and Ziba brought out supplies with the false report that Mephibosheth was staying in Jerusalem expecting that the kingdom of Israel would be given to him. It is later (2 Samuel 19:24-30) revealed that Mephibosheth had no such thought process. But the damage was done. David was given the impression that someone he had done well by was against him.

The second is being shouted at and generally harassed by a relative of Saul named Shimei. This man throws rocks and dirt at David and those who are with him and curses David as he goes. Abishai wants to behead the man for his cheek, but David prevents it. Shimei repents of this action  and David forgives him (2 Samuel 19:16-23), but it was still a disheartening moment in an already difficult time.

These two men are a reminder that there can be people who make things worse when things are already bad. David was already fleeing his home in order to avoid being killed by his own son, but to add a feeling of being betrayed by someone you had only ever done good things for and being harassed and pelted with rocks and dirt when you are already down is adding insult to injury. When things are difficult in my life, it is possible that people I have only done good for will seem to turn on me. When things are tough, there may be people who abuse me and tell me that I brought it on myself.

These two men are also a reminder that I should let God handle things. Ziba is a liar and a traitor to his master and Mephibosheth was actually still loyal to David. The man to whom David had done only good had, in fact, been grateful the whole time. Shimei was caught in the passion of the moment and later realized that he had acted foolishly. God needed to be the One Who dealt with those situations and His dealing with them brought about the best possible outcomes.

When my life is difficult — and it will sometimes be — let me be mindful that there may be those who make things worse and that I should leave dealing with those people to God.

Thank You, Father, for this reminder that the people who make bad situations feel worse are not my fault, but have some motive of their own that I might never know. Please keep me mindful of this and ready to surrender things to You.

SOAP Journal – 28 November 2017 (2 Samuel 15)

The king went out and all the people with him, and they stopped at the last house.

2 Samuel 15:17

After being in Jerusalem for a time and seducing the hearts of the Israelites away from David, Absalom makes his move and goes to Hebron to begin his open rebellion. David gets wind of it and packs up everyone still loyal to him and leaves the city. There are several notes about who went and who stayed behind — and the list keeps growing for the next couple chapters.

Among those who go is one Ittai the Gittite. This man was an exiled foreigner who had recently settled in the land and that is about all that The Bible reveals about him. He swears his allegiance to David and later acquits himself well in the battle against Absalom. What I see in this man is a loyalty to the one who welcomed him and gave him a new home. In a spiritual sense, every believer was lost and adrift before coming to Christ. We were exiles from Heaven that Christ welcomed in. Our devotion to our King should be like Ittai’s.

Zadok and Abiathar, priests both, sought to bring the Ark with them and go with David. David prevents them from coming, telling them that God will bring him (David) back or not as seems best to Him (God). These men wanted to bring God’s presence into the situation. Believers are called by Peter a royal priesthood and the statement is sung in the praises of the elders  around God’s throne in John’s vision in Revelation. As a royal priest, I should be bringing God’s presence with me wherever I go. And I do, whether I am conscious of it or no. When God takes up residence in me, it means that He goes with me where I go. But Zadok and Abiathar remind me that I ought to be bringing God into difficult situations openly and obviously.

The last man mentioned in this chapter is Hushai the Archite. This man wants to come with David. The only thing that The Bible tells me about Hushai is that he was David’s friend. And he demonstrates what a friend should do. He offers to go into the difficulty with his friend. David prevents him, setting him up instead as a mole. And Hushai goes along with it, accepting that his friend has more need of him passing information out of the court than with that friend in the trial.  I, too, ought to be such a friend to my King — willing to go where my King wants me and be what best serves His plans.

My God, thank You for the example of these men. Please make my devotion like Ittai’s, my readiness to openly and obviously bring You into difficult situations like Zadok and Abiathar, and my friendship to You like Hushai’s to David.

SOAP Journal – 27 November 2017 (2 Samuel 14)

Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart [was inclined] toward Absalom.

2 Samuel 14:1

After Absalom murdered his half-brother, he fled the country. His father, King David, longed to go out to Absalom (13:39), but he did not. Joab perceives the king’s heart and decides that Absalom needed to come home. So Joab convinces a wise woman to come to King David and present a fiction like the one that the prophet Nathan had presented, designed to evoke a response from David. So the woman presents the fiction and David offers her the protection that she ostensibly sought, but when she persists, David sees through things and realizes that Joab is behind the whole thing. The king gives Joab what he asks for — Absalom is brought back to Jerusalem — but the king does not see Absalom. Eventually, Absalom goes so far as to set a part of Joab’s field on fire to get his attention and get an audience with David. Absalom says something that, were David a man inclined more toward justice and less toward mercy, would have been the end of Absalom: Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death (14:32). There was, in fact, iniquity in Absalom and he should have been put to death. But he was not.

Joab’s non-battlefield judgment was poor. I have already read of his murder of another general during peace talks in retribution for a killing that happened in war time. I continued reading and saw that Absalom stages a coup some years after being brought back to Jerusalem. Joab saw that David’s heart wanted something and Joab thought that David’s heart was good. What Joab did not stop to consider is whether or not David’s mind had a reason for leaving Absalom in his self-imposed exile. There is nothing in the text that says that David said or even implied that Absalom could not come back. Perhaps David, who knew a thing or two about living in a state of non-repentance, wanted to give God time to work on his son’s heart. Perhaps David just wanted to give Absalom some time and space to sort things out. Whatever the reason, David had not gone and gotten his son, despite longing to see him, and Joab missed the mark entirely.

David, for his part, allowed himself to be swayed by Joab’s charade. David saw through the smokescreen and yet still gave Joab what he was after. It is interesting that the text tells me that David did what Joab asked, not what David thought wise or prudent or even that David sought God’s counsel and acted accordingly. David gave Joab what he wanted. There may be people in my life who are able to sway me to do things that I know are imprudent or outright wrong — there have been in times past. It seems that Joab is such a person in the life of David.

Absalom, far from appreciating the mercy involved in his situation, flaunts it and demands to see the king or be put to death for any iniquity in himself. Absalom had plenty of iniquity within him and plenty of reason why he should have been put to death.

In Joab, I see for too much of myself with God. I understand a portion of God’s heart, but I do not know His mind. So I pray and ask Him to do things that may have terribly ramifications. As Paul writes, I do not know how to pray as I ought. So, like Peter, I keep talking despite not knowing what to say. Israel would probably have been better served if Joab had left Absalom in his self-imposed exile. My prayer life would be better if I could come to God knowing that I do not know how to pray as I ought and if I would rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede and speak the words I cannot speak.

In David, I see something of myself. I have been, in times past, unduly influenced by people that I cared about and with whom I had been through much. I am still wont to be thus influenced, I think, but the number of people who are close enough to me and have endured as much beside me is few.

In Absalom, I see a tendency that is sadly common to all people. I see a lack of appreciation of the mercy shown us and a blindness to our own transgressions.

Father, I do not know how to pray as I ought — if Paul didn’t, then I most certainly do not — and so ask that Your Spirit would help my weakness and intercede with groanings too deep for words. I know that the tendency exists in me both to allow myself to be influenced — especially when the direction of that influence agrees with my desires — and to take for granted the mercy shown me. Please work in me so that I am influenced by You and by counsel that comes from You through trustworthy friends. Please give me eyes that see just how much Your mercy has extended to me and how far down Your grace has to descend to reach me.

SOAP Journal – 21 November 2017 (2 Samuel 13)

Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry.

2 Samuel 13:21

This chapter covers the span of five years and two heinous transgressions. The chapter opens with Absalom, his sister Tamar, and their half-brother Amnon. As it turns out, Amnon had more than a brotherly affection for Tamar and was driving himself to distraction over it. Instead of talking to Tamar and David about it, he talks with his cousin Jonadab, who happens to be wily and cunning. Jonadab suggests that Amnon pretend to be physically ill and ask for Tamar to come make him some food to help him feel better. Amnon puts the plan into action and the thing results in him raping his half-sister. To make matters worse, Tamar’s words sound like she might have been willing to marry Amnon if he had asked David’s permission. The whole thing could have been done with no violation. Absalom finds out and nurses a grudge for 2 years. After 2 years, Absalom finds a way to get Amnon away from David and his protection and Absalom murders his half-brother. Instead of facing the music, Absalom flees the country. In all of this, I am told of David’s emotional state — he is angry over his daughter’s rape (v 21) ad mourned for Absalom (v 37) and his heart longer to go out to Absalom (v 39) — but I am never told that he did anything. Plenty of emotion, not much motion.

It is in David’s lack of action that I find my application. I cannot simply feel things like anger about sin or grief for someone who has left. I must do something. If sin makes me angry — and it should — then I should get drastic about it in my life and deal with it. The anger should prompt me to take appropriate action. Likewise my grief. If I am grieved by something, then I should let that grief act as a prompt for appropriate action — send an e-mail, write a letter, make a phone call, do something that will work toward addressing the source of the emotion. The same is true for positive emotions. If I love someone, as the text says that Amnon loved Tamar, then I must do what is right and try to secure their happiness. The selfishness shown by Amnon is cautionary. Love can be pursued in the wrong way.

Father, thank You for the emotions that You have given us to help spur us on to appropriate actions. Please let my emotions serve their purpose and push me to appropriate actions. Please guard me against the wrong actions, but guide me into what ought to be done as a response to the emotion.

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.

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.