SOAP Journal – 29 December 2017 (2 Samuel 24)

However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy [it] from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

2 Samuel 24:24

This chapter is an account of God sending a disciplinary action on the Israelites after David has the fighting men numbered. There was nothing inherently wrong with numbering the fighting men, The Law includes a provision for taking a census and prescribes how often it should be done and God had, on occasion, commanded various leaders to number the people at their disposal. The wrong in the situation was that this census did not fall under either of those. A plague comes on the Israelites for three days and David makes a sacrifice on the threshing floor of a certain Jebusite to put an end to it. This account is paralleled in 1 Chronicles 21 with a few differences.

Difference #1: Who or What prompts David to number the fighting men. In Samuel, it says that the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them, but in Chronicles it says that Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. Some speculate that the difference is one of perspective: one account is looking from the earthly perspective and the other from the Heavenly. And this may very well be, but I think that the two are simply complementary. Satan stood up against Israel to make an accusation — probably a true one, since the Israelites (like most of us) regularly waffled between obedience and rebellion. The nation was at peace, so it is entirely possible that the people were getting lackadaisical about their relationship with God. It happens to a lot of us. God saw this and the anger of the LORD burned against Israel. This is seen often enough in the Old Testament that everything jives so far. But was is Satan or the anger of the LORD that moved or incited David to number the people? I do not know. It may be that one got the ball rolling (God’s anger) and the other took it too far (Satan). It may be some other thing that does not occur to me.

Difference #2: The numbers. Samuel gives the numbers of 800,000 and 500,000 for fighting men in Israel and Judah respectively. Chronicles gives these numbers as 1.1 million and 470,000. Both accounts agree on the number of people who died in the plague (70,000). But the accounts differ on the price paid for the threshing floor — 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and oxen (Samuel) or 600 shekels of gold by weight for the place (Chronicles). The difference in price might be as simple a matter as how much of the property is included in the price named. It is possible that David bought much more of the property than just the threshing floor and paid the 600 shekels of gold for the whole place while the price of the threshing floor and oxen specifically was 50 shekels of silver. Where the numbers of the people are concerned, I do not know why they are different.

Difference #3: The name of the Jebusite. In Samuel, the man is named Araunah and in Chronicles he is named Ornan. This is hardly a difficulty at all, as so many figures in The Bible have more than one name. The most obvious examples are Paul (formerly Saul) and Peter (formerly Simon) and Israel (formerly Jacob), though the preceding chapter of Samuel included a list of David’s Mighty Men and the list began with Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was [called] Adino the Eznite.

Having pointed out the differences, they can more or less be ignored. And this is why: the message of this chapter is unchanged. It does not matter whether it was Satan or God’s anger that prompted David to number the people, it was David who did it — just as it does not matter whether I am tempted by Satan or my own lusts, to give in to either is still to transgression. Regardless of the exact numbers of fighting men, 70,000 people died. It does not matter whether the army is 1 million strong or 20 million strong, they were not able to stop the plague. Regardless of the exact price paid and for what or to whom, David’s statement that a sacrifice must cost him something is still the core of that portion of the account. The core message of a man doing something wrong, suffering consequence, and making things right with God is the same no matter which account I read or how I reconcile the differences between the two accounts.

This account is an echo to the story of redemption. Adam had dominion over the Earth and made a decision that spread out and affected everyone just as David had rule over Israel and decided to number the people. But my King, Jesus, the second Adam came along and paid a price; made a sacrifice that cost Him dearly and took away the sentence of death that was hanging over us all just as David bought the site and what was necessary to make the sacrifice that would stop the plague.

By way of personal application, I will do things that are wrong. I am not perfect. And I have authority over certain things (my life, my property, my body etc.). My choices and actions — wrong and right — will have consequences. Sometimes, those choices and actions will have consequences that affect more than me. And I need to repent and do whatever God instructs to set things right so that my relationship with God can be restored. More, I need to have the same heart that David had: Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me. That last request is also the heart of Jesus. Please let Your hand be against me. He took my punishment and paid my price because I could not. This sheep, what could I do?

Father, I must confess with David that it is I who have done wrong. Please let the consequence of my wrongs fall on me and me alone. Please shelter those who might be impacted by those consequences. They have done nothing when I transgress. When I do wrong and discipline or consequence comes, Please let Your hand be against me.

SOAP Journal – 28 December 2017 (2 Samuel 23:8-39)

These are the names of the mighty men whom David had …

2 Samuel 23:8

This list is not only the names of David’s Mighty Men, but also some of their more notable exploits.

First, the list gives a group called the three or the captains: Adino, Eleazar, and Shammah. Adino is credited with 800 kills in a single battle (v 8). Eleazar is notable for having gone into battle when the rest of the army seems to have been withdrawing and fighting until his hand was unable to release the sword, the rest of the army only coming in after the action to take spoil (vv 9-10). Shammah took his stand in what would be considered an indefensible position and held his ground until the enemy was defeated (vv 11-12). It is possible that these same three men overheard David voice a desire to drink from the well in Bethlehem while it was under Philistine control and so broke through the enemy lines to get David a drink from the well and bring it back to him. David refused to drink the water, instead pouring it out as an offering to the LORD, saying that it was the blood of the men who went (v 17).

After these, two of the more notable members of a group called the thirty are mentioned. Abishai, Joab’s brother, is mentioned as having killed 300 and becoming the leader of the thirty (vv 18-19). Benaiah is mentioned as having killed two notable warriors of Moab, a lion in a pit on a snowy day, and killing an Egyptian warrior by taking the warrior’s own weapon from him and using it to kill him (vv 20-23).

From there, the record moves on into simply naming the Mighty Men, though some have been recorded elsewhere in The Bible, Uriah the Hittite, for example.

This is all good information, but does not, at first glance, really seem to be applicable to me. But it is. There are parallels between David and the Son of David, Jesus Christ. Both had a large number of people at their disposal in their time, David’s was an army and Jesus’ was His disciples. Out of this mass of humanity, both had a smaller, more select group. David had his Mighty Men and Christ had apostles. David’s Mighty Men included leaders and standouts like the three and Jesus’ apostles included notable leaders like Peter, Paul, and John. In both instances, the field grew smaller based on what the people were willing to step out and do in faith. David’s men stepped out into literal battles to fight for God and His people and are commemorated in scripture for all time. Jesus’ disciples also stepped out in faith to serve God and His chosen and many of them are commemorated in scripture, such as Mark and Barnabbas and Tabitha and Priscilla and Aquila and Luke and Simeon.

This leaves me to ask where I fit into the schema. Am I a member of God’s ranks; a disciple known to God but not notable as far as God’s Kingdom is concerned? Am I one who steps out in faith and does mighty things for God and is listed on the roster of the mighty? Am I one who goes even further and walks into places that sends my fellow believers fleeing so that I am counted as even more notable to my God and King? The answer depends on how far I am willing to step out in my faith. Not every disciple is recorded in The Bible. Not every believer does something worthy of note. Some of us are just dutiful soldiers to our King. We show up for the battle and we fight, but we do nothing extraordinary.

My Father and my King, thank You for this record of those who served David mightily. I know that there are many unrecorded soldiers who served him as there are many saints  who have served and still serve You. Whether or not I ever attain to a list of Mighty Men in Your eyes, please let me be found a faithful soldier in the faith. Let me stand and fight when You command it.

SOAP Journal – 27 December 2017 (2 Samuel 23:1-7)

The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.

2 Samuel 23:2

I skip over 2 Samuel 22 in terms of considering it more deeply as it is included in the book of Psalms (Psalm 18) and will likely be considered when I reach that psalm.

This passage is, according to verse 1, the last words of David. These words could also be understood as David’s last speech or song. Since 2 Samuel continues on for a couple more chapters and David does and says more after this, this is either his last song or the otherwise chronological nature of the book has been thrown out the window in this one instance. Since the breaking of chronological pattern makes no sense, this is, most likely, the last song David composed.

He begins the song, as he does with many of his psalms, with a note on the author. Some of those notes are nothing more than A Psalm of David, while others are more extensive, such as For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul (Psalm 18:1), or what is seen here: David the son of Jesse declares, The man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel (23:1). This authorial note tells me four things about David’s perception of himself.

First, David saw himself as the son of Jesse. He saw himself as a regular, run-of-the-mill person. He was not the son of a king or a prophet or any other such. His father was Jesse, just a regular man.

Second, David saw himself as having been raised on high. David did not see himself as having attained to anything on his own, but rather by God having raised him up. Contrast this perception with that of so many other kings in history and David has a relatively unique perspective on his position.

Third, David saw himself as the anointed of the God of Jacob. Not only had David been elevated by God, but it was God Who had chosen him to be king over Israel. What is more, it is not the God of Israel that David points to, but the God of Jacob. This is an important distinction, as God refers to Jacob and Israel almost interchangeably, but most frequently refers to Israel in times of obedience and Jacob in times of disobedience and rebellion. For example, God tells the sons of Jacob that it is due to God’s unchanging nature that they have not been destroyed in spite of their transgression and wandering (Malachi 3:6). David sees himself as having been chosen and anointed by the God Who is over the rebellious and the transgressor, an important thing for David whose life had its fair share of both.

Fourth and finally, David sees himself as the sweet psalmist of Israel. He wrote much, if not most, of the book of Psalms and had much to say in praise of God.

In light of all of this, David plunges onward and tells his audience that the Spirit of the LORD spoke by him (v 2) and to him (v 3). And God’s Spirit said, in essence, that the man who rules righteously and in fear of the LORD is a blessing to all. David then pivots and considers his own house. He sees his legacy (his house) as being a blessing to all due to the covenant that God has made with him. God made a promise and David is banking on that promise long before its fulfillment. He closes with a statement about the worthless and how they cannot be handled (vv 6-7).

The application for me in this is in David’s view of himself. He has a realistic view of himself and his place in things. He is no one special, just the son of a nobody from nowhere. He did not attain his position by his own merits or abilities, but was raised up and chosen by God for the post. And what he sees as potentially his greatest achievement is not some kingly act or feat in battle, but is a lifetime’s worth of praises and prayers to God. Do I have such a view of myself? I need to be mindful of who I am and who I am not. I need to remember that any position I attain in life is ultimately because God elevated me there and that He has a reason for doing so. And I should be living my life so that I can look back and see a life spent in pursuit of God. David was aware of all of these things and is remembered as a man after God’s own heart. Let my heart be likewise mindful of what I am and am not.

Father, thank You for David’s openness with his audience. It is needful to be reminded that no one is anything except You have allowed it or caused it to happen. Please keep my mind and heart aware of what I am and am not.

SOAP Journal – 20 December 2017 (2 Samuel 21:15-22)

These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

2 Samuel 21:22

These eight verses contain several bits of information. In verses 15-17, David goes out to war with his army and his age starts to assert itself. He grows weary while in battle and is saved by one of his men — Abishai, the son of Zeruiah and brother to Joab. After that incident, his men compelled him to stay home from the wars as they reasoned that Israel needed its king more than the soldiers needed him on the battlefield. Verses 18-22 then go on to detail how David’s men did some giant-killing of their own. David, their king and general, had set the example when he killed Goliath. Some of his men  received the message: God gives victory over giants.

And that, in brief, is my application for today. God gives victory over giants. David walked out and faced Goliath. David’s men went to war and killed giants. Jesus, the Son of David, went to the cross and killed the giant Sin. I, too, can go out in the strength of my God and face the giants in my life.

Father, thank You that You make any of Your children who steps out in Your strength a giant killer. Please teach me to step out in Your strength and face the giants in my life.

SOAP Journal – 19 December 2017 (2 Samuel 21:1-14)

Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the LORD. And the LORD said, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”

2 Samuel 21:1

Several things happen in these 14 verses.

The first thing to happen is a three year famine. In an agrarian culture, this would have been catastrophic. So David does what any good king would do: goes looking for answers.

Which leads to the second thing that happens: David goes directly to God for answers. The king does not waste his time on anything else. He does not consult whatever experts there might have been on weather patterns or crop cycles or any other thing. David takes the problem directly to God.

And God answers — happening number three, if we are keeping count. God tells David that something happened of which David might not have been aware. Saul had tried to exterminate the Gibeonites. This was not acceptable. The Israelites had made a covenant with the Gibeonites when Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. And God expected the Israelites to keep that covenant. God keeps His promises and He expects those who are His to do the same.

The fourth thing that happens is that David takes action based on what God said. David knows the source of the problem, so he seeks to address it. He meets with the leadership of the Gibeonites and asks how he can make restitution. How can he make things right with the Gibeonites? They give an answer and David follows through. And it is noteworthy that David’s follow-through involved finding a way to keep a promise that he had made yet still make restitution.

Once restitution is made and David closes the books on that chapter, God ends the famine.

It shows a good pattern. Something is not right, so the believer seeks God’s counsel then takes appropriate action to which God responds. It is a beautiful dance. God moves, then we move, then God moves again. And that, in brief, is the application for me. If something is amiss in my life; something not what it should be, then I need to seek God for answers. There are some who would say that I should seek the appropriate assistance whether medical or legal or what-have-you. But God is the Ultimate Authority on everything. He knows. As one Bible teacher said: Our God always only knows. So, let me seek God’s counsel no matter what issue of life confronts me and take action commensurate with what God says. He may very well send me to the doctor or the lawyer or whomever the world thinks I should consult. He might also tell me to accept what comes from His hand and let the lawyers sit idle. I cannot know unless I seek His counsel first.

Father in Heaven, thank You for this pattern. Please  establish it in me and my life.

SOAP Journal – 18 December 2017 (2 Samuel 20)

Then the woman wisely came to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they were dispersed from the city, each to his tent. Joab also returned to the king at Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 20:22

2 Samuel 20 is the account of the rebellion of Sheba the son of Bichri. After David is reinstalled as king, Sheba gets the idea into his head that the northern tribes should not follow David as king. And the northern tribes go along with it for a short while. David tries to clean up some of the mess left behind by Absalom, retiring, in a sense, the concubines that Absalom had intercourse with and telling Amasa to muster the troops and go after Sheba. Amasa takes longer than the time David had allotted and ends up meeting Joab on the road. Joab guts Amasa and continues on after Sheba. When the armies of Judah reach the city where Sheba is holed up — Abel Beth-Maacah — they set a siege. The city of Abel was a place where people would go for wisdom, or so the woman says who talks with Joab over the wall. The woman asks why Joab wants to destroy a city where wisdom is the rule and he replies that he is not there for the city, but for Sheba. The woman counsels the people of the city and Sheba’s head ends up thrown over the city walls.

There are several threads in this account and it would be impossible to do all of them justice in a single blog entry. My focus this morning is on Sheba. He is, when distilled down to basics, a rebel against the rightful, God-ordained king. The Israelites had anointed Absalom as their king, but God never said that He approved the choice. So David was still the man God chose for the job. And this leads to how I see this being applicable to me.

There are many things in life that want to compete with Christ for the throne of my life. The world supplies many and more distractions — entertainments, pass-times, hobbies, clubs, and so on — that all lay claim to time in my life. And there is nothing inherently wrong with spending time in these, so long as Jesus remains the ruler of my life. The sin that dwells in me has lusts and desires aplenty that seek to ensnare and make me their subject. So long as Jesus is on the throne of my life, those desires that have a right and proper fulfillment will find themselves fulfilled in due time. Life is full of Shebas. But there is only one Christ. There are many pretenders to the throne of my heart and mind and life, but only One King anointed by God. Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, as Paul wrote. Let me put the right King on the throne of my life by doing the things He commands. He commands that I love God with all that is in me. Let me do so to the best of my ability. He commands that I love others as I love myself. Let me but step out in faith and attempt it and see what resources my King Jesus puts at my disposal to obey His command. Long experience has taught me that all of the Shebas in my life require no power for me to obey them, it is in my rebellious nature to follow the usurpers wherever they crop up. Let me submit, instead, to the Rightful King and see the power that delivers the head of Sheba into His possession.

Father, thank You for showing me how this passage applies to me. I was confused, but waited on You and I now understand how You want me to apply this lesson to my life. Thank You for speaking and for making me able to hear when You did. Please give me what is needful to follow-through on this and show me how to deliver the heads of all the pretenders to Your throne into Your hands.

SOAP Journal – 12 December 2017 (2 Samuel 19:8-43)

“For all my father’s household was nothing but dead men before my lord the king; yet you set your servant among those who ate at your own table. What right do I have yet that I should cry out anymore to the king?”

2 Samuel 19:28

With Absalom defeated, David is brought back into Jerusalem as Israel’s king. It is not as simple as David saddling up a donkey and heading home, but it is far less complicated than it might have been. As David returns home, he interacts with a couple people.

Shimei, the man who cursed David and threw rocks at him as he left, now shows up with a thousand men of Benjamin to bring David’s household across the Jordan (vv 16-23). The man is penitent, asking David’s forgiveness and receiving it.

Next, David meets Mephibosheth (vv 24-30) whom David was grieved not to see leave with him. Mephibosheth claims that his servant — Ziba, who showed up with Shimei to help bring David’s household across the Jordan (v 17) — had deceived him and taken off before Mephibosheth could get ready to go with David. Mephibosheth has on him all the marks of a man who has mourned the departure of his king since the day of hat departure (v 24). The interaction includes something of the flavor of Solomon’s future dealings with people seeking justice, as if the boy observed this moment in his father’s life and marked it as worthy of emulation.

There are others and this summary would wax as long as the chapter itself if all of the interactions were brought forward.

What strikes me about this event is the similarity I feel it has with the return of Christ. Both kings return to their throne after the defeat of a usurper and pretender. Both kings come with a retinue. Both kings are taking back a throne that is rightfully theirs. Both kings dispense mercy after the judgment has been meted out. The events feel similar, but not the precisely the same.

This tells me that I should be like Shimei and Mephibosheth. Like Shimei, I should repent of the things I have done to offend my King and should be looking for ways to serve. Like Mephibosheth, I should mourn the absence of my King and long for His return. Let me long for my King’s return and be ready and able to serve Him when He does.

Father, thank You for this account that reminds me that Jesus — Your Son and my King — will return. Let me be numbered among the loyalists and those who have repented of their old ways to be ready to serve the King and be a part of His Kingdom.