Synopsis 2Sam 2:17-28 11/16/2018
The competition of the twenty-four men was a draw. Twelve each from the army of Israel and David’s army had ended with everyone dead. And then a larger battle broke out between the two armies.
David’s army was led by Joab. They defeated the army of Israel which was led by Abner. Then, Joab’s brother Asahel began to pursue Abner as the army fled.
The two men knew each other personally. And Asahel knew that Abner was the power behind King Ishbaal’s throne. He thought that if Abner were killed, then all of Israel would abandon King Ishbaal and come over to accepting David as king.
However, Abner was the more seasoned warrior. He warned Ashahel twice before finally killing him. Despite this, Joab continued his pursuit. Finally, as night fell, Abner rallied his troops and persuaded Joab to stop the fight.
Bitterness and a Divided Kingdom
Both Abner and David wanted a united Israelite kingdom. And Abner realized that the dream of reunification would be more difficult if the people were embittered with each other because of a massacre.
It was a point that even the ever-aggressive Joab could understand.
Bitterness and a Divided Family
I tend to think that the things I said and did to my brother and sisters thirty years ago don’t really make a difference. But the truth is, if I haven’t reconciled some offense, then it remains.
The bitterness of emotional injury is ever near. Of course, it’s usually hidden. But the bitter memories lie in wait for some new slight to reopen a wound. And then, to once again strain the relationship.
“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Eph 4:31-32
Synopsis 2Sam 2:5-16 11/14/2108
David made a friendly overture to the tribal leaders of Benjamin. He sent his greetings. And, because they had remained faithful to Saul, he promised to be generous with them . He also told them that the leaders of Judah had made him their king.
Abner was Saul’s cousin. And he was the leader of Saul’s army. So, after Saul’s death, Abner crowned Ishbaal king over Israel. Ishbaal was one of Saul’s surviving sons. David’s army was led by Joab, one of the men who had followed David while in the wilderness. Ishbaal’s army was led by Abner.
Sometime after Ishbaal had been crowned, Joab encountered Abner near Gibeon. Both men were leading their armies. Abner commanded the army of Israel. And Joab commanded the army of David.
So, Abner proposed that select young men from each army compete as a possible replacement for an all-out war. And Joab agreed to this. Accordingly, the leaders of each army selected twelve men. But at the end of the competition, all the contestants died. So, the contest was a draw.
Tribal Disputes Can Never Be Won Through Battle
Abner proposed a contest instead of having a larger battle. And Joab agreed. But, the contest was a draw. Twelve men from each army fought in a competition and all twenty-four ended up dead. And so, the contest served as a metaphor for the futility of civil war.
The injury of brother fighting brother was not worth whatever outcome each side hoped to achieve.
Family Fights Never Yield A Winner
No one is surprised when members of the same family fight because it’s so common. And yet, it really should be shocking. But the shocking part isn’t that people should fight there own family members. The shocking part is that anyone thinks they could be successful after injuring his brother.
“But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand” Matt 12:25
Synopsis 2Sam 1:18-2:4 11/13/2018
Saul and Jonathan’s deaths grieved David. So, in his grief, he chanted a lament for the fallen king and his sons. And some of his men wrote down his chant. After that, David commanded that the Judahites learn it and sing it. He wanted the people of Judah to sing it as a memorial to Saul and Jonathan.
Then David asked the Lord whether he should remain in Ziklag or return to one of the cities of Judah. God told him to go up to Hebron. Also, David brought his warriors with him. They all settled in the vicinity of Hebron.
Shortly thereafter, the leaders of the tribe of Judah came to him. And they anointed him and declared him king over the tribe of Judah.
David Had Learned To Inquire Of God First
David had recognized God’s purpose in his decision to fight against Goliath. And, as a general officer in Saul’s army, he faithfully sought out God’s plans with great success. Similarly, he had regularly inquired of the Lord while escaping from Saul’s pursuit in the wilderness.
But there is no mention that he had sought the Lord when he made his famous plan to subvert the Philistine battle plan at Mount Gilboa. However, after the disaster at Ziklag, he once again inquired of God.
David’s experiences had taught him. He had learned not to proceed with his own plans until it was clear that God was leading him. And so, it was only when God had given a clear direction, that he returned to Judah. As a result, he returned in great humility. And it was only then that the leaders of the tribe of Judah chose to crown him their king.
Learning To Listen First
When things are going well and I’m not doing anything that is obviously wrong, my tendency is to think that I’m doing what God wants me to – that I’m walking in God’s plan.
Even now, God really does speak. But He generally uses an unimaginably small voice. Still, if I spend the time to quiet myself and listen – really listen – He never disappoints.
“Be still before the LORD; wait for him. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers.” Psalm 37:7
Synopsis 2Sam 1:5-17 11/12/2018
David was back in Ziklag. And soon, a young man came to him with news from the battle of Mount Gilboa. He reported that King Saul and his son Jonathan were dead.
David wanted to know more. He demanded details from the youth. So, the young man told a story of how he had encountered the mortally wounded King Saul on the mountain. And he recounted how Saul had asked the young man to finish him. Accordingly, the young man reported how he had obliged Saul’s request.
After that, he had stripped Saul’s body of his crown and armlet. The young man, who turned out to be the son of an Amalekite living in Israel, had brought the royal objects to David.
David was incredulous that anyone would strike the Lord’s anointed king. But he seemed particularly incensed that an Amalekite would have such audacity. He commanded his men to put the young man to death for killing the king of Israel.
Saul’s Death Not Opportunity
The young Amalekite lived in Israel. He was the son of a resident alien. But he knew enough about the intrigues between Saul and David to understand that David might be the next king.
So, having removed King Saul’s crown and armlet, he didn’t take them to Saul’s relatives. Instead, he brought them to David. He was thinking he might gain David’s favor. Or, he might have even been thinking that David would offer a reward.
But, David wasn’t having it. For him, it was an abomination that anyone might benefit from the tragic end of the Lord’s anointed king.
Tragedy Is Not Opportunity
There is little that violates the solidarity of community more than taking advantage of other people when they are weak.
This is basic. My spirit will never intuitively rejoice when tragedy befalls another.
But the world can be a rat race. And on the rat race, almost anything goes. So here’s my reminder: Taking advantage of another person’s tragedy will never profit in the long term. The harm to my soul will always outweigh the temporary benefit accrued.
“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and when they stumble, do not let your heart exult”, Prov 24:17
Synopsis 1Sam 31:7-2Sam 1:4 11/11/2018
The Philistines defeated the army of Israel at Mount Gilboa. And Saul and his sons were dead. So, the Israelites living in the region fled from their homes in fear of the Philistines. As a result, the Philistines occupied several cities in the central region of Israel.
The Philistines discovered Saul’s body the day after the battle. They also found the bodies of Saul’s sons nearby. So, they exposed Saul’s body by hanging it on the walls of Beth-shan. But they cut off his head and carried it back to their homeland as a celebration of their victory.
Meanwhile, David was with his men in Ziklag. After their victory over the Amalekite raiders, they returned there. And so, it wasn’t long before news of Saul and Jonathan’s death came to David.
Jabesh Honored Saul After His Death
The warriors from Saul’s hometown heard about how his body had been desecrated. So they made a special mission to recover Saul and his sons bodies. They worked in the dark of night to recover Saul’s body. Then they took the dead back to their home town.
Upon returning to Jabesh, they burned the bodies of the fallen king and his princes. And then they buried their bones in a secret place in order to prevent further desecration.
These men risked their lives to preserve the dignity of a dead king.
Protecting the Dignity of Others
If I see the world rightly, then I recognize something intrinsic about the dignity of every human being. God has created every person I meet in His image. So every person I meet rightly deserves my reverence and respect.
And we hold this truth deep in our psyche.
But sometimes I fail to live it out.
So, there’s a certain challenge in encountering men and women who are willing to risk everything to reverence the dignity of other human beings. It resonates. I know that’s what is right. Perhaps it’s time to stop taking this for granted.
Think of all the people in your community who have committed their lives to protecting and preserving the lives of the people you love.
And then, let your heart be filled with gratitude to the God who has made us all.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Cor 3:16
Synopsis 1Sam 30:23-31:6 11/10/2018
After the defeat of the Amalekite raiders, a dispute arose. Should those who guarded baggage share in the plunder equally with those who actually fought the Amalekites? So, David resolved the dispute. He made it a rule that those who remained guarding the baggage shared equally with those who fought on the frontlines of battle.
Meanwhile, Saul and the army of Israel fought against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa. The Israelites fled and a slaughter ensued. The Philistines killed Saul’s sons. And then, they struck Saul with arrows.
Being mortally wounded, he commanded his armor-bearer to strike him dead. But the armor-bearer was too afraid to comply. So Saul took his own life by falling on a sword before the Philistines could capture him.
Saul Killed Himself
Saul killed himself. He did so to prevent capture by the Philistines. A hopeless man committed a desperate act.
It seems pretty clear that Saul struggled with anxiety and depression for years. There is no recrimination. Concerning Saul, no human being can rightly make a judgement or condemnation. For us who encounter his story, it just is what it is.
God’s Not Finished With You Yet
But depression and anxiety remain. They are affective disorders. So, I may feel anxious or even depressed without my circumstances actually changing for the worse. Or, for the better. The “truth” of my situation can remain the same. But my experience does not.
Affective means “value perceiving”. And so, the common denominator for these maladies seems to be an inability to rightly perceive value. It’s not a moral failure. It’s a condition in the brain.
Though not pretending to understand another person’s suffering, I give thanks for the life being lived. For every courage-filled moment that an afflicted person stays in the game and keeps on contributing, I give thanks for a life of contribution.
Because, no matter the ability or inability to perceive value, if you have breath then God’s not finished with you yet.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil 1:6
Synopsis 1Sam 30:13-22 11/9/2018
David and his men followed after the Amalekite raiders who had sacked Ziklag. Along the way, they discovered an Egyptian slave who had been abandoned by the Amalekite raiders. So, they fed him and gave him protection in exchange for information.
The Egyptian slave led David and his men to the Amalekite raiders. When they arrived, David and him men found the Amalekite raiders celebrating their great haul of booty. So David’s men engaged and defeated the Amalekites. And they recovered all of their people. Besides that, they also took possession of a great haul of plunder.
And so, David led his men and their families back. It wasn’t long before the four-hundred reunited with the forces that had been left behind at the Wadi Besor. As they did, there was some contention amongst the men on who should receive a share in the plunder.
David’s Family Restored
God restored David’s. Understandably, it was an extraordinary emotional relief. More than that, it was a great joy.
I try to imagine my family kidnapped and taken away. The horror and anguish of not knowing what happened would overwhelm. And the feeling of powerlessness in being able to help. And the uncertainty of knowing where to even begin to look for them.
David and his family experienced all of this. And as I reflect on this moment, it must not be lost on me: this was the future royal family of Israel. For some reason, God allowed even them to experience this heartache for a few days. If nothing else, it’s a sobering reminder that the distance from royalty to slavery was only ever a few moments in time.
But, for them the anguish was overcome with the joy of restoration. It was a joy that would be hard to forget.
The Joy of Salvation
Your returning to God was just that: a returning. In that moment you suddenly realized that God made your spirit to be happy in Him. He meant for your spirit to be happy in relationship with Jesus.
And on that day when you fully came to Him, this was your entire satisfaction. This was your joy.
Listen quietly to God in Prayer.
“Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:14
Synopsis 1Sam 29:11-30:12 11/6/2018
The Philistines rejected David and his warriors. So, King Achish directed them to return to Ziklag immediately. This prevented David and his men from participating in the great Battle for Mount Gilboa.
The trip was nearly fifty miles long. So, it took several days to journey. And when David and his men arrived back to Ziklag, they were horrified. The Amalekites had raided their city. And they took all of the people to be sold into slavery. Additionally, the city was burned and in ruins.
Naturally, David’s warriors grieved. They wept loudly. And they blamed David for their misfortune. So much so, that they nearly stoned him in revolt.
But David looked to the Lord. He called the priest Abiathar. And then he conferred with God through the priest. He received word to pursue the Amalekite raiders. And so his men began the pursuit, though not all of them were able to press through the journey.
David Looked to the Lord
David knew the loneliness of leadership. And, in the moment of his greatest grief and a near mutiny against him, he sought the counsel of the Lord. He needed answers and direction. And so, though it was not his intention, he demonstrated what was most real and trustworthy in his life.
And God answered him. So, David pursued even though he and his men were nearly exhausted. He took action.
Look to the Lord and Act
Everyone interprets their circumstances. And most people are remarkably willing to interpret other people’s circumstances. But, David looked to the Lord for interpretation. So, if I respond like he did, then I’ll make it my business to look for God’s perspective. And like David, this could end up feeling a little bit lonely.
Loneliness: It can be disorienting. Feeling lonely when there are other people around is counter-intuitive. So my natural tendency is to think, “It shouldn’t be like this. How can I be lonely in the midst of a crowd?”
But loneliness isn’t my adversary. Instead, it’s a signal that what I need only God can provide.
So go to God. And then act.
Seek out the LORD and his might; constantly seek his face. Psalms 105:4
Synopsis 1Sam 29:3-10 11/4/2018
The Philistine commanders assembled their army for battle against King Saul and the army of Israel. The Philistines were ruled by a system of five kingdoms. And, each of these was centered on one of five major cities.
Accordingly, each city–state brought forces to the battleground. And from these, the Philistine leaders constructed their army. As the leaders prepared the Philistine army for the final push to Jezreel, they began the work of arranging their forces. The order of battle was a critical strategic concern.
It was at this point that the Philistine commanders realized that Achish, the king of Gath, had brought Hebrew fighters. Unsurprisingly, the commanders rejected Achish’s plan to include the Hebrews in the order of battle. And so, the other Philistine kings forced King Achish to send David and his men back to Ziklag.
David’s Plan, God’s Plan
This was the moment that David had waited for. He wanted to serve as the rear guard of the Philistine army. When the Philistines entered battle against Saul, David would surely have attacked. And from this advantageous position, he would have heroically won the battle for Israel.
Without a doubt, David was sure this would win great victory for Israel. And the victory would forever restore his place in Israel.
But God had already determined the outcome of the battle. Samuel had prophesied Saul and Jonathan’s death. David’s plan was not God’s plan.
God’s Plan and My Plans
In this respect, I am like David. I have all these plans. And they’re good plans. What’s more, they are plans that honor God and serve other people.
And God doesn’t hate my plans. It’s just that He has other plans. In fact, His plan is an ultimate plan. So, from His viewpoint, my job is to meet the challenge before me. But it’s never my job to create new challenges to meet.
Even so, my tendency is to build sandcastles of my own design. I sit on the beach thinking, “I’ve really accomplished something”. And then comes the tide and the wave. And I wonder that God refused to preserve my sandcastle.
Sure, He could have preserved it. But, to what end?
It’s time for me to choose to worship the God who controls tide and wave. And then I can let go of my idols – and my sandcastles.
Will one who argues with the Almighty be corrected? Let him who would instruct God give answer! Job 40:2
Synopsis 1Sam 28:17-29:2 11/2/2018
Saul and Samuel conversed. Samuel was dead but a medium from Endor had conjured his spirit at Saul’s request. Samuel informed Saul that the army of Israel would lose its battle against the Philistines. And Samuel also told Saul that both he and his sons would be killed the next day.
Samuel’s message devastated Saul. Because of his anxiety, he had not eaten for the entire day. In fact, he was so weak that the medium prepared a meal for him. After he ate, he felt revived. And then Saul returned to his army that was encamped at Jezreel.
Saul Missed The Boat
Saul is roundly criticized because he lived a failed life. At least, that is how his life is widely, and perhaps rightly, interpreted. But it never had to end this way. He could have chosen differently at any moment.
But he didn’t. God gave him potential. Like everyone, it came to him moment-by-moment. And moment-by-moment he consistently wasted what he had been given.
You Suck – So What?
In our time, it’s seems odd to even speak in these terms. The post-modern tendency is the want to believe that no one lives a “failed” life.
But despite this, we intuitively and rightly hang on to the language of success. Though we resist judging someone else’s life as a “failure”, we innately perceive success.
Successful people are those who have converted their potential into actual achievements. They had time. They had resources. And they had personal gifts. They used these to create value. And that’s what most people call success.
So, the opposite is failure.
But, here’s the rub: no one converts all their potential. Even the most successful people waste most of their time and resources. So, it’s fair to say that we have all failed.
And, of course, that’s the fundamental Christian claim. We have all failed. And especially, we have all failed our Creator. In other words, we have all lived failed lives. So it follows, we need a Savior.
And, God saved me. So now, I have a relationship with Him. Still, as I look at my life of wasted potential, I’m tempted to self-pity. I think to myself, “I SUCK”. I feel depressed.
OK, so let’s face that. Maybe it’s true. Maybe “you suck”. So what?
God has given you a new moment. He’s created for you one more moment in time. Use it.
Go out and love God. Go out and love your neighbor as yourself.
“Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you” Isaiah 60:1