Many in our world today say that God is either aloof or vindictive. Those who say he’s vindictive have the image of a petty God firing off lighting bolts at those who don’t pray just the right way. Yet reality often has a way or surprising us.
In 2 Samuel 24 God gives King David the opportunity to choose which judgment he would receive for acting in a sinful manner. He could choose a judgment from nature, a judgment from man, or a judgment from God.
David chose to be judged by God. But, why?
Listen to David’s own words: “Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” (2 Sam 24:14) So who do you see as the lenient one…God or your fellows around you? Put differently, from whom have you received more mercy throughout your life? An honest answer to this question just might open our eyes to the fact that God exemplifies mercy and not just judgment. God is fair, yes, but he is also merciful.
The plain fact is that we will all mess up from time to time. The great truth is that mercy is to be found in God and his son Jesus Christ. The next time you find yourself needing to work through the results of a foolish act, take David’s advice and seek God’s judgment rather than human judgment…it just might save your life.
- How have you experienced the mercy of God in your life?
- Do you know someone (or were you someone) who believes that God is vindictive? What are some of the reasons this person offers to substantiate their claim? Are they valid? Why or why not?
Have you ever cried out to God in the midst of difficulty? What did you ask God to do? In Psalm chapter 3 King David was so distraught he did not even know what to ask for, he left that up for God to decide. So how did God respond to David during one of the most difficult moments of his life? God gave him rest. God gave him the peace needed to have a good night sleep. Our God is big and powerful. Yet He is wise and caring as well. God knows what we need even when we don’t. The hope of peace enough to sleep amidst the most difficult moments of our lives should come as welcome news. When the cancer has returned…when there is no explanation for the cause of the car accident…when he’s not coming home and this time he means it…God is big enough to give those of us who have broken hearts rest. The next time you face a difficult far bigger than you ever expected allow your eyes to turn to Psalm 3 and be reminded that God is big enough to handle whatever you are facing.
- Why is it hard to rest during a difficult or tragic season of our life?
- Have you ever experienced rest from the hand of God? What happened? How did it help?
Did you ever stop to consider the fact that we only know about the promise made between David and Jonathan because David chose to tell us about it? Consider the facts. The promise made between David and Jonathan takes place in 1 Samuel 20. The conversation takes place between David and Jonathan alone. Later in 1 Samuel we read that Jonathan dies in battle. The promise could have gone completely unnoticed and unfulfilled. But that’s not the way the David operated.
In 1 Samuel 20 David had promised to show kindness to Jonathan and his family, no matter what. But after Jonathan died in battle it would seem that David could have easily forgotten about his commitment. But that’s not the way David operated. When David found out that Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth was still alive he kept good on his promise. He restored Mephibosheth to a place of honor giving him a place at the king’s table, the home and lands that had belonged to Saul, and servants to work the fields on his behalf. David never intended on leaving his promise to Jonathan unfulfilled.
Obviously the commitment that David made to Jonathan cost him something. It cost him the time to find Mephibosheth. It cost him the land of Saul, it cost him servants, it might have even cost him some respect from those in his court who thought it foolish to bring in a relative of the former king. But keeping his word was more important than the cost David incurred.
So do we take as seriously the promises we make? The promises we’ve made to our spouse or children, co-workers or friends. The promise where only two are privy? The promise made to one who has since passed away? David was not released by death, change of status, or time from the promise he had made to Jonathan. Let’s commit to be people who keep our word no matter how long it takes, how much it costs, or how the situation has changed.
- Why is honesty and important character trait of the follower of Christ?
- Why do you suppose David kept his promise despite the fact that Jonathan was dead?
- What are good boundaries to place around the promises we make?
- What are bad reasons to leave a promise unfulfilled?
There is nothing better than being on good terms with your family, friends, neighbors, countrymen, and co-workers. If that is true, what are you doing to restore broken relationships? How are you keeping peace?
The Bible is not all riddles and proverbs. Sometimes, as is the case with Psalm 133, it as simple as getting things right with the ones you love.
Well…what are you waiting for?
- Have you ever had someone come to you in an effort to make peace? How did things go?
- Is making peace with someone easy or difficult? Why?
- What are some suggestions you would give on making peace another?
Dust off your resume and take a peek at your “skills”. Do you have what it takes to be successful? Before you answer that question ponder the fate of the half-tribe of Manasseh in 1 Chronicles 5:23-26.
The Bible tells us that they were numerous and that at the helm were 7 qualified men. These men, the Bible tells us, where brave warriors. They were famous. They were the heads of their families. It would certainly seem as though they had the right skills for success. Yet, there was one problem. The Bible tells us that they were “unfaithful to the God of their fathers and served other gods.” This ultimately led to the exile of the entire tribe.
So come back to your resume for a moment. Are you developing your skills at the price of turning your back on God? If you truly want to be successful pursue righteousness. Make sure your relationship with God is firm. Only when we stand in right relationship with God will we find the true purpose of our skill set. Skills are important, but living in right relationship with God is what really matters.
1. What are some ways we can make sure that we are focusing on what really matters in our life on a daily basis?
2. What are some examples, Biblical or modern, of individuals who put God before their own “skill” and experienced success?
3. What are some examples, Biblical or modern, of individuals who did not put God before their own “skill” and experienced failure?
David was no stranger to difficulty. He spent many years of his life on the run from the likes of Saul, a man who was bent on killing David. The Bible tells us that David gathered a small band of fighters around himself. Over time it would have been easy for David to wage a desperate battle for control by pitting his band of irregulars against the troops of Saul. But, much to our surprise, David did not see his troop as his greatest ally in battle. He relied on someone completely different.
David regularly petitioned God to be the one who would fight for him. In Psalm 35 David goes as far as to ask God to pick up arms on his behalf. “…fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.”
Many of us know God as the “Good Shepherd” but how many us know God as the “Contender”?
If you are a child of God and your faced with a fight you have two options. First, you can fight in your own strength. You can gather an army and wage a war. Or, second, you can plead that God fight for you. You can cry out to the one who is strong enough to defeat any foe. The next time you find yourself in battle I hope you won’t forget that God is both Good Shepherd AND the Great Contender.
Before we finish thought, let’s be clear that God is not a thug for hire. He defends the righteous. If you call on him to deliver vengeance you’ve missed the point. You need to re-read Psalm 35. But if faced with a fight for living in righteousness, call out to God and be sure He will hear.
- Why is it difficult to trust that God still fights battles on our behalf even today?
- What type of men was David asking God to fight off? How should that relate to our requests?
- What should be are attitude, even as we request God to intercede for us?
Many names found in the Bible bear testimony to the powerful work of God in that place. Yet the naming of the spring En Hakkore in Judges 15 is not one of these times.
En Hakkore is a Hebrew phrase “the spring of the caller” or “the spring of the namer”. As the story goes Samson had just fought with a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey being his only weapon. After gaining the victory he cries out to God because of His great thirst. Judges 15:19 tells us that in response to Samson’s cry God “opened up a hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it.” Only after Samson refreshed himself did he name the spring. Look again at the title Samson gave to the spring…the spring of the one who calls. Or if I can modernize it a bit for us…the spring I called for and got because I asked. Samson was more interested in taking credit for getting God to do what He wanted than he was interested in thanking God for what God had given to him in his time of need.
Before you start harping on Samson stop and consider…do you have an En Hakkore sitting around in your past? When God uses you to accomplish something for the His kingdom are you quick to give Him the credit or do you start spinning a tale of epic adventure that casts yourself as the main character and relegates God into the background?
Today let seek to be men and women who give God the glory for all that he does instead of taking credit for things which we could never do in our own strength.
- Can you think of an En Hakkore moment in your life? What happened?
- What are some ways we can “rename” those events in our past in order to give the glory to God?
- What are some ways we can avoid naming events in our past after ourselves instead of giving God the glory?