Week 18 – Bible Blog! (1Chronicles 1-17)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Whew!  It’s been a while… For some of you I’ve already explained this, but I thought if you weren’t aware I’d tell you where the term ‘blog’ comes from.  According to my exclusive & secret sources (read Google) a ‘blog’ is a shortened term for ‘web log’.  It’s a forum for occasional articles to be posted, usually (but not always) by amateurs like me, sometimes with comment sections below for interaction with the author and other readers.

Now, for a term I’ve created… the ‘blag’.  A ‘blag’ is when there is a lag in posting the blog.   ;o)

Yes, it’s been a while, so please allow me to thank you for your patience and grace.  We’ll be caught up soon.  Here’s Week 18’s entry…

1Chronicles 1-17

Genealogies… AGAIN!!  I can almost hear your thoughts, “People, people, people!”  Haven’t we read all these already?  Is history repeating itself?  Well, the books of 1&2 Chronicles (actually only one book in the Hebrew text) do repeat much of the stories of 2Samuel through 2Kings (also one book each in the Hebrew).  However, the books of Chronicles are written more from a theological perspective than an historical one as were Samuel and Kings.

Historians estimate that Chronicles was written in the 5th Century BC (so somewhere between 400 and 500 BC).  In fact it is the last book in the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament).  Some believe it may have been written by Ezra, though it could simply have been a contemporary of his.

Chronicles begins with genealogies, describes the establishment of the Davidic line, gives the history of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) from the establishment of the kingdom, through it’s division into Northern (Isreal) and Southern (Judah), to it’s fall and captivity by Babylon.  It closes with the decree of King Cyrus when captives begin to return home.  This sets up the books of Ezra and Nehemiah where the temple and the city walls (of Jerusalem) are rebuilt.  This is why the books of Chronicles focus more on Judah (the Southern Kingdom) than Israel (the Northern Kingdom).

The first 17

Digging into these first 17 chapters of 1Chronicles we have lots of names to read (or stumble over) in seemingly endless lists.  You may be asking, ‘Why go through these genealogies again?’  Good question.  Scholars believe that these were important to help the exiles returning to their land to be certain of how the land should be divided, by tribe as directed by Moses.  It was also important to determine who were the descendants of Levi as only his tribe was entitled to serve as priests in God’s temple, which they hoped to restore.

Getting past the names there are a few items of interest that may have stood out to you.  The first is in chapter 4 and is often (now) referred to as The Prayer of Jabez.  Verses 9-10 (ESV) read as follows…

‘Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.’

Somehow this brief passage (this is really all there is about Jabez and his prayer) was turned into a book, a 30-day devotional that sold more than 9 million copies in 2001!  [Disclaimer…  I have not actually read this book by Bruce Wilkinson, but…] It’s been reported that author Bruce Wilkinson encourages the reader to follow his 30-day plan of reading this prayer everyday, supposedly so that God will bless them abundantly as a result.

Maybe because it was the beginning of the 911 culture, or because critics were perhaps correct in calling this a ‘prosperity Gospel’ device where people more focused on their own riches than God’s were excited about a Biblical formula for blessing, but whatever the reason there were many additional works created around this book and it’s supposed Biblical applications.  Perhaps this ‘prayer’ did prosper Bruce Wilkinson, but was it really a Biblical principle for the Church to follow?  Based on only one or two verses… what do you think?

In chapter 11 we see Uriah the Hittite (remember Uriah?) again.  This time he is clearly described as one of David’s Mighty Men.  These men are described as ‘giving him strong support’ to make him King over Israel.  This was a man of great character who David murdered to cover up his own sin with Bathsheba.

Finally in chapter 17 we see one the most hope-filled verses in all of Scripture.  Even though David was a flawed individual (he was) he still had a heart that followed after God.  God makes a promise to David that one of his descendants will sit on his throne forever.  Here is 17:11-14 in the ESV…

‘When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’”

Ahhh… Jesus, the coming King!

What are your thoughts and reflections on these 17 chapters?

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Week 17 – Bible Blog! (2Kings6 – 2Kings 25)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Wow!  That’s a lot of kings!  Maybe I should say, that’s a lot of evil kings!  If my count is correct (and it may not be, so check me if you’d like) there were 19 kings of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and 20 kings of the Southern Kingdom (Judah).  The Kings of Israel reigned for about 210 years before being taken into captivity (or exile) by the Assyrians in about 722BC and the Kings of Judah reigned for about 345 years before being taken into captivity (or exile) by the Babylonians in about 586BC.

As I was reading through the book of kings (1Kings & 2Kings) this time I was paying more attention to the description of each of these kings, as to the description of their character.  I knew that many of the kings were described as “doing evil” and only a few were described as “doing right”, but what struck me was that none of the kings of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) were described as doing right… NONE!  I was expecting at least a few to be good, but not one was.  The best description we find is for the last king of Israel, Hoshea son of Elah, who was described this way in 2Kings 17:2, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him (emphasis mine).

So he was bad, but not as bad as the kings before him.  This is the best description for a Northern King.  No wonder they went into exile so much earlier than the Southern Kingdom (Judah).  So was the Southern Kingdom that much better?  Well, in some ways, yes.  The average reign of a Northern King was about 11 years while the average reign of a Southern King was about 17 years.

However the length of reign is not an automatic sign of the character of the king.  While King Uzziah (Azariah) was one of Judah’s great kings and he reigned 52 years, King Manasseh, one of Judah’s worst kings, reigned 55 years!  [By the way, King Uzziah is mentioned prominently in Isaiah 6, if you want to look ahead.]  So the length of reign is not an automatic assurance of good character, but the Scriptures make it clear that 8 of the 20 kings of Judah were good kings, “doing right” by God.  That’s 40% good for the kings of Judah.  In comparison to the Israel that’s a great improvement, but when you consider that 60% were evil, even though they had the Temple (the actual House of God) right there in their capitol city, it’s still not a good number.

While King Ahab (with his wife Jezebel, 1Kings 16-22) was arguably the most evil of all the kings, there were also a couple of incredibly good kings.  King Hezekiah (despite being the son of one of Judah’s most evil kings, King Ahaz) is described saying, “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” (2Kings 18:5)  Now that’s a ringing endorsement!  And after God had already determined that Judah would be taken into exile by Babylon for all of the sins she had committed, we still meet one more very good king, King Josiah!

Josiah comes to the throne at only 8 years old, but while still in his teens he turns his heart fully to the Lord when Hilkiah the priest finds the scrolls containing the Law and reads them to the king.  Josiah is so astounded by the sin of Judah when he realizes God’s standards that he goes about a complete reformation in Judah.  He even tears down the high places that King Solomon had constructed to worship the foreign gods of his foreign wives.  Why had none of the other “good” kings of Judah done this before?!

God’s appreciation for Josiah’s devotion is revealed when He tells him, Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.  Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place. (2Kings 22:19-20)

Josiah is given grace, but the consequences of Judah’s actions cannot be avoided.  This is an important lesson to which we do well to pay attention.  God’s grace and His mercy is always available to us, but the consequences of our actions are sometimes unavoidable once God has decreed them.

Remember David’s first son with Bathsheba (the one which resulted from his initial rape of Bathsheba)?  Despite David’s mourning and humbling himself, God still took the child, but David He had forgiven.  Despite Josiah’s righteous life and his many reforms in Judah, God still sent the Babylonians to take Judah into exile, but Josiah He spared from having to witness it.

So does this mean that there are limits to His mercy?  Yes and no.  The problem we might have is trying to “define” God and what He can and cannot do, but what the Bible (in it’s entirety) makes clear is that God is free!  He is free to act and to do anything that is in accordance with His character.  He cannot lie, for instance, but He can change His plans if we return to Him with our whole hearts.

Remember the Ninevites in the book of Jonah.  They were an incredibly wicked evil people, the enemies of Israel, but when Jonah preached judgment and destruction they whole-heartedly repented and begged God for mercy.  Upon seeing their heartfelt repentance God relented!  He chose not to destroy them at that time.

Throughout the Scriptures the heart of God has been revealed to us as one who is slow to anger, but abounding in steadfast love.  In Micah when the prophet asks what God requires of us he says we are to, “act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8b).  Did you catch that?  We are to love mercy.  Why?  Because God loves mercy!  I love that Micah follows this up with walk humbly.  Why?  Could it be because we’re not good at being humble?  Do we often think more highly of ourselves than we ought?

When Peter asks Jesus if we should forgive someone up to 7 times when they sin against us, he (Peter) thought he was “loving mercy” by suggesting we forgive 7 times, but Jesus’ answer shocked them.  He said not 7 times, but 70 times 7!  In other words forgive until you lose count, because that is how your Heavenly Father forgives you!

So do consequences stand?  Sometimes, but God loves mercy and is eager to forgive even the most vile among us… even us!

So what are your thoughts this week?  Let’s hear from you in the comment section below…

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Week 16 – Bible Blog! (1Kings10 – 2Kings 5)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Yes, it is always about the heart.  That’s where we left off last week and where we’ll continue this week.  In fact, at the risk of being redundant, we could make this our topic every week, as God has always been most concerned about our hearts.

So this week we pick up at 1Kings 10 where we meet the Queen of Sheba.  She has heard of the wisdom and greatness of King Solomon, but she wants to see for herself if the reports are true.  She comes with a great company of officials and more spices than have ever (before or since) been presented to a king of Israel.  We read that she came prepared with hard questions to test him.  However, Solomon is not stumped by even one, as we read, “And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her.” (1Kings 10:3)  When she heard his answers and witnessed the greatness of his kingdom, “there was no more breath in her.”  She was breathless!  He took her breath away!

I wish we were told what her questions were and what his answers were.  Don’t you?

Unfortunately, after a brief description of Solomon’s great wealth (the end of chapter 10) we read in chapter 11 that he turns away from the Lord.  Even though the Law was clear that the Israelites were not to inter-marry with their foreign neighbors, Solomon married foreign wives from seemingly every surrounding nation.  In fact, he had a total of 700 wives!  And 300 concubines!!  The reason God told the Israelites not to marry foreign wives was because they would lead their husbands away from worshiping the One True God!  They would lead them to worship foreign gods, which Solomon did, even building temples to them in Israel!  In other words, their hearts would turn away from God!

Just as David’s great sin against Uriah the Hittite resulted in an ugly division in his family, Solomon’s great sin in turning away from the God of Israel resulted in an ugly division in the kingdom itself.  However for David’s sake, this tearing of the kingdom in two would not happen in Solomon’s day, but in the days of his son (1Kings 11:11-12) Rehoboam.

We quickly see the foolishness of Rehoboam in chapter 12 as the kingdom is torn in two and the 10 northern tribes (often referred to as Israel) follow after Jeroboam as their King and only Judah remains as the southern kingdom.  The same conditional promises are made to Jeroboam as they were to David and Solomon.  If he will follow after God with all his heart and will walk in His ways, God will bless him abundantly and be with him always.

Unfortunately, Jeroboam does not follow after God with his whole heart.  Not even close…

And thus begins the unruly divide between the two kingdoms (they were often at war against each other).  The northern kingdom (Israel) led by Jeroboam and the southern kingdom (Judah) led by Rehoboam…  these two will exhibit a pattern of kings who fail to follow after God with their whole hearts, more so the northern kingdom than the southern kingdom at first.  So let’s start with Judah, the southern kingdom:

The Kings of Judah (the southern kingdom)

Rehoboam, son of Solomon, reigns 17 years ……….. (Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 14:22)

Abijam, son of Rehoboam, reigns 3 years …………. (his heart was not wholly true to the Lord1Kings 15:3)

Asa, son of Abijam, reigns 41 years ………… (did what was right in the eyes of the Lord1Kings 15:11)

Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, reigns 25 years …….. (like Asa, did right in the sight of the Lord1Kings 22:43)

The Kings of Israel (the northern kingdom)

Jeroboam, son of Nebat, reigns 22 years ….. (more evil above all who had gone before him1Kings 14:9)

Nadab, son of Jeroboam, reigns 2 years …… (he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 15:26)

Baasha, son of Ahijah, reigns 24 years ……… (he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 15:34)

Elah, son of Baasha, reigns 2 years ………………….. (murdered by Zimri while getting drunk1Kings 16:9-10)

Zimri, reigns 7 days! …………………………… (commits suicide, evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 16:18-19)

Omri, reigns 12 years ……….. (father of Ahab, did more evil than all who were before him1Kings 16:25)

Ahab, son of Omri, reigns 22 years – (marries Jezebel, even more evil than his father!1Kings 16:30)

Ahaziah, son of Ahab, reigns 2 years ……………………………. (evil, like his father & mother1Kings 22:52)

Look at that!! Four kings of Judah, only two of them are evil, while two are following God with their whole heart.  At the same time, the northern kingdom, Israel, goes through eight kings, not one of them good!  AND WE’RE NOT EVEN INTO 2KINGS YET!!!

Despite the wickedness of the northern kings, especially Ahab, we still see God’s mercy and grace throughout.  See especially when He sides with Ahab against Syria (1Kings 20) and even responds with mercy to Ahab’s repentances (1Kings 21).

Would you be so forgiving?!?!  Should you be?  Hmm…

The episode with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel introduces us to the most famous of all the prophets, Elijah.  These classic confrontations are filled with drama, comedy (sarcasm and ridicule), bravery and fear.  They show us great moments of faithfulness and great moments of desperation.  My favorite part of the confrontation with the priests of Baal is the clear message…

There is no god, but our God!!

The life of Elijah leads us into 2Kings where we meet his successor Elisha, the pride of bald men everywhere!  These two great prophets of the Lord demonstrate they are His spokesmen through great miracles and wonders (splitting the river to walk through on dry ground) and by raising two children from the dead (one for each of them).  Much of the ministry and miracles we see in these two men we will see again when Jesus comes on the scene 800-900 years later.  Actually, Jesus is already here in these stories.  Did you notice the reference to Him?… The Angel of the Lord! (1Kings 19:7; 2Kings 1:3,15)

What your thoughts or questions this week?

Let’s here from you!  Comment below…

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Week 15 – Bible Blog! (2Sam 16 – 1Kings9)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Are you suffering a little eye strain from last week’s blog?  Man, that was long.  I thought I talked long, but apparently I type long, too!

Well, let’s keep this one shorter by me and L…O…N…G…E…R… by you!

So we pick up in 2Samuel 16:5-14 where Shimei, one of King Saul’s relatives, comes cursing David and throwing rocks at him and his officials.  In fact it says he pelted them with the stones!

Was David’s reaction what you expected?

That’s one of the things I find fascinating about David.  Even though he sinned greatly (as we discussed last week) his typical actions are of a man with great character.  Here he exhibits great humility, as he’s done many times before.  He and all his companions know the actions of Shimei are sinful and probably punishable by death, but David abstains from action…for now.

Later in 2Samuel 19:12-13 David promises Amasa, David’s relative, that he will serve as commander for life of David’s army, in place of Joab (the current commander).  He even goes so far as to swear an oath saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you are not the commander of my army for life in place of Joab.”  This is a solemn vow.

You may have been wondering, “Why was David intent on replacing Joab?”  Remember in 2Samuel 3:22-39 we read the story of how Abner had come to see David and David had allowed him to leave in peace?  When Joab found out that David had Abner in his presence and allowed him to leave in peace, Joab was indignant.  He, Joab, summoned his men and sent them to pursue Abner and bring him back.  When Joab caught up with Abner he killed him.  None of this was known to David at the time.

When David was told what had happened he was distraught and walked around in mourning for Abner.  He called down a curse on Joab and his family for this evil act.  More than likely this was David’s motivation for replacing Joab as commander and here in 2Sam 19 he promises Amasa that he will be the new commander.

However, before Amasa could be made commander, Joab happens to come across him while pursuing someone else.  In 2Sam 20:8-10 we see the deceptive tactics that Joab uses to kill Amasa and rally the army behind him once again.

[David’s Song of Praise in chapter 22 is awesome as well.  Reread it, because I’m keeping this blog shorter this week!]

Finally, before jumping into 1Kings I wanted to point out a great principle that we see David espouse in 2Samuel 24:24, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing!”  Great words to live by!

Getting into 1Kings 2:5-9 we see David on his deathbed giving Solomon advice about “cleaning things up” at the beginning of his reign.  David advises Solomon to “take care of” Joab.  The euphemism used is, “do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.”  Just after his instructions about Joab, he now mentions Shimei.  Again he uses a similar euphemism about Shimei when he tells Solomon, “Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

Now Adonijah, who had claimed kingship for himself in chapter 1, has shown himself to have evil intentions as he asks to be married to Abishag (love that name!) who was King David’s concubine late in life.  To ask for the hand of the king’s concubine was to make a claim for the throne itself.

So Solomon systematically sends Benaiah son of Johoiada after all three of these men.  After killing each of them (2Sam 2:13-46) the Bible says, “The kingdom was now established in Solomon’s hands.” 

Now you understand why Bathsheba said to David in 1Kings 1:21, “as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.”  Adonijah, who had unjustly attempted to claim the throne for himself, would have most certainly done what he could to eliminate all rivals immediately after David’s death.  Solomon’s kingdom was not established until after the three amigos were dealt with.

It’s interesting to me that all this happened before Solomon prayed for wisdom and his desire was granted, along with fame and wealth, etc.

Our reading ends with the construction and consecration of the Temple.  Did you notice in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication that he kept indicating that Israel would rebel against God?  He kept pleading with God that when the Israelites confessed and pleaded for forgiveness that God would hear them and forgive them.  In fact he tells us in 2Sam 8:46 that, “there is no one who does not sin.”  Hmm… sounds like Romans 3:23, doesn’t it?

Finally, keep in mind that although the Old Testament often makes reference to The Law, and as believers today we can often make the mistake of thinking that the Old Testament was all about The Law, it really is all about the heart.  God is and always has been most concerned and desirous of our hearts.

Look at 2Sam 8:39-40, where Solomon says to God, “Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.”It’s always been about the heart!

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Week 14 – Bible Blog! (1Sam 21 – 2Sam 15)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Whew!  Feels like we’re flying through the Bible now, doesn’t it?  Can you believe that we’re 1/4 of the way through the Bible already?  And you probably looked at this book at one time and thought, “I could never read a book that big!”  Well, good job!  You’re on your way, and probably changing a little along the way as God penetrates your heart with His Word!

So on to this week’s blog…

David & Bathsheba!  A true romance of Biblical proportions!  This story couldn’t have been written any better if it had been written by Hollywood itself!  Romance, power, passion, love, intrigue… at least that’s how it’s been portrayed to us.

However, the story of love and romance couldn’t be farther from the truth!  Sadly, the story is much darker than this and really isn’t about Bathsheba at all…it’s about David and Uriah the Hittite.

What I’m about to describe will probably be shocking to you.  In fact, you may think I’ve gone off the deep end when you hear it, but bear with me and follow the story.  The ancient Hebrews understood what we’ve misunderstood for decades or more.  Perhaps it’s our Western way of thinking or our obsession with romance novels and love stories, but many of us have a picture of David & Bathsheba that could only have been made up by Hollywood, because it’s not what the Bible describes.


David raped Bathsheba.

You didn’t misread that.  David raped her.  This was no story of love at first sight, romance and mystery.  This was rape.  Let me explain what the Scriptures make clear…

2Samuel 11 opens with, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.”  Immediately an ancient Hebrew reading this story would be wondering, “What’s wrong with David?  Why didn’t he go out with the army as he should have done?”

This first line should signal to us that something is wrong.  The king is not acting like a king right now.  Verse 2 describes David as walking around on the roof.  In the original Hebrew it is clear that David is looking for something wrong to do!  This isn’t as clear in English, but the Hebrew is unmistakable.

In verse 4 we read, “Then David sent messengers to get her…”, but the Hebrew puts it this way, “And David sent messengers, and took her“.  This verb of taking (he took her) is clear in the Hebrew that he took her by force.  It doesn’t describe love or romance.  Had David wanted her to be his wife it would have said something to the affect of, “he took her to be his wife,” but it doesn’t.  It simply says, “he took her”.

Ok.  Take a deep breath.  I remember what was going through my head when I first learned this.  Hopefully I’ve earned some level of trust with you by now, but this teaching may be straining your ability to trust me.  How can this be?  So unless I can read the ancient Hebrew text I can’t really understand what the Bible says?!?  What if David (still currently my pastor, but that remains to be seen) is twisting the Scriptures?  It clearly doesn’t appear to say to me what he is saying it says.

I understand and if this was the only evidence in Scripture to explain what really happened I’d be more reluctant to point it out.  Thankfully it is not.  You don’t have to know Hebrew to see that rape is really what happened here.  You only need to keep reading and watching the context.  Even in English this will become blatantly clear.  Just follow me a little further…

Remember I said that this story really isn’t about Bathsheba at all, but it’s about David and Uriah the Hittite?  Watch the descriptions of these two men and their actions as you reread the story.

Bathsheba informs David that she’s pregnant (2 Sam 11:5).  Uh oh.  David wasn’t counting on this.  So what does he do?  He sends for Uriah (which meant Uriah had to leave the fighting and return to Jerusalem, to David in the palace) and asks him how the war is going.  He then sends him home to his wife, Bathsheba, and also sends a gift after him.  It’s probably the messenger attempting to deliver the gift who witnesses what is reported to David next.  “Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.” (2Sam 11:6-9)

When David is informed and asks Uriah why he didn’t go to his home, here’s his reply, “The ark (which represents God’s presence) and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men (David’s men) are camped in the open country.  How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife?  As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2Sam 11:11 with notes in parentheses added by me).

Uriah is a man of great integrity!

What kind of character has David exhibited so far?

  • He’s home when he should be with his men in battle.
  • He’s been walking about looking for something evil to do.
  • He sees Bathsheba, the wife of another man, summons her to the palace, rapes her and sends her home.
  • When he learns that she’s pregnant David attempts to trick her husband into thinking the child is his own by sending him to his home to make love to his wife.

Uriah’s explanation to David basically points out that God (the ark), Israel, Judah, Joab and all of David’s men are all where they should be.  Only David is where he shouldn’t be.

When this first attempt at deception fails for David, he redoubles his efforts.  The next night he has Uriah come feast with him at the palace where he purposely gets Uriah drunk before sending him home thinking Uriah would surely sleep with his wife if he’s drunk and not thinking clearly.

This attempt fails as well.  By now the reader should be seeing the stark contrast between the deep character of Uriah the Hittite and the absolute depravity of David, Israel’s King!

When David realizes that he cannot break the integrity of this great man, his actions get even more sinister.  Now, instead of trying to break Uriah’s integrity, he writes Uriah’s death sentence and asks Uriah to deliver it to his commander, Joab, counting on Uriah’s integrity not to read the order while on his way!

He also is counting on the integrity of his general, Joab, to carry out what has to be seen as a wicked order.  Joab does obey and Uriah is killed in battle.

At this point David is probably thinking that he’s gotten away with his evil deed(s), finally.  That is, until he’s called on the carpet by Nathan the prophet.  I love Nathan’s exclamation, “You are the man!”  Only this isn’t a positive declaration.

As Nathan rebukes David and points out his wickedness, and the fact that none of his deeds were hidden from God, he begins to predict the destruction that David’s deeds will bring.

“Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.  Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.  You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” (2Sam 12:11-12)

Here’s where even the English translations make clear that David raped Bathsheba, as we see how this prediction plays out in the lives of David’s sons.

First of all, Nathan says God will give David’s wives to one who is close to him.  David did this same thing.  Uriah was literally David’s neighbor (David could see Bathsheba from the roof of his palace) and, perhaps more importantly, Uriah was one of David’s Mighty Men (2Sam 23:39).

Of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Israel’s army, there was an inner circle of 30 men (or 37), David’s Mighty Men; warriors known for their bravery and valor in fighting for Israel and Israel’s King.  No doubt, David knew who Uriah was as soon as it was reported to him that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

God says that what David did in secret He will do in broad daylight before all Israel.  The very first instance of this punishment being carried out is in the very next chapter (13) where we read that David’s son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister, Tamar, David’s daughter.  Tamar pleads with Amnon saying he should marry her, so this will not be a disgrace to each of them; that King David would not refuse to allow them to be married.  Amnon refuses, and being stronger than Tamar, he rapes her.

David’s son Absalom, Tamar’s brother and Amnon’s half-brother, later takes revenge on Amnon and kills him (2Sam 13:28-29).  Later in his rebellion against David, Absalom pitched a tent on the roof of David’s palace and, “slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.” (2Sam 16:22)

What David did in secret, taking the wife of one close to him, raping her (sleeping with another’s wife) and thinking he got away with it, is played out for all of Israel to see.

You see, this story really isn’t about Bathsheba (not to lessen the devastation of her being raped by the king).  The story is really the stark contrast of a common man of great integrity, Uriah, with a “great” man of uncommon depravity, King David of Israel.

The ancient Hebrews understood this as we’ll see later in 1Kings 15:5 where it’s recorded for us, “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

This is not a love story of David and Bathsheba, but a tragic story of contrasting character between David and Uriah the Hittite.

David, a man after God’s own heart, was after all, a man.  Flawed like the rest of us, much of his life should be emulated by us, but David wasn’t perfect.  He just whole-heartedly served a perfect God.

David’s repentance is no more clear than in the psalm that he wrote as he cried out to God, Psalm 51.  Read it for more insight.

I can imagine that this blog, more than any of the others, may have your mind spinning with questions.  Fire away.  That’s why we’re here…

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Week 13 – Bible Blog! (Ruth – 1Samuel 20)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

So we went from reading one book, such as Genesis, over a 2+ week time frame, to reading one book, such as Joshua, in 1 week, to now reading one book, Ruth, in ONE DAY!

We’ve also covered a LOT of ground in 1Samuel in only 6 days (up through chapter 20)… so there’s a lot to summarize, but before we get too far into the story of 1Samuel, a few notes on the structure of the Bible…

Notice how this book, 1Samuel, often referred to as “first Samuel” has a number 1 before it?  It’s followed by 2Samuel.  You may be familiar with similar numbering of books in the New Testament as well.  So there needs to be some clarification as to what these numbers mean.

In the Old Testament when we encounter a book with a number before it, such as 1Samuel, the number represents the number of the scroll on which it was written.  Particularly in OT times, writings were done on scrolls and when those scrolls became too large, such as with a lengthy book like Samuel, the scribes would stop when the scroll was large and continue the story on another scroll.

SO… 1Samuel and 2Samuel are, in fact, ONE BOOK!  They are one story written on two different scrolls, kind of like Volume 1 and Volume 2.  This is the same with 1Kings & 2Kings (really just one book called Kings), etc.  In fact the Hebrew Bible does not separate them into 1Samuel and 2Samuel, because they recognize them as one written work.

However, in the New Testament when we encounter a number preceding a book, such as 1Timothy, we are encountering a unique written document.  In these cases they are letters.  We aren’t very creative in how we distinguish them, so each letter we find from Paul to Timothy we simply give a number; hence, 1Timothy and 2Timothy.  These are two independent letters, not one written document.  Understand?

Now, let’s step back and look at the flow of the Old Testament so far.  I mentioned last week that the story of the line of promise is always maintained throughout the Scriptures.  That explains the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 and, partly, Ruth here after Judges, but before 1Samuel.  Ruth begins with the phrase, “In the days when the judges ruled…” clearly indicating that it belongs right alongside the book of Judges.  We know these were dark times, as Judges ends with the phrase, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

Hmm… No King…  Dark times…  Now the book of Ruth, which begins, with the ominous time of the judges and ends with the genealogy of David, arguably Israel’s greatest king… until Jesus, that is.  Hey, Jesus is in the line of David!

So the end of Ruth signals for us that a king is coming and in 1Samuel we meet him.  In Deuteronomy 17 we read God’s instructions for Israel’s future king.  He says, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,’ be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses.” (Deut 17:14-15a)

So once again God demonstrates that He knows all things.  He knows Israel will ask for a king.  In fact He even knows the manner in which they will ask.  1Samuel tells the story of this first kingly selection (and the second one as well).

However, asking for a king, in fact demanding one, was NOT a God-honoring thing to do.  Samuel, Israel’s last judge is appalled at Israel’s request and, in great distress, prays to God.  God assures him that, “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1Sam 8:7b-9)

Even after Samuel warns them, Israel’s reply is, “No!…We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1Samuel 8:19b-20)  God used to fill this role, and He should fill this role, but they were turning away from Him as they had always done.

So God provided for them a man that a wayward people would immediately recognize as “king-material,” a man who “was a head taller than any of the others.”  Samuel described him to Israel saying, “There is no one like him among all the people.”  Naturally, they fully embraced him as their king. (1Samuel 10:23-24)

King Saul, however, was not the kind of man God would have ideally chosen.  In fact, He had another in mind; a man after His own heart, David. (1Samuel 13:14)

When Saul gets impatient waiting for Samuel to arrive before fighting the Philistines, he takes matters into his own hands and sacrifices a burnt offering to the Lord (which was Samuel’s job, not Saul’s).  Samuel arrives to inform Saul that his disobedience has resulted in God deciding to give his kingdom to another, one after His own heart. (1Samuel 13)

So… does sacrifice please God?

In chapter 15 we see Saul disobey God again, this time by not completely wiping out the Amalekites, but capturing their king alive along with the best of the sheep and cattle to make a sacrifice to the LORD.

Is this really what God instructed him to do?

Samuel’s answer to him needs to be remembered by us all:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1Samuel 15:22)

It has ALWAYS been about the heart with God.

King David will remind us of this later in Psalm 51 where, in deep broken-hearted repentance, he says to God,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)

So… God sets out to guide Samuel in His selection of David as Israel’s next king.  Notice the instruction He gives Samuel as Samuel keeps failing to recognize the man after God’s own heart.  God tells Samuel,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him (David’s brother Eliab).  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)

Remember in 1Samuel 10 how Saul was admired for being a head taller than any of the others?  Even Samuel sees him as a striking example and describes him saying, “There is no one like him among all the people.”

How often have you & I judged others by their appearance?

How often have you & I been tempted to “do things” for God forgetting that it’s your HEART that He wants more than all?

So the people wanted, “a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”  (1Samuel 8:20)  However we see David boldly declaring to the giant, Goliath (and maybe to Israel at the same time),

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1Samuel 17:47)

David understood that it is God who leads, God who fights, God who delivers, God who is in control.  We are to be obedient, we are to engage in the battle, but only as He instructs, with faith and with courage and giving Him all the Glory!

Man, how I want more of my days to be lived as David (in these instances) and less of them lived as Saul.

How about you?

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