Today we are introduced to the prophet Elijah who comes from Gilead. No prophet had arisen since Moses like Elijah. His name means the Lord is my God. Elijah spoke fearlessly for the Lord during the spiritual vacuum that engulfed the northern kingdom of Israel. He prophesied during the reigns of Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram, taking a stand against the rampant worship of the Canaanite god Baal. Elijah stood before the king of Israel fearless, declaring ’As the Lord God of Israel lives.’ This was a brilliant declaration from one who stood before the king uninvited and unannounced simply because he could. He spoke for the one true living God, one who had infinitely more majesty, power, and glory than the earthly king. The Canaanites believed Baal could control the dew and the rain, so Elijah's pronouncement of drought was an immediate challenge. Who really was God...Baal or the Lord? By now Ahab had already married Jezebel. With that marriage there was a political treaty between the northern kingdom and Phoenicia, and she brought Baal worship with her to Israel.
Elijah was obedient to the Lord. Once he had pronounced the drought, the Lord told him to go to live by the brook Kerith and God would instruct the Ravens to bring him food. He would get water from the brook...until it dried up. God then instructed Elijah to go to Zarephath and there a widow would feed him. And Elijah went. She was a woman of some faith, living in a foreign land, and the Lord would test her faith through Elijah. His ask of the woman would test her already meager supplies. Water was one thing, but she hardly had enough flour and oil to make one last loaf of bread for she and her son before they ran out of food. She was making a last meal for she and her son and Elijah asked for a portion of that meal. But he also promised that the Lord God of Israel would ensure that her flour would not run our and neither would her supply of oil. Interesting that while an apostate Israel suffered because of the drought, God supplied the daily necessities to a non-Israelite who willingly took Him at His word. The fresh supply of oil and flour each day would be a reminder to both the prophet and the widow of the value of a personal trust in Him. God alone is sufficient to meet every need.
Zarephath was a city on the Mediterranean coast between Tyre to the south and Sidon to the north. It was a commercial center known for its export of wine, olive oil, and the purple dye extract from murex shells. They were also known as a manufacturing hub for textiles, pottery, and glassware. Elijah stayed in a small room on the roof with an entrance accessible from the outside of the house. That allowed privacy and preserved the reputation of the woman. The widow had one son who became sick and died. She wondered aloud what Elijah had against her that the Lord would take her only son. Elijah took the boy to his room and prayed to the Lord. The Lord heard him and returned the boy back to life. The interesting thing about Elijah's actions is that some of them resembled Babylonian practices involving magic. The Israelites did not perform magic, and we see that Elijah's prayer did not involve the restoration or reunification of the boy's soul to his body. Life was restored to the child, demonstrating to this foreign mother that Elijah was truly a man of God and that God’s word operated in him.
The drought had gone on for over three years and the Lord finally told Elijah to go to king Ahab. Then the Lord would send rain on the land. Ahab had sought Elijah all over the land to no avail. He wanted to kill him like he had all the other prophets of the Lord. Obadiah was probably the palace official and minister of state for Ahab, serving as the king's personal representative. He was a man of faith in the Lord and had in fact hidden 100 prophets of the Lord from Ahab. Now he was speaking with Elijah and Elijah asked to meet with Ahab. This was a bit dicey for a couple of reasons. First, Obadiah had taken great risks to hide the 100 prophets of the Lord and second, Obadiah knew that when the Lord called prophets to serve, they could just disappear. If he arranged a meeting between Ahab and Elijah and Elijah did not appear, it could mean Obadiah's life. Elijah promised to appear, and the meeting was set up. Notice how Ahab addresses Elijah...as the troubler of Israel. Elijah earned this title because he refused to let Ahab and his wife Jezebel to have free reign to drag every Israelite into Baal worship.
Ahab was the most evil king Israel ever had. He was controlled by his equally evil wife, Jezebel. Together they did more harm to the worship of the Lord than anyone else in Israel's history. It seems fitting that the most evil king in Israel's history would have as his contemporary the most famous and dramatic of Israel's prophets. Elijah proposed a contest between himself, the only prophet of the Lord left, and the 450 prophets of Baal. This contest would determine once and for all who the true god of the storm was. Sending fire for the wood and the offering would be a reasonable test of the power of the rival deities. The rules were set, and Elijah let the prophets of Baal go first. As the day wore on, Baal was nonresponsive. From morning until noon, the prophets called on the name of their god. There was no voice. No one answered. Elijah began to taunt them, making fun of their god. He challenged them to shout louder. Maybe their god was sleeping and needed to be awakened. Perhaps he was busy, deep in thought, or traveling. Maybe he was in the bathroom! The prophets of Baal began to cut themselves with their swords, something that was common in their ritual worship. Nothing the prophets did elicited a response from their supposed god. This went on until it was the time of the evening sacrifice in the temple of the Lord. Elijah called all the people to him, took twelve stones, and rebuilt an altar to the Lord, cut up his sacrifice and laid it on the altar. Then he had water poured on the altar...three times and on the sacrifice, the wood, and the water filled the trench Elijah had dug around the altar.
Then Elijah prayed. The sacrifice was sopping wet. It was not humanly possible for fire to start on this altar. Elijah asked for two things in his prayer. The first was that he wished the Lord to demonstrate to the people that He alone is the living God. The second was for the full revival of God's people. God answered Elijah in dramatic fashion. God proved He is God of the storm. Baal proved to be impotent, but the fire of the Lord fell from heaven and consumed everything including the rocks, the dust, and the water in the trough around the altar. God's power over fire, water, and rain demonstrated that He, and not Baal is the Lord. He is God! The people fell to their faces, confessing that the Lord is the one true God. The prophets were executed because of their blatant sin and the ruin they had brought against the nation.
It was time to end the drought and Elijah spied a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, but he knew the power of the Lord and he encouraged Ahab to hurry home. Interesting that when Elijah announced the drought, he told Ahab that there would be no more rain unless it came from the hand of the living God. And the cloud...was hand shaped. Once Jezebel found out what had happened with the prophets of Baal, she determined to kill Elijah, so he fled south. He left his servant in Beersheba and kept heading south. He found himself eventually at a cave near Mount Sinai where he experienced the presence of the Lord. Tune in next Sunday for more on that!
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
In Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 Solomon wrote ”Then I hated all my labor in which I toiled under the sun because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?” These words proved to be quite prophetic for Solomon whose son Rehoboam succeeded him. He made a few shrewd decisions but for the most part, Rehoboam made very poor decisions. At the beginning of his reign, he made a selfish decision that divided the country into two kingdoms, north and south. And in the fourth year of his reign, he decided to turn from the Lord and worship idols. That brought the judgement of the Lord down upon him. What happened right after Solomon's death would forever change the nation of Israel.
Tensions had existed between the tribes since the time of the judges, especially between Judah in the south and Ephraim, the most influential tribe in the north. Many of Israel's leaders, like Joshua and Samuel, had come from the tribe of Ephraim. But David was from the southern tribe of Judah. These factors, along with moving the capital and the center of worship to the southern city of Jerusalem, strained the relationship more. Solomon's taxation to fund the building of the temple and palace in the southern city of Jerusalem alienated the northern tribes even more.
After Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam was approached by the people of Israel with a request that the taxes they had been forced to pay under his father's numerous building programs be lessened. Rehoboam rejected his elder's advice to be lenient, and he insulted the people by threatening to make their burden even heavier. This was the final event that split the nation into two kingdoms. Rehoboam remained the king of the southern kingdom of Judah while Jeroboam became king of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom. Citing the example of the calves created by Aaron near Mount Sinai, Jeroboam erected two statues of golden calves for worship so that his people would not be forced to travel the great distance to Jerusalem. With these idols, Jeroboam led his people away from the worship of the one true God, by combining true worship with the false worship of their neighbors.
These two kingdoms existed separately for another 200 years. At times they fought each other. Other times they cooperated in a friendly alliance against threatening neighbors. While the myriad of kings between the two kingdoms makes for compelling reading, this period of Israel's history is much better known for the prophets of the Lord who rose up during times of spiritual instability to bring God’s people back to him. The prophets had little to do with either kingdom's political success. The northern kingdom collapsed in 722B.C. when the Assyrians destroyed its capital city, Samaria. The southern kingdom survived until 586 B.C. When it fell to the Babylonians.
The story in chapter thirteen is somewhat troubling. But the story is not really about young and old prophets. This chapter is about Jeroboam and his sins. The young prophet’s ministry is very important in this account only because all he said and experienced, including his death were a part of the Lord's warning to king Jeroboam. In this chapter a prophet died but in the next chapter the crown prince died. God was trying to get Jeroboam’s attention. This prophet has no name other than ’the man of God’. He came from Judah because there were still faithful servants of God there whom the Lord could use. His name means he was functioning at the command of God and in God’s power. Jeroboam had established
his own deviant religion and as such made himself not only king but priest as well. We will see that both Jeremiah and Ezekiel were priests who became prophets but the Mosaic law did not permit kings to serve as priests. Jesus's Christ is the only King who is also a priest. Jeroboam’s priesthood was rejected by the Lord which is most likely why the prophet’s message was delivered at the altar. Notice the prophet spoke to the altar, not the king, as though God no longer wanted to address Jeroboam, a man so filled with himself and his plans he had no time to listen to the Lord.
The prophets message declared that the future lay with the house of David, not with the house of Jeroboam. We know that because of Jeroboam’s evil ways the kingdom of Israel would become so polluted with idolatry and its accompanying sins the kingdom would be wiped out within 200 years. This prophet’s message looked ahead 300 years to the reign of the godly king Josiah (640-609) who rooted out the idolatry in the land, including the king's shrine at Bethel. He also desecrated the altar by burning human bones on it and then he tore it down and let the ashes spill out. The prophecy was fulfilled just as the prophet announced. So sure was the promise that the prophet even named the king! But Jeroboam paid no attention to the message from God. He only wanted to punish the messenger.
The prophet's instructions were to not eat or drink water in that place and he was to return home by a different route. When Jeroboam tried to trap him, the prophet left knowing if he disobeyed the Lord, he would have wiped out the effectiveness of his witness and ministry. The faithful prophet from Judah could not be deceived by a wicked king but he was fooled by an old retired prophet. So here are some thoughts about this account. In biblical times sharing a meal was more than just a social custom. This was intimate fellowship and the sign of true hospitality. The city of Bethel may have been one of the early prophetic schools and perhaps the old prophet may have had a role there. But if he was still connected to the Lord living in Bethel which was then a Celtic center, Judah was just a few miles down the road. One gets the impression this old prophet was not a spiritual giant. In fact, he may have been an apostate. He had not spoken out against Jeroboam that we know of. Instead, he lied boldly to the Lord's true prophet. It is also clear the old prophet's sons were not men off faith either, at least faith in the one true Lord.
Since the old prophets knew what the prophet from Judah was supposed to do...because his sons told him of the conversation between Jeroboam and the prophet...why did the old prophet deliberately lie and encourage the young prophet to disobey the Lord? Maybe he did not want to see things in comfortable Bethel get stirred up and create problems for him. Or, maybe the young prophet was feeling proud of what he had accomplished. He had delivered a powerful message and performed three miracles. Maybe the Lord used the old man to test him and bring him back to humility. We could ask why the young prophet didn't seek the Lord's will before he followed the old prophet. We only have the account here, not the motives of the players hearts. Another strange part of this account is that the Lord sent a message to this old prophet who was out of the Lord’s will. But the Lord spoke through Balaam who was not dedicated to the Lord either. There were miracles here too. While the lion killed the young prophet, he did not maul it or eat him nor did the lion harm the mule. It appears the two animals stood guard over the young prophet until the old prophet came to take him for burial.
What follows this is the beginning of the parade of kings for both the northern and southern kingdoms. None of the kings of the northern kingdom were good. In fact, it almost seemed like each one was trying to be worse than their predecessors. The southern kingdom didn't fare much better though there were
a handful of kings that followed in the ways of the Lord. Soon we will be introduced to the prophets. Have a happy and blessed Easter!
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
This is now the second time the Lord has appeared to Solomon. The first time was to ask him what he wanted the Lord to give him and now the Lord acknowledges He has heard Solomon’s prayer of dedication. The Lord reminded Solomon He had taken up residence in the Temple and if Solomon followed all His laws and commands his royal throne would be established forever. But…and there is always a but…if Solomon failed to keep following the Lord as his father David had, disastrous things would happen. Perhaps the starkest thing the Lord said was this. “And though this temple is imposing now, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple? People will answer because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping, and serving them. That is why the Lord brought disaster on them.” Over the next few days, we will see this come to fruition.
The presence of God’s glory in the temple and the coming of fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices assured Solomon that his prayer had been heard and was accepted by the Lord. But there would not always be that same splendor and glory in the temple and fire would not fall from heaven to consume every sacrifice. Now, God’s name was on the house, God’s eyes were watching, and His ears were listening. God was willing to forgive the sins of His people when they sinned if they would humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their sins. God spoke personally with Solomon, referring to the covenant He had made with Solomon’s father David. Solomon could not expect God’s blessings just because his father was David. Solomon had to be a man like his father David and have a heart for the Lord, be obedient and be a man of integrity. God had given the people His Word, and He expected all of them to obey it. The king had to lead by example by practicing the law and worshiping the Lord. For a while, Solomon did follow after his father David, but the more wives Solomon acquired, the more the temptation to worship their gods grew until his wives managed to pull Solomon away from the Lord.
Solomon may have been a faithful man, and he was also a wealthy man. But it appears that while he had enough money to build the temple for the Lord, he needed a loan to build his palace. He borrowed money from his friend Hiram of Tyre and as collateral gave Hiram 20 cities on the border of Israel and Phoenicia. But when Hiram went to look at the cities, he deemed them good for nothing. However, it seems that after the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, he had enough money to pay Hiram back and refurbish the cities for the Israelites who lived there. There are big differenced between David and Solomon. David was a mighty general and warrior who feared no enemy. Solomon was a shrewd diplomat and politician who missed no opportunity to increase his wealth and power.
Sheba was a wealthy and highly civilized nation located where present-day Yemen is, on the Arabian Peninsula. When the queen came to visit, she brought with her expensive gifts that also served as samples of what her country had to offer. What she heard and saw left her breathless. She had heard many thingsabout Solomon, but they paled in comparison to what she saw and heard. In her visit we get a brief glimpse into the palace of Solomon. She was not only impressed with the palace itself, but she was also impressed with the meals, the livery and conduct of the servants, the seating of the officers and guests, and the incredible wealth that was on display on and around the tables. Not only did the Queen of Sheba bring Solomon expensive gifts, but Solomon gave her gifts in return. She could hardly contain herself, proclaiming that Solomon and his servants had to be the happiest people on earth. But it was Solomon who later wrote, “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.” No doubt the Queen was there to negotiate a trade agreement with Solomon. It would be in their best interests to do so. We read that Solomon had several sources of income: taxes, tolls, customs and duty fees, trade, tribute from vassal rulers, and gifts. He also benefited from conscripted labor. After his death, the people asked his son to lighten the load they were bearing for Solomon. We will deal with that tomorrow.
As time went on not only did Solomon’s wives pull him away from the Lord, but in his daily living Solomon managed to break many of the laws and commands of the Lord. If we return to Deuteronomy 17:14-20 we will find the Lord warning rulers not to return to Egypt to get horses and they were not to multiply wives or gold. Solomon not only acquired thousands of horses, but he also became a horse dealer himself. We know he accumulated much gold and at the end of his life he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. An old roman proverb says this: “Riches are like salt water…the more you drink, the more you thirst.”
Chapter eleven brings the end of Solomon’s life. He started his life living in privilege and he ended his life a wealthy man. He began as a faithful man of the Lord and died a man who was led astray by his many wives to worship false gods and idols.Solomon’s fall from grace was a gradual thing. First, he permitted his foreign wives to worship their idols and then he tolerated their idolatry and even built shrines for them to worship in. Eventually he began to participate in pagan practices with his wives. And his sensual love for his many wives grew to be more than his spiritual love for the Lord. How could Israel be a light to the gentiles when their king was openly worshiping and supporting the idols of those same nations? The Lord was angry with Solomon but for the sake of his father David God did not punish him. It would be the next generation that God would punish. God warned Solomon that after his death the kingdom would be divided, and his son would reign over only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other ten tribes would become the northern kingdom of Israel. To make matters worse, this division would not be the peaceful work of a diplomat but the painful work of the Lord. There are consequences.
What follows is a vicious cycle…not unlike the cycle we saw with the judges…where one king after another in the Northern kingdom sins spectacularly against the Lord. In all the years of the Northern kingdom, there is not one good king. And good kings are few and far between in the Southern kingdom as well. We have attached a handout showing the kings of the northern kingdom, Israel and the southern kingdom, Judah so you can keep track. All of the names begin to get confusing after a while! Solomon’s many wives had been his guarantees of peace with the neighboring rulers, but they had led him astray and towards the end of his life the Lord raised up adversaries against him and used them to discipline the rebellious king. That God would discipline David’s disobedient heirs was a part of the covenant and was reaffirmed to Solomon when God spoke to him at Gibeon.
We see attacks from the north, Rezon of Damascus and from the south, Hadad the Edomite. These was bad enough, but Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s own leaders who threatened the king from within the official ranks. He was an Ephraimite. By this point in Solomon’s reign the people had tired of his building projects and the way he conscripted Jews to do the work. Solomon had put Jeroboam over the northern tribes, and this was a perfect opportunity to establish himself with them. One day the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh stopped Jeroboam and told him he would become the king of ten of the twelve tribes. It was only a matter of time. Prophets had not played much of a role in Solomon’s lifetime, but they will be very important from now on until the end of the end of the kingdom of Judah. Ahijah warned Jeroboam that his kingship was purely an act of God’s grace and he should take this calling seriously and follow the laws and commands of the Lord. But because the Lord made a covenant with David there would still be a descendant of David on the throne of Judah.
Solomon was a bit like king Saul. He was given a great opportunity to make the Lord’s name known. People came to him from all over the world to seek his wisdom. What a great time to talk about the Lord. But Solomon squandered those opportunities. He was like his father David in that he enjoyed women but when Solomon sinned, he did not have the same heart as David and did not seek forgiveness. And even worse, when Solomon began to follow pagan gods, he took the people with him. The fortunes of the Lord’s people had begun a long slow slide into depravity and idol worship.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
Today is all about Solomon's construction project at the temple of the Lord. If you remember, David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but God gave that project to Solomon instead. The Lord knew David's heart, but He had other plans for him. David was busy fighting wars and expanding and defending the borders of the kingdom of Israel. He did not have time for supervising such a demanding and complex build. Solomon was a man of peace...God gave him rest on every side...and he undertook this massive project. David had prepared him for the task and encouraged him. We won't read quantities for this building project yet, but we will see in 2Chronicles what David had amassed for Solomon. There were 3,750 tons of gold, 37,500 tons of silver and an unmeasured quantity of bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Much of this came from spoils of battle. David also added his personal treasure which brought the totals to 4,050 tons of gold and over 38,000 tons of silver as well as precious stones. To put this in perspective the price of gold this morning was $1,712 per ounce. I cannot do numbers that big. David also gave Solomon the plans for the temple God had given him.
Solomon contracted with Hiram, king of Phoenicia for building materials and labor. Hiram had been David's friend and Solomon trusted him. A bit about the Phoenicians. They were descendants of the Canaanites. Phoenicia was never an official city-state but instead a group of independent port cities along the northern seacoast of Israel. Tyre and Sidon were two of the main cities along with Byblos. They had established themselves as the preeminent sea traders in the Mediterranean. They were famous for their lumber trade as well as a thriving purple dye industry. The king of Tyre, Hiram, provided Solomon with cedar wood and pine in exchange for wheat and olive oil. This amounted to 125,000 bushels of wheat and 115,000 gallons of pure olive oil per year. He also sent experienced sailors to assist Solomon's fleet. But the Phoenicians also exported their religion to Israel. The Sidonian princess Jezebel was given in marriage to Omari's son Ahab and between the two of them they made Baal worship widespread in Israel. Those practices eventually spilled over into Judah as well. Worshiping Baal became a stumbling block for both Israel and Judah resulting in God's discipline of His people through exile.
It was 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt that the temple building began, and it took seven years to build. We read in great detail what the actual structure looked like, and all the pieces that were needed for service in the temple. The temple was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. I would imagine that when we read about this magnificent temple built for the name of the Lord, we expect something huge, but that was not the case. It was, however, incredible. Not only was it made of cedar, which would have been an amazing smell, but then Solomon covered everything in pure gold. The furnishings of the temple were important for the priests to perform their ministry. They needed divinely ordained furniture. The entrance of the temple faced east, just like the opening of the tabernacle had. Just inside was the brazen altar where sacrifices were made for the atonement of the people's sins. The altar was made of brass and stood 15 feet high and thirty feet square. The fire was kept burning so the priests could offer sacrifices continually.
While the altar was to the right of the entrance of the inner courtyard of the priests, the bronze laver or sea was to the left. It was solid brass, and it was a handbreadth thick, which would have been 4-5 inches. And it held nearly 12,000 gallons of water. It sat on the backs of twelve full size bronze bulls. Nowhere do we read exactly how the priests accessed the water, but they needed it to keep clean as they ministered in the temple. Otherwise, they were in danger of death. In scripture, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God but water for washing is a picture of the Word of God. As the priests labored for the Lord in the temple, they became defiled and needed to be cleansed. Hence the need for available water. Sometimes when we serve the Lord, we too can become defiled and need the washing of the water of the Word.
The golden altar of incense was made of cedar covered with gold and it stood in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The priests burned incense on it each morning and evening when they tended the lamps. In scripture...Psalm 141:1-2 and Revelation 5:8...we see the burning of incense is a picture of our prayers rising up to the Lord. And we can read in Exodus 30:34-38 the recipe the Lord gave Moses for the special blend of incense to be used only in the temple. This golden altar was used only for incense. On the day of atonement, the high priest would apply blood to it to cleanse and purify it. There are many more pieces made for use in the temple. When we look at the cost of the materials and the labor to build it, this temple was priceless. But it was all confiscated in 589 B.C. when the Babylonian army captured Jerusalem, destroyed the city and the temple, and took the people into exile for their disobedience to the Lord. It is difficult to think that Solomon, the man who built the temple was also the man who married a multitude of foreign wives who brought idolatry to Israel. This was the very sin that turned people away from God and brought upon them judgement at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
Our reading ends with the ark of the covenant being brought to the temple, the dedication of this building, God's presence coming in a cloud, and Solomon's prayer. Now there was a home for the Lord. There was one place to worship the one true Lord and one place for the people to come and offer sacrifices. The ark was brought from the city of David, originally the only part of the city, to Jerusalem, which was the expanded city, the upper city. Once the ark was installed in the Holy of Holies and the curtain drawn, the priests could not minister in the temple because the cloud of the presence of the Lord arrived. God was moving into His house. First Solomon gave a speech of dedication of the temple. In this speech Solomon included an assessment of the work His people did in building the temple in accomplishing God's will. But sprinkled throughout, Solomon gave God glory for what He had done for His people. Solomon recognized God had fulfilled the promises He made to Abraham in giving them land and a place to live. He also remembered the covenant God had made with David.
Last, Solomon prayed a prayer of dedication. He had begun his reign with great dependence on the Lord and now he was acknowledging that he still needed to depend totally on the Lord. And all the people needed to rely on and come to the Lord for continued blessings and help in their lives. He stressed God’s faithfulness to His people and the people's need to be faithful back. Solomon reminded the people that since God was present in the temple in Jerusalem, prayer was to be directed towards this place. He made several requests of the Lord in his prayer. The first is a request for righteous judgement. The second was a request for forgiveness when the people's sin against God caused a military defeat. Requests three and four dealt with the healing of the land after distress or drought due to the people's disobedience. Request number five dealt with prayers by a foreigner and numbers six and seven were about wartime situations. Battle was to be waged according to divine instructions and disobedience would be costly. Solomon had knelt for this prayer with his arms raised and outstretched. When he stood up, he blessed the people who had gathered and reminded them again God had given them rest from their enemies, always kept His promises, and would never leave them or forsake them. For seven days the people celebrated, offered sacrifices to the Lord, and feasted. On the eighth day Solomon sent them home. People had come from all parts of the kingdom to celebrate. Now it was time to get back to business.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
1 Kings picks up where 1 and 2 Samuel left off, presenting the story of Israel's declining monarchy. We continue to see what happens when God’s people disobey their covenants with the Lord and disregard His prophets. There will be more leaning towards sinful behavior along with a lack of repentance. We will listen in as an aged and sick king David urged his son and successor, Solomon to remain obedient to the Lord and pay close attention to the consequences of his actions. In the next days we will also see the stories of both Elijah and Elisha. They served the Lord during a violent and unstable time in Israel’s history. Here are some things to think about as you read. Ancient wisdom included such things as music, poetry, proverbial sayings for wise conduct, and what we would call science. It was common practice during Old Testament times for one nation to recognize the deities of another. The Palace of the Forest of Lebanon was named that because its many pillars were made from the trunks of cedars from Lebanon, giving the palace the appearance of a massive Forrest. And the sea of cast metal or bronze was a huge reservoir of water holding nearly 12,000 gallons of water that was used by the priests for ritual cleansing. Keep in mind there was no direct water source to Jerusalem. The nearest running water was almost six miles away. Think about filling your swimming pool by carrying water by hand!
There are three themes to look for as you read: the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and one true God. The history of Israel's kings is presented not from a political, social, or economic standpoint. Assessments of the various kings are made based on their obedience to the Mosaic covenant. You can reread that in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings judgement. The Davidic covenant allows historians to use David's life and reign as the standard by which later kings were measured. And finally, One true God. There was to be one central place of worship...the temple in Jerusalem. The single, official place of worship emphasized the truth that there is but one God. The failure to obey this command led to idolatry, the major reason for the defeats of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.
By this time David was about 70 years old, which in the scheme of things wasn't that old but the years of running from Saul and the years of warfare no doubt took a toll on David. Adonijah was David's oldest living son and probably 35 at this time. David's firstborn Amnon was killed by Absalom. David's second son Kileab must have died young because there is no record off his life. His third son Absalom was slain by Joab and that made Adonijah the oldest. He clearly felt he deserved the throne even though Solomon had been designated the successor. Adonijah called a feast inviting all but David's most trusted advisors and his brother Solomon. He deliberately exalted himself against God's will. Between Bathsheba and David's advisors, Solomon was taken to Ghion on David's own royal mule and anointed there as David's successor. They returned to Jerusalem with shouts of acclamation, trumpet blowing and enough noise to make the ground shake. First the noise and then the news of Solomon’s coronation reached Adonijah. His guests fled out of fear and Adonijah fled to the temple where he hung onto the horns of the altar. At this point the horns were a place of refuge for those who had committed unintentional crimes. However, what Adonijah did was not unintentional. He acted with a premeditated purpose. Solomon had him removed from the altar and promised that if Adonijah proved to be a worthy man his life would be spared.
Chapter two brings us David's instructions to Solomon. Solomon is urged and walk in His ways. Doing so would result in a multitude of blessings. David also reminded Solomon of what Joab had done to Abner and Amasa. Solomon was to use his wisdom in dealing with them. Solomon was encouraged to show kindness to Barzillai who had showed great kindness to David. Solomon was also left to deal with Shimei, the rock thrower. David had promised to not kill him for his crimes, but Solomon was encouraged to deal with him. After that David died and the people mourned. Solomon was established on the throne and began his reign. Just when it looked like things might settle down, Adonijah made another appearance. He wanted permission to marry Abishag, the Shunammite who kept David warm in his last days. What he was really doing was laying claim to David's servant girl...almost like asking for the queen's hand. It was a power move and Solomon also saw the hands of Joab and Abiathar in this plot. All three were dealt with severely. Abiathar was removed from his priestly office and God's word to Eli came to fulfillment. There would be no more descendants of Eli serving the Lord. Joab was a murderer and as such he could not claim the protection of the horns of the altar. He was executed for shedding innocent blood. And Adonijah was also put to death. Shimei the rock thrower could build a house in Jerusalem with one caveat. He could not go outside the city walls and if he did, he would be put to death. He agreed to obey Solomon but after a period of three years he left Jerusalem to chase after slaves who had run away from him. When he returned, he too was executed.
So far, Solomon was walking in the ways of the Lord. He traveled to Ghion, the place where he was anointed king, to offer sacrifices and while he was there God came to him in a dream. What did Solomon want God to give him. Solomon did not ask for riches, power, military victories, or a long life. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God's chosen people. Solomon humbled himself before the Lord and acknowledged all that the Lord had done for his father David. Not only did the Lord grant him wisdom, but He also gave him all the other things too. We get a glimpse of Solomon's wisdom in the account of the two prostitutes who came to him arguing over whose baby was living and whose was dead. The fact that prostitutes could appear before the king of Israel suggests that Solomon made himself available to people from all walks of life.
Ae end the reading is the list of people involved in Solomon's administration. Some of the names are familiar and many are new. There were twelve governors in charge of Solomon's districts. They were responsible for handling lesser administrative duties and raising revenue for the crown. These districts did not follow tribal boundaries. There are a couple of things to notice here. We see the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham in 4:20. Judah and Israel are as numerous as the sand by the sea. This is a reminder that God keeps His promises. And then we see that Solomon ruled from the Mediterranean all the way to the River, the River here meaning the Euphrates River. That was the original eastern boundary of the promised land, but the Israelites in Joshua's day could not or did not defeat all those people. David's story is over, but the house God promised him, lives on. Now we will follow Solomon and see how obedient he is to the Lord.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
We are nearly at the end of the David saga. He has had very high highs and very low lows. David is a mighty warrior, fearless in battle. He trusts in the Lord and is for the most part obedient. But he has many wives and even more sons, all of whom would like to be the next king. There is fighting with neighboring enemies and war among family members. And 2 Samuel ends with a record of not one but two national calamities. First there is the drought caused by Saul's sin against the Gibeonites and then we see David’s sin with the census. In between those two events David wrote two psalms, we see four military victories and the list of David's mighty men...37 in all.
Nearly 400 years earlier the Gibeonites had deceived Joshua into believing they had come from far away to make a peace treaty with the Israelites. Joshua had not consulted the Lord and as a result Joshua ended up making a treaty before God with them. Those treaties could not be broken. As a result, Joshua had put them to work as wood cutters and water carriers. Israel was obligated to protect them but Saul had plans to wipe them all out...an ethnic cleansing if you will. And God was angry with Saul. Saul’s life was a puzzle, especially his relationship with the Lord. He made vows that no one should keep but he did not obey clear commands the Lord had given him. And, we have not gotten to Chronicles yet but there we will discover that Jeiel, Saul's great grandfather was the progenitor of the Gibeonites so he was effectively slaughtering his own relatives. By this point Saul had been dead nearly 30 years and now God was dealing with his sin.
David tried to make retribution with the Gibeonites but they did not want money. They knew their place in Israel as servants and resident aliens and that they had no right to press their case but they also knew that only the shedding of blood would atone for the Gibeonites blood that had been shed. They asked for the bloodshed of seven of Saul's descendants to pay for their blood that was shed by Saul. And David agreed. A couple of notes here. The Mephibosheth mentioned here in 21:8 is not the son of Jonathan and the Barzillai is not David's loyal friend. David had to choose. He did not choose any of Jonathan's descendants because of his promise to him so he chose from Saul's concubine and his daughter. The seven chosen were killed together and the Gibeonites left them in the field. Saul's concubine spread sackcloth on the ground and kept the birds and animals from scavenging the bodies from the beginning of the barley harvest until the first trains. That is May through October!!! David allowed the bodies to be exposed until the rains came as a sign that once again the Lord was blessing his people. And then, we see respect. David not only gathered the bones of the seven who were killed but the bones of Saul and Jonathan as well and buried all of them in the tomb of Kish, Saul's father.
The four battles we saw fought here in today's reading involved giants from the Philistines. One of them was poised to kill David but he was saved from death by Abishai. From then on, the king was left home because he was too valuable to risk losing him in war. And think about this. 1 Samuel 2 records Hannah's song when she brought her son Samuel to the tabernacle to serve the Lord and 2 Samuel 22 records the song of David after the Lord helped him defeat his enemies. How cool is it that these two books of Samuel...books full of bloodshed, fighting, family struggles, and more are bracketed by songs of praise! This Psalm is actually psalm 18:1-50. David sings of how the Lord delivered him from his enemies and then how the Lord rewarded David. This is followed by how the Lord enabled David and then established him.
Chapter 23 records David's last words. We will not see his death until 1 Kings but these are his last words. He begins by recounting his humble beginning as Jesse's son who was then exalted to the throne of Israel by sovereign God. At least 73 of the 150 psalms we have are attributed to David but his last one is found only here. Last words here may mean his actual last words or his last words inspired by the Lord. Verses 3 and 4 speak of the expectations for rulers leading some to think David wrote this for Solomon who would follow him as king. David speaks of the covenant God made with him and his house and David's confidence that God would carry out his promise. This covenant will guarantee David a dynasty that will last forever and be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Finally, David anticipated God’s judgement on the ungodly, uprooted like thorns and burned.
Davids mighty men are also listed here. These were the elite of David's troops, perhaps his personal bodyguards. They were heroes in the fullest sense of the word with exploits that almost seem unbelievable. There is one incident with three of his mightiest men. David and his men had been fighting and he was hiding in a cave not far from Bethlehem, his hometown. He is thirsty for water from the well just outside of town. These three mighty men fought through enemy lines to get David water but when they returned David poured the water on the ground. There is no indication that David ordered these men to get water. They just wanted to please their leader. So, the water had been provided at such a great risk that David regarded it as too precious to drink and offered it as a sacrifice. No matter what was put in David's hands, he used it to honor God and help God's people...a sling, a sword, a harp, a scepter, even a cup of water. When David looked into the cup of water, he didn't see water. He saw the blood of three men who risked their lives to satisfy his desire. To drink it would have cheapened the bravery of the men who brought it.
Once again, we see a census taken, but this is puzzling. There was nothing Illegal about a census, if it was done according to the rules laid down in Exodus 30:11-16. The half shekel received at the census was used to pay the bills for the sanctuary of God. But this was not why David called for a census. This was a military census to see how big his army was. There had been census taking in the past with no punishment but Joab’s protest indicated that David was doing this out of pride...that the king wanted to magnify his own achievements rather than glorify the Lord. David may have been trusting in military strength rather than trusting in the Lord's provision. God's plan seemed to be for Israel to have a civilian army rather than a large standing army so Israel would trust in His protection. Whatever the reason the Lord was displeased. When Joab returned after nine months of census taking David realized his sin and asked the Lord for forgiveness, which He gave. But there were consequences. David had sinned before, like with Bathsheba. But that was a sin of the flesh and this was a sin of the spirit...a willful act of rebellion against the Lord.
David had three choices for punishment, famine, military defeat, or pestilence. The next day the plague began and ran its course. 70,000 people died. Some suggest that was the number of Israelites who had followed Absalom. God permitted David to see the judgement angel hovering over Jerusalem. Again, God sent the prophet Gad to David, this time with a message of hope. David could stop this plague if he went to the threshing floor of Ornan, built an altar and offered sacrifices to the Lord. And David did as Gad commanded. Once David had followed orders, the plague stopped.
If you were asked to name David's two greatest sins, they would probably be his adultery with Bathsheba and the census...and you would be right. But out of those two sins God built a temple. Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon and God chose him to succeed David on the throne. And the threshing floor of Ornan that David bought and built an altar on was the spot where Solomon built the temple and dedicated it to the glory of the Lord. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:20, ”But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
David’s son Absalom has died, the fighting has ended, and David’s troops are returning home. It should have been a day of celebration because of the military victory but all David can focus on is the death of his son. By isolating himself from everyone, David has turned what should have been a celebration into an emotional defeat. Like it or not, David was not just a father, he was also the king. Leaders have to lead, no matter what the circumstances. One of the things to notice about David here is that in his younger years, every time David needed to make a decision, he consulted the Lord. But in the whole saga with Absalom, we did not see him consult the Lord once. Over the course of the Old testament so far, we have seen disaster befall many people who did not consult the Lord before making decisions. Joab set David straight in a short but to the point speech that brought David back to reality. He took his customary place at the city gate and greeted the army as they entered the city.
The next thing we see in David is his desire for unity. There was still division among the twelve tribes as witnessed in the David/Absalom fighting. Again, ten tribes broke away and followed Absalom and the other two tribes remained loyal to David. David was still in Mahanaim but knew he needed to return home. The longer he was away the more trouble he would have regaining his city and his throne, so he forged ahead. He was God’s anointed king, and he didn’t need a call for a referendum before taking up his fallen scepter. After all, Judah was the royal tribe. David was from the tribe of Judah and it was the elders of Judah who had first made him king. So, he logically turned to the elders of Judah for help. The challenge for David was this. Hebron was in Judah and that is where Absalom began his rebellion, which must have meant he had help from some of the leaders of Judah. Now it was time for them to show their allegiance to David.
David appointed Amasa to be his new general instead of Joab. This brought two kinds of news to the people. First, they must have been shocked that David would replace Joab. He had been David’s general for some time. But, Amasa was Absalom’s general and by appointing him THE general it meant David was pardoning all the officials who had followed Absalom. So why replace Joab? David had learned it was Joab who had killed Absalom, disobeying the king’s orders. And second, Joab had been increasing in power over the years, more so since David had been urged to stay home during battles. Joab had a record of eliminating anyone who threatened his power or authority, which we saw in the reading for today. Joab and his brothers had caused David all kinds of trouble from early on and that would continue. David appointed Amasa as general, thereby uniting the army and declaring amnesty to all the rebel soldiers. This gave the nation a new beginning.
Not only did David declare amnesty to the rebel soldiers he also declared general amnesty. The men of Judah were at the Jordan River to welcome David and his family and bring them back over the Jordan and home to Jerusalem. But there were others at the river to welcome the king. Shimei the Benjaminite was there with 1,000 men from his tribe. This is the same Shimei who threw rocks and stones at David when he was leaving Jerusalem. No doubt he deserved to be punished for the way he treated the king, but David stopped Joab’s brother Abishai from killing Shimei. It was not the time to be doing more killing. We also see Ziba at the river, the man who managed the land and holdings for Mephibosheth. David saw this day as a day of celebration and did not want any killing that day. He promised Shimei he would not harm him and Shimei was pardoned. David kept his word, but we will see when David is about to die, he will warn Solomon about Shimei and because of his disobedience, he will eventually be put to death.
We see that Ziba is a manipulator at best. He has been a servant to Saul and his family for years and when Saul was killed along with his sons, Ziba continued to serve Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. When David brought Mephibosheth to live with him, he instructed Ziba to manage the land Mephibosheth had so that Mephibosheth would have money to live on. But when David fled Jerusalem over Absalom, Mephibosheth stayed behind. Ziba told David it was because he was waiting to inherit everything that was rightfully his. Now we find out Ziba has lied and prohibited Mephibosheth from joining David. Much like Solomon who came after David, he told Ziba and Mephibosheth to split the land. All Mephibosheth was concerned with was that David had returned home safely.
Lastly today we see that there is still a struggle between tribes, north vs. south…Israel vs. Judah. It will be the story of God’s chosen people for centuries to come. The challenge was that the men of the south had “conspired” to bring King David home and they didn’t consult the tribes of the north, who had ten stakes in the king vs. the south’s two. We read in Matthew 12:25 that a house divided against itself cannot stand and that is surely the case for God’s chosen people. Sometimes it only takes one person to create trouble and now that person would be Sheba, who was from the tribe of Benjamin…the same tribe as Saul. He didn’t come right out and declare war, but his actions spoke loudly in that direction. He may well have been an officer in Absalom’s army and did not want any part of David as king. Sheba traveled throughout the northern tribes trying to drum up support and seemed to be fairly unsuccessful. He ended up in the northern walled city of Abel.
After killing Amasa, Joab once again took command of David’s troops. He followed Sheba to Abel, intending to surround the city and lay siege to it. For the third time in David’s story a woman changes the course of events. Abigail was the first, the woman of Tekoa was the second and here it is the wise woman from Abel. She called to Joab from the city wall to assure him her city was not in cahoots with any rebel, and they did not deserve to be attacked. Joab explained it was only Sheba they were seeking. This wise woman persuaded the citizens of the city to kill the rebel leader and toss his head over the wall. Again, we see the humiliation that comes with such fighting.
The reading ends with another listing of David’s officers. There are two new names this time, Adoram or Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. These were probably prisoners of war but occasionally Israelites were conscripted to assist in government building projects. The other was Ira the Jairite who had become David’s chaplain. If David wasn’t fighting the neighboring nations and kings he was fighting with issues in his family. One by one he was losing his sons to violence, hate, jealousy, and bloodshed. And there is more yet to come.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
When the word came that the sword would never leave David's house and there would be trouble in the family...they weren't kidding. Today’s reading is all about Absalom. We have already seen him taking revenge on his half-brother Amnon who raped his sister Tamar. Today Absalom is bound and determined to take the throne away from his father David, and still David does not want this young man harmed. There have been no consequences for David's children who have been disobedient and downright evil. The chariots, horses, and 50 men to run ahead of him was intended to attract attention to Absalom and to remind people that he was David's son and an heir to the throne. The runners would announce the coming of his chariot. He ingratiated himself to the people by telling the dissatisfied people there was no deputy of the king to hear them. Absalom was in effect telling them David was too busy to hear their case, and too busy to delegate someone to act in his place. Using his personal charm and by making many promises Absalom managed to win the affection and loyalty of the Israelites.
His next step was asking permission...using a lie...to move to Hebron, nearly 20 miles away, to start his rebellion. Absalom was born there so the request didn't seem out of the ordinary. And by saying Absalom reigns in Hebron, he purposely alluded to David's kingship. David had been anointed king in Hebron. Absalom's next move was to enlist David's advisor and counselor, Ahithophel to join him. David's reaction is a bit surprising here. When he hears the news about Absalom he prepares to flee. David was a fierce warrior, and it would have been easy for he and his troops to defeat Absalom and his men, but David chose to flee. Perhaps he wanted to avoid necessary loss of life and the tragedy of a military assault on the city of Jerusalem. As they left the city, David and the royal family stopped at the east edge of town before crossing the Kidron Valley to allow the royal bodyguard to pass in review. The Kerethites and Pelethites were Philistine mercenaries who made up David's bodyguard. They had been with David for years, owed him their loyalty, and would defend he and his family to the death. Ittai the Gittite had only been in David's service for a short while but his words to David echo Ruth's words to Naomi. He promised to go wherever David went, in life and in death.
Zadok and Abiathar were the main priests serving during David's reign. They too were loyal to David. They wanted to bring the ark of the covenant with them, but David sent it back to the city. He was going into exile, not the ark. David trusted in the Lord, saying if the Lord wanted David back in Jerusalem, he would return but if not, he would accept whatever the Lord had for him. And David wanted the priests in Jerusalem at the tabernacle, praying for him. If they received a message from the Lord, there would be a way to get it to David. They could also gather information for David. When David found out his advisor was in cahoots with Absalom, he prayed that the Lord would turn his counsel into foolishness. Many believe Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather and by siding with Absalom he was gaining revenge for David killing Uriah and taking Bathsheba as his wife. Ahithophel’s name means brother of folly.
Hushai the Archite was David's friend, and he was willing to go anywhere with David. But David sent him to Jerusalem to frustrate the advice of Ahithophel, thereby sending Absalom mixed messages about what he should do. David and his family had not gone far when they encountered Ziba the longtime servant of both Saul and Mephibosheth. He had donkeys for David's family to ride and food for their journey. According to Ziba, Mephibosheth had stayed in Jerusalem, sure that this would be the day his father Saul’s kingdom would be restored to him. Even though David had treated him well he still harbored hope that he would one day be king like his father. In anger David gave Ziba all that belonged to Mephibosheth. Again...consequences.
The journey away from the city of Jerusalem gets even more interesting as they reach Bahurim. There a distant relative of Saul sees the king and his party and Shimei begging to throw rocks at them. Throwing rocks and stones is a gesture of contempt, like the king was simply a stray dog. Stones could also be dangerous weapons. That is what they used to put people to death with. David was a man of war and he had killed Uriah, but he did not kill Saul’s family. This was an unjust charge. David refused to punish or harm Shimei, believing perhaps this was part of his discipline from the Lord for his sin with Bathsheba. And maybe David thought since his own son showed him no loyalty, why should this Benjamite.
Absalom did enter Jerusalem along with his band of men, Ahithophel and Hushai. Absalom questioned Hushai but he pledged his support for whoever the current king was. This was his cover so that he could frustrate the advice Ahithophel would give Absalom. Concubines were unofficial wives. In ancient times, taking over a king’s harem was a recognized means of claiming the throne. Had Absalom left David's concubines alone there would have been a chance for reconciliation. But pitching a tent, probably a bridal tent, on the top of the palace made the people of Israel fully aware that he was engaging in sexual relations with his father’s concubines. This would stir up the people one way or another.
When Absalom asked Ahithophel for advice, what he received was actually good, sound advice. But Hushai went to work and gave advice that sounded good but wasn't. Word is sent to David to keep moving and cross the Jordan River because Absalom was coming after him. He went as far as Mahanaim which was the home of Ish-Bosheth. David found shelter there and plenty of food and water. Now it was time for David the mighty warrior to make a plan. He didn't leave Jerusalem with a large number of troops but many loyal followers made their way to him. With the troops at his disposal David divided them into three companies. They marched out under Abishai the oldest son of David's sister Zeruiah, Joab his younger brother who had become the commander of David's army, and Ittai the Gittite. Not much is known about him other than he was extremely committed to David.
The people asked David to stay in the city for fear he might be killed. He did what they thought was best but instructed his three commanders to spare Absalom’s life. The field of battle was the woods of Ephraim and scripture tells us more were lost to the woods than in the fighting. It was a dense forest on the east side of the Jordan River. Absalom’s newly organized army was no match for the experienced soldiers of David and because the woods were so dense and rugged more men died because of the woods. The oak tree or Terebinth grew to about 35 feet in height, and the forest was full of them. Here we see some rich symbolism. The mule was the usual Mount for kings and princes. Just as Absalom lost his mule from underneath him, so he lost the royal seat he so badly wanted. And his suspension in midair indicates that the rebellion had left him with no ground under his feet. He was powerless to defend himself, much less to lead a nation. Absalom was most likely caught in the tree by his own hair...a young man entangled by his own pride.
When Joab found out Absalom was hanging in a tree, he sent a soldier to kill him, but the soldier refused having heard David's command to spare the boy. Joab was angry at Absalom and went to kill him, himself. He drove three javelins into his heart but that may mean torso. They may not have killed Absalom immediately so the men with Joab beat Absalom until he died. Rather than take Absalom back to Jerusalem for a proper burial, Joab threw him into a ravine and covered him with stones. This too may be symbolic. If you go back to Deuteronomy 21:20-21 we read that the penalty for a rebellious son was stoning him to death. Messengers returned to Mahanaim with good news of the military victory but terrible news about Absalom. David was overcome with sorrow at the death of his son. It is amazing considering what Absalom had done. But we see a picture here of how much the Lord loves us even when we are sinful, disobedient and rebellious.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
We have seen consequences before in our reading. Today we get another look at them. Not only do we learn things about David today, but we also learn things about God. He chose David to be the second king of Israel. And many times, David is referred to as a man after the Lord's heart. But David is a flawed and sinful human just like the rest of us. The story today is familiar. It is spring when the kings go off to war. They went in the spring because they would be assured of good weather and there would be an abundance of food along their way. This story is set against the war with the Ammonites at Rabbah, their key city. Joab is leading the army and David has stayed home. King David was perhaps 50ish at this time and we read in 2 Samuel 21:15-17 that he had been advised to stay home. But, he could have been with the troops to help plan strategy. He didn't necessarily need to be involved in the fighting. This may have been the first time he did not go off to war and it seems he was bored.
Being up on the roof was not unusual. Many slept on their roofs when it was hot because there would be a breeze that was cooler than sleeping indoors. Bathsheba was a next-door neighbor it seems, she and her husband Uriah the Hittite who was one of King David's thirty, mighty fighting men. He was handpicked by David because of his military prowess. Bathsheba was most likely in the courtyard of her own home when David saw her. David saw her and he wanted her, and he used his power as king to take advantage of Uriah’s wife. Bathsheba became pregnant and sent word to David who then used one sin to cover up another. David committed adulatory and then had Bathsheba's husband Uriah murdered to cover up the adultery. For at least nine months David hid his sins and did not confess them to the Lord. Since David would not come to the Lord, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to him. Though God forgave David, he paid dearly for his sins. It has been said that God does not let his children sin successfully.
So, a bit about Uriah the Hittite. His name means flame of the Lord, or the Lord is Light. The fact that he is a Hittite may mean he was once a foreign mercenary who had become a worshiper of Israel's God. Right away we see another contrast in scripture. There is David, the Lord's anointed king. And there is Uriah, a convert...one who was not born of the faith but who willingly chose it for his own. David used his authority as king to take advantage of Uriah's wife while Uriah fought for the king and Israel. To cover up his sin, David called Uriah home thinking he would go home, have relations with his wife, and it would look like Bathsheba’s child was Uriah's. But Uriah was a dedicated soldier and he refused to enjoy the comforts of home while everyone else was on the battlefield. He is much more righteous than David at this point. Not only had David neglected his duty, but he had also stolen the wife of one of his best warriors. David failed miserably at covering up his sin, so he plotted his loyal soldiers' death. And even worse, Uriah carried the orders for his own death back to Joab, the commander of David's army. Just as David had planned, Uriah died in battle. After the appropriate period of mourning David took Bathsheba as his wife, perhaps in an attempt to make the child look legitimate. David may have been successful in covering up his sin from the people, but the Lord sees everything. And we read the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
Nathan the prophet was the one who had the privilege of delivering the message about God's covenant with David and his descendants. Now Nathan was being called on to confront David and his sins, for the Lord. He does so with a short parable about a rich man and one who is poor. The rich man had great herds and flocks while the poor man had one lamb that was like a daughter to him. When travelers came the rich man did not kill one of his own animals to feed the traveler, he took the poor man's only animal, the lamb. David was incensed by this story and declared that the rich man should pay the poor man back fourfold and he deserved to die. Picture Nathan looking David square in the eye and saying...you are the rich man. Can you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up? Perhaps you can see David slump forward, the weight of his guild nearly crushing him. He had managed to break four of the commandments; coveting, committing adulatory, bearing false witness and killing. And somehow, he seemed to believe he could get away with it. By law, both David and Bathsheba should have been stoned to death for their adultery. Over the course of the rest of his life, David paid dearly for his sins. The child who was born out of adultery died. The sword never left his house and there was always fighting, whether it was with other kings and nations or within his own family. We saw plenty of that is today's reading as well.
It is out of this experience David wrote Psalm 51; a personal lament turned hymn of praise. This is the Psalm we use on Ash Wednesday for our confession. He says to the Lord, ”For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Davis asks to be made clean and that God wash away his sins. He also asks that the Lord create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit in him. He ends by promising to sing of the Lord's praise.
But there is way more in this reading. We see the child of David's sin die and after some time, David and Bathsheba have another son whose name is Solomon. The Ammonites are defeated, and the troops come home. But now there is trouble within David's family. Now we see what happens when there are several wives and many children. The players here are David's daughter Tamar, who was the child of David and Maacah from Geshur, and Amnon who was the son of David and Ahinoam. He was David's firstborn son. Tamar’s natural brother was Absalom. He was a major player in this story and helped turn it from a drama into a tragedy. Jonadab was their cousin, and he was crafty and sly...in other words, dangerous. We learn more about David through all of this. It seems that David could have given Tamar to Amnon as a wife if they had asked, even though they were half brother and sister. But Amnon had some of the same tendencies as his father. He saw a beautiful woman and he wanted her. Nothing could or would stop him from getting what he wanted, and he raped his half-sister. If you look back to David's judgement of the rich man, he said he would have to restore the lamb taken, fourfold. That was the law, and that judgement fell on David's head. His first child with Bathsheba died. Absalom killed Amnon for raping Tamar. Joab killed Absalom during the battle of Mount Ephraim and later Adonijah was killed for trying to usurp the throne from Solomon.
Amnon may have thought since his father got away with adultery and murder, he would get away with raping his sister. There are always consequences, and they are significant here. Absalom’s hate of his brother simmered and stewed for two years before he carried out his plan to kill Amnon, and once he did the rest of his brothers fled in fear. Absalom fled to the king of Geshur to hide. That was the land of his mother. It is several years before Absalom saw his father's face again. David had mourned over the events but there were no real consequences for his sons' behaviors. Like Eli and Samuel before him, David does not discipline his sons and disastrous things happen. Even Joab gets into the mix, trying to reunite David and Absalom. There is so much pain and heartache here and all of it is unnecessary. We know David is a man after God’s heart but there is no indication that his children know the Lord. So once again, when David dies there won't be many left who know the Lord.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
Today we encounter more fighting and bloodshed. When we look at a map, we see that David’s military victories helped him overcome enemies on the North, South, East, and West. On the West were the Philistines. Today this is the Gaza strip…and they are still fighting. On the East were the Moabites. Today this is the country of Jordan. On the North were the Arameans and Syrians. This is modern day Syria and there is always a threat to Israel there. On the South were the Edomites. This too is modern day Jordan. Saul had fought many of these same people and had not been successful. Perhaps the time wasn’t right or maybe, Saul had moved so far away from the Lord that He didn’t help Saul in battle anymore. If we were to look at David’s victories in light of God’s covenant promises, we would see that when God had given the Israelites the promised land, it was to stretch from the Mediterranean Sea all the way East to the Euphrates River. We would also see that the Israelites barely managed to conquer enough of the land of Canaan to have a place to live. Now we see David moving East to fulfill the promise of land. Israel lost territory during Saul’s reign and now David had recaptured all of that plus he had gained more. Once David had captured these territories, he set up garrisons in those lands to maintain Israel’s authority and the people became vassals under David’s authority. David was a man of faith and he believed God’s promises. He acted on them for the honor of the Lord and for the blessings of His people.
David’s victories also meant peace for the Israelites. That meant they could lead normal lives and didn’t always have to watch over their shoulders to see who might be attacking them next. God had promised rest and now they were experiencing it. The other piece of David’s military victories was the accumulation of vast quantities of gold, silver, bronze, and precious stones. Eventually David would leave these for his son Solomon to use in building the temple of the Lord. Being king wasn’t just aboutmilitary victories, however. It was also about administrative duties that came with managing the affairs of an ever-growing country. We read that David ruled with justice and righteousness and he served all the people. Saul’s reign had been dark, stormy,and painful for many. David brought a new hope, calm in the storm, and justice. When we take a look at the advisors David has choses there is one that stands out. He chose Benaiah as the officer over his bodyguards. What makes this unusual is that Benaiah was a priest. Priests became prophets but becoming an army officer was very different.
We also see the kindness of God in David. He was still looking for ways to honor his late friend Jonathan. Jonathan had one son, Mephibosheth, who was crippled. David had inherited all ofSaul’s possessions when Saul died, and David was free to do with them as he wished. Here we see him being kind to the last remaining member of Saul’s house. But there are scholars who paint a different picture here. Allow me to share it. They see David’s kindness to Mephibosheth as a picture of God’s kindness to lost sinners. David had promised to not execute Jonathan’s family in defeat and David kept that promise and went beyond what he would have had to. No one in Israel could have shown this kindness to Mephibosheth except David because he was the king. Being able to inherit all of Saul’s possessions and disposing them as he saw fit is a picture of the son of David, Jesus Christ, who through His death, resurrection, and ascension had been glorified on the throne of heaven and can now disperse His spiritual riches to needy sinners. The nameDavid means beloved, and Jesus is God’s beloved Son, sent to earth to save lost sinners.
David could no longer show any love or kindness to Jonathan,so he looked out for his son. Traditionally the family of the prior king would have been killed so there was no competition for the throne. Yet David showed undeserved kindness. We are called and saved not because we deserve anything from God, but for the sake of God’s son Jesus Christ. In His grace God gives us what we do not deserve, and, in His mercy, He does not give us that which we do deserve. When Mephibosheth arrived at the palace, he may well have known fear. But if he had listened to his father, he would have known his father and David were the best of friends. David immediately assured him there was nothing to fear and invited him to live at the palace and eat at the king’s table. David had eaten at Saul’s table and it had nearly cost him his life. But Mephibosheth would sit at David’s table without fear. David made the first move, reaching out to Mephibosheth, a reminder that it is the Lord who reaches out to us. Mephibosheth looked at himself as a dead dog, yet he was given a new life in David’s household. We are dead in our sins and Jesus offers us a new life. God supplies all our needs, not out of an earthly king’s treasury but according to His riches in glory. David was a man after God’s own heart and he was a shepherd who had special concerns for the lame of the flock,those normally considered worthless.
Lastly, we see the story of good intentions gone awry. The Ammonite king died, and David sent a delegation to bring his condolences. The king had been kind to David, and he wanted to show his respect. Showing kindness also has the connotation of making a covenant or treaty and David may have sought to make a treaty with the next king. But David’s military might preceded him and the Ammonites were fearful the delegation was sent to spy out the land. Rather than ask why the Israelites were there the Ammonites made an assumption and treated the delegation as enemies. They captured the Israelite delegation, shaved off half their beards and cut off their official garments mid backside. All this was a warning and an act of humiliation. To mess with a man’s beard was a great insult and the Jews were called to dress modestly so exposing the men’s bodies was even more embarrassing. This was treating them as though they were prisoners of war and it also meant some of the tassels of their garments would have been cut off. Not only was this a humiliation but it proved to be a fatal mistake on the part of the Ammonites.
New clothes were not a problem, but it takes time for hair to grow, and the men stayed in Jericho until they were presentable once again. New clothes and beards would not erase old hurts and insults but by their actions the Ammonites not only insulted the delegation of Israelites, but they also insulted King David. This was really a declaration of war. The new king of the Ammonites was not really prepared for war, especially against David and his seasoned warriors. The new king Hunan called in reinforcements from the Assyrians and Arameans but under David’s army the others were fearful, and many fled rather than face getting killed. David came personally to lead the second battle against the Assyrians, and they defeated them. The Assyrians became vassals of Israel, subject to Israel for many years. It was the next battle, against Rabbah that David remained in Jerusalem. We will see the results of that decision tomorrow.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W