Monday, December 31, 2012

An Unbeliever's Prayer

Read 2 Kings 13.

Every one of Israel's kings during the divided kingdom period proved to be evil.  So, God "continually" used the Syrians to discipline them for their false worship and wicked behaviors.  Jehoahaz cried out to the LORD for help "and the LORD listened to him." (v.4)

God sent an unnamed person to bring about the deliverance of Israel in answer to the king's prayer.  The people were spared.  They experienced a time of peace.  Everyone went back to their own homes.

But, spiritually, nothing changed with them.  The Asherah was a tree or a pole dedicated to the worship of the sea goddess.  Often, she was deemed a cohort of other mythical gods, including Baal.

Jehoahaz' prayer appears to be like the so-called soldier's foxhole prayer: "God if you will get me out of this, I will do whatever you want."   Then, once the pressure is off, any promises made to the LORD are quickly forgotten.  How easily God is often blamed for the stressing and not given credit for the blessing!

Someone once said, "In bad times people pray.  In good times people play."  God is not an exit door "to be used only in case of an emergency".

It is an incredible reality that the God of heaven desires a personal and constant relationship with each of us.
Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  (John 11:28)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Generosity gets the job Done

Read 2 Kings 12.

Nearly 175 years had passed since Solomon built the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem.  Understandably, some restorative repairs became needful.  King Joash ordered that the money for the work be taken from the census and freewill offerings collected by the Temple priests.  But after sixteen years that method proved to be insufficient to meet the need.  There were no extra funds for the repairs and therefore no repairs had been done.

So, Joash announced a special project offering that would be kept separate from the regular Temple operation expenses.  A chest made for this purpose was set right next to the altar for these gifts of generosity.  The monies were given directly to the workmen who did the restoration.

The principles here have not changed for the local church today.
1. Tithe monies are to be used to support the various ministries and ministers.
2. Giving is directly linked to worship.
3. Every project in the Bible was accomplished with over and above money, not with tithes.
4. Tithing is a responsibility of a believer in Jesus, prior to and after the Mosaic law was fulfilled.  Giving over and above the ten percent is generosity that is a part of a mature believer's practice.    

In one of the most quoted passages regarding generosity giving to a project, the Apostle Paul wrote:
"Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What does it mean to be the LORD's people?

Read 2 Kings 11.

When the king in the southern kingdom of Judah died, Athaliah, his wicked mother, seized the throne.  It is hard to imagine someone being so power hungry that they would kill every family member.  But thanks to the merciful act of Jehosheba, Athaliah's grandson was hidden from the slaughter.

After more than six years, God raised up Jehoida, the priest, to implement a plan to overthrow Athaliah and to once again spiritually cleanse the nation.  Joash, though just a boy, was crowned king of Judah with his spiritual mentor making the decisions.

"And Jehoida made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD's people..." (v.17)

What does it mean to be the LORD's people?
It meant that they would live to please and obey God.  It meant that they would get rid of anything that displeased the LORD.  This was a new beginning for the nation.

As we embark on this new year, it is an appropriate time for some self-evaluation before the LORD.  In what ways are we pleasing Him now?  What needs to be added to our daily disciplines?  What needs to be deleted from our lives in order to wholly obey Him?  What commitments do we need to make now in order to be a growing believer in Jesus? 

I am glad to be counted among the LORD's people.

Friday, December 28, 2012

God Keeps His Promises

Read 2 Kings 8-10.

Time and again the scriptures record how God keeps His promises.

To the Shunammite widow we met in chapter 4, God protected her by letting her know in advance that there would be a famine for seven years.  She left the country for that time and the LORD took care of her.  When she returned God gave her favor with the king to restore her house and land.  Even more, he ordered that she be given seven years of produce from the land.

Next, in Syria, God revealed to Elisha that King Ben-hadad would die and Hazael would reign in his place.  It happened, just as He said.

Then, the LORD had to deal with Jehoram, king of Judah.  He was an evil king.  "Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever." (8:19)

Elisha instructed a nameless prophet to anoint Jehu as king of Israel.  His charge was to rid the country of the wickedness and sorceries of Ahab and Jezebel.  God used Jehu to fulfill the promises that were made in 1 Kings 21 by Elijah.  Finally, the murder of the innocent man, Naboth, had been avenged. 

Further, Jehu obeyed the LORD in executing all of Ahab's descendants and all the false prophets in Israel.  In the process of spiritually cleansing the nation he stated, "Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the LORD." (10:10a)

The wheels of God's justice may turn slowly (to us) but they do turn.  God works His justice through kings and nations.  Government overthrows and powers are in His hand.  What God promises He will fulfill.  His word is without error and totally reliable.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Prepare for the windows of heaven to Open

Read 2 Kings 7.

Syria took military action again.  This time they laid siege to Samaria.  Their tactic was simply to starve the city to death.  The plan was working until the king of Israel had had enough and blamed Elisha.  When the captain arrived, whom the king sent to arrest Elisha, Elisha prophesied that all would be well.  There would be plenty of food and provisions for the city within twenty-four hours.

The captain did not believe this word from the LORD.  He scoffed that even if God made "windows in heaven" it would not happen.  Without any assistance from Israel, God confused the Syrian army so that they fled in panic.  They left behind all their food, clothing, valuables and animals.  The city of Samaria had more than they could use.  But unbelief cost the captain his life.

How does God open the windows of heaven?  The LORD is not limited in His ability to meet our needs.  He does not drop money out of the sky.  The resources He wants to give to His people are already here and nearer than we could imagine.  If we can earn it all without dependence on Him or if we feel we deserve it, then we could claim it as our own.  But when we know we did not deserve it and He surprises us with His grace, then He alone gets the credit and the glory.

First, we are to honor God with what He has already provided.  "Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need."  (Malachi 3:10)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Do you see God's chariots of fire?

Read 2 Kings 6.

The Syrian king, Ben-hadad, repeatedly sought to attack Israel.  But each time God revealed the plans to Elisha who in turn informed the king of Israel.  Israel could not have had a better source of military intelligence.  It was God's way of protecting the northern kingdom.

Once Ben-hadad discovered the source of the "intelligence leak", he sent his troops to capture Elisha.  They surrounded the city with their chariots, ready to advance.  Surely, Elisha's servant was not the only one to be scared.  But Elisha could see what no one else did.  He saw what God was doing to protect all of them.  He prayed, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see" (v.17).  God had encircled Elisha with horses and chariots of fire.  Then, the LORD struck the enemy with blindness so they were unable to move.  Humorously, Elisha led the Syrian army into the capital city of Israel.  Instead of killing them, a feast was provided and the king of Israel sent them back home safely.  Only God.

In times of fear-
1. Pray to see the problem from a spiritual perspective.  What is God doing?  It was not Syria against Elisha but Syria against God. (v.16)

2. Pray that others will see the problem from God's perspective. (v.17)

3. Pray directly for God's power to be displayed. (v.18)

4. Exercise wisdom that will result in peace. (v.23)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Testing: what are the Results?

Read 2 Kings 5.

Naaman is described as "a great man", "in high favor", and "a mighty man".  He served the king of Syria as an army general.  Further, it was because of Naaman "the LORD had given victory to Syria."  That would seem to indicate that he was a just man, trying to do right, even though he did not know the LORD.  Now the tests begin to unfold in his life.

Test #1.  He had leprosy.  This meant he would live the rest of his life as an outcast and unable to be close to people.  This had to be humiliating for such a national leader.  How would he respond?

Test #2.  In one of his conquests, he had captured a young Jewish girl and given her to his wife as a slave.  The girl remembered that there was a prophet in Israel who could help with this leprosy.  Would this great man listen to the advice of a foreign slave girl?

Test #3.  With papers of passage, he left Syria and rode to the king of Israel in Samaria.  His purpose was totally misunderstood.  King Joram took it as a personal threat and became greatly upset at the prospect of war with Syria.  How would Naaman feel at this point?  Would his hopes be dashed?  Would he have to stand there and be embarrassed before this king?  Would his life be threatened?  As a general, would he begin a battle plan?

Test #4.  God had Elisha intervene.  The mighty general rode up to "the door" with his entourage and thought he would receive some memorable display of prophetic power from Elisha.  But Elisha never even came to the door.  Naaman was immediately offended.  Would he let pride get in the way of what he really needed and wanted?

It is through the tests of life that God endeavors to gain our attention to draw us to Himself.  His first purpose is for us to come to know Him personally.  The tests from then on are directed for our spiritual growth and trust in Him.

Naaman had a physical problem and looked to Elisha for a show of miraculous power.  Instead, what God wanted from Naaman was a demonstration of humble obedience.  When he became willing to obey, then the miracle happened.  The physical results were temporal.  The more important miracle is what took place inside Naaman.  He became spiritually awakened and worshipped the true and living God.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Preparing to be Blessed

Read 2 Kings 4.

Elisha's double portion of Elijah's spirit continues to be on display in this chapter.  It contains three more miracles.

The first opportunity came from a widow of one of the prophets.  With her husband gone and no means of support, she was being foreclosed upon by creditors.  Evidently, she had no property as collateral, so her two sons would be taken as debtor slaves.  Elisha used a tactic often employed by Jesus.  The need appeared obvious but there was more than one way to resolve the issue.  He asked her thoughtful questions.

Some transferable insights for us:
1. Throughout the Old and New Testament, God has ordered special attention and care for widows and orphans.
2. Giving money to the needy is not always the best way to resolve the problem.
3. When there is a desperate need, it is good and right to ask ourselves and others some clarifying questions. 
4. The key question is-"What do you already have"?  Often, the answer is not money but what is readily available to use for a solution beyond the immediate crisis.  It may not seem like much, but with God's blessing it can be enough.
5. Get ready to receive.  This requires an act of faith.  God will not waste His resources.  Why would He bless those who have no capacity to receive it.  The widow prepared to receive the blessing by expanding her capacity.  It was only a bunch of empty pots.  Note: God only gave her what she had prepared to receive.  Once all the pots were full, the blessing stopped. 
6. In two of the miracles in this chapter Elisha gave instructions to "shut the door".  These miracles were not done as a side-show to draw a crowd.  Many times God works in private in order to reward openly.

I want to do the things today that will expand my capacity for God to bless and use me in the future.    

Friday, December 21, 2012

Whom do you turn to?

Read 2 Kings 3.

The king of Moab grew tired of providing enormous amounts of taxation in the form of food and clothing to Israel.  This rebellion demanded a military response.  The kings of Israel, Judah and Edom formed a quick alliance and set out for battle.

Their strategy caused them to march in areas where there was no water.  Only now do they want to inquire of God.  So, they sent for Elisha.  Before Elisha did anything, he pointed out to Jehoshaphat that with all the false prophets in Israel, none of them could help when he needed it.  Meeting even the vast needs of armies and animals with that much water was no problem for God.  "This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD" (verse 18a).  Besides that, the LORD guaranteed their victory.

When the king of Moab realized he could not win, he resorted to a desperate act for help according to his pagan worship.  He sacrificed his own son as an offering to a made-up god.  This was so repulsive that everyone returned home disgusted.

1. God is a person with whom we are to have a personal, intimate relationship. 
2. God is not an insurance policy that is only used when there is a disaster.
3. There is only One in heaven who can truly help us.  All other sources of help will eventually prove to be poor substitutes at best and evil at worst.

As Edward Mote penned, "On Christ the solid Rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand."

Monday, December 17, 2012

We need God's Intervention

Read 2 Kings 2.

All the prophets in Judah knew that Elijah's ministry had come to a close.  Elisha would become his successor as Judah's leading spiritual prophet.  Elisha closely followed Elijah as he anticipated the moment of transition.  The two traveled eastward to Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan River.  Crossing the river proved to be no problem.  Elijah just rolled up his outer garment and struck the water.  The two of them walked across on dry ground.  This is the second time this miracle occurred.  The first took place in Joshua 3.  Fifty other prophets of God, watching from a distance, witnessed the miracle.

As the mentor prepared to leave, he asked Elisha, "What shall I do for you"?  Elisha wanted a double portion of Elijah's spirit.  Under the Old Testament law, the firstborn could receive a double portion of the inheritance.  But Elisha did not ask for an inheritance of an estate.  He wanted to continue the ministry of Elisha with a double portion of God's power upon him.

Elijah is one of two men in the Bible who do not have a recorded death.  In Genesis 5:24, Enoch "walked with God and was not for God took him".   Many would also include Moses.  However, there are several verses in the Bible that use the word dead or death concerning him.

The confirmation of God's power upon Elisha was not only in witnessing Elijah ascension into heaven, but in the actions that followed.  It was not personal power but dependence upon the power of God indicating his spiritual leadership to everyone around him.  Those same fifty prophets watched as Elisha also parted the the Jordan River. This marked the third time for this same miracle.

Whenever God is visibly at work, expect the Evil One to also try to counter it or destroy it.  The test came almost immediately.  Young men, not children, treated Elisha with contempt.  This must be interpreted as verbal abuse, making fun of his appearance, but, even more, slandering the work of God and Elisha as a servant of God.
Elisha's question in verse 14 is one for us today.  "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?"  This was not asking for God's location.  No.  He anticipated God's intervention!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The number one block to Hope

Read 2 Kings 1.

People who do not have a personal relationship with the LORD will spiritually search when they have a need.

Ahaziah was an evil king over Israel.  But as he lay dying from an accident he wanted spiritual intervention.  For him, he turned to the made up god called Baal-zebub.  Instead, God sent Elijah.

The lesson is in the process that brought about Elijah actually being allowed by God to go.  The majority of the Jews lives in the northern kingdom of Israel.  They separated from the south, then known as the kingdom of Judah.  The problem was that Jerusalem with the Temple was in the south.  Spiritually, the north had cut themselves off from their true center of worship.  Elijah's message from God in the form of question underscored the issue.

King Ahaziah thought he would display his royal power and authority by sending troops to order Elijah to appear before him.  Underneath the surface of this action was the spiritual battle.  It was not the king against Elijah.  It was the hubris of Ahaziah and his rebellion against the God of heaven.  Unfortunately, the king's pride costs the lives of many men.  Finally, the third captain understood.  With great humility, he pleaded with Elijah for his life and that of his men.

There was no repentance of sin on the part of Ahaziah.  In his hurt, he just wanted help from any spiritual source.  Here the true spiritual help he really needed and the hope he needed for eternity was right in front of him.  "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."  Proverbs 16:18

"...'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'  Submit yourselves therefore to God." 
James 4:6b-7a

Friday, December 7, 2012

Examining what you Hear

Read 1 Kings 22.

This is a rare account when the king of Israel and the king of Judah sat down peaceably and planned anything together.  The question at hand was whether to go to war against Syria.  All of Ahab's prophets immediately supported the king's desire to go to war.  But Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was a godly man and realized that something was not right.  They summoned Micaiah.

Micaiah was not like the hired prophets of Ahab at all.  He declared, "As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak" (v.14).  This true prophet of God revealed the nature of false prophets.  They "entice" (vv.20-22) the hearers who pay them with what they want to hear, not what God's word says.  Therefore, they are lying when they speak (v.22).  The words sound good to the undiscerning, but they are empty concerning what God wants done.  They become socially acceptable and repugnant to the LORD.

As Micaiah was led away to prison for telling the truth, he delivered a prophetic word concerning Ahab.  The certainty of the prophecy was that Ahab would not return from the battle in peace.  Indeed, Ahab died as a result of a so-called random arrow that hit the one person in just the right place to fulfill the prophecy.  This was no coincidence.  God took care of the pouting, evil king and fulfilled the original gruesome prophecy of his death in 1 Kings 21:24.
Just because someone has a religious position or says they know what God wants does not make it so.  There have always been false prophets who do not know the LORD, nor His word, and only go through the motions of their religion.  When the Apostle Paul preached in Berea, the people who heard him even checked his message with God's written word to see if it was truthful.  We should all follow their daily example.

"...they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." (Acts 17:11)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When the leader fails to lead, everyone pays a price.

Read 1 Kings 21.

This is the story of a pouting king and the consequences of selfish, evil behaviors.

Underlying principles that Ahab violated:
1. We are to respect the rights of others.
2. We are to respect the heritage of others.
3. We are never to abuse power for personal gain.  That is the definition of extortion.
4. We are to take swift and decisive action when we become aware of wrong doing.

If the person responsible will not take action, someone else will fill that vacuum and the outcome may not be honorable.

Mistakes and sins to avoid committed by Jezebel:
1. She took up another's offense.  She should have reminded her husband that he plenty of food and land already.  She should have been an encourager to him.
2. She took responsibility and authority that were not hers.  There was no crisis for her to usurp authority.  She used the king's power to do evil.
3. She lied and that about an innocent man.
4. She devised an evil scheme and abused the legal system to execute an innocent man.  Those in charge of such judgments became directly and knowingly involved in the corruption.

God sent Elijah to condemn these two for what they did.
1. Ahab "sold" himself to do evil. (v.20)
2. Ahab "made Israel sin." (v.23)
3. Ahab allowed Jezebel to incite him to do evil. (v.25)

Yes, Ahab repented at the news of the impending disasters.  God did not change His mind.  He did delay implementing a part of the judgment.

King David wrote wise words for us today-
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." (Psalm 19:14) 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where is my Help?

Read 1 Kings 20. 

The king of Syria with an allied force from 32 other kings mustered to conquer Ahab and the northern kingdom of Israel.  When negotiations failed, the two sides readied themselves for battle.

God sent an unnamed prophet to Ahab with this message, "Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD" (v.13b).  Amazingly, after all of Ahab's rebellion and evil, God continued to reveal Himself to Ahab.  After all, these are God's chosen people and He wants them to turn to Him.

Though enormously outnumbered, Israel set themselves toward the enemy.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the battle line, the advisers to Ben-hadad was to fight in the plain of the land.  Why?  "Their gods are gods of the hills and so they are stronger than we" (v.23).  In their pagan way of thinking, they believed that a war could be won by pleasing one made up god over another. 

When the LORD heard this, He sent a prophet to Ahab, "Thus says the LORD, 'Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD is a god of the hills but he in not a god of the valleys," therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD" (v.28).  The battle was not Israel against Syria, but Syria against God.  It was all about HIM.  God wants all nations to know who He is and of His power; that included Ahab. 127,000 enemy soldiers died that day from a rout of 7,000 from Israel.  Only God.

They looked the gods of the hills, instead of the God who made the hills.  Many today look to the stars, instead of the God who made the stars.  The Psalmist looked at the hills and asked the life changing question.

Psalm 121:1-2 "I will lift my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Time for a Break

Read 1 Kings 19.

Elijah faced down a king and 450 false prophets.  He saw God answer prayer and use him in one of the great demonstrations of God's power in the Old Testament.  Yet, when the evil Jezebel threatened to kill him he ran in fear.

Why would such a strong prophet of God do this?  And, how would God respond to him?

It appears in verse 4 that Elijah was an exhausted man--physically, mentally, and spiritually.  All he wanted to do was find a safe, quiet place to sit and, perhaps, die.  He did not want to do this anymore.  He wanted out.  Anyone who has experienced burn-out can identify with Elijah at this point.

Notice how the LORD does not rebuke Elijah but very patiently nurses the prophet back to health.
1. He needed sleep.
2. He needed food.
3. He needed more sleep.
4. God sent him on a travel adventure to Horeb.
More than a month and a half went by without God confronting Elijah about anything.

At Horeb, the LORD delivered His message, but watch how He began.  He did not start with a lecture, but a simple question: "What are you doing here?"  God often used this technique.  In the very first confrontation in the Bible, to Adam: "Where are you?"  To Jonah: "Do you do well to be angry...?" and others.  He asked questions, not because He did not know the answer, but because He wanted the person to verbalize their feelings and the problem.  Elijah was afraid, discouraged, and lonely.

Elijah did not need a seminar on loneliness or counseling about discouragement.  Instead, God refreshed the personal relationship and showed again His miraculous power.  But the call from God to get up and get back to work did not come in the loud, powerful displays.  No.  It came in the quiet, whisper of God's voice.

I believe God is speaking...through the scriptures and into our spirits every day.  We need daily times alone with God and listen to what He has to say to us.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Make up your Mind

Read 1 Kings 18.

Three years passed.  The famine in Israel was so great the king had to search the land for grass to feed the animals.  Meanwhile, Jezebel sat at her royal table and fed 450 false prophets of the god Baal.  It was time for God to intervene again.  He sent Elijah to meet with Ahab for a showdown. 

This was not an ego-driven power game between Ahab and Elijah.  Rather, it was a public opportunity for God to display His power and bring Israel to repent of its false worship.  The challenge is in verse 21: "How long will you go limping between two different opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him."

The Hebrew word translated "limping" in the ESV means "to hop".  It may be used of one who steps as if lame or dances.  The nation claimed by heritage to be the people of God, chosen by Him from the time of Abraham.  Yet, their lives and resources went to worship a made-up god of their choosing and reject any claim the God of heaven made upon them.  Doing both is not possible.  It was time for them to make up their minds.

The confrontation is graphically detailed for us.  The prophets of Baal prepared their sacrifice, danced (ESV="limped", same word as above) around, cried out, and cut themselves in self-punishment for their sin.  But after all that, "there was no voice.  No one answered; no one paid attention" (v.29b).

So many people claim they believe in God, even believe the Bible, yet there is no evidence in the way they think, speak or live.  When trouble comes, tragedy strikes, they cry out but all the stuff they lived for does not help them.

Elijah's prayer was simple: "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back."

Friday, November 30, 2012

God acted. How do you Respond?

Read 1 Kings 17.

Three acts of God with varying different responses.

Even after the death of his son, proving the word of God to be accurate, King Ahab of Israel did not repent of his sin.  But God acted and sent the Prophet Elijah to announce that rain would be withheld for three years.  The drought was devastating to the entire nation.  Everyone suffered.

God instructed Elijah to cross the Jordan River and leave the country.  There God provided for him.  Next, God sent Elijah to Zarephath and have a widow take care of him.

The unnamed widow was destitute.  Due to the drought there were no crops which meant that food had become scarce.  To demand her to feed him seemed cruel.  But God acted to provide for her, her household and Elijah.  There is no recorded response from this widow to what the LORD had done for her...yet.

Then, her son died.  The widow's first reaction was guilt for her sin and that this death was a punishment.  But God acted to bring her son back to life.  Her words appear to reveal that prior to this she only observed what God had to say and what He did for her.  The light went on and faith became personal.  "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth."

Ahab experienced the painful consequences of disobeying God's word and refused to repent.

The widow experienced God's blessings and showed no change.

The widow experienced a spiritual confrontation about her sin and she personally embraced God's word as truth.

God is at work throughout every day of our lives.  The question is: Are we paying attention to what God is doing throughout the day and responding obediently?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ignoring God's Word comes with a Price

Read 1 Kings 16.

Once the kingdom divided, there was not one good king in the northern kingdom of Israel.  One right after the other, these leaders did evil and led the people in false worship.  Each time this provoked the LORD to anger.  And, each time that leader came to some tragic end.

With the demise of a king also came the killing of at least all the males in his family who might desire to claim a right to the throne.  Many times total destruction of possessions, property, even cities belonging to the king ensued.  In short, when one person does evil many people suffer the consequences.

Next, Ahab became king of Israel.  He married Jezebel and worshipped the false god Baal.  There is no argument that Jezebel was an awful, sinful woman.  But, concerning Ahab, the scripture states that he "did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him" (v.30).  He thought he could do whatever he wanted in total disregard for the God of heaven.

One of his famous projects was to rebuild the ancient city of Jericho.  In Joshua 6, when the walls of Jericho fell and the Israelites conquered that city, Joshua pronounced a prophecy.  "Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.  'At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates'" (Joshua 6:26).  Though more than 600 years had passed, God's word proved true and Ahab's family experienced this painful consequence.

God means what He says.  His word is totally reliable.  Neither His word, nor His character, changes with time or culture.  This provides all the confidence we need to live for Him today.  He is worthy of our trust.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

"Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.  Your faithfulness endures to all generations;" (Psalm 119:89-90a)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Watch your Influence

Read 1 Kings 15.

Abijam became king of Judah.  He was the great-grandson of David.  The scriptures are clear that Abijam continued the sinful practices of his father Reoboam and "was not wholly true to the LORD his God" (v.3).  However, notice that God remained faithful to the promises He made to David.

Next, Asa, David's great-great-grandson became king of Judah.  He was a good king and pleased the LORD in his life and in his leadership of the nation.  It required spiritual courage and boldness to cleanse the nation morally, even removing his own mother from her national position.

Meanwhile in the northern kingdom of Israel, the kings that followed Jeroboam aggressively maintained their evil ways. 

There is a huge reminder for all us here.  We never truly know how our decisions and actions directly affect those around us, particularly the generations within our own family.  Our personal spiritual commitments and our moral choices leave a legacy for others to remember us and follow.  The Apostle Paul wrote: "For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself." Romans 14:7

Every interaction with others is a moment of influence.  May all who come behind us find us faithful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Today is filled with Opportunities

Read 1 Kings 14.

The LORD is good and gracious.  He gives each person opportunities to use the resources He has provided to accomplish His purposes.  Think of those opportunities as tests.  Success or failure depends on doing what God wanted done.  When a person refuses to listen and obey God, He will  eventually intervene to gain their attention. 

Here we are told that it was God who divided the kingdom and set Jeroboam as king over the ten northern tribes.  These steps were meant to discipline "the house of David" and to test Jeroboam.  In spite of the prophet's warning, Jeroboam used this God-given opportunity to pursue his made up religion and lead the people to do evil.  God then intervened.  Feeling totally hopeless, the king sent his wife in disguise to seek God's help.  And, indeed, God had a message waiting.

The very direct message explained the details of Jeroboam's opportunity and failure.  He did what was right in his own eyes, praying to metal images that he had made, "and have cast me behind your back" (v.9).  The prophecy includes the loss of the entire family of Jeroboam, the total destruction of his kingdom, and the capture of the northern tribes by an invading army from the north (Assyria). 

In the southern kingdom of Judah, things were not any better.  Headquartered in Jerusalem, they had Solomon's beautiful Temple, priests and prophets.  Yet, King Rehoboam led the nation to worship false gods "under every green tree" v.23).  So, God intervened.  For them he used Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt, to take away the nation's treasured possessions.

If we understand who the Owner is and what He wants done, then we will use the opportunities God gives us today to obey and please Him.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Does it matter? Yes it does.

Read 1 Kings 13

We all do not worship the same God.  So, what does the LORD, creator of heaven and earth, think of made-up religion?

Jeroboam, the king of northern ten tribes of Israel, decided to make up his own worship and build his own altars.  This was done to prevent the people from traveling to Jerusalem in the southern kingdom to worship.  He did not have to wait long to discover what God thought his false religion.  God sent an unnamed prophet from Judah to deliver His message.

The king's attempt to stop the prophet resulted in a physical deformity and his altar destroyed.  When Jeroboam saw the power of God, he asked for prayer.  Note that he did not ask for forgiveness of his sin, nor to lead the people in a right way, but only for his hand to be restored.  Jeroboam continued in his sinful religion, seeking to worship God on his own terms (vv.33-34).  This worship on a mountain in Samaria prompted the discussion centuries later with Jesus in John 4.

When God is at work in one life, He is simultaneouly at work in all the lives around that person.  This is not only an account regarding Jeroboam, but this prophet, as well.  The prophet was given strict and specific orders.  He had been given a mission with a message.  The prophet delivered the message but failed to obey the mission.  Who would ever want this on their tombstone: "It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the LORD" (v.26a)?

Jeroboam thought he could just do something religious and please God.  The prophet thought he could speak the message, pray, and then do whatever he wanted.  Both were tragically wrong.

Jesus said, "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." (John 4:23)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Are you listening?

Read 1 Kings 12.

Now we are told the details of the rift that divided the nation.  The majority of the people had thrown their allegiance to Jeroboam.  However, they sent for Solomon's heir apparent, Rehoboam, who was living in Egypt at the time.  The number one issue that needed change in order to keep the nation together was taxes.  Solomon's tax burden on the people had become unbearable.

Rehoboam had an opportunity before him that needed the wisdom of his father.  He sought counsel from his father's counselors who advised him to lower the taxes and serve the people.  Then, he went to his young foolish friends who told him he should exercise the power of his position and raise taxes.  With that the kingdom divided and Rehoboam prepared for civil war.

As the new northern kingdom settled in, it became apparent that the people would want to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem for worship.  To counter this, Jeroboam made up his own religion.  As a result, most of the nation plunged into false worship away from the LORD.

The surface issue may have been taxes, but the root issue was much deeper.  When one begins to demand their own way and refuse to listen, sin will be the result.

Rehoboam did not listen to wise counsel. (v.8)

Rehoboam did not listen to the people. (v.16)

Rehoboam did finally listen to God. (24)

Jeroboam did not listen to God.  "This thing became a sin" (v.30)

May our hearts be open and pliable as Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:10-"Speak, LORD, for your servant hears."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Warning: Guard your Heart

Read 1 Kings 11.

Up to this point, Solomon sounded almost perfect.  But now we learn just how human he was.

Two weaknesses became evident:
1. The desire for women more than maintaining a faithful relationship with a wife.
2. The desire to please others more than maintaining a faithful relationship with God .

Though his marriages may have been mostly for political expediency, these pagan women turned his heart to worshipping their false gods.  The ones named in this chapter are of the worst sort in terms of immorality and even human sacrifices.

God knew Solomon's weaknesses and, therefore, clearly warned him.  Such a warning was not solely directed at Solomon but based upon Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 17:17).  Ignoring and/or disobeying God's Word is sin and will have dire consequences 100% of the time.  The LORD loves His people too much to allow them to continue in sin.

After years of peace and prosperity, the LORD raised up an adversary.  Allowing adversity is one way God deals with sin in the lives of His people.

Because Solomon had a divided heart for God, he left a divided kingdom.  Jeroboam, a trust leader turned enemy, became the ruling king over the ten northern tribes of Israel.  The two southern tribes, Judah (the largest of the twelve) and Benjamin (the smallest) were ruled by Solomon's son, Rehoboam. 

It is a sad finish for the life of this great king and a warning to all of us.  "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." (Proverbs 4:23)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The purpose of our Blessings from God

Read 1 Kings 10.

This chapter tells of a pinnacle in Solomon's reign.  Everything appeared to be beyond belief.  His ability to understand and apply wisdom to every situation became internationally known and sought.  His riches surpassed anything the world has ever seen.  Indeed, verse 27 states that silver became as common as rocks.

We are provided one vignette of his encounter with world leaders.  The Queen of Sheba came for a visit.  Do not miss what took her breath away and how she responded.  More than the wisdom and wealth was his worship and sacrifice to the LORD (v.5).  Notice that Solomon's riches and power were not oppressive to those in his kingdom.  The Queen took note that everyone around Solomon was blessed.  And, then came her most important pronouncement:

"Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel!  Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness." (v.10)

1. She praised God as the source of all these blessings.

2. She realized that the LORD is ultimately in control of national leadership.

3. She understood the main responsibilites of leadership is to make decisions that are just and to do what is right.

God blesses us to be a blessing and to point others to Him.

Psalm 40:3-"He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

God has something to Say

Read 1 Kings 9.

The LORD appeared to Solomon again, just as he did before.  What do we learn about God from this passage?

1. God hears and answers prayer. (v. 3a)
Solomon's prayer was for God's glory and worship.  It pleased the LORD to respond positively.

2. God's "eyes and My heart will be there for all time." (v.3b)
The land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple site in particular, have God's special attention.  He has plans for that area today, just as He stated here some 3000 years ago.  Solomon's father, David, wrote in one of his songs, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  May they be secure who love you!" (Psalm 122:6)

3. God holds individuals accountable for their obedience to Him. (vv.4-9)
Even the king served under God's accountability.  This is true whether a person acknowledges the LORD or not.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."  (Psalm 19:14)

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Leader prays for his Nation

Read 1 Kings 8:22-66.

What a powerful scene this is!  The Temple was breathtaking.  God displayed His presence and stopped the celebration.  Then, the king of the most powerful nation stood, stretched his hands out toward heaven and publicly prayed.

There is so much in this prayer about Solomon's understanding of who God is and how the LORD works in the lives of people.  Here are just a few of those:
-God keeps His promises.
-God shows steadfast love "to your servants who walk before you with all their heart" (v.23).
-God raises up leaders by Divine appointment.  In Solomon's case it was in accord with the promise made to David.
-God hears our prayers and forgives sin.  Such prayer and forgiveness is repeatedly coupled with the people turning from their sin.
-God knows and responds to individuals according to each one's heart (v.39).
-God knows there is no one who does not sin (v.46).

What is the overriding purpose of this Temple, its dedication, and Solomon's prayer?
"That all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.  Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day" (vv.60-61).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When God stopped the Service

Read 1 Kings 8.

The construction of the Temple and its surrounding areas were completed.  The furnishings had all been put in their position.  However, the most important part, The Holy of Holies, the place for the Ark of the Covenant, remained empty. Solomon and the Levites understood what care was needed to transport the Ark and what this would mean once the priests set it inside the Temple.

As David discovered, death could be the result of failing to follow God's clear instructions.  The Ark was to be moved on poles, carried by the priests.  It contained the two tablets God gave to Moses (the Law).  Then, the visible presence of God, like a cloud, filled the Temple.  The LORD stopped the celebration so they would simply stand in awe of His presence.

The wings of the cherubim spread out over the precious box.  Once a year, the High Priest (and only the High Priest) was allowed in that sacred spot.  Representing the nation, on the Day of Atonement, he would go in and sprinkle sacrificial blood on top of the Ark.  Therefore, when God looked down at the demands of the law, He saw them through the shed blood of the atoning sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:22b-"...and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."  When Jesus shed His blood on the cross is was the full and final payment for the sin of the world.  "For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24)."  "...he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26b)."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Priority Alert

Read 1 Kings 6-7.

Solomon began construction on the Temple in the 4th year of his reign.  Most would be surprised to realize the building itself was only 90'x30'x45'.  All the materials were pre-fitted outside of the city so there were no sounds of hammers or axes during the construction.  The place was incredibly ornate with carvings everywhere and many overlaid with gold.  Including the surrounding areas, it required seven years to build.

In 6:11, the LORD spoke directly to Solomon again.  Here God reaffirmed the Davidic Covenant to this second generation king.  Though there were clear expectations of Solomon's behavior to enjoy God's blessings, the covenant was everlasting and would not change.  This understanding is crucial because it directly relates to the Messiah ultimately fulfilling that covenant.

Next, Solomon built his own house.  That project took thirteen years to finish.  This fact in itself is not an indictment against Solomon but a pattern began to develop in this king's life.  While he did a great thing for God, on the other hand he did great or greater things for himself.  As his life unfolded, he became a man with a divided heart for God.

It is not the size or amount of stuff one possesses, great or small, that gives any indication of one's spiritual priorities.  The determination has to do with one's recognition of their stewardship for any and all that God has given to them.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money."

The wisest man on earth tried to do both and it often led to behaviors that displeased the LORD.  May the LORD who owns it all and redeemed us from eternal punishment, be our consistent priority!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wise people need People

Read 1 Kings 4-5.

These two chapters provide insights into how Solomon applied some of the understanding and wisdom that God gave him.  In brief, "he was wiser than all other men" (4:31).

And, he was wise enough to know that with all his skill and understanding he could not do his job alone.  Solomon chose good and capable people who were organized to accomplish the work of leading the nation.  These trusted leaders took care of responsibilities of spiritual, financial, personal, domestic and foreign affairs.

Then, when it came time to construct the project of his life, he was wise enough to realize he needed a partner.  The Temple would need natural resources from outside Israel.  Solomon turned to his father's friend, Hiram king of Tyre.

Wisdom is displayed-
1. When we realize that we need other people to help us.

2. When we surround ourselves with the right people.

3. When we recognize the need for a special partner for a particular task.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What would you put on a blank check from God?

Read 1 Kings 3.

If God were to offer you a blank check what would you put on it?  God did this with Solomon in verse 5:  "Ask what I shall give you?" 

There are several distinct parts to this chapter.  Each of them contains powerful messages.

As king he began built great projects for the city of Jerusalem.  He established political alliances through marriages (an ancient custom).  He worshipped the LORD.  Yet, he knew something was missing.  God had much more planned for him and his future.  When he was ready to listen, God appeared to him.

1. The first thoughts Solomon expressed concerned his father.
-He knew God loved his father.
-He knew his father walked faithfully with the LORD.
-He knew his father lived to do what was right.
-He knew his father's heart was right with God.
May our children be able to say this about us.

2. The second group of statements concerned his stewardship.
-He acknowledged God's Ownership of all things.  Eight times in verses 7-9 the words "you" and "your"
-His position, the people, even he belonged to the LORD.
-As a steward, his request was to know how to make decisions that would help the people and please the owner.
-His response to this personal encounter with God was to go to the place of worship and present offerings.
May this be our desire everyday: helping people and pleasing God.

3. The test.
-When God gives us something, He expects us to use it to help people and please Him.
-God gave Solomon an understanding heart, or wisdom to discern good from evil.
-His first recorded decision shows that he listened to both sides.  Next he offered a solution that would draw out the truth.  Then, he made a decision.
May we cast our dependence upon God to pass the tests He has for us today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Words to Live By

Read 1 Kings 2.

Notice David's last words to his son Solomon.  These are words from one generation to the next.

1. Confidence. (v.2)
Being strong under pressure and taking responsibility are signs of emotional and relational maturity.

2. Obedience. (v.3a)
-Fulfilling God's call upon one's life first requires that one knows how God has gifted them and what He wants them to do with their life.
-Living for God requires that one exercise daily discipline of personal time and habits.
-Keeping God's Word requires that one know and understand how to apply the scriptures.

3. Dependence. (v.3b-4)
Only in faithful obedience to God and depending upon Him for the future can one experience all that the LORD has planned for them.
-"that you may prosper."  The Hebrew word used in this verse for "prosper" has to do with acting circumspectly, or wisely.  God's Word has been made available to us for just that use.
-"that the LORD may establish his word."  God had made a covenant with David that one of his descendants would forever rule over Israel as king.  God has made eternal promises to those who place their faith in Him.  Our responsibility is to trust Him and faithfully live for Him.

P.S.  When reading this chapter, I have always paused at verse 19 to imagine this awesome picture.  The king got up from his throne to bow before his mother.  Selah.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Waiting for the Promotion

Read 1 Kings 1.

Whenever there is a leadership vacuum, someone will rush in to fill it.  If leadership transition plans are not made and communicated, someone else will make them and they may not be what was desired.  The process certainly will not be done in the most amicable way.

King David was elderly and faced his final days.  Though his mental faculties seemed in tact, he could no longer physically and publicly display his leadership.  One of his sons, Adonijah (Absalom's younger brother), took this as his opportunity to exalt himself to kingship.

The entire incident is one of self-promotion.  He sent out the invitations to the party.  Even his sacrifices appear to be more food for the gathering than for spiritual worship.  But all along he knew he was wrong.  That is evidenced in whom he did not invite.  Obviously, there was rift between himself and his father, David.  He carefully avoided those closest to the king.

God used Nathan, the prophet, once more in David's life.  With the appeal from Bathsheba and Nathan, Solomon became the new king of Israel.  Adonijah's foolishness turned to embarrassment and a run for his life.  But here we get to see the first bit of Solomon's wisdom in his response.

Often it may be difficult to know when to step in to seize an opportunity and when to stay back and wait to be asked.  The answer lies more in attitude than mere action.  If the attitude is right, taking action does not equate to taking over.  One who is a good and wise servant will realize a need before others, step in and provide what is needed.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Proverbs 11:2

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

"'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you."  1 Peter 5:5-6

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Godly example from an Imperfect Man

Read 2 Samuel 24.

We are not told why the LORD was angry with Israel, nor are we told the reason for the census.  It appears, that because only fighting men were counted that, perhaps, David was looking to boast of his military might.  In any case, there was something here that crossed a serious line in David's relationship with God.  So much so, that God used this to deal with both David and the sin in the nation.  70,000 men died.

David's desire to publicly repent, stay the plague, and worship God led him to Araunah's threshing floor.  Here he wanted to build an altar and make a sacrifice to the LORD.  The humility and generosity of Araunah is worthy of meditation in and of itself.  He offered the king his property and his livelihood for the burnt offering and even the wood for the fire.

David was not a perfect man.  He made moral decisions and leadership decisions that displeased the LORD.  Yet, the scriptures refer to him as "a man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22).  What made him such a godly man and leader was not perfection, but when he knew he had done wrong he knew how to repent and did so.  It was never a cheap grace that he sought.  Each recorded time the cost was high and painful.

The king refused Araunah's offer with this famous statement in verse 24: "I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing."  The result was peace with God and for the people.

This was not his systematic worship of giving to the LORD of his tithe.  This was sacrificial giving out of generosity.  Sacrificial giving may be characterized as-
1. "Freewill" offering, as in Exodus 35:5, 22, and 29 when building the Tabernacle.
2. "Over and above", as David stated it in 1 Chronicles 29:3 when building the Temple.
3. "Cheerful", as Paul described such a giver in 2 Corinthians 9:7 when meeting the needs of the poor.

The tithe belongs to the LORD.  There is no decision to make.  Those monies support the on-going ministry.  However, giving generously beyond the ten percent requires me to rethink my plans.  It means that I take money that I intended for one of my uses and sacrifice it for what God wants instead.

Generous giving is a discipline of one who is learning spiritual maturity.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Leader every nation needs

Read 2 Samuel 23.

These are the last writings of David in this book.  He heard from the LORD principles concerning leadership.

What does leadership look like if it is just and done in a way that understands there is accountability to God?
1. It is like a new day dawning.  A fresh start with lots of light on every place.
2. It is like the sun shining on a perfect day.  Everyone enjoys it.
3. It is like a good rain that waters everything for growth.

The opposite is true when leadership is unjust and ungodly.  There is darkness and many things taking place unexposed.  It is not a happy time.  Prosperity is stagnated.

David's testimony of his leadership was: "Does not my house stand so with God?"  May that be the testimony of all our nations' leaders.

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."  Proverbs 14:34

Friday, November 2, 2012

How personal is the God of Heaven?

Read 2 Samuel 22.

This is one of the Psalms (songs) not in the book of Psalms.  God had delivered David and he could not help but sing.  He wrote this so others could join in and sing with him about who God is and what He has done.

Notice how personal the LORD is to him in just the opening verses.
-my rock
-my fortress
-my God
-my rock
-in whom I take refuge
-my shield
-the horn of my salvation
-my stronghold
-my refuge
-my savior
-you save me from violence
-I call upon the LORD
-I am saved

The God of heaven is interested and involved in every detail of our lives.  He wants us to run to Him and find safety, deliverance, and comfort.

"The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation." (v.47)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dealing with sin of the Past

Read 2 Samuel 21.

For three years the nation suffered through a famine.  David prayed earnestly to the LORD for relief.  The famine was not the problem, only the symptom.  God used the famine to gain the attention of the nation and its leader.  Once He had their attention, they were then ready to hear His message.  The reason God inflicted them with the famine had to do with Saul's killing of some Gibeonites years prior.  The incident is not recorded in scripture.

In Joshua 9,  the Gibeonites used a cunning ruse to make a covenant with Israel in order to spare their lives.  A few hundred years had passed, but a promise is a promise and Saul violated this covenant.  Decades had passed since Saul was king, yet this sinful injustice had not been made right.  God forced the nation to make it right. 

Once the king understood the root problem, he set out to resolve it.  David asked the Gibeonite leaders, not what would appease them, but what he could do so they would "bless" the people of Israel.  This wisdom goes far beyond a judicial act.  David sought to restore a Israel's good name, resolve a broken relationship, and please God in the process.

Their request seems harsh.  It was a different time, in a different culture.  The punishment hearkened back to the law in Exodus of "an eye for an eye."  Perhaps, Saul had killed seven of their own.  We have to trust God that He was at the same time dealing with the sin of these seven male descendants of Saul.  The proof that this was what God wanted done is evident in the rain that came.  Finally, they could grow their crops again.

Personal and national lessons to learn:
1. God want us to keep promises.
One of the primary characteristics of God is that He is faithful.  He keeps His word.  He cannot lie, nor violate what He said.  His followers are to be faithful people and to keep their promises to Him and to others.

2. In plenty people play; in pain people pray.

3. God wants us to know His message.
He has always wanted people to know what He wants done.  In times past, He used visions, prophets, sent the Messiah.  Today, we have the written Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The first step is gain our attention so we will listen.

4. Individuals and nations pay for unresolved injustices in future generations.
This passage in 2 Samuel makes me wonder how much of the world's grief and conflict is the result of unrepented sin of the past.  On one hand it seems unjust that one generation would pay for the sin of another, but this chapter is one example.  It should drive us to inquire of God like David did.

5. Sometimes, it is not your fault, but it becomes your responsibility.

Psalm 139:23-"Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"

Friday, October 26, 2012

First, Identify the Problem

Read 2 Samuel 20.

In spite of a leader's best efforts for unity, there will always be those with their own personal agendas.

After the put down of Absalom's rebellion, this was a perfect time for national healing.  David never lost, because he depended upon the Lord and the Lord guided his victories.  The king, in reestablishing his government showed great grace and kindness to those who had opposed him.  Yet, at the end of chapter 19, there was no small contention between the tribe of Judah and the other tribes.  David was of Judah, but the other tribes felt some alienation.

Then Sheba rose up.  The scripture refers to him as a worthless man of the tribe of Benjamin.  Remember, Saul, Israel's first king was from this tribe.  He tried to take full advantage of the rift, probably to make himself the national leader. 

With civil war brewing, David sent Amasa, the new general, to muster Judah's army; Joab having been demoted for his killing of Absalom.   But when Amasa did not return on time, it seemed that he may have joined the opposition.  The king then called upon Abishai to go after Amasa, but Joab followed with his own men.  Joab killed Amasa, one of his own cousins (1 Chronicles 2:16-17), presumably out of jealous revenge for his demotion.

Taking matters into his own hands, Joab laid siege to the city of Abel without telling them why.  One very wise, peaceable woman saved a entire city that day. 

Insights for living:
1. Asking the right person the right question puts people to work on the right solution to the right problem.
It is unthinkable that all these soldiers spent enormous effort and time working on a project that was not needed.  No one thought to communicate first.

2. Peace comes as a result of getting rid of rebellion. 
Today, negotiations continue to be fruitless between contentious nations world-wide.  Why?  Because at least one of the parties, if not both, maintain their spirit of rebellion and demands of superiority over the other. 
Proverbs 22:10-"Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Everyone needs a Friend

Read 2 Samuel 19.

There is perhaps no grief like that of a parent who loses a child, no matter what their age or reason.  David was no exception.  A baby son died in chapter 12 and now his handsome and gifted, but rebellious, son was killed in battle.

His grief as a father is more than understandable.  However, he allowed his personal loss to place a pall on the nation's time of celebration.  David's kingdom had been restored.  Men warred and some died on his behalf.  The return to Jerusalem should have been one of triumph.  But instead, the atmosphere was like one of shame and as if the people had done something wrong.

Joab took responsibility to perform the very touchy and difficult task of confronting David to snap out of it.  The leader was sending a message that he loved those who hated him and hated those who loved him.  In short, Joab told David to get up and get back to work.

As David and those with him crossed the Jordan to return from their exile, they were met along the way by those who had both cursed the king and those who had shown kindness.  David forgave Shemei for what he had done in chapter16 and displayed grace to others.

Proverbs 27:6-"Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
We need at least one friend who will speak truth to us.  For personal sin, God sent the Prophet Nathan to David.  For this national concern, God sent Joab, the general of Israel's army.  A trusted friend is a God-send to aid us in sorting out our thoughts, emotions, and decisions.  The result should be personal growth and mature behavior.

When tossed to and fro by circumstances and varying opinions, the LORD provided the church where we may find such friends.  To the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote: "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."  Ephesians 4:15-16  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rebellion has no Happy Ending

Read 2 Samuel 17-18.

Ahithophel had been a source of godly counsel in the past to King David.  When Absalom seized the throne, his loyalties changed quickly.  He suggested that Absalom openly violate his father's concubines to embarrass David.  Ahithophel even devised a plan to kill David.

Absalom then called for David's friend, Hushai, for a second opinion.  Hushai presented a plan even more pleasing to Absalom.  In 15:34, David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem for the very purpose of overthrowing the counsel of Ahithophel.  Once the decision was made that Absalom would lead the battle against his own father, Hushai sent word to warn David.  Ahithophel soon realized that his counsel was no longer of value.  Sensing all was lost, he committed suicide.

David may have been older, but his experience as a warrior and leader proved to be no match for any opposition.  He organized his men and prepared for battle.  In spite of all that had happened, he asked for mercy for his son, Absalom.  Twenty thousand men died.  Apparently it did not take long for Absalom to run from the battle and be killed by Joab.

There is no way that this story could have had a happy ending.  Rebellion against God and God-given authority will always bring punishment.

When Samuel told Saul that God had rejected him from being king due his open disobedience, he said, "For rebellion is as the sin of divination (witchcraft)." (1 Samuel 15:23a)

Humility, submission to and respect for authority are hallmarks of one who lives to please God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Perspective on Painful Problems

Read 2 Samuel 16.

Whenever there is a change in leadership, some are sad, some are mad and some are glad.

Wherever there is a leadership vacuum, a rush to power is sure to come.

Amazingly, none of those rushing in to seize control of the kingdom appear to have consulted the LORD on what He wanted done.  This entire picture is one selfish desire for power and/or revenge.

Ziba feigned sadness at David's departure, even bringing refreshments.  He told David that Mephibosheth remained in Jerusalem in hopes to be king.  Remember, he was Saul's grandson.

Shimei, also from the tribe of Benjamin, was mad.  He threw rocks at David as the king journeyed in exile. 

Absalom was glad.  He entered Jerusalem as some conquering hero.  In order to establish himself as the leader and show complete separation from David, he put on a public display of violating his father's concubines.  Nathan prophesied this in 12:11 as one of the consequences of David's sin.

All of this, of course, was enormously painful for David to endure.  The rejection, betrayal, disrespect, abuse and sinful acts against him were unprecedented.  Yet, he demonstrated unusual spiritual insight into what was taking place. 

He could have retaliated.  He could have stayed and fought.  He could have beheaded Shimei.  He could have cursed and blamed God.  Instead, he recognized that all power belongs to God.  It is He who raises up one and puts down another.  David accepted the humiliation as from the LORD's hand.  Then, he expressed his faith that God had a hope and future for him.

"It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his (Shimei) cursing today." (v.12)  This is a strong faith-statement of looking at problems from God's perspective.  Our trust is in Him today to complete His plan in us in His time.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Unresolved Issues do not go away by Themselves

Read 2 Samuel 14-15.

Absalom escaped before any revenge might have taken place for the murder of his half brother Ammon.

The general of David's army, Joab, witnessed the story technique of Nathan that stirred David to action.  So, he coached a woman to deliver a made up, sob-story to arouse David's attention.  This resulted in David ordering Joab to bring Absalom home.  However, there remained a rift between David and his son.  David continued to show a lack leadership initiative in resolving this widely known family problem.

Then, Absalom in a moment of frustration committed arson to get attention.  He demonstrated again some serious character flaws.  But David welcomed him affectionately and without dealing with the sin, all seemed to be a peace.

Next, Absalom began to assemble a following.  He openly took advantage of David's inaction to woo the loyalty of the people to himself.  It was nothing short of treason against his own father!  This conspiracy went on for four years.  Absalom even lied about his true intent to leave the city in order to worship.  Indeed, the real purpose was to stage an outright coup.

This mighty warrior-king, now an older man, refused to fight his son's challenge and mournfully left Jerusalem.  Chapter 15, verse 30 states that "David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot, and his head covered."  It is the same mount where the Lord Jesus prayed the night He was betrayed and arrested.

1. When it seems that someone got away with sin, remember sin does not go away by itself.  It must be confessed or confronted.  Without either, things will only get worse.

2. When it seems everything is turned against you, there are still those who will remain your friend.  See the words of  Ittai and Hushai in the second half of chapter 15.

3. When it seems all is lost, remember the story is not over.  God is still in control.  What David did not resolve, God will take care of, but it will be even more painful.

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."  Hebrews 3:12-13

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Inaction leads to further Injustice

Read 2 Samuel 13.
The prophecy of Nathan in 12:10-11 began to unfold upon David and his family.

With David's multiple wives, there were many half siblings within his very large family.  Tamar was a beautiful, obedient and wise virgin daughter of King David.  When she realized Ammon's sexual intentions toward her, Tamar displayed her wisdom in four strong statements.
1. This is an outrageous violation, not only against her but against the nation of Israel.
2. This will result in shame with no hiding place.
3. This will make Ammon a common fool in the nation.
4. If his he really loved her, all he had to do was ask the king's permission.

Ammon was guilty of lust, lying, and the rape of his half-sister.  He did not love her.  The proof is in his feelings after the rape.  He hated her.  Her full brother Absalom took Tamar into his home and care.

David's leadership as father and king was AWOL.  He knew what happened and did nothing.  This added insult to the injury and caused the anger of Absalom to fester.  Two years passed with no justice or attempt for reconciliation for this known heinous sin in the family.  Finally, Absalom carried out a plot to murder Ammon.

Everyone cried and mourned over what?  There are no recorded tears for Tamar.  There is no recorded outcry due to Ammon's sins against the family.  The family did not come together to mourn until Ammon was murdered.

And, David failed again in not dealing with Absalom.

As a father of adult children, he was not responsible for their decisions, nor their behaviors.  However, he remained their father and if he truly loved them he should at least spoken up and used the family circle for influence.  As king, he was ultimately responsible in overseeing Israel's justice and spiritual purity.  David's inaction only compounded the problems for himself, his family and the nation.

Lack of swift justice only breeds more sin.  One of the hallmark verses that should guide justice is Ecclesiastes 8:11-"Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Failure does not have to be Final

Read 2 Samuel 12:15-31.

The first child of David and Bathsheba suffered and died.  The natural question is to ask "Why"?  From a human viewpoint this makes no sense.  Some would want to immediately blame God for striking the innocent or taking his anger against the parents on the child.  On this side of eternity we almost never truly know the reason why certain tragedies take place.  And, in eternity all our questions probably will not matter.

However, notice what took place spiritually and how God used this time of loss in the lives of those involved.

1. God used this loss to motivate the parents to repentance.
Until Nathan arrived in the first half of this chapter there had been no repentance of the multiple sins that took place.  As Psalm 51 explains, David could come before the LORD in prayer with confidence. (v.16)

2. God used this loss to deepen David's worship of who God is.
There was no anger or disappointment against the LORD; just an increased sense of dependence upon Him.(v.20)

3. God used this loss to affirm David's faith in eternal life.
With a personal relationship with the LORD comes the assurance that this life is not all there is.  Heaven awaits and there our loved ones who loved the LORD await as well. (v.23)

4. God used this loss to strengthen their marriage.
The relationship with each other began without any foundation other than lust and sin.  Once David was right with God, he could then be right with his wife.  He took the initiative to comfort her.  God gave them a second chance and a second child.  Solomon's name means "peaceful".  It finds its root in the Hebrew word "shalom".

Failure does not have to be final.  Use those times to strengthen relationships with God and others.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Purpose of Exposing Sin

Read 2 Samuel 12.

David probably thought that the incidents that took place were over and he could now relax.  But he had not dealt with the sins in his life.  So, God sent His messenger, Nathan, to confront the king and deliver a powerfully effective message.

Nathan used a story method to capture David's full attention.  As a former shepherd, David's emotions quickly raised to anger in order to right this terrible wrong.  He announced that such a man deserves to die "because he had no pity."  It was at that point that Nathan confronted the king with four words, "You are the man!"

The message from the LORD went back to review how good God had been to David.  "And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more."  Then, the sins were specifically named aloud.  It is clear from verse 10 that the sins were not only against Bathsheba, Uriah, and others, but they were against God Himself, "you have despised me."  What David tried to hide, God exposed openly.  The purpose of doing this was so David would finally repent.

The cost was severe.  There would be war (v.10, immorality in his own household (v.11), and the death of the child (v.14).  David did repent and he fully returned to worship God.  Psalm 51 was one of the outcomes of this confrontation.

Excerpts from David's prayer of repentance in Psalm 51:
"Have mercy on me...wash me...create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me...then will I teach transgressors your ways...then will you delight in right sacrifices..."

God loves us too much to allow us to continue with unconfessed sin.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(1 John 1:9)  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

3 Proactive Thoughts Regarding Personal Sin

Read 2 Samuel 11.

Power and privilege are bestowed upon individuals by God to use in doing good for others.  The responsibility is weighty.  In Luke 12:38, Jesus said, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required."  The most dangerous thoughts a powerful and/or privileged person can have is "I accomplished this by myself" and "I can do whatever I want." 

All of us, the "rock star" especially, must exercise personal discipline if we are to guard our moral character and remain faithful to our commitments.  If we do not, we will only prove the scriptures to be true, "pride comes before a fall."

It was the season for military leadership, but David did not go.  On the surface, at least, this appears to be a poor decision on the king's part in the stewardship of his time.  David had numerous wives and concubines but his unguarded desires set in motion a series of sinful decisions.  He had the time, the opportunity and the power to fulfill his lust.

The sins are so graphic and self-evident.  There was sex with another man's wife.  Next came the attempted cover up of the resulting pregnancy.  Then, there was the death warrant for an innocent and loyal solider.  Uriah served as one of the elite in Israel's army (23:29).  And, Uriah was not the only one who died in the set up to kill him.  Others died also.  Joab merely followed orders, but in doing so David involved him in this sin.  David's guilt was staggering.  The better part of a year went by without any sign of repentance.

"The thing displeased the LORD." (v.27)

Lessons for all of us.
1. Be self-aware.
We must be vigilant regarding potential compromising situations.
When David saw her, he should have wheeled around and gone back inside.  Instead of sending for her, he should have sent word to her to about her lack of discretion.  When we give in to our weaknesses, we are no longer thinking about the presence of the LORD, the best interests of another person, nor the consequences of sin. 

2. Be self-disciplined.
We must be ruthless about our vulnerabilities. 
Everyone is vulnerable in some areas of their character, whether it is in the use of power, the desire for possessions, or the pursuit of pleasure.  The abuse of any or all of these will 100% of the time lead to sin.

3. Be self-less.
We must maintain a respectful and eternal view of other people.
David showed no inkling of regard for God, his own family, for Bathsheba, his her husband, for her father, nor even his own military.  There was no display of pity.  His selfish behavior caused him to vacate his spiritual leadership and ministry to others. 

How can God forgive such sinfulness?  How could David continue his leadership after this? 
Only God can forgive sin.  Only God could take this convoluted mess and redeem it for His glory.  He did and He does.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lessons on Kindness

Read 2 Samuel 10.

Someone once said, "No good deed shall go unpunished."  We see that here in chapter 10.  David showed great kindness to Miphibosheth because of his commitment to his best friend, Jonathan.  Next, he decided to show kindness to a neighbor at the death of his father.

Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been kind to David in the past.  Hanun, the son, became king.  As a good neighbor, David sent a small group of men to represent Israel to convey condolences and bring a message of comfort.  However, when David's men arrived they were perceived as spies and a threat.  The Ammonites abused the men and sent them home shamefully.  This resulted is a regional war.  Tens of thousands of enemy soldiers died.  God gave David victory and peace with these nations.

Lessons on kindness from the leadership of David from chapter 9.
1. He had a heart of compassion even for those who did not expect it and who could be a threat to him.

2. He took the initiative to be kind.

3. He demonstrated his kindness with peace and restorative acts.

4. He treated even a potential rival as royalty.

But kindness on our part is not always appreciated as we read in chapter 10.
1. Sometimes our best and purest motives may be completely misunderstood.

2. Sometimes our good intentions may be rejected and the very ones we are trying to help turn on us.  They may even enlist others to join them in the rejection.

3. Sometimes there is no choice but to face the false accusations and/or threats head on and trust God for the outcome.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Keeping Our Word

Read 2 Samuel 9.

Many people make promises.  People of godly character make commitments.

David's man to man covenant with his best friend Jonathan was life-long.  They made a commitment to care for each other's families in 1 Samuel 20:14.  It did not change with the death of Jonathan, nor with the change in national leadership. 

Once the new kingdom was established and surrounding enemies put down, David turned his attention to some unfinished business.  "Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?"  Indeed, there was one crippled son of Jonathan whom a servant, Ziba, had kept safe.

A tyrant would have killed all the family of the previous king to protect himself; not David.  When Mephibosheth appeared he bowed in fear before the king.  But David quickly sought to alleviate any fear, restored the inheritance of his grandfather, and then publicly committed to treat him as one of his own family.  In addition, David charged Ziba and his very large family to care for Mephibosheth's estate.

Keeping our word is not only important to the receiver of our promise, but the LORD takes note as well.
"Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether."  (Psalm 139:4)


Saturday, October 6, 2012

3 Leadership Traits of a Godly Superpower

Read 2 Samuel 8.

Once in full command of the unified nation of Israel, David expanded the kingdom by defeating all the surrounding enemies.  He made survivors to be servants of the kingdom.  The wealth of the spoils he brought back to Jerusalem.  A ruthless, dictator would have abused this power and wealth for his own selfish aggrandizement.  But not David.

Why?  What made this superpower of the day different?

1. The leader recognized the ultimate source of all power and authority. 
Twice in this chapter we are told "the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went."  As good a warrior as David was, it would never be enough to sustain a lasting kingdom and achieve God's expectations. 

2. The leader recognized the ultimate Owner of all things.
David was to be a faithful steward of all that God had allowed him to have.  Concerning the gold, silver and bronze that he amassed in Jerusalem, verse 11 states, "These also King David dedicated to the LORD..."  Giving ten percent to God was not enough for this leader.  One of the evidences that God is at work in a life is generosity.

3. The leader recognized that God had sovereignly chosen him.
God placed him in this position of leadership to be a faithful steward of the people.  In great contrast to selfish rulers or corrupt kings, "David administered justice and equity to all his people."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

God Keeps His Promises

Read 2 Samuel 7.

  For about 500 years, the Ark of God and the center of Israel's worship had been a tent.  It bothered David that his house was better than God's.  A beautiful place, worthy of the LORD, became his lifelong dream.

God responded with a special message through Nathan, the prophet.
-The LORD did not ask for house.  Though God's presence was over the Ark in the Tabernacle, God cannot be contained, nor does He need humans to take care of Him.
-The LORD reminded David that it was He who took care of the nation.  Indeed, God took David from a pasture to the palace.
-The LORD made eternal promises to David and his descendants.  This is commonly called the Davidic Covenant. 
     1. He will make for David a great name.
     2. He will plant the people on this land and give them peace.
     3. He will give David a son and establish his kingdom forever.

As we shall see later, that son was Solomon and it is he who will actually build the temple that David only dreamed about.  Also, this promise of a forever kingdom underscores the importance of Messiah's lineage.  According to the family tree in Matthew 1, Jesus was born into the royal family, direct descendants of David.  The familiar, so-called Christmas story explains it: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David" (Luke 2:4).

Such an announcement humbled David.  It caused him to go immediately to prayer.  He praised God for what He had done and for who God is.  "For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you..." (v.22). 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Party On, but Remember the Principles

Read 2 Samuel 6.

With David now fully in charge as king, the nation united, and the Philistines defeated, David then acted on a central priority for establishing his leadership.  He wanted to the Ark of God brought to Jerusalem and establish that city as the center of worship.  The parade began with 30,000 elite soldiers on the march with music and great celebration, and the Ark placed on a brand new cart. 

Immediately, a Bible student would notice a huge violation of the scriptures.  The Ark was to be carried on poles by the priests, not driven on a cart (Exodus 25:10-15).  When one of the oxen stumbled, Uzzah put his hand on the Ark to steady it.  This again was a violation of the scriptures on how the Ark was to be moved.  God killed him on the spot.

That stopped the music and the parade.  David became angry with God.  Here they were trying to do a good thing and this happened.  As a result of David's feelings, they found a local farmer, Obed-edom, to temporarily house the Ark.  God richly blessed this unsuspecting farmer and his family.  After three months, David finally brought the Ark to Jerusalem.  First, he worshipped.  This may have been in repentance for his anger and certainly to honor the LORD before they went any further.  He became so caught up in the celebration that he broke out in dancing "with all his might."  It was a happy day!

Meanwhile, back home, Michal, Saul's daughter, could not wait to criticize him.  She missed entirely the spiritual impact of what just took place.  Her surface issue was David's actions during the celebration.  But her real issue was the lingering hurt and anger at David.  She had been promised to David by Saul.  David paid the dowry, yet Saul gave her to a man named Paltiel.  After the death of Saul, David in an act of revenge had Michal taken by force from her husband and brought to him (2 Samuel 3:12-16).  We are not told if this conflict was ever resolved between them, only that she never bore children.

4 reminders to live By:
1. God's Word is written down for us and is there for our instruction.  It does not change with time or culture.  It is always our reliable source.  There are direct consequences for our obedience or for our disobedience.

2. God can take care of Himself.  He really does not need our help.  It is a privilege that He allows us to participate with Him in what He wants accomplished in this world of His.

3. Many are too quick to blame God when things do not go as they had planned.  Seek first to know if there was a violation of His Word.  If so, then repentance is the next step in order to make things right with God and to get life back on track.

4. There will always be someone who will misunderstand our pure motives.  Most often the misunderstanding is related to a previous hurt or anger.  Seek to resolve the real issue, if at all possible. 
"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 Qualities that United a Nation

Read 2 Samuel 4-5.

Abner, the general of Israel's army had been murdered.  When Ishbosheth, Saul's son serving as king, he lost hope and his two top military leaders lost faith in his leadership.  They killed Ishbosheth.  Then, they brought the head of Ishbosheth to David, believing they had done him a great favor.  Once again, David demonstrated his sterling character.

-As an honorable warrior, killing a man in his sleep was a dishonorable act to David. 
-As Saul's son-in-law, David refused to rejoice in the death of anyone in the family, even though they treated him as an enemy. 
-As a humble servant, David he was quick to give the LORD the credit for delivering him from trouble. 
-As a godly man, he had no tolerance for wickedness.
-As a righteous leader, he treated other leaders with respect.

Who would not want such a man to lead the nation?  All the other tribes came to officially proclaim David as king and, thus, united the kingdom once again.    Saul had reigned for 40 years.  David reigned for the next 40 years, until he died at age 70.

He reclaimed Jerusalem as his headquarters and the city became known as the city of David.  His home, his family and his leadership all thrived.  When challenged by the Philistines, he relied on God and there was a great victory.

Here is the key thought to know and to cling to from this section:
4:9-"...the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity..."
And, this same LORD ever lives to deliver us today.  Trust Him.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

3 Must-have Character Qualities of a Leader

Read 2 Samuel 2-3.

For years, David had lived with the Philistines being alienated from his own people.  With the death of Saul, David prayed for direction from God.  The LORD instructed that it was time to go home.  Once in the southern part of the land, the people of Judah made David their king.  However, Saul did have a son still alive.  The northern part of the country anointed Ishbosheth as their king.  It was predictable that such a division would lead to conflict.

David's leadership and influence grew in power, while his opposition waned.  Indeed, even Abner, the general of the northern army, joined forces with David.  Abner then began working on David's behalf to unite the nation.  But David's general, Joab, only looked upon Abner as an enemy whose only goal was to spy on them.  Joab murdered Abner in retaliation for the killing of his brother.

At every turn in David's life his character was on public display.  When he heard the news of Abner's death, he took decisive action for all to see and hear.  He pronounced a curse on Joab and his descendants to be diseased and poor.  He gave Abner a royal funeral and even walked  behind the casket to the burial.  He openly mourned and fasted.  David wanted everyone to know of his innocence.

There is no question regarding David's cunning and ability as a warrior.  But the exercise of those skills were always under control by his character.  In this section, several elements of his true self are demonstrated for us.
1. Kindness and appreciation.
When he discovered what Saul's home town people had done in recovering and burying Saul, he sent them a thank note and blessed them.  In this case, underneath this kindness is a huge amount of forgiveness of the past.

Ephesians 4:32-"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

2. Loyalty
David thanked the people of Jabesh-gilead for their loyalty.  He took his promises to others as a serious commitment of loyalty, as with Abner.  He counted Joab's actions as disloyal and an embarrassment. David learned about loyalty by putting his life on the line in order to protect his sheep from wild animals.  He experienced the loyalty of a friend with Jonathan.  His word was his bond.

3. Unity
David could have distrusted Abner as an enemy and killed him himself.  But he took the high road in the relationship in order to unite the nation and live in peace.  Unity and peace always requires us to consider the needs and interests of others above our own. 

Philippians 2:4-"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."