“The Lord helped David wherever he went” 2 Samuel 8-9
This phrase is repeated twice in our selection. What made the Lord help David and not Saul. I think a reason can be seen in how David treated his enemies. We are told that David administered justice and righteousness for all people. He even sought out people to show kindness toward. His best friend on earth, Jonathan, had a son named Mephiboseth who was disabled. If Saul had continued to be king Mephiboseth would have been in the kingly succession. David gives him fields and servants. He even allowed Mephiboseth to dine at the king’s table. And just in case we forget the last verse states, “…he was lame in both feet.” This is why he is called a man after God’s own heart. He loves his enemies and supports the disabled.
“Still not Satisfied” Ezekiel 16
Perhaps no other chapter in Ezekiel contains such shocking imagery of the wickedness of the Lord’s people. God portrays Israel as a nation newly born, naked and squirming in blood. This Child grew and became beautiful. But this beauty was her downfall. She trusted in her beauty and played the harlot. Beauty is fleeting and when it is gone so are her lovers. The problem with lust is that it always needs greater forms of perversion to be sated. Ezekiel says, “Still you were not satisfied.” The sins of Sodom will seem like Child’s play compared to the wickedness of Israel.. In spite of all this God will restore the captives. He will remember his covenant. It will be established and the people will be humiliated because He would have been totally just to wipe them out and remember them no more.
“Sanctify them in the Truth” John 17
What sets apart the Christian? Our good behavior? No, many out side of Christ behave well. Our Good deeds? No, many outside Christ perform good deeds. What separates us or sanctifies us in the truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” To be sanctified by the truth is to follow the truth and to follow the truth is to follow the embodiment of the truth, Jesus Christ. Ultimately, we do not look to a doctrine or a system of thoughts we look to a person. His word is truth. Without Christ everyone is living a lie.
A fragrance of Christ - 2 Corinthians 2
The Alter of incense within the tabernacle was closely connected with the holiest place. The scent of the incense ascended to God and was a soothing aroma. Why would a non-physical being need a literal scent to soothe his olfactory senses? Because it was not the actual smell that was soothing it was what the people gave up to make the smell possible, namely, a sacrifice. In like manner, we by giving our life to Christ will be a fragrant aroma of Christ. We present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).
“I will show kindness” 2 Samuel 10
David demonstrates his greatness by showing kindness to a grieving son of a rival king. This kindness was misconstrued as cunning and trickery. The princes of the Ammonites believe that David’s true intent was to take over the land. The Ammonites instigate an unnecessary conflict with Israel. Ammon drags the Arameans into the battle and David routes them both. They end up making peace with Israel but only after 40,700 men are killed in battle. If only Hanun would have realized that David was genuine.
“Can he indeed break the covenant and escape” Ezekiel 18
The nation of Israel had descended into such levels of corruption that absolute destruction was on the door step. They had long since given up on petitioning the Lord for salvation from enemies. They put their hope in the chariots of Egypt. Ezekiel portrays Babylon as a great eagle plucking the top of a large tree. The top of the tree represents the leaders of Israel. They will be carried to Babylon and there planted. In the land of captivity they would thrive. Even in exile they would produce great Torah scholars. I find it interesting that one of the pillars of Judaism, the Talmud, is called the Babylonian Talmud. Zedakiah makes a covenant with Egypt but breaks it and therefore for Israel, Magor-Massibib (terror on every side). Like many of the prophets, Ezekiel is given hope from God. God will plant a sprig from the cedar on a high mountain of Israel.
“I don’t know the man” John 18
Peter was the primary stalwart of the Messiah. He was the first to boldly declare Jesus as the Messiah (Matt. 16). He traveled with Jesus for three years. He had seen the miracles and had been amazed by the messages. He was the first to take up the sword and defend Jesus. But in an instant that all vanishes. What happened? Did Peter suffer from momentary amnesia? Or was he never really a true believer. I think Peter’s expectation had been devastated. Jesus was supposed to lead a revolt against the Romans and once again establish Israel as the chief of nations. The disciples hand no framework for a dying Messiah. Even when he told them it was to occur they were confused. Their minds were darkened. So when this expectation was crushed (apparently) Peter could no longer follow Jesus. When asked if he is a disciple he simply says, “I am not.”
2 Corinthians 3 – You are a letter of Christ
It is hard to argue with a well-lived Christian life. Paul is telling them that unless the words he is writing to them sink into their hearts they will be meaningless. Take Israel as an example. They had letters engraved in stone yet their hearts were not transformed. But even the old law came with Glory. It was a veiled glory. The ministry we have comes with exceeding glory because the veil has been removed and we see the fulfillment of the Law. Your life may be the only sermon some people ever hear.
“The Thing David had done was evil in the Sight of the Lord” 2 Samuel 11
Much of the proceeding chapters have extolled the kindness and bravery of David. His is constantly seeking ways to show justice to both friend and enemy. But he is still a man. Susceptible to the weaknesses of the flesh. The chapter begins by telling us that it was a time when kings went to war, yet David was enjoying the comforts of his palace. While walking on the roof of his palace he spies a beautiful women and his integrity goes out the door. Nothing so hypnotizes a man as the sight of bare female flesh. The spiritual strength of this ‘man after God’s own heart’ crumbles. His eyes are leading him into multiplied sins. His primary conceit is that he thought he could hide his sins from God. Remember Hebrews 4:13, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Ezekiel 18 – “Repent and Live”
There was a common proverb in Israel. “The fathers eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Basically it was saying that due to the fathers sins the children are suffering. Ezekiel makes the point that in God’s eyes each person is responsible for their own sins. He states twice that “The soul who sins will die.” Paul says, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12). For God does not take pleasure in the Death of the wicked. God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
John 19 – “Behold”
In John 19 we have four behold statements. Pilate to Jesus: Behold the Man. Pilate to the crowd: Behold your king. Jesus to Mary: Behold your son. Jesus to John: Behold your mother. The first presents Jesus as a man the second presents Jesus as the King. The third represents the love and kindness of Jesus for his mother. The fourth represents the new responsibility of John to care for Mary. In the midst of his greatest agony his still considers the well-being of his mother. Her son is dying, nailed to a cross and Jesus wants her to behold her son. She is beholding him. He is nailed to the cross. Her son will now be John, the beloved disciple. After he knows his mother will be safe he cries out ‘I thirst.” Years earlier he told a woman that he was living water and the one who drinks of that water would never thirst. Could he not tap into those resources? The answer is no. He could not use his divine prerogatives while on the cross. He must experience the full range of human agony. He was thirsty so I never have to be, he was forsaken so I could be redeemed. He was emptied so that I might be made full. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
2 Corinthians 4 – Treasures in earthen vessels
The apostles were set forth as a demonstration of the power of God. Their physical suffering was to show the surpassing greatness of God to the world. Their bodies or earthen vessels became a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. While the body was wasting away the spirit was being renewed. All this suffering was but a “momentary, light burden.” We are able to bear up under suffering because we know it is momentary. It is light because through suffering the Lord sustains us. Suffering is fashioning us into the image of Christ.
“Thou art the Man!” 2 Samuel 12
David’s greatness is revealed even in his downfall. His sense of moral outrage is manifested when Nathan tells him a story of a rich man taking from the flock of a poor man. David declares that the man doing such a deed deserves to die. Nathan says the famous words, “Thou art the Man.” In other nations the kings told the prophets what to do, only in Israel did the prophets tell the kings what to do! It is interesting to juxtapose the story of David’s sin and the death of Uzzah. Nathan tells David that he will not die. Think of what David did in comparison to Uzzah. David slept with another man’s wife, had that man murdered, and due to his rebellion a child died. Surely this is a greater sin than touching the Ark. David even declares, “Against you and you only have I sinned (Ps. 51).” If David was struck down God could have anointed someone else. I really don’t know the answer to that question.
Ezekiel 19 – “Israel was like a vine”
During the reign of Solomon the nation of Israel became powerful. They had chariots, horses, solider, and the grand Temple of the LORD. But after Solomon the nation began to crumble. Much of the internal rot was cultivated by Solomon. The kingdom split after his reign. We are told by Ezekiel that the kingdom was cast to the ground. An east wind dried it up and a fire consumed it. The exiles to which Ezekiel preached surely remembered how the city of Jerusalem burned and were laied waste. Now the nation is planted in the wilderness of Babylon. But even there they will grow strong and return to Eretz Israel.
John 20 – “Mary!”
Nothing so grabs our attention like our name being called. Even when among strangers and someone says ‘David’ I turn my head. We are told that faith come by hearing. Mary saw Jesus (v. 14) but did not recognize him. Jesus than addressed her as ‘woman’ and this was still not specific enough. He than says ‘Mary’ and with that she realizes that it is Jesus. Faith in Mary was renewed by hearing. Than one of the most amazing passages in the New Testament “Mary came announcing.” A woman was to be the first proclaimer of the resurrection. The first gospel preacher was a woman. The message of his birth came through a Mary and now the message of his rebirth comes through a Mary. This truth of women being the first witnesses to the resurrection was most likely considered an apologetic liability and omitted from the list of witness in 1 Corinthians 15.
2 Corinthians 5 – The Sin Bearer
God has reconciled us to Himself by means of the Cross. Often a reason cited by a married couple for divorce is irreconcilable differences. If ever two parties had irreconcilable differences it was God and humanity. The gulf between a holy God and a wicked humanity was infinity. Thus it would take an infinite sacrifice to bridge this gap. Only an infinite one could offer an infinite sacrifice. We are now the righteousness of God in Him. Hallelujah, what a savior.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed by pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
~Philip Bliss - 1875
“Such a thing is not done in Israel” 2 Samuel 13
It is amazing how fast Amnon affection for Tamar changes after his illicit desires are consummated. He goes from addressing his sister by name to referring to her as ‘this woman.’ It demonstrates that Amnon only wanted to get something from Tamar; he did not truly love her. His love was a cover for his lust. Tamar goes to her brother Absalom and he develops a hatred for Amnon. The hatred percolates for two years until he can avenge the wrong done to his sister. Absalom’s men slay Amnon. What is the result? Tamar is humiliated, Amnon is dead, and Absalom is exiled from David. The words of Nathan to David: … the sword shall never depart from your house (12:10).
Ezekiel 20 – I acted for My sake
Ezekiel recounts how God sought to destroy his people in the wilderness before they were a nation. The people profaned the Sabbath and violated the commandments. Moses on numerous occasions had to remind God that if he were to destroy his people the nations would speak ill of His name. God so wants to sanctify his name that He endures generations of rebellion. Paul says, “… because of His divine forbearance he had passed over the former sins.” Humanity was building a massive store of sins which needed to be paid. God’s grace is shown in this passage. God says, “Yet My eye spared them (v. 17), “But I withdrew my hand.” He also promises restoration to the Land. All of this so that He might ‘prove himself Holy.’ Holiness is the attribute which God guards with the most jealousy.
John 21 – “Do you Love me!”
I once told my wife that I lover her and if that were to change I would tell her. So I don’t need to keep saying it over and over again. Every time we talk on the phone we end our conversation with ‘I love you.’ We say this maybe a dozen time per day. Is it overkill? Can you ever tell someone you love them too much? The answer is No! People must be constantly reminded of Love. John uses the word ‘love’ 25 times in the small letter of 1 John. The greatest commandment is love. Jesus said he was giving them a new commandment to love one another. God commands us to love Him (Deut. 6:5). Do we love someone out of freewill or command? Wouldn’t be odd if I went to a person and said, “I command you to Love me.” Jesus repeats to Peter three times (alluding to the triple denial of Jesus) the question of Love. His response to love to the ‘tend the sheep.’ We love Jesus by loving the sheep.
2 Corinthians 6 – “Having Nothing yet Possessing all things”
The psalmist has said, “Nothing in heaven do I desire but you.” Paul experienced the lose of everything for the sake of the Gospel. By affliction, in hardship, in distress, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in sleeplessness, in hunger. Talk about a glamorous ministry. If Paul were alive today he certainly would have the smallest church. Paul knew the truth of “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).”
2 Samuel 14 – The Trickery of Joab
Joab uses a woman of Tekoa to convince David the take Absalom back into his bosom. Similar to the prophet Nathan this woman tells a story of two sons. One son (Absalom) killed the other son (Amnon) and now the rest of the family want to kill the first son. The woman pleads with David that he might save her last remaining son lest ‘they will extinguish my coal.’ David was willing to protect his woman son from the avenger of blood. Now the ruse is revealed by the woman and she implicates David for his wrong. David realizes his wrong and commands Joab to bring back Absalom and they kiss and are reconciled, at least for the moment.
Ezekiel 21 – ‘Why do you groan?’
It think of all the prophets Ezekiel was the one who was most shattered by God. God tells him to groan with a breaking heart. His heart was now an object lesson for what God was going to do to the people. The people would be shattered and cut to pieces by the sword of the Lord. He is told to ‘cry and wail’ for God is about to shatter his own people. To vindicate his justice the punishment must come on the people. Generations of covenant unfaithfulness must be paid. God gives Ezekiel the threefold reality of what he will make Israel: A ruin, A ruin, A ruin (v. 27). Repetition is used for emphasis. Just like the Seraphim cry out: Holy, Holy, Holy. God must vindicate his holiness but devastating his own people with his sword.
2 Corinthians 7 – “Joy in all our Affliction”
The great paradox of the Christian faith is how it turns the world values up-side down. The first will be last. The humble will be exalted. The poor will be made rich. Those who suffer will be those who rejoice. In times of affluence it is easy to forget the graciousness of God. When everything seems to be going smoothly I tend to forget God in the midst of the blessings. The psalmist says, “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn your statutes (Ps. 119:71).” There is not teacher like experience. Also there is not teacher like suffering. When enduring suffering the true nature of the character is revealed.
Psalms 1-2 - Streams of Water
The book of Psalms begins with a description of the law of the Lord. We are to delight in his law. Meditate on it day and night. Joshua told the people to meditate on the law day and night to have good success (Jos. 1:8). But constantly keeping our minds on the Torah we will be like a tree planted by streams of water. A tree planted by a stream will never lack for nourishment. It is near the source of its life. Likewise, the Torah is the source of our spiritual life. It must saturate all we do and we bear fruit because of the nourishment from the Etz Hayim (Tree of Life) the Torah. The psalmist contrasts the lover of Torah with the neglector of Torah. The wicked are like chaff. They are dried up totally lacking fruit.