2 Samuel 10
It's important to note that David's heart is in the right place. He was trying to honor the king of Ammon, and to comfort his son. The first insight I get from looking at Nahash's advisors and how they influenced his response and what would unfold from there, is just the insecurity and fears which define us so much and end up destroying us. Nahash had a friend and ally in David and Israel. But in his suspiciousness of David's true motive, he starts a fight he can't really finish. And it's obvious that he can't finish it because he hired the Syrians in a desperate attempt to combat Israel's military prowess.
I just wonder how many of our relationships, how many of my relationships, have been destroyed or at least damaged by own skepticism and insecurities. In my fears of being exploited or taken advantage of or of being betrayed, I can unwittingly create the conflict which I wrongly assumed existed.
I guess I'm looking at Nahash and thinking that probably through this whole conflict he never even thought that he was wrong in his original assessment, that David was out to get him. His own fear provoked an aggressive response where none was needed, but all that unfolded from there, on the surface, would legitimize his original reaction... at least I suspect.
I've seen this in my life and in so many others, in interpersonal conflict where distrust predisposes us toward defensiveness and combativeness which is actually uncalled for and unnecessary. But because our acts of aggression often precipitate a like response from the other, it seems to confirm our distrust. This is a sad game that goes on in both subtle ways but also in catastrophic ways.
I'm just considering this morning my own heart and invite you to as well... To ask God for wisdom and discernment about unhealthy forms of distrust in your life. Are there relationships which deserve your trust, but because of other experiences and woundedness, you withhold trust from people who deserve it? Have you perhaps fallen into the trap of confirmation bias, interpreting others actions through the lens of what you assumed in the first place, or what you have created yourself?
2 Samuel 11
This chapter is such a cautionary tale. This changed David's life and legacy forever. There is deep personal anguish caused by David's sin and far reaching effects of that sin in how it causes wreckage for so many people. In some significant ways, all of Israel, because David was their king, suffers the collateral damage of his own "private" sin. I will write a separate blog related to the pattern we see and how we might fight the temptations of sexual sin in our own lives and in our own sex obsessed culture. For the purposes of here, in the devotional sense, there is one thing that just haunts me here...
I can live my whole life with conviction and courage, following after God, striving to labor for him, and bear fruit for him... I can love Jesus, love his people, walk with integrity, pursue holiness and maturity, work diligently and excellently, enjoy God's blessing and favor and grace... I can make wise decision after wise decision and build my life on the strength of wisdom and discernemnt and understanding... and regardless of all that... even 20, 30, 40, 50 years of such wisdom, I AM ALWAYS A COUPLE MINUTES AND SPLIT SECOND DECISIONS from ruining my life, my marriage, my family, my ministry and my testimony.
There are any number of areas in which we can make a series of small decisions or lose our way just for a few moments, will cost us everything. But our sexual impulses are particularly vulnerable to this kind of lapse in judgement. We cannot ever go to sleep on the pursuit of sexual purity because the world, the flesh and the Devil are fiercely set against us, and the temptations and urges toward immorality can come seemingly out of nowhere. If we are not on on alert always... ever vigilant and diligent in guarding our hearts and minds and bodies from the enticing, powerful, persistent and sinful impulses to gratify the flesh, we are very likely to follow David down this path of destruction.
Don't be a fool and think you are beyond this, no matter what your history of uprightness and purity may be. We are all susceptible to this area of sin... men and women alike. We must actively distance ourselves from the temptations that are coming for us... we must "flee sexual immorality," not hope we don't fall into it. This is a great misnomer... that we fall into sexual sin. We don't. We make choices every day, many times a day often, that move us in the direction of holiness or of fleshliness.
What choices are you making today? and in what direction are they moving you? (think interactions, internet activity, entertainment choices, thoughts, etc.)
How are you pursuing purity and fidelity?
2 Samuel 12:1-15
Stories are incredibly powerful. I was talking with someone the other night, and we were discussing movies and he mentioned one I'd never seen before and he said you have to see that movie. When I asked why, he went on to tell me that God used a single line from that movie to change his whole life. There was a profound impact on him personally which originated from a movie. I love that.
Stories are so powerful in awakening our imaginations, connecting our emotions to real life experiences, and even in communicating truths which we don't have words to articulate. Stories draw us out and reveal things within. I love movies and tv and good books that move me and leave me wrestling with new thoughts, considerations, ideas and feelings. And this is what Nathan, in his prophetic brilliance uses to confront and expose David, as well as to appeal to his conscience. Jesus uses stories in similar ways.
Anyway... there's so much I could elaborate on here, but what's primary in my heart that God is incredibly merciful to David, considering the gravity of his sin. But even with God's love for David, his forgiveness of David, and hisgrace and mercy toward David, there are still enormous consequences which David suffers and those around him and under his leadership. God can and does forgive every sin repented of and every repentant sinner... He may even remove the greatest consequence sin that is death and separation from him.b But God almost never removes all the consequences of sin.
With real divine grace and forgiveness extended to David, he must still walk out the long term pain and suffering which his sin has caused and created. And true repentance accepts those consequences and remains humbly repentant in the face of those consequences. Beloved, our sins are real and their effects are real. And while God is good and gracious and merciful and forgiving, he will not shield us from all the consequences of which our sin brings upon us. Mature, humble and repentant people take responsibility for sin, and it's consequences without being entitled to anything better or embittered by the self-inflicted pain.
2 Samuel 12:16-31
This is such a personally challenging text for me. David begins to experience the real pain and consequences of his sin. Things get very dark for him. But there is this retained conviction of the goodness of the Lord and his predisposition toward grace. David continues to cry out to God for mercy and grace because he knows that’s at the core of who God is. So even though he knows he’s guilty and takes full responsibility he is still banking on the possibility that God may relent from calamity and suffering on him.
This is challenging to me personally because whenever I experience pain or consequences for my own sin, I still tend to question God’s grace and mercy and his fundamental goodness. I tend to start crying out to him for his kindness and lifting of the consequences because I resolved to the suffering I’ve brought on myself or the suffering that seems inevitable. When I feel the effects of sin, and it doesn’t need to be my own, I tend to just resign myself to what’s coming. I stop believing at a certain point that God’s heart is full of love and grace toward me and others… that he’s abounding in steadfast love is core theological conviction of mine, but it is a functionally distant reality.
My habit is to see sin in me or others, anticipate it’s logical conclusion, resign myself to that future and try to figure out to bear up under it… I have to wonder today, am I even a Christian. What kind of Christian does not impulsively and instinctively consider God’s involvement a real factor… and a game changing one at that. For all of David’s failure here, and it’s severe, I’m amazed at his faith and God consciousness… the discipline and correction of the Lord has not diluted his sense of the compassion of the Lord one drop. He’s unwaveringly convinced of God’s inherent kindness even in the face of severe consequences. In fact, he seems to see the severity of the consequences as still grace from God, because he deserved worse.
I wonder if all these things aren’t marks of true repentance. It seems that repentance of sin and turning toward God necessitates that we don’t scorn or resent the Lord’s discipline but we receive it as a severe mercy that is for our good and which comes from his goodness. Even as David hopes in the mercy of God and believes in his grace, he doesn’t experience it in the form of God lifting the consequences of sin. So his hope is unfulfilled, yet he accepts the judgements of the Lord, and responsibility for his sin, and he persists in worship. That’s crazy.
In moments like that I want to escape, not worship. But David worshipped his way into this mess, allowing the momentary worth of physical pleasure to overtake him, and now he’s worshipping his way out of this mess, allowing the glory and grace of God to capture his heart again. And God was yet gracious again, giving David another son on whom the Lord’s affections were set and through whom his covenant with David would be fulfilled.
2 Samuel 13:1-22
This is just a terrible story of what is far too commonly experienced by women throughout history… the exploitation, abuse and predatory treatment of evil men. And there is no other way to categorize it. The sexual abuse and mistreatment of women is despicable and wicked. It’s inhuman. And before we think, as men, that we are innocent of this, let’s at least take the time to consider the culture we live in. Rape is evil. Molestation is evil. Sexual assault and harassment of every kind is evil.
Much is being made about this even this last week with the Hollywood scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein and the dozens of women coming forward alleging sexual assault by him and other powerful people throughout the film industry. Not to be overlooked is the fact that we voted in a President who is known to have sexually assaulted women, and largely on the strength of support from the evangelical Christian community. Statistics say that 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused by the time they’re 18 years old. That seems high to some of us. But I would tell you, anecdotally, that as a pastor, these numbers seem to bear out.
This kind of behavior is normal in the world of political elites in Washington and cultural elites in Hollywood. These two centers of power sadly and stupidly have major influence on the shaping of our values, ethics and morality as a nation. Is it any surprise that sexual violence, then, is more normative than anyone wants to admit. 70% of men are regular viewers of pornography. Sex trafficking is a global crisis. These are industries making massive profit off the sexual exploitation of women, which only happens because there is a market for the product. These are consumer driven problems.
The average boy looks at porn for the first time around 10-11 years old. By 12-13 they have unfettered access to pornography in their pockets, for both their private and public viewing pleasure. Studies show that pornography nurtures violence toward women, abuse of women, sexual exploitation of women and the general dehumanizing of women.
This is not a problem isolated to the ancient world or to any other sphere spanning time or geography. This is an enormous problem in our nation, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, and quite possibly in our homes. We have to be willing to look at our own lives and examine in what ways we may contribute to a culture of exploitation and sexual abuse. And more importantly, we must be willing to renounce any such participation. It’s not enough to be personally innocent… we must be proactively protective of the vulnerable, and aggressively unsafe for predators.