The Numbers Game

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We have been following the life and adventures of David over the past few weeks. This week we find Absalom (David’s son, who tried to overthrow him) has died in battle and David restored to the throne once again. Then something interesting occurs. David gets caught up in a little social media addiction. Well, something like that. Let’s take a look.

Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-2

Out of the blue, Satan decides to stick his ugly claws into David once again and he decides to count all the people under his control. When I first read this, I wasn’t sure what the big deal was. Why shouldn’t a king take a census of his people? However, David must have forgotten God’s stipulation for taking a census. “When you take a census of the Israelites to register them, each of the men must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord as they are registered. Then no plague will come on them as they are registered.” Exodus 30:12 because he didn’t take up any ransom. He was only interested in the numbers. This need to count stemmed from David’s own pride and the desire to see how many people where under his thumb. It reminds me of when my children post a picture to Instagram and continue to look back to see how many people have “liked” it or when they compare how many followers they each have. Apparently, there is even an unspoken rule that if you don’t have a certain number of “likes” on a picture you should delete it of your account entirely because it’s not worth keeping if enough people don’t like it. I’m not sure what is scarier . . . letting others decide what things in your life are worth remembering or having your self-worth being tied up into how many followers you have on your social media accounts.

Either way, it didn’t turn out well for David in his situation.

This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”The Lord said to Gad, David’s seer, 10 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’” 1 Chronicles 21:7-9

David’s prideful decision wasn’t going to just go away. He had to decide if he wanted three years of famine, three months of devastation by his foes, or a plague to cover the land. Maybe if we had punishments like that when pride took over we would try to stifle it more and find our strength, beauty and self-worth only in God. Maybe?

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Sticks and Stones

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Shame and guilt can be like ugly warts that won’t go away. They appear, begin to grow quickly and are difficult to get rid of. So often we don’t want to face the fall out of our actions so we remove ourselves from the situation entirely hoping that the memories will fade and take the shame and guilt with it. That’s why as I read 2 Samuel 16, it tugged at my heart. In this chapter we find King David running from his son Absalom who conspired to overthrow him (his own father). Fleeing quickly, David reaches a town where he ran into Shimei (a man from the house of Saul).

He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!” 2 Samuel 16:6-8

I don’t know about you, but I struggle enough with past sins without someone screaming them out in public at me as I walk by. Quickly, David’s loyal companion defends him and offers to cut off Shimei’s head to stop the cursing. However, David’s response is what caught my attention.

10 But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”

11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

13 So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. 14 The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself. 2 Samuel 16:10-14

David defends Shimei and tells his men to allow him to continue cursing him. No secret service action needed. David understood he deserved this and no matter how difficult and shameful it must have been he allowed it to continue for miles as they traveled and Shimei followed them. Not only cursing at David, but throwing stones and dirt on him. Talk about free speech.

David was hopeful that if he allowed Shimei to follow the Lord’s instructions to curse David, that the Lord might look upon him with pity and bless David once again (v.12). David was strong enough to take the sticks and stones he had earned by sinning so grievously against God when he slept with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered. He understood he was paying the price for those sins and that God wasn’t finished with him yet. He didn’t allow shame and guilt to overwhelm and overcome the lesson he desired to learn from his past mistakes. He realized there were consequences, admitted his mistakes, took the condemnation BUT kept moving forward. With hope his anchor, he kept following God and trusting He would restore His covenant with him once again.

I have such adoration for the amount of trust and faith David had that God was still with Him, that He would eventually restore him and that God would not forsake him. So often in the heat of the battle the lights grow dim on hope, faith and trust because they are overshadowed by the guilt and shame. Let’s put it all out there in the light just like David, cleansing our hearts daily, turning it all over to God and trust in the restoration He desires for us.

Keep moving forward! We may end up dirty and bruised when we arrive at our destination, but God will restore, renew and refresh us when we arrive.

 

There’s A Psalm for that

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One of the greatest things about reading the Bible in chronological order for me so far is that mixed in Chronicles and 1 & 2 Samuel (David’s story) are the Psalms he wrote. They are placed in proper sequence so that you read the Psalm that’s in direct response to his current circumstances. As we meandered through his rise to kingship and fall to sin Psalm 86 caught my eye.

On those days when you aren’t sure what to pray, overcome with grief, busyness, circumstances and you can’t think straight but need to be on your knees talking to God. . . . this is just what we need. Psalm 86 (called David’s Prayer) is a diamond in the rough and covers almost all we need from the Lord on a daily basis. I call it my “God, please” prayer.

Take a look at what David asks of the Lord and see how much it relates to what we need ourselves.

God, please . . .answer me (v.1), protect my life (v.2), be gracious to me (v.3), bring joy to my life (v. 4), make me rich in faithful love (v. 5), listen to my plea (v.6), answer me (v.7), teach me your way (v.11), give me an undivided mind to fear your name (v.11), turn to me and be gracious to me (v. 16), give me your strength (v.16), show me a sign of your goodness, help and comfort me (v.17).

My pen and heart went crazy as I read this Psalm. There have been so many times in my life when my heart and mind have been paralyzed from grief, sadness and despair. So much so, that I wasn’t able to pray as I felt I needed to and here it is, right here in Psalms written out perfectly. All the provisions and things we desire from the Lord to equip us with and all we crave to receive from Him. So, next time you are in need of a little prayer direction, look to the Psalms. For David surely experienced almost every emotion, circumstance and sin we could imagine and has a prayer for that!

Psalm 86

Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. 10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. 11 Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. 14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me—they have no regard for you. 15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. 17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

 

The Ripple Effect

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In 2 Samuel 11-12, we find David at home wandering around his palace when he should have been off at war with his men. “In the spring when kings march out to war, David sent Joab with his officers all Israel. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah, but David remained in Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1

I have often wondered why David decided to stay during that time when kings usually accompanied their soldiers. Was he sick, injured, depressed or had he spotted Bathsheba before and wanted everyone to be at war when he made his move? In any case, he remained and spotted Bathsheba (a married woman) from his balcony and sent for her. He blatantly disobeyed God by having sexual relations with a married woman and committing adultery.

After all we read about God doing for David in previous chapters it’s difficult to understand how David could have turned so abruptly. Or is it? Don’t we do it daily? Maybe not with an “in your face” offense like adultery, but with idols of greed, coveting and gossip. After all God had done for David, he blew it in one moment of weakness. We are familiar with the story of sin, but I want to focus on the response from God.

At this point in 2 Samuel, David is hearing from God through the prophet Nathan. Nathan reminds David of all God blessed him with, protected him from and has promised him and then drops the sentence. “I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly. You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.” 2 Samuel 12:11-12

David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Then Nathan replied to David, “The Lord has taken away your sin; you will not die. However, because you treated the Lord with such contempt in this matter, the son born to you (and Bathsheba) will die.” 2 Samuel 2:13-14

God had already promised David (2 Samuel 7:15-16) that He would not remove His faithful love from David has He had done to Saul and that his kingdom would be established forever. Nathan even tells David that he will not die and his sins have been taken away. However, we see the consequences of his sin do not go away. Nathan explains to David that his son will die and disaster will fall on his family. We become disillusioned if we believe that being forgiven for our sins means that everything will go back to normal. That there will be no consequences. That our entire slate is wiped clean and we start fresh. We do start fresh when it comes to forgiveness in God’s eyes. We are wiped clean and white again with the blood of His sacrifice each time we repent, but repenting does not mean that the consequences of our actions are erased or go away. The ripple effect continues, but it doesn’t mean God hasn’t forgiven you. I have fallen prey to Satan’s lies in the past because when I repented the consequences of my sins continued on . . . . . .

This is where the rubber meet the road in our faith. We must remember that each time we sin and humbly ask for forgiveness it happens, but that the ripples sin creates can’t be stopped. Do not confuse consequences with unforgiveness. The forgiveness remains even as the consequences continue on.