Give Me Understanding that I May Live

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2 SAMUEL 17:1-29 | JOHN 19:23-42 | PSALM 119:129-152 | PROVERBS 16:12-13

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The story of Absalom’s pursuit of his father continues.  Absalom seeks out the advice of two advisors to the king, each giving different advice.  David, in the meantime is still on the run and is a king without a kingdom.  One of the advisors, Hushai, sends word to David to alert him to Absalom’s plans.  It is to be seen what may come of all this and whether Absalom succeeds in displacing his own father David as king of Israel.

Turning to our passage in the book of John, we come upon the gruesome account of the crucifixion of Jesus.  After a most horrific ordeal, Jesus breathes his last on the cross.  It is indeed a matter of curiosity as to where all his disciples have gone because there is no one to tend to the body; instead, it is two relatively unknown men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who ask Pilate for the body and take it away for a proper burial.

Our reading in the psalms continues through chapter 119, the longest psalm.  Some verses that are worthy of reflection and emulation are as follows:

130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.

140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
141 Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
144 Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live.

145 I call with all my heart; answer me, LORD,
and I will obey your decrees.
146 I call out to you; save me
and I will keep your statutes.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your laws.
 

Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs pertaining to the true character of kings.  One can’t help but wonder if Solomon, king of Israel, had his father David or even himself in mind when he wrote this:

12 Kings detest wrongdoing,
for a throne is established through righteousness.

13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips;
they value the one who speaks what is right.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

What I Have Written, I Have Written

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2 SAMUEL 15:23-16:23 | JOHN 18:25-19:22 | PSALM 119:113-128 | PROVERBS 16:10-11

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There is complete disorder in the kingdom of David.  While David the king has had to flee his own land, the insurrection of Absalom, his son, continues unabated.  David initially takes the Ark of the Covenant with him, but thinks better of it and sends it back to Jerusalem with the priests. 

En route to the Mount of Olives in ashes and sackcloth, David is wondering how it can be that he has become a prey to his own flesh and blood.  And he encounters equally puzzling incidents along the way:  there is a man from the tribe of Benjamin that heaps curses upon the king as he passes by, and then there is the servant of Mephibosheth, who comes to David with gifts because his own master, the grandson of Saul, now believes that he will soon become installed as king of Israel! 

In the meantime, Absalom receives the worst possible advice from the kings’ counselors who have jumped ship onto Absalom’s side.  They tell Absalom to sleep with his father’s concubines in a show of domination and power.  Woe is unto Absalom!

Turning now to our reading in the gospel of John, we see Pontius Pilate the Roman governor utter these words about Jesus:  “I find no basis for a charge against him.” And yet, the crowd that has been instigated by the elders and teachers of the Sanhedrin, the religious body, wants blood—and they want it now.  And so, the trial is over, the verdict is in, and the execution is underway. 

But Pilate is still unconvinced, and you almost feel sorry for the man—he tries again and again to let Jesus go, but never does find the courage of his convictions to act upon it.  The Jewish leaders tell Pilate this:  “We have a law, and according to that law he (Jesus) must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”  And finally, Pilate gives in.

The other gospels record that he symbolically washes his hands to indicate that the blood of this man called Jesus is not on his hands, but the sad fact is that it certainly was.  It was on the hands of Pilate as much as it was on the hands of every single person who called for his death on that day. 

But as one last effort to make known his position, Pilate orders a sign to be installed above Jesus’ cross that proclaims:  JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 

For a Roman governor to publicly acknowledge a kingship in a land that is occupied by the Romans and ruled by Caesar, this was indeed a brazenly courageous act.  Pilate was jeopardizing his own position in doing this, but he remains unmoved when the Jewish elders come to him and ask that the sign be modified to read that Jesus claimed he was the king of the Jews.  Pilate replies, “What I have written, I have written.”

Our journey through the very long Psalm 119 continues.  Some verses that stand out to me are these:

114 You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
115 Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
 

123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.

And finally, a verse from Proverbs that speaks to the constant justice to be found in God’s dealings:

11 Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord;
all the weights in the bag are of his making.    

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

 

Your Word Is A Lamp For My Feet

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2 SAMUEL 14:1-15:22 | JOHN 18:1-24 | PSALM 119:97-112 | PROVERBS 16:8-9

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Every child is precious to its parents.  And a child’s wrongdoing, no matter how grievous cannot be forever held against him by the parent.  We see this truth play itself out in the story of David and Absalom, the son who murders his half-brother Amnon and flees to another land for fear of his father’s wrath. 

But time passes, and David’s grief and longing for his fugitive son remains.  This leads to Joab, David’s advisor, to devise a plan to allow Absalom to return from exile.  David agrees to this, and in time there is an understanding to allow Absalom to return, and yet, he is not received by his father for a true reconciliation.  This greatly irks Absalom, and one is only left to imagine the storm of emotions that he must have harbored in his heart toward his father and his people.

But since Absalom cannot win the favor and love of his father, he begins to make every attempt to win the love and trust of the people.  By ingratiating himself with the common folk who come to petition the king on various and sundry matters, Absalom begins to be seen in a new light.  So much so, that he soon builds up a following of a band of men, and it isn’t long before he makes his ulterior intentions known:  he wishes to be king. 

Absalom believes that his good looks and charm are grounds enough to usurp the king and appoint himself as one.  What this means is that soon David is made to flee for his life.  The king fears that his own son will displace him from the throne and perhaps even kill him.  What a sad day it is in the land of Israel!

Turning now to our reading in the gospel of John, we learn of Jesus’ arrest.  It is here that Peter draws his sword to slice off the ear of a Roman guard.  But Jesus will have none of this and tells Peter to put away his sword, and although John doesn’t mention it, the other three gospels do record the restoration of the man’s ear.  The charges drawn up against Jesus are flimsy:  blasphemy at best.  But the ball has been set to roll, and roll it must…

Turning now to our reading of the psalms, we are still working our way through the longest psalm 119.  Here is the entire section titled Nun.  May it be that like David, the psalmist, we also strive to make these words real in our lives:

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.

Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs reproduced here in the KJV which is the one that I am most familiar with:

9A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

Your Faithfulness Continues Through All Generations

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2 SAMUEL 13:1-39 | JOHN 17:1-26 | PSALM 119:81-96 | PROVERBS 16:6-7

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We find in today’s passage a most distressing story of Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom, siblings all of them who shared a father, king David.  The whole business of Amnon being enamored of Tamar, and his shenanigans to get her attention and then abuse this privilege as the king’s son in raping his own half-sister is a most shameful act indeed.  Why this wasn’t brought to the attention of their father immediately is a little puzzling, and yet, Absalom safeguards his sister and has a plan to seek revenge. 

That revenge comes two years later when he has Amnon killed in cold blood.  Having done this, Absalom flees to a neighboring king and seeks refuge there.  What a state of affairs these are when good intentions turn into something else altogether, when privileges are abused, sensibilities violated, and atrocities are committed one graver than the other—all within the family circle.  Things to ponder, indeed.

Turning to our reading in the book of John, we find Jesus preparing for what is soon going to be the beginning of the end.  In his half-mortal body, Jesus prays for God’s protection to those being left behind, i.e., you and me. 

Jesus says:  11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

“None has been lost…” therein lies the affirmation that Jesus’ work on the cross is for everyone, not for a few chosen ones. 

And Jesus goes on to reiterate this point when he says this20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Turning now to our reading in the psalms, we continue with Psalm 119.  Some verses that speak to me are:

89 Your word, LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.

93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.

And finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs that may serve as food for thought:

6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.

7 When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

In Me You May Have Peace

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2 SAMUEL 12:1-31 | JOHN 16:1-33 | PSALM 119:65-80 | PROVERBS 16:4-5

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‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ 

These are the words of the Lord through the prophet Nathan to David for what he has done.  David has indeed done a grievous thing in the sight of the Lord, and now there will be consequences.

But David is repentant and seeks the Lord’s forgiveness.  And yet, that is not sufficient to spare the child that is to be soon born to David and Bathsheba.  The child dies within seven days of birth, and David realizes the price that has been exacted of him.  However, the next child that is born of this union is none other than Solomon, the great and wise future king of Israel.

Turning now to our reading in the gospel according to John, we are fast approaching the horrific end that Jesus is to soon face.  Jesus has been telling his disciples so many things:  words of encouragement and exhortation, all of these not completely comprehensible by the disciples.  But Jesus knows that it won’t be long that they will understand. 

Today, Jesus says:  But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

But Jesus does take a moment to speak plainly to his disciples.  He says now:  25“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Finally, Jesus speaks one of the most comforting words to his bewildered disciples, and by extension to all of us.  He says:  33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Turning now to our reading of the psalms, we still continue with the long Psalm 119.  Some verses worthy of meditation:

71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

One can only sense where such emotions must stem from—deep within the heart of king David—as he pens these lines:

75 I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.

And finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs that make no bones about the fact that God will not be mocked; rather, God will take care of business, as and when the time is right.  Solomon, wise king of Israel, says this:

4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end—
even the wicked for a day of disaster.

5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

May Your Unfailing Love Come to Me, Lord

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2 SAMUEL 7:1-8:18 | JOHN 14:15-31 | PSALM 119:33-48 | PROVERBS 15:33

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“I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. ‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:

12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” 

These are the Lord’s words to David through the prophet Nathan.  And what a beautiful promise does David receive, indeed.  David accepts this with great humility, and the text tells us that he went on to establish himself firmly in his kingdom by way of gaining victory over his enemies and making peace with his neighbors.  There is no doubt that David is an able king, and yet it is to be seen how his personal life choices affect his reign.

Turning now to our reading in the book of John, we continue to learn of Jesus’ teachings as he approaches the end.  Jesus says, 15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.” 

This is the Holy Spirit, part of the Triumvirate of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is to serve as our advocate and intercessor.  But Jesus knows that his disciples are troubled by what he is telling them, primarily because they cannot understand its complete meaning.  How could they?  They knew not what is to come. 

And yet, Jesus is preparing them and tells them this also:  27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Turning now to our reading in the psalms, we continue with more sections of Psalm 119.  Some verses that speak to me are these:

34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.

41 May your unfailing love come to me, LORD,
your salvation, according to your promise.

Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs to serve as food for thought:

33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the LORD,
   and humility comes before honor.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

By This Everyone Will Know That You Are My Disciples

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2 SAMUEL 4:1-6:23 | JOHN 13:31-14:14 | PSALM 119:17-32 | PROVERBS 15:31-32

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Sometimes innocent blood is shed under the guise of revenge.  That was certainly true for Ish-Bosheth.  Although he was Saul’s son and had been installed as Saul’s successor, we have learned already that this was a young man who did not thirst for power and had been content to allow Abner, his father’s chief of armies to run his kingdom for him.  Also, Ish-Bosheth appeared to be at peace with the House of David, and went so far as to returning Michal (actually, his aunt), David’s first wife, back to him. 

But there is suddenly unrest everywhere:  Abner has been murdered, the people are alarmed, and Ish-Bosheth is weakened even more.  And to make matters worse, two thugs take it upon themselves to displace Ish-Bosheth permanently by killing him.  Ish-Bosheth was not a criminal, and was certainly not pursued by David or anybody for that matter, and yet these two thugs thought they would win David’s favor by doing this dastardly deed.  They find out soon enough what David’s reaction is when David orders both of them to be put to death for committing this heinous act of murdering the son of the king of Israel.

Following this incident, David is officially installed as undisputed king of Israel, and there is an account of his reign that is said to have lasted for a full forty years, counting the six years or so after Saul’s death right up until Ish-Bosheth’s death.  David’s rule sees the conquering of the city of Jerusalem which is renamed the City of David, the further deafeat of the Philistines in the area, and the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. 

The imagery of the young and beautiful David, dancing in the streets in celebration of the coming of the Ark is a graphic one, and yet, it is tinged with sadness for Michal who is jealous of her husband’s public displays and chides him for it.  But David points out to her certain pertinent facts, chief among them being the difference between her father and himself. 

This is how David offers a clear explanation for his behavior:  I will celebrate before the LORD, he says.  Matter closed.  Alas, it is Michal who is to be the woeful one and also the barren one for questioning her husband’s intents.

Turning now to our reading in the gospel of John, we see Jesus preparing for what is to come.  He spares no time in telling his disciples so many things they ought to remember for the future—for when he will no longer be with them.  One of the most significant teachings of Jesus is to be found here.  Jesus says:  34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus continues to comfort his disciples who sense that their master is going to leave them soon.  How and when they do not yet know, but still they are disturbed, and they in turn wish to tell Jesus that they would follow him to the ends of the earth.  Alas, they do not realize that Jesus knows exactly what they will do—or at least what Peter will do! 

Peter must not have been too happy to hear his dear Lord say to him that he would betray him three times in one day before the rooster crows!  But Jesus does care for the grief that he knows his disciples are undergoing.  He tells them most lovingly:   1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Furthermore, Jesus makes one of the most unequivocal statements yet:  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”  Is that sufficiently clear, dear Thomas and Philip?

And if you have ever believed, listen to what Jesus says you can accomplish.  Jesus says11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find a continuation of the very long Psalm 119.  Some verses from these sections are as follows:

23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, LORD;
do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.

Finally, a couple of verses from our reading from the book of Proverbs:

31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.

32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
   but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.