Absalom has a ‘bad hair day’ !! Stephen remembers Moses.

30 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY TWO : 2 Samuel 16 v. 15 – 18 v. 18; Acts 7 v. 20 – 43; Psalm 72 v. 1 – 20

The Advice of Hushai and Ahithophel – Absalom, Ahithophel and ‘all the men of Israel’ arrive in Jerusalem, and David’s friend Hushai goes to greet Absalom. Absalom wonders why Hushai hasn’t gone with his friend, David, but Hushai pledges allegiance to Absalom
‘Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.’
Ahithophel advises Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines, who had been left to care for the palace; the advice is that this will strengthen Israel’s view of Absalom and will strengthen their hand. Ahithophel’s advice had as much weight, in those days, as if it were God’s word to them.
He goes on to advise that 12,000 men be chosen  and that they set out in pursuit of David. They are to assassinate David and bring the people who are with him back home. On this occasion, Absalom seeks Hushai’s advice too, asking him whether Ahithophel’s plan was a good one.
Hushai tells Absalom that Ahithophel’s plan is not good, and lays out his own, encouraging Absalom, himself, to lead out an army of all Israel against David, being prepared to strike first, and ruthlessly killing them all.
Absalom (and all the men of Israel) prefer Hushai’s plan.
Hushai gives word to Zadok and Abiathar, for them to pass to David, urgently.
Jonathan and Ahimaaz get their cover blown and have to flee from Jerusalem with the message to pass to David. They end up hiding down a well, in a courtyard in Bahurim. When the search party have passed by, Jonathan  and Ahimaaz climb out of the well and go to David to inform him of Absalom’s plans.
David and his men cross the Jordan, fleeing further from Absalom.
Ahithophel takes it very badly that Absalom chose Hushai’s advice over his, so he goes to his own town, puts his house in order and kills himself.
So David stops at Mahanaim, where some of the Ammonites and Gileadites bring them provisions (wheat, flour, grain, beans, lentils, honey, cheese etc to eat). Absalom sets up camp (with a new army commander, Amasa), in Gilead.
Absalom’s Death – David strategically places commanders over thousands and over hundreds, and sends the troops out under the command of Joab, of Abishai, and of Ittai (the Gittite).
Though David is keen to go out and be with them in battle, they urge him to stay in the city, which he does. (‘You are worth ten thousand of us…‘).
David urges them to‘be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake’, and everyone heard this command.
The forest of Ephraim became the battle ground, where Israel was defeated by David’s men – 20,000 men died on that day, the battle spreading out far and wide.
Absalom, also, falls into the hands of David’s men; his hair got caught in the branches of a large oak, as he rode past on his mule…
David’s men come across him, hanging by his hair in the tree. Joab orders one of the men to kill him, but he reminds Joab of David’s order not to harm Absalom. Joab, however, takes things into his own hands and plunges three javelins into Absalom, his armour-bearers also laying into him.
Absalom’s body is taken down and thrown into a pit in the forest.
The Israelites all flee.
There is a monument mentioned, which Absalom had had made for himself, really. As he had no sons to carry on his name, he set up this memorial in the King’s Valley.

Stephen’s Address to the Sanhedrin (continued) – Stephen continues his statement before the ruling council. He reminds them of the role of Moses, raised up to bring God’s people to freedom, ‘educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action’.
He tells of Moses’ murder of the Egyptian who mistreated a Hebrew slave, and of his flight to Midian, settling as a foreigner.
Forty years on, and Moses meets an angel in the burning bush, and hears God’s voice call him.
‘I am the God of your fathers….take off your sandals, this is holy ground….I have heard my people groan and have come down to set them free…I will send you back to Egypt…’
Stephen goes on to show how, time and again, the Israelites turned against Moses, though he was clearly God’s chosen leader for that time. Moses also talked of a time when God would send ‘a prophet like me from your own people’.
‘Our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.’
He reminds them of the golden calf, and their turning away.
The result of their turning away, was ultimately exile in Babylon.

PSALM – a song dedicated to Solomon:
‘Endow the king with Your justice, O God…he will judge Your people in righteousness…
He will defend the afflicted…save the needy children…crush the oppressor.
He will endure as long as the sun…
like rain falling on a mown field…
the righteous will flourish.
He will rule…to the ends of the earth.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy…
May gold of Sheba be given to him…
may his name endure forever.
PRAISE be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds.
May the whole earth be filled with His glory.


David flees from Jerusalem…..Stephen before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem

28 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY ONE : 2 Samuel 15 v. 13 – 16 v. 14; Acts 6 v. 1 – 7 v. 19; Psalm 71 v. 19 – 24

David Flees – David receives the message that Absalom has gained favour from the men of Israel, and he senses he must flee, must escape
‘We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.’
The kings officials pledge allegiance to him, and they set off (leaving ten concubines to care for the palace).
There are many people with the king, including Kerethites, Pelethites and the Gittites. David encourages the Gittites to stay with King Absalom, making the most of their new life within Israel, but Ittai, representing the Gittites pledges
‘wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be’.
David is impressed and allows the Gittites to march with them. They cross the Kidron Valley and head for the desert, everyone weeping as they passed by.
Zadok and the priests were with them, although David told them to return the Ark of God to the city, rather than take it with them –
‘If I find favour in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling-place again…’
The king also sends Zadok and his son, Ahimaaz, and Abiathar and his son, Jonathan back to the city, to keep an eye on things, and send word to David. David and the people continue up the Mount of Olives, head covered and weeping, and David prays that God will ‘turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness’, aware that Ahithophel has played a key part in helping Absalom rise to this position.
At the top of the mount, at a place of worship, Hushai the Arkite meets David and the people – he is dressed for mourning, his robe torn and dust on his head. David also sends him into the city, to act as a messenger between the priests (Zadok etc.) and David, informing him about what is happening in the city. David’s friend Hushai arrives in Jerusalem just as Absalom is entering it too.

How sad that David finds himself fleeing for his life again, having spent all those years running from Saul. This time it’s his own son who is his greatest threat.

David and Ziba – David then meets Ziba on the way beyond the summit. Ziba is the man charged with looking after / helping Mephibosheth who is Saul’s grandson, Jonathan’s son, who was crippled in childhood.
Ziba has amassed a string of donkeys, two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred raisin cakes and fig cakes and a skin of wine, all to sustain them on their journey. Ziba tells David that Mephibosheth has been taken to Jerusalem, for he believes that he may now get back the kingdom his grandfather, Saul, had ruled over. David gives all that Mephibosheth has left to Ziba, who thanks him.

Mephibosheth has been waiting for a time like this, but it’s unlikely that Absalom will have much to do with honouring Saul’s kingdom. 
Shimei Curses David – approaching another area, Bahurim, David and his people are attacked verbally and with stones by Shimei, from the clan of Saul’s family. He accuses David of being a ‘man of blood….the Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul….the Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom…’
Although Abishai suggests killing Shimei (chopping off his head), David commands the people to let him live (maybe God has sent Shimei to curse David), and they continue on their way to their destination, where they arrive exhausted, and keen to rest and be refreshed.

The Choosing of the Seven – as the number of disciples increases, there is a tension growing between the Greek Jews and the Hebrew Jews about whose widows were being best looked after. The Twelve recognise their calling to teach and preach – ‘the ministry of the word of God’ – and decide to raise up others to oversee the distribution of food to the widows.
‘Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’
So they raise up Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas (an Antiochan convert), and they lay hands on them, praying over them, and giving them their responsibilities (whilst the apostles continued to give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word).
‘So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.’

Stephen Seized – Stephen is clearly a man full of God’s grace and power, with many wonders and miracles accompanying him. Members of the Synagogue of the Freedman (Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia) rise up in opposition to the disciples, and argue with Stephen, although Stephen spoke with greater Spirit-wisdom and ‘outspoke’ them !
They spread the word that Stephen has been blaspheming against Moses and against God.
The Sanhedrin call Stephen to appear before them, and bring false witness against him – tales that Stephen has been speaking against ‘this holy place and against the law’, and saying that Jesus will destroy the temple and change all the customs and traditions.
Stephen, however, remained calm, and people noticed ‘that his face was like the face of an angel’.

Jesus had warned that His followers would experience some of the same treatment He’d received – false witness, mockery of a trial, persecution and worse….Stephen seems to be picked out from a very early stage…but then, he had been identified as one ‘full of grace, power, the Spirit….’

Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin –
when it becomes time for Stephen to speak, he addresses the Sanhedrin as ‘Brothers and fathers’. Stephen shows his faithfulness to the story of Abraham, leaving his hometown and journeying to Haran, and onward to receive the promise that his descendants would become the great nation of Israel. Stephen continues through the patriarchs to the story of Joseph, and his brothers’ jealousy, and the family’s move eventually to Egypt because of the famine in the land.
He tells of the plight of the Hebrew people in Egypt under a different king, who knew nothing about Joseph.

Stephen is clearly identifying himself with his brother / father Jewish leaders, and with the pillars and background stories of the faith.

‘Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, You who have done great things.
Who, O God, is like You?
Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again….
I will praise You with the harp for Your faithfulness, O my God….
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You….’

BEWARE…jealousy is dangerous

27 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY : 2 Samuel 14 v. 1 – 15 v. 12; Acts 5 v. 12 – 42; Proverbs 14 v. 15 – 24

Absalom Returns to Jerusalem – Joab hatches a cunning plan to get Absalom and his father David reunited. It’s a little like the Nathan chapter earlier, where a story was told which drew David in, and then it was revealed that this story was actually all about the king David.
This time, Joab fixes it for a woman to dress and act like a poor widow, and to talk of her two sons getting into a fight and one killing the other. The family (clan) of the killed son want the other son to be brought to justice, and pressure the widow to ‘hand him over’. The widow states that this son is her only remaining relative.
The king offers to help, firstly by issuing orders, and then by offering protection against anyone wanting to avenge the death.
Then the woman reveals that the king, himself, is the main character in her story.
‘When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son?’
David asks the woman directly if Joab has been behind her coming to him. She says ‘Yes’, that Joab had done this to bring a change to the stalemate situation.
Joab is instructed to go and bring Absalom back to Jerusalem, which he does, but David rules that Absalom must live in his own house (i.e. not the royal palace), and must not see the king face to face.
There’s a little snapshot of Absalom – he was amongst the most handsome of men in all Israel, spotless, with stunning hair (which sounds heavy when it’s cut and weighed). He has three sons and a daughter, who he named Tamar (after his own sister, who had suffered so greatly at the hands of Amnon).
After two years of being in Jerusalem and not being able to ‘see’ his father, Absalom tries to get Joab to help orchestrate a meeting between them.
Joab declines two invitations to go and see Absalom, so then he sets fire to Joab’s barley field.
At this Joab goes to see Absalom, who tells him that it is even worse being in Jerusalem unable to see his father, than being far away. It was easier being so far away.
Joab arranges for Absalom to come to see the king.
Absalom bows before the king, and they exchange an embrace.

again, interesting to see the power of a story to reveal truth and motivate a change in David’s outlook and life choices
Joab is a key figure in this chapter, involved in the twists and turns around the king’s life

Absalom’s Conspiracy – I don’t think Absalom is enjoying the anonymity and is wanting to play a greater role in the destiny of his people, being the king’s son, but not having an important role. So his disenchantment grows, and he begins to plan a greater purpose for his life. He draws people to his side, by intercepting them on their way to see the king for help, telling them that there is no-one from the king’s representatives available to help:
‘If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he receives justice.
Absalom clearly buttered people up (reaching out his hand and kissing people, like a king), ‘and he stole the hearts of the men of Israel’.
Finally, when Absalom asks permission to honour a vow he’d made to go and worship the Lord at Hebron, he goes with the blessing of David (‘Go in peace’), he is in fact planning to make himself king of Hebron….
When Absalom goes to Hebron he has 200 soldiers with him, who are blissfully unaware of Absalom’s plans.
Absalom also gets David’s advisor / counsellor (Ahithophel) over to where he is, his conspiracy gaining strength.

Bit by bit, David is losing another of his sons, who has his sights set on greater power and influence

The Apostles Heal Many – ‘the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people’, all the believers meeting under Solomon’s colonnade. Although people were fearful of being seen to join then, the number of believers in Jesus increased continually. People brought the sick to them and ‘all of them were healed’.
Even Peter’s shadow was believed to have healing power in it, if you were caught in its path.

The Apostles Persecuted – the high priest and the Sadducees are filled with jealousy, arresting the apostles and putting them in jail. During the night an angel opens the doors and lets them out.
‘Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life.’
They follow the angel’s instruction and go into the courts and begin teaching (a new offensive push from the apostles).
The high priest and Sanhedrin (full assembly of the elders of Israel) gather, unaware that the apostles are not still in jail. When they are told, they send the guards to bring them in and question them.
‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name….yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’
‘We must obey God rather than men!‘ comes Peter’s reply.
The Sanhedrin are ready to put these apostles to death, but Pharisee Gamaliel speaks out, pointing out that previous uprisings have fizzled out (Theudas and Judas are two recent examples of men with grand claims, but it all come to nothing); he suggests that these men are ‘put outside for a little while….if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting against God.’

what words of wisdom from Gamaliel

The apostles, once again, are severely flogged and told not to speak of Jesus!
The apostles rejoice, not that they have been freed, but that they have been counted worthy to suffer for faith in Jesus.
‘Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.’

A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps…
a crafty man is hated…the prudent are crowned with knowledge….
Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness….’

No room for evil, lying and deceit…….

25 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-NINE : 2 Samuel 13 v. 1 – 39; Acts 4 v. 23 – 5 v. 11; Psalm 71 v. 9 – 18

Amnon and Tamar – David’s son Amnon falls in love with his half-sister, Tamar (beautiful sister of Absalom). Amnon became ill through frustration, his desire for his sister growing daily. Amnon’s friend Jonadab gets drawn into a sordid plan suggesting Amnon feins illness and gets his father to send his sister Tamar to feed him. So, Amnon deceives King David, pretending to be ill, and asking him to send Tamar to feed him. David tells Tamar to go to her brother and prepare him food. Tamar goes to Amnon, bakes some bread and takes it in to him.
Amnon refuses to eat it and asks her to send everyone else there away, and summons her to his bedroom where he takes her by force and rapes her. Tamar pleads with him to stop:
‘Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel.’
After Amnon raped her, his lust for her turned to spite and hatred, and he throws her out (again, Tamar protests that throwing her out was a further, and worse sin).
Tamar puts ash on her forehead and tears her beautifully ornate robe, and she weeps and weeps.
Her brother Absalom takes her in and looks after her, a growing hatred for Amnon because of what he has done to their sister Tamar.
King David, also, is furious when he gets told.

David’s family appears to be falling apart, soon after his evil deed in taking Bathsheba as his wife.

Absalom Kills Amnon –
It’s a full two years later that Absalom gets revenge on his sister’s rapist. He invites the king (his father, David) and all his brothers to his place. Although David turns down the invitation, he gives his blessing, and urges Ammon and the other brothers to go.
When the brothers are merry with drink, Absalom orders his servants to kill Amnon, which they do, and all the other brothers leave and head home.
David receives the false report that ALL of his sons have been killed by Absalom, and he immediately goes into mourning.
When David hears that only Amnon has been killed, and sees his other sons return home safely, he greets them home and they all weep bitterly.
Absalom runs away to Talmai, king of Geshur, but David mourns for his son everyday.
Three years Absalom stays there, and all the while the king desires to see him.

David had been warned of devastating consequences ‘close to home’ for his family because of all he had done in the episode with Bathsheba. Here, it is all working its way out! 

The Believers’ Prayer – Peter and John finally arrive back with the believers, and tell them everything that has happened. The whole company pray out to God:
‘Sovereign Lord, You made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them….’
the pray about the conspiracy against ‘Your holy servant Jesus’,
‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness’.
they ask for miraculous signs to accompany their words, through Jesus.
‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’

We note how, having once been filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, they needed a daily in-filling of God’s Spirit to be equipped and enabled to God’s calling. I always love it when the Word says that ‘they were all filled’. There’s such power and strength in their togetherness in Him.

The Believers Share Their Possessions – ‘All the believers were one in heart and mind’.
The Spirit pulled the believers together in radical ways, so that here, no-one claimed their possessions were their own, but shared everything.
The apostles continued to preach boldly. No-one was in need. Plots of land and homes would be sold to supply others’ needs.
Joseph (a Cypriot Levite) (the apostles called him Barnabas – son of encouragement) sold a field and brought the money to the apostles.

Ananias and Sapphira – and to show the holy integrity required in all matters, we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They sell some property but keep some of the money back for themselves, before giving the rest to the apostles.
Peter knows something is wrong and asks Ananias how ‘Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourselves some of the money’.
‘You have not lied to men, but to God’.
At hearing this, Ananias drops down dead, and he is taken away and buried.
When Sapphira shows up, three hours later, she also lies to Peter, claiming they’ve given the full amount over.
Sapphira is also exposed as a liar, and when she hears of Ananias’ death, she, too drops down dead. She is buried alongside her husband.
There is a holy hear which grips the church.

A little like the ruthless holiness of the early days in the wilderness around the tabernacle / Ark of the Covenant, so Ananias and Sapphira are examples of the need for honesty and integrity within the holy community.

Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O God, to help me.
As for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise You more and more.’

David and Bathsheba…

24 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT : 2 Samuel 11 v. 1 – 12 v. 31; Acts 4 v. 1 – 22; Psalm 71 v. 1 – 8


David and Bathsheba – Okay, here we go – David’s BIG downfall!
It’s springtime (the time when kings go to war….really?) and David’s men are out fighting the Ammonites (‘How much better if David had gone with his army into the field…Idleness opens the door to temptation’).
One night, David is up on his rooftop and sees Bathsheba taking a bath. David notices how beautiful she is, and sends for someone to find out more about her.
Although David is told that she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite, he still sends messengers over to bring her to him, and he sleeps with her.
Bathsheba becomes pregnant, and gets the message back to David.
David arranges for Uriah to be brought back from the army, to get him to sleep with Bathsheba and make it look like the baby who is to be born will be his. Uriah returns but doesn’t actually go to sleep in his house, explaining that he can’t bring himself to ‘go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife’ whilst Israel (and the ark of the covenant) are out there engaged in battle. David even keeps him a second night, and gets him drunk, but still he won’t lie with his wife. Uriah is showing integrity and thought for his fellow-men, whilst David is seen to be deceitful and manipulative.
When Uriah returns to the fight, David sends the message to Joab that Uriah should be put frontline where the fighting is the fiercest, and that the troops should withdraw, leaving Uriah exposed.
Joab follows David’s instructions and Uriah is abandoned and killed.
When David hears the news he sends word back to Joab telling him not to be upset, but to press on in battle against the city to destroy it.
Bathsheba hears of her husband’s death and mourns his tragic death. Then, she is taken into David’s palace, making her his wife (another one), and she bears him a son
‘But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.’

Nathan Rebukes David – and oh, the art of storytelling to get a great point across !
Nathan, God’s prophet is sent to David by the Lord.
Nathan tells David a story about a rich man and a poor man.
The rich man owns loads of cattle and sheep, the poor man owns just one small ewe lamb, which he cared for as if it were a member of his family (feeding it, letting it sleep in his arms).
When the rich man receives a guest travelling through, he doesn’t want to kill and eat one of his own animals, but rather he takes the ewe lamb from the  poor person, kills and prepares it for the banquet.
David sees the injustice in this story, and feels anger towards the rich man – ‘the man who did this deserves to die’.
Nathan delivers the killer punchline
‘You are the man!‘, and goes on to do the work of the prophet, bringing God’s word to bear on the situation –
God anointed David king; God delivered David from Saul; God gave David a great place to live, great wives and the ‘house of Israel and Judah’; God would have given more, more, more.
‘Why do you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in His eyes?’

Notice how doing wrong implies a disrespect for, mistrust in, despising of God’s Word.

God spells out exactly what David has done wrong (hard for David to hear this from the prophet, Nathan), and the punishment which will result – ‘I am going to bring calamity upon you’. David’s wives will leave him for other men.
David, at last, confesses his sin to Nathan.
Nathan reassures David that the Lord has taken away his sin (amazing grace), but there are consequences for that sin, and his son will die.
The boy Bathsheba had given birth to became ill and died, even though David fasted and prayed for him for seven days.
(David’s servants were too afraid to tell him when his son died, but David guessed because of their strange behaviour).
David stops his fast and comforts his wife, Bathsheba.
Some time later, Bathsheba gives birth to her second child, named Solomon – ‘the Lord loved him’ – and Nathan suggest the name Jedediah (‘Beloved of the Lord’).
Joab continues to fight against the Ammonites, capturing their royal citadel and David sends the entire army out to capture Rabbah, and placing their king’s crown on David’s head. The inhabitants of the city were put to labour, brickmaking, and David and his men return to Jerusalem.

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin – Peter and John are still speaking to the people, when they are interrupted by the priests, Sadducees and the temple guard, unhappy with their teaching about Jesus’ resurrection.
Peter and John are placed in jail, but not before many had turned to faith in Jesus, believing their message (the number of believers now up to around 5,000).
There’s a big council of Jewish leaders the next day, under Annas, the High Priest, and other members of the High Priest’s family.
Peter and John were brought out to them from behind bars, and asked where their authority to do these things had come from.
Peter, ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, tells them boldly that Jesus of Nazareth is the name by which the crippled man had been given his mobility back (‘this act of kindness’).
Peter proclaims the Jesus they had crucified but God had raised as
‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. (Ps. 118 / Is. 28)
‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’
Peter and John are noted for their courage, as ‘unschooled, ordinary men’, who the Jewish leaders are astonished to hear talk like this. The difference identified by those listening was that ‘these men had been with Jesus’.
They confer amongst themselves about their next step with these men, and they decide to warn them to no longer speak of Jesus.
Of course, Peter and John can agree to no such thing :
‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.’
They hear many other threats before being dismissed, for the leaders fear that too many people are praising God for this miraculous healing, for the man…wait for it…was more than forty years old !!!

Is that meant to sound quite old ?
I was 43 this week….how is that meant to make me feel ?
Even at ‘over 40’, we are not too old to experience a miracle from God.

‘In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge…be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go…
for You are my rock and my fortress…
You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…
my mouth is filled with your praise…’

David shows kindness, compassion, and good leadership; Simon Peter does the same.

23 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SEVEN : 2 Samuel 9 v. 1 – 10 v. 19; Acts 3 v. 1 – 26; Psalm 70 v. 1 – 5

David and Mephibosheth – David wants to know if there are any remaining relatives of Saul’s he should be showing God’s kindness to. One of Saul’s servants, Ziba, is found and he tells David about Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son; David arranges for Mephibosheth to brought to him from Makir’s house in Lo Debar.
Mephibosheth bows down in honour of David, who calls his name.
‘Don’t be afraid…for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father, Jonathan.‘ David offers to restore all the land belonging to Saul, and pledges that Mephibosheth can always eat at David’s table.
Mephibosheth can’t understand why the king is showing such kindness to ‘a dead dog like me’ (Mephibosheth has a very, very low view of his own self / worth).
David fixes everything so that Ziba and his family can farm the land for Mephibosheth, who is looked after, along with his son, Mica, in Jerusalem.

David had pledged his care and support for Jonathan’s family, and here he fulfils his pledge by caring for Mephibosheth and son.

David Defeats the Ammonites – There’s a change of leader for the Ammonites – king Nahash died and his son, Hanun takes over. David sends a delegation to Hanun to express his sympathy and pledge of kindness.
Some of Hanun’s noblemen, though, suspect that this delegation is spying for an attack. Hanun humiliates David’s men by shaving off half of their beards and cutting off their clothes at the buttocks, then sending them back to David.
David suggests the men stay in Jericho until their beards have grown back (and that they put on some new clothes!!!).
The Ammonites realise that they have offended David (‘they had become an offence to David’s nostrils’), and they hire 20,000 Aramean soldiers, along with the king of Maacah (with 1,000 men) and 12,000 men from Tob.
They draw up battle lines, with the Ammonites at the front of their city gate, and the Arameans were positioned in open country.
Joab takes the entire army out to fight, aware that they will be fought on two fronts (Ammonites in front and Arameans behind).
Joab puts the best troops under the his own command against the Arameans, whilst he delegated the rest to Abishai, fighting against the Ammonites – with both keeping an eye on the other.
‘Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in His sight.’
Joab fights the Arameans, and they flee. The Ammonites also, then flee, back into their city.
‘So Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.’
The Arameans regroup, however; Hadadezer brings other Arameans in to bolster the troops. They draw battle lines at Helam, under the command of Shobach.
David calls all Israel’s army, crosses the Jordan towards Helam.
In battle, the Israelites kill 700 charioteers and 40,000 soldiers, before the remaining Arameans flee. Shobach also loses his life.
From then on, the Aramean kings made peace with Israel, subjecting themselves to the Israelites, and the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites again !

Peter Heals the Crippled Beggar – fresh from the events of Pentecost, Peter and John are on their way to 3.00p.m. prayer at the temple when a crippled man was brought to the temple gate (called Beautiful). The crippled man would beg there every day, catching people going into the temple.
He asks Peter and John for money, and Peter has to tell him to look at them (he is so used to looking down, I guess, and simply begging without looking people in the eye – ashamed, or just so used to doing it, day after day?).
‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’
They help him to his feet, and the man’s feet and ankles immediately strengthen, and he jumps, and walks, leaping and praising God, all around the temple courts. The people who saw him, and knew him from the Beautiful Gate, were
‘filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him’.

Peter Speaks to the Onlookers – a crowd gather around Peter, John and the healed man, in Solomon’s Colonnade. Peter addresses them (he’s getting used to this preaching thing, now).
‘Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?’
Peter explains how the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob has glorified Jesus. Although the Jewish leaders had handed Him over to be killed, disowning the Holy and Righteous One…
‘You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead….by faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has given this complete healing to him.’
Peter tells them that, though they acted out of ignorance, God brought His purposes to fulfilment.
‘Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord’.
Peter tells them, also, that Jesus will return, when all is ready for God to restore, and that everything they are now seeing and hearing, even the eyewitness accounts of Jesus, are a fulfilment of prophecy.

‘Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me.’
‘May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ turn back because of their shame.’
‘But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; ‘Let God be exalted’.’
‘You are my help and my deliverer, O Lord, do not delay.’

‘O Sovereign Lord….’ (David acknowledges God’s hand) and the early Spirit-filled church

22 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX : 2 Samuel 7 v. 1 – 8 v. 18; Acts 2 v. 22 – 47; Proverbs 14 v. 5 – 14

image from Sevenoaks Alliance Church website

God’s Promise to David – David settles into his palace, and the Lord provides a time when Israel’s enemies give them a rest. In a conversation with Nathan, the prophet, David realises that the Ark of the Covenant should be housed more magnificently than in a tent (whilst he rests in his palace). Nathan encourages David to do whatever he has in mind, ‘for the Lord is with you’.
That night, Nathan hears God speak to him, with a message for David.
God has never yet been put in a ‘house’, but has been happy to move from place to place in a tent.
He has never asked for ‘a house of cedar’.
God reminds David that it is He who has taken him ‘from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel…Now I will make your name great…and I will provide a place for my people Israel…a home of their own.’
Then God says it will be David’s offspring who will build a ‘house for my Name’, and that David’s kingdom will ‘endure for ever before me; your throne will be established for ever’.
Nathan delights to tell David all that has been revealed to him.

David’s Prayer – David goes to pray, acknowledging all that God has done for him – ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, that you have brought me this far?
‘How great You are, O Sovereign Lord. There is no-one like You.’
There is also acknowledgement of all that God has done for Israel
‘You have established Your people Israel as Your very own for ever, and You, O Lord, have become their God.’
David asks God to keep His promise, so that as David’s house is established, so ‘Your (God’s) name will be great forever.’
David proclaims that God’s words are trustworthy, and asks for God’s blessing upon his ‘house’ for ever.

David’s Victories – In time, David defeats the Philistines and captures Metheg Ammah;
David defeats the Moabites (every two thirds of them killed, one third allowed to live);
David fights the king of Zobah, Hadadezer, close to the Euphrates River, capturing 1,000 chariots, 7,000 charioteers and 20,000 soldiers.
David struck down 22,000 Arameans from Damascus when they came to help Hadadezer, and David put garrisons up in Damascus.
‘The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.’
David took gold and bronze from the defeat of Hadadezer, bringing it all to Jerusalem.
David received more silver, gold and bronze from Tou, king of Hamath, when he got the news of David’s victory over Hadadezer.
David dedicated all these articles to the Lord.
David conquered the Edomites in Salt Valley, putting garrisons throughout Edom.

David’s kingdom is extending in every direction – God giving him victory wherever he goes. This is a good time for David.

David’s Officials – ‘David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.’
Joab continued over the army; Zadok and Ahimelech were priests; Seraiah was secretary; Benaiah was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; David’s sons were royal advisers.

Peter Addresses the Crowd (continued) – Peter continues his first sermon! He reminds the ‘men of Israel’ how they had credited Jesus of Nazareth with His miracles and signs, but how they had taken Him and put Him to death ‘by nailing Him to the cross’.
God raised Jesus from death, ‘freeing Him from the agony of death’.
Peter quotes David’s words from Psalm 16, showing how they speak of Jesus
‘You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay’.
David died, and his grave is there to be seen – Peter reminds them of God’s promise (see the passage from 2 Samuel today) that David’s descendant will be placed on the throne.
‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.’
It is Jesus, now exalted to God’s right hand, who has poured out the ‘promised Holy Spirit’.
‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this : God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’.

The listeners are ‘cut to the heart’ and ask what they should do next.
Peter instructs them to ‘repent and be baptised, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
Peter sees that this outpouring, and this turning to Christ is a pattern for all to come ‘for you and for your children and for all who are far off – all whom the Lord our God will call’.
Peter used many other words of warning and challenge, and on that day about 3,000 became disciples / followers of Jesus.

Stunning effect of the outpoured Spirit, thousands turning to Christ.
‘We need another Pentecost…send the fire today’.

The Fellowship of the Believers –
this snapshot of the early church practising its devotion, is a key text for any wishing to build a Christian community.
‘They devoted themselves…’ – they were committed out of love, showed reverence and devotion
‘to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship’ – learning through reading and understanding the teaching passed down through the apostles, and committed to building one another up in love, continuing to meet together
‘to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ – times of worship which included from the very beginning, breaking bread and prayer, sacrament (the new covenant remembered, the new Passover celebrated) and openness to God
‘Everyone was filled with awe, and many miraculous signs were done by the apostles’ – the apostles teaching was accompanied by signs and wonders, just as Jesus’ had. People were gripped with awe and wonder – it was an exciting, exhilarating time
‘All the believers were together and had everything in common.’ – a radical commitment to one another meant richer members sold possessions to enable the poorer to live well – an outbreak of sharing
‘Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts’ – they couldn’t abide the thought of not seeing each other from one week until the next, so they would meet up daily, in the temple and in one anothers’ homes
‘They ate (broke bread) in their homes with glad and sincere hearts’ – hospitality was a hallmark of the outpoured Spirit, and an honesty in sharing, with a heart inclined towards gratitude and thankfulness to God 
‘praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people’ – God is glorified, and people notice the difference and like what’s happening around (bit of a honeymoon period perhaps ?)
‘And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ – a season of real fruitfulness, without necessarily ‘reaching out’, but living the Spirit-filled life bore fruit naturally, in those being attracted to, and caught up in Jesus’ saving grace.

‘the life-style and fellowship of these early believers was as great a miracle as the phenomena at Pentecost’ (H.B.Swete)

‘The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.’
‘The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.’
‘Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no-one else can share its joy.’
‘The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish’
(note here that it is the wicked that have a house, and the upright that have a tent….)
‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.’