A mighty fortress….and Philip’s ministry begins powerfully

8 07 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FOUR : 2 Samuel 20 v. 1 – 21 v. 22; Acts 8 v. 4 – 40; Proverbs 14 v. 25 – 35

He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress....


Sheba Rebels Against David – Sheba is described as a troublemaker, and certainly stirs trouble for David, going around with his trumpet and shouting
‘We have no share in David…every man to his tent, O Israel’.
On account of him, ‘all the men of Israel’ deserted David to follow Sheba, whilst David has the men of Judah remain committed to him.
Once back in Jerusalem, David provides a house for the ten concubines who had been left in charge of the palace, where they remained all their days.
David sends Amasa to summon all of Judah to be ready to fight Sheba’s men, but Amasa takes a whole lot longer to do this than he was supposed to. David puts Abishai in charge of the army, and they stride out of Jerusalem to pursue Sheba.
At Gibeon, Amasa returns to the army (they must have suspected all sorts of treachery etc.). Joab grabs his beard to kiss him, and plunges his dagger into his stomach, killing him on the spot (another kiss of betrayal?).
Amasa’s dead body was a distraction to all the men of the army who passed by – each would stop and look – so the body was moved into a field and covered over, and all the men continued in their pursuit of Sheba.
The army arrive at Abel Beth Maacah, where Sheba and his troops were besieged. The city walls were being battered, so a woman calls to them from the city and speaks with Joab, persuading him to stop the attack on such a ‘peaceful and faithful’ city, renowned for its wisdom as a mother-city of Israel. Joab asks her to arrange for Sheba to be handed over to them, and he will cease the attack on the city. The woman pledges that Sheba’s head will be thrown to them for the wall; she speaks with the people in her city, who seize Sheba and cut off his head, and throw it over the wall (nice….I much prefer the traditional ‘could you throw our ball back over the wall’).
Joab returns to Jerusalem, and becomes the commander of all Israel’s army.
Benaiah has the job of commanding the Kerethites and Pelethites.
Adoniram commands the forced labour.
Jehoshaphat becomes the recorder, chronicling the events.
Sheva becomes the secretary.
Zadok, Abiathar and Ira were the priests (Ira specifically assigned priest for David).

The Gibeonites Avenged – During a devastating three year period of famine, David ‘sought the face of the Lord’, and God shows David that there is a link to the slaughter of the Gibeonites which Saul was responsible for.
David summons the Gibeonites and seeks to make amends. The Gibeonites were not part of Israel, but as survivors of the Amorites, the Israelites had sworn to protect them – then Saul tried to ‘annihilate them’.
The Gibeonites ask for seven of Saul’s male relatives to be handed over to them to be killed.
David handed over seven of Saul’s relatives – continuing to protect Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son) – choosing Armoni, another Mephibosheth (sons of Saul’s daughter Rizpah), and the five sons of Saul’s daughter, Merab. All seven were killed on the first day of the barley harvest.
Rizpah mourns the death of her two sons by staying with their exposed bodies, keeping the birds away from them. David arranges to have the bones of Saul and Jonathan brought from Jabesh Gilead to the tomb of Saul’s father, Kish, in Benjamin’s town of Zela. There the bodies of the seven men were also buried.
‘After that, God answered prayer on behalf of the land.

I found myself pondering this story, where God is clearly blocked / distanced from David and the Israelites until they have made amends to the Gibeonites, seeking to be put right with them again.
It felt a little like the line in the Lord’s prayer, ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’ – there’s a link between our actions and our ability to receive the fulness of God’s blessings.
To whom may I need to make amends ?
Who do I need to forgive ?
Whose forgiveness do I need to seek ?

Wars Against the Philistines – They are at it again – the Israelites and the Philistines in battle. David goes along to help in the battle, but ‘becomes exhausted’ (he’s only human, see).
The Philistines had a leader called Rapha whose four relatives are killed during the following verses.
One, Ishbi-Benob (with an impressive 300 shekel (in weight) bronze spearhead, and a new sword – oohhh) intends to kill David in his weakened, exhausted state; Abishai has him killed.
(David’s men pledge that David will never again go out to battle, to avoid his exhaustion, ‘so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished’.)
Secondly, Saph is killed in a battle at Gob (great name for a town/city!).
Thirdly, Goliath (who had a special weaver’s rod-like spearshaft) is killed in another battle at Gob.
Fourthly, an unnamed relative, but a giant of a man with six fingers and six toes on each hand/foot, is killed at Gath.

good to see David’s men recognise his exhaustion, and make a decision to leave him out of the heat of the battles, for fear of losing him, the ‘lamp of Israel’.


Philip in Samaria – After the stoning of Stephen and the rise in persecution, the followers are scattered far and wide, ‘preaching the word wherever they went’. Philip (mmm good name that one !) went to a city in Samaria, proclaiming Christ there, and casting out demons (‘with shrieks, evil spirits came out of many)’, and healing (‘many paralytics and cripples were healed’). The combination of the words spoken and the accompanying miraculous signs caused all the people to ‘pay close attention’ to what Philip said, and the whole city was filled with ‘great joy’.

Simon the Sorcerer – the sorcerer, Simon, had had his own way in the city, wowing all of Samaria for a good number of years – ‘He boasted that he was someone great!’
All sorts of people revered him, claiming him to be a divine ‘Great Power’, following him, amazed at his magic.
All this changes when Philip turns up, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, and many believed and were baptised, including Simon!
Now Simon follows Philip everywhere, ‘astonished at the great signs and miracles he saw.’
Peter and John are sent to Samaria, having heard the news that these Samaritans were accepting the gospel.
‘They prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them’.
They laid hands on the people, and they received the Holy Spirit.
‘When Simon saw that the Spirit was given…’ – what did Simon see happen ? Well, we don’t know, but there clearly was a visible sign that these people were ‘receiving’ the Spirit, and Simon wants the ability to produce this sort of experience for people – he even offers to pay Peter and John for them to impart this ability to him (teach him the magic/trick).
Peter admonishes Simon for this request – ‘you have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God’  – and he urges Simon to pray for God’s forgiveness.
Simon asks Peter to pray for him, also.
Peter and John finish their testifying and proclaiming, and return to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages on the way.

the majestic words and the miraculous works of God are both needed for the full life Jesus brings – the dangerous trap Simon fell into was to desire one more than the other

Philip and the Ethiopian – Philip receives direction from an angel, telling him to go on a particular road, and as he goes he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, who was an important official in the Queen of Ethiopia’s treasury. He, too, was on his way from Jerusalem, having been there to worship, and he was reading Isaiah.
Philip received a nudge from the Holy Spirit to go alongside this Ethiopian chariot. He hears Isaiah being read, and asks the man if he understands what he’s reading.
‘How can I, unless someone explains it to me?‘ – the charge for every preacher, bible teacher, evangelist, faith-sharer : to explain the revelation of God.
Philip is invited into the chariot

there’s just something wonderfully natural about this encounter…it is God’s hand, His Spirit at work…that Philip asks the right question, and the invitation comes from the inquirer that Philip gets on board the chariot…God’s Spirit is always opening doors, creating opportunities…will we be led by the mysterious angels and Spirit or by something else (fear, pride, uncertainty…)

The eunuch asks Philip a question about who the prophet is talking about in the passage he’s reading, from Isaiah 53, and Philip uses that passage to tell him the good news about Jesus.
The next question the eunuch asks is about baptism, seeing some water nearby, and Philip baptises him there and then!
Once back out of the water, Philip was led away by the ‘Spirit of the Lord’, never to be seen again. The eunuch went praising God for all that had happened.
Philip continued ministering in Azotus and all the way to Caesarea, preaching everywhere he went.

A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful…
He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress…the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death…
A patient man has great understanding…but a quick-tempered man displays folly…
He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God…
Righteousness exalts a nation…’




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