‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing….’

14 07 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX : 2 Samuel 23 v. 8 – 24 v. 25; Acts 9 v. 32 – 10 v. 23a; Psalm 74 v. 1 – 9


2 SAMUEL

David’s Mighty Men – The ‘Three’ mighty men are named : Josheb-Basshebeth (killed 800 men in one go), Eleazar (stood his ground when the Israelite army retreated from the Philistines) and Shammah (Israel fled from a lentil field (?), but ‘Shemmah took his stand’).
On one occasion, when David desperately needed a drink, the ‘three mighty men’ broke through enemy Philistine lines to draw water from the well near Bethlehem’s gate. David couldn’t bring himself to drink it, because of the risk to their very lives.
Abishai became commander over the ‘Three’, killing three hundred in one go.
Benaiah became David’s bodyguard, having killed two of Moab’s best fighters, a lion, and a huge Egyptian!
Some of David’s thirty other ‘mighty men’ are then listed – and there are some great names amongst David’s elite / special forces :
Shammah the Harodite
Mebunnai the Hushathite
Maharai the Netophathite
Benaiah the Pirathonite
Eliahba the Shaalbonite…..(some real tongue-twisters in this list)
interestingly, the last name mentioned is Uriah the Hittite (husband of Bathsheba, whom David arranged to be killed – one of his elite, special forces men!!)

David Counts the Fighting Men – God is angry towards Israel again, and commands David to take a census of Israel and Judah. Joab and the army commanders are instructed to go throughout Israel’s tribes enrolling the fighting men.
Joab asks why this enormous task is necessary, and is ‘overruled’ by David’s words back to them, so they set off.
Their route is tracked through Israel and Judah – and ‘after they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of the nine months and twenty days.’
800,000 able-bodied fighting men in Israel, 500,00 in Judah were counted.
David repents for all he has done – his foolishness – and God sends Gad, the prophet, with three possible punishments for David, offering him the choice of which one : three years of famine, or three months of fleeing from the enemy, or three days of plague. David is distressed, and doesn’t fancy falling into the hands of the enemy, so he invites God to choose from the other two. God sends a plague, and 70,000 people die. God stops the ‘angel’ before the plague hits Jerusalem. David sees the angel who is striking down the people and says,
‘I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep…Let your hand fall upon me and my family.’

In this passage, it isn’t clear what David has done wrong to warrant God’s wrath – it appears he is simply obeying God’s orders in counting the men (conducting a census). The parallel verse (to 24 v.1 here) in 1 Chr. 21 says ‘Now Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel). Maybe, in earlier thinking, both good and evil were sent by God (i.e. God moved David to commit an act for which the nation would be punished), and later, that although God permits evil to happen, Satan (and humanity) is responsible….maybe the census was motivated by pride, or might lead to a sense of self-sufficiency (turning away from God’s provision).
How important it is to look at the deep motivations for our actions at work, in the home, in the community, and to seek a holiness, a purity in all we are about.

David Builds an Altar – David’s final act in the book of 2 Samuel is to build an altar at the place where the angel ceases to spread the plague on Israel. He visits Araunah and buys his threshing floor to build the altar upon. Araunah wants to gift the threshing-floor to David, along with oxen, yokes, sledges etc., but David insists on paying,
‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing…’ (an offering which costs us nothing is literally worth-less!)
He pays 50 shekels of silver, builds his altar and sacrificed both burnt and fellowship offerings there.

This threshing-floor site is later developed by Solomon as the site of the first temple – it is established as a place of worship / meeting with God.
The story of King David in the books of Samuel, is a story of great highs and lows, of faithfulness to God’s ways, of growing and learning continually in leadership. One of the surprise high-points for me during my visit to the Holy Land last year was to visit David’s tomb in Jerusalem. We know more about David than most other biblical characters, and his songwriting was superb, capturing all human emotion and all Godly glory, in many of his psalms, and our Lord Jesus (for whom there is only an empty tomb) is ‘of the line of David’.
GLORIOUS!

ACTS
Aeneas and Dorcas –  Peter visits the saints in Lydda, and speaks healing into the life of a paralysed man, Aeneas:
‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and tidy up your mat.’
Many people in Lydda turn to the Lord because of this miracle in their midst.
Then, in Joppa, Dorcas (or Tabitha) who is known as a disciple of the Lord, and who is known for her good works and helping the poor, becomes sick and dies. Peter is summoned the short distance from Lydda to Joppa. Peter is shown all of Dorcas’ robes and clothing she had made, and is taken to where she lies. Alone in the room with her, Peter kneels and prays.
‘Tabitha, get up’, he calls. She opens her eyes, gets up and all the others, waiting outside, are called in.
Again, many people believed in the Lord because of this miracle.
Peter spends some time in Joppa, staying at the home of Simon, the tanner. 

Cornelius Calls for Peter –
In Caesarea lives Cornelius, a centurion, devout and God-fearing, generous with his money and time, regularly in prayer. One afternoon (around 3pm), he has a vision in which an angel called him by name and told him
‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God’ (how good to know that our prayers and good deeds are known by our Heavenly Father – Jesus wanted us to experience that as our reward, and not seek the honour and reward from other people)
‘Send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter’ (the angel tells Cornelius exactly where Peter is, down by the sea at Simon the tanner’s house)
So, Cornelius sends two of his servants and a devout soldier to fetch Peter from Joppa

Great trust and faith from Cornelius in sending for Peter – for he is not told why – what message will Peter bring ? Will Peter know why he has been summoned ?
There is as holy sense that God is up to something – and He is ! All the time ! Whether we can know what He’s up to, or not.

Peter’s Vision –
The timing of the incidents is noted, the men clearly remembering at what time these things happened. Midday the next day, Peter was on the rooftop in Joppa, in prayer. He was feeling hungry, and God used that sensation to show Peter a new vision.
Peter sees heaven open, a large sheet descend to the earth by its four corners, ‘all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds’, and a voice commanding Peter to eat ! (He must’ve been very hungry!!)
Peter sees many of these animals as unclean and refuses to eat (as a good Jew).
The next statement is transformational, truly life-changing
‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’.
To underline the message, Peter sees the vision three times over.
It is precisely while Peter is wondering what this message means, that Cornelius’s servants arrive. Peter hears God’s Spirit tell him to expect these visitors – ‘Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them’.
Peter goes to the men, and asks them to explain why they’ve come for him; they tell Peter about Cornelius’ encounter with the angel, and that Peter is to and talk with Cornelius. Peter invites them in to the house and they stay overnight there with him in Joppa.

God does amazing things, revealing parts of a whole picture to different people within an identifiable timeframe (sometimes at the same time), to get His point across, and to give us increased faith and confidence that He is in control, and can use us to bring about His divine purposes.

PSALM
‘Why have You rejected us forever, O God?…Remember the people You purchased of old…
Your foes roared in the place where You met with us…
they burned every place where God was worshipped in the land.
We are given no miraculous sign, no prophets are left…..how long will this be?’

Bleak days indeed…..

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