God’s Delight

He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because he delighted in me.” (2 Samuel 22:20)

I know I’ve been on a “David kick” for awhile.  I can’t help it. His story is so compelling, so riveting and real.  David’s humanness jumps off the pages of my Bible and causes me to deal… deal with my giants, my running … my God.

And I think I’m drawn to him because David was a writer.  He fills his psalms with vivid images from battle and natural disaster … and joy.  But, I wonder, how much of this is literal?  Did David actually see the Lord “route the enemy” with lightning bolts like arrows?  Did he honestly witness the “valleys of the sea laid bare” at the “rebuke of the Lord”?  Was David really drowning when the Lord “reached down from on high, took hold of [him] and drew [him] out of the deep waters” (2 Sam. 22.15-17)?

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Maybe, maybe not.  Either way, after the years of running from his renegade, crown-usurping son, David must have felt relieved to be home in Jerusalem, secure from his enemies.  He finally had a place to rest; finally a place to retire his “looking over my shoulder, wondering what lies around the corner” instinct.

So, after all the trials and tragedy, here’s what David knows about this place, Jerusalem, this City of Shalom.

•  David knew it was the Lord’s doing that brought him here.  Everything David enjoyed was a movement of God on his behalf.  God’s strength, God’s victory, God’s help, God’s way… all led him here… to a spacious place of rest and provision.

•  David knew he was rescued.  He knew that he was completely dependent on God to act on his behalf… to draw him out of deep water, to support him when confronted by his enemies, to turn his darkness into light.  David is not passive, but he is dependent.  As one who is rescued, he knows his need.

•  David knew that he was the object of God’s delight.  He’s not God’s duty, not his project, not his anger, but God’s delight.  God’s laughter.  David knows he didn’t earn this position.  It was a gift, grace, unmerited favor.  God, in his joy, brought David to this place.

 

So here we are in a new place, Orlando, this city of Disney magic and palm trees.  Can I truly rest here?  Can I spread my arms, my concerns, my questions before the Lord and know his rescue and his delight?

With all the traffic and busyness, all the demands of school and grocery shopping and apartment living, I know I’ll experience the “spaciousness” metaphorically, not literally.  But, I do sense that this is what he wants to give us … space.

Many times, I think God’s direction would be easier to follow if he would literally lay the seas open bare and breath fire before me… scary, but easier.  Well maybe.  I want to know God’s intention in bringing us here.  I want to increase my dependence on him and experience his delight in me.  I think I will see those things through the eyes of faith.  Eyes that know the conviction of things hoped for and the assurance of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

May I learn to see that way.

O Father, may we enter into the space you have provided, walk the path you’ve laid out before us.  Can you make it clear and well-lit?  But even if it’s not, we will trust you in the darkness.  

And Father, along the way, let us hear your laughter, the song of your delight.

Too little?

When prophet Nathan confronts David about his sin with Bathsheba, he is swift and to the point.

A wealthy man had many sheep and cattle.  A poor man had one sole ewe that he cherished.  But, when the rich man wanted meat to consume with a guest, he took the poor man’s ewe, slaughtered it, and fed his greedy soul.

David sees the blatant injustice and responds with righteous indignation.  So, the “You-are-the-man!” flows strong and forceful, like an arrow released from a bow, slicing through the silence, claiming its mark.  David has one lowly response.

“I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13)

The consequence of David’s sin?  Death.  Death always follows sin.  Always a loss.  Lost time, lost innocence, lost relationship, lost life, lost purity.  Sin always leads to a place where we spend something, we loose something we can never get back.  David’s sin cost

him more than the life of his first child with Bathsheba.  The consequences rippled through his family for generations.

What’s at the heart of David’s sin?  According to the Lord’s rebuke, I think verse 8 hints:

“… And if all this had been too little, I would have given you more.”  (2 Samuel 12:8)

Greed.  David’s desire for more than was his.  His entitled view of himself, the taking of whatever his eyes landed upon, led him to sin.  When God lists out for David all that He’s done for him, and then says more would have come, “You only needed to ask,” the plea reveals how David’s sin wounded God’s heart.  This is why David’s sin was “against the Lord.”

David looked at all of God’s goodness and said, “It’s not enough.  I want that one, too.”

 

I don’t usually see my own sin this clearly.  I don’t see it as choosing something other than the grace of God.

But, David’s sin shows me that when my heart wanders toward discontentment, I am really saying, “Lord, you haven’t provided enough.”

When I enter an argument with my boys over how they spend their time, I am really saying, “Lord, you don’t control enough.”

When I compare myself and envy another woman her influence or her wardrobe, I am really saying, “Lord, you haven’t given me enough.”

Ouch. That hits close to home.  Truly, my selfishness drives me to a warped perspective that God is holding out on me.  It’s a lie.

Oh God, give me a heart that is thankful;  cultivate my heart in the garden of all that you have given.  It’s good.  You are good.  Your goodness toward me never, no never ends.  

So this is why entrance into His courts demands thanks.  Thanks debunks the lie.  Thanks directs my focus to the goodness of God.  That’s where I want my heart to live…

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving,

and His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him and bless his name.

 For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

(Ps. 100:4-5)

photo credits: stockfreeimages.com

Displeasing the Lord

“In the spring, in the time when kings go off to war… David remained in Jerusalem.”  (2 Samuel 11:1)

So begins the tragic downfall of Israel’s king.  This chapter pains me in the reading.  David becomes the bad-guy.  He’s no longer the victim of a deranged King Saul’s wild jealousy.  He’s no longer the courageous leader of a band of misfits.  And, he’s no longer the whole-hearted worshipper of a holy God.

Here, he be becomes restless, greedy, lustful, adulterous, deceiving, and murderous.  How is it that those words describe the man God has chosen to shepherd His people?  But they do.  The Bible doesn’t hold back the ugliness of David’s failure.

How is this God’s plan?  Did God really write this part of David’s story?  And what about Bathsheba’s story, and Uriah’s, and the baby’s?

Even though the future holds contrition and repentance and forgiveness for David, this stain never completely disappears from his family.  David does come to know the mercy and grace of the Lord in a deeply personal way, but tragedy still threads the storyline.

There is no “happily-ever-after” for David and Bathsheba.

I wish scripture included more on Bathsheba.  We know her beauty tempted the king.  We know she came to him and slept with him — willingly?  We have no record of her reluctance, only of the fact of her conceiving.

We don’t even know if she knew about David bringing Uriah home from the front lines to give him an opportunity to sleep with his wife — an opportunity Uriah valiantly forsook.

Did she suspect David’s involvement in the death of her husband?  Did she know that David had plots of murder within him?  Did David even know it of himself?

Bathsheba mourns Uriah’s death even as she carries the murdering king’s child.  What internal conflict must she also carry?  Did her friends know of her distress?  As they mourned and wailed with her over the death of her faithful and upright husband, did they know of her secret liaison with the king?

When David brings her into the palace to be his wife, was the reunion marked with joy or tension?  Did she distrust him?  How could she not?  Did she love him?  Could she love him? Did she embrace the sick child she bore David, or did she shun him as a blatant reminder of their sin?

The chapter ends with this terse observation:

“But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

(2 Samuel 11:27)

 

 

The statement echoes in my heart and leaves me wondering, how far will God let me go in my sin before he brings the conviction that leads me to repentance?

Thank heaven that I can never stray so far that his mercy can’t reach me.

Oh God, keep me near you, never straying, ever nearer to You.

To see you more clearly

“Who am I … There is no one like You…”

(2 Samuel 7:18 and 22)

 

I’ve been drawn to David’s story lately.  Not sure why.  I think I’m intrigued by David’s humanness, the bare “warts and all” honesty that composes the lines in God’s truth that are his.

So when David is confronted with the goodness of God, he is dumb-struck.  David’s prayer in response to God’s promise to make his family, his throne, and his name great is humility personified.

David simply receives.

He only has words of praise for God.  God is great.  God and his love and his choice are amazing.  What an honor to serve this great God; what a privilege.

At the same time, he knows that everything good that he or his family or Israel has is because of the blessing and favor of God.  David’s only request is that God would complete what he has already promised.

Maybe that should be the essence of all our prayers.

God you are amazing.  There is none like you.

Who am I that you should choose me,

know me,

bless me.

I am destitute without your favor.

I want to simply receive what you want to give me.

Since you have chosen me, I only ask that you would make good on your promise to love me and never leave me.

But, do I really believe that I am nothing, not-a-thing, without God’s favor?  I definitely know God’s blessing, but frankly I struggle to admit total dependence.  The truth of my need lies just on the other side of a cloudy window.  I see myself as capable and adequate to do what needs to be done much of the time.  And when the feelings of inadequacy creep in, I feel squirmy and I want to squash them, like a little bug that crawls up my leg and gives me the shivers.

Rarely does the cry, “I’m coming up short here!” drive me to my knees in prayer.  To my bed in self-pity, yes; to my knees in absolute surrender… sadly, no.

What would it be like to live with a daily awareness of my destitution without God’s favor?  Maybe the first step would be to gain a greater awareness of who He is… then my focus would be on him, not on me.

Okay, God.  You are good; you are great. In all of space and time, no one supersedes you.  You stand apart.

I am just a speck in history… a blot on the map… one of billions…  I see clearly now that I am nothing accept for the fact that you know you.  You see me.  You have called me by name and have claimed me as your daughter.  Amazing.

I have nothing to say except, “Thank you.  I need you. Don’t leave me.  I need your blessing to live this life you’ve called me to.”

 

Keep my eyes clear, so that I only see and never forget how much you’ve given, how much you’ve promised.

 

How great you are.

 

How great…

you are.

 

 

Weeds

Weeding usually requires heavy duty equipment — small shovel, gloves, clippers.  But, some weeds in my garden are simply sprigs growing where they shouldn’t be.  Just a single spike headed straight for the sky, but ugly and unwelcome.  Invariably, I underestimate the tug needed to loosen the roots, roots that reach down deep into the earth, entwined, enmeshed.  What seemed to be a only a sprout on the surface turns out to be much more beneath.

Asking the Lord to make what is cloudy clear is kinda like weeding.  I saw this truth unexpectedly reading King David’s story.

“During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years.  So David sought the face of the Lord.” (2 Samuel 21:1)

I wonder: why three years of famine before David sought the Lord?  Or had he sought the Lord throughout those years, and only after three did the Lord reveal the problem?

God’s answer bears even more questions.

“It is on account of Saul and his bloodstained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” (2 Samuel 21:1)

On the surface, how strange an answer. Saul reneged on a promise to spare the Gibeonites and instead tried to annihilate them, so decades later, God is causing a famine in Israel.  Dry, barren ground for David because of an overly zealous predecessor.

Really?  How is that David’s problem?

But, with humble obedience, the king calls on the Gibeonites and asks what he can do to ease their injustice.  Hesitating at first, the Gibeonites ask for seven of Saul’s descendants they can kill and leave on a hill exposed “before the Lord” (v. 9).  With that tragic deed done, the Lord answers the prayers for the land (v. 14).

What?  This story is my Bible? Can this be right?  Is God responding to human sacrifice?

Frankly, after reading this, I have to sit for awhile and really ask the Lord if I need to proceed.  Do I really need to journal about this passage, Father?

I can’t escape his gentle prodding to put pen to paper and write.  Slowly, lessons emerge.

1.  Sometimes when I seek the Lord to fix, the problem is merely a symptom of something deeper.  Sin is like an infectious blood disease.  The place of initial wounding isn’t always the place where pain shows up.

David sought the Lord because of famine, the surface need that drew him to seek the Lord’s face.  But the real issue God wanted to address went much deeper.  David had inherited this sin, aged and steeped through generations.  Once David acknowledged the root issue and dealt with it, God resolved the surface problem with the land.

2.  God cares deeply about injustice.  Saul’s injustice toward the Gibeonites had been festering for decades.  Evidently, in God’s kingdom, injustice isn’t stamped with an expiration date.  This story graphically portrays the truth of God that the sins of the fathers impact the sons and grandsons.

Again, the inherited nature of sin… the infection keeps growing till it’s brought to the light and dealt with, leading to restitution and reconciliation.  David’s question

“What shall I do for you?  How shall I make amends so you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?” (2 Samuel 21:3)

is a hard one to ask.  But from this story, it’s clear that God honors the question — and the obedience that follows the answer.

3.  Sin costs.  Even though I have trouble stomaching the killing of Saul’s grandsons to appease those his treacherous acts wounded, I do see a lesson for me today.

To bring restitution to one the wronged, sacrifice and even “death” may need to occur.  Trying to make things right should cost me something — my sin cost Jesus his life.  In my experience, seeking reconciliation with those I’ve wronged will at least cost me my pride.  I’ve come to know a godly humiliation.  It’s painful, but healing.

David models the extremes to which God might ask us to go to make it right.  The heart of the man or woman that is willing to go there honors the Lord… and the Lord’s blessing follows.

 

So are these lessons for me today?  Now?  In this new place called Orlando?  I don’t know.  I do know that Mel and I feel like we’ve experienced a “drying up” of ministry, like the fruitfulness has waned, a famine of sorts.  We are ready for a new harvest.

So, following the pattern of this passage, we are seeking the Lord’s face.  Actually we are learning to seek his face in a community of others who are doing the same.  We don’t know what the Lord will reveal.  But we are willing to go where he leads.

Right now we are waiting… and weeding.

 

 

 

What God Saw

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David’s circuitous  route to becoming king fascinates me.  I’ve often wondered how he held onto the vision he had received when Samuel anointed him quietly in the family tent.  God saw something in David that he didn’t even see in himself.  Actually, I think David’s ability to worship the Lord “with all his might” enabled him to hold onto his faith, even in the face of incredible odds.  In the end, it makes me wonder, what does God see in me that I haven’t yet experienced?

Enjoy this third story for children on the life of David.

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based on 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 15

Trumpets pealed throughout the city announcing the king’s arrival.  Children raced through Jerusalem’s open air markets, calling, “The king has returned!  The king has returned!”  Eagerly, people gathered in their doorways to catch a glimpse of their king and the priests as they maneuvered through the narrow streets.

Disinterested, Michal heard them through her balcony window as she lounged among silk cushions.  “So King David has brought back the sacred Ark of the Covenant,” she mumbled to herself.  “I can’t figure out why he’s so interested in that old chest.  In fact, I can’t figure a lot of things about David these days.”

Michal’s confusion about David was understandable.  A lot had happened since she had married him 10 years ago.  She was shyly impressed when he had killed 200 Philistines to earn her hand in marriage.  Her father, King Saul, had set a high price, and the courageous, young David had boldly met every demand.  And when her father had become insanely jealous of David, she had selflessly put her own neck on the line to help him escape.  But the years on the run had changed David.  His youthful fire was gone, and he was more cautious now.  Once her father and brother, Jonathon, had been killed in battle, the elders in Israel placed David on the throne.  Becoming the wife of the king pleased Michal, she always knew that she belonged in royal robes.  But David’s fascination with this fancy chest annoyed her, and she couldn’t wait for this meaningless celebration to be over.

For David, the celebration was anything but meaningless.  It symbolized his gratitude to the Lord God for keeping His promise.  It seemed so long ago that Samuel had secretly anointed him.  None of them could have predicted the twists and turns the road to become king would take.  But God’s hand had never faltered.  God had established him as King of Israel, and David had to let everyone know of the marvelous works God had done.

So once David had made a home for himself and his family in the capital city, Jerusalem, he had looked for a way to honor God and bless the people.  He had built a special tent to house the Ark of God’s Covenant, an elegant and holy chest decorated with golden angels that stood for God’s presence among His people.  With great care David called together the priests and holy men of Israel to plan a splendid parade honoring God.

Early in the morning, all the best musicians in Israel assembled with drums, cymbals, trumpets and harps eager to make joyful music for the Lord.  David and the priests left to retrieve the Ark from its storage place in Obed-Edom.  As they returned to Jerusalem, David offered a sacrifice of an ox and a young calf.  The golden Ark glistened in the sunlight as the hold men carefully carried the sacred object.  The worshippers streamed into the city, shouting and cheering, playing every kind of musical instrument.  Beautiful melodies filled the air celebrating the God of Israel.

Overcome with his love for the Lord, David removed his velvet robe and humbly put on the rough linen prayer vest of a priest. Then David danced.  He stomped his feet and waved his arms and used his whole body to express his joy before the Lord.  His voice soared above the din as he sang, “I will praise You, Lord God; You have shown Your faithfulness to Israel!  Oh how wonderful are Your works!”  He didn’t care how silly he looked or how undignified his dance.  His heart felt as if it would explode with thankfulness for all God had done.  He had to show it.

The priests climbed the hill on which the great tent was pitched and carefully placed the Ark within it.  Then David honored God with peace offerings, and he blessed the people in the name of the Lord.  Graciously he gave everyone gathered a loaf of bread, barbecued meat and sweet raisin cakes.  David’s joy was contagious.  He taught them a praise song calling them to tell all people everywhere the fabulous things God had done.   All the people joined him with a resounding, “So be it!  Amen!”

When the celebration had come to an end, the people left for their homes, and David turned to his home to bless his family.  A cold and condemning Michal greeted him.  “My, how the King of Israel showed off today,” she sneered.  “I would think you knew better than to take off your royal robe and dance like a fool before common servant girls.”

Grieved by her words, but confident in his actions, David responded, “I danced before the Lord God today, who chose me as king over all Israel instead of your father.  I will gladly play the fool and humble myself as I worship the Lord; and my people will honor me for it.”

All his days, David sought God with a whole heart.  Without ever looking back, in a lowly shepherd boy, God found a king to shepherd His people, Israel.  And with a view to the future, God sent another Good Shepherd for His people — even, you and me.

Tending Sheep

 

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A while back I wrote a few stories from the life of King David for children at our church.  I thought I’d post them as Stories to Live By.  Here’s the first of three.

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based on 1 Samuel 16

In the days when Saul was King over Israel, God told his prophet, Samuel, to anoint a new king.  God had rejected King Saul, because he had not followed God’s commands. Although Samuel the prophet had warned Saul about the choices he was making, he knew Saul’s kingdom wouldn’t last and that God had his eye on a new man to be king.  So, when God instructed Samuel the prophet to find the new king among Jesse’s sons, he started the long journey to Bethlehem in the hill country.

Unfortunately Samuel the prophet had a reputation of being a bad-new bearer.  So when the town leaders in Bethlehem heard that he was coming to their dusty little village, they were worried.  Trembling, they greeted Samuel and said, “Why are you here?  Do you bring trouble or peace?”Tired and a little bothered that he had to come to this lowly, out-of-the-way village, Samuel assured them.  “Oh don’t worry,” he answered.  “I’ve come to worship the LORD with you.  Get cleaned up, and we’ll sacrifice this young cow to the LORD.  Be sure Jesse and his sons come to the ceremony,” he added.

So the townspeople washed themselves and put on clean clothes to be ready to worship the LORD with Samuel.  Decked out in their finest clothes, Jesse and seven of his sons also showed up for the sacrifice.  When Samuel spied Jesse’s oldest boy, a handsome, strong young man who looked like he could lead an army, he thought to himself, “This must be the one the LORD has chosen.  He looks exactly like a king.”But, knowing what was in Samuel’s heart, the LORD corrected him.  “You are only looking at his face and body to see if he fills the role as king.  You don’t see what I see.  I’m looking into his heart, and I and tell you this isn’t the one I have chosen.”

So Samuel asked Jesse to parade his sons before him, waiting for God to show him whom to anoint as king.  Jesse didn’t know God has his eye on one of his sons.  And he silently wondered what the great prophet could be looking for.  In spite of young men’s good looks and splendid clothes, as each son strutted by, Samuel simply had to say, “No, this isn’t the one.”

Now, seven smart and smiling sons is a lot to look over, and it took awhile.  When the last one failed to be God’s chosen, the exhausted prophet groaned,  “Jesse, are all your sons here?  Aren’t there any more?”

Jesse quietly conceded, “Well, there is my youngest son.  But he’s just a boy and is out tending the smelly sheep.  He isn’t cleaned up and ready to come to the sacrifice.”

“That doesn’t matter.  Quickly bring him to me,” commanded Samuel.  “We won’t begin the sacrifice until he is with us.”  With that, the weary prophet turned to rest in Jesse’s tent while Jesse fetched his youngest son from the hills.

Just as soon as David arrived before Samuel, tanned and healthy-looking from being outdoors all day, God immediately told Samuel, “Get up!  Anoint this one.  He is the one I have chosen to be king.”  So, right there in the family tent, Samuel gently poured the anointing oil on David.

In those days anointing with oil meant that a person was set apart for a special purpose from God.  None of the people there really knew what God was up to, but from that day forward, God’s Spirit was moving in David in a powerful way.

Although this seems like the beginning of David’s story, it’s really not.  Quietly and creatively, since he before he was born, God had been shaping David to be a king who would shepherd the people He loved – Israel.

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You know, God has a plan for each of us like that — something he’s shaped into us quietly and creatively since before we were born.

We just have to be still enough to see it.

Huh… maybe there’s something to tending sheep.