April 18, 2015

II Samuel 3-5
The war between the house of Saul and the house of David dragged on and on. The longer it went on the stronger David became, with the house of Saul getting weaker.

During the Hebron years, sons were born to David: Amnon, born of Ahinoam of Jezreel—the firstborn; Kileab, born of Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow—his second; Absalom, born of Maacah, daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur—the third; Adonijah, born of Haggith—the fourth; Shephatiah, born of Abital—the fifth; Ithream, born of Eglah—the sixth. 

Abner took advantage of the continuing war between the house of Saul and the house of David to gain power for himself. Saul had had a concubine, Rizpah.... One day Ish-Bosheth confronted Abner: “What business do you have sleeping with my father’s concubine?” Abner lost his temper with Ish-Bosheth,... Ish-Bosheth, cowed by Abner’s outburst, couldn’t say another word.

Abner went ahead and sent personal messengers to David: “Make a deal with me and I’ll help bring the whole country of Israel over to you.” “Great,” said David. “It’s a deal. But only on one condition: You’re not welcome here unless you bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, with you when you come to meet me.”  David then sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul: “Give me back Michal, whom I won as my wife at the cost of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”  Ish-Bosheth ordered that she be taken from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. But Paltiel followed her, weeping all the way, to Bahurim. There Abner told him, “Go home.” And he went home....

 Then Abner went to Hebron for a private talk with David, telling him everything that Israel in general and Benjamin in particular were planning to do.  When Abner and the twenty men who were with him met with David in Hebron, David laid out a feast for them. Abner then said, “I’m ready. Let me go now to rally everyone in Israel for my master, the king. They’ll make a treaty with you, authorizing you to rule them however you see fit.” Abner was sent off with David’s blessing.

Soon after that, David’s men, led by Joab, came back from a field assignment. Abner was no longer in Hebron with David, having just been dismissed with David’s blessing.... Joab went straight to the king: “What’s this you’ve done? Abner shows up, and you let him walk away scot-free? You know Abner son of Ner better than that. This was no friendly visit. He was here to spy on you, figure out your comings and goings, find out what you’re up to.”

Joab left David and went into action. He sent messengers after Abner; they caught up with him at the well at Sirah and brought him back. David knew nothing of all this. When Abner got back to Hebron, Joab steered him aside at the gate for a personal word with him. There he stabbed him in the belly, killed him in cold blood for the murder of his brother Asahel.
Later on, when David heard what happened, he said, “Before God I and my kingdom are totally innocent of this murder of Abner son of Ner. Joab and his entire family will always be under the curse of this bloodguilt....  (Joab and his brother, Abishai, murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.)  David ordered Joab and all the men under him, “Rip your cloaks into rags! Wear mourning clothes! Lead Abner’s funeral procession with loud lament!” King David followed the coffin. They buried Abner in Hebron. The king’s voice was loud in lament as he wept at the side of Abner’s grave. All the people wept, too....

They all came then to David, trying to get him to eat something before dark. But David solemnly swore, “I’ll not so much as taste a piece of bread, or anything else for that matter, before sunset, so help me God!” Everyone at the funeral took notice—and liked what they saw. In fact everything the king did was applauded by the people. It was clear to everyone that day, including all Israel, that the king had nothing to do with the death of Abner son of Ner...

Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, heard that Abner had died in Hebron. His heart sank. The whole country was shaken....One day Baanah and Recab, the two sons of Rimmon, headed out for the house of Ish-Bosheth. They arrived at the hottest time of the day, just as he was taking his afternoon nap. They entered the house on a ruse, pretending official business. The maid guarding the bedroom had fallen asleep, so Recab and Baanah slipped by her and entered the room where Ish-Bosheth was asleep on his bed. They killed him and then cut off his head, carrying it off as a trophy. They traveled all night long, taking the route through the Arabah Valley.  They presented the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron, telling the king, “Here’s the head of Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, your enemy. He was out to kill you, but God has given vengeance to my master, the king—vengeance this very day on Saul and his children!”

David answered the brothers Recab and Baanah, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as God lives—the One who got me out of every trouble I’ve ever been in—when the messenger told me, ‘Good news! Saul is dead!’ supposing I’d be delighted, I arrested him and killed him on the spot in Ziklag. That’s what he got for his so-called good news! And now you show up—evil men who killed an innocent man in cold blood, a man asleep in his own house! Don’t think I won’t find you guilty of murder and rid the country of you!”  David then issued orders to his soldiers. They killed the two—chopped off their hands and feet, and hung the corpses at the pool in Hebron. But Ish-Bosheth’s head they took and buried in Abner’s tomb in Hebron.

Before long all the tribes of Israel approached David in Hebron and said, “Look at us—your own flesh and blood! In time past when Saul was our king, you were the one who really ran the country. Even then God said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel and you’ll be the prince.’”  All the leaders of Israel met with King David at Hebron, and the king made a treaty with them in the presence of God. And so they anointed David king over Israel.  David was thirty years old when he became king, and ruled for forty years.  In Hebron he ruled Judah for seven and a half years. In Jerusalem he ruled all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

David and his men immediately set out for Jerusalem to take on the Jebusites, who lived in that country. But they said, “You might as well go home! Even the blind and the lame could keep you out. You can’t get in here!” They had convinced themselves that David couldn’t break through.  But David went right ahead and captured the fortress of Zion, known ever since as the City of David.... He developed the city from the outside terraces inward. David proceeded with a longer stride, a larger embrace since the God-of-the-Angel-Armies was with him.

It was at this time that Hiram, king of Tyre, sent messengers to David, along with timbers of cedar. He also sent carpenters and masons to build a house for David. David took this as a sign that God had confirmed him as king of Israel, giving his kingship world prominence for the sake of Israel, his people.
David took on more concubines and wives from Jerusalem after he left Hebron. And more sons and daughters were born to him. These are the names of those born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, Eliphelet.

When the Philistines got word that David had been made king over all Israel, they came on the hunt for him... Then David prayed to God: “Shall I go up and fight the Philistines? Will you help me beat them?”  Go up,” God replied. “Count on me.  I’ll help you beat them.”  David then went straight to Baal Perazim, and smashed them to pieces...The retreating Philistines dumped their idols, and David and his soldiers took them away.

Later there was a repeat performance. The Philistines came up again and deployed their troops in the Rephaim Valley. David again prayed to God.  This time God said, “Don’t attack them head-on. Instead, circle around behind them and ambush them from the grove of sacred trees. When you hear the sound of shuffling in the trees, get ready to move out. It’s a signal that God is going ahead of you to smash the Philistine camp.”  David did exactly what God told him. He routed the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

I Corinthians 7 -      Is it a good thing to have sexual relations?  Certainly--but only within a certain context.  It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband.  Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder.  The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality---the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband.  Marriage is not the place to “stand up for your rights.”  Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.  Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting---but only for such times.  Then come back together again....

Sometimes, I wish everyone were single like me--a simpler life in many ways.  But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is.  God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.  I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might be the best thing for them, as it has been for me.  But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married.  The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.  And if you are married, stay married.  This is the Master’s command, not mine....If you are a man with a wife, who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her.  If you are a wife with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him.  The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband.  Otherwise your children would be left out, as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else.  Where you are right now is God’s place for you.  Live and obey and love and believe right there.  God, not your marital status, defines your life....The really important thing is obeying God’s call, following his commands... 

All of you, slave and free both, were once held hostage in a sinful society.  Then a huge sum was paid out for your ransom.  So please don’t, out of old habits, slip back into being or doing what everyone else tells you.  Friends, stay where you were called to be.  God is there.  Hold the high ground with him at your side....

All I am saying is that when you marry, you take on additional stress in an already stressful time, and I want to spare you if possible.  I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence.  There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily.  Keep it simple--in marriage, grief, joy, whatever.  Even in ordinary things--your daily routines of shopping and so on.  Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you.  This world as you you see it is on its way out.

I want you to live as free of complications as possible...Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention.  The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, unmarried can spend on becoming whole and holy instruments of God....

All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions....Marriage is spiritually and morally right and not inferior to singleness in any way...