Just and Unjust Rulers

Today’s reading: II Samuel 23-24; Luke 22:31-53

3 The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
4 he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.         II Samuel 23:3-4

But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”            Luke 22:53b

Unjust rulers have their day, but ultimately God will bring justice on them and blessing on those who have ruled justly. Woe to the ruler who ignores his date with the Judge of the whole earth.

David, at the end of his life, had reassurance from God that just governance would not be overlooked. The Lord blesses the king who rules justly, that is, in the fear of God. The despot is a law to himself. The tyrant recognizes no higher authority than himself. He rules without fear of a final judgment day before a completely informed eternal deity.

The blessing of God on the god-fearing leader is described in terms of beautiful weather and a lush harvest. There is sun and rain in just the right amount. The human heart fills with energy and joy in the anticipation of a good day and a good future.

By contrast, in the darkest moment of human history, the Son of God was surrounded in the Garden of Gethsemane with hard-hearted, treacherous rulers who had come to escort Him to His death. They epitomized unjust rulers, lacking in any fear of God.

Jesus was not surprised. He was not fearful. He spoke directly to them showing that their actions were cowardly, done under cloak of night, away from the crowds of attentive listeners who sought His teaching. He made it clear that they operated only by permission of God the Father, Who allowed them their hour to act and freedom to carry out the dark deeds they had contrived.

Give thanks that just rulers will not be forgotten and unjust ones will not escape unpunished. Their hour and power will end. Live and exercise your authority in the fear of God.

Timing and God’s Providence

Today’s reading: II Samuel 21-22; Luke 22:1-30

1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” II Samuel 21:1

22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” Luke 22:22

The mature disciple of Jesus Christ knows that nothing happens by chance or luck, but God orchestrates all of life down to the minutest detail. This occurred in David’s time, Jesus’ time, and in our time. We can be reassured as we grasp the truth of God’s providence in our lives.

A famine came upon Israel. David understood that it was not due to bad luck or some unfortunate coincidence. He knew that God ruled over the harvest whether it be light or heavy. David turned to the Lord for answers and guidance. The Lord revealed to Him the reason for the famine. It had to do with the guilt incurred by Saul over the breaking of a treaty with the Gibeonites and the attempt to annihilate them. Though the treaty itself was foolish and based on deception, God held Israel responsible to maintain their integrity and honor the treaty perpetually (Joshua 9). Seven of Saul’s descendents were executed to satisfy the demand for justice. The famine ended.

In Luke’s account of Jesus final days before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion we are allowed to see all the forces at work to bring about His sacrifice at that time and in that place. The chief priests and scribes were plotting to kill Him; Satan was entering into Judas; the disciples were preparing for the Passover and arguing about who of them was the greatest. Meanwhile, Jesus was serving and teaching them the meaning of His death.

In a matter of a few hours all these protagonists would converge in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the final act would begin on Jesus’ earthly ministry. Was it a coincidence? No, not at all. It was by God’s decree that all this would come about for the salvation of the nations.

What about the apparently random incidents in your life? Are they really random or are they carefully sent by God according to His plan? How would it change your attitude toward interruptions and “bad luck” to have a clearer conviction about the providence of God in your life? We may not always understand what God is doing in the midst of the happenings of our day, but we can always be sure it is Him who is doing it, and He has a purpose and plan for our good and His glory.

Handling Chaos

Today’s reading: II Samuel 19-20; Luke 21:20-38

2 So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem.                                                                                                                                       II Samuel 20:2

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”                                           Luke 21:34-36

Faithful men and women know the Word of God and are thus prepared for whatever may come their way.

There was chaos in Israel. There will be chaos in all the world when the end comes. How can we be prepared? We can learn from what happened in the past and we can learn from what Jesus taught us.

After Absalom was overthrown, the kingdom of Israel did not simply pick up where it left off. David created a problem immediately by going into such grief over the death of his son that Joab had to sternly exhort him lest the nation reject his return to the throne. David wisely responded warding off a dangerous situation. But then there was a conflict between Judah and the other tribes over who should reinstate the king. That resulted in another civil war. David named Amasa as a commander and Joab promptly assassinated him. The kingdom was coming unglued on every level. Chaos reigned. David seems to have held steady through all of this until his kingdom was restored.

That would not be the last time the world would see such turmoil. Jesus prophesied that there would be a time of destruction of the temple. This occurred in 70 AD.   He further indicated that there would be worldwide terror that would come upon all people. No one would escape the distress of nations, the cosmic upheavals.

What are we to do? Jesus said, “Watch yourselves. Stay awake. Pray for strength.” He promised that if we did we will stand before the Son of Man.

Are you in terror about the trajectory of the world today? Jesus said, “Watch your hearts.” Take comfort in God’s Word. Get guidance from His Word. Hold to the Lord who promised that we who do will stand before Him.

 

The Providence of God

Today’s reading: II Samuel 17-18; Luke 21:1-19

14 And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom. II Samuel 17:14

19 By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:19

God is providentially active at all times in the lives of all people preserving or punishing according to His wise counsels.

As we saw yesterday, Absalom put together a foolproof plan to overthrow his father’s throne and make himself king. Well, it was not really foolproof, was it? God gave David wisdom to send the loyal Hushai back as a mole in Absalom’s cabinet. God gave Hushai an amazing ability to vividly describe the consequences of following the advice of Ahithophel and to make a convincing argument for delaying the pursuit of David. God turned the heart of Absalom toward Hushai’s advice so that the Lord could carry out His will to bring harm to David’s mutinous son (Proverbs 21:1).

The outcome? Absalom was defeated and killed, and David’s throne was saved.

Jesus foretells things yet to come in the lives of the apostles. He describes the destruction of the temple, the false “christs” that would appear, wars, tumults, national uprisings, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, terrors, and great signs from heaven. These things would occur after the disciples had suffered arrest, persecution, imprisonment, and examinations by religious and political authorities. They would be “turned in” by close relatives. Some would be killed. All would be hated.

Could this be God’s will?  Yes, and it had a purpose. “This will be your opportunity to bear witness,” Jesus told them. Furthermore, God would be with them through all their trials. He told them not to concern themselves about what to say. They would be given the wisdom and words when the time came, and their statements would be irrefutable. He promised that not a hair of their heads would perish. Their lives would be saved.

Do you know that God is providentially preserving you? Do you know that you are safe to do His will and nothing can harm you? Can you trust Him no matter what forces mount up against you? Will you stand up and bear witness with the wisdom and words He gives you in that day?

Stand firm in Him. He rules the universe. He will keep you down to the last hair on your head. Fear nothing. Fear no one. Trust God alone.

 

Manipulative Leaders

Today’s reading: II Samuel 15-16; Luke 20:27-47

So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.        II Samuel 15:6b

45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes,                                                                          Luke 20:45-46a

How easily people are led astray by impressive, charismatic leaders who seem to have power and wisdom!

Absalom carefully mounted a campaign that would rival that of any of our current crop of politicians. He spent money to equip himself with a chariot and horses and a company of men to run before him. Then he made it a practice to station himself where he could talk to people who had legal problems. He worked the crowds. He did the grassroots campaign thing. He made promises about the great improvements he would bring if he were in formal leadership.

He stole the hearts of the people.

Then the day came when he made his move. David’s support collapsed like a house of cards and Israel followed Absalom, their new king. It almost worked, and, except for the providence of God, it would have worked. The point is people are fickle and can be won over quickly by a powerful person making compelling promises of a better life.

In Jesus’ day, the scribes were viewed with awe. They were dignified, apparently spiritual, disciplined in piety, and recognized by everyone. At the same time, they used their knowledge of the law to take financial advantage of unsuspecting widows. Jesus warned His disciples to beware of them.

The problem of devious religious and political leaders is not new. Certainly, both the Church and our nation need leaders of character and integrity, but, sadly, those who rise to high positions are not always to be trusted and never to be trusted blindly.

Pray for our leaders both in the Church and in society. Beware of those who veer off from God’s truth. Do not be led astray. Study the Scriptures and seek God’s wisdom. And remember: we are not home yet. Someday we will have a truly wise and powerful King.

Authority: Rejected and Abused

Today’s reading: II Samuel 13-14; Luke 20:1-26

17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”                                                                                              Luke 20:17-18

Now therefore let me go into the presence of the king, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.’” 33 Then Joab went to the king and told him, and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.                                                                            II Samuel 14:32b-33

Authority was an issue in Jesus day and in David’s time. In one case legitimate authority was rejected and in the other legitimate authority was abused.

Jesus assumed authority to teach and preach and heal. His popularity threatened those in power. They attempted to trap Him in some chargeable offense that would end His influence. In this passage, they actually asked Him directly the basis of His authority. We know how that turned out. Then Jesus taught a parable showing that their rejection of Him and His authority would end in their own destruction. Rather than take to heart His warning, they re-doubled their efforts to arrest Him.

David was the duly anointed king of Israel. He had authority to apply the Law of God in the land, to bring justice. David failed to take any action after the rape of his daughter, Tamar, by his son (her half-brother), Amnon. He was angry, but he did nothing. Absalom plotted the murder of Amnon. David took no action against Absalom, and eventually reinstated him.

Absalom, as we shall see tomorrow (II Samuel 15:4-6), exploited the desire for a king that would act justly in the land to mount an insurrection against his father. David had raised sons similar to himself, an adulterer and a murderer, and he apparently found it hard to be a consistent ruler.

But Jesus is the rightful King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). He is not blinded by any sin of His own. He executes justice perfectly. Those who reject His authority will suffer the consequences.

Let us submit to the One who sits at the right hand of the throne of God and give Him our worship and obedience (Philippians 2:5-10).

The Hidden Consequences of Sin

Today’s reading: II Samuel 10-12; Luke 19:29-48

And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. II Samuel 12: 15b-16

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, Luke 19:41

Sin is a beautiful but deadly fruit. It brings suffering and pain to us and to the Lord Jesus Christ.

David’s sin is laid out here in great detail. We are able to trace his downfall and learn how one bad decision led to another until he had committed adultery, impregnated another man’s wife, and had the innocent party murdered in the cover up. It is a repugnant series of events, but it shows how easily a man after God’s heart can go astray.

To his credit, David is prompt to repent, but there will be ongoing consequences of his sin. He is driven to fast and pray seeking God’s mercy on his dying baby. The sin which brought him short term pleasure came with an enormous price tag that continued for the rest of his life.

Luke describes Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem where He knows He will die, rejected by the leaders of His people. But in the passage, Jesus weeps, not for His own suffering but, for the suffering of the people of Jerusalem. He wept because they could have known peace, but instead they would experience destruction. Even children would see the tearing down of their city.

Some, like David, see their sin and heed the call to repent. Others, like the residents of Jerusalem, fail to repent of their sin and go on in it as if nothing were wrong. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, wept over the sin of those who would not repent and find peace because their eyes were closed to it. He wept for the suffering that was going to come.

Do you repent promptly? Do you weep over the consequences of sin, like Jesus did? We are never more Christlike than when we weep and pray for those whose eyes are closed to the coming pain of judgment for sin. Let us take sin seriously, our own and that of others, and proclaim “the things that make for peace” to those who will hear.

The God Who Surprises Us

Today’s reading: II Samuel 7-9; Luke 19:1-28

19 You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! II Samuel 7:19b

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10

God often surprises us by His decrees and His ways. In today’s readings, David was surprised by God, and Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised by Him.

David experienced great military success as king of Israel. He reached the point of being able to rest from the continual battles he had experienced most of his life. His thoughts turned to building a house or temple for the Ark of God. Nathan, the prophet, initially saw this as a good thing until the Lord revealed another plan for David and his dynasty.

David would not build a house for God, but God would build a house for David. Not an earthly house but an eternal throne, with an eternal ruler. Not merely a throne over Israel but over all mankind. From the New Testament, we understand that covenant pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been exalted to the right hand of God the Father and rules forever.

God’s plan for David was far greater than a mere earthly temple. I don’t think it is too much to say that David was surprised by the gracious covenant which God made with him.

Many of Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised by His reaching out to outcast sinners like the tax collector, Zacchaeus. Jesus Christ came as the fulfillment of the covenants with Abraham and with David, and He came to seek and save lost people both within and without the nation of Israel.

What a surprise that a holy God would take on human flesh and live among us, not to reject and condemn us but to seek and to save us!

God surprises us and the gospel tells us how good His surprises are for all who believe in His Son. Are you surprised by His grace and mercy to you? Is not His grace truly amazing?

Give praise to Him. As the psalmist wrote:

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

Psalm 103: 10

That more than surprises me. It blows my mind.

The Cost of Following Christ

Today’s reading: II Samuel 4-6; Luke 18:18-43

29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:29-30

16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. II Samuel 6:16

The one who would follow Christ must be prepared to lose everything, even the most precious relationships in this world.

Jesus’ encounter with a rich ruler led to an insightful exchange between Peter and Jesus. The ruler was obviously put off by Jesus’ command that he sell all that he had and follow Him. Peter reflected on the reality that he and his fellow disciples had left all to follow Christ. Jesus promises him and them that everyone who leaves his house and family for the kingdom of God would receive many times more in this world and then eternal life in the next age.

David, too, knew that cost of obeying God over pleasing his wife. Michal, who grew up in Saul’s household, must have imbibed some of her father’s disregard for God’s commands. When David began to worship God publically, she found his enthusiasm disgusting. She ridiculed David, but David did not waver in his commitment to serve God and give due honor to the One to whom he owed his life and his throne.

Sometimes faithfulness to Christ comes down to a permanent rift with close family members. Have you determined to sell all and go follow Jesus? Do not make the fatal error of the rich ruler who could not part with his stuff in order to gain eternal life. In the words of the old gospel song:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;

I’d rather be His than have riches untold;

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;

I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Refrain:  Than to be the king of a vast domain

Or be held in sin’s dread sway;

I’d rather have Jesus than anything,

This world affords today.

Prayer and Justice

Today’s reading: II Samuel 1-3; Luke 18:1-17

7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:7-8

38 And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39 And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I. The Lord repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!” II Samuel 3:38-39

Injustice abounds in this world but God gives His people prayer so that they may call upon Him rather than to lose heart.

Jesus taught His disciples a parable so that they would pray rather than lose heart. It seems that they were in danger of getting discouraged about the injustice they saw in the world. They were about to see the greatest injustice ever perpetrated in human history, the arrest, trial, sentencing, and crucifixion of the Son of God. Jesus told them that even an irreverent, hard-hearted judge would not be able to resist the constant pleading of a widow.

But God is much more gracious than that judge. The Lord will respond and bring swift justice to those who call on Him. Jesus was telling them, “Pray. Don’t lose heart.”

When Saul died, his loyal followers, like Abner, did not immediately recognize David as the new king. Eventually, David gained power and it was clear that he would rule all Israel. Abner broke with Saul’s son, Ishbosheth and supported David. David welcomed Abner but Joab, David’s military commander, soon assassinated this former enemy. David showed mercy; Joab took revenge. The unity of the kingdom under David was jeopardized by Joab’s action. David mourned for Abner and the people recognized that Joab had acted unjustly against the king.

Certainly, there is injustice in human governments and societies. The powerful impose their wills on the weak. Shrewd and unprincipled people take advantage of the ignorant and trusting. It can be disheartening. But Jesus tells His disciples not to lose heart but to pray. He promises that God will give justice to His elect who cry to Him day and night.

Why do we not see more justice from God? The fault is not in God, but in our lack of faith. Do we cry to God or merely wring our hands and worry? Do we cry to Him in faith day and night, or merely send up an occasional perfunctory prayer and go back to whining about all the evils in the world? Think about that. Better yet, pray now that He may give justice to His elect.