When Grace Surrenders to Self-Protection

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 2.8-9
8 “‘When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ 9 But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

Reflection: When Grace Surrenders to Self-Protection
By John Tillman

Many parents leave their children valuable possessions and wisdom. Some leave only bad debts and inherited controversies. David left Solomon a mix of things, including a hit list of enemies to wipe out.

David’s final instructions to Solomon show us the limits of David’s human grace. In the past few chapters, David has seemed magnanimous, humble, forgiving, and gracious, however, his deathbed speech sounds hurt, petty, vindictive. Many people forgiven by David during his lifetime would soon find out that the grace extended to them died with the king. 

There were good and practical reasons for David’s hit list. David was being protective. Solomon was young and would be seen as weak. He was not the oldest son, and by legal tradition was ineligible to inherit. He was also a child of controversy. David took Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, as his wife after the state-sanctioned murder of her husband.

Perhaps David was just being practical, reasonable, and protective of his son and God’s kingdom. However, in his attempts to protect Solomon from Joab and other dangerous men, David nudged Solomon towards becoming like Joab. Practical, reasonable, and protective Joab was meticulous about killing others before they killed him or potentially David. 

Solomon would become renowned for wisdom, but the first signs of his wisdom were his shrewd arrangements of the murders advised by his father. Where Joab made politically necessary murders without David’s explicit approval, Solomon gave Benaiah direct orders for all three of these killings. Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei all fell to Solomon’s sword. 

Practicality and self-preservation don’t automatically lead to good things. These kinds of things often earn a rebuke from Christ.
Peter striking and taking off the ear of Malchus was protective. 
The disciples’ concern about not having bread in the boat was reasonable.
The marketplace set up in the Temple was practical.

Are we more like David or like Christ? Do we have human, David-like grace? Or do we have divine, Jesus-like grace?

The grace of king David died with him. 
The grace of Christ lives on with him. It should also live on within us.

May we learn to extend Christ’s undying grace past the limits of our own.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5:6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 2 (Listen – 7:45)
Galatians 6 (Listen – 2:18)

Read more about Grasping for Mercy
We reach out to grasp the edges of mercy. Through Jesus, forgiveness is at our fingertips..through Christ, we are healed by faith


Read more about Grace Displaces Retribution

The kind of humility and gracious forgiveness often shown by David is as greatly out of place today as it was in his own time.

Grasping for Mercy

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 1:51
Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’”

Reflection: Grasping for Mercy
By Erin Newton

Sibling rivalry is common. In David’s house, it reached extreme levels. Strife between siblings continued until the king’s dying days. By now, the reader can see how Nathan’s prophecy of judgment upon David’s house was painfully accurate.

The succession of the throne is the focal point of the final tension between David’s sons. Adonijah was the oldest living son and according to birthright standards, the next heir to the throne. However, David favored Solomon and through the work of Bathsheba and Nathan, his regency was secured.

Adonijah was arrogant, convinced he deserved the throne and schemed to gather support from leaders. This attempted coup reached a pivotal point as Solomon was publicly announced as the next king. Adonijah feared Solomon’s retribution, ran to the sanctuary, and grabbed the horns of the altar.

The altar stood as a consistent reminder of the need for mercy and forgiveness of sins. Priests sacrificed animals on the altar as a means of cleansing impurities and granting atonement for the offending person. Often, blood was placed on the horns of the altar, the outer edges which were easily defiled through contact with sinners. Adonijah reached out to touch the altar in recognition of his need for mercy.

In much the same way, the story of the bleeding woman in Luke 8 echoes the same urgency for mercy. The woman with a bleeding disorder lived as an outcast of society and was consistently barred from worshipping in the temple because of her impurity.  In desperation, the woman reached to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. She was instantly healed. When questioned about her actions, Jesus comforted her, “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

In the sacrificial system, there was never enough blood to grant permanent forgiveness. Lamb after lamb was required. Even asylum in a city of refuge was not a permanent solution. Grasping the horns of the altar was Adonijah’s only hope.

In desperation, we reach out to grasp the edges of mercy. Through Jesus, forgiveness is at our fingertips. Jesus is not only the source of mercy but the sacrificial lamb; we are instantly healed by his blood. Solomon charged Adonijah to continue proving he was worthy of the mercy granted to him. But through Christ, we are healed by faith. The final sacrifice has already been paid. Receive the permanent atonement and go in peace. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
But I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at noon day, I will complain and lament,
He will bring me safely back…God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me… — Psalm 55.17

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 1 (Listen – 7:52)
Galatians 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Read more about Have Mercy
Pray this pluralized version of Psalm 51…confessing not only our individual sins but the sins of our communities, churches, and nations.

Read more about Hope for Mercy
There is a glimmer of mercy in the promises of today. Salvation through Jesus Christ: “The Lord has taken away your sin.”

We Measure Up Because of the Cross

Scripture Focus: Genesis 29.31-32
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

From John: This is our last of Dena’s series on weary women of the Bible and we thank her so much for sharing her work with our readers and for sharing her experience with our student writers this summer. Dena has more books in the works and we encourage you to check out her social media pages and websites. You’ll also be hearing again from Dena here at some point in the future and we greatly look forward to it! Thank you, Dena!

Reflection: We Measure Up—Because of the Cross
By Dena Dyer

The drama in some of the Old Testament stories—such as Leah and Rachel’s rivalry over Jacob—reminds me of a modern reality show. Can you imagine sisters-by-blood being married to the same man? I’m sure Rachel felt terribly betrayed by Laban’s deception on what was supposed to be her wedding night. After a seven-year betrothal, she was deceived just as Jacob was.

The jealousy between the sisters became even more intense in the latter portion of chapter 29 and into chapter 30 of Genesis, when Leah began bearing children and gave Jacob four sons (Rueben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah). Sadly, after delivering each of the first three boys, Leah voiced her desperate hope that Jacob would simply love her.

Any of us who have been rejected by someone of the opposite sex can empathize with Leah. But however broken-hearted Leah was, God remembered her:  ‘… the Lord saw that Leah was unloved…” (Genesis 29.31) and gave her four sons. 

Did you know it wasn’t just Leah who battled comparison and envy? Even though Rachel stole Jacob’s heart from day one, she was extremely jealous of Leah’s ability to bear children, even demanding Jacob “give me children or I die.” 

Here’s the irony: Leah often compared herself to Rachel and felt that she came up short, because Jacob loved her sister more. But Rachel compared herself to Leah and felt that she was on the losing end of the equation, because Leah was fertile.

The story of Rachel and Leah convicts me. Too often, I’m not content with the gifts God has given me. I feel envious of an acquaintance’s good financial fortune or get jealous of a friend’s achievement. Maybe you struggle in this way, as well. 

The enemy of our souls knows that he can use insecurities and doubts about our worth to tempt us to jealousy, envy—even self-hatred. He plants menacing thoughts in our heads: I’ll never measure up. I’m worthless. God can’t love me. God can’t use me. 

But we measure up because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We’re worthy because of His righteousness. God loves us and He proved it once and for all on the cross. When we succumb to Satan’s schemes, we lose sight of who He has created us to be, and what He has specifically called us to do. 

I believe jealousy and envy are the result of not knowing our true worth in Christ. When we remember all that He has given and planned for us, we can rest secure and cheer others on. We don’t have to feel less-than because of their success.

I pray that the story of Leah and Rachel leads you and me to confess our sins of jealousy and envy and turn our attention back to God. After all, when we live in communion with Him, He makes our lives everything He created them to be—in His perfect timing.

About Dena: Dena Dyer is an author of eleven books, including Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts with Tina Samples. She’s also a speaker, worship leader, Anglophile, and movie lover who lives with her husband, youngest son, and rescue pup near Fort Worth, Texas. In her day job, she serves as Executive Assistant to Jamie Aten, founder of Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Find out more about Dena’s books and resources at her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4a

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 24 (Listen – 4:48)
Galatians 4 (Listen – 4:13)

Read more about Greed and Envy
It is in Christ that we will find the compassion to overcome our cynicism and the generosity of spirit to overcome our jealousy and greed.

Read more about Resisting Culture’s Mold
Leah and Rachel are set against one another by their culture and family environment. They allow this cultural pressure to press them into a combative mold.

The Superior Bravery of Tenderness

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 23.13-17
13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors.

Reflection: The Superior Bravery of Tenderness
By John Tillman

There are many bad spiritual takeaways from these “Mighty Men” passages. The especially damaging ones attempt to “baptize” men’s sinful, violent tendencies as being honorable and desirable spiritual qualities.

Many years ago, a friend from seminary and a member of a ministry team we served on, Bill, had cancer. Despite fervent prayer for a miracle of healing, the cancer worsened.

As the end neared, Bill’s father approached me with a request. Men were being asked to sign up to stay overnight in the hospital with Bill. I was warned that it would be unpleasant duty and many had turned it down. Metastasizing cancer and multiple organ failure does frightful things to the human body. Those who stayed overnight handled intimate needs for Bill. We helped him face grim tasks of maintenance that were better done by a friend or with a friend present. Some did not have the stomach to face what needed to be faced.

Later, at Bill’s funeral, his father approached me. He handed me a gift inscribed with a message referencing this passage and thanking me for being one of Bill’s “mighty men.” There were thirty of us. I will never forget the honor.

To be certain, it takes courage to face hundreds of enemies alone in a field of lentils (2 Samuel 23.11-14), or a lion in a pit on a snowy day (2 Samuel 23.20). I take nothing away from the valor of such deeds. But I challenge you that there is superior bravery that men need, especially men who wish to follow Christ. It takes bravery beyond what many men can muster to be tender, merciful, and kind. 

If you can swing a sword until your hand freezes to it, but you cannot wipe away another’s tears and unashamedly shed your own, you lack a vital component of godliness. If you would give your body to be burned, but have not love…you are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13.3)

Men who follow Christ, the suffering servant, would be better men if they were mighty in tenderness and mighty in care. Christian men must understand that tenderness IS an act of courage. Empathy and weeping are braver and more godly than stoicism and violence.

Empires need men who swing a sword. God’s Kingdom needs men who gently care for the weak. Tenderness and care are Jesus-like masculinity, and show the image of God to a greater degree than any act of violence.

From John: Just a little additional insight from behind the scenes. Every day we post, I look for an image that will help carry the message and go well with the pull quote and storyline. Some days are more of a success and some are a struggle. This weekend, looking for an image with a man in a role of tenderness, I scrolled through hundreds of photos using the search terms “tenderness,” “kindness,” “caring,” etc. and could barely find any “tender” or “kind” images of men that were not “man with a romantic partner,” “man with a child,” or “man in a professional role of caring,” such as a doctor or nurse. It speaks volumes about what our society thinks of men that in photos intended for marketing/blogging, etc, we have so few images of men being tender if it isn’t their job, their kids, or their romantic partner. Men, even if the world doesn’t expect tenderness of you, being a representative of Christ demands it of you.

Divine Hours Prayer:
Bless the Lord all you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion… — Psalm 103.20-22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 23 (Listen – 5:38)
Galatians 3 (Listen – 4:39)

Read more about The Law that leads to Grace
Whatever form of moralism we seek to add to grace is a failure of faith, doubting the value of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Read more about Not So Random Acts of Kindness
Jesus is a greater king than David, never failing to minister to those in need.

Tribalism and Insurrection

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 20.8-10
8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath. 

9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri. 

2 Corinthians 13.10-12
10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. 
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Reflection: Tribalism and Insurrection
By John Tillman

Sheba’s insurrection was an opportunistic power grab. Sheba was mad that someone from his tribe wasn’t still in charge. So he said loudly of David, “Not my king!” (Sounds eerily familiar…)

Sheba belittled David by calling him “Jesse’s son” and played into familial hatreds and inter-tribal bitterness that still was problematic between Saul’s tribe, the Benjamites, and David. Initially, eleven of the twelve tribes followed him.

David’s kingdom was politically and militarily precarious. David’s new general, Amasa, was the former general of Absalom’s rebellion. David’s choice of Amasa may have been a sly political move, but it failed. 

Amasa fails to gather troops and stop Sheba and the Bible is unclear on why. David feared that Sheba would escape to a fortified town and, because of Amasa’s delay, that is exactly what happened. It seems likely Amasa’s delay was purposeful. This is why David felt the need to put his trust back in the “Sons of Zeruiah.”

Joab certainly treats Amasa as if he was a threat, but Joab treats everyone that way. Was Joab dispensing justice to a traitor or simply murdering his rival? It’s probably both. 

Given time, Sheba’s rebellion could have grown, but the insurrection finally ended because of the words of a wise woman. The wise woman of Abel, with her diplomacy, bravery, and wisdom brought an end to Joab’s campaign and Sheba’s insurrection. 

We should all be wary of those, like Sheba, more loyal to their tribe than to God’s kingdom. Divisive leaders appeal to our tribal instincts and desire for power. They belittle opponents and call for conflict and conquest. This can happen in countries, in denominations, and in churches. 

It is difficult to make peace with insurrectionists. They aren’t interested. In a world fluent in violence, when we speak of peace, it is “an unknown tongue.” Being a peacemaker may sometimes mean silencing or excluding those who only want war. But with God’s grace, may we take our cue more from Paul, than from Joab. 

Joab uses a kiss as an opportunity to knife Amasa in the belly. From a worldly perspective, Joab’s way seems like the only way. With a holy kiss, Paul encourages us to strive for full restoration. This may be something that, humanly speaking, seems impossible. However, with God all things are possible. May we learn to follow Paul’s “more excellent way” and replace retribution with grace.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me out of all my terror. — Psalm 34.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 20 (Listen – 4:51)
2 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:19)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 21 (Listen – 4:34), Galatians 1 (Listen – 3:05)
2 Samuel 22 (Listen – 5:22), Galatians 2 (Listen – 3:44)

Read more about Grace Displaces Retribution
The kind of humility and gracious forgiveness often shown by David is as greatly out of place today as it was in his own time.

Read more about Dealing with Joab
When I was a younger man, I admired Joab. I thought Joab saved David. I was wrong.