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.

Let’s Take a Walk

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5.6-7
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

From John: We look back on this post of Jon’s from 2019 today, as we celebrate that he has finally completed his quarantine after returning to Hong Kong from summer in the US. We thank God for his protection of the Polk family as they traveled in the US during this summer of Covid outbreaks and we walk in faith, believing that through the common grace of science, many will continue to be protected from infection. We also pray that those who still catch the virus will experience the additional grace of God’s healing and divine protection. Walking by “faith not fear” should not mean foolishness or recklessness but humility and graciousness before God.

Reflection: Let’s Take a Walk
By Jon Polk

The classic KJV translation of 2 Corinthians 5:7 is frequently quoted, cross-stitched and memorized: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Jews used this word walk as an idiom relating to how you live your life. We utilize a similar idea when we talk about our “Christian walk” or our “walk with God.” Our lives ought to be dependent on our faith, not on what we can see or comprehend.

Contrary to the popular phrase, faith is not about taking a “blind leap” but rather making steps towards God, following the path he lays out before us. Paul refers to confidence twice in this passage, implying that faith is not blind hope but is grounded in our trust in God.

Faith is confident movement towards the path that God has ahead for us. We may not see the path, but we have faith that the path exists. We may not see beyond the first step, but we take the first step in faith. We may not see all the reasons behind what God is calling us to do, but we have faith that he leads us as he does for a purpose.

On his first journey to China, the great British missionary Hudson Taylor traveled aboard a sailing vessel. As the ship neared the coast of New Guinea, the winds died out for a number of weeks. The ship began to drift dangerously towards the shore, at risk of running aground on the coral reefs leaving the crew to the mercy of the natives rumored to be cannibals.

The captain came to Taylor in desperation, asking him to pray for God to send wind. So Taylor and a few other men began to pray for a breeze. As they prayed, he went up on deck and asked the second mate to ready the mainsail. Initially, the mate resisted, not wanting to appear foolish in front of the crew, but Taylor insisted and he finally agreed. In the ensuing moments, a strong wind indeed came upon the ship and sailors scrambled all over the deck as the wind kicked in.

When you raise the sails in your life before you can even see the wind, you’re walking by faith.
So go take a walk. Not a walk based on what we can see in this earthly life but a walk by faith into the adventurous life God has for us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me… — Psalm 101.6

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 12 (Listen – 5:25)
2 Corinthians 5 (Listen -3:14)

Read more about Don’t Waste the Waiting
During one particularly long waiting season, after running ahead of God in various ways, I confessed my impatience and frustration.

Read more about Trust and Pursue God’s Promises
Fully trusting in God’s promises gives us the hope, strength, and courage to pursue those promises.

Godly Silence

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 4.18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

From John: With four weeks of the Lenten season remaining, we need to ensure it does not become just another trendy opportunity for a different kind of consumption and self-fulfillment. Rather than that, Lent should be a process of self-denial, seeking of God, and blessing of others. This repost from Matt Tullos continues to remind us that, in our modern world, a fast from the technological “noise” we live in might be as important as any other type of fasting. 

Reflection: Godly Silence
By Matt Tullos

The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is he does not know how to stay quietly in his room. — Blaise Pascal

My wife and kids were away the night a violent thunderstorm hit our town and the electricity went out. At that moment I was watching a football game, scanning twitter, and listening to music.

When darkness arrived in a split second I realized that the battery on my iPhone was almost gone. A brief moment of panic ensued. I realized that in a matter of minutes I would be thrust into the lifestyle millions of people enjoyed in the 1800s!

The silence and lack of media connection was unnerving at first. It was then that I sensed the presence of God speaking to me about my addiction to noise. After 15 minutes I had rediscovered the beauty of silence.

These days, silence is something we must fight to achieve, but it is definitely worth the fight. The National Center of Biotechnology stated in a study that two minutes of silence is more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

However, this is not new knowledge for people of the Book. The Bible urges us to experience silence as a spiritual discipline.

Every day we are faced with the choice of constant communication, noise and blather or intentional, Jesus-focused silence.

Don’t wait for a power outage in order to spend time in silence. God might be trying to tell you something but all the ambient noise and entertainment leaves you deaf to His voice.

I believe we would be astounded by all God wants to say to us and yet He never gets a chance because of our preoccupation with news, messages, conversations and entertainment. Silence isn’t just golden, it is godly.

Ask yourself, “How am I seeking silence in my day?” and “Why is constant communication and auditory stimulation so addictive?”

Take time to spend 15 minutes in silence today. Allow God to speak into your soul.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. — Psalm 90.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Exodus 16 (Listen -5:02)
Luke 19 (Listen – 5:29)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 17 Listen -2:30), Luke 20 (Listen – 5:07)
Exodus 18 (Listen -3:54), Luke 21 (Listen – 4:18)

Read more about A Fight Won with Quietness
The fight to which we have been called is not an easy fight. We are touching the very center of the devil’s power and kingdom, and he hates us intensely and fights hard against us.

Read more about Discipline for the Anxious
If there are corners of our world not touched by division, aggression, worry, and angst, you probably can’t get email there.

Seeking Silence—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jon Polk, Hong Kong
In our hectic lives today, silence is rare. Can you remember the last time you sat for 15 minutes in silence to listen to the voice of God as this article suggests? I’m not sure I can either. This sad reality is to our detriment. We all need this reminder to put down the phone, turn off the news, shut down the browser and rediscover the spiritual discipline of silence. Not an empty silence, of course, but a silence that enables us to tune our hearts to listening close to the still, small voice of God.

Originally published, March 5, 2020, based on readings from Job 34 & 2 Corinthians 4.

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 4.18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Reflection: Seeking Silence—Readers’ Choice
By Matt Tullos

The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is he does not know how to stay quietly in his room. — Blaise Pascal

My wife and kids were away the night a violent thunderstorm hit our town and the electricity went out. At that moment I was watching a football game, scanning twitter, and listening to music.

When darkness arrived in a split second I realized that the battery on my iPhone was almost gone. A brief moment of panic ensued. I realized that in a matter of minutes I would be thrust into the lifestyle millions of people enjoyed in the 1800s!

The silence and lack of media connection was unnerving at first. It was then that I sensed the presence of God speaking to me about my addiction to noise. After 15 minutes I had rediscovered the beauty of silence.

These days, silence is something we must fight to achieve, but it is definitely worth the fight. The National Center of Biotechnology stated in a study that two minutes of silence is more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

However, this is not new knowledge for people of the Book. The Bible urges us to experience silence as a spiritual discipline.

Every day we are faced with the choice of constant communication, noise and blather or intentional, Jesus-focused silence.

Don’t wait for a power outage in order to spend time in silence. God might be trying to tell you something but all the ambient noise and entertainment leaves you deaf to His voice.
I believe we would be astounded by all God wants to say to us and yet He never gets a chance because of our preoccupation with news, messages, conversations and entertainment. Silence isn’t just golden, it is godly.

Ask yourself, “How am I seeking silence in my day?” and “Why is constant communication and auditory stimulation so addictive?”

Take time to spend 15 minutes in silence today. Allow God to speak into your soul.

Editor’s Note: Fasts of many different kinds are common during the Lenten season. In our modern world a fast from certain aspects of technology might be as important as any other type of fasting.

We pray that our fasting would not be merely self-improvement or self-fulfillment, but instead, a process of self-denial, seeking of God, and blessing of others. — John

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation! — Psalm 18.46

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 4 (Listen – 3:42)
Psalm 35 (Listen – 3:21)

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum is grateful to our donors who enable us to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads.

Read more about From Silence, Peace
The God who turned his back, came back. He came to speak peace to the people who had chosen death instead of life.

Spending our Way to Asceticism

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5.15
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Reflection: Spending our Way to Asceticism
By John Tillman

Ascetics are the new cool kids. How do we become ascetics in a Western consumerist culture? Spend more, of course. 

People, even non-believers, universally recognize fasting as a marker of spirituality. Fasting is perhaps one of the least understood and most abused spiritual disciplines. Richard Foster said, “Because of the secularization of modern society, ‘fasting’ is usually motivated either by vanity or by the desire for power.” The power many are seeking is not power over sin, but power over the bathroom scale. We are not looking to make ourselves fit for Heaven as much as we are looking for ways to fit into the suit we wore a few years ago.

Many “fasts” involve paying for or partaking in perplexing, complicated, and expensive diets, foods, powders, and gadgets. This consumerist approach helps fasting fit into the American spiritual narrative of moralistic self-sufficiency. Even atheists can virtue-signal their dedication to self-improvement by going on a partial fast, eating far less of far more expensive food.

I am prone to stumble into cynicism about societal/spiritual trends such as these. So I want to be careful not to step too hard on anyone’s attempts to seek God through a discipline of fasting. Just because some fasts have a trending hashtag or have been of financial value to grocers and the sports nutrition industry doesn’t mean they have no spiritual value. After all, sticking to an expensive plan as a part of a fast is adding a financial level of sacrifice to a physical level of sacrifice. Who am I to judge? Fast on, trendy-fasters.

But I pray, for myself and others, that as we continue through Lent that no matter what kind of fast we choose, fasting will be more to us than a religious/dietary stunt. 

I pray that our intentions will be not for a good result in our dietary health but a God-result in our spiritual health.

As we continue fasting this weekend, let us pray this prayer from a previous post on fasting:

May we be more thrilled by gaining a better connection to Christ than by losses on a scale. 
May our lack aid us in leaning into Christ’s sufficiency. 
May our hunger lead us to read from His holy Word. 
May our pangs of emptiness lead us to make more room in our hearts and lives for the Holy Spirit and for the community of his Holy Church.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. — Psalm 85.10

Today’s Readings
Job 35 (Listen -1:33)
2 Corinthians 5 (Listen -3:14)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 36 (Listen -3:04), 2 Corinthians 6 (Listen -2:31)
Job 37 (Listen -2:27), 2 Corinthians 7 (Listen -2:58)

Read more about Binging on Fasting
We misunderstand fasting to such a level that we have co-opted the concept to create new opportunities for consumption.

Read more about Fasting “Better”
As fasting has grown fashionable…It’s easy for it to become just another spiritual competition of one-upmanship and comparison.

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