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.

Weeping For Rebels

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 19.6-7
6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

Reflection: Weeping For Rebels
By John Tillman

Joab was right about one thing—the troops needed David’s encouragement. He was wrong about everything else.

More than a general, Joab was family. A son of David’s sister, Zeruiah, Joab came to power with David, leading David’s “mighty men.” Joab helped win David’s greatest victories and enabled and defended David’s worst sins. 

Joab had advocated for Absalom, convincing David to have mercy on him in the past. Perhaps this is why Joab mercilessly killed him, hanging in the tree. To Joab, Absalom was only a threat. To David, Absalom was his beloved son. When Joab comes upon David, weeping over Absalom, he rebukes him, saying, “You love those who hate you and hate those who love you.” (2 Samuel 19.6)

There are some today, like Joab, who would misinterpret compassion, empathy, and weeping with those who weep as weakness and as endangering God’s kingdom. This could not be further from the truth.

At The Park Forum, we’ve often emphasized David’s sins because, historically, his flaws tend to be smoothed over. However, David is also called a “man after God’s own heart,” and weeping over Absalom, he shows part of it. At David’s worst, we see just how deeply sin grips his soul, but at his best, he looks a lot like Jesus. You can’t get much more like Jesus than loving those who hate you.

Absalom, by law, deserved nothing but the death that he received. David, by his love, wished he had died in Absalom’s place. David was never more like Jesus than when he wished he had died on a tree rather than his beloved son. 

We can do better than David today. We do not need to beg for rebels to be treated gently. We simply point to Jesus, who has been treated harshly on the rebels’ behalf.

We can carry better news than Joab’s messengers. They brought news of victory by the death of a rebel on a tree. We bear news that Jesus has died on a tree on behalf of rebels. 

Jesus hung on a tree in the place of rebels like us. 
We have all been Absalom, rebels trapped by our sinful pride.
We have all been Joab, refusing mercy to those who slighted us.
May we be more like David, like Jesus, weeping for the lost and willing to die in their place.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62.6

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 19 (Listen – 7:31)
2 Corinthians 12 (Listen – 3:54)

Read more about Of Grace and Thorns
Suffering is evil. Weakness is humbling. In Christ, they both are redeemed and their outcomes overturned.

Read more about Hope for Mercy
The news of Absalom’s death brought inconsolable grief to David. Despite the insurrection by Absalom, David wept for his son.

Hope for Mercy

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 18:33
33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” 

Reflection: Hope for Mercy
By Erin Newton

My mom yelled at us in the backseat, “Stop pestering each other or I will pull over right now!” I didn’t think she was serious, but then I found myself on the side of the road on a hot Texas afternoon. One of the first rules when dealing with children is to never threaten a punishment you are not ready to fulfill. There is the hope for mercy, but punishments usually follow disobedience.

When the prophet Nathan confronted David in 2 Samuel 12, he told the king that the sword would always be upon his family. The judgment unfolded with painful precision. The first son of Bathsheba died. Tamar was sexually abused by Amnon. Absalom killed Amnon as retribution. Lastly, Absalom usurped his father’s throne.

Surprisingly, David desired to protect Absalom. He commanded the men to grant mercy and spare his son’s life. Instead, Joab dispensed merciless judgment and inflicted fatal blows to Absalom’s defenseless body. The news of Absalom’s death brought inconsolable grief to David. Despite the insurrection by Absalom, David wept for his son.  

Readers who follow the story of David know to expect a tale of pain and suffering. Judgment was promised. But Nathan also offered a word of mercy, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” The sweetness of this promise is a small taste of hope amid the judgment proclaimed.

Let me be clear: Not all bad events in life are the judgment of God. However, we daily wrestle with sin and sometimes we fail. Because we are tethered to this world, our sins can bring earthly consequences. I think that is why God gave us a Bible full of mortal failures. It is within the great cloud of witnesses (full of liars, murders, and adulterers) that we see redeemed, yet sinful, servants of God. Despite their errors, it is consistently “by faith” that they persevere through hardship.

There is a glimmer of mercy in the promises of today. Salvation through Jesus Christ: “The Lord has taken away your sin.” Promise of eternal life: “You will not die.” The gospel promises that Jesus has paid the price of our sin and eternal death is not in our future. That is our buoy in the waves of life. Continue in faith. Do not forget that the blood of Jesus speaks a better word than that of condemnation. (Hebrews 12.24)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Protect my life and deliver me; let me know be put to shame, for I have trusted in you.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you. — Psalm 25.19-20

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 18 (Listen -6:16)
2 Corinthians 11 (Listen -4:46)

Read more about The Consequence of Carelessness — Readers’ Choice
Israel’s tendency toward neglect would be a festering wound resulting in more errors and consequences.

Read more about Like Father, Like Sons
Sin always sets in motion more sin to follow. Often, the sins of fathers and mothers have lasting effects.

Bearing Cursing

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 16.6-8, 9, 11-12
6 He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. 7 As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! 8 The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”

9 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”

11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

Reflection: Bearing Cursing
By John Tillman

David fled Jerusalem before Absalom as one mourning, not as a king. Barefoot and weeping he climbed the Mount of Olives. (2 Samuel 15.30) David recognized that it was his sinfulness that was the root of all of this suffering. Perhaps it was this attitude that prepared David for the insults and mistreatment of Shimei.

There are moments in scripture when someone unintentionally prophesies. One is when the High Priest says regarding Jesus, “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11.50) Another is here along the road from Jerusalem where a relative of Saul hurls sticks and stones, as well as hurtful words at David.

David seems stung more by Shimei’s words than his stones. Shimei called David a murderer or a “man of blood.” Shimei’s statements are at least partly true. The murder of Uriah must have risen in David’s thoughts as he heard Shimei’s insults and his celebration of his circumstances. David apparently recognized in them an echo of Nathan’s prophecy that “the sword will never depart from your house.” (2 Samuel 12.10)

As he rebuked Abishai, who wanted to kill Shimei, David confirmed that, at least in David’s mind, God was the one sending these insults, sticks, stones, and clods of dirt.

We are all going to face some Shimei-like treatment from time to time. Whether we think we deserve it or not, even half-truths that are unfair, insulting, or hurtful can be learned from. David doesn’t engage with Shimei or try to win him over. He recognized that it was natural for someone from Saul’s family to not like him and to say mean things about him. David recognized that God could use what he was experiencing. 

David also did not hold Shimei’s actions against him. Later, when David returns, Shimei is the first to greet him and repents of what he said. David offers him forgiveness and again prevents Abishai from killing him.

Even if, as with Shimei, the insults are exaggerated or unfair, we can trust God with the outcome and not strike back in the same manner or worse. Rather than lashing out when cursed, may we seek consolation in God and humbly endure insults in the name of Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other.” — Psalm 16.1

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 16 (Listen – 4:03)
2 Corinthians 9 (Listen -2:26)

Read more about King on the Mountain, King on the Cross
They expected a king to banish the cursed outcasts and sinners. He brought them in and blessed them.

Read more about In the Face of Mockery and Shame
The mockery of the passing crowds was not by accident, but part of the punishment’s design.