David’s First and Last Giants

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 21.15-22
15 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. 16 And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.” 

18 In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha. 

19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod. 

20 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 21 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him. 

22 These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.

“It’s more the size of who you put your faith in, than the size of your foe…” — Rich Mullins, “What Trouble are Giants

Reflection: David’s First and Last Giants
By John Tillman

In David’s first battle, he felled a giant. In his last, he fell before one. Both times, he praised God. 

David grew weary in the battle. Don’t we all?

The word translated “exhausted” in the NIV has a range of meanings from simple tiredness to a complete loss of consciousness. Whether David’s sword arm was simply tired, or whether he was struck unconscious by a blow, or whether age or ill health caused him to faint, a battle is a bad place to be vulnerable. 

David was famous for killing Goliath but Goliath was not the only giant in the land. Ishbi-Benob had a spear tip about half the weight of Goliath’s and threatened to kill the giant-killer, David.

David was saved, and the giant killed, by Abishai, one of Israel’s mightiest warriors. David’s men were shocked at the close call and forbade him from going out to battle again. In future battles, even more giants fell, including Goliath’s brother. (2 Samuel 21.19)

In the battles we face, it may seem we are surrounded by giants. How should we deal with the challenges that face us?

Don’t fight giants tired. Don’t fight giants in your own strength. Don’t fight giants alone. 

Like David, weariness may come at dangerous times. We can’t choose the timing of every battle but we should be realistic about our strengths and our weaknesses and be as prepared as possible. How are you resting for the next battle? How are you renewing your strength in Christ? What precautions are you taking for your weaknesses?

Don’t fight giants alone or in your own strength. Regardless of our age or experience, giants don’t go down easily. Even in “single combat” against Goliath, David wasn’t alone. Without God, Goliath would have certainly won and without Abishai, Ishbi-Benob would have. David gave God credit for both victories. (2 Samuel 22.1-3)

Whether through a well-thrown stone or a well-placed ally, it is God who saves us from giants. Who do you call when giants threaten? Who near you might God use to save you when you are weakened?

Many aspire to be like David in his youth, facing a giant alone, winning against unwinnable odds. But there is also honor and wisdom in age, experience, and leadership. A hero may kill a giant but a leader trains giant killers.

Are you raising up those with faith to stand against foes of any size?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory; because of your love and because of your faithfulness. — Psalm 115.1

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 21 (Listen 4:34
Psalms 11-12 (Listen 1:59

Read more about The King We Want
I’ve sent a king, God says
Unlike any you’ve seen
Son of the Giant Killer
Yet rejected as your ruler

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Joab’s Play

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 14.1, 19-20
1 Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom… 

19 The king asked, “Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?” 
The woman answered, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything my lord the king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who instructed me to do this and who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. 20 Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation…

Reflection: Joab’s Play
By John Tillman

Joab is one of the most fascinating and frustrating characters in the Bible. On one page, he’s a heroic general and David’s loyal friend. On the next, he’s an out-of-control assassin. He’d risk life and reputation to carry out David’s will, even when it was murder. Then he’d risk the same to subvert David’s will, even when it was peaceful.

In this chapter, Joab acts not as a military tactician but a dramatic one. He writes a script, a compelling, emotional story. He casts an actress, a wise woman in her own right. He plans the production for maximum effect on David and the public opinion of the court.

Plays often carry great truth and wisdom. Joab, as playwright, gave his actress these wise words: “But that [banishment] is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” Joab wrote a gospel play for David. Why? “To change the present situation,” the wise woman tells us.

Joab pricked David’s conscience to bring Absalom home. But Joab only cared about David, not Absalom. Also, Absalom was unrepentant. In this same chapter, Joab ignored Absalom until he burned down Joab’s field to get his attention. Later, when commanded by David to spare Absalom, Joab killed him. Joab’s play was to benefit David, not Absalom. 

Despite Joab’s callous reasoning, dishonesty, and inconsistent character, his words hold truth. God devises ways for us, the banished, to come back to him.

But God’s plot goes beyond the shortcomings of Joab’s play. God, the King of Kings, doesn’t have to be shamed into forgiving us. God initiates and accomplishes our return. God doesn’t receive us just to make himself feel better or look better. It’s us he wants, not good PR.

Unlike Absalom, we don’t need to burn anything down to get God’s attention. He doesn’t say, like David, “Come back, but you can’t see my face.” With repentance, we are fully welcomed in. And unlike Absalom, who ended his life hung in a tree, Jesus hung in a tree for us.

Let us be actors in God’s gospel play, taking up our cross and our role. Let us play our part, speaking words that the Holy Spirit puts in our mouths. Let us have faith that if we let the gospel play out in our lives, our words and actions can “change the present situation.”

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 14 (Listen 5:57)
Revelation 22 (Listen 3:59)

Read more about Bringing Back the Banished
Our king didn’t grant us partial forgiveness, keeping us from his presence. He died in our place, hung on the tree we were doomed for…

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Cost of Immature Leadership

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 10
2 David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.

When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away. 

Reflection: Cost of Immature Leadership
By John Tillman

David, who mourned his enemy, Saul, sent peaceful envoys to express sympathy to Hanun, the young Ammonite king, on his father’s death. Nahash, the former king, had shown kindness to David, and he sought to return that kindness. But the young king’s advisors sowed suspicion, conspiracy, and fear. Hanun believed them. He chose the politics of humiliation and intimidation, treating the envoys horribly. 

Wartime captives would be shaved and marched naked. Shaving half the envoy’s beards and cutting off half their clothing to expose their buttocks was more than rude. It implied they were on their way to being prisoners. What one did to a king’s representative was the same as doing it to that king. Hanun implied, intentionally or not, that David would soon be his humiliated captive. It was effectively a declaration of war. After the envoys left, Hanun seemed to realize he acted rashly and foolishly. 

David showed compassion to his envoys, but wasn’t intimidated by Hunan’s rash actions. Despite insults and threats, David didn’t leap to war. He waited, moving to defend Israel after Hanun hired mercenary armies. Hanun spent big to cover his bluster, but desperate military spending couldn’t save him. Joab easily won the first conflict, and then David rode out to battle, eventually subduing Hanun and all the kingdoms called in as reinforcements. In the final battle, over 40,000 of the soldiers supporting Hanun died.

David’s envoys were naked for a time. Hanun’s foolishness lies naked for all time.

When kings are careless, spiteful, and insulting, war and death are often the result. Many times in recent years, violence has erupted after violent, careless words from political leaders. Many times, leaders have embraced the politics of humiliation and intimidation. Too often, Christians have applauded this. Many times, people have died for leaders’ careless and rash words.

David’s example is not always good. But in this case, he kept a level head in the face of insults and intimidation, had compassion on those humiliated by others, and acted decisively to defend against violence and threats.

May we distance ourselves from rash, immature leaders like Hanun. May we grow in our own leadership and influence, showing empathy, even to our enemies, acting compassionately toward victims and the oppressed, defending the humiliated, and refusing to bow to or tolerate violence.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Thus says Yahweh, “Let the sage boast no more of wisdom, nor the valiant of valor, nor the wealthy of riches! But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this: of understanding and knowing me. For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love, justice, and uprightness on earth; yes, these are what please me,” Yahweh declares. — Jeremiah 9.22-24

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen 3:19)
Revelation 18 (Listen 4:48)

Read more about Puking Prophets of Success
By hubris they are humiliated. By turning away they become blind. By not listening they become deaf.

Read more about Lament the Fall of Leaders (Even Bad Ones)
But despite their words of judgment to the kings and rulers of Judah and Israel, both men deeply loved their country, their kings, and the people.

True Oaths to Keep

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 9.3, 8
3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Reflection: True Oaths to Keep
By Erin Newton

Last week we explored the dynamics of David’s eulogy for Saul. David’s relationship with God motivated any kindness extended to Saul’s memory. David’s allegiance was not bound to political authority. He sought to honor God above and beyond the actions of the king.

After all his national conquests, David’s heart was turned toward kindness again. The motivation was “for Jonathan’s sake.” David had made an oath to Jonathan that his lineage would not be cut off (1 Samuel 20.13-17, 42).

The type of person who can dwell with the Lord knows the price of keeping an oath. “The one whose walk is blameless…who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind” (Psalm 15.2,4).

Jonathan was dead. If David changed his mind, he would not have Jonathan nearby to rebuke him or urge him to fulfill his duty. However, David’s relationship with God guided him to be like the blameless person the psalm described.

Fulfilling David’s promise meant seeking out someone to bestow favor. The answer to the oath was not knocking on his door. It was not waiting for him. Keeping his promise meant acting, not just reacting.

Fulfilling David’s promise meant giving up his possessions. The text tells us that all the land once owned by Saul would be restored to Mephibosheth and he would always eat at David’s table. Even with resources and financial security restored, Mephibosheth would partake of David’s resources at every meal. David gave what was owed and then gave of his own.

…keeps an oath even when it hurts…

In many ways, this oath could have been painful for David. He restores a relationship with the descendant of Saul, although for the sake of Jonathan whom he loved. There is an element of humility in which the opposing families are reconciled by the willingness of David to show kindness.

The oath was financially painful in some ways. David could have given only what was easily afforded or could have been used in a way that continued to benefit him. The gift secured Mephibosheth’s finances and physical needs indefinitely.

When we hand our lives to Christ, we trade our nature for his. Jesus, who gave all he had to others—food, health, time, space, reputation, pride, power, life—bids us to make an oath to love our neighbors. And to that oath we must keep our word, even when it hurts.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “In truth I tell you, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land—and persecutions too—now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last, first. — Mark 10.29-31

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 8-9 (Listen 4:51)
Revelation 17 (Listen 3:19)

Read more about Not So Random Acts of Kindness
Eating at the king’s table, Mephibosheth was treated as an equal to David’s sons.

Read more about Loving God by Loving Others — Guided Prayer
In all these things, may we bring glory to God by loving others.
May we love you, Lord, by loving others.

The House God Desires

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 7.12-14
12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.
Reflection: The House God Desires
By John Tillman

Building a “house” for God can be interpreted as an immature understanding of God. Through the prophet Isaiah, God says:

“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
    Where will my resting place be?” (Isaiah 66.1-2)

However, God often bears with our immaturity and limited understanding. God accepts the immature like children and leads those who will listen toward growth and maturity. (Mark 4.9) He led immature slaves across the desert. He used imperfect and flawed leaders to guide imperfect and flawed people. 

At the time of David’s request to build a house for the Lord, God is bearing with the immaturity of a nation that refused to be led by God and yearned for a king to be placed over them. Saul was a king in their own image. He was selfish, driven by anger and jealousy, unspiritual, untruthful, and ignorant of how to follow God.

Nathan’s prophecy in response to David’s proposal to build a “house for God” is multifaceted. It touches the immediate future and our future in eternity with Christ simultaneously. The son Nathan refers to is not only Solomon but all the kings of Israel, ending ultimately with the King of Kings, Christ himself. 

Despite Israel’s weakness, God chose to show his strength in them.
Despite rebellious immaturity, God chose to set over them (and us) a better king—one in his image.
Despite childish thoughts of God needing a house, God stooped to enter Solomon’s Temple.
Despite the sinfulness of David’s line, Christ lowered himself to be born the Son of David.

It is in Christ, Paul tells us, that all of God’s promises are, “Yes” and “Amen.” (2 Corinthians 1.20) We, like Israel and David, are loved and used by God despite our immaturity and are called toward growth and development of greater faith.

The house we must build for God is in our own hearts.
We build it in hope, with humility and obedience, with repentance and faith.
He stands at the door and knocks. (Revelation 3.20)
When we make room for God in our hearts and lives, he will enter.
And when our lives are over, we will awake in the house of God.

Christ, the true son of David, is building the house that God desires—a house with rooms for all his children. And he has prepared a place for us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm

Sing to God, sing praises to his Name; exalt him who rides upon the heavens; Yahweh is his Name, rejoice before him!
Father of orphans, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation! — Psalm 68.4-5

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 7 (Listen 4:26)
Revelation 16 (Listen 3:17)

Read more about Slavery to Maturity
In Egypt, the Israelites were well-fed physically but not spiritually. The same could be said of Western and American Christianity.

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