Inspired Activity

 For You are my lamp, O Lord;
And the Lord illumines my darkness.
For by You I can run upon a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall
(2 Samuel 22:29,30 NASB)

I saw Star Wars when it first came out, and it was overwhelming.  I left the theater feeling like I could have run all the way home (about 20 miles…and I was 11).  Up to that point, and granted my experience was severely limited, I had never had a movie do that to me.  I felt so inspired, I wanted to do what the characters had done, overcome the evil, defeat the unbeatable odds, and live to tell the tale.

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The Violence of God and His People

For You have girded me with strength for battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
And I destroyed those who hated me.
They looked, but there was none to save;
Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them.
Then I pulverized them as the dust of the earth;
I crushed and stamped them as the mire of the streets
(2 Samuel 22:40-43 NASB)

Would it bother you if I told you that God sometimes incites His people to violent acts?  Probably.  In our culture we would probably shudder or start calling for the guys in white coats, nets, and extra-long-sleeve jackets with buckles in the back.  It sounds like the ravings of a lunatic blaming God for their lunacy, ‘hearing voices’, and foaming at the mouth.  Not something we like to think about.  To be fair, most of the times (or all the times) this sort of thing has been reported in the news, that was pretty close to what it was, lunacy; perhaps even demonic activity.

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How Does God Respond To You and Me?

With the kind You show Yourself kind,
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You show Yourself pure,
And with the perverted You show Yourself astute.
And You save an afflicted people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase
(2 Samuel 22:26-28 NASB)

Active listening, or ‘mirroring’ are communication techniques recommended for clearer conversation, discussions, and even negotiation.  What about living this way?  What if you live in such a way as to ‘mirror’ those around you?  Well, according to God’s instructions to the people of Israel as they entered the Promised Land, that is a recipe for disaster.  But can a ‘modified’ form of life-mirroring be learned from how God responds to us?

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When God Shows Up…

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
Yes, I cried to my God;
And from His temple He heard my voice,
And my cry for help came into His ears.
Then the earth shook and quaked,
The foundations of heaven were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
Fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
And He rode on a cherub and flew;
And He appeared on the wings of the wind.
And He made darkness canopies around Him,
A mass of waters, thick clouds of the sky.
From the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were kindled.
The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
And He sent out arrows, and scattered them,
Lightning, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea appeared,
The foundations of the world were laid bare
By the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
(2 Samuel 22:7-16 NASB)

Let’s sing another ‘hymn’ or ‘praise song’ to our Lord!  Raise your hands to our loving father!  And of course, tremble in absolute utter inability to think a rational thought completely overwhelmed by what His glory truly looks like…

We say glib and trite things like we want God to be close, we want Him to hold us close, and so on.  But really what Jesus said and what Paul repeats is that we can call Him ‘daddy’, the intimate term for our fathers on earth.  Neither Jesus nor Paul ever asserts that this one we can refer to as our intimate Parent is any different than the terrifying images previously described.  We tend to forget that.

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What’s The Difference?

You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your right hand upholds me;
And Your gentleness makes me great (Psalm 18:35 NASB)

You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your help makes me great. (2 Samuel 22:36 NASB)

On my trek through 2 Samuel, I ran across chapter 22, which I was going to skip since it was also Psalm 18.  But then it occurred to me that the minor differences might be illuminating.  So, I wanted to pick out a few and share some insights.  Keep in mind, we don’t really know which is truly the older edition, but the prevailing suspicion is that the book of Psalms preserves the final edition more fit for public worship.  Regardless of which is more ‘fitting’, I do believe that the Psalm is the final, and 2 Samuel 22 is the ‘draft’.  That being said, permit me to delve into one of the differences, verse 36 in 2 Samuel 22, and verse 35 in Psalm 18 (in the English, not in Hebrew numbering).

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How To Get A Head Through Negotiation

They came and besieged him in Abel Beth- maacah, and they cast up a siege ramp against the city, and it stood by the rampart; and all the people who were with Joab were wreaking destruction in order to topple the wall. (2 Samuel 20:15 NASB)

Joab replied, “Far be it, far be it from me that I should swallow up or destroy!  Such is not the case. But a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against King David. Only hand him over, and I will depart from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.” (2 Samuel 20:20-21 NASB)

One of the most difficult things any US Administration faces is negotiations in the Middle East.  It  seems to be one of the most difficult places for people to get along.  Whether because of oil or religion, or even different people-groups, it seems that there is always turmoil in the Middle East.  In some wars early in Israel’s 20th Century history, they used tactics from Scripture to form their battle plans.  I wonder if we can find negotiation strategies in there too?

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The Gutless General

When they were at the large stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was dressed in his military attire, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened at his waist; and as he went forward, it fell out.  Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.  But Amasa was not on guard against the sword which was in Joab’s hand so he struck him in the belly with it and poured out his inward parts on the ground, and did not strike him again, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri. (2 Samuel 20:8-10 NASB)

There are times that I really wish the Biblical writers had included more detail.  Then there are times, like here, where they include a lot of detail, and it doesn’t help; I still don’t get it.  This used to bother me, but the more I read commentaries, I realize we all struggle imagining just what happened here.  In addition to the few things we surmise, there are a few things we actually know.

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Rebuilding Burnt ‘Emotional’ Bridges

Say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? May God do so to me, and more also, if you will not be commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab. ‘” Thus he turned the hearts of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, saying, “Return, you and all your servants.” (2 Samuel 19:13,14 NASB)

David, you’ve just won the battle against your rebellious son and all of Israel.  What are you going to do now?  Well, whatever he should have done, could have done, or might have done; what he did was ball his eyes out demoralizing his faithful victorious troops, sit in the gate to cheer them up, send word to Judah to rebuild relationships, and sort of forgave his enemies all around.  But it’s not really clear whether this is one of David’s shining moments or not.

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The Man With The Dangerously Big Head

Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going (2 Samuel 18:9 NASB)

I had a friend ask me where I come up with these titles.  I’m not sure.  I suppose when I imagine a guy riding a mule going under a tree, getting his head stuck in the tree, and the mule continuing on, leaving the man hanging from the tree; I’m likely to suspect his head was too big.  The irony of the term applied to Absalom also makes it very attractive, almost as attractive as he thought he was.  See, it just works so well on too many levels.

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Wait, he’s who again?

Absalom set Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Now Amasa was the son of a man whose name was Ithra the Israelite, who went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. (2 Samuel 17:25 NASB)

Have you ever listened to some guy’s story about somebody he knows, and after getting lost in the details realize he has no idea who this guy is either?  The basic issue here is that Abigail’s and Zeruiah’s father wasn’t Nahash but Jesse (or was supposed to be).  That made Joab David’s nephew, which may be the only reason David let him live.

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