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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

First Look at "Resisting Gossip Together"

I'm getting excited about the new companion book to Resisting Gossip which will be (1) part Bible study for digging deeper into the biblical teaching about gossip and (2) part participant's guide for small groups working through the material together and utilizing the Resisting Gossip Videos that we've been creating.

Check out page #10 of the newest CLC catalog for more details about Resisting Gossip Together.

This is what the cover will basically look like (probably some refining left before it's official):



The videos and companion book are due out in early October. I'll let you know when I have more information.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "The Return of the King"

“The Return of the King”
The LORD Is My Rock: The Message of 2 Samuel
June 22, 2014 :: 2 Samuel 19:9-20:26

This is the last of three messages that in the story arc of Absalom’s conspiracy.

Two weeks ago, we saw Absalom steal the hearts of the men of Israel and conspire to take over the throne of David in the city of David.

King David was forced to flee to the other side of the Jordan.

Then last week, Absalom’s and David’s armies fought one another to see who would ultimately win.  David won, but it didn’t feel like it because Absalom died and David was overwrought with grief and sorrow.

Today’s message finishes that story with a sermon that I’m going to call (with apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien), “The Return of the King.”

This is the story of how David came back to the city of David, how King David became King of Israel once again. The Return of the King.

You might have thought and been excused for thinking that the return of the king would be relatively easy.

It’s not.

Even though Absalom has died and many of those who supported him also died, there is still much civil unrest.

There is a fundamental hostility between the northern 10 tribes, often called “Israel,” and the two southern tribes, often called “Judah.”

And after Absalom died, there was a squabble between them over whether or not David should return as king!

What should be obvious apparently still wasn’t.

Chapter 19, starting in the last part of verse 8.

“Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes. Throughout the tribes of Israel, the people were all arguing with each other, saying, ‘The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies; he is the one who rescued us from the hand of the Philistines. But now he has fled the country because of Absalom; and Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, has died in battle. So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?’”

Apparently, there was a debate going on about whether or not to re-accept King David.

They were arguing with each other.  King David beat the Philistines. King David was our king.  But then he wasn’t because of Absalom whom we anointed. But now Absalom is dead, why don’t we have our king back, immediately?!

It seems that Israel (the northern tribes, catch that) is ready to bring him back. It didn’t take much arguing.

However, they’re first!  The southern tribes, including Judah, whom David was a member of were apparently hesitating. V.11

“King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: ‘Ask the elders of Judah, 'Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters?

[Have you heard what they’re saying up north? They want me back.]

You are my brothers, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?'

And say to Amasa, 'Are you not my own flesh and blood? May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if from now on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joab.'’”

Whoa! That’s a bold move.

Who was Amasa? He was the general of Absalom’s army (17:25)!

He was a traitor.

And David was promoting him above his own general!

That’s a brilliant move.

David was demoting Joab who had killed his son Absalom.

And he was building bridges toward those who had been his enemies.

It’s brilliant, and it works. V.14

“He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man. They sent word to the king, ‘Return, you and all your men.’

Then the king returned and went as far as the Jordan. Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan.

Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David. With him were a thousand Benjamites, along with Ziba, the steward of Saul's household, and his fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed to the Jordan, where the king was.”

Remember a couple of weeks ago, as David left the city, he kept encountering people?

And I said that in times of trouble, you often can find out who your friends really are?

Well, it’s a little harder to tell when you’re a winner than when you’re in trouble.

But David meets the same people (and few more) going back than when he came out.

The first is that man who didn’t pretend to be David’s friend when he was down. Shimei. V.18

“They crossed at the ford to take the king's household over and to do whatever he wished. When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, ‘May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind.

For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.’”

Pretty good speech for a guy who was pelting David was rocks and dirt the last time he saw him!

Abishai who wanted to kill him then hasn’t forgotten. V.21

“Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, ‘Shouldn't Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the LORD's anointed.’

David replied, ‘What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? This day you have become my adversaries! Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Do I not know that today I am king over Israel?’

[Clemency!]

So the king said to Shimei, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king promised him on oath.”

Verse 24.

“Mephibosheth, Saul's grandson, also went down to meet the king. He had not taken care of his feet or trimmed his mustache or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely.

That’s important. That detail is important. Why?  Because it shows Mephibosheth’s loyalty.

I have 3 lessons to learn from this story today, and the first one is summarized with that one word.

#1. LOYALTY.

Mephiboseth’s loyalty has been in dispute.

Do you remember what Ziba had said about him back in chapter 16?

Ziba had shown up with a string of donkeys and some much needed refreshment and had said that his master Saul’s grandson, whom David had shown hesed to was excited about the conspiracy and was hoping to be restored to the kingship through this rebellion.

And David had given everything of Mephibosheth’s to Ziba, assuming the king returned some day.

But is that what happened?  V.25

“When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, ‘Why didn't you go with me, Mephibosheth?’

He said, ‘My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, 'I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.' But Ziba my servant betrayed me.  And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever pleases you.

All my grandfather's descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who sat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?’

The king said to him, ‘Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the fields.’  Mephibosheth said to the king, ‘Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has arrived home safely.’”

So, according to Mephibosheth, it was Ziba’s fault. He wouldn’t bring him his wheelchair so he had to stay home and Ziba spread slander about him.

How does David know that Mephibosheth is telling the truth?

It’s the feet and mustache and clothes. Mephibotsheth had gone into exile with David  in his spirit and had dressed like it even while stay in the land ruled by Absalom.

That was taking a risk while Absalom was ruling!

And he also knows that Mephibosheth is telling the truth because all he seems to care about is the return of the king. V.30 again.

“Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has arrived home safely.”

That’s a great attitude, and it shows both humility and loyalty.

Loyalty is another word to translate the Hebrew word “hesed.”

Loyal love. Steadfast commitment to another.

The Lord is the best at loyalty, and He wants us to develop it ourselves.

This last week, Heather and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, and one of the things I’ve always love and appreciated and have been overwhelmed by is her fierce loyalty to me.

It makes sense that married people should be and would be loyal to each other, but I never knew how strong loyalty could be and how sweet it could be until I had been married to this woman for some time.

To whom should you be loyal?

To whom should you be showing hesed, unfailing love?

It’s not just something that married people ought to show.

Mephibosheth is showing it to David his uncle who had been showing it to him.

Often, the person who needs the loyalty is in trouble and needs help.

They don’t look like a winner at the time.

They can’t scratch your back, so it would be easy to ignore their backs.

But that’s not what a friend does.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

That’s what Barzillai did. V.31

“Barzillai the Gileadite also came down from Rogelim to cross the Jordan with the king and to send him on his way from there. Now Barzillai was a very old man, eighty years of age. He had provided for the king during his stay in Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man.

[He had been there for him during the hard times.]

The king said to Barzillai, ‘Cross over with me and stay with me in Jerusalem, and I will provide for you.’

But Barzillai answered the king, ‘How many more years will I live, that I should go up to Jerusalem with the king? I am now eighty years old. Can I tell the difference between what is good and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats and drinks? Can I still hear the voices of men and women singers? Why should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? Your servant will cross over the Jordan with the king for a short distance, but why should the king reward me in this way? Let your servant return, that I may die in my own town near the tomb of my father and mother.

But here is your servant Kimham. Let him cross over with my lord the king. Do for him whatever pleases you.’ The king said, ‘Kimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him whatever pleases you. And anything you desire from me I will do for you.’ So all the people crossed the Jordan, and then the king crossed over. The king kissed Barzillai and gave him his blessing, and Barzillai returned to his home.”

Again, we have a picture of loyalty. Someone whose main concern was not for themself but for someone else. The thing that Barzillai cared the most about was simply the return of the king.

How happy and content he is that the king is safe again and crossing back home!

And notice how blessed he is because of his loyalty.

Remember, when King David is at his best, he reminds us of what King Jesus will be.

And notice how King David, upon his return, rewards those who have been faithful to him.

How much more will King Jesus, upon His return, reward those who have been faithful to Him!

Loyal to Him!

Whose main concern is the return of the King!

Paul said to Timothy – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Who have been longing, loyally longing for the return of the King.

Is that you?  The New Testament commands us to long for, to wait with constant expectation, for the return of King Jesus.

And there is great reward in store for those who have longed for His appearing.

Now, David finally returns home, but that doesn’t mean that all is well. V.40

“When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel had taken the king over. [Uh oh.] Soon all the men of Israel were coming to the king and saying to him, ‘Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, steal the king away and bring him and his household across the Jordan, together with all his men?’

All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, ‘We did this because the king is closely related to us. Why are you angry about it? Have we eaten any of the king's provisions? Have we taken anything for ourselves?’”

[A few days before, they were arguing about whether or not to do it, now they are arguing over who has the right to do it and who would do it better!]

 Then the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, ‘We have ten shares in the king; and besides, we have a greater claim on David than you have. So why do you treat us with contempt? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?’ But the men of Judah responded even more harshly than the men of Israel.”

Bunch of bickering children!

Nu uh.
Uh uh.
Nu uh.
Uh uh!

Going to turn into a shoving match soon. In fact, that’s what Sheba is counting on. Chapter 20, verse 1.

“Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bicri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted, ‘We have no share in David, no part in Jesse's son! Every man to his tent, O Israel!’ So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.”

David is home, but all is not well.

There is another civil war!

Sheba is a troublemaker. He wants to divide and conquer. He is certainly not loyal, and he wants to dissuade anyone from being loyal to King David.

He plays off of the civil unrest to try to create a civil war.

And David knows he must do something about that, but first, he does something about the concubines. V.3

“When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them, but did not lie with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.”

Here’s our second key word for today:

#2. CONSEQUENCES.

If there has been one theme running through all of the sermons from Mother’s Day to today, it would be that God will not be mocked, a man reaps what he sows. Your sin will find you out.

Even when there is forgiveness of sins, there often will be consequences.

Dire consequences.

There were dire consequences for David’s sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah.

A sword pierced his family.

And these 10 women suffered for it. Didn’t they?

Raped by Absalom who had taken such umbrage at the rape of his sister Tamar.

David believes he has to sequester them for the rest of their lives so that they live as widows. A consequence of his sin and Absalom’s.

It’s the right thing to do in a difficult situation.

And it’s consequences.

We like to think that we’re going to get away with everything.

That God may not be watching.

That there may not be any negative effects from our sin.

But that’s wishful thinking. Our sin carries consequences, and not just for ourselves.

Is there a temptation in your life right now?

Gossip?
Greed?
Theft?
Lying?
Sexual immorality?
Pornography?
Anger, rage, bitterness?

Is there a temptation in your life right now that seems like a victimless crime to commit?

There are no victimless crimes against God.

And He’s watching. We have see that again and again.

Yes, there is forgiveness. Turn from your sin and trust in the Savior. He will forgive.

His blood is powerful, and it is enough!

But don’t turn towards sin presuming upon forgiveness and assuming that no one will get hurt.

David was on the roof of his palace when he gave in to lust.

And then Absalom was on the same roof when he gave in, as well.

And these 10 ladies had to pick up the pieces and live with them for their whole lives.

Think. And turn away from sin.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Consequences.

In chapter 20 there are a lot more consequences. V.4

“Then the king said to Amasa, ‘Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.’ [We’ve got to do something about Sheba, and now.] But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.

David said to Abishai, ‘Now Sheba son of Bicri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master's men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.’

[Notice that Joab is passed over again as head of the army. David is very mad at him for having killed his son Absalom. But also notice that Joab goes with Abishai and still seems to be in charge. V.7]

So Joab's men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bicri.

While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa [finally!] 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.

Joab said to Amasa, ‘How are you, my brother?’ Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.

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 Bicri.”

Consequences.

In this case, it’s Amasa’s consequences for being a traitor to David.

He’s family with Joab and doesn’t realize that he’s in trouble.

Joab drops his dagger, and scoops it up with his left hand, his defensive hand.

With his right, he grabs Amasa as a kinsman for a kiss, and gives him the cold blade.

That’s murder, folks, and Joab (for a time) gets away with it.

But there will be consequences. Count on it. V.11

“One of Joab's men stood beside Amasa and said, ‘Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!’ [Never mind that David had said that Amasa was the new commander.] Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him.

After Amasa had been removed from the road, all the men went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bicri. Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maacah and through the entire region of the Berites, who gathered together and followed him.

All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maacah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down, a wise woman called from the city, ‘Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.’

He went toward her, and she asked, ‘Are you Joab?’ ‘I am,’ he answered. She said, ‘Listen to what your servant has to say.’ ‘I'm listening,’ he said. She continued, ‘Long ago they used to say, 'Get your answer at Abel,' and that settled it. We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the LORD's inheritance?’

‘Far be it from me!’ Joab replied, ‘Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! [That’s audacity, I would say!] That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bicri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I'll withdraw from the city.’ The woman said to Joab, ‘His head will be thrown to you from the wall.’

Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

Joab was over Israel's entire army [that uncontrollable rascal Joab]; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; Adoniram was in charge of forced labor; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Ira the Jairite was David's priest.”

Here’s my one word for all of this:

#3. PROMISES.

The return of the king is all about God keeping His promises to David and to Israel.

The wise woman of Abel Beth Maacah reminded Joab that her city (v.19), “the LORD’s inheritance.”

The land that God promised to His people.

And God has made some big promises to King David.  We read about them back in chapter 7.

How would those promises been kept if David had not returned to Jerusalem?

God always keeps His promises.

The kingdom is saved–not because the kingdom was good, but because God is keeping His promises.

As Joshua told the people at the end of his life, “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Joshua 23:14).

And we know Who keeps all of those promises. The Apostle Paul said, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

God keeps all of His promises, and they are yes in Christ.

Have you trusted in Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of all of God’s promises for you?

He is the great YES to all of those promises.  Trust Him.

***

Messages in This Series

00. "How the Mighty Have Fallen!"
01. King David
02. David's Kingdom
03. The Right Way to Worship
04. "I Will Build a House for You."
05. The Rule of King David
06. David's Scandal
07. Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?il This
08. Absalom's Conspiracy

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Twenty Sweet Years

Twenty years ago today we both said, "I do," and they have been so God-blessed and joy-filled.

We have lived Martin Luther's dictum: 
"Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave."

I love you, Heather Joy. I'm looking forward to the next twenty even more.


Engagement Photos circa 1993








The Happy Husband

Oft, oft, methinks, the while with thee
I breathe, as from the heart, thy dear
And dedicated name, I hear
A promise and a mystery,
A pledge of more than passing life,
Yea, in that very name of wife!

A pulse of love that ne'er can sleep!
A feeling that upbraids the heart
With happiness beyond desert,
That gladness half requests to weep!
Nor bless I not the keener sense
And unalarming turbulence.

Of transient joys, that ask no sting
From jealous fears, or coy denying;
But born beneath Love's brooding wing,
And into tenderness soon dying.
Wheel out their giddy moment, then
Resign the soul to love again;

A more precipitated vein
Of notes that eddy in the flow
Of smoothest song, they come, they go,
And leave their sweeter understrain
Its own sweet self-a love of thee
That seems, yet cannot greater be!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge [poemhunter.com]

Sunday, June 15, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "O Absalom, My Son, My Son!"

“O Absalom, My Son, My Son!”
The LORD Is My Rock: The Message of 2 Samuel
June 15, 2014 :: 2 Samuel 16:15-19:8

We’re right smack dab in the middle of the story of Absalom’s conspiracy.

Absalom was the rebel son of King David. In last week’s message, he had stolen the hearts of Israel away from his father and had declared himself king.

David had been too passive where Absalom was concerned and has just woken from his passivity to organize a hasty retreat.

David and his loyal followers have left the city of David, crossed the Kidron Valley, climbed the Mount of Olives and are escaping on the other side.

In chapter 16, verse 14, they reached a resting place where they are pausing for much needed refreshment.

David has found out who his friends are: Ittai the Gittite, Hushai the Arkite, maybe Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, and definitely not Shimei who was pelting him with rocks, dirt, and curses.

And he’s found out who his enemies are: Absalom and, to his surprise and chagrin, his chief adviser Ahitophel.

David has left the city in weeping, and we’re not sure how this story is going to turn out.

Well, most of you have probably read the story already and know how it’s going to turn out.

It’s a story with some twists and turns in it.

And it’s a sad story. A profoundly, hauntingly sad story.

Here’s the title; it comes from chapter 18, verse 33.  “O Absalom, My Son, My Son!”

You can tell from that anguished title, that it’s going to be, at least partly, a very sad story.

From David’s perspective, it’s a sad story, especially from a Father’s Day perspective.

But we have to remember that the Bible is a revelation of who God is and what God is up to in our world.

We don’t just have earthly fathers. We who belong to Christ have a Heavenly Father.

And the Bible is about Him.

As I studied this passage this week to share it with you, I kept asking myself what it taught, not about earthly fathers, but about our Heavenly Father.

And the one word that came to me to summarize what I saw here was: sovereign.

Our Heavenly Father is sovereign, meaning He rules.

And He’s not just sovereign. He is sovereign in and over a sad story.

Our Heavenly Father is sovereign in and over this sad story (and all sad stories, for that matter).

So, today, as we read about the anguish of one father, we are going to look for clues pointing to the sovereignty of our Heavenly Father.

Okay, let’s dive in. 2 Samuel chapter 16, verse 15.

“Meanwhile [back at the ranch], Absalom and all the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. Then Hushai the Arkite, David's friend, went to Absalom and said to him, ‘Long live the king! Long live the king!’”

I love this little part to the story.

Absalom hits town. He’s winning. He’s taking over Jerusalem and he’s got David’s chief adviser on his side. “Ahithophel was with him.”

But then up comes Hushai. Remember him from last week?

What team is he on?

He’s on David’s team. “David’s friend.” And we know, but Absalom doesn’t, that he’s a double agent.

And he’s really tricky with his words. “Long live the king! Long live the king!”  Sounds good. Which king? V.17

“Absalom asked Hushai, ‘Is this the love [hesed] you show your friend? Why didn't you go with your friend?’ Hushai said to Absalom, ‘No, the one chosen by the LORD, by these people, and by all the men of Israel–his I will be, and I will remain with him.  Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve the son? Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.’”

Masterful answer. He definitely gives the impression that he’s jumped David’s ship, but he never really says it outright! Everything he says could be taken another way.

And now it’s time for giving Absalom counsel. V.20

“Absalom said to Ahithophel, ‘Give us your advice. What should we do?’ Ahithophel answered, ‘Lie with your father's concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench in your father's nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened.’ So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel. Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel's advice.”

Now, that’s terrible advice on one level and excellent advice on another.

It’s terrible because it’s a great sin. We don’t have to go into all the ways that this plan was sinful.

But it’s brilliant, too, because it would send a shockwave message throughout the land that Absalom was the absolute king.  It would be burning his bridges. After this, there would be no turning back from this rebellion.

No wonder everyone listened to Ahitophel, he was a brilliant strategist, even if he was counseling sheer wickedness.

But before we move on too quickly, we have to see what this is. Do you see what this is? It’s the fulfilment of Nathan’s prophecy when he confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba.

What did Nathan say on behalf of God?

2 Samuel 12, “‘Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight” (vv.10-11).

This wicked act of Absalom, counseled by the brilliant Ahithophel is nothing less than the fulfillment of the LORD’s promise.

Here’s how we’ll put it:

BECAUSE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS SOVEREIGN:

#1. HE CAN ALWAYS KEEP HIS PROMISES.

And that includes His threats.

It includes the promises that we’d rather He didn’t keep.

This can be a little troubling for Christians, to find out that God is sovereign over the bad stuff, even over others sinning against us. God still rules. He doesn’t lose control.

A helpful way to think about it, I think is to say, “God sometimes ordains what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

God doesn’t sin, but He works sin into His plan to accomplish His greater purposes.

Like Joseph’s brothers selling Joseph into slavery, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”

And sometimes that good purpose is hard-to-swallow discipline.

“The sword will never depart from your house...”

We have seen again and again in the last month how sin has consequences. You reap what you sow.

And our Heavenly Father is sovereign, so he can always keep those promises!

It should give us pause when we’re thinking about giving in to temptation.

It’s a wonderful thing that God always keeps His promises, but that shouldn’t just give us a nice warm feeling. It should also instill in us the fear of the Lord.

But Absalom obviously did not have the fear of the Lord.  He sets up his tent on the very roof where this trouble all started with David and Bathsheba and does his wicked deed.

And the counsel continues. Chapter 17, verse 1.

“Ahithophel said to Absalom, ‘I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.’ This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.”

That is a good plan, isn’t it?

Again, Ahithophel is brilliant. He says strike while the iron is hot. You’ve got David on the run, press that advantage. Try to kill as few as possible. If you get David then it’s all over and the rest will follow you. Very few prisoners to kill or imprison.

Grab a big bunch of men and go to it right away.

And everybody agreed that was a good idea.   But...Absalom does something unexpected here. He asks Hushai for advice. V.5

“But Absalom said, ‘Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say.’ When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, ‘Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.’”

Why?

Why did he do that? He has never asked for Hushai’s advice before. I’m not sure he really trusted him just a few verses earlier.

But he wants to know what Hushai thinks.

Does anybody remember why?

Two chapter ago, when David heard that Ahithophel was on Absalom’s side, what did he do?

He prayed. He asked God, “O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness.”

And in the very next verse, we were introduced to Hushai.

Coincidence? I think not. It’s sovereignty.

Number two: Because Our Heavenly Father Is Sovereign–

#2. HE CAN ANSWER ANY PRAYER.

Amen?

Because our Heavenly Father is rules over all, He can answer any prayer.

And I believe this is the answer to David’s prayer.

Hushai gets a shot at frustrating the counsel of Ahithophel. Let’s see how he does it. V.7

“Hushai replied to Absalom, ‘The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, 'There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.' Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave. So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba–as numerous as the sand on the seashore–be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not even a piece of it can be found.’”

Hushai uses images and flattery to convince Absalom to bide his time and look before he leaps. And he’s trying to buy time for King David. Does it work? V.14

“Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.’”

But...not just because Hushai gives a good speech. V.14

“For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

That’s the key sentence of these chapters, right there.

That tells us what is going on behind the scenes.

That tells us that God is sovereign over this situation and what He’s planning to do with it.

“For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

That’s an answer to prayer.

Our Heavenly Father can answer any prayer.

That’s why our Lord Jesus said “Which of you [Fathers], if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Are you praying?

Are you praying for things?

Our Heavenly Father is sovereign. He rules over all. And He loves to answer prayer.

Now, those answers may be obvious, or they may not be.

We know something that Absalom doesn’t, right now. Don’t we?

We know something that David doesn’t, right now. Don’t we?

We know what’s going to happen because we’ve read verse 14.

“For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

You and I know that, but they don’t.  It’s hidden from them right now.

Because Our Heavenly Father Is Sovereign.

#3. HE IS AT WORK EVEN WHEN WE CAN’T SEE IT.

Verse 14 is true even if both Absalom and David don’t know it!

And I think it is evidenced in the next few exciting action adventure moments. David’s spies meet up in verse 15.

“Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, ‘Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. Now send a message immediately and tell David, 'Do not spend the night at the fords in the desert; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.'’ [Hushai is not sure his advice will win the day.]

Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A servant girl was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left quickly and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it.

When Absalom's men came to the woman at the house, they asked, ‘Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?’ The woman answered them, ‘They crossed over the brook.’ The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem.

After the men had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, ‘Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.’ So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.”

It would make a great action movie, wouldn’t it?

How did that plan work? Did they know it would work?

No, but we know that God is at work for our good even when we can’t see it.

Do you need to be told that today?

Your Heavenly Father is at work even when you can’t see it.

V.14 “For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

And Ahithophel realizes that he’s lost. He’s been a traitor and God is against him. V.23

“When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father's tomb.”

Verse 24.

“David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. [He’s on the way, slower than he should have to be successful, but on the way for a showdown.] Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Jether, an Israelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.

When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows' milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, ‘The people have become hungry and tired and thirsty in the desert.’”

Now, that’s pretty amazing itself.

This Shobi in verse 27 is probably the brother of the guy who humiliated David’s troops a few chapters ago and David had to teach a lesson.

And Makir was the guy sheltering Mephibosheth before David found him and treated him with hesed.

And Barzillai is an a pretty old man for those days. He’s in his eighties.

And they all bring David good gifts. Providence. God’s provision.

God was at work even when David couldn’t see it.

“The people have become hungry and tired and thirsty in the desert.” So our Heavenly Father took care of them.

Is God the best of Fathers?

Isn’t He sovereign even in a sad story?

Well, let’s see why this is a sad story. Strangely enough, it’s not because David loses the battle. Chapter 18, verse 1.

“David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. David sent the troops out–a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab's brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, ‘I myself will surely march out with you.’

But the men said, ‘You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won't care about us. Even if half of us die, they won't care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.’ The king answered, ‘I will do whatever seems best to you.’ [Passive David.]

So the king stood beside the gate while all the men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, ‘Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.’ And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

[What a lose-lose situation that David placed them in!]

The army marched into the field to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There the army of Israel was defeated by David's men, and the casualties that day were great–twenty thousand men.

The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword.”

[Another sign of God’s sovereignty.]

Now Absalom happened to meet David's men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom's head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going. [Perhaps because of that big heavy head of hair we read about last week!]

When one of the men saw this, he told Joab, ‘I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.’

Joab said to the man who had told him this, ‘What! You saw him? Why didn't you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior's belt.’

But the man replied, ‘Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lift my hand against the king's son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, 'Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.' And if I had put my life in jeopardy–and nothing is hidden from the king–you would have kept your distance from me.’

Joab said, ‘I'm not going to wait like this for you.’ So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom's heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. And ten of Joab's armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.

[Joab doesn’t fear David’s wrath and he doesn’t trust him to bring Absalom to justice.]

Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. [Like Achan after Jericho.] Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.

During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King's Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, ‘I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.’ [Either he did this before his sons were born or they have perhaps died before him.] He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom's Monument to this day.”

What a sad situation!

Absalom was such a tragic figure.

And now that he’s defeated, it should be a time for celebration. Ahimaaz would like to deliver the good news. V.19

“Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, ‘Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has delivered him from the hand of his enemies.’ [That’s a key phrase. Watch for that again.]

‘You are not the one to take the news today,’ Joab told him. ‘You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king's son is dead.’

Then Joab said to a Cushite, ‘Go, tell the king what you have seen.’ The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off. Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, ‘Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.’ But Joab replied, ‘My son, why do you want to go? You don't have any news that will bring you a reward.’

He said, ‘Come what may, I want to run.’ So Joab said, ‘Run!’ Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.

While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. The watchman called out to the king and reported it. The king said, ‘If he is alone, he must have good news.’ [It’s not a retreat!] And the man came closer and closer.

Then the watchman saw another man running, and he called down to the gatekeeper, ‘Look, another man running alone!’ The king said, ‘He must be bringing good news, too.’  The watchman said, ‘It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.’ ‘He's a good man,’ the king said. ‘He comes with good news.’

Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, ‘All is well!’ He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, ‘Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up the men who lifted their hands against my lord the king.’

The king asked, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’

[Notice that. Not “That’s great! I’m so happy.” Instead, he asks about the welfare of his enemy. And Ahimaaz lies.]

Ahimaaz answered, ‘I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king's servant and me, your servant, but I don't know what it was.’ The king said, ‘Stand aside and wait here.’ So he stepped aside and stood there.

Then the Cushite arrived and said, ‘My lord the king, hear the good news! The LORD has delivered you today from all who rose up against you.’  The king asked the Cushite, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’ The Cushite replied, ‘May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.’

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!’”

And there’s where we get our title for today.

The word “sad” doesn’t really communicate it, does it?

There is so much grief in David’s voice. So much anguish and, I think guilt and shame.  David knows that this is part of the consequence of his sin.

Absalom had his own sin, but David wishes at this point that he could have died instead.

David’s love for his son is admirable on one level.  He never lost sight of the fact that Absalom was his son. And it’s always right to love your son.

But David’s love was irrational and out of proportion.

Especially because he was not just a betrayed father. He was a betrayed king.

And all of his army was dishonored by his public display of grief over the death of his enemy. Chapter 19, verse 1.

“Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’  And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, ‘The king is grieving for his son.’

The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’

Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, ‘Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 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.

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 upon you from your youth till now.’ So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, ‘The king is sitting in the gateway,’ they all came before him.”

Sad story, isn’t it?

I don’t enjoy preaching these parts of the Bible.

This was not David’s finest hour.

This was not one of those times when he was like Jesus.

Yes, our Lord loves those who hate Him. But He loves those who love Him.

And the way he loved those who hated them was to turn them into His friends and save them from their sins.

Not overlooking all of their sin and pretending it didn’t matter.

One thing that David was missing here was to rejoice that the LORD had delivered him from his enemies.

That was the message that Ahimaaz and the cushite and Joab all brought to David.

And he brushed that off. But they were right. It’s what God was doing.

God had delivered David once again from his enemies.

God had brought salvation.

And He still does.

Because our Heavenly Father is sovereign (even over a sad story like this one):

#4. HE CAN DELIVER HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR ENEMIES.

Because He is sovereign, He can be a Savior.

A sovereign Savior!

Isn’t that what our Heavenly Father is?

Our sovereign Savior!

Our Heavenly Father sent His one and only Son into the world to save us from our sins and to give us new eternal life.

And because He’s sovereign that plan worked!

He is keeping all of his promises.
He is answer our prayers.
He is working even when we can’t see it.
He is delivering us from sin, from Satan, and even from ourselves.

What a mighty, mighty savior He is!

***

Messages in This Series

00. "How the Mighty Have Fallen!"
01. King David
02. David's Kingdom
03. The Right Way to Worship
04. "I Will Build a House for You."
05. The Rule of King David
06. David's Scandal
07. Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?il This
08. Absalom's Conspiracy

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sunday, June 08, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Absalom's Conspiracy"

“Absalom’s Conspiracy”
The LORD Is My Rock: The Message of 2 Samuel
June 8, 2014 :: 2 Samuel 14:1-16:14

We’re returning now to our study of the book of 2 Samuel, and for the next 3 weeks, we’re going to be studying the story of “Absalom’s Conspiracy” and its consequences.

“Absalom’s Conspiracy”

Do you remember who Absalom is?

He is the son of King David.  And when we last studied 2 Samuel together, Absalom was in exile. He had very craftily murdered his step-brother Amnon for the rape of his sister Tamar. Do you remember this?

Absalom had fled to the nearby country of Geshur and has lived there in exile for 3 years.

But in today’s story, he will attempt to come back, and then he will conspire to overthrow the throne of David.

But that’s getting ahead of our story.

First we need to pray and then we’ll dive into this long story. The whole story covers chapters 14 through 20, but we’re just going to make it into chapter 16 before we have to stop today.

And let me tell you what we’re going to see. We’re going to see sin. We’re going to see sin’s consequences. We’re going to see more lying, manipulation, betrayal, and sinful passivity. We’re also going to see faithfulness and loyalty. And by the time we’re done, I think we’re going to see some more of why David is called a man after God’s own heart–when he’s at his best–and how we can be like more like him.

There’s a lot of story here, so most of what I’m going to do today is simply read it to you. Chapter 14 is about bringing Absalom home. Verse 1.

“Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king's heart longed for Absalom.

So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there. He said to her, ‘Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes, and don't use any cosmetic lotions. Act like a woman who has spent many days grieving for the dead. Then go to the king and speak these words to him.’ And Joab put the words in her mouth.”

Stop there for just a second.

Joab, that rascal that we’ve been aware of now for some time, knew that David was pining for Absalom. That’s very important to understand for what we’re going to see this week and next.

David seemed to have a foolish excessive affection for Absalom. Even though Absalom has killed David’s firstborn son, the putative heir to the throne, David’s heart longs for Absalom’s return.

But David can’t see any good way to make that happen. So he does nothing.

But Joab does something. He hires a Meryl Streep level actress to come and do her best acting job. In this, he’s learned from Nathan that David can be swayed by a story. V.4

“When the woman from Tekoa went to the king, she fell with her face to the ground to pay him honor, and she said, ‘Help me, O king!’ The king asked her, ‘What is troubling you?’ She said, ‘I am indeed a widow; my husband is dead. I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him. Now the whole clan has risen up against your servant; they say, 'Hand over the one who struck his brother down, so that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed; then we will get rid of the heir as well.' They would put out the only burning coal I have left, leaving my husband neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth.’

[Pretty good, huh? See where this is going?]

The king said to the woman, ‘Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.’

But the woman from Tekoa said to him, ‘My lord the king, let the blame rest on me and on my father's family, and let the king and his throne be without guilt.’

The king replied, ‘If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he will not bother you again.’ She said, ‘Then let the king invoke the LORD his God to prevent the avenger of blood from adding to the destruction, so that my son will not be destroyed.’ [Legal protection, please!]

‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ he said, ‘not one hair of your son's head will fall to the ground.’

[Got ‘em.]

Then the woman said, ‘Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.’ ‘Speak,’ he replied. The woman said, ‘Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son?

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.

‘And now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. Your servant thought, 'I will speak to the king; perhaps he will do what his servant asks. Perhaps the king will agree to deliver his servant from the hand of the man who is trying to cut off both me and my son from the inheritance God gave us.'

‘And now your servant says, 'May the word of my lord the king bring me rest, for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil. May the LORD your God be with you.'’

Do you see how this works?

She’s saying that two situations are the same. Two brothers fight, one is killed, and instead of losing the crown prince which Israel so desperately needs, there must be a way of providing clemency.

Is there anything lacking in her argument?  Well, the two situations are pretty different, aren’t they? Amnon and Absalom didn’t fight in a field. Absalom conspired to murder his step-brother. And Absalom is not the only son left who could inherit the throne. The two situations are NOT the same. And David smells a little Joab here. V.18

“Then the king said to the woman, ‘Do not keep from me the answer to what I am going to ask you.’ ‘Let my lord the king speak,’ the woman said. The king asked, ‘Isn't the hand of Joab with you in all this?’ [I think he’s standing right there.] 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.

Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God–he knows everything that happens in the land.’ [Flattery will get you everywhere.]

The king said to Joab, ‘Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom.’

Joab fell with his face to the ground to pay him honor, and he blessed the king. Joab said, ‘Today your servant knows that he has found favor in your eyes, my lord the king, because the king has granted his servant's request.’

[It worked! But I’m not sure it was a good thing.]

Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king said, ‘He must go to his own house; he must not see my face.’ So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the face of the king.”

I’m not sure why. Perhaps he is welcomed home but not at court so that he is not in line to succeed the kingship. Perhaps David just doesn’t know what to do. David doesn’t seem to know very well what to do with his children. They are still estranged even though Absalom has returned from exile.

What kind of a man was Absalom? V.25

“In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him.  Whenever he cut the hair of his head–he used to cut his hair from time to time when it became too heavy for him–he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard. [Up to 5 pounds! Blair said to me this week that Troy Polamalu had nothing on Absalom!]

Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. The daughter's name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman. [Named after her desolate aunt.] Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king's face.”

I think this is a scary thing to read–how good looking he was.

Because we’ve already learned in 1 Samuel 16 that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the [what?] heart.

It’s not bad to have a good appearance. But it’s bad if that’s all you’re known for.  David has sired a Saul.  And he’s tired of waiting. V.29

“Then Absalom sent for Joab in order to send him to the king, but Joab refused to come to him. So he sent a second time, but he refused to come. Then he said to his servants, ‘Look, Joab's field is next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.’ So Absalom's servants set the field on fire. [That’ll get his attention!] Then Joab did go to Absalom's house and he said to him, ‘Why have your servants set my field on fire?’  Absalom said to Joab, ‘Look, I sent word to you and said, 'Come here so I can send you to the king to ask, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there!’ 'Now then, I want to see the king's face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.’ [He’s counting on his father’s passivity.] So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom.”

He’s home. For better or for worse. He’s home.

His power play worked. So, he conspires for a bigger one. Chapter 15.

“In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. [A presidential entourage!] He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, ‘What town are you from?’ He would answer, ‘Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.’

Then Absalom would say to him, ‘Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.’ And Absalom would add, ‘If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice.’

Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”

It’s obvious to us that Absalom is running for office.  He basically says that he is running judge.

But he’s really running for king.

Do you see how he stabs his dad in the back?

Early at the gates, intercepting all of those looking for justice, glad-handing and kissing his way into the hearts of Israel.

All along insinuating that David does not and will not bring justice.

And Absalom agrees with everyone!  He doesn’t make any enemies. He tells everyone that they’re right.

Great trick, huh? And for four years, he steals hearts and prepare the groundwork of his conspiracy. V.7

“At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, ‘Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD. While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: 'If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron. '’ The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So he went to Hebron.”

What is the significance of Hebron? That’s where David became king over all Israel.

And David has either missed everything that Absalom is doing or has been sinfully passive about stopping him.

If Absalom made a vow 4 years ago, it should have been kept by now!  V.10

“Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, ‘As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, 'Absalom is king in Hebron.'’ Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. [But roped in.] While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing.”

Everything is now in place for a coup.

Absalom is declared king, trumpets are sounded simultaneously around the country, and the conspiracy is now a coup d’etat. V.13

“A messenger came and told David, ‘The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.’

[And David finally wakes up. And he finally takes action. And that action is a necessary retreat. V.14]

Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, ‘Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.’

The king's officials answered him, ‘Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.’ The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at a place some distance away.

All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.”

That’s interesting!  The Gittites were apparently those from Gath, the Philistines who had defected from the Philistines and had joined David.

And they were apparently loyal when David’s son was not!

You know, it’s when you go through trials that you can find out who your real friends are. V.19

“The king said to Ittai the Gittite, ‘Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your countrymen. May kindness [hesed] and faithfulness be with you.’

But Ittai replied to the king, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.’ [That’s loyalty! That’s friendship. That’s hesed.]

David said to Ittai, ‘Go ahead, march on.’ So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him. The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the desert.”

Now, just a quick a comment. Don’t forget that whenever King David is at his best, he is a picture of his great, great, great, great, great grandson, King Jesus.

Do you know anybody else who was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief who crossed the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives?  (John 18:1)

Well, this time David meets another friend. Zadok and Abiathar the priests. V.24

“Zadok was there, too, and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. [There it is again!] They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city.

[Do you see it in your mind’s eye? What an event!]

Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.’”

Now this, again, is David at his best.

And here’s where I want to start noting applications for us today.

Because David choose well here. He doesn’t always. In fact, up till now in this story, he’s not been very impressive.

But his heart for God seems to have kicked back into gear.

And he makes a key choice here.

He chooses not to take the symbolic throne of God with him into exile.

He choose to NOT take the ark of the covenant with him.

I think that’s wise. He doesn’t give in to the “God in a Box” idea that we learned about a few months ago.

If you have the ark then you have God in your pocket.

No way. David knows that he certainly does not have God in his pocket. And he’s not going to act like it!

Instead he’s:

#1. TRUSTING GOD’S WISDOM.

V.25 again.

“Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

David knows that God will choose what is best.

He’s trusting that God will do what is right.

He believes that God is wise, and that whatever He does will be best.

“Let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

There’s a heart for God!

That’s a heart for the heart of God right there.

Have you ever said that about the Lord, when you were going through a hard time–either a hard time caused by your own choices or a hard time caused by someone else’s choices?  This one is both.

“Let God do to me whatever seems good to him.”

That’s humility. That’s submission. That’s faith.

Absalom’s conspiracy finally brings out the best in David. And the best in David is marked here by trusting in God’s wisdom.

David doesn’t know what God is going to do. He’s not saying, “Oh, God’s going to fix all of this!  I just know it. I’ve got faith! I believe!”

No, he says, “Either way, I’m good. Let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

That’s a great place to be in life.

I want to live there. Do you?

So often I charge God with not knowing what He’s doing. My complaining, my whining, my grumbling, my mealy-mouth half-hearted obedience gives it away.

But I want to grow in my trust in God’s wisdom so I can say, “Either way, I’m good. Let him do to me whatever seems good to him. I’m sure it will be the best.”

Now, that trust in God’s sovereignty and wisdom doesn’t make David passive. It actually makes him active. In the very next verse, he sends Zadok and Abiathar back to Jerusalem to be spies. V.27

“The king also said to Zadok the priest, ‘Aren't you a seer? [Absalom will love having you!] Go back to the city in peace, with your son Ahimaaz and Jonathan son of Abiathar. You and Abiathar take your two sons with you. I will wait at the fords in the desert until word comes from you to inform me.’ So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.”

“But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.”

A man of sorrows. Did he walk barefoot and weeping through what eventually would be called the Garden of Gethsemane? V.31

“Now David had been told, ‘Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.’”

Oh no! Not Ahithophel! He’s like the wisest old man in Israel!  David relied heavily on Ahithophel’s counsel.  Ahithophel was, apparently, Bathesheba’s grandfather.  And now he was on Absalom’s side?! V.31

“So David prayed, ‘O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness.’”

#2. ASKING GOD’S AID.

David knows that he’s in trouble if both Absalom and Ahitophel are against him.

But David knows someone wiser than both of them.

And he doesn’t just trust in God’s wisdom, he asks God to act on his behalf.

That’s what prayer is!

“So David prayed, ‘O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness.’”

David asks God to do something for him.

Are you regularly asking God to act on your behalf?

Some people are afraid to ask God for anything for themselves.

Now, we are supposed to pray for others. But the Bible tells us to pray for ourselves and ask God for our needs, for help!

We’re disobedient if we don’t pray to God for help!

What’s on your prayer list right now?

What aid are you asking from God?

David knew he was in trouble, but he knew that God was wise, and powerful, and loving and loved to answers prayer for help.

And here’s the answer–in the next verse! V.32

“When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. David said to him, ‘If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. [He was probably also an old man.] But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, 'I will be your servant, O king; I was your father's servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,' then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel's advice. [A double agent!] Won't the priests Zadok and Abiathar be there with you? Tell them anything you hear in the king's palace. Their two sons, Ahimaaz son of Zadok and Jonathan son of Abiathar, are there with them. Send them to me with anything you hear.’ So David's friend Hushai arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.”

We’ll find out next week how God answered David’s prayer.

The point here is that he prayed it!

Now, we’re coming to the end of today’s story. We’re running out of time.

David is running out the city.

That’s sad isn’t it?  King David is forced to leave the City of David.

And on the way out, he meets two different men. And these men treat him in two very different ways.  The first is Ziba whom we have met before. And the second is Shimei whom we will meet again.

Chapter 16, verse 1.

“When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit [only one hill separating him now from his attacking son, Absalom], there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine.

[A sight for sore eyes?]

The king asked Ziba, ‘Why have you brought these?’ Ziba answered, ‘The donkeys are for the king's household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the desert.’

The king then asked, ‘Where is your master's grandson?’ [Saul’s grandson, Mephiboseth, where is he?] Ziba said to him, ‘He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, 'Today the house of Israel will give me back my grandfather's kingdom.'’

Then the king said to Ziba, ‘All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.’ ‘I humbly bow,’ Ziba said. ‘May I find favor in your eyes, my lord the king.’”

Hmmm. Sounds a little fishy to me. I think we’ll hear more about this later. V.5

“As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out.

[No free donkeys from him!]

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.

As he cursed, Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! 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 handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!’

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.’ [Abishai was the guy that snuck into Saul’s camp with David back in 1 Samuel 26. He’s ready to knocks heads and slice necks to defend David’s honor.]

But the king said, ‘What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'’

David then said to Abishai and all his officials, ‘My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.’”

#3. ACCEPTING GOD’S DISCIPLINE.

David is accepting God’s discipline.

Now, David knows that Shimei is in the wrong. David has not sinned against the house of Saul as Shimei believes.

But David does know that all of his trouble finds its genesis in David’s own sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah.

God’s words ring in his ears, “the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”

David accepts this sword. He knows that he brought it on himself.

“It’s okay Abishai. Let him say what he’s got to say. Let him throw his rocks.”

V.13

“So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.”

“It’s okay, Abishai! I know that I deserve worse.”

Have you gotten to a place where you know that you are undergoing the loving discipline of God and you can accept it as the loving discipline of God?

We’ve seen for weeks now that sin has consequences.

You reap what you sow.

The odometer on the Chevy Citation may flip over to zero miles, but there are still 100,000 miles of wear and tear to contend with.

And David accepts those consequences. He doesn’t like them. He doesn’t say, “Oh, hit me again, Shimei. That hurts so good!”

It’s distressing to him.

But He knows that God is in control and that he deserves so much worse. So, he can learn even from this.

Now, I’m not saying that he completely forgave Shimei or that he agreed with him. Some of you will have just read 1 Kings 1 and 2 this week and see what David eventually said about this matter.

But he’s bigger than pettiness here.  He accepts God’s discipline.

And more than that!  He believes in God’s mercy.  Number four (and last):

#4. BELIEVING IN GOD’S MERCY.

Did you catch that in verse 12?

“It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.’

That would be grace, wouldn’t it?

That would be mercy!

The word translated “distress” in verse 12 could be translated “iniquity.”

Yahweh may look on my iniquity and instead of giving me more cursing, give me more blessing!  He’s that kind of a God!

Or it could be “distress” as the NIV has it.

The LORD may look on all of my trouble right now which I brought on myself. He may look on the sword in my household and show me mercy–repay me with good for the cursing I’m receiving from Shimei today.

David looks to God for mercy, for grace, for blessing.

He knows that’s the kind of God that he belongs to.

Even when David doesn’t deserve it one bit!

Next week, we’ll see what God does with that hope.

But it’s enough this week to just see that David had that hope.

Here he is–barefoot, crying, in exile from his own palace, his own city, his own throne. Soon to be pursued, he assumes by his very own son who has conspired against him.

And David is hoping, trusting, believing in God’s mercy.

He knows that God gives good gifts to those who do not deserve it.

And how much more do you and I know that on this side of the Cross of Christ?

Paul said to Titus, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

Do you have the hope of eternal life?

Because you have the Holy Spirit?

Because you have been justified by death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Not because of any righteous thing you have done, but because of His mercy.

Praise God for His mercy!

***

Messages in This Series

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

En Français! A "Resisting Gossip" French Translation on the Way

Rejoice with me!

CLC France has committed to translating Resisting Gossip into the French language, and CLC Canada is also going to print and distribute them in French-speaking Canada.

It's so exciting to get to minister God's Word in languages I don't even know. Praise God!

When I have more information, I'll pass it along.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Happy in Jesus"

“Happy in Jesus”
Graduation Sunday
June 1, 2014 :: Proverbs 3:5-6

Many of you probably don’t even need to open your Bibles today because you’ve got this one memorized.  It’s Proverbs 3:5&6.  Back when I graduated from High School with Fred and Barney, my Mom and Dad asked that people not give me graduation gifts, but instead send words of wisdom for the graduating young man. And they were all put in this little book.

And I would bet that at least 25 people mailed me these 2 verses for my graduation present.

You may have it memorized in the King James; I’m going to read it in the NIV.  Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

If our little Mitchell family had a theme song, it would be “Trust and Obey.”

Every night around bedtime, we have prayer together, and right after “Amen,” comes that song.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Sometimes we sing it funny. Sometimes we sing it regular.

But we almost always sing it. By my estimation, we have sung it together at least 4000 times.

That’s our theme song.  I want it burned into the hard-drives of our hearts.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

And as I was thinking about our graduates, especially our High School graduates today, I was thinking how much I want that for them, to be happy in Jesus.

Meili, Jacob, Hunter, Nathan, Taylor, Drew, it is my desire that you be happy in Jesus.

That’s the point of our church. We exist to glorify God by bringing people like you into a life-changing love relationship with Jesus Christ.

We want help people to become happy in Jesus.

So, if I could give you some pastoral counsel as you graduate from high school and head into adulthood and independence and life, I’d boil it down to these three words.

“Trust, Obey, and Pray.”

Those are going to be the three points of application as we think together about Proverbs 3:5&6.

Meili, Jacob, Hunter, Nathan, Taylor, Drew...and the rest of Lanse Free Church we need to Trust, Obey, and Pray.

I think that’s Solomon’s message for us in Proverbs 3:5&6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

#1.  TRUST.

Solomon says that we need to trust in the LORD with all of our hearts.

To trust Him means to place our confidence in Him.

It means to bank on Him, believe in Him, have faith in Him, rest in His promises, count on Him, depend on Him, reckon on Him, hope in Him...trust in Him.

And Solomon says to do it with how much of our hearts?

A-L-L.

That’s the whole thing.

What is our heart?  Remember, the heart is the real you, the inside you. The heart is the you inside of you.  It is the authentic you. The control center.

The heart is the vital worshiping center of our lives–we live out of our hearts.

And this proverb’s wisdom is to call us to trust in the LORD with ALL of our hearts–holding nothing back.

Sound good?

There is only one problem with this plan. ...

It doesn’t always seem like the right thing to do!

Often, trusting the LORD seems like a foolish thing to do, given the circumstances.

As you and I often eyeball a situation, it seems like trusting the LORD in this situation might be the pious, religious, righteous thing to do, but not the thing that would (v.6) make our paths straight!  Anything but.

Meili, Jacob, Hunter, Nathan, Taylor, Drew, you, right now, might be in a situation where it doesn’t seem prudent to trust in the LORD.
You know that that’s the “right answer,” but it doesn’t feel like it.

Do you know what I mean?

Solomon did.  That’s why he wrote the second half of verse 5.

“...lean not on your own understanding...”

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

Do you know what an “artificial horizon” is?  I’ll bet Wally and Blair do. Any other pilots here?

An artificial horizon is the gizmo in an airplane that tells the pilot when their wings are level with the ground.  As I understand it, the problem is one of inertia.  Inertia makes things a little hard to figure out when you’re flying.

Did you ever notice that a full cup of coffee doesn’t spill when the plane turns, even if the wings are perpendicular to the ground?  Coffee won’t spill, a magazine will drop straight to the floor, and flight attendants will walk upright down the aisle as if the plane were level.  All because of inertia.

While pilots are subject to inertia, too.  When flying through clouds or fog, which prevent them from seeing the horizon, pilots cannot feel the plane’s wings beginning to bank to the left or right.  In fact, I read this week that in the early days of flight, pilots followed the myth of instinct: they believed they could feel the turn, and when their planes were accidently engulfed in fog or clouds, many banked unknowingly into a spiral dive that ended in a crash. Pilots quickly came up with the statement: “Instinct is worse than useless in the clouds.”

So to fly through clouds, pilots must use the “Artificial Horizon.” The artificial horizon is an instrument with a gyroscopically steadied line that stays level with the earth’s surface and unerringly indicates when the wings are banking left or right.

The artificial horizon revolutionized flying, but when it was first invented, pilots resisted using it. Why?  The biggest problem flyers had was self-trust.  They trusted their feelings more than their instruments.
Do you see where this is going?

We all have that problem.  We all want to judge our own path, to be self-reliant, self-trusting. But Solomon says, to have a straight path, you must learn to trust the artificial horizon (actually, in our case, it’s the authentic horizon) of the LORD Himself.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

You see, everyone is trusting in something. Whether it is in ourselves, or our families, or our government, or our bank-accounts, or our education, or our wits, or our charm–everyone is trusting in something.  But God says, in Proverbs 3:5 that if you want a straight path to God’s best destination for you–it will require faith in HIM.

That’s faith in a personal God.  This is not just a generic faith in faith itself.  Or faith in some idea of God, some impersonal creator force.

Notice that it says, trust in the “LORD” with all capital letters.  Remember that that stands for the Hebrew word “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” that’s hiding there in the original Hebrew text.  This is not just any god.  This is the God of the Bible.  This is the personal God who revealed Himself to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David.

This is the God who supremely revealed himself in Jesus Christ.  The New Testament calls Jesus “Lord” because He is this God of v.5 of Proverbs 3.  On this side of Jesus’ coming, we could read this verse, “Trust in the Lord Jesus with all your heart.”

That’s how to be happy in Jesus.

TRUST.

That’s the heart response that brings salvation.

If you are not yet a Christ-follower yourself, “Trust in the Lord Jesus” is what we say to you on this graduation Sunday.

The Lord Jesus is imminently, preeminently trustworthy.

His death and resurrection make Him the way to God for all who put their faith in Him.

On the night Jesus died, He told His followers: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

If you are not yet a Christ-follower, I challenge you, I invite you, I plead with you to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Trust.

Now, before, we move to #2, I want to talk to you about the big bull’s-eye looking thing on the back of your bulletin.

You’re probably wondering where you are supposed to be putting your notes for this message!

This bull’s-eye represents almost everything important to you as you graduate from school in 2014 or for the rest of us as you live your life in 2014 and beyond.

This is your life in 2014.

And there are two main things in your life in 2014 that these two concentric circles represent.

Let’s let this outside circle represent “Things I’m Concerned About”

And let’s let this inside circle represent “Things I’m Responsible For in 2014.”

This is the circle of Concern.  This is the circle of Responsibility.

You may have seen this drawing before. I like to use it often. Sometimes this circle is called “The Circle of Concern” and this “The Circle of Control” or “The Circle of Choice.”

Now, what might go into these different circles?

Lots of stuff.  In fact, most everything that you will encounter after graduation (except for maybe those things that are a part of your life but you don’t know about them!).

But let’s not worry about those. Let’s talk about what we do know about.

Let’s the put “the economy” in the Circle of Concern.

How many are concerned about the economy?

How many graduates today are concerned about how many jobs there are out there?

Now, let’s put in the middle circle (which, really, should be a lot smaller, if we were trying to be perfectly accurate), let’s put–“Managing of Personal Finances.”  Saving, Spending, Giving.

Okay?  Do you see how this goes?

These are the things that we are concerned about–and they truly affect us.

But we can’t do much about those things.

These things, are things we can do something about, and should.

Does that make sense?

Now, what do you think is supposed to be our response, our relationship, to the circle of concern?

[Hint: It’s point #1 today.]

Trust.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

The economy.
Your health.
The relationship between our nation and others.
The other side from you in any of your relationships.
The other cars on the road.
What someone else thinks about you.
Whether there will be jobs out there when you graduate.

All kinds of stuff will come at you.

And the heart-response that God wants from you is trust.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

Now, do we always just leave those things to God?

No, we don’t.  At least, I don’t!  I like to try to take over God’s job.

I like help Him out[!] by either trying to manipulate things or people [never a wise choice!] or by a simple little thing I do to help God that I call “worrying.”

It’s my super power.

But God has never been impressed by my worry.

Sometimes (often), trusting requires repentance.

Trust.

Now, this smaller, inner circle. The circle of responsibility.  What do you think  our response supposed to be to the things in this circle?

Remember, this circle is the circle of things in my life that I can and should do something about.  The circle of responsibility.

#2: OBEY.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Now, strangely enough, I often try to downsize this circle!  I try to take God’s job in the big circle, but I shirk my responsibilities in the inner circle!  I try to make those God’s job, and not mine.

For example, I’ll say, “I’m not going to reign in my personal spending. I’ll just trust the Lord to supply.”

But that’s presumption, not faith.

Do you see how subtle that can be?

We want to take over God’s job, but we don’t want to do our own.

But God says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Now, I don’t know all of what that obedience will look like for each of you graduates as you head off into life.

God has a plan tailor-made for each of us.

But the Bible is His Word to all of us, and it applies to all of us.  And so I want to suggest some areas where I think obedience may be the new path that some of us need to take.

Let me very briefly suggest areas to consider:

#1.  Get Baptized.

Some of you are adult faith-followers of Jesus Christ who have never been baptized as faith-followers of Jesus Christ.

I think that’s disobedient.

The Lord Jesus Himself was baptized, and He Himself asks us to be baptized.

I think it’s a matter of obedience, or not, whether we follow Him in the waters of baptism.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you rush into it.  But I am suggesting that you look into it, if you have not yet been baptized as a faith-follower of the Lord Jesus.

I know that some of our graduates are doing just that.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Don’t wait for a voice to whisper in your ear.  Read your Bible.  And follow.

We’re going to be holding some more baptism classes.  I’d love to see many of you, not just these graduates, make a public profession of your faith in Jesus Christ in the way that He called us to.

#2.  Get Into the Bible.

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

God is calling us to read and study and ingest and digest His Holy Word.

You’re never done with that school!

The Bible says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Get Into the Bible.  It’s a matter of obedience.

What do you need to do to get into the Word and get the Word into you?

#3.  Get to Church.

Church is not optional for Christians.

It doesn’t save you. Neither do baptism or Bible reading!

But it’s mandatory.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I think that a lot of high school graduates make a BIG mistake by not finding a church to get involved in during their college experience.

And don’t just go on Sundays! Get into a small group, a study group, a fellowship group. Get truly connected!

It’s a matter of obedience whether or not you are in church and worshiping and learning and fellowshipping.

W can’t have a take-it-or-leave it approach to the Body of Christ.

Get Involved In Church.

#4.  Get to Giving. 

If you haven’t already, you’re going to start making money. It won’t feel like much money if you have to spend it on books and tuition and travel to and from school. But I would urge you to start now in giving away a portion of every paycheck.

But it never gets easy to start. It gets easier to do as you do it, but it’s never easy to start.

And that’s a matter of obedience.

The Bible says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Get to Giving.

The amount is not near as important as the act of the heart in freeing your grip around the gift.

It’s a matter of obedience. Trust and Obey.

#5.  Get to Serving.

Some of us love to give of our funds, but not of our time.

But the Body of Christ and our Communities need both.

The apostle Peter says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

Using your gifts in ministry is not optional. It’s a matter of obedience.

Don’t just go to church somewhere. Serve that church. Be a blessing to that church.

Whether you go away to college or you’re here.

What are you going to do in ministry right now?

And #6.  Get to Sharing Jesus.

Get busy with evangelism.

Get to witnessing.

There is a lost world out there that needs to hear the Gospel.

It’s our job to take to the gospel to our friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, and everyone else.

Get to sharing Jesus.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Jesus Himself said that we should share Gospel with the whole world.

And He’s expecting us to do it.

Whether away at college or in a Summer job or with your family or wherever God has planted you.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Who have you shared the Gospel with recently?

Who are you praying for to share the Gospel?

Get to sharing Jesus.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.

Now, you might have a different list of biblical commands that God is laying on your heart to fulfill. Maybe yours is to forgive someone, or to start discipling someone, or something else.

Regardless, it’s a matter of obedience.

Trust and Obey.

Now, I want to point something out.

Notice where the Circle of Responsibility lies!

Is it outside or inside of the circle of concern?

Inside.  That means that these things that we are called to do are things that we are not just supposed to do in obedience, but also things that we are supposed to be trusting God for!

The obedience that God requires from us is a faith-based obedience.

It’s a trusting obedience.

It’s trust AND obey.  Not just one or the other.

In fact, all true obedience requires trust.

Now, where is obedience in our proverb? It’s verse 6.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

In all your ways acknowledge him.

Now, that doesn’t mean to just say, “Hi.”  “Hi, Jesus!”

That’s what we sometimes mean when we say, “acknowledge.”

“Hey, Jesus!  How’ya doing?  Props to Jesus! I acknowledge Him!”

No, this means in everything we do, we do it His way. To do it to His honor and His glory.

It means to obey.

And more than that, it means to obey in a trusting way; a personally trusting way.

The work acknowledge here means “to know.”

It means to know in a personal way.

We talk about a personal relationship with Jesus.  This is a walking, talking, personal trusting and knowing of the Lord–in all of our ways.

And that’s why I add the word “Pray.”

Trust.
Obey.
And #3.  PRAY.

Meili, Jacob, Hunter, Nathan, Taylor, Drew, God is calling us to prayer.

Praying about everything.
Praying about the lost.
Praying about our concerns.
Praying about our responsibilities.

Notice this.

Everything in this bull’s-eye can be prayed for!

Those things that concern us but we can’t do anything about?

Actually, we can.  We can pray about them.

Those things that God wants us to do, but we’re not sure if we want to?

We can pray about those, too!

James says “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.  Is any one of you sick? [Pray for him, too! ...] The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

In other words, Pray about everything!

Meili, Jacob, Hunter, Nathan, Taylor, Drew, do you have a time every day that you set aside to talk to Almighty God?

Do you have a list of things and people to pray for?

If you don’t now is a good time to start.

Trust, Obey, and Pray.

And what happens?

Blessing. V.6

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

You will get to your destination.

Does that mean no bumps?

No.

But it does mean straight paths.

You will get where God wants to be.

And you’ll be “Happy in Jesus!”

Trust, Obey, and Pray.


***

[Ultra-observant readers will recognize this as an adaptation of a sermon from January 2009. That sermon was actually an adaptation of a sermon from August of 2000.  Look for it again in another 5-10 years!]