Tag Archives: Israel

Isaiah 1: When It’s All About Me (But Really…It’s Not)

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My husband and another man at our church took our Sunday School class through lessons on the prophets last year. It was (mostly) chronological which I found extremely helpful in placing their prophecies at the correct times in history. Knowing the context opens up our understanding of  the text. For example I learned that Isaiah’s prophetic ministry ran from 739 BC – 681 BC and through four kings (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah). In addition to this, I know that in 722 BC King Shalmanesar V of Assyria attacked Israel and dispersed them into various regions in his kingdom, while also importing other cultures into the northern kingdom (Israel). He mostly speaks to Judah, but still addresses Israel in his prophecies. Interestingly Isaiah was a well educated aristocrat and had access to the king and the royal court. Having this knowledge makes me more aware of certain nuances in the text and provides more meaning behind some of his message.

Now when I read the Bible for my own personal benefit (as in, I’m not reading it to teach to someone else), I like to research the background and then take a long, slow stroll through the text. Sometimes I’ll double back and walk the same path several more times just to make sure I didn’t read it too quickly or miss something. I will underline in different colors (with my new Bible because it is an illustrated Bible), and each color has a purpose (teal for mankind, purple for God, blue for commands, and so on). I will also circle words that are repetitive (Holy One of Israel, Lord of Hosts, a series of I’s and you’s), and I watch for patterns of thought that might meander throughout the entire chapter (burden, sin, evil, fire). I even write main themes for verses and draw pictures if I have a really vivid image in my mind after reading the text (fire). This is how I search the Scriptures. This is how I observe and sift through the details. I’ve been reading Isaiah 1 for a week now if that gives you a clue (and I’m not sure I’m done reading it yet).

Last week, I wrote about the expectant heart when searching the Scriptures. It is approaching the Word with a certain expectation that the Holy Spirit will speak through it and being unwilling to turn back until you have gained a fresh insight. It is bold, and it might border on foolish, but it’s what I do. Sometimes the insights are tiny, and sometimes they are enormous. I’ll take what I can get. Beggars can’t be choosers.

This week as I’ve read through Isaiah 1, I’ve listened for the heart of God for the people of Judah. I’ve listened for Isaiah’s heart as he prophecies to God’s wayward people. And I can’t lie – I heard something for my own heart. No, I don’t mean God audibly spoke to me out of the pages of my new, beautiful, teal Bible. I mean the Spirit provided me with a spiritual perspective that spans the ages. It’s utterly amazing to me that God can use a message written specifically for one group of people at one specific point in history and also speak it into the hearts of His people throughout all time. His Word has life and breath, and it breathes into my life today. Thanks be to God for His Word.

However this Word can break my heart with its raw emotion and dramatic (sometimes gut-wrenching) word pictures. At least that’s where I found myself this week. (taken from ESV)

My people don’t recognize my care for them. (v. 3)

They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him. (v. 4)

Then I got to verses 10-15:

10 Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”
    Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
11 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
    and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
    I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
    They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.

There’s an awful lot of you‘s and your‘s in those verses. It actually disgusted me (and apparently it disgusted God too). How do we get so turned around, thinking that even worship is about us? Of all the things that should always and only be about God, worship is at the top of the list. And yet, Isaiah writes that God is repulsed by the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the gifts, offerings, celebrations, special days, meetings, festivals, and prayers. What makes you think I want this? Well, didn’t you tell us in Your law to do these things? You’ve missed the point of the Law then… 

When have I missed the true intent of God’s commands? When have I made even worship about me? When have I done something for God that was more like a burden than a blessing? That wasn’t actually for Him at all? Stop bringing Me your meaningless giftsI want no more of your fake worship

Yikes. That’s bad news. That’s a heart check right there.

Lord, forgive me when I make my life all about me, myself, and I. Reorient my perspective so that my focus is on You. Help me to learn from these moments so that I don’t also find myself in exile (like Israel and eventually Judah).

 

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Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 1)

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Gomer. With a name like that, there’s bound to be a story. Her name meant “complete” or “completion”. How tragically ironic for a woman who found her sole purpose in the giving of her body. She was a woman broken to pieces, far from being complete.

Imagine her surprise when the man of God, Hosea, took her by the hand to enter into his life as his wife. Her very private life suddenly became very public. In fact God told Hosea that He would use their marriage to cry out against His own people, the unfaithful wife, Israel.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

But did she love Hosea? Did she even love God?

She was prone to wander. Just like Israel, she would be unfaithful to her husband. Where did she go wrong? Where did Israel go wrong?

Prone to Wander

The northern kingdom, Israel, was in dire straits. God had sent Elijah and Elisha and then Amos after them to prophecy against His people. He was calling them to remember their covenant with Him and to say, if you don’t remember your promise, those curses I swore about will come to pass. I promised.

Hosea then comes on the scene as a prophet around 750 B.C. This is only 180 years after the nation split into two kingdoms. 180 years after Solomon.

If you take a look at the Kings, you’ll find that EVERY king in the northern kingdom was a BAD king.

Gomer kings-prophets timeline

You could say that Hosea had his work cut out for him.

To summarize the Israelite (northern kingdom) kings is rather easy. They were evil!

Jeroboam I – he set up his own worship centers to keep the north from going south to Jerusalem. He made calves to be the likeness of God and set up new priests to serve at the centers. (1 Kings 12) OMG.

Nadab – did evil in God’s sight

Baasha – killed the previous king to be king; caused the people to sin just like Jeroboam

Elah – evil

Zimri – killed the previous king to be king; burned himself in the king’s house to escape Omri

Omri – appointed king by the people at the same time as Zimri; went up against Zimri; did more evil than all before him

Ahab – even more evil than all the others; erected altars to Baal and Asherah; also sacrificed two of his own sons! (1 Kings 16)

Ahaziah – did evil, worshiped the baal

Joram – evil, killed by the next king

Jehu – kills Ahab’s evil son, Joram, also killed Jezebel (evil wife of Ahab) and 70 of Ahab’s family members; killed all the prophets of Baal, burned the pillars and house of Baal; YET he sinned by worshipping the golden calves at Bethel and Dan (which Jeroboam had set up) (2 Kings 10)

Jehoahaz – did evil (13)

Jehoash – did evil

Jeroboam II – though he did great things for Israel (restoring borders), he did evil in God’s sight (14)

All the rest of the kings reigned anywhere from one month to 10 years. Needless to say, their time as a nation was coming to a fast close. The kings were dropping like flies and they were about to be invaded by Assyria. (722 B.C.)

It is under these conditions that God calls Hosea in Hosea 1:1, but it was an unlikely, even appalling kind of call. Hosea 1:2 :

Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.

If I were Hosea, my answer might sound something like: Um, yes Sir. But do I have to?

But Hosea is obedient and in Hosea 1:3 it says,

So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

None of the other prophets ever had this kind of assignment. Wasn’t the man of God supposed to be, well, godly? Wasn’t it considered a major sin to sleep with a prostitute?

God wanted to make a statement to His people. I’d say His message came loud and clear.

Gomer’s first son is said to be by Hosea. His name? Jezreel. It meant “God scatters”. Hosea 1:4-5 says:

…Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.

Where is this Valley of Jezreel?

Gomer Valley jezreel

Here is a map, showing that it is just south of Galilee, actually in the region of Samaria.

Here is an aerial view of the land:

Gomer aeriel view jezreel-valley

Perhaps you have read what happened in the Valley of Jezreel. The evil King Ahab killed a righteous man in cold blood to be able to have that man’s land (which happened to be in the Jezreel Valley). But did you know that God judged Ahab several kings later when he appointed Jehu as king of Israel? Jehu murders MANY people, all of them connected to Ahab’s house. He sounds like a fairly terrible king. HOWEVER, God had appointed him to carry out the task of killing all of Ahab’s house.

The problem for Jehu was that, even though he had gotten rid of the evil Ahab and his family, he didn’t get rid of all the Baals. This judgment comes on him with the birth of Hosea’s son, Jezreel.

God would “break the bow” of Israel, indicating a military defeat in the region of Samaria. This prophecy comes true exactly as God said: Assyria would invade through the north, entering into Samaria and taking the city and the people of Israel. It came in two waves. First we read in 2 Kings 15:29,

In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

Then in 2 Kings 17:6

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

The next verse (17:7, 12) says,

7And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God,…12 and they served idols.

Hosea receives this prophecy around 750 B.C. and the captivity happens in 722, less than 30 years later.

Right in the midst of all of this lies Gomer. A heart prone to wander.

Prone to Leave the One She Loves

Hosea 1:6 says,

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.”

Gomer conceives again but this time it does say not she bore him a daughter. This daughter’s name is Lo-Ruhamah. No mercy. Or Not loved.

Ouch. That girl must have had a complex!

We find out later in Hosea 2:4-5 that this daughter and the next son are both illegitimate children. They don’t belong to Hosea! He writes,

Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
    she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Her mother was out playing the harlot, making love to any man who came by, but she, the daughter, receives no love. Her mother went out after her lovers, acting shamefully, but Lo-Ruhamah would be the one shamed.

A footnote (ESV study bible) for verse 5 says, “The Canaanite people believed that they owed all the products of the soil to the Baals…. All fertilization was a result of the power of the Baals. Having intercourse with sacred prostitutes was thought to contribute to the agricultural prosperity of the land. The harlot’s pay came from the harvest (v. 12).”

Gomer believes her lovers have paid her with the grains, oils, and drinks from the harvest. Israel believed their fruitful crops came from these gods. They played the harlot, going after these idols.

Hosea continues in 2:8,

And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal.

Does your heart break for Hosea? For God? She did not know it was I who gave these gifts to her. I gave her the silver and gold. But what does she do? Uses it for the idols.

Idols! You saw what happened with the kings of Israel. Idolatry. They were believing and worshipping a lie. These were counterfeit gods. Israel was whoring around with other “gods” or lovers.

The Old Testament speaks to the folly of idolatry. It is folly because they worshipped something that was not God, something they created with their own hands and which ultimately cannot do any good for them.

Isaiah 44:9-20 addresses the folly of idolatry. In v. 20 Isaiah writes,

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

As for Israel, how could they even stand if God removes His love from them? If He chooses not to extend His mercy to them any longer?

Perhaps they had taken the words of the Psalmist for granted:

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4)

Their time had run out. He would no longer forgive them. Their sins would now be counted against them. They will not be able to stand up under this judgement. Assyria was coming.

Hosea writes in 1:7

But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.

So even though God would not have mercy on Israel, God indicates that He will save Judah (southern kingdom) because they at least were still following in His ways. In 2 Kings 19:32-36 Isaiah the prophet, speaking to Hezekiah, king over Judah says,

32 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: “He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 35 And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.

God didn’t use bow, sword, war, horse or horsemen. He used His great might and struck down Judah’s enemies.

Now back to Israel (the northern kingdom), the text continues in Hosea 1:8-9

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Gomer conceives a third time, possibly by another man, and this time it’s another son. The Lord tells Hosea to call him Lo-ammi. Was this son NOT Hosea’s? Not God’s people?

Can you reach into Hosea’s heart and take a peek at the agony he must have experienced because of this calling on his life? The man of God with the wayward wife. She was prone to leave the one who loved her.

This can be seen as a reversal of the Mosaic covenant. The I Am is no longer their I Am. God tells His people, you are not My people; I am not your God. He rejects the people He had chosen. I. Am. Not. Yours.

It’s like He’s telling them, you have acted in a way that reveals to Me that you care nothing for Me. You have shown Me that you want nothing to do with Me. If that’s how you want it, you’ve got it.

But then, God says in Hosea 1:10-11 and 2:1

10Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

I love the redemption story we see unfolding in Hosea’s story. This is what Jamy Fisher calls the Godly Yet (Chains Falling). God always gives hope even in the midst of His judgment! He tells them though I’ve called you, Lo-ammi, you will be called Ammi. I’ve called you Lo-ruhamah, you will be called Ruhamah. He redeems their names. Those children received new identities.

You’ve determined in your heart to reject your calling as My people but I call you My people, I call you Loved. You belong to me, the Living God.

What name do you most often live under? Do you live under a lie? Not loved? Not chosen? Not belonging to God? What has God called you? Loved. Chosen. Holy. Belonging to Him.

He then prophecies that even though they will be exiled, both Judah and Israel will be gathered together and become one nation again. He even tells them that Jezreel will no longer be a place of judgement but one of great joy.

Four other prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah) also prophesy about God bringing both Judah and Israel back to their land. In fact Ezekiel 34:23 says

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

Are you tired of hearing those hoof beats yet? I hope not. This is a very clear prophecy about Christ, the descendant of David, the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps Hosea bends down to speak to his wayward wife, I know you’re prone to wander, to leave me, but look what God says to His people. They have left Him, but still He pursues her because they belong to Him, just like you belong to me. Stay…Gomer…

David’s Wives: Hearts Devoted to a King {Part 3}

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“The Battle for the Throne – Trusting God’s Promise”

Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, was still very loyal to Saul and set Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, over Israel. They decided to have a showdown to see who would be the king over all of Israel. If you read 2 Sam 2:12-32 it feels much the same as the earlier Israelite battle against the Philistines involving Goliath. They chose 12 men from each side to fight each other, but they all end up killing each other, so they end up having a war on a much larger scale – the men of Abner/Ish-bosheth against the men of Joab/David (which most scholars believe last about 2 years).

And let’s just say that Abner’s men got a pretty bad whooping. It’s so sad though because these men were brothers fighting brothers! Israelite against Israelite. A small civil war.

For 7 years David remained in Hebron, and in 2 Sam 3:1-5 it says there was:

a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker. And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.”

Even though David was king, he still had to fight for it. There was a long war. But what is repeated over and over is that David never had the bloodguilt of any person on his hands, but that his men fought for him!

During this time, David apparently collected more wives and also started building his legacy. Abigail gave him a son named, Chileab. Or if you’re reading 1 Chron 3:1, his name is Daniel. The name Chileab meant “like his father.” Did she ever wonder if her son would be the one who would reign after David? Did she speak those truths about God over her son just like she spoke truth over David all those years ago? Did she hope that he would be a man after God’s own heart, just like his father, David?

But I can’t help but remember what God had told the Israelites concerning the kings. Deut 17:17a says,

17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away,”

The wife count is now at 7. How many wives is too many? According to the Talmud, the limitation of wives was 18. But um, I think 2 is one too many!

The gathering of wives for kings in ancient times was like the gathering of power. The power of the wives was in the giving of sons. We certainly learned this in the study of the Wives of the Patriarchs. Sons ensured the continuation of the kingdom. But truly, you only needed one son to ensure the reign. Adding to that number would just result in favoritism, jealousy, sibling rivalry, and the lust for the power.

How did Abigail feel about all the extra wives? We’ve talked about how the culture back then is so vastly different from our own, so it is difficult for us to know how she would have felt.

Patriarchal society or not. Human nature is human nature. I can’t imagine there weren’t pangs of envy among the wives. Perhaps even the pitting of their sons against one another. My son is better than your son because

My son looks more like David.

My son is strong like David.

Well, my son can play the harp like David.

Who cares? My son is more kingly than all your sons!

I’d like to think that Abigail was above all of this, because she’s just so loveable! But did her heart ache for more affection from the king? And more importantly did she hope that it would be her son that would be crowned king, even though he was 2nd born?

Abner determines to give his loyalty to David because Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth accuses him of sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines (2 Sam 3:6-11) which would be seen as Abner trying to move in on the throne. In retaliation against Is-bosheth, Abner goes to David and asks him to make a covenant with him and in return he would bring Israel’s heart to David. David’s only term is that he brings his first wife, Michal, back to him. (v. 13) So in v. 15-16 it says,

15 And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.”

Many scholars believe this was a political move on David’s part to ensure his right to the throne. (Berlin, David’s Wives; Kessler, Sexuality and Polititcs; Levenson, The Political Import of David’s Marriages; White, Michal the Misinterpreted) Still others believed this was to gain the favor of the Saulide party (Brueggeman, p. 226).

Regardless of this, Michal’s second husband appears to have loved her very much, but she is taken from him. How is that heart looking now? The darkness begins to filter into that once very red, very much in love, heart.

Abner keeps his promise to persuade Israel to follow David by reminding them that God had promised David that it would be by David’s hand that he would save the people from the Philistines and all their enemies. (v. 18) His bold move to appeal to God’s will proved he wasn’t appointed as a diplomat and commander for nothing! Unfortunately for Abner, he dies at the hand of Joab, the commander of David’s army because he suspected foul play. And David is faultless. Then Ish-bosheth is murdered by two Israelite men from Saul’s own tribe. (2 Sam 4:5-8) Again, David is faultless.

“A King Arose”

The Third Anointing: 2 Sam 5:3-5 tells us,

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over IsraelDavid was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.”

The shepherd boy became the shepherd of Israel. (The sheep language comes back with the parable of Bathsheba. Also note that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. – Idea in Brueggeman p. 238)

Abigail’s words come back in full power (1 Sam 25:30-31):

30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself.”

Just to clarify, the text emphasizes David’s pure rise to the throne by emphasizing that he never murdered anyone to gain the power of the throne. You might say that he trusted that God would make a name for him and that God would build him a house, establishing him a kingdom.

David takes the throne, a blameless man, just as Abigail predicted. And she stands next to him, Abigail the Wise. Behind every great man is a great woman!

It makes me wonder what the relationship between the two of them was like. She came to him, deferring as a servant, but did she find her place of honor as a wife? Did she, like the woman of virtue, continue to speak truth to him, being wise and discerning, doing good to him all the days of her life? Surely she was a priceless gem, one who continued to seek for his good. She was devoted to her King and her husband, the king. Her heart was one full of honor and was truly a heart of gold.

The very first thing the text says he does as king is go out and fight against the enemies (Jebusites) of Israel! Then 2 Sam 5:10 tells us,

10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.” All the land would hear of this great king and would bring gifts to him. And verse 12 tells us, “12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.”

This king David brings a fresh hope to the people of Israel. The time of darkness when the judges ruled is now ancient history. With great anticipation the people watched as God’s kingdom was realized in the man, David.

Brueggeman writes, “In Israel’s theological tradition, the kingdom came to embody the approval and will of God. Whereas the ultimate kingdom hoped for by Christians is that the kingdoms of this age will become ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ’ (Rev. 11:15), in ancient Israel the process is reversed. It is hoped that the kingdom of God will become the kingdom of this age and of his messiah (David). It is the passionate desire of Israel that Yahweh’s powerful rule should take real, effective, concrete form, so real and powerful that the nations will notice and take it into account.” (p. 243)

HOWEVER…v. 13 tells us:

“13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David.”

If we had red flags in our Bibles, I’m certain there would be one at the tail end of this verse. He keeps taking wives and now concubines.

Michal, Saul’s daughter

David had success after success against the Philistines, and he and all of Israel came celebrating before the Lord, with the ark of the covenant.

The ark had been captured during Eli’s time by the Philistines, and when they returned it, the ark ended up at Kiriath-jearim (a small town at the northern-most tip of Judah) where it sat for 20 years, seemingly forgotten.

David ark

“The ark embodies what is unifying among the tribes and clans of Israel. The ark articulates and embodies for old Israel the holy rule of Yahweh. They [had] forgotten the significance of the ark, which referred to the raw presence of Yahweh, the power of Yahweh, and the covenantal implications of Yahweh’s sovereignty.” (Brueggeman p. 248).

“The coming of the ark signified two things for the king. Looking back, it meant a reengagement with the taproot of Israel’s religious vitality. David here gets back in touch with the most elemental dimensions of Israel’s traditional faith; it is no wonder that the movement of the ark evoked such a stupendous celebration. Looking forward, it brought David royal legitimacy.” (Brueggeman, 249).

It meant that God approved of David’s reign as king, that it was God’s will.

2 Sam 6:14-15:

14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.”

This word “dancing” is not used anywhere else in Scripture but seems to describe a whirling dance. I think we can assume he was expressing his joy!

A linen ephod was the robe worn by priests. It was a “sleeveless garment made from gold [with] blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen.” (Dict of Pentateuch) It had a waistband and two shoulder pieces that had onyx stones mounted in gold filigree with the names of the 12 tribes on them. The breastpiece would have been secured onto the ephod and held the Urim and Thummim. “The Urim and Thummim belonged to God (Deut 33:8) and was used for matters of national importance about which Yahweh had not yet made His will clearly known.” (Dict of OT Pentateuch)

It is the same thing David used two of the times he inquired of God. It was the ephod with the Urim and Thummim that one of the priests had brought to David way back when Saul was still chasing him and which he used to seek God’s direction.

  1. When he was with the people of Keilah and wanted to know if they would give David into Saul’s hands. 1 Sam 23:9-13
  2. When he asked if he should pursue the Amalekites who had taken off with his wives. 1 Sam 30:7-8

Here though, David, the king, not a priest, wears the ephod. Maybe the question is why was David wearing a priestly garment?

It is a picture of a truly godly man, one whose desire was to lead the people to worship their God, just as the priests were supposed to do. He doesn’t simply tell them what they ought to do, he shows them what to do – worshipping the Lord with all his might!

In addition, he appears to be in the role of a priest as they are bringing the ark of God to the “city of David” (v. 16). It shows him offering sacrifices to God as they carried the ark along so that God’s anger would not burn against them again after what happened earlier. Then in v. 17 after they arrive, he offered burnt and peace offerings to God.

After he had finished the offerings it says in v. 18b-20a,

he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts 19 and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. 20 And David returned to bless his household.”

David leads the people in gratefulness to their God who has very visibly (in the ark of God) taken up residence in the “city of David” to be among His people once again.

However Miss Michal was none too keen to observe her husband.

2 Sam 6:16 says,

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.”

David Jerusalem Michal tower

This is the tower at the palace in Jerusalem. You can see how she could have easily watched him from any one of these windows!

As we try to understand her response to David, I want you to notice how she is identified in v. 16 – as the daughter of Saul not the wife of David. Sometimes a description like this speaks volumes. Her loyalty was with her father after those long years spent away from David. The text is silent about her psychological condition – whether or not she felt slighted or abandoned by her husband after all those years. What is most likely is that the writer, identifying her as Saul’s daughter, wanted to show the disdain of the old house of Saul in the midst of the celebration. (Brueggeman, 251).

Interestingly, Michal is only referred to as David’s wife 3 times – in 1 Sam 19:11 when she is saving him from her father, in 25:44 when Saul gives her to another man, and in 2 Sam 3:14 when David requests for “his wife” (but after he’s already referred to her as “Saul’s daughter”).

The word despise in the Hebrew is the word “bazah” (baw-zaw) and it meant to despise, hold in contempt, disdain.

  • As in Gen 25:34 of Esau: “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
  • 1 Sam 17:42 of Goliath:  “When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance.”
  • Isaiah 53:3 prophecy fulfilled in Jesus: “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

She who had loved David so early on in her life had now come to despise him. The darkness had completely overtaken her heart, and she spews hateful words out of the darkness of her heart. 2 Sam 6:20-23 says,

How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord.22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

Is she simply irritated that he doesn’t appear to be acting in the way a king should act – regal? Dignified? Honorable? The text already told us he was wearing a linen ephod, so why is she accusing him of uncovering himself?

When you look up the use of this word “uncover” it has at least 20 different meanings – some of which include being banished, betrayed, carried away into captivity, exiled, to be deported, laid bare, opened, removed, revealed, stripped, uncovered. The connotation seems to be in relation to exile, captivity, humiliation.

Why does Michal believe he acted shamefully? No one else seemed bothered by these events or by his behavior. None of the other wives take issue with his actions.

David doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior either. He doesn’t address the “uncovering” and neither does the text. This conversation is set up in the form of a chiasm with the claim about God choosing David as the central feature:

Michal:                    honor

maids

shamelessly

David:                                         before Yahweh

                                                          chose me above….above prince over

                                                    before Yahweh

contemptible

maids

honor

“David refutes her judgment by saying he may be contemptible in her eyes, but in the eyes of the maidens (and therefore of political opinion) he is more honored.” (Brueggeman, 252). So the central feature is that God has chosen David “above and above” to be prince “over and over” Israel. This claim dismisses Michal and the entire Saulide claim to the throne. It is God who legitimizes David’s claim to the throne, not Michal or Saul.

This appears to be a heart issue for Michal alone. And the very last verse may be the most telling: v. 23

23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

She’s again referred to as the “daughter of Saul” but the most poignant message concerns her childlessness. Is the author telling us that she and David essentially had no relationship after this encounter? Or that God did not allow her to have children because of her heart issue? What this meant for Michael is the “she has no future, no claim on Israel, no prospect for life.” (252)

“God’s Covenant with David”

In the next chapter, we learn of God’s covenant with David. 2 Sam 7:8-16 says,

Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people IsraelAnd I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.”

David’s wives likely grew up learning about the covenant God had made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. They would have known that God had set the nation of Israel apart. They would have learned about the dark times of the Judges and how the people did evil in the sight of God. There would have been an anticipation among them of hope for a godly king who would lead the people to serve God wholeheartedly. What must it have been like for them to know that it was their David whom God had chosen as the godly king with whom He would establish His covenant forever?

Michal’s heart revealed that she despised him. But Abigail? Was she as delighted in God’s chosen man as God was? Did she dance with the people at the entrance of the ark of God? The presence of God visible for all to see and know?

As for David, he would know that God had chosen him, not because he was an amazing person but simply because God wanted to express His love to him. David wanted to make a house (temple) for God but God said he would make a house (dynasty) for David. God would make David’s name great. God would establish David’s kingdom. God. God. God.

David didn’t need to do anything to make a name for himself. David didn’t need to do anything to make himself a house. He didn’t need to establish his own kingdom. It would be by God’s hand that these things would take place.

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

And interestingly God tells David that He would also establish the throne of David’s son (yet to be named). God tells David that He would correct David’s son when he sinned but that His love and presence would never depart from David’s sons as He had done with Saul. God knew that David’s son would commit sins and yet He still promised to correct him and to love him.

This is an oracle of unconditional promise, unlike the conditional character of the Mosaic law. (Brueggeman, 259) Even those “sons” who came after him would be loved unconditionally.

What is more, God tells David his kingdom would be forever. He would not take away the kingdom from his house, even if those who came after stopped following God’s ways. God ensured that He would continue His covenant even if His chosen servants were unfaithful to Him. He promised. And God does not lie. God does not forsake His promises.

“Out of this oracle there emerges the hope held by Israel in every season that there is a coming David who will right wrong and establish a good governance. That coming one may be hidden [to them], may experience resistance…, but nevertheless there is one coming who will make things right.” (Brueggeman 257)

God knew exactly what He was getting Himself into. He knew even before He made Adam and Eve. He knew that just like Abraham and just like Moses, David and his sons after him would not be able to keep the covenant. They would fail. But God would remain faithful to His promise.

How could God possibly make this happen? How could sinful men ever hope to be a part of His plan? We read about king after king, who, no matter how godly they were, would not measure up to God’s standard. Even if God managed to keep a Davidic descendant on the throne, the people would continue to sin, fall away, cry out, repent, return, then continue in this cycle of sin. How could their hope ever be in the race of men?

Even as Israel would fall away after having evil king after evil king, still God would place a Davidic descendant on the throne in Judah. But God had a BIGGER plan.

When God made the covenant with Abraham in the days of old, He promised that even if Abraham broke the covenant, He would ensure Abraham’s side of the deal. He would take it upon Himself to hold up the covenant for both He AND Abraham.

Well God knew that none of us could keep the covenant. Not David, not Solomon, not any king of Judah, not anyone. He would send His Son, a descendant of David, who could hold up the covenant for both God AND for man. Jesus, the exact representation of God, came in the form of man, so that He fulfilled the requirements for both God AND man.

Our hope is in this God-man!

Those hoof beats get louder and louder…

If you read Matthew 1 and Luke 3, you can trace David’s descendants all the way to Christ. Luke 1:31-33 says

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

How could God promise David a never-ending kingdom? By sending His Son, the eternal God!

We had no hope of ever overcoming the cycle of sin so Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice once and for all that was able to cancel the power and cycle of sin and death. Jesus OVERCAME. He is worthy! And He became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ! This is His reckless, relentless love.

Bathsheba, the Beautiful

2 Sam 8:14 tells us that “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” He had success on the battlefields and was a king who administered justice and equity to all his people (v. 15). This chapter and the next 2 chapters serve as a summary of David’s reign, so you can assume that many years pass between these chapters and the sin with Bathsheba.

We read of how great David was all those years, and then we get to chapter 11 and would rather just close our Bibles and go on our merry way, leaving our view of godly David still intact. Everyone is aware of the scandal in the palace. It is all too familiar that I fear we have forgotten to read this narrative with eyes to see the woman at the bath and the man on the roof.

Bathsheba was referred to as “the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Sam 11:3). Her name meant “daughter of an oath.” Both Eliam and Uriah were two of David’s “mighty men” (listed in 2 Sam 23:34, 39). She was someone’s daughter, someone’s wife. And David most certainly would have recognized the men to whom she belonged!

Many scholars believe she was also the granddaughter of Ahithophel, who is said to be the father of Eliam. Ahithophel ends up becoming one of David’s counselors who later betrays him when David’s son, Absalom, tries to overthrow him as king (2 Sam 15-17 and 1 Chron. 27:33).

The text does not tell us whether or not her bathing was right or wrong. It also doesn’t tell us whether or not David walking around on his roof was right or wrong. Here is a picture showing the city of Jerusalem and where David’s palace would have been. During Solomon’s reign the Temple would have taken up the entire top portion of the city (shown in this picture as land).

David's city drawing

The main message is that David saw and then he took. He did what was right in his own eyes rather than averting his eyes. He took what was not his rather than being content with what was his.

I mean, how many wives did David have at this point??! He had the 7 wives, then in 2 Sam 5, he added more wives and also concubines. I’m pretty sure he didn’t need to take any other women for his own pleasure.

In v. 4-5 it says,

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” (2 Sam 11)

David’s “taking” would have hearkened back to what Samuel had warned the people about their kings. 1 Sam 8:11-19:

He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons…He will take your daughters…He will take the best of your fields…He will take the tenth of your grain…He will take your male servants and female servants…He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”

Kings are “takers”, and David, who had started out as one who received from God’s hands, has now become a king like the kings of other nations – a taker. He had previously had everything gladly given to him by Yahweh and his followers, but here, we see his decline as he takes what was not his.

This is rather uncomfortable to talk about because it shows a side of David that we’d rather not believe of him. This is the part where we find the skeletons in David’s closet! The man after God’s own heart stumbled greatly in this one moment.

Unfortunately we can only guess what Bathsheba was thinking when one of David’s messengers called for her to come to the palace. Imagine the scene from Bathsheba’s perspective.

Who is at my door? Is Uriah home from battle already? The king? He sends for me? What exactly does he want? Why are you taking me to David?

King David, may you live forever, blessed be your kingdom. Did I just hear right? David wants to do what with me? How can I say no to the king? What am I to do? I’m a married woman! Uriah and my father are his loyal servants. This will not look good if word gets out. What will people think of me?

I cannot believe I’m pregnant! How am I going to tell Uriah? I can’t possibly tell him. What will he think of me? Of the king? I have to tell David. He’ll know what to do.

It’s utterly despicable. Then David definitely “takes care” of the problem. Only now, Bathsheba is pregnant but with no husband. She’d be viewed by all as the city whore. How could she be pregnant if her husband died in battle? She couldn’t tell anyone whose child it was. They wouldn’t believe her! David put her in the worst possible position. She had nowhere to go. She should be put to death according to the law.

In fact she might as well have had a big SCARLET LETTER A written on her heart.

Lev 20:10 states

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

And Deut 22:22 says,

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.”

Have you ever been marked like Bathsheba? Have you felt like your heart had a big scarlet letter A written over it?

David, thinking he had covered his tracks, sends for Bathsheba to be his wife after the period of her mourning was over for her dead husband. Though David had taken her as his wife, she’s still referred to as Uriah’s wife until v. 24. Though it does not excuse his sin, he does not leave Bathsheba to die an adulterer’s death.

“God’s Presence Does Not Depart”

2 Sam 11:27b says,

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

God does not give either David or Bathsheba the punishment they deserve. He shows them mercy and sends Nathan to David with the message from God.

Nathan tells David in 12:7-9

“I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much moreWhy have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?”

Fortunately David immediately repents but it was not without consequences v. 10-12 say,

10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.

The fulfillment of this seems immediate because of how the text is laid out in our bibles, but it’s very possible that much time passed in between the statement and the actual fulfillment.

First fulfillment “The sword shall never depart…” –

  1. First, Amnon, the son of David’s wife Ahinoam, committed rape against his half-sister, Tamar. (2 Sam 13)
  2. In response to this egregious sin, Absalom, the son of David’s wife Maacah, kills Amnon to avenge his sister (2 Sam 13).
  3. Then Absalom tried to overthrow David, and thus David had to fight against Absalom and his forces to defend his kingdom (2 Sam 15-19).
  4. Joab later killed Absalom (2 Sam 19).
  5. Adonijah, (Adonai – jah) the son of David’s wife, Haggith, tried to establish himself as king in David’s place, and Solomon eventually had him executed (1 Kings 1 and 2).

Second fulfillment “He shall lie with your wives…” – Absalom laid with his father’s concubines in broad daylight for all to see as he was trying to usurp his father’s throne. (2 Sam 16:20-22

Third fulfillment “The child shall die…” 2 Sam 12:13-14 says,

13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”

The text relates how distraught David is but is silent concerning Bathsheba. This in no way means she was not distraught.  We know she was obviously upset (who wouldn’t be with the loss of a child?), because it says in v. 24-25,

24 “Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him 25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.”

Here is where Bathsheba is called David’s wife – after the death of this first child, conceived in sin. Perhaps we can assume God also wipes her heart clean. He put away the Big Scarlet Letter A. She had a heart restored to honor.

And the second son is indeed the son of Promise – Solomon (derived from salom or shalom). And he is loved and treasured by Yahweh. (Brueggeman, 284)

A little known fact about Bathsheba is that she actually had 4 sons with David: 1 Chron. 3:5 says,

5 “These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel”

(Don’t be alarmed with the different spelling of her name and her father’s name. This is a very common occurrence between the historical books.)

“Solomon, Heir to the Throne – A Promise Fulfilled”

Please note that a long time has elapsed before Solomon is anointed as king.

So far, David’s firstborn and third born sons are dead, thus leaving room for Abigail’s son, Chileab/Daniel, to take the throne. The text is silent, however, about any attempts on his part or Abigail’s part to secure the throne. He either didn’t try to do this or another theory suggests he is no longer alive. That leaves the fourth born, Adonijah (pronounced Adonai-jah)!

However, we already learned that Adonijah, the son of David’s wife, Haggith, tried to take over the throne as well. He is David’s 4th son, born to him at Hebron. He would have been one of the “older” sons based on this information. Bathsheba’s 4 sons and the other 9 sons born at Jerusalem will be classified as “younger” sons.

Adonijah believed he had the right to the throne since his other brothers were dead or otherwise gone/indifferent. Because of his actions, Nathan goes to Bathsheba who then goes to David with this plea in 1 Kings 1:17-21:

17  “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. 20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”

Bathsheba had every right to be afraid! We have read about what these men do when someone is in the way of their precious plans. But it’s interesting that she said David had sworn to her that Solomon would be king. The text does not reveal this conversation anywhere. We can learn more information if we go to:

1 Chron 22:9-10 where David tells Solomon what God had told him in a previous conversation,

Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’

Now, David responds immediately, first reassuring Bathsheba that he will do this and has Zadok the priest anoint Solomon as king in 1 Kings 1:39-40

39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.”

The text does not specify how old he was when he began to reign nor how old he was when he died. Based on other events, scholars surmise he was between 12-25 years of age.

At the sound of the celebration, Adonijah and his cohorts are terrified. Adonijah tries to beg for mercy by taking hold of the horns on the altar. But he is still not an honorable man and later goes to Bathsheba to request to have David’s nurse as his wife in 1 Kings 2. Because this was seen as an attempt to take the throne from Solomon, Solomon sends Benaiah to execute his brother, Adonijah (v. 22-25).

God often chooses people who are the most unlikely candidates for the position. God chose Solomon to reign in his father’s place, but Solomon was one of the youngest sons born to David. He ousted his older brother Adonijah.

God chooses the foolish things in the world to shame the wise. He chose the son of Bathsheba, the woman taken by adultery, as the heir of the Messianic kingdom. He chose Isaac over Ishmael, He chose Jacob over Esau. God chose Joseph and gave him 2 portions for his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. He chose the unlikely Hebrew, Moses, to be his champion. He chose Rahab, the pagan prostitute, to be included in His people. He chose Deborah, a woman, to be a judge. He chose Samson to stir up trouble with the enemies of God. And He chose David, the youngest in his family to succeed the king He had already rejected.

Some finals thoughts about Bathsheba – she was a woman whose HONOR is restored. She becomes the queen mother. She had a royal, purple heart.

Solomon holds her in such high regard in 1 Kings 2:19

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.”

He bows to her and gives her the place of honor, to be seated at his right hand. Then in Song of Solomon 3:11, she is mentioned:

“11 Go out, O daughters of Zion,
and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of the gladness of his heart.”

Many scholars believe she is also the author of Proverbs 31. “the Stone Tanach says that it was “the prophecy with which his mother disciplined him” and states that the author Solomon was also called Lemuel. Strong’s Concordance states that “Lemuel” was the symbolic name for Solomon. New Ungers and Nelson Bible Dictionary says that many of the rabbis agree that Lemuel was Solomon.” (http://www.patriarchywebsite.com/bib-patriarchy/bathsheba-truthful-account.htm)

I kept trying to find a common thread for these women, and that thread was David! There’s also a thread of Honor that runs throughout the narratives in the lives of these women.

What I did see was how Michal had a heart devoted to David until life happened and she allowed a bitter root to creep in to her heart. She lacked a heart devoted to God. Michal speaks to me to guard my heart and be on the lookout for areas of hurt that could give the enemy an opportunity to strike. She was Michal: A Heart that Lost Honor.

For Abigail I saw a woman with a humble strength who knew and spoke truth about God, and though she had plenty of opportunities for bitterness or hate, she chose to trust her God. Her heart was first devoted to God, the King of Heaven. Abigail teaches me to trust my God and speak the truth. She urges me to be brave and wise in how I encounter relationships. She challenges me to be humble and to be a servant. She was Abigail: A Heart Full of Honor.

And Bathsheba is a tough mixture because of the scandal in the palace. But I saw a woman who was loved by the king, and whose child was loved by God. She was given a place of honor not only by her husband and her son, but by God, who places her in the lineage of the Messiah. Bathsheba whispers to me that God is the God who forgives. She encourages me to seek God in the most difficult of circumstances and to know that HE is the one who restores me to places of honor. She was Bathsheba: A Heart Whose Honor is Restored.

More importantly I saw how desperately we need God. That sin cycle would never end. Even the most highly esteemed king in all of Israel’s history fell prey to the allure of sin. It was a slow progression. And the sin with Bathsheba was not the last or only sin he would commit.

We have the joy of knowing there is hope for us because Jesus, the God-man, secured our redemption. He is Risen!

These are David’s wives – Hearts Devoted to a king.

 

You can view the video here:

 

David’s Wives – Hearts Devoted to a King

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As I read the narratives for this week, I found that as I dug, I sometimes encountered nice artifacts – a piece of pottery, some coins, maybe even a nice statue. But as I continued to dig, I felt like all I found were BONES. Sometimes you get nice artifacts, and sometimes you find the skeletons in the closet.

David was the “man after God’s own heart” but he was still just a man. He had a few skeletons in his closet, and unfortunately for him, they became public knowledge. After all, his story is in the most read book of all times!

We’ve set the stage for the period of the kings, having heard of Hannah’s son, Samuel, who was the prophet and judge to appoint Israel’s first king, Saul. There is a sense of anticipation and hope as the people of Israel look to their leader.

But leaders sometimes fall short, because as good or morally upright as they are, they are still human and make for poor gods.

Even as Saul was on the decline, God was raising up David, the man after His own heart, whom He would make the most impressive covenant with yet!

Within David’s story are SEVERAL (talk about an understatement) important narratives, each with their own teaching points. God’s Word is alive and active, and through the Spirit, God teaches us countless lessons from the life of David and his wives.

So what’s the big picture? How can we see the beauty of the forest and not get hung up on a low hanging limb?

For today we’re going to focus on the condition of these women’s hearts (if we can even know that) and also God’s promise and presence.

“God’s Presence Turned Away”

David didn’t start out as a king, no, he was a lowly shepherd who served under King Saul.

Over and over we read that God was with David and made him prosper in whatever he did. It was this favor from God that caused Saul to fear David the most. And it was this fear that drove Saul to madness, resulting in his pursuit of David’s life.

Here’s how it all began:

Saul had turned his eyes from the Lord and began to fear man and not God.

After disobeying God in his treatment of king Agag the Amalekite, Samuel confronts him and Saul says this in 1 Sam 15:24-28:

24 “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”

“God’s Presence in David’s Life”

So even before we meet David’s wives, David has been chosen by God to be king of Israel. 1 Samuel 16:12b-13 says:

And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.”13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.

You probably noticed as you read the text this week and in previous weeks that although God chooses a “king” for His people, He is still their King. The human king was to “serve as [God’s] viceroy. Yahweh was the real King, while the human king was his representative or regent, chosen by God to carry out His earthly tasks.” (Arnold, 461)

Saul was rejected by God because He had rejected the Word of God. He had been chosen to carry out God’s tasks, but he disobeyed. God chose a new king who would be obedient.

And David enters into service to Saul, fully knowing that he is the Lord’s anointed, yet still respecting Saul as king whom he often referred to as “God’s anointed”. He is contrasted with Saul who has no more Spirit of God with him but rather has an evil spirit who torments him from time to time.

What happens next is the showdown with Goliath, a major indication that God is with David, (1 Sam 17) and all of Israel goes crazy over this young David! All except Saul, that is. He goes crazy jealous over young David.

It was at this point that Saul, having had the Lord’s presence removed from him, begins to seek ways to kill David.

His first plan involved killing him with a spear. But that plan failed so he moved to Plan B: His daughters.

Adoring Michal

1 Samuel 18:20-21 is where we first meet Michal, Saul’s daughter. Pronounced “Me-kawl” (spelled Miykal). Her name meant “who is like God”.

 Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.”

This is the second time Saul had offered one of his daughters, but David, being the humble man he was, did not believe he was suitable to be the son-in-law to a king since he was a lowly shepherd from an insignificant family. (v. 18) A poor man with no reputation (v. 23).

He was trying to say, I can’t afford the bride price for a daughter of the king. I’m also not worthy to be called the son-in-law to the king.

But Saul’s Plan B backfires on him! Because not only was the LORD with David, but also Michal, his daughter, loved David (v. 28).

Have you ever been there before? In love? A heart blushing (or bursting) with love for someone? She had a very red heart – a heart devoted to young David.

He connects her being a “snare” with “the hand of the Philistines” being against him. Saul has in mind that the bride price he sets for his daughter’s hand in marriage will result in David’s demise. Verse 25 says that Saul hoped that David would “fall by the hand of the Philistines.”

Was Saul using his daughter as a trap/snare to kill her beloved David? You bet he was! Imagine his surprise when David drops a bag of 200 Philistine foreskins at his feet! Double the price that was requested. 200 more enemies dead at David’s hands. All for his daughter. All to be Saul’s son-in-law.

Oh and by the way, Saul’s son, Jonathan, loved David too (18:1, 19:1). God loved him. Israel loved him. Judah loved him. Michal loved him. Saul was NOT feeling the love.

And perhaps David was not feeling the love for Michal either for in verse 26 it says,

26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law.

There is no mention of him being pleased to be “her husband.”

Have you ever been there before? A love not reciprocated? A heart broken? Michal’s heart is starting to look a bit broken.

As the narrative progresses, David continues to have more successes in battle against the Philistines (because of God) which meant Saul continued to try harder and harder to kill David. The text indicates that v. 23 David went from being lightly esteemed to v. 30 being highly esteemed.

But Michal stood in Saul’s way. Adoring Michal saved David’s life.

As much as she loved him, do you think she knew that David might not love her as she loved him? That she may not see him for a very long time since he father was chasing her beloved David?

She lies to save him. He’s sick. Sorry, come back later.

Finally daddy comes in and she lies again. He threatened me with my life!

Like Rahab, she lies to save someone’s life!

It makes me wonder what was at stake for her. Could her father, the king, have put her to death? Saul accuses his daughter of conspiring against him by letting his enemy go (v. 17).

Excuse me, Saul, but David is her husband AND your son-in-law! He’s not your enemy. Don’t put your daughter into such a precarious situation. You’re crazy, Saul!

This part of the narrative serves to express the impossibility of Saul’s attempts to keep David from the throne which God Himself has promised for him. God had also told Saul that He would no longer be with him, and even though Saul would desperately grasp and clamor to hold his power, his efforts would be fruitless. God’s plans always prevail.

After this the text goes silent about Michal until you read the last verse of the Abigail narrative in 1 Samuel 25.

Liz Curtis Higgs in her book Bad Girls of the Bible believed that 14 years passed between the time David escaped and when he saw her again.

1 Sam 21:10-15 says David even sought refuge among his enemy, the Philistine lord at Gath! And then in 22:3-4 with the king of Moab. And he continues to evade Saul’s grasp, even coming so close to cut a corner off of his robe.

The text does not indicate the time frame of David’s exile, but you get the impression that God’s protection is over him and that he learns to trust God during this time. After all, God had made a promise, and He never breaks a promise! So no matter how life-threatening the circumstance was, God would ensure his safety.

Poor adoring Michal. She’s pining away for her beloved David. It sounds like she was with her father, so you have to wonder what influence he had over her heart. Did his “crazy” take root in her heart? Did she believe her father’s lies about David? How’s that heart looking about now?

 

{Stay tuned for Part 2 about Wise Abigail}

Samson’s Wife & Delilah – Part 2

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The phrase “right in my eyes” (14:3) is significant because that same phrase (more or less) is repeated in Judges revealing that everyone was doing what was right in their eyes and not what was right in GOD’S eyes. Even Samson, who is one of the supposed Israelite leaders (appointed from inside his mother’s womb), had been doing whatever he wanted, seemingly without thought for God’s law, which clearly prohibited foreign marriages.

This foreign marriage, forbidden in the law, should have been a huge red flag for Samson, but the writer says it was of the Lord!! Judges 14:4:

…it was from the LORD, for He was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.

Somehow God had allowed this to happen so that He would have more opportunities to strike the Philistines for the sake of His Covenant People. The same Covenant people who had strayed so far that they didn’t even bother crying out to their God when the oppressors came. Yet God pursued the faithless ones.

The Word Commentary asks, “why would this foreign marriage be ‘of God’? God retains freedom to accomplish His purposes through the people and means He chooses.” (p. 333)

Can you think of any other men of God whom the Lord determined would marry unsavory brides? Hosea! We’ll learn about his wife, Gomer, later on in our study.

It is good to remember that the Scriptures were not being written as the events were happening. The historian/writer has the advantage of hindsight to see how God was present in the situations that unfolded for Israel. Isn’t that how it seems for us sometimes? It feels like we can often see God more clearly after the difficult season is over. We can attribute God’s work in our lives more easily once we’ve passed through the trials. We see His work as protection or see His love in the way He withheld something we thought we wanted/needed. He is ALWAYS at work in our lives even though we may not always know how. And when we don’t understand His hands, we can always trust His heart.

This is one of those topics that is hard to address because it reveals how little we know about God’s sovereignty and our own will. I’m not going to get into free will and God’s sovereignty at this moment, because I don’t think anyone can fully understand how it all works. I am, however, absolutely certain that I need no help from God to commit sins. He is never responsible for my sin because He is perfectly holy. However, God is responsible for any good thing in me. He is the one who works in me, conforming me into the image of His Son.

Scholar R. G. Bowman describes this delicate theological issue: “The writer of Judges portrays God as a [god] who intervenes to punish the people for their sins and works with human leaders to deliver the people from their enemies, but refrains from using divine powers to prevent human failures. Bowman sees a fine balancing act between the divine exercise of power and the exercise of human freedom and will.” (More to the Eye Than Meets the Eye in Biblical Interpretation)

Although I have seen Samson painted as having a dull wit, not being too smart but completely driven by his own passions, I wonder if he didn’t make his choices, fully knowing the consequences. After all, perhaps he really was aware that his choices would cause trouble between Israel and Philistia, and maybe this is why he continues to make one “bad” choice after another. (The text doesn’t give any indication that he was aware at all, but I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because how could anyone be this bad??!)

Word Commentary notes, “Rather than gathering armies to fight the Philistines, Samson gathers girlfriends who create anger and violence between Samson and the [Philistines].” (p. 334)

John Milton writes in his poem about Samson (Samson Angonistes) that he takes personal responsibility for his actions: “Nothing of all these evils hath befall’n me / But justly; I myself have brought them on, / Sole Author I, sole cause. (375-76)

So was Samson an oblivious man of passions or a man in tune with God’s plans?

Then in verses 5-6 we have this weird story about Samson tearing apart a lion and they seem rather awkwardly and inappropriately placed in the middle of a wedding proposal and feast! (Not exactly a bride’s dream) But this story is important for understanding Samson’s riddle later on. It also represents something very important for Israel!

Back in Judges 13:5 it says of Samson,

for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.

I place emphasis on the word BEGIN for Samson did not finish Israel’s business with the Philistines. David is actually credited with ridding Israel of them (2 Sam 8:1).

So this scene with the lion is symbolic of the Philistines, coming out of nowhere, to attack Israel, but God had gifted Samson with great strength and he was able to tear the lion apart. Samson would begin to save Israel from the Lion Philistia. (The Symbolism of the Lion and the Bees by Martin Emmrich in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society)

Then in verse 8 it says

he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey.

Again we have this image of a lion, but now it is a dead, rotten carcass with bees and their honey inside of it.

Samson eats the honey and gives some to his parents. You might have picked up on the fact that this would have broken his Nazirite vow, defiling himself by having contact with the dead. But something more is at play because nothing is mentioned about the broken vow.

This narrative is what I call a “teaching sandwich” in the sense that something happens (Samson rips the lion apart), the scene goes on to a seemingly disconnected point in the story, then something else happens to connect the events all together (carcass). It’s just like what Jesus did in Mark when He cursed the fig tree, then drove out the money changers, only to return to a withered fig tree in order to teach about who His true disciples were (as opposed to the money changers). Mmmm take a huge bite and taste the honey!

First of all, it would have been unheard of for bees to settle into the carcass of a dead lion. This in and of itself would have been as miraculous as the defeat of the lion.

Block writes, “In a world of decay and decomposition Samson discovers a “community” of bees not only existing but producing sweetness to the world around. The [writer’s] choice of [the Hebrew word] cedâ, (ay – daw) “community,” rather than seres, the common word for “swarm”, is deliberate. Except for Ps 68:30 [Hb. 31], ceda always refers to a company of people, usually the Israelites as a faith community, called to be agents of grace and light in the decadent world.” (Martin Emmrich) (Also mentioned in Word Commentary p. 335)

It appears as though the writer of Judges is revealing how God would, starting with Samson, destroy Israel’s enemies, giving Israel back their home where they could again be a community enjoying the fruits (HONEY) of the land.

Martin Emmrich writes, “the divine blessing connected with Israel’s peaceful existence in the land is often described in terms of the sweetness of honey: “For Yahweh your God is bringing you into a good land … a land of olives and honey“(Deut 8:7-8).”

Likewise, just as a lion’s carcass is an unlikely place for bees to settle, so too was Canaan an unlikely land for the Israelites to settle with its idolatrous people riddled with sin’s defilement. Like the bees in the carcass, Israel would settle into the idolatrous land after the death of their enemies.  (Emmrich)

Next we have the wedding feast in verse 10. The word feast (mishteh) can mean drinking feast. (footnote in ESV) Most scholars believe that Samson couldn’t have avoided the drinking that would have taken place at this feast.

All throughout these chapters, we have no sense that Samson is even aware of his Nazirite vow. That is, not until he tells Delilah his secret. So even though we’re jumping ahead a little bit, it helps us understand that Samson had the knowledge of the vow. However, this knowledge didn’t seem to stop him from breaking it twice now, seemingly showing no care or honor for God’s calling on his life.

“Rejection of Knowledge”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk about in darkness…. (Psalm 82:5)

 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [JUDGES] have rejected knowledge… (Hosea 4:6)

The supposed leader of the Israelites had rejected the knowledge of his high calling. So isn’t it ironic that he decides to try his hand at a riddle.

“Riddles in the Ancient World”

The use of riddles at feasts was popular in the ancient world. You may recall the queen of Sheba asking Solomon “hard questions”, very likely riddles (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chron 9:1). Solomon later became the famous author of proverbs and riddles. Ezekiel was instructed to speak a riddle to Israel in 17:2. To know dark sayings was considered a mark of wisdom (Prov. 1:6).

So what does this say about Samson? He had some degree of intelligence about him that he was able to come up with this clever riddle which, by the way, his companions tried and failed to solve! It says in verse 14 that they tried to solve it for 3 days until they asked Samson’s wife to entice him to give her the answer. Their motivation for her? We’ll burn you and your father if you don’t find out.

I almost feel sorry for Samson’s new wife. Verse 17 tells us she cries for the 7 days that the feast lasted, no doubt terrified at the thought of being burned alive with her father if she failed to discover his secret. So much for a fun wedding party! Poor poor Miss Philistine.

The phrase in verse 17 “she pressed him hard” is the same wording in Judges 16:16 when Delilah “pressed him hard day after day”. The word carries a note of distress and oppression, enough to cause Samson to break down and give in to her “pressing”.

Or did he? Did he know all along what was happening, allowing his new wife to badger him for those 7 days, and then gave her the answer at the very last moment, ready for another skilled retort to answer the Philistines?

The men answer Samson in the form of a riddle, and you can almost taste the irony in their answer. “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Who was it that simply ripped a lion in half? Samson. So it appears as though Samson is stronger than the lion. He didn’t keep that part a secret for nothing!

But the true answer may well have been LOVE or a woman’s allure. (NIVAC) Samson may have been referring to the irresistibility of love. J (by Philip Nel The Riddle of Samson in Biblica). Love is sweeter than honey, Love is stronger than a lion.  Perhaps now you can see the irony in his riddle as he is overcome with “love” for these women of Philistia!

Samson gives his retort, another riddle in the Hebrew (v. 18), as if he had already planned how to respond, knowing all along that his wife was going to betray him. And then they get to find out just how strong this man is! The Scripture says he went all the way to Ashkelon to strike down these 30 men. To give you an idea of the distance here is a map showing Timnah and Ashkelon: It was approximately 30 miles southwest of Timnah!

Samson map clear

Verse 19 is the third time the Spirit of the LORD is mentioned in Samson’s life. There are four times in this narrative in which the Spirit plays a part in his exploits.

The first time, I already mentioned, was at the beginning of his “career” in 13:25, with the Spirit “stirring” Samson. Then in 14:6 with the lion, here in 14:19 when he kills 30 men at Ashkelon (Philistine city), and also in 15:14-17 when he killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. In the last three verses, the text says the same phrase: “The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him”.

Here again we can assume that either Samson is aware that God is with him and this is one of those “opportunities against the Philistines” OR God uses this man’s hasty and violent actions to bring trouble on the Philistines.

Although his actions are violent, he makes good on his bargain by giving his 30 companions the promised clothing! There is absolutely no mention of Samson being angry with his new wife about giving him up. But he is definitely angry. Marching out in “hot anger” to be exact. Then verse 20 wraps up the passage with a little tid-bit of information about his wife who now belongs to his companion, or best man. This is beginning to sound like an episode of Jerry Springer.

Poor Miss Philistine gets shuffled around by her father, but perhaps she can look on the bright side, she didn’t die! And she still ended up with a husband! Taste the irony in our teaching sandwich.

Then we get to chapter 15. Here again we find a very strange story, that grabs our attention and leaves us with an empty pit in our stomachs. It’s the classic case of revenge and tragedy, resulting in our sympathy even for the enemy.

I want you to notice the description in verse 1 of the time of year. When you see descriptors like “wheat harvest” or other time references, they are almost always clues for understanding something else in the text. In this case we know that Samson dealt quite the blow to the Philistines when he burned up their ripe-for-harvest fields.

Beth Shemesh, Sorek Valley Area

To give you an idea of the importance of the grain crops in this region, here is an aerial view of the Sorek Valley. The Sorek River winds its way from left to right. The Sorek Valley continues to the left where it runs into Timnah. You can see the Judean Mountains at the top of the picture. The Israelite towns of Zorah and Eshtaol would be in the foothills of the mountains there (among the trees). Beth-Shemesh, which is also part of Israel, is on the right hand side of the valley.

You can see how fertile this area is and why both the Philistines and Israelites harvested their crops in the valley! To this present day the corn-fields in that part of the lowlands (known as the Shephelah) extend continuously for twenty or thirty miles.

Samson arrives to collect his bride but finds out she’s been given away to his best man and is then offered her younger, supposedly more beautiful, sister.

I pause now to ponder what Miss Philistine might have thought when her Israelite suiter came knocking for a second time. Did she have any affection for this man? Was she happy to see that he’d come back for her? Or did she only feel dread because she realized this man was reckless and bent on destroying her people? Was she happy to be with a man of her own people and bothered that Samson came back around? Was she afraid he might do something to put her life in jeopardy again?

Samson obviously refuses the second daughter and in verses 4-5 sets about with the task of trapping 300 foxes, tying torches to their tails, and setting them loose in the valley where their fields of wheat, corn, and olive groves are ready for harvest. Samson’s revenge with the foxes does not involve the Spirit of God this time. It seems to be all Samson. Another opportunity against the Philistines!

Block writes, “All [Samson’s] achievements are personal…Unlike the [other] deliverers, he never seeks to rid Israel of foreign oppressors, and he never calls out the Israelite troops. Samson is a man with a higher calling than any other deliverer in the book, [yet] he spends his whole life ‘doing his own thing.’” (p. 441 in NAC)

There are two interesting background stories at play in this account. First, him burning the fields would have been a violation of the Mosaic law according to Exodus 22:6:

If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.

Secondly, the god of the Philistines was Dagon, and scholars now believe he was the god of grain!!! (NIVAC) So remember how God brought the plagues on Egypt? Each of those plagues was an affront against the Egyptian gods. (A big thanks to my friend Angela for sharing this chart with me!)

Samson plagues on Egypt

This time, God uses Samson’s actions to show that He is sovereign over Dagon, the god of grain. They would watch as the fire licked up the grain, vineyards, and olive groves – the 3 dietary and economic staples of ancient Palestine. (Word Commentary) And their god would be silent. You might even say He outfoxed them!

All joking aside, do you see God’s relentless pursuit of His people? He is unwilling to share His glory with anyone!

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Isaiah 42:8 (also in 48:11)

And He is jealous for His people.

Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. Joel 2:8 (also in Zech 1:14, 8:2)

The LORD our God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deut. 4:24

He pursues the enemy in wrath and judgment and yet will stop at nothing to pursue His beloved with His love and mercy, and yes even judgement. FEAR and LOVE mingled together.

But then one bad turn deserves another? And the Philistines burn Samson’s bride and her father just as Samson burned their fields. An eye for an eye, a bride for a field? (No, Philistines, a bride for a field is not a fair trade.)

I almost hate to say it but she appears as a mere pawn in their game of war. She was an untimely interruption of the heart, having no happy interruptions from God, but only tragic interruptions involving the destruction of her and her people. She was a Heart Devoted for Destruction.

We have one vengeful act stacked on top of another. The phrase “struck them hip and thigh” (v. 8) is meant to intensify the words “with a great blow”. One scholar writes that this could have been a “wrestling idiom [MEANING] total victory.” (Word Commentary p. 341; also in Tyndale “originating in the art of wrestling”).

Samson map large

Then Samson retreats like an animal as he hides in the rock at Etam, in Judah’s territory. The map above shows where scholars believe Etam might be (although they admit they’re not even sure where it really is). It’s almost humorous the way in which Judah handles their fellow countryman, like Samson is their enemy. It seems that they want to avoid confrontation with the Philistines at all costs, and so they send a delegation the size of a small army (3,000 men) to Samson (Block p. 444 NAC). Then they actually talk him into giving himself up the Philistines. What follows is the famous story of Samson killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey!

Unfortunately, our woman of Philistia meets a tragic end much too early in her life. Her people had been marked by God, devoted for destruction, because of their sins against Him and their cruel treatment of His people.

{Stay tuned for Part 3 of the story involving Miss Delilah!}

Widow of Nain: A Heart that Mourns (Part 2)

Video

This is the video of my talk at our church. Below you will find the text and pictures from the lesson. Enjoy!

widow's son and jesus

 

The widow of Nain.

She mattered to Jesus.

This nameless woman in an obscure, tiny town in Israel caught His attention. Out of all the people Jesus could have spoken to or healed or served, He chose this poor widow. And I mean, “poor” in the most literal sense.

This chance meeting would have taken place in about the middle of Jesus’ ministry.

When reading in any of the gospels, it is helpful to know a few things about the writer in order to gain a fuller picture of the particular text you’re reading. For instance, Matthew often wrote about how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures, showing that Jesus is the Messiah for whom the Jewish people were awaiting.

Because the story of this widow is only found in Luke, it is even more exciting to dig into the peculiarities of his gospel. Luke was a doctor and wrote his account in a very thorough way, researching facts and laying out a systematic view of Jesus. God uses the human individual, with all of the intricacies of his personality and life’s trade, to present His word to us.

The first thing I want you to know about Luke is that he likes to write about the downtrodden of society – the outcast, the unclean, etc.- and how Jesus reached out to them to relieve their distress. Think about who prophesied over Mary in the temple in Luke’s gospel. A widow named Anna, the poor of society. Think about who Luke writes are the first to see the baby Jesus. Shepherds, the outcasts and unclean of society. Think about who inherits the kingdom of heaven in the Sermon on the Plain. It’s the Poor (not the “poor in spirit” as Matthew writes).

Over and over, you’ll find Luke writing from a slightly different perspective concerning those who gain the attention of the Messiah. It goes completely against the grain of their culture, and this is exactly what happens for this nameless widow of Nain.

Luke includes her story in his gospel, one which didn’t get any mention in the other 3 gospels. And by the way, the city of Nain doesn’t get mentioned anywhere else either! The important story for the city of Nain involved a widow. Their one moment of fame is found in a simple widow.

Now, the city of Nain was very tiny. Some resources I read disagree on exactly where it is located. But most of them believe it was about 20 miles from Capernaum and looked out over the Plain of Jezreel. Here is a picture of a Franciscan church that is supposedly the site of the healing.

Nain

To get a better idea of the profound oddity if would have been for Jesus’s followers to watch Him spend time on a woman, much less one who was a widow, let me take you into a bit of history regarding the widow in ancient Israel, and leading up to Jesus’ time on earth. If you do a study in the Old Testament using the word “widow”, you’ll find words like “weeping”, “mourning”, “desolation”, and “poverty”.

A woman held minimal rights to an inheritance because most often the inheritance passed from father to son, rarely passing from man to wife. And if the woman’s husband died, that bond was severed which meant there would be no connection for her to his family or his inheritance. In addition, she had already left her father’s home to marry this man, so she would have to live in a state of poverty or else depend on people’s charity.*

So to be a widow in ancient Israel meant social and economic tragedy as you learned in your personal study this week. No inheritance means no land which means no money and no food! But then at least you’d have sons who could work the land if your husband died. And at least they’d provide for your needs as a woman in a patriarchal society. But oops, our widow of Nain just lost her only son. The future is bleak and hopeless, 50 times worse than simply being a widow! You may recall Ruth and Naomi, who were both in the same predicament this widow of Nain found herself. No husbands, no children, seemingly no hope.

Remember also that Jesus, when dying on the cross, charged John the Apostle to care for His own mother, a widow.

Weeping. Mourning. Desolation. Poverty.

That is the widow’s reality now.

Then enter Jesus.

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. Luke 7:11-12

In Bible times it was customary for the widow to express her grief very outwardly and publically.

mourning clothes

Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood. Genesis 38:19

And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman and said to her, “Pretend to be a mourner and put on mourning garments. Do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. 2 Samuel 14:2

Extra-biblical texts also include information regarding the widow in ancient times:

Judith 8:5-6 4 As a widow, Judith stayed inside her home for three years and four months. 5 She had had an upper room built for herself on the roof. She wore sackcloth next to the skin and dressed in widow’s weeds. 6 She fasted every day of her widowhood except for the Sabbath eve, the Sabbath itself, the eve of New Moon, the feast of New Moon and the joyful festivals of the House of Israel.

Now, that is an extreme view (and far-fetched if you ask me) of what happened for the widow. The grieving process was typically 7 days long and though it starts publicly with the funeral procession, it finishes in the person’s home. You will notice in the verses from Luke that a considerable crowd from town was with her. When reading in the Jewish documents*, you will find that the community of people were expected to stop everything and join in the funeral procession. The family of the deceased would often have professional wailers, eulogizers, and flute players. (Can you imagine what their resume read? Professional Mourner. Will not do rainy days.) It appears that the town just kind of stops for the mourning procession and joins in.

Now let’s look back at Jesus. He has His disciples and a “great crowd” with Him. As they come to the city gates, they see the dead man on the plank being carried out (this was because the dead were considered unclean and would need to be buried outside of the city walls).

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Luke 7:13

We naturally think of this scene and go “aww, He’s so sweet.” The Scripture says He SAW her.

Anyone would have known who it was that was most impacted by the deceased person’s passing because they would be closest in proximity to the wooden plank on which he was being carried.

Anyone could have guessed that this widow was devastated by her loss based on her outward expression of mourning. Anyone could have patted her arm in a comforting way as if to say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

But Jesus didn’t need to see the procession to know this woman of Nain had just lost her son. He IS the God Who Sees. He knew about it before they approached the city walls. He knew what was happening before the wailing cut through His ears. And He was the only One who could do anything about it.

Jesus saw her. Don’t pass over that statement. Jesus is the God who SEES. He is El Roi in the flesh. He saw with His divine eyes and perceived with His supernatural mind all that this poor widow was. And He KNEW her situation because He’s God. Jesus never has an accidental meeting. Do you really think that He ended up in Nain by chance? No way! Nain was so tiny that no one else even writes about it much less visits such a small, insignificant place! No, He knew that He would encounter this widow on the darkest moment of her life. And He knew He would have COMPASSION on her.

We typically speak of our emotions in terms of our heart. It was different for the 1st century folks.

The word compassion in the Greek is Splagchnizomai which has its root in Splagchnon. {I know what you’re thinking. You hoped for a prettier word for “compassion”. Well it gets even more interesting!} This word splagchnon referred to bowels, intestines, (also the heart, lungs, liver, etc.). The bowels were regarded by the Greeks as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.).****

It also meant a heart in which mercy resides. This word probably came from the word “splen” or spleen {it makes sense why it sounds like a gutsy word, eh?}

I want to key in on the definition which mentioned mercy. Many times we think of mercy as God not giving us what we actually deserve (which is definitely true!). But there’s another side to mercy that is absolutely beautiful and displayed perfectly in this story of the widow of Nain.

Mercy is kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them. It is not just passive, it is also active!

Jesus SEES the widow and moved with compassion (moved by His guts!), He extends mercy or kindness because of His desire to help her out of her misery and affliction. So His reply “do not weep” sounds, well, sweet. Like He was going to reach out and wipe her tear away with a look of genuine concern and care. That’s how I always pictured it anyway.

There was something very interesting though that the community of mourners would say to comfort those who mourned over their deceased relative. This is from Jewish rituals:

The gathered community lines the path, ideally from the grave to the [home], and as the mourners pass between these lines, they are greeted by each individual with the formulaic wish, “May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.“… But the wording of this prayer carries significance too. Its assurance of future comfort simultaneously acknowledges and validates the mourner’s present personal grief. On the other hand, its communally oriented content (among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem) both indicates that the comforters do indeed know what grief is and points out that the divine promises of the messianic healing of communal grief establish God as a comforter also concerned with healing the immediate personal grief. (**Ruth Langer)

Did you catch what happened? People were supposed to say “May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” What did Jesus say? “Don’t weep.”

Weeping was precisely what the widow was SUPPOSED to do as was proper in the Jewish custom of mourning. (And those people took their mourning seriously! I mean, if you are hiring professional mourners, you’re invested.)

In addition, Jesus was SUPPOSED to say “May God comfort you…” but they weren’t greeted by just another man. The nameless widow of Nain was staring right into the face of the Messiah who had come to bring healing from all of their grief. There was no longer a future promise that God would be her comforter, He was the present reality of the comfort she needed. He wasn’t simply going to validate her grief. He was going to remove it! That’s why He told her “Don’t weep.”!

Cambell writes:

The words were actually a prophecy of the miracle soon to occur. Indeed, Jesus had done something so bold as to necessitate either an explanation of His words or a removal of the cause of the tears.***

Don’t you just love Him? 🙂

14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Luke 7:14-15

There are three occasions recorded in which Jesus raised a person from the dead. Here in Luke 7, and also in Mark 5 with Jairus’ daughter, and in John 11 with Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus. Two accounts involve Jesus’s touch and all three involve His command to arise or get up or come forth!

Remember when I said that the dead were considered unclean? Numbers 19:11 says that anyone who touches a dead body would be unclean for 7 days. But Jesus reaches out His hand and tells the man to rise up.

It’s fun to imagine what the look on the faces of the pall bearers might have been. “First He tells her not to weep and now He’s going to touch the dead guy!” Maybe this is why they stood still. 😉 Remember, they don’t know that Jesus is the Messiah! But we know differently.

John records Jesus’ teaching just before He raised Lazarus:

25 Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  John 11:25-26

Here in the city of Nain, a seemingly insignificant widow, received her once dead, now very much alive son back into her arms. Death, where is your sting?

I sometimes am disappointed that it was men who wrote the gospel narratives. Women give so much more detail! But alas, we get no response from the widow in this passage. Not once does she speak. Nor do we see if she got to have further conversations with Jesus. What we do get, however, is the response from all of the people standing there having just witnessed the miracle.

16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. Luke 7:16-17

As we come to a close on this passage, we can glean some clues as to the reason behind the crowd’s response if we look in the Old Testament.You may recall that God raised a widow’s son in 1 Kings 17:17-24 at the request of Elijah, who is moved by the mother’s tears (much like Jesus was moved with compassion for this widow of Nain). God also raised the son of the Shunammite woman when Elisha interceded for them in 2 Kings 4:18-37. It is not too far to assume that this Jewish community would have connected the dots between the accounts with Elijah and Elisha and Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead.

In fact, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) in 1 Kings 17:23 “and he gave him to his mother” is the same wording in Luke 7:15. This may be why they believed Jesus to be a “great prophet”, just as Elijah and Elisha had been great prophets, performing miraculous resurrections.

Jesus certainly made a big splash in this little town, and it was all for one woman. Time and again we see Jesus elevate women to a higher status than their culture gave them. He took notice of the widow from Nain. He saw her. He relieved her misery. And the day she thought she would be burying her son turned into a day where God literally showed up and did the miraculous!

But what about you? How can you relate to this widow? She woke up that morning, fully knowing her son was dead, with no hope that he would ever be with her again. There are times of waiting, times of struggle, times of pain for all of us, where it seems that there is no hope for us. A situation that seems impossible and unlikely to be changed. But with God, there is no impossible. There is no such thing as hopeless. We know that He can, but we also know that He might not. And if He doesn’t, He is still good. Thanks be to God that He knows our need. He sees us. And His mercies are new every morning.

May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. And may you know that the Messiah has indeed come and has taken away your grief. Amen.

 

[*This information came from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

**From Jewish Funerals: A Ritual Description by Ruth Langer.

***From The Prince of Life at Nain by Donald Campbell.

****From http://www.biblestudytools.com Interlinear Bible (click on the word “compassion” in Luke 7:13).]