Loss 

MTS-3176

Loss

“Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her
all the way to Bahurim.”          2 Sam 3:16

 

     What could Paltiel have done to bring his wife back? Nothing? Michal wasn’t his wife to
begin with, for she was married to David first, but was forced to leave by her
father when there was a feud between Saul and David. The marriage between Michal
and Paltiel was indeed short-lived, but he seemed to have come to love his wife
very much and it must have been very difficult for him to have his mate taken
away from him out of the blue.

     O the fleetingness of romantic love!

     Paltiel was probably a godly man from the way he was named and most likely didn’t ask for a
wife from Saul, but a wife was given to him and he had learned to love the
king’s daughter. He considered it a great privilege to be Saul’s son-in-law and
embraced his new found love with the profoundest gratitude, not knowing that his
wife would be taken away just as quickly and unexpectedly as she was given to
him. The whole thing must have put the man in a daze.

     He didn’t really seek for such a marital bliss, but accepted it as God’s gift when it
took place, yet he wasn’t prepared to suffer the loss when it occurred, for he
had no inkling that it would happen so soon and so suddenly.

     Saul had died and surely Paltiel had no claim on the woman at his side, since there was a
powerful force working against him. David was the king of Judah and nothing
would have stood on his way if he decided to get his lawful wife back. That was
exactly what the newly-anointed king wanted to do. 

     To be in love is to engage in an endless struggle against an unseen force, seeking to tear
the love apart. It is indeed a risky business to be in love, for losing the
ones you love is always a possibility, an inevitability even.

     All Paltiel could do was to weep and to follow his wife as far as possible until Abner told
him to go back. The verse we read is one of the most moving lines that we
encounter in the Bible. It sheds some light on human emotion, which isn’t very
dissimilar from what we are experiencing even today. Paltiel’s struggle is our
struggle and his heart-ache is ours as well, for we are all engaged in a
titanic battle against the force that seeks to rob us of our love and renders
all of us Paltiels of old.

    The love of his life was forever lost, but Paltiel still had to pick up the pieces and move on
with his life. His one shot for happiness had vanished, yet there was more to
life than just that. The memory of Michal would have haunted him for a while
but, like all his other losses in life, it would soon be buried under the sands
of time. Michal’s love probably was the most thrilling thing that Paltiel had
ever experienced in his life and losing it was indeed extremely painful, but
given time and effort, a wound such as that would be healed. For sure we are
created to love, but to love one woman beyond anything else is repugnant and
displeasing to God.      

Friday, December 23, 2011 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Michel 

MTS-3175

Michel

“So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from
her husband Paltiel son of Laish.”      
2 Sam 3:15

 

Being born into a royal family

Yet having no royal choice,

Only to submit when she was told

To wherever and whomever

She happened to be thrown

To lead the rest of her life forlorn.

 

Forlorn as she sat next to the casement

Mourning for her past and her love of youth

The happiness that lasted

As brief as morning dew

That evaporates as the sun appears

With its power to erase

Memory of happiness from the earth.

 

To be happy became an impossibility

And to survive was a mere necessity

For lack of other better alternatives

She chose to give life another chance

By making herself love a stranger

To whom she was displaced.

 

Such was the life of a royal princess

Who was born unto privilege

Yet became merchandise to be exchanged

To generate maximum profit in the market

Where ruthless men fought for control

Over other people’s destiny.

 

Thursday, December 22, 2011 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Entitlement 

MTS-3174

Entitlement

“Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this
woman!”

             2 Sam 3:8

 

     With power came a sense of entitlement. That was what happened to Abner, who became
furious when Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son. Ish-Boseth, who had become king over
Israel with Abner’s backing, blamed him for having a relationship with one of
Saul’s concubines. Abner must have felt he could do anything he desired, since
he was the one who had single-handedly kept the country from falling apart
after Saul’s death. Power wouldn’t have tasted so sweet to the general unless
there were privileges that came with it, including women and wealth.

     It was no big deal for Abner since he was practically the king himself, yet to his great
displeasure, Ish-Bosheth raised a fuss over the issue, which was of very little
significance. Abner was indeed surprised that Saul’s son had the nerve to
challenge him over such as small thing. I believe it was more a power struggle
between the two than anything else. Abner would have no problem with
Ish-Bosheth if the puppet king remained a king in name only and let his general
do the governing, but that simply wasn’t the case.

     Ish-Bosheth might not have had the kingly attributes his brother Jonathan possessed, but he
did have ambition, just like any man with his family background. He might not
have been a brave and intelligent man, but he was nonetheless born into a royal
family. He felt he was destined to have certain right and privileges, and he
merely decided to exercise these when it became possible for him to do so. 

     Taking one of Saul’s concubines surely wasn’t something that earth-shattering for Abner. It
was one of the perks of being a man with power. “Yet now you accuse me of an
offense involving this woman!” Abner exclaimed. Indeed the general did not
consider it an offense at all.

     Abner was just doing what came natural to him as a man who happened to possess power and
authority and I don’t think it ever dawned on him what he did might have been
morally corrupt and wrong; therefore he became angry when he was confronted.

     It happens to all of us.

     We may develop a sense of entitlement after we have earned a certain position, either through
effort or the luck of the draw, and we may become rather reckless in abusing
the rights and privileges to which we consider we are entitled. It’s not
unusual to find some presidents over a nation become incarcerated after they
serve out their presidency.

     Abner’s anger drove him to David and eventually led to his downfall. His pride was injured by
the incident and he could no longer serve under Ish-Bosheth, whom he deemed
unworthy to be a king. Things would have turned out entirely differently had
Abner humbled himself and taken the blame for committing an offensive act, yet
his strong sense of entitlement simply wouldn’t allow him to do just that.

                  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Wives 

MTS-3173

Wives

“These were born to David in Hebron.”

             2 Sam 3: 5

 

     Six sons were born in David’s household when he was in Hebron, which might not be all that
unusual, except every one of them was born by a different wife. David had six
wives while he was a king in Hebron, and undoubtedly he would be getting more
women when he became king in Jerusalem.

     Why did the man after God’s own heart get so many wives? We can’t help asking. The answer is
very simple: Because he could.

     If the Lord intended for Adam to have more than one wife, he would have created more Eves
for the first man. Considering the fact that the Lord commanded Adam to produce
more offspring and to populate the earth, it would have been a lot more
efficient for Adam to have more than one wife, wouldn’t it?

     There was no reason for the Lord to worry about the time frame at all. He had all of
eternity at his disposal and he was perfectly content for Adam and Eve to populate
the earth at a slower pace. Besides, according to God’s design, Adam would be a
lot happier having just one wife.

     “Be fruitful and multiply.” The command was given in the framework of a one man and a one
woman marriage. It might sound a little inexpedient, but it was nonetheless the
happiest and most harmonious one.

     Since they all had different mothers, there wasn’t much of a bond among the sons of David. In
fact, there would be feuds and even fratricide among the brothers in David’s
household.

     Because he could.

     Had David known that the Lord wasn’t really that pleased with him getting one wife after
another, he might have had a little more self-control, but it was such a common
practice for Eastern monarchs to accumulate wives and concubines that David was
merely following the fashion of the time. Besides, many of the marriages were
more political than romantic and some of his wives might never have been
touched by the king. What was a man to do with wives and concubines numbering
one thousand in numbers? That was exactly the quandary of King Solomon, son of
David, who was supposed to be the wisest man on earth. His polygamy,
nevertheless, did give people ample reason to question his wisdom. It was utter
foolishness for a man to collect beautiful women as if they were some sort of
rare treasures to be displayed in his harem, never to be married to an ordinary
man and have an ordinary family life.

     The Lord was enraged by David’s sins of adultery and murder, but would things have been any
different had Bathsheba been single at the time when the king took hold of her?
It would have been for certain, but by taking so many wives, David in essence
kept many men with fewer resources from having wives. This may not be sound
logic, but you get my point. When we allow sin to gain a foothold in our lives,
we can never fathom how far and wide it will take us and how destructive it can
be.          

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 6:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Blow the Trumpet 

MTS-3172

Blow the Trumpet

“So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a
halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.”        2 Sam 2:28

 

     By this time Joab and Abishai were very tired after a long pursuit and it didn’t look like
they were going to catch up with Abner. Besides, Joab and Abishai badly needed
a breather and, if a clash were to take place, they might not have won.
Therefore, Joab did a wise thing by blowing the trumpet, telling his men to
stop pursuing the Israelites.

     Joab’s and Abishai’s hearts were consumed with anger against Abner at that time and they had
every intention to avenge their brother’s death. As time went by, however, it
became more and more difficult for them to accomplish the feat and they decided
to do the wise thing and halt their campaign, saving the daunting task for
another day.

     Sometimes blowing the trumpet is the wisest thing to do.

     “Where there is a will, there is a way.” This is what many of us believe, for we have been
taught that nothing is impossible for those who are equipped and fortified with
a strong will to tackle the unconquerable. Blowing the trumpet is a sign of
weakness.

     You might be kicking against the goads if you insist on doing something that is contrary to
God’s will. It takes more spiritual strength for us to cease than to start
doing something. Instead of blowing the trumpet and calling the campaign or
project off, we often chase our elusive goal to its bitter end. 

     Blowing the trumpet isn’t a defeatist’s attitude at all; it’s something wise we do to avoid
utter defeat.

     Don’t we all have big dreams? Every high school basketball all-star athlete has dreams of
playing in the NBA, but only a very few of them actually make it. For most of
them, to continue to fight to keep the dream alive is to prolong their misery
and to increase their pain when their lofty aspirations are shattered.

     What we can do is to set reasonable goals which are well within the boundary of our talent and
ability. We can surely achieve our goals if our purposes in life happen to coincide
with God’s intentions for us. We can be successful in life if we merely do what
we are called to do, not what we are aspiring to do by our own inspiration or
ambition, as God’s servants.

     Now is the time for many of us to blow the trumpet and to bring what we have been pursuing
to a complete halt and to reevaluate what the Lord has in mind for us to do
with our lives.

     Have you been wooing the girl who has been giving you a cold shoulder? Blow the trumpet! Have
you been dreaming of making a million dollars by doing something against the
grain of your attributes? Blow the trumpet! Are you dreaming about becoming a well-known
speaker who is greatly used by God, yet you seem to have trouble keeping your
small congregation together? Blow the trumpet!

     Joab and Abishai were capable men of war, yet they were aware of their limits and blew
the trumpet at just the right time and many lives were spared. When will we do
the wise thing and sound of trumpet?       

      

Monday, December 19, 2011 6:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Asahel 

MTS-3171

Asahel

“But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner
thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach…”           2 Sam 2:23

 

     Asahel’s pursuit of Abner finally came to a bitter end. Even though Abner repeatedly
urged him not to keep on pursuing, Asahel wouldn’t stop, thinking it was his
opportunity to score a victory against a seasoned warrior, and make a name for
himself.

     Abner knew very well that Asahel couldn’t stand his ground against him, and he did
everything to avoid shedding the blood of the young man, a deed which would
enrage his two brothers. Yet young Asahel had an entirely different idea, for
he reckoned it was an opportunity to test his mettle and to win glory and honor
for himself.

     Asahel should have stopped and did what Abner told him to do, which was to kill and strip
another Israelite on the way and go back to his brothers as a victor. The price
before him was just too big and the opportunity too precious for him to turn
back.

     The mistake Asahel made was to simply overestimate his own prowess in battle and
underestimate Abner’s ability as a warrior. Had his brothers been there, they
would have kept him from taking such a risk, knowing how formidable Abner was.

     Indeed Asahel wasn’t taking a calculated risk. The result of the clash was determined before
it took place. The young man didn’t even put up a fight before he was speared
through his stomach and died instantly. His death was so wasteful and so
unnecessary and it could have been prevented.

     Where were Joab and Abishai when the tragedy took place? Shouldn’t they have been their
brother’s keepers in this time of crisis?

     What could they have done to protect their brother from getting hurt in the battle when
they themselves were tied up, fighting against the enemies. They must have had serious
concerns for their little brother, knowing how green he was in the arts of
warfare, yet they also realized the young man had to grow up sometime and be
his own man. Consequently, to their great dismay, the inevitable happened. They
lost their beloved brother.

     By this time, their father had died, but the mother might have been alive. If that was the
case, how were they going to break the news to the woman who day after day was
waiting for her youngest son to come home? How could they bring comfort to
their mother who had just lost her son to a brutal death?

     “Giving birth to a girl, we get to marry her away to the neighboring village; but a boy will
be sent to the battlefield to die and to be buried in the wild,” goes an
ancient Chinese poem.  How many mothers,
both from the east and the west over the ages, have been left to mourn for their
sons who were marched to the frontlines to be chopped down or blown to pieces
for unknown causes, never to return to the homes they loved and the lives they
enjoyed?

     Ah, Asahel! Ah, humanity.  

        

     

Friday, December 16, 2011 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Strength 

MTS-3170

Strength

“Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle.”

            2 Sam 2:18

 

     Asahel was the youngest of the three brothers who were serving David at the time. The young
man might have felt he had something to prove since his two elder brothers were
both generals of great renown, and finally there was a rare opportunity for him
to shine. Asahel probably wasn’t as strong and skillful in combat as his
brothers, but he had a strength that was beyond compare: he was fleet of feet
and could run like a wild gazelle. While Abner was running away, Ashel took hold
of the opportunity to show that he was not inferior to his two brothers in any
way. The young brother of Joab and Abishai was out there to prove that he
belonged in the same field and was just as brave and daring as his big
brothers.

     Had Asahel been a little slower or a little bit more timid, his young life would have been
spared. Out of his strength in running, he appeared to run to his death; and
out of his fearlessness, he encountered something most people feared the most.
Asahel didn’t have to die at such a young age, yet his strength became the main
cause of his demise.

     “The wise may be tricked by their wisdom,” goes a Chinese saying. By the same token, the
strong may easily be tripped up by their own strength. This was what happened
to Asahel, and it may occur to all of us.

     I have neither the intelligence nor the cunning that is necessary to become successful in any
given field; therefore I have stayed within the boundary of my limited ability
and dared not launch myself beyond what I am capable of doing. This has kept me
from becoming a great success, but it also has prevented me from turning into a
total failure. I am merely a one-talent man who has been doing one-talent work
and that’s the way it should have been and will be.

     I am not a man who is completely void of strength, though, and if I am not cautious, my
strength, no matter how insignificant it is, may become my downfall.

     I may not be fleet of foot, but I am somewhat fleet of mouth, and I do have a tendency to
say or write something that is inappropriate or offensive to people. Besides,
because of my love to speak about and to share ideas, I have become a very poor
listener and have often cut people off in our conversations. My arrogance might
have also turned me into a snob who has long lost the desire to learn from
other people and the ambition to continue to improve myself both as a teacher
and a preacher. In this case, I can really see that my little bit of strength
may have become my greatest weakness and a stumbling block to other people.

     We are not tragic heroes or heroines with fatal tragic flaws that ultimately cause our downfall, but
it’s prudent for us to know that we do have some flaws that hinder our growth
as Christians and hamper our effectiveness as God’s servants. Unfortunately,
most of our flaws lie not in our weaknesses, but in our strengths.              

 

Thursday, December 15, 2011 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Helkath Hazzurim 

MTS-3169

Helkath Hazzurim

“So the place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.”

               2 Sam 2:16

 

     Could the war between Israel and Judah be avoided? I don’t think it could have, for Abner,
the commander of Saul’s army, had already made Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, the
king over Israel and, in the meantime, David had become the king over the tribe
of Judah. In this case, war between the two factions was inevitable.

     Abner was indeed a brave man and was still loyal to Saul. It had never dawned on him that
he should surrender his army to David, since he appeared to consider his army
more powerful and battle-tested than David’s men and, if battle broke out
between the two, he would easily win. Besides, being a proud man, he might have
had great difficulty serving under David’s general had he given up his
position. By erecting Ish-bosheth as a puppet king over Israel, his position as
a general would have easily been kept.

     There was a place in Gibeon called Helkath Hazzurim, because in that field daggers were
drawn and the blood of twenty-four young men from both sides was shed. The name
Helkath Hazzurim seems to evoke a sense of terror in our hearts and makes us
tremble when we hear it. We can’t help pitying the ones who lost their young
lives over a cause with which they might or might not have agreed. They were
chosen to fight one another because they happened to be stronger and braver
than their peers, and they lost their lives before they had a chance to utter
their last prayers.

     Helkath Hazzurim, field of daggers. O there are just too many fields with the same name
in this world and, no matter where we turn, we will still run the risk of being
stabbed by the daggers of hatred and hostility.

     In the field of daggers Abel’s life was taken by his own flesh and blood for no particular
reason, and from then on brothers continued to shed the blood of their brothers
over various reasons that were not all that significant. I sometimes suspect we
merely kill for the sake of killing and make our cities and towns into Helkath
Hazzurims.

     The civil war in China ended a few years before I was born, after millions of people were
slaughtered during the feud between brothers following the Sino-Japanese war. As
a child growing up on the island of Taiwan, I often sensed the repercussion of
the previous war and the undercurrent of hostility among brothers from both
sides. There is still hostility between the two sides separated by the Taiwan
Strait and years of enmity up to this day, albeit to a much lesser degree.

     I lived in the Old South for about ten years as a graduate student and, as an outsider
immersed in southern culture, I often felt the tinge of hostility the Rebels
held toward the Yankees. The civil war had ended years before, yet the daggers
were yet to be buried. We still find a Helkath Hazzurim, a field of daggers,
everywhere we turn. 

     I guess peace among brothers and sisters cannot be achieved unless we first achieve peace
with our Father in heaven through the atoning blood of Christ. Jesus shed his
blood on the cross to keep us from shedding one another’s blood. During this
Christmas season this is something worth pondering. 

     

        

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Kingship 

MTS-3168

Kingship

“Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they
anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.”       2 Sam 2:4

 

     The men of Judah had waited for a long time and after Saul and Jonathan passed away, they
all went to Hebron and anointed David as the king of Judah and therefore
divided the country. David was from the tribe of Judah and had long been
admired by people from his tribe and it seemed right for them to go ahead and
make their favorite son their king.

     Surely it wasn’t through David’s urging that the men of Judah did what they did. Being a
man of God, I believe David was more than willing to wait until all the dust
settled down and both Judah and the rest of the tribes could come together as a
nation for him to govern. He was destined to be a king, and there was no reason
for him to jump the gun at that time, yet he obliged when the crown was offered
to him.

     Did the great Caser actually reject the crown when it was offered to him by Marcus Anthony?
It was probably merely all show, for unquestionably the great Roman was
extremely ambitious and becoming a king was his ultimate goal. It was for that
reason he was assassinated in the Senate.

     How often did David recall the time when he was a little shepherd, tending his father’s sheep
in the wild where he had ample time to meditate on God’s mercy and love? O how
he missed the days of innocence when he was able to devote all his time to composing
psalms and singing praises to God all day long. Had he any choice at all, he
probably would have chosen returning to Bethlehem to lead the simple life of a
shepherd over becoming the king of a nation. Yet the man after God’s own heart
had traveled too far away from home to ever go back. He was called to leave his
sheep behind to shepherd the people of Israel.

     David couldn’t have rejected the kingship when it was handed to him at the time, even if he
wanted to. Albeit he longed to become innocent again, he was trapped in an
elaborate and complex political situation from which he couldn’t have escaped.
What he needed to do was to alter his mindset and serve the Lord under the
situation he found himself in, no matter how challenging it had become. Serving
the Lord as a lowly shepherd might have been a lot easier for the poet than being
an exalted king, but with a heart passionately devoted to God, David was able
to do both equally well. Life had indeed become quite complicated for David,
but he remained a simple shepherd who loved and adored the Lord.

     May we never lose our first love for the Lord, no matter how drastically our lives change?
The situations of our lives are changing constantly, but the Lord never changes
and neither should our love for him. The shepherd lad from the House of Bread
mighty have become a king over a nation, but deep inside he remained a singer
of love songs to God.              

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Settle Down 

MTS-3167

Settle Down

“David also took the men who were with him, each with his
family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns.”            2 Sam 2:3

 

     There were about six hundred people who were with David through thick and thin and they
finally got the chance to settle down, not having to worry about being chased
by Saul’s men anymore. That was indeed good news for them, for they had
suffered with David long enough. Not only did they themselves suffer the pain
of wandering up and down the countryside, their wives and children suffered the
same ill-fate as well. It was about time for them to have some sort of relief
from all their troubles.

     Compared to all the places they had been, Hebron was a much better town and much more
suited for them to raise a family. At least it was a place where they could
till their own land and harvest their own olives and grain. Some of David’s men
might have been ruthless at one time or another, but they were by no means
ambitious. Their ambition and desire was to find a safe haven for their loved
ones and to keep them from being harassed and harmed by their enemies.

     A man is lost without his family; and he is utterly devastated if his family isn’t protected
or fed.

     David’s men were more than willing to sacrifice their lives for David’s cause, as long as
their loved ones were protected, and they would lose their zeal for living if
that wasn’t the case. They were utterly distraught one time when they found out
their loved ones had all been captured by bandits and were about to kill David
out of their desperation and anger.

     My family is my first thought during the day and in my dreams at night and in reality they
have never for a single moment departed from me. Yet I am called to love the
Lord more than all my loved ones and I know what I will choose when I am put to
the test. I am well aware intellectually, however, who is at the top of my
life’s priority, but emotionally I know to whom I am attached more. Will the
Lord blame for this? I wonder.

     Was Paul a more spiritual person and a more effective missionary than Peter and James since
the former fought the good fight on his own, but the latter seemed to have
their wives on their side as helpers and comforters? Don’t we sometimes have a
strange yearning to be like Paul, yet in reality we always turn to our family
when things get rough. We are called to rejoice in the Lord, but it seems to me
that joy is a lot easier to come by if we are surrounded by our loved ones and
friends.

     Hebron was meant to be a resting place for David’s men after years of wandering and their
rest would have been quite restless had their family not been there with
them.           

 

    

Monday, December 12, 2011 7:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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