“Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning
after morning?”

            2 Sam 13:3


As if Amnon needed any
reminding that he was the king’s son with all the trappings and entitlement,
Jonadab said to him: “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after

Being a prince of a nation,
Amnon could have gone after anything he desired to possess; therefore there was
no reason for him to feel deprived of anything valuable. Yet he was lusting
after a girl who was his half-sister, forbidden fruit that was kept away from

Getting a hold of Tamar became
Amnon’s obsession and the more the girl was kept away from him, the more his
desire for her increased. Even though his desire for his beautiful sister is
morally repugnant to most people, the arrogant prince simply refused to walk
away from her and shut down the temptation for good.

There is nothing wrong in looking
“haggard,” even for a prince. Don’t we all have to learn to take it, either
graciously or unwillingly, when some things in life don’t go our way? When
victory becomes unattainable, we ought to consider surrendering. We know what
will happen to us if we continue to kick against the goads. 

“Being the king’s son, you
don’t have to deny yourself anything,” Jonadab said to Amnon.

There was a valuable lesson
that Amnon had never learned growing up in David’s household. As far as he
could recall, his father had always been the leader of an army and highly
esteemed by people. Being David’s son, Amnon seemed to have developed a sense
of pride and entitlement, as well. Besides, whatever he wanted as a boy, he
often received, and he would pout and fuss if he didn’t get what he wanted. The
boy was obviously spoiled, not necessarily by his father, but by all his maids
and caretakers.

Very rarely did people say no
to the prince; therefore the man seldom had to say no to himself. Taking
rejection from people was something quite foreign to Amnon, which was really a
disadvantage to him, since life would inevitably deal him many setbacks and

“Some of my patients think
they are entitled not to have any pain,” my son complained. “Some physical
discomforts are just inevitable and we just have to learn to take it,” the
doctor added.

I guess Michael was right.
When pain becomes unavoidable, we just have to learn to cope with it the best
we can. Obviously the apostle Paul didn’t continue to plead for his thorn in
the flesh to be taken away after he asked the Lord to do so three times.

Had Amnon not had a strong
sense of entitlement for being the prince, he would have quickly walked away
from her sister and taken it as one of those regrets of life, period. 




Monday, April 30, 2012 7:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel.”

               2 Sam 13:12


Sin does not pay, does it?
It’s hardly worth it for us to sin, yet we continue to do it. Why?

Amnon’s lust for his own
sister had been building for quite a long time before he finally took action.
He had an ample amount of time to think about the possible ill-effects of such an
evil deed, yet that didn’t seem to deter him from taking action when he had the

He must have believed he could
get away with it unscathed. How could it be possible? One must be insane to
think that way.

He might have thought he had
all his bases covered before he raped Tamar. If he had any concerns at all
while he was plotting the action, Jonadab might have talked him out of them.
“Nothing to worry about, my friend,” he said to Amnon.

Being the first son of the
king, Amnon must have been spoiled rotten. He honestly believed he could do
anything he wanted and his father would bail him out.

Indeed David did bail his son out
when the event was discovered. It wasn’t possible for such an incident to
remain a secret, yet nothing was done to Amnon as far as we can tell. He seemed
to have gotten away with the crime of rape.

No, Amnon didn’t have all his
bases covered. He had no idea of what Absalom, Tamar’s brother by the same
mother, was capable of doing to avenge the injustice his sister had suffered.

Absalom was very impressive
physically, yet he seemed to have kept a very low profile in David’s household.
The man was, in fact, very ambitious, but he was also very shrewd and was just waiting
for the most opportune time to put his big brother away.

Amnon ended up paying for his
sin with his own life.

He wouldn’t have committed the
crime had he thought about the serious consequences it would generate. Threat
of punishment may be one of the most effective deterrents to sin.

“The wages of sin is death.”

It doesn’t seem to be a wise
thing to keep on sinning if we take Paul’s warning seriously. I guess we
somehow have convinced ourselves that God does not exist or, if he does exist,
he probably doesn’t care what we do with our bodies.

That’s utter foolishness.

Why put ourselves in such a
precarious situation if there is the slightest chance that God would hold us accountable
for all our sins and the punishment is eternal damnation. That’s a chance I am
not willing to take, no matter how slight the chance is. We are totally wrong
if we think that we have all the bases covered. Absalom was scheming to kill
him while Amnon thought all things were going rather well.  


Friday, April 27, 2012 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was
lying down.”

                 2 Sam 13:8


Tamar was a just a young girl
with all her aspirations and dreams in life. She might have had more privileges
and luxuries than ordinary women in her generation being the king’s daughter
but, like any other young girls, she also dreamed about finding an eligible young
man to be her husband and together they would start a perfect family. This was
by no means an ambitious dream, for such an aspiration wasn’t really all that
difficult to come true, especially for a girl of her caliber. Tamar must have
been very desirous to most men in Israel since she was a beautiful princess and
for certain many highborn men were casting their eyes on her.

Life was good at that time in
the palace and Tamar and her sisters probably spent their days dreaming about
their future and preparing themselves to be somebody’s bride. They might have
done some study and other chores, but those things weren’t necessities. They
were the privileged few who were destined to have a happy and prosperous life.

It was just an ordinary day,
not unlike any other day in Tamar’s young life, when her father informed her
through one of the maids that she should make some bread for her brother. Tamar
might have considered it a little odd that her father asked her to do this
chore specifically since there were other sisters in the household. Being an
obedient daughter, she didn’t fuss about it, for it was an easy job to do.
Besides, being a young sister, it was the least she could do for her brother
who was supposedly ill.

Tamar had no earthly idea that
what was going to happen during the day would forever change her life.

A few hours later, all Tamar’s
dreams and aspirations would be ruined by her brother and she would lead a
desolate life the rest of her life. What had the girl done to bring about the
whole ordeal? Absolutely nothing. She was just minding her own business and
doing her duty as a daughter and a sister, yet without her knowing it ahead of
time, someone who was dear to her was about to do the unimaginable to her,
which would completely change the course of her life. She would become a woman
ruined and a red letter would forever be printed on her chest and a deep scar
carved on her heart.    

What type of person would do
such an evil thing a young girl?

Was it a random evil that bad
people committed against innocent bystanders who were just minding their own business?
Not so at all. Amnon knew exactly what he was going to do to his sister and
wouldn’t quit even though he became aware of the consequences the action might
incur. It didn’t seem to bother him that his sister would suffer irreparable
damage by her ruthless action. It makes me tremble when I consider the
sinfulness of sin and how destructive unbridled desire and uncontrolled passion
can be.      


Thursday, April 26, 2012 6:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah,
David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man.”        2 Sam 13:3


Amnon was standing at a
crossroads and could have gone either way concerning what he was planning on
doing. He could have given up the idea of getting together with his half-sister
Tamar, since it was the wrong thing to do; or he could have kept on pursuing
his goal despite all the difficulties he would encounter along the way. All he
needed at the time was a little nudge either to the right or to the left by
someone and things would have turned out entirely different. Unfortunately, during
this critical time he sought advice from a shrewd man, who steered his life
toward utter corruption and, ultimately, destruction.

Jonadab befriended Amnon not
because he had great affection for the man; he did so because Amnon was David’s
first born son and was probably first in line to take the throne. He obviously
didn’t have Amnon’s best interest in his mind at all; he knew what the prince
really wanted and was just trying to figure out a way to have his desire
gratified. Jonadab couldn’t have cared less about the propriety of the action itself;
he just wanted to place himself on the good side of the future king of Israel,
hoping his action eventually would become beneficial to him.

Jonadab should have known that
Tamar had a big brother who was very strong and ruthless and it would provoke
the man’s wrath were they to go ahead with their evil scheme. Jonadab might
have grossly underestimated Absalom’s resolve or overestimated Amnon’s power
and strength.

What Amnon desperately needed
at this time was a loyal and wise friend, a true companion who would have argued
with him and deterred him from rushing headlong toward damnation. Jonadab
wasn’t such a friend, for his only concern was his own interest and how he
could benefit from his relationship with the king’s eldest son.

Should Amnon have sought
advice from other people other than Jonadab concerning what he was intending
to? Of course he should have. The crux of the matter was Amnon had pretty much
determined what he was going to do at the time and he simply wasn’t interested
in hearing from anyone with a different opinion. He turned to Jonadab for
suggestions, because he knew he could get support from his like-minded buddy.
“People are grouped together by their own kind (物以類聚.)”
This is indeed true. Amnon realized he could always get affirmation and
positive reinforcement form his friend, no matter what evil he was about to

We should try to make friends with the ones who
are not exactly like us in all ways so that they can provide us with a different
perspective about things. We may develop tunnel vision if we only have friends
with a similar moral compass and world view. That was exactly the case with

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do
anything to her.”

               2 Sam 13:2


Amnon should have known that
Tamar was not someone the Lord had prepared for him; therefore it was
impossible for him to have her. If he had any fear of the Lord in his heart at
all, he would have given up the idea of going after the impossible and

Amnon might have considered it
a challenge and, the more daunting the task was, the more appealing it became.
Being David’s true son, Amnon was indeed fearless; but he was fearless in doing

Had such a thing been done in
Israel? Likely, but it doesn’t mean the Lord was pleased with it. The
patriarchs of Israel had done it, but it was more out of necessity than
anything else. For a long while the Lord appeared to allow it to happen to
preserve the purity of his chosen race, but by Amnon’s time, it was no longer

Being the king’s first born
son, Amnon had all the privileges a prince could possibly enjoy, but there was
a limit to his rights and his own sister certainly should be out of his reach, and
was something that should never be compromised.

If we truly believe that
something should never be done, we will most likely not do it under any
circumstance; but if we leave the door ajar a little bit, the temptation to
cross the boundary will always be there. The more gray areas we have in our
moral and ethical standards, the easier it is for us to violate them. Amnon
might have considered that violating one’s own sister fell in those grey areas.

Joseph clearly believed it was
something morally wrong and it should never be done when he was tempted by his
master’s wife; therefore he took the only way out: he ran away and, at the end,
paid a severe penalty for something he didn’t do. Never a single moment while
he was sitting in a dark jailhouse did Joseph have any regrets over not taking
the easy way out by compromising his moral standards. Why should a man have any
remorse for doing the right thing?

Within the sphere of morality,
something which is perceived as impossible by most should also be considered
impermissible in most cases. As long as we deem committing adultery impossible
and impermissible as married men, we most likely will never cross the moral
boundary. At the least, we will not give in without launching a bloody fight
against the temptation.

Amnon didn’t seem to wage any
warfare against his baser self, which goes to show that the man didn’t have any
moral backbone and had absolutely no conviction or intention to do the right

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 7:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he
made himself ill.”

          2 Sam 13:2


My obsession as a little boy
was to get away from the seaside village where I lived and move to the city.
The boredom of country living was killing me and the chores I had to do on the
farm were becoming more and more unbearable. I longed to leave my home before I
was allowed to.

Consequently, I ran away from
home and took a train to Taipei with two of my friends and was on the run for a
week before my grandmother found me. This was the first time my obsession took
me to some place strange and caused incredible pain for my loved ones; but
surely that wasn’t the last time. Being a man who is prone to obsession, I had
other episodes that took place subsequently, which are too embarrassing to

I know very well what
obsession is and what damage it can potentially do to all of us.

A casual friend of mine was
once so obsessed with a girl that he stalked her for the longest time, even
after the girl was happily married. It was evident to everybody that the girl
had absolutely no interest in him, but my friend seemed to think otherwise. I
have no idea how the obsession ended, but I am pretty certain it didn’t end

Obsession for a girl almost
did my roommate in. When it appeared to him that all hope for a happy ending
with the girl was gone, the guy tried to slash his wrists while he was
listening to a popular song at the time by the title of “I hate you to the

Obsession is one’s insatiable
longing for something that is either forbidden or unattainable. By staring at
the forbidden fruit in the garden daily and thinking about it day and night Eve
gradually developed an obsession for the fruit and the desire gripped her heart
so tightly that she would get no respite until she had the taste of the
enticing object of her longing.

Had Tamar been an ordinary
girl who was easily accessible and attainable, Amnon probably wouldn’t have
developed an obsession for her. What made Tamar so enticing was the fact that
it was quite impossible to get her unless he had the guts to break the law of
God. There were many others in Israel who were just as beautiful as his sister,
but Amnon’s sole longing was for the untouchable.

Can we become obsessed by the
right thing? Perhaps, but we don’t usually call it such, for obsession does
carry a negative connotation; therefore we change it to enthusiasm or passion.

Is serving the Lord our
obsession or passion? It is certainly the case with those who put God first in
their lives and make serving and loving the Lord their only obsession in life.
I believe sorrow will increase for those who are obsessed with anything other
than God himself.       

Friday, April 20, 2012 6:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love
with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.”        2 Sam 13:1


Being a son of the king, Amnon
was obviously very eligible and could have chosen almost any girl in Israel,
yet he fell in love with his half-sister Tamar, which wasn’t supposed to happen.

Did Amnon’s love for his
sister become so much more appealing because it was forbidden?

“You should not marry someone
with the same family name as you,” my parents warned me repeatedly when I was a
little boy.  I took this warning to heart
and perceived all “Hsu” girls as if they were my sisters. I was forbidden to
date them, therefore they became totally unappealing. I was a born romantic, yet
had absolutely no intention of venturing beyond the socially permissible.

Lord Byron, a true romantic,
seemed to have a strange fascination for his sister, which I found very peculiar.

Tamar was Amnon’s half sister,
which made it unlawful for them to be united as husband and wife, but God’s law
alone didn’t seem to deter the passionate man from taking any action in wooing
his sister. When the flame of passion was kindled, there was no end to it until
the desire was gratified. Had Amnon been a little wiser, he wouldn’t have started
the pursuit, knowing the affair wouldn’t end well.

“Love is blind, for lovers
cannot see,” wrote Shakespeare. Romantic love is anything but rational. The
great mistake Amnon committed was that he was determined not to let any taboo
or tradition keep him from chasing the one he loved.

An inappropriate relationship
with a girl half his age just cost a man his high profile coaching job that
brought him three million plus dollars annually. It was foolish, wasn’t it? Yet
things such as this seem to happen on a daily basis. Many men have sacrificed
their promising career and ruined their families in the name of love. Well,
maybe more lust than love.

“The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom.”

What David did to Bathsheba
was extremely foolish, yet it didn’t seem foolish to the king at the time, for
he had no fear of the Lord at the brief moment when he kicked off the circle of
sin, and he wasn’t able to hit the brakes when the train of sin was going full
steam ahead.

“Like father, like son.” This
is indeed the case with David’s household. For a short while Amnon seemed to
have suspended his fear of the Lord and started doing something foolish that
would eventually cost him his life.

I considered it impermissible
for me to date or to marry any “Hsu” girl; therefore, this saved me from
causing headache and pain for both my parents and me. Was it really wrong to do
that? Not necessarily, but I still think it was wise for me not to do it to
avoid hurting my loved ones.  





Thursday, April 19, 2012 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“…he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him

               2 Sam 12:25


Out of his union with
Bathsheba, King David got a son, but the baby was taken away from him as a form
of punishment for his sin. It appeared quite hopeless that anything good would
come out of this marriage, but not long after David lost his baby, another one
was born. Solomon was greatly treasured by his father and he turned out to be
the one who took over the kingdom after David passed away.

The Lord sent his prophet to
give the boy a special name- Jedidiah, which meant “beloved by God.”

Surely the marriage between
David and Bathsheba wasn’t conducive to produce a godly heir, since the law of
God had been violated before their marriage became a reality. In the process of
procuring his new wife, David committed the sins of adultery and murder. “Why
did the Lord bless this union by giving the couple a good son?” we wonder.

For their sins David and
Bathsheba suffered unimaginable pain. Not only did the man after God’s own
heart have to endure the pain of losing a son, he also endured the spiritual
agony of alienation from the Lord, which was even more intolerable than
physical pain in many ways. The most precious things that David lost by sinning
against God were his intimacy with the Lord and his joy of salvation. Bathsheba
might have been more of a victim than anything else in this sordid affair, but
she suffered great pain just the same: she lost a husband she might have loved
and she lost her first born son, which was indeed the collateral damage of
David’s sin.

The Lord isn’t in the business
of exacting severe punishment on his children; after all was said and done, he
chose to forgive David and Bathsheba by showing mercy. David’s sin was indeed
great; but God’s mercy was even greater. The Lord was enraged by David’s
recklessness, but his forgiveness for the sinner was only a sincere prayer of repentance

A Chinese minister was
overcome by his anger over his wife’s affair with one of the deacons in his
church and ended up butchering the man with an axe. This tragedy took place
about twenty years ago on the west coast and shook up the small Chinese
community in Orange County. Was there redemption for this murderer? Indeed
there was. The defrocked minister was incarcerated for about twenty years and
during that time he had quite a fruitful ministry among the inmates. He has
since returned to Taiwan and become a leader in prison ministry on the island.
In the meantime, both his son and daughter grew up to be godly young people
without their father at their side from childhood to adulthood. Yes, there is
forgiveness for adulterers and murderers.

Yes, we are God’s beloved and,
although punishment for our wrongdoings may sometimes become necessary, the
Lord’s primary goal for exacting punishment is to bring us back to him to
continue to enjoy his presence and love. This was indeed true in David’s case.
He suffered great pain in losing a son, but Jedidiah was born not long after,
and by giving him another son the Lord appeared to reassure David that he was
still God’s beloved.     



Wednesday, April 18, 2012 6:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Life Goes on 


Life Goes on

“Then he went to his own house, and at his request they
served him food, and he ate.”          2
Sam 12:20


David did all he could, both
physically and spiritually, to bring his son back to sound health when the
child was gravely ill, but he seemed to regain his equanimity after the child
was gone. He fasted and prayed for days, and must have sought the best
treatment for his son, yet all his struggle came to an abrupt end. What he had
done was all for naught.

Was David a little bitter when
he suffered the loss? Was he sorrow-stricken? Perhaps. He was flesh and blood
and surely was not immune to sorrow, yet he did have a choice not to let his
sorrow bring him down. Not long after he found out the bad news, he washed
himself and went to the Lord’s house to worship and asked for something to eat.
When the dust settled, he was well on his way to full recovery.

The worst had happened to him
and he himself was to blame for all the slings and arrows that fell his way. Had
he quit fighting against his remorse and regret, life would have ended and his
hope for joy for the remainder of his days dashed. Instead of sitting in the
dark licking his wounds, David did something to kick off his recovery - he ate.

David ate even though he had
no appetite for food at the time. Sorrow seemed to have taken away from him his
desire to do whatever he used to consider enjoyable and pleasurable, but out of
his strong will to recover from his brokenness he did what came unnatural to
him at the time, believing that life would go on as usual as long as he did the
usual things.

We lose our balance as persons
when we quit doing what’s routine for us, and the quickest way to regain our
equanimity is to restore our daily rituals and routines. These make up the rhythm
and heartbeat of our lives, entirely necessary to our existence.

There must be something wrong
if I quit taking my morning walk or drinking my afternoon tea or for Kathy to
stop doing her Sudoku or crossword puzzle every night before she turns off the
light. Life’s little pleasures here and there are a tonic that energizes us
along our journey and losing them may make our passage boring and laborious.

We know there was still hope
for David’s future when he started eating, drinking, talking, and doing what
was considered normal for a man to do. People may have aspirations to do great
things, but they are actually defined and sustained by all the little things
they do during their times of leisure. David was doing the right thing at the
time, albeit he was tempted to do the opposite and to keep on dwelling in his
deep sorrow.

“It was such an awful day for
me,” a lady said to me after church.

“How so?” I asked.

“I had to go to the courthouse
to sign the paper,” she replied, feeling rather dejected.

“Well, it’s time to move on,”
I said.

I hate myself for saying the
obvious, but it was the best advice for her under the circumstances.            

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 8:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his
clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.”      2 Sam 12:20


What was going to take place eventually happened, even though David fasted and prayed, pleading to God that
the tragedy wouldn’t occur. David was hoping the Lord would be merciful by
sparing his son’s life, but he was really hoping against hope. The prophet had
told him that the child would die in the end.

What was David supposed to do? Give up hope completely? That’s what many people would have done. The baby
probably was very ill and, humanly speaking, recovery was out of the question.
But the dire situation didn’t deter David from tuning to the Lord for help,
albeit it was the Lord who had sealed the child’s destiny.

Who should David have turned to except the Lord under such circumstances?

That’s exactly what we ought to do. Giving up prayer is to give up hope and hold an attitude of resignation.
Indeed David believed the Lord could still have decided to show mercy. No one
can persuade the Lord to do anything against his sovereign will through fasting
and earnest prayer, but the Lord himself can relent if he so desires.

In this case, the Lord didn’t relent and David’s child died.

How did David react to what happened? Did he throw a temper tantrum? Did he become so depressed about his grave loss
that he could no longer function? That wasn’t the case at all. What David did
after the child’s passing was surprising to the elders and servants in his

“After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and

He couldn’t have changed what had taken place to his child; but the least he could do was to change his way
of perceiving and reacting to the tragic event. The first thing he did was go
into the house of the Lord to worship.

The Lord is worthy of our praise and worship no matter what happens. Even though our natural tendency is
to run away from the Lord after tragedy strikes and the temptation of “curse
God and die” seems to gather strength each passing moment, turning to God in
praise and worship is the speediest way to recovery.   

The king of Israel didn’t dwell in remorse over ushering in sickness and death into his household by his
reckless acts; neither did he continue to complain about the Lord for being
unforgiving and unmerciful, which would have been natural for him to do; David
instead was determined to become proactive and leave all things behind and to
turn a new page in his life and the first thing he did was to become reconciled
with the Lord through praise and worship.    


Monday, April 16, 2012 6:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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