Distress 

MTS-3312

Distress

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God.”

            2 Sam 22:7

 

When do we turn to the Lord for help? Is it the first thing that we do, or do we wait
until we are at our wits’ end? Is the Lord our first option or our last resort?

“I admire you guys for staying at a small church for such a long time,” one Christian brother
who was visiting us from out of town said to us.

“I have no reason to move unless the Lord makes his move first. He has not done it so
far,” I replied.

The Lord should be our first option, never our last resort, in all things. We call him
Lord and we should strive to let him be the Lord of our life.

I am just not all that ambitious, perhaps. Is it possible that I have become so complacent
that I just use waiting on the Lord as my pretext for not doing anything or
making any move climbing the so called career ladder? That’s indeed quite
possible.

Only the Lord knows the truth. We just have to do our best to make the Lord first in our
life.

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I
called out to my God.”

Obviously calling to the Lord in his distress wasn’t the only thing David did when he encountered
a stressful situation. Most likely he was mobilizing his troops and getting
ready to fight a battle while he was crying to God for help. He was doing all
things humanly possible to help himself, yet relying on divine assistance at
the same time. The two options are not mutually exclusive.

Distress is paralyzing; but we should never become paralyzed under its tension. The pressure should
spring us forward and cause us to leap to new heights.

If we only rely on our own effort, the Lord will take us through fire and storm until we
come to the realization that we are weak and frail and are in great need of
God’s help. We may know that we are weak in theory, but not necessarily in
practice.

When we get tired of running and fighting, running and fighting some more may not be a good
solution. The best option is for us to get down on our knees and rest in God’s
mercy and grace. Let’s not wait until we are dragged to the ground to do that.

“This is such an easy answer to all our problems. Aren’t we a little bit naïve?” I said to
Kathy over breakfast.

Being experienced and sophisticated isn’t really a good thing. Indeed, blessed are
the innocent, for they shall see the truth.

Nothing is more innocent and direct for a child to do than to cry out to his abba father
for help when he is in great distress. 

   

                

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 7:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Rock 

MTS-3311

The Rock

“The Lord is my rock,
my fortress and my deliverer…”

           2 Sam 3:2

 

When all things are moving and shifting, the rock stands brave and still. When all
people in the world are crying out for attention and competing for your allegiance,
the rock makes no sound.

The rock was there, is there, and will always be there. He doesn’t try to justify or explain
his existence, yet his presence gives all things their essence and meaning.

The rock is the still point of all things moving. O where do we find a resting place after we
have moved all day? Where do we find cool shade in a hot and thirsty land?

The dark shadow which the cross cast is still growing and extending until it covers the
entire world. O come to rest under the shadow of the cross.

We are tossed and thrown violently by the waves of the world and we drown in the customs of
people. Our mouths are filled with sea water and our hearts are as dry as the
sand baked under the sun.

I will run to the rock and rest my weary head on its chest. I will lie down and sleep in its
tender embrace.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,” wrote the poet, the shepherd
king who was well-acquainted with the dark night of life; the lover who lost
his love; the father who lost his sons; and the king who lost his kingdom. When
all was lost, he clung to the immovable rock. When all things were shifting and
moving, the rock remained brave and still.

O what is the purpose of gaining all things only to see them taken away from us one by one? O
what is the point of giving us life only to take it away at the end? We have
learned to love all things you have bestowed on us and, before we are ready,
you demand them back.

Where is the purpose in life? Why all the fear and fret? Why can’t we enjoy the journey fully
and not be afraid of its ending. Why can’t we dance and sing while the music
continues? Why can’t we appreciate the joy on the way and treasure each sunrise
with all its splendors, and not be occupied by the dread that dark clouds may
move in and thunderstorms may be looming on the horizon?

O come to rest in the cleft of the rock, in the cool shadow of the cross, in the tender
embrace of our Father when you become weary of the journey through the barren
land. When all comfort in this world is gone we can at least find our solace in
the words uttered by the eternal Word: “Come to me, all you who are
weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn
from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your
souls.”

 

 

Monday, July 30, 2012 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Old Soldier 

MTS-3310

Old Soldier

“Never again will you go out with us to
battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.”         2 Sam 21:17

 

David’s life was defined by his single act of heroism and his continual exploits in one
battle after another and his strong sense of identity was threatened when he
was told not to go out to battle again. The battle belonged to the young and
brave, David was getting old and weak.

“It’s about time to retire,” David was told.

O how he desired to go out to battle and prove to his men that there was still something
left in the old man. Indeed the king still possessed his bravery and his skill
in combat was still fresh in his mind, yet his eyesight was no longer sharp and
his reflexes seemed to have delayed a second or two, which could mean life and
death in battle. He might have been blinded by his ego and confidence, but the
truth was there for all to see. It was no longer safe for the king to be out
there. The old warrior had become a liability.

The king must have felt quite useless.

“What was left out there for an old man to do?” he asked. Indeed there was the throne and an
entire nation for him to rule. “Is there any thrill spending the rest of my
life judging people and resolving conflicts?” Toward which light should the
king have turned after he got out of the limelight where all the important
events took place?

Life seemed to have come full circle for David and what he should have done at the time was
to rekindle his first love for God, which was something he had experienced so
keenly while he was shepherding his father’s sheep in the wild. Then he had had
ample time to meditate on God’s greatness and mercy. Doing those things is a
perfect preparation for death and eternity, isn’t it?

It’s tragic for old folks if their hope is still so earthbound, either to make another
million, to start another romance, or to write another book.

What was the old king of Israel to do the remainder of his earthly days? To conquer another nation
or to expand his kingdom? Those were for the young and the ambitious, for the
ones who had boundless energy to spare and endless time to waste. There was something
far more important for an old man to do, which was to mend or to cultivate his
relationship with the Lord.

Old soldiers may fade away in the eyes of men, but never in the sight of God. The world may leave you
behind since you can no longer catch up with her speeding pace, but the Lord
will always slow down with you and accompany you till the journey’s end. Even
though the world has long forgotten you, the Lord will always keep you in the palm
of his hand.  

Friday, July 27, 2012 7:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Aging 

MTS-3309

Aging

“David went down with his men to fight
against the Philistines, and he became exhausted.”                    2 Sam 21:15

 

Kathy and I went to a viewing of a friend who passed away at age sixty five. The man used to be a race car
driver and was once racing for a national championship, but he was forced into
early retirement at age fifty by rheumatoid arthritis, which was the disease
that took him away fifteen years later.

People my age are starting to die and soon enough I will probably know more people up there than down here.
This is a depressing thought, isn’t it? At age ninety three, grandma probably
feels a little ill at ease since ninety nine percent of her contemporaries are
most likely gone.

How old was David at this time? Well, he was a lot older than he used to be, that’s for sure. He might have
felt he could still do all the things he used to do in his youth, but there was
no denying he had lost a step. The youth who took on the giant had vanished long
ago and the man who was facing the Philistines in battle was an aging man who
seemed to pose no threat to his enemies.

The hero had grown old and frail.

I am no hero and have never aspired to be one, yet I grow old just the same. I am amazed that I have to drag my
feet when somebody calls me to play tennis, which wasn’t the case at all in the
past. I used to play rain or snow, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

It’s a battle that no one has won. Billions of earthlings, rich or poor, noble or base, have submitted to the
tyranny of time and are now safely tucked away in their graves, and I presume
all of us will be conquered sooner or later. We may be able to keep it at bay
for a short while by doing various things, yet what is to come will eventually
come, and all of us will have to bid farewell to this fair earth, willingly or
begrudgingly.

“Only through time is time conquered,” wrote Eliot.

Surely the way to conquer time isn’t through better health care or physically exercises. That’s only a short
term solution by which we may win some battles but not the war. Through the
mighty power of the Lord Jesus, Lazarus won a big battle by coming out from the
grave, but death still caught up with him some years later. What we need isn’t
“reformation” of our bodies, but transformation. That’s why the apostle Paul
made the statement: “For physical training is of some value,
but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present
life and the life to come.”

“What is the only way to defy time and death?” we ask. Surely it is not through physical exercise, to which
many people devote a lot of their time. They sweat buckets running or riding in
a gym, whipping their bodies into top shape, yet their spirits may be shirking
to the size of a midget. “What’s seen is temporal; but what’s unseen is
eternal.” I think we ought to be reminded of this from time to time when we are
laboring to conquer time.   

 

Thursday, July 26, 2012 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Prayer Answered 

MTS-3308

Prayer Answered

“After that, God answered prayer in
behalf of the land.”

           2 Sam 21:14

 

Through God’s revelation David knew exactly why the Lord hadn’t listened to his prayer
concerning the three-year famine and, after he satisfied the Lord’s demand, the
Lord “answered prayer in behalf of the land.”

Many of our petitions haven’t been answered according to our wishes, but we don’t always
know the reasons behind it. In fact, we often pray without hoping that our
supplication will be granted accordingly. Many of us may actually have gotten
accustomed to our prayers not being answered.

Do we really believe that the Lord will perform a miracle for us when we pray for some
terminally ill patients? In so many incidents we pray, not out of faith, but
out of responsibility. “I will pray for you” has become a standard thing for us
to utter to show our compassion to the sick or the distraught. We often become
tongue-tied in the face of great suffering and the only words we manage to
squeeze out from our dry month is just this spiritual cliché.

“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have
listened,” said the Psalmist.

We at least know one of the many reasons the Lord has not listened to our prayers. We may
have cherished sin and continued to commit the same sin, which is the reason
why the Lord turns his face away from us. We simply cannot expect the Lord to
heed our requests if we continue to offend him with our habitual sins.

We can try our best to remove all the obstacles that keep the Lord from granting us of our
many wishes, yet our great effort may fall short every time and all we can
claim is nothing but God’s grace and mercy. I guess we can try our best and
leave the rest to God.

We can better accept the Lord’s responses to our prayers, either positively or negatively, if
we lead a life of holiness and obedience. In fact, we will be able to reckon all
his replies to our petitions as positive and beneficial to our spiritual
growth.

Therefore the main concern in our prayers is whether we can lock step with the Lord in our
daily walk with him, not to get what we desire from him. This does not mean
that all our wishes will be fulfilled if we lead a life of purity and
integrity; it does mean that we will be able to submit to God’s desires and
wishes for us, no matter what they are.

Whether the three-year famine ended or not through the actions taken, the Israelites still
had to do what the Lord considered just by rectifying the situation concerning
the Gibeonites.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Rizpah 

MTS-3307

Rizpah

“…she did not let the birds touch them
by day or the wild animals by night.”

         
2 Sam 21:10

 

Saul was gone, but Rizpah, one of the late king’s concubines, still had two sons with
her. Life wasn’t all that good compared to what it was, but it was tolerable.
She was a mother of two sons, which was quite enough for a woman who was
destined to be miserable her entire life.

What could a concubine hope for in life except days and days of loneliness and isolation?
She may have struck up a friendship with some of her fellow concubines, but
there was jealousy between them, and the competition for the king’s affection
was quite intense. Those women must have spent their entire time waiting for a summons
from Saul, a summons which might never come.

Rizpah might have been among the fortunate ones, for she was able to bear two sons for the
king. She might not have won Saul’s love during the few encounters she had had
with the king, but it mattered very little to her since she had two sons upon
whom she could pour out her abundant affection and love.

Life was good in the court and she and her boys were well provided for. Although she couldn’t
be a devoted wife to one man, she was at least a loving mother to two sons.
Rizpah wasn’t all that devastated when the news of Saul’s death arrived, since
her entire attention was on his two sons and her sole concern was to keep her
boys from any harm.

Romantic love for this concubine was merely an elusive dream and she had long given up the
pursuit. All Rizpah wanted was to bring up her sons to be men of strong
character and integrity, and it appeared that she was succeeding in her
tireless endeavor.  The two boys were
growing up to be just like their father - tall and handsome. O how proud Rizpah
was of her sons!

Out of the blue, the unthinkable happened, which was every mother’s worst nightmare. Her two
sons were selected to be sacrificed merely because they were Saul’s sons.

What could a mother have done in such a horrific situation? It wouldn’t have made the
slightest difference had she put up a struggle or protest. A mother’s tender
feelings for her children were the least of King David’s concerns, who only saw
the big picture. Personal happiness was nothing if the collective happiness of
an entire nation was at stake. So Rizpah was left alone to mourn for her sons,
while all the Israelites were rejoicing at the prospect of the coming downpour
of rain from above, which would put the long famine to an end.

There was still one last thing the broken woman could do for her sons, however. She
camped by her sons’ bodies day and night and kept the birds and wild beasts
from devouring their bodies. In Rizpah we see a flickering light of hope while
the world was overwhelmed by hatred and darkness. Indeed, the mother’s love for
her sons was stronger than death.         

 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Harvest Season 

MTS-3306

Harvest Season

“All seven of them fell together; they
were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley
harvest was beginning.”   2 Sam 21:9

 

There was a three-year famine that caused David to ask the Lord the reason behind it. The
reason was revealed to him and seven lives were about to be lost to appease the
Gibeonites.

The famine must have ended long before the seven sons from Saul’s household were taken
away. Was the three-year drought really caused by what Saul had done to the
Gibeonites years ago? It’s silly to ask such a question, isn’t it?

Famines, or other natural disasters, are caused by our sins, be they general or specific,
yet we do have a strong desire to trace calamities to some particular sin that
we have committed. All effects must have a specific cause, we think.

Sin does have severe consequences, but we don’t often know what the connection is. The famine
seemed to have ceased before the seven men from Saul’s household were killed
and disposed of.

It was the first day of harvest and people were starting to gather their barley. They
hardly knew what was taking place in David’s court during the time, or what was
happening to Saul’s children. As long as there was a harvest of barley, they
would be content.

They might have started to grumble if the drought had continued and they had run out of
grain for their household. A revolt or two might even occur if nothing was done
to ease the tense situation. If heads must roll to appease the gods, kings
wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

I am sure human sacrifices have been performed in pagan countries to bring famines to the
end. Was it proven effective? Doubtful. It was one of those trial and error
things and it was done because something had to be done.

Was there anyone in David’s circle who even breathed a word that they should spare the sons from
Saul’s household since the famine was ending and people were beginning to
harvest their barley? I find myself bogging down at this point in my
meditation. Did David make a mistake in interpreting God’s will by connecting
the famine with the injustice Saul had done to the Gibeonites years ago.

That was indeed the case. The sour grapes Saul ate had set his children’s teeth on edge.

Saul wouldn’t have done a lot of the things he did had he realized these deeds would bring
curses to his offspring in future generations. Our sins may be personal, but
they do bring about communal punishment. Isn’t this the reason why we all suffer
the ill-effects of Adam’s sin?

Monday, July 23, 2012 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Revenge 

MTS-3305

Revenge

“He handed them over to the Gibeonites,
who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord.”        2 Sam 21:9

 

Years after Saul slaughtered the Gibeonites, the injustice was still fresh in the Lord’s
mind and justice must be served concerning the atrocity done to the people whom
the Israelites had sworn to spare. It took three years of famine for the
Israelites to finally realize that they had done something wrong to bring about
the punishment. The truth was revealed to them when they went to the Lord to
inquire about the cause of the famine.

What was required for them to do to appease both the Lord and the Gibeonites?

“Let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed
before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul,” the Gibeonites requested. David consented and
handed two of Saul’s sons and five of his grandsons to the Giberonites to be
killed.

“Was this cruelty necessary?” we ask.

The men who were going to be sacrificed for the crime had absolutely nothing to do with the
incident, yet they were required to pay for something they didn’t do to appease
the anger of their fathers’ enemies, merely because they happened to be born in
Saul’s household. Evidently the Lord was displeased with what Saul had done to
the Gibeonites, but he sure did not go the extent of demanding human sacrifices.
It was the Gibeonites who demanded blood for blood from Saul’s household, not
the Lord.

The Gibeonites would have done something to avenge the crime done to them had David
not taken the lead to do something to rectify the injustice. One way or
another, Saul’s children must pay for the wrongs their father had committed.

I am absolutely in no position to question the fairness or the appropriateness of
the whole thing from my vantage point. The incident took place thousands of
years ago in another culture where people interpreted what had occurred to them
according to their understanding of the Lord. I don’t know how David got the
message from the Lord concerning the cause of the three year famine, but the
Scriptures state unquestionably that was the case and the predicament was
resolved accordingly when the stipulation was met. I wish the issue had been
resolved differently, but I may be looking at the event purely from a human
point of view, colored by my own sympathy and prejudice. What I need to do is
to submit to the authority of God’s word in both testaments.

Was it fair or appropriate for the Lord to send his perfectly innocent son to die on the
cross for the sins of the world? I will grumble a lot less if I learn to always
look at the historical events in the Old Testament from the vantage point of
the cross.  

 

 

 

 

   

Friday, July 20, 2012 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Kiss of Death 

MTS-3304

Kiss of Death

“Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with
his right hand to kiss him.”

        
2 Sam 20:9

 

Sheba was rebelling and David sent Amasa to summon the men of Judah to come to his aid in
three days, but it took Amasa longer to accomplish the task and therefore David
appointed Abishai and Joab to lead the troops to fight against Sheba.

After Amasa returned from his mission, he went to meet Joab at the great rock of Gibeon and
when they met, “Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.”

Joab and Amasa might not have been best buddies, but they were cousins who served David the king. Joab might
have been a little suspicious of Amasa, for the latter had served as the
military leader for Absalom when he rebelled against his father. Jealousy might
have been one of the motives that caused Joab to murder his cousin, since Amasa
had just been promoted to be the leader of the Hebrew army, a position that had
been held by Joab for a long time.

Amasa might have been a man
without guile, who didn’t suspect Joab was capable of committing such a dishonorable
deed. Had the man been an honorable person, he would have given Amasa a fair
chance to defend himself, but that simply wasn’t the case. The great general of
Israel was fatally stabbed by the man who was kissing him.

This event took place thousands of years ago, why is it still relevant to us today?

Surely backstabbing was deemed despicable in David’s time and it’s so even today. Joab might have been justified
in putting Amasa to death, which is questionable in and of itself, but he
should have at least given his enemy an opportunity to defend or explain
himself. Joab was just too cowardly to do so and ended Amasa’s life before he
knew what was going on.

He committed the cruelest act while he was showing his cousin affection. Joab was the kind of person who
cared very little about honesty and honor, as long as he could get the job done.
Whatever the king wanted was of no concern to him when he saw Absalom dangling from
a tree branch. He simply couldn’t let the chance to end an enemy’s life slip
away, no matter who he was.

These were things that David would never forget and we will find out in the following chapters that Joab was
playing with fire doing what he did to some innocent people. The king might
have spared his life for various reasons during his lifetime, but on his death
bed he asked his son to do what he considered just concerning this ruthless
man.

Joab was David’s right hand man during the king’s illustrious career, yet he was doomed by his
over-confidence and his lack of integrity. He could have easily died a hero,
but because of his character flaws, he perished as a villain.        

    

Thursday, July 19, 2012 7:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ten Concubines 

MTS-3303

Ten Concubines

“They were kept in confinement till the
day of their death, living as widows.”

         
2 Sam 20:4

 

That wasn’t the life of their own choosing at all. They would have chosen to become wives
of some men in their neighborhood and had a bunch of children. They might have
been poor and would probably have had to break their backs earning a living in
the countryside, but at least they would have been free from the tyranny of the
king.

What wrong had they committed to deserve what they received from the hand of the king?

Their only fault was they were born beautiful and desirable. Had they been a little plainer,
they would have been freed from the harassment of the king’s men who were
roaming up and down the country, seeking pretty women for the king; and when
the desirable women were picked, they had absolutely no option but to obey the
king’s summons and become one of his many concubines. King Solomon had three
hundred of them in addition to seven hundred wives and David might have had a
lot less, but a lot less than that number is still rather large indeed.  

The Lord only created one woman for the first man, since he only needed one; but the ancient
kings of the east, David and Solomon included, felt that they needed more, many
more, merely because they had the authority to do so. As a result, many
perfectly beautiful and talented young women’s lives were ruined, forever
condemned to live in the cold palace, waiting for the king’s summons, which
might never come.

Why were the ten concubines condemned by David? They had been left behind to care for the
palace, and they had no other choice but to obey when they were called to the
rooftop by Absalom. What could they have done except escape, which they might
not have had the means to accomplish; or to commit suicide, which they might
not have had the courage to do. Yet they were punished severely for something
for which they were not responsible. They were merely pawns who were moved here
and there by a powerful hand.

Such was the fate of the concubines.

At least they wouldn’t have to be concerned about their livelihood anymore. Their parents
might have consoled themselves with this thought. Indeed they wouldn’t have
starved in the palace, but their hunger to be loved would last until the day
they died. They were made to be wives and mothers, not to be concubines.

No wonder it was such an offensive thing when the Israelites asked for a king just like all
the other neighboring countries, not knowing what a tyrant would do to them and
their children.

“He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.” This was what
Samuel said to them when they were asking for a king to rule over them. I guess
being a concubine was far worse than being a cook or a baker. O how much more
honored and privileged it is to be a servant of the perfect heavenly King than
to be a slave of a flawed earthly monarch.      

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional
Page 1 of 2 1 2 > >>
  • RSS

Statistics

  • Entries (1439)
  • Comments (0)

Categories

Archives