Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 7 October 2022:
2 Samuel 11:1 — “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel…. But David remained at Jerusalem.”
To me one of the most shocking, tragic, and frightening stories in the Bible is that of David’s adulterous and murderous deeds committed against his faithful warrior Uriah (but more importantly against God). How could this “man after God’s own heart” do such terrible, terrible things (deserving of the death penalty), particularly against someone as faithful and dedicated as Uriah who was deployed in combat fighting for the king? If David, a man who had such a close relationship with God, could do such a thing, what does that suggest about the potential susceptibility of ordinary people like us to sin terribly? We must vigilantly guard our hearts and walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh.
There are countless lessons in this story which will continue to unfold as we read on, but when I look at the chain of events (or decisions) that led to this tragedy, 2 Samuel 11:1 jumps out at me: When David should have gone out with Israel to battle, he stayed home. Simply stated, David wasn’t where he should have been or doing what he should have been doing. David set the conditions for his demise through his complacency towards personal responsibility. Complacency kills! He had let his personal guard down and had, as we say in the Marine Corps, “gone internal” or became “focused inward.” His focus shifted from “He” (God) to “me.” Self-gratification became the goal.
Verse 11:2 expands upon David’s mental/emotional state: “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.” Why is the warrior king, during a time of war, on his couch late in the afternoon or idly walking around the roof of the palace? As the saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” David’s wandering mind led to wandering eyes which led to inappropriate inquiries which led to adultery and murder. Small decisions led to massive destruction (much of which we haven’t read about yet).
Faithfulness must be continuous. We all need a break from the responsibilities of life, and God’s word is clear that rest is critical to our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. However, even in our rest, we must remain alert to spiritual attacks. Just as our hearts, brains, and vital life supports systems remain active while we sleep at night, Christians must always guard their hearts and be very careful not to drift into complacency. Rest is important, but it must not become an idol, and quite often, responsibilities will demand we deny self for sake of doing what we must. When we shirk our responsibilities in life, we make self king and open the door to sin. David should have stayed focused on his responsibilities and should have gone to battle with the rest of the men. You can imagine David telling himself, “I deserve a break; after all, I am the king, and look how hard I have been working all these years; Joab can handle it.” Be very careful when you find yourself looking for an escape from the burdens of responsibility or commitment. During these times of mental and emotional weakness, you are very susceptible to sin. David went to his rooftop and let his mind and eyes wander. Where do you go when you feel you need a break from life’s responsibilities and just want to “check out” or “turn off,” when you just want to stop thinking?
Be very careful about where you turn for entertainment or “amusement.” In Latin the word “muse” means to think. In Latin, when you place the letter “a” in front of a word it means the opposite; so “a-muse” means to not think or to stop thinking. However, as stated above, we never really stop thinking. So, amusement involves letting your guard down intentionally, to “just relax and escape the concerns of life.” Where do most Americans choose to stop thinking? In front of media devices or in front of TVs, which promote very destructive behaviors – essentially, they open the gates of their minds to sin. Also, many choose to ‘relax’ in social settings which promote excessive eating and alcohol. Does that make sense? “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
We all need a break from work and life stressors, but replace amusement with recreation, which is to ‘re-create’ oneself, activities which promote your health and welfare, which help prepare you for another day serving God. Do enjoyable, constructive things that refresh you, revive you, and contribute to a better you. Have fun, but with a sober, fully engaged mind. Use that “down time” to get outside and appreciate God’s creation, to pray, read the Bible, and fellowship with others – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Finally, don’t let your mind drift into negativity — “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)
- Proverbs 4:23-27 [NIV] — Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it…. Keep [God’s word] within your heart…. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
Above all else, guard your heart by meditating upon God’s word and remaining vigilant in thought, word, and deed. Don’t let your eyes drift or your feet wander. Also, remember, “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Sheep don’t rest with wolves, neither do Christians turn to the ungodly for entertainment for amusement.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 — So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- Colossians 3:17 — And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
2 Samuel 11:11 — Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”
Uriah was a real leader. Uriah displayed the loyalty and fidelity one would have expected from God’s anointed king. Uriah loved his wife more than anything, but he did not go to see her because the other soldiers in battle couldn’t, and Uriah made this choice realizing that it could be his last chance to ever see his wife again since the battle continued. Uriah honored God through his noble character, yet God did not spare him from these tragic circumstances. The test of character is your willingness to do the right thing when no one is looking, regardless the outcome. Are you willing to be as faithful as Uriah even if it costs you everything?
2 Samuel 11:15 — In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.”
There is no limit to what a person enslaved by sin will do. Sin is selfishness. When a person becomes wrapped up in sin, others become expendable.
2 Samuel 11:24 — Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
Many people needlessly died as part of the plot to cover up David’s sins which, by law, warranted the death penalty for David. At this point, David made himself one of the greatest ‘villains’ of the Bible.
James 4:7-8 — Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Submit, resist, draw near! Purify your heart! Be double-minded no longer. This is a life choice. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Being close to God is a choice that takes effort on our part, daily, consistent effort over time. When the Lord commanded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself,” He was clear that love requires we not only concentrate our thinking on how to love (“all…your mind,” not “double-minded”), but that we also endeavor, or struggle, to love with all of our might (“all… your strength”). You won’t do either of these without having the heart and soul to do it, but if you do have the heart and soul, you will love with your mind and strength naturally, with joy – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Yet, since none of us are perfected in love, we must be reminded continually to submit, resist and draw near. Like physical exercise and training, when we resist imperfectly with the faith and strength we have, with confidence in the Lord, our faith and strength grow. Also, when we do struggle, we don’t struggle alone but are empowered by the Holy Spirit with supernatural (beyond our natural abilities) power. However to experience the miracle, we first have to step out in the faith we have (see Joshua 3). “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 — No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
- Ephesians 6:10-18 — Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness….
- Luke 22:40 — And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
- 1 Peter 5:8-11 — Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“There may be times when God seems far away. You may feel as if your prayers go unheard. James said there is a simple reason for this and a solution. If you are far from God, it is because your sin has separated you from Him. God is unchanging. His character stays absolutely holy. His faithfulness remains constant; it is we who change. We allow sin into our lives. We choose our own direction. We spend less and less time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Then one day we realize that we have gradually grown distant from God. The solution, according to James, is straightforward. We are to draw near to God. As we realize our need to be closer to the Father and we begin to return to Him, He meets us even as the father hurried to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15:20). Drawing near to God requires you to take two actions. First, you must cleanse your hands (Isa. 1:15). You must cleanse your way of living. If you have been actively engaged in sin, you must renounce it. If you have done anything to offend or hurt someone, you must make it right. Second, you are to purify your heart (Ps. 51:10). You must make certain your attitudes, thoughts, and motives are right in God’s eyes and are in harmony with God’s word. Jesus warned that you cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is impossible to love anything else as much as you love God and still please Him. If God seems distant, do what is necessary to cleanse your hands, purify your heart, and draw near to Him.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
James 4:11, 12 — Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
Your mission is to bring others closer to Jesus, not to drive them away. God has a heart for every sinner. Show no partiality to anyone. Share the Good News to everyone in love. Speak the truth about sin, but speak the truth in love — this is true love. Your job is not to promote condemnation but rather reconciliation.
James 4:13, 14 — “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Today is the day to submit, resist, draw near, purify, and glorify Jesus to others. Today is the day to love others as an act of love for Jesus. Don’t count on tomorrow or put off loving others today in hopes of doing it tomorrow.
James 4:16, 17 — As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
All sin involves thinking more highly of yourself than you ought, placing your own wants and desires ahead of the commands of Jesus. Using the word of God, the Holy Spirit convicts you of what you ought to do. If you choose instead to do what is most comfortable, convenient, or desirable to you, you sin, and you risk hardening your heart to sin.
“It is never a minor thing to know God’s will and not do it. God calls this sin. We can make excuses for our lack of obedience: “I’m just not ready yet” or “I’ll do it later!” or “I don’t think it will make a difference” or “I can’t afford to!” We rationalize, we procrastinate; yet, in God’s eyes, rationalization and procrastination are nothing more than disobedience. At times we deceive ourselves into thinking that good intentions equal obedient actions. They do not. A good intention without corresponding activity is disobedience. When we encounter God and He gives us a direction, it is not enough to write down the date in our spiritual journal, or even to tell our friends and church of our “decision.” God’s call is not to “make a decision” but to obey! Deciding to obey is not equal to obeying! (Matt. 21:28-31). Loudly affirming the necessity of obedience is not the same as obeying (Luke 6:46). Making commitments, even publicly, is not the same as obeying our Lord. Substituting our own good works is not the same as obeying. God told King Saul to wait until the prophet Samuel arrived. Instead of waiting, Saul took matters into his own hands and offered a sacrifice. Saul discovered, to his deep dismay, that other acts of supposed piety do not take the place of obeying a clear command from God (1 Sam. 15:22). As with Saul, God expects you to obey everything exactly as He tells you. Only obedience satisfies God’s desire for obedience!” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 October 22: Today, begin the habit of replacing your amusement with recreation, learning to convalesce without letting your guard down to sin and destructiveness, resting in a positive, fulfilling way that continues to bring honor and glory to God. Teach others how to do the same. Submit, resist, draw near!