Strengthening Your Hand

“And Jonathon, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh,
and strengthened his hand in God.”
(1 Samuel 23:16)

My Bible reading plan has me reading from 1 and 2 Samuel these last few weeks, and, while I know I’ve read these books numerous times, it is amazing that I continue to find something new each time I read it.  This is one of the blessings of having the habit of regular Bible reading, picking up on something you might have missed before, or seeing it from a completely different perspective.

The passage above from 1 Sam 23 tells us that when David was hiding from Saul, Jonathon, Saul’s son, came to David and strengthened his hand.  That phrase, “he strengthened his hand,” has been stuck in my head for two weeks now.

On the surface, it’s clear what is meant here.  When you get the winning bid in  Pinocle and your partner passes you exactly what you need, that’s “strengthening your hand.”

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When you gain a tactical advantage, or get an increase in strength, you gain the upper hand, or get a stronger hand.  That I understand.

But what isn’t so clear is exactly how Jonathon when about strengthening David’s hand.

All we know is what Jonathon said to David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.” That’s all we’re told.

Since I read that passage, I prayed over and wrestled with that phrase, “strengthen his hand.” I wanted to try to get my head around it, to let it sink in.  I asked God, “show me what that means!”

And then God did.

I had a friend show up in the midst of a very busy week.  With he start of a new year of programing at the church, and more and more involvement with Presbytery responsibilities, I was feeling swamped.  I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, up early to run and pray, up late to read and pray.  The joy of ministry was dwindling, and it was beginning to show.

So my friend shows up, one who is closer than a brother, and he begins to invest in me, to strengthen me, and to encourage me.  He listened.  He gave wise counsel.  He asked me the tough questions about my prayer life and purity that need to be asked to keep me accountable.  But most of all, he reminded me of the grace that I have been called to proclaim.  He reminded me that I’m not just a herald of that grace, but a recipient of it as well.

Isn’t this what Jonathon did for David?  He showed up when David was downs, and reminded him of God’s promises.  He directed him to God, not to his own strength, not to his own resources.  Jonathon didn’t come to the cave at Horesh and say, “It’s not so bad!” There were no “Daily Affirmations” with Stuart Smalley there in the wilderness…

smalley

No, Jonathon simply directed David’s eyes, and heart, back to the word of God.  God had made a promise to David, had anointed him and poured out his Spirit upon him. All Jonathon had to do was return David to his foundation in God, the source of real courage and strength.

This is how Jonathon ministered to David.  This is how my friend ministered to me.  As we were praying, I thanked God that he showed me personally what it meant that Jonathon strengthened David’s hand in the Lord.  It means having a brother who will encourage, bless, and challenge you.  It means having someone who will speak into your life a word of grace and hope.  It means being reminded of God’s promises in your own life so that you can find the strength to move forward.

I cannot stress what a blessing it is to have someone in your life like Jonathon was for David – a source of strength and encouragement in the Lord.  I encourage you to be that person for someone today – call them up, listen and encreuage them, be the one to strengthen their hand in the Lord.  And also seek out someone in your life who can do that for you.  Invite someone to hold you accountable, to ask you the tough questions, and to remind you of God’s goodness and grace toward you in Jesus.  May you have that God-given friend who will always be directing you to God.

SDG

David’s Breaking Bad

“…but the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
(2 Sam 11:27)

In my preparation for this Sunday’s sermon on David and Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), I am developing a thought on how in this infamous story David violated all of the Ten Commandments.  I probably won’t have the time in my sermon this week to give you the full details, so I thought I would lay it out for you here.

Here’s a summary of the story: In 2 Samuel 11, we read that in the springtime, when the kings would lead their armies out to war, David sent out the troops, but stayed at home, reclining on his couch in the cool of the day.  While there, he saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof (a rather suspicious place to put a bath tub), and David sent for her, slept with her, and Bathsheba was pregnant.  Immediately, David sent for Bathsheba’s husband to come home from battle, and tried to get him to spend some “quality time” with his wife.  When Uriah refused because of his loyalty to his fellow soldiers, David sent Uriah back to the front with orders that would get him killed in battle. It is a sordid tale, and extremely shocking coming from someone who, up to this point, has always been described as having a heart for God.

So how did David break all 10 Commandments in this one story?  Let’s look at them in reverse order:

Thou Shall Not Covet – This one is easy to see.  David saw Bathsheba bathing, and he wanted what he saw.  He was not satisfied with all that he already had, with all that God had given.  He saw, he desired, and his desire sprang into action.

Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness – Again, this one is clear.  In order to cover up his first sin with Bathsheba, he brings Uriah home under false pretenses.  David tries to get Uriah to break his own code of honor and sleep with his wife while his fellow men are at war.  When that didn’t work, he made Uriah carry the orders that would lead to his own death.  David didn’t even think twice about using deception and lies to cover his sin.

Thou Shall Not Steal – Hello!  He took his neighbor’s wife!

Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery – That is what took place here.  Today, we have a lot of euphemisms to help soften the blow: an “affair,” a “dalliance,” “living together,” a “fling.”  Let’s be clear. Scripture is quite clear that the gift of sexual expression is reserved for man and woman in marriage (Heb 13:4; 1 Cor 7:1-40), and anything outside of the bond of marriage is called sin, either adultery or fornication.  David committed adultery. There is no two ways around it.

Thou Shall Not Kill – Not only did Uriah die in David’s cover up, so did all the other soldiers who stormed the walls in battle. The blood of Uriah and all the soldiers lost that day was on David’s hands.

Honor thy Father and Mother – Now you may be thinking, this is a stretch, but keep in mind, the fifth commandment deals with our relationships with those in authority over us and those who serve under us.  The Westminster Larger Catechism is fantastic in its teaching here:

“It is required of superiors, according to the power they receive from God… to bless their inferiors… protecting and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body; and, by grace, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God.”

David pretty much botched that one too.

Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it HolyNow the mother and father thing was a stretch, but this is way out there, we are not told it was a Sabbath day. Patience, I don’t think it’s that big of a leap. Remember, keeping the Sabbath means to set the Sabbath day aside as a day of rest, but that also requires that the rest of the week be spent in fruitful labor.  Where was David in this story? On the roof, resting on his couch.  Where was he supposed to be? Leading the nation of Israel in battle. This whole mess started because David neglected his responsibilities.

Thou Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain – To take God’s name in vain is to make it the name of God meaningless and empty. David was known as God’s anointed, and if this was how God’s anointed was going to act, what does that say of God?

Thou Shall Not Make Any Graven Image – Granted, David did not make a little golden idol to put on his mantle to worship. He didn’t need to. David twisted and contorted the revelation of a holy and just God, a powerful and present God, to be something much more manageable. David’s god that day was a god would couldn’t see, a god who wouldn’t act. Only by forgetting who God really is, only by creating a god of our own choosing, can we go forward boldly into such sin.

Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me – That afternoon, on his roof, that beautiful woman became more to David than the very glory of God Himself. He gave up everything to have her. Is that not worship? Is not adultery, at its heart, an expression of idolatry?

James 2:10 teaches “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” David sinned fantastically, and in one sin, he broke all of God’s commandments.  And he was called a man after God’s own heart.

If we are honest, we must acknowledge that every sin, even our own, is a fantastic and radical rebellion from God’s will. There are, of course, varying degrees of the severity of our sins, but each sin is an affront to the majesty and holiness of God, and the wages of sin is death.

The good news, and there is good news, is that Jesus came to save sinners. This depravity our hearts is not a shock to our Savior, this is why he came. He came to redeem us from captivity to sin, to destroy the power of sin and death in us, to bring the grace and forgiveness of God through His atoning sacrifice.  All those who trust and believe in Christ find forgiveness, and are given His Holy Spirit that we might grow in grace as we walk with the Lord. Remembering the severity of our sins should not drive us to despair. No.  It should drive us to the cross where we find our sins have been forgiven and we are at peace with God.

SDG