OT: 2 Sam. 9:1-11:27
David has been making some decisions that I like. Yesterday, I liked that he wanted to build a house for God, even though God wasn't too sold on that idea. Today, I liked that he wanted to show kindness to Saul's family and that he wanted to "show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash" (10:2). Unfortunately, Hanun son of Nahash was not incredibly receptive to David's "kindness delegation," which resulted in some bloody battles. Even those were pretty fascinating to read about, especially since they didn't seem to be David's fault at all. The Ammonites were hateful to David, and when they saw he was mad, they went to battle with him (10:6). I mean, what can ya do? David fought.
Of course, I didn't like his decisions surrounding Bathsheba as much. I was reading on the couch this morning by Greg, and when I read 11:1, I laughed and shared it with him: "In the spring at the time when kings go off to war..." I said something about how I was glad that that was an annual tradition for them, much like we might have Easter egg hunts. That was the only phrase I read, and I didn't mention where I was in the Bible, but Greg smiled and responded, "But David didn't go off to war. That was the problem. Instead of being where he was supposed to be, he was looking at a naked woman from his rooftop." I was seriously impressed that he knew right where I was reading based on that one partial sentence, and I thought that he made an interesting point. I've probably made clear that I'm pretty conflicted about war, but I thought it was a good point that David's problems started simply from not being where he was supposed to be. In fact, the whole story demonstrates quite well the steps toward a fall into sin. First, David is not where he is supposed to be. Then, he sees something he isn't supposed to see. As a result, he decides to do something he is not supposed to do. When he then reaps the consequences of that decision, he tries in vain to cover it up, which results in his worst decision so far in the process, which is murder. So many steps. So many bad decisions. It is just painful to read, and it is even more painful because Uriah is such a stand-up guy, such a dedicated soldier.
Joab's savvy in telling David about Uriah is one of the reasons I start appreciating him as I read II Samuel. Again, as a Christian, I'm conflicted over the use of cunning and game-playing...but both of those things seem like necessary skills if you are going to be a good strategist or political advisor. And Joab executes them well.
And after all the moral ambiguity we've faced when reading the exploits of the judges and kings so far, I'm glad that Scripture comes right out and says, "But the thing David did displeased the Lord" (11:27b). You think? But still, I do appreciate that the text clarifies that.
NT: John 15:1-27
John is still on a roll with me. There are lots of deep thoughts and lots of clarity coming through these chapters.
Today's "big picture" idea is how Christianity requires us to "remain" in Christ. Christ is the source of our strength and power as Christians, much like a vine is the source of life for its branches. Like those branches, we as Christians can do nothing if we do not "remain" in Christ. (And again, that "reciprocal indwelling" I mentioned yesterday is further articulated today in verses 4-5. Both verses speak of us remaining in Christ and him remaining in us. It's still just a touch too deep for me, though. I see it, and I do understand it on some levels, but I can't fully grasp the mystery.) Like yesterday, there is also a lot of emphasis on actions. Verses 4-5 talk about how remaining in Christ helps us to "bear fruit," and verse 8 and 16 emphasize the importance of bearing fruit. It brings glory to God when we do it. Verses 9-10 and 14 clarify that to remain in Him (or remain in His love, more specifically), we must obey His commands. And verses 12-13 and 17 specify that His primary command is to love others.
So let's recap. As Christians, we are to remain in God (and God in us), so that we can bear fruit to His glory. And the way we bear fruit is to love others. And conversely, we cannot be part of God if we do not love others. Okay, got it.
I also thought that Jesus' words in verses 22 and 24 were thought-provoking: "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin...If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father." These verses, combined with Romans 2:14-15, shed a little light on the question of people who have not heard about Jesus. You could even take it a step further and say that these verses pardon those who do not hear about Jesus in a real and powerful way. Perhaps there are people who have lived around churches their whole lives and have not heard about Jesus in a real way. Along those lines, I read an interesting quote by C.S. Lewis today: “We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him." Lewis' speculation (and it is just speculation) seems to be based on verses like John 15:22, which clearly seem to open the door to salvation for those who have never heard of Jesus. Of course, there really isn't much point to this kind of speculation besides to make us feel better and to make God's judgment make more sense to us. After all, it really should have no effect on our actions, which should point others to Christ in real and powerful ways. Still, it is interesting that Jesus chooses to share those insights into God's judgment.
Psalm 119: 49-64
The two verses that stood out to me today were kind of random:
"Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law" (53). I think that that is a good way to put it. I have a problem with the idea of "righteous anger," not because it doesn't exist, but because it is such an easy idea to distort. As Scripture says, "Man's anger does not bring about the righteous lifestyle that God desires" (James 1:20). Thus, we must be very careful when we describe our anger as righteous or justified. At the same time, indignation does grip me when I see wickedness. I love the word choice of indignation. And I love that the psalmist describes himself as passive in the process. I've definitely been there. You can't help but feel indignant at injustice, you know?
"I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes" (59). As someone who could be described as an "overthinker," I appreciate this verse. I do consider my ways...a lot. I ask myself why I do the things I do, why I think the things I think, and whether my actions properly reflect my beliefs. I ask myself if I am following Jesus' commands according to my best understanding of them. And I do also try to turn my steps to God's statutes as a result of my introspection, with varying results.
"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord" (2). So true! All I can say is, Amen. That verse also reminds me of the verse that says "the heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9). That's what makes true introspection so hard (and also why you need the Spirit in your life to guide you and to help you weigh your own motives).