OT: 2 Sam. 9:1-11:27
When reading the Synoptics, I mentioned that Jesus sometimes used "Nathan's," where He would tell a story describing the sin of the Pharisees, in order to get them to unknowingly condemn themselves. Today, we read the original "Nathan," and I've gotta say, it was masterful. I love Nathan's story about the little lamb, and I especially love how directly he drives his point home: "You are the man!" Boo-yah! He does not pull any punches, but goes directly at David with the strongest language of condemnation and of God's disapproval. I did get a little confused by Nathan's declaration that God was going to give away all of David's wives. Was that punishment lifted when David openly confessed his sin afterward? David's confession did seem to make somewhat of an impact, as Nathan responded, "The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die" (13-14). That, of course, seems a bit unfair to the child, but I think we have already worked through those issues as best we can, and I have no new insights to add. Unfortunately, sin affects more than just the sinner, and children are the most likely candidates to bear the brunt of the parents' sins, even today.
David's reaction to his son's illness and death kind of reminds me of my reaction to my brother's illness and death. While he was alive and struggling so badly, I was perpetually worried, perpetually filled with sorrow for him. I cried often and was on my face before God several times praying for him. In fact, I honestly think I cried much more for him when he was alive than after he died. After he died, I was able to take comfort in the fact that all of his horrible suffering was over. Over. It was such a wonderful thought to think of the fact that he was finally free, and it was especially amazing when I considered that I would see him again in just a little while. When I cry now, it is definitely not for Mike. It is for me, my parents, and my children. Still, I do think that for me, the sorrow was deeper before he died. Thus, I can kind of understand David's feelings on the matter.
Lastly, it is always perplexing to see David as just another conquering king, who attacks cities, takes their king's crown, and forces the people into hard labor. I mean, why? I guess it was simply to expand his kingdom. Perhaps when the Israelites expanded their kingdom, it brought glory to God. That is hard for me to understand, as I live in a time period where imperialism is definitely out of vogue.
NT: John 16:1-33
Jesus' words here make many scholars think that John is writing specifically to Christians who are facing persecution. That theory might even help scholars date John (I think I might be making stuff up, but I do remember hearing that John was much later than the others. Clearly, I haven't checked my Writings of the New Testament in awhile).
In this passage, I especially love the Jesus' promises about the Spirit: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you" (13-14). As always, the more I read the Bible's description of the Christian life, the more I see that Christians have a real, inner power in this world. After all, God is in us, guiding us into all truth and making known to us the His mysteries (some of them, at least:)).
And one more thing: Jesus has said several times in the last few chapters that whatever we ask for in Jesus' name will be given to us. In verses 23-24, Jesus continues that theme: "In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." I have mentioned before that I don't quite understand these kinds of statements b/c I haven't always found it to be true in my own life and in the lives of many Christians whose faith I really admire. However, this time, the very next verse gave me pause. In it, Jesus says, "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father" (25). Okay...so where was the figurative part? Was it when He talked about childbirth (21), because I don't really see anything else that could obviously be considered figurative language. Maybe the whole, "ask and you will receive" thing in the verses immediately preceding are figurative. Who knows? I mean, clearly that is problematic. For one, if they are figurative, then what do they mean? And why do they sound so...not figurative? I mean, if those words are figurative, what other plain-sounding things are figurative? I am confusing myself, but the bottom line is that I didn't really have much of a clue what Jesus was talking about in verse 25.
I did get verse 33, though, and loved it: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." It is always good to be reminded that peace does not mean the absence of trouble, but the presence of God. And I'm glad that Jesus is straightforward about the fact that Christians will have trouble in this life. We are not exempt.
Psalm 119: 65-80
I like how often the psalmist asks for understanding and refers to the need to meditate on God's laws. Today, he does so in verses 66, 68, 73, and 78. I love it b/c I think it is easy to think of the Law to which the psalmists refers as being pretty straightforward. Do this. Don't eat that. Offer this sacrifice. Wear this kind of clothes. And so forth. I mean, why meditate? Why not just memorize? Why ask for understanding? Why not just ask for good recall? The psalmist's words affirm to me that God's Law was much more than a list of rules, and the people who sought God back then weren't content with just a checklist of do's and don'ts. They wanted to understand God's Law and, in so doing, to understand God. They wanted to explore His character like I do. God has never been simplistic, and even in the OT, people prayed for understanding and insight into God.
Verse 4 says, "The Lord works out everything for his own ends--even the wicked for a day of disaster." I think we saw this principle at work in both our OT and NT passages for today. In the OT, Nathan tells David that his son will die b/c David's sin made "the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt" (14). In other words, God brought consequences to David in order to maintain His reputation. Similarly, Jesus tells us that the Spirit will come into us to "bring glory to me" (14). In these examples, both punishment and power are ultimately given so that God's name will be glorified. (I also randomly thought of Gal. 6:7, which says, "God can not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Again, human consequences are linked to God's honor.) See, God has a reputation to maintain. Perhaps part (or even a lot) of the reasoning behind God's concern for His reputation is that man must understand enough about His power and righteousness to be drawn to Him. Hmmm. That sentence did not really describe what I was thinking, but I can't think of a better way to put it right now, so I will just continue to mull it over.