May 2, 2017

A Table of Lessons for May

A Table of Lessons for May


May 1, Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles

James 1:1-12
John 14:1-14

Collect

“O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life; Grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life; that, following the footsteps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

James, and his brother, John, were fisherman in the sea of Galilee before Christ called them to be his disciples. James, John, and Peter, comprised the inner circle of disciples.  They were with Christ on the mount of Transfiguration. They were also closest to Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. Stephen, the deacon, was the first Christian martyr, but James was the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom.  He was killed by Herod in an attempt to “vex certain of the church” (Acts 12:1).  James the Apostle is the author of the New Testament book of James.

Philip is best known for bringing his brother Nathaniel to Christ. In John 14, Philip makes the request, “Lord show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Christ responds with some of the clearest teaching of his divinity in the New Testament. Jesus says “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” He goes on to say “I am in the Father and the Father in me.”

Philip the Apostle is a different person from Philip the Deacon. It is believed that Phillip the Apostle was crucified in Asia Minor, modern Turkey.

James and Philip paid for their faith with their lives.  How different their faith is from the easy-believism, “take what you want and leave the rest,” cafeteria Christianity ideas that pass for  following Christ today.  We want following Christ to be easy and fun.  We want Him to enhance our happiness and personal security.  We don’t want Him to demand changes in our attitudes and behaviour, and we certainly don’t want to have to sacrifice our comforts and pleasures to follow Him.  We want Heaven, but not the cross.  Is it any wonder we are so easily overcome by the world?  Perhaps we would do well to give today’s Collect serious consideration, and seriously pray, “that, following the footsteps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

May 2

1 Samuel 1,  John 11:1-29
1 Sam. 2:1-21,  Romans 1

Commentary,

1 Samuel 1

It is about the year 1100 BC. The unity of the tribes of Israel during the conquest of Canaan has disintegrated into isolationism and inter-clan strife.  The commitment to the Covenant of God has waned, and most of the people have fallen into idolatry and moral chaos. Even the priests have deserted God for idolatry, and some use their position to gain personal wealth. For nearly four hundred years Israel has existed in such dire conditions the era has been called Israel’s “Dark Ages.” Old Testament scholar, Dr. H. I. Hester, said the era was characterised by “apostasy, decline, disorder, and demoralization. It was a time of decline in all areas of life, economic, political, social, moral and religious. It was a time of compromise and acceptance by many of God's people of the ideas and standards of their pagan neighbors. The oft-recurring statement in the book of Judges is ‘The children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah.’”  It sounds very much like our own time, doesn’t it?

In this time of darkness a woman is praying. Her life is vexed by the surrounding darkness, and by the circumstances within her own home, for her husband, Elkanah, has two wives. We are not told why. Perhaps one had been the wife of a deceased brother, whom  Elkanah married in obedience to the Law. Or perhaps he had taken a second wife in imitation of the practices of the polygynous Canaanites. Either way the situation brings much unhappiness into the life of this woman of prayer, whose name is Hannah. The other wife, called her adversary in verse 6, derides Hannah, and causes much unhappiness in the household. This adversary is so wicked she even provokes Hannah in the house of God, where Hannah desires to be most free from disturbances and to focus on prayer and worship.  The Reverend Mathew Henry attributes this to Satanic influence, saying, “The great adversary to our purity and peace is…  most industrious to ruffle us when we should be most composed.”

But God has not forgotten his people, nor are his ears deaf to Hannah's prayers. A child is born, and when his time is come, he is taken to Shiloh and dedicated to the service of God, as Hannah has promised.

1 Samuel 2:1-21

The song of Hannah (1-10) is a beautiful hymn of thanksgiving and faith.  It looks back to God's grace in giving Hannah a child. It also looks forward to a time when God will deliver Israel from her present troubles, especially her oppression and domination by the Philistines. This deliverance will come in part through the ministry of Hannah's son, Samuel. Hints of David and Solomon are also seen in this song. But one greater than David is foretold here. Christ the great King, the Savior, and his reign of peace will fulfill the promises of this song in a way Hannah can scarcely comprehend. But we see His work. We see His salvation. By faith we have entered His Kingdom, and by faith we see it's consummation.


May 3

1 Sam. 2:22-36,  Jn 11:30-57
1 Sam. 3,  Rom. 2

Commentary,

 1 Samuel 2:22-36

The sons of Eli are wicked, and their office will be taken from them. Samuel will take their place. Though not a Levite, the office of the priest will be given to him, and he will be the faithful priest that shall do according to that which is in the heart of God (vs.35). And yet there is another Priest, the great High Priest, who is the source and the fulfillment of the Old Testament priesthood. He is faithful beyond the faithfulness of any mere human priest. And the sacrifice He offers atones for all of our sins forever.  He is Christ, our Lord.

1 Samuel 3

God's Covenant with Israel includes the promise that he will raise up another prophet like Moses and that the office of the prophet will continue as long as Israel remains faithful to God. But, in this dark age of apostasy, God has almost entirely withdrawn the ministry of the prophet.  “The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” This means prophets are rare, and the few who exist do not often speak publicly. Of course the people still have the books of Moses and Joshua, and these books are sufficient guides to faith and practice.  So the children of Israel are not without the knowledge of God and His will.  Their real problem is not lack of knowledge, it is lack of obedience to the knowledge they have.  They have the truth, but  they hold and suppress it in unrighteousness, In its place they imagine and follow vain and false ideas, and their foolish hearts are darkened.  By not sending an abundance of prophets to them, God is simply giving them what they want.  They want to be free of Him, and He has turned them over to their reprobate desires (see Rom. 1:19-32).

Verses 2-18 record God calling Samuel and charging him with his first message.  It is a message of sorrow for Samuel, and for the house of Eli. The sons of Eli are priests in the Tabernacle of God by virtue of being of the tribe of Levi.  But they are wicked men, and they abuse their calling and their people.  Therefore, God is going to remove them from their office.  Even Eli will be taken from the office, for he knows the sins of his sons, but he “restrained them not” (13).  Eli accepts this as the justice of God.

Samuel’s calling and ministry become well known in Israel.  The people of Israel, who had stayed away from the Tabernacle, begin to come again to sacrifice and worship God.  They know the house of God is served by honest  ministers again, and they know the Lord is there and He speaks through Samuel.

What grace and patience we see in our long-suffering God.  Israel has broken the Covenant (again), and He would be perfectly just to cast them away and let the entire world die in its sin.  But He continues to work in and bless this rebellious and foolish people.  And He continues His plan to bring the Saviour into the world through Israel.  He does not continue to work with Israel, or us, because we are good, or valuable, or worthy of His love in any way.  The whole point made here is that all people are completely unworthy of God, and are of no value to Him.  It is precisely because we are unworthy and without value that He condescends to save us.  He saves us because He is merciful, not because we are worth saving. This teaching of Scripture is completely incompatible with the popular slogan, “I know I am somebody because God doesn’t make junk.”  

May 4

1 Sam. 4,  Jn. 12:1-19
1 Sam. 5, Rom. 3

Commentary,

1 Samuel 4

Chapter 4 begins with a Philistine victory over Israel.  The Philistines occupy an area of western Canaan, along the Mediterranean coast.  Today it is know as the Gaza strip.  They have been particularly troublesome to Israel, and they will continue to harass and oppress her.  They are the ones who gave Samson so much trouble.  Goliath was a Philistine.  A united Israel could have easily defeated them, but isolated tribes, with policies of appeasement, could not stop their constant invasions.

Following their defeat, Israel decides to take the Ark of the Covenant into the next battle.  The Ark was built at Sinai and contained the stone tablets we know as the Ten Commandments.  The decision is not a religious one.  It is not a sign of repentance, or returning to God by Israel.  It is an act of superstition.  The Ark is treated as a good luck charm, and Israel hopes its magic is strong enough to enable her to defeat the Philistines. 

The hope is vain.  God not only allows the Philistines to inflict a terrible slaughter on Israel, He also allows the pagans to capture the Ark.  The sons of Eli are killed in the battle, and Eli also dies when he receives the news.

The name of Eli’s grandson is a summary of the social/spiritual condition of Israel.  Ichabod, 
“The glory is departed,” means the Ark is passed out of the land, and the glory of God has passed out of Israel.

1 Samuel 5

The glory of the Lord does not descend upon the Philistines with the Ark.  Instead of blessing, the Ark brings sorrow and death to them. Verse 6 says, “The hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emrods.”

Ashdod is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea.  It is best known as the site of the temple of the Philistine god, Dagon.  The Ark, captured from Israel, is brought to this town because it is deep in Philistine territory, and is fairly safe from attack by Israelites seeking to retrieve the Ark.  Capturing the Ark is a  major event for the Philistines.  To them it signifies that their Dagon has overcome the God of Israel, but God soon relieves them of this delusion.  He smites the Philistines with emrods, or, tumors.  Many, many Philistines die.

Attempting to rid themselves of the Ark, the people of Ashdod move it a few miles east to Gath.  But the same tumors kill many in that city, and they decide to move the Ark north to Ekron.  Ekron does not want the Ark to enter it.  Its people even accuse the other Philistines of trying to kill them by bringing the Ark to their city.  They offer the only intelligent answer to the question of what to do with the Ark; “let it go again to its own place” (11).

May 5

1 Sam. 6,  Jn. 12:20-50
1 Sam. 7, Rom. 4

Commentary,

1 Samuel 6

The foolish and idolatrous Philistines are wise enough to send the Ark back to Israel with a  sin offering.  The offering consists of five golden replicas of tumors, and five golden images of mice.  We understand that the tumors represent the tumors which killed so many Philistines, but the significance of the mice is not as clear.  Some scholars believe the bubonic plague struck the Philistines while the Ark was in their possession, and that the mice represent it as the carriers of the disease.  It is questionable whether the people understood the connection between mice and plague at that time, but it is one possible explanation.

The Ark is placed on a cart pulled by milk cows, and sent on its way toward a town near Bethlehem called, Beth-shemesh.  But the foolish men of Beth-shemesh look into the Ark instead of calling the priests to handle it as the Law demands, and the Lord strikes them dead, just as He did the Philistines. They also want to rid themselves of the Ark, and convince the people of Kirath-jerim to take it.

1 Samuel 7

The Ark remains in Kirath-jerim for twenty years.  During this time there is a small revival of faith and Godliness among the people of Israel.  By God’s grace, He has prepared for this time of revival.  Samuel is now prepared to lead Israel as a prophet, and as a central figure in civil governance.  Samuel is something like a new Moses, and he continues the functions once performed by Moses.  This is a great time in Israel’s history.  She has neglected and rejected God, but God has not rejected her.  His grace still blesses her, by sending a prophet like unto Moses.

Israel gathers at Mizpeh (near Bethel) to worship and seek God.  The meeting is called and led by Samuel.  As they meet, the Philistines invade, intending to destroy the army of Israel in one, devastating campaign.  But God intercedes.  An unnaturally loud peal of thunder surprises and demoralises the Philistine army.  The soldiers begin to retreat, but they are deep in Israel, and safety and reinforcements are far away.  By the hand of God, Israel is given a massive victory.  They pursue the Philistines out of Israel and deep into Philistine territory.  The Philistine fortresses of Gath and Ekron fall before Israel.  Verse 14 seems to indicate that this invasion went all the way to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  The hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel, and there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.  Samuel makes continuous rounds through Israel, judging, preaching, and teaching Israel to learn and keep the Law more importantly, He unites Israel into a Godly people again.

May 6

1 Sam. 8,  Jn. 13
1 Sam. 9,  Rom. 5

Commentary,

1 Samuel 8

The primary subject of chapter 8 is Israel’s request for a king. In the context of the times, this does not seem to be an unreasonable request. Samuel is old, and unable to make the constant journeys necessary to hold the nation together, either politically or spiritually. He has passed much of his ministry on to his sons, but they are wicked men who pervert justice for bribes. In addition, Deuteronomy 17:14-20 seems to promise to give Israel a king. So this was in God's mind as well as in Israel’s mind. Why then is God displeased?

His displeasure seems to be with the spirit of the request rather than the request itself. Israel is not asking God to fulfill a promise. The people are not asking for a godly king who will rule under God. They are asking for a king because they don't trust God to give them peace and security. Their request is an act of unbelief and an expression of their lack of faith. It is a step away from God, and a step back toward the practices of the unbelieving nations around Israel. It is a step back into paganism.  Admittedly, the request is not a complete return to paganism, but it is a definite step away from God.

This step will have tragic consequences, which Samuel sadly warns them of in verses 11 through 18. Israel will suffer these consequences many times under the rule of greedy and wicked despots. Other nations also have, and continue, to suffer under cruel and oppressive governments. Flawed and frail human beings have a tendency to abuse power. The same power that can be used to defend the people can also be used to oppress them. Beware of placing too much power in too few hands.

1 Samuel 9

Saul is exactly the kind of man Israel wants for a king.  Very tall and handsome, outwardly religious, yet able to compromise the faith for expedience and convenience, he is the kind of person the world naturally follows.  He has no reservations about assuming the role of priest, and  he will use his position as king to further his own wealth and power.  People in leadership positions tend to do this, don’t they?

May 7

1 Sam. 10,  Jn. 14
1 Sam. 11,  Rom. 6

Commentary,

1 Samuel 10

Samuel gathers the people at Mizpeh, a small village about 8  miles north west of Jerusalem.  Verses 1-16 tell of Saul’s anointing and preparation for assuming the role of king.  Verses 17-26 tell of Saul’s public coronation.  Samuel wisely tells the people “the manner of the kingdom,” and writes the same in a book, which he places in the Sanctuary of God, for there is no Temple at this time.

What was in the book of the “manner of the kingdom?” The Rev’d. Matthew Henry believed it was a written text of Samuel’s warning to Israel, as found in 1 Samuel 8 delineating the “arbitrary power kings will assume,” written as a witness against Israel to remind the people that “they had drawn the calamity upon themselves.”  Doctors Keil and Delitzsch believed it contained regulations about “the rights and duties of the human king in relation to Jehovah the King on the one hand, and the nation on the other.” There is also the possibility that the book could have included both, and more.

1 Samuel 11

The chapter opens with Saul in his hometown of Gibeah.  He is doing something every civil and religious leader should do regularly, he is plowing.  He is doing humble, manual labour.  He learns that an Ammonite named Nahash has besieged the Israelite town of Jabesh Gilead, of the tribe of Manasseh on the eastern side of the Jordan River about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee.

The people of Jabesh Gilead offer themselves as servants to the Ammonites if they cannot get help from other Israelites.  Nahash’s retort promises humiliation and pain, but also agrees to allow the town to seek help.  Nahash should have simply taken Jabesh Gilead.  His offer to allow the town to seek help seems to be based on the assumption that Israel is still suffering under the disunity and isolationism that characterised it in the time of the Judges.  He is wrong.

When Saul learns of the threat, he kills his oxen and sends the pieces throughout Israel with the message, “Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen.”  This could mean Saul will make war on those Israelites who do not join him in defending Jabesh Gilead. It could mean that, letting the Ammonites take Jabesh Gilead gives the enemies of Israel an open invitation to conquer Israel piece by piece and tribe by tribe. A combination of meanings is also possible.

Whatever the message, the Israelites get it. Three hundred thousand men come from the tribes of northern Israel.  They are joined by thirty thousand from the tribe of Judah.  Saul divides the army into three companies.  The largest one makes a frontal attack on the Ammonites.  The other two attack the right and left flanks.  With Jabesh Gilead on the rear, Nahash is surrounded, and suffers an enormous defeat that almost annihilates his army.

An enthusiastic crowd wants to kill all Israelites who opposed Saul (10:27).  Saul wisely counsels forgiveness and unity.  This act of mercy, coupled with his astounding victory at Jebesh Gilead, endears Saul to the people.  They gather at Gilgal in the territory of Benjamin.  There they again formally recognise Saul as king, and give their allegiance to him.  


May 8

1 Sam. 12,  Jn. 15
1 Sam. 13,  Rom. 7

Commentary, 

1 Samuel 12

Samuel addresses the gathering in Gilgal.  He reminds Israel that it was God, not Moses, or the Judges, or Samuel who established and defended Israel from Egypt to Canaan.  The point is that it is not Saul who gave the victory at Jebesh Gilad.  Nor was it the formidable might of a unified Israelite army.  The victory is from God, not man.

He reminds the Israelites that their demand for a king was a sinful affront to God (vs. 12), yet God promises that grace and blessings will come to Israel through the king if the people, and the  king, obey the commandments of God.  This obedience must be neither mechanical, nor done to manipulate God.  It must be done with the whole heart; from love of God and gratitude for His wondrous grace to Israel.  The essence of Samuel’s sermon is in verses 24 and 25.

1 Samuel 13

The remainder of Saul’s first year passes in relative quiet.  Saul, rather than using the time to organise the nation, seems to fritter away the time.  At the end of his second year he raises a tiny army of 3,000 men.  1,000 are with his son, Jonathan; 2,000 are with Saul.  Meanwhile, the men of Israel return to their homes.  This allows the Philistines to advance into Israel again.  Their control of the territories of Judah and Benjamin is so complete that the Israelites are without weapons, and are forced to hide goods and food, and even themselves from the Philistines.  The Philistines even have a garrison in Geba, in central Benjamin, just a few miles from Saul’s base of operations, Gibeah.

This means the tribes of Israel have drifted back into isolationism.  They have allowed their enemies to invade their southwestern and central areas, and to keep troops within those areas.  The Philistines continuously plunder and pillage the Hebrews, and have forcefully disarmed the local citizenry.  Israel’s lack of weapons leaves them open to any and all Philistines depredations.

Saul sends Jonathan on a successful raid against the Philistines at Geba.  But the Philistines are enraged, rather than disheartened by their defeat.  They send a massive army into the heart of the Benjamite territory, and the Israelites flee and hide from the invaders.  Saul remains in Gilgal, along with some loyal, but very frightened people.

Apparently Saul has received word from Samuel that he is coming to Gilgal to pray and sacrifice with the people.  But Saul is impatient and takes it upon himself to offer the sacrifices.  Saul is not only incompetent, but also sacrilegious, as he takes upon himself the office of priest and prophet.  In one sense, we can identify with Saul’s actions.  Samuel is late by several days.  The people are afraid and many soldiers are deserting.  The Philistine army less than 10 miles away, and can strike easily and quickly.  The situation is desperate, and seems to call for desperate action.

Saul’s actions are exactly what the world would expect and admire in a leader.  He takes decisive action to unify the people and disperse their fears by leading in the prayers and sacrifices.  But Israel is still the Church of the Old Testament, not a secular nation, and God is still the real King of Israel, and He has called and established the priests to lead the prayers and sacrifices.  Saul’s actions, therefore represent a lack of faith as well as overt disobedience.  He does not trust God to deliver Israel in His own way and own time.  He does not trust God to keep the Philistines away until Samuel arrives.  Worse, Saul usurps power and positions that are forbidden to him.  by Scripture.  He assumes he is the head of the Church, and, therefore, the chief priest, and acts accordingly.

The result of this usurpation is devastating for Saul and Israel.  The kingdom is taken away from Saul.  This means his sons and grandsons will not be kings.  That office will go to others, not related to Saul.  Most of the other kings will be even worse than Saul.  They will slay the priests and prophets, pervert justice, and lead Israel into idolatry and immorality.  It seems that all of the bad things God warned Israel about happen continuously due to ungodly kings.  Few of the good things happen under the leadership of Godly kings.   Thus we see again one of the Bible’s continuing themes: God requires us to do things His way, and trust Him with the rest; but we insist on dong things our way, and want God to bless them. 


May 9

1 Sam. 14:1-23, Jn. 16
1 Sam. 14:24-52, Rom. 8

Commentary,

1 Samuel 14

In spite of Saul’s disobedience, God gives Israel a great victory over the Philistines.  The two armies meet a few miles north of Gibeah at Michmash.  God sends an earthquake that fills the Philistines with so much fear they begin killing each other in their attempt to flee.  Though weak in other skills, Saul is a fairly competent military leader.  He does not allow the fleeing Philistines to re-group.  He pursues them throughout the day, forbidding the Israelis to eat.  By evening the hungry men eat sheep left behind by the Philistines, and Jonathan finds and eats honey.  The soldiers eat the meat with the blood, meaning, they did not follow the required ritual for killing and eating the animals.  Rather than draining the blood, they simply killed and ate.  This is a violation of God’s law.  Thus, even in the midst of a God given victory, they ignore His commandments to satisfy their hunger.  Jonathan eats honey, not knowing of his father’s prohibition.  He is sentenced to die for his crime, but the people do not allow Saul to execute the sentence.

The chapter closes with Saul’s increasing victories over Israel’s enemies.  But the Philistines are not fully defeated.  They continue to fight Israel all the days of Saul.

May 10

1 Sam. 15,  Jn. 17
1 Sam. 16, Rom. 9

Commentary,

1 Samuel 15

Israel's place in Canaan is by no means secure. As we have seen in chapter 14, the Philistines pose a continual threat. The Amalekites, too remain strong and threaten Israel’s borders.   A brutal and war-loving people, whose sword has made many widows and orphans (vs. 32), we remember the Amalekites for their attack on Israel in Exodus 17.  Deuteronomy 25:17-19 tells us this was a cowardly sneak attack against the rear echelons, where Israel’s feeble, faint, and weary were concentrated.  Israel usually moved in a circular formation, with each tribe holding a specific place in the formation.  Naturally, the strong, armed men of each tribe would form the outer rim.  This formation was like a movable fortress, and allowed reinforcements to move to any point on the perimeter in case of attack.  It also kept the elderly, women, children, and livestock protected inside the perimeter.  As in any massive movement of people, there were also stragglers, and they tended to concentrate in the rear of the circle, or even to lag behind it.   There seems to have been a rear guard with them, but the vast majority of the armed men were at their posts in the forward area.  The cowardly Amalekites did not attack the wall of armed men.  They attacked the women, children, and feeble at the rear and outside of the formation. The outnumbered rear guard was easily overcome by the  Amalekites, who slew the people, and plundered Israel.

Centuries later, the Amalekite descendants would gladly repeat the attack.  So, in a pre-emptive strike, and in fulfilment of God’s promise to bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse her, God instructs Samuel to instruct Saul to destroy the Amalekites.

Throughout the ages people have used war to take land and resources from others.  Saul and the people of Israel see the war with the Amalekites as this kind of war.  Therefore, they keep the best of the Amalekites’ property as plunder.  But this war was not to be a despicable raid for plunder.  It was not even a counterstrike for the Amalekite attack on Israel.   It was about God cursing those who curse Israel.  It was about God keeping His promise to defend His people.

Saul’s sin is twofold.  First, he disobeys God.  Second, he uses the war, and the army of Israel, to enrich himself.  Confronted by Samuel, Saul operates on the “deny everything; admit nothing” principle that politicians often use to avoid blame.  He twists the truth, “spins” it in an attempt to appear as though he has faithfully and fully done what he was commissioned to do.  Modern political machines, which often control the press, often sway public opinion this way, especially if they give the ‘spoil” to the people.  The people, having been “bought off” cease to care about corruption and vice in the government, as long as the spoil continues to come. 

But God cares, and the day of reckoning will come.  “The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day” (vs. 26). 

1 Samuel 16

Samuel is broken hearted over Saul.  Having prayed and laboured for decades to see Israel returned to Godliness, he mourns over her demand for a king.  Having had high hopes for Saul, he mourns over his sin, and the suffering he, and future kings will bring upon Israel.  Samuel is seeing the revival that characterised Israel during his days, disintegrate, as Israel falls back into worldliness and unbelief.  And it grieves him to his very soul.  He must feel much as western Christians feel watching our cultures sink into the mire of sin and unbelief.

But God’s grace is still at work.  He sends Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint the future king, David.  He even places David in Saul’s inner circle, where he learns leadership, military strategy, and administrative skills he will need to lead Israel.

May 11

1 Sam. 17:1-29, Jn 18
1 Sam. 17: 30,  Rom.10

Commentary,

1 Samuel 17

In David’s youth, the tribe of Judah holds a slender strip of land on Israel’s southern border.  Beyond Judah’s boundary lie enemy tribes, of which one of the most dangerous is the Philistines.  Gath, home of the huge warrior, Goliath, is a Philistine stronghold, and is less than 25 miles from Bethlehem, and less than 30 miles from Saul’s base in Gibeah.

In chapter 17, the Philistines are invading Judah and are camped in the valley of Elah, near Lachish.  If they are able to secure Lachish, they can move east to conquer Hebron, where a good road will enable them to march straight to Gibeah, conquering  and annihilating Israelites the entire way.  Victory in such a campaign will almost exterminate the Israelites, and secure the area for the Philistines.

Outnumbered, and facing certain defeat, Saul is afraid to attack the Philistines, who offer an alternative.  Send your best warrior to fight our best warrior, and let the war be decided by their contest.  Of course, their best warrior just happens to be nine feet tall and an experienced warrior from his youth.  Not only is it apparently impossible to defeat Goliath, but Israel knows the Philistines will not honour the bargain.  If Goliath is defeated, they still intend to destroy Israel.  Annihilating Saul’s army will leave Israel defenseless.  With the main Philistine army marching north through central Judah and Benjamin, other forces could move from Ekron and Joppa to invade Dan and Ephraim from the west.  All of southern and central Israel could fall.

So this is a critical battle.  Israel’s survival is at stake.  Even more important, the entire plan of salvation is at stake.  If Israel loses here, God’s plan to bring the Saviour into the world through the seed of Abraham will fail, and the light of the Gospel will be extinguished.

Of course, God’s plan will not fail.  He has brought Israel into Canaan by His own power, and He will continue to preserve her by that same power.  Bad kings, internal sin, and even enemy armies cannot defeat Him or stop His plan.  Goliath falls.  Israel wins the battle, and the Saviour will come.



May 12

1 Sam. 18, Jn. 19
1 Sam 19,  Rom. 11

Commentary,

1 Samuel 18

David is taken into Saul’s army and quickly becomes a competent leader.  Through him the defeat of the Philistines is turned into a successful invasion which secures Israel’s western front, though the Philistines themselves are not completely conquered.
Saul is not pleased by David’s success.  Instead he is enraged at David’s popularity with the people. After failing to kill David, Saul attempts to secure his loyalty by bringing him into the family through marriage to his daughter, Merab.  Though this marriage does not happen, David does marry Saul’s other daughter, Michal.

But Saul has another reason for having David marry his daughter.  He wants to use her against David.  He demands one hundred Philistine foreskins as the dowery for Michal.  He hopes David will be killed in the ensuing battle with the Philistines, and Saul will be rid of him.  But David is not killed.  Instead, Saul sees that God is with David, and Saul fears/hates David even more, though David behaves himself more wisely and loyally than all the other servants of Saul

1 Samuel 19

In spite of his father’s growing hatred of David, Saul’s son, Jonathan loves and admires David.  The two form a great friendship.  Meanwhile Saul’s attempts to kill David force David to leave Saul’s house.  In a desperate attempt to find him, Saul resorts to taking upon himself the office of a prophet, which he perverts as thoroughly as he has perverted the office of king.

May 13

1 Sam. 20,  Jn. 20
1 Sam. 21,  Rom. 12

Commentary,

1 Samuel 20

David has been loyal supporter of Saul. So why does Saul hate him? The answer is found in verse 31, “For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom.” Saul’s focus has changed. In the beginning of his reign, he was humble and concerned about the good of Israel. But somewhere along the way, he began to focus on his own wealth and power. He wants to live a long and happy life in wealth and security. And he wants to establish a dynasty through his descendants that will last for generations and generations. David is an obstacle. Saul realises David will succeed him as king. So Saul hates David, and attempts to kill him.  Saul is not the only politician to use his power for personal gain. In fact, that seems to be very common throughout history, but it does not go un-noticed by God.

Jonathan sees his father's weakness. Doubtless, he has heard Samuel’s denunciation of Saul. Doubtless also, David has told him of his anointing by Samuel. Jonathan accepts this, and pledges his loyalty to David. For Jonathan, the will of God, the good of Israel, and righteous obedience, are more important than personal gain or prominence. He would rather do the will of God than be king.  May God give us more public servants like Jonathan.

1 Samuel 21

It seems that several years have passed since David was anointed king. During this time he has gone from a shepherd boy to a palace musician, to a brilliant military commander. But he is still not king. During this time he has not sought to establish himself on the throne. Rather he has sought the good of Israel and the good of Saul. He has supported the king, not attempted to take the throne. His entire demeanour has been honourable.

It is not so with Saul. Pride, greed, and self advancement have characterised his actions since early in his reign. His greed is so great, and his hate is so strong, David is forced to flee for his life. He will live among his enemies. He will live in the wilderness. He will be hungry and  exposed to the elements. This is probably not what he expected when told he would be king. Rather than luxury and ease in the palace, God has given him the rugged life of a fugitive. God’s promises do not always come the way we expect, but David endures the hardship because he places the will of God above his own comforts and desires.

May 14

1 Sam. 22,  Jn. 21
1 Sam. 23, Rom. 13

Commentary,

1 Samuel 22

The people of Israel begin to rally around David.  Nob is just a short distance from Saul’s headquarters, and only about seven miles from David’s home in Bethlehem. Many who come to David are from his father’s house, and from Bethlehem, but many more come from other areas because they are in debt, or are otherwise victims of Saul’s policies.  In a short time, about four hundred fighting men form a military company and pledge themselves to David.  Meanwhile, David hides his father and mother from Saul on the other side of the Jordan in Moab.  How significant that David’s parents find refuge in Moab, and that his great-grandmother, Ruth, was from Moab.

Saul adds even more to his mounting burden of sin.  He orders Doeg the Edomite to kill the priests from Nob who helped David.  Then he attacks the town of Nob, an unguarded and peaceful people who know nothing of Saul’s animosity toward David.  Fourscore, or, 80 priests are murdered, along with every man, woman, and child in Nob. Saul, the king, who should be the friend and defender of the people, has become their enemy and murderer.

Though David feels responsible, it was Doeg who told Saul of David’s presence in Nob.  It was Saul who ordered the murder of the priests and people.

1 Samuel 23

Saul is so busy worrying about David that he fails to fulfill his obligations as king.  While he is killing innocent Israelites and brooding over David, the Philistines mount a series of raids into Israel, reaching as far as Keilah, about 20 miles south of Jerusalem.  The raiders kill Israelites and steal their grain and food supplies.  But the Philistines may have a more important mission in mind.  Keilah is near the main road through central Israel.  That road goes through Bethlehem and Jerusalem to Gibeah, where Saul’s army is garrisoned.  With Saul neglecting his duty, the army is in disarray.  We have already seen that some of the soldiers refused to obey Saul’s order to kill the priests of Nob.  In addition, Israel’s most abel field commander, David,  is hiding from Saul.  These factors mean a Philistine attack on Gibeah has a good chance of eliminating the Hebrew army.  This will leave all of Israel defenseless, and the Philistines can march north and wipe the Hebrew people off the face of the map.  They tried this before, and were only stopped by a great Hebrew victory after David killed Goliath ( see comments on 1 Sam. 17).  So these raids may have the intention of testing Israel’s defences and Saul’s resolve.  Failure to stand against the Philistines at Keilah would be an open invitation to conquer and destroy Israel.

Saul does not attempt to save Keilah, but Davids’ small army delivers a stunning defeat to the Philistines.  Rather than welcoming David back, and recognising his loyalty and brilliant deliverance of Keilah, Saul continues to use public resources to fund his persecution of David, marching his army to Keilah in an attempt to kill David.  David escapes, but Saul continues to neglect his responsibility as king to pursue David.   He relents only long enough to battle another Philistine invasion, which may have been aimed at him and his morally weakened army.  David flees to Engedi on the coast of the Dead Sea.   

May 15

1 Sam. 24, Acts 1
1 Sam. 25,  Rom. 14

Commentary,

1 Samuel 24

Saul, still pursuing David, goes into a cave to “cover his feet.”  The modest way of referring to a bodily function would be good to emulate in this age, when even the most intimate details of anatomy and physiology are discussed in the most base and crass ways.  David, who is hiding in the cave, could easily kill Saul.  With Saul dead, Jonathan would probably hail David as king, and David’s troubles would be over.  But, rather than lift  his hand against God’s anointed, as Saul has done against David, and against the priests at Nob, David spares Saul’s life.  Learning of this, Saul seems to repent, but David knows he will come for him again, so he returns to Engedi.

1 Samuel 25

David’s intention of revenge and his immoderate language show that he also has weaknesses and sin, just like the rest of us.  In contrast to him, Abigail is strong and courageous.  Her language is temperate and respectful, and her counsel saves David from acting out of personal anger and a desire for revenge.  She prevents David from becoming like Saul.  Without being murdered by David, Nabal dies.  David marries Abigail.  This is an acceptable marriage, for David’s first wife, Saul’s daughter is now married to another man, being forced into the marriage by Saul.  But David also marries another woman, Ahinoam of Jezreel.  This is a sinful pattern David will continue throughout his life, and it will cause much sorrow to many people. 

May 16

1 Sam. 26,  Acts 2
1 Sam. 27,  Rom 15

Commentary,

1 Samuel 26

Saul has come against David again.  It is important to see how consumed Saul is with killing David.  He is willing to waste Israel’s economic resources, and to sacrifice her men’s lives on the battlefield to accomplish his wicked and selfish goals.  This is a terrible misuse of his power.  While he is chasing David, Israel is falling apart within, and is open to invasion from numerous enemies.

Yet David spares Saul’s life again. He is able to sneak into the very heart of Saul’s camp, where Saul himself is sleeping. He takes Saul’s spear and canteen to prove he has been there and has not killed the king.

Saul has a momentary lapse into reality. Realising David's loyalty, he promises to end his vendetta, and invites David to return to him in peace.

1 Samuel 27

But David realises Saul will not keep his promise. Saul will continue to hunt him as long as he remains in Israel. So David and resolves to seek shelter among his enemies the Philistines. He moves to Gath, hometown of is ancient enemy Goliath. There he is received and welcomed, partly because he has his army with him. When David asks for a place to live, Achish gladly grants him a place in Ziklag.

David uses Ziklag as a base of operations from which to launch attacks on Israel's enemies. But, when Achish asks David about his battles, David says he has been fighting against Israel and her allies. Again we see that even David shares the fallen and sinful nature of the rest of humanity. Rather than be honest with his host, David lies. And even while enjoying the protection of the Philistines, David is fighting against them and their allies. But the king of Gath believes David and allows him to stay. Thus David is safe from Saul, who, “sought no more for him.”

May 17

1 Sam. 28, Acts 3
1 Sam. 29, Rom 16

Commentary,

1 Samuel 28

The saddest thing about Saul is that he never repents. In this chapter, he asks God for information, but never confesses his sin, or returns to God in faith. No wonder God does not answer. So Saul goes to the witch. I cannot believe any mere human being has the power to bring someone else back from the dead. Even if given Satanic assistance, bringing Samuel back from the presence of God is impossible. But God can send Samuel back, just as he raised Lazarus, and others. It seems to have pleased God to send Samuel to Saul one last time. The message, straight from God, is that Israel will be defeated and Saul will die.

Here we see the problem with spiritism and magic. They attempt to manipulate, control, or gain information about current or future events rather than seeking God and trusting Him with the future. Saul’s appeal to the witch shows how far he has departed from God.

1 Samuel 29

The Philistine lords rightly do not trust David. They remember his wars against them, and fear he will turn against them in the battle against Israel. So David returns to Ziklag, apparently intending to remain neutral in the battle. This is a blessing in disguise, for it assures that David will have no part in the death of Saul. Nor will he be present to spare Saul’s life again

The valley of Jezreel is about 47 miles north of Jerusalem. It is a broad and a fertile plain, which leads from the coast to the interior of Israel's heartland. It's western side is guarded by the fortified to city of Megiddo.  There the great Sea Road, which stretches from Egypt to Israel, turns eastward into Israel.  It is a broad, well traveled road, often used by invading armies, marauders, and caravans. Most of them are going to or coming from the great cities of Egypt or the Tigris Euphrates Valley. The Philistines use it as a staging point to invade Israel. By amassing his troops there, Achish employs a new strategy. In the past the Philisties attempted to invade Israel from the south. This time he moves in from the north. With David out of the battle, and Israel in disarray due to Saul’s foolish obsession with capturing David, the Philistines anticipate and easy victory. They also seem to have a large and well equipped army, greatly outnumbering Israel’s.  If Achish can defeat Saul here, he can easily march north to conquer the small, isolated territories of Issachar, Zebulun, and Asher. Since these small tribes pose little threat to the Philistines, he probably intends to turn south following the main road through central Israel. One by one, he can destroy the cities of Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, and Saul’s stronghold at Gibeah. From there he can go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Beer-sheba. This will destroy the main cities and strongholds of Israel, leaving the rest of the people and country defenseless and easily conquered by short campaigns and raids. If this plan succeeds, Israel will be annihilated.

Again we see Saul neglecting his duty as king. Instead of chasing David, he should have been uniting and organizing the tribes of Israel into a strong and unified nation. Without diminishing  the tribes’ sovereignty, he could have organised an army of ready reserves that could easily have defeated the Philistines and any other local enemies. Instead, he left the tribes to fend for themselves, open to attack and oppression from any direction.

May 18

1 Samuel 30,  Acts 4:1-22
1 Samuel 31, 1 Corinthians 1

David and his men depart from the Philistine army by way of the Great Sea Road, which the Philistines also take north to Jezreel. When David reaches Ziklag, the home given to him by the Philistines, he finds the city destroyed and the people taken hostage by the Amalekites. David pursues the Amalekites with such intensity that fully half his army is unable to continue the chase. Leaving them behind, and acting on information given by an Egyptian, David surprises the Amalekites in a battle lasting all night and all the next day. All of the Amalekites, except 400 who escape on camels, are killed in the battle. The possessions of David and his people are recovered, along with much Amalekite spoil. David gives all his people back their own property, and even allows the 200 soldiers who did not fight to have a share of the spoils. The captured Amalekite property is even shared with others in Judah. Many of these people have helped David in the past, and this generosity could be seen as rewarding past hospitality. It is also a very wise political move. David surely realises King Saul has very little chance of surviving the battle with the Philistines. So he is moving to secure the friendship and loyalty of the people of Judah, which is the largest, richest, and most powerful tribe in Israel. Their friendship will be an enormous help when David finally seeks and ascends to the throne of Israel.   It is also true that a united Judah will be more than the Philistines want to fight, which will bring some sense of peace and security to Southern Israel.

1 Samuel 31

Chapter 31 turns to the plight of Saul.  His feeble army has marched to Jezreel to fight the Philistines.  Out numbered, and under armed, due to Saul’s neglect of duty, the Israelites are no match for the Philistine archers.  Decimated, Saul retreats to the high ground of Mount Gilboah on the south side of the valley.  Saul chooses suicide, rather than capture and torture.  His sons, apparently  do the same.  The king is dead.  The army flees in complete rout.  The Philistines now control central Israel, and there seems to be no way to prevent the total annihilation of Israel.

The people of Manasseh, on the eastern side of the Jordan, seem to have watched the battle.  What treachery to watch from safety when they could have joined forces with Saul to defeat the enemy.  When they see Saul’s army retreat, they also retreat, leaving their towns and properties to the Philistines, just as the Philistines hoped they would.  It now appears that all Israel is open to the Philistines, who can kill and plunder until Israel is eliminated and the entire area belongs to the Philistines.

A few valiant men burn the bodies of Saul and his sons.  But the book of First Samuel ends with the king dead, the people in apostasy, and the nation in danger of annihilation.

May 19

2 Samuel. 1,  Acts 4:23-37
2 Sam. 2,  1 Cor. 2

Commentary,

2 Samuel 1

Second Samuel gives an account of David’s life and reign up to the time of his census of Israel.  It begins with the news of Saul’s death.  Providentially, David was kept from the battle in which Saul died, so there can be no suspicion that he killed, or plotted to kill Saul.  The execution of the messenger seems to say David takes no pleasure in Saul’s death, and that his part in killing Saul was murder.  Verses 17-26 are a lament over the fall and death of Saul.

2 Samuel 2

The news of Saul’s death divides Israel into two factions, which are very soon at war with each other.  Judah, David’s tribe, where he has been living and which he has been protecting, is the largest and most powerful tribe.  Its people elect David as their king, probably expecting the other tribes to do the same. 

The central tribes, where Saul lived and kept his headquarters, elect Ishbosheth as king.  They are  joined by the smaller, northerns tribes.  Below are short sentences to help identify who is doing what in this, and following chapters.

David is the son of Jesse, anointed by Samuel as God’s choice for king of all Israel, he is elected king of Judah

Joab is a general in David’s army.
Asahel is Joab’s brother.  He is killed by Abner.

Ishbosheth is the last surviving son of Saul.  The northern tribes elect him as their king.

Abner is a skilled leader in Saul’s army.  He is able to convince the army to support Ishbosheth. and oppose David.

 Abner and Joab meet at Gibeon.  Joab thinks they are meeting to discuss peace, but Abner has brought Joab there to kill him and destroy his army.  Abner invites Joab and his soldiers to join him and his troops for a friendly evening of music, but Abner and his men kill the Judean musicians, and start a battle they hope will destroy David’s army and bring Judah into Ishbosheth’s kingdom.

Abner, who started the war, now calls for peace (vs. 26).   Since he killed the Judean musicians and started the war,  it seems foolish for Joab to believe Abner is not attempting to deceive him again in order to spring a new treacherous act upon the Judeans, especially since Abner’s army is being swiftly destroyed in the battle (vs. 31).  But Joab calls for his army to halt , and the battle ends. 

May 20

2 Sam. 3,  Acts 5:1-16
2 Sam. 4, 2 Cor. 3

Commentary,

2 Samuel 3

Sadly David, copying the pagan kings around him, builds a harem of wives.  They are probably the daughters of prominent Judean leaders, with whom David is making treaties in an attempt to unite them under him as king.  Rather than following the ways of the world, he should have simply trusted God.

The coldness that yet exists in David is seen in his demand for his former wife.  She is happily married to a loving husband,  But David cares nothing for her and nothing about her happiness.  His demand for her return is motivated by pure revenge.  As we shall see, David’s lustful heart will cause many, serious troubles for him.

Joab never forgives Abner for killing his brother, Asahel.  Nor does he believe the deceitful Abner intends to do anything but destroy Judah and kill David.  In verse 30 Joab and his brother, Abishai, kill Abner.

David makes a big show of mourning for Abner.  Whether his mourning is real or merely politically motivated, it moves the northern people to sympathy with him, and prepares the way for the fighting contingencies to unite again.

2 Samuel 4

Baaana and Rechab are the sons of Rimmon of the tribe of Benjamin.   They kill their king, Ishbosheth, and take his head to David.  Meanwhile, Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth is taken into hiding by his nurse, to prevent him from being killed.

David does not consider the killing of Ishbosheth an act of valour.  To him it is treachery and murder, and he gives the killers a murderer’s reward.

Now David is king of Judah, and the northern tribes have no king.  David seems sympathetic about the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and Ishbosheth, so the northern tribes seem inclined to join with David and unite the nation again.

May 21

2 Sam. 5,  Acts 5:17-42
2 Sam. 6, 1 Cor. 4

Commentary,

2 Samuel 5

The northern tribes vote to join Judah with David as their king.  He wastes no time on grudges or punishment.  He welcomes the tribes and goes straight to work for the good of all Israel.  He attacks and captures the city of the Jebusites.  It will become his capitol city and will be called the City of David.  That name is soon replaced by the name Jerusalem.  Though still increasing his harem, probably attempting to unite Israel to him as family, David begins a series of campaigns against the Philistines.  So David is an able king who primarily concentrates on organising Israel into a defensible nation with an experienced and able army.  This finally gives Israel a time of relative peace and rest, which increases his popularity with all the people.

Second Samuel 6

In contrasts to Saul’s secretive, personal agenda to secure power and prosperity for himself, his family, and his cronies, David brings transparency to the government.  He unites the people under common goals of faith in God, national defense and a strong economy.  This is the government’s legitimate, God-given job.  It is to provide for the common defense, and ensure the rule of law.  This allows people the freedom to choose their own courses in life and enjoy the rewards of their just labour.  When David begins to put policies in place that conform to and promote these purposes, Israel begins to prosper again.  It is noteworthy that perfection in politicians and populace are not required for God’s principles to work.  Davis is far from perfect, and the people are generally no better.  Yet, following God’s pattern naturally produces good, even in a fallen and sinful world.  The more closely God’s principles are followed the better life in this world is.

Instead of a secretive attack by his own guard, David unites all of Israel into one army to attack the Philistines and re-capture the Ark of the Covenant.  This means all Israel shares the danger, and all Israel shares the victory.

Yet Israel is the Church and family of God, and God has given pointed directions about how His worship is to be conducted.  David, and the people seem to forget this in their exuberance over re-capturing the Ark.  Verse 5 describes a procession more similar to a pagan festival than the humble adoration of God.  In their exuberance God’s commandments about the Ark are forgotten and Uzzah touches the Ark in an attempt to steady it.  His intention may be noble, but his action is clearly against the Law of God, which permits only priests to handle the Ark.

Uzzah’s death ends the party and plunges David into personal depression and anger against the Lord.  He was probably feeling very self-confident, and even proud of his accomplishments as the Ark made its way into Judah.  He was probably thinking how good this appears to the people, and how it will further unite them and secure his throne.  In short, this makes David look really good to Israel.  But God reminds the nation, including David, that He demands worship according to His directives, not man’s innovations; a lesson we are still trying to learn in the New Testament Israel.

It is a hard lesson, and David requires another humbling over it, this time from his wife Michal (20-23).  We remember that Michal was taken from David by Saul, and given to another man in marriage.  That marriage would have been an adulterous affair in the eyes of God,  but, David had already broken the marriage covenant by taking other wives to himself, so the issue of their marital status is murky.  But David took her from her new husband, against her will.  Michal probably hates David for taking her from the husband she loves and making her part of his growing harem.  In her hate, she rejoices to see David fall into pagan excitement.

David’s uncovering does not consist of immodesty of dress.  It refers to appearing in public without his kingly robes and in the common dress of everyday people.  While this probably exalted David in their eyes, it debased him in Michal’s.  To her, it is unbecoming to a king. 

David’s defense (20-23) reveals that much of David’s excitement is not true spiritual joy.  It is actually the passion of the moment, such as comes over people at sporting events, rock concerts, and church services designed to move people’s feelings.  His conversation with Michal reveals a heart that still harbours anger and resentment toward Saul for taking Michal away from him, and toward Michal for loving her new husband.  He cares nothing about Michal’s opinion of him.  His intention is to cause her pain, and to prevent her from having children who could lay claim to Saul’s throne.  He does not intend to heal the marriage or be a real husband to Michal.

May 22

2 Sam. 7,  Acts 6
2 Sam 8, 1 Cor. 5

Commentary,

2 Samuel 7

Israel is now the major power in Canaan.  Even the empires of Egypt and Babylon are forced to acknowledge her growing military and economic might.  Trade caravans from Egypt to Babylon pass through her land, paying tolls for the privilege and bringing exotic goods to her people.  Local enemies are no match for her united army, and a growing identity as the people of the Covenant further unifies the nation.  Like all institutions with people in them, Israel is not perfect.  It will gradually allow the religions of Canaan, Egypt, and Babylon to influence its doctrines and practices, and it will pay dearly for this sin.  Its prosperity and security will serve to hide this fact from its people, but for now David, and Israel, want to build a symbol of its identity and faith.

There is no doubt that David’s desire to build a house for God is more than a mere political move to unify Israel.  He sincerely wants to honour God.  Yet God turns from being honoured to honouring David.  The same promises given to Saul are given to David, and it is David’s house that is being built by God, rather than God’s that is built by David.  In truth, God does not need David to build a house for Him.  Furthermore, any house of worship allowed by God is a symbol of God’s presence and grace, not a place for God to dwell.  Its exists for the benefit of the people, not the benefit of God.

So God gently puts David’s offer aside, as though telling David, “I have chosen you to receive my grace, and I will pour out my grace upon you for all time if you continue to love and serve Me.  But understand, you can give me nothing that I don’t already own.  In the end, all you can do is receive from Me, never give unto Me.”

2 Samuel 8

David spends his time and energy defending Israel from her from enemies and defending the people’s rights at home.  The result is a time of growth and prosperity, as free people work and invest and enjoy the fruit of their labour.

Starting at its southern border, the Davidic kingdom forms a rough triangle. Begining at Ezion Geber on the shore of the Gulf of Aqabah, it goes north west to the Mediterranean Sea with the River of Egypt (not the same as the Nile) as its border with Egypt.  From here it follows the Sea northward for almost 450 miles, though a small pocket of Philistines still hold the Gaza strip, and the Phoenicians hold a larger strip including Tyre and Sidon along the Sea.  From there it turns east and extends 50 to 60 miles beyond the  Jordan River Valley before turning south east along the Jordan River and Dead Sea to Ezion Geber again.

May 23

2 Sam. 9, Acts 7:1-29
2 Sam. 10, 1 Cor. 6

2 Samuel 9

Mephibosheth is the last remaining descendant of Saul.  He is the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul who made a covenant with David.  As Saul’s grandson, Meshibosheth is a threat to the security of David’s throne, for it is possible that a group of Saul loyalists could convince others Mephibosheth is the real king.  Such a group could infiltrate Jerusalem, arouse dissent, and even kill David and his family.  Such things are common in the area at that time.  But David prevents such events through a genuine act of kindness.  For the sake of his beloved friend, Jonathan, David receives Mephibosheth into his home as one of his own family.  Saul’s land and property are restored to Mehpibosheth, but he is allowed to live in the king’s house.  This serves two purposes.  First, it protects Mephibosheth from those who would kill him, blame David, and use his death to start a civil war in Israel.  Second, it prevents people from rallying around Mephibosheth to start a war against David.  How can they rally around a man who is generously treated, beloved, and protected by the king?

Here we see a major difference between the policies of wise leaders and foolish leaders.  Saul, the foolish leader, neglected to organise and defend Israel. Instead he used and abused the people and resources of Israel to accomplish his own agenda of murdering David. His policies produced civil disintegration, poverty, and military/moral weakness. David, the wise leader, defended the liberty and property of the people. He used his time and talents to organise Israel for the common defense. This allowed great freedom among the people, which produced great prosperity. Saul, the foolish leader, neglected God, set an example of ungodliness, and led Israel into moral and spiritual decay. David, the wise leader, though far from perfect, made a serious attempt to follow God and follow God's precepts in the daily affairs of  governing of Israel. The result of his efforts is a time of peace, prosperity, and justice founded upon a general, national Godliness.

2 Samuel 10

This chapter records other campaigns that extend the influence and political control of Israel under King David.  The point made is that God is with David blessing Israel as He promised.

May 24

2 Sam. 11, Acts 7:29-60
2 Sam. 12, 1 Cor. 7

Commentary

2 Samuel 11

David had many wives, but not because of love, or even lust.  Wives were often the means of sealing treaties and covenants between families and nations.  And, though Biblical injunctions forbade Israelite kings to multiply wives to themselves, David made alliances with powerful Israelite families and Gentile kings by marrying their daughters, thus making the house of David “one flesh” with theirs.  In a world where most people lived in arranged marriages, this may not have been as bad as we now think.  Remember, Esther actually wanted to become part of the kings harem.  Yet, it is certain that terrible heart ache and life-long sorrow were the lot of many women in such situations.  Even David does not seem to “love” his wives.

The harem was an important status symbol in the ancient near east, and part of David’s reason for having one must have been to look important to the other kings around him.  Part of it, too, must have been due to pride, and copying the ideas and life-styles of the pagans around him.

Chapter 11 finds David comfortably settled in Jerusalem.  He is wealthy, successful, beloved of his people, and his land is more at peace than it has ever been.  With things going smoothly, David has time to think about pleasant distractions, and he happens to see one bathing on a roof-top.  Her name is Bath-sheba.  Now genuine lust rises up in David’s heart.  Notice, also that Bath-sheba willingly comes to David, and even gets word of her pregnancy to him, probably expecting him to do something about it.  So, David and Bath-sheba are both equally guilty in this sin.  If she were not already married, David would have simply married her and made her chief of the harem.  Her marriage complicated matters, and both probably thought their single act of adultery would end the matter.  But pregnancy ensued, leading to murder, as David falls into the trap of using his position and power for his own pleasure and purpose rather than the will of God and the good of the people.

Technically, the death of Uriah may be construed as the price of war.  Units, and individual soldiers, are often marched into certain death as sacrifices and feints to draw the enemies’s attention away from the general’s real intention.  But David’s intent is clearly to have Uriah killed, and his intent is fulfilled. 

2 Samuel 12

How typical of human beings that we are so well endowed with insight to see the sins of others, but miss our own.  How typical of our sense of righteous indignation that we are ever ready to punish the sins of others, yet completely excuse our own.  David, too shares these abilities.  When confronted with the fictional man with many sheep (wives) who steals the single, beloved sheep (wife) of another, David swears to kill the thief.  Yet David has stolen a beloved wife, and caused the death of her husband.  Is he not doubly guilty?  And are not his crimes real and actual rather than fictional and illustrative?  All of this is made clear to David in the words of Nathan, “Thou art the man.”  How many time could it be said of us, “Thou art the man?”

One of the consequences of David’s multiple marriages is conflict between his multiple families.  While jealousy and strife occur in all families, David’s peculiar circumstances seem to multiply them.  Hatred, incest, and murder reveal a very unhappy life  for his wives, which they pass on to their children.  This internal strife seems to stay with the house of David for generations.


May 25

2 Sam. 13:1-22, Acts 8:1-25
2 Sam 13:23-39, 1 Cor 8

Commentary, 2 Samuel 13

This sordid tale of rape, incest, and murder needs very little commentary.  Absalom, Tamar, and Amnon are children of David but Amnon has a different mother.  Amnon is infatuated with Tamar, his half-sister.  One day he rapes her, but she tells no-one but Absalom, who takes her into his own home to care for her.  It takes two years, but Absalom finally finds a way to get Amnon away from his father.  With that accomplished, Absalom kills Amnon and flees to his mother’s home town place for three years.

May 26

2 Sam. 14  Acts 8:26-40
2 Sam. 15, 1 Cor. 9

Commentary,

2 Samuel 14

Joab is the leader of David’s army, the same person we met in 2 Samuel 3.  He knows David’s heart is toward Absalom and blind to Absalom’s faults.  Tall and handsome, and the king’s favourite son, Absalom wants to be king, but he is not first in line for the throne.

Why does Joab help Absalom return to Jerusalem? Is it compassion for David? Does he believe Absalom did right to kill his sister’s rapist? Is he plotting against David?  A woman in Tekoah is noted for wisdom and Joab persuades her to help convince David to receive Absalom again. During their conversation, David realises the similarity between his situation and the one described by the woman. He also knows she has been sent there by Joab. The result is David's order to, “Bring the man Absalom again.”

Absalom's outer beauty hides an inner ugliness. He wants to be king, but too many contenders are in line before him. Therefore, he plans to take the throne by force. Burning Joab’s field is but one step in a treacherous journey of deceit and death, but it probably convinces Joab that Absalom cannot be trusted with the throne.

2 Samuel 15

Gathering a formidable force of chariots and foot soldiers around him, Absalom forms the habit of going to the gates of Jerusalem when people come to bring their cases to David for judgment. Absalom assures the people that their causes are just, but cannot expect justice because the king has not assigned judges to hear them. Absalom is saying David is neglecting his duties as king, therefore no one can expect justice in his court. Absalom finishes this by saying, “Oh that I were made a judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice.” Absalom’s point is that if he were king, he would assure the peoples’ cases would be heard, and they would receive justice.

This has the desired effect. It causes people to doubt David. It causes unrest in the land. It causes people to desire a new king, a king whose name is Absalom. After a time in Hebron, organising the opposition, Absalom is ready to attack his father and take the throne by force. The chapter ends with David fleeing, and Absalom entering Jerusalem uncontested.

May 27

2 Sam. 16, Acts 9:1-23
2 Sam. 17, 1 Cor. 10

Commentary,

2 Samuel 16 and 17

Leaving Jerusalem, David encounters Zilba, the servant of Mephibosheth. Zilba deceives David saying Mephibosheth believes he will be installed King of all Israel. Mephibosheth, of course, is completely loyal to David. Even if he were not, he has no army, and no way to withstand the forces of Absalom.  So Absalom enters the city of Jerusalem unopposed and proceeds to desecrate everything, including David's wives and concubines.  This does not endear him to the people.

Absalom's rebellion is brief. Soon he meets his father's Army, on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead.  Absalom suffers a major defeat and dies in the battle. King David is plunged into deep despair and grief, which casts a pall of sorrow of the entire army.


May 28

2 Sam 18, Acts 9:23-43
2 Sam 19,  1 Cor. 11

2 Samuel 18 and 19

Soldiers who should have been given a hero’s reward, receive nothing. Men who should be rejoicing over a great victory, steal away as though they were cowards running from battle. Why? Because David mourns for his son Absalom.

Joab rightly confronts the king. His loyal soldiers fought and died in that battle. Their sacrifices saved the lives of the King and his family. They even saved the kingdom. Yet David mourns for his enemy and ignores his friends. Joab even says David would have been happier if Absalom had lived and the rest of them had died.  “Now therefore arise, go forth and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the Lord if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee  this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.”

David realises the truth of Joab's words. He quickly returns to the task of uniting Israel again. But jealousy, pride, and greed will not allow the growing rift between North and South to heal. It is a rift that will eventually permanently divide the people.


May 29

2 Sam 20, Acts 12
                1 Cor 13

Commentary,

2 Samuel 20

Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and some Benjamites still view David as a usurper and an illegitimate king. Sheba is a loud voice among such people.  “We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse,” he cried,  “every man to his tents O Israel.”

Here we are beginning to see the northern tribes forming their own identity under the name of Israel. They see Judah as a separate nation having her own king.  Following Sheba's call, vast numbers of the men of Israel leave David and unite under Sheba. The people of Judah remain with David, but the kingdom is seriously divided.

David knows Sheba intends to take the crown and become king of all the tribes.  By this time David, in an attempt to unite Judah and Israel, has appointed Amasa leader of the army, replacing Joab.  Amasa had been the leader of Absalom's army. Whether out of anger, revenge, or fear that Amasa would join Sheba and destroy the kingdom of David, Joab kills Amasa.  Finally, Sheba’s head is cast over the wall of the city in which he sought refuge. Chapter 20 ends with Israel and Judah together again in a very fragile union with Joab as the head of all the army.

May 30

2 Sam. 21, Acts 13
2 Sam. 22, 1 Cor 14

Commentary

2 Samuel 21

Chapter 21 is part of an appendix to the books of Samuel. They record or further explain events that happened during David’s reign.  Verses1-14 are about the Gibeonites.  According to God’s directives, Israel could make treaties with people who did not dwell within the borders of Canaan.  The Gibeonites were from Canaan, but knew they could not stand against Israel, so they pretended to be from a far country to make a peace treaty with Israel (Josh. 9:15-27). The covenant with Gibeon was not a sin. It was made in good faith by Israel. It could be argued that deception on the part of the Gibeonites would nullify the treaty, but God seems to have required Israel to honour it. When the treaty was broken by Saul, it became, in God's eyes, equal to any breach of the law of God between Israelites.  The same penalties were required, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. God demands His people to be honest, and to keep their word.  What implications does this have for Christian marriage, parenting, family life, church membership, worship attendance, and congregational life?  What does it say about political and international treaties, and how careful we should be about entering such agreements?

Versus 15 through 17 record a battle in which David grew so weary his soldiers thought he was wounded and dying. David may even having been wounded in this battle. The result is a decision among all his men that David will not be allowed to go into the actual battle again.  The chapter closes with the record of more battles with Philistine giants, slain by David and the Hebrew Army.

2 Samuel 22 is a song of deliverance written by the poet king of Israel, David.  He has much to be thankful for.  In spite of his own unworthiness and sin, God has used him mightily to establish Israel in relative peace and freedom.  Her problems are primarily from within, not without.  You will recognise many lines from the Psalms in this song. It was probably written late in David's life, and it seems to show a realisation that God could have used any shepherd boy, or girl, or any person of any age or station to accomplish his will.  It was only by grace that He elected and used David.

May 31

2 Sam. 23, Acts 11:1-18
2 Sam. 24, 1 Cor. 14

Commentary,

2 Samuel 23

Verses 1-7 record David’s last Psalm. He expresses deep regret at both his own sin and the sins of his children.  He seems to be able to see that future generations of his household will follow the same patterns and fall into the same sins.  Yet, God will establish his house, as He has promised.  This will come through the real and true King of Israel, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 8-39 give the names and exploits of some of the most notable warriors in David’s army.  It is worth noting that one of these men, Uriah the Hittite is more Godly and more honourable than David.

2 Samuel 24

David showed great progress in his knowledge of and obedience to God during his life.  This is especially commendable in light of the very limited amount of Scripture and Biblical teaching available to him at the time.  We often look at his numerous faults with a critical eye, yet we often fall into the same traps and commit the same sins. We look at David's many wives and wonder how a man of God could fall into such sin. Yet many, “Christians” today move in and out   of serial marriages with less concern than David had about his. As for his sin with Bath-sheba, co-habitation apart from marriage is as common among “Christians” as it is among those who make no claim to Christianity.  And many modern “Christians” manipulate people and events to satisfy their lusts just as David did to get Bath-sheba into his bed.  David lived before the Bible was completed, while we live in the full light of Scripture, so perhaps we should be more strict about judging our own sins than about judging David’s.  Christians today often assume that because David's sins were forgiven so easily, ours will also. But I shudder when I read the words, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”

Though Israel is united, the nation is not entirely at peace. The Philistines are strong, and even have a fortress in Bethlehem, a few short miles away from David's capital.  David’s desire to number the people of Israel and Judah seems a wise move at first.  A military commander should always be aware of the size of his army and the logistics of moving and providing for them in the field. “Count the cost,” as our Lord Himself said.  But David’s census seems to come from the motive of pride.  His actions seem to say, “we are strong, and we drive our enemies away by our own strength.”  He seems to realise that he rules the most powerful empire in the area; an empire even the local superpowers of Egypt and Babylon cannot ignore. Perhaps this pride leads him, and Israel, to forget that they have been established, and will continue to be upheld, only by the power and grace of God.


The plague which ends 2 Samuel seems to remind the Old Testament people that the Lord giveth and Lord taketh away. Victory is not always measured by worldly success, nor does the Lord deliver by means of human power and might, but by His Spirit. Perhaps we may do well to remember the same in our own day.

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