Small towns across the Midwest have two things in common. I used to think one of those was a Casey’s, but then I visited Hepler, Kansas and the good people of Cross Trails Cowboy Ministries and learned one thing: No Casey Gas Station. So the list went from three things in common, down to two: a Water Tower and Rodeo Arena. Granted the water tower tangential to the Hepler arena claims the wrong county, still it is present and rises high above the bucking chutes. Pulling into Hartford, Kansas every Sunday morning, I am greeted by the red and white, the black letters reading “Hartford” popping off the blank background, colors of the Hartford water tower.
They tower above the flat landscape, communicating to travelers where they have arrived. Like GPS beacons, they show where you are located. In towns whose budget lacks the means to erect limestone welcome signs, water towers are a practical and visible way to welcome people. They tell you where you are, but they don’t tell you how you got there. You know you have arrived when you are beneath the water tower, but what happens when you don’t know how to find it. For the Christian, for a man after God’s heart, we know the destination, but often question the direction.
Some of us are following Siri’s directions, others are like me, pulling into a town and looking for lights to get to the rodeo. Seeking God’s direction and following His leading is one of the most difficult parts of becoming God’s man. David sought out the Lord and inquired of him often and sets for us an example in how we as men can do it as well.
Second Samuel 2 begins like this: “In the course of time…” David spent time mourning the death of the King and his best friend and he waited. He was 30 years old now and Samuel had anointed over a decade ago. For years the promise of King had been on him. He was used to waiting. So “in the course of time David inquired”. He was asking, “God is it time now for the promise to become present?” He wasn’t in a hurry or impatient. He wasn’t facing a great army with fear trembling in his bones as Saul was he inquired of the Lord (1 Sam. 28.5) He wasn’t going to God as a last resort, after all else fails. When sacrifices don’t work and altars fail, Saul was prompted to “inquire of the Lord” (1 Sam. 14.35). David was unprompted, un-hurried, and as a first priority, inquired of God. It wasn’t a question in choas or a desperate plea, but in the day-to-day existence of a man waiting. “In the course of time..” communicates the priority and purity of the request and of the action. Saul was motivated out of fear and desperation, David was motivated by Justice (1 Sam. 23.2) and strength (30.8). The purpose of the statement “David found strength in the Lord” is interjected between the mutiny and the inquiry in verse 8, in order to show that David’s inquiry came not from weakness but from strength. There are times when we must ask for guidance and seek God in the midst of a crisis, on a short time table, or out of despair, but seeking and searching God needs to be a consistent and common part of life and “in the course of time”.
“David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked. (1 Sam. 2.1) David most likely used Abiathar and the ephod as his method of asking. That is how he had done it in the past. There are more recorded instances of David inquiring of God than any other person in Scripture and his go to method is Abiathar and the ephod. That is how it began. When Abiathar came to David at Keilah (1 Sam 23.6) is the same time as David’s first recorded inquiry (1 Sam 23.2). Prior to that Ahimelech had and unrecorded inquiry of the Lord for David (1 Sam 22.15). Samuel, a priest, seer’s Miciah, and Elezar, all inquired of the Lord in Scripture (Judges 18.5; 1 Sam. 9.9; 10.22; 22.13; 1 Kings 22.7; Num 27.29). It took a man of God to inquire of God. Abiathar and the Ephod were central to David seeking the Lord (23.6; 23.9; 30.7). Saul, in chapter 28 of First Samuel, couldn’t find anyone who fit the description to inquire of the Lord. He had killed all the priests and Samuel was dead. Saul messed up…so he found a witch and messed up again. It was different in David’s time. God lived amongst His people, but now, God lives inside His people. Through the Holy Spirit and through Jesus, we all have access to Him 24/7. No longer do we need a go between, a man of God, to meet with Him, for Jesus has provided all of that through his death and resurrection.
“The Lord said ‘Go up.’” (2 Samuel 2.1) David’s request was answered. Even more specifically, God told him to go to Hebron. There is a clear connection between inquiry and revelation (1 Sam 9.16; 10.22). How the revelation was given varied. It could be dreams, prophets, the ephod, or the Urim and Thummim (1 Sam 28.6) When it was given it was clearly communicated to the receiver. The problem was that it wasn’t always given. In one particular instance, revelation was withheld. The story takes place in 1 Samuel 14. Saul is prompted to ask God about going after the Philistines (14.36). “But God did not answer him that day.” (17) There was unchecked sin in the camp and in the army. Jonathan had tasted some honey which Saul had prohibited earlier that day. Ignorance apparently doesn’t equal innocence. God’s revelation was withheld because of sin. Every time David inquired of the Lord, he received revelation…the purity and innocence of the man after God’s own heart.
So let us inquire of God, but with different stipulations. How does the man after God’s heart seek God’s guidance.
- Check the sin. First Peter tells us men to be considerate of our wives so that noting will hinder our prayers (1 Peter 3.7) How I love and serve my wife dictates revelation. How we live our lives determines effectiveness of inquiry…how it hurts to write that.
- Simply asking God for the answers. So simple yet so hard to practice. The prayer: “God lead me today” is so seldom on my lips that I should repent of it.
- Search God’s Word. Why do we as God to speak to us, yet forget the words He has already spoken. The question “what should I do today?” is easily answered when I read the words “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22.37-39). I guess we think it means more if it is written in the clouds or spoken from a bright light than it is written in Scripture.
- Godly Counsel. A handful of Godly friends, who will speak truth into your life, are worth more than gold. A word of warning though: check their counsel against scripture, for they should never contradict what God has decreed in Scripture. Godly men have shown me my shortcomings, reinforced God’s commands, checked my motives, and held me accountable. Not enough can be said about them.
David sought the Lord’s direction at key moments of his life. More times than any other person in Scripture, do we find him seeking God’s leading. For David the water tower symbolized more than just the destination but the Being leading the journey.
Real men don’t cry…they weep.
“He keeps the storms clouds hidden
Behind the wall of pride
Laughs out loud spits on the ground
That’s how a cowboy cries
Its just how a cowboy cries”
— Trent Wilmon “How a Cowboy Lives”
The adage “real men don’t cry” is driven into men of all ages. From ball fields to rodeo arenas, gravel driveways to haylofts, cattle pens and stockyards; kids from ages 2 to 13 have heard it muttered in their direction. By 13 they are the ones imparting this wisdom. This worldly wisdom has been dispensed liberally to all men to all men at every age.
Real men don’t cry, but Scripture certainly shows the Man after God’s own heart weeping, but for what? and why?.
The man after God’s heart weeps over his family. Charles Dickens called the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke, “the greatest short story ever told.” Dickens didn’t have to live through the betrayal of a son. The story of the Prodigal son, could have been called “the Story of David and Absalom”. Absalom took the kingdom through political undermining, set himself up as king, slept with David’s wives, and began to run the country, all of which placed him under a curse. When David’s men marched out in battle and met Absalom and his army, it was David’s men who prevailed. Absalom caught his hair in the tree’s of the forest during the battle and hung there [hb. talah]. This word in this tense (qal passive) is only used in two other places: Song of Songs when the woman’s neck is like the tower of David where shields “were hung” (4.4) and in the famous verse of Deuteronomy 21. “…anyone who is hung [talah] on a tree is under God’s curse.” (23) Absalom is certainly under a curse for a) sleeping with his father’s wives and b) rebelling against his father. David had given his command to protect and deal gently with Absalom, but when Joab saw him hanging there, he killed him. When the news that Absalom was dead struck David, he wept. His enemy was still his son. David wept over his family, regardless of their loyalty. Husbands, when is the last time you poured out your heart so passionately and truthfully to God about your family, that tears flowed from your eyes? Men when is the last time that we wept over the lostness of a family member or the sin of a brother or sister? Are we able to find the depth of heart to sob over relation? David, the man after God’s heart was.
The man after God’s heart weeps over his friends. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18.24: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” David had his in Jonathan. Elsewhere we looked at the friendship between Jonathan and David, and don’t have the time here, but the history there is weep worthy. First Samuel 20 records the longest interaction we have between David and Jonathan. In effort to save print, let me sum up 1 Samuel 20: Saul wants to kill David, Jonathan finally sees it for himself and goes to tell David. Verse 41 and 42 concludes the narrative: “…Then they kissed each other and wept together–but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left and Jonathan went back to town.” The covenant of friendship is shown in the language (“The Lord is our witness…”); the identifier (“sworn…in the name of the Lord”); and the duration (“between you and me and our descendants forever”). The covenant of friendship is worth weeping over. Especially as the two roads head opposite directions; one back to town and the other to Nob (42). David is unsure if their roads would ever converge (they would briefly in 1 Sam 23.16 where Jonathan would help him find strength) and the separation of brothers in battle, best friends, and compatriots. Friends are worth weeping over. Job’s friends sat with him in the midst of his trials…who needs your presence now? Who can you join in battle and fight alongside? Is there tears that need to be shed for a buddy who is at the end? The man after God’s heart spilled his.
The man after God’s heart weeps over injustice. “The Lord is known by his justice…” writes the Psalmist David (Psalm 9.16). Twice in 2 Samuel, David is brought to tears over injustice. The first instance, in 2 Samuel 1, David is brought the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan. Clearly he is distraught over the death of his friend who he loved dearly (26), but Saul has been chasing him down for years. What would bring tears to his eyes about the death of an enemy? It wasn’t at his hand as it could have been (1 Sam 24, 26), but still, it was the death of the Lord’s anointed (15-16). At the news, David and his men “took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” (11-12) The army of God, the people of God, the chosen of God, was not supposed to meet this end. Death, pain, suffering, and rebellion is not the way a just world is supposed to function…but we don’t live in a just world, but we serve a just God. In 2 Samuel 15, David is again met with weeping as he faces the injustice of rebellion at the hands of his son Absalom. David is climbing the other side of the Kidron Valley, up the Mount of Olives, weeping as his back is turned to the city. (15.30) Absalom has taken his city, his army, and is taking his harem in full view of the people. The injustice of rebellion. The king is not supposed to deal with this and life isn’t fair, but it doesn’t remove the sting. Many times in the Law, the people of God are reminded to extend justice to the poor, the outcast, the alien, the widow, the sick. When is the last time you were moved to tears over the sex-trafficked, the orphan, the widow? Has the pages of your Bible been spotted as you read James 1.27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
“God, move me to tears for my wife and family. Open my eyes to the injustice around the world and bring my heart into such submission that it weeps for those being oppressed and neglected. Help me fight alongside my friends, not with spears and weapons, but with tears and humility. Take my tears and move my heart. Amen.”
The ascent only makes the fall farther.
Brian Picollo was a white fullback for the Chicago Bears in the 1960’s. His teammate, Gale Sayers, was his best friend and star of the team. He was also a black man living in America in the 60’s. The movie Brian’s Song shows how their friendship evolved over the years despite the racial divide of the country and their rivalry and competition on the field. At one point in the movie, Picollo is helping Sayers rehab his torn up knee for the season. Picollo wants to beat out a healthy Sayers for the running back position. Picollo says that Sayers doesn’t know how lucky he has it. The starting spot and the guaranteed contract and all. Sayer’s response is classic: “You (Picollo) think I have it great. You sit and wonder ‘will it ever come?’ (referring to a starting spot, money, fame), but I sit and wonder ‘when’s it all gonna go away?'”
Sayers has reached the top and a fall from there would be catastrophic.
It had been years since David’s life was normal, let alone mountain-top worthy. The moment that the stone left his sling in the valley, his life became hectic. There were few high points from then to now. Even the high-points only made the bulls-eye on him grow. But for the last year and four months, things had been normal.
He had a place. For the last decade David has been sleeping in caves and crags, moving from desert to desert, and finding refuge wherever he can find it. As soon as his pursuers come within earshot, he packs camp and goes to find his next home. In 1 Samuel 27, David realizes that one of these day’s Saul might get a shot at him. So his best bet is to escape to the enemy, the land of the Philistines. He settled in Gath, the home of the vanquished Goliath, and a place familiar to him (21.10-15). The royal city life wasn’t for David, however, and he asked for King Achish to give him a place. The town of Ziklag was given to David to live in (27.6) and for the first time in years, David has an address…and a home.
He had peace. For the first time in a decade, David didn’t close his eyes at night wondering when he would be roused. He didn’t fall asleep to baying dogs giving chase. When Saul heard David was hiding among the Philistines, he gave up his search (27.4). No more running, hiding, or eluding. David had the rest he longed for.
He had a people. His men were with him. And with them were their families (27.3). When he first took off, it was just him. It was 10 years ago that David fled (20.42-21.1). Even Ahimelech was perplexed by this, asking David: “Why are you alone?” (21.1) But hiding at the Cave of Adullam, his family came to him (22.1). Then it was the indebted, the distressed, and the outcasts numbering in the 400’s (22.2). Eventually 600 men would join his ranks (23.16). Now, they lived in Ziklag: him, his wives, his men, and their families. He was part of a community.
He had a purpose. When Joshua led the conquest of the land of Canaan, he sent each tribe to their allotted land with some homework. They were to finish conquering their area. Ziklag was allotted to both the tribe of Simeon (Josh 19.5) and Judah (Josh 15.31) but neither one bothered to take the city. David, by asking and receiving the city of Ziklag, achieved what his forefather’s hadn’t (1 Sam 27.6). David was completing the conquest, 400 years after it had begun. The same can be said of the land of “the Geshurites” (Josh 13.1-2), “the Amalekites” (Ex. 17.15-16; Dt. 25.17-19), and “the Girzites” who lived in the land that was supposed to be Judah’s (27.8-9). His purpose was fulfilling what God had begun many years prior.
He had power. He raided land with his men and brought back plunder. He gave it to Achish, the King of Gath, to gain standing. He accumulated wealth and animals. His people were happy and well fed. He was so successful (in the same way that he was with Saul) that Achish trusted him (1 Sam. 27.12). When it came time to go out to battle, Achish wanted his right hand-man with him as his “body guard for life.” (28.2) David had now achieved second in command status in two different armies…pretty good resume.
David and his men marched out to battle with Achish (29.2) but on the way the other Philistine Kings questioned Achish’s decision to bring David along. They knew how many Philistine men had fallen by David’s sword, his battle accomplishments, and his reputation (29.4-5), so they pressured Achish to send him back to Ziklag. David took offense to this, as he had done nothing to upset, usurp, or dishonor the king (8). But the Kings wishes were not to be questioned and David was asked to return home. His power was in gone.
David and his men left early the next morning for a three day journey home (29.11-30.1). They returned home to a smoldering Ziklage. The Amelikites had raided the Negev and Ziklag while David was marching with the Philistines. The territory that David had fought for was plundered by the Amalekites. His purpose was challenged. In doing so, the Amalekites took all the families of his men, all their possessions, and all their livestock. The men had lost wives, daughters, and sons. Both of David’s wives had been taken captive (30.2) and Ziklag was left burning as the Amalekites led their captives home. David’s place was gone.
It only makes sense that David and his men would weep until he had no more strength (30.4). They cried together until the men made a startiling realization…they had marched out with David. They left their wives, children, and things to follow David. And as they were out with David, the Amalekites came. This was David’s fault. They wanted to stone him. His wives were being marched away and his men were in mutiny (30.6). His people were gone.
The story of David’s time among the Philistines turns on the last half of verse 6: “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”
The Hebrew word for strength, chazaq, is the same word that is used of Pharoah’s heart becoming “hardened” to the requests of Moses. It is the same word used throughout Joshua, as he leads the people in conquest, he reminds them to “be strong” and courageous. In each of those instances, the verb is used in a way different than it is here in verse 6. The verb tense in 1 Samuel 30.6, is reflexive, known in the Hebrew as a Hithpael verb. Only a tenth of the time the verb chazaq is used, it is used in this tense. The doer of the verb, does it to themselves. A King with brothers “establishes his throne” by killing them all (Jehoram; 2 Chron. 21.4). Or the way a King prepares for war by “strengthening” the walls and “fortifications” (1 Kings 20.22). The way an old man (or old bullfighter) “rallies his strength” to sit up in bed (Gen 48.2). In the same way, David “found strength” in the Lord (1 Sam.30.6).
At the low point, David entrenched himself in the Lord. He stood in a spot, standing in God, and refused to budge. The Cheyenne tribe had a group of soldiers called the dog men who in the midst of a battle would choose a piece of ground and tether themselves with a rope to an arrow pinned in the ground. They fought fiercely to defend it, until the end of the battle or their death. David has stuck his arrow in the ground and tethered himself to God.
But how is David fortify himself in God?
David has a history with God and he remembers [hb.zakar]. It is a favorite word of his to use in Psalms. He has trusted in God in the past and God has come through. How often do we fail to take strength in God because we never made preparations for the storm. One of my favorite stories about this in Job. Job survives his test by worshiping, the same thing he did before the test. When we have a history, we can survive the future.
David found strength in scripture, worship, and prayer. Jesus on the cross quotes scripture 3 times and prays twice. When the world is falling apart around you, where does your mind go. What did David do? He “inquired of God” (1 Sam. 30.8) something that he was prone to do. He sought God. We fortify ourselves in God when we seek Him.
David knew his responsibilities. He was the husband of Abigail and he knew it was his job to serve and protect. He knew what he needed to do and he did it. The responsibilities that we have, especially to God and to our wives and kids, don’t change because the world falls apart around us. So David went and rescued.
As a man who has seen his world rocked and recently only brought more strife to his life, David’s strength shows where our strength needs to be. I am finding now where my strength needs to be. Watching how life has been sucked out of my wife because of my choices, watching ministries fall apart because of my doing, and looking back at the hurt I caused because my strength was found in me and me alone. The spears I tossed, the thank you’s not extended, and the pride an arrogance has left my city smoldering…but now its time to start finding strength in the Lord.
As David wrote:
“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18.1-2)
Where does a man look when it all falls apart? The only answer is the Lord’s.
Not enough gets said about Godly women. Women who work alongside their husbands in ministry, women who do things they never dreamed of on the ranch or in the home because it needs to get done. Or about the women who study God’s word and lead others in study, worship and lead others in worship. Whether they are wives, fiancees, girlfriends, friends, mothers, sisters, or other, their encounters with the men push them, serve them, and challenge them to be the men that God has created us to be. David found one such woman in Abigail. She is a great example of the women that A Man after God’s Heart should both look for and praise.
Her intellect was praiseworthy. It wasn’t her brain that David found so attractive. David wasn’t a numbers guys looking for the highest ACT/SAT score or a woman who could put his Trivia team over the top. When Abigail’s intellect is praised, 1 Samuel 25.3, the word that the NIV renders as “intelligent” is actually two hebrew words put together: “good” [hb. tob] and “discretion” or “understanding” [hb. shekel]. In looking at the words and how they are used in the Old Testament, it is clear that Abigail shows a specific type of understanding. Most of the time in Scripture (and every time in narrative accounts save 1 Chron. 24.14) it is used of a person’s understanding when it comes to serving God. In building the temple (1 Chron. 22.12; 2 Chron 2.12), in serving the Lord (2 Chron. 30.22; Ezra 8.18), or understanding and teaching God’s word (Neh. 8.18; Ps. 111.10), are ways of serving God. In each instance “understanding” is used and I believe, that it is to be applied here to Abigail. Her “intellect” that is being praised is her understanding of serving God. When is the last time that you praised your wife for her diligence in completing the homework of a Beth Moore Study? (not s small task and if you didn’t know that you should find out how much work that woman makes them do.) Have you thanked he for instilling Godly principles in your kids? Have you written her a note honoring her for making Church a priority in your life? Have you bragged on her devotion to prayer? Her attention to study? The way she puts Bible verses at the forefront of her mind and on everything she owns? The way she puts scripture on facebook? Have you, the married/engaged/dating man, praised her intelligence in service. Unmarried men, are you praying for God to send you a woman of understanding? Is that on your deal breaker list, because it probably should be.
Her initiative was life-saving. David and his band of fugitives had been camped out where Nabal was keeping his sheep. The warriors had watched over the flock and protected Nabal’s interests. When David and his men asked for provisions for their time in the Desert (very politely), Nabal refused to help them and insulted them (1 Samuel 25.4-11). A servant of his went and told his wife Abigail what had happened. He left her with this thought: “think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household…” (25.17) She “lost no time” [hb. mahar] in getting together food, preparing transportation, and sending men with provisions to David (1 Sam. 25.18). Later she would quickly dismount and bow to David (23), quickly go to David (34), and quickly go to David to become David’s wife (42). Each time, it is the same word, mahar, that communicates an initiative on Abigail’s part. She was not going to let wrongdoing stay around for long. Abigail said nothing to Nabal, she just took it upon herself to fix the situation. Have you thanked her for doing the right thing? When there was a problem in the house, when the kids were at their worst, have you shown her appreciation for making it right? Maybe you messed up, lost your temper or made yourself a fool, yet she took it upon herself and took initiative to make it right? She can’t apologize for you, or ask forgiveness, but she has made great strides to protect and serve you; did you acknowledge it? Abigail didn’t absolve Nabal, but she did take initiative.
She took ownership in the household. Her first words to David when she rode out to meet him were: “My lord let the blame be on me and me alone.” (25.24) The word the NIV translates as “blame” is the same word most commonly translated as “sin” [hb. ‘awon]. Abigail believed that the sin of the household was hers to bear. Not only that, she claimed it was hers and hers alone. She didn’t see the servants of David and she certainly wasn’t mean to them, but she took ownership of the household sin. She knew Nabal’s character. He was “wicked” [hb. beliyyya’al] (25.17,25), a word reserved for Eli’s treacherous sons (1 Samuel 2.12) and the vengeful “troublemakers” among David’s band of men who wanted the spoils for themselves (30.22). He was also “mean” [ra’] (25.3). More accurately, he was “evil”. That is how this word is used of the Kings of Israel and Judah who did evil [ra’] in the eyes of the Lord all throughout the divided kingdom. Finally, Nabal was “surly” [hb. qaseh] (25.3), the active word when people are called “stiff-necked”. So Nabal was a stubborn, evil, and wicked man. Abigail was undoubtedly aware of his…shortcomings. This probably isn’t the first time she has taken it upon herself to fix things (see above). She is a partner in this household and even though his name does mean “fool”, they are in this together and the sin rests with her. There is a hint of the purpose of Eve in this encounter. Eve was meant to be Adam’s “helper” [hb ‘ezer]. The word carries the idea of reinforcements in battle (Ps. 20.2; 121.11-12; Isiah 30.5). Abigail considered herself a partner and helper to Nabal; one that made up for his shortcomings in the partnership. Have you noticed the woman in your life taking the good with the bad? Have you seen your wife living through, suffering through, and owning the ups and downs that come with relationships? Have you thanked her for being with you through your worst, staying by your side during the hurt, and sticking there through your foolishness? We like Nabal will do foolish things, but it takes a great deal of honor and commitment to say, “That is my husband, despite his flaws, and I am with him through it all!” Have you thanked her? Ephesians makes it clear that man is the head of the household (Abigail knew this), but a woman who takes ownership of it as well, is to be greatly honored. As Proverbs 31 says: “She watches over the affairs of the household…”(31.27) Thank her.
She challenged the man to be the man. Abigail brought two men to the cusp of a decision:
- She challenged David not to take revenge on Nabal. She advised him: “When the Lord has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or having avenged himself.” (25.30-31) David praised her for her words and wisdom. (32)
- For Nabal she told him what she had done: “Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone.” (25.37) From there Nabal had the choice to be the man, seek repentance, and make things right. He didn’t.
Not only was Abigail intelligent, but she was praised for her beauty [to’ar+yapeh] as well. The other women who were described with these two words were:
- Rachel, whom Jacob “served seven years to get, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” (Gen 29.18)
- Esther, who would save her people from annihilation, was in contact with Mordecai through the process. She asked him to fast for her as she fought for her people. (Est 4.15) It is a woman who would challenge men to be men.
In other stories, Deborah challenge Barak to go and Ruth challenged Boaz to do what was right. These are women who used their “womanliness” to challenge their men to be men. There are times when we need to be reminded to be men. There are times of stupidity and foolishness, quick decisions and bad logic, where my manliness needed to be reminded. We need the women in our lives to do that sometimes. The hard part is to not take offense, to not get hurt by it, and simply do it. Have you thanked her for being the woman who brings out the best in you? It is not just sex, where a woman asks a man to rise to the occasion, but in ever aspect of his life. Have you written a note describing a time where she asked you to be the man and thanked her for the opportunity? Have you spoken to her thanks for challenging you to fight to grow as a man? Thank her.
David saw all these qualities in Abigail and that is why, upon Nabal’s death at the Lord’s hand (25.38), he asked Abigail to be his wife. Whether you are married or soon to be, dating or soon to be, or other, these are the quailities that we as men should look for in a wife, and praise in a wife.
Proverbs 31 ends like this:
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
“There are things that gnaw on a man worse than dying.” — Charlie Waite
Sometimes dying is easier than living; especially when you are carrying the weight of sin. David knew the gnaw that Charlie Waite was describing. Three times as recorded in the books of Samuel, David bore the burden of his choices. Each time, David was restored and given rest. It happened the same way in each instance.
In 1 Samuel 24, David and his men were hiding in a cave. Saul was chasing him down and David had the chance, with one swing of his sword, to end the chase. David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe, in a violation of what God had told him do.
Second Samuel 11 tells the story of David’s decision to commit adultery with Bathsheba. In trying to cover up the affair, David had Uriah, her husband killed. It took a meeting with Nathan to reveal the sin.
In the final chapter of 2 Samuel, nearing the end of his life, David decides to find out how many soldiers he has. Instead of trusting God and finding peace and protection in Him, David attempts to make his own security and trusting in the size of his army.
Three sins that will weigh on the “Man after God’s Own Heart”. How does one recover from that? David’s stories show us.
First, David had to come to grips with his own sin. Twice in the books of Samuel, David’s heart was struck [nakah et leb] (NIV “conscious stricken) [1 Sam 24.5; 2 Sam. 24.10]. In the same way that Saul tried to “pin” [nakah] David and Jonathan to the wall, was David’s heart struck with the same force by his actions; a deadly blow. When he cut the hem of Saul’s cloak, it was an instant realization. It took a confrontation and a story from Nathan to open his eyes about Bathsheba. Finally, with the census, Joab’s words didn’t stop him, it was only after the results came in, when it struck him. The truth about sin can come in many ways and at different times. Sometimes it is immediate and other times it arrives as the consequences manifest. The point is that it must come. As Mark Scott says in his sermon Word of Forgiveness: “Maybe Resurrection Sunday isn’t as powerful because we skipped Calvary on Friday.” When is the last time that we were taken-aback? When is the last time that your sin gave you pause? When were you last struck to the heart by your own sinfulness?
- Job knew the ugliness of sin: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl…If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door, then may my wife grind another man’s grain and may other men sleep with her.” (Job 31.1,9-10)
- Isaiah knew how unclean his sin was: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King!” (Isaiah 6.5)
The holiness of God illuminates our sin and we need to deal with that like David did. The prodigal son “came to his senses” (Luke 15.17) and saw his actions for what they were: sin. Have I woken up to the reality of my own sin?
Secondly, David owned his sin. When David cut the corner of Saul’s robe, he violated God’s standard for him. “The Lord forbid [chalil] that I should do such a thing to my master the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him…” (1 Sam 24.6). “Forbid” is more commonly communicated as “far from” in the Old Testament. God wanted David “far from” the idea of revenge. Here he committed that sin. He rebuked his men (v.7) and took responsibility. Later, the statement “I have sinned” is recorded from David’s mouth on two occasions (1 Samuel 12.13; 24.10). The sins that he speaks of, the adultery with Bathsheba and the improper Census, are things that David owns. Without deflection or excuses, David confesses his sin to God. John reminds us in his first letter: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9) David understood that relief from the burden of sin can only come through the confession of sin. “For I know my transgressions,” David writes, “and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51.3-4). How often is sin dismissed or excused? It was a white lie, just a few bucks, a little glance? When I get stressed I mess up, I back slide, and I fall? Satan convinced humanity that sin wouldn’t be that bad and ever since then we have been convincing ourselves that it isn’t that big of a deal. David knew the severity of his sin and he owned up to it.
Finally, David worshiped. After David expressed to his men that he fell short of what God wanted by cutting Saul’s robe, David “bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.” (1 Sam. 24.8) Immediately after confession of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12.13), David pleaded with God and fasted (2 Samuel 12.16) and worshiped (2 Samuel 12.20). He composed a song, a prayer to music (Psalm 51). At the end of 2 Samuel, after David took the census, David “built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.” (2 Samuel 24.25) The plague, David’s choice punishment (2 Sam 24.14), was the outcome of the improper census. After the confession, worship was the end of this journey of forgiveness. In each case “prostrated” (1 Sam. 24.8) and “worship” (2 Sam 12.20) translate from the Hebrew word chawa. It is an interesting hebrew verb that is found in a very special tense. It is the only verb in the Old Testament that is found in the Hishtaphel tense. It is reflexive and in the middle voice, meaning the action is directed to the person doing it and the actors are doing it to themselves. So “the worshipper is bringing himself in to an attitude of worship”. It is a choice to re-establish the hierarchy of God down to man. Sin has a way of restructuring things. We make ourselves God in sin. Worship is our choice to acknowledge and submit to Him…a re-ordering of things. In our first story (1 Sam 24) it is a reordering of Saul as the King and David as the vassal and in our other 2 stories (2 Sam 11-12; 2 Sam. 24) it is a return to God as King and David as servant.
David knew the burden of sin and how it took its toll on man. Unacknowldeged, unconfessed, and unforgiven sin gnaws at a man. It is a life that kills daily and one that will kill for eternity. In following the example of David, we can find forgiveness from God as provided through his Son.