The Self-disclosure of God (Part 1)

untitledSelf-disclosure is one of God’s favorite things in the Old Testament.

Moses is shown “the Glory of the Lord” on Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 33.12ff.)  He is watching the power of God, the goodness of God, the glow of God.  He walked away radiated, with a glowing face. (Exodus 34.29)  What is most striking, is how God narrates the event.  God describes Himself like this:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…(Exodus 34.6)

This proclamation of identity would stick with God throughout the Old Testament.  I had an identity once.  At a birthday party in 4th grade (I don’t even remember who it was for), I was reaching for something in the pool at a hotel.  The party was at ice cream and cake phase so I had already changed out of my swimming suit.  I fell into the pool with all my clothes on.  I never lived it down.  It came up in 2 different graduation speechs, favorite memories from school portions of yearbooks and school news papers, and one reunion.  I will always be the guy who fell in the pool with his clothes on.  God will carry this identity through all his dealings with man.

It’s fascinating, however, how this phrase is used.

It’s worshipful.  Psalm 145 uses this phrase like a link in a chain.  Each link is a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Verse 1 begins with aleph.  Verse 2, with a bet and so on until verse 8 when chet is the letter that is the letter of focus.  The verse begins with the word “gracious” (chanoon).  It’s just another link in the chain of attributes describing God in this Psalm.  Count the “God is…” statements:

  • “Great is the Lord…” (3)
  • “The Lord is good to all…”(9)
  • “The Lord is trustworthy…” (13)
  • “The Lord is righteous…and faithful…”(17)
  • “The Lord is near…” (18)

David will extol and praise the Lord for all that He is. (145.2)  But it’s a bigger chain than that.  Psalm 145 is also a part of a chain that ends the book of Psalms. The last 5 Psalms all begin with the word “Praise” (hb. hallel).  In the Hebrew text, the Psalm titles are considered the first verse of the Psalm.  So Psalm 145 begins like this: hallelujah.  which translates to: “Praise the Lord”.

David loves this word.  Back in Psalm 103, he writes:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103.8)

Here he attributes it to Moses, but until he makes his own purposes for the verse known.  Six times in Psalm 103 he begins a sentence with hallelujah.  I guess if you get stuck on repeat, that’s a great word to get stuck on.  Both are Psalms of Praise.

There is another type of Psalm that David wrote.  It’s called a Psalm of Lament.  These are Psalms that are written from deep despair and anguish.  They deal with the dirty issues of life.  He writes in Psalm 86:

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86.15)

It’s honest.  David is piecing together a prayer of quotations from other places: Exodus 34, Psalms 25, 26, 27, and others.  He is lamenting his current predicament.  Which predicament that is exactly is undetermined.  Is it the pursuit of Saul?  Is it the isolation?  Is it the Philistines?  Time and location aside, David prays and worships.  This is the prayer of a desperate man.  The Psalm begins:

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,

   for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;

   save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,

   for I call to you all day long. (Psalm 86.1-3)

and ends with this:

Turn to me and have mercy on me;

   show your strength in behalf of your servant;

save me, because I serve

   you just as my mother did.

Give me a sign of your goodness,

   that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,

   for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. (Psalm 86.16-17)

David is struggling to put together a few concepts and ideas.  The beginning and end of the Psalm is works-oriented: “save me because I served” (17), “guard me for I trust in you” (1).  In the middle, the Lord is a “gracious” and “compassionate” God.  It’s a question of justice.  Why are bad things happening to a good person?  He’s served and trusted, why are things going badly.  It is the exact opposite question posed in Jonah’s prayer.

Jonah 4 begins with Jonah in a bad place.  Verse 5 let’s the reader know that he went east of the city.  That’s code for “bad times”.  Anyone going east in the Bible is not having a good day.  So he is east.  And when he is east, he prays.

Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home?  That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.   I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4.2-3)

God did not destroy Nineveh for their sins and Jonah is upset.  It’s not that he has been tremendously faithful to God either; but it’s always easier to see the sin in others than in yourself.  Jonah laments about God’s justice.  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Jonah wants the Lord to know that he knew all along that this was going to happen.  So, in what I imagine would be a mocking tone, Jonah quotes Exodus 34.6 and part of verse 7.  Why is it mocking you may wonder?  Notice what Jonah leaves out at the junction of 6 and 7?  The “faithfulness” (’emet) of God.  In Jonah’s thinking: if God is for the Ninevites, He can be for Jonah/Israel.  Jonah is putting God perjury alert.  He is questioning God’s honesty…to be continued…

The Cave

Gollum-Smeagol-smeagol-gollum-14076878-960-403“It came to me. My own. My love. My own. My precious.” –Gollum

Deep below the Misty Mountains lay a cave.  In the cave lived Gollum, one of the River people.  Many, many years back, he obtained a Ring.  It was one of the Rings of Power that was dolled out amongst the races of Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkein’s Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.  Gollum now held the most powerful ring in his hand.  Immediately, the power consumed him.  Quickly, he began to both love it and hate it.  It warped his mind, body, and spirit.  It drove him to seek shelter in the cave below the Misty Mountains where he lived in the darkness for many years.

Caves are not destination places.  They are not places that people want to end up.  They are dark places.  They are wet places.  They are cold places.  When people ask: “why don’t you duck hunt?”  I simply tell them this: “I can be wet.  I can be cold.  I refuse to be both.”  Life has cave moments.  In 1 Samuel 22.1, David is in a cave.  He escaped (hb. malat) Saul’s pursuit at Gath and fled to the cave of Adullam.  At least in Gath, he was living in a city (albeit a foreign city under guise as an insane person).  I assume it was a non-extradition city.  Saul had a long reach and David ran.  The land of Israel is littered with caves and hide outs.  Like an outlaw, David finds one and is on the lam.  While there, just like he did to pass the long nights out in the field shepherding and just like he did in the Palace of Saul, he journaled.  He composed songs, poems, acrostics, and worshiped.  Scripture contains a few of these moments that reveal some truths about caves.

David enters alone (1 Samuel 22.1).  David went into the cave by himself.  There are very few exceptions in Scripture where people enter caves with others and some of those are questionable.  Obadiah hid 100 prophets in two caves, but with a nation and a king who is trying to exterminate them, there was probably some loneliness.  Just because there are people there, doesn’t mean isolation can’t set in.

“No man is an island, entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the continent.” — John Donne

Caves are a reminder, that the inhabitant is in it alone.  His journal reads:

“Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;

no one is concerned for me.

I have no refuge;

no one cares for my life.” (Psalm 142.4)

David is isolated.  Loneliness is an epidemic in America.  As of 1 January 2018, Facebook had 214 million US users.  Those that are 18-24 years old numbered 39.4 million.  Those that were over the age of 65 numbered 21.1 million.  Yet a 2016 article on independent.com stated: “a study in 2014 found 18-24-year-olds were four times as likely to feel lonely all the time as those aged 70 and above.”  Double the number are connected to the world and yet they are 4 times as likely to feel alone.  In the same article, Heather Saul observed, “humans were built for companionship, not to be alone, at least according to the growing body of research on the effect of social isolation has on health.”  I think I’ve read something like that before…Genesis 2 perhaps?  “It is not good for man to be alone.”  The “research” is affirming what God had said all along.  David’s family would eventually arrive, but for a time, he was isolated.

David is on the run.  Saul has been after David for some time now.  Twice he’s thrown spears.  He’s chased him into foreign territory.  Saul will not rest until David is dead.  Saul has tried to trap him: “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.  In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.” (Psalm 142.3)  This is directly from David’s prayer journal.  But he escaped the traps, the nets and the pits (Psalm 57.6).  Then there was the chase.  David prays later on: “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.” (Psalm 142.6)  I’ve harvested coyotes two ways: 1) trapping; 2) shooting from the back of an ATV at 45 mph.  It couldn’t have been a more different experience.  David was the coyote.  He’s seen it all.  He says in his song, in Psalm 57, that it has been a “hot pursuit” (57.3) and that he is now amongst men like “lions” and “ravenous beasts” (57.4).

The main word in both of these passages is refuge (hb. machseh/chaseh).  Four times in the two Psalms (57 and 142) refuge is mentioned.  They are related words with the same base.  Machseh is used in Psalm 142.5: “I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge…”  Of the 20 times its used in Scripture, 12 of them are in Psalms.  The reason is the desperation that comes through the pens of the song writers.  These are desperate men in desperate situations.  Refuge is not requested, it is required.

Along the same lines, chasah, another Hebrew word for refuge, is used 37 times, with 25 of them in Psalms.  Again, desperation begs refuge.  Psalm 57 uses this word twice.  “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57.1)  David employs the image of a mother bird hovering over her nest.  Its not the first time.  He quoted his great-grandfather, Boaz, in speaking to Ruth: “May the Lord repay you for what you have done.  May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2.12)

The refuge of God takes many forms.  It was wings, as was mentioned before (also in Psalm 61.4; 91.4).  It was a “shield and horn”, a symbol of God’s power (1 Samuel 22.3; Psalm 18.30; Proverbs 30.5).  It was a rock that a man could tether to (Psalm 18.2;62.7; 94.22).  Refuge is the strong tower and fortress that fortifies the soul (Psalm 61.3; 91.2; 94.22).  A place of refuge is a reoccurring theme in David’s journal.  He is distressed and exhausted; on the run and growing weary.  He needs refuge.  It is fitting that “Adullam”, the cave where he is hiding (1 Samuel 22.1), means “refuge” in Hebrew. (Brown, Driver, Briggs 726)

David is worn out.  No one enters the cave at a high point in life.  The cave lies at the end of a long and arduous journey.  David’s been on the run.  He’s acted insane.  He’s been among enemies.  He has dodged spears.  He is physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted.  “When my spirit grows faint within me…I have no refuge.” (Psalm 142.3-4)  The Hebrew verb “faint” (‘atap) is in an unusual conjugation.  It is in the hitpael stem, meaning it is to be understood reflexively.  David is “growing faint” because of himself.  Elsewhere this verb is translated “ebb away” (Jonah 2.7).  The picture is made clear.  David is wasting away because of the chase, the stress, and the isolation.  He is left in the cave to think and “grow faint”.

But there is another side to this prayer and this song.  For all the things going wrong, David trusts in this: God does his best work from caves.

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;

let your glory be over all the earth…

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast;

I will sing and make music…

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;

I will sing of you among the peoples.

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;

your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (Psalm 57.5, 7, 9-10)

empty-tomb-yellowFast forward 1000 years or so.  Joseph of Arimathea brought Jesus to a tomb.  They were caves back then.  Where they sealed the entrance with a stone and they left him alone.  His chase was over.  The people, the Romans, the mob, had been after him for a year.  Finally, the situation proved fruitful and they crucified him.  He had been chased down.  Jesus was exhausted from all night trials and physically spent.  He had endured the cross and the suffering.  He was worn-out.  And he finds himself in the cave.  But his road to the cave was understood in the same way that David understood his: God does his best work from caves.  Three days later, Jesus would emerge from the cave, overcoming all that it stood for.  Like David writes in Psalm 57.8:

“Awake, my soul!

Awake, harp and lyre!

I will awaken the dawn!”

That dawn, Sunday morning, was welcomed with an empty cave!

 

A Man after God’s Heart: His Sin

1403634417608“Where am I and how did I get here?”  These can be startling questions.

Sleep-walkers, Partying majors in college, and people who lack short term memory have all asked this question.  Sometimes, spiritually, this question can arise; especially when sin is involved.  David had to wonder about this question.  All his struggles are behind him, but now he faces depression and death…”how did I get here?” he wonders.  Well it was a journey that began at home.

Sin shows up where your aren’t supposed to be.  It was the spring time.  A time when “kings go off to war” (2 Samuel 11.1).  David had sent Joab out with the army, but David stayed in Jerusalem.  The recurring theme of David’s story has been this: he was a king before he was a King.  David had always acted like a King even before the title became his.  Saul on the other hand had the title but not the character.  When Goliath stood before the army of the Lord, it was David, not King Saul whose responsibility it was, who went out to fight.  David was a warrior.  His name was forged through the battles he fought, the wars he waged, and his life as a soldier.  But in this case, he skipped the battle.  He sat this one out.  Instead of wandering among the tents of his soldiers, he wandered around the roof of his palace.  The rooftops of the city spread out beneath him.  There he spied a woman bathing on one of the houses in the lower part of the city. (2)  Temptation presents itself.  Sin arrives when we aren’t where we are supposed to be.  David should have been at war, instead he is on is roof.  He is on the computer at 2 am instead of in bed.  He has multiple tabs open on his browser instead of just checking his e-mail.  He has driven across town to the gas station near the club, when he should have gone to Walmart down the street.  Sin always finds us when we aren’t where we are supposed to be.  God told Cain in Genesis 4: “sin is crouching at your door.”  Cain’s heart wasn’t in the right place, and soon they would head out to a field where he would kill his brother Abel.  Sin is ready and waiting to get us when we veer from where we should be.  David learned that lesson.

Sin thrives on curiosity.  After David saw her bathing, he had a choice: forget he saw her and go on…or explore the situation a little more.  David chose the latter.  He sent someone “to find out about her.” (3)  How different would Alice’s story be if she hadn’t followed the rabbit down the rabbit hole?  David went exploring.  Sin is a journey of curiosity.  That is how it began right?

  • “Did God really say…” (Gen 3.1)
  • “You will not surely die…” (Gen 4.5)
  • “Your eyes will opened…” (Gen 4.5)
  • “You will be like God knowing good and evil” (Gen 4.5)

Satan’s last argument, “don’t you want to know good and evil?” sealed it.   The Hebrew word, know, means “to fully experience”.  Satan says: “Eve, aren’t you a little bit curious about the good and evil that God is keeping from you?” The question was sealed with a little fruit.  Curiosity is what keeps the traffic continuous on porn sites.  Curiosity is what feeds affairs.  Curiosity is what promises excitement, freedom, and pleasure.  Curiosity is what made David search out Bathsheba.  Satan’s goal with Eve, with David, and with us, is to arise curiosity.  Doubt is at the root of this curiosity.  Can we really trust God’s word?  Does God really want the best for us?  Is God hiding something good from us?  We doubt the holiness of God, the truth of His Word, and the goodness of His character; so we are curious about what we are missing.  And sin becomes a reality.

Sin doesn’t stop itself.  It is a well known fact that sin always takes you farther than you ever wanted to go.  Anyone who has ever been caught up in sin can testify.  What began as something small escalates to full fledged addiction.  A quick glance turns into a lingering stare, a white lie into a full on story, a wish into idolatry.  David indulged his fleeting glance, entertained his curiosity, and went on a journey farther than he ever wanted to go.  He slept with Bathsheba  and she winds up pregnant. (2 Samuel 11.4)  After two attempts to get Uriah to appear to be the father of the baby in Bathsheba’s womb, David sends word to the front.  Uriah carries his own death sentence to the front lines.  Joab is told to pull back his troops, leaving Uriah alone, in the midst of the fighting (2 Sam. 11.16-17).  This is not the first time thins thinking and this plan was undertook.  If you remember, Saul wanted the Philistines to do his dirty work by killing David (1 Samuel 17.24).  A glance, fueled by curiosity, produced adultery, and ended with murder and death (2 Sam 12.19).  Isn’t that the story of sin?  It ultimately ends with death (Romans 5.12).  It takes us farther than we ever anticipated.  David learned this the hard way.
Sin is the universal diagnosis of humanity.  Everyone has felt the implications and the consequences.  Specifically, in this story, the sin was sexual immorality.  The more men I have spoken too, the more I have counsel, and, shamefully, the longer I live, the more I run into this story of David living out in my life and the men around me.  The struggle of pornography, unfaithfulness, and lust have become a pandemic among the American male.  I guess what David’s story is showing us is all the off ramps that we can take to avoid the destination of addiction.  Stop the glance by being where you are supposed to.  Starve the curiosity by filling your life with the truth.  Avoid the journey, by never taking the first step.  There are so many layers to this story, and this is just one.  Still, the message is resounding and the consequences deadly.

A Man after God’s Heart: His Word

David always did things differently.  To fight Goliath, Saul tried to get him to wear his armor and take his sword.  David took a sling and stones.  To get the Kingdom, David was told to kill Saul, but twice spared his life.  He always liked to do things a little different.

So it is fitting that when David is seated on the throne, the ark is resting in Jerusalem, and the country is firmly in his hands, that he would do things differently.

Second Samuel 9 begins with a question: “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

It has been some time since David’s ascent to the throne.  The “war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time” (3.1) and has since ceased.  Things are going pretty good in the life of David.  Ish-Bosheth, the last of Saul’s line that was of age to usurp, had been killed some time back (4.6) and the throne was firmly in David’s hands.  Time for David to finally rule.

Still there was this unfinished business.  Like a pebble in a boot or a burr in the saddle, David had yet to accomplish this one thing.  He had yet to keep his word with Jonathan.

The covenant made with Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20 still stood.  A covenant relationship, by definition is eternal, but this one was also stipulated as “forever.”  There was no getting out of it.  A lot has happened since the two men made their pact of kindness (1 Samuel 20.14-16).  There had been nights sleeping in the darkness of caves, days spent on the run, times of hiding in enemy fortresses and times of madness.  Death, injury, hurt, and pain has plagued David since this covenant was made.  So is it that big of a deal?  Think of the pain that Jonathan’s family has caused David.  Now Jonathan is gone.  He is dead.  Deal off?  Not for a Man after God’s heart because he gave his word.

David wrote in Psalm 19:

“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things will never be shaken.

So much of this Psalm about a Godly man speaks of his words.  David knows the equation that Jesus voices in Matthew 12.34: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Jesus spoke it as a rebuke of the Pharisees, but it’s true of all of us right?  Our words and heart are connected.  The man after God’s heart will be a man who keeps his word.

Exaggeration, deceit, lying, down-playing, and secrecy are the symptoms; pride, arrogance, image-control, and selfishness is the disease.  The reason David kept his word was because the cause wasn’t there.  David didn’t feel the need to manage his image like I do.  David didn’t crave approval like I do.  David didn’t watch the feed, check the ‘likes’, or bow at the altar of public opinion like I have been known to do.  David kept his word because the only one that it mattered too, God, mattered everything to him.

So David searched for a man of the house of Saul in order to keep his promise (2 Samuel 9.2-5)  Finally, Mephibosheth was found.

David’s officials couldn’t have been happy.  His own family probably was none to thrilled.  Leaving alive someone who had claim to the throne was not something that Kings did.  But as we have seen elsewhere, David was anything but a typical King.  No matter how long it took or how far he had to go, David was going to find a way to keep his word.

David showed kindness, mercy, and honor to Mephibosheth.  He restored to him all the land and a position at the Kings table (7).  He made him like one of the King’s sons (11) and he stayed in Jerusalem with the Royal family.  All of this happened because one man kept his word.

David wrote in Psalm 15 that a man “keeps his word even when it hurts.” (Ps. 15.4)  How often have I chosen a lie to avoid pain? a falsehood to avoid embarrassment? deceit to stave off shame?

I commit to things I cant accomplish because I am afraid of how I will be perceived if I say no?  My word is shot.  I lie because my worth needs to be shown in the stories I tell or the people I say I have met.  My word is shot.  Image is what drives words.

David didn’t have an image to protect, which is why keeping his word came so natural to him.  He didn’t have to make up accomplishments, didn’t have to exaggerate victories or skills.  He simply devoted himself to become God’s man for the job.  In doing so, the vulnerability that comes with keeping your word, was something he was comfortable with.  He knew who gave him his identity (2 Samuel 7.8) and in whom he found his strength (1 Samuel 30.6).  When the disease is taken care off the symptoms disappear.

 

 

 

 

A Man After God’s Heart: Keep it Together

tstone-main1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There is no one definition for a tough guy.  He’s not necessarily a guy for one thing.  And he doesn’t have to look physically tough, although it doesn’t hurt.  He doesn’t even have to have a mustache.  What he does consistently have is composure—an ability to react and handle any situation.” – Popular Mechanics, May 2016, pg 59.

Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Gus, Doc Holiday; they were all men who didn’t sweat and didn’t fade in the stretch.  They were calm, cool, and collected. Indiana Jones never even lost his hat.  In studying these characters, there was no situation too big, no challenge to great, and no enemy to intimidating for them to rise to the occasion with composure.

Composure is what allows the bullfighter to take pictures with a four year old before he puts his life on the line saving a cowboy.  Composure is what gives the bull rider at the NFR the ability to laugh behind the chutes seconds before putting his rope on and trust his ability on a million dollar ride. Composure is what allows the cowboy, through narrowed eyes, to stare into a thunderstorm on the horizon and kick his horse up to continue work. Composure is what keeps him driving headlong into a blizzard to find a calf.

Composure is great and makes tough men…and composure can deaden a man.

David was composed, but not always…and that made him a man after God’s heart.

He was composed in taking Jerusalem.  It wasn’t a massive complex, it had thick walls, and it was surrounded by valleys.  Both Judah and Benjamin had been charged by Joshua to take the city (Josh 15.63 and 18.28) and in 400 years they hadn’t accomplished it.  The security of the city wasn’t in question.  The Jebusites claimed “even the blind and the lame can ward off attackers.” (2 Sam 5.6)  A composed David, challenged his men and provided direction. (2 Sam 5.8)  Probably using Warren’s shaft, a tunnel leading from the spring into the walls, David’s men took the city.

He was composed in planning the city.  The Jebusite city was a small hilltop, but David turned it into God’s city.  He built up the terraces around the city providing a foundation to build a city worthy of bearing God’s name and housing God’s people.  He built walls, houses, a palace, and everything they needed.  David was leading his people to new and great heights and he did it all composed.

He was composed defeating the Philistines.  His former pseudo-countrymen, the Philistines, heard that David had taken the throne and they marched out to get him. (2 Sam 5.17)  Twice they met the forces of Israel in the Valley of Rephaim (2 Sam 5.18, 22) and twice David defeated them after inquiring of God.  The composure, the presence of mind to talk with God, was something that had been lacking in a King. (1 Chronicles 13.3)

David had it all together.  He was a tough guy.  Composed at all times; until he worships.  After bringing the Ark of God into Jerusalem, David said this to Michal describing the event:

“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel–I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6.21-22)

It would probably help to know what led up to this.  The Israelites hadn’t inquired of the Lord during the reign of Saul, through the Ark (1 Chron. 13.3), and they all thought it would be a good idea to get the ark into the City of David for protection, for illumination, and for wisdom.  Two men were guiding the cart that held the ark (2 Sam. 6.3-4; 1 Chron. 13.7) a clear violation of how the ark was supposed to be transported. (Num. 4.15)  When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah trying to keep the ark from falling, reached out his hand and steadied it.  The anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah for this irreverent act.  There Uzzah fell and died.  David was angry and afraid legitimately.  They stopped the procession and the ark rested in the house of Obed-Edom for three months. (2 Sam 6.6-11; 1 Chron. 13.1-14)

When the task of bringing the ark to Jerusalem was resumed, David wanted to do it right.  First Chronicles 15 shows the dedication to following the instructions of Moses.

David show’s his composure in how he prepares for this entrance.  David’s ritual, his kingship, his planning was so controlled, but his worship was so…not.

He is “dancing with all his might” (2 Sam 6.14); shouted and trumpeted (15).  He lept and danced (16).  This bothered his wife, Michal.  She, having a King for a father, knew exactly how kings should act and this was not how King’s acted.  King’s keep it all together.  Sound’s familiar.  Men keep it all together.  Never let emotion show.  Excitement (outside of an athletic achievement) is frowned upon.  Even raising a hand in worship makes my stomach turn.  Show what I am I to learn from David’s example?  Composure can kill a life of worship.  A man after God’s heart knows when to let it go.

David laughedm, alot.  The hebrew word translated in the NIV as “I will celebrate” in 1 Samuel 6.21, is translated other places “laughs” [hb. sachaq].  In this passage it is in the Piel stem, which intensifies the word.  Instead of a chuckle, it is a full belly laugh.  You laugh at a joke: “A neutrino walks into a bar and asks what it costs for a drink.  Bartender says ‘for you, no charge!’”  But you tear-up with laughter at a dad getting racked with a wiffle ball on America’s funniest home videos.See the difference?  David is “celebrating” and “laughing” uncontrollably.  So much of David’s worship up to this point has taken place surrounded by tragedy.  When things are falling apart, David turns to God.  From the valleys, David’s trials turn to worship..  Now on the mountain top, his laughter also turns to worship.  We laugh from joy, entertainment, and excitement.  The King is experiencing them all at one and it overflows in the form of celebration and laughter.  

David became undignified [hb. Qalal] as he worshiped.  This verb is used in the reflexive tense, called the niphal in hebrew.  It indicates that the subject it doing it themselves.  The hebrew word means to “think little” of something.  Ahab, the most evil King of Israel, “thought little” of the sins of Jeroboam, arguable the second most evil King of Israel. (1 Kings 16.31)  This word carries with it the idea of the ease of a task as well.  It was “easy” and “simple” for God to send rain during a drought or move a shadow on some steps (2 Kings 3.18; 20.10).  God is able, without much trouble, to do amazing things.  So in our passage, David is “making himself little” and  “thinking of himself simply”.  He is the King, with an army at his right hand, a people behind him, and a bright future ahead, but he makes himself simple.  That’s not what a King does.

David will be humiliated [hb. Saphal] in his own eyes.  Mostly this word is translated “lowly”.  Lowliness is praised in wisdom literature.  

  • Job 5:11: “The lowly he sets on high and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”
  • Psalm 138.6: “Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly.”
  • Proverbs 16.19: “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”
  • Proverbs 29.23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”
  • Matthew 5.3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Matthew 5.5: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Surprised by the last two?  Jesus begins his Sermon on the mount with some wisdom literature and it is about the lowly. Paul said all his life is rubbish (Phil 3.7ff); John said “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3.30); Jesus said “Glorify me so that I can return glory to you.” (Jn 17.1)  Here David declares that in his humiliation, he will worship.

These are not qualities of a man keeping it together: Uncontrollable laughter and celebration; humiliation, undignified dancing…or is it?

A man after God’s heart is a man capable of letting himself go, knowing that his strength, power, and identity come from God and God alone.  David was able to lose composure in worship because he knew where his strength and his power came.  God had given him all that he had, so he didn’t have to project an image, hold it all together, and conceal his heart.  David could lose composure because God never does.  God holds it all together, not David.  We can’t keep the mask of composure on forever, David knew when and to whom he could lose it too.

A Man After God’s Heart: Water Tower Towns

Hepler, Kansas
Hepler, Kansas

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.

Hartford, Kansas
Hartford, Kansas

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.

A Man after God’s Heart: Cry-Baby

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.”