Monday, May 12, 2014

"A man's enemies will be the members of his own household …"

Day #135:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - May 13th

Scripture Reading:  II Samuel 15 - 19 …

Reading through the story of Absalom, the son of King David, it would be easy to think that this is a simply a sad story of a family gone bad and to believe that it doesn't have anything to do with you or me.  We have problems in our families, too, but hopefully nothing like this!  David's son tried to STEAL the kingdom from his father.  By being "nice" to the people, telling them what they wanted to hear and making promises to help them, Absalom "stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (15:6) and led a rebellion against his father.  The goal was power, prestige and wealth.  (More on that in a moment.)

God overruled what Absalom and those following him were trying to do.  In the end, Absalom is killed and David is restored to his throne, where God had put him.  David mourned the death of his son - so much so that Joab, the commander of David's army, told him that his behavior was a disgrace to his men, who had risked their lives to defend his honor and his reign.  Honoring the troops is important for any command-in-chief.

In returning to Jerusalem, David appealed to the tribe of Judah to accompany him back.  After all, this was his "family," the tribe from which he had come.  But the rest of the tribes of Israel were jealous, not understanding God's special plans for the descendants of Judah, or perhaps just not accepting God's plan.  The Savior, the Messiah, would come from Judah (Genesis 49:10) and ultimately from David's line.  What God ordains to take place always comes to pass.  But this rivalry between Judah and the rest of Israel was a taste of what would happen in the coming generations, when the kingdom would be divided and all the tribes of Israel EXCEPT Judah would "disappear" ... until their promised restoration that still lies in the future.

There are a number of things to be pointed out and learned from these chapters, but two of them stick out as applications for us today.  First, note the contrast between David and Absalom.  David was "a man after God's own heart."  Through the Psalms David authored we see David's heart for God.  Even after he had been anointed by Samuel to be the next King of Israel, David honored King Saul, the Lord's anointed.  While Saul was trying to kill David, David would not turn against Saul or harm him, even when he had the opportunity.  David trusted in God and left the timing of his ascent to the throne in God's hands.  He would not strike the Lord's anointed.

Not so with Absalom.  His mind was on anything but God and His will.  His mind was on earthly things.  Absalom wanted the kingdom for his own purposes and for his own advancement.  Absalom might have been a good candidate to teach a course in college or grad school today:  Politics 101.  Win over the hearts of the people with promises, convince them you are there to help them, to give them "justice," and destroy your opponents any way you can in order to gain popularity, power, influence and wealth for yourself and those around you.  It worked for Absalom - temporarily, and it seems to work for some today - temporarily.  But as God dealt with Absalom and his end came upon him suddenly, so it will be for those today who seek unjust gain in the political realm.  Those who oppose God may appear to have victory, but they stand on slippery ground.

The second lesson to be learned from this tragic accounting of the rebellion of Absalom against his father is a hard lesson to learn and an even harder lesson to accept:  Your enemies will at times be the members of your own household.  We would like to think that the families of those who become believers will come to know Jesus and be saved, too.  God DOES make promises to believers and to their children and many come to know Christ, loving God and serving God alongside their parents, grandparents and previous generations.

But in various ways, as parents and the Church as well, we sometimes fail to teach our children by word and example, and sometimes they will turn aside from the way laid out before them, bringing dishonor to themselves and even the cause of Christ.  When children come to faith in Jesus Christ it is by grace, as the Holy Spirit uses God's Word to bring about regeneration, including repentance and faith.  In this we can and must rejoice.

Yet, for those who come to know Jesus and to believe in Him later in their lives, faith in Jesus is not something you can just automatically pass on.  Only God can change hearts and minds.  Some today teach that Jesus came to save everyone and that eventually everyone will be in heaven.  They pretend that there is no opposition to the Gospel and they don't experience any because they have "adapted" the Gospel to the culture around them so they don't offend anyone - except GOD!  But where the true Gospel is believed and proclaimed and lived, there will be opposition, and sometimes that opposition strikes very close to home.

Jesus is often portrayed as coming to show God's love to everyone and inviting everyone to join Him in a chorus of "Kum-ba-yah" around the campfire.  But listen to the very words of Jesus to His disciples:

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household'" (Matthew 10:34-36).

Taking a stand for Jesus Christ requires a commitment that many are not willing to make ... are not ABLE to make.  Jesus goes on to say, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:27-39).  None of us WANTS to have enemies, let alone in our own families, but when you are united to Christ by faith opposition comes.  You become a light in the darkness and those who are still in the darkness hate the light.

At such times these words of Jesus are a reminder that though we who believe are still IN this world, we are no longer OF this world.  We are now "aliens and strangers on earth" (Hebrews 11:13).  The purpose of our lives becomes centered on glorifying God, as David did, and to do that we must be willing to put God first, even before our families.  David's heartache is the heartache of many who have loved ones who rebel against God and who reject good counsel.  We need to stand firm in our faith, trusting God to fulfill His purpose and testifying that He is God and His wisdom is greater than ours.

As you read through some of the Psalms of David, listen for times when David shares his heart and find wisdom from God to deal with the times in your life when trusting God is both the only thing you can do and the best thing you can do.  God never left David, and He will never leave those who trust in Him today and who draw near to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, the descendant of the tribe of Judah, the "son of David," who sits on the throne!  He is and will be KING - forever!!  Worship Him today and find comfort in His grace and love to you.

"O LORD, our God, life in this world brings with it heartaches and trials.  At times I do not understand what is happening around me or why things happen as they do.  Help me, Father, to trust You in those times and to know that You are still at work, even in what may seem to me to be the worst of times.  In You I find my strength, my hope, my peace and my joy.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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