Monday, May 19, 2014

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble ..."

Day #143:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - May 20th

Scripture Reading:  II Samuel 20 - 24 ...

David had his moments, as we all do.  He wasn't perfect, he became distracted from his devotion to the Lord, he sinned and he did some things that seemed out-of-character for one who was said to be "a man after God's own heart."  So why did God bless David in the long run and promise that the long-awaited Savior, the Messiah, would descend from his line?  In one word, "humility."  Solomon would write in Proverbs 3:34 that "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  James would repeat that in his New Testament letter, in James 4:6.  God does not reward those who are proud, who take the credit for their success and who put God in the background.  Humility is blessed by God because those with humility live to give glory to GOD, who alone is worthy.

As David's reign continued after Absalom's attempted coup, some from Israel continued to plot against David.  Having returned to Jerusalem, David sent Joab, the commander of his army, to put an end to this new uprising.  The result was predictable:  David's enemies were destroyed.  But then a famine struck.  For three years conditions were difficult on all of Israel.  David continued praying to the LORD and God revealed to David that the famine was the result of the sin of Saul, who had mistreated the Gibeonites.  The answer seems harsh to us.  Some of the descendants of Saul were handed over to the Gibeonites to be put to death and made a public spectacle.  Even in this, David obeyed the Lord and honored Him.

After that, David's fighting days came to an end.  He was getting older and he was nearly killed in a battle with the Philistines.  David's men swore an oath, saying, "Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished" (21:17).  The men of Israel could see that God was with David and in acknowledging David as their King they were also acknowledging the God David trusted in.  How important is a godly leader for God's people?  The consequences are great for those who seek the Lord's blessing.

The song of praise recorded for us in Chapter 22 reveals so clearly David's heart.  He addresses the LORD, "YAHWEH," as "my Rock, my Fortress, My deliverer, my Refuge, my Shield, the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold and my Savior!"  (22:2-3).  David was confident that when he cried out in his times of distress, the LORD heard him from His temple.  David had a keen awareness of the character of God, perhaps unlike any other in the centuries before the pouring out of God's Spirit at Pentecost.  It may appear in parts of this song of praise that David was claiming to be righteous and blameless, but in reading the entire song it is clear that David understood that his standing before God was his by grace.

"You save the humble ... You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light" (22:28-29).  Like the Apostle Paul and others who would come after him, David realized his sin and his need for God's mercy.  David confessed, "As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the LORD is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.  For who is God besides the LORD?  And who is the Rock except OUR GOD?!  It is GOD who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect" (22:31-33).  There is the humility that points to God's grace as the source of everything good.  HE gives me strength and makes my way perfect!!!

David's praise is inspiring!  "The LORD lives!  Praise be to my Rock!  Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior! ... Therefore I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing praises to Your name" (22:47, 50).  How wonderful, faithful and awesome is OUR God!!!

Finally, God honors those who have fought with David.  And then, almost inexplicably to us, God determines to humble Israel again by putting the thought in David's mind to count his fighting men.  Some might wonder what is so bad about that, but the answer is simple:  Pride.  Israel's strength was not in the number of soldiers it had, but in the God who strengthened them and who took their side.  Having ordered the census, David's conscience convicted him and he confessed, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done.  Now, O LORD, I beg You to take away the guilt of Your servant.  I have done a very foolish thing" (24:10).

God then gave David three options for punishment:  Three years of famine, three months of running from their enemies or three days of plague.  David said to the prophet, Gad, "I am in deep distress.  Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men" (24:14).  David TRUSTED God!!!  David said to the LORD, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong.  These are but sheep.  What have they done?  Let Your hand fall upon me and my family" (24:17).

Then the prophet tells David to build an altar and to offer a sacrifice to the LORD and the plague would stop.  When the man from whom David was buying the threshing floor, where the altar would be built, offered to GIVE David the property and the altar, David insisted on paying for it, saying, "I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (24:24).  So David built an altar and made offerings to the Lord and God heard his prayer and stopped the plague ... displaying once again His marvelous mercy.

Do you know this God?  He is all He has revealed and more, for we cannot begin to grasp yet His fullness.  Read His Word, seek His face, ask for the Spirit to teach you more and rest in His mercy and grace.  You will never be disappointed, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble!"

"Heavenly Father, Your amazing power is revealed through Your rule over all the nations.  Only You determine who is victorious and You bless those who come to You in humility, resting in Your mercy.  Thank You, Father, that in Your Son Jesus Christ all who confess their sin, like David, find forgiveness and life.  I will not give You Lord, offerings that cost me nothing.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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