SERMON: Six Responses to God (2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19)
1. General Responses to God
The subject of the existence of God invariably evokes a variety of responses. Some deny his existence and say that the world, and even our presence, is the result of random acts of nature. Some are quite willing to accept God, as an all-powerful creator—but only to a degree. Indeed, they may admit that he is the creator, but then say that he has taken a step back and left us to our own devices. And there are others who acknowledge God, not only as the creator, but as a God who is alive and well, and very much involved in the world today.
And just as the existence of God evokes a variety of responses, so too are the reactions of those who acknowledge his existence. For example, some want to keep him at arm’s length. Yes, they may acknowledge his presence, but that’s all—they don’t want to get too involved. And, at the other extreme, there are some who embrace him full on, with no holds barred. And, of course, there are the many shades in-between.
2. The Ark of The Covenant
Now, of course, there’s nothing new about any of that. Because the existence or otherwise of God, and the appropriate or inappropriate responses to God, has been a debate for a long time. And that is well illustrated in the story of a small wooden box—a little over a metre long, seventy centimetres wide, and seventy centimetres high.
It was a box covered in gold, known as the Ark of the Covenant, and it housed the two stone tablets on which were written the ten commandments, a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod. But it was the focal point of the community; it was where God revealed his will to his servants. And you wouldn’t think that such a small box, and what it represented, could be the cause of so much trouble.
B. RESPONSES TO GOD
1. Background—Manipulating God (1 Samuel 4:1-11)
Because if we go back to the beginning of this particular loop in the story of the Ark, we will see that people thought they could use it to manipulate God and to use it for their own ends.
The Ark was in the hands of the Philistines. And how it got there, was that the Israelites had tried to use it as a lucky charm. Recent battles with the Philistines had gone badly, so someone had come up with a bright idea: If the Ark was taken into battle with them, then hat would ensure, or force God, to make sure that they won.
Now, of course those people were in for a shock. God was not prepared to be treated in such a way. He consequently withdrew his favour and not only was the battle lost, but the Ark was carried off as a spoil of war.
2. Background—Denying God (1 Samuel 5 & 6)
Now, if the Israelites believed that God was someone who could be manipulated, then the Philistines had other ideas. Indeed, the second response to the Ark was that God didn’t really exist. The Philistines had their own God—Dagon. And the fact that they’d won the fight and captured the Ark, meant that, for them, Dagon was far more powerful than the Israelite god ever was.
But then, like the Israelites, they came in for a shock too. Because after having placed the Ark in Dagon’s temple, each morning they found Dagon’s statue face down on the ground in front of the Ark, as if worshipping God. And that was followed by some plagues. So the Philistines then treated the Ark as a hot potato, and they returned it back to Israelite territory—to a place called Kiriath-jearim.
3. Neglecting God (1)
Which is not only where our reading begins. But it is also where we discover a third response to God. And this time it is one of neglect. Now the Ark was supposed to be at the centre of all Jewish activity—in the midst of the people—and yet it stayed in this flourishing, but still small village of Kiriath-jearim, away from the main centres of Israelite life for twenty years.
Of course, shortly after its arrival at the village, a guard was appointed to look after it (7:1). But nothing was done to restore it to its central place. Indeed, nothing was done to restore the focal point of Israelite worship and life for twenty years.
4. Worshipping God – For A Time (2-5)
However, at the end of those twenty years… the fourth response to the Ark and to God was bit more positive. This time, accompanied with the worshipping of God—and treating the Ark with a little more respect, the Ark was moved. However, the worship and respect only went up to a point.
The procession involved bringing the Ark into Jerusalem—a fourteen-kilometre journey—and they had built a brand-new cart especially for the purpose. And there was singing and the playing of harps, lyres, tambourines, castanets and cymbals, while David and his entourage danced with all their might. It must have been quite a scene. Unfortunately, it all then came to a grinding halt. It didn’t last, because the commitment of the worshippers was superficial, their respect for God limited, and the mission was abandoned.
5. Dishonouring God (6-12a)
And the reason it was abandoned? Well the fifth response to God was that they were still not taking God seriously. The Ark had been treated with dishonour. As a result someone died. So people were scared to take the Ark any further.
Now the problem was, that the cart of which the Ark was being carried was about to tip. So one of the guardians put out his hand to steady it, lest if fall. And his immediate death, was the result.
But the point was, that new cart or not, the Ark should never have been on a cart in the first place. The Ark had been built to God’s specifications, only to be carried by men. Indeed, poles were supposed to be threaded through the rings in the Ark’s sides specifically for that very purpose. The Ark had been lovingly carried on poles for nearly forty years in the wilderness (Ex 25:15, Nu 4:5-6:15), and it should have been carried those fourteen kilometres in the same way.
So, they dishonoured God and were punished for it. And where did they leave the Ark? In the house of Obed-Edom—not an Israelite, but another Philistine—who lived on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
6. Worshipping God – No Holds Barred (12b-19)
Now wind the clock forward three months, and only then do we finally see God—and his Ark—given the respect and honour he deserved.
The journey recommenced and the distance they had to travel was not far. But now having picked up the Ark in the appropriate manner they went six paces and stopped—and nothing untoward happened. Then David, taking a major role, wearing a priestly apron, made the appropriate sacrifices.
After which, they then picked up the Ark and moved on to Jerusalem—accompanied by exuberant shouting, trumpets, leaping and dancing—until the Ark came to its resting place. And that having finally been achieved, there were more sacrifices and a feast of celebration.
That is, except for one sour note: Michal one of David’s wives, saw David prancing up and down in his short priestly apron (with nothing on underneath), and despised him for it. Now that may have been inappropriate for David to do—in modesty terms—but Michal had missed the point. It wasn’t whether David had exposed himself that was the issue, it was rather that he didn’t hold back from giving God his all.
When you take this whole cycle in the life of the Ark, then, you not only end up with a very interesting story, but you get a reminder of the varied responses people have to God. And, strange as it may seem, they are exactly the same responses that people still give to God today.
1. Manipulating God
Because, firstly, people still try to manipulate God. Yes, people may acknowledge his existence and even his presence but, just like taking the Ark into battle, some people ask for assistance—even make promises to God—to try to manipulate God to do certain things, only then to abandon all pretence of faith at a later time.
2. Denying God
Secondly, people still try to deny God or treat him as irrelevant. And like the Philistines some may even prefer to worship other ‘so-called’ gods, relegating the creator God to someone not worth their time and effort.
3. Neglecting God
Thirdly, people neglect God. They push him away—keep him at a distance. And like the Israelites posting a guard on the Ark fifteen kilometres from Jerusalem, they may acknowledge that he exists, and may take comfort that someone else is keeping the old religion alive. But regarding their own commitment, they have far better things to do.
4. Worshipping God – For A Time
Fourthly, there are people who worship God, and maybe appear very keen—at least at first—but it doesn’t last, just like the Israelites in their first attempt to bring the Ark in Jerusalem. The commitment isn’t really there, and the honour they give to God is not what it is supposed to be. For sure they may be very visible for a while, but later it’s as if nothing happened.
5. Dishonouring God
Fifthly, there are people who dishonour God, like those who used the cart to move the Ark. There are those who know what they are supposed to do, but they still don’t treat God with the honour he deserves.
6. Worshipping God – No Holds Barred
And, sixthly, there are those who commit themselves totally to God, and give him their undivided commitment. And they are the ones who sing his praises, dance, join in the music, etc. And like David (although I’m not encouraging everyone to do quite what David did), join in heart and soul with the worship of God.
D. THE ONLY APPROPRIATE RESPONSE
So things haven’t changed. Things are no different now than they were in the time of King David—and before. And you shouldn’t need me to tell you, that only one of those six responses is the correct response to God.
So what does this mean to us? And how can we combat some very different approaches?
Well if we criticise and point to other people’s failings, all we do is to get people’s backs up. And that won’t do any good. Apart from that it’s not our place to judge. And in any event, even the great King David didn’t always get it right. Indeed, he slipped up on a number of occasions—one of which we have just seen. And undoubtedly, from time to time, we will probably do the same.
No! The best response is for us, is to constantly remind ourselves of the different responses to God. That way we can keep ourselves on our toes, and practice what we believe. And that I believe is the value in recalling stories like what happened to the Ark.
In terms of that story about the Ark, it means that we should be on constant guard to acknowledge God’s existence and presence, and to want him to be part of our lives. We need to be on our guard not usurp him with other things, but to place him in the position of highest honour. We need to live constantly with him at our side, and we should listen and respond to appropriately to the things that he says and does. We need be aware that even when we don’t feel like it—when the enthusiasm is not there—that we still need to give God his due. We need to treat God with honour and obey the things that he says—which are invariably for our benefit anyway. And we need to join in singing his praises and worshipping him in whatever form is appropriate—shouting, song, dance, music or whatever. In other words, we need to be the people of God.
Having said that, in being the people of God there is a warning. If we give God our all, then our response to the living God will not always be fully understood by everyone. Indeed, Michal’s response to David giving God his all was that she then treated David with hatred and disgust. But then she’d missed the point of the celebration, her heart wasn’t in it, and all she did was criticise what she had seen.
And if being treated with hatred and disgust is something that David had to learn to live with, then it may be something we will need to learn to live with too. Because not everyone will agree or even understand our position. But then not everyone is our creator and redeemer and the one who offers us eternal life.
In the world in which we live, the existence of God evokes a variety of responses. Some will deny his existence, and others will acknowledge his existence to one degree to another. And even amongst those who believe in his existence, there will be some who want to keep him at arm’s length, and others who will embrace him in every way they can.
Now, in the story of the Ark, there are, at least, six different responses to God. There are those who tried to manipulate him, those who denied him, those who neglected him, those who were prepared to worship him—but only for a time, those who dishonoured him, and those who worshipped him—no holds barred. But only one of those responses is the appropriate response to God.
And now, of course, it is our turn… Now none of us are perfect—we all make mistakes. But which of the six responses best fits us?
Posted: 16th November 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
DEVOTION: Not Getting Our Own Way (2 Samuel 7:1-17)
For example, when you are trying to buy something, and you are looking for something specific, how often do you get exactly what you want? Indeed, how often are you told that what you want is either sold out or no longer available?
When you ask someone to do something, or to get something—and you need that person to get it right—how often do people not do as you ask, even after you have chased them and chased them to get the desired result?
And when you are asked what gift you would like to receive, how often do you find that your wishes are ignored? Indeed, you’re not given what you have suggested at all. And as a consequence, you wonder why you were asked what you wanted in the first place.
What we want, and what we get are often two very different things. And that can be very frustrating.
Now, if I have struck a chord with you, and if sometimes you have felt hard done by, by not getting your own way, then think today about King David. Because what King David wanted to do was to build his God a temple—a permanent dwelling place, where God could “symbolically” live. Something to replace the temporary tent (or “tabernacle” as it was called). A very noble cause. And yet, what was God’s response? A resounding “No.”
At the time, David had made Jerusalem his home. He had settled in his own palace and had already been blessed by God. God had taken him as a shepherd boy and made him king and ruler over Israel. He had also dealt with all of David’s enemies. And as a consequence, David desperately wanted to do something for his God. And building a magnificent temple was what he had in mind. David was totally unselfish in his attitude. But God’s answer was still a resounding “No.” He wouldn’t let him build the temple at all.
Now when we don’t get our own way, we might get pretty upset. But think how devastated David would have been. And it wasn’t that he was trying to do something for himself. He wanted to do something for his God. But God didn’t want to be a part of it. He didn’t want David building his temple at all. And if that was me, I think I would have been devastated.
But, you know, this story has a twist. Because part and parcel of David not getting his own way, and part and parcel of God saying “No” was a response by God, promising David that he would bless him, even more that he had done before.
And what God promised was, firstly, that he would make David’s name great—as if his name wasn’t great already. God promised he would make his name greater still. Secondly, God promised a continuing home for his people. He had already given his people the Promised Land, but now God promised that they would continue to exist in the land—that they would become one with the land. Thirdly, God promised freedom from oppression. Indeed, he promised an end to the continuing hostilities that threatened their existence. And fourthly, God promised a family line of kings to succeed David, making sure that David’s name would continue down the ages. And all of these things, God promised, would be for David and his people, if they continued their relationship with God, and didn’t fall away.
Well, can you imagine it? David may have been frustrated that he didn’t get his own way regarding building God a temple, but with God’s response, with all the things that he promised, it’s not surprising that David responded the way he did. Because David’s reaction to God wasn’t a temper tantrum for not getting his own way, rather he was overwhelmed with God’s love and generosity.
And with that in mind, let’s get back to those situations where we don’t always get our own way. Because when we are dealing with other people, there will be times when we don’t get the things that we want. With people there will be times when they don’t do what we ask. And with people there will be times when we are asked what we want, and then we will be given something very different. And all of that might be very frustrating.
But in our relationship with God, yes, there might be times when we don’t always get our own way—even when we want to do something good for God. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t bless us beyond our imagination too.
Because, surely that is the kind of God that we believe in. God is a God who wants us to do things for him—and we shouldn’t stop trying to please him. But we also have to accept that not everything that we want to do is right in his eyes. We may not always get our own way, even with God, but if we are godly men and women, like David, we will be blessed by God—and blessed beyond our wildest dreams.
Our story of David, today, began with the hope of building a temple—a magnificent building where God could symbolically live. And yet, even though God said “No,” God continued to bless him. David could have thrown a tantrum, but he surely wasn’t disappointed with the end result. And if we are sincere about the things that we want to do for our creator, we shouldn’t necessarily be disappointed with the end result either.
Posted: 12th May 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
SERMON: A Lesson in Morality (2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a)
Adultery, cover-up, murder, abuse of authority . . . It sounds like the story of a modern-day dictator, or a plot of a modern-day movie. And yet all these ingredients (and more) or included in the pages of the Old Testament. And, specifically, they are included in the story of the champions of the faith: King David himself.
Now the very fact that the story of David and Bathsheba exists in the Bible has long aroused both dismay and astonishment. Dismay, that King David, with all his manifest piety, could stoop so low; and astonishment, that the Bible narrates it with unrelenting openness.
However, the fact that it exists for us to read, demonstrates: the openness by which God’s people saw life; the acknowledgment that these sorts of failings so easily become public knowledge; that nothing can be hidden, particularly from God; that even the mistakes of the past can be powerful tools in teaching others; and that there is the need not only to have the right intellectual faith but to put it into practice as well.
As a consequence, even though we may remain wondering how a great man of God could stoop so low. There are still lessons we can learn from his mistakes—of which there were several.
B. THE EXAMPLE OF DAVID
1. A Lesson in Immorality (2 Samuel 11:2-25)
Now the story begins during a time of conflict between the Israelites and the neighbouring Ammonites—a war that was being pressed home in the capital of the Ammonites whilst David remained in Jerusalem. It was a hot summer’s day, and in the palace where David lived there was an upper room, which overlooked the city, and which caught a cool afternoon breeze, where David spent his afternoons.
It was late afternoon, the temperature was dropping, and David came out onto the flat roof of the palace. And as he looked around, what did he see? On the roof top of a house close by—in full view of the palace—Bathsheba, the wife of one of his most prominent army officers, Uriah the Hittite, was having a bath.
(Now it must be said here that Bathsheba was not entirely innocent in this whole affair. After all, what was she doing on the roof of her house, having a bath, knowing full well that the palace overlooked her house, and knowing where David was likely to be on such a hot day.)
But in the story, the guilt of Bathsheba gets forgotten. Of interest to the storyteller are only David’s sins. Because what happened next was that David, having his desires aroused—having seen Bathsheba in a state of undress—sent a servant to bring Bathsheba to him.
(Now, again, we’re told nothing of Bathsheba’s feelings. Whether she was conscious of the danger that having an adulterous relationship placed her in, or whether it was outweighed by the realization of the honour of having attracted the king.) Nevertheless, Bathsheba became pregnant—and David was the father. And we know that because Bathsheba’s husband was still miles away at the front, fighting the war.
And only at this stage, did David seem to consider the dilemma. The affair had had not been without danger to him; even he was not above the law. So he decided to embark on a series of events to cover up his mistake—to give the pretence that nothing untoward had happened.
He got Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, recalled from the front line, on the pretence that he wanted to know about the progress of the war. But in reality, it was to enable Uriah to spend a night with his wife Bathsheba, so that when the baby was born it would look as though Uriah was the father, not David. But Uriah wouldn’t sleep with his wife, whilst the rest of the troops were out fighting.
So David tried again, and this time he tried to get Uriah so drunk that Uriah wouldn’t even be able to think about what the rest of the troops were doing. However, may be with the support of some friends but definitely with his commitment to the ‘holy war’ being so strong, no matter how drunk he became, Uriah still refused to spend the night with his wife.
And as a consequence, this left David with quite a dilemma. Indeed, David became so desperate to cover up the whole affair that he came up with a plan to eliminate Uriah from the picture—to eliminate the only person who could say that the baby that Bathsheba was carrying was not his child. So he concocted a scheme where Uriah was sent back to the front and given a mission where he would be exposed to the enemy and would guarantee the loss of his life. And that’s exactly what happened.
2. The Repercussions – The Judgement (2 Samuel 11:26-12:7a)
Of course, at that point David might well have thought all his problems were over—his mistakes had been covered up. And when he arranged for Bathsheba to move in to the palace—after the necessary period of mourning—it may have appeared to many, who knew nothing about the affair, as though David may have been acting with compassion on the expectant widow.
However, it is doubtful to whether all the servants in the palace were totally ignorant of what had gone on. And it is also doubtful whether there weren’t some of Uriah’s friends who were totally ignorant either—to say nothing of the gossip which may have been generally around. But the one person whose silence just couldn’t be bought—and who knew about the whole sordid affair—was God himself.
David, the man of God, had broken several commandments: he had coveted his neighbour’s property (i.e. Bathsheba); he had committed adultery; and he had effectively committed murder. In addition, he had brought his position of king—ordained and given to him by God—into disrepute. And with that, he had brought God’s name into disrepute as well.
So, the climax to the story, was not David getting away with his despicable deeds. Rather the climax had to be the judgement and condemnation of David by God.
A climax to which Nathan, a trusted advisor to the King, was sent by God to David. And he told him a tale of injustice and woe that David couldn’t help condemning the man in the story. But in doing so, he effectively condemned himself. And as a consequence, David recognised that, whether he was king or not, he deserved nothing less than the death penalty for what he had done.
3. The Repercussions – The Sentence (2 Samuel 12:7b-13a)
To which God, speaking through Nathan, agreed.
Because after all that God had given David, including the kingdom itself, that was how he had repaid the generosity of God. And as a consequence sentence was passed.
Regarding the death penalty, however, that was commuted. David knew he was guilty; he knew he deserved punishment. He’d confessed that much to Nathan, and he’d finally confessed it to God. And presumably it was commuted on the Old Testament principle that God does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11).
However, that did not mean that David should get off scot-free. Regarding the crime of murder, the sentence was, that just as Uriah had been killed by the sword, so too the blood-stained sword would appear again and again throughout the history of the house of David. And that’s exactly what happened. David had a far from trouble free existence for the rest of his life. And many of the kings that followed David suffered unnatural deaths.
And to the crime of adultery . . . Well David was told that his own wives would at some stage be taken from him. And whereas David had conducted the affair with Bathsheba in secret, the taking of his wives would be done in broad daylight, for everyone to see. And that’s exactly what happened too—towards the end of his life—and by one of his own sons.
And so ends a grubby, but not so minor, episode in the life of a man more noted for his faith in God, rather than for his failings.
But doesn’t that story describe to a ‘T’ the antics of some people in power even in the world today? And isn’t it the kind of story that some would make into a popular movie as well?
Nevertheless, it is as story that has much to tell. Indeed, it has much to offer us as a reminder of how to live our lives.
1. Nothing is Hidden from God
Because the first thing about the story, is that it’s a reminder that no matter what we do, no matter how careful we are, that someone will always find us out.
As I said earlier, it is doubtful whether what transpired in the palace was hidden from all the palace servants. Indeed, some of Uriah’s friends may also have been in the know. However, regardless of that, the one person who is guaranteed to know what we do, and every moment of the day, is God himself. We can’t hide from him, we can’t buy him off, and it’s pointless to ask him to look away. He knows what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, and all the possible repercussions of everything that we do.
So what was going through a man like David’s mind, then, thinking that he could get away with what he did, with no repercussions whatsoever? I don’t know. But what I do know is that whether we are doing good or bad, nothing is hidden from God. And just as David was made to face up to his mistakes, so we too will be held to account for our actions too.
2. Christian Living: Faith And Action
The second thing about this story, is that how we live our lives is just as important as what we intellectually believe. Indeed you can’t separate the two. Belief is not just an intellectual thing which is then separated by our actions in the world. The two are very much intertwined.
As a consequence, how David saw that his actions were compatible with his professed faith is, to me, quite a mystery. We all make mistakes, but in David’s case, he compounded his original mistake of lust for Bathsheba, with a series of other mistakes also incompatible with his professed faith. And for that he was punished.
As a consequence, we are reminded that we should not profess undying love and obedience to God in one moment, and then involve ourselves in some very dubious activities in the next—thinking that two can be kept quite separate. Indeed, we cannot separate the thought from the deed at all. What we believe should shape everything that we do. And what we do should be consistent with what we believe.
3. Power has Responsibilities
The third thing about this story, is that we are reminded of the responsibilities that go with positions of power. Indeed, the story tells us that we should not abuse any privilege with which we are entrusted.
Because even though Bathsheba may not have been totally innocent in the whole affair, there was still no excuse for David to use his royal power to summons her to his presence. David should not have used his power in an attempt to cover up the affair. And David should not have given an order knowing that it would result in Uriah’s death.
Power brings responsibility, and is not something that should be used to our own advantage. But equally responsibility is not something we can ignore because we don’t consider ourselves to be in positions of power either. Because we all have power to some degree.
David’s position of power should have meant that he used it for the benefit of others, not for his own advantage. And the same is true of the power that we wield today too.
4. Ethical Issues
The fourth thing about this story, is that we need to make a stand on ethical issues.
Now David was aware of where he should have stood regarding adultery, otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to cover it up. And David obviously knew murder was wrong, otherwise he wouldn’t have manipulated the situation, in such a way to make it look like Uriah was killed in the heat of battle. The importance of fidelity in marriage and the sanctity of life were things that David knew deep down were very important. Indeed, they were things that he should have upheld. And the same is true for us today too.
Unfortunately, for us things have become a lot more complicated than they were in the time of David. And issues like the sanctity of life are no longer so straight forward.
We now have the IVF programme with the fertilizing of more than one egg at a time, which leaves the question of what happens to those unused frozen embryos. We have current procedures regarding stem cell research and cloning. We have the problem of overseas wars—and whether Australia’s involvement fits in with the idea of the sanctity of human life or not. And of course there are many other ethical issues today that have made things a lot more complicated.
However, complicated or not—and we may sometimes get it wrong—this story indicates that we still need to make a stand.
5. The ‘Solomon’ Dilemma
And fifthly, there is an issue that is related to this story, about the nature of God, and the consequence of forgiveness. Because, despite all the intrigue, the deception, and the downright sin involved in David and Bathsheba getting together in the first place; despite the fact that David had plenty of other wives—and he had other sons, the second child of David and Bathsheba—Solomon—succeeded David as king.
Now you might think, with all that had gone on, that Solomon would be the last one to be appointed king. However, as the story goes, Solomon was not just David’s choice as successor, but he was God’s choice too.
Now that doesn’t mean that God secretly approved of their original tete-a-tete, or the things that happened as a consequence. But David having confessed his sins, and sentence having been passed by God, the fact is that God forgave David and put the matter behind them—effectively wiping the issue from the slate. And he consequently used the relationship of David and Bathsheba to maintain the Davidic line.
When we make mistakes then, God may pass sentence on the things we have done. And yes, we may still have to live with the consequences. But as far as God is concerned, that doesn’t mean that he won’t use that new situation for his own benefit and for the benefit of the extension of his kingdom.
That doesn’t make our original mistake right. But it does mean that God does not hang on to past sins. He doesn’t keep on bringing up the past—to things that we have confessed about and have been otherwise been dealt with. There’s a conclusion in our dealings with God, after which we are free to move on.
The story of David and Bathsheba, then, makes some very interesting reading. Not least of all for the lessons we can learn from the mistakes of David.
Indeed, there are at least five important principles that come out of the story, that we would all do well to remember: And they are, firstly, whatever we do, nothing is hidden from God. And we are accountable for him for our every action. Secondly, what we say and do are very much entwined. And what we shouldn’t be doing is professing one thing to God, and then going out and doing something completely different. Thirdly, that having power brings responsibilities. And we are not to abuse that position, but to use it for the benefit of all. Fourthly, Christian living involves decisions regarding a number of ethical issues. And they are issues that we cannot ignore because they are inconvenient or just too hard. And, fifthly, despite our failings, when God has dealt with the issue, then the slate is wiped clean. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have ongoing repercussions in this world. But as far as the situation between God and ourselves, the matter is over and it’s time to move on.
Five important principles—a lesson in morality—for which, we have the very poor example of David, to thank.
Posted: 30th July 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis
DEVOTION: True Worship (2 Samuel 24:18-25)
Despite that, when approached by David, wanting to purchase the land for the priority of a sanctuary, he didn’t complain. He didn’t say, ‘I need the land to survive.’ He simply offered it willingly as a gift. Why? Because of the custom of the day, which was that land and the objects for worshipping God were to be provided by the owner. Which explains why poor man was so willing to give up his livelihood so freely.
But David refused the gift. David knew that for his worship of God to be of any value, it had to cost him personally. The site of the sanctuary could not to be left to custom or pagan generosity. It required him to purchase it at its full price. As a consequence, he paid the full price for the property and the vessels, which then allowed the poor men to set up business elsewhere.
Now there is a principle in this story that David understood—and one we would do well to consider. And the principle is that worship that costs nothing or less than full value, is not true worship. To be pure and holy, worship has to involve total commitment. Now David may have been a man of wealth, and he may have been tempted to take up the poor man’s offer, but he knew that worship in such circumstances would have no value to God whatsoever.
And this of course, has all sorts of implications for us, not least of which is in regard to the upkeep of our churches today. After all, it’s not unusual, today, for churches to be struggling financially. It’s also not unusual for churches to be seen asking for help—financially and otherwise—from those outside the church. And yet if we were to take the implications of this story seriously, we would see that having a shortage of funds is the result of people not giving God his due. And asking for money from those outside the church is not acceptable to God.
For worship to be considered valuable by God, the faithful need to pay full price for what they are offering. Indeed, short payment or getting people outside the church to contribute, does not constitute true worship. And because we often fail to acknowledge that, is it any wonder that our churches are in a state of decline.
Posted 4th July 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis