Hi Sweet Friends,
Our ladies’ Bible study at church has led me deep into the Old Testament as of late. Such goings on between kings and kingdoms, families and countries, loyalties and betrayals, enslavements and rescues as we read of God’s story in His people often reminds me of scenes from the movie The Lord of the Rings. My family just rewatched it over the holidays, so battles and warfare are very much on my mind. I can’t imagine the creative brain in J. R. Tolkien that created such a story. Did he ever rest, or was he constantly conjuring battles and victories in his mind, drawing parallels with God’s real story? Tolkien’s story of good versus evil and the sacrifices of the few to save the many certainly mirrors God’s story for His people, first the Israelites and then us, His church. In fact, God’s story for His chosen people Israel is indeed our story as well. God has one big story of salvation and rescue for humanity that He has shown us and preserved for us in the pages of scripture. It’s confusing, long, and has hard names in it. It speaks to a different time, culture, and language. But it is still our story. It tells the story of our God, His love and desire for relationship with His creation, our betrayal, our need for a rescue, and God’s fulfillment of a promise and our salvation in Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful story. It’s the best story. As so often happens in studying the old story, God has so graciously shown me glimpses of my place in it and His truth, love, and working that is alive in us and new every day. I was so busy getting my lesson done one week that I almost missed it. My speed and laziness almost prevented me from reading something that God very much wanted me to see about His heart and mine. It led me to some hard questions, questions that demand an honest answer. Do I really trust God? Do I really want to know Him? Am I content doing good deeds, obeying rules (self-imposed), and getting the job done? Am I really willing to sacrifice and pay the price of humility and undoneness to agree with God about who He is, who I am, and what He wants for me? It is scary even while I write it. What will it cost me? How out-of-control am I willing to feel? Do I really trust Him for my best? How painful is my best?
Though honest questions, surely they hurt the heart of God. Surely they imply skepticism and fear for my well-being and lack of trust in Him. It grieves me to imagine one of my children standing before me trembling in fear that I want to hurt them because I like to watch them suffer. Or that it makes me feel powerful or in control to oppose them. My heart for my children is selfless love and sacrifice. I would readily die for them. I would give all that I have to rescue them from harm and danger. I will also, and have as they were growing up under my care, require something of them for their good and the good of the family. Things that might have seemed hard, cruel, or unreasonable to them at the time were with a much bigger picture and story in view. We were caring for and training future adults, parents, leaders, teachers, friends, spouses, parents, and, most importantly, servants of the living God. Even with my limited understanding and abilities tainted by sin, I understand that this can only be accomplished by teaching and showing sacrifice, selflessness, and loving others more than you love yourself. Why do we require things of our children? Because we know something that they don’t know. We’re looking at a bigger story, their whole life, not just their present one. We’re sowing seeds of learning to deny themselves and seek a greater will then their own. We know something of what’s ahead and want to prepare them for it. I love to give my kids gifts. I love to delight them. Them being pleased, excited, and contented is one of my greatest joys. This mirrors God’s heart when He tells us in Matthew 7:11 that He loves to give good gifts to those who ask Him. As much as I love to delight my children, there is an even bigger story at play here: what is best for them? As an earthly parent I’ve gotten it wrong so many times, but God never does. As a child of God, do I trust Him? Can I trust Him? Will His provision be enough? 2 Samuel tells us the story of King David and his sons answering those questions for themselves. They show us what demanding our own way or not waiting for God’s provision looks like. It’s not pretty. And what about us? I know how I want my story to go. So do you. Do we want God to jump into the movie that we have written for ourselves, or do we want to join Him in His story that He has for us? Who is the main character in your movie? Is it you? Or is it Him? God is very faithful to let you know. He is a good Father.
2 Samuel 12 has us reading about God sending the prophet Nathan to confront King David about his sin in committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband murdered after he discovered she was pregnant from the affair. This from a man that God describes as being a man after God’s heart? How can someone who has walked so intimately with God make such a foolish and selfish choice? Very easily, I’m afraid. There is no dark place that any of our hearts can’t go if we leave them unguarded. There are things I’ve not indulged in and places I’ve not let my heart go, but I could. Believing that I couldn’t would be my first big mistake. I can look at David with compassion and not scorn when I realize that I am him. I’ve been selfish and foolish in other ways. I’ve believed lies from the enemy. I have misused people. I’ve lived for myself. When I read how David responded when faced with his sin, my heart is provoked to humility. David agrees with God about his sin and says simply, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan risked his life in confronting the king. Many messengers were killed after giving unfavorable news. David could have shot the messenger, blamed others, denied it, or brought up how less offensive his sin was than other kings’. But David saw the truth and humbled himself before God. There is so much more than just a selfish act going on here. There always is. Mathew 12:34 reminds us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. David’s sin reveals the disposition of his heart toward God at that time. In verses 7-12, God reminds David that God is the One who gave David all that he had. And then God says, “…and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these.” David had a houseful of wives. Why did he demand to have someone else’s? We know why. It’s the original sin. Eve looked at all of the beautiful trees to eat from in the garden and ate from the only one she was told not to. What is it about being told “no” that makes us want something more, even to the point of demand and obsession? Eve believed a lie. So did David. So have I. Although David is repentant and God forgives him and he isn’t killed for his adultery and murder, there are other consequences for David’s sin. The child conceived in adultery dies and grieves David to his core. Also, God tells David that his actions showed his despise for God and His Word and gave reason for the enemies of God to blaspheme God. We seldom consider that when we are acting in a secret way that despises God and His Word that we are giving up territory to the enemy. We have new battlegrounds now. We have agreed with the enemy of God and his cohorts and given them ammunition and reason to blaspheme God and pronounce as untrue all that God says He is to us. God had asked His people to live differently than all the other nations. He wanted it to be obvious to Israel and the world that He was the One working on Israel’s behalf. Their successes were because of God, not them. He asked them to trust Him and let Him be enough. David’s actions misrepresented the character of God by stating that His provision for David wasn’t enough. It was “too little.” He behaved like all the other nations. He grieved God’s heart.
Would we be willing to ask God if there is anything in our thinking or behavior that is missing His heart and giving the enemies of God reason to blaspheme? Do my words and behavior show His loving and sacrificial heart well? Do I agree with Him about my sin and about how precious I am to Him? Am I willing to let His provision be enough, or do I declare, “too little?” Do I trust my King? There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings where King Theoden is in battle and his army is scattered, running scared, and overwhelmed. He is on his horse yelling to the troops, “To me! To me!” It touches me every time. The king is in the battle with his soldiers. He’s not asking anything of them he hasn’t already done. He sees their fear and confusion and does what every good king would do. He calls them to himself. He will direct them, he will fight for them, he will die for them, he will lead the way. And why do his men follow him? Because they love him, they trust him, they believe in him, they will die for him. Now this is a manmade story with a mortal king, but the picture is beautiful to me. How much greater is our real story portrayed in Psalm 146:2-6, “I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans die with them. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is the Lord their God…He remains faithful forever.” We wake up in battle every day, and we will start again tomorrow. And every day we can trust our King and hear Him say to us, “To Me! To Me!” We are soldiers and servants of the living God. He is worth the fight. And so are you.