Friday, 18 April 2014

(109) April 19: 1 Samuel 25-26 & Luke 16:19-31

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider how David’s treatment of Nabal differs from his treatment of Saul.

To ponder:
Samuel’s death marks the transition to God’s chosen king and his line. However cracks start to show in David’s righteousness. Having protected and done good to Nabal’s shepherds, he quite reasonably requests only “whatever” provisions the wealthy Nabal might give him and his men. But Nabal refuses, saying David is just a wayward servant rather than God’s anointed. However, rather than showing the grace he showed Saul, David rallies his men and makes a hasty oath to kill every male in Nabal’s household. He is saved from this sin only by the intervention of Nabal’s “intelligent” and “beautiful” wife Abigail. A servant tells her what his “wicked” master has done, and she intercedes with David, bringing provision, bowing in respect, and acting wisely in affirming his kingship, just as the wise men did Christ (25v26-31). She’s a model of the godly wife, who is strong enough in God not to be infected by the ungodliness of her husband. (David himself is wise to later marry her!)
            Abigail is clear that to this point God had “kept” David from “avenging himself,” urging him not to have this “burden of needless bloodshed” on his conscience when king. In response, David displays the humility we should when challenged about our sin. He accepts his fault, seeing Abigail as being sent by God to keep him from doing “wrong.”
When Abigal tells Nabal, he dies. David’s praise in 25v39 is key. He acknowledges God has “upheld” his “cause” by bringing “Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.” Contrasting Abigail’s wisdom, throughout Nabal’s actions have been regarded as “foolish,” patterning Saul’s foolishness in standing against David (see 26v21), and challenging the reader to respond more wisely to God’s king. As with Saul however, David should have left vengeance against Nabal to God, knowing that by God’s hand the fool will end up bringing destruction on himself.
This theme is stressed by these events being sandwiched between two in which David restrains himself from killing Saul. So with Saul after him again, in chapter 26 David displays huge courage by sneaking right up to Saul in his own camp. But whereas Abishai sees this as a God given opportunity (as in 24v4), offering to kill Saul, David commands him not to as Saul is God’s anointed. Instead, having learnt his lesson, he is confident that “the LORD will strike him down” whether by old age or in battle. This displays astonishing patience in the ultimate justice of God. And every evil done against us will be revealed and punished after death, whether in the individual themselves, or in Christ if they are a believer.
            Instead of attacking Saul, David has Abishai take Saul’s spear and water jug. He then mocks Saul’s commander Abner, shouting of how he didn’t guard Saul sufficiently to prevent the theft. Saul however, displays his fickleness in calling David his “son.” David then declares his innocence again, stating that if Saul is against him as God’s punishment for a sin David may have committed, “may he (God) accept an offering,” but if because of the encouragement of men, then they should be “cursed,” not least because by driving him to the Philistines, they are effectively encouraging him to worship foreign gods. This declaration reminds us of the seriousness of rejecting Christ because of the pressure of others, or of influencing others to do so.
            David concludes by declaring he is harmless (the “flea”?) and not worth hunting (the “partridge”?) Again Saul voices a commitment not to harm David, even describing himself as a “fool,” and affirming David will “surely triumph.” David returns Saul’s spear and prays that because he has spared Saul’s life and God “rewards everyman for his righteousness and faithfulness,” may he therefore “deliver” him (David) from “all” his trouble. Whether we experience earthly deliverances or not, Jesus teaches our final deliverance is our reward for acting righteously when faced with hostility (Matt 5v11-12).

Praying it home:
Praise God for that he will call all things to account and reward all who have done good through faith. Pray that you would be able to accept the rebukes of friends over your sin, rather than resent them.

Thinking further: Applying the life of David
We have to be careful about applying the life of Old Testament “heroes” because often they are not quite as heroic as we assume. We’ve seen this many times, and even David doesn’t always do the right thing. We must therefore look for clues in the text as to how we should view any individual’s actions and weigh what we read through the wider scriptures. Another issue with David and the kings in particular is that they are an imperfect pattern of the perfect King Jesus. So even their righteous actions and God’s interaction with them are not necessarily a model for us, but a picture of what would be for God’s anointed Christ. Having said that, we reign in Christ, so there may be aspects of their rule that do apply. Moreover, they are also members of God’s people, meaning that there may be lessons to be drawn from their lives nevertheless. In short, we must be thoughtful in our application, asking questions on these three levels: How does this look to Christ and responses to him? What aspects apply to us as those who reign with Christ? And valid lessons are there for us as everyday believers?

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