This is the Bible study guide for the week of January 8-14, 2012. On Sunday I'll preach from Ephesians 1:3-14 on the theme of "God's Glory and Blessing." The questions in the study guide are from Ephesians and 2 Samuel 7:1-17.
Absalom's conspiracy against David (beginning in 2 Samuel 15) reminds me of many modern church-based conspiracies. Conspiracies form because people are insecure about their standing or themselves. They are a way to avoid direct conflict (though they create indirect conflict). They always begin with someone selfishly seeking power or trying to consolidate whatever power they think they already have. They do so by meeting people's surface needs, pointing out inadequacies in the system (and how they can fix them), building other up with shallow praise, and assigning blame and fault to those who are leaders. But a conspiracy of this type is always wrong.
In Absalom's case, he conspired against the Lord's anointed, David. Ultimately, Absalom lost. David was successful in outlasting Absalom for two reasons: 1) God was with him and for him; and 2) he was self-aware of what was going on around him. When he was criticized by someone from Saul's clan, he permitted the criticism. He said, "Who knows if the Lord told him to say this?" David knew that some criticism was justified and valid...and this man went straight to David with his criticism; he did not form a conspiracy.
In Matthew 18, Jesus taught us not to conspire with others against an enemy or build ourselves up at their expense. Rather, he taught us to go to the one who wronged us and work it out by talking to them.
If you find yourself refusing to talk to someone you have a problem with directly (indirect forms of communication such as letters and emails do not count) you may be close to committing sin. Be careful not to conspire or to triangulate others in to your problems with another. As Jesus taught us, love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
The story of King David in 2 Samuel is fascinating. David comes literally from the fields to the kingship because of God's election in his life. And as I wrote about previously, David ends up receiving a promise from God that God's love will never leave him and that he will have a descendant of his on the throne forever.
When David received this promise, he was very humble and respectful. But something obviously changed in his life and he became more selfish and followed his passions. When he saw a woman (Bathsheba) bathing, he brought her in to have sex with her. When she became pregnant, he finally arranged to have her husband killed so he could marry her. He engaged in a conspiracy in order to protect himself. As a result, God made another promise to David: David's family would always have strife in it. This played out immediately in David's family, as one son raped his step-sister and then was killed by another son.
David went from high to low, from promise to peril. He received two promises from God, one of favor and of strife. Why? Because he failed to follow God with all his heart but followed his passions instead.
What about you? How do you view yourself before God? Are you humbly seeking to follow him with your whole heart all the time? Or do you give God your best just some of the time while following your passions the rest of the time?
God wants our whole heart. He wants complete, sincere, and pure obedience that springs from love for him. David gives us an example of the spirituality of moving from promise to peril. We can learn from him how to live in God's favor and avoid God's disfavor.
I was reading in 2 Samuel this morning and came across one of the most grace-filled passages in the entire Bible. It's the story of when David wanted to build a "house" for God. Once David recognized the splendor he lived in and the paucity of what God lived in, he desired to build a new house (a temple) for God to dwell in. Yet, when the prophet Nathan inquired of God about this, God turned down this offer. God stated that he never asked for a better house to live in.
But then God went further. In a tremendous show of grace, God reminded David of his humble beginnings and how God called him from the pasture, from tending flocks, to be his ruler over his people. God promised that he will make David's name great and that God will provide a house for David!
The house that God spoke of was a royal lineage that would last forever, because God will be the father of that lineage and it will be his son. God promised that his love will never be taken from David's line. This is what God's covenant love is about--him fulfilling his obligations to us. David's only response to this was humble praise and thanksgiving. What else could he do?
Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever wanted to do something great for God, only to realize that God didn't need you to do something great for him but that he was actually doing something great for you?
I'm overwhelmed every time I think about the process of transformation God is effecting within me and the grace that he extended me in my conversion.
We need to keep our obligations in God's covenant. Keep working for God, yes, but don't assume God needs your great works. All God needs is you. And in his covenant, as part of his covenant obligations, he promises to be with you (us) with a love that will never leave (Matt. 28:19-20; Romans 8).
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