This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. [Psalm 118:24 ESV]
Remember that chorus? I needed to sing it out loud in my own living room this morning. I needed it’s reminder! I needed to re-read this quote from a sermon by C.S. Lewis in 1942 and be reminded that in Jesus own plan it’s more than OK to rejoice; it’s critical for “this” day. I think you may need all those things too.
“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.
I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are far too easily pleased.” [C.S. Lewis – Weight of Glory]
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:9-11 [ESV]
THIS is the day….REMEMBER?
Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. [NKJV]
I’m still concentrating on Jeremiah 29: 10-12 and the Spurgeon sermon from 1887. I found a meaningful difference in the New King James Version’s translation of a phrase from verse 10: “I will perform my good word toward you.” The Bible is more than history, wisdom and recorded answers to allow us to learn how to live according to the expectations of God. It’s His “good Word“ written to reveal His intent to intervene and perform it in the life of His leading characters [you and I] as we navigate through the emotional and unexpected circumstances of life. We are a performance oriented culture, well-trained over most of our years to figure things out but today our unexpected circumstance is a deadly virus. Coronavirus is now daily confronting our ability to figure out what we do know and what we don’t know.
God knows! That is the one thing Spurgeon has reminded me over and over as I’ve read his sermon. “When Moses came out of Egypt, he had no plan as to the march of Israel. He knew that he had to lead the children of Israel to the promised land, but that was all. He probably hoped to take them by the shortest cut to Palestine at once…Brother, you do not know what is to be done, but the Lord knows for you. O, body of Christ, let your head think for you! O, servant of Christ, let your Master think for you. “I know,” says God “the thoughts that I think toward you.” AND “I will visit you and perform My good Word toward you…”
∞ Look back and thank God…Look forward and trust God ∞
Jeremiah 29:10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. [NIV]
The exile continues. The comfort of Jeremiah 29:11 is meant to remind us of the Lords vision for our future. That’s a treasure but in the re-reading of those familiar words over and over while continuing to ponder the sermon from Spurgeon an eye-opening expansion of my own vision has happened and this is a priceless gift. There’s more to that beautiful promise of verse 11. I am so thankful we have the enduring Word, work and wisdom of God given through Jesus, the Holy Spirit AND the writings of His people that can open our eyes in the midst of this contemporary pandemic. There IS a Jeremiah 29:10 and a 29:12 too. “I will come to you and fulfill my good promise…you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
In Gods wisdom His vision covers the past, present and the future. That is the priceless part we need to cling to as God uses Jeremiah to inform our vision to match His own. “As to our present pain and grief, God saw not these things exclusively, but He saw the future joy and usefulness which will come of them. He regards not only the tearing up of the soil with the plow, but the clothing of that soil with the golden harvest.” [Spurgeon].
∞ Look back and thank God…Look forward and trust God ∞
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare [peace] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
“I don’t know.” That’s probably the most consistent thought in many of our minds these days. We must act on the advice of experts but we are dealing with unknown risk levels. No matter how much information we consume about mitigating the danger of our exposure to Corona virus it’s not enough to ease our minds completely when the time comes for one of those essential trips out of the safety of the exile of self-isolation. Jeremiah reminds us God has a plan and Corona virus is not the only danger of our exile.
“A people in such a position as the Jews in Babylon were in danger in two ways: either to be buoyed up with false hopes, and so to fall into foolish expectations; or, to fall into despair, and have no hope at all, and so become a sullen and degraded people, who would be unfit for restoration, and unable to play the part which God ordained for them in the history of mankind.” (Spurgeon 1887).
God knows the plan even if I haven’t a clue what it is. Exile from the familiarity of daily life has given me a new awareness I need to be equipped to play the part God has set for my restoration. He’s given me expert advice about the one part of my future and hope I am in charge of. I can do this one thing to be prepared even in the exile of self-isolation! “…Call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”
17:1 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. 2 I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
18:5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.
18:32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” 33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
These two chapters of 2 Samuel paint a pretty clear picture of exactly what broken hearts look like. Absalom’s heart trouble is obvious from verse 4 – ”This plan seemed good to Absalmon.” His heart is “broken” by deceit and willingness to destroy the one person that stands between him and his selfish desire. David’s heart is broken by recognizing the familiarity of those sins in the heart of his own son, and remembering Nathan’s painful forecast of it’s effect. [2 Samuel 12:7-12] Sin’s natural consequence is its ability to replicate itself from heart to heart, but God offers a guaranteed replacement plan for hearts that are broken:
FYI: Ezekiel 36:2 This is what the Sovereign Lord says:…26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [ESV]
2 Samuel 15 &16 [AMP]
15:13 Then a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.” 14 David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, let us flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom!…30 And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot [in despair]. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went. 31 David was told, “Ahithophel [your counselor] is among the conspirators with Absalom.” David said, “O Lord, I pray You, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.”
16:20 Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give me your advice. What should we do?” 21 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left behind to take care of the house; then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened [by your boldness and audacity].” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof [of the king’s palace], and [i]Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
Reading 2 Samuel feels more like a discipline than a devotion to me. It’s not easy. I’ve had to learn that I can only get through the sad and sometimes gruesome details with the aid of hindsight. Hindsight and knowing what’s ahead in the New Testament are reliable markers that tie the experiences of this king to what I know about THE King – Jesus.
David has been forced to flee to the Mount of Olives. He’s in a familiar spot in any wilderness – the unknown. Sin has isolated him from his family and now the nation. It sounds remarkably like the experience of Jesus at that same spot so much later.
David is completely dependent on the protection of “foreigners.” The Kerethites, Pelethites, and Gittites may not have understood David was a man after God’s own heart. They were gentiles, but they certainly had foresight in their journey of open loyalty in support of the king. The benefit of hindsight is to see God already at work to secure a place for other foreigners of his creation just like us.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand why tears were part of Davids journey. He’s experiencing the betrayal of trust. Absalom’s final violation of the honor of his father was to stage circumstances on a rooftop that must have pierced David’s heart and memory with another rooftop moment of betrayal from his own past. He clearly recognizes God at work even in this moment of betrayal. Sound familiar?
2 Samuel 11:1-5 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” [NKJV]
“While Joab is busy in laying siege to Rabbah, Satan is [laying seige] to David, and far sooner prevailed.” [Trapp]
God’s plan for marriage
The condition,1 the promise2 and the blessing.3
Genesis 2:24-25 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother.1 and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.2 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.3
The reality of the relationship…Deuteronomy 17:17a He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.
The evidence of accumulated sin…2Sa 3:2-5 Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.
News flash! Deceit and cover up from a position of power are not new and the consequences of sin are not normalized by repetition or by calling it by some gentler name. How does a nation deal with the complete moral failure of its leader? Consequences aren’t just a dismal surprise resulting from corrupt acts, they’re a given. Heart-breaking consequences were the result for a whole family and a whole nation as a result of the accumulated sins of the very king who had captured God’s own heart. Satan found a way to expose those accumulated sins into the tragic reality of consequences that included adultery, murder and death.
Here’s the Good News from 2 Samuel this Sunday: God did provide for the king’s heart to remember the grace of repentance and restoration that could forgive accumulated sins even in the midst of heart-breaking circumstances. That should sound familiar to our heart too. God has provided for our hearts to remember the grace of repentance and restoration we have through the death of another child, His own Son. Jesus, is God’s provision for our hearts to find repentance and restoration in every circumstance.