Friday, February 03, 2012

The reason for the pruning

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that dos he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”  (John 15: 1-2)

When I read the above scripture this morning, I remembered at once a scripture that has today become one of my favorites, James 1: 2-4:
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Now I know that the trials in James 1: 2-4 and the pruning in John 15: 1-2 are the same thing.   I have reason to be joyful when I face various trials. 

The Lord God is a Master Builder.  He is also a Master Teacher.  Look at this scripture in Psalm 144: 1-2:
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” 

So trials and pruning are methods of training “my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”
The end product of the pruning, trials and training is a person that “is perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”  and ready for everything, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 3: 10 who says “According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder…”  My guess is that it took a lot for Paul to get to this stage.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Hubris of David

“The king therefore said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him, “Tour all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba and register the people, that I may know their number.”  (2 Samuel 24:2)

What was David thinking when he gave the above order to Joab?  To know the true population of Israel?  To know the population of taxable adults?  Very unlikely as the story will reveal.  David had reached the pinnacle of power.  He is a powerful king inside and outside of Israel.  Now he begins to think:  “I did it by my own strength.”  Because God loves David so dearly, God gave him a way of escape from this temptation through the prophetic utterance of Joab:

But David would not listen:

Then he realized what he has done:

Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people. David said to the LORD: “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. Take away, LORD, your servant’s guilt, for I have acted very foolishly.”* (2 Samuel 24: 10)

But sin had already been committed and the penalty of sin must be paid.

What are the lessons of this story?  God had been with David in his entire crisis and had given him innumerable victories.  David himself composed psalms and songs in testimony to what God has done for him.  Yet he was tempted to believe that he did it by himself and could do it by himself again.  Nobody is above temptation.  David’s human weakness as this story illustrates is lust for grandeur.  He had also lust for flesh as we saw in the drama with Bathsheba.   But David’s greatest quality is to glorify God by his sins.  God is the Father of mercies and the God of all consolations who delights in showing His supreme power through forgiving the sinner.  David gives the Father this opportunity by his eloquent contrition.   O that we may learn this from David.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Compassion of David

"The king was shaken, and went up to the room over the city gate and wept. He said as he wept, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 19: 1)

Everybody knows David as a man after God’s own heart.  Some also know him as the man who composed the Psalms.  Indeed, David has so many attributes.   In the above scripture, I see David in a light that I had not noticed before.  David is a man of deep compassion.  When Absalom embarked on an open rebellion against his father, he knew what would come to him if he failed.  That fate was expressed in this scripture:

"But the king asked the Cushite, “Is young Absalom all right?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you with evil intent be as that young man!” (2 Samuel 18: 32)

Joab the army commander simply applied military justice to Absalom and executed him.  But David’s heart went out for a son who planned to topple and kill him.  It reminded me to the heart of God our Father.  No scripture brings out this lesson as clearly as the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  God loves us insanely.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Crisis of David

"As David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot. All those who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went." (2 Samuel 15:30)

The conspiracy of Absalom presented David with a major crisis.  I read the narrative in the backdrop of a crisis.  I am deeply interested is seeing how David handled this major crisis.  First he wept and would not cease weeping.  Something would soon happen to convince him that he was facing a major crisis of faith.

"As King David was approaching Bahurim, there was a man coming out; he was of the same clan as the house of Saul, and his name was Shimei, son of Gera. He kept cursing as he came out,d 6 and throwing stones at David and at all King David’s officers, even though all the soldiers, including the royal guard, were on David’s right and on his left." (2 Samuel 16: 5-6)
Sometimes it takes two critical events happening back to back to make us pause and think.  First the rebellion of Absalom, then the open curse and abuse of Shimei made David realize that he was in a hot spot and that the Lord has a hand in this. 

David’s spiritual insight into the current situation is instructive to us:
"Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants: “If my own son, who came forth from my loins, is seeking my life, how much more might this Benjaminite do so! Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. Perhaps the LORD will look upon my affliction and repay me with good for the curses he is uttering this day.”" (2 Samuel 16: 10 - 12)

The way David handled his major crisis taught me to put my very tiny crisis in perspective and trust completely in God.

Below is David’s prayerful response to his major crisis:
"A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom. How many are my foes, LORD! How many rise against me! How many say of me, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah. But you, LORD, are a shield around me; my glory, you keep my head high. With my own voice I will call out to the LORD, and he will answer me from his holy mountain. Selah 6 I lie down and I fall asleep, [and] I will wake up, for the LORD sustains me. I do not fear, then, thousands of people arrayed against me on every side." (Psalm 3: 1-7)