II Samuel 20

“I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel” (20:19).  The “wise woman” of the Israelite town of Abel refused to let her community be destroyed in the hunt for one man.  Joab’s army had besieged the town because they knew Sheba son of Bichri had hidden there, the man opposing King David’s new, united rule.  The “wise woman” rejected Sheba and his attempt to claim her town and gave him up to Joab.

One destructive, manipulative character can destroy the peace of an entire faithful community. Like the “wise woman,” we are called to be on guard against those who would foment conflict and “swallow up or destroy” the righteous (v20).     

II Samuel 19

"You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters …” (v5).  Joab told King David that thousands of men had put their lives on the line to restore David to the throne, and yet, consumed with private grief, David was ignoring them.  He was treating their sacrifice as if it were nothing. Joab challenged him to “arise” (v7) and acknowledge those who had fought for him.

By neglecting his loyal friends, David risked repeating the mistake that drove Absalom away.  Instead of denial, passive resistance, or neglect, wisdom urges us to act courageously, to “go out and speak kindly” (v7).

II Samuel 18

“For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel” (v14).  Absalom had orchestrated a coup against his father, King David, and he had many loyal friends and experienced advisors on his side.  However, Absalom ignored Ahithophel’s good advice in favor of Hushai’s strategy, not knowing that Hushai was a double agent, loyal to David, and his “strategy” would lead to David’s victory.  Absalom missed the bigger picture, which was God’s plan.

“Shall we do as he says?” (v6).  Strategy, goal-setting, and good advice are good tools, but they will all fail unless our priority is loyalty to the Lord and obedience to His voice.

II Samuel 17

“For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel” (v14).  Absalom had orchestrated a coup against his father, King David, and he had many loyal friends and experienced advisors on his side.  However, Absalom ignored Ahithophel’s good advice in favor of Hushai’s strategy, not knowing that Hushai was a double agent, loyal to David, and his “strategy” would lead to David’s victory.  Absalom missed the bigger picture, which was God’s plan.

“Shall we do as he says?” (v6).  Strategy, goal-setting, and good advice are good tools, but they will all fail unless our priority is loyalty to the Lord and obedience to His voice.

Psalm 67

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah; that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (v1-2).  God’s intention was always that the “nations” – all the peoples of the earth – would know His “saving power.”  God’s blessing on Israel was designed to demonstrate His loving, gracious character; Israel was chosen to reflect the glorious light of God’s presence.  Ultimately, God wants to be King over “all the ends of the earth” (v7).

“Let all the peoples praise you!” (v3). We are called to reflect God’s light, spreading the word of His “saving power” so that all the earth will praise Him.  

Acts 15:29-41

“And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other” (v39).  Paul and Barnabas disagreed over John Mark’s inclusion in their ministry team.  Unlike the debate about Gentiles, this was not a doctrinal issue, but instead a subjective pastoral issue.  Not able to come to consensus, the men separated.  Scripture never tells us who was “right,” though in his letters, Paul mentions both Mark and Barnabas positively (1 Tim 4:11; 1 Cor 9:6).

“Paul thought best …” (v38).  Sometimes our “best” thinking does not produce agreement on secondary issues.  In these cases, we can still focus on the gospel, speak positively about each other, and allow God to work.

Acts 15:1-28

“The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter” (v6).  In this chapter, the early church dealt with disagreements about foreigners (Gentiles), circumcision, keeping the law and salvation.   The church deliberated by debate (v7), listening to Scripture (v15), listening to the witness of apostles (v7), common sense thinking (v12) and general consensus (25).  In doing so, they made a decision that “seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit” (28).

“It seemed good to us, having come to one accord…” (v25). There will always be disagreements, but wisdom prevails when we listen to the Holy Spirit through all the ways He speaks to us.

II Samuel 16

“And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan” (14). When the coup against David succeeded, friends and counselors chose sides; Ittai and Hushai were faithful to the king, and Ahithophel chose Absalom (ch 15). Old grudges were revealed as Saul’s clan regarded the conflict as just desserts (16:8).  Others began jostling for position, or, like Ziba, used the chaos for personal advancement (v4).  Having fled in haste, David found safety by the Jordan River, and “there he refreshed himself” (v14).

“… whom should I serve?” (v19).  Lack of trust and conflicting loyalties can exhaust us.  Peace and wisdom, real “refreshing,” is found in God’s presence.

II Samuel 15

“So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” (6)  Absalom campaigned to overthrow his father, forcing King David to flee Jerusalem.  The consequences of David’s own sins and unreconciled relationships were coming home to roost. Realizing that symbols wouldn’t protect him, David told the priests that the ark of God should stay in Jerusalem; only God’s grace could save him. “If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me back” (25).

“Let Him do to me what seems good to Him” (v26). When we face the consequences of sin, there is no option but to throw ourselves upon God’s mercy.  He can and will redeem our lives.

II Samuel 13:23-14:33

“The word of my lord the king will set me at rest” (v17). After Absalom took revenge on Amnon (for raping Tamar), his father David exiled him for 3 years. During that time, King David neither forgave Absalom nor punished him.  Joab sent a wise woman to incite David to reconcile with Absalom, challenging David to “discern good and evil.” (v14:17).  In response, David brought Absalom home but still isolated him for two years (v28). David’s inability to forgive or deal with Absalom deepened the chasm in the family. 

Sin and all the conflicts it produces must be faced, not ignored. God calls us to act with wisdom and courage in order to set things right.

II Samuel 13:1-22

“And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar…” (v2). David’s sins of lust and violence were mirrored in his family.   Amnon was “tormented” (v2) by lust and “violated” (v14) his half-sister Tamar.  Amnon’s aggression and the inaction of David (he merely gets “angry,” v21) lead to a great rift in the family, as Absalom nurses his anger and plots revenge (v22).

“Do not do this outrageous thing” (v12). Sin is more than an individual issue.  What we do or don’t do affects those around us, sometimes for generations. To flee sin is to bless our families and communities.

Psalm 66

“We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance” (v12). In recalling what God had done in his life, the psalmist was fortified to continue to pray and worship.  His God had never let him down, and through every experience God had eventually brought him “to a place of abundance.”  He was eager to tell his story to others: “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul” (v16).

“Come and see what God has done …” (v5).  God’s wonderful work in the past gives us hope that He is still with us and will deliver us again.

Acts 14:19-28

“They returned … strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (v21-22).  Paul and Barnabas preached to “the crowds” (v1), but they didn’t worry that the majority did not accept their message.  In each city, some believed the gospel, but often, city leaders (both Jew and Gentile) opposed them.  The apostles didn’t focus on numbers but on “strengthening” the believers and forming healthy churches (v23).

After we believe, we must be “strengthened” and grow in our faith so that we, like the believers in Antioch and Lystra, can face tribulation, grow deeper roots, and pass on the gospel to others (v26-28). 

Acts 14:1-18

“So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (v3).  Paul and Barnabas “spoke boldly” in Iconium and later in Lystra, and their words were accompanied by powerful demonstrations of God’s reality.  In Lystra, a lame man was healed (v10), causing a city-wide uproar. Paul and Barnabas worked hard to explain that the life-changing power was God’s, not theirs (v11-18).

“He did not leave himself without witness” (v17).  Our witness of Jesus can’t be just words; God’s reality must be demonstrated visibly through changed lives. 

II Samuel 12

“And the Lord sent Nathan to David” (v1).  God’s character of righteousness and love meant that He could neither ignore David’s sin nor simply reject David himself.  Being full of mercy, the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to preach truth (through a parable) and give David a chance to repent. Though the natural consequences of adultery and murder were severe (v9-12), David’s confession, “I have sinned against the Lord” (v13), opened the way to forgiveness.

“The man who has done this deserves to die” (v5).  King David deserved death, as we all do, but God is rich in mercy and reaches out to us in love, giving us the chance to repent. 

II Samuel 11

“As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing" (v11).  Uriah’s words reveal his deep integrity, in contrast to David’s immorality and deception.  While David (who had many wives) knowingly slept with another man’s wife, breaking a commandment, Uriah rejected even the lesser evil of indulging in the comfort of visiting his own home when his soldiers were still in battle (v11).  David’s terrible sin led him straight to the next: murdering Uriah (v15).

 “But Uriah … did not go down to his house” (v9).  We don’t stumble into terrible sins.  By small and significant steps, we walk down the path of either righteousness or self-destruction. 

II Samuel 10

"I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me” (v2).  King David approached the Ammonites with the idea of diplomacy and perhaps an alliance, but the advisors of the new Ammoniate king were suspicious of his motives (v3). Their shameful treatment of the Israelite visitors (v3-4) led to war, and the Ammonites were defeated by the newly united tribes of Israel.  By rejecting David’s overtures of peace, the Ammonites invited destruction.

“Be of good courage …” (v12).  Courage does not mean provoking unnecessary battles (like the Ammonites), but being ready to face difficulties, trusting that God will “do what seems good to him” (v12).  

II Samuel 9

"Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?” (v1). Rather than discrediting or harming his rivals or anyone with claims to the throne, as many kings did after a power struggle, David wanted to honor Saul’s descendants.  Only one was left: Jonathan’s disabled son, Mephibosheth, who would have been an easy target. Instead, David restored his lands and invited him to eat at the king’s table (v9). 

“Do not fear, for I will show you kindness … (v7).  Even when the world acts differently, God calls us to imitate His own kindness, mercy, truth, and goodness. 

Psalm 65

“You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it” (v9).  The psalmist reminds us that one of the key ways we “see” God is to recognize His abundant care of creation.  Our planet is rich with life, and even “those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe” at the physical signs of God’s goodness.  The whole earth belongs to God, just as much as the Temple courts (v4).

God’s awesome deeds show us that He is the “God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas” (v5). 

Proverbs 13

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (v4).  The proverbs tell us that wise people are “diligent” to intentionally shape their lives around God’s commands (v13).  God shows us how to choose well, often through the advice of godly people and the Word (1, 10, 18), so that we can avoid the destructive pitfalls of sin. Spending time with those who follow the Lord trains our own hearts in the same direction (v20).

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (v14).  God’s Word is a “fountain of life,” refreshing our spirits and guiding our choices.