Bless, and do not Curse – 2 Samuel 8-9. RBT Notes, 11th October

A king without a kingdom is an imposter. So is a King without enemies. Though our modern sensibilities take offence at enemies, battle and bloodshed, they were facts of life in Bible times, and certainly for King David. David faces them, because he is the king, and he is successful. North, south, east and west, the King’s enemies are defeated (vv.1-6), because “the Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (v.6). His statement of Psalm 118.43-45 is especially true of this period of his life: “You have made me the head of nations; people I did not know are subject to me. As soon as they hear of me, they obey me; foreigners cringe before me. They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds.”

This wise king is also merciful. “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake”, he inquires (2 Sam. 9.1). David has no war with Saul’s line, but has been showing Saul’s house forgiveness and welcome since his death. Now he meets Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. And he graces him. Reconciliation, land, fellowship, all shown to a man undeserving of David’s favour and, due to his disability, unable to work to look after himself (vv.7-13).

This is the Gospel, and the King of the Gospel. The undeserving are brought to the King’s house, not to find judgment but mercy, and the riches of shared love. King Jesus gives His love to the helpless and undeserved, and welcomes us into His Kingdom, His home and His heart. Our King delights to show mercy. This is the wonder of the Cross.

“Bless and do not curse” (Ro. 12.14) is the grace of the Gospel, and it is the way of David’s discipleship, and of ours.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, teach me to be a disciple, brave to fight battles as I should, braver still to live in forgiveness and friendship. Teach me to live as Jesus did. Amen.

The Man born to be King – 2 Samuel 4-5. RBT Notes, 6th October

With Abner dead, and David’s popularity growing all the time, Ish-Bosheth must realise just how futile his own rule is. Everyone else probably does, and two men, Recab and Baanah, work a plan to gain favour with David by taking Ish-Bosheth’s life. Murder is the easy part, but they lose their own lives for committing this outrage (4.5-12). God’s king doesn’t need favours, least of all, favours gained at the cost of innocent life. And in deaths of the guilty murderers, David’s new nation will learn what sort of king she has.

The king wins his people over, but he wants a city fitting for his rule. Once Jerusalem is his, “he became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him” (5.10). This is the real start of his reign, a reign born with the promise of God’s blessing, refined through the years of danger and exile as Saul hunted him, and now begun in earnest with the possession of Jerusalem. All the glory must go to God, for He has established this kingship – people, city, palace and all – as David recognises (v.12).  And it is God who defeats David’s enemies, as David obeys Him (vv.19-25).

A good king, and one day a great one. All human greatness is flecked by sinful desires and habits, though, even if culture endorses them. Is our historian making this hint, as he records David’s concubines and wives (v.13)? We remember that, however great king David was, his rule points us to a far greater Promised Son. The only palace Jesus entered was a Roman one, and not to be honoured, but tried and sentenced to death. He took no wife, led no armies, had no wealth. And yet, as with David, the Lord handed over His enemies to Him. Jesus is a King, the King of God’s once-rebels, who bow the knee to Him. His kingdom has no borders, but only grace, a grace which keeps on reaching out to all who seek peace with Him.

 

A Prayer to Pray

“Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace, Hail, the Son of righteousness. Light and Life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.” Lord Jesus, I celebrate Your magnificent rule, and adore You as a blood-bought subject. Today, let me celebrate Your Lordship in my life, and let my heart rest content as You have Your way in my life. Amen.

This one was born in Zion – Psalm 87. RBT Notes, 7th May, by Graham Thomson

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1. Why does the psalmist celebrate the fact that God has chosen and loves Zion (vv. 1-3)?  Where does God promise to dwell and shower His love upon people today, and why should we celebrate that fact?

2. The psalm looks forward to the time when God’s people will not just be ethnic Israel but drawn from every tribe and tongue and nation (vv.4-7).  How should the fact that people from nations opposed to God will be said to be born in Zion (v. 4) give us confidence in our own lives, and as we speak to others about Jesus?
3. How does the certainty of vv. 5-6 help us to join in the praise of the people in v. 7?  In what specific, concrete ways can you live out that confidence and praise today?
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A Prayer to Pray
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Father, I thank You that You have chosen me in Jesus to be part of Your people and that my name is written in the Book of Life.  I thank You that You are building your Church and that nothing can seperate Your people from Your love.  Please forgive me when I doubt Your love for me, and give me confidence to live as one forever united to Jesus. Amen.

Ezekiel 17 – He Speaks, He Acts. RBT Notes, 12th January

It’s story time. Except this a horror story. Ezekiel will not drop God’s charges against His people, but will continue to speak them against a godless nation. Though the story is a new one to them,  its meaning is all too clear, and Ezekiel spells it out straightaway.

The eagle is in fact the King of Babylon (vv.1-4, 12-13). He has already overrun Jerusalem and taken off many of its officials – these are the exiles Ezekiel is ministering to. The people are likened to a cedar of Lebanon because it was a symbol of strength, beauty and value. In one swoop, though, its crown is snatched away.

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The seed of v.5 refers to the king Nebuchadnezzar installed in Jerusalem, Zedekiah. Instead of being loyal to the Babylonians, the seed, now likened to a vine, literally “crept” its way towards Egypt and an allegiance with her (vv.7-8). The Lord says that that is a disaster in the making (vv.9-10). Powerful as Egypt might look (v.7), she will herself be destroyed. Rebellion might look and feel brave and proud, but all of Jerusalem’s playing power-games with Egypt will end in her being smashed by an altogether greater power, Babylon (vv.16-20). And when all of these words come true – as God’s Word always does – “then you will know that I the Lord have spoken” (v.21).

Why grace, though? Why grace for a people committed to stupid, wicked living? Because that it just what God is promising. Grace will work again, a remnant, just a tender spring (v.22), will be planted, and will grow. This foolish and judged people will one day flourish again. God’s patience, spurned and tried, will triumph in a staggering display of grace.

Jesus promises it. Using this very image, of a towering tree inviting the nations to find shelter in it, He speaks of the Kingdom (Mark 4.30-32). A different seed and tree are in this parable, of course, but the parallels are clear and deliberate. Jesus is saying that the day has come, that the Kingdom of God has now arrived, and that its growth is unstoppable. Who would even want to stop it, for the end of Jesus’ Kingdom would be the end of grace. But grace reigns forever.

There is a hymn which is hardly sung any more these days, “The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended.” It’s a celebration of God’s Lordship and generous provision. The last verse of it speaks to Ezekiel 17, and speaks to us today:

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,

Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:

Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,

Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.