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.

Through many dangers – Psalm 107. RBT Notes, 30th May

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1.    Deserts, depression, near-shipwreck (vv.4-32). What have been some of your scariest experiences, and how have you see the Lord’s delivering hand in them?

2.    Note all the places where God is said to work against the plans of wicked men. Why is it so important to remember this aspect of God’s dealing with His world?

3.    How do vv.41-32 help your hope and your perspective as you live a pilgrim life for Jesus?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, You are the all-seeing, all-knowing and all-working God the world needs to know. Thankyou so much that in Christ You are the God who is always delivering me from sin and its disasters. Teach me praise, and teach me to rely on You. And after storms are passed, lead me to Your eternal home. Amen.

God’s New Community – Ezekiel 40-41. RBT Notes, 28th January

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Now for the part that you probably won’t read. People don’t. What should have been an exciting, gripping climax turns into a protracted, uninteresting whimper. We want hope and life, but we get architectural plans. Ezekiel, this might be what you’re interested in, and what you understand. We’re just not your sort of people, though. Maybe we should leave at this point.

Don’t. Ezekiel knows what he’s doing. More than that, God knows what He’s doing. He gave the vision, afterall. If we have the humility, and the patience, we’ll discover here not a dusty set of building plans, but a blueprint for a new community. In all of these details of walls, cubits, alcoves and jambs in ch.’s 40-41, God is actually starting to lay out the shape of His building-project. And that is one in which Jesus is at the centre and we, His people, sr being put into place, right according to God’s plans.

Twenty five years into his ministry, where he has seen hope die, dreams crushed, and his precious city of Jerusalem and its temple torn apart by the Babylonians, Ezekiel has a vision. In it he is taken to Jerusalem (though Ezekiel isn’t explicit, He wants us to join the dots, so to speak, vv.1-2). There he sees the shining man he saw a quarter of a century before (cf ch.’s 8-11). There is no time for Ezekiel to fix his attention on him, though: he must record all he sees and hears. And what he is seeing is the future.

So read the chapters, and no, you’re not in sin if your skimread them, or hardly begin to make sense of them. Some of the details of  of this Temple don’t strictly make sense, with walls and gates at places out of proportion with each other. The following two points, though, are for us to linger on:

 

God has no Plan B, because His plans are on track.

Ezekiel’s vision is of a temple which in almost all of its details is the same as the one Solomon built. Walls, courts and altars all underline that God is still calling people to approach Him, trusting in a sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins, and looking to God to show mercy. God has not changed how He deals with sinners. Ezekiel’s vision tells us that mercy is still available for all who come. This is a mercy which we now look to Christ, our Great High Priest, to bring to us. God’s plans are fulfilled in Him, and this vision is part of that plan coming to its climax.

 

The Temple is empty, but one day it will be crowded.

 Where are the priests, sacrifices, and worshippers? They’re all strikingly absent. Ezekiel just has the blueprint to work with. Now, though, the house is full. The Great High Priest has offered Himself, and His sacrifice, given at the Cross, opens God’s House to all who come. And God comes to us, to work in us by His Spirit, cleansing and renewing, as Ezekiel already prophesied.

Don’t look for a physical building today when you are seeking God. He is seeking worshippers who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4.24). “As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2.4). This is the community Ezekiel is getting God’s people ready for: this is the church, and it will be crowded with worshipers throughout the world.