A Father’s Grief – 2 Samuel 18. Reading the Bible Together, 24th October

At last, David leads in battle. Or he plans to, only meekly to submit to his subjects when pressed not to (vv.2, 4). They ride out with his pleas that Absalom be treated with mercy (v.5). And then it isn’t David’s men who grab Absalom, but, bizarrely, the branches of a tree (v.9). The lengthy exchange recorded between the unnamed warrior and Joab underline the dilemma that both men should have – how do they handle their leader’s son (vv.10-13)? There is no dilemma for Joab, though, and he spears Absalom. That blow is effectively the end of the battle, and the coup. Absalom’s life is sealed with the mention of a monument which is as sad as both his life and his eventual death (v.18).

Can David’s heart take any more misery? Joab isn’t sure. He won’t risk the the son of the priest Zadok taking the news of Absalom’s death in case David rages at the bringer (remember his reaction to Saul’s death?). Instead, he sends an unnamed and probably unknown African to be messenger (vv.19-21). Ahimaaz, in a misguided longing for glory or reward (or both) also runs off to David. The irony of Ahimaaz’s declaration “all is well” (v.28) isn’t lost on us, and will break David’s heart. All for him is lost, because Absalom is dead, however much more bloodshed is averted, and the coup is over. When the original messenger brings the clear word, David must weep his bitter tears in private (vv.31-33).

A horrible, horrible loss. David’s tears must have been as much for his own failures as for the life of his misguided son. What wreckage sin has made of this family. How many parents today, Christian parents, too, weep for their children’s sins and their own? Our Gospel doesn’t bring us all the answers in the face of sin, nor does it mean that we will be delivered from all our temptations and disasters. No true Christian father goes to heaven without aching tears for his children. No true God is unmoved by the sins of His children. Certainly, ours isn’t.


A Prayer to Pray

Merciful Father, You tell us that there is a time to weep, and a time to mourn. This short, sad life so often breaks me, and the needs and troubles of those I love most dearly break me most. Father, You Who lost Your beloved Son, comfort me in my sorrows by Your Spirit. Deliver me from temptation, both to stop loving, or to lose myself in self-pity. Guard this weary, tender heart. I give it to You. Amen.

A Frowning Providence – 2 Samuel 17. RBT Notes, 21st October

Absalom is goaded on by the seemingly expert advice of Ahithophel, David’s ex-adviser. Ahithophel is brave, decisive, and totally persuasive, even when he coolly counsels the death of the king. And Absalom falls for it all (vv.1-4). But he wants one other opinion, and Hushai is suddenly forced to think on his feet. He’s boxed into a corner, as speaking against the opinion of Absalom and his new right-hand man is highly dangerous. His advice is a masterstroke in seeking to avert bloodshed (vv.7-14). And the king buys it (v.14). Notice, too, that God’s hand is against Absalom, steering his choice of advice for his own eventual downfall. Both the king’s and the would-be king’s hearts are in the Lord’s hand (v.15, see Prov. 21.1).

Hushai quickly gets word to David’s men, since he doesn’t know if Absalom will take his advice or not. There are close calls recorded, but David and his men manage to escape Absalom (vv.17-22). Ahithophel realises that he’s never going to grab power with Absalom, now that his plan has been rejected, so with military efficiency he goes home and takes his life (v.23). David’s men are safe, for now, and grateful for every kindness they receive (vv.24-29).

This chapter is a slice of the affairs of men, their ambitions, risks, danger, decisions and outcomes. A slice of your life or mine might look far less exciting, but the main elements are all there. True in their lives and ours is the hand of God. He guides even corrupt advisers, works out His purposes, and protects His children. In a world like ours, we really need to be sure of this. Life is hard for us all, and our best hopes are often broken. Our good news is that God in Christ loves us, and knows the very number of hairs on our heads. More than that, He has promised to bring us safely to glory. Trust Him.


A Prayer to Pray  

Heavenly Father, as David knew and said, You are my shield and my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. May Your Spirit press these truths into my hearts on sad and difficult days. Be my peace, and my strength. Amen.

Don’t you dare! 2 Samuel 6. RBT Notes, 7th October

Everything’s going my way. So it felt for David. More than that, God was going his way, and had done so, all the way to the palace doors of Jerusalem. How wonderful it is to worship God when the sun is shining, and all our plans are going well (vv.3-5).

Then disaster. Thunder strikes, almost literally. As David makes his joyful way with the people to Jerusalem, one of David’s men, Uzzah, reacts entirely naturally to the slipping oxcart and tilting Ark of God, and is struck down for the presumption of touching it (v.6-7). Joy gives way to horror. How could God do this? It was His Ark, this was about His Glory, and in a blink a man lies dead, a people are terrified, and a king is confused, and furious (v.8).

Months go by, the Ark stowed away somewhere (hopefully) safe. And news comes that that place and those who live there are blessed (v.12). So the Ark is brought out, the Jerusalem procession starts up again, and David’s joy returns. But, like before, joy gives way to humiliation. Michal, Saul’s daughter,  mocks his praise (v.20). She, in turn, comes under David’s anger, and God’s (vv.21-23).

This is not a happy, easy chapter. God will protect His king, and His holiness, however hard people find that. He is still doing the same. “I am the Lord, that is my name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to idols” (Is. 42.8). Jesus can’t be tamed, or even blamed. He is the Lord, He is holy, He works for His Kingdom. Guard your heart, and guard your steps.


A Prayer to Pray

Lord, my words are unthought-through, and so are so many of my actions. Lord, order my life. Show me how to think, and how to feel. Teach me a godly caution, and then a bold decisiveness as I serve your Glory. Amen.


Judgement – Psalm 94. RBT Notes, 16th May

1.   What do people who reject God forget about Him, and what do they need to remember (vv.4-11)?

2.   What do believers who are struggling need to remember about God (vv.12-19)?

3.    Does the thought of God’s judgement scare you? Why / Why not?  Spend some time reflecting on vv.20-23 in the light of the Cross.


A Prayer to Pray

Lord, as the old prayer asks, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be. So often I forget that You have judged my sin at the Cross, and so I can praise You; and I forget that You will judge all sin at the end of Time, so I can rest confident in You. Write these truths on my heart, so that I truly believe in You, and strive to live a holy life, trusting and obeying You. Amen.



Shelter and Shade – Psalm 91. RBT Notes, 12th May

  1. This amazing Psalm is one long list of promises about God’s care, some given by the Psalmist, some straight from God’s mouth. Your life is a series of God’s promises and God’s fulfilment of them. Can you name three, in the light of this Psalm, and take them to God in worship?
  1. Reflect on vv.14-16. At the Cross Jesus underwent God’s turning away from all these promises, so that He could make them with all who trust in Jesus. How did Jesus suffer in the light of these verses? And how does it make you worship?
  1. Take three of the promises of this Psalm, thank God for them, and pray them into your life.


A Prayer to Pray

Covenant Lord, I am so slow to realise that I am so loved! Help me to rest in the arms of Your care, knowing that Your heart towards me is always one of love, because of Your Son. Teach this mistrustful heart to trust, and rest, and to be at peace. Amen.




Remembering, Celebrating, Holding on – Psalm 89. RBT Notes, 10th May

1.    “Your faithfulness surrounds You” (v.8). What are the signs of God’s faithfulness in the first 8 vv. – and in your life?

2.    Why is v. 14 so important for us to meditate on in our hardest times? And how does it work out in vv.9-29?

3.    The Psalm takes a deliberately different and unexpected turn at v.38. What encouragements are there in the remaining verses for us to hold onto the Lord when our lives are difficult?



A Prayer to Pray

Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief. I love, help me in my hardness of heart. I remember Your promises, help me in my forgetfulness. May the eternal reign of Your justice and righteousness be increasingly my song and my confidence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.