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David’s Great Sin

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Going through  S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David,” I now reach 2 Samuel 11, the account of David’s great sin, the one that he never recovered from, with consequences that affected him the rest of his life.  As always, S. Lewis Johnson points to several other relevant biblical passages, for which we can see this incident as an illustration and a warning for our own lives.  1 Corinthians 10:12 is especially appropriate here: let him who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall.

Other New Testament passages that speak to the situation, David at this time, include James 1:14-15 and Romans 7:13-25.  David now at the height of his kingdom — apparently about 12 years after he became king of all Israel — has some spiritual gray hairs that he has not noticed: rot and decay setting in.  The polygamy in the palace clearly had taken its toll, and with the first step mentioned in 2 Samuel 11 (staying home, abdicating his royal functions, and idle), David is left susceptible to sensual passion.

Proverbs 11:22 describes the woman Bathsheba, as opposite of the godly woman who fears the Lord and shall be praised.  It is clear from the text that she was a willing accomplice in the adultery, and that she was more interested in the formal, outward ceremonial part of God’s law, as opposed to the moral part — as indicated in the narrative accounts of her ceremonial purification and her ceremonial mourning.  I recall a radio lesson years ago, from Chuck Swindoll, in which he laid further blame upon Bathsheba — that she should have known not to bathe in a place that could be observed from the king’s palace.  I’ve not heard that view anywhere else; but certainly, as S. Lewis Johnson observes, she had her guilt in the matter.

Uriah the Hittite is the most surprising character in the story, the one truly righteous man.  Johnson quotes someone else as having observed that “Uriah drunk was more pious than David sober.”

David followed the steps of the impenitent man:  clings to his sin, then searches for a means of escape, and finally completes the cover-up. Throughout the events, David broke three of the Ten commandments (adultery, murder, and coveting).  Yet God has the final say, and brings the greatest irony — like other ironic events in the Bible.  What David most wanted was to cover-up and hide his sin — and yet when he completed the cover-up, God made sure that everyone in the world would know about it, by having it recorded in holy scripture.  Today, even those with only a passing knowledge of the Bible, when they think of King David, associate David with Bathsheba.

In the follow-up text, 2 Samuel 12, S. Lewis Johnson has a few more interesting observations:

  • Families in the Near-East did sometimes have pet lambs, much as people today have pet dogs.
  • The fact that the story describes a little ewe lamb suggests that Bathsheba was very young, with an older, mature Uriah.  We do know that both Uriah and Eliab, Bathsheba’s father, were among David’s 30 mighty men, and this too suggests an age difference.
  • Even in his sinful state David still had a heart for justice, and knew very well the Mosaic law.  His remark about paying back four-fold agreed with the actual prescribed Mosaic law regarding the theft and slaughter of a sheep.  (see Exodus 22:1)

In the end, David did pay back “four-fold,” though certainly not in a way that Moses would have realized:

  • the death of the infant son
  • the death of Amnon
  • the death of Absalom
  • the death of Adonijah

Biblical Covenants, Typology, and S. Lewis Johnson

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Through my study of the biblical covenants — the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New — I now increasingly notice biblical references to these covenants, with greater appreciation for our covenant-keeping God, the One who will deliver us in keeping with His word.  Understanding the great, divine purpose of God, and His faithfulness to these covenants, helps me to bear up under personal struggles, realizing again God’s wonderful sovereign grace, trusting that He will yet deliver on these wonderful promises — though for now (for a short time, this life) we have our light and momentary afflictions.

Returning to the biblical references, I note something S. Lewis Johnson has pointed out, that the term covenant appears over 300 times in the Old Testament, yet only 33 times in the New Testament — and over half of these are quotations from the Old Testament.  Yet recently I noticed one of the “covenant” references, in Ephesians 2:12 — we (Gentiles) were once excluded, foreigners to “the covenants of the promise” — an excellent New Testament reminder of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

2 Samuel 7, the main passage dealing with the Davidic covenant, includes David’s wonderful praise (verses 18 – 29), in which David prays “O Lord God” — Adonai Yahweh in the Hebrew, and the same words used in Genesis, in reference to the original covenant with Abraham.

Exodus includes a few references to covenants, including an interesting one in 29:9, a promise to give the priesthood to Aaron’s descendants forever.  This one I can see as having ultimate fulfillment at the Second Coming, with the millennial temple and priestly service described in Ezekiel 40-48 and mentioned by other prophets such as Zechariah.

Exodus 31:17 is another strong covenant statement that mentions the covenant with Israel — and a statement of fact that God created  heaven and earth in six days:  “It (the sabbath) is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”  Something so simple and straightforward, yet how many profess the name of Christ yet want to reject the very beginning of God’s word and argue that Genesis 1 is poetry.  In reading Exodus 31, it also strikes me as interesting that often the same people who scoff at the Genesis creation are the very ones who write off Israel and declare that God is finished with them.  Yet here the two ideas are inextricably linked:  the fact of God’s creation in six ordinary days, as a sign “forever” between God and “the people of Israel.”  Again, how obvious can something be and so many professed believers just don’t get it?  Israel still exists as a distinct, separate ethnic race, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies such as Baalam’s prophecy (Numbers 23:9: behold, a people dwelling alone, and not counting itself among the nations!), and (from my recent reading) Ezekiel 20:32 (“What is in your mind shall never happen-the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations…’).  For as Psalm 89 assures us, the promise to David is sure — Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.

Another interesting Old Testament covenant is the one between David and Jonathan, begun in 1 Samuel and fulfilled in 2 Samuel 9 with Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth.  S. Lewis Johnson again teaches good typology, pointing out the requirements of such types — historical, and with correspondences between the historical object and the New Testament equivalent.   Here, the parallels include:

  • David’s covenant purpose –> God’s eternal purposes — David as a type for God the Father
  • Jonathan (which means, “the Lord has given”) as God the Son
  • Mephibosheth — a name which means shame; one in shame, and crippled, representing us.
  • Delayed fulfillment of the covenant:  many years had gone by since David and Jonathan made the original covenant, yet just as surely as this covenant was later fulfilled, so will God’s covenant reach its fulfillment in the future
  • David’s search for those who are the object of the promises –> the Divine Initiative, that God is the one seeking us out.

The Davidic Covenant in the New Testament

July 16, 2010 2 comments

I’ve now completed the mini-series (within Lessons from the Life of David) on the Davidic covenant, so here are some more study notes and observations concerning this great covenant, itself an expansion of the Abrahamic covenant:

The New Testament has many references to the Davidic covenant, including:

  • Luke 1:31-33
  • Matt. 4:17, 21:43, 22:41-46, 26:29
  • Acts 13:29-37, and 15:15-16
  • Romans 1:3-4 and 15:7-13
  • Revelation 3:7, 5:5, and 22:16

Revelation 3:7 makes a reference to Isaiah 22:22, the “key of David.”  Revelation 22:16, the end of the New Testament, sums up the truth of the Davidic promises with Jesus’ sure words, “I am the root and the offspring of David.”

To those who would re-interpret references to David as meaning the church (as with the Acts 15 text:  David is mentioned 54 times in the New Testament, and always the word refers to David, not the church.  Furthermore, the Amos text cited in Acts 15 talks about “rebuilding” the tabernacle of David.  When is the Church ever referred to as something to be RE-built?  (No, Christ told Peter He would “build” His church.)  Or as something to be rebuilt from ruins, “as in the days of old”?  What does one do with the beginning phrase “after this”?  As always, we look at the context, which is talking about Gentiles being saved, and understand that the prophecy is talking about the future restoration, what will happen “after this,” the Gentile church age.

S. Lewis Johnson describes the difference between the Jews of Jesus’ day and the present-day Church in an interesting way:  The Jews received the promises, but rejected the seed (Jesus Christ, the seed of David).  We (the visible Church) receive the seed (Jesus), but reject the promises.

As for the common question, “what about the land promises? They’re not mentioned in the New Testament,” the obvious and clear answer is that both the Old and New Testaments are equal in importance.  We must follow the example given by the apostles, for who the Scriptures were the scriptures of the Old Testament, as pointed out in 2 Peter 3:2, “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”  Peter’s statement is a strong answer to those who give the New Testament priority and would discard anything from the Old Testament unless it is explicitly mentioned in the New Testament.  Rather, we interpret the Old Testament on its own terms, and only discard something from the Old Testament if the New Testament specifically says to do so.

To think otherwise is to disparage the scriptures, and to lose a lot of the joy of understanding the purpose of God.

Modified Horner Bible Reading Plan: Recent Bible Readings

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

My recent Bible readings, in my modified Horner Bible Reading Plan, have included some interesting passages from Luke, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel, Job, and Ecclesiastes.  Among the readings are these highlights:

Luke 9 shows an interesting contrast:  three incidents (verses 46, 49, and 54) that show the disciples’ increasing attitude of greatness and superiority, all in the same chapter that also includes Jesus predicting, twice (verses 22 and 44), His soon death.

Now that I’m catching up to the readings covered in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series,  I notice several things he pointed out regarding these texts.  Luke 12:16-21, the parable of the rich man storing up treasure for himself, really does fit well with another recent reading, 1 Samuel 25 (link:   my previous blog), and the character Nabal.

2 Samuel 4:10 (a chapter SLJ skipped) provides additional confirmation to the truth of the incident in 2 Samuel 1, for here David tells the two men who killed Ish-Bosheth that the previous man (the Amelekite) was killed because he “thought he was bringing good news” — and “That was the reward I gave him for his news!”  Clearly by this time David knew the truth of the matter, and thus speaks as he does here in chapter 4.

1 Corinthians goes well with some great teaching from J.C. Ryle’s “Practical Religion” (chapter on Love).  1 Corinthians 7:15 ends with the sentence, “God has called us to live in peace” — as Ryle pointed out, this is one of the expressions of love.  Ryle’s discussion of the differences between faith, hope, and love, comes from another recent reading, 1 Corinthians 13:13. (“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”)  Faith is only for us (not God) and will be swallowed up in sight, and hope will change to certainty when we reach our destination, in the presence of God.

Job, Ecclesiastes, and 1-2 Corinthians provide some interesting contrasts.  Ecclesiastes especially has great words of wisdom, yet chapter 1 also expresses the emptiness of wisdom and knowledge by themselves — in agreement with 1 Corinthians 13.  Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 expresses the physical, human perspective of lost man, regarding the fate of man and animal.  But contrast that with the wonderful words of life from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:39, in which he writes about the resurrection, noting that not all flesh is the same but that men have one kind of flesh and animals another.

Job 19:25-26, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;” fits well with 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, Paul’s words about how we long to leave our “earthly tent” and be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 is a great verse to keep man in his proper place, to caution those who would try to reconcile scripture according to modern ideas of “science” and claim that the world is billions of years old:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

How true that still is — man cannot discover the matter of creation on his own, apart from God’s special revelation to us.  All we can know about eternity, from creation to the future end of the world, comes from God alone — and all the compromise and accommodation to try to “fit” God’s word to our own ideas is utter foolishness.

Another verse in Ecclesiastes, 10:16, sets forth the general rule regarding nations and their rulers:  “Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child.”  S. Lewis Johnson referred to that truth in his exposition of the Davidic covenant in the prophets, pointing out the contrasting exception in Isaiah 9:6-7, the wonderful prophecy about the child to come, a child that shall rule and reign.

Some other great passages to remember and meditate on:
2 Cor. 4:16-17 — “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

and

Ecclesiastes 7:10, 14, and 16-18

Biblical Covenants: The Davidic Covenant

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Through an interesting providence, both of my current MP3 sermon studies — one going through the life of David in 1st and 2nd Samuel, the other a doctrinal series “The Divine Purpose” — came to the same subject last week: the Davidic covenant. The “Lessons from the Life of David,” upon reaching 2 Samuel 7, begins a mini-series of four messages on the topic. The “Divine Purpose” series is in a section looking at the biblical covenants and commits two sessions specifically to the Davidic covenant, as an expansion of the Abrahamic covenant.

Some of the important points:
The Davidic covenant expands on the Abrahamic covenant, and the primary feature here is the kingdom — a king and a realm (subjects). The New Covenant, another outworking of the Abrahamic covenant, treats the matter of the seed. The Davidic covenant also promises the everlasting reign of David’s seed, and here the term seed is meant in the collective sense: David’s descendants on the throne, but ultimately the line ends as it comes into the Messiah.

In 2 Samuel 7:8, God promises that David “should be prince over my people Israel.” God reserves the title of King to Himself alone. Here I add an interesting note from recent reading through 1 Samuel 25 (list 6), that Abigail does indeed appear to know something about the future Davidic promises, with her words “a sure house” and, verse 30, that the Lord would appoint David prince over Israel: ” And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel”. Also from recent readings I noticed Psalm 145, and in verses 10-13 David also recognizes that it is God’s kingdom:

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The word “covenant” does not actually appear in 2 Samuel 7, but in 2 Samuel 23:5, David makes reference to the covenant: “For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.”

The three key passages for the Davidic covenant are 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17, and Psalm 89.  Johnson describes these passages as different types of lights that show different emphases:

  • 2 Samuel 7 — a floodlight, an overview
  • 1 Chronicles 17 — a spotlight
  • Psalm 89 — a searchlight

Psalm 89 has two key words: mercy (or “loving kindness”) and faithfulness. Psalm 89 was written by Ethan, whose name means perpetuity. SLJ made a passing reference without further explanation, that this psalm was written at the time when Rehoboam had been unfaithful. I don’t see this detail in the text, so this is one for further study, to look up in commentaries.

These two Davidic covenant series contain a great deal of overlap, though the David series spends more time (four sessions instead of two). Yet in both of these series SLJ uses the illustrations of different types of light — the floodlight, spotlight, and searchlight — and cites the same passages in reference to the Davidic covenant in prophecy, including Isaiah 7, 9 and 11. Both series also discuss the New Testament references to the Davidic covenant.

In closing, here are the references to the Davidic covenant in Isaiah. Both of these series are available, in transcript and audio files, at www.sljinstitute.net

Isaiah 7:13-14 — “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:7 – Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

Isaiah 11:1- 10, in which verses 1 and 10 mention “the stump of Jesse” and “the root of Jesse,” with descriptions of the kingdom age in between:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

and

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples-of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

The Milk and the Meat of Scripture

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

John MacArthur has described the difference between milk and meat in a Christian’s life:

Some times the Scripture can be milk and sometimes it can be meat. Now that doesn’t mean that some parts of the Bible are milk and some parts are meat. Really all of it is either milk or meat it depends on how deep you go.  For example I can say to you “God so loved the world” and if you are a brand new Christian you say yea, I understand that, that’s kind of milk. But then if I took off and began to develop the character of God, the character of His love, how His love works, what His love is defined at in the Scripture, the depths of all that that concept means, then that gets deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and gets into the meat aspect of that same simple truth. We say for example, God knows everything and that’s a milk statement, but we could develop that to the place where it becomes very complex and that would be the meat end of it.

In that same message he also advised:

Don’t ever think that because you came to church and heard the sermon on Sunday morning and Sunday night and you went to the Bible study on Friday that you don’t need to study on your own.

How true that is, since such a passive attitude will not be able to digest the meat, or discern between incorrect versus correct Bible interpretation.

Here are examples of the kinds of error that the person sitting in the pew at a local church, not doing any study on their own, could possibly face, by relying on a shallow pastor who they suppose really knows how to interpret and teach the Bible:

  • John 6:4 means that Jesus skipped going to the Passover in Jerusalem that year, and stayed up in Galilee and had his own “passover” with the people there.  For further appreciation of what that text really means, see this Matthew Henry commentary.
  • 1 Samuel 27:1 is interpreted that David did no wrong, and he did what he did because he had no choice.  No understanding about the true spiritual condition of David at this time
  • In 2 Samuel 1, the Amelekite really did kill Saul; from the other accounts we know that Saul attempted to kill himself, but he wasn’t successful and so the Amelekite’s part fits in there
  • 2 Samuel 12:8 means that God positively supported polygamy in the Old Testament; God had given David lots of wives and He would have given him even more (never mind that the text actually says “your master’s wives” referring to everything associated with Saul’s kingdom)

Today I want to look specifically at 2 Samuel 1, which I recently studied in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series.  Even from just reading the text, plus the story at the end of 1 Samuel, combined with the basic notes in the NIV Study Bible that I used at the time, I understood that the Amelekite was making up his story — quite a different view from what was being said during the local Sunday sermon.  S. Lewis Johnson, in a meaty (not milk) message, confirms the correct understanding:  “almost all biblical scholars of a believing mentality are convinced that this man was lying.”

Now to the exposition and further explanation, the meat, to understand the details from the text to support this conclusion:
1.  We read that he shows up with his clothes torn and dust on his head.
“Now, you can tell from this that this man was not an ordinary man.  He was an observant man, he was a shrewd man because he realized coming in with his clothes torn and dust on his head that it would be thought that he was very, very supportive of the children of Israel.”
Clearly, he hoped for some kind of material gain — his secular mind could not imagine anyone thinking differently from him, rejoicing in the death of his enemy.

2.  The young man says “I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa.”
Mount Gilboa was where the battle was.  A large host of Philistines, so large that King Saul was afraid of them, and Israelites gathered there as well.  ….  No, no!  He didn’t happen to be by chance there.  He wanted to be there because after the battle there was always hope of gathering up some of the spoil, plunder, after the battle.

3.  The Amelekite’s use of the word “behold” which shows up in some of English translations, but appears several times in the Hebrew text.  From SLJ:

I’m going to read this as the Hebrew text has it. “And behold, Saul, leaning on his spear.  And behold the chariots and horsemen following hard after him.  Now, when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me.  And I said, behold, me.”

Now, if you read that carefully, you’ll see that what he is doing is playing a little bit loose with the truth.  And that little “behold” not rendered in the text that I have here — once as “there was” and then as “indeed” and then “here,” will give you an indication of the kind of speech that he was engaging in.  The use of that little term hinneh which means behold is indicative of the fact that what he is saying is a bit fictional.  It’s very much like the use of “hey” and so, “I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa where there was a great battle and, hey, Saul leaning on his spear and, hey, the chariots and horsemen following hard after him and Saul called to me and I said, hey, I’m here.”  No.  This man is a liar, he’s a prevaricator.

I looked this up in the KJV and ESV translations.  Sure enough, the footnote for 2 Samuel 1:7 tells us that the Hebrew is “Behold me.”  The ESV adds “behold” in verse 6.  Interesting.

4.   The author already told us in 1 Samuel 31 how Saul really died.  From the text we can understand that Saul was already dead — because it says that Saul’s armour bearer, seeing that Saul was dead, also fell on his sword and died with him.

“Saul is his own murderer, as his armor bearer knew.  So, in chapter 31, we have God’s description of what happened.  Now, we have the Amalekite’s fabrication of what happened.”

Perhaps some will say, well, what difference do such details make?  How does it affect my salvation, whether or not I think that the Amelekite killed Saul, or Saul killed Saul?  It may not matter in your overall salvation, but it does affect your concept of God.  Does God contradict Himself, telling us in one place that events happened this way, and then say differently in the next chapter?  It affects our understanding of man’s depravity, with yet another historical example of the true natures of both Saul and the Amelekite.  More so, it makes the difference between a baby Christian consuming only milk, versus the strong man Christian who can plumb the depths of God’s word for its great treasures and discern truth from error.

Finally, some great words from J.C. Ryle, also on the importance of reading our Bibles:

We must to be diligent readers of our Bibles. The Word is the sword of the Spirit. We shall never fight a good fight, if we do not use it as our principal weapon. The Word is the lamp for our feet. We shall never keep the king’s highway to heaven, if we do not journey by its light. There is not enough Bible-reading among us. It is not sufficient to have the Book. We must actually read it, and pray over it ourselves. It will do us no good, if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds. Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition. It can only be obtained by diligent, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading.
From Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew