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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: 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.

Various Scripture Thoughts for Today

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

God’s Divine Providence, Fore-ordination, and Omniscience, as Shown in 1 Samuel 23

From S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David,” I’m now in 1 Samuel 23, a chapter that shows God’s amazing providence in the ways that He delivers David from Saul.  The incident at Keilah, where David inquires of the Lord if the men of Keilah will give him over to Saul, shows both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, with no contradiction in these two seemingly incompatible ideas.  But an appeal exclusively to God’s sovereignty, in the case of Keilah, would have left David and his men passively waiting around for Saul to show up and to be handed over to Saul by the Keilahites.  After all, God said they would hand him over to Saul, so leave it to fate.  But no, David understands the message from God and decides that it’s time to get out of Keilah.

This incident from David’s life also shows God’s divine foreordination and omniscience.  Our God not only knows everything that will come to pass, from beginning to end, past to future — He even knows the things that could happen given certain contingencies, and He knows what the men of Keilah will do given a set of circumstances.

In my daily Bible reading, I’m a few weeks away from 1 Samuel, back in Joshua 15 — a very tedious chapter filled with lists of land descriptions and names of the many cities and villages given to the tribe of Judah.  Yet amongst the many obscure names listed there are a few familiar names, including Ziklag, and Keilah.  I probably would have missed the reference to Keilah but for the SLJ bible study in 1 Samuel 23 today.

Another verse to add, from today’s readings, to go with the above theme of God’s providence and sovereign control:
Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

God’s Faithfulness and Promises
From some of my other recent readings, some great verses that show God’s faithfulness and His great promises:

(From list 7) — Isaiah 61:11:   For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

The first part of that verse reminds me of Genesis 8:11 (list 2):  God’s mercy in bringing forth the new world after the flood.  The dove found the olive leaf, a sign of new plant life, that God was already causing the earth to bring forth its sprouts.  Isaiah 61-62 also tell us that, as surely as we can observe plant life, so we can count on God to fulfill what He has promised, that He will “cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations” at His second coming.  God’s promise to restore Israel to the land, and to give them great blessings and prominence among the nations, is just as sure as what we can observe in how the earth and gardens bring forth the plants.

Typology (from S. Lewis Johnson teachings)

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson frequently taught on the subject of typology, and now after studying through several of his series I have a much clearer understanding of what typology is and is not.  I’m currently listening to two series, one a study through Old Testament narrative chapters (Lessons from the Life of David), the other a doctrinal study of “The Divine Purpose.”  In previous Old Testament series I encountered SLJ’s usage of typology as early as Genesis and again in the “Typology in  Leviticus” study.  The subject comes up rather frequently, such that this week included treatment of typology in both the David series, and in the doctrinal study (currently in the section about dispensational theology and the hermeneutic).

Typology is really just another word for “illustration” or “example,” and has specific characteristics, including historicity and pattern, with correspondences between people, things (or institutions), or events.  The type is found in the Old Testament, a historical reality, as distinguished from allegory, of which John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progess” is a classic example.  According to S. Lewis Johnson, types are not restricted to only those which are explicitly pointed out in the New Testament (I have heard that claim before), but still must follow the pattern established by the definition.

The Bible does not contain any true allegories — and here SLJ has discussed the case of Galatians 4:24.   Some translations use the word “allegorically” (such as the ESV), but the more accurate translation should be “typologically”  (or “figuratively” as in the NIV).  In any case, the reference in Galatians 4 is to an event (Genesis 21) that actually happened, unlike the story and characters of Pilgrim’s Progress.

What I find especially helpful in Johnson’s teaching, are his many actual expositions of a text, in which he gives a point-by-point typology, showing in a particular case all of the features of a “type.”  During the Genesis series he gave such an example from the life of Joseph, showing the correspondences between Joseph and what he did for his brothers, and what Jesus has done and will yet do.  In the “Lessons from the life of David” he points out similar correspondences between David in the wilderness and Jesus Christ during the present age.

S. Lewis Johnson and “Calvin and Hobbes”

May 26, 2010 Leave a comment

On the Pyromaniacs blog, a recent post highlights a popular show (Lost) and a Christian perspective of our God that has far better planning than human writers of entertainment.  As usual, some of the bloggers in the meta have missed the point of Dan Phillips’ original blog.

In many ways I see the reference to the show “Lost” as similar to sermon illustrations that appeal to our popular culture — which brings me back to S. Lewis Johnson and the comic strip illustrations he often used in his Bible teaching.

In listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series, I’m enjoying (again, as with his other messages) the little time-period references he often made.  Johnson did this series in 1990, later than most of his teaching, and I can especially relate since by that time I was a young Christian; I only wish now that I had known about S. Lewis Johnson at that time, to get better instruction in those early years–but now I’m playing catch-up.

Several times in his teachings, Johnson mentions his enjoyment of the funny pages, the comic strips in the newspaper.  Often he mentioned Peanuts — but now we’re in 1990, and so it was interesting to learn that SLJ also liked and read “Calvin and Hobbes,” which had started publication in the late 1980s.  I had not heard of S. Lewis Johnson at that time, but like him I read and enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes.  Anyway, SLJ mentioned a particular strip of C&H, in reference to our fallen nature and the character of King Saul — the character like so many people, that plots and schemes, thinking he’ll get away with something and thinking he can fool God.  Then, even when things don’t work out so well, he doesn’t learn his lesson and just keeps on doing the same things over and over again.  The specific incident is the one where Calvin steals Susie’s doll, tries to offer it back for ransom, dreams about what he’s going to do with the money — and then Susie gets back at him.  But Calvin, like King Saul and so many others, will never learn the lesson.   Here is the actual message from S. Lewis Johnson.  Here is the Calvin and Hobbes strip he referenced, from late August and early September 1990.  (Note:  it’s the last comic series story on the first link, and top part of the second link.)