Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Psalm 3: Arise, O Lord!

Psalm 3: Arise, O Lord!

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
Many are saying of my soul,
"There is no salvation for him in God."


But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
And he answered me from his holy hill.


I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
You break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
Your blessing be on your people!


Psalms 3:1-8 (ESV)

Digging deeper...

David was engaged to Saul's elder daughter, Merab (1 Samuel 18:17)

Saul broke the engagement, giving Merab to another man (1 Samuel 18:19)

David wed Saul's other daughter, Michal (1 Samuel 18:27)

Saul turned against David and gave Michal to another man (1 Samuel 25:44).

David wed two women: Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel, and Ahinoam of Jezreel (1 Samuel 25:43).

During the long war with the house of Saul, David wed four more women and fathered six sons :

  • Amnon of Ahinoam
  • Chileab of Abigail
  • Absalom of Maacah
  • Adonijah of Haggith
  • Shepthatiah of Abital
  • Ithream of Eglah

2 Samuel 3:2 (ESV)

David yet considered Michal his wife, demanding her return as part of peace talks with the house of Saul (2 Samuel 3:13-14). The surrender of the house of Saul led all Israel to anoint David king. David took more concubines and more wives, fathering more sons and daughters:

  • Shammua
  • Shoboab
  • Nathan
  • Solomon
  • Ibhar
  • Elishua
  • Nepheg
  • Japhia
  • Elishama
  • Eliada
  • Eliphelet

2 Samuel 5:14

Secure in his kingdom, David took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and lay with her, later arranging to have Uriah killed in battle, allowing David to wed Bathsheba. Their first child died. Bathsheba later bore to David a son, Solomon Jedidiah (2 Samuel 11-12).

Meanwhile, David's eldest son, Amnon, took his step-sister, Tamar, by force and raped her. Making an evil act more wicked. Amnon refused to honor Tamar as wife, casting her out without apology or assistance. Tamar's brother, Absalom, took Tamar into his home, outwardly at peace with Amnon, but inwardly hating him and planning vengeance.

Two years later Absalom's hatred for Amnon erupted in deceit and death. Drawn by an invitation to a celebration party, Amnon was violently murdered by Absalom's servants. David was overwhelmed by grief and anger, and Absalom fled for his life. For three years father and son remained enemies (2 Samuel 13).

David heart was filled with anger and grief over Amnon, ending any hint of love for Absalom. Yet the people of Israel regarded Absalom as David's heir, a prince of the kingdom, and they wanted Absalom's place in David's court restored. David finally relented, allowing Absalom to return to Jerusalem without prosecution for the murder. For three years David refused to see his son, and Absalom lived apart in his own house. The estrangement between David and Absalom never healed, despite a public ceremony of forgiveness that included Absalom bowing before the king, and the king kissing Absalom (2 Samuel 14).

Absalom became politically active, gaining a reputation in the nation as a strong leader. After four years of greasing palms, secret handshakes behind closed doors, and staged public events, Absalom felt he had enough support to challenge the David for the throne.

Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, "From what city are you?" And when he said, "Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel," Absalom would say to him, "See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you." Then Absalom would say, "Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice." And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:2-6 (ESV)

It worked.

A messenger came to David, saying, "The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom." Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, "Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword." 2 Samuel 15:13-14 (ESV)

David fled Jerusalem with his family and close servants, all who would have reason to fear violent revenge from Absalom the Usurper. David's heart was broken with disappointment and weak with fear. From this shameful defeat David would later write the words of Psalm 3.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Psalm 2: Why Do The Nations Rage?

Why Do The Nations Rage?

Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
"Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us."

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill."

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me,
"You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry,
and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalms 2:1-12 ESV

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Psalm 1: Legalistic Duty or Delightful Devotion?

Legalistic Duty or Delightful Devotion?

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalms 1:1-6 (ESV)

What do you think?

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1 Timothy 3: Pugnacious Smiter

Pugnacious Smiter

1 Timothy 3:2

What has gone before...

Drunkenness destroys a person's marriage, blinds them to reality, exposes them to injury and disease, brings scorn from the community, alienates them from friendship and confuses their ability to teach and learn. Drunkenness can lead to violence, the second destructive behavior listed by Paul.

Moving on...

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent..." 1 Timothy 3:2-3 (ESV)

Violent people, smiters, find it a pleasure to pound flat into the ground anyone who might challenge their personal privileges of superiority .

"Violent" occurs only twice in the Bible, once here, and again in Paul's letter to Titus, both instances describing people unqualified to serve as an overseer or leader in the church. The word specifically means to pound or strike with the fist, or with a hammer. There are distinct Greek words which mean hitting with a stick, or slapping with the hand, as well as accidental collisions. Paul's use of "violent" here means a single, devastating blow with a fist or hammer.

The root word of "violent" is a Greek word that is usually translated as "formed", as in God's formation of the first man and woman from clay:

"Adam was formed first, then Eve." 1 Timothy 2:13 (ESV)

"Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, Why have you made me like this?" Romans 9:20 (ESV)

"Formed", "molded" and "molder" are all translations of the same word.

Thus, a "violent" person is one who attempts, usually in a single blow, to re-make their opponent, reducing them to a lump of clay or re-forming them into a shape of their own choosing.

It is easy to imagine a drunkard giving free rein to violence. The alcohol distorts reality and dissolves self-control, allowing sinful violence to overwhelm a person's mind and body.

A violent person, however, does not necessarily require alcohol. Deeply held anger...or fear, pride or lust, could regard abstainence as proof of their superiority and power. A completely sober person can respond violently to any challenge or difficulty they encounter.



The third, and last, of the negative vices that disqualify a person from leadership is that which means "sordid", translated by the KJV as "not greedy of filthy lucre" and which the ESV incorporates later as part of "lover of money".

"Not sordid" occurs three times, twice in this same chapter, and once in Paul's letter to Titus. All three references describe the character of people unsuited for leadership, people seeking "gain" from shameful sources.

"Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain." 1 Timothy 3:8 (ESV)

"Not greedy for dishonest gain" is translated from the same word that Paul used earlier: "me aischrokerdes", meaning "sordid gain". Paul connects this warning with faithful teaching:

"They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience." 1 Timothy 3:9 (ESV)

"Mystery of the faith" means the essential doctrine of Christianity, the truth that Jesus is the Only Son of God, One with God, humanity's Only Lord and Savior.

Why Paul describes the gospel as a "mystery" will be looked at more closely as we go further in this first letter to Timothy.

The shameful source of sordid gain is seen in Paul's letter to Titus. Again, Paul is describing the essential character and behavior of men who are godly leaders:

"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach." Titus 1:9-11 (ESV)

"Insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers" taught whatever "truth" might profit them. Perverting or contradicting the foundational teachings of Christ, they effectively persuaded others to abandon faith, trading it for legalistic, traditional religion.

Circumcision had become, not a sign of God's holiness, but the Source of holiness. Tradition had replaced Truth. The Sign had replaced the Savior.

And tradition was quite profitable.


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Monday, July 22, 2013

1 Timothy 3: The Destruction of Nobility

The Destruction of Nobility

1 Timothy 3:1

What has gone before...

Following seven character qualities that demonstrate a person's aspiration and desire to serve as a leader, Paul presented a list of six examples of behavior: three negative and three positive. A comparison of two versions of the list showed that the ESV combined two of these behaviors into one, while KJV reflected more accurately the six distinct behaviors.

Moving on...

"If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." 1 Timothy 3:1-3 (ESV)

Here, Paul lists three negative patterns of behavior which can destroy any one or all of the seven qualities of a "noble task".

  • Drunkenness (staying near wine)
  • Violence (smiter, pugnacious)
  • Sordidness (shameful gain)

"Smiter" means to strike with a firm blow; from Old English smitan, to smear or blemish; related to Dutch smijten and German schmeissen, to fling. "Pugnacious" means eager or quick to argue, quarrel or fight; from Latin pugnus, fist.


The first destructive behavior listed here appears to connect directly with sober-mindedness:

"Sober-mindedness", as we saw in a previous study, has as its root a word meaning "to abstain from wine". Although rooted in the literal meaning of refraining from alcohol, "sober-mindedness" was used to imply being discreet, cautious, alert and dependable.

"Not a drunkard", however, means the literal act of drinking a fermented beverage to excess. Combining the word for "wine" (oinos) with the word "near" (para) gives "drunkard" the literal, observable meaning of "always drinking alcohol", a person never without a drink in their hand, someone continually under the influence of intoxicating drink.

1 Timothy 3:1 (ESV) "If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task."

Drunkenness destroys the "noble task" of serving as an overseer.

"Noble task", as we saw in a previous study, means a beautiful, valuable act; having an outward appearance which reflects honestly the goodness and worth of one's behavior. Drunkenness slurrs one's words, brings dizziness and vomit, removes caution, and distorts memory and perception.

If a person were able to attempt some "noble task" while drunk, the outward appearance, smell and sound would disgust those for whom the work was performed. Any work attempted while drunk would likely result not in "nobility" but in injury, violence, crime or shame.

None of the character qualities and behaviors listed by Paul for the position of an overseer are possible while a person is drunk.


Drunkenness is always condemned

As we saw in a previous study, The Bible does not discourage the drinking of alcohol. Drunkenness, however, is always condemned:

"Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)

"Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine." 1 Timothy 3:8 (ESV)

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine." Titus 2:3 (ESV)

"You are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober." 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 (ESV)

The Bible never commands a person to drink alcohol. But Paul did recommend that Timothy use a little wine for the sake of frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5:23). Wine is often used in The Bible as a metaphor for spiritual happiness and pleasure, and a person may enjoy wine and the like in moderation, experiencing in the body a small taste of what the Holy Spirit brings to the soul.

To the priests of Israel, God gave wine:

"All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the grain, the firstfruits of what they give to the Lord, I give to you." Numbers 18:12 (ESV)

God required all Israelites to set aside a portion of their income for the year for a thanksgiving celebration that could include wine:

"Go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire-oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household." Deuteronomy 14:25-26 (ESV)

Wine was seen as the fruit of God's greatness and grace:

"Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great!...You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man." Psalms 104:1,14-15 (ESV)

God's grace allows us to enjoy food, drink and medicine made from natural resources created by God and sustained by His power. These gifts are ours to enjoy, but at the same time we must be constantly aware of our inborn, human sin: Without genuine worship and love for God as Lord and Savior, we all will fall into idolatrous lust, drunkenness and rebellion.


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