1 Kings 1:2-4

Victory over the Lust of the Flesh

David was old and sick and wouldn’t get out of bed. The members of his court were worried about him so when the addition of many blankets could not keep David warm, they enacted a new plan that was in keeping with the character of David’s life. “His servants said to him, ‘Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.’ So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.”

According to one of my favorite Seminary professors, Tom Constable, there could be a connection between this Shunammite and the Shulammite beauty that Solomon raves about in The intimate Song of Solomon. He argues that Shunammite and Shulammite are alternate spellings of the same word. Even though he mentions it, Constable is not convinced because there doesn’t seem to be any other biblical evidence to link the two.”[1] I’m not sure the alternate spelling of the word, along with the descriptive beauty given to Abishag, isn’t enough to legitimately consider the possibility that they are the same woman. Also, this beautiful young woman attracted the attention of another of David’s sons. Adonijah wanted her as his wife and asked Bathsheba to intercede with her son Solomon to help him acquire her. Solomon reacted by having Adonijah killed. I know that taking a concubine or wife of the king was an act of rebellion and was supposed to be the way of showing you wished to take over that position. But she was not David’s concubine. The text makes it clear that he did not have relations with her. I’m thinking Solomon may very well have had other motives in having Adonijah killed. If Abishag was the woman of the Song of Solomon, she ended up as one of Solomon’s wives or concubines. Even if she is not the subject of Solomon’s affection in the Song, she was legally his concubine since he inherited the wives and concubines of his father.

David is known for not having control of his sexual life. That was seen clearly in the episode with Bathsheba which resulted in David’s murder of Uriah followed by the loss of the baby conceived through adultery. But we also know that David had other wives and kept a stable of concubines for his pleasure also. Whereas he was unable to control these passions in his youth, due to poor health and advanced age, his vigor was gone. It is said that “Sophocles lauded old age as a deliverance from the tyranny of the passions, as an escape from some furious and savage master.”[2] I remember Vance Havner, in his 80s preaching to us students at Dallas Theological Seminary. He had finally gained the victory over sexual temptation. Not that he conquered it altogether but that he outlived it. At 80+ years of age, he had become like David. He encouraged us to win the victory over it rather than outliving it.

[1] Constable, Thomas L. 1985. “1 Kings.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 1:487. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Exell, Joseph S. n.d. The Biblical Illustrator: I Kings. The Biblical Illustrator. New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

2 Samuel 1:2-10a, Deuteronomy 25:17-18

Doing Battle with Amalekites

David defeated the Amalekites, and Saul was defeated by the Philistines. David was busy with his battle and had not heard about Saul’s defeat for several days. 2 Samuel 1:2-4 tells us of the news. “And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage. David said to him, ‘Where do you come from?’ And he said to him, ‘I have escaped from the camp of Israel.’ And David said to him, ‘How did it go? Tell me.’ And he answered, ‘The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.’” The messenger from the camp of Israel described Saul’s death. The story continues, “Then David said to the young man who told him, ‘How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?’ And the young man who told him said, ‘By chance, I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I answered, Here I am. And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’ So I stood beside him and killed him because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen.’”

Saul lived a tragic life! It had an even more tragic end.  If the story the Amalekite tells David is true, Saul was killed by an enemy he was supposed to have defeated long ago. There is reason to believe that the Amalekite was lying, and if that is the case, then we still can say an Amalekite took credit for Saul’s demise. Regardless of which view you take, the Amalekites were the enemies of God’s people along with the rest of the Canaanites that resisted Israel taking possession of the promised land. The Amalekites were exceptionally odious to Israel because they waited until Israel was weak and occupied with other problems before they attacked. During all periods of Israel’s history, the Amalekites were treacherous in their attacks on Israel. It began with Esau and Jacob. Amalek was the Grandson of Esau. His father was Eliphaz, and his mother was the concubine Timna. Esau and Jacob’s constant struggle began in their mother Rebekah’s womb. The conflict between the descendants of each has never ended. Amalek hated the Jews, and Israel constantly had to defend itself against him. It raised its head when Israel left Egypt. In Deuteronomy 25:17-18, Israel was told to “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary.” This Amalekite killed Saul when he was faint and weary. It seems I come under attack when I’m faint and weary. But Moses promised the Israelites rest. The passage goes on in verse 19 to say, “Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.”

The Amalekites have all been absorbed into other ethnic groups. The last one we might know of was Haman from the book of Esther, who hated the Jews and plotted their demise. He built a hangman’s scaffold for the Jew Mordecai but ended up hanging from it himself. But the absence of the ethnic group doesn’t mean there aren’t any Amalekites anymore. Amalek is alive and well today but in a spiritual form. My Amalekites are not “flesh and blood” but are often just as real. The world system around me and the flesh nature within me are both used by the Devil to war against me and keep me out of any experience of the promised land. I’m attacked at my most vulnerable times. When I’m weary and tired. I try, and I fail. I try, and I fail. I try again, and I fail. I soon learn I’m doomed to failure. The task of righteousness is too hard for me. Then Jesus calls us, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

1 Samuel 1:2

God Sends a Son

First Samuel introduces us to a man named Elkanah. He had a domestic problem. “He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” Because the text mentions Hannah first, it is assumed that she was Elkanah’s first wife. Since Hannah could not conceive, Elkanah took a second wife. This was acceptable in those days because children were crucial to the family’s livelihood. I would also argue that children were seen as blessings from God. Everything possible to have children was encouraged. There are significant industries in our country devoted to preventing conception. According to the Grandview Research Company, “The U.S. contraceptive market size was valued at around USD 8.0 billion in 2021 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 4.70% in the forecast period.”[1] But what is worse is the abortion statistics. According to another research company, “The last year for which the CDC reported a yearly national total for abortions is 2019. The agency says there were 629,898 abortions nationally that year, slightly up from 619,591 in 2018. Guttmacher’s latest available figures are from 2020, when it says there were 930,160 abortions nationwide, up from 916,460 in 2019.”[2] The most important value in the Bible is life. The most important value in America is personal peace and prosperity.

The book of Deuteronomy records the blessings and cursings pronounced upon the children of Israel as they were about to enter and occupy the promised land. Having children was one of the many blessings that God promised the Israelites. Deuteronomy 7:14 speaks very clearly in this regard. It says, “You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock.” You can understand how a barren woman in the Old Testament economy would feel cursed and plead with God for the blessing of children. But Hannah was not the only woman in the Bible who struggled with barrenness and brought her petition to God for resolution. Sarah was barren. God Blessed her with Isaac. Rebekkah was barren. God blessed her with the twins Esau and Jacob. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, was barren, and God blessed her with Joseph, who became the savior of his people. Samson’s mother was barren, but God blessed her with a son who delivered the people of Israel from the yoke of the Philistines. Woodhouse recognizes the common theme with these barren women. He writes, “Each of these women had shared a sadness like Hannah’s, but in each case, a child was subsequently born who was God’s answer to the crisis of the time.”[3]

The situation in Israel at the end of the book of Judges was critical. There was no king, so every man did what was right in his own eyes, and there was nothing but chaos and confusion. Something had to be done! God begins his work. In answer to prayer, he causes an otherwise barren woman to conceive a child! In each of the cases mentioned above, this was God’s way of dealing with the problems of His people. When Jesus insisted that the Old Testament was about Him, I wonder if this idea was not part of that. Although it might be argued that each of the women above conceived without the intervention of God. That could not be argued regarding God sending His one and only Son into the world, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

[1] https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/us-contraceptive-market

[2] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/06/24/what-the-data-says-about-abortion-in-the-u-s-2/

[3] Woodhouse, John. 2008. 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Ruth 1:2

No Afterthought!

During the days of the Judges, Elimelech and his wife Naomi took their two sons from Bethlehem to Moab to escape a famine. Ruth 1:2 says, “The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.” In Hebrew, the word Bethlehem means house of bread. The place named for an essential staple of food did not have enough of it to sustain this family. So they moved to Moab, of all places. Israel and Moab did not have a happy relationship. Moab, the founder of this city, was the son of Lot’s daughter through her incestuous relationship with her father. When Israel was exiting Egypt, the Moabites would not let them have safe passage through their land. In the book of Numbers (25:1-9), Moabite women seduced the men of Israel into worshipping Baal. Eglon, the king of Moab, was one of the kings that oppressed Israel and God raised Ehud, the left-handed Israelite, to deliver them from his oppression. One more thing, Balak, the king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse the Israelites as they moved toward the promised land.

The name “Elimelech” means “God is my king.” He had a good reputation, and I expect he was an honest man who wanted to provide for his family. His two sons had interesting names. Mahlon means “to be sick.” Kilion means “failing or pining.” It could be that the poor health of his two children moved Elimelech to move to where food was available. It may have been his motivation in moving to save the lives of his two sick sons. He would be terribly disappointed if his motive was their lives.

The family was an Ephrathite family from Bethlehem. This was important to mention because David was also an Ephrathite from Bethlehem. This is an important point because we’ll see that a Moabitess, Ruth, will become Jesse’s grandmother, the father of King David through whom the Messiah will come. This is a remarkable fact. Moab, the son of one of Lot’s daughters through incest, had an ancestor who became an heir to God’s promises.  Lot had another son through his incestuous relationship with his other daughter. Her son was named Amon. Amon had a female descendent named Naamah. She ends up as one of the wives that Solomon took to seal peace treaties with the nations around him. Whereas David tamed the nations around him through conquests, Solomon tamed the nations through treaties sealed by marriages. Solomon and Naamah have a son named Rehoboam. He became the first king of the divided kingdom and reigned in Jerusalem. He also finds his way into the genealogical line leading to the Messiah. There are four women in the genealogy of Jesus. All of them are Gentiles. Saving the world was never an afterthought in God’s mind. It was always part of His glorious plan. You and I are also part of God’s plan. We are not afterthoughts either.

Judges 1:2

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

It appears to me that the book begins with Israel being a Theocracy. It says, “After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, ‘Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’ The Lord said, ‘Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.’” The book of Judges begins with Israel seeking God’s will. They are still a theocracy. God was their Commander-in-Chief. He was their King. At the end of the book, after many cycles of failure, repentance and deliverance, the Israelites are not satisfied with God as their King but demand that Samuel the Prophet of God give the nation a human King.  Fleenor says, “With Joshua gone from the scene, the Israelites lack leadership. Although it will not last, their first instinct is to seek God’s input. Rather than divide the tribes and fight the different people groups in the land concurrently, the Israelites realized that a progressive push against the remaining Canaanite people groups would be the most successful. God’s response is to send Judah against the Canaanites. Sending Judah makes good sense since Judah is the largest tribe at this point. The devastation created by Israel’s largest tribe would no doubt reinforce the psychological impact on the Canaanites already produced by the news of the Exodus.”

The designation “Canaanite” refers to the other nations that occupied the land of Canaan. One of those nations was explicitly identified as Canaanites, but there were six other residents in the land that were also referred to as Canaanites. These are the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, and the Perizzites. They all occupied the land of Canaan and were descendants of Canaan, Noah’s grandson that was cursed when his father, Ham, uncovered Noah’s nakedness. The curse was not actually on Canaan himself but on his descendants. The curse made these seven tribes servants of the descendants of Shem. Many believe that the reason Noah cursed Canaan rather than Ham, who “uncovered his father’s nakedness,” was because the sin was that Ham had incestuous relations with his mother and Canaan was the offspring. The sexual sin was an attempt of Ham to usurp the role of family leader by sleeping with his father’s wife. Reuben acted similarly in Genesis, as did David’s son in the first book of Kings. So the curse fell on the one Ham wanted to become heir of the family blessing. Instead of the blessing, he got the curse.

The Canaanites’ subjugation to Shem’s descendants was fulfilling Noah’s curse on Canaan. The choice of Judah to lead the way was the fulfillment of Jacob’s blessing on Judah, where he said Judah would be the champion of his brothers and would lead the way in victory. Jacob’s blessing on his son Judah mentioned “the lion of the tribe of Judah.” This lion was symbolic of not only kingship but also victory and leadership. The leadership of the tribes will always be Judah and his descendants. Thus David slew the giant Goliath and conquered the lands for Israel. The rulership of the people was given to Judah and his descendants. The “scepter” would not depart from Judah’s tribe until Shiloh comes. Shiloh was referring to Jesus himself. The victory was promised to Israel under Judah’s leadership. God says, “I have given the land into his hands.” The victory over our spiritual enemies has been handed to the Lord Jesus. We can experience that victory by believing in the actual “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” He has gone before us into the land where he prepares a place for us and has promised to return to take us to be with Him.

Joshua 1:3

This Land is Mine!

God tells Joshua and the children of Israel “it’s all yours!” Help yourself. He didn’t say it would be easy, but he said it was available if they had the faith to take it. In Joshua 1:3, God says, Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” When you consider the dimensions of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their descendants never occupied it all. Actually, they occupied very little of it. I love Andy Williams’s vocal of “The Exodus” from 1962. Yes, I can remember it!  Here are some of the lyrics, “This land is mine God gave this land to me. This brave and ancient land to me. And when the morning sun Reveals her hills and plains then I see a land where children can run free. With the help of God, I know I can be strong to make this land our home. If I must fight, I’ll fight. To make this land our own. Until I die, this land is mine”

Paul tells us about the battle that every Christian is to fight. Although Satan is the Lord of this world, through Jesus, we have victory if we but take it. Paul tells us about the spiritual battle that we fight every day. It’s not against flesh and blood like the battle Israel fought. Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).” Peter tells us “your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). James instructs is to submit ourselves to God, our supreme commander, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” Jesus sent 72 disciples out to preach the good news in surrounding cities. When they came back Luke 10:17 tells us, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’” He sends us out also.

Speaking of this spiritual battle, Origen, one of the original scholars of the Church in Alexandria around 200 AD, tells us that God has given the spiritual battle to us. He says, “We shall seize their territories, their provinces and their realms, as Jesus our Lord apportions them to us. Thus we understand the promise to us from our Lord Jesus that ‘every place we set the soles of our feet’ will be ours. But let us not imagine that we may be able to enter into this inheritance yawning and drowsy, through ease and negligence.” To Origen we must expel Satan from our lives through the power of Christ as Israel was charged with expelling the pagan nations before them. He says, “Unless you vanquish this [wrath] in yourself and cut off all violent impulses of anger and rage, you will not be able to claim as an inheritance the place that angel once had. For you will not expel him from the land of promise by your slothfulness. In like manner, some angels incite pride, jealousy, greed and lust and instigate these evil things. Unless you gain the mastery over their vices in yourself and exterminate them from your land—which now through the grace of baptism has been sanctified—you will not receive the fullness of the promised inheritance.”[1] J. Vernon McGee tells an interesting story that helps apply this passage to us. He says, “Years ago a certain Englishman moved to the United States. Soon after he arrived he dropped out of sight. One day his uncle in England died and left him about a five–million dollar estate. Scotland Yard went about trying to locate the man whose last address had been in Chicago. They searched for him but never found him. Later I heard that he was found one morning frozen to death in an entryway of a cheap hotel. He could not afford twenty–five cents for a room although he was heir to five million dollars! He did not claim what was his. He did not lay hold of what belonged to him.”[2]

[1] Franke, John R., ed. 2005. Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] McGee, J. Vernon. 1991. Thru the Bible Commentary: History of Israel (Joshua/Judges). Electronic ed. Vol. 10. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Deuteronomy 1:2-3

Time to leave the Wilderness!

It was only an eleven-day journey from Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea but Israel spent 40 years before they could complete that journey as a nation. The book of Numbers records the events that took place in those 40 years, when they came to an end all the generation that had exited Egypt had died in the wilderness except the two spies, Joshua and Caleb, who wanted to enter the land 40 years ago but were outnumbered. Now, in the 40th year, Moses prepares them once again to enter the promised land. He called them together and began the second recitation of the Law. That’s what the word “Deuteronomy” means: The second law. Deuteronomy 1:2-3 says, “It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them.”

McGee comments on this passage, “Mount Sinai is in Horeb. It was a journey of eleven days from Horeb to Kadesh–Barnea, which was the entry point into the Land of Promise. Israel spent thirty–eight years wandering when it should have taken them only eleven days to get into the land. Why? Because of their unbelief. Their marching was turned to wandering, and they became just strangers and pilgrims in that desert. Because they were slow to learn, they wandered for thirty–eight years in that great and terrible wilderness. We also are slow to learn, friends. I think we would characterize ourselves by saying we have low spiritual I.Q.’s. It seems as if the Lord must burn down the school in order to get some of us out of it!”[1]

I think J. Vernon is correct. We spend way too much time ourselves in the “terrible wilderness.” We don’t enjoy all the blessings God has given us in life and remain unthankful most of the time. We are tempted in many ways and always feel like we’re under spiritual attack as Jesus was in his 40 days in the wilderness. Job had his wilderness experience. Elijah had a tough time during his wilderness experience when he wished had could die amid a severe pity party. It becomes a challenge just getting by one day at a time. Financial, material, physical, or emotional burdens may press on us. There is nothing we can do but wait on the Lord and we hate waiting, don’t we?  Paul has experience with periods in the terrible wilderness also. He describes it in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” “The wilderness is an unpleasant place. We naturally want prosperity, health, and easy going. But the same God who created the garden also created the wilderness. There will be times of trial and pressure. Our faith will be tested. But the God of grace will meet us even in the wilderness. Missionary Amy Carmichael knew this truth: ‘Bare heights of loneliness . . . a wilderness whose burning winds sweep over glowing sands, what are they to HIM? Even there He can refresh us, even there He can renew us.’”[2] Well, Israel reached the point where it was time to leave the wilderness and enter the promised land. There will always come a time for us as well.

[1] McGee, J. Vernon. 1991. Thru the Bible Commentary: The Law (Deuteronomy). Electronic ed. Vol. 9. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/wilderness-experience.html

Numbers 1:1

How God Speaks to Us

The phrase “The Lord spoke” appears nearly 100 times in the book of Numbers alone. We see it the first time in the first verse, “The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt.” God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai. He was instructing Moses on the next phase of their journey to the promised land. They never made it to the land in the book of Numbers, and it’s no wonder that in Hebrew, the book of Numbers is “Bemidbar.” This means “in the wilderness.” But some Hebrew manuscripts say its name is “wayeḏabbēr  meaning “Yahweh spoke.” Allen says, “From the opening words of the book (1:1) to the closing words (36:13), this is stated over 150 times and in more than twenty ways.”[1]

Moses was the spokesman for God. God’s custom was to call Moses to the “tent of meeting” to speak to him. God seems to have spoken to Moses in several ways beginning with the burning bush but regardless of when and how Moses was God’s spokesperson. Cole says, “Theologians have probed this enigma for millennia, giving rise to varied theories of inspiration. However, this communication was accomplished, whether by audible human speech form, mental and spiritual impression and compulsion, or by intellectual impregnation of ideas, the prophet Moses became the instrument for divine illumination of humankind of the will and word of God.”[2] Well, it sounds like the audible speech Moses received from God passed on in legible texts in the scriptures. The tent of meeting was the most critical part of the Israelite’s worship experience because it was from there that they heard an infallible word from God. When God spoke in Genesis, things happened. When God spoke to Moses, things happened.

But God doesn’t speak to us from a tent anymore, a temple, or any object that might have been housed in the tent or temple. According to John, God’s tabernacle is Jesus Christ! “In the beginning was the word (speech), and the word was with God, and the word was God.” This “word” was made flesh, and in John 1:14, it’s said to “tabernacle” with us. He dwelt with us. Hebrews also reminds us that in various times God spoke to us in many different ways. One of those ways was through the tent of meeting by the mouth of the prophet Moses. But today, He speaks to us in His Son. Once established by Moses, only priests could enter the tent, and only the High Priest could enter the most sacred compartment to bring the blood sacrifice for the people’s sins. But in Hebrews 9:11-12, Jesus has accomplished that for us once and for all. It says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

[1] Allen, Ronald B. 1990. “Numbers.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 2:701–2. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Cole, R. Dennis. 2000. Numbers. Vol. 3B. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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