Sunday, September 17, 2023

Jesus' authority Questioned: Who has Authority over your Life?

"In U.S. Navel Institute Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, Frank Koch illustrates the importance of obeying the Laws of the Lighthouse. Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."
"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.
The lookout replied, "Steady, Captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: 'We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the signal, "Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees."
The captain said, "Send: "I'm a captain, change course twenty degrees.'"
"I'm a seaman second-class," came the reply. "You had better change course twenty degrees."
By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send: 'I'm a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."
We changed course."
-Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 153.

Who has authority over you in your life? There are various authorities in our lives, government, state, local, family, church, friends, and so on.

Sometimes we think our authority is ourselves. I can do what I want to do, and no one can stop me. Maybe a bit like the captain of the battleship, he’s insisting the other ship move. But when he finds out it’s a lighthouse well, he’s the one who moves.

It’s a big principle in America, that we should follow our hearts. Do what feels right. Do what we’ve decided to do inside our own heads. But what if that isn’t the best advice?

What if we need a higher authority then ourselves?

Jesus once spoke about the importance of authority.

The religious leaders of Israel come and challenge Jesus, and their goal is to corner him. They ask a question about authority.

And I want you to understand how important this question is. This is a question about authority.

We want to understand as Christians that Jesus Christ fundamentally has authority over our lives.

What does authority mean? Authority is power, control, influence. My life is not my own, my life belongs to God. God has authority over me.

Sometimes we think, well, God is allowed to give suggestions to me. And I’ll decide if I want it or not. That is not actually how it works. If you really want to be honest about God, then understand this: God has real authority to tell you what to do and not do.

And if you can get that, and understand that, you’re going to understand what it means to “do God’s will.”

And we’re told that those who learn to do God’s will abide forever. And also the word says not everyone who says Lord, Lord will get eternal life, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven, Jesus said.

So understand Christ has authority to guide your life. And you have a choice, a choice whether you’ll accept that or ignore that. Most ignore that. But if you’ll fear God, acknowledge God, and let God have realy authority over how you live, you’re going to find yourself at the heart of the kingdom of God system.

Why do so few understand that? Because it’s hard to accept. We want to be in control. We’re rebels. We want to rebel and do what we want. We’re selfish. But if we can submit to God, and let God run our lives in real ways, we’re going to find the kingdom of God in all fullness.

But the pharisees and religious leaders, they don’t want to really know the answer to the question they ask. But they ask anyway, to try to harm Jesus.

From Mark 10:27-28, 27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”

If Jesus is just a guy then his authority means nothing. But if Jesus is the son of God, he has total authority over my life. And your life. And we ought to learn how to do His will and obey Him completely.

Listen Jesus isn’t a totalitarian. He isn’t a dictator. Jesus said my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Jesus does guide my life. He has me do things. He has me pray. He has me go to certain events, talk to certain people. But Jesus also gives me a lot of time to just relax and enjoy life too. So it’s not so hard to follow Jesus. His yoke isn’t a vicious yoke. It’s easy and light.

Jesus knows that the religious leaders don’t really want to know the answer to the question.

So here’s his response:

Mark 10:29-30 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”

Jesus references John the baptizers ministry. Where did it come from? Was it just a weird guy in the river doing weird things? Or was it divinely inspired, was it from God?

So the religious leaders gather into a huddle, a holy huddle, they gather around and try to figure out how to respond.

In verses 31-32: 31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)

So they find themselves caught, first they realize if they say John was of God, then Jesus would say why didn’t you believe in John then? But if they say it’s just human nonsense, well, all the people of Israel believe in John, so they fear the people.

Notice what doesn’t come up: The truth. They are not honestly interested in what’s true. They are simply worried about accusing Jesus and getting the approval of the people in the crowds.

So they give the answer: verse 33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Jesus says then I’m not going to tell you. Because to be honest, you don’t really want the answer. You’re just trying to find a reason to trip me up in my words.

So we flip to chapter 12 and then we give into a familiar parable. And Jesus is going to be correcting the pharisees and religious leaders, by giving this parable at this moment in time.

Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.”

This parable is speaking directly to the religious leaders of Jerusalem. He is telling the spiritual leaders of the nation, that you were given stewardship over my vineyard, over my people, and you abused it. When I sent prophets to speak my word to you, you killed them, and persecuted them, and silenced them.

It’s a good reminder for today, we have been given stewardship over our own lives and over this church. We don’t own it, it’s not ours, it belongs to God. Our lives belong to God. And God is watching what we do with what he’s placed in our hands.

Will we be faithful stewards of our own lives? That’s the question. We’ll each be judged one day, on how we stewarded our lives.

Will you ignore God’s word? We all have that option. We can do something bad. We can sin and secret. And we’ll be astonished to find that God doesn’t strike us down. He’s waiting. He’s patient. He’s waiting until after we die, to judge our lives. So, we must believe in Jesus ,and when we’re tempted to do evil, we should remember, God is watching. So by the Spirit’s leading, I’m going to do the right thing.

Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s harder. But God will help you.

Next, in the parable, it says in verse 6: “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

God had sent the prophets to the nation of Israel, and the prophets were persecuted by Israel’s leaders. Ahab persecuted Elijah. Zedekiah persecuted Jeremiah. Zechariah was killed by Joash.

In the parable, the owner of the vineyard is represented by God himself, and God himself says ok, I’ll send my son, they’ll respect him. And King Jesus came. But Israel’s leaders also persecuted the son of God.

It says in verses 7-8: “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.”

The son was also rejected, just like the prophets. But, some did receive him. Some jews. Many gentiles across the world, have received the Son of God, and accept Him, and follow Him faithfully. That’s a great thing.

But the religious leaders of Israel, largely rejected Christ. There were some exceptions. Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, many others, but the highest levels of leadership rejected Him.

Should we be so surprised when we’re rejected or excluded or thought less of because of our faith? The world still rejects faith in God, even today. But that’s OK. Because many still believe.

So then, what will the owner of the vineyard do? What will God do?

It says in verses 9-11: “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

We know from history that Israel would be destroyed by the Roman empire in 70 AD. The gospel of Jesus Christ began spreading throughout the nations of the Earth through the early church.

And the prophecy was true, the stone the builders rejected, Jesus, became the cornerstone of the body of Christ worldwide, the church.

The Lord did this. God did it.

And it has become marvelous in our eyes. We are astonished by what God has done in our lives and in the world.

Yet the leaders, the elites, still largely reject Jesus. Though some do believe.

And in conclusion today, in verse 12 it says, “12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.”

All the elites were in collusion against Jesus, the chief priests, spiritual leaders, the teachers of the law, the teachers, and the elders, the social leaders of Israel. Their power and authority was threatened by Jesus.

That goes back to the end of chapter 11, by whose authority do you teach? Jesus authority came directly from God himself, the ultimate total authority over the universe and the human race.

If you understand that level of authority that God has over everything you’ll understand how you should live. If you reject that authority, as Israel did, as the laeders did, life will never make sense. Because you’ll think it all comes down to personal opinion about what’s right and wrong. But if God defines right and wrong, then it’s clear and we know what’s true and what’s not.

That’s authority.

Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior? That’s a great thing.

But have you accepted Jesus Christ as the authority over your life?

There’s a big difference there. I hope we see Jesus as both. As savior the one who forgives my sins and makes me new. But also as my King, my leader, the one with ultimate authority to direct my life as he sees fit.

Then you’ll to do God’s will in your life, and not your own.

It all goes back to authority. The Greek word for authority exousia (Key) Pronunciation: ex-oo-see'-ah

It means: I.power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases
A. leave or permission

II.physical and mental power
A. the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises

III.the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)

IV.the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)

A. universally
i. authority over mankind

B. specifically
i.the power of judicial decisions
ii. of authority to manage domestic affairs

The leaders of Israel wanted the power, the authority for themselves. They wanted the vineyard for themselves, the nation and affections of the people for themselves. They should’ve known, they were stewards caring for what God ultimately owned. We should understand that too. I need to understand that too. We all do. God owns everything. We’re just stewards of what he’s given us.

Let go of the power. Let go of the authority. Let God have the authority over you. Let god have the authority over your family.

He already has it. But, we should give it to him. So we don’t guide our own lives in the wrong direction. God will show us the right way to go. And then, we’ll follow the right track, which is God’s will for our lives.

Are you on that track of God’s will? Or have you gotten off track? Talk to Him right now. Pray, and ask him. What is your will for my life? Help me to follow it Lord. Give me a sign, a nudge, in the right direction, help me submit to you, reject my own way, and follow your way God. Amen

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Absalom takes Jerusalem, David regroups at Mahanaim

Absalom is leading a rebellion against King David and at least as of the time being, he is succeeding. King David and his leaders have fled Jerusalem, in tears of sorrow. Absalom has moved in and taken the capital.

So now we’re going to see Absalom being advised by two men, Ahithophel and Hushai. But Hushai is actually still working for King David. So he’s going to try to undermine Absalom.

So Absalom takes Jerusalem and he asks Ahithophel what he should do next.

And here’s his advice in 2nd Samuel 16:21-22: Ahithophel answered, “Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.”

This fulfilled a judgment given against David after David’s elicit affair with Bathsheba.

The judgment from God was this from 2nd Samuel 12:11-12: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

And years later, that came true, when Absalom took David’s concubines and slept with them in broad daylight.

It’s a terribly evil thing to do, by Absalom, but it was from Ahithophel’s advice. It probably caused the people of Israel to fear Absalom and view him as dominant over David.

Ahithophel’s advice was highly prized in Israel. It actually says in 2nd Samuel 16 verse 23, “Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.”

So that brings us to 2nd Samuel 17, and we hear some new advice.

2nd Samuel 17:1-4 says: Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. 2 I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.”

Ahithophel says let’s strike out right away, tonight, with twelve thousand troops. Don’t give David time to retreat. Strike down only David, then bring back his companions to serve Absalom.

This is actually very good advice, but Absalom is also going to consult Hushai.

In verses 5-6: But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” 6 When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, “Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.”

Remember God is setting all this up to help King David. God judged David through the rebellion of Absalom. But God also helps David during the rebellion. It’s the same thing in our lives. Often there are things in our lives that God is judging us with, and also things God is helping us with.

What is God doing to help you in your life? I’m sure there are many things. What is in your life because of bad choices you made it the past? Many things that I fight today are because of bad choices I made in the past. But God helps me with that too. Even though it my fault in the first place!

So next we see Hushai giving Absalom bad advice. But he makes it sound good. 

From verses 7-13: “Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 8 You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. 9 Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave.”

“So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba—as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. 12 Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.”

Hushai is trying to buy David time to escape and get organized, so he can successfully resist Absalom. Hushai says, let’s wait, because David is a fierce warrior. Let’s gather all the troops from all around the kingdom before we attack David. This is bad advice. Giving David time to escape and plan his next move is dangerous. But it sounds good to Absalom.

In verse 14 the people respond: “Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

This is a direct answer to David’s prayer in 2nd Samuel 15 verse 31. When David discovered Ahithophel was among the conspirators, he prayed to God asking God to frustrate his good advice. And God answered.

The Lord God almighty is sovereign and in control of this situation. Similarly, he is in control in your life. You can trust Him completely. You can trust God will cause things to work together for good. You can also trust that you’ll face problems and difficulties, but God will be with you and will carry you through those tough times. God is carrying David through this tough time. And he’s protecting David behind the scenes.

But also remember, that if you become an Absalom, a rebel against God, God will be working behind the scenes to defeat you and stop you. God frustrates the plans of the wicked, but blesses His people in their time of need.

So now, Hushai sends word back to David, through the priests Zadok and Abiathar, for him to immediately flee the area, cross the river, and head into the wilderness.

It says in verses 15-16: "Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. 16 Now send a message at once and tell David, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.’”

The priests send word through a female servant to their two sons, Jonathan and Ahimaaz, and they’re going to send the message to David to leave the area.

In verses 17-20: “Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. 18 But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left at once and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. 19 His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it. When Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house, they asked, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”

The woman answered them, “They crossed over the brook.” The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem.”

These two messengers nearly get caught by Absalom’s troops as they attempt to get word to David. But they hide inside a well to evade capture.”

This brings up the classic moral quandary, if you’re hiding jews from the nazis, and nazis come and knock on your door and ask you if there are any jews you’re hiding, is it a sin to lie to the nazis? The answer to that question is no. If you’re protecting someone’s life justly, then you are free to deceive the evil people coming to harm them.

But in general in life we should never make a practice of lying, deceit, or manipulation. The new testament reminds us to let our “yes be yes” and let our “no be no.” Which means, keep your commitments, and be honest in your words.

This woman hides the messengers of David, against the authorities, and it’s the right thing to do.

The messengers arrive to David in verses 21 and 22, which state: “After they had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, “Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.” So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.”

David and the hundreds of people with him receive the message and cross the Jordan river, and by the sun rising the next morning they had all crossed over successfully. David was saved by God in this situation.

I often wonder what God has saved me from. So many times we probably have no idea how God has protected us. It all happens without our knowledge. But I know he has spared me in so many ways, from so many terrible things.

Let our prayer be: “Please God keep protecting us!”

He certainly will. He certainly will. Abide in Christ, and he will always protect you. And if something bad does happen, it happens with God’s permission only. Remember, the enemy needs God’s permission to do anything to us.

But God will sometimes give the enemy permission to test us. To see where our heart is. To see if we’ll hold fast to Him. Or get angry and leave. Hold fast to the Lord when you’re under attack. God will help you.

Next in verse 23 we see Ahithophel’s final end. It says, “When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.”

Ahithophel’s pride, I believe, had caused him to join Absalom’s rebellion. And then again his pride, caused him to be so upset and disgraced, that he went home, set everything in order, and then killed himself.

Watch out for pride in your life. It can lead you to do terrible things. Pride is always a danger for a Christian. We have to watch out for it, and be so careful to stay humble. Pray on your knees. Submit to God. Remember your place as a servant of God’s people.

And if God notices pride in your heart, he will humble you. And that’s a mercy from Him. To be grateful if he does humble you. Then repent of pride, and ask for His forgiveness. I’ve had to do that several times over the years.

Ahithophel is so ashamed that his advice wasn’t followed that he commits suicide. It’s a terrible thing. I’m sure many of us know people who have committed suicide. It’s a tragedy beyond words.

Always remember in life, what you’re going through is temporary. Many young people I hear commit suicide because of a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend. If only they knew that what they’re feeling is temporary, and the feeling will end. I had my heart broken a few times when I was in my teens. It always felt impossibly difficult, but after a few months, the feeling would be gone, and I would be ok. Never hurt yourself over something temporary. Remember time will pass and you’ll be ok eventually. It’s really true!

Next in verses 24-26: “David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.”

So David crosses the Jordan and travels another seven miles to Mahanaim and sets up there with remaining loyalist troops.

Meanwhile Absalom has gathered a great army of Israel to destroy David. The rebel army under Absalom has crossed the Jordan river now and is moving toward Mahanaim.

Lastly in verses 27-29, we see a warm welcome for David in Mahanaim:

“When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.”

So David finds help from the people of the city, they bring his troops and his family plentiful food and drink. And they’re going to need it. Because the rebel army has gathered thousands of troops and is marching them. Next week we’ll see the great battle that takes place and what happens to King David, and Absalom.

In summary today, we find the following applications today from our scripture:

1. God’s judgments will always come true. The wicked will be punished by God eternally. (In the case of Ahithophel)

2. God’s mercies will always come true. The righteous will be rewarded generously by God eternally. (In the case of David)

3. Though the righteous stumble seven times, they will not fall (David was driven from Jerusalem, but he was not killed by Absalom’s troops)

4. God answers prayer (He answered the prayer of David to defeat the advice of Ahithophel

5. God is sovereign and in control (He will protect us who follow Him, and he will undermine and defeat those who are rebellious)

6. God allows us to tell a white lie (a lie to protect someone’s life from evil people is acceptable) but We should never make a practice of lying or deceit

7. God has and will protect you from dangers you didn’t even know were there

8. Stay humble in your walk with God, avoid pride at all costs

9. What you’re feeling is temporary and will pass, suicide is permanent.

10. The weapon may form against you, but it won’t prosper (the rebel army marches, but David is provided for, and ready to face them)

Jesus Christ drives the money-changers from the Temple

While Josh McDowell was attending seminary in California, his father went Home to be with the Lord. His mother had died years earlier, but Josh was not sure of her salvation. He became depressed, thinking that she might be lost. Was she a Christian or not? The thought obsessed him. "Lord," he prayed, "somehow give me the answer so I can get back to normal. I've just got to know." It seemed like an impossible request.

Two days later, Josh drove out to the ocean. He walked to the end of a pier to be alone. There sat an old woman in a lawnchair, fishing. "Where's your home originally?" she asked.

"Michigan -- Union City," Josh replied. "Nobody's heard of it. I tell people it's a suburb of --" "Battle Creek," interrupted the woman. "I had a cousin from there. Did you know the McDowell family?"

Stunned, Josh responded, "Yes, I'm Josh McDowell!"

"I can't believe it," said the woman. "I'm a cousin to your mother."

"Do you remember anything at all about my mother's spiritual life?" asked Josh. "Why sure -- your mom and I were just girls -- teenagers -- when a tent revival came to town. It was the fourth night -- we both went forward to accept Christ."

"Praise God!" shouted Josh, startling the surrounding fishermen.
-Our Daily Bread.

The Lord Jesus victoriously burst forth into the capital city at the beginning of Mark chapter 11. The entire book of Mark, indeed the books of Mark, Luke and Matthew all build up to the moment when Jesus the jewish messiah rode triumphantly into the great capital of Israel, Jerusalem.

Jesus entered the temple, looked around, and then left, and went to Bethany.

This is the grand stage of Christ’s ministry, his time in Jerusalem. The time has come, at last, for the show down between the true messiah, and the religious leaders, pharisees, and roman officials.

But first Jesus strategically departs for a moment, until the right time, and now it’s the next day, and he’s leaving Bethany, back toward Jerusalem.

Let’s take a look at verses 12-14: The next day, Jesus was leaving Bethany. He was hungry. 13 He saw a fig tree with leaves. So he went to the tree to see if it had any figs growing on it. But he found no figs on the tree. There were only leaves, because it was not the right time for figs to grow. 14 So Jesus said to the tree, “People will never eat fruit from you again.” His followers heard him say this.”

The environmentalists and climate change people will be upset with this one, I think. Jesus curses this fig tree. It was in full leaf, some translations say, yet he found no figs on it. When a fig tree is in full leaf, it’s quite possible to find early figs on it, but in this case, he finds only leaves.

And this is going to be a teaching moment for the disciples. This is not done out of frustration, just because he was hungry and couldn’t find a fig. No, this was a message about prayer he was sharing with his disciples. That’s one layer.

One layer deeper, this is also a symbolic message about Israel. Israel is often represented in the scriptures as a fig tree. As God’s fig tree, you could say. But, when Jesus came, he found a people that largely rejected him. And as a result they were cursed, like the fig tree is cursed, to be destroyed, and to be driven into the nations for a long time. Today we call it the great diaspora. It happened in AD 70 when Israel led a rebellion against Rome, and declared independence from them. But it was not God’s will. So the Romans raised an army and attacked Israel, Israel fought bravely, but step by step they were slowly defeated. There’s a great documentary about the destruction of Israel in AD 70, it’s called “The Siege of Jerusalem (70 AD) - The Great Jewish Revolt.” It’s free on YouTube by the channel Invicta. It’s absolutely brilliant!

Messiah Jesus knew all this would happen ahead of time. The cursing of the fig tree was symbolic of the destruction of the nation.

Next, we see Jesus again coming to Jerusalem. It says in verses 15-16:

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.”

Messiah Jesus clears the temple of the money changers. This is symbolic of the fact that Jesus would make the way of the gentiles to come into God’s kingdom as well.

Look at what he says next in verse 17: 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. And that is what should’ve been in the temple in Jerusalem. It should’ve been a place where every nation came together to worship God. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations to draw them all to God. And Some of that did go on, there were jewish communities throughout the roman empire. But it wasn’t quite as it should’ve been.

Instead it had become a market of buying and selling, of outward appearance of sacrifice, instead of true heart worship.

But in the end the name of Jesus, the temple of Christ, would become a ‘house of prayer for all nations’ as today we in the gentile world call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Isn’t that wonderful? Truly it is!

The priests and teachers saw Jesus do this and they asked him, as recorded in John’s gospel, what right do you have to do this? What sign can you show? And Jesus says this is my sign, destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it again. They were confused, they said it took 46 years to build the temple, no one could rebuild it in three days.

But Jesus was talking about his body. They would crucify him, but three days later he would be alive again.

Which makes me think Jesus was talking about his body when he referenced the temple being a place of prayer for all nations. Herod’s temple should’ve been that, but in the end Jesus himself would be the place of safety to call upon God from, so we pray “in Jesus name.”

But in Mark’s gospel it simply says in verses 18-19: “When the leading priests and the teachers of the law heard what Jesus said, they began trying to find a way to kill him. They were afraid of him because all the people were amazed at his teaching. 19 That night Jesus and his followers left the city.”

So again the leaders of Israel plan and plot to find a way to kill Jesus and stop him. But they don’t act right at this moment because they’re afraid of him, all the people are amazed at what he’s saying. And again Jesus strategically leaves Jerusalem with his disciples.

Now in verses 20-21 we return to the fig tree near Bethany, “The next morning Jesus was walking with his followers. They saw the fig tree that he spoke to the day before. The tree was dry and dead, even the roots. 21 Peter remembered the tree and said to Jesus, “Teacher, look! Yesterday, you told that fig tree to die. Now it is dry and dead!”

They find the fig tree again and it is completely dead. Jesus uses this as a teaching moment. Remember, it’s symbolic of Israel. But, it’s also a truth about belief and prayer.

It says in verses 22-23: Jesus answered, “Have faith in God. 23 The truth is, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, mountain, fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, then God will do it for you.”

If you have no doubt, then you believe, that what you say will in fact happen, then God will do it for you.

God will do it.

It will happen.

End of story.

If you believe.

If you choose faith, belief, to really believe, then anything is possible. You can pray it, and it will actually happen.

It says in verse 24 then: "So I tell you to ask for what you want in prayer. And if you believe that you have received those things, then they will be yours."

That is the key today, we all have to understand. There is only one point today: Believe in your heart, pray, and you’ll receive.

Then we get the ever-important reminder from the Lord Jesus in verse 25:

"When you are praying and you remember that you are angry with another person about something, forgive that person. Forgive them so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.” 26 26: “But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”

And verse 26 is in italics because, we find it added in some of the early Greek manuscripts of the new testament, but not all of them. But we know it’s true because it occurs in other places in the new testament.

Our prayers are linked to our status with others, isn’t that interesting? It says if you are angry with someone, and you’re praying, first, forgive that person in your heart, then keep praying. Forgive them so your Father in heaven will forgive your sins. This implies an ongoing process of seeking God’s forgiveness when we sin in our lives.

And as we live longer and longer for Christ, we sin less and less, and pretty soon we realize, hey, wow I didn’t sin at all today. Praise the Lord.

So in conclusion today, remember the key for today, Believe and pray, and you will receive. If you doubt, if you’re double-minded don’t expect to receive anything from god, it says in the book of James, but if you believe, and don’t doubt, then you will receive, in His will. Believe that, and your walk with Christ will change the world as you pray.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Absalom's rebellion against King David

Right now in this season of growing politics, we see various candidates political office beginning again to vie for the affections of the people. They make promises, they give their policies, and they fight for the support of the people of the United States. Similarly, in the time of David and Absalom we see a battle for the hearts and affections of the people of Israel.

David's own beloved son Absalom, begins to plot a nefarious conspiracy against his own dad. Let's dive into how that plays out...

From 2nd Samuel 15:1-4: “In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” 4 And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

Absalom, son of king David, begins to wait out on the way to the kings court. People would be coming to meet with the King and Absalom would call them over and find ways to help them with whatever problem they were facing. So he begins to receive the care and support of the nation.

He showed a great deal of compassion and kindness to the people as well. 

It says in verses 5-6, “Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.”

The people would come and bow down before Absalom, and Absalom would take them by the hand and kiss their head and treat them kindly. I’m sure Absalom seemed like a great leader, so kind, so gentle, so caring, so compassionate, or so it seemed.

Absalom did this for four years. And the word of God says that he stole the hearts of the people. The people began to speak well of Absalom, talk about his kindness, his loving nature, his hugs, and help, and pretty soon the whole nation is saying from door to door that Absalom is a great leader, and David, not so much.

Absalom has public support. I’m sure if you took a poll of citizens of Israel, Absalom would have a high favorability rating, probably 80 or 90 percent. David would probably be down around 50 percent, or less.

Now that Absalom has public opinion on his side. So next he plans to gather his followers in Hebron. He goes to King David for permission to visit Hebron.

In verses 7-9: "At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. 8 While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the Lord takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the Lord in Hebron.’” The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron.”

It’s ironic that David said “go in peace” because Absalom’s actual purpose was to make war.

Absalom goes off to Hebron. In verses 10-12: "Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.”

If you recall, the first place where David became king was Hebron. So this would be a familiar story to the people of Israel. For the nation, they probably thought something similar was happening, as to when Saul’s house slowly declined and David’s authority grew.

They might think to themselves, maybe this is like Saul, and David, And Absalom is going to replace David! I’m sure that seemed to be a familiar story in their minds. But it wasn’t true. It wasn’t God’s will. This was the work of Absalom. Absalom is very intelligent though. He’s carefully working things together, gathering a group of leaders, gathering everyday people to his side, spreading word about this trumpet call that would signify the call for rebellion, and even gaining a wise advisor in Ahithophel.

The conspiracy gained strength. It’s gaining momentum. Momentum is very important in life, in business, and in ministry. If you have forward momentum you’re moving and gaining strength, gaining followers, gaining support and funds. If you’re sitting still, well you aren’t growing, you aren’t reaching new people. You’re kinda stuck. For Absalom his rebellion is gaining momentum.

I return again to the comparison between David and Absalom and God and Lucifer. Did Lucifer’s rebellion occur something like that? Did Lucifer quietly gather support, and begin to turn the minds of many of the angels against God and toward himself? I think we get a picture here again of Lucifer’s rebellion against God in heaven and how it may have played out.

So you have this sinister rebellion gathering power in Hebron. I’m sure it feels like there is a dark cloud over the nation. There are rumors of trouble. And eventually word reaches King David.

In verse 13, “A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.””

This sinister rebellion is taking hold across the nation and David can sense it. I’m sure God is giving him a sense that he will have to retreat for the time being.

Similarly in our own lives God will give us a sense of the situation. What should we do next? God will guide us if we seek his counsel. And if we have wise people around us to give us good advice.

In verses 14-15 it says, “Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”

15 The king’s officials answered him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.”

It’s interesting to me that David chose to leave immediately. You might think he would try to fortify Jerusalem, put troops on the walls, gather his forces, but David is very wise. He’s not prideful at all. I would want to stay and fight on the city walls.

But guess what? David knows that Absalom has turned the people even of Jerusalem against him. Many of his troops would not remain loyal. And citizens might plot to let Absalom’s troops in at night or something.

David’s humility guides him to leave the city. This is a very humbling move for him. Sometimes we have to make humbling moves in our lives as well.

We have to humble ourselves and say, well, we need to try something else. This didn’t work. We need to admit that it didn’t work out, and we need to change our strategy. If we’re stubborn and refuse to change, because of pride, then, we may end up harming ourselves and our cause greatly.

Then in verses 16-18, “The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. 17 So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city. 18 All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.”

Can you imagine this moment in history? They pause at the edge of Jerusalem, the king himself and his leaders, having to flee the city. I wonder what time of year it was? I wonder if it was autumn, and it was a bit cold, and cloudy, and the leaves were falling from the trees. That would fit well, wouldn’t it?

King David stopped and his men marched past him line by line as he watched.

I can’t imagine how devastated I would feel at this moment. I would feel like a failure. I would feel so embarrassed, so confused, what is going on God? I’m leaving my own capital city. What a failure I am as the king.

But I’m sure David remembered the judgment God had made against him, and said, “One of your own household will rise up against you.” Maybe David starts to see the pieces fitting together, and maybe, just maybe, he accepts that this is all connected back to what happened between him, and Uriah and Bathsheba.

I don’t know if much of the army had deserted David, I get that sense though it doesn’t say that in the word. But it does say that 600 men, the Gittites (from Gath) stayed loyal to David.

David notices their leader Ittai. So he speaks to him, verses 19-20:

19 The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. 20 You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.”

David invites Ittai to go back. But in verse 21 we find his reply…

21 But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

22 David said to Ittai, “Go ahead, march on.” So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him.”

It’s ironic that troops from another country are the ones that stay loyal to Ittai. Though I’m sure much of the nation is still loyal to David. But they’re being taken by surprise by Absalom’s rebellion.

That’s often what happens even in national conflicts and politics. The rebellion, the dangerous movements gain vast connections as they move quietly, then they come out into the open, and gain more ground, but eventually average everyday people become fed up with the rebellion, and they gather together across the nation, and defeat the rebellion and restore order to the nation.

But in this case, the rebellion has happened fast, and David is on the run. But many of the people are still with him in their hearts.

It says in verse 23: 23 The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.

As David’s group of loyal troops and counselors move past the homes and cities, the sound of crying and tears is heard throughout the land, it’s echoing through the valleys and the hills and the flatlands, down through the streets, people are mourning over this disaster. And as they should.

So you have King David, his various court officials and department heads, and his counselors and advisors, probably a few hundred men, then the six hundred troops of Ittai’s brigade.

Not only that, the high priest and the ark of the covenant is there as well.

It says in verses 24-26:

24 Zadok was there, too, and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city.

25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. 26 But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

This is a powerful moment. King David is refusing to use the ark of the covenant as a good luck charm or as a some banner under his own personal cause. He says no, take the ark back into the city.

If I find favor in God’s eyes, and he will bring me back. And let me see it. And his dwelling place.

David sees God as above this. God is judge over this. David abandons himself to God’s judgment and evaluation.

He refuses to use the ark of the covenant as a rally cry to his cause. He refuses to use his religion to push people to support him. No, he instead recognizes God’s sovereignty. He knows God is over him.

David abandons himself to God.

Next in verses 27-29: "The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Do you understand? Go back to the city with my blessing. Take your son Ahimaaz with you, and also Abiathar’s son Jonathan. You and Abiathar return with your two sons. 28 I will wait at the fords in the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.”

So David says listen, go back to Jerusalem. But I’ll stay along the dead sea. And you come and inform me when it’s safe to return.

Next, in verses 30-31: “But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” So David prayed, “Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.”

This is such a dark moment for David. As he leads his men in retreat, he cries, and he covers his own head, this was a sign in ancient times of mourning. He was also barefoot. So you have this picture of poverty, no shoes, no sandals, another sign of mourning and lostness. The people followed David’s example and also covered their heads in mourning and I’m sure couldn’t help but weep, seeing their own king so grieved.

It’s interesting that David comes upon the mount of olives. That is the place where Jesus would one day come and sit, and say, "be cautious of false messiahs."

From Matthew 24:3-5:  “Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. The followers came to Him when He was alone and said, “Tell us, when will this happen? What can we look for to show us of Your coming and of the end of the world?”

Jesus said to them, “Be careful that no one leads you the wrong way. Many people will come using My name. They will say, ‘I am Christ.’ They will fool many people and will turn them to the wrong way.” 

Jesus was the true messiah, but he knew false messiahs would come.

Similarly, David was the true king, but a false king had come, Absalom.

David also asks God to disrupt Ahithophel’s advice. Ahithophel was a brilliant man. His advice was pure gold, as far as the king was concerned. So he knew it was a danger. So David prays that something will happen to disrupt that good advice to Absalom.

David gets an instant answer to his prayer, in verses 32-37:

32 When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘Your Majesty, I will be your servant; I was your father’s servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,’ then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Won’t the priests Zadok and Abiathar be there with you? Tell them anything you hear in the king’s palace. 36 Their two sons, Ahimaaz son of Zadok and Jonathan son of Abiathar, are there with them. Send them to me with anything you hear.”

37 So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.”

Hushai was one of David’s closest advisors and friends. He just so happens to meet Hushai at the mount of olives, and sends him back to Jerusalem to frustrate Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom. God has set this up to cause events to favor David, despite everything that has happened.

So in conclusion today, all of this was prophesied by Nathan over David, because of what David did long ago, with Bathsheba and Uriah. But, despite all that, God is still with David. David has not been left alone. All this is happening, but, somehow it’s going to be OK.

In our lives it’s hard to remember that when things are going crazy. Because our emotions are going crazy. Don’t believe everything you feel. Feelings change. But God remains the same. David abandons himself to God. He gives himself over. He takes some actions, but in the end, he gives himself to God.

That is what we must do, if we hope to survive. We must give ourselves to Christ Jesus our savior, who died for our sins on the cross. If we give ourselves over completely to Jesus and just surrender to Him, and accept His free gift, we will find that God is with us, even when things seem to be going crazy.

King David has fled the capital. Absalom is moving in with his rebellious forces to claim the city. But the story isn’t over yet. God bless you today.