Posts Tagged ‘David’

Wrecking Ball 2

Breaking and Smashing © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:10 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 2

THERE IS NO OTHER KING

Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT) speaks of Christ, humbled by dying on the Cross, but then it goes on to say “… Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So when have we ever seen this happen? Every knee bowing down? Not yet. There have always been those who don’t believe in Christ and refuse to come under His authority. Through the centuries there have always been those who opposed Christ and His followers. Has the book of Philippians in the Bible got it all wrong? No!

GOD IS PATIENT, BUT …

The Bible describes our present time as a time of God’s grace. 2 Peter 3:9-10 (NLT) explains “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. BUT THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.” 

So the Bible is clear that this prophetic time of judgment hasn’t yet taken place. God is giving the nations time to repent, but one day Christ will return with swift judgment as a victorious ruler.

Jesus is not King of one nation only, but every nation. The rebellion of empires or our individual sin against him in no way diminishes His authority and power. His humble servanthood in no way diminishes His dominion and intention to return as the conquering King.

TO WHOM DO I OWE MY ALLEGIANCE?

“Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth!” (Psalm 2:10 NLT).

So these words are the culmination of an angry promise and warning. Surprisingly, it is a plea from a heart of grace. David says, “Don’t be fools. Act wisely. Be warned.” How are they to act wisely? They have a choice. Submit or be annihilated. Not much of a choice? If they only realized that it’s the choice of a drowning man. Grab the rope and be saved or die. Judgment will come whether you do or not. Fall from a plane without taking the parachute you’ve been offered will have inevitable consequences.

As an ancient king, David could have simply gathered his army and gone against these rebellious kings and brought them to justice, but he doesn’t. He gives them time to consider their future. Before the storm comes, a moment of grace.

In the same way, the Bible uses this Psalm to say that God’s purpose is not to take pleasure in judging us, but to save us from inevitable judgment. Judgment was never intended for us according to the Bible. It is intended for the final judgment of the devil and his angels. Our mutiny leaves us out in the storm but there is shelter in Christ.

Before Jesus came, John the Baptist prepared the way by saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus continued to say exactly the same thing (Matthew 4:17).

The voice of love still invites us to respond in love and repentance to the King of kings.

Pastor Ross

Wrecking Ball 1.jpg

Psalm 2:7-12 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 1

I WILL GIVE YOU THE NATIONS

Psalm 2:7-8 (NLT) says “The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession.” 

All king David has to do is ask and God will give him the nations as his inheritance. Not just a little bit but the whole earth!

This Psalm is used in the New Testament to refer to Christ. It is not surprising then that the verses above are often used in sermons by missionaries who try to say it refers to God giving Christians the nations. After all, Jesus said “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. (Mark 16:15 NLT).

But the context of Psalm 2 best fits JUDGMENT rather than SALVATION.

BREAKING AND SMASHING SIN AND DEATH

Reading this verse in context shows clearly that the King, the anointed One, Messiah, Son of God, will not only inherit the nations if He asks, but that there will be a swift, violent battle and no mercy shown in doing it. The very next verse says “You will BREAK THEM with an iron rod and SMASH THEM like clay pots’” (Psalm 2:9 NLT). It would be more appropriate for missionaries to associate Psalm 2 with the last part of Mark 16:16 – “But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned” (NLT) or with the Second Coming of Christ or the Last Judgment.

It’s the language here that is disturbing and sobering. “You will BREAK THEM with an iron rod and SMASH THEM like clay pots” (Psalm 2:9 NLT). We don’t like to think of Christ breaking and smashing people. These are violent and severe terms that don’t belong to a sweet Jesus, meek and mild who we have devised for our own fairy tale reassurance. But the reassuring thing about Easter is that Christ broke and smashed the power of sin and death.

The Roman empire rose up to conquer a threat to their kingdom and instead Christianity gained the victory as it spread throughout their empire on Roman roads. Religious extremists rose up to put an end to His kingdom, but instead, Christ dealt a blow to their evil as they helped paved the way for the love of Christ which blossomed despite persecution. Christ and His purposes will be accomplished and evil will not have it’s way. The Bible also says Christ is coming again to lay claim to His inheritance of the nations and judge the world.

King David, who wrote this Psalm, is a pretty violent sort of person. He is making it clear that those who have opposed him as the Lord’s anointed king are going to be conquered. And broken. And Smashed.

Even as a humble shepherd boy, David had used his sling to strike anyone or anything that would attack his sheep. He used his sling to defeat Goliath and led his army in many battles. Breaking and smashing.

Christ is described in the Bible as the great Shepherd who will lovingly find the lost sheep but will also protect the flock from thieves and wolves.

He has already destroyed the power of the devil and also brings judgment to all who are in rebellion against God. The sentencing is yet to be announced but judgment day will come. Evil at His crucifixion was categorically defeated. What was meant for evil was used by God in Breaking and smashing the power of Sin and Death.

The invitation, while the earth is out on bail, is to find trust in Christ alone who pardons our sin and represents us when the big court day comes.

Pastor Ross

PSALM 2 – MUTINY!

Posted: March 15, 2017 in Psalm 2, Psalms
Tags: , , , ,

Crowsnest1

“There Where the Human Spirit Strives” Crowsnest © Image created in Blender by Ross Cochrane

PSALM 2 – MUTINY!

(an analogy based on the truth of Psalm 2)

David King (King David) – First Mate – Ship’s Log

MAN THE DECKS!

The ship of humanity has been afloat for thousands of years, though the raging seas of sin and the winds of war have stung like the slapping fingers of a cat of nine tails on our pride. The decks and hull creaks and leaks in various places with each lashing. The sails are torn, but the masts still reach toward the heavens and the Crowsnest is manned; there in the highest loft, the human spirit still strives.

STOW THE CARGO!

The crew are greedy – continually stowing dangerous cargo and contraband on board – new social and cultural norms, politically acceptable corruption, and perilous religious views; all cannons and weapons held as valuable in various ports in the blackest of trades, but which load the ship with a heaviness that threatens to sink her if there’s bad weather.

BALE THE WATER!

Already we are frantically bailing to stay afloat. If she begins taking on too much more water it will demand a decision be made to throw such a cargo overboard, but there are those who would rather cling to it and risk Davy Jones’s Locker.

PLOT THE COURSE!

Mutiny is well underway and the Commander of our souls is being ignored. His compass and sextant have been thrown overboard but I am convinced that He alone can save us. The crew is drunk with the rum of self-importance and arrogant disregard for the Captain, indignant in their vanity.

Everyone seeks to be at the helm, but the ship is adrift as another storm looms large on the horizon. Oblivious to their plight, they plot their own destruction.

Psalms 2:1 asks, “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans?” Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) replies, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

INCITE A MUTINY!

“The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against His anointed one” (Psalm 2:2 NLT).

Mutiny! A criminal conspiracy among a group of people to openly oppose, change, or overthrow the lawful authority to which they are subject.

Who are these kings of the earth who incite mutiny; who seduce those they lead from thinking they have any duty or allegiance to God and God’s anointed Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ? Who are these who goad the traitorous intentions of the nations; who are willing to risk imprisonment for eternity by their mutinous assemblies; who inspire rebellion in their arrogance?

I am all too willing to point the finger to numerous leaders in this world, but in reflecting on my own life, I suspect that I am included in their number and share their guilt, for in my own inclinations towards rebellion, I can see there are times when I have deliberately sought to ignore or overthrow the intentions of God and His Son, the Lord Jesus.

FREE THE SLAVES!

Psalm 2:3 (NLT) continues, “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”  

When I see myself as a slave rather than a son, I find myself wanting to be free of the chains of authority. But what chains bind us? Why do we consider that the rule of God enslaves us rather than frees us? Why are we suspicious of His motives and fail to see His love?

Perhaps it is because all of us are enslaved in some way by the choices we make. All of us are subject to laws of some sort. All of us wear a yoke; there are always boundaries. The difference is that Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  

Mutiny or compliance? The one in whom I am in mutiny against will determine the level of my striving and gauge my freedom.

MAKE THE CAPTAIN WALK THE PLANK!

As I write this poem I am incredulous. I cannot understand why anyone would want to do this. It is such a futile waste of life.

Note added: David’s incredulity is visited on the centuries that follow. With so many New Testament references, this is clearly a prophetic Psalm, with Messianic as well as local intent.

The New Testament recognized this psalm’s fulfillment in the mutiny of Jewish and Roman officials to crucify Christ. Acts 4:25-28 (NLT) is a prayer. Peter and John pray, “You spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against His Messiah.’ “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, Your holy servant, whom You anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will.” 

INCITE A MUTINY AGAINST MUTINY!

So I have launched my own mutiny against mutiny itself, and made myself walk the plank; to die to self. Avast! I have cast off the old way of life and live the new. I have pulled up the anchor, manned the Crowsnest and a new course has been plotted into new territory with new horizons and a new destiny with new opportunities in Christ.

I have gone about; turned the ship around and I am under new orders. Everything is above board; open for all to see. I am willing to face any storms that may come but I am under a new command. Christ has the bearings of this ship and I follow the course He has plotted. I may not know the ropes completely but I am willing to swab the decks and serve Him. I hold fast to His calling.

The sails are hoisted and we are running with the wind, goosewinged sails, the mainsail to port and the jib to starboard; maximizing the amount of canvas exposed to the wind. I stand on the quarterdeck, wind to my back, sailing towards the horizon with expectation and hope. David King (King David).

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls 

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 76

It was some time later that David walked in the King’s Valley and touched the stone that reminded him of his son. It now lies under the rubble of years, but once it stood tall and stark against the sky for all to see. It was called Absalom’s monument because Absalom built it on his way back from Hebron after being declared king. It stood as a reminder to the people of Israel of a handsome young man who hated the authority of his own father, and held bitterness in his heart until it erupted like a cancerous growth and consumed him. It served as a reminder of God’s grace rejected.

Absalom, your pride blinded you, thought David, and now all I have left of you is this symbol of rebellious futility. How easy it is for someone like you to look on the outward appearance. If only you had known that God looks always on the heart.

You were like me in so many ways at various times in my own life; deceptive, stubborn and selfish, but I did not know that you would hold such deep hurt inside for so long against me. Your unrepented sin has festered into the poison of bitterness against the Lord’s anointed, and you have caused me grief I can barely carry.

At this same spot in the King’s Valley Abraham had once met with the king of Sodom: the man of God and a king of Godlessness. Perhaps it is appropriate you chose to build your monument here.

The lion of Judah and the wolf. As king David touched the monument it was as if this man after God’s own heart was touching the stony surface of Absalom’s heart. It seemed that God wept with him for his son and perhaps for all those with a spirit such as this.

 Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Joab looked at the carvings on the hilt of the Canaanite dagger in his hand. Dedicated to the gods of war as it came from a Philistine kiln, it had once belonged to his brother, Asahel. It had been used by men with vengeance in their hearts to commit murder. The very shape of vengeance, thought Joab, cold, hard and razor sharp. On the handle was a carving of a lion and wolf in mortal combat. In the hands of avenging predators, it had already lain Absalom, Abner and Amnon in their graves.

Amasa, the new general of king David’s army was not on guard as Joab greeted him.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Postscript

Sitting in his favourite chair and looking back over the years that had transpired, he reflected upon David and the Son of David. He had experienced personally the incredible power of the forgiveness of Christ which stood in such stark contrast to the destructive power of bitterness and selfish ambition of Absalom, Joab, Ahithophel, Judas and so many others since king David.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he instructed his amanuensis to write words of eternal significance to the Hebrew Church. Such impact they have had upon my life already, he thought, even now as I write them to you who have ears to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to the Church of the living God.

His loud clear, sonorous voice repeated the words that came from heaven’s throne, as his amanuensis inscribed the parchment, in flawless script with his stylus.

“Obey your leaders, and submit yourselves to their authority; for they keep watch as shepherds over your souls, and they will one day give an account to God. Let them do this work to which God has called them with joy and not grief, for this would be very unprofitable for you.”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

 Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 75

No-one dared to stop Joab. The door was nearly unhinged as he thrust it open and roared at David with the gravelly voice more like that of a war-cry, “Today you have covered this city with shame. Everywhere I go the faces of the warriors who saved your life and the lives of your family are filled with a sense of regret. Your sons and daughters, your wives and your concubines are alive today because of them but it seems that you love your enemies who hate you and use you, and you hate those who proved their love by killing your enemies. I don’t understand you at all. You have shown today that those who serve you mean nothing to you. If Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead, maybe then you would be pleased.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. How am I supposed to feel about the death of my son? What do you expect of me?”

“I expect you to go out to your servants who fought hard to save you today and have some kind things to say to them, instead of heaping guilt upon them. I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out to them now there will not be one man left to stand with you by the time this night is through. You don’t seem to realise that if they leave you now this could be the worst thing that has ever happened to you.”

“All right, Joab! Leave me!” It seemed that the spirit of Absalom still had the power to wrest a kingdom from David’s hand, this time by using his grief.

David came to his senses and despite the ache in his heart, he went out and sat between the inner and outer gate of the city. The news travelled quickly and everyone came to see their king and to share their victory with him.

Many people were already making their way back to Jerusalem. Absalom was dead. They wondered what the future held for them but they could do no more than to return to their homes.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Zadok and Abiathar wasted little time with preliminary greetings but said, “King David has sent word to us. He has told us to speak with you. His message is, ‘Why is it that you are the last to bring your king back to Jerusalem and to his palace. All of Israel waits for you. You are my brothers; bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Why then should you be the last ones to take action?’” Relief swept across the elder’s faces as sat together at the gate of Jerusalem, except for Amasa, Shimei and Mephibosheth who were among them.

Zadok continued, “King David also says to you, Amasa, ‘You are my own flesh and blood, my nephew. May God deal with me severely if I do not appoint you to be commander of the army in place of Joab.’” David intended to replace Joab because he had disobeyed him concerning his son, but to place such trust in the man who led the opposing army against him was almost more than these men could comprehend.

Humbly, Amasa gave voice to their thoughts. “What kind of king could forgive in such a way as this? King David bears no malice. He truly is a man after God’s own heart.”

“Perhaps he will find it in his heart to forgive me also.” said Shimei.

A message was sent to the king immediately, inviting him to return.

There were no stones in Shimei’s hands this time as he met king David at the Jordan. “Forgive me, my lord. Please do not remember the wrong I did to you when you left Jerusalem. Please don’t take these things to heart. I know that I have sinned. That’s why I am here. I wanted to be the first to meet with my lord the king.”

Abishai had no sympathy. He said, “This scoundrel deserves to die! He has cursed the Lord’s anointed! What reason do we have for not putting him to death, my lord? What would you have me do with him?”

David spoke directly and firmly to Abishai, “You have also opposed me when you all disobeyed me concerning Absalom. Perhaps the question you should be asking is what will I do with you? Let me make it quite clear that it is not a good idea for you sons of Zeruiah to make mention of the death sentence concerning those who have cursed the Lord’s anointed.”

Looking out at a sea of serious faces, David smiled and said, “Why should any man be put to death in Israel today? This is a day to celebrate! This day I am king over Israel!” There was much cheering and a shout went up that seemed to echo in eternity and down the corridors of time, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The king crossed the Jordan with his people. David forgave those who had opposed him such as Amasa, acknowledged those who were disabled such as Mephibosheth, and honoured those who were old like Barzillai, the man who had provided for him in Manahaim.

“Such a king as David will rule with justice.” Barzillai said to his old friend Obed-edom, “It seems that as our king returns, the very presence of God is also returning to Jerusalem with him.”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 74

Managing to take hold of his dagger, Absalom wildly jabbed its point towards Joab, but Joab deftly took hold of his hand and thrust it back mercilessly into Absalom’s heart. He followed this by plunging his spear into Absalom’s twitching frame. Then a second and third.

Joab’s armour bearers joined in, striking Absalom’s body until it fell. As his body lay on the ground, it was unrecognisable except for his hair, much of which still remained entangled in the tree.

Those who had gathered around now stood in horror. Joab ordered the signaler to blow the trumpet to regather his soldiers from their pursuit of the remnants of Absalom’s shattered and spend forces. The battle was won.

Roughly dragging Absalom’s limp frame by the hair, as if it was a bag of refuse, Joab cast it into a deep pit in the forest. His deep, course, rasping voice broke the silence, “This young man may have been the kings son but he was a murderer and rebellious criminal. He deserved to die. If he had won this battle none of you would have been spared. He would have murdered his own father like he did his brother. The law of God demands that the grave of a rebellious son be heaped with stones. If what I am saying is wrong then kill me also. But if I am right, then show no mercy!” Joab threw the first stone and each man followed until a wild frenzy of stones were heaped upon Absalom’s bloody and broken body.

 Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

It seemed like an eternity that David had been sitting between the outer and inner gates of the city. When the watchman notified him that he could see only a single runner, he presumed the news was good. It was customary to send two unknown runners if the news was bad and someone well known if the news was good.

Before the runner arrived, the watchman informed the king of another runner. Since they were not together David still hoped for the best. He was even more encouraged to see that the first runner was Ahimaaz.

Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok the priest, had been overjoyed when he arrived back to Joab and had asked special permission to take the news of victory to the king.

Joab had said, “Why do you want to go, my son? I assure you there is no reward for giving the king news about Absalom.” Ahimaaz was insistent. “Alright go, but when you arrive, tell him only of victory. Nothing about Absalom, understand! I will send one of the Cushite runners to tell him of Absalom.”

Taking a shorter path, Ahimaaz arrived before the Cushite. When he ran through the gate he was breathless but managed to say to the king, “All is well.” He prostrated himself before king David.

“Blessed is the Lord your God, for He has delivered you from your enemies.”

“Is it also well with my son Absalom?” said David.

“I can only report to you of victory, my lord. The Cushite runner will tell you more.”

When the Cushite arrived, he also gave the news of victory.

David interrupted him, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?”

The Cushite reached into the folds of his coat for a lock of hair. He handed it to king David. Then he voiced what David had been afraid to hear, “Let all the enemies who do evil against my lord the king, be as that young man!”

David was so deeply affected that he left the room immediately, unable to speak for some time. Up in the chamber over the gate, grief overwhelmed him and he paced the floor trying to escape the hollow, searing pain in his heart from which hope had been seized. He wept bitterly. In deep anguish, he repeated over and over, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! I would have preferred to die instead of you. O Absalom, my son, my son!”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

 © by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 73

The slaughter was horrendous. At battle’s end, 20,000 men lay dead. Because of the strategic positions of Joab’s men, more of Absalom’s forces died in the forest that day than in open combat by the sword. David’s careful strategy and many years of guerrilla warfare in rugged terrain such as this had taught Joab how best to use the geography of the country to full advantage in battle.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

His long hair flying in the wind, Absalom rode his mule towards the thickest part of the forest he could find, Abishai’s men in pursuit. As his mule veered sharply, careering under the thick branches of a great oak, there was no time to lower his head, and crossed branches were thrust under his chin.

The shuddering halt caused extreme trauma to his pharynx. His head caught fast in the oak and his neck was almost broken. As the momentum of his body swung, its full weight wrenched on his spinal column and Absalom momentarily lost consciousness. A tingling sensation ran down his spine from his head and the impact left him temporarily unable to move his arms or legs.

Growing his hair had made him a further victim of his vow against David. Now it was caught around the branches so that he was left hanging awkwardly between heaven and earth. Balanced precariously, in shock and fear, he waited for the end to come.

The man who had followed Absalom saw that he was unable to move. He sheathed his sword and sent word immediately to Joab. When Joab arrived he was furious, “You saw him and you didn’t strike him down! I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt as a reward.”

The soldier was defensive. “Even if you gave me a thousand pieces of silver, I would not have killed him. He is the king’s son. You heard what the king said. He told you to protect him. We all heard the command. Besides, I am sure that if I had killed him you would not have supported me before the king.”

“Don’t waste my time.” I’ll deal with your insolence later. He pushed the man out of the way.

For a fleeting moment Absalom saw Joab moving towards him with a spear but then as he slipped once again into the ethereal world of semi-consciousness, he seemed to hear his father’s voice say, “He is my son.” Then the strong hands of his father were reaching up to free him. Father, spare my life again!

Searing, throbbing pain pierced through his body, singing with increasing volume in his head. Absalom saw himself seated on the throne of David’s kingdom with his father now lying prostrate before him, begging him for mercy. Will I send you into exile or keep you under house arrest for the rest of your natural life?

“Bring me my dagger”, he said, but his voice seemed to be deep and gravelly. One of the soldiers nearby brought a dagger to him. It had strange carvings on the handle of a lion and a wolf in mortal combat.

David was tied, hands outstretched, suspended from the branches of a tree. You will pay! He raised the dagger and thrust it toward his father’s heart. As the dagger moved closer he looked on with the delight of insanity written into the features of his face.

But the face changed. Instead of his father, the face that looked at him was now the face of Amnon. As the dagger continued its journey and in the flickering filtered light, the face changed again and again.

Eternity was opening its doors and he saw the face of Ahithophel just before he hanged himself and many of the faces of the soldiers wide-eyed in the terror of certain death. In the array of faces that appeared was a man whom he did not recognise with a crown of thorns on His head and nails in His hands His feet.

The dagger had reached its destination as the face changed for one final timeless moment. My own face! To his horror, he realised that he was executing himself. “No! Stop!” he yelled.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 72

A murmur went through the crowd, each person shocked at David’s proposal. Joab thought No-one is going to agree with this, and he was right.

David had planned as carefully as he could. Firstly he had set commanders over every hundred men and overall commanders over every thousand men. Each of the commanders were seasoned warriors. He had divided his army further into three groups, headed by Joab, Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite. But as he finished his battle plan and strategies he had said, “I will lead you out and may the Lord be with us.”

For a moment there was silence and then everyone began to speak at once. One man said, “My lord, you should not go with us. You are their main target. They are not concerned about us. If half of us died, they would still only be concerned to find and kill you.” Another man confirmed this by saying, “You are worth ten thousand of us, my lord.” One of the commanders of thousands said, “Please, my lord, it would be better that you remain in the city and be ready for the last line of attack.” They were all united in their agreement.

David could see that it was not worth arguing. He had not been looking forward to facing his own son in battle so this came as a welcome relief. “As you wish. I’ll do whatever you think is best.”

He then spoke to Joab, Abishai and Ittai, in the hearing of all the people, “I command each of you to deal gently with Absalom for my sake. He is my son. Bring him back to me alive.” Abishai and Ittai gave their agreement. Joab snarled something under his breath and began to get his commanders ready.

As his forces left the city in their regiments David stood at the gate and prayed God’s blessing over them.

Joab sent scouts ahead. “Find out where Absalom’s men are stationed and give me a report of the terrain.” They were familiar with the drill.

The battle began as Absalom had hoped. David’s forces led by Ittai attacked the superior numbers of Absalom’s army. They came swarming out of the forest, shouting and waving their swords, shields and spears. It was not long, however, before Ittai’s forces looked as if they would be overwhelmed.

Suddenly, Ittai did the only thing he was able to do. He sounded a retreat. Absalom signalled his troops to pursue the enemy. From his vantage point, he could see that they would be trapped by the rugged terrain.

Ittai’s men looked helpless as they ran headlong back into the forest. They stopped before a large pitted area. As Absalom had predicted, the rugged terrain would not allow them the time they needed to retreat any further. They could only watch as Absalom’s forces bore down upon them. Ittai faced his pursuers with courage.

Just before Absalom’s men engaged them in battle, Ittai turned to his trumpeter and said, “Now!” The trumpeter signalled the attack. When Joab heard the signal his men suddenly closed in from the sides.

The ambush was successful but the sheer numbers of Absalom’s army meant the battle was not yet won. Ittai manoeuvred his forces and speared his way out of the forest splitting the rest of Absalom’s distracted army in half. From his position, Absalom had no way of knowing his men had fallen into Joab’s trap until he saw his army being separated.

Simultaneously, Abishai’s men had manoeuvred themselves behind Absalom’s main command force and attacked them. Without their commanders, Absalom’s army was in disarray and was now scattering all over the countryside. Many, disoriented without their commanders and not understanding what had happened in the forest, continued to run straight into Joab’s trap.

Abishai’s troops systematically cleaned up the remaining forces from behind and fought wherever they were needed the most. The battle was long and bloody.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 71

His arrival was royally received. David had chosen the Levitical town of Mahanaim deliberately. It had been the capital of Saul’s son, king Ish-bosheth, and so it was already known as a royal city. Strongly fortified, it was the boundary between the lands of Gad and Manasseh, a strategic place to be for a king who did not want to divide his people. For David, it was also a sacred place, a town assigned to Levites back in the days of Joshua – a place where I can pray.

Grateful for the blessings of his journey so far, he thanked God for the people of the region. They had brought them every form of refreshment they needed; beds, basins, pottery, wheat, barley, flour, grain, beans, lentils, seeds, honey, curds, sheep, and cheese. The food was a welcome greeting after their journey through the wilderness.

Such generosity had followed them through their travels so far. In thanksgiving prayer David recalled the generosity of Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, while he had been on the Mount of Olives. And now Barzillai, an old and trusted ironsmith had also brought him supplies and weapons of extraordinary quality.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

It was Hushai who reported to Absalom. His news was disturbing. “Ahithophel has hanged himself.” Absalom seemed unperturbed and said absently, “Well, Ahithophel, … that was unexpected. It seems he does not take well to his new king refusing to take his advice. Bury him in his father’s grave, privately. Tell people he was ashamed of failing his king.”

As Hushai arranged for Ahithophel’s broken body to be buried without ceremony, he thought, You were once one of David’s closest counsellors, but now you will be remembered as a traitor. You have failed the king, but it is not Absalom. At times remorse pursues men relentlessly to their deaths.

In years to come the spirit of Ahithophel would enter a man called Judas as he greeted Jesus, the One called the Son of David, and betray him with a kiss. Judas would also hang himself.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Some days later Absalom crossed the Jordan with his huge army. It appeared as if all the men of Israel were with him. Absalom had chosen a man called Amasa to lead his army to face Joab. Amasa looked very much like Joab, tall and well-built. Amasa’s father had married the sister of Joab’s mother. Absalom had chosen him deliberately. Nephew against Uncle. Son against father. Brothers against brothers. They would camp at Gilead, in the mountains.

The day of reckoning has come, thought Absalom as he rode before his army, with a smile on his face. His army greatly outnumbered David’s. And his spies had discovered the position of David’s forces. My greatest goal will soon be achieved.

 

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration of Job. You will not read another commentary like it. All royalties for the e-book, if any, will go to Hope Street in Sydney, Australia.

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 70

Ahimaaz and Jonathan remained completely still, straining to hear as much as they could from the darkness above them. They were crammed into a small space inside a well in the middle of the courtyard. Eliana had placed a covering over the well and spread grain on it so that it looked like the place of threshing. They heard her say, “Can I offer you some food, sir” and knew that she was trying to entice someone away from their hiding place.

Something in her manner seemed to be unusual, but Paltiel could not pinpoint what it was. He had been here only once before, visiting Eliana’s husband, asking many questions about the people in the area. Since he had appeared to be friendly, her husband had welcomed him.

Eliana thought, If only Azriel were here now. They had long since assumed Paltiel to be one of Absalom’s spies. There were those in Bethurim who were very much against David. Many of them had agreed to be Absalom’s eyes and ears. When Ahimaaz and Jonathan had arrived she had the wisdom to have the road watched and the well ready for use.

As Eliana stood in the courtyard she could see the hate in Paltiel’s eyes. She had seen that same hate burning in the eyes of another man named Shimei. A hatred fired white hot and molten in the furnaces of Absalom’s war.

Not willing to move a muscle, Ahimaaz and Jonathan remained silent. They could hear the sound of their own breathing but nothing else. How long could they maintain their positions? Extremely uncomfortable they waited and the confinement of the well seemed to be pressing in on them with each minute that went by. They could hear nothing from above.

Then, when they were least expecting it, the covering of the well began to move. Suddenly, light flooded into to their hiding place, hurting their eyes and exposing their vulnerability. Ahimaaz could hear his pulse pounding in his ears as he felt a hand take hold of his wrist. He flinched but the grip was strong. We have been discovered!

“You can come out now”, Eliana said, with music in her voice, “They’re gone.” Both of them breathed a sigh of relief as they were assisted from the well. They were cramped and aching from the confined space. A smile radiated from a red and bruised face as they departed. This brave woman had risked her own life to save theirs.

The search had apparently continued for some time but to no avail. Eventually, frustrated and angry, Paltiel and his men had returned to Jerusalem.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

David’s men recognised Ahimaaz and Jonathan at the ford and they were ushered into his presence. They were both breathless as they gave their warning, “You will need to cross the Jordan immediately! Ahithophel has counselled against you.”

David spoke with Joab,

“We will head towards Mahanaim.”

“Yes, my lord. I shall speak with the other leaders.”

“No. Tell them only one part of our journey at a time. Absalom may have spies among us and I don’t want to risk the lives of so many people.”

David mobilised his people immediately and by dawn, they had all crossed the Jordan.