Posts Tagged ‘Discernment’

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 61

Ahithophel was on the defensive. He had deliberately stalled the report of these rumours from David until the right moment, but now he was being summoned to the court by the king because Joab had been probing into the reports concerning Absalom. He arrived at court as Joab was expressing his concerns to the king.

After the formalities, David said, “I rely your advice as my chief of intelligence, but I find there has been much talk in the kingdom suggesting I appoint Absalom as Judge of Israel. Apparently some are saying that I intend to announce Absalom as King. I intend no such thing. Why haven’t I heard you speak about this?”

“My lord, it is merely gossip. I saw no need.”

David pursued the issue. He was annoyed and said, “Give me your thoughts on this gossip.”

This was a welcome opportunity. Expressing his ideas freely but carefully, Ahithophel made a case for Absalom as Judge of Israel, showing that he had thought through the issues well, as usual. He wove his words together skilfully and ended by saying, “He certainly seems well qualified for the position…”

Joab, who had stood by with a scowl on his face could stand it no longer. He interrupted in his harsh, deep, rasping voice, “Just because he rides around on that chariot like some kind of glorified champion of the people doesn’t mean he has the ability to be the Judge of Israel.”

“Be careful with your words, Joab!” David was willing to discuss matters concerning the security of the kingdom but he would not have anyone underestimate the abilities of any of his sons, nor speak of them disrespectfully.

Joab ignored the warning and said, “This is ludicrous, my king! Absalom has already killed Amnon, his own brother! He is a dangerous young man who always gets what he wants!” Without pause Joab turned to Ahithophel and said, “Now you want him appointed as Judge of Israel! Is that your idea or his?”

David said, “Enough! You dare speak of Amnon when you have Abner on your conscience.” He had been tempted to speak further of Joab’s murder of Abner but a fleeting thought of Uriah the Hittite made him hold his tongue.

“Are you completely blind?” shouted Joab, overstepping his authority completely.

“Get out! Your insolence is not helpful!” Joab, you and I are both blinded by our past. 

When Joab was gone David turned to Ahithophel, obviously annoyed and a little embarrassed. After a time the king spoke carefully and with deliberation. “I agree with Joab,” he said. “This time I am not willing to heed your advice, Ahithophel. I will not appoint Absalom as Judge in Israel. I am amazed at your lack of discernment. You have been influenced too much by my son and by what people are saying.”

David did intend to re-instate Absalom as one of his counsellors along with his other sons, but certainly not in the high office of Judge of Israel. Solomon perhaps, but not Absalom. He said nothing of this to Ahithophel. “I want you to work alongside Absalom and give balance to his counsel, not come under his influence. It will soon be 40 years since Samuel anointed me as king. I will have some important announcements to make then. In the meantime try to bridle my son’s ambitions.”

Ahithophel was astounded. You tell me that my counsel is like that of a prophet, yet you reject it! You are being foolish, he thought. His counsel had rarely been rejected. He was unable to say anything but “Yes, my lord”. He left the court deeply offended, only to find Joab was waiting for him.

“I have nothing to say to you.” Ahithophel said as Joab stood in his way, but the imposing figure of this man gave him no choice but to pause.

“Absalom is a dangerous man, Ahithophel. You would do well to be careful.”

Ahithophel turned and walked down the steps without making a comment. Dangerous indeed. Absalom is one of the few people who has any common sense around here! he thought. Even Hushai did not seem as open as Absalom was with him. It is not of Absalom of whom I must be careful.

Ahithophel felt the final ties of allegiance to king David gradually falling away. How could you sacrifice my advice for that of Joab’s so easily, and accuse ME of a lack of discernment?

“You speak of discernment” he muttered, remembering his granddaughter, Bathsheba, and the shame of adultery that had been displayed openly like an unbandaged, festering sore when Nathan gave his now famous prophecy in court. Discernment isn’t one of your best attributes. Your immorality is now part of the history of your kingdom, giving your enemies cause to blaspheme God!

Absalom acted with justice when Amnon had raped Tamar. Amnon’s so-called murder was the will of God. Yes, I will have to be careful, but not of Absalom.

Ahithophel neglected to mention his meeting with the king to Absalom.

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Matthew 16:1-12 – GIVE ME A SIGN! 

"Wrinkled faces I have met" Photo drawing by author Ross Cochrane June 9, 2013

“Wrinkled faces I have met”
Photo drawing by author Ross Cochrane June 9, 2013

“You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!” (Matthew 16:3 NLT).

Dusk in the park at Autumn; cold fingers on my face as the night air begins to envelop the earth; fallen leaves forming a carpet of colours muffling the sound of footfall. A fleeting feeling of abandonment fills my senses as bare branches, frozen against the sky become etchings of wrinkled faces that I have known. Wrapped up to insulate myself from the Autumn air, I am still exposed to it’s beauty and in this temporary reprieve from Winter’s harsh indifference, I am once again reminded of the seasons of my life.

GIVE ME A SIGN!

“Give me a sign!” I want a clear sign to show me the way ahead when all I find are faded footprints that beckon me to follow; half-hints of hope to convince my recalcitrant doubts about the future and persuade my flickering faith to persist. At times I turn away even though the path is cleared of Autumn leaves and debris from a storm. Summer shines it’s light but I am blinded by it’s truth and I insist on another path, well travelled; the path I know that leads in circles round the park; the path of Pharisees and Sadducees; of reason and religious leaven; of blind indifference to miracles and to the sign of Jonah. “Lord, give me a sign!” … and then You lead me past the Cross and to the empty tomb, past my fears and to the upper room, past my pride to prostrate fall in fear and love before Your throne. And there before the glassy sea in worship You renew the calls of spring in me. In chords divine Your voice like rivers flowing from my heart says “Be My sign”

(Ross Cochrane June 2013)

United only in opposing Christ, they come. The Pharisees challenge Jesus to produce a supernatural sign of their own choosing. The Sadducees, who do not believe in signs and supernatural events agree in their desire to silence Jesus; to discredit Him by asking for a sign, especially if He fails to do as they demand. Matthew Henry says “It is great hypocrisy, when we slight the signs of God’s ordaining, to seek for signs of our own devising.” Jesus paints this demand in winter colours; Spiritual adultery! Unfaithfulness to God! “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4 NLT). Then Jesus leaves and if I persist in asking for my own sign, I too will remain blind and left behind amidst His miracles; the footprints left in Jesus’ wake.

Jonah the prophet preached to Nineveh, an evil and adulterous city and they repented (Jonah 3:5-10). Extraordinary! Changed lives! Is the repentance of thousands of people the sign of the prophet Jonah as Jesus brings healing and understanding to their lives? He leaves the Pharisees and Sadducees wondering about Jonah, but in no doubt that He has associated them personally with an “evil and adulterous generation”. 

What greater signs can God give than the signs of lives changed radically forever. No excuse for unbelief. What right do I have to come to Jesus and demand signs of my own choosing, instead of discerning the signs God has chosen to give. His remarkable, outstanding, astonishing, brilliant, miraculous signs! No not the sunset or the seasons but Christ alive in me! Jesus is God’s sign. My changed life is God’s sign to a fallen world. 

The ultimate sign has been given when Jesus died for my sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead. Like Jonah, He spent three days and nights in the grave. Romans 1:4 (MSG and NLT) says “His unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 10:9 (NLT) says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Pastor Ross

If this message has been like a sign and helped in pointing you towards Christ, please pass it forward to others who need to discern the signs Jesus speaks of.

 

 

Matthew 7:1-2 – BOOMERANGS, MIRRORS AND GLASS HOUSES

Boomerangs, Mirrors and Glass Houses

He turns right slightly, his sinewed muscles and black skin responding to the direction of the wind. Standing sideways with his feet-apart, his left foot forward, he points with his left hand in the direction of intended flight, just above the horizon. He holds the tip of a strange curved wooden object, his thumb on top and three fingers below. Cocking it back to ensure a good spin and stepping sharply forward with his left foot, he thrusts this carved, curled, curious object overhand as if he were throwing a spear, giving it a whip-like flick with his index finger just before it is released. With a smooth breathlike whoosh, the BOOMERANG takes a spectacular flight in a distinct curve to the left, climbing gently, levelling out and arcing back around toward him as if it is being summoned back to the origin of it’s journey and to the presence of the thrower. As it hovers for a moment he reaches out, deftly catching it. He is already aware of the prey that has been disturbed by it’s flight, and his spear is at hand.

Jesus says “Do not JUDGE others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2 NLT). Judgment boomerangs!

I launch judgments everyday on appearance, behaviour, speech, attitudes, promises, guilt or innocence, who I believe and who I don’t. When Jesus says “Do not JUDGE others…” He does not mean that I never use my DISCERNMENT! The word He uses and the context of this passage suggests judgment which is harsh and petty, given with loveless intention. The invitation He gives to avoid such judgment returning, boomerang-like, is for us to look at ourselves first. MIRROR, MIRROR on the wall, who is the guiltiest of them all? Are the faults I see reflected simply those that I’ve detected in the people I’ve rejected since they look too much like me? Projected judgments return with a vengeance.

So how do we address the sins we see in another person’s life? Jesus isn’t sweet and gentle when He calls the Pharisees “Hypocrites! Whitewashed tombstones! Brood of Snakes!” The Pharisees judge others in all the wrong ways. They are critical, negative, sharp-tongued slanderers whose standards are twisted and distorted by their black hearts. Jesus condemns them for being conceited, spiritually blind, showing a real lack of love, and for being hypocrites. And as He speaks to them, He also speaks to me about this issue. He is looking me directly in the eye and saying, “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:5 NLT).

People in GLASS HOUSES shouldn’t throw boomerangs! Luke 6:38 (NASB) says “… For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Haman discovered this when he prepared a gallows for Mordecai (Esther 7:9-10). Kent Hughes says “Very few of us dare to pray, “God, judge me as I judge my fellow men and women.””

Judgments become transformed from weapons of offence to instruments of healing when they are based on a relationship with Christ and a desire to show God’s MERCY and FORGIVENESS, not to condemn. James 2:11-13 (NLT) says “… There will be no MERCY for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.” Even the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:12-15 (NLT) says “FORGIVE us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” …“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” When Mercy and forgiveness take flight they return, boomerang-like with a healing touch to our own souls.

The invitation is to look in the mirror, remove the impediments to discernment concerning others, and to see them through the eyes of the Cross. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Pastor Ross