Posts Tagged ‘Judgment’

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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:25-31 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 2)

  1. DECEPTION WITHOUT CONSCIENCE

No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal Shechem and Hamor propose, but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT). As if circumcision, devoid of meaning, isn’t bad enough,…then comes the horror in the aftermath of their decision …

  1. VENGEANCE WITHOUT COUNSEL

“… three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp” (Genesis 34:25-26 NLT). This is not unlike the horrors of ISIS.

The sons of Jacob butcher every male in the town! Circumcision was used as a means for murder. Innocent men are massacred, deceived by promises of riches and by the misuse of a holy Covenant ritual. Blasphemy heaped upon murder and lawlessness. This is not justice, only vengeance!

Dinah has other brothers; Reuben, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun but they do not participate in the massacre. Perhaps Simeon and Levi thought that if they killed only Shechem, who had raped their sister, Dinah, it would bring the whole town upon them in retaliation. And so since Shechem, despite his crime, was somehow still the respected leader of the community, house by house, Levi and Simeon commit their atrocity of murdering every unsuspecting male. Although Simeon and Levi were the main instigators perhaps their servants joined in the bloodbath under their authority.

Did the writer of Proverbs 3:29 (NLT) have these events in mind when he wrote many years later, “Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you.” 

It seems significant to me that years later, the tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe of Israel and they would look back at their ancestor as a murderer of innocent people. Perhaps God used this terrible event to remind the priestly tribe of Levi of their need to involve God in matters of justice, not abuse the ritual symbols.

  1. PLUNDER WITHOUT CONSTRAINT

But the train of lawlessness has not run it’s appalling course because…

“Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 

They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 

They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives” (Genesis 34:27-29 NLT).

Ruthless! All the brothers join in! First murder, now pillage and enslavement! Why? “Because their sister had been defiled there” is their excuse, but there is no measure of justice in Levi and Simeon’s deceptive barbarous revenge, nor is there in the brothers’ additional atrocities of robbery and slavery. And still Jacob is nowhere to be seen!

Paul would one day write in Romans 12:17 (NLT) “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” Brutally murdering all the males in the town, kidnapping women and children as slaves! There is nothing honorable here.

So far in this Chapter of Shame, it seems lawlessness prevails, from rape without consequences, to deception without conscience, to blasphemy without covenant reverence, to vengeance without counsel, to murder without cause, to plunder without constraint, and then to slavery without compassion. A train-wreck of sin upon sin.

  1. INEPTITUDE WITHOUT CONTRITION

It is at this point that Jacob finally speaks up. Where have you been?

“Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!” (Genesis 34:30 NLT).

He is not pleased. But notice, Jacob is not repentant for his absolute lack of leadership. He is not remorseful for not seeking to retrieve Dinah when she was raped and kidnapped. He was not apologetic for his silence concerning justice for Shechem’s crime, He is not regretful of not gathering his sons around the altar he had built to seek to find God’s way of dealing with this terrible situation when he first heard of it. And now he’s not even concerned that his sons have just committed a crime against humanity, an atrocious violation of justice. He’s only concerned about his reputation! Unbelievable! He does stink!

  1. JUDGMENTS WITHOUT THE CROSS

Then a bell tolls loud enough to hurt Jacob’s ears and echoes to him from the very beginning as his sons retort angrily,

“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:31 NLT).

This question burns on the page at the end of the chapter. Why should we allow this to happen? This is a piercing question which needed asking at the beginning of this chapter immersed in morally flawed judgments.

Shechem does deserve the discipline of justice served upon him for his rape of their sister. But equally, Simeon and Levi deserve justice served upon them for their revenge rampage. Their brothers deserve justice served upon them for their looting and slavery of women and children.

But perhaps most of all Jacob needs justice served upon him for his lack of any kind of spiritual direction. He needs justice served upon him for not seeking to save his daughter after she was so brutally abused. He needs justice served on him for his lack of parenting and leadership guidance to his sons just as much as Hamor does for his lack of discipline of his son, Shechem. Both fathers bear the results of inaction and lack of leadership. The man of faith was no better than the pagan.

I am reminded that despite the atrocities done in His Name, that God is just. But look carefully because His justice was satisfied at the Cross when Jesus was judged and died for my sin. He took my shame and sin and I received His grace. The disgraceful and unjust crucifixion of Christ was used by God to bring me His forgiveness. He died for our sins.

I don’t know the specifics of what happened after this terrible chapter. Did Jacob run to the altar and ask for forgiveness because, more than ever, he and his sons need it now? All I know is that God has the only means of dealing justly with my sin.

This section of Genesis 34 screams of my need to get involved when moral leadership is required long before things spiral out of control and end with unimaginable regrets. It invites me to bring justice to bear on my circumstances but only by seeing my circumstances through the eyes of the Cross, where God’s justice collides with His love. Only through the eyes of the Cross can justice be administered fairly and it is the only justice that gives me an opportunity still to experience God’s mercy and grace.

Lord, despite my propensity to take things into my own hands, help me to do what is right at the right time when I am faced with the moral dilemmas of life. Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” What an incredible balance that is.

Pastor Ross

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Breaking and Smashing © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:12 –BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 4

THE FOOLISH PLAN OF GOD

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NLT) says “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God … This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. … Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin.” 

KISS THE SON

In the New Testament Psalm 2 is associated with Christ and so prophetically it invites us all to put our trust in the Son of God. The promise of salvation still stands. We love John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” but remember John 3:16 is found in the context of verse 17 and 18. John 3:17-18 (NLT) says, God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, BUT TO SAVE THE WORLD through Him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

David speaks to the rebellious kings, giving them time to come under his authority in Psalm 2:12 (NLT). He speaks of himself when he says “Submit to God’s royal Son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!”  

Judgment will come swiftly, but first, he offers joy and peace and refuge to those who submit to him. This is a picture of Christ in the future. God’s Royal Son.

Literally, Psalm 2:12 says “Kiss the Son.” The kiss in the ancient world was a symbol of affection and submission. In the Greek language of the New Testament the word for worship, proskuneo, means “to kiss towards. To come forward to kiss.” Worship wipes away the tears of judgment.

In John 5:22-27 (NLT), Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. … The Father has life in Himself, and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son. And He has given Him authority to judge everyone because He is the Son of Man.” 

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Derek Kidner says “Take refuge in Him. There is no refuge from Him: only in Him.”

The invitation of Psalm 2 is the same as Act 16:31 (NLT), “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, …” 

Pastor Ross

Breaking and Smashing © Animation created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:11 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 3

MAKE A CHOICE

I am surprised how many people think of Christianity as just another way to heaven, all religions are the same and we are all basically good people. This notion has already been challenged on the world scene. But it has always been challenged in the Bible. Psalm 2 makes it clear that not all religions are the same and that one day, there will be a time of reckoning. The New Testament in the Bible associates this Psalm ultimately to Christ and His Second Coming as a conquering King.

Notice that king David, the writer of this Psalm, is not saying that all religions lead to heaven. He is not saying that all religions have basically the same message. He is saying just the opposite. He is saying “Make a choice who you will serve. I am your only hope and I have come to save you. When you serve me, you will also serve God, who appointed me as your king.”

“Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11 NLT).

David says “Serve the Lord.” That’s all there is to it and the alternative is unthinkable. Either serve the Lord with reverent fear or be smashed and broken (see Parts 1-2).

FEAR AND JOY

Serve with reverence. Rejoice with trembling. Seems opposites. Seems very oppressive. But there is no room for sentiment here where rebellion is concerned with David.

He leaves room for a heart attitude change, but when it all comes down to it, this is an act of will rather than some emotional decision. There will come a time when it will be forced on them. Their choices are die or serve the Lord. Submit to David as king or be crushed.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEAR THE LORD?

The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is a deep sense of awe, respect, and reverence toward Him; submission and obedience to Him. It’s recognising that He has all authority and we do not. The New Testament indicates that it is a recognition of what Christ has done for us in love when He died on a Cross for our sins, and responding to that love. There is no other way for us to be saved.

Joy comes with a sense of relief from not having to face judgment. 1 John 4:17-19 (NLT) says, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” The opposite to experiencing the love of Christ is experiencing the fear of judgment.

The invitation of Psalm 2 is to welcome Jesus and submit to Him. That’s wise. Make a decision to rejoice in what He rejoices in. Love Him and serve Him above all else. The only unforgiveable sin is our unbelief. Hebrews 2:3 (NLT) says “So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus Himself and then delivered to us by those who heard Him speak?” Christ is the only way. He is the only One who loved us enough to save us.

Proverbs 9:10 (NLT) says “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”

Pastor Ross

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

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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

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© Lost/Found – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:11-14 – SAVE ME!

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

God lost the human race. God lost their love, worship and friendship. Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” All we like sheep have gone astray.

He hasn’t stopped loving us or seeking after us. He sent His Son to save us. But what does that mean? The Bible unfolds that message of being saved …

1. CHRIST CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE ME

Matthew 18:14 (NLT) says, “In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

Romans 10:13 (NLT) says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

2. CHRIST IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAME TO SAVE ME

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me”. No-one else came to save us.

3. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE SINNERS

Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT), “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS’—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

God loves to forgive. God does not approve of or condone the sin, but He loves the sinner and extends His grace to anyone who becomes positive to the message of Christ.

4. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM MY SINS

In Matthew 1:21 (NLT) an angel spoke to Joseph about the birth of Jesus, “And she (Mary) will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.” 

5. CHRIST CAME TO FORGIVE ME

Acts 10:43 (NLT) says “…everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have their SINS FORGIVEN through His Name.”

6. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM JUDGEMENT AND ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD

John 3:17-18 (NLT) “… God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to SAVE the world through Him. “There is NO JUDGMENT AGAINST ANYONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

In John 12:46-48 (NLT) Jesus said again “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear Me but don’t obey Me, for I have come to SAVE THE WORLD AND NOT TO JUDGE IT. But all who reject Me and My message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” 

Being positive to the message of Christ leaves tracks for God to follow. The Shepherd searches for them and finds us.

Why does God seek us? Because He does not want us to be lost, devastated. This is an example we can all follow concerning anyone who is positive towards the things of God. This is a prime reason for not looking down on or despising these new followers of Christ. They are loved by God and they have become positive towards Christ, and they have come into relationship with God. They are part of His flock.

Followers of Christ share with God in seeking and protecting people who are positive towards the things of God, not looking down on them or despising them because of their past. The world is full of those who are lost and need to be found. We pursue them because this is the example of God Himself. 1 John 5:1 (NLT) says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves His children, too.”

John Calvin said, “It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed.” John 3:16 (NLT) agrees. It says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” The invitation is to believe in Him who came to save us.

Pastor Ross

 

Millstone

Millstone © Ross Cochrane

 

Matthew 18:3-6 – I’VE GOT YOUR BACK! – Jesus

The organisation Open Doors says, “Christian persecution is any hostility experienced from the world as a result of one’s identification as a Christian.”

In our sophisticated and modern world today, these are the estimated statistics … Each month over 300 Christians are killed for their faith, over 200 Churches and properties are destroyed, and over 750 acts of violence are committed against Christians such as beatings, physical torture, confinement, abductions, isolation, rape, arrests and imprisonment, slavery, and child marriages. (Open Doors)

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. But if you cause one of these little ones WHO TRUSTS IN ME to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:3-6 NLT). 

A Millstone is normally about 18 inches in diameter and 3 inches thick, but Jesus is speaking of one which is much larger, pulled by an animal. Tying a millstone around your neck and being drowned was a method of execution used by the Gentile nations around Israel, the Syrians, Greeks, and Egyptians.

The Romans reserved it only for the worst criminals and Jewish people were particularly repulsed by this. The Jews saw drowning as a symbol of utter destruction and annihilation. They feared it.

So Jesus is saying in effect, If someone becomes a follower of Christ and you cause them to fall into sin, to miss the mark, to induce them not to believe in Me, to go back to the old life, to harm, persecute or seduce them to the point of sin because of the pressure that you apply, then life for you, Jesus says, will not be worth living.

To stop someone from believing is reprehensible in Christ’s eyes. He is using the strongest picture of judgment that He can use for those who would harm new Christians or lead them astray. This shows you how precious a new believer is to Christ. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of belief in Him.

The disciples would have been shocked by what Jesus was saying. Perhaps you are too. Jesus was saying they needed to turn around, to repent from arguing over who was the greatest when they hadn’t really trusted in Christ completely themselves. They were going in entirely the wrong direction. They were disciples of Jesus but they had things entirely wrong.

It is better to be a humbly obedient child responding to Christ’s call and positioning than to be a proud, disobedient adult dependent only on themselves and seeking after power that means nothing.

As important as it is to pray for those who have responded to Christ in humble obedient faith, it is just as important for us to pray for those who persecute those who have become followers of Christ, that they would repent and be cut free from the millstone that is around their neck and the threat of being drowned in eternal judgment.

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 40

“You shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die.”

As the day came for Bathsheba to deliver her second child, the words of Nathan the prophet returned to taunt David repeatedly. He did not share his concerns with her. She looks so radiant. Will the Lord let this child live?

When David knew that Bathsheba had given birth to a son, his concerns only deepened. He spent much time in prayer. How can I ever hope to understand your mercy and judgments, Lord? My past weighs heavily upon my conscience. All I can ask is, in Your love and forgiveness, You might see fit to extend this little one’s life?

Then it seemed that his worst fears might be realised! A message came from Nathan! David froze as he anticipated what God might say through the prophet. The mercy of God’s Love or the justice I deserve? Will this son also be taken from me?

“The child that is born to you,” said the messenger. David winced noticeably, closing his eyes, “… is loved by the Lord, as a ewe lamb is loved by a poor shepherd.” Nathan’s message came with words of hope and destiny.

In that moment, David understood. Every life is a gift and precious in Your sight, Oh God. Only You can give life and only You can take it away. Your justice is hard to bear but Your mercy is born from it.

Bathsheba heard an exhilarated shout and then release of laughter. She walked through the open door and curiously looked for its source. David was standing by the window as the bewildered messenger took his leave. As she came to him, David was still laughing, but there was something strange about his laughter and when he turned to her touch she realised that his eyes were glistening with tears. He held her close as relief flowed over him like spring rain and the peace of the Lord descended upon him.

He knew then that he would call his son “Solomon,” because the name “Solomon” means “Peace”. It gives testimony to the peace that comes from God’s total and absolute forgiveness. Nathan would give him a prophetic name as well – “Jedidiah”, which meant “Loved by the Lord”. The prophet Nathan would also become Solomon’s personal tutor in the years ahead.

Absalom was quiet that day. He held the baby, and said all the right words, but felt uneasy by the presence of this little one, even threatened in some way. A twinge of jealousy rose up within him. No word from the prophet had come at his birth to say that he was loved by the Lord. Perhaps he perceived in the Spirit that this baby would one day… He handed the baby back to Bathsheba.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 39

Those in court seem to instinctively and collectively step back towards the door to distance themselves from the presence of God as Nathan speaks. The courtroom empties as David slumps forward from his throne with nowhere to escape but to his knees, tears streaming down his face, the full weight of months gone, now pressing upon his shoulders. Only Absalom and the amanuensis remain, but they are in the shadows. The spotlight of God’s presence rests heavily upon David’s conscience. He speaks, but the words are no more than a groan that comes from somewhere deep within,

“I have sinned against the Lord.”

Silence envelopes the room and it seems that God reaches down and touches David, for his body trembles as Nathan says, “The Lord also has taken away your sin. You shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die.” Absalom slips from the room unnoticed. Nathan is gone almost as quickly as he had come and David lies prostrate before the Lord for some time.

As predicted, the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David became very sick.

Grief-stricken, David retreated in prayer for his child; He fasted and lay prostrate before the Lord all that night on the ground. Friends and counsellors in his palace encouraged him to eat but he was unwilling. As kings advisor, Absalom came to David and said “Your people are waiting for you to judge their cases. Why won’t you listen to them?” David remained silent, prostrate before the Lord. He had lost the power to act at all on behalf of his people. Then he murmured with a voice of deep anguish, “How can I seek justice for my people when the judgement of God still rests heavily upon me and upon my innocent son? You don’t seem to understand that he is dying in my place. Now leave me.” Absalom left and pondered this situation to see if he could gain any advantage.

It seemed that David lost his interest in hearing the cases of his people in court from that time on. Absalom’s interest, however, increased. As one of the kings sons and advisors, he determined to judge their cases. It will be good practise for when I am king. For now, I cannot do it from the throne of course, but in time…

Each night the others who sat at the king’s table were quiet, waiting to see what would happen. David, absent from the table, continued his fasting and praying day after day while the child lingered. Then, on the seventh day, the circumstances of the child changed.

The servants were afraid to tell David at first. They were afraid that he might do something to harm himself. But David noticed his servants whispering together and understood that the child was dead.

When he knew for sure, he got up, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes; and went into the Tabernacle to worship the Lord. He accepted fully the consequences of his sin and thanked the Lord for His justice mixed with His mercy. His life had been spared yet forgiveness had come with so great a price. Then he went back to his own house, and requested food. When Absalom saw the change in David, he was confused. He asked the servants what had happened to bring the king back to his right mind. They related David’s words to him,

“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; because I thought, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”

For a while he had thought that his father may have lost his sanity. Certainly, he thought, he had completely lost his ability to rule. In David’s absence, it had been he who had been hearing the cases of the people. He felt that he was the only one aware of what was needed in the kingdom. In conceding that his father was well again, he said simply to David,

“Despite your absence, you will find your kingdom is still intact. We have not lost the war with the Ammonites and your people’s needs are still being cared for”.

David said “Thankyou, my son. I knew that I could rely on you.” The comment was fleeting as David left the room to be with Bathsheba in her time of need.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 22

When the day came for the Ark to be brought to Jerusalem, the sense of excitement was contagious and audible as people sang and danced on the sides of the road that led to Jerusalem waiting for the Ark to arrive. Young nobles were given room at the front so that they could see an event as important as this. Some of them had never seen the Ark of the Covenant but they had certainly heard of it and this day it would have a huge impact upon their lives. Here was something so precious that the king himself and all the leaders of Israel held it with the highest respect. This was a treasure of inestimable value and something to be guarded at all costs.

Absalom had one of the best positions of all. He stood with his father and all the great men of Israel who were there to celebrate and guard the Ark. The events of that day were to have a profound effect upon him and his view of his father’s God. He blamed David for what happened.

As the Ark came into view there was a subtle but audible change in the sound of the combined noise in the crowd. At first, it seemed like a thousand people suddenly taking a breath and then came the coos of astonishment and wonder at the beauty of the craftsmanship as those behind pushed forward, trying to gain a better vantage point. Shouts of worship rose above this noise as they heard the musical instruments being played and joined in to sing and shout. Such tumultuous joy had not been experienced in Jerusalem before and such celebration had not taken place since the anointing of David himself.

Now, as the Ark came closer, it seemed even more glorious than Absalom had recalled. It shines with the lustre of a king.

He remembered Zadok’s words; “It is the very throne of God.” Zadok’s voice had become quieter as if he was standing in the presence of God at that moment.

Absalom’s question had broken the moment. “But Rabbi, how can it be God’s throne? God is not like a person.”

“It is a little difficult to understand. God’s presence is somehow enthroned above the mercy seat between the Cherubim when He wants to make Himself known. Your father sits on a throne as a king. Thrones only belong to kings and God has chosen this place especially to make Himself known as the King of all kings.”

Absalom now found himself focusing on the space between the Mercy Seat and the Angels.

“But why would God need to sit on the Ark of the Covenant as His throne?” Absalom had asked. It all seems a little far-fetched.

“Let me ask you a question about thrones.” Zadok had said, “You have seen your father sit on a throne. For what purpose does your father use his throne?”

“It is a place where my father judges the matters that his people bring to him, a place of judgement.”

Zadok had been surprised at Absalom’s answer. This young man understands much more about being a king than I thought.

“You have identified the purpose of a throne well, my son. It is a place of judgement. It is where your father judges his people with righteousness and justice. These two things are important in the way God rules. God rules with righteousness and justice.”

That must be the names of the angels, Absalom thought.

Absalom now looked at the two magnificent creatures looking down upon the Ark. “Righteousness and Justice”, he said out loud, but his small voice was lost in the noises of the crowd.

“Behold, the Ark of God which is called by the name of Jehovah Sabaoth – the Lord of Hosts, who is enthroned between the Cherubim that are on the Ark!” David’s voice boomed with pride as the Ark made its way towards Jerusalem. Jehovah Sabaoth. The words seemed to echo in David’s mind from some far away valley. He had once declared them to a giant called Goliath. You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the Name of Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts. It was a military name.

When Joshua took the city of Jericho they called on Jehovah Sabaoth. It showed God as One who has the might and power that His people needed to push back the enemy. The Ark was a picture of Jehovah Sabaoth – the Lord of hosts! They were under His influence and protection. When people met together in Shiloh to worship they also called upon the Lord of hosts. As David looked at the Ark he could see it all so clearly in his mind. The Ark has been right here in the middle of all the most glorious moments of our history.

David looked at the space between the two angels and could sense the very presence of God. The Lord of hosts is here. Suddenly he felt uneasy. Something is wrong! He didn’t know what it was, but he brushed the feeling aside quickly.