Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

Accused! © Ross Cochrane

PSALM 7:3-5 – WHEN YOU ARE FALSELY ACCUSED (Part 2)  

Narrator: David has been falsely accused. His reputation has been slandered. What would it look like today? In Part 2, David is still at the Police station, sitting at a table waiting to be questioned. A Psychologist waits behind a one-way glass screen recording his impressions to determine David’s state of mind.  

Police Officer enters:  David, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. We appointed a lawyer for you to be present at this interview but you have refused. You are being detained for questioning about some charges made against you.  

David: They are false. My accusers are liars.   

Police Officer: Sir, you haven’t heard the charges yet.  

David: I know what they are. I know what they are trying to do.  

Police Officer: And what accusations do you think you are being held for?  

David: (Looks up to the roof) If I have done wrong or am guilty of injustice, if I have betrayed a friend or plundered my enemy without cause, then let my enemies capture me. Let them trample me into the ground and drag my honor in the dust. (Psalms 7:3-5 (NLT2)  

Police Officer: Slow down a little, Sir. Let me get this straight. You are saying in effect that you did not do what has been alleged and if you did, you didn’t know, and if you did do what has been alleged, then you are willing to accept the consequences? Is that correct?  

David: Yes, this is a case of Character Assassination. My enemies are continually trying to destroy my credibility and my reputation. They continue to raise false accusations, unpleasant rumours, and manipulate information.   

Psychologist recording his thoughts about David: David once again expresses his faith.  

  • The Accused appears to be OPEN AND HONEST in his answers. There is no indication in his body language that he is deliberately lying and he is able to articulate his answers well. 
  • He does not accept the alleged charges.  
  • He feels he is ENTIRELY BLAMELESS IN HIS MOTIVES? 
  • But HE IS WILLING TO ENTERTAIN THAT HE MAY BE GUILTY OF WRONGDOING? 
  • HE IS WILLING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY WRONGDOING? 
  • HE IS WILLING TO ACCEPT A JUST RESPONSE FOR ANY WRONGDOING ON HIS PART? 

Narrator: David is certainly standing up for himself but he is also willing for God to examine his heart. David is willing to listen to God’s examination of His heart and willing to accept any responsibility of wrongdoing should God find him guilty.  

In another Psalm, David writes, 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalms 139:23-24 NLT2). 

Am I willing to do the same? 

Pastor Ross  

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The Love, justice and grace of God © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5:9-12 – DO I REALLY WANT JUSTICE? (An interview with King David)

ME: David says in Psalm 5:9,10 (NLT) “My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against You” (Psalm 5:10 NLT).

If I had a chance to question King David on these things, I would probably ask…

AVENGE MY ENEMIES?

ME: Should I pray for Justice on the earth; vengeance from God on those who lie about me?  Yet you, David, pray for exactly that. Isn’t this a sinful prayer?

DAVID: There is always a balance of God’s Love and Justice in the Scriptures and in this case, I am asking for Justice. Those who practice deceit inevitably fall into their own traps and I pray that they will do so. After all, such sin is rebellion against God as their King not just me as their king.

Psalm 33:5 (NLT) says “He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.” Notice, God is a God of Love, … and He loves Justice.

LOVE MY ENEMIES?

ME: But how does this line up with the words of Jesus, the Messiah, your descendant?

In Matthew 5:38-48 (NLT) Jesus gives a different perspective on how we are to regard enemies. He says “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” 

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

LOVE AND HATE 

DAVID: You say that what Jesus says is a totally different perspective, but is it? Look closely. I notice that there is a recognition that followers of Christ do have enemies. The choices we make reflect the Father’s attitude toward enemies. He also has enemies. In Psalm 5:5 (NLT), I have written part of God’s Word, saying “… for You hate all who do evil. 

Yes, let’s admit it. God hates those who do evil, but strangely provides ways for repentance for them anyway. I know this first hand. I know personally God’s justice and grace in action.

So just as I have used the word Hate in a judicial sense in my 5th Psalm, the Love Jesus speaks of is obviously given as an example of what you can actively do in order to live as a follower of Christ. Love is certainly not an emotional response to evil people. It is something you do despite your feelings about sin. Love your enemy in the sense of doing good to them, not in the sense of condoning their evil ways.

Fools do what their enemies want, and do it begrudgingly and under their authority, but free people are those who exercise purity by choice, under the authority of God, doing what we are created for and going the second mile. It provides an example of the love of God at work, which may bring our enemies to repentance. I wanted my son Absalom to come to repentance but it didn’t happen.

UNPRETENTIOUS LOVE AND HATE 

ME: But Romans 12:9ff (NLT) makes it very clear. It says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good…. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. … Live in harmony with each other. … Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

DAVID: Again, I notice in this verse that followers of Christ don’t just pretend to love others and yet they still hate what is wrong. We do not relinquish our essential ethical stance on evil in the world for the sake of loving others. They go hand in hand.

Love, justice and grace animation © Image and Animation created by Ross Cochrane

JUSTICE AND EVIL

ME: Thanks David. In Psalm 5, I am starting to see that you do not pray sinfully or from a human perspective although I can tell you that some commentators I have read have concluded this. It is not that easy to pass over what you are saying about your enemies. I love the fact that you are being honest before God but you also acknowledge that it is only God who can take care of justice. Only He is able to do this.

This is consistent with Romans 12:17-21 (NLT) which says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” 

DAVID: I can see that followers of Christ recognise that there is evil in the world, but choose to conquer it, not copy it, by doing good.

ME: Yes and Galatians 6:7-9 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” 

Jesus didn’t wipe out the Sanhedrin when He was so unjustly treated. He didn’t strike back. Evil people will have their day in God’s courtroom or even experience God’s discipline while they are on earth in all kinds of ways in order to bring them to repentance and faith in Christ.

THE HEART AND HATE

DAVID: I notice that many people want to quote me in Psalm 139:23 (NLT) which says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

But the verse I wrote before this beautiful verse speaks about what I hate.  Few people want to quote my heart in Psalm 139:21-22 (NLT). It says, Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate You? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose You? Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for Your enemies are my enemies.” 

If you remember, I already said in Psalm 5 that God hates them too. I am only agreeing with God.

I would hope that those who follow Christ recognise evil for what it is, recognise enemies for who they are, and Satan for who He is. We choose to hate what is wrong and hold tightly to what is good. We hate what God hates and love what God loves.

CURSING AND BLESSING

God promised Abraham that He would bless those who blessed Israel and curse those who cursed them (Genesis 12:1-3). Let’s not water it down. God has a judicial hatred of sin and those who sin. We are not called to be neutral but to stand for what is right and most importantly live as people who do what is right.

With regards to those who exclude God from their lives, my Psalm calls them rebellious (Psalm 5:10), not only against God but also His anointed king.

ME: Well, Followers of Christ pray the Lord’s prayer, that His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. That will involve the destruction of sin, rebellion and wickedness of all kinds, but that’s in the hands of a just and loving God.

DAVID: Are you reviled by God who hates sin and sinful people?

ME: In my culture I find the concepts difficult. Nevertheless, the invitation of the Bible is for me to regard sin through the eyes of God.

REDEMPTIVE POTENTIAL

The injunctive we have from God as believers is that we see people from the standpoint of the Cross. We see their redemptive potential. We co-operate with God, who sees His enemies as those with a capacity to repent, just as you, David, repented. We co-operate with God who loves His enemies in the sense that He offers them a way to be forgiven, not that He loves them for their defiled lifestyle.

DAVID: I know firsthand what forgiveness from God is. And despite Absalom’s attempt to overthrow me, I sought to show mercy. I didn’t want to see him die in battle.

In Psalm 5:11 (NLT), I wrote But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your Name may be filled with joy.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not joyful about people lying about me or happy about people trying to murder me. I’m not condoning their sin by ignoring it or trying to see their point of view. I am joyful because I feel safe in the refuge of the Rock of Ages. I recognised that some of those who had a genuine relationship with God were misled and even for them I ask for God to protect them and give them joy.

A SHIELD OF LOVE 

“For You bless the Godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love” (Psalm 5:12 NLT).

ME: What I get from your Psalm is that when I am dislocated from a relationship with God, I am exposed to attack from the circumstances of life. The invitation of Psalm 5 is to take cover by finding security through genuine trust in God.

DAVID: Yes, the shield I refer to in my Psalm is a large shield which covers the whole body. God’s love is such a shield. The only thing my enemies can see is God’s love for me. This shield of love absorbs all that my enemy’s hate can throw against me.

ME: Thankyou David. The invitation of Psalm 5 surely leads me to stand for the Truth, to see evil for what it is, to leave justice to God and to show an active love for my enemiesThis willingness to conquer evil with good provides an example which may bring my enemies to repentance as they see the active nature of the love of God. 

Pastor Ross

 

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Love, Justice and Grace © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender Cycles

Matthew 20:28 – PRISONER EXCHANGE

Five Taliban leaders are released in return for the release of Bowe Bergdahl after he was taken hostage in Afghanistan. The Taliban negotiated a ransom price in the form of a prisoners exchange for Bergdahl. It is not uncommon in theatres of war to negotiate to secure the release of prisoners. Nevertheless, Bergdahl was subsequently judged by court-martial and sentenced for the crime of desertion from his unit before being captured.

A bridge in the shape of a Cross. God’s love on one side. God’s Justice on the other. The hostages of Satan are kept in the Slave Market of Sin. God’s Justice and God’s law demands the death penalty.

God’s love releases His sinless Son as a ransom. Jesus walks across the bridge to pay the price demanded by God’s Justice. He is subsequently judged by evil men and sentenced to die on a Cross. In exchange, all prisoners have the freedom to walk across the bridge to receive His life. Not all do.

Romans 5:10 (NLT) says, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son.”

Click on picture for animation

Love, Justice and Grace. Images and Animation © by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.79

The Justice of God is satisfied by the death of the sinless Son of Man. The Love of God is expressed by granting life to the hostages of Satan incarcerated in the Slave Market of Sin. Satan, Sin, and death are defeated as Jesus rises from the dead. Those who have walked towards God’s love are no longer condemned. Those who choose to remain behind are already condemned.

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.” 

Matthew 20: 28 says For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

The invitation of the Exchange remains open.

Pastor Ross

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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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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:18-24 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 1)

  1. ASCENDANCE OF VENGEANCE

Jacob’s sons make a deal with the Shechem and his father Hamor. “If you and all the males in your city are willing to be circumcised, then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves,” they say, “We will live among you and become one people.” They have no intention of doing this.But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her (Dinah, their sister, who has been raped and kidnapped) and be on our way.” (Genesis 34:16 NLT). Concealing their anger deceitfully from Shechem, they are now less concerned about Dinah’s welfare or even with justice, than with vengeance.

Oblivious to the deceit and willing to undergo a little pain to kill three birds with one stone (peaceful relations, trade and intermarriage), “Hamor and his son Shechem agreed to their proposal” (Genesis 34:18 NLT). Would Jacob approve of this plan? Where is he in all this?

Shechem wastes no time in acting on this request, “for he wanted Jacob’s daughter desperately. Shechem was a highly respected member of his family,  and he went with his father, Hamor, to present this proposal to the leaders at the town gate” (Genesis 34:19-20 NLT). 

It is likely that Shechem is an autocratic leader, used to getting his own way, and no-one is likely to go against his desires, nevertheless, the formality is followed. They put forward their proposal in the business center and gathering place – the city gate.

“These men are our friends,” they say. “Let’s invite them to live here among us and trade freely …” (Genesis 34:21 NLT). 

  1. BLEED FOR GREED

Trade. Shechem and Hamor present the terms of the deal they have made with Jacob to the business leaders. What remains unsaid and perhaps is well known is that Shechem is keeping Dinah, Jacob’s young daughter at his house and that this deal came about because he raped her and now wants a child marriage with her.

“… Look, the land is large enough to hold them. We can take their daughters as wives and let them marry ours … they will consider staying here and becoming one people with us only if all of our men are circumcised, just as they are.” No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal 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).

Shechem wants to get this over and done with and circumcision is a small price to pay. Short term pain for long term gain. Bleed for greed. They all agree.

Using this religious veneer, what follows is a shocking example of terrorism which finds expression simply because moral depravity, greed, anger, deception and lawlessness are given free rein in a community, without any reference to God. Nothing has changed (see the next post).

This section of Genesis 34 reminds me that with God’s help I can choose not to allow greed to blind me and divert my attention from real issues of justice and faith. Jesus says, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:15 NLT).

Pastor Ross

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Unbelievable! © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:8-13 – UNBELIEVABLE, TOO (Part 2)

Hamor tries to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Shechem, the pedophile, rapist and kidnapper, can see the shocked looks on the faces of Dinah’s brothers. This deal is going south so he steps in and cuts to the chase. He says,

“Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,” he begs. “I will give you whatever you ask. No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.” (Genesis 34:11-12 NLT)

SHECHEM, if only…

Shechem, the pedophile, has the nerve to come to Jacob and his sons and ask for a child marriage with Dinah, the one he has raped and kidnapped. He doesn’t even use her name! She is just “the girl”. He does not bring Dinah back to the family, humbly bow before them and admit his guilt and willingness to undergo a negotiated discipline for his crime. Be kind to me, he says. Unbelievable! Shechem, if only…

Shechem is willing to buy Dinah for a high price to get what he wants, but not acknowledge the shame and criminality of his actions. He is rich and Dinah is simply a commodity that he wants to keep without any trouble from the family. She is already his child sex slave.

Again the Bible calls Shechem’s act for what it is.

“But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor” (Genesis 34:13 NLT).

JACOB, where are you?

Where are you Jacob, when it counts? Still, you are silent and allow your sons to negotiate on your behalf. Don’t you realize that they only want revenge? Don’t you understand that they are willing to use anything to get back at Shechem and the Hivite community as a whole? You may not like the outcome of all this.

Jacob’s sons revert to their father’s tactics when things get out of hand. Deceit is an old standby in this family! They think that given the circumstances it is OK to lie. Still Jacob does nothing and says nothing. His leadership in this situation is manifestly imperceptible, conspicuously absent.

What Jacob’s sons say next will shock everybody… (see next post).

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 58

The plan had taken months of preparation and even before his triumphal entry back into David’s presence, Absalom knew the pathway he intended to take. Firstly he had to gain for himself a reputation as one who cared for the people. Easy enough. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort.

His father, the king, refused to see him face to face. As he had walked home, fuming with revenge, he devised an additional strategy. It was simple but effective, and fetched the faint flicker of a smile to his otherwise dark demeanor.

Absalom went immediately to the Tent of Meeting, his long hair blowing in the breeze and a good size crowd gathered out of curiosity. They had all heard of his return and he was now a celebrity.

As he stood before the priest he asked for the razor and the kings scales to be brought. He was there to complete his Nazirite vow but so much more interested in symbolising his father’s injustice. “My banishment is at an end!” he shouted and the atmosphere was electric with cheering and well wishes.

Some of the women were crying as Absalom presented offerings as if he was presenting them to the Lord: a lamb without defect, a ewe-lamb without blemish and a ram without fault, as the law required. He saw these animals not as sacrifices but as symbols of himself. Flawless. I am the innocent victim of your injustice, father, and you will pay! “Behold, the sacrifice!” he shouted. He was handsome and without guile and the people saw him as a hero returned, and many thought he was despised unjustly by his father the king.

Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, he shaved off his hair and weighed it according to the Royal standard of king David before the people, as a measure of his humiliation. It was then burned in the fire as a sacrifice. It was a very moving event. It worked. It gave him much favour in the eyes of the people. His hair weighed about 200 shekels worth of pity by the kings own scales.

He felt like Samson, shaved of his hair and now imprisoned in his own house, blinded to the sight of his father’s favour. And like Samson, he determined to get his revenge. You will pay, father. You will pay.

Another vow was made that day. His hair began to grow again, along with his popularity, but for him, each inch represented the growing resentment he felt towards his father. He endured two full years in Jerusalem, without any contact.

Absalom took great pains to associate himself with the important people of David’s court and spent time building relationships. Ahithophel was a key target, since he was the grandfather of Bathsheba.

Although David had apologised to Ahithophel for the disgrace brought on his family through adultery with his granddaughter, Surely, you want revenge, thought Absalom, to avenge the loss of reputation. What about the murder of your son-in-law? Absalom knew he could work on these areas of hurt.

Rising early each morning, Absalom stood beside the road that led to the city gate. He was here to greet anyone who came to the city with a case to be heard by the king for judgement. Most of them knew who he was, so his attention to them in a time of need made them feel important and cared for.

Those who recognised Absalom immediately came and prostrated themselves on the ground before him. He reached down and lifted them up, hugged and kiss them in the warm greeting of an equal and a friend.

“What city are you from?” he asked, because he was only interested in those who were from Israel. If they were, he questioned them about their case and showed great interest in what they had to say. Then he added, “I can see that your claims are valid. As you are probably aware, I am a man who has been trained through the hard process of justice. If you know anything of me you will know that to be true. But my journey so far has made me well acquainted with the law. You have a very good case but I’m not sure that you will get the justice you deserve. It’s a pity that you have no advocate before the king.”

It worked each time. The man would look to him and say, “My lord, are you not able to defend me before the king?”

Absalom would laugh and then look seriously at the man. He would say, “If only what you are saying could be done. If I were appointed as judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me, and believe me, I would give him the justice he deserves.” And so the scenario had been repeated each day.

I have stolen the hearts of the men of Israel from you, father. He was seen as a man of justice and great wisdom, but also as a friend. Now the deception was almost complete.

Pastor Ross

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 which doesn’t avoid the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”


 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 54

Reports began to come to Jerusalem of Absalom’s vow, of how long his hair had grown and of a beautiful daughter named Tamar. Some began to say that the king was wrong in keeping his own son and grandchildren estranged. Rumours and murmurs continued as months became years. David’s sense of justice would not be forced by such reports, however. He would know the right time. Perhaps God would speak to him.

When the time came, it had been Joab, not God, who convinced the king to change his mind. A family from Joab’s district came to Joab demanding that he exercise justice. It was a murder case. The situation had been difficult to determine and so he had sent the woman from Tekoa in the middle of the situation to the king. At the same time, he had seen an opportunity to convince the king to bring Absalom home again.

“If you want justice for your son then do as I say.” said Joab to the woman, “I am going to send you to the king but first you must put on mourning clothes to show that you are still in mourning for your other son. When you arrive you are to say exactly what I tell you to say.”

“I will do whatever you require to save the life of my son.” said the woman. The woman obeyed Joab implicitly and Joab arranged for her to see the king immediately.

David was tired and the woman was emotional and not able to speak for some time. Just as David was ready to dismiss her from the court she said,

“Help me, please my lord and king. My husband is dead and I am in great need.”

David had already seen that the woman was in great need and wanted her to get on with her request, “What is your trouble?”

“I am a widow,” she said, “and I had two sons, but they got into a fight with each other one day while they were out in the field. There was no one to separate them, and one of my sons was killed. But now the whole family is against me. They want to put my remaining son to death for killing his brother. He is the only heir left of my husband. If he dies I will be left completely desolate.”

The king gave his judgement. He said, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning your situation. Whoever speaks to you about your son, send him to me. As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”

The woman was satisfied that her case had been heard and that the king would keep his oath, and so she replied with the words that Joab had instructed her to say,

“With respect to my lord the king, you are so wise in making this decision. Why then have you acted in such a way to your people? By not bringing back your banished son you are guilty of the same thing as my family. Your son has done something wrong, but to keep him away from you is to cut yourself off from someone God intends you and your people to enjoy, as surely as I would be cut off from my inheritance should my son be executed. Surely God does not take life away. He finds ways so that one who has been banished may be returned to Him.

Please listen to your maidservant. I know that my lord the king is like an angel, able to discern good and evil. May the Lord your God be with you.”

The king looked across at Joab who stood with a satisfied look on his face. He then asked the woman, “I suppose Joab is behind your words?”

The woman looked embarrassed and Joab became uneasy as she answered, “No-one can hide anything from you. Yes, your servant Joab commanded me, and told me what I should say in order to change your mind about Absalom.”

David glared at Joab for a moment and then began to laugh and as he did it seemed that joy filled the room. The tense moment was broken and they all began to laugh.

David simply said, “Make sure this woman’s son remains unharmed … and bring back my son Absalom.” Joab was so relieved that he fell to the ground, prostrating himself before the king and blessed him. Joab wasn’t normally a man who would get enthusiastic about anything except those things that related to war, never-the-less this was very important to him and he immediately went to Geshur to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.

He had an affinity with this young man called Absalom, guilty only of avenging his sister’s rape. As he went, his mind had replayed the events concerning a man that he also had killed in revenge. His name had been Abner and he, like Amnon, had felt the same cold, hard iron of a dagger. The same Canaanite dagger, with a beautifully carved hilt.

 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 49

Absalom immediately went to his father, the king, expecting justice. He was almost shouting with rage as he said, “He raped her! Tamar told me she struggled to get away, but there was nothing that she could do! This is outrageous!” 

“Calm down Absalom,” said David.

Calm down? He ordered her out of his house! He shouted at her and told her to ‘Get up, go away!’ as if she was one of his slaves to do his bidding. She felt so bereft and violated she refused. She no longer had any place to go. She could not bring herself to return to the palace as if nothing had happened.

He had an opportunity to show integrity and compassion! All he showed her was contempt. He just called his servant and ordered him to throw her out and to lock the door behind her! To abuse her and throw her out like that is pure wickedness! He wouldn’t listen to her.

She made it known publically that she had been violated by putting ashes on her head, and she tore the long-sleeved garment that she wore. You should have seen her. She was so distressed and she was crying out loudly for help. Everyone around her saw how distressed and shocked she was. That’s the state in which I found her.”

David said, “Where is she now?”

I took her to my house so she’ll be safe.”

He did not mention to David that when Tamar had explained all that happened, he had said, “I want you to keep silent about this, Tamar.”

But that doesn’t mean that I will not seek retribution.

“If I know Amnon, he’ll try to blame her and she will be the one who’ll end up being punished. But the facts are clear.” I intend to get justice.

David was very angry, and Absalom expected that Amnon would be taken before the elders of the city for judgement.

The elders will probably force him to take her into his household as his wife to avoid royal disgrace. That’s not enough. Charges must be laid. Rape carries a death sentence. Absalom was not sure that they would allow a prince to be charged with rape? Surely he will not escape the consequences of breaking the law simply because he is a prince. 

But David did nothing. He was unwilling to act in terms of justice and discipline. Perhaps as David thought about his own sin with Bathsheba and how he had escaped with his life, he thought that Amnon deserved to live also. But nothing at all was done.

Absalom resented David for not acting and hated Amnon all the more for raping his sister and getting away with it. He wouldn’t speak to Amnon or anyone else about the matter in any way.

You will pay! Absalom would find a way to give vent to the hate that festered within him both for his father and for Amnon. After two years it became white hot, hammered and tempered with iron teeth into the shape of revenge.

Pastor Ross

P.S.

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WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 35

The servants are afraid that their words might somehow get back to David. Absalom has a good relationship with all in the court. He has a way with people. They tell him things. Their grievances. Their dreams. Absalom is on their side. Still, the servants quieten down as Absalom walks past the gate.

Absalom stays awhile as usual to talk with the men and notices Uriah. Why is he here? Why didn’t he go home? He begins asking questions of the servants furthest away from him, but he can see that there is a reluctance to answer. The atmosphere is awkward for a time but Absalom diverts the conversation to other things – weather, war, politics and matters of law and justice, until they open up. He is known as one who investigates cases worthy of justice for the people. One of the more forthright and foolish servants is curious since they are talking of the law.

“I know of a man whose wife has been unfaithful? What will he do?” Other servants begin to withdraw from the conversation.

“He should bring charges and demand justice. She must be stoned as the law demands. The man must be found and stoned as well,” he replies.

“And what if the man responsible were powerful and there was no proof, except a pregnancy, and he was trying to cover it up?”

A hushed silence ensued as Absalom sought to find a context for the question.

“How can you cover up a pregnancy?” he asks.

“The husband will sleep with his wife and it will look as if the child is his.” The servant has said too much.

Absalom considers what he is being told and replies slowly,

“No man should get away with adultery because of his position.” He pauses, thinking of the rumours of the beautiful woman in court some time ago and adds,

“I would not give the man opportunity to cover up his sin if I could help it at all. That’s all the advice that I am willing to give you. Perhaps it would be wiser of you hold your peace until this man you know is willing to lay charges.”

“Yes sir.” The servant backs away, knowing that he has overstepped the limit of discussion.

Absalom leaves, but in the ensuing conversation it is agreed that Uriah is right to stay at the king’s gate where there are plenty of witnesses, and he is wise not even to speak with his wife.

Absalom came to the king that day. He spoke of trivial things and David was not at all interested in the conversation until he happened to mention, in passing, that Uriah had slept in the guard’s and servant’s quarters at the king’s gate. David’s face paled as Absalom continued. David was not hearing him. Why didn’t Uriah go home? What was happening to his plan? He came out of his daze as Absalom said,

“Why didn’t you allow Uriah to go home? He lives next door after all?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Absalom, I didn’t force him to stay at court! I encouraged him to go home. Bring him to me at once.”

There seemed to be some tension in the king’s voice as he spoke with Uriah, “Uriah, you have come a long way to get here, yet I hear that you did not go home last night. Why?”

Uriah had had all night to reflect on his answer. He looked to the floor and then briefly glanced over at Absalom, but he too was obviously interested in his answer. Uriah the Hittite looked into the eyes of David as he replied,

“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lords men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

The answer cut deeply into David’s soul. As long as I live? He fleetingly thought of the penalties of adultery in the law as he gazed at Uriah, not knowing what to say.