Power Please

2 Samuel 1:10 “So I stood over him and killed him because I knew that after he had fallen he couldn’t survive. I took the crown that was on his head and the armband that was on his arm, and I’ve brought them here to my lord.”

On the last Wednesday of every month, I’m reawakened to a particular personal problem. At noon on that day, my ministry’s board of directors gathers for a monthly meeting.  On the agenda, without fail, is the item “Executive Director’s Report.” My responsibility is to give somewhat of a ministry snapshot since our last meeting. Most often, a day before the board meeting, a number of problems run through my mind. It might revolve around a lack of volunteer help, staff issues, problems with the city government, questioning my purpose and effectiveness, signs of fatigue or burnout, a lack of time to connect with God the way I need to, and the list goes on. These are things I know I should communicate in the right context, but invariably at my time to give report, almost as if something takes control of my tongue, I speak about the positive finances, the salvations that occurred, the progress on the building project, the great media coverage, etc. Why?

Power Pleasing

I think it was the downfall of the Amalekite in 2 Samuel, chapter 1.  Saul was dead and all knew that David would now take the throne. It is the point of discovery for David that kingship had dawned.  And the only one to know it before David was the Amalekite. Did he wonder how he might please the power to be as he traveled to find David? Certainly, he had considered this lie and supposed it would bring him favor. But in his effort to please David and gain that favor, he brought the most severe trouble on his own head.

We may think we know what the powerful people in our life want to hear. And we may be tempted to embellish the truth in an effort gain their favor, continued support or approval. It may even be subconscious or stemming from a desire to simply spare the listener any trouble of heart. I can see my own struggle with this at the end of every month. Not only do I tend to fail in sharing the “whole truth” at these meetings, but if ever I was asked about a sentinel event that occurred, “How did this happen?” it would be very unlike me to simply say, “I’m not sure” even if that was the true response. And yet, it’s exactly what the Amalekite should have said. Lesson learned. Truth in whole is often a hard pill to swallow, but replacing it with any other medication is poisonous.

 

Loyal Defection

1 Samuel 29:3 Then the Philistine commanders asked, “What are these Hebrews doing here? ” Achish answered the Philistine commanders, “That is David, servant of King Saul of Israel. He has been with me a considerable period of time. From the day he defected until today, I’ve found no fault with him.”

The Philistine army rejects David’s help that day. Many commentators remark concerning this passage that David was spared by divine providence. They see David in a very precarious tension marching into battle with the Philistines and against his own people as if he’s burdened with a nervous and unanswered questioned, “Oh what shall I do?” But we know what he would do.  He would slay the Philistines before his own people. He was already in a habit of lying to Achish about his exploits and we see later that David will promptly kill the man who merely voices assistance in Saul’s suicide even at Saul’s own request. Does this sound like a Hebrew who has turned against his king and people? No, if David had made it into the battle alongside the Philistines that day, he surely would have slain again “ten thousands” of the Philistines from the rear.

But Achish sees David as reliable as an “Angel of God.” He’s confused defection with disloyalty.

David did defect from Israel. But he was not disloyal to Israel. This is a strange occurrence that is probably more rare than common, but signifies the possibility of defection and loyalty coexisting.  They are not bound by mutual exclusivity. Although the verdict is still out on Snowden, he may be an example of defection and loyalty coexisting. Bergdahl, however, will likely fall into the more common camp in which disloyalty and defection conspire.

There’s a relationship lesson in it for us. Because that conspiracy between defection and disloyalty is the common camp, we are apt to fail in considering that we might at some point find ourselves in a position that demands defection, but one in which we might retain loyalty.  It’s a dangerous supposition that the two must be conjoined for in those unsavory situations where defection from an abusive relationship is demanded, its misperceived twin, disloyalty, tends to impose on our own consciences a guilt when none is needed.  Guilt is one thing. In that it often drives one back into an ill relationship prematurely is another.  Maybe scripture here teaches that it is in fact possible to defect from a relationship and still remain loyal. And to think it impossible may be to welcome harmful codependency. For David, most certainly, a premature return to Israel motivated by a false disloyalty-derived guilt would have been most harmful. And for us, it is the same. If that faux condemnation is not reigned in by truth, we will be left with only one of two choices: either return and defect no longer or become bitter toward the one from whom we’ve fled.

Within the definition of loyalty, one finds the words faithfulness and allegiance. These are heart issues. David’s relationship with Israel in the days of King Saul may be the shining example of a person who had to defect from his nation but never lost heart for it.  Forced to leave a relationship? A church? A job? Leave. But don’t lose heart. Consider a humble preservation of loyalty, that state in which immediate restoration cannot be and yet bitterness is refused. It is a place of certain grace.

 

Rescue. Just Because

1 Samuel 17:35a “I went after it, struck it down, and rescued the lamb from its mouth.

Consider David’s conversation with Saul before he slew Goliath. With a righteous anger for the taunting Philistine, David boldly boasts his confidence in the Lord recalling for Saul that he once chased down a lion and a bear and “rescued the lamb from its mouth.” Ah! A brother in rescue ministry recorded in the ancient writings of Samuel! He brazenly confronted injustice against the flock in his care and was about to do the same for an entire nation. Without taking time to calculate potential loss or risk, this rescuer-to-be-king had a faith in God that might best be described as drastic. So much so, that his quick and selfless action to rescue put him in a position of needing the same. Two verses later, he admits it.

“The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of the Philistine.”

Wait a second. Wasn’t David the one rescuing? Exactly. So stark and daring was his rescue that his engagement with the bear and the lion resulted in certain peril. From a human perspective, freeing the lamb from the predator’s iron grip was a death sentence. Liberating the lamb was to turn all of the beast’s fury against himself and though the lamb would limp away, there would be no hope for David unless of course he too could be rescued. That was David’s faith. He didn’t just believe God for the rescue of the other. He believed it for himself.

I pray for a faith like David’s that responds to injustice reflexively and one that disregards calculations of personal outcome. To preserve one’s life at the expense of another is to lose eternity. But to give it for the sake of another; that is the Gospel.

Desperation Driven Hypocrisy

1 Samuel 28:7

Saul then said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I can go and consult her.”
His servants replied, “There is a woman at En-dor who is a medium.”

 

How could this be!? Saul himself had once campaigned to eliminate every spiritist and medium in the nation. Just as God had commanded in Leviticus,

“A man or a woman who is* a medium or a spiritist must be put to death. They are to be stoned; their blood is on their own hands.”*

And Saul was the instrument of that justice. Certainly he was committed to it for scripture indicates he removed them all from Israel.

So how could he now be in the service of one? How could that once so horrific in his eyes as to cause him to wipe out all who practice it become the very thing he turns to in this hour?

Desperation.

If God had only spoken through a dream or a prophet or the Urim, then Saul’s anxiety would have been alleviated. But God was silent. And Saul was desperate to know.

Personal desperation can lead a Christian in one of two ways: Greater Dependency or Hypocrisy.

In that hour of pressing need when God is silent, when He seems absent, disinterested or despondent, the Christian can either remain dependent on Him, what he knows of His character, what he recalls of His promises and on what God has before  spoken to him or he can fall faithlessly into the trap of hypocrisy. It is in the desperate moment that the Christian is much more apt to practice that against which he has ardently preached, to turn to that which he once publicly shunned in the name God for the sake of righteousness. Oh how sick to the soul is hypocrisy.

Christ in the Christian espouses honesty, kindness and sacrifice but when faced with a fiery trial and God is  nowhere around, no rescue in sight, then lying to, stealing from, injuring or otherwise trespassing against a neighbor or our own virtue suddenly becomes a plausible route. Hypocrisy.

Panicked, Saul’s mind likely raced, “I must do something!” But it would have been better for Saul to do nothing, to resolve in his heart “God is silent on the matter so there is nothing I know to do” than to follow his desperation to the conclusion “God is silent on the matter so I will go and do what only else I know to do.”

The next time I’m pressed with a test or trial beyond what I think I can bear, though God be silent, I pray I’ll simply stand. Just stand, still and dependent on God. May desperation drive me deeper there and never again to that disgrace of hypocrisy.

 

Detestable Division

1 Samuel 27:12 (HCSB)

“So Achish trusted David, thinking, “Since he has made himself detestable to his people Israel, he will be my servant forever.”

Interestingly, although Achish doesn’t know the truth, he speaks it. David has certainly deceived him and Achish foolishly believes that David has been raiding his own people and Israel’s allies.  And although his statement is made on false knowledge, there is more than an essence of truth in his thought, “Since he has made himself to be detestable to his people Israel, he will be my servant forever.”

 

Achish understands “divide and conquer.” If David is divided from Israel because of his “detestable” military offenses, then he is divided from his people and left alone without the power or backing of his nation.  The result? He is destined to be the enemy’s servant “forever”.

 

So goes America and its Church? We may ask the question, “Is the Kingdom of God expanding?” from a global perspective or a national one.  I believe the answers differ depending on the perspective. I hear of great Kingdom advances in the nations, but in America? It seems certain that we’re losing ground. More and more people (and businesses) are dependent on the government rather than God, addiction to all sorts of worldly pleasures take hold in every strata of society, and corruption reigns from our local governments to D.C. We are losing ground in America. Whether we know it or not, we are slowly drifting from a state of liberty to a state of slavery, the king of which says to America, “(you)… will be my servant forever.”  Why?

 

Consider division. If we are divided, we are conquered. If we are divided, we are not the one body of Christ.  Strength in numbers? Certainly. Strength in numbers united as one? Even more so. Unfortunately, the attention of Christian leadership is all too easily and often diverted from Kingdom to kingdom, from Church to church, and from Building to building. Consider that this unhealthy introversion necessitates division and is in fact the seed that leads one brother to appear detestable in the eyes of another.  True unity is realized at the threshold of true selflessness. If we focus more on our kingdom, our church and our building than on each other, division is inevitable and never shall we unite with the force of God in victory to shake the hell out of our nation and its declining culture. Conversely, we will find ourselves in a state of national helplessness against the power now exercised in force by the prince of the air, the god of this age. And then that enemy of America and of our souls shall rightly say as Achish did, “Since he has made himself detestable to his people, he will be my servant forever.”