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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

A Glimmer of Hope (Isaiah 64:1-9; Advent 1)

    2020, huh? What a year. I know we joke about how much of a dumpster fire, absolute disaster this year has been, but behind the jokes and levity, there is a real sense of hopelessness this year, isn’t there?
    We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, which, despite how you might feel about it, is very real and present and has very much changed the way we live life. Just take a look around you! How many faithful saints have we not seen physically here in eight months because they’re vulnerable to this disease? We know they long to be here with their church family, but the risk is too great! Who thought, one year ago as we began to celebrate the Advent season and the hope of the coming Christ that we would be here today with masks on our faces? Just one week ago, a friend of mine from high school lost her life due to complications from COVID. She was perfectly healthy before, and now, she’s left behind two boys who will struggle to grow up without their mother. Where is the hope?
    Who here, just this last two weeks has had to stand in a line outside a grocery store to get food, only to go inside and find that the food you needed wasn’t in stock? Or wanted to go get Christmas decorations to find that your favorite hobby and craft store is currently closed. Or wanted to go out to eat to find that your favorite restaurant is not only closed for now, but has shut their doors forever? Where is the hope?
    Our own personal struggle through all of this has been being disconnected from our family. My own parents are susceptible, and we haven’t been able to really spend time with them since March; same with my grandmother; same with Jonny’s family. We miss our families. Add to that, the stress of online school which, if we’re honest, despite how much positivity I try to inject into the situation, online school is horrible. It doesn’t work. We’ve had to work even harder to make sure the kids don’t fall behind. The internet doesn’t work sometimes, and sometimes the program they’re meant to use for school doesn’t work either. Where is the hope?
    Not to mention, that most of the summer and even into the Fall, our nation, and many others as well, have experienced a time of great civil unrest. Riots, looting, murders, civil unrest and disobedience. The divides in society grow deeper, and even the most grounded of people seem to forget who they are. Many times throughout the year, the sense of fear and foreboding was present just going to the store. Where is the hope?
    And the normal devastations continue as well. People still die from other things, only now we are limited in the ways we can mourn them. Family friends of ours lost their home in a hurricane in Lake Charles this summer. The earth does indeed groan under the weight of sin, anxious and impatient for her King to return.
    If any year was going to receive the “honor” of being the most hopeless year ever, 2020 might be a close contender.
    Many, many years ago, God’s people felt much the same. They were in the middle of not only a hopeless year, but 70 hopeless years. After decades of exile in Babylon, God’s people were free to return to their homeland, only to find it destroyed and barren. What hope they might have had ended in feelings of despair. They must have told their children and grandchildren stories of what the glorious Jerusalem looked like, only to return to a place that was unrecognizable.
    And in their despair, they felt this incredible distance from God. Isn’t that how it usually goes? When things look black and bleak, God seems so far away! I’m sure there have been many this year who have asked, “Where is God?” They Judeans returning to Jerusalem questioned whether God was working on their behalf, or if He was even listening at all.
    I’ll be in Isaiah 64:1-9 this morning. Let’s see what the people said, “Oh, that You would tear open the heavens and come down, That the mountains would quake at Your presence—As fire kindles brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence. For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in our sins for a long time; Yet shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our wrongdoings, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have surrendered us to the power of our wrongdoings. But now, Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter, And all of us are the work of Your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord, Nor remember wrongdoing forever. Behold, please look, all of us are Your people.”
    Can you feel the hopelessness in their words to the Lord? Their cry feels heavy and sorrowful. Just like our world does today, the Judeans wondered where God was. They cried out, “Oh, that You would…come down…make known!” Their words tell us that they feel like God has abandoned them, that because of their sin, He has removed Himself from them. They remember all the times in their nation’s past that God showed up and did miraculous and amazing things that they didn’t expect, and they were left wondering where the miracles were? Their despair is clear, but they took their desperation to the right place. See, when they were in the midst of a hopeless situation, and for them it was really the midst of an entire season of hopelessness, they CRY out to God in lament. That is your first blank for your bulletins this morning, if you’re following along.
    “God, where are You? What are You doing? Do you still hear us? Do you still see us?” These aren’t wrong questions to ask, and the Judeans were asking them of the only person who can answer. So should we. We, too, are people of God, and in the midst of hopeless situations or seasons, we should cry out to God in lament.
    Why should we do this? Because cries of lamentation lead to confession! CONFESS is your next bulletin blank. Look at the second half of verse 5 through the first half of verse 7, after the people draw close to God and cry out to Him, after they look back and praise God for His great deeds, they said, “Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in our sins for a long time; Yet shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our wrongdoings, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself to take hold of You;”
    When I really enter God’s presence, when I feel like I am actually before His throne, usually because I have spent time worshiping Him and really drawing close to Him, just like the Judeans did here first, I quickly become aware of just how inadequate and unworthy I am of being before God’s throne because of my sin and my failings.
    Aren’t we all? Couldn’t we all say with those people returning to Jerusalem, “We continued in our sins for a long time? We are unclean? Our righteous deeds are like filthy rags? All our wrongdoings are like the wind?”
    The thing about the Judeans’ confession here is that they aren’t confessing individual sins, though I’m sure those existed, they are confessing corporate sin! They used words like, “we”, “all of us”, “all of our”, to describe their sin. CORPORATE sin, which is your next bulletin blank, is the ways that they as a society, as a people, have forsaken God and been disobedient to Him.
    Who had God called them to be? A people set apart for Him who love God and love their neighbor, who live in compassion, mercy, and grace, and walk in the ways of the Lord. Had they done that? No.
    We should ask ourselves the same questions as we come to God as His body and cry out to Him in lamentation for the hopeless season we seem to be in. Are we being who God called us to be? A people set apart for Him who love God and love our neighbor, who live in compassion, mercy, and grace, and walk in the ways of the Lord? I won’t answer that for you, but I think we can look at the church as a whole in our nation and find our answer.
    You see, we just can’t enter into God’s Presence without the realization that we don’t deserve to belong there, and that if there is anything in our hearts that shouldn’t be, then we should confess it. But we also have a responsibility to confess and repent of the ways that we as a society, a people, a church, have forsaken God and been disobedient to Him. In hopeless situations or seasons, God’s people should confess our sins and failings as a people to God.
    What comes next for God’s people in this prayer to Him is interesting. In the prayer, there’s a break between verse 7 and 8, a stylistic break to show that something has changed. Maybe the author is changing topics, or maybe they’ve had a change of heart, or maybe they just don’t know what else to say? I’ve felt this moment many times in prayer, maybe you have as well, when you’ve cried out to God and you’ve confessed and repented, and praised Him, and there’s just nothing else left to say. And then, you just sit and be. And it’s in that being that He speaks, isn’t it?
    It certainly seems to be that way here for the people of God returning to Jerusalem. After this gap, this break between verse 7 and 8, their tone changes, and they suddenly remember, that even in hopeless situations or seasons, God has given them plenty of reasons to hope.
    “But now, Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter, And all of us are the work of Your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord, Nor remember wrongdoing forever. Behold, please look, all of us are Your people.” (vv. 8-9)
    God now becomes their “Father” and the “potter”. The people become “the clay” and “the work of God’s hand.” Their circumstances haven’t changed between verses 7 and 8; they’re still looking at homeland that has been destroyed and ravaged; they’re still facing a decades long rebuilding project. But they start to recognize that because of their relationship with God, with Him as the their Father and potter, and them as His clay and the work of His hands, that there is hope. There is hope, and not because of the circumstances.
    There is hope because of who God is. He is their Father. This is about relationship. We have confidence in Him and who He is, regardless of the world around us. We rest in His promises because we know they are always true. Our hope is anchored in Him.
    He is their Potter. He is at work molding them and actively moving them in ways that make them more like God. That’s what He does in His people. He changes us and molds us to look more like Christ every day. Our hope is anchored in what He is doing.
    They are God’s people. So are we. We have hope because we know that regardless of whether we have security, peace, money, a home, food, or any other want or need, we remain the people of God.
    In hopeless situations and seasons, God’s people REST on the hope we have in Him. That’s your next blank this morning. When everything around us looks so bad, our hope is in Him because He is our Father, Potter, and we are His people.
    For the Judeans returning to the Promised Land after exile, things would still look pretty hopeless for a time. They would even experience a time-period of 400 years when it seemed like God was truly silent. But then all their promises of hope were fulfilled on a starry night, 2,000 years ago.
    For us today, things may still look pretty hopeless for a time. We may have to face even more turmoil, unrest, and disease, and it will seem like, to some, God is silent. But we have a present hope here and now, as well as the promise of future hope. So, during those times, and more will come, we should cry out to God in lament, confess our sins and failings, both individually and corporately, and then simply rest in His hope, because, church, we know the end of the story.
    I’m reminded of a quote from the Lord of the Rings, which is a great story of hope, if you ever need a feel-good story. Things looked bleak and dark for Frodo, and they would get even darker and more hopeless. He turned to Gandalf and said, “I wish none of this had ever happened.” And Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times; but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
    Hope is not lost. Hope is not gone. Hope is here, at the cross.

His Name (1 Kings 9)

    Have you ever sat down to read your Bible, something in the Old Testament, perhaps, about old kings and prophets, land wars, covenants, rituals, sacrifices, and read through a passage, and been completely clueless about what it means or why it might be important?
    I’m sure this is a situation that has happened to just about every person who has ever tried to read passages in the Old Testament that are a bit more difficult. We struggle to understand the relevance because we don’t understand the culture, or context, or the history, or the people. There can be so many nuances to any passage that we can sometimes miss the richness of what a passage should mean to us.
    It doesn’t mean we stop trying though, it simply means we must heavily rely on the voice of the Holy Spirit to speak to us in those moments when we don’t know how to get something out of God’s Word, because we do have His promise that all of Scripture is God-breathed, and all of it is useful for one of these purposes: for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, or for training in righteousness.
    This morning is one of those passages, that, if you sat down with it, might be all too easy to read and think, “Okay, that’s great, but why does it matter?” Or to read through it, and not feel like it changed anything in your life at all.
    I’ll be in 1 Kings 9 this morning. It’s mostly a recording of history, but in the history lesson, there is something the Lord has to say to each of us.
    1 Kings 9 is the turning point for Solomon. It’s the point where we see how he used his wisdom to pursue wealth and connections with foreign kings instead of using his wisdom to wisely lead the nation of Israel closer to God. But like I said, in this, God has something important to say to us.
    1 Kings 9 has two sections to it, the first section has God giving a promise and a warning to Solomon, just as Solomon finished the building of the temple. In 1 Kings 8, Solomon dedicated the Temple to the Lord and made a prayer on behalf of the people. God’s promise and warning to Solomon in the first section of 1 Kings 9 was God’s response, His answer, to Solomon’s prayers of dedication.
    The second section of 1 Kings 9, beginning at verse 10, talks about Solomon’s relationship with a foreign king, as well as his misuse of the wisdom that God gave him.
    I want to start with this second section to show how Solomon’s path was changed. Let’s look at 1 Kings 9:10, “Now it came about at the end of twenty years in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the Lord and the king’s house”
    The last time we looked closely at Solomon’s heart, we saw that his heart was fully inclined to the Lord. We saw that he loved the Lord and was walking in God’s ways. It was this Solomon, whose heart loved God, that started the building of the Temple. But, this verse tells us that it’s been TWENTY years since the beginning of the Temple construction. That’s your first blank, if you want to take notes and follow along in your bulletin this morning.
    During that twenty years, we see that Solomon began to use the wisdom God gave him to do things that weren’t so wise. 1 Kings 9:20-21 tells us that any enemy that Solomon could not do away with, he forced into slave labor. This was the first time in Israel’s history that the leaders of Israel used slaves of any sort. They had been slaves in Egypt, but never had used slaves.
    Slavery was the cultural norm, but the cultural norm is not always up to God’s standards. Though the Bible does give advice to slave-owners, even in the New Testament, on how to be Godly slave owners, it was so they might walk with God as best as they could, while living in the culture that they did, not because God condoned slavery, then or now.
    The fact that it took this long in Israel’s history for them to take slaves should tell us that it was not God’s design for people to belong to other people like property. Solomon making his enemies into a SLAVE labor force, which is your next bulletin blank, was a misuse of his God-given wisdom.
    This creation of a slave force was just one of the ways Solomon compromised within that twenty years. But, he also pursued foreign relations with other nations. This was one of the ways Solomon amassed so much wealth. During his twenty years of building the Temple, he made a connection with Hiram, the king of Tyre, to get building materials from him for the Temple. Solomon paid King Hiram well, and not just paid him well, but kept him well fed with all the best foods Israel had to offer.
    Look at 1 Kings 9:11-14, “(Hiram king of Tyre had supplied Solomon with cedar and juniper timber and gold, satisfying all his desire), that King Solomon then gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. So Hiram left Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him, and they did not please him. And he said, “What are these cities which you have given me, my brother?” So they have been called the land of Cabul to this day. And Hiram sent to the king 120 talents of gold.”
    Another misuse of his God-given wisdom was for Solomon to give Israel’s LAND to a foreign king. That’s your next bulletin blank. It was not a wise thing for Solomon to give his land to a foreign king, and it didn’t even go over well! We see in these verses that Hiram wasn’t pleased by Solomon’s gift. In fact, Cabul means “nothing”, so he thought of Solomon’s gift as nothing. Worthless. Interestingly enough, the most important person in the world would one day come from a small town in Galilee, this nothing land.
    In this twenty year time between the beginning of the Temple construction and the ending, Solomon misuses the wisdom God gave him, not only by putting together the first system of slavery in Israel, but also compromising Israel’s security to please foreign kings that did no good!
    Those twenty years were not entirely kind to Solomon, but 1 Kings 9 does tell us about one wise thing Solomon did do. After the twenty years was over and the Temple was complete, Solomon dedicated the Temple. You can read about that in 1 Kings 8, and read all about what Solomon prayed over the Temple and over the nation. He asked God to forgive Israel when she sinned. He asked God to shine His face upon Israel. He asked God to dwell in the Temple. He asked for God to be with the NATION of Israel, no matter what. Nation is your next blank. When Solomon dedicated the Temple to the Lord, he prayed over the people and asked God to always be with them.
    Look at 1 Kings 9:3, “And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea which you have offered before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built, by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there always.”
    After this verse, the Lord goes on to give Solomon the same promise He gave to David, that if Solomon walks in His ways then He will ensure that Solomon’s line will always be on the throne. But, if Solomon does not walk with the Lord, Israel will be cut off and God will remove His Name from the Temple that He had promised to consecrate with His Name.
    This tells us that Solomon was also wise in that up to that point, at the dedication of the Temple, Solomon was still seeking to walk in God’s ways. Maybe not always succeeding, but he was seeking.
    I want to spend just a little more time talking about God’s response to the dedication of the Temple, because this is where God wants us to pull out something special. We know that God now dwells in Temples made of human hearts. That is, He dwells in the hearts of those who have believed in Jesus Christ as their savior. If you call yourself a Christian, God lives in you. You are the Temple.
    When Solomon finished the Temple and dedicated it to God, then we’re told that God responded by consecrating the Temple and putting His Name on it forever. And your last two bulletin blanks are MY NAME, that He put His Name on the Temple. That means that He set apart the Temple for Him and His use and only Him and His use.
    By putting His Name on it, He was signifying a few things. It’s like when you sign your name at the bottom of a letter, or when they used to use signet rings to seal letters with a seal in wax. When you do that, you are saying, “Yes, this really is me writing this letter.” So, you’re identifying yourself. You’re saying, “I approve of everything that is written in this letter.” You’re saying, “I put my name on this letter to show you that everything I have said is true and trustworthy.”
    So, God, by putting His Name on the Temple also certified a few things. Yes, that is His home, that is the place He dwells. Yes, He approves of what has been built in His name. Yes, you have confidence that when you go to His House, you will meet with Him.
    We are that Temple now, and when we become His Temple, He also consecrates us and puts His Name on us. That means He sets us apart for Him and His use only. That means that He says, “Yes, this one is mine.” He says, “I approve of what this person does in My Name.” He says, “What they speak from My Word is true and trustworthy.”
    It’s an incredible thought, to think that God looks over our lives and decides that He will put His Name over our lives simply because we are His, but that is exactly what He does. It’s one of the reasons that the writer of Hebrews tells us that we should boldly approach God’s throne with confidence, because we are His!
    A few years ago, a song came out by Casting Crowns called “Lifesong”, and one of the lines says, “I want to sign Your Name to the end of each day, knowing that my heart was true.” God called this song to my mind as I was thinking about this passage in 1 Kings 9 because He knows how much music speaks to me. Immediately, I saw the connection He was trying to show me.
    We are His Temple. That happens simply by His grace through the shed blood of Jesus. That is not something we do ourselves. Unlike Solomon, we don’t build the Temple, God does. But, we are meant to dedicate the Temple, ourselves, to Him. Not just once, each and every day. This is what Romans 12:1 speaks of, that we are to present ourselves to God. We are supposed to consecrate ourselves, give ourselves completely to the Lord.
    And He puts His Name on us. Calls us His, speaks to us and through us, and works to build us up. Our part is to continue to give ourselves to Him so He can do the work that only He can do: changing us. We cannot change ourselves, not truly. Only His Spirit can do that. But we can cooperate. We can walk each day in step with Him, so at the end of each day, we can be sure that He would proudly and gladly sign His name to each of our days.
    We live each day for Him, speak to Him more, listen to Him more, read His Word more, pray more, and know that we have done all that He has asked us to do.

1. Review what God tells Solomon to do in 9:4. Can God require this also of you? Is He requiring it?

2. In what ways has Christ already fulfilled this requirement for you, and in what ways is He continuing to do so in and through you?

3. What adjustments are needed now in your life so that you can better fulfill this requirement?

Testimony Sunday


Let us Approach (1 Kings 6)

    The Old Testament is full of God’s promises to His people, Israel. Many of them come with conditions, where God promised Israel He would act in a certain way or do a certain thing, but He wanted them to also uphold a certain way of living. He wanted them to live for Him, to love Him and serve Him only. He promised, that if they would do that, He would go above and beyond for them and pour out His blessings on them. So what happens then, when they don’t serve Him, don’t love Him, don’t live for Him? Do His promises still stand?
    Let’s look at 1 Kings 6 this morning, and I want to start with verses 11-13, “Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying, “As for this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will fulfill My word with you which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not abandon My people Israel.”
    The promise is that God will DWELL among the Israelites and will not abandon His people. Dwell, is your first blank in your bulletin if you’re following along. It’s the greatest promise in the Old Testament, repeated many times in different ways. God will live amongst His people and will stay with them. Here, when He gives this word to Solomon, it comes with a condition: that Solomon walk in God’s ways, keep God’s commandments…THEN God would fulfill the word spoken to David. We know from the history told in the Bible that Solomon did not do this, he did not walk in God’s ways, did not keep God’s commandments. As a result, the throne was removed from his line and David’s line would eventually stop being kings over Israel. But what about this promise? Did God remove the promise to live among the Israelites and not abandon His people because Solomon didn’t meet the conditions?
    This chapter in 1 Kings actually helps us answer that question and understand what God was preparing His people for with the temple Solomon built. 1 Kings 6 goes into the building of the temple in exact and excruciating detail. In fact, throughout the beginning chapters of 1 Kings, if you took all the details given for the temple, you could likely rebuild the temple on your own, given you had the materials.
    Verses 1-10 cover all the dimensions and the build of the temple; verses 14-18 talk about the inside dimensions of the temple and the building materials used; verses 19-28 give great detail about the way Solomon had the Holy of Holies built; verses 29-30 talks about the details of how the walls and floors were built; and verses 31-36 give details about the entrances in the temple and the doors and the courtyard. It’s very detailed, very meticulous.
    Why? Why record such detail, enough detail that the temple could be rebuilt in any future generation? Surely that wasn’t the reason behind recording such great detail. After all, by the time this was penned down, the temple would have already been complete. Now, we keep meticulous blueprints of buildings, but that’s just in case construction ever needs to be done on a building, people doing the work can find utilities and dimensions to change the building. But we’re talking about ancient culture here, no utilities. And we’re talking about God’s temple, so it’s not likely that renovations would involve needing to rebuild in any way.
    Why record such detail?
    Imagine you were amongst the original readers of this passage. There’s this huge, grand temple to the Most High that stands in Jerusalem, and it’s the center of life in Jerusalem because God is the center of life in Jerusalem. But, unless you happen to be a priest, you’ll never get to go inside the temple, not in any way. What is written in the word of God is as close as you’ll get to knowing what the inside of the temple of the Lord looked like.
    That’s part of the reason why such great detail about the temple was recorded, because most people would never see the inside. Knowing what the inside of the temple looked like would help them know where it was that God’s spirit lived among the people. They could never see the ark, but they could still know where God’s presence would “sit” in the temple. The detail given of the temple, helped people draw close to God, the detail given helped people know how they approached God through the priests and the blood of the sacrifices.
    It was important to give such attention to the detail of the temple so people understood all that went into preparing the place for God’s spirit to live. There’s a sermon there as well, about how we should put just as much care and attention to detail in preparing the place God’s spirit lives now, but that is for another time perhaps. But, the point here is that the reason so much attention to the details of the inside of the temple was given was so ordinary people, people like you and me, who would never get to see the inside of the temple, would never get to see the place where God’s spirit lived amongst men, would have some idea of what the place was like.
    But, again, I want to go back to the question I asked at the beginning. When Solomon didn’t meet the condition of God’s promise, does that mean the promise was removed. When Solomon didn’t walk in God’s ways, does that mean God’s promise to live amongst the people was removed?
    No. Because, God, even as Solomon disobeyed God, God was showing the people through the details of the temple that He was already working on another way for people to enter the Holy of Holies. And I want us to remember, that the Holy of Holies was the place where the Spirit of God would actually live amongst the people, where the ark of the covenant was, separated by a veil, entered only once a year by the High Priest to offer a sacrifice to cover the sins of the people. The physical place where God’s spirit dwelled amongst the people? It could only be seen by 1 person, 1 time a year. The place where God’s Spirit actually dwelled was inaccessible to every one else.
    But that wasn’t how God wanted it to be. And like I said, through the details of the temple, He was showing His people that He was working on another way for people to come into the place where His presence lived.
    I want you to turn to Hebrews 9:3-9, “Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.”
    See, the temple that Solomon built, and the tabernacle in the wilderness, all versions of the temple contained furniture in them, the things in the Holy of Holies, which POINTED to another way to enter the Holy of Holies. That’s your next bulletin blank. God’s Spirit was showing through all the things in the Holy of Holies, that He was making another way to be in His presence, another way for His Spirit to live amongst His people. He wasn’t going to remove His promise, but He was going to find another way to fulfill His promise.
    Look a little further in Hebrews 9:11-15, “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
    This verse tells us that even though we couldn’t go before the Spirit of God because of our sin, the new way that God made wasn’t through the blood of goats and calves, but through the BLOOD of CHRIST.  His blood forgave our sins forever, in a way that couldn’t be done by goats and calves. He offered Himself as a sacrifice, not in the temple on earth like the priests did, but in the temple that is spiritual. His sacrificed blood is the new way to be able to go into the place where God’s Spirit lives.
    Hebrews calls this the new covenant. New implies that it has replaced the old. With the new covenant established by the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood, the old covenant of sacrificing animals in the temple is over. There was no need for the temple anymore, because God was showing the people that He was not going to live in the temple anymore. He was going to live somewhere else, and the only way to be where God’s Spirit is, is to go through Jesus’ blood.
    Let’s look at two passages in the Corinthian letters. 2 Corinthians 6:16, “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Here, the promise is repeated and we understand that though in 1 Kings 6 the promise is given to Solomon, it’s actually a promise that applies to everyone.
    What else does this verse say about the temple? Through Christ’s blood, through the new covenant, we become the place God LIVES. That’s your next bulletin blank. We become God’s temple. If we go through Jesus’ blood, if we go through the New Covenant, then God’s Spirit lives in us.
    Look at 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul asks, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
    The attention to detail given in 1 Kings 6 of the temple Solomon built, written down after it had been finished, was to give readers a mental image of what the place was like where God’s Spirit dwelled, because they would never get to see it. But God wasn’t content with this. He wanted to provide His people, all people, with a way to be in the presence of His Spirit. Jesus is that way. Apart from having your sins forgiven by Jesus, there is no way to God. None.
    No amount of good deeds, no amount of praying, no amount of ritual, no amount of positive thinking or meditation, no amount of mindfulness. Nothing will find you a way to God, except by Jesus’ blood forgiving your sins.
    He does that because He wants to build us up into a SPIRITUAL house for Him, which is your last blank. Ephesians 2:22, which is the verse we are praying for over our church, is that through Christ’s blood, God is building us up into a place where His Spirit dwells. He no longer lives in temples made by human hands, but in temples of human hearts.
    Given all this, what does Hebrews 10:19-22 say about how we should approach God?

Creation Testifies to Its Creator (Genesis 1:26-31)

Guest Speaker Allison Storch

A Great Start (1 Kings 2 & 3)

    1 and 2 Kings starts the fast downward spiral of the spiritual state of the nation of Israel. It’s actually a very interesting history to see unfold, how quickly things go from great with David’s reign, to utter ruin and the collapse of two nations because the leaders of Israel chose not to follow the Lord. Just as we’ve done with previous books of the Bible we’ve studied, I want to start by looking at a video overview of the entire book of 1 Kings before we go in-depth.
    Alright, so let’s jump right in. 1 Kings starts with the end of King David’s reign. The first chapter tells us that he was an old and feeble man, unable to rule his kingdom anymore, close to death. He had been told by the Lord that Solomon would be the one to reign after him, but once again, one of his other sons, Adonijah, tried to take a page from Absalom’s book and take the throne for himself. However, this time, David interfered and put down the rebellion before it gained any sort of credibility.
    Solomon was set up as the king of Israel, anointed by the priest, blessed by David. 1 Kings 2 opens like this, “As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son,” David’s time came, and he wanted to make sure his son Solomon, as king, was set up to be the best king possible. Think about all the wisdom and experience David had! He had over 40 years of experience on the throne, and I’m sure there was a wealth of advice he could have given to Solomon, but this is what he said to him:
    “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” (2:2-4)
    Of all the things he could have said, all the advice he could have given, his number one piece of advice to his son was simply to follow the Lord. He told Solomon to be strong. How does he say that is achieved?
    He tells Solomon to walk in God’s ways. This is some of what Solomon would have known about God’s ways:
He would have known that God’s way is righteousness.
He would have known that God’s way is justice.
He would have known that God’s way is to fear the Lord.
He would have known that God’s way is to love God with all his heart and soul.
He would have known that God’s way is holy.
He would have known that God’s way is serving the Lord.
He would have known that God’s way is to delight in the law of the Lord.
He would have known that God’s way is blameless.
He would have known that God’s way is good and right.
    David told his son Solomon, the king, to walk in this way.
    He told Solomon to keep God’s STATUTES, and that is your first bulletin blank this morning. Keep His laws that He has written down. Keep God’s commandments, the things He has said. Keep His ordinances, the ways He has said to live your life. And keep His TESTIMONIES, which is your next bulletin blank. Hold true to the things that He has proved to you about who He is through His treatment of you. These are the things David tells Solomon to hold to.
    In verse 4, David says that if Solomon will do this, then God’s promise will come true, that there will always be someone from the line of David who will sit on the throne of Israel. David and Solomon both had the assurance of God’s promise that if they just walked with Him, their line would always be the ruler of Israel! That’s a high assurance and promise from the Most High and Almighty!
    Not only that, but Solomon basically had the assurance that if he just walked in God’s ways and kept His words, then Solomon’s reign would be a successful one, in every way that was truly important. He would be a great king, just like his father David, if he did as David charged him to do.
    David’s 40 year reign came to an end and 1 Kings 2:12 tells us this, “And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.”
    His kingdom was firmly established. Solomon had his kingdom set up for him entirely, in a good political state, ready to go, and all he had to do to keep things in order, to keep his kingdom firmly established was walk with the Lord.
    And Solomon starts his kingship by doing just that. He walks with the Lord. Let’s move on to 1 Kings 3, which is perhaps one of the most well-known passages about Solomon. 1 Kings 3 includes the conversation between the Lord and Solomon in a dream when God tells Solomon to ask for whatever he wants God to give him. Why? Why would God bless Solomon in such a way? Look at 1 Kings 3:3.
    “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David,”
    Solomon loved the Lord! He started off really great! He was doing everything that David charged him to do. This verse says he was walking in the statutes of his father DAVID, and that’s your next bulletin blank, and that was a good thing!
    I’m reminded of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Paul knew that he was walking in step with Christ, walking in God’s ways, and so he urged the Corinthian church to imitate him, to do as he did because he was walking with the Lord.
    It was good for Solomon to walk in David’s ways because David walked in God’s ways, even when he did things wrong, even when he sinned, he was quick to repent and quick to turn his heart back to the Lord. I remind us again that David is called a man after God’s own heart. It was good for Solomon to walk in David’s ways.
    Now, we know that David had his weaknesses, and Solomon did too. The rest of 1 Kings 3:3 says this, “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” You can write that down in your bulletin too, if you want. Solomon still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.
    Here’s why that was a problem: the high places were places where pagans sacrificed animals, and sometimes humans as well, and burned incense, and did ritual worship of their pagan gods. It was not a place where the Lord, God Almighty would be honored. It was a place where abominable things would happen.
    And, if there’s one thing we know from Israel’s history, it’s that you cannot serve God and other gods. Idolatry is strictly forbidden in the Bible. There can only be one God that we serve. This is clearly an issue for Solomon, but, we can see that like his father David before him, Solomon initially had a desire to do what was right in the Lord’s eyes. Even if the practice of that wasn’t always perfect, his heart seemed to have been in the right place.
    This is why God spoke to Solomon in a dream and asked him what he wanted from the Lord. Solomon replied that he wanted the Lord to give him wisdom. “Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
    To me, it seems that Solomon was already pretty wise. After all, it takes a certain amount of wisdom to humbly accept that you don’t have any clue what you’re doing and you need help. It takes at least some wisdom to know that you need more wisdom.
    God gives him the wisdom he asked for and more. God completely blessed Solomon, not just with wisdom, but with wealth and honor as well.
    I like Solomon’s story, because I think he mirrors what happens many times in our modern times with people in their walk with the Lord. What happens with Solomon is that he starts off really well. He starts off like David, following the Lord, loving the Lord, walking in the Lord’s ways and seeking to do His will. Then the pleasures of life lure him away and he spends a good part of his life chasing the pleasures of life. But…before his time is done, he realizes that his father David was right, that nothing was more important than walking with God, and Solomon returns to the Lord.
1. If God asked you the same thing He asked Solomon, that God would give you one thing, what would it be?

2. In 1 Kings 1:20, Bathsheba tells David that all the eyes of the kingdom were on him to see who would sit on the throne. Who sits on the throne in your heart?

3. To ensure God sits on our throne, what does David’s charge (1 Kings 2:2-3) say you should do? Which of these areas need better discipline in your life?


Treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:16-24)

Guest Preacher--Allison Storch

A Song of Praise (2 Samuel 22)

    Today we’ll finish up the book of 2 Samuel with a song of praise that David wrote. As we’ll see today, it was a fitting song to place at the end of the Biblical accounts of David’s life, even though David wrote this song as young man much earlier in his life.
    In the chapters following what we looked at last week, Absalom, David’s son, took control of the capitol city of Jerusalem. Then, because he did not listen to the advice of David’s counselor, Ahithophel, Absalom made the key mistake of not pursuing David as David fled and hid in the countryside. This gave David time to organize those who might still be loyal to him.
    When Absalom finally did go after David, it was too late. David’s forces were given the victory. But despite Absalom’s coup and his treacherous behavior toward David, David still wanted his son’s life to be spared. His love for his son was not overshadowed by all that Absalom did. However, when we make poor choices, we sometimes have to go through painful consequences.
    Absalom’s death was a consequence for David’s sin, but also a consequence for Absalom’s own sins. David was allowed to keep his kingdom, but it came at great personal cost.
    As David grew older, he experienced many victories over different enemies that we see in 2 Samuel 19-21. He was a very successful military leader, and Israel experienced a time of prosperity unlike any it had ever known.
    2 Samuel 22 is where I’ll be reading from this morning. As I said already, it’s a song David wrote to praise the Lord for all His goodness. David initially wrote it after King Saul’s defeat, but the fact that it is placed here, at the end of the story of David’s life tells us a few things. It tells us that the person who wrote down 2 Samuel was inspired by God to include this song here at the end of David’s life rather than after Saul’s defeat. We can understand that this means that this song was just as relevant to the end of David’s life was it was to David’s younger years. As we’ll see this morning, in many ways, this song echoes David’s sentiments after Absalom’s defeat and subsequent military victories as well as it did earlier in David’s life, because the God who inspired this song of praise had not changed, does not change, and is always worthy of praise.
    Let’s look at 2 Samuel 22. “David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.” (1-6).
    David used a lot of metaphors in his writings. You can see that throughout the psalms he wrote. He looked at the world around him and saw in his world things he could use to describe what God is like. He opens this song by describing the Lord as a rock, a fortress, a place of refuge. In ancient cities, like Jerusalem, Jericho, and many others, they were often chosen because of the geography around them. These cities used the geography around them to act as defensive measures against enemies. Hugh rocks, cliffs, ravines, and other features of the land were turned into fortresses to protect cities.
    David says the Lord is like this. He is a great rock that protects all who come to Him. It’s an especially fitting metaphor because when David was fleeing from Saul as well as when he was fleeing from Absalom, he found refuge in the rocks and strongholds of the land around him. David grew up taking shelter amongst the rocks as he was shepherding his flocks and the elements became unfriendly. David knew, perhaps better than anyone, the comfort and shelter that could be brought by the rocks around him. He knew this was how God is for those who run to Him.
    Not only was the Lord a place of security and defense against his enemies, but David calls the Lord the “horn of my salvation.” With David’s history as a shepherd, David calls to mind the horn of an animal, a ram perhaps. The horn was used not only to protect the horned animal against an attack, but it was also used to fight back an attacker. Like a shield, the horn is both a defensive and offensive weapon. David was praising God, not only for protecting him against his enemies, but also for striking them back.
    David talks about waves of death, torrents of destruction, cords of the grave coiled around him, and snares of death confronting him. When he was pursued, first by Saul and then by Absalom, David saw all the many ways death could come for him, but he also knew that his God is greater than death, and He not only protects those who run to Him, but He also strikes against those who try to hurt the ones who are His. God is our protector and avenger.
    “In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the Lord, at the blast of breath from his nostrils.”
    In this section David talks about the might of the Lord, and even though it sounds like David is talking about God’s mighty dominion over the earth, again, he’s using metaphors: using the things he sees and understands around him to show God’s often hard-to-describe qualities.
    David talks about the earth trembling and quaking, and the foundations of heaven shaking. David wasn’t talking about an event he actually witnessed. There was no violent earthquake or massive storm. David is expressing that when God comes to the rescue of those who run to Him, to those that are the oppressors, it will seem like the whole earth responds in fear of the Lord’s anger. David uses the Hebrew words gaash and raash, to talk about pillars that hold the earth up, and that when God moves against His enemies, even the pillars that hold the earth together would fall.
    This is something that, even now, the enemies of God don’t understand. There is no length He won’t go to to protect those who call Him, “Father”.
    David wrote that smoke rose from his nostrils. We’ve talked some about David’s military success, that God gave him and the armies of Israel victory over the enemy nations that waged war against them. David, when he says that smoke rose from the Lord’s nostrils, is calling to mind the image of a war-horse, enraged, snorting violently and rearing for battle. David was expressing to those that would hear his song that the Lord was the one who fought on David’s behalf, with all the might and power He has.
    David says that the Lord soared down on the wings of the wind. He calls to mind the beginnings of a great storm, how the winds howl and scream. Many times throughout the Old Testament, a coming storm is used as a tool of the Lord’s judgment against His enemies. Judges 5:4 says, “When you, Lord, went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water.” In this instance of the Lord using the weather to help defeat His enemies, there was a literal storm that He sent to make defeat for the enemies of Israel a reality.
    David calls this to mind to show that God will even use the elements, any part of creation He chooses, to help those who call upon His Name. There are scholars who believe that David was inspired by the imagery he saw during his travels at En-gedi, where he would have seen great chasms in the earth left by a great earthquake. He may have even seen the remnants of what happened at Sodom and Gomorrah. So, if He has to send storms, He’ll send storms. If He has to send an earthquake, He’ll send an earthquake. God’s protective might knows no bounds.
    “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (17-20).
    God reached down. He reaches His hand from His proper place, the throne in heaven, the place where His glory dwells, to reach David. David recognized that the Lord is not one who is content to sit on His lofty throne while His loved creation suffers. He cannot just stand by and let the innocent be oppressed. He cannot just watch as injustices happen. He must and does act. He is the God who saves.
    I love this picture of God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel because I believe it is a beautiful depiction of the relationship between God and man. God here, in His heavenly home, has His hands outstretched, reaching, straining even, to reach us. He’s nearly coming out of His cloud to try to get to us.
    Man’s efforts are less than worthy of such a God. We are content to let God do all the work, and even when He does, we rarely run to Him with open arms. Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the image of the cross. God did all the work. He came down to the earth, suffered a human life, suffered a horrible death on the cross, severe humiliation, and what was our thanks? We mocked Him, jeered at Him, called Him names, and even now, sneer at His gesture of ultimate love. He is the God who saves, even when we don’t want to be saved.
    But for those who do, we, like David, recognize a God who is stronger than we are, a God who delights in us, and loved us so deeply that He couldn’t just stay up on His cloud.
    “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight. To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” (21-30).
    David talks about the way that the Lord has dealt with him, and from what we know about David and some of David’s choices, we know that he was not a righteous man. He sinned. We’ve talked about his sin and the consequences David had to pay because of his sin. Compared to the Lord, David was not righteous. No one is.
    But David wasn’t claiming that he was perfect or holy like the Lord is, rather, David was talking about the condition of his heart attitude before the Lord. Though David sometimes made choices that were sinful, in his heart, he tried to sincerely walk in the ways of God. He tried to keep God’s commands, even if he failed sometimes, it was the desire of his heart.
    David wrote that he had not turned from the ways of the Lord, was not guilty of turning from God, that he had kept himself from sin. Again, we know that’s not actually true, and David had gone against God’s commands. But David didn’t mean that he had never sinned, just that he Had never rejected and turned away from actively serving the Lord. He drew close to the Lord after he sinned and relied on the righteousness that God had to restore him.
    This is an important thing for us to remember. Like David, we have no righteousness compared to God. We can’t measure up, ever. Our righteousness is like filthy rags to the Lord. What is important is two things: the condition of our hearts’ attitudes, and being covered by God’s righteousness. Our hearts should be like David’s, inclined to the Lord, desiring to do what the Lord has asked. But we also must be covered by the Lord’s righteousness because we have none of our own. This only happens through the shed blood of Christ which atones for our sins. When our sins are forgiven, God COVERS us in His righteousness.
    The next section of this chapter covers verses 31-51. Here, David talks about the attitude he takes from a relationship with God. In verse 31 David talks about the flawlessness of the Lord’s Word. The word he uses is the same word used to talk about the refining of gold in the fire. When it’s been refined, it’s pure. David is saying that the Lord’s Word had proved itself to be true in David’s life through all the circumstances and challenges David had been through. David knew he could always count on the Word of God to be true, no matter what David went through.
    In verse 34 David says that the Lord makes his feet like the feet of a deer. To David, who was a skilled warrior, having feet like a deer was something to aspire to. Deer are agile and fast, both are traits a warrior desired. Through this metaphor, David talks about the assurance he gets from serving the Lord, that through the Word of God David gets everything that he needs to do his jobs well.
    In verse 38 David says he pursued and crushed all his enemies. That was definitely true, as God gave David many military victories. But the verbs David used in this sentence are future tense. He had so much confidence in God and his relationship with God that he knew beyond a doubt that when he needed God to deliver him, God would not fail to deliver. This was not prideful boasting in anything that David could do or any skill that David possessed, but rather a boasting in how great the Lord is.
    Finally in verse 44, David talks about God’s deliverance from the attacks of the peoples, people that were within his own nation. Again, David used the future tense to talk about future attacks from the people of his own nation. This was before Absalom’s rebellion, but David knew that one day that rebellion would come. Yet, even then, David’s confidence was sold. And that’s our final point: that God makes us STAND in CONFIDENCE.
    With all that David gained from his relationship with the Lord, all that we gain, it’s easy to see why the best response is to sing a song of praise.

Brother of Folly (2 Samuel 15)

    “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Paul warns Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:33.
    It’s very true that the more power and authority a person has, the more carefully they should select those closest to them, their advisors and counselors and friends. Not doing this could set a person up for betrayal in ways that could hurt very badly. But this isn’t any less true for the average person, you and me. We need to carefully select the company we keep as well.
    King David learned this as well, though only after he had experienced betrayal. Unfortunately for David, as we’re going to see, he was warned that this betrayal would take place because of his sin, and this betrayal led to him being temporarily and painfully overthrown as king. We’ll be in 2 Samuel 15 today, and it’s a cautionary tale of the consequences of sin, yes, but also of the importance of choosing your closest relationships wisely.
    David’s betrayal came with this warning from 2 Samuel 12:11, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.” David is told that one of the consequences for his sin is that someone from within his own house will turn against him and rise up. Someone close to him will claim everything David has as his own.
    In the chapters between this warning and our passage for this morning, we see one such person become more and more prominent. This person was Absalom, David’s son.
    Absalom appears on the scene prominently in 2 Samuel 13, as part of a family scandal. Absalom was David’s son, but not David’s firstborn. Absalom was assured a life of comfort, but he was not in line for the throne. Someday, the throne would pass to David’s firstborn son, Amnon. Amnon was Absalom’s half-brother. We’re also told that Absalom had a sister, Tamar.
    In 2 Samuel 13, Amnon falls in lust with his half-sister, Tamar. He deceives her to get her alone and he rapes her. When her brother, Absalom finds out, he’s furious, be he urges Tamar not to tell anyone else. Instead, Absalom bides his time, waiting for just the right moment, and then when he has put all the pieces into place, he has his half-brother, Amnon, killed. He gets his revenge for his sister’s dishonor, but in the process of doing this, he also manages to kill the son that was in line for the throne, which would have passed the line to Absalom.
    At the beginning of 2 Samuel 15, Absalom is not only the heir to the throne, but we’ll see him start to betray his father David so as to take the throne instead of waiting for David to die. Let’s look at these betrayals.
    2 Samuel 15:2-6, “Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.” Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.” And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.”
    One of the roles of the king was to act as a judge whenever someone in his kingdom had a dispute that needed to be settled. Absalom took that role upon himself when it was not his to take. Before the people in the kingdom could even reach David in his palace, Absalom got to them first. And as he acted as the judge like only the king should, he began to, as the verse says, “steal away the hearts of the men of Israel.” Here’s your first bulletin blank if you want to follow along, Absalom acted as JUDGE.
    He murdered and became the heir to the throne, and then he began to act as the king in judicial matters. He didn’t stop there.
    2 Samuel 15:7-9, “Now it came about at the end of forty years that Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed to the Lord, in Hebron. For your servant vowed a vow while I was living at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the Lord shall indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord.’” The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron.”
    Hebron held a great deal of significance for Israel at this time. Hebron was the place where Abraham stopped and settled when God called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Hebron was where Abraham and Sarah were buried, as well as Isaac and Jacob. Hebron was where God made the covenant with Abraham. Hebron was where David was anointed king and where he ruled from until he moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. For all of Israel’s history up to this point, Hebron was like the capital, and it certainly was the spiritual capital and center of Israel’s relationship with God.
    In these verses, when Absalom went to Hebron, he was using the religious history of Hebron to set himself up as the king of Israel. He was already the heir, was already acting in one of the roles of the king as judge, and so by going to the spiritual center of Israel, he was claiming that he was God’s chosen king of Israel. Here’s your second bulletin blank this morning, Absalom used RELIGION deceptively. He claimed he was God’s chosen king by manipulating the spiritual traditions of the people.
    So, recap: he had the heir to the throne murdered, he started taking on the roles of the king as judge, and he used religion deceptively to claim his kingship.
    He had two more acts of betrayal as well, 2 Samuel 15:10, “But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’”
    Absalom then sent spies into the tribes to start spreading the false decree that Absalom was king. He was next in line, started acting like the king, won the people’s hearts, manipulated their spirituality, so when people started gossiping that Absalom was the king, it would have been easy to believe.
    Then, to give his hostile takeover, his coup, more credibility, we’re told this, in 2 Samuel 15:12, “And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom.”
    Absalom sent for Ahithophel, David’s counselor, and Ahithophel sided with Absalom. He’s the heir to the throne, he’s already doing the job of king, he’s got the spirituality of the nation manipulated, he has people proclaiming his kingship, and he’s even got David’s counselor on his side. He betrayed his father David in just about any way you can imagine.
    He wasn’t alone though. I want us to look at this man Ahithophel as well. Ahithophel was already in a mindset of disliking David. Who is this Ahithophel and why was he already set against David, even though he was his counselor?
    2 Samuel 23 tells us that Ahithophel had a son named Eliam. Now, listen to 2 Samuel 11:3, “So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
    Uh oh. If Ahithophel’s son was Eliam, and Eliam’s daughter was Bathsheba, that would make Ahithophel Bathsheba’s grandfather. In addition to that, 2 Samuel 23 tells us that Ahithophel was also a relative of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband that David had murdered. It’s entirely within the realm of believability to think that maybe Ahithophel held a grudge against David, even though David had given him a position as a counselor, one who would give David advice. It’s easy to see why, given the opportunity, Ahithophel would turn against David.
    Your next bulletin blank is that Ahithophel was David’s COUNSELOR, as we’ve seen already. What that means is that when David needed advice about how to run the nation, Ahithophel was one of the men he consulted. We also need to understand that this means that Ahithophel knew a lot of things about David’s kingship that others, even his son Absalom, might not have known. He was in a prime position to betray David.
    Let’s look at 2 Samuel 15:31, “Now someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O Lord, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness.”
    Your next bulletin blank is CONSPIRED. Ahithophel conspired with Absalom. He didn’t just decide as Absalom was taking over that he was going to switch sides, he actively worked with Absalom to see David fall. As I said before, Ahithophel would have had knowledge that would have been very detrimental to David, and with that knowledge, he all but assured that Absalom would be successful in his coup. See, Absalom had a lot working in his favor for this coup, but Ahithophel’s close knowledge of King David and the inner-workings of the kingdom were the key to making this whole thing successful.
    David understood how serious this betrayal was; how serious it was that Ahithophel was conspiring with Absalom. When he heard of the conspiracy he prayed to the Lord that God would make Ahithophel’s counsel to Absalom foolishness, that it would be folly and unhelpful.
    Interestingly enough, and you probably know by now how much I love words and names and wordplay in the Bible, Ahithophel’s name means “brother of FOLLY”. And that’s your last bulletin blank today. His name means “brother of folly”. David prayed in this moment when he knew how bad things could really get for him, he prayed that God would make Ahithophel live up to his own name.
    David trusted Ahithophel. 2 Samuel 16:23 tells us that David considered Ahithophel’s advice as trustworthy as the Word of God, despite the fact that he had severely wronged Ahithophel’s family through adultery and murder. He also deeply trusted his son Absalom, despite Absalom’s obvious bent toward violence and the warning David had from the prophet Nathan that someone in his own house would betray him.
    It seems to me, that if David had kept a closer eye, chosen his advisors more carefully, addressed Absalom’s violent deeds, perhaps he could have avoided this whole mess.
    I want to say the same to us, church.
    I put a saying in your bulletins this morning that, “You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.” Do you have close relationships with people that you would be proud of being like?
    For Christians this is an even more important concept. If we are meant to be like Christ, then we need to surround ourselves closely with people who are also becoming like Christ, because we become like the 5 people we spend the most time with. If those closest to you aren’t becoming like Christ, it will be that much harder for you to stay the course.
    That’s why we get New Testament encouragement from Paul like this, from 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
    Bound, here, means that there is a closeness in that relationship. You trust that person, you confide in that person and tell them about your struggles and issues, you spend time with that person just enjoying each other’s company. That’s what “bound” here means.
    There’s no issue with being friends with unbelievers. We should be in the world enough to be able to be a witness to others to point them to Christ. You should be transparent with others, you should speak and act in a manner worthy of your calling. You should make disciples! But those that we are closest to should be Christians! Those that speak into our lives, those that encourage us and challenge us should be Christians! They should be people who urge us on to greater depths in our relationship with Christ.
    Surround yourself with people who will sharpen you when you need to be sharpened. Surround yourself with people who will speak the truth in love, even when it’s a hard truth. Surround yourself with people who will show you what it looks like to become the image of Christ. The last thing you want is someone speaking into your life who is a “brother of folly”.

1. Write down the names of your closest relationships. Do most of these people encourage you into a deeper walk with Christ? If not, are there other relationships with genuine Christ-followers you could develop into closer relationships? (Proverbs 27:17)

2. Who did Jesus spend most of his time with? What does that teach us about the importance of choosing Godly relationships?

3. How can you encourage and uplift your relationships this week? How can you urge your friends to walk deeper with Christ? How can you pray for these people this week? Reach out to them and see how you can be a Godly friend to them.

Faithful to Forgive (2 Samuel 12)

    Last week’s message was about David’s Great sin: coveting and lust, which lead to adultery and murder. Despite David’s heart and his intention to always be within the Lord’s Will, we know from what we’ve seen about his life so far was that there were temptations that were waiting for David, and if he wasn’t on guard, he could allow one of those temptations to become sin, which is exactly what happened.
    Today, we’ll look at what happens when David’s sin is discovered and he’s confronted with what he has done and faced the consequences of his sin.
    I’m going to be in 2 Samuel 12 today, and it picks up right where we left off last week.
    2 Samuel 12 starts with the prophet Nathan going to David to tell him a little story, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
    This was meant to be a sort of parable of David’s sin, with David being the rich man in the story who took the only wife belonging to a man, Uriah, who only had the one wife, while David had many.
    David immediately saw how unfair, how wrong and despicable the rich man in the story was, and he told Nathan that the man who had done this deserved to die, that he had to make restitution because the thing he did had no compassion.
    This was Nathan’s response to David, “You are the man!”
    Immediately, David is confronted with his sin. Nathan makes it known that the Lord knew what David had done, and He had revealed it to Nathan.
    Now, David’s story is highly relatable, even if you’ve never committed adultery and had someone murdered. When David is confronted with his sin by Nathan, we could learn a few things about the way David responded. See, what we see David go through is the process of holiness, and I want to make sure we understand what this process is.
    David is confronted with his sin in the first 12 verses of this chapter, and because Nathan tells him that David was the man who had done wrong, David is convicted of his sin. Conviction means that not only was David told that he was guilty of wrong-doing, but he accepted that He had done wrong. He knew that he was guilty and didn’t try to pass it off as someone else’s fault. He didn’t try to pretend that he was above being called out just because he was the king.
    There will be times in your life when you will be convicted. At some point, you are convicted of sin. The Spirit does this in many ways. Sometimes He uses the Word of God. Sometimes He uses that small voice that speaks to the darkest parts of your life. Sometimes He uses another believer, another brother or sister in Christ. Sometimes He uses a well-timed worship song. Conviction comes in many forms, but if you are a believer in Christ, you know what conviction feels like. It’s that pain that you feel in your soul that tells you you’ve done something wrong against the Lord and there’s no way you can deny it because He sees your heart.
    At other times, you’re convicted of an area of your life of consecration. If you’re taking notes in your bulletin, that’s your first blank. This is a word that we use in the church sometimes that is important to understand because it’s an important part of our walk with Christ. What it means when you CONSECRATE yourself, or a part of your life, is that you give that, whatever it is, to God. You give control of a part of your life, or hopefully, your whole life, to God for His control. When you do that, you should no longer be in control of that part of your life. God is the one who directs, guides, and calls.
    Again, if you have a relationship with Christ, you know what this type of conviction feels like. It’s not the same as sin conviction, but when it happens, you know that it’s very clear that the Spirit is asking for you to give something to Him. It might not even be a sinful behavior. He could ask for longer time spent with Him in quiet times. He could ask for deeper study of His Word. These are good things, and all things that He could ask for when He convicts you that something needs to be given to Him.
    This is the first step in the process of holiness: conviction, either for sin or for consecration. Conviction will come. There will always be something that the Lord wants to change in us. Always. Until the day we die and are glorified and with the Father in eternity, He will always want to change us to refine us and fill us with a greater capacity for His love.
    When conviction comes, we have choices for how we will respond to that conviction. The first choice you have is to IGNORE the conviction. That’s your next bulletin blank.
    Even if you have been a Christ-follower most of your life, you can at any point choose to ignore the conviction of the Spirit, either to repent of sin or to consecrate, or give, part of your life to deeper intimacy with the Spirit. Ignoring conviction is always an option, and sadly, I have seen even life-long, and seasoned Christians choose to ignore conviction, usually because they didn’t like the source it came from.
    The greater response though, is to accept the conviction, and REPENT through humility. Repent is your next bulletin blank. This is the choice I would urge all believers to take, no matter how difficult and painful it might be, no matter what it costs, no matter how hurt our pride is in the process, always humble yourself and repent.
    Sometimes you might find it easy to repent and be humble. When conviction comes through that still small voice, it’s easier to take that conviction because hopefully we’ve discerned that small voice as the prompting of the Spirit. It might also be easier to humbly repent when conviction comes directly from the Word of God. But what about when conviction comes from someone who you have asked to be a Spiritual authority in your life? An accountability partner, a mentor, a pastor, a close friend, or a prayer partner? When conviction comes from those people whom we have asked to speak into our lives, it can sometimes be more challenging to be humble, to hear what they are saying out of love and concern, and repent when repentance is called for.
    I’m sure it wasn’t easy for David to have his sins called attention to by the prophet Nathan. After all, David was the king! But, as hard as that can be, it’s more detrimental to your walk with Christ to ignore the conviction to repent or change than it is to swallow your pride. Always listen to conviction.
    We can take David’s example in this. When Nathan confronted David and David felt the conviction of the Spirit, this is what he said, “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”
    David accepted that he had done wrong, he accepted the conviction, regardless of the fact that it came from someone who he could have considered “beneath” him. He admitted his wrong doing, and from Nathan’s response to David, we can infer that there must have been repentance in David’s heart because Nathan told David that the Lord had taken away his sin. Forgiven, as if it hadn’t happened.
    We have the benefit of looking throughout the whole of Scripture and seeing that only true heart repentance brings about forgiveness. David must have repented of the sin in his heart. He listened to conviction, swallowed his pride, and repented.
    After we make our choice, our response to conviction, to either ignore it or humbly repent, the Lord has a response to our response. If we choose to ignore conviction, then the Lord will let us make that choice. He will let us choose to ignore the prompting of His Spirit. As a believer, this is a very dangerous thing to do. Now, I can’t say for sure that a pattern of ignoring the Spirit’s prompting will put your salvation in danger…but why would you want to risk that? The Lord will let you, but it’s not a place I want to be, and it’s not a place I want you to be!
    Romans 6:23 reminds us, even as believers, that the price for sin is death! I saw a sign this week on another church’s board that, “sin is a short word with a long sentence.” But we avoid that sentence through repentance.
    If we make the wise choice, if we take David’s example and we humbly repent, God’s response is so good. We saw that when David repented, God forgave. Despite David’s horrible failure, God kept His promise to David.
    Anytime that we humbly repent and ask God to change us, we can be assured that we are also FORGIVEN because of the shed blood of Christ Jesus. Forgiven is your next blank. We all have messed up, too. We know this, or we wouldn’t be here in church on Sundays! We’re here because we know how broken and imperfect we are, and we know that we need forgiveness for our sins! But despite our own horrible failures, God keeps His promises to us!
    We have the forgiveness of sins, not because of anything we do, but because of His great faithfulness to us!
    God also responds to our repentance by the CHANGE of our hearts through His love. He loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to stay stuck in patterns of sin, He doesn’t want us to be slaves to bitterness and anger. He doesn’t want us to live lives of selfishness and devoid of compassion for those He created. He wants us to live lives of true freedom. But in order for that to happen, we have to give Him those areas He convicts us of that should be His! When we repent because of His conviction, He works to change us!
    The changed life of the Christian is perhaps one of the greatest witnesses we have of the truth of the gospel of Christ. People can naysay all they want, deny the crucifixion, deny the resurrection, deny that Jesus even existed, some go so far as to deny the very existence of God. But no one…no one…can deny the proof of a life that has been truly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us when we give Him control over every aspect of who we are.
    But if we ignore conviction, either the conviction to repent of sin or the conviction to consecrate something in our lives to Him, we rob Him of the opportunity to make our lives a convincing witness to point others to Him. Because as we speak things in His name, if our lives, our actions, and our words don’t line up with who we claim to be, our witness will not only be ignored by others, it may actually turn others away from Christ.
    David repented, was forgiven, and I have no doubt his heart was changed and he became wiser and more in-tune with the Spirit from that point. Now, David still had consequences that he had to pay for his sin. And sometimes, that is the case. Sometimes there are still earthly consequences for our sin that remain, but, I want to end with this passage from 1 John 1:5-10, but especially verse 9.
    “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

1. We want to make sure we are always asking the Lord to examine our hearts, to see if there is any unclean or unrighteous way in us. Is there anything you need to repent of now?

2. This week, think about your walk with Christ. Are you in an active pattern of consecrating (giving to God) your actions, words, thoughts?

3. Spend time this week thanking God for His faithfulness to forgive you! Reflect on some of the sins He has forgiven for you. How can you extend that same forgiveness to others who might wrong you this week?

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