Category Archives: Mission

2 Samuel 18:18-19:8

A King’s Lament

Discussion Question

What makes good news good? Can you remember some news you received that brought you joy? Why did it do that?

Background (Context)

David, the king of Israel, had a rebel son named Absalom. This son was aiming to kill David in order to take and keep his throne. David’s will was for his son to be treated gently on the battlefield. Against David’s wishes, Joab and his men killed Absalom and so rid the king of the one who was raising his hand against the king. There was nobody left to grieve for Absalom. But David had been blessed by many people who were faithful to him and were willing to die for him.

Read 2 Samuel 18:19-19:8

Link to the passage at BibleGateway…

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • Who will take the good news to David? (19-23)
  • Hoping for good news (24-27)
  • The good news is delivered (28-32)
  • Grief over the news (33-19:8)

Who will take the good news to David? (19-23)

“Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok…” Remember Zadok was one of the priests who attend to the ark and Ahimaaz is his son who sent the message of Absalom’s plans to David. He risked his life to get that news to David.

“Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.” Ahimaaz was eager to be the one to bring the news to the king. It was good news. The threat to the kingdom is over and the LORD has brought deliverance from the enemy. The language created by Ahimaaz is like the Psalms of David when he has been rescued from his enemies (See Psalm 18!). We shall have singing and praise in the land because the LORD is good.

“…you must not [take the news] today, because the king’s son is dead.” The news is good but this is about the King’s son. The good news that Ahimaaz is excited to give includes the tragic news that David’s son is dead. Joab was a smart man and he knew that this would be awkward news to deliver to the king.

“Then Joab said to the Cushite, ‘Go, tell the king what you have seen’.” Joab sends a foreigner rather than the son of a priest. A prudent choice given Joab does not know how David will react. His instruction was to tell the king what he has seen. There is no spin or lies but go and let the king know what has happened.

“My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.” Great question. Why does Ahimaaz need to go? He was part of the adventure when he set out in Chapter 17 to bring news to David. Now that the battle is over, he wants to close the deal with the message. He won’t take no for an answer. He is so excited by the outcome of David’s victory that he must go and tell David! He loves this good news.

“Ahimaaz … outran the Cushite.” He was finally let go by Joab and told to run! So he ran and he ran in a direction that saved him time and got him there first. Two people are racing to bring news of the victory to David. Both carry the same message. One is sent by order and the second is allowed to go because of his enthusiasm. We may believe that the Cushite is now wasting his energy. Or we wonder what plan does Ahimaaz have? Is he wise or foolish?

Hoping for good news (24-27)

“While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates…” We find David staying back in Mahanaam as his troops had advised him to do but not in the comfort of his house. He is anxious to know what is going to happen and also, perhaps, ready to protect the city if things go pear-shaped (2 Samuel 18:3). A watchman is in a position to give the king warning of any coming news or threat.

“If he is alone, he must have good news.” I am not sure where this wisdom comes from. This book called 2 Samuel opened with a single messenger coming to David with a mixed report. How one person running is any indication of good news, I’m not completely sure. It could be exciting news of victory or anxious news of warning. While this could be a true statement, I feel that David is full of wishful thinking. He wants to hear good news. But what he expects that good news to be is unclear. Either his troops are safe or Absalom is safe – David somehow hopes for both to be true.

“And the runner came closer and closer.” There’s a Monty Python scene where two knights at the entrance of a castle watch Sir Lancelot approach them running from a distance. Probably my favourite scene from “The Holy Grail”. Enough said.

“He must be bringing good news, too.” Where is David getting this logic? Surely he just wants things to turn out well and is hoping. Note well the phrase, ‘good news’, as we get closer to the meaning of this story.

The good news is delivered (28-32)

“All is well!…Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.” This is the same essence of the message that Ahimaaz said he would bring to the king. It really is good news. God has won the victory and the people of God who are for God have been delivered. This is a report of deliverance, redemption, salvation! All is well because God wins.

“The king asked, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’” We see that this is at the forefront of David’s mind and the news is incomplete until he hears what has become of his son. We remember that he had commanded the three leaders of all his troops to be gentle with Absalom. But Absalom had been decidedly killed and discarded by Joab.

“Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.” Some have argued that Ahimaaz is not hiding the truth at this point but is speaking what he truly knew. I only mention that for the reader to ponder but I cannot make sense of Verse 20 if Ahimaaz doesn’t know the answer to David’s question. Absalom, the king’s son, is dead and Ahimaaz knows that. Why hide this truth? I suggest because Ahimaaz wants the good news to only contain good news for all. He is not willing to deliver the whole truth to the king. He knows that the Cushite is behind and will give the bad news. We are given this distinction of two messages: one that is half the story and the other which is complete. Both messengers are delivering the ‘good news’ but only one has the complete story. Ahimaaz wants to be a messenger with only good things to say.

“The king said, ‘Stand aside and wait here.’” We are reminded that the king is most concerned about the news of Absalom. The news that God has delivered his men and his kingdom has not sparked joy in David’s heart. He is anxious for his son. Ahimaaz has not received the thank you and joy that he had hoped for.

“The the Cushite arrived and said, ‘My lord the king, hear the good news!…’” The news that he gives the king is closer matched to Ahimaaz’ planned message of Verse 19. Again, the good news is that God has given victory and vindicated David – restored his kingdom. Those who rose up against David have been defeated – that is good news.

“Is the young man Absalom safe?” David wants to know how this news played out for Absalom.

“May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” The Cushite’s answer is not direct but it is clear. Absalom has received what all the enemies of the king ought to get. Absalom was the head of all those who rose up against the king and God has delivered the king from his enemies. This means the enemy being removed – killed. The good news includes justice delivered. That is the whole news. The Cushite is the gospel messenger who gives the whole story of the good news. God has one and evil is destroyed. People who are against God and His people are judged and the sentence delivered.

Grief over the news (33-19:8)

“The king was shaken” His son is dead and his fears have been realised. This is David’s emotional response to the news and we must allow him his humanity which we just cannot predict of ourselves. Pragmatics and logic just don’t fix the way we respond to bad news. 

“He went up to the room over the gateway and wept.” The place where he wept will add to the problem of his response as we continue. All those arriving back from battle through that gate will hear the king weeping loudly over this news.

“O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” You can’t miss the grief in this sentence. And all the troops will get this message as they arrive home. His love for his son was real. He had failed to guide and protect his son – to discipline and mould this rebellious son – but he loved him. And in this very emotional Verse we also see the path forward for rebellious sinners in the bible: If only I had died instead of you. This is how God will ultimately deliver the kingdom from the enemy – he will die for the enemy! Mark 10:45; Romans 5:6-11. But that is for Jesus to accomplish. We may pick up that the king’s son had to die in order for victory to be won. While that is a true statement, it seems too thin to point to Jesus – the Son who died for us. Absalom was a rebel. David’s desire in grief to die in the sinner’s place is the strong link to the gospel.

“Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’” The story of David and Joab has been a contrast between two hearts. David is described as gentle (NIV: weak) and Joab described as hard (NIV: strong). David’s desire to be gentle with Absalom may or may not be a righteous one. It is unclear. Is he thinking like a man of God or like the father of a wayward son? Is it a bit of both? But Joab decided to disobey the king and he killed Absalom. He performed justice on the rebel child. Only Jesus is able to react in perfection to all of this complexity. He is able to weep for the sinner and die for him. He is able to set the prisoner free and preach hell to those who will not come to the kingdom. But in 2 Samuel, we have the king and Joab. Both are right and both are imperfect.

“Then Joab went into the house to the king and said…” Verses 5-7 contain a very heated rebuke from Joab to the king. This is not a time for Joab to comfort the king for his loss because the king is not being a king to his people right now. Verse 6 is perhaps a step too far to say that David hates those who love him but this is Joab’s reaction. David’s men have risked their lives to save and David only cares about the man who was prepared to kill David and all his family. This seems unjust, unfair, unloving, uncaring, selfish and wrong – especially for the king.

It takes my mind to the Psalms of crying out to God – ‘How long O LORD?’ The Psalms that report that the wicked are getting everything and the righteous are getting beaten and mocked. Where is your justice God? Where is the side of the ‘good news’ that reports that evil has been punished?

“So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway…” Absalom had gone to the gate of the city to head of the people from the country and tell them that the king is too busy. Well, now the king is not too busy and he is ready to be seen by all of his people. He is ready to be their king.

“Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.” These were the Israelites who had backed Absalom. The story sets us up for the new problem: what will happen to Israel, who had deserted David. And will David be king over all Israel again?

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Good News of the deliverance of God includes the news that the enemy has been defeated. The good news is about justice and righteousness. The only way that the good news is good for the enemy is when their guilt is taken away. Ahimaaz only wanted to share the happy news of the good news. David focused on the grief of the good news. In the end, the Good News is that there is a King in heaven who has died instead of us, that all need to hear that he is waiting to call home all sinners, but those who will not repent and bow before him will be denied the Kingdom of Heaven. Our King is with us and ‘at the gate’ ready to welcome us and hear our prayer. The victory is won. Jesus is the King.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The 2 ways to live message that excludes justice. The gospel message goes further than saying that God is real and that Jesus loves you. It says that if you do not respond then you remain condemned (John 3:18, 36). Our God is for us. But this is only news to rejoice in for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8 is an amazing chapter in the new testament – well worth reading regularly! But it is about the joy of our relationship in Christ – not just knowledge of God. For salvation to be true for us, we must have obedience to the great exchange at the cross. We must understand that the cross means punishment dealt out on the Son when it should have been me (or you).  Justice has been met in the Son of God. For all who do not believe and do not receive Jesus as their LORD, are not received as children of God but will remain outside of his protection. So, how can we include a dash of pepper to our talk of Jesus to those outside the kingdom?

Topic B: Good grief. David’s sorrow is plain to see in 18:33 to 19:4. Too many of his children (one is enough) have died. David knew sorrow. And he was not a man too tough to express his feelings as many of them are written in the psalms. To make it harder, his grief was for his son who had rebelled and not died under the banner of love and faithfulness. How can we find joy in times like that?! It’s tragic that people are not flocking to the Kingdom of God before it is too late. Psalm 2:10-12 gives us our number one mission in life: serve the LORD with fear. The loss of our loved ones who have not understood the love of God ought to remind us to remain in his love and serve him with fear. We leave the departed in His hands – He is good and will do what is just.

2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

How the Kingdom of God grows

A note to leaders: This section covers two chapters. This would take too long to cover in detail in one study. A decision is needed to look at the whole two chapters superficially or one of three sections (scenes) in a little more detail. Each scene looks at the reaction of King David to three types of offerings to the King and how exactly does the House of David grow stronger and stronger (2 Sam 2:1). We see, in the first scene, a man who crosses over to the kingdom of David and peace is made between him and the king. In the second scene we see a loyal member of the king’s court who is damned because he does not understand the nature of the kingdom. And the third scene similarly sees judgment paid on those who think that good can come out of wicked means.

So, will you draw out those three lessons broadly and look at the whole two chapters? Or will you choose one of the three scenes and cover that as a group?

Discussion Question

It is better to do right and not to have than to do evil and have it all.

Background (Context)

Once king Saul had been killed in battle, David inquired of the LORD and was directed to go up to Horeb. He went up as the LORD had directed him and was anointed king over Judah. Saul’s cousin, Abner, placed a son of Saul (Ish-Bosheth) as king over “all Israel”. He initiated a division in the nation that went against the wishes of God. The battle between the house of David and the house of Saul lasted a long time but David’s house grew stronger. We enter Chapter 3 with the message that David’s kingdom will flourish but what will become of Abner and the kingdom under Ish-Bosheth?

Read 2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

6 During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

8 Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, “Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! 9 May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath 10 and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.

12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”

13 “Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”

15 So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, “For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now do it! For the Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’ ”

19 Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do. 20 When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

22 Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.

24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! 25 You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”

30 (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)

31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.

33 The king sang this lament for Abner:
“Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
34 Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered.
You fell as one falls before the wicked.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.

38 Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”

4 When Ish-Bosheth son of Saul heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel became alarmed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. One was named Baanah and the other Rekab; they were sons of Rimmon the Beerothite from the tribe of Benjamin—Beeroth is considered part of Benjamin, 3 because the people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim and have resided there as foreigners to this day.

4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

5 Now Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rekab and his brother Baanah slipped away.

7 They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. 8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”

9 David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

  • Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)
  • Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)
  • Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)
  • Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)
  • End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

  • Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)
  • Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)
  • Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)
  • Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)
  • End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

  • Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)
  • Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)
  • Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)
  • Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)
  • End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)

Notice how Ish-Bosheth isn’t even mentioned in this description. Abner is a political warrior aiming to position himself well in the land. He may not be king, but we’ll see that he regarded himself as good-as.

Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)

In Abner’s position, he took one of Saul’s concubines. Saul was not longer alive of course. Ish-Bosheth’s question in Verse 7 seems reasonable except that it was a step too far for Abner. He had served Saul and had created this kingdom for Ish-Bosheth, who had done nothing. Why should Abner be denied this small thing? How dare Ish-Bosheth!

Abner decides to remove the kingdom from Ish-Bosheth and hand it to David. He even admits that David was promised the Kingdom by God (V9). He is likely to have been present with Saul when Saul declared such a thing (see 1 Samuel 24:20). In that same passage he would have noticed the kindness of David compared to the little he has gained from Ish-Bosheth.

Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)

Abner came to David with the offer to bring Israel over to David (see how Abner feels he has the nation under his spell?). David accepts but quickly takes the lead in the agreement: “I will make an agreement with you.” He asks for his wife Michal to be returned to him but then doesn’t wait for Abner to organise it, but sends a message to Ish-Bosheth directly on the matter. Michal and David had loved one another and their marriage is a tragedy – all because of the wickedness of Saul.

Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)

Abner goes around all of Israel speaking to the elders and calling them to make David their king. He is like an evangelist telling others of the goodness of coming to David. When he arrived back in Hebron, David sits him down for a feast that David had prepared. The once enemy of David was now being treated at his table.

End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Abner proposes to assemble all of the elders at once so they can set David as their king and David sends him away in peace. The future of David as the one king of Israel looks to be here. The strength of David’s house had been growing and it was about to be complete. The path? Through peace made between enemies.

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)

Joab returned to Hebron having fought in the fight for the House of David but he had missed the agreement and discussions make between David and Abner. If he had been there he would have had something else to say.

Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)

Joab spoke his mind to David but we get no response from David. Later, David makes it clear to all of Israel that he did not betray Abner. Joab accuses Abner of being a lier and conspiring but it is Joab who kills Abner in a deceptive manner. Rather than accept the peace made, Joab strikes down Abner, both for the kingdom but also from revenge for his brother. Joab may be serving in the House of David but he does not have the same motives of David. What will David do when he hears what happened?

Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)

David prays a curse on the family of Joab. They reflect all of the curses that God promises to those who do not obey his commands. David’s hope is that his kingdom would not be connected to Abner’s death in any way. David totally disapproves of what Joab did.

Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)

Notice the repetition in these verses of ‘all the people’. David directs the people and even Joab to mourn for the loss of Abner. The King leads the way in the mourning, it is not a show and the people followed his directions. The King’s lament asks if Abner really deserved to die like the wicked. The people try to ease the King out of mourning but he insists on grieving Abner completely.  

End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

‘All the people’ are convinced that David is a good king. Everything he did pleased them. Abner did not bring all Israel over to David in his life but ‘all the people’ present grew deeper in their loyalty to David. He proved again to be a good and righteous king.

In Verse 39, David gives us a snapshot of his kingdom. He has people in his kingdom who are too strong for him. If the kingdom is to be given entirely to David, he will not be able to restrain the likes of Joab, Abashai and Asahel. He calls on the LORD to protect and grow the kingdom.

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)

The scene changes from Hebron to the kingdom of Ish-Bosheth which, to this point, is ‘all Israel’ apparently. Abner had been killed before he was able to bring all of Israel to serve David as King. The son of Saul hears the bad news that Abner died in Hebron. Perhaps he did not hear of all the details and is left to wonder and worry about the future.

Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)

We are told that he lost courage and all Israel became alarmed. What do people do when anxiety and fear overtakes them? They fight or flee. It seems that Ish-Bosheth lost his courage and became weak. What will be the response of ‘all Israel’?

Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)

Rekab and Baanah are introduced in Verses 2-4 with a great deal of backstory and gap-filling. Mephibosheth is introduced here and we shall hear more about him later in the book.

As we read of what Rekab and Baanah do, two stories come to mind. The first is the most recent of Joab killing Abner and being cursed by the king for his treachery. The second is of the messenger at the beginning of the book who came to report the death of Saul (lying that he himself killed him) and was killed for his evil treatment of the LORD’s annointed. So, as readers, we must surely expect David to not like what they have done. And yet we still wonder if he will still be a righteous king.

Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)

David begins his response to these two men with the declaration that he has come to know that the living God is the one who delivers. He does not trust in the craftiness of men to do his bidding but in the deliverance of the LORD. He is a righteous King and a just judge.

End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

The evil men were made a spectacle of. David making it clear once again that his kingdom is not growing through evil ways but growing by the providence of God. It is, after all, the LORD’s kingdom. David buries Ish-Bosheth with Abner – an show of kindness to the son of Saul.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Kingdom of God welcomes those who turn to the King. It is a Kingdom of forgiveness and peace and will not grow through unrighteous means. The LORD will welcome enemies but reject those who do not understand what the Kingdom is about.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Rejoice that we rebels are welcomed to feast with The Lord Jesus in peace. The image of Abner eating a feast prepared for him by David, his once rival and then sent out to gather in the rest of the tribes of Israel is a glimpse of the church of Christ who are forgiven and sent out to tell all that Jesus is King and Saviour. Have you understood this grace offered to you?

Topic B: Unable to forgive. If forgiveness were easy then everybody would be doing it. Abner had been welcomed in and made peace with the Kingdom of David but Joab was unable to accept this change of heart. Joab was cursed by David for his failure to forgive and was later taught how to mourn for the death of his enemy. Forgiveness is hard, yes. It was not an easy thing for Christ to forgive you and me either. But it is the nature of the Kingdom of God and the King whom we serve.

Topic C: Accomplishing good through unrighteous means. Rekab and Baanah expected to receive blessings for bringing down the King’s enemy but they did it by unrighteous means. We are not driven to stab anyone in the name of Jesus but are there other ways that Christians can be tempted to expand the Kingdom through evil ways? Lying? Stealing? Measuring the church by number of people on seats rather than souls saved?

Study 16 – 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

Idols and believers

Discussion Question

What has been a highlight for you in this series of Chaos to Christ?

Background

We reach the end of the 1 Corinthians 1-10 – Chaos to Christ series and I hope that Paul’s letter has highlighted the need to find our foundation on the cross of Christ. Our faith in Christ does not make us proud or bold to do whatever we want but we respond to the grace poured out on us with a sober approach to life.

From chapter 7, Paul has been looking at some specific things that concerned the church in Corinth and pointing them to the freedom they have in Christ. It is, however, a freedom to express love toward one another and to engage in our ministry here on earth rather than freedom to do as we please. In the previous section (10:1-13) he showed us how the Old Testament gives us example after example of how people fail to live rightly before God and that we are to learn from their mistakes. He singled out idolatry, sexual immorality and grumbling as three horrible actions of any believer. Back in Chapter 9, Paul talked about how his freedom allowed him to cross into the lives of others in order to win them to Christ. He said that he was willing to become all things to all people so that by all possible means some may be saved. Paul now continues this theme and concludes that he is worth following in this because he is following Christ’s example.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”c

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Sometimes something that is nothing is really something (14-22)
  • It’s not all about you (23-24)
  • Seeking the good of others so that they may be saved (25-11:1)

Sometimes something that is nothing is really something (14-22)

“Therefore, my dear friends…I speak to sensible people…” It feels at times that Paul is speaking down to the Corinthians like they are school children who know nothing but we see an example here of how Paul writes optimistically to his audience. They are more than a distant church, they are dear to him, he cares about how this letter is received, and he has hopes that they will read it with their brains engaged and ready to think about what is said. I hope this is how we address one another in Growth Groups and church services.

“…flee from idolatry.” In Chapter 6 Verse 18 Paul commanded us to flee from sexual immorality as a most intimate of sins. He listed idolatry, sexual immorality and grumbling as the three examples of the Israelites failing in their faithfulness.

“…judge for yourselves what I say.” Paul is not saying that they can make up their own mind what is right or not, but to listen to Paul’s argument and examine whether he is right or not – ie, it’s not a call to one’s own opinion but a call to use their intelligence to detect truth from lies or false argument.

“…the cup of thanksgiving…” This would be the Lord’s Supper. The method of conducting the Lord’s Supper has varied over the centuries but the principle at the heart of it is bread and wine that is shared in thanksgiving for the death of Christ for us. Our response to God’s mercy must be thankfulness if anything! Perhaps our ongoing thankfulness for the cross is our way of fleeing grumbleness!

“…a participation in the blood of Christ?” While the wine and the bread remain always simply wine and bread, and while Christ’s death on the cross was paid once for all (Romans 6:9-10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10), the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a communal event that means something. It is not nothing. Paul expands on this in 11:27-29.

“…because there is one loaf…we are one body…” We are the body of Christ – this is a metaphor to express how important the church, the gathering of God’s chosen people in the name of Christ, is to God. We are more than a collection of people with a common interest. And when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we visibly recall and give thanks as a community for the death of Christ for us. It is his actual sacrifice for sins that we are remembering. Our God requires sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. But we remember a sacrifice that has already happened and give regular thanks for it. Even though a living thing is not slaughtered with the blood spilt before our eyes, we are still recalling the one true sacrifice made for the forgiveness of sins. Paul, in this letter, wants us to learn that the cup and bread of thanksgiving has real meaning. It is important to announce before Communion that all are welcome who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and if not, to withdraw from the celebration and think of what the cross of Christ means.

“Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?” Leviticus 7 has background information on this. The eating of the remaining meat from the sacrifice was to be done at the sanctuary. There was a meal involved during the sacrifices in Israel.

“Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything…?” So, this is where we need to have our ears open and our brains on to ‘judge’ what Paul is saying. He is not about to contradict himself. In 8:4 Paul affirmed the truth that God has no competition. There is only One God and every other so-called god is nothing. He is not about to change that claim. But what he will say is that if you are to participate in a sacrifice to another god, then you are actually doing something!

“No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons…” There is no other god to sacrifice to and the food offered to idols is just meat that we are free to eat, but we are not to think that these sacrifices don’t mean anything! There is evil behind false religion. Just today I received in the mail a flyer highlighting how Christ’s return is just about to happen, giving bible passages and current affairs as proof. They do not read the bible correctly and they are deceived greatly with their conclusions and I wondered how a person can be so convinced of a lie that they are willing to print quality flyers and deliver them in their area (I realise others might say the same about our faith but…). There is more than ignorance lying behind the lies of false religion or heretical doctrine. There is a spiritual warfare invisible to us but manifest in the actions derived from lies.

“…both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” It appears that people in the church in Corinth were dabbling in both for some reason. Perhaps their participation in the Lord’s table (being more than a wafer and a sip of drink, see 11:20-21) was merely one meal to them and the sacrifice to demons another. Or perhaps they had sincere involvement in the Lord’s Supper and all the while participating in pagan rituals – whether they were trying to maintain multiple religions is difficult to conclude. The point remains that these rituals, both the Christian meal and the pagan meals, have significant meaning behind them and they are not nothing!

“…trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?” By participating in the meal of Christ and the meal of a demon, this means something to God too. We are to have no other God but one. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul. We are to be devoted to God and not share him with anything else. The Lord’s jealousy may have brought his discipline on some as we read in 11:29-32.

It’s not all about you (23-24)

“I have the right…” Verse 23 is very reminiscent of 6:12. The slight difference in the two verses is helpful. Not everything is constructive. Back in Chapter 6, Paul was concerned about sins that take hold of a person and have master over them. Now in Chapter 10, Paul wants us to think of how our actions can be harmful to other Christians. It is not all about us!

“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” This is the centre principle of this current passage. Love others as Jesus has loved you! Knowing our freedoms is one thing, but applying those for the benefit of others is another.

Seeking the good of others so that they may be saved (25-11:1)

“Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions…” This returns us to the earlier principle that the meat is just meat and don’t worry about it. If you are not participating in the meal to demons then don’t let it bother you. He quotes from Psalm 24:1 but see also Ps 24:1; Ex 9:29; 19:5; Job 41:11; Ps 50:12; 1 Ti 4:4.

“If an unbeliever invites you to a meal…” The scenario given by Paul highlights the freedom of Christians to go anywhere and eat anything with anyone – being all things to all people. The food is just food as long as you want to go there and eat it. But if the fact that this meat was sacrificed to a pagan god comes up then this has now become a highlighted issue. While it was not an issue, it was no issue at all. But now, in this scenario, that the meat has been labelled as sacrificial meat, then the topic becomes important. The person noticing this and drawing attention to it needs to know that this is not ok.

“I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?” Paul has been wanting us to follow his logic and judge for ourselves if he is right or not. If we are free, then we are free! If meat is just meat then it’s just meat. If someone else thinks it is something spiritualy harmful or evil, then their perspective does not change what that meat is. But the wise and loving thing to do in response is to care for the conscience of the other person. In other words, their conscience does not alter what that meat means to you BUT it does alter what you will choose to do with that meat.

“If I take part in the meal…” This meal is a simple meal at a friend’s house. They have made the meal and you are thankful to the eternal God for this meat and the company you eat it with. This is not a sacrificial meal as part of a pagan festival. If it were, then the principle that Paul is teaching us would apply too – it’s just meat, but you are clearly engaging in a sacrificial ceremony to a demon – so why would you do that! Once the meat has been declared as a sacrificial offering, our mission mind teaches us to approach the beautifully juicy and wonderfully cooked up meal differently.

“So…do it all for the glory of God.” Our stomachs and our Christian freedom will not be our God. Remember 1 Corinthians 9:19-27? We shall not allow our body to rule over us but we will say no to this meat for the glory of God. In every decision we make in this life, bring it under the filter of, “how will this bring glory to God?”

“Do not cause anyone to stumble…” This is the core teaching of Paul here. It doesn’t matter what you think of what’s in front of you, we always look out for ways to love others. Paul called it a sin to cause someone to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9-13)

“…whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God…” These three categories fit neatly with Paul’s earlier description of those under the law, those not under the law and those who are weak. The whole church of God are not weak but those within the church of God who may stumble over their own level of understanding.

“…even as I try to please everyone in every way.” Sometimes the rules or guidelines get complicated. While Paul is free to be all things to all people (9:22), he is teaching us that we also need to be aware of how this freedom affects others. While being like one NOT under the law, will he be causing a weaker brother to sin?

“…so that they may be saved.” Keep this as your guiding principle and everything will be ok. Paul’s aim in life is to expand the kingdom by all possible and permissible means. His aim is not to be self serving and exercising his right to freedom.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” What a great sentence to conclude this series with! From the chaos of following the ways of the world and thinking like mere humans (3:1-4), Paul has taught us to think and act like Christ in all things. He said this early on by putting his and our focus on the cross of Christ (2:2). And as he has been talking to us about Christian freedom, rights and responsibilities for growing the kingdom of God he reminds us that we are not just following Paul’s methods – we are following the very mind and nature of Christ. He was free from all and nobody owned him (9:19). He expressed his freedom to enter into our world and become one of us for the sake of saving as many as possible (9:20-23) and he did not allow even his own body to get in the way of saving people but lay down his life for us (9:24-27) and so in all of this, Jesus Christ did not seek his own good but the good of many that they may be saved (10:33; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Philippians 2:5-11).

What did we learn?

In all things, do it for the glory of God, showing love and care for those around you SO THAT they may be saved. Our teacher is Paul and our model is Christ. So, engage your mind to explore the wisdom of God and turn from chaos to Christ.

Now what?

Topic A: What is your understanding of the Lord’s Supper?. It is clear from this passage that the cup and bread of thanksgiving was practiced by the first generation of Christians and it is important to have a right approach to it. Here are a couple of points to make.

  • The Last Supper shared by Jesus and his disciples on the night before his death was the Jewish Passover meal – something that any practicing Jew would observe annually.
  • Jesus repurposed this Passover meal to no longer remember the Exodus where God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, to now remember his death on the cross to rescue sinners from sin and death. The Exodus was a foretaste and shadow of what the cross of Christ has become for all believers.
  • It is one of only two sacraments that we observe in church life: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. A sacrament is a visible sign or ceremony which articulate a true spiritual reality (my attempt at a definition). They are observed in and by the church because they exist in scripture and are endorsed by the Lord himself.
  • The details of how the Lord’s Supper are to be performed are varied and customisable as long as it adheres to the teaching of Christ and of St Paul – see Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 10-11.

Topic B: Flee from idolatry. As Paul expands on this point he directs us to be conscious of what other people think when it comes to eating meat. But he also reminds us that the things that people dedicate their life to (through sacrificial meat as an example) may be driven by evil forces out of our sight. When we dabble with anything that takes our minds off glorifying God, we move toward idolatry. Paul said in another place that greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Can you see areas of life where you are not fleeing but leaning toward idolatry?

Topic C: Not my good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. We saw how this is modelled to us by Paul and ultimately by Christ. The kingdom of God is defined by other-person-centredness. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist for the good of the other. Christ gave up his eternal throne in order to enter our world and save it. Christians are called to lay down their lives for the sake of the kingdom (see Romans 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:3; 1 Peter 2:24). None of us, by nature, live for the sake of others. Pray for God’s help to mature you in this knowledge and wisdom.