Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David

baldhonestfaithWe are familiar with Hebrews 4:16: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most;” and Ephesians 3:12: “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence;” but what you may not know, is that boldness before God isn’t a New Testament privilege that arrived with Jesus.

This confident attitude in approaching God is evident in how David communicates with the Lord, and was also seen in Moses, Job and other Psalmists. It may look a little disrespectful sometimes, but it is a hallmark of a dynamic, covenant relationship with God.

“I cried out to you, O LORD.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will You gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise You?
Can it tell of Your faithfulness?
Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O LORD.” Psalm 30:8-10 (See also Psalm 44 by the Sons of Korah)

I didn’t know about these ancient roots of boldness, until I read “Worship in Ancient Israel,” by Walter Brueggemann. On page 46-47 he writes: “Isra’el also engaged in truth telling about its life with YHWH in confession, lament and protest… Isra’el was not a submissive, second-rate player, but was a full, vigorous partner to YHWH with an unapologetic presence and an unembarrassed voice that refused to be silenced or cowed… Isra’el refuses to submit too readily to YHWH’s sovereignty when that sovereignty was seen to be unfaithful; in such circumstances, Isra’el instead of submitting, made a claim for itself against YHWH.”

Page 49: “Such speech, in its rawness, is in fact an expression of great faith; it expresses deep conviction that when YHWH is mobilised in order to honour YHWH’s covenantal commitments to Isra’el, YHWH has full capacity and power to right any situation or wrong. Thus the voice of protest and rage is characteristically in the service of plea and partition to YHWH.”

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I agree with Professor Brueggemann that calling God to action like this can seem irreverent. However, David is never rebuked by God for being too direct. God could destroy him for speaking out, but as David’s boldness is coupled with praise and dependence on God for help, He doesn’t. It seems that those without the faith to get in God’s face and speak their mind lose, and those with the faith to be bold, win. Honesty with God obviously pays off.

“Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in You I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in You.” Psalm 25:20-21

Calling on God is submissive, rather than subversive. David could have taken his problems into his own hands and dealt with his enemies by the sword. Instead, he persisted in knocking on God’s door, and his perseverance got him a better answer.

If you study the Psalms, you will find that his entreaties to God are also tempered by praise and a promise to make an offering to God when deliverance has been granted. God gets His due recognition, gratitude and with David, the testimony of what God had done is also shared among the people via a Psalm, to encourage them as well. David’s brave, bold faith benefitted many people, including us today.

“Declare me innocent, O God!
Defend me against these ungodly people.
Rescue me from these unjust liars…”
verse 4: “Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise You with my harp,
O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise Him again—
my Saviour and my God!” Psalm 43:1 and 4-5 (Also see Psalm 66:13-15)

So are there limits to how bold we can be? Yes; the limits begin if we abuse the Lord, blame Him for our problems, or in short, cease to address Him with any attitude that doesn’t demonstrate the *fruit of the Spirit. He is merciful and patient, but He is neither a scapegoat, nor a punching bag. Respect is absolutely always called for, in every situation and praise absolutely must accompany these kinds of prayers. Submission is always a requirement.

There are times when like David, regardless of the trouble we are in and how urgent it is, we just have to wait patiently for an answer and keep hoping in the Lord. There are other times when due to complications, such as the effect of other’s free will on our circumstances, God can’t do as we ask, and we have to submit to His authority and wisdom, like it or not. Plus there are times when we’re wrong. Our ‘fix it’ answer was a poor one. In all these conditions we need to adopt the humble attitude Job had when he said:
“I know that You can do anything,
and no one can stop You.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.” Job 42:2-3
Despite how humbled he is, Job still has the courage to front up and reply to the Lord.

So the next time you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to be honest with God. He already knows every detail of your circumstances and feelings. so hiding what is really going on is impossible. The Lord has promised to **bless us with every spiritual blessing. We are ***beloved, treasured heirs with Christ, and He will always ****be on our side to help us through every trial and battle. Tell Him how you feel and ask for help… And don’t stop asking and seeking Him. You’re not crossing a line, you’re building your faith and a better, active relationship with Him.

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References:
Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide,” by Walter Brueggemann, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005.  ISBN: 0-687-34336-4. (Academically, theologically worded and not easy to read for the average person, but if you can get through the wording it is a massive blessing. I learned so much which reflected on my relationship with the Lord and encouraged me.)

*The fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23
**Every spiritual blessing: Ephesians 1:3
***Beloved joint heirs: Romans 8:15-17
****By our side: Deuteronomy 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5

Re: Psalm 43:4: “Then I will go to the altar of God…” This may refer to David planning to go to the tabernacle to give a peace offering as thanks, as per Leviticus 7:11-15.

Moses’ honesty with God can be seen here: “Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favour and spare me this misery!” Numbers 11:10-15


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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

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When You Just Lose It – Masculinity and Keeping it Real

Many of us try to be spiritually perfect. We balance work, family, finances, church, friends, Bible study, praise and worship and prayer like an overloaded waitress, with an armful of precariously tipping plates. It’s often too much. We ultimately hit the floor, exhausted and moaning.

But that is not acceptable.

In church we sing about being overcomers, being able to do all things in God. ALL of them. It’s true. We can. The Word of God is very clear that when we focus on the Lord and depend on Him for strength, even the smallest faith can do mighty miracles.

But we still fail and hit the ground.

So where do we go for encouragement? To the Word of God. We look at Moses, at Joshua, at Paul and at David, and we feel inadequate, as we didn’t lead people out of oppression, conquer cities, or spread the Gospel despite huge odds and… Sorry, hang on. Did I just list David as a perfect role model of a spiritual giant? I did.

So then, how do you react to this?

“Word soon reached Joab that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom. As all the people heard of the king’s deep grief for his son, the joy of that day’s victory was turned into deep sadness. They crept back into the town that day as though they were ashamed and had deserted in battle.

The king covered his face with his hands and kept* on crying, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, “We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves. You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before.” “ 2 Samuel 19:1-7 [* 2 Samuel 18:33]

That does not sound like the David I know. I admit that he had his failings, but the Psalms overflow with faith and his ability to press through anything. This man was a battle hardened warrior with over thirty years of service under his belt. I read this account of David losing his son and almost feel uncomfortable. My biggest hero really lost it, at a time when as a leader, it was a poor decision for both strategy and morale.

Let’s look closer at this. King David had lost his son. But that son was a sociopath who had deceitfully taken over the kingdom and had defiled ten of his father’s wives, in public. Should that diminish David’s reaction?

David’s raw emotion and vulnerability is what makes him so strong a role model. We can relate to him because he is so much like us. I often battle with being like Jesus. It’s not just the problem of trying to become holy, it’s just that as much as I adore Him, I cannot relate to Him. He had a connection with the Father I should hope to achieve, but realistically, I don’t even think is possible for me. Others may be able to do it, but me? Sadly, no. But David. I see David struggle, rejoice, sin, repent, bounce back and I relate. He’s far more human and real to me because he sometimes just loses it.

In our modern, western society, where we hold emotions in, we need David so badly. Men in particular need to be reminded that the toughest, best and most successful men cry: and often in public. “David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill.” 2 Samuel 15:30

“I am worn out from sobbing.
All night I flood my bed with weeping,
drenching it with my tears.
My vision is blurred by grief;
my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.” Psalm 6:6-7

In the Psalms, David also freely weeps a number of times, including over the sins of his fellow Israelites. Being a real man, or woman of God, means you don’t have to smother emotions and always look strong. It means you can react with raw honesty: spread the contents of your heart out before the Lord, and allow Him to deal with whatever stresses you are under. Psychology tells us not to hold it in, and the Bible backs this up.

Lamentations 2:19 (on sin) “Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

Falling down is human. At times, we need to fall in order to allow the Lord to lift us up, and set us on the right path. What matters more than falling down, is how we get back up again. When David collapsed over the death of Absalom, he got up again.

“So the king went out and took his seat at the town gate, and as the news spread throughout the town that he was there, everyone went to him.” 2 Samuel 19:8

Ashalim_stream_(Nahal_Ashalim),_Judean_Desert,_Israel_(1)From there he prepared to return to his throne in Jerusalem and rule until Solomon was anointed King. That didn’t mean he stopped grieving, inwardly and outwardly. Knowing David, he would have depended on the Lord for help to get through this unbearable pain.

Not wanting to ask for help, or show weaknesses, is a trait of the flesh; it is not a godly one. The Word never asks us to suck it up and push pain away. Instead, we are encouraged to admit our sin and frailty, and to take our sins and grief to the Lord. That is the way of the righteous.

As David admitted his weak moments…

“My heart pounds in my chest.
The terror of death assaults me.
Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
and I can’t stop shaking.” Psalm 55:4-5

… so should we. That way, we open up our hearts to the Lord’s help.

“Give your burdens to the LORD,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Turning Back the Darkness

“You light a lamp for me.
The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness.
In Your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.
God’s way is perfect.
All the LORD’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection.” Psalm 18:28-30

Night is the worst time for any of us who are hurting. It is in the dark and quiet, when you can’t sleep and long hours stretch out ahead, that every fear, hurt and discouraging thought you can muster, catches up with you.

I have had insomnia for years and when I am stressed, it becomes uncontrollable. I sometimes get out of bed and try and do something to distract myself; but then I pay in exhaustion the next day. Through most of my time in bed, I simply stew over everything that is wrong.

That is one very bad idea!

When studying the Psalms, I’ve noticed that David talks a lot about the night time. It’s obvious that his troubles have kept him awake through many nights too, but there are a lot of positive Scriptures, which have me looking at the dark hours in a new way.

That time of quiet can be harnessed and used to build our relationship with the Lord. Instead of stewing, turn that rumination into praying. Then add the Word of God, and seek His company as you turn an awful time into fellowship. There is no guarantee this will generate an instant answer, but if it builds your walk with God into one which has some of the quality that David’s had, this is time exceedingly well spent, which will bring you joy.

Here is David’s approach to facing the night hours.

1. Search for correction, as well as healing, deliverance and direction!
“Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4

“You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.
You have scrutinised me and found nothing wrong.
I am determined not to sin in what I say.” Psalm 17:3

2. Reflect on the goodness of the Lord in your life. That can only lead to praise.
“But each day the LORD pours His unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing His songs,
praying to God who gives me life.” Psalm 42:8

3. Meditate on the Word of God.
“I lie awake thinking of you, meditating onYou through the night.” Psalm 63:6
and
“I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.” Psalm 16:7


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When David’s Story Tears My Heart Out ~ #TrustinGod #GodisGood #grief

BestofblogI’ve found that every so often, I need a break from studying David. It’s not because my brain is overloaded with details, or because I am lost in a maze of information, it’s simply because the human side of David’s story can stress me out.

You wouldn’t think that it is possible, three thousand years after the fact, but the reality of people’s pain can still cut with a keen edge. So what part of David’s life gets to me?

It’s the story of Amnon and Absalom. It’s the agony any parent must go through when one beloved child, murders another in cold blood. It’s about the impact of someone fretting, believing for a time that all their sons are dead… then when getting the awful truth, being separated by yet another son and then going through many years of savage healing. [2 Samuel 13-19]

To understand David, I have researched the impact of losing a child to murder and it’s horrific. It is a grief like no other. Some main points the research has bought out are:

  • Absalom was a sociopath, which must have placed his family through dreadful problems since he was a child. So there is a long history of parents feeling like they have failed and damage to those around Absalom.
  • Whilst Amnon had a conscience, which was shown in his projection of hatred onto Tamar, Absalom had none and that is almost incomprehensible to me.
  • A quarter of the brothers at the celebration would have experienced some form of post-traumatic stress disorder from watching Amnon being killed in front of them. They probably would have all thought they were about to be killed too, as having a brother who is a sociopath and wants the top position in the family, of course you’d expect your neck to be on the line so you weren’t a threat.
  • It would have been psychologically impossible for David to mourn Amnon’s murder and come to terms with Absalom’s treachery at the same time. The human mind is not capable. The formal modern research shows this and David’s story clearly displays this. It would take at least three years before David could start to cope with Absalom, and that is what did actually happen.
  • There would have been many untold consequences of Amnon’s murder behind the scenes. It could have led to a marital breakdown between David and his wife, Ahinoam (Amnon’s mother); there would have been a great deal of controversy over whether or not Absalom should have been dragged back from Geshur and put to death… basically, the decisions that David had to make were nearly impossible for any parent.
  • All of this would have been massively complicated by David’s grief and regret over his affair with BathSheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. That is a lot for anyone to cope with, no matter how you want to argue over whether it was deserved or not. The price he paid was exceedingly steep.

 

When I think about David as a real father, with the same emotions any modern father has towards his kids, it rips my heart out. Thank God, that at the end of David’s life he was able to say,
“As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14

What an amazing sign of the faithfulness of the Lord!

 


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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

When You Can’t Be An Overcomer: Coping With Spiritual Failures

1280px-White_LionIn 1996, I wrote an article called “spiritually correct is.” I was exploring some of the attitudes our church had then, which were generated far more by peer pressure, than Scripture.

Not all peer pressure is bad. The standards set by a group can be a force for good, which supports and encourages people. However, sometimes we take a positive spiritual principle and carry it too far, placing expectations on people that they can’t carry comfortably.

Here are two of the points which came up on my list:
– Putting on a ‘praise the Lord’ face and false demeanour, rather than being honest about where you’re at.
– Faking faith in areas you have trouble trusting God in.

Regardless of what denomination you call home, I am sure you have experienced, or seen this in action: or you have done it yourself.

My church was very keen on being an overcomer. This popular coping mechanism came from Scriptures such as: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:19 and “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

We sang songs about being an overcomer, and it became the ‘must have’ attitude to use with everything. I still listen to songs on the theme. As I write this in 2015, there is one on my current favourites playlist, by Mandisa. I think it’s a great attitude to have, however, when I’m having trouble meeting that bar… and it can be a very high bar to jump, falling short potentially lands me in a great deal of guilt.

My full time work is studying and writing about King David. It may seem like an easy task, but sometimes I have really bad days. The enemy is no fan of the Word of God, so my computer malfunctions, huge bills arrive, my pain levels shoot up, the negativity on social media starts to get me down… then working from home develops serious drawbacks… There have been times when I have violently hit the wall. I have many buttons which can be pushed, and some weeks, they all seem to get hit in rapid succession. I can find it next to impossible to cope.

To stay afloat, I listen to the voices of encouragement around me. My church life tells me I am an overcomer. So I hook into praying and my praise and worship music. But some days, that is just not enough. I am still slammed up against that wall, feeling wretched. It’s fine to think positive, but I still have to find money, apologise to my husband, fix that computer which will take hours, (it was days), and I want to scream, “somebody make it stop already!”

So I have a choice. Do I feel guilty because I haven’t functioned as a victorious overcomer, or do I get honest with God?

400px-Psalm_21_Initial_DThe benefit of working with the Psalms echoing in my head, is when those bad days hit, David himself, helps to relieve my spiritual-failure guilt. Here are other Scriptures about overcoming. This first one is Psalm 13:3-4, written on a very bad day, with a heavy, discouraged heart:

“Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (NIV)

“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came
over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” Psalm 116:3

When I read about David struggling: the one who won against Goliath, the one who is the grandfather of Christ, our Messiah… the one who seemed to ace everything and bounce back from any disaster… I realise that that being an overcomer is a process and you don’t get it right straight away. You don’t have to get it right – straight away. – No one has ever asked you to from the Bible!

You don’t bounce back up as a victor, until you hit the mat in anguish.

David says,
“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?” Psalm 6:2-3

What the overcomer mindset wants immediately is this:
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favour as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12

Achieving victory and success takes time and you get to develop a lot of wisdom in the process. God has to move all the pieces on the chessboard into the right position, before He can give you the answer you seek; and when blessing comes, it may not look exactly as you expected it to look. If you are fixated on one answer, you may not recognise your victory when it does arrive. As wise people say, we don’t always get what we want, we get what we need.

When you hit the dust, feeling like a miserable failure with no spiritual muscle, remember that you are in excellent company. David was given the highest honours of anyone in the Bible, (except for Jesus, of course.) If he can be swallowed by discouragement and come out of it victorious, then we all can. Just do as he did and don’t stop praying, praising and seeking God. That is the key to being a genuine overcomer.

David’s Last Words
These are the last words of David:
“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
the hero of Israel’s songs:
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.’
“If my house were not right with God,
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire.
But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
which are not gathered with the hand.
Whoever touches thorns
uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie.” 2 Samuel 23:1-7


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.