II Samuel 11
This past week a pair of my colleagues were bemoaning their plight of moving into a lovers home where they had lived with a former spouse. They were distraught over the memories and feelings associated with the house. Then they complimented each other on the overall improvement of their new spouse’s life illegitimate children included in the improvements. Having been on the side of those who were once considered needing to be improved on, I’ll admit that my own objectivity is somewhat in question.
The first stage of this is just like with David and Bathsheba. David woke up in the middle of night. There is nothing wrong in this. He went up to his roof top. It would seem innocuous in and of itself. This is not an uncommon practice today. While there he saw Bathsheba bathing. She too was on her rooftop. Had David stopped there no doubt it would not have been ever recorded. It was not long after that he started asking about her. This was where he ventured started toying with lust. Often with sin we think that we can toy with it, dance around it, or get near it and still be safe. But once we give it that purchase we begin to slide deeper into it just as David did. He asked about her. Then invited her over. It is not hard to believe that his intention was to see her, talk to her, see if she was as pretty as she seemed that night in the moonlight.
As we are told David was no ugly duck himself. He was said to be one of the most comely men in all of Israel. Add to his good looks, the bearing he must have had to command loyalty of men and you have a real man in every sense. Her husband was a long way off. No doubt that Bathsheba rationalized feelings of abandonment and fear of her husbands inability to return to soothe her conscious into an act that she knew was wrong. So often the story goes that one spouse is not available for the other when they want attention and that is used as an excuse for infidelity.
After yielding to the lust David and Bathsheba ventured into the next phase: lies. They tried to cover their deed with lies. They tried to use Uriah as a cover. They thought their plan was perfect and their sin was only between them. That is a common misconception or self-deception, that our sin only affects us. Uriah would not cooperate, his loyalty to David and Israel was more than they had accounted. They tried twice to get him to spend the night with Bathsheba. This way their sin would be masked and Uriah would think the child his. A simple plan that seemed infallible, yet it failed miserably.
This led to the final stage -loss. Here is the twisted part of the tale. Uriah who should have been told and asked for forgiveness from the King and his wife, was sent to his death. The very letter he carried to his commander was his death warrant. Uriah lost his life for the lust of two others. With infidelity there is loss. Many things are lost in the process. Honor being one of the first. Truth dies as lies have to be told to cover the act(s). In all the accounts that I know of personally, which sadly is a growing number, families are lost. It would be tragic if one family is lost. It is most certainly a travesty when two familles are destroyed for lust. Also lost is the dream of marriage and family. This a vital dream and work that is at it’s heart is the essence of God’s plan.
All sin has similar stages. We all fall prey to them at one time or another. Just as we all must confess our sins to God and repent. We must not rationalize our sin or make excuses. We must face it, deal with it honestly and repent. I would pray that no one would know this pain, yet I see this more and more. Some euphemistically say that we live in different times. We do not need to excuse sin or condone it.
II Samuel 11
Mat 22:15 Then the Pharisees went and planned how to trap Jesus in conversation.
Mat 22:16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. They said, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere and that you teach the way of God truthfully. You don’t favor any individual, for you pay no attention to external appearance.
Mat 22:17 So tell us what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Mat 22:18 But Jesus recognized their wickedness and said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Mat 22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” They brought him a denarius.
Mat 22:20 Then he asked them, “Whose face and name is this?”
Mat 22:21 They said to him, “Caesar’s.” So he said to them, “Then give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
This passage has to be one of the top ten most overzealously used and abused. I have heard it used as justifications for all manor of things. Many of them were wild stretches at best. Using this verse as a support for taking up arms for the country is undoubtedly one that stretches the thinnest. This passage actually does the exact opposite of what most of those who use it for justification. The implications herein are deeper and more profound. The real irony here is that all the abuse and use of this passage that has spawned countless sermons consists of two sentences from Jesus.
Let’s get the full picture of the setting. The Pharisees had teamed up with the Herodians. It would be like the French underground and the SS working together. These were more than political rivals. The Herodians were collaborators with the Roman occupation. The Pharisees openly despised both Rome and those that supported them. They often worked against the other in anyway they could. One has to wonder what brought these to opposites together. There is the old saying, the enemy of my enemy is my ally. I think that applies somewhat here. They both feared this man, he threatened them on some level. They hatch a plan together to catch Jesus in a no win scenario.
Their plan was simple. Make Jesus take a stand that would officially offend one side or the other. They devised a question along the lines of ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ only their question was a more contentious topic of their time. Granted, taxes are still a contentious item. At this time, however, the Pharisees had made it a religious item as well. They were contending that one should not pay taxes to a government but only to God. However, they Pharisees were not altogether straight in this as it was. They worked diligently to find loopholes in what they were to pay. [This begs the question of how old are tax shelters anyway? ] The Herodians, on the other hand, believed in paying taxes, ergo supporting the Romans who occupied Jerusalem. They saw all the benefits Roman civilization had brought them.
The question was simple. Whose side are you on? Do you support Rome and agree that paying taxes is right. Or, do you take a stand with the moral majority and say that Jews cannot give money, a tribute, to Rome? They seemed to truly believe that they had caught Jesus. If he chose the side of the Herodians he alienated the religious right which held sway over a majority of the Jews. If he chose the side of the Pharisees he could easily be branded an enemy of Rome. They gave him two choices where either would alienate the opposite and forever limit his ministry.
What was Jesus’s response? It was not political at all. His reaction was to put the issues in perspective. He made no statement as to taxes at all. His real question was and remains, “What belongs to God?” In Psalms 24 it clearly states everything in the world belongs to God. No doubt the Pharisee’s knew this Psalm. It would seem that it was a point of comfort and not one of conviction for them. I think too often we get bogged down in the conventions of faith and the politics of the day and forget the real perspective. God is in his heaven and he is in control. It is all His. We are bondservants, stewards of this earth. He has given us charge of some small part of his creation and He expects us to do his will with it. The Jews had lost sight of this, just as we loose sight of who is really in control. Just like the Parable of the Talents, we are expected to use Gods gifts wisely. There will be an accounting. That alone is humbling. I think that all the justifications for other things than to put things into perspective are suspect and fall dangerously close to the whims of the Herodians and the Pharisees.
Mat 5:36 Nor should you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.
(Luke 12:25) Can any of you add an hour to your span of life by worrying?
(Genesis 11:4) And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
It seems that in each generation there is a point to where mankind believes they have found the means to destroy that which they did not create. Within the past century there has been several global destroyers and each proved to be nothing of the sort. Wars and bombs were believed to be the harbingers of global destruction. Those did plenty of harm and ended lots of life, but none were capable to annihilation on the level that they were predicted. After that is was our wasteful lifestyle that would bring about the doom of all mankind. In the 70’s our pollution and use of chemicals were to destroy us. In the past decade the new disaster was global warming. With each research uncovers that it is not the threat that it was billed as being. The fact is that no matter what man does he cannot destroy what the infinite has created.
Just as Cain tried to earn his salvation with a better sacrifice we all look to actions to save or damn us. This is the height of arrogance and foolishness. We are guilty, no doubt. We are wasteful. We do pointless harm to the environment and to our fellow man. All of this is generally accepted as true. Being our fault it stands to reason it is ours to correct. There is a direct spiritual link between the perception of our guilt over these things and the perception of our sin. Just as we see our destruction of the environment as our fault, and rightly so, we also see it as irreparable. We see what we have done in the negative as far greater than God’s positive. In effect, we see our destructive capability to be greater than God’s creative ability. So in our destruction of our corner of the world we damn ourselves into thinking that we have destroyed that which the Maker made in perfection. What a grand sentence to place oneself. It is also the height of arrogance. Is it possible for the created to ever be greater that the creator? Can an automobile ever be greater than he who built it? What ever one creates it by nature is less than one’s self. The created could never create the creator.
The same applies to our faith. We stand in judgment of ourselves, as we should and are instructed to do. Knowing we are in the wrong is seldom enough. Most will openly admit to God’s grace is sufficient for all sins. But in our hearts it is seldom the case. We say that for the benefit of others, for we know in our heart that our sin is far blacker and more vile. We knew right from wrong and chose the wrong. That makes our evil far more heinous and unforgivable. This too is arrogance on a grand scale. It is possible for our sin to be greater than God? Is is possible for our evil to tip the balance when God is on the other side? The answer is clear. God’s grace is greater than our sin. His forgiveness is far greater than our evil. His love out weights our hate and selfishness. We cannot destroy His Grace. Just as no amount of green lifestyle can fix the ills of the world, no amount of righteousness can alleviate the evils in one’s heart. Likewise no amount of pollution that man can generate can make the world unlivable neither can any amount of sin make us beyond reconciliation to God. Nothing can separate us from God’s love and grace, not even ourselves.
Exo 17:8 And Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
Exo 17:9 And Moses said to Joshua, Choose us men, and go out, fight with Amalek; to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.
Exo 17:10 And Joshua did as Moses had said to him, to fight with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
Exo 17:11 And it came to pass when Moses raised his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
Exo 17:12 And Moses’ hands were heavy; then they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on this side, and one on that side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
Exo 17:13 And Joshua broke the power of Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Exo 17:14 And Jehovah said to Moses, Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens.
Exo 17:15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi.
Exo 17:16 And he said, For the hand is on the throne of Jah; Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation!
In this passage the wandering Israelites have been attacked by the Amalekites. Moses gives command of the defenders to Joshua. Moses goes to a hill that overlooks the battleground. With him are Aaron and Hur. As Moses prays he lifts his hands. As he does the the Israelites dominate on the field of battle. Conversely, lowering his hands and the field is yielded to the Amalekites.
Several things stand out in this. There is no record of direct communication from God to the Israelites until after the battle was over. The faithful simply went to deal with the present problem and relied on God to help them. It is clear that the faithful are expected to act according to what they know is right and needs to be done. Heathens were bent on the destruction of the Israelites. The men took their swords and went to work. Joshua was chosen to lead. No doubt Moses had been grooming him for leadership. Joshua would later be instrumental in bringing the downfall of Jericho. Here he was part of the miracle again.
It would stand to reason that those on the field of battle had little knowledge of the relationship between Moses’s arms and the tide of the battle. Thus those who were instrumental in the miracle were oblivious to it. Those that witnessed it directly had a vested interest but were not in the conflict itself. Clearly this is strong evidence for the power of intercessory prayer. Paul speaks of praying without ceasing. In Luke 18 Jesus charges the faithful to pray constantly. He compares the prayers of men to the petitioning of a widow for justice. She keeps praying and eventually the judge gives in and gives her justice. The lesson on this point is clear. Intercessory prayer is not of immediate results. Such prayer must be done continually until the change occurs. As men are wont to do, Moses grew weary of praying. It stands to reason that he did not know that his prayers were having a blow by blow effect on the battle. One can only imagine the effect this had on Moses when he realized this. He was one who certainly did not seek responsibility for others. Yet, his faithful prayers saved lives. This he witnessed from his promontory. It is humbling to think that one’s prayers can save a life, and that one’s own laziness or rationalization has not done what it could.
The holding up of hands seems to be somewhat disputed in some theological circles as to it’s meaning. It seems that holding up of hands, in most all cultures, is a sign of submission. As Moses prayed submissively to the Lord the Israelites had victory. His submission had a direct influence on the victory of others even though he himself was not in the fray. Just as the faithful are called to submit their wills to God for personal salvation, Moses submitted for the salvation of the Hebrew army. It must not be omitted or forgotten that Moses was not alone. Aaron and Hur were at his side. Once he discovered how the posture of his hands as he prayed effected the war he was sure to hold them up as high as he could. Even in youth, the simple act of holding up one’s hand grows tiresome quickly. Oddly, it was this simple act of self control that God choose to use. At first it is easy. But after minutes the blood drains from the arm and it grows heavy. Moses was an old man, this was far harder for him in his advanced years. When those with him saw him falter, the helped him all they could. They could have tried assuming the same position in their prayer to help with the burden. Clearly their efforts did not help. This task was set for Moses and him alone. So they did what they could, give him a seat to lessen the strain of standing. That only helped for a while. Eventually they had to help Moses hold his hands up. The lesson here is that the faithful are not meant to venture alone. They are not an island complete unto themselves. God will set others around them to help them achieve His goals. No one is to be discounted for the role they play. Hur may not be the great hero of Biblical legend, but he played his part in saving the people of Israel from slaughter. When his time came he acted, and it made a difference.