Who Am I? Part 6

I wrote:

It’s axiomatic to me that Jesus didn’t utilize his own godliness, but trusted the Holy Spirit that descended like a dove from heaven, andremained on him.[11]  Otherwise, Jesus’ invitation and command, Follow me,[12] is little more than a cruel joke.


As I’ve written before it is axiomatic to me that the way Jesus loved us was through that same love He received from the Holy Spirit that descended like a dove from heaven, andremained on him.[43]  He prayed as much to his Father if one has ears to hear: I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known, so that the love (ἀγάπηyou have loved (ἠγάπησας, a form of ἀγαπάωme with may be in them, and I may be in them.[44]


As I’ve written before,[20] it is axiomatic to me that Jesus’ holiness was from the Holy Spirit rather than his own divine nature.  Otherwise, his command and invitation, Follow me, would be meaningless to sinful human beings.

In the movie Casper there is a comic bit when Casper (voiced by Malachi Pearson), a friendly ghost, gets excited to show Kat (Christina Ricci), a living girl, a secret laboratory.  He takes her by the hand and leads her into a place she can’t follow—through a wall.  In the beginning that’s almost all I meant by my “axiom.”  Jesus wasn’t commanding us to follow Him somewhere we couldn’t go.  In fact, before He began to make appearances through walls behind locked doors He said plainly, Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later.[1]

Over time though my “axiom” has come to mean so much more: When I am anything less than Christlike I no longer think: “Oh, He is God and I am not.”  Instead, I know that I am living according to the flesh (Romans 8:5-11), that I’ve fallen away from grace.  One would think I would know better by now but apparently I do not.  It alerts me that it is time to stop relying on myself and get back to trusting Jesus, relying on his Spirit.  But that weight deserves something weightier than an axiom.  Jesus said (John 14:10 NET):

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?  The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον).

Translating ἔργα miraculous deeds isn’t wrong.  Now when John heard in prison about the ἔργα Christ had done[2] Jesus described those deeds this way: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.[3]  This is a list of miraculous deeds including the act of proclaiming good news (εὐαγγελίζονται, a form of εὐαγγελίζω) and the good news (εὐαγγέλιον) which was proclaimed.  None of it happens apart from the Holy Spirit.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) than these, so that you will be amazed.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.[4]  Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth (John 9:1-7 NET).

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) of God may be revealed through what happens to him.  We must perform (ἐργάζεσθαι, a form of ἐργάζομαι) the deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime.  Night is coming when no one can work (ἐργάζεσθαι, a form of ἐργάζομαι).  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Having said this, he spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated “sent”).  So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.

But the adjective miraculous shouldn’t blind us to the less showy ἔργα the Holy Spirit residing (μένων, a form of μένω) in believers performs (ποιεῖ, a form of ποιέω) all the time:

It was after eleven Sunday night.  I had to get up early to catch a flight Monday morning.  My neighbor was listening to some speed metal.  The bass vibrated my bed.  I had every right to be angry, didn’t I?  I, as a composer, had given up music because it kept me too connected to the sensuality of the world.  (Never mind that I wasn’t that good at performing or composing music.)  As I lay there beginning to simmer a self-righteous snit, that still small voice reminded me that Monday was Memorial Day, a holiday for my neighbor.  All I really needed to do that day was get up, get to the airport and fly to my destination.  After that I’d be off, too.  All the while the Holy Spirit’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control washed away my self-righteous anger like a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.  And to top it off, the very moment He won that skirmish with the dead and dying flesh in my body the song ended, my neighbor turned off his stereo and went to bed, just so I didn’t miss the point (Matthew 5:15, 16; John 3:20, 21 NET).

People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) and give honor to your Father in heaven.

For everyone who does evil deeds (φαῦλα, a form of φαῦλος) hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) have been done in God.

When I live according to the flesh I become a puffed-up weakling, Satan’s fool.  When Jesus was overcome by the flesh of Adam He was still God: He cursed the fig tree and it withered and died (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-25).  I find it difficult to understand Jonathan Edwards’ portrayal of God to his congregation in his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in the light of Paul’s letter to believers in Rome (Romans 8:31b-39 NET):

If God is for us, who can be against us?  Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is the one who will condemn?  Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Still, I do see a time when sinners, Jerusalem, the whole world, perhaps even the created cosmos were in extreme danger of falling into the hands of an angry God.  Jesus was no demigod: half-man, half-god, super-man, inferior god.  He is fully man and fully God.  As a human being I might wonder if it is worse to suffer abuse or watch as my son is abused.  But God the Father did not partake (μετέσχεν, a form of μετέχω) of the blood and flesh of humanity, the weak link in this chain.  The arresting officers tied Jesus up (John 18:12), tempting the flesh of Adam to resist.  If I succumbed to the flesh and cursed officers arresting me I would just make them angrier with my foul noise.  But Jesus is also God.  If He had succumbed to the flesh of Adam and cursed the arresting officers they would have withered and died.

Jesus was questioned first by Annas (a former high priest himself) the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest.  When Jesus answered, one of the high priest’s officers who stood nearby struck him on the face (John 18:22).  Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to Caiaphas the high priest.[5]  The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death.[6]   The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”[7] 

“I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”[8]  So they accused Him of blasphemy and condemned Him to death (Matthew 26:65, 66; Mark 14:64).  They spat on Him (Matthew 26:67), blindfolded him (Mark 14:65) and played a guessing game, saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ!  Who hit you?”[9]  Now the men who were holding Jesus under guard began to mock him and beat him,[10] following their leaders, oblivious to the potential harm they risked to themselves or the entire created cosmos.

After Jesus instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ[11] he began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law.[12]  When it was early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people plotted against Jesus to execute him.[13]  They led Jesus away to their council and said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”[14]  Caiaphas had given them the key to getting Jesus to accuse Himself: If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.[15]  Then the whole group of them rose up and brought Jesus before Pilate.[16]

They did not go into the governor’s residence so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal.[17]  So Pilate came out to them but said, “Take him yourselves and pass judgment on him according to your own law!”  The Jewish leaders replied, “We cannot legally put anyone to death.”[18]  They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation (Matthew 23), forbidding us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22) and claiming that he himself is Christ, a king.”[19]

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.[20]  But with two lies and their own belief that the Christ would be a political/military revolutionary who would overthrow Pilate and his Roman overlords, the chief priests with the elders and the experts in the law and the whole Sanhedrin[21] transmuted their (false) charge of blasphemy into a Roman capital crime.

Privately, Jesus comforted Pilate: My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities.[22]  Publicly, when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he did not respond.[23]  Pilate had found no basis for an accusation against (Luke 23:4; John 18:38b) Jesus, but he did see a possible way out (John 18:39, 40 NET):

“But it is your custom that I release one prisoner for you at the Passover.  So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”  Then they shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”  (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

John wrote of Jesus, yehôvâh become human flesh: He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him.[24]  In fact, they persisted in saying, “He incites the people by teaching throughout all Judea.  It started in Galilee and ended up here!”[25]  Galilee was Herod’s jurisdiction, so Pilate sent Jesus to Herod.  The chief priests and the experts in the law were there, vehemently accusing him.  Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him.  Then, dressing him in elegant clothes, Herod sent him back to Pilate.[26]  Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said to them (Luke 23:13-16 NET):

“You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  When I examined him before you, I did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing.  Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us.  Look, he has done nothing deserving death.  I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

I’ll finish this essay with a Gospel harmony to capture some of the drama.

Matthew Mark Luke


Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged severely.  The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe.  They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  And they struck him repeatedly in the face.

John 19:1-3

Again Pilate went out and said to the Jewish leaders, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no reason for an accusation against him.”

John 19:4

Then the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to release a prisoner for them, as was his custom.

Mark 15:8

So after they had assembled, Pilate said to them…

Matthew 27:17a

So Pilate asked them…

Mark 15:9a

“Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?”

Matthew 27:17b

“Do you want me to release the king of the Jews for you?”

Mark 15:9b

(For he knew that they had handed him over because of envy.)

Matthew 27:18

(For he knew that the chief priests had handed him over because of envy.)

Mark 15:10

As he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent a message to him: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man; I have suffered greatly as a result of a dream about him today.”

Matthew 27:19

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas…

Matthew 27:20a

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas instead.

Mark 15:11

…and to have Jesus killed.

Matthew 27:20b

So Jesus came outside, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  Pilate said to them, “Look, here is the man!”

When the chief priests and their officers saw him, they shouted out, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  Pilate said, “You take him and crucify him!  Certainly I find no reason for an accusation against him!”  The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God!”

When Pilate heard what they said, he was more afraid than ever…

John 19:5-8

But they all shouted out together, “Take this man away!   Release Barabbas for us!”  (This was a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder.)

Luke 23:18, 19

…and he went back into the governor’s residence and said to Jesus, “Where do you come from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.  So Pilate said, “Do you refuse to speak to me?  Don’t you know I have the authority to release you, and to crucify you?” Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all, unless it was given to you from above.  Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin.”  From this point on, Pilate tried to release him.

John 19:9-12a

Pilate addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus.

Luke 23:20

The governor asked them,  “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”  And they said, “Barabbas!”

Matthew 27:21

Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?”  They all said, “Crucify him!”  He asked, “Why?  What wrong has he done?”

Matthew 27:22-23a

So Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”  Pilate asked them, “Why?  What has he done wrong?”

Mark 15:12-14a

But the Jewish leaders shouted out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar!  Everyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar!”  When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus outside and sat down on the judgment seat in the place called “The Stone Pavement” (Gabbatha in Aramaic).  (Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon.)  Pilate said to the Jewish leaders, “Look, here is your king!”

John 19:12b-14

But they kept on shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  A third time he said to them, “Why?  What wrong has he done?  I have found him guilty of no crime deserving death.  I will therefore flog him and release him.”

Luke 23:21, 22

Then they shouted out, “Away with him!  Away with him!  Crucify him!”  Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify your king?”  The high priests replied, “We have no king except Caesar!”

John 19:15

But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!”

Matthew 27:23b

But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!”

Mark 15:14b

But they were insistent, demanding with loud shouts that he be crucified.

Luke 23:23a

And their shouts prevailed.

Luke 23:23b

When Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but that instead a riot was starting, he took some water, washed his hands before the crowd and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.  You take care of it yourselves!”  In reply all the people said, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”

Matthew 27:24, 25

So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted.

Luke 23:24

Because he wanted to satisfy the crowd…

Mark 15:15a

Then he released Barabbas for them.

Matthew 27:26a

…Pilate released Barabbas for them.

Mark 15:15b


He released the man they asked for, who had been thrown in prison for insurrection and murder.

Luke 23:25a

But after he had Jesus flogged…

Matthew 27:26b

Then, after he had Jesus flogged…

Mark 15:15c

…he handed him over to be crucified.

Matthew 27:26c

…he handed him over to be crucified.

Mark 15:15d

But he handed Jesus over to their will.

Luke 23:25b

Then Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

John 19:16a

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head.

Matthew 27:27-29

So the soldiers led him into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called together the whole cohort.  They put a purple cloak on him and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on him.

Mark 15:16, 17

They began to salute him: “Hail, king of the Jews!”   Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him.

Mark 15:18, 19a

They put a staff in his right hand…

Matthew 27:29b

..and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!”

Matthew 27:29c

Then they knelt down and paid homage to him.

Mark 15:19b

They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head.

Matthew 27:30

When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Matthew 27:31

When they had finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes back on him.  Then they led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:20


None of Jesus’ accusers, persecutors or tormentors withered and died.  As He told his disciples, the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds.[27]  I’ll continue this in another essay. The rest of the Gospel harmony I used to write this essay follows.


Matthew Mark Luke John
Then they arrested Jesus…

Luke 22:54a

Then the squad of soldiers with their commanding officer and the officers of the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus…

John 18:12a

…and tied him up.  They brought him first to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  (Now it was Caiaphas who had advised the Jewish leaders that it was to their advantage that one man die for the people.)

John 18:12b-14

While this [John 18:15-18] was happening, the high priest [Annas had been high priest before his son-in-law] questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.  Jesus replied, “I have spoken publicly to the world.  I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple courts, where all the Jewish people assemble together.  I have said nothing in secret.  Why do you ask me?  Ask those who heard what I said.  They know what I said.”  When Jesus had said this, one of the high priest’s officers who stood nearby struck him on the face and said, “Is that the way you answer the high priest?”  Jesus replied, “If I have said something wrong, confirm what is wrong.  But if I spoke correctly, why strike me?”

John 18:19-23

Now the ones who had arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, in whose house the experts in the law and the elders had gathered.

Matthew 26:57

Then they led Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests and elders and experts in the law came together.

Mark 14:53

…led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house.

Luke 22:54b

Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to Caiaphas the high priest.

John 18:24

But Peter was following him from a distance, all the way to the high priest’s courtyard.

Matthew 26:58a

And Peter had followed him from a distance, up to the high priest’s courtyard.

Mark 14:54a

But Peter was following at a distance.

Luke 22:54c

After going in, he sat with the guards to see the outcome.

Matthew 26:58b

He was sitting with the guards and warming himself by the fire.

Mark 14:54b

When they had made a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.

Luke 22:55

Meanwhile Simon Peter was standing in the courtyard warming himself.

John 18:25a

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death.  But they did not find anything, though many false witnesses came forward.  Finally two came forward and declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

Matthew 26:59-61

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find anything.  Many gave false testimony against him, but their testimony did not agree.  Some stood up and gave this false testimony against him:  “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days build another not made with hands.’”

Mark 14:55-58

Yet even on this point their testimony did not agree.

Mark 14:59

So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer?  What is this that they are testifying against you?””

But Jesus was silent.

Matthew 26:62, 63a

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer?  What is this that they are testifying against you?”

But he was silent and did not answer.

Mark 14:60, 61a

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.

Matthew 26:63b-64a

Again the high priest questioned him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

Mark 14:61b

“I am,” said Jesus…

Mark 14:62a

But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed!  Why do we still need witnesses?  Now you have heard the blasphemy!  What is your verdict?”  They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.”  Then they spat in his face…

Matthew 26:63b-67a

…“and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy!  What is your verdict?”  They all condemned him as deserving death.  Then some began to spit on him…

Mark 14:62b-65a

…and to blindfold him…

Mark 14:65b

…and struck him with their fists.  And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ!  Who hit you?”

Matthew 26:67b-68

…and to strike him with their fists, saying, “Prophesy!”

Mark 14:65c

The guards also took him and beat him.

Matthew 14:65d

Now the men who were holding Jesus under guard began to mock him and beat him.

Luke 22:63

They blindfolded him and asked him repeatedly, “Prophesy!  Who hit you?”  They also said many other things against him, reviling him.

Luke 22:64, 65

When it was early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people plotted against Jesus to execute him.

Matthew 27:1

Early in the morning, after forming a plan…

Mark 15:1a

When day came, the council of the elders of the people gathered together, both the chief priests and the experts in the law.

Luke 22:66a

Then they led Jesus away to their council and said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”  But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?”  He answered them, “You say that I am.”  Then they said, “Why do we need further testimony?   We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

Luke 22:66b-71

They tied him up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

Matthew 27:2

…the chief priests with the elders and the experts in the law and the whole Sanhedrin tied Jesus up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

Mark 15:1b


Then the whole group of them rose up and brought Jesus before Pilate.

Luke 23:1

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the Roman governor’s residence.  (Now it was very early morning.)

John 18:28a


They did not go into the governor’s residence so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal.

John 18:28b

So Pilate came outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”  They replied, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate told them, “Take him yourselves and pass judgment on him according to your own law!”  The Jewish leaders replied, “We cannot legally put anyone to death.”  (This happened to fulfill the word Jesus had spoken when he indicated what kind of death he was going to die.)

John 18:29-32

They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, forbidding us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar and claiming that he himself is Christ, a king.”

Luke 23:2

Then Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Matthew 27:11a

So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Mark 15:2a



So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Luke 23:3a

So Pilate went back into the governor’s residence, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

John 18:33

Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or have others told you about me?”  Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own people and your chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?”

Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”  Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!”

John 18:34-37a

Jesus said, “You say so.”

Matthew 27:11b

He replied, “You say so.”

Mark 15:2b

He replied, “You say so.”

Luke 23:3b

Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king.

John 18:37b

For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  Pilate asked, “What is truth?”

When he had said this he went back outside to the Jewish leaders…

John 18:37c, 38a

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”

Luke 23:4

…and announced, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.

John 18:38b

But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he did not respond.  Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?”  But he did not answer even one accusation, so that the governor was quite amazed.

Matthew 27:12-14

Then the chief priests began to accuse him repeatedly.  So Pilate asked him again, “Have you nothing to say?  See how many charges they are bringing against you!”  But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Mark 15:3-5

During the feast the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whomever they wanted.  At that time they had in custody a notorious prisoner named Jesus Barabbas.

Matthew 27:15, 16

During the feast it was customary to release one prisoner to the people, whomever they requested.  A man named Barabbas was imprisoned with rebels who had committed murder during an insurrection.

Mark 15:6, 7

But it is your custom that I release one prisoner for you at the Passover.  So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”  Then they shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”  (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

John 18:39, 40

But they persisted in saying, “He incites the people by teaching throughout all Judea.  It started in Galilee and ended up here!”

Now when Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.  When he learned that he was from Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who also happened to be in Jerusalem at that time.  When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some miraculous sign.  So Herod questioned him at considerable length; Jesus gave him no answer.  The chief priests and the experts in the law were there, vehemently accusing him.  Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him.  Then, dressing him in elegant clothes, Herod sent him back to Pilate.  That very day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other, for prior to this they had been enemies.

Luke 23:5-12

Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  When I examined him before you, I did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing.  Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us.  Look, he has done nothing deserving death.  I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

Luke 23:13-16

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged severely.  The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe.  They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  And they struck him repeatedly in the face.

John 19:1-3

Back to Romans, Part 87

[1] John 13:36b (NET)

[2] Matthew 11:2a (NET)

[3] Matthew 11:5 (NET)

[4] John 5:20, 21 (NET)

[5] John 18:24 (NET)

[6] Matthew 26:59 (NET)

[7] Matthew 26:63b (NET)

[8] Mark 14:62 (NET)

[9] Matthew 26:68 (NET)

[10] Luke 22:63 (NET)

[11] Matthew 16:20 (NET)

[12] Matthew 16:21 (NET)

[13] Matthew 27:1 (NET)

[14] Luke 22:66b, 67a (NET)

[15] 2 Timothy 2:13 (NET)

[16] Luke 23:1 (NET)

[17] John 18:28b (NET)

[18] John 18:31 (NET)

[19] Luke 23:2 (NET)

[20] 1 Timothy 1:15 (NET)

[21] Mark 15:1 (NET)

[22] John 18:36a (NET)

[23] Matthew 27:12 (NET)

[24] John 1:11 (NET)

[25] Luke 23:5 (NET)

[26] Luke 23:10, 11 (NET)

[27] John 14:10b (NET)

Who Am I? Part 5

During my Christmas holiday Grandmother described her simple faith to me: Jesus died to save us from the god of the Old Testament.  She didn’t want me or any preacher or any church or the Bible to confuse her simple faith in her simple gospel.  It was an eerie inversion of Paul’s admonition to the Galatians: if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell (ἀνάθεμα)![1]  I reaffirmed my belief that yehôvâh/Jesus (John 8:56-59 NET) died and rose again from the dead to save us from sin (1 John 2:1, 2 NET).

Daughter asked me to pray for the fruit of the Spirit for her as she dealt with Mother.  I reaffirmed that the fruit of the Spirit was not detachable from the Holy Spirit who is given (John 7:37-39 NET) to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah] who has come in the flesh (Matthew 16:15-17 NET).  I also told her that the Old Testament never actually questioned the existence of the two goddesses and one god she had chosen to worship instead of Jesus (yehôvâh come to earth in human flesh) but referred to them as demons (Deuteronomy 32:16-18 NETyehôvâh opposed.  I assured her I would pray that she would turn to Jesus, receive his Holy Spirit and bear the fruit of his Spirit.  As I remember she had an ugly encounter with Mother.

Mother lost her job recently.  Ever the optimist she consoled herself with the idea that it would be easier to file for bankruptcy.  During my business trip as I read Luther’s “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” she texted a question: is pedophilia mentioned in the Bible?  I texted back that I was working everyday but wanted to give her question the attention it deserved: “I don’t know exactly what your question is,” I wrote, “but mine is why?  Why was an eight-year-old girl sexually assaulted by her father, not just any eight-year-old girl, but you.  If it’s okay with you I’ll share my thoughts as they come.”

She texted back: a green heart emoji.

As I studied the law I was reminded of my wife’s words when she wanted a divorce: “I don’t like your [masochistic] sexuality, and when I do I don’t like myself.”  I used it as a kind of preface to my remarks to Mother: “It wasn’t malicious, but somewhere I strayed from a desire to love her into a selfish desire to use her to satisfy my own sexual desires.  So human (male) selfishness is probably as good an answer to why as any.  It doesn’t answer the larger question of why did God allow me, or your father, to carry out those selfish desires, but it’s a start.”

Then I continued with a brief survey of the law:  The concept pedophilia doesn’t appear as a class of sins.  Skeptics take that to mean that God approves or, more likely, doesn’t exist.  I assume that laws were meant to prohibit sins practiced at the time the laws were given, though I find it somewhat difficult to believe that pedophilia never came up.  “God’s attitude revealed in the law is that…a man is married to the woman he has sex with – period.  This is even true in the case of rape (Deuteronomy 22:28, 29).”

“Women take offense at this because they see it as forcing them to marry their rapists.  (Actually a woman’s father could refuse the marriage—Exodus 22:16, 17—and I think he would make that determination according to his daughter’s heart.)  Remember the point of Scripture: For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law (Galatians 3:21b NET).  Law gives us knowledge of sin, prohibits and punishes sin and, if possible, inhibits sin.  Men rape women.  Being married to one’s victim defeats every advantage of rape and might inject a moment’s pause into all but the most heinous acts.”

I quoted Leviticus 18:22 to cover male on male pedophilia, and men are not “to approach any close relative to have sexual intercourse with her” (Leviticus 18:6 NET), especially not a woman and her daughter (Leviticus 18:17).  I found no age of consent in the law but quoted yehôvâh’s allegory from Ezekiel 16.  He raised the people of Jerusalem like an abandoned baby, first as a daughter and “later” as his bride.  “Later” was sometime after, Your breasts had formed and your [pubic?] hair had grown (Ezekiel 16:7b NIV).  “I assume,” I texted, “that this reflected the ideal of captured female children.  Sinful men probably did not live up to this ideal in all cases.  So, yes, unequivocally, your father’s actions are sin in God’s eyes.”

Then I got really personal:  “Why you?  I have some thoughts developing, none of which have anything to do with some defect in you that makes you deserving of such treatment.”  (I knew she had gotten some advice like that from a Christian psychologist.)  “Give yourself a break.  You got a skewed view of life at a very young age.”  I promised to continue studying and to share what I discovered.

She was taken aback that I had compared myself to her father.  She informed me then that she was getting involved in bringing awareness to the issue of pedophilia and simply wanted some biblical info.  She thanked me and wrote that there was no need for any further information.  Then I regretted using the word molested for the way I had treated my wife.  The only coercion my wife had felt was the compulsion of spouses not to deprive each other.  I hadn’t intended to minimize what Mother had suffered as a child, but had recalled my own understanding of masochism (fig. 3) and realized I had become a sadist by my own definition.

fig. 3

As I read her text again something else caught my ear: “I am not sure where that came from but it was not from me.”  Mother thought she had triggered some painful memory in me, or that I was accusing her of doing so.  “No, you didn’t do anything to cause me to recall these things,” I texted back.  “When I think about the law I can’t help but think about where I have fallen short as well.  Your Dad and I are different in degree perhaps but as I thought about cause, selfishness seemed readily apparent.”

By the time Mother sought retributive justice[2] against her father she was a rebellious, promiscuous teen girl; he was an adult male, retired police officer and Sunday school teacher.  He and his defenders all but convinced her she had imagined the whole thing.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network quoted a 2005 CDC study, Adverse Childhood Experiences Study: Data and Statistics:as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.”[3]  Is it any wonder Mother thinks she might fare better in this world with a more feminine deity? 

In “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” Luther/Graebner wrote: “The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair.”  I was once alive apart from the law, Paul wrote believers in Rome, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive and I died.[4]  He wrote this after affirming that the law is lord (κυριεύει, a form of κυριεύω) over a person as long as he lives.[5]  I think Paul meant that he could live and feel fairly good about himself if the law was not foremost in his consciousness but when it became foremost again sin became alive and I died.  So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death![6]

Tempting as it is to speculate how a retired-police-officer-turned-Sunday-school-teacher responded to law when his teenage daughter attempted to prosecute him, I’ll stick to something I know—my own reactions while perusing the law to the memory of abusing my wife.  I didn’t feel guilt, terror or despair.  Jesus died and rose again from the dead to save me from my sins.  I have confessed my sin, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.[7]  I’ve apologized to my ex-wife.  Now I feel nothing more or less about it than as a fact.

In the past five years I’ve blogged over a thousand pages about the religious mindLuther/Graebner dealt with it in one paragraph[8]:

Those who do not know God in Christ arrive at this erroneous conclusion: “I will serve God in such and such a way. I will join this or that order. I will be active in this or that charitable endeavor. God will sanction my good intentions and reward me with everlasting life. For is He not a merciful and generous Father who gives good things even to the unworthy and ungrateful? How much more will He grant unto me everlasting life as a due payment in return for my many good deeds and merits.” This is the religion of reason. This is the natural religion of the world…There may be a difference of persons, places, rites, religions, ceremonies, but as far as their fundamental beliefs are concerned they are all alike.

In my own defense I’m not trying to base my insights into the religious mind on my own authority or Martin Luther’s or Theodore Graebner’s.  Mine is an “attempt to distinguish the mind of Christ from the ordinary religious mind” using “the sharpness and precision of Scripture.”

Historian Yuval Harari described how the religious mind has helped human beings find meaning in their lives[9]:

You can think about religion simply as a virtual reality game. You invent rules that don’t really exist, but you believe these rules, and for your entire life you try to follow the rules. If you’re Christian, then if you do this, you get points. If you sin, you lose points. If by the time you finish the game when you’re dead, you gained enough points, you get up to the next level. You go to heaven.

People have been playing this virtual reality game for thousands of years, and it made them relatively content and happy with their lives.

Mr. Harari went on to predict the eventual triumph of the religious mind: “In the 21st century, we’ll just have the technology to create far more persuasive virtual reality games than the ones we’ve been playing for the past thousands of years. We’ll have the technology to actually create heavens and hells, not in our minds but using bits and using direct brain-computer interfaces.”  But these computer simulations will never grant a continuous infusion of Jesus’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and control, the righteousness that fulfills the law, to any player of any virtual reality game. 

Again, I’m tempted to speculate whether a retired police officer became a Sunday school teacher to “get points,” hoping “God will sanction [his] good intentions and reward [him] with everlasting life…as a due payment in return for [his] many good deeds and merits.”  But I only know that he has never granted his daughter the dignity of acknowledging that she was sexually abused by him.  And I’m reminded of Jesus’ distinction between those who have been born from above and those who have not (John 3:19b-21 NET):

…light (e.g., Jesus Himself, God’s one and only Son, John 3:16-18 NET) has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil (πονηρὰ, a form of πονηρός).  For everyone who does evil deeds (φαῦλα, a form of φαῦλος) hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.

Without a confession everything I’ve written about Mother’s father would be hearsay in a court of law and potentially libelous.  Apart from God’s direct intervention (Joshua 7:10-22) law is so weakened by the sinful flesh of human beings (Romans 8:3, 4) it can’t even provide retributive justice for the weakest among us.

Mother attended a rally in Washington, DC recently encouraging lawmakers and law enforcement officials to investigate what is now being called pedogate.  I heard the tale of a presidential candidate’s involvement with child sex cults last fall and dismissed it the same day as electioneering.  (In the U.S. citizens are asked to distinguish and vote for the lesser of two evils.)  Though Mother’s belief in this conspiracy theory surprised me at first, I realize she is one of the 1 in 4 women for whom the unthinkable is also the actual.  As I began to look into the tale myself I found only a story[10] so far, a potboiler of a political thriller but a story all the same.  I hope it’s not a true story.  If true it is πορνεία,[11] perpetrated against enslaved children, practiced on a scale inconceivable since Israel’s army entered Canaan.

If I begin to believe this story my persistent prayer for justice may need to change.

Who Am I? Part 6

[1] Galatians 1:9b (NET)

[2] An interesting article by Samantha Schmidt in the Washington Post online highlighted news coverage of an “accomplished, international human rights lawyer” seeking retributive justice for “victims of Islamic State rapes and kidnappings.”  The lawyer happened to be female.  The news coverage focused on her yellow dress, her baby bump and her famous husband rather than her message.  Though Ms. Schmidt’s article does an admirable job of presenting the female lawyer’s accomplishments, her message—retributive justice for “victims of Islamic State rapes and kidnappings”—still gets short shrift and left me to wonder if I would ever have heard about it at all if the accomplished female attorney was anyone other than Amal Clooney, the beautiful wife of George Clooney. Nine days later under the headline “Former ISIS sex slave demands justice for Yazidis” CNN found a way to tell more of the story.

[3] Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, under the heading “Child Sexual Abuse Myths and Facts.”  A CDC site Veto Violence listed child sexual abuse (male and female) as 21% as of March 31, 2017.

[4] Romans 7:9, 10a (NET)

[5] Romans 7:1b (NET)

[6] Romans 7:9b, 10 (NET)

[7] 1 John 1:9 (NET)

[8] Commentary on Galatians 4:8, 9

[9] Yuval Harari on why humans won’t dominate Earth in 300 years

[10] Here are two other sources for the story: https://steemit.com/pizzagate/@son-of-satire/the-debunking-of-the-new-york-times-debunking-of-pizzagate; http://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=60679

[11] The development of my own understanding of the meaning of πορνεία in the New Testament can be traced in the following essays: Immorality; Adultery and X; Adultery in the Law, Part 1; Adultery in the Law, Part 2; Adultery in the Law, Part 3; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 1; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 2; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 3

Who Am I? Part 4

I spend a large portion of my Christmas holiday with three post-Christian women I’ll call Grandmother, Mother and Daughter because of their relationship to one another.  I call them post-Christian because they were all professing Christians at one time.  Grandmother still calls herself a Christian.  She means a non-Buddhist, non-Hindu, non-Jew, non-Muslim who believes in Jesus.  Her ex-husband was a Baptist Sunday school teacher who abused her, and Mother as a child.  Daughter is the most non-Christian, vocally pagan of the three with Mother falling somewhere between.  Their transformation began with a desire for a more feminine God.  I regret now not taking Mother’s question more seriously.  I didn’t understand at the time that this desire would lead through Mother Earth to a Mother Goddess and on to full-fledged paganism.

I pointed out that yehôvâh (יהוה) created male and female: God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) created humankind in his own image, in the image of God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) he created them, male and female he created them.[1]  I talked about the meaning of El Shaddai (ʼêl, אל; shadday, שדי) and a few other references to God as feminine.  But I emphasized that the general understanding of God as masculine was due primarily to the fact that we are all feminine in relation to the operation of his grace through Jesus Christ.

I am accepted among them as the kindly, odd, somewhat benighted, old man who studies the Bible in his spare time, so ordinary conversation—what’ve you been up to?—offers many opportunities.  A recent conversation with Grandmother and Daughter turned naturally to Jesus’ dying thoughts on the cross.  I read Psalm 22 aloud.  Daughter was visibly, tearfully moved and vocally overwhelmed that David could write such exact knowledge so many centuries before Jesus was born.

I spoke of God having mercy on whoever he chooses to have mercy and hardening whoever he chooses to harden.  I said I had been considering how, and told them the story of two prophets, Nathan and John the Baptist.  When Pharisees and Sadduccees, religious leaders, came to be baptized for repentance (Matthew 3:11, 12; Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:15-17) John said, You offspring of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?[2]  And he challenged them to put their works religion to the test: Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance[3]

What I didn’t say but will record here for my own memory’s sake, whether these particular Pharisees and Sadduccees were directly responsible or not, John’s words were not secret and would have tended to harden the resolve of the religious elite to kill Jesus: the Lord (yehôvâh, ויהוה) desired to crush him (e.g., Jesus).  On the other hand yehôvâh desired David’s repentance and sent Nathan to that effect.

He was sent after King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to cover it up.  Nathan told David a story (2 Samuel 12:1-6) about a rich man who had entertained a traveler with a meal.  The rich man hadn’t served up any of his own sheep or cattle, but the one ewe lamb he took from a poor man.  Then David became very angry at this man.[4]  You are that man![5] Nathan said to him.

“Did he kill him?” Daughter asked.  I was actually surprised that she had forgotten the story.

No, I answered, I have sinned against the Lord![6] David said and then he wrote the 51st Psalm.  I got to read Psalm 51 aloud to them.  When I finished Grandmother responded to a look on Daughter’s face at the line—Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.[7]

“I don’t believe that either,” Grandmother said.

This is a point to concede by the way.  If it offends or hurts your feelings, welcome to the human race.  Being guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me is equivalent to being born of the flesh of Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:42-58).  You do not want a relentless God who will pursue you with goodness and mercy all the days of your life to spend that time convincing you the hard way that you are a sinner instead (John 16:7-11).

Goodness and mercy, by the way is the NKJV translation of Psalm 23:6a.  In the NET it was translated goodness and faithfulness (chêsêd , וחסד).

chêsêd Hebrew KJV NET Tanakh Septuagint
Psalm 23:6a וחסד mercy faithfulness mercy ἔλεός[8]

informed me that my religion has a lot of guilt in it as she praised me for my adherence to it, and insisted that we, she and her pagan friends, desperately need a canon (i.e., of written scripture).

On Yule I learned that Mother had been taking drugs.  I wasn’t personally that aware of the winter solstice.  Daughter and Mother wished one another happy Yule in the car as I drove them to rehab.  It’s probably the only reason I knew anything at all.

I hadn’t known the night before that Mother had informed Daughter she was abusing drugs.  Daughter called me the next morning when Mother hesitated to actually commit herself to rehab.  In the car on the way Daughter was jubilant and excited that Mother was doing the right thing.  Yes, rehab is better than sitting home alone shooting dope, but I was much more somber and subdued.

At her home I had sat with her, held her and listened to her enough to convince myself that Mother had no interest in repentance.  Daughter was right.  My presence alone persuaded Mother to shower, dress and leave with us for the rehab facility.  But in the car I felt like I was delivering her up for more hardening.  In my admittedly limited experience I know no one who has returned to faith in Christ from the higher power mysticism of a twelve-step program.  I watched sadly the full realization of incarceration creep across her face as she was taken from us.  No matter what I say or how much I protest, Mother and Daughter believe I live a life of rules, while they are free.

I gave them My statutes, yehôvâh explained in the philosopher’s dream chapter of Ezekiel the prophet, and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live.[9]  I call it the philosopher’s dream chapter because yehôvâh explained so much of his own understanding of Israel’s history there.  Then the twelve-year-old Jesus had this chapter at his disposal to renew and refresh his now human mind.

The Hebrew word translated My statutes was chûqqâh (חקותי).  It was translated προστάγματά in the Septuagint.  The Hebrew word translated My ordinances was mishpâṭ (משפטי), and δικαιώματά, a form of δικαίωμα, in the Septuagint.  This was translated the righteous requirements in: Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys the righteous requirements (δικαιώματα, a form of δικαίωμα) of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?[10]

In the same chapter yehôvâh explained: I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live.[11]  Here the Hebrew word translated statutes was chôq (חקים); chûqqâh is the feminine of chôq according to Strong’s Concordance.  It was still translated προστάγματα in the Septuagint.  And again, the word translated ordinances was mishpâṭ (ומשפטים) in Hebrew and δικαιώματα in the Septuagint.  I don’t think these are different statutes or different ordinances.

The commandmentwas intended to bring life.[12]  The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.[13]  But if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.[14]  God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh.[15]  For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.[16]  For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.  For I don’t understand what I am doing.  For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate.[17]

Also I gave them My Sabbaths, yehôvâh said in the philosopher’s dream chapter, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) who sanctifies them.[18]

In practice many professing faith in Jesus do not believe that yehôvâh/Jesus sanctifies[19] them.  We trust Him for justification only, primarily forgiveness.  We believe our sanctification is a measure of our own good works, obedience accomplished in our own strength for our own glory.  We do not believe that here and now a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God.  For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.[20]  I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[21]  Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience[22] (ἀπειθείας, a form of ἀπείθεια; literally, disbeliefDo we then nullify the law through faith?  Absolutely not!  Instead we uphold the law.[23]

I want to consider the movie The Host as a Holy Spirit metaphor for one who does not yet experience Him.  There are many spoilers here and as a metaphor the film is fatally flawed.  But in the hope of communicating some small portion of the Ineffable, here goes.

“The earth is at peace,” a resistance leader named Jebediah (William Hurt) narrates the beginning of the film.  “There is no hunger.  There is no violence.  The environment is healed.  Honesty, courtesy and kindness are practiced by all.  Our world has never been more perfect.  Only it is no longer our world.  We’ve been invaded by an alien race.  They occupy the bodies of almost all human beings on the planet.  The few humans who have survived are on the run.”

Then we are introduced to Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) fleeing her enemies: honesty, courtesy and kindness.  Following her earthly father’s example, she attempts suicide but lives, despite her best efforts, only to be possessed by Wanderer (also Saoirse Ronan).  Melanie’s old human survives to fight Wanderer for control of their body.

The Seeker (Diane Kruger) interviews Wanderer to glean Melanie’s memories for knowledge of other old humans in the resistance underground.  When she decides that Melanie’s old human is too strong for Wanderer, she plans to put Wanderer in a more compliant host, search Melanie’s memories herself and then let Melanie die the death she wanted.  But Wanderer has begun to love Melanie.  They flee The Seeker together.

Melanie tricks Wanderer into the desert and leads her to Uncle Jebediah and the underground resistance.  Uncle Jeb uses all of his authority as a leader to keep others in the resistance from killing the obviously possessed Melanie/Wanderer.  Even Melanie’s lover Jared (Max Irons) has no sympathy for her at first.  In a get-to-know-you walk-and-talk Uncle Jeb shortens Wanderer’s name to Wanda.

Melanie begins to love Wanda as she witnesses Wanda’s concern for the people Melanie loves, even some she hates or is indifferent toward.  The metaphor breaks down, of course.  The holy spirits, called souls in the film, are many and varied, and some or not as holy as Wanda.  The Seeker ironically becomes almost human in her fears that she personally is losing control to her host Lacey (also Diane Kruger) and that the holy spirits may ultimately lose their possession of the humans.  In the end The Host becomes Satan’s wet dream as The Seeker’s fears become flesh: holy spirits collaborate with the resistance to rid humans of the holy spirits.


Mother is on the verge of bankruptcy.  I helped her in a similar position nearly twenty years ago.  She called me before I left for Christmas.  I offered to help again.  She accepted.  As I drove the hundred miles or so to my own mother’s house the evening after Mother committed herself to rehab I understood why we hadn’t met to review her finances yet.  I recalled the things I’ve said and done with Grandmother, Mother and Daughter, fretted over some things I hadn’t said or done and heard Darth Vader echoing in my head, saying, “Now his failure is complete.”

As far as I know I am the believer of record in their lives.  I will give an account of this stewardship before Jesus.  As the enormity of my failure to live a life that commends others to Jesus inundated me in crushing waves, the image of my mother scrubbing the basement floor on her hands and knees popped into my mind.  Of all the things she had said or done, of all the things I might have complained that she hadn’t said or done, this simple image stuck with me.

I had overdosed on some hallucinogen.  I had thrown up all night long on her basement floor.  My mother cleaning up after me became a living metaphor of my life.  I had returned to drugs because a simple taste a few days earlier brought back the feeling I had lost since my early days of trusting Jesus again.  I made many more bad decisions along the way.  But my mother never gave up on me.

As I drove through the dark hills thinking perhaps I had been spared from helping Mother again financially, the admonition of my penny-pinching father came to mind:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

The words weren’t his but Rudyard Kipling’s.[24]  A man like me would be a fool to attempt Kipling’s vision of manhood apart from the Holy Spirit.  But the image of my mother’s loving persistence and my father’s words of counsel gave me some hope that I was there, the right person at the right place and time.  And that image and those words carried me through that dark night until the continuous infusion of the Holy Spirit’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and control took over again the next morning.

Who Am I? Part 5

Back to Romans, Part 85

Back to Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 5

[1] Genesis 1:27 (NET)

[2] Matthew 3:7 (NET)

[3] Matthew 3:8 (NET)

[4] 2 Samuel 12:5a (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 12:7a (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 12:13a (NET)

[7] Psalm 51:5 (NET)

[8] In the Septuagint both chêsêd (וחסד) and ṭôb (טוב) were translated by the one Greek word ἔλεός.

[9] Ezekiel 20:11 (NASB)

[10] Romans 2:26 (NET)

[11] Ezekiel 20:25 (NASB)

[12] Romans 7:10 (NET)

[13] Romans 7:12 (NET)

[14] Galatians 3:21b (NET)

[15] Romans 8:3a (NET)

[16] Romans 7:11 (NET)

[17] Romans 7:14, 15 (NET)

[18] Ezekiel 20:12 (NASB)

[19] When I struggled the most with this concept my Pastor was from the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  Today, as I scanned their webpage titled “Sanctification,” nothing jumps out at me as problematic except my own spiritual tic.  My flesh and my religious mind hear obedience in step 3 “to A Spirit-Filled Life”—“We maintain a continuous relationship with Jesus through obedience to His Word”—as a trigger word, calling me back to a DIY works religion.  But now I just translate obedience back into Greek, ὑπακοή, attentive hearkening, and the trigger obey disappears.  I remain (μείνατε, a form of μένω) in Jesus through faith instead (which is the actual word used in John 15:1-11 the Scriptural source of step 3).

[Addendum 1/26/2017] I’m not so sure Paul would agree that 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 “clearly teaches that there are two kinds of Christians.”

[20] Hebrews 4:9, 10 (NET)

[21] Galatians 2:20 (NET)

[22] Hebrews 4:11 (NET)

[23] Romans 3:31 (NET)

[24] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/46473

David’s Forgiveness, Part 13

The fulfillment of Nathan’s prophesyThis is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to bring disaster on you from inside your own household!  Right before your eyes I will take your wives and hand them over to your companion.  He will have sexual relations with your wives in broad daylight![1]—was dependent on David’s love and mercy for his sons, particularly Absalom.  The fulfillment of this promise then was dependent on David’s righteousness in a word, on his being a man after God’s own heart.  And I use the word dependent advisedly.  I don’t mean that God would have been unable to fulfill his promise if David, by punishing Amnon or executing Absalom, for instance, had actively attempted to thwart Him.  I mean simply that the Scripture presents me with a fact, David through love and mercy aided and abetted God in bringing disaster on himself.

And I am more convinced than ever that this particular concatenation of events cannot be construed as punishment for sin so much as the personal consequence of forgiveness.  God knew David would behave this way.  And, frankly, punishment for sin is more straightforward, less convoluted.  When David inquired of the Lord about a three year famine, the answer was simple, It is because of Saul and his bloodstained family, because he murdered the Gibeonites.[2]

Exactly when Saul murdered the Gibeonites is not obvious, unless they were among the victims killed at Nob by Doeg the Edomite.[3]  Joshua swore an oath to [the Gibeonites] in the name of the Lord God of Israel,[4] and God honored that oath, one of mercy and compassion,[5] centuries later.  David asked the Gibeonites, What can I do for you, and how can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?[6]  The Gibeonites demanded seven of Saul’s male descendants.  The seven were executed and that year’s harvest was apparently a good one.  Though this sounds strange to contemporary ears it was fully in keeping with the promise of the law: I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me...[7]  To paraphrase Paul a bit, Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?[8]

I am persuaded, though I can’t reconcile all the details, that the events I called “David’s personal karma from the hand of Jesus,” have something to do with God prevailing when he is judged,[9] and this has something to do with all things working together for good for those who love God,[10] and making sins as white as snow.[11]  But does that mean that the believer in Jesus should expect a forgiven life something like David’s, not in specific detail but general contour?  Or has the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice taken care of all that once for all?  I have gone back and forth on this question many times.

Surely I hoped that trusting Jesus would lead to a life relatively free of suffering, that I would be healthy, wealthy and wise, so to speak.  I realize now that hope was essentially Asaph’s description of the lifestyle of the proud and wicked, when he envied those who are proud, as [he] observed the prosperity of the wicked.[12]

For they suffer no pain; their bodies are strong and well-fed.  They are immune to the trouble common to men; they do not suffer as other men do.  Arrogance is their necklace, and violence their clothing.  Their prosperity causes them to do wrong; their thoughts are sinful.  They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence.  They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.  Therefore they have more than enough food to eat, and even suck up the water of the sea.  They say, “How does God know what we do?  Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?”  Take a good look!  This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.[13]

Paul didn’t require ever increasing prosperity from the Lord as a basis for his faith: I have learned to be content in any circumstance.  I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.  I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.[14]  I recognize that this last verse is used to mean all sorts of things out of context but as I look at the Greek it seems to be saying something more like “in all I am able in this that strengthens me.”  The ability is to be content (αὐτάρκης)[15] in this case, and that which strengthened Paul to that ability were the times of need (ταπεινοῦσθαι)[16] and times of abundance (περισσεύειν)[17] he learned (ἔμαθον)[18] from.

This is not to say that Paul didn’t learn this contentment from Christ.  Apart from Christ one is just as likely to learn a different lesson from need.  “If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again,” Scarlett O’Hara vowed dramatically before the intermission of the film Gone with the Wind.  When I was young and single after my first divorce I quit my job to study despite my Pastor’s counsel that he couldn’t see why anyone would give up a good job.  Now that I’m about the age he was when he said it, with two children in college, I relocated to keep my job (and my health insurance) despite the fact that I was cared for through all the years I had no permanent employment.  So am I faithless or prudent?

Let me add this as well.  Before I moved my ex-wife called to say that she, our daughter and son, and her mother would prefer my presence over my money.  In fact, her mother stated frankly that paying a child’s college tuition is wrong; children should pay for it themselves.  Still, I promised our children local college.  So, am I behaving like Jephthah, keeping my own word?  I think these are the kinds of things Asaph meant when he wrote, I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure and maintained a pure lifestyle.  I suffer all day long, and am punished every morning.”[19]

The word translated punished[20] was more commonly translated rebuke(s) or reproof in the NET.  It was translated argument(s) in Job and Hosea.  It was not translated in Psalm 39:11 in the NET but was translated rebukes in the NKJV: When with rebukes You correct[21] man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; Surely every man is vapor.[22]  It is not too hard to imagine beauty melting away as punishment.  But from my perspective waiting for punishment wastes the short time one has to know God here and now.  There is rebuke, reproof and argument in abundance for anyone who actively studies the Bible to know Him.

Wisdom personified speaks in the Proverbs: If only you will respond to my rebuke, then I will pour out my thoughts to you and I will make my words known to you.[23]  But there are consequences for rejecting Wisdom: However, because I called but you refused to listen, because I stretched out my hand but no one paid attention, because you neglected all my advice, and did not comply with my rebuke, so I myself will laugh when disaster strikes you[24]

Then they will call to me, Wisdom continued, but I will not answer; they will diligently seek me, but they will not find me.  Because they hated moral knowledge, and did not choose to fear the Lord, they did not comply with my advice, they spurned all my rebuke.  Therefore they will eat from the fruit of their way, and they will be stuffed full of their own counsel.  For the waywardness of the simpletons will kill them, and the careless ease of fools will destroy them.[25]  And despite what Asaph thought when his feet almost slipped,[26] Wisdom concluded: But the one who listens to me will live in security, and will be at ease from the dread of harm.[27]

The Proverbs have much more to say about rebuke (translated punished in Psalm 73:14 NET): My child, do not despise discipline from the Lord, and do not loathe his rebuke.[28]  For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light, and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life[29]  The one who heeds instruction is on the way to life, but the one who rejects rebuke goes astray.[30]  The one who loves discipline loves knowledge, but the one who hates reproof is stupid.[31]  The one who neglects discipline ends up in poverty and shame, but the one who accepts reproof is honored.[32]  A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds reproof shows good sense.[33]  The person who hears the reproof that leads to life is at home among the wise.[34]  The one who refuses correction despises himself, but whoever hears reproof acquires understanding.[35]

There are warnings in Proverbs against rejecting rebuke or reproof: Severe discipline is for the one who abandons the way; the one who hates reproof will die.[36]  The one who stiffens his neck after numerous rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy.[37]  This latter warning is similar to what ultimately comforted Asaph (Psalm 73:15-20a NET):

If I had publicized these thoughts, I would have betrayed your loyal followers.  When I tried to make sense of this, it was troubling to me.  Then I entered the precincts of God’s temple, and understood the destiny of the wicked.  Surely you put them in slippery places; you bring them down to ruin.  How desolate they become in a mere moment!  Terrifying judgments make their demise complete!  They are like a dream after one wakes up.

Obviously I find it difficult to be comforted by this, but I wasn’t socialized in Old Testament times.  Exterminating the wicked inhabitants of the promised land and ruthlessly rooting out the sinner in their midst were major themes of Israel’s socialization.  Forgiveness of sin and sinners is the major theme of mine.  It is Jesus who announced and demanded this age of forgiveness, and Jesus who expounded eternal punishment in a lake of fire or the outer darkness for rejecting it.  The economy, if you will, has changed dramatically, making it much easier to forgive others.  No matter how offended I am or how begrudgingly I cling to my grudge, it is no match for eternal punishment, and I forgive from my heart so that [my] Father in heaven will also forgive [me my] sins.[38]

So I can assume that my life, trusting Jesus, will be filled with rebuke and security, reproof and ease from the dread of harm.  And if I look back and examine my life since I trusted in Him I do find that it has been filled with rebuke and security, reproof and ease from the dread of harm.  But still, I doubt sometimes and think if I only believed, I mean truly believed in Jesus, then that charmed existence I imagined before all of this began might be mine.  Oh, yeah, well, you know, like Asaph described the proud and the wicked.

Back to Romans, Part 41

Back to Torture, Part 4

Back to Romans, Part 62

[1] 2 Samuel 12:11 (NET)

[2] 2 Samuel 21:1 (NET)

[4] Joshua 9:19 (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 21:3 (NET)

[7] Exodus 20:5 (NET)

[8] Galatians 4:21 (NKJV)

[12] Psalm 73:3 (NET)

[13] Psalm 73:4-12 (NET)

[14] Philippians 4:11b-13 (NET)

[15] G842 αὐτάρκης autarkēs ow-tar’-kace From G846 and G714; self complacent, that is, contented:—content.

[16] G5011 ταπεινός tapeinos tap-i-nos’ Of uncertain derivation; depressed, that is, (figuratively) humiliated (in circumstances or disposition):—base, cast down, humble, of low degree (estate), lowly.

[17] G4053 περισσός perissos per-is-sos’ From G4012 (in the sense of beyond); superabundant (in quantity) or superior (in quality); by implication excessive; adverb (with G1537) violently; neuter (as noun) preeminence:—exceeding abundantly above, more abundantly, advantage, exceedingly, very highly, beyond measure, more, superfluous, vehement [-ly].

[18] G3129 μανθάνω manthanō man-than’-o Prolonged from a primary verb, another form of which, μαθέω matheō, is used as an alternate in certain tenses; to learn (in any way):—learn, understand.

[19] Psalm 73:13, 14 (NET)

[20] H8433 תּוֹכַחַת תּוֹכֵחָה tôkêchâh tôkachath to-kay-khaw’, to-kakh’-ath From H3198; chastisement; figuratively (by words) correction, refutation, proof (even in defence):—argument, X chastened, correction, reasoning, rebuke, reproof, X be (often) reproved.

[21] H3256 יָסַר yâsar yaw-sar’ A primitive root; to chastise, literally (with blows) or figuratively (with words); hence to instruct:—bind, chasten, chastise, correct, instruct, punish, reform, reprove, sore, teach.

[22] Psalm 39:11 (NKJV)

[23] Proverbs 1:23 (NET)

[24] Proverbs 1:24-26a (NET)

[25] Proverbs 1:28-32 (NET)

[26] Psalm 73:2 (NET)

[27] Proverbs 1:33 (NET)

[28] Proverbs 3:11 (NET)

[29] Proverbs 6:23 (NET)

[30] Proverbs 10:17 (NET)

[31] Proverbs 12:1 (NET)

[32] Proverbs 13:18 (NET)

[33] Proverbs 15:5 (NET)

[34] Proverbs 15:31 (NET)

[35] Proverbs 15:32 (NET)

[36] Proverbs 15:10 (NET)

[37] Proverbs 29:1 (NET)

David’s Forgiveness, Part 12

Before David’s men marched out to…fight against Israel…in the forest of Ephraim,[1] The king gave this order to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom.” Now the entire army was listening when the king gave all the leaders this order concerning Absalom.[2]  Absalom and the army of Israel were defeated.  Twenty thousand died; the forest consumed more soldiers than the sword devoured that day.[3]  Absalom’s head was caught in the branches of a tree as his mule ran off without him.

One of David’s warriors reported this to Joab.  What!  You saw this?  Joab responded incredulously.  Why didn’t you strike him down right on the spot?  I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a commemorative belt![4]  The warrior responded that he wouldn’t disobey the King’s order for a thousand pieces of silver.  Perhaps Abishai or Ittai would have obeyed David’s order.  But Joab was the one who risked everything to bring Absalom back from exile.  There was never any guarantee that David would respond good-naturedly to Joab’s lying actress.  It was Joab’s barley that Absalom burned.  And it was Joab who put everything on the line again to get Absalom back in David’s favor, from where Absalom won the loyalty of the citizens of Israel[5] and rebelled against his father.  Joab had had enough (2 Samuel 18:14b-16 NET).

He took three spears in his hand and thrust them into the middle of Absalom while he was still alive in the middle of the oak tree.  Then ten soldiers who were Joab’s armor bearers struck Absalom and finished him off.  Then Joab blew the trumpet and the army turned back from chasing Israel, for Joab had called for the army to halt.

I can’t tell if Absalom, retreating on his mule, outran his royal bodyguard or if all fifty men had already died or deserted him.  But Absalom was alone and helpless when he faced Joab.  Later, when David was exhausted in battle with the Philistines and Ishbi-Benob would have killed him, Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to David’s aid, striking the Philistine down and killing him.[6]  Abishai’s loyalty was unwavering despite the fact that David publicly rebuked him on two occasions for his desire to kill Shimei.[7]  Ever since David killed Goliath in single combat he inspired loyalty and even love[8] in other fighting men, beginning with Saul’s son Jonathan.  And considering Jonathan’s bravery in battle[9] it seems almost providential that Goliath was left alive for David to fight and win a reputation.[10]

Two runners brought news of the victory of David’s warriors over Israel.  David’s first concern was for Absalom, How is the young man Absalom?[11]  The first runner didn’t know.  The second replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who have plotted against you be like that young man!”  The king then became very upset.  He went up to the upper room over the gate and wept.  As he went he said, “My son, Absalom!  My son, my son, Absalom!  If only I could have died in your place!  Absalom, my son, my son!”[12]

So the victory of that day was turned to mourning as far as all the people were concerned.  For the people heard on that day, “The king is grieved over his son.”  That day the people stole away to go to the city the way people who are embarrassed steal away in fleeing from battle.[13]

Joab complained to David, Today you have embarrassed all your servants who have saved your life this day, as well as the lives of your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your concubines.  You seem to love your enemies and hate your friends![14]  This wasn’t quite accurate.  David loved a son who became his enemy.  He was still quite lethal to most of his enemies.  But I can’t help but wonder what impact this story of the man after God’s own heart had on one twelve-year-old boy, the true son of David who would build a house for the Lord’s name.[15]  Is this where he understood his Father’s will (Matthew 5:43-45 NET)?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Is this where He understood that He, unlike David, could die in our place?

Though I called the Old Testament a mnemonic device for the Lord Jesus, I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Yes, before He was born as Jesus I believe He placed these cues in Scripture for Himself.  I’m not sure that they triggered actual (electrical or chemical) memories so much as the faith to accept that He was the One who spoke to Moses, I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am![16]  Could God implant actual memories into the boy Jesus?  Yes.  Would that be cheating?  I don’t know.

When David returned to Jerusalem he took the ten concubines he had left to care for the palace and placed them under confinement (mishmereth).[17]  Though he provided for their needs, he did not have sexual relations with them.  They remained in confinement (tsârar)[18] until the day they died, living out the rest of their lives as widows.[19]  Translating these two different Hebrew words as confinement carries a kind of objective truth, but misses the nuance.

King Saul had eighty-five priests and their families killed when he found out that Ahimelech, one of the priests, gave David bread to eat and Goliath’s sword.  Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son, escaped to tell David, who said, Stay with me.  Don’t be afraid!…You are secure (mishmereth) with me.[20]  This same Hebrew word was used for the protection lavished on the perfect[21] Passover lamb, You must care (mishmereth) for it until the fourteenth day of this month...[22]  It was also used of the food prepared on Friday and kept (mishmereth) until morning[23] for eating on the Sabbath.  So the first confinement of David’s concubines was protection from execution, whether for treason or adultery, the more customary penalty for cohabiting with kings.

I am terribly troubled (tsârar)! Saul replied to Samuel’s question, Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?  The specific trouble Saul mentioned was that the Philistines are fighting against me and God has turned away from me.[24]  I grieve (tsârar) over you, my brother Jonathan![25] David lamented after his friend’s death in battle against the Philistines.  So the second confinement is cognizant of the women’s distress, neither married nor free to be married.

I began the discussion of David’s sin with a defensive invitation to imagine David as a contemporary political figure rather than a religious icon in a religious story.  I was a bit embarrassed about God’s forgiveness in this context.  But now, after studying “David’s personal karma from the hand of Jesus,” and witnessing David’s faithfulness throughout, I am no longer embarrassed.  God will prevail for forgiving David if judged by me.[26] Have I made that case for the reader?

That’s another matter entirely.  The gulf between reading about someone knowing God and knowing God oneself might be unbridgeable.  The best advice I received from J.I. Packer in his book Knowing God was to put his book down and pick up the Bible instead. And I pass that advice on to any readers of this blog.  Stop reading this silly blog and begin to write your own.  Mine is full of the idiosyncrasies of my personal struggle with sin and ignorance and unbelief.

I’ll keep writing because I’ll keep studying to know God.  Writing keeps me honest about what I know and what I don’t know, what I think, what I believe.  And I need this record to help me remember where I’ve been.  The discipline of writing for a reader keeps me somewhat focused, more than my wandering mind apart from that discipline.  Only God knows what vanity prompts me to make this diary public.

David’s Forgiveness, Part 13

[1] 2 Samuel 18:6 (NET)

[2] 2 Samuel 18:5 (NET)

[3] 2 Samuel 18:8b (NET)

[4] 2 Samuel 18:11 (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 15:6 (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 21:17 (NET)

[11] 2 Samuel 18:29 (NET)

[12] 2 Samuel 18:32, 33 (NET)

[13] 2 Samuel 19:2, 3 (NET)

[14] 2 Samuel 19:5, 6a (NET)

[16] John 8:58 (NET)

[19] 2 Samuel 20:3 (NET)

[20] 1 Samuel 22:23 (NET)

[21] Exodus 12:5 (NET)

[22] Exodus 12:6 (NET)

[23] Exodus 16:23 (NET)

[24] 1 Samuel 28:15 (NET)

[25] 2 Samuel 1:26 (NET)

[26] Romans 3:4 (NET)

David’s Forgiveness, Part 11

Now the Lord had decided to frustrate the sound advice of Ahithophel, so that the Lord could bring disaster on Absalom.[1]  I want to keep this in mind as I continue, just in case the NET translators are right to have translated the Hebrew word sound advice here, the same word they translated twice earlier in the same verse as simply advice.

Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me pick out twelve thousand men.  Then I will go and pursue David this very night.”[2]  I will concede that to pursue David immediately was probably the wisest course of action on the horizontal plane (if one had decided without possibility of repentance to pursue the Lord’s chosen or anointed one).  When I catch up with him he will be exhausted and worn out,[3] Ahithophel continued.  That was true, and probably would have given Ahithophel a 50-50 chance of defeating David and his men, if God died suddenly overnight.  It seems to me, however, that the answer to David’s prayer is clear in the foolishness of the rest of Ahithophel’s advice.

I will rout him, and the entire army that is with him will flee, Ahithophel continued, spewing nothing but bravado.  I will kill only the king and will bring the entire army back to you.[4]  Did he know David at all? or the loyalty he inspired in his men?

David once made an idle comment in the hearing of some of his men, How I wish someone would give me some water to drink from the cistern in Bethlehem near the gate![5]  The Philistines were garrisoned in Bethlehem at the time.  So three of David’s elite warriors broke through the Philistine forces and drew some water from the cistern in Bethlehem near the gate. They carried it back to David[6]  A lesser commander might have thanked them, rewarded them handsomely, toasted them and drank the water.  David poured it out as a drink offering to the Lord and said, “O Lord, I will not do this!  It is equivalent to the blood of the men who risked their lives by going.”[7]

In exchange for the life of the man you are seeking, Ahithophel continued, you will get back everyone.  The entire army will return unharmed.[8]  Was he serious?

These are the names of David’s warriors: Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite…killed eight hundred men with his spear in one battle.[9]  Eleazar son of Dodo, the son of Ahohi…was one of the three warriors who were with David when they defied the Philistines who were assembled there for battle.  When the men of Israel retreated, he stood his ground and fought the Philistines until his hand grew so tired that it seemed stuck to his sword. The Lord gave a great victory on that day.  When the army returned to him, the only thing left to do was to plunder the corpses.[10]  When the Philistines assembled at Lehi, where there happened to be an area of a field that was full of lentils, the army retreated before the Philistines.  But [Shammah son of Agee the Hararite] made a stand in the middle of that area.  He defended it and defeated the Philistines; the Lord gave them a great victory.[11]

I doubt that these three warriors were with David when he fled from Absalom, but they were the commanders who trained other younger warriors to fight for David.  When David assembled the army that was with him.  He appointed leaders of thousands and leaders of hundreds.[12]  He divided that army into thirds under the commands of Joab, Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and Ittai the Gittite.  He planned to go out to battle with them, but his warriors said, You should not do this!  For if we should have to make a rapid retreat, they won’t be too concerned about us.  Even if half of us should die, they won’t be too concerned about us.  But you are like ten thousand of us!  So it is better if you remain in the city for support.[13]

But Absalom was young and Ahithophel’s advice seemed like a good idea to Absalom and to all the leaders of Israel[14] who had sided with him.  Still, Absalom sought out the advice of Hushai the Arkite, David’s friend.  Ahithophel’s advice is not sound this time,[15] Hushai said.  Hushai not only knew David, he had Absalom pegged as well.  Besides that it seems that he realized that Ahithophel was so frightened for his own welfare, so adamant to make sure that David’s death was done right and by his own hand, that he had not taken the hopes, fears, desires or ego of the young prince fully into account.

You know your father and his men, Hushai reminded Absalom, they are soldiers and are as dangerous as a bear out in the wild that has been robbed of her cubs.[16]  That was true.  Your father is an experienced soldier; he will not stay overnight with the army.  At this very moment he is hiding out in one of the caves or in some other similar place.[17]  That was a lie, but a plausible lie.  More than that it elicited memories of the bedtime stories Absalom and his brothers begged to hear their father tell, about hiding from King Saul in the cave.

If it should turn out that he attacks our troops first, Hushai continued, whoever hears about it will say, “Absalom’s army has been slaughtered!”  If that happens even the bravest soldier – one who is lion-hearted – will virtually melt away.  For all Israel knows that your father is a warrior and that those who are with him are brave.[18]  After turning Absalom into a barefoot boy listening raptly to his father’s brave exploits, and rekindling his boyish faith that “no one is tougher than my Dad,” Hushai alarmed him with a plausible scenario.

My advice therefore is this, Hushai continued.  Let all Israel from Dan to Beer Sheba – in number like the sand by the sea! – be mustered to you, and you lead them personally into battle.[19]  Absalom didn’t want to be a frightened boy in awe of his father.  He wanted to be a leader of men like his father.  Why did King Saul fear his father?  Was it not that he heard the women sing, Saul has struck down his thousands, but David his tens of thousands?[20]  Who is this Ahithophel who would rob Absalom of his glory?  Surely Ahithophel with twelve thousand men was no match for Absalom’s father, the mighty David.  But Absalom himself at the head of an army in number like the sand by the sea, that would be a different story.

When Hushai knew he had the young prince in the palm of his hand he spun a yarn as wild as Ahithophel’s.  We will come against him wherever he happens to be found.  We will descend on him like the dew falls on the ground.  Neither he nor any of the men who are with him will be spared alive – not one of them!  If he regroups in a city, all Israel will take up ropes to that city and drag it down to the valley, so that not a single pebble will be left there![21]

Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite sounds better than the advice of Ahithophel.”[22]  When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and returned to his house in his hometown.  After setting his household in order, he hanged himself.  So he died and was buried in the grave of his father.[23]

David’s Forgiveness, Part 12 

[1] 2 Samuel 17:14b (NET)

[2] 2 Samuel 17:1 (NET)

[3] 2 Samuel 17:2a (NET)

[4] 2 Samuel 17:2b, 3a (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 23:15 (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 23:16 (NET)

[7] 2 Samuel 23:16b, 17a (NET)

[8] 2 Samuel 17:3b (NET)

[9] 2 Samuel 23:8 (NET)

[10] 2 Samuel 23:9, 10 (NET)

[11] 2 Samuel 23:11, 12 (NET)

[12] 2 Samuel 18:1 (NET)

[13] 2 Samuel 18:3, 4 (NET)

[14] 2 Samuel 17:4 (NET)

[15] 2 Samuel 17:7 (NET)

[16] 2 Samuel 17:8a (NET)

[17] 2 Samuel 17:8b, 9a (NET)

[18] 2 Samuel 17:9b, 10 (NET)

[19] 2 Samuel 17:11 (NET)

[20] 1 Samuel 18:7 (NET)

[21] 2 Samuel 17:12, 13 (NET)

[22] 2 Samuel 17:14a (NET)

[23] 2 Samuel 17:23 (NET)

David’s Forgiveness, Part 10

David’s friend Hushai arrived in the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.[1]  Absalom was suspicious of Hushai at first, Do you call this loyalty to your friend?  Why didn’t you go with your friend?[2]  Hushai lied or told such a cleverly concealed truth that Absalom failed to unravel the riddle.  No, I will be loyal to the one whom the Lord, these people, and all the men of Israel have chosen. Moreover, whom should I serve?  Should it not be his son?  Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.[3]  And so Hushai was established as both a spy and false counselor.

Absalom turned to Ahithophel for advice, What should we do?[4] In those days Ahithophel’s advice was considered as valuable as a prophetic revelation.  Both David and Absalom highly regarded the advice of Ahithophel.[5]  But when he learned that his trusted adviser had defected to Absalom, David had prayed, Make the advice of Ahithophel foolish (sâkal),[6] O Lord![7]  Samuel defined the word foolish (sâkal) for Saul: Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have made a foolish (sâkal) choice! You have not obeyed the commandment that the Lord your God gave you. Had you done that, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever!”[8]

Ahithophel replied to Absalom, “Have sex with your father’s concubines whom he left to care for the palace.  All Israel will hear that you have made yourself repulsive to your father.  Then your followers will be motivated to support you.”[9]  I turned to the Jewish Virtual Library online to see if I could gain some insight how David might have felt about these women.  I still don’t know if they were mistresses or chambermaids he bed a time or two.  But I did find out something about Ahithophel’s advice.

“To lie with a monarch’s concubine was tantamount to usurpation of the throne (II Sam. 3:7; 16:21–22). For this reason Abner took Rizpah (II Sam. 3:7). The same concept stands behind Ahitophel’s advice to Absalom, to ‘go into his father’s concubines’ (16:21)…”[10]  So Ahithophel’s advice may or may not have been advantageous on the horizontal plane.  Personally, I think it is sort of an open question how Absalom’s followers might have responded.  On the vertical plane, however, Ahithophel advised a usurper of the throne, one not anointed nor chosen by God, to do a foolish thing and disobey one of his commandments[11] publicly as his first royal act.

So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom had sex with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.[12]  The Jewish Virtual Library article I quoted disagrees that this was a violation of God’s law regarding a father’s wife (a capital offence, by the way).  “Nor does living with a man as his concubine create a kinship as an impediment to marriage between herself and any of the man’s relatives, or between the man and her relatives, as would be the case if she would be considered to be his wife (Rosh, Resp. no. 32:1; Oẓar ha-Posekim, EH26, n. 3).”[13]  The problem I see with this analysis is that there is no legislation concerning concubines in the Bible.  The only way to know what a concubine was and what rights or obligations she had was from foreign law.  Both the Assyrian Code and the Code of Hammurapi are referenced as sources for determining the legal status of a concubine in the above mentioned article.

God prophesied to David, I will take your wives (Septuagint: γυναῖκάς, a form of γυνή) and hand them over to your companion.  He will have sexual relations with your wives (Septuagint: γυναικῶν, another form of γυνή) in broad daylight!  Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight.[14]  I am using the Greek here simply because I recognize the Greek alphabet better than the Hebrew.  (In other words, I don’t know Greek a whole lot less than I don’t know Hebrew.)  Both γυναῖκάς and γυναικῶν are plural forms of γυνή.[15]  Both instances are the same Hebrew word, too, according to the concordance.  Both words can be translated wives or women.

In Ephesians 5:28 (NET) γυναικας was translated wives, In the same way husbands ought to love their wives (γυναικας) as their own bodies.  In Matthew 14:21 (NET) γυναικων was translated women, Not counting women (γυναικων) and children, there were about five thousand men who ate.  I won’t make an issue of whether 2 Samuel 12:11 should have been translated wives or women, because γυναικὸς in Leviticus 18:8 (NET) was translated wife, You must not have sexual intercourse with your father’s wife (Septuagint: γυναικὸς); she is your father’s nakedness, and in Leviticus 20:11, If a man has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife (Septuagint: γυναικὸς), he has exposed his father’s nakedness.  Both of them must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.

Again, γυναικὸς is a singular form of gunē (γυνή), and the Hebrew word is also the same according to the concordance.  In Matthew 19:10 (NET) γυναικος was translated wife, The disciples said to him, “If this is the case of a husband with a wife (γυναικος), it is better not to marry!”  In John 4:9 (NET) γυνη and γυναικος were both translated woman, So the Samaritan woman (γυνη) said to him, “How can you – a Jew – ask me, a Samaritan woman (γυναικος), for water to drink?”

So whether 2 Samuel 12:11 should have been translated David’s wives or women is immaterial, since the same word, both in Greek and Hebrew, was used in Leviticus 18:8 and 20:11.  Since God was apparently satisfied when Absalom had sex with David’s concubines that Nathan’s prophesy about David’s wives or women was fulfilled, and since the only other way to distinguish David’s concubines from his wives or his women was by foreign law, I am going to assume that the category called concubine referred to a traditional practice that probably should not have been part of the thought of the kingdom of Israel.

That being said, however, it seems very likely that what God called Saul’s wives through Nathan the prophet were perceived by many in Israel as the concubines of David’s father-in-law:[16]  I gave you your master’s house, and put your master’s wives (Septuagint: γυναῖκάς) into your arms,[17] when Nathan confronted David on God’s behalf.  It puts some perspective on Absalom’s willingness to fall in with Ahithophel’s advice.  He wanted his father’s concubines just like his father got his father-in-law’s concubines when David received the kingdom after Saul’s death.  It makes me wonder what Absalom heard of his father’s life.

I assume Absalom was told all the stories about David.  But what he heard seems to have been something less than the sum total of what he was told.  He did not hear for instance that David was chosen (anointed) by God when Saul was rejected for his disobedience to God.  Oh, perhaps he heard it in part.  Maybe he assumed that David was, or should have been, rejected by God when he took Bathsheba and murdered Uriah, or if not then, perhaps when he failed to avenge Tamar, as Absalom himself had done.  He certainly heard that Samuel used sacrifices to God as the cover to anoint David as king while Saul yet lived.  He imitated that scene faithfully, minus of course the sanction of God or the presence of his prophet.  He did not hear how his father David respected the Lord’s chosen or anointed one even after he was rejected by God, or he would have behaved differently toward his father.  In fact, if he had any faith whatsoever in God or his choice, Absalom would not have challenged David at all.

The irony here was, though he was born a son of David, though he did everything he could to imitate David’s career outwardly, Absalom proved to be a man after Saul’s own heart:  So Saul feared David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.[18]  And Absalom, like Saul before him, set himself to the task of finding a way to kill David.

David’s Forgiveness, Part 11

[1] 2 Samuel 15:37 (NET)

[2] 2 Samuel 16:17 (NET)

[3] 2 Samuel 16:18, 19 (NET)  See: David’s command to Hushai, 2 Samuel 15:34 (NET).

[4] 2 Samuel 16:20b (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 16:23 (NET)

[7] 2 Samuel 15:31 (NET)

[8] 1 Samuel 13:13 (NET)

[9] 2 Samuel 16:21 (NET)

[12] 2 Samuel 16:22 (NET)

[14] 2 Samuel 12:11 (NET)

[17] 2 Samuel 12:8 (NET)

[18] 1 Samuel 18:12 (NET)

David’s Forgiveness, Part 9

When David allowed Joab to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem after three years of self-imposed exile for murdering Amnon, he said, Let him go over to his own house.  He may not see my face.[1]  This seems like an attempt to balance his role as a loving and merciful father with David’s responsibilities for the administration of justice.  Absalom put up with this silent treatment for about two years.  Then Absalom sent a message to Joab asking him to send him to the king, but Joab was not willing to come to him.  So he sent a second message to him, but he still was not willing to come.[2]

Then Absalom got creative.  Look, Joab has a portion of field adjacent to mine, he told his servants, and he has some barley there.  Go and set it on fire.[3]  That got Joab’s attention.  He complained to Absalom.  Absalom said to Joab, “Look, I sent a message to you saying, ‘Come here so that I can send you to the king with this message: “Why have I come from Geshur?  It would be better for me if I were still there.”’ Let me now see the face of the king. If I am at fault, let him put me to death!”[4]

Joab took this message to King David.  David summoned Absalom.  Absalom bowed down before the king with his face toward the ground and the king kissed him.[5]  Now in all Israel everyone acknowledged that there was no man as handsome as Absalom.  From the sole of his feet to the top of his head he was perfect in appearance.[6]  And I’m beginning to catch on to David.

One of the Proverbs of Solomon Collected by Hezekiah, says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap coals of fire on his head,[7] and the Lord will reward you.[8]  David had no access to these words, but obviously understood them before they were written.  He knew then that Absalom was an excellent actor.  Absalom always knew what words to say and what actions to perform.  David couldn’t tell if Absalom was his repentant and obedient son or his enemy.  So he forgave him.

It was the best way to treat a repentant and obedient son, and the best way to treat an unrepentant enemy, like heaping coals of fire on his head, which a note in the NET indicates is a euphemism for a “searing conscience.”  If Absalom was already David’s repentant and obedient son, so much the better. If not, and everything worked out, David’s unrepentant enemy would become his repentant and obedient son.  If it didn’t, the Lord would reward David as the, yet to be written, Proverb said.  Likewise, Absalom—with his conscience seared by David’s love, mercy and forgiveness—could ease that pain by repenting before God like his father David, or by striving harder to justify himself before God and the people like Jephthah.

Absalom acquired a chariot and horses, and fifty men to serve as his royal guard.  He got up early and stood by the side of the road leading to the city gate.  When people came to King David with a complaint for arbitration, Absalom called them aside, looked at their petition and said, “Look, your claims are legitimate and appropriate.  But there is no representative of the king who will listen to you…If only they would make me a judge in the land!  Then everyone who had a judicial complaint could come to me and I would make sure he receives a just settlement.”[9]

Absalom played the part of a populist egalitarian.  When someone approached to bow before him, Absalom would extend his hand and embrace him and kiss him.  Absalom acted this way toward everyone in Israel who came to the king for justice.  In this way Absalom won the loyalty of the citizens of Israel.[10]  Who can tell if he was sincere or not?

After four years of this Absalom said to his father David, the Lord’s chosen or anointed king, “Let me go and repay my vow that I made to the Lord while I was in Hebron.  For I made this vow when I was living in Geshur in Aram: ‘If the Lord really does allow me to return to Jerusalem, I will serve the Lord.’”[11]  David gave him leave.  Absalom went to Hebron where his father had begun his reign as king.  Then Absalom sent spies through all the tribes of Israel who said, “When you hear the sound of the horn, you may assume that Absalom rules in Hebron.”[12]

Absalom’s conspiracy seems to have been an ill-conceived bluff.  Two hundred of the men who accompanied him from Jerusalem thought they had been invited for free food and drink.  While he was offering sacrifices, Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s adviser, to come from his city, Giloh. A note in the NET explains that the text is not clear whether Asbalom or Ahithopel was offering sacrifices when Absalom sent for Ahithophel.  It’s also not clear whether Ahithophel knew why he was being summoned.  Nevertheless with the king’s advisor coming over to Absalom the conspiracy was gaining momentum, and the people were starting to side with Absalom.[13]

I think it conceivable that Absalom’s true intent was merely to stir up enough trouble to bargain for a judgeship.  But when David heard the report, “The men of Israel are loyal to Absalom!” the king himself ratcheted things up a notch.  “Come on!  Let’s escape!” David said, “Otherwise no one will be delivered from Absalom!  Go immediately, or else he will quickly overtake us and bring disaster on us and kill the city’s residents with the sword.”[14]  I believe wholeheartedly that David’s first concern was to protect the lives of those loyal to him while not subjecting the inhabitants of Jerusalem to a siege.  But David’s next command decision offers another clue.

As David and all his household, royal court, servants, loyal warriors fled from Jerusalem (all but ten of David’s concubines who were left to attend to the palace) he noticed and spoke to Ittai the Gittite who had six hundred warriors from Gath.  “Why should you come with us?  Go back and stay with the new king, for you are a foreigner and an exile from your own country.  It seems like you arrived just yesterday.  Today should I make you wander around by going with us?  I go where I must go.  But as for you, go back and take your men with you.  May genuine loyal love protect you!”[15]

I don’t doubt David’s sincere concern for Ittai and his six hundred men.  And I don’t doubt that David was uncertain of the loyalty of these men, and of any men had he remained in Jerusalem.  Fleeing as he did was as good an impromptu loyalty test as any, and Ittai the Gittite passed the test.  As surely as the Lord lives, Ittai replied, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king is, whether dead or alive, there I will be as well![16]

Zadok the priest would have brought the ark of the covenant of God and all the Levites who were with him along with David.  Take the ark of God back to the city, David said.  If I find favor in the Lord’s sight he will bring me back and enable me to see both it and his dwelling place again.  However, if he should say, “I do not take pleasure in you,” then he will deal with me in a way that he considers appropriate.[17]  Again, I don’t doubt David’s sincerity.  The ark of the covenant of God belonged to Israel, not to David, not even to the king.  But David was not shy about asking Zadok for intelligence either.  I will be waiting at the fords of the desert until word from you reaches me.[18]

When David heard that his adviser had gone over to Absalom, he prayed, Make the advice of Ahithophel foolish, O Lord![19]  When Hushai the Arkite met him at the top of the hill where he used to worship God, David had an inspired thought, “If you leave with me you will be a burden to me.  But you will be able to counter the advice of Ahithophel if you go back to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king!  Previously I was your father’s servant, and now I will be your servant.’”[20]  He also instructed Hushai to pass on any intelligence he gathered to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.

Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met them with food and drink.  Mephibosheth was a son of David’s friend Jonathan the son of Saul.  When David became king he began to care for Mephibosheth to show his kindness to Jonathan after Jonathan died in battle against the Philistines.  David inquired about Mephibosheth.  He remains in Jerusalem, Ziba said, for he said, “Today the house of Israel will give back to me my grandfather’s kingdom.”  The king said to Ziba, “Everything that was Mephibosheth’s now belongs to you.”[21]  (As I said before, it is possible that Ziba lied.)

As they walked on a relative of King Saul’s named Shimei cursed at David and threw stones.  The Lord has punished you for all the spilled blood of the house of Saul,[22] Shimei said.  One of David’s men, Abishai son of Zeruiah, practically begged David for leave to kill Shimei (2 Samuel 16:10-12 NET).

But the king said, “What do we have in common, you sons of Zeruiah?  If he curses because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David!’, who can say to him, ‘Why have you done this?’”  Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son, my very own flesh and blood, is trying to take my life.  So also now this Benjaminite!  Leave him alone so that he can curse, for the Lord has spoken to him.  Perhaps the Lord will notice my affliction and this day grant me good in place of his curse.”

David’s Forgiveness, Part 10 

Back to David’s Forgiveness, Part 11

Back to David’s Forgiveness, Part 12

Back to Romans, Part 76

[1] 2 Samuel 14:24 (NET)

[2] 2 Samuel 14:29 (NET)

[3] 2 Samuel 14:30 (NET)

[4] 2 Samuel 14:32 (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 14:33 (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 14:25 (NET)

[7] NET Note: “The imagery of the ‘burning coals’ represents pangs of conscience, more readily effected by kindness than by violence. These coals produce the sharp pain of contrition through regret (e.g., 18:19; 20:22; 24:17; Gen 42-45; 1 Sam 24:18-20; Rom 12:20). The coals then would be an implied comparison with a searing conscience.”

[8] Proverbs 25:21, 22 (NET) one of the Proverbs of Solomon Collected by Hezekiah

[9] 2 Samuel 15:3, 4 (NET)

[10] 2 Samuel 15:5, 6 (NET)

[11] 2 Samuel 15:7, 8 (NET)

[12] 2 Samuel 15:10 (NET)

[13] 2 Samuel 15:12 (NET)

[14] 2 Samuel 15:13, 14 (NET)

[15] 2 Samuel 15:19, 20 (NET)

[16] 2 Samuel 15:21 (NET)

[17] 2 Samuel 15:25, 26 (NET)

[18] 2 Samuel 15:28 (NET)

[19] 2 Samuel 15:31 (NET)

[20] 2 Samuel 15:32-34 (NET)

[21] 2 Samuel 16:3, 4 (NET)

[22] 2 Samuel 16:8 (NET)

David’s Forgiveness, Part 8

When I studied the Bible looking for rules to obey I was the project, and I was in charge of my reform efforts.  I determined which rules to obey and which didn’t apply to me.  I didn’t necessarily see it that way at the time.  I thought I was doing it all for God’s sake.  But when I began to study the Bible to know Him, and Jesus Christ whom He sent,[1] I was distracted.  I couldn’t stay so focused on myself.  Oh, I’m still the project.  But now I’m God’s project and He is in charge of the reform effort.  Here is a case in point.

In the last essay I began to consider whether I could believe that David exercised some form of Do not judge so that you will not be judged[2] with his son when he suspected something amiss in Absalom’s request regarding Amnon.  I wondered if the Lord regarded that as something after his own heart.[3] But the more I thought about it, the more I disliked the idea.  In my resistance to it I was unmasked.  The main reason I don’t want to believe that David exercised some form of Do not judge so that you will not be judged with Absalom was that it didn’t work.  Absalom killed Amnon anyway.  And I know the rest of the story.  It didn’t even work in the long run on Absalom.  It didn’t deliver the goods.

I don’t want to be like [my] Father in heaven, [who] causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,[4] not really, not if it doesn’t work out.  And I want to see it work out.  I don’t want to walk by faith on something like this.  And, frankly, I didn’t know that about myself when I began the previous essay.  I don’t know how to change that about myself now.

I know that I used to object to not judging others because those “others” would think they were putting something over on me, that I didn’t know what they were really thinking.  They would think I was stupid, and I’d, you know, come off like a dolt.  I probably still feel that way somewhere inside, considering the way I analyzed David’s actions or inactions.  I just can’t muster whatever it would take to use that as an objection anymore.

Whether Absalom thought he was right to kill Amnon or not, once the deed was done he fled and went to King Talmai son of Ammihud of Geshur,[5] his mother Maacah’s father.  David grieved for another firstborn son, his actual firstborn, Amnon born to Ahinoam the Jezreelite.  Absalom was banished to Geshur for three years.  David longed to go to Absalom, for he had since been consoled over the death of Amnon.[6]

This longing was certainly something dear to God’s heart.  Ephraim is my firstborn son,[7] God spoke through Jeremiah.  This is the name used by the prophets to personify the northern kingdom of Israel that rebelled against Solomon’s son Rehoboam.  Ephraim has attached himself to idols; Do not go near him![8] The Lord had a lot to say about Ephraim.

I know Ephraim all too well; the evil of Israel is not hidden from me.  For you have engaged in prostitution (Septuagint: ἐξεπόρνευσεν, a form of ἐκπορνεύω), O Ephraim; Israel has defiled itself.  Their wicked deeds do not allow them to return to their God; because a spirit of idolatry (Septuagint: πορνείας) controls their heart, and they do not acknowledge the Lord.[9]  Within sixty-five years Ephraim will no longer exist as a nation.[10]  Ephraim will be ruined in the day of judgment![11]  Ephraim will be oppressed, crushed under judgment, because he was determined to pursue worthless idols.[12]

Whenever I want to heal Israel, the Lord continued, the sin of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria [the capital of the northern kingdom] are exposed.  For they do what is wrong; thieves break into houses, and gangs rob people out in the streets.  They do not realize that I remember all of their wicked deeds.  Their evil deeds have now surrounded them; their sinful deeds are always before me.[13]  Although Ephraim has built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning!  I spelled out my law for him in great detail, but they regard it as something totally unknown to them![14]

I can’t imagine a parent who can’t hear God’s hurt and yearning, it was I who led Ephraim, I took them by the arm; but they did not acknowledge that I had healed them.[15]  How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?…I have had a change of heart!  All my tender compassions are aroused![16]

Just as Jonadab couldn’t bear to see Amnon’s longing without offering him advice to ensnare Tamar,[17] Joab was so moved by David’s longing for Absalom he hired an actress.  Pretend to be in mourning, Joab instructed her, and put on garments for mourning.  Don’t anoint yourself with oil. Instead, act like a woman who has been mourning for the dead for some time.  Go to the king and speak to him in the following fashion.[18]

The actress claimed to be a widow who had two sons.  They got into a fight out in the field where no one could separate them.  One killed the other.  Now the entire family has risen up against your servant, saying, “Turn over the one who struck down his brother, so that we can execute him and avenge the death of his brother whom he killed.”[19]  There would be no one then to carry on the name of her husband.  Go to your home, David said.  I will give instructions concerning your situation.[20]

The actress wasn’t satisfied with his answer.  She pressed him further, and David said, Bring to me whoever speaks to you, and he won’t bother you again! [21]  Still, the actress wasn’t satisfied, In that case, let the king invoke the name of the Lord your God so that the avenger of blood may not kill! She wanted David to swear an oath.  So David said, As surely as the Lord lives, not a single hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.[22]  Then she blamed David for Absalom’s exile (2 Samuel 14:13-17 NET).

Why have you devised something like this against God’s people?  When the king speaks in this fashion, he makes himself guilty, for the king has not brought back the one he has banished.  Certainly we must die, and are like water spilled on the ground that cannot be gathered up again.  But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways for the banished to be restored.  I have now come to speak with my lord the king about this matter, because the people have made me fearful.  But your servant said, “I will speak to the king!  Perhaps the king will do what his female servant asks.  Yes!  The king may listen and deliver his female servant from the hand of the man who seeks to remove both me and my son from the inheritance God has given us!”  So your servant said, “May the word of my lord the king be my security, for my lord the king is like the angel of God when it comes to deciding between right and wrong!  May the Lord your God be with you!”

Joab schemed with the actress to trap and trick David as Nathan had done.  Nathan was sent by God so that David would acknowledge and repent of his sin.  The actress was sent by Joab so that David would follow his longing for Absalom to its logical conclusion.  Did Joab put you up to all of this?[23] David asked the actress.  When he learned the truth he wasn’t angry with Joab or the actress.  He said to Joab, All right!  I will do this thing!  Go and bring back the young man Absalom![24]

Again, though David may appear foolish, he was a man after God’s own heart.  He had an uncanny ability to see through all the commandments, laws, crimes and punishments to God’s loyal love and great compassion.  A thousand years or so before Jesus spoke the parable, David demonstrated that he was not like the evil slave who was forgiven a great debt by his Lord but would not forgive his fellow slave a lesser debt.  I forgave you all that debt because you begged me!  Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?[25]

David’s Forgiveness, Part 9

Back to Romans, Part 12 

Back to David’s Forgiveness, Part 12

[4] Matthew 5:45 (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 13:37 (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 13:39 (NET)

[7] Jeremiah 31:9 (NET)

[8] Hosea 4:17 (NET)

[9] Hosea 5:3, 4 (NET)

[10] Isaiah 7:8 (NET)

[11] Hosea 5:9 (NET)

[12] Hosea 5:11 (NET)

[13] Hosea 7:1, 2 (NET)

[14] Hosea 8:11, 12 (NET)

[15] Hosea 11:3 (NET)

[16] Hosea 11:8 (NET)

[18] 2 Samuel 14:2, 3 (NET)

[19] 2 Samuel 14:7 (NET)

[20] 2 Samuel 14:8 (NET)

[21] 2 Samuel 14:10 (NET)

[22] 2 Samuel 14:11 (NET)

[23] 2 Samuel 14:19 (NET)

[24] 2 Samuel 14:21 (NET)

[25] Matthew 18:32, 33 (NET)

David’s Forgiveness, Part 7

Absalom made David complicit in his scheme to kill Amnon, much like Amnon had done with TamarAbsalom’s sheepshearers were in Baal Hazor.[1]  Sheepshearing was a festive time, called a good day (KJV) or holiday (NET).[2]  Absalom invited all the king’s sons.  Then Absalom went to the king and said, “My shearers have begun their work.  Let the king and his servants go with me.”  But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son.  We shouldn’t all go.  We shouldn’t burden you in that way.”[3]

David refused to attend but blessed his son Absalom.  If you will not go, Absalom said, then let my brother Amnon go with us. This time David sensed something amiss.  Why should he go with you? He asked.  But when Absalom pressed him, he sent Amnon and all the king’s sons along with him.[4]

As a warrior and commander of men in the field David was known and feared for being extremely cunning.[5]  Fleeing for his life, exhausted and weeping as he went, David reverted to full battle mode.  He made a rapid series of strategic and tactical decisions involving Ittai the Gittite,[6] Zadok the priest and the ark of God,[7] Hushai the Arkite,[8] Ziba and Mephibosheth[9] (though Ziba possibly lied),[10] and Shimei.[11]  In every case David positioned himself advantageously among his allies and enemies on the horizontal plane, even as he positioned himself just as advantageously on the vertical plane with God.  Off the battlefield, dealing with his own sons, he comes off like a dolt.

I think I need a little contrast.  When King Laius of Thebes received an oracle that he was doomed to perish at the hand of his own son he acted swiftly and decisively.  He pinned the child’s ankles together and told Queen Jocasta to kill him.  David did not scheme to prove God’s word false, he only fasted and prayed that God would repent regarding the death of his son.

Queen Jocasta turned the task of killing the child over to a servant.  The wise servant obeyed his queen by placing the child on a mountain to die of exposure.  He neither disobeyed her nor obeyed her so thoroughly that the act couldn’t be repented in the near term.  But a shepherd rescued the child and named him “Swollen Feet.”  He took the child to Corinth where he was raised by King Polybus and his wife Merope.

When “Swollen Feet” grew up, he suspected that Polybus and Merope were not his real parents, so he asked the Delphic Oracle.  The oracle ignored his question but told him that he would kill his father and marry his mother.  To forestall that fate “Swollen Feet” (Oedipus, in Greek) fled from Corinth to Thebes.  He killed his father on the way and married his mother as a reward for answering the Sphinx’s riddle, because he didn’t know them.  It is not that hard to see why God warned Israel not to visit or pay attention to such wicked oracles.

The moral of the story of Oedipus, I suppose, from a parent’s perspective is that having natural affection for one’s children can’t turn out any worse than this.  Or, if you want something done right, do it yourself.  But the fact that Laius and Jocasta couldn’t kill their son themselves is what makes them credible as human.  The contrast between Laius and David helps sharpen my focus.

The things that seem so obvious to me, the things that pleased the people and made David the kind of king who led them in battle and fought their battles for them, were ultimately the things God rejected about David.  My son, David said to Solomon, I really wanted to build a temple to honor the Lord my God.  But the Lord said to me: “You have spilled a great deal of blood and fought many battles.  You must not build a temple to honor me, for you have spilled a great deal of blood on the ground before me.”[12]

If I will not find the things that made David a man after God’s own heart in the sound and fury of his life, perhaps they are in the silence.  It makes sense to assume that David was the same man with his sons that he was on a battlefield, that he attempted at least to position himself just as advantageously on the horizontal plane with them as he did on the vertical plane with God.  The difference then would be the criteria of advantage.

Was David’s willingness to believe Absalom’s good will toward Amnon an instance of something like Jesus’ saying, Do not judge so that you will not be judged?[13]  I know how distressing it is when a parent assumes the worst about me, even if the worst is closer to the truth.  Rather than being entirely deceived by Absalom’s pretense did David make a conscious choice not to treat his son that way?  I can see the vertical advantage to that decision.  Given the outcome I’m less convinced about the horizontal.

I still fault David for not saying something to Absalom, even taking him aside and talking about Nabal and Abigail.  “Absalom, listen, when I was young a man insulted me.  I was angry.  I thought I was justified taking matters into my own hands.  And I would have if not for your brother’s mother Abigail.  She came out to me, soothed my anger, fed my men.  I’ll never forget something she said to me.  ‘Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and as surely as you live, it is the Lord who has kept you from shedding blood and taking matters into your own hands.’[14]  She was right.  I was on my way to do a foolish thing and the Lord restrained me through her.  Her husband, the man who insulted me, died anyway, not by my hand, and Abigail became my wife.”

My imaginary fatherly advice, however, leads me to another concern.  Where was Absalom’s Abigail?  I’m coming dangerously close to blaming the Lord again, so I want to compare and contrast these two stories in more detail.  I’ll start with the question, why did David suppose that he was right to kill Nabal and all his men (KJV, any that pisseth against the wall)?

In the previous chapter David and his men were hiding in a cave, when King Saul, the man who was trying to kill them, entered to relieve himself and didn’t see them in the darkness.  But David would not harm the Lord’s chosen one.[15]  He stealthily cut off a piece of his robe instead.  Afterward David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe.[16]  David was also the Lord’s chosen one, anointed by Samuel in Bethlehem.[17]

Nabal did not simply reject David’s request to share in some of the food of the sheepshearing festival, he said, Who is David, and who is this son of Jesse?  This is a time when many servants are breaking away from their masters!  Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers and give them to these men?  I don’t even know where they came from![18]

David and his men had been very good to Nabal’s shepherds.  They didn’t insult them or take anything from them the entire time they were together in the field.  And this was from the mouth of the servant who ran to warn Abigail how her husband had treated a large group of well-armed men: Both night and day they were a protective wall for us the entire time we were with them, while we were tending our flocks.[19]  I don’t doubt that when David heard the report from his men he felt like it was Nabal who was pissing on that protective wallEach of you strap on your sword![20] David said to his men.

Abigail acted immediately.  She gathered food and drink and sent them ahead of her by servants to meet David and his army in a manner very reminiscent of how Jacob (Israel) first greeted his brother Esau after many years of exile.[21]  When Abigail arrived she threw herself down before David, and bowed to the ground.  Falling at his feet, she said, “My lord, I accept all the guilt! But please let your female servant speak with my lord! Please listen to the words of your servant!  My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed foolish!  But I, your servant, did not see the servants my lord sent.”[22]

In other words, she treated David like the Lord’s chosen one, like the king he was soon to be.  And David said, Praised be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me!  Praised be your good judgment!  May you yourself be rewarded for having prevented me this day from shedding blood and taking matters into my own hands![23]

Absalom may have considered himself right as well.  Shechem, unlike Amnon, wanted to marry Jacob’s daughter Dinah after he raped her.  Her brothers deceived him and his father Hamor.  They said that Shechem could marry Dinah and that their clans would trade daughters as wives if the men of Hamor’s clan were all circumcised (Genesis 34:25-29 NET).

In three days, when they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and went to the unsuspecting city and slaughtered every male.  They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left.  Jacob’s sons killed them and looted the city because their sister had been violated.  They took their flocks, herds, and donkeys, as well as everything in the city and in the surrounding fields.  They captured as plunder all their wealth, all their little ones, and their wives, including everything in the houses.

Perhaps David recalled this story when he first heard the erroneous report, Absalom has killed all the king’s sons; not one of them is left![24]  Jonadab, the man who told Amnon to feign illness to get to Tamar, was apparently still an advisor to the king.  He said, My lord should not say, “They have killed all the young men who are the king’s sons.”  For only Amnon is dead.  This is what Absalom has talked about from the day that Amnon humiliated his sister Tamar.[25]

So the servant who might have run to warn Absalom’s Abigail apparently kept it secret until it was too late for anyone to act.  By the way, Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, the mastermind of Tamar’s rape, does not appear again in the Bible, certainly not as an advisor to the king.

David’s Forgiveness, Part 8

Back to David’s Forgiveness, Part 9

Back to What Is Sexual Immorality?

Back to Fear – Genesis, Part 4

Back to Torture, Part 5

[1] 2 Samuel 13:23a (NET)

[2] 1 Samuel 25:8

[3] 2 Samuel 13:23b-25a (NET)

[4] 2 Samuel 13:26, 27 (NET)

[5] 1 Samuel 23:22 (NET)

[12] 1 Chronicles 22:7, 8 (NET)

[13] Matthew 7:1 (NET)

[14] 1 Samuel 25:26a (NET)

[15] 1 Samuel 24:6 (NET)

[16] 1 Samuel 24:5 (NET)

[17] 1 Samuel 16:13 (NET)

[18] 1 Samuel 25:10, 11 (NET)

[19] 1 Samuel 25:16 (NET)

[20] 1 Samuel 25:13 (NET)

[21] Genesis 32:3-33:17

[22] 1 Samuel 25:23-25 (NET)

[23] 1 Samuel 25:32, 33 (NET)

[24] 2 Samuel 13:30 (NET)

[25] 2 Samuel 13:32 (NET)