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June 13, Day 165 – Two Case Studies on Mercy


In our previous readings, we saw how Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (cf., 2 Samuel 15:6) and that he thrived on his own popularity. Yesterday in our readings, we saw the unfortunate death of Absalom, and that – before his death – he “erected a monument to himself” (cf., 2 Samuel 18:18). Absalom was a man of audacious pride, but we pointed out yesterday that his rebellious spirit did not just happen overnight. Regarding Absalom's death, in today’s passage (2 Samuel 18:19-19:43), Ahimaaz delivers the news that “all is well” (verse 28) and the Cushite calls the news “good” because they are clearly thinking of David’s kingdom – not Absalom’s. In verse 33, we see that David was “shaken” as he received the news of Absalom’s death, and as we would expect, this news affects his subsequent behavior – “the king is weeping and mourning … grieving … for Absalom; he covered his face and cried aloud, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” (cf., chapter 19:1-4). This situation represents a disturbance in God’s natural order for things – children are meant to bury their parents – not the other way around. Here, we see that sin has so disordered the world that it even perverts its own upheaval. Courageously, in verses 5-8, Joab strongly rebukes David for “humiliating the men who saved his life and for hating those who love him” (verses 5-6), and he reminds David of his leadership responsibilities. To be sure, death has a strange and powerful effect on people, but over time, David’s view of Absalom became negatively skewed by his own failures to love and discipline Absalom properly and biblically. Perhaps David’s grief was mixed with regret. In the rest of the chapter, we see the people call for David’s return to Jerusalem, and many of them cross over the Jordan to meet him – including Ziba, a thousand Benjamites, Shimei and Mephibosheth (verses 15-40). [Case 1] David shows mercy to those who meant him harm while he was on the run, but remember - the “sword would never depart from David’s house” (cf., 2 Samuel 12:10). The chapter ends with Israel claiming “ten shares in the king” (verse 43) – foreshadowing the future division of the kingdom.

Psalm 73:1-14 is an encouragement to me as I journey through my own life of faith. Like Asaph, who is the Psalmist here, I look at the world in which we live and easily become disappointed with and discouraged by the deceptive divisions and inequities that separate believers and unbelievers. It’s easy to think that the wicked prosper in this life and seem to get away with their evil ways, but Psalm 73 helps us to see the bigger picture. It’s encouraging to know that we’re not alone - other believers observe the same conditions. But we need to remember verse 1 - “Surely, God is good … to the pure in heart.” We need not concern ourselves with the hearts of others but ensure that our own hearts are pure and right before God.

In Acts 7:44-8:3, we see Stephen – continuing his message and speaking for God – as he addresses the same symptoms (i.e., stubbornness, impure hearts, unrighteousness, and resistance to the Holy Spirit) that cause divisions among believers and separation from and within the ranks of unbelievers (cf., Acts 7:51). Israel’s leaders were “stiff-necked” and their “hearts were uncircumcised" (i.e., impure). Stephen holds the Jewish leaders directly responsible – “you have betrayed and murdered the Righteous One … and have not obeyed the law” (verses 52-53). We note here their vile hatred against Stephen – “furious and gnashed their teeth at him … covered their ears, yelling at the top of their voices, they rushed at him … dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (verses 54-55). [Case 2] Stephen shows mercy – even as he is being killed – he prays for their forgiveness while “Saul was there, giving approval to his death” (cf., 8:1). Thankfully, we will see God work miraculously in Saul’s life to bring about the change of heart that was necessary for God to transform Saul the Persecutor into Paul the Apostle.

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