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June 4, Day #156 – The Hatfields and the McCoys

In 2 Samuel 3:22-5:5, I continue to be amazed at the ongoing feuds and bloodshed between the two houses of Saul and David. In reality, because David was Saul’s legal son-in-law, Saul’s “house and line” actually experienced God’s hidden blessing of continual rule simply by expansion through David’s line. Was that such a difficult concept for the Israelites – especially these two families – to grasp? Was this minor oversight worth all the ongoing bitterness and bloodshed? In verses 22-30, we see Joab – “just returned from a raid and ignorant of David’s release of Abner” – arguing with David about Abner’s discharge. The intrigue and the under-handedness of all these characters is amazing! Joab leaves David who doesn’t know Joab’s intentions, and when Abner returns, “Joab took him aside – as though to speak with him – stabs him in the stomach, and kills Abner to avenge the blood of Asahel” (verses 22-27). David curses Joab’s house with “running sores, leprosy, a crutch, death by sword, or lack of food” (verse 29). The bickering back and forth is like the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys! The king sings a lament for Abner (verses 33-34), and then – something on the order of Saul’s ridiculous oaths – David makes a rash vow not to eat! In chapter 4, we meet Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, and then Recab and Bannah, who stab Ish-Bosheth and cut off his head! For “killing an innocent man in his own house,” David sends his men “to put these two scoundrels to death and cut off their hands and feet” (verses 9-12). Why has God included all this grotesque bloodshed in the Scripture? God is showing us what happens to the nation when we remove Him as King over our lives and replace Him with a human king over us. This is the way by which - and these are the people by whom - David came to the kingdom, and God wants us to see firsthand and to know what human authority does and ultimately where it leads. It is morally awful, and it leads to corruption. Among men, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We, as a nation, would do well to pay attention to these passages.

Sometimes death leads us to discover things that we never knew before. Verses 13-18 of Psalm 69 have a special meaning for me - especially since I became a widower. Today, I often feel what David was feeling – like my life suddenly and unexpectedly has sunk down into “the mire; in deep waters; in the pit; in trouble; scorned; disgraced; shamed; and helpless” (verses 14-20). For most of my life up to the point of Terri’s death, I never knew how deeply emotional a creature I actually am. Each of these expressions describes a powerful feeling that has since and often surfaced in me - caused by the loss of her faithful and steady companionship. The feelings of loneliness and incompleteness can sometimes be overwhelming. Earlier, either I repressed these feelings, or I never truly experienced them until now. Like David, who clearly knew such feelings, I cry out for God’s mercy to me, and I thank Him that He is definitely near to help me “out of the goodness of” His love (verse 16). His answers to my prayers are evidence of the truth of Psalm 69.

As we start the book of Acts – verses 1-22 of chapter 1 – I thank God for its historical evidence about the beginnings of the early church and its emphasis on our inclusion in God’s plans for the church. In the first 22 verses, we see that Luke’s purpose here is to continue to “write about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day He was taken up to heaven after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles” (verse 1). Luke records that Jesus promised them the “power of the Holy Spirit when He comes to enable them (and us) to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (verse 8). This, then, is our commission. We are to be witnesses – testifiers – of the truth of the Word of God. Interestingly, the “two men dressed in white” said, “This same Jesus will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (verses 10-11). In verses 12-22, we see Peter’s recognition now that all the events of which Jesus has previously spoken “had to be fulfilled by the Scriptures,” especially regarding Judas (verse 16; cf., Psalm 69:25 – which we read today – and Psalm 109:8). We see, here, the “necessity to choose” a replacement for Judas “to become a witness of His (Christ's) resurrection” (verses 21-22).

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