Showing posts with label David. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David. Show all posts

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Two Glories

It’ll soon be Sunday again.

Time to go and meet with the Lord’s people and think about him.

That’s good work, really. It’s just about the best thing we really ever do. The works we do here on earth end when the Lord returns. But some things continue into eternity. Paramount among those things is worship. It’s one of the few things we do that lasts forever. I think that makes it worth getting up for.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A Snail Dissolving into Slime

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.”

How does a Christian deal with sentiments like this?

It is reasonable to classify Psalm 58 among the so-called “imprecatory psalms”. It is certainly replete with cries for vengeance, not just justice. My favorite couplet is this one: “Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.”

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Thee, Thee Only

“Against you, you only, have I sinned.”

Do you have trouble with this verse? I certainly do. Just like I struggle with a lot of hyperbole in scripture.

What? There’s hyperbole in scripture? You mean people said things under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God that weren’t intended to be understood literally?

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (19)

I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Do the souls of aborted babies go to heaven? Do babies and children go to heaven when they die? These are questions of deep concern both to believers and even to the occasional agnostic, who might be willing to risk finding him- or herself before the great white throne one day, but not their children.

And yes, people like this do exist. I know one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Sword, Self and Salvation

If you know the story of David’s life in any detail, you will probably remember that he had quite the collection of wives, as did most kings in those days. 1 Samuel 25 records the story of how Abigail came into David’s orbit. She was David’s second wife (or maybe third, depending on how you read some of the later historical comments about his family), and from the limited data given us in scripture, by far the shrewdest of the bunch.

Abigail’s remarkable discretion warrants an entire chapter of holy writ, which should be enough to merit a little consideration from the reader.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Punishment and Deterrence

One of those infamous recent “studies” found that 88% of America’s leading criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.

I use scare quotes because virtually all such “studies” are commissioned by one side or another of a major public policy divide. The questions asked are rarely framed in neutral language. The expertise of those consulted frequently turns out to be unrelated to the area of study about which the inquiries are made. Such data as may result is rarely presented scientifically and impartially.

I take them all with a truckload of salt. Most “studies” are simply propaganda exercises.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Answering a Skeptic

Not all college friendships last a lifetime, but one guy I went to school with has kept in touch for over 30 years. He maintained an attitude of genial bemusement about my Christian faith right up until his own daughter became a teenager, when he abruptly decided that a purely secular worldview was not what he wanted for her after all.

So I can relate to the plight of the writer of A Skeptic’s Journey Through the Bible, an anonymous blogger who says this about himself:

“Growing up a believer, I left my faith in my teens. Now that I’m at the age of starting a family of my own, I need to know in which direction to guide them.”

Fair point. Let’s help if we can.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

The Ironic Ending

Not all friendships get off on the right foot.

One of my best buddies in high school was a skinny longhair with similar tastes in pop music. But Terry and I met under less than ideal circumstances. Another student had a serious grudge against me and was determined to make my early high school life as miserable as possible; however, he wasn’t quite sure he had it in him to handle a six foot 200 pounder on his own. So, one day after school, he and his hulking sidekick chased me into the nearby woods. On the way, they drafted Terry to help out.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Worth Dying For

When King David wrote, “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” the great warrior-poet was not reaching for an apt figure of speech to describe some vigorous spiritual exercise. He meant it absolutely literally. David had men on every side who were trying to kill him with bows, arrows, swords and spears. His enemies were not looking for a bracing intellectual argument; they intended to spill David’s blood, and spill it in copious quantities.

Moreover, God was not standing aloof from David’s very physical struggles. He was right in there equipping his servant to pierce, crush, injure and maim his fellow man.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Walking Before God

When Abraham, who was still called Abram at the time, was in his hundredth year on this planet, God appeared to him. He gave him a rather daunting challenge: “Walk before me,” God said, “and be blameless.”

Many good things would come of this. Years later, when Abraham was “well advanced in years” and the fulfillment of God’s promises to him was apparent, the patriarch would speak to his servant of “the Lord, before whom I have walked”.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Fake Piety

Fake piety is usually fairly transparent. Sadly, the fakely pious are the only ones who do not know it.

Christians sometimes caution one another to be careful what we confess, and this is not always a bad thing. A personal testimony full of interesting and semi-scandalous details can serve as a source of enticement to those who have little life experience, whose parents have sheltered them from the evils in the world.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

David’s Covenant and the Resurrection

On Tuesday we looked at the first six public messages in the book of Acts to consider how one’s audience ought to determine the content of a gospel message, a pattern well established by the apostles in their preaching.

It seems obvious that the apostles did not simply memorize a few key points to preach about in every situation. They did not utilize a predictable series of Old Testament proof texts. They were not merely checking boxes, but responded to the needs of the particular audience to whom they were preaching.

So now here we are in Acts 13.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Stricken Sheep

“Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, ‘Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done?’ ”

People who are characteristically righteous always have an outsized sense of their own relative culpability. That is probably a good thing. A tender conscience toward sin and a heart which always looks to get right with God are qualities to be valued and pursued. God is often more generous with his assessment of righteous men and women than they are with themselves.

But a preoccupation with our own personal responsibility can also be a bit like wearing blinders.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Two Glories

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Semi-Random Musings (18)

There are no wasted words in scripture. At least, I’m not having much luck finding any.

The apostle John says that if everything Jesus did were written down, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Sanctified hyperbole? Maybe. But what is certain is that we’d need tractor trailers to carry our Bibles to church and bigger doors on our buildings. Much bigger. Add a few more unnecessary details to our Old Testaments, and we’d have to leave them at home. Except of course that our homes would not be big enough, and we couldn’t afford to own all the volumes.

The Holy Spirit is not just the world’s greatest-ever writer, he is also the world’s greatest-ever editor. We get exactly what we need and no more. No detail is frivolous.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The Other Side of the Story

One thing you will likely notice as you read through the Bible’s books of history is that they are not saturated with editorial comments. That is to say the Holy Spirit did not prompt the writers of scripture’s various histories to pass moral judgment on many, even most, of the events they recounted.

There are several notable instances in which he did.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Point of the Exercise

It is God who confers authority, but he doesn’t do it for its own sake.

Sure, a position of authority often comes with side helpings: popularity, riches, dignity, power, a (usually temporary) legacy ... and (in Old Testament times at least) a bunch of wives. But these are baubles. They are not the point of the exercise. Other things come with authority too: abuse, rebellion, heckling and a horrible, frequently harrowing level of responsibility — but let’s not get into those.

My point is that it is always and only the WORK that matters to God, not the status or other benefits that authority confers.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Mission Statement

I’ve never had much use for mission statements or five-year plans, though they are certainly an ongoing feature of modern business life. And perhaps in a business environment it makes sense to ask, “What is our purpose and how are we going to realize it?” The problem is that it is easy to formulate a lofty catchphrase that is entirely meaningless in the real world, isn’t it?
  • McDonalds’ mission statement is typical of such efforts to distill purpose into a single phrase: “McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.” Predictably bland and inoffensive.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Giving and Taking of the Spirit

Today I want to do a short follow-up from yesterday’s post, which was about bad songs that conservative evangelical congregations are singing these days.

My particular concern in that one was the really atrocious doctrine of the Holy Spirit that they seem to be teaching in song. I pointed out some of the raw falsehoods that are being sung passionately by those of us who really ought to know better: and I said that the victims of our error include all untaught believers and our own children, as well as the Spirit of God himself, concerning whom these songs promote raw falsehoods.

I ended with a passionate plea for us to stop.

And I really hope somebody is listening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Iceberg in the Gulf of Mexico

I sat in an office meeting last Saturday morning listening to my fellow managers discuss internal company changes that were, to everyone there, more than a little disconcerting. The afternoon shift supervisor had a clear note of panic in his tone as he anticipated what personnel moves upper management might be contemplating.

Understandably. Nice guy, but he’s got a doctorate in something esoteric that’s all but useless in the real world and I’m quite sure hasn’t the slightest idea what he’ll do if he’s suddenly unemployed.

I’m not about to tell you that I’m a whole lot better qualified myself, or that looking for another job has any great appeal to me. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands, and I suspect millions, all across North America who are staring down similar situations these days.

It’s not just potential unemployment that’s scary, is it.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Root and Shoot

There’s an odd and rather bleak passage in Job in which he compares human beings to trees. “A man dies and is laid low,” says the beleaguered believer, but “there is hope for a tree.”

Why? “Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”

Pouring water on a headstone does not generally produce similar results.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (10)

One in three American children is currently growing up without a father in the home.

Fatherless children are four times more likely to live in poverty as those with a dad at home, twice as likely to die in infancy, twice as likely to struggle with their weight and twice as likely to drop out of high school. Fatherless girls are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. And while the actual numbers are hotly debated, it is evident having an absent father also correlates statistically with higher levels of criminality, incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, behavioral problems and the likelihood of having been beaten up at home.

This is going on in a country with one of the best social safety nets in the world and with more money being directed toward the social problems exacerbated by fatherlessness than at any time in human history. Despite its deep pockets, the State is no substitute for a loving, involved father.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fatherhood Foreshadowed

How many times in your life have you started a prayer with the word “Father”?

For me it’s thousands upon thousands. Tens of thousands, perhaps. I can’t even begin to guess. In fact, it is fairly common for Christians to address God as their father, though I know many whose prayers customarily begin with “Dear God”, which, when you think about it, is a little perplexing.

How many of us think much about the fact that the family relationship with God into which we have been brought through faith in Jesus Christ is not only intimate but also unprecedented?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Evil in Unexpected Places

“No one gives up on something until it turns on them.”
― Thomas Ligotti

Ligotti’s statement may or may not be true, but there is something to be said for people who live consistently.

Those who have become disillusioned by the behavior of Christians are among the most intensely disillusioned people I have ever met. How do you initiate any kind of dialogue with someone completely convinced he has taken the measure of your faith and found it wanting?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Imprecations and Maledictions

There’s an old eighties dirge about an abused child that starts, “My name is Luka. I live on the second floor …”

In the real world the writer’s name was not Luka, it was Suzanne. She was majoring in English Lit. at Barnard College and performing regularly in Greenwich Village when she penned that hit, and the little boy she wrote about was neither abused nor even named Luka.

So much for verisimilitude.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Of Judges and Secret Kings

Not every popular song is about you or me.

For every My Funny Valentine, in which almost every listener pictures someone who makes me “smile with my heart”, instantly identifying with the songwriter in his slightly maudlin rhapsodizing, there’s a “Galileo Figaro magnifico!”

Say what? What does that even mean? But Bohemian Rhapsody was hugely popular and remains a rock classic, though nobody who’s ever heard it has the slightest idea what it’s about.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

God’s Great Data Repository

Humanity’s drive to preserve itself is acute and perpetual.

How does the next generation come to know who we are and what we have learned? Our wisdom, our knowledge — our very selves, if that were possible — need to be passed on. In doing so, it is thought, we give our own lives meaning. On their way to the grave, even hardened materialists appeal to the notion that they will somehow “live on” in the memories of those with whom they interact. That hope is illusory: human memory degrades with astounding rapidity.

The invention of electronic data storage appeared to provide a solution.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Forgiven and Forgotten?

A couple of fairly old quotes raise important issues about forgiveness:

“The confession should be real and full, and at once forgiveness and cleansing follow, though not often realised to the full at once. David was forgiven the instant he confessed his sin in the presence of Nathan, but later he wrote the 51st Psalm.”

“David confessed his sin and was straightway forgiven, but the Lord dealt with him governmentally in three ways: ‘the sword would never depart from his house,’ the child would die, and he would receive the same treatment he had meted out to others (2 Sam. 12). So that though sins are forgiven and forgotten in one sense, they are not in another.”

— William Hoste, Bible Problems and Answers (1957)

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Subhumanity and Satisfaction

“Deliver my soul … from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

David spends a portion of the 17th Psalm asking God to deliver him from wicked men and deadly enemies. But he finishes his meditation by asking for deliverance from a third, arguably less offensive group.

This last crowd sounds awfully familiar. Basically, it’s everyone who simply doesn’t appreciate the value of knowing God.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Above Our Pay Grade

David, doing a Q&A in Psalm 15:

Q: “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?”

A: “[He] in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord.”

That’s interesting, don’t you think?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Basic Math

Most people can do basic math.

Maybe not everybody can do linear algebra, probability or calculus, but even relatively low-IQ palace servants living 1000 years before the birth of Christ could hardly fail to notice that David’s latest wife, Bathsheba, had just delivered a baby well short of the average human gestation period of forty weeks.

Sure, David married Bathsheba the moment he could reasonably get away with it. But nobody was fooled. Their affair had to be the worst-kept secret in Jerusalem.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Snare Is Broken

We have escaped like a bird
  from the snare of the fowlers;
  the snare is broken,
  and we have escaped!

The escape David refers to in Psalm 124 was a literal, physical one, from an enemy that would have swallowed both him and his alive if it could; an enemy with “teeth” that regarded him as “prey”. He uses metaphors in his praise, but there was nothing metaphorical about the things from which he escaped. Very likely it was cold steel or a slew of arrows aimed in his direction.

The escape I’m thinking about is of a different sort.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You Don’t Want To Be ‘That Guy’

I wonder what it was like for the Jews who sang David’s psalms.

I suspect a bunch of them were kind of like we tend to be. You know how you can sing a hymn 100 times and on the 101st time it suddenly dawns on you what the writer was trying to communicate.

The same words were all there before; they all meant the same thing they mean when you figure them out, but somehow you sang them over and over again from childhood without really processing them. Maybe you were reading the music and trying to figure out if you should go for that high note or drop down an octave for safety’s sake; or a kid down the pew was fidgeting and kept dropping crumbs from the cookie you wish her grandma hadn’t given her; or you were somewhere else entirely in your own head, possibly contemplating missing the NFL pre-game show.

Whatever the distraction may have been, you sang those words but didn’t register them. You missed the point.

I’ve certainly done it enough.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Two Glories

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Going Out With A Bang

Things are changing at the office.

Sixty-five is no longer mandatory retirement age in Canada, so a few of the men I learned from are still on the job, though they have definitely slowed down. Most are gone despite the change in law. Some even took packages and opted out early. Others who thought they’d work past sixty-five found they were running out of gas and changed their minds. Still others had unexpected health crises or family drama.

Hey, there are no guarantees for any of us, right?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Silly Question

“Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Especially coming from a prophet of God. Normally I’d take Nathan’s advice to the bank. Had I been in King David’s shoes, I’d have gotten cracking on my temple building project post-haste.

Problem is, the prophet was wrong.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Best Move

One of Satan’s most effective and longstanding cons is getting people moving when they really ought to stand still. He did it with Eve, didn’t he? That tree in the middle of the garden was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise.

Thing is, it was just as good for food the day before. It was just as delightful to the eyes three weeks before that. The wisdom it conferred would be the same yesterday, today or tomorrow. There was exactly zero urgency about having a bite of its fruit right then. None whatsoever. Nobody was going to starve, and that exceptionally desirable tree was not going anywhere.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

That Wacky Old Testament (7)

How would you like to be publicly executed for the sins of your grandfather? Any takers?

There’s nothing particularly “wacky” about the events of 2 Samuel 21, which involve the capital punishment of seven Israelites for nothing more offensive than being blood relatives of the former King Saul. A story like this may raise questions in our minds about the fairness of Israel’s law, and thus the fairness of God himself.

I had two major goals in mind in introducing our irregular but ongoing “Wacky Old Testament” series: (1) to set some of the more perplexing commands and events of the Old Testament in their historical context, thus making them more comprehensible to the modern reader; and (2) to demonstrate the consistency of God’s character from Testament to Testament. It may be trendy to portray Jesus as gentle and loving, and Jehovah (or YHWH) as barbaric and bloody, but neither portrayal is exactly on the nose.

Let’s see if for once I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Confounding Expectations

Running gag on conservative social media: “Aaaaaaand ... it’s Muslims.”

The meme tweaks the Powers That Be for their persistent unwillingness to attribute terror attacks throughout the West to their actual cause — Islamic jihad. As each new incident breaks, TradMedia, Lefty virtue signalers and our designated Elected Obscurantists one-up each other in cheerful speculation that THIS TIME it’s one of those dreaded neo-Nazis they’re always carping on about. And each time, greater numbers of perfectly normal news buffs with working memories and the ability to process reality without the aid of a PC filter respond with bemused mockery: “Aaaaaaand ... it’s Muslims.” Which to date it is.

During the reign of King David of Israel, there was probably a similar chorus: “Aaaaaaand ... it’s the Benjaminites.” Because it always was.

Sometimes we develop expectations about others for very good reasons.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Not a Fairy Tale

Comedian Linda Beatty has a weekly atheist comedy web show called The Bible and Other Fairy Tales, from which we may safely conclude Linda, like many other atheists, has never actually read the Old Testament.

The real Bible is full of people displaying contradictory, often self-defeating behavior. There are few squeaky-clean Cinderella types, and few transparently evil stepsisters. Rarely are its characters utterly and irredeemably wicked. Rarely are they entirely faithful, wise and obedient. They are real, flawed human beings, driven by their passions, often displaying surprising decency or brutal inhumanity within a few paragraphs of each other.

Fairy tales these are not.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Lies That Sound Like Truth

It’s getting harder and harder to figure out what’s really going on, isn’t it? This week, I’ve tried to navigate my way through two very different propaganda minefields.

The first is a brief speech from President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in which he lectures the West on its departure from Christian morality. Pure, ironic gold.

The second is an uncharacteristic opinion piece from the pen of Lefty billionaire and master manipulator George Soros, who usually lurks in the shadows behind paid political operatives when trying to tip the scales of American public opinion. But nobody flushed more money down the drain in November’s election than George Soros, and in this op-ed he purports to tell us why.

Both Putin and Soros assure us they are determined to save Western civilization — by precisely opposite means.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

God Helps Those …

One strategy ...

... or another?
Does he? Really? Does God help those who help themselves? Is the key to spiritual victory simply staying in motion at all times?

Some Christians recoil at the notion. “They that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,” they reply. Sit tight, pray hard, and all will be well. Or at very least, it will be as God wills it.


At the other end of the spectrum lie those who quote the same adage to justify a flurry of activity for its own sake, with or without God’s involvement. They just can’t bring themselves to sit still, and need a sufficiently spiritual rationalization for their own impatience.

Perhaps neither extreme is quite correct.

Monday, December 26, 2016

It May Be the Armor

“Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off.”

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s helmet and coat of mail; they worked just fine for Saul.

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s intentions; at the time he thought well of David. He had no desire to sabotage David’s efforts and every reason to hope he might succeed against Goliath.

And there was definitely nothing wrong with David; Saul’s armor just didn’t suit him.

Sometimes other people’s methods don’t work for us.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Yes, They Both Start With ‘D’

It occurs to me that — very occasionally, of course — I may have been the tiniest bit more dismissive of other believers than I ought.

Christian X’s wife runs the show, my youthful self noted. Scratch him from my list of potential spiritual advisors. Christian W has three kids who are off the rails, IMHO. Or at least they’re not very friendly in youth group. Christian Y’s car is awfully expensive: obviously too worldly. And Christian Z? Sure, he and his new wife use that cottage for the Lord, but wouldn’t that money be better invested in missions? Not to mention that divorce. Can you even be saved and do that?

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Falling Down Together

The Battle of Gibeon is a perplexing episode in Israel’s history.

Let me set the stage: Saul, the first king of Israel, is dead. The nation has not formally acknowledged a new king but instead is slipping back into tribalism. David has the anointing of God, but lacks a unanimous mandate from the people. His kinsmen in Judah formally recognize David as rightful king, but that probably says less about their spirituality than it does about their sense of family loyalty.

Of course you’d want your guy at the top of the heap. Everybody does.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Doubling Down

KFC makes the single best sandwich in the history of the world, in my humble opinion.

If you haven’t heard this, prepare to be appalled: A Double Down is 541 calories of pure brilliance: bacon, two different kinds of melted cheese and the Colonel’s secret sauce in between (here’s the best part) two KFC Original Recipe chicken fillets. No bun. Just an artery-clogging, heart-stopping quantity of tasty deep-fried meat.

Fortunately the sandwich only shows up erratically on the KFC menu, usually for four weeks every year-and-a-half or so. If you need to justify consuming one, I recommend fasting the day before. And the day after. Or maybe for a week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Enemy Within

In modern English usage, the difference between jealousy and envy is not clear-cut, as this Merriam-Webster article helpfully points out. In fact, the two terms have become so muddled that three major language guides from the mid-20th century disagree about their respective meanings.

For convenience and to avoid making the confusion worse, I’ll use “jealous” to describe the anticipative emotions that arise over losing something you have, and “envious” to describe the desire to possess what belongs to someone else.

But I won’t pretend to have the final word on the subject.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Point of the Exercise

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The David Connection

It occurred to me while reading through the Gospel of Mark that the significance of many little things perfectly obvious to Bible students or people with a Christian upbringing is probably quite lost on first time readers, especially those whose background is not Jewish.

Little things like the words of the blind beggar Bartimaeus, who cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” That “Son of David” thing must have been important: after all, the blind guy kept repeating it despite everybody around him trying to hush him up.

He wasn’t the only one. That title was something Jesus heard regularly.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Happier in Exile

Tucked into a chapter of the Levitical law that gives detailed instructions about the limitations of the master/slave relationship, the sale and redemption of property, and borrowing and lending is a short statement of ownership given without amplification or explanation.

That statement explains, well, pretty much everything else.

And though these are instructions to Israel that have no force today for any number of theological and practical reasons, it’s pretty hard not to see the application to Christians.