JUST LIKE US (part five)
Last week we looked at Elijah. We saw how he was bold and courageous in taking on the 450 prophets of Baal all by himself. And God comes through and delivers the victorious miracle. But then Queen Jezebel threatens Elijah's life and he responds by running away. The prophet of God who takes on 450 false prophets and comes away victorious is afraid of one woman's threat.
Granted, she's a vicious and powerful woman but Elijah just saw God come through in a mighty way; surely he could be trusted to do so again. But, is that not how we are sometimes? We can be bold and courageous in one situation and fearful and pessimistic the next. It all depends on the factors of the situation we're facing; although it shouldn't because we have God who is all powerful no matter what situation we face.
Joshua was the successor to Moses. He was one of the spies who checked out the land God promised to his people. But no one in the entire nation believed they could conquer Canaan except him and Caleb. So Joshua succeeds Moses and becomes Israel's leader.
When he was leading them into battle against Jericho, God's messenger told him to march around the city once a day for six days and then on the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times and blow the trumpets and the city wall would collapse. It would take a lot of faith to believe God would do this but Joshua obeyed and it happened.
Joshua's faith and confidence in the Lord paid off and the Israelites were enjoying success. Then, in ch. 7, there was a problem and Joshua experiences a setback. Just before they laid siege to Jericho, Joshua told his troops to stay away from the things devoted to God. He warned if someone ignored the order he would bring destruction on themselves and the whole camp.
The silver, gold, bronze and iron were to be sacred for the Lord and were to go into his treasury. Well, Achan didn't listen and took some of those things and hid them. So, when the Israelites went and attacked the city of Ai they were not successful. This struck fear into the hearts of the people. Joshua's reaction was pretty emotional.
Joshua 7:6-11, "Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the LORD, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?
If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name? ”
The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions."
Joshua has this monumental victory at Jericho and then on the heels of that suffers defeat from the men of Ai. Joshua's response was dramatic. As soon as there's a setback he makes these extreme statements. He believed the worst-case scenario would happen because of this one defeat. What happened to the godly confidence? What happened to, 'just trust the Lord'?
Before we jump all over Joshua have we not done this? We display godly confidence in one situation and it goes well for us but we may expect it to always go well for us. So when it doesn't, we are confused and we start letting our emotions get the better of us. A lot of times when an athlete is used to winning and then they suffers defeat their reaction to it can be traumatic.
Joshua didn't know what happened to cause this. Sometimes when God doesn't grant us success we're confused because we think we've done everything right. But perhaps there was something that got overlooked. Perhaps there were other factors that we weren't aware of.
Not that this was a minor situation, but Joshua went to extremes on the heels of losing this battle. Sometimes we can go to extremes when we lose battles too. We might lash out at God and say things like, "What, do you want me to fail? Is this your plan?" We conclude the defeat means all hope is lost and we're doomed. But that's typically not the case. When we decide to stand up, brush ourselves off and evaluate what happened and why, we can get back in the game and find success again.
After Joshua's little tirade we see God telling him to stand up and get off his face. I don't think God was angry with Joshua but he wasn't going to allow this defeatist behavior to continue. There was a problem and it needed to be dealt with. God can be like that with us too. God is loving and patient but if we're on our pity pot for too long he may speak strongly to us to get our attention to get us moving.
Once God had his attention he filled Joshua in on what was going on and what he needed to do. If you read on you'll see that Joshua took care of the problem. Hopefully when God gets our attention and shows us what we need to do we will take action.
But we see that although Joshua displayed great faith he also had times where he didn't. Does that mean the times he did was just a show? No. Joshua was courageous and faithful, it's just that in this situation he was caught up in fear. He's just like us. We can have times where our faith gets us through one adversity but then something else happens and we start to doubt. We can be faithful and courageous Christians but still have times when we're afraid and projecting the worst case scenario.
Does that mean we're double minded? No; it means we're human. However, God may do the same thing to us and give us a kick in the behind to get us back on track. God will minister to us in our panic and reveal to us what we need to do.
Then we have another incident in ch. 9. After the Israelites defeated Ai, the Gibeonites felt they could be next. So, they decided to pull a ruse. They deceived Joshua into thinking they were poor travelers who had been on a long journey. They made it look good with moldy bread and cracked wineskins. Although the Israelites were a little suspicious and asked some questions, they ended up making a treaty with the enemy.
The mistake they made can be seen in 9:14, "The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord." If you read on, Joshua found out what they were doing but it was too late, they had made an oath unto the Lord so they couldn't touch them. So, they made them their servants, which was fine with the Gibeonites because it kept them from being killed.
Although Joshua didn't seek God about this and ended up making a big mistake, God still took care of them. In chpt. 10, five kings joined forces and fought against Joshua. Joshua makes an amazing request-he asked God to make the sun stand still so they could have more daylight in which to defeat their enemy. God honored Joshua's request and actually caused the sun to stand still.
But here again Joshua is just like us. He listened to the Lord's instructions meticulously when it came to taking over the city of Jericho but failed to seek his wisdom with the Gibeonites, even when suspicions were aroused. We can make the same mistake. We might pray and seek the Lord's wisdom regarding what to do in some situations and then there are times when we think we're smart enough to handle it on our own. Then we make a mistake and regret not seeking the Lord.
And like Joshua's mistake, it might be too late to reverse our decision and we have to deal with it. But we move forward, acknowledging our mistake and praying to not be as foolish the next time. And we can be assured knowing God will be right there to lead us into battle and give us the victory.
David was specifically chosen by God as the unlikely replacement for King Saul. In 1st Sam. 16:6, when Samuel was sent to Jesse to pick one of his sons as Saul's replacement Samuel thought for sure it would've been Jesse's oldest son, Eliab. This was because he was the firstborn, which would've been a common conclusion to come to.
But in the next verse it's revealed that Samuel was also focused on Eliab's appearance. He was probably tall and ruggedly handsome. But God said he wasn't the one. He told Samuel that man looks at outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.
So, in God choosing David it showed that David had a good heart. In fact, when Paul was preaching in Antioch and giving some background info leading up to the coming of Jesus he says this about David in Acts 13:22, "After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’"
God said David was a man after his own heart. God's desires were David's desires. God's passions were David's passions. He said David will do everything I want him to do. I don't know of a better acknowledgement one could receive from God.
Yet, we're about to see David do some things that were contrary to this declaration.
2nd Sam. 11:1-17, "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing.
The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home.
The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going.
Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house. When David was told, “Uriah did not go home,” he asked him, “Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?”
Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die. ” So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died."
This is like a biblical soap opera. There are plenty of things wrong in this story. Right from the get-go we see a problem. When kings are going off to war, David stays behind, taking it easy in Jerusalem. Had he been where he was supposed to be, he wouldn't have seen Bathsheba. How many of our temptations come because we're not where we're supposed to be?
So David sees Bathsheba bathing. Here's the next mistake. Instead of immediately looking away he takes in the view. And in so doing, it causes him to want to take it to the next level. Even though he's aware of the fact that she's married to one of his loyal soldiers, he abuses his power and sends for her. What is she going to do-refuse the king?
Then, the bombshell announcement, 'I'm pregnant'. David's 'oh, no' moment is followed up with deceptive plans. I'll bring in her husband from the field so he will sleep with his wife and then he'll think the baby is his. But he wasn't planning on Uriah being so loyal to his duties. Uriah's actions should've brought shame and conviction to David but it only caused him to come up with another plan-putting Uriah in a position to incur his sure death. One sin easily leads to more sin.
So, David was a man after God's own heart? David did everything God wanted him to? I don't think committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed was what God had in mind when he said this. So was God wrong? Would God now say, "well, that was before these things happened so I take back what I said"? No. God knew full well when he said these things what David was going to do.
But isn't this contradictory? Or worse, that adultery and murder are in line with God's heart and part of what God wanted him to do? Since we know that isn't the case then how do we make sense of this?
David's sin doesn't negate what he was overall. Yes, he messed up big time but that didn't mean he wasn't a man after God's own heart. He wasn't operating in the heart of God when he did these things but guess what-neither do we when we sin. When we sin does that mean we don't love God anymore? No; it means we chose not to be loving toward God in that moment. We can still be people who want what God wants even though we have times when we go in our own selfish direction.
That doesn't mean we won't have to pay the price for deviating from the will of God. David's sin with Bathsheba resulted in a pregnancy and the son born from that infidelity died. But God's blessing was still on David because by law he could've been stoned to death but God showed David mercy and spared his life.
What about God saying David did everything he wanted him to do. Obviously that is negated now, right? No. David did do everything God wanted him to-but it's obvious that David did some things that God didn't want him to do also. Same as us. We might fulfill God's plans for us and yet still do things outside of his will.
David's sins didn't negate God's statements about him. And neither will our sin negate the positive things God says about us. Although we need to take our sin seriously because God takes it seriously, we need to remember that when we sin that doesn't mean that we're not really a Christian or that it means we don't love God. It means that in that moment we weren't conducting ourselves as a Christian and we chose to please ourselves over God.
With that said, I'm not talking about living in sin. David didn't continue to have adulterous affairs and murder his mistresses' husbands. Not that he didn't sin anymore but he didn't abandon God's ways. Same with us. We can say we're Christians and that we love God but if our lifestyle is such that it really doesn't reflect the character of God then that would call into question the commitment we think we've made. In this we would be deceiving ourselves into thinking we're something we're not.
Does this mean if we're struggling with repetitive sin we're not really Christians? I'm not saying that. If we keep falling into the same trap but it really bothers us and we have conviction and godly sorrow over it then we no doubt have love for God; otherwise our repetitious sin wouldn't really bother us that much.
We still need to strive to throw off the sin that easily entangles us (Heb. 12:1) but it doesn't mean if we're struggling with repetitive sin that we're not a real Christian.
David had a heart for God but sometimes he acted on his feelings. He was a godly man he just wasn't godly all the time. He had strengths and weaknesses; just like us.