David Shows Compassion

2 Samuel 9:1-13 (9:7) – June 25, 2017

2 Sam 9 word cloud

“David Shows Compassion”

Three and a half years ago, I started a computer blog called #ayearofbeingkind. I blogged every day for a year. (That’s 365 consecutive days.)

Since I have the spiritual gifts of helps and mercy, every evening I would blog about my experiences being kind, or helpful, or of service. I learned so much from that year. It was, simply put, an eye-opening experience. This blog and the marvelous challenges and opportunities God sent my way in 2014 are two of the reasons I wanted to share this summer sermon series with you: our summer series on Compassion.

The bible reading for today comes from 2 Samuel 9. We don’t usually focus on the Hebrew Scriptures in our sermon. This is now the third week we have talked about people from the nation of Israel being kind and compassionate towards each other.

We’ve just heard this unexpected and beautiful story read to us. One problem: this chapter of 2 Samuel starts in the middle of the story. For the previous parts in our story, we need to turn back to 1 Samuel 20 and 2 Samuel 4. Before David ever became king of Israel, he was a great friend of Jonathan, the father of Mephibosheth.

Jonathan was the eldest son of King Saul. As young men, he and David had a very special relationship. Yes, Jonathan knew his father King Saul was a bitter enemy of his best friend David. Plus, Jonathan was aware that his father the mean King had his army chasing David all over the kingdom. As the eldest son and heir of King Saul, Jonathan stood to inherit everything, as a future king of Israel.

He could have ratted out his friend David, but their great friendship was more important. David and Jonathan promised each other they would show each other kindness and compassion, even if something awful happened. They not only made this promise to each other, they decided to up the promise to the next level. David and Jonathan made a covenant before the Lord.

Let’s come back to our reading for today. It’s now been a while since King Saul and his son Jonathan have died in battle. King David remembers again his covenant promise to Jonathan, and wishes to keep it. From 2 Samuel 9: “David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

David was taking his covenant responsibility very seriously. Even though Jonathan was dead, David still wanted to find out whether anyone was left alive of any of Jonathan’s children. Sometimes—like King David—we show kindness and grace to someone out of the love and caring we have for someone else.

Reading again from 2 Samuel 9, “Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

It is seldom we hear anything of someone who is disabled in the Bible. Yet, here is Jonathan’s son, disabled—or lame—in both feet. For that part of the story, we need to turn to 2 Samuel 4. The author tells about a number of things with other, more important people, including the outcome of the battle where Saul and Jonathan died. Yet, one particular sentence stands out. 2 Samuel 4:4. “(Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)”

Today, when an accident happens and someone breaks some bones in their feet, what do they do next? They go to an orthopedic surgeon and have reconstructive surgery done on their feet. Sure, it’s painful and sometimes a difficult surgery, but then they go through rehabilitation and eventually learn to walk again. And often, their feet are almost as good as before.

But, what about Jonathan’s small son Mephibosheth? His nurse just found out about the death of King Saul and Jonathan on the battlefield. Filled with fear for the boy, she was running with him in her arms, and she tripped and fell. The boy fell to the ground, too. Somehow, his feet got crushed, and he became lame in both feet. This was a long time ago, and they did not have the ability to go to orthopedic surgeons. The small boy grew to be a man, and his feet remained crippled. He remained disabled.

I don’t think David ever knew about Jonathan’s disabled son Mephibosheth before. When he found out, he was greatly concerned and called the grown man before him.

Let’s look at this from Mephibosheth’s point of view. For years, he had been living his life quietly, under the radar. (At that time, according to the code of the day in every country, all close relatives of a former king were often killed.) Suddenly, he gets called into the presence of King David! I suspect Mephibosheth had no idea why he was being summoned into the king’s presence. He must have been really frightened.

Reading from 2 Samuel 9: When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Imagine what was going through Mephibosheth’s mind. Wow! Double wow! Imagine someone powerful showing you undeserved kindness—compassion—grace. This is all for the sake of someone else. David did not know Mephibosheth at all, and the young man did not deserve it. Yet, David was doing this really kind thing on behalf of—in memory of Mephibosheth’s father Jonathan.

What parallels are here, using this narrative? Similar to Mephibosheth, we were separated from our heavenly King because we didn’t know God or God’s love for us. Our heavenly King sought us out before we sought Him. The King’s kindness is extended to us for the sake of another. The heavenly King’s kindness is based on covenant. [1]

This reminds me of our God’s love for people. All people. God extends an invitation to all of us. When God looks at you and at me, what does God see? Does God see all the bad things we have done? Does God count up all the unwholesome thoughts that have gone through our minds? Does God remember hearing all those mean words that came out of our mouths? I don’t think the Lord holds those bad things over our heads. Instead, God is loving and remembers the covenant with God’s much beloved people.

To say it simply? God extends kindness and compassion toward us, too. God loves us. All of us.  

Sometimes we show compassion and grace to someone out of the love we have for someone else—like how David decided to honor Mephibosheth because he loved Jonathan so much. Think about someone in your life you really love—maybe it’s a parent, a friend, or someone else. Who could you give generously to in honor of that person you love? Who is someone in your life in need of your grace and kindness? Is there someone who does not get much attention–like Mephibosheth? Is there someone in your life who might not feel like they deserve compassion and kindness?

This is our opportunity to show God’s compassion and kindness—and love!—to others, every day. Go and do likewise. Amen.

 

(A heartfelt thank you to An Illustrated Compassion: Learning to Love Like God. Many of these sermon ideas and thoughts came directly from this series.  I appreciate this intergenerational curriculum, which is the basis for my summer sermon series on compassion. This curriculum comes from Illustrated Children’s Ministry. Thanks so much for such great ideas!)

[1] https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_2Sa/2Sa_9.cfm

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2017: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

Advertisements

Thread of Covenant Love

“Thread of Covenant Love”

covenant love heart

February 28, 2016 – Isaiah 55:3-7

King David. Remember him? There’s lots to remember! Youngest of his family, anointed king by the prophet Samuel, killed the Philistine giant Goliath, ran away from King Saul, hid out in the wilderness for years, developed into a guerilla leader of men, finally became king after years of running in the desert. That King David. The David who became one of the greatest leaders of the nation of Israel ever in biblical history. That King David.

Throughout history, there have been many great kings, many decisive leaders of their nations. However, few have had the explicit blessing of God. What’s more, King David is called “a man after God’s own heart.” Pretty high praise for some petty king of a medium-sized tribe, somewhere in the Middle East. God even makes a covenant with David, showing him covenant love and promise.

God loved humanity. From the very beginning, when God created heaven and earth, we can see how much God cared about the creation, everything that was made. Especially humans. As the book of Genesis narrows its focus, God chooses one person in particular to bless. Abraham. God even makes a covenant with Abraham! Showing him covenant love.

We can follow God’s covenant promise. God’s covenant love through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Keep following the thread of covenant love through Joseph and the descendants of Abraham to Moses. God makes another covenant at Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments! And, we still follow that thread of covenant love, all the way through the next generations.

Follow that love to David. Remember King David? The youngest of his family. The most unlikely to succeed, if you asked his older brothers. But God saw something there. Something inside of David. God was aware of what—of who David was, on the inside.

Let’s read the verse we’re highlighting today again, to refresh our memories. The prophet says, “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

What is a covenant? That is one of those bible words tossed around by ministers who do not always take the time to make certain their congregations know what they are talking about.ent

Here I’ve been talking about “covenant” for the past couple of minutes. For those who know what a covenant is, wonderful! So glad you do! For the rest of us who are not sure, I’ll tell us. To reassure all of us, and remind us again of what the topic for the morning is.

Webster’s Dictionary says a covenant is “an agreement between persons.” This is amplified by the theological definition: “the promises of God as revealed in the Scriptures.” I hope that was helpful for all of us. Helpful for our understanding of “covenant love.”

God loved David very much. God even said to David (through the prophet Nathan, recorded in 2 Samuel 7), “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” Here is one of the statements that we can trace through the Old Testament. This promise of covenant love is passed down through the prophets, in the book of Psalms, even in several places in the New Testament. And—we can draw a picture of God’s love towards us from the image of God’s love to David.

Take God’s love: a voluntary impulse, for sure! God did not have to love David at all. But—God did! God was kind, merciful, and loving toward David.

Question: is God’s love toward us today a voluntary impulse? I think, yes. God did not have to love any of us, at all. But—God did! In the same way, God is kind, merciful and loving toward us, as well!

            As we follow the thread of covenant love through King David’s life, we see that David does some bad stuff. God said that covenant love would not be taken away from David, true. Despite the sins David had committed, God’s good pleasure continued to rest on David. Moreover, God’s everlasting covenant continued to rest on David, undeserving as he was. Simply because God said so.

How does that compare to us, to the situation we are in? Do we deserve God’s covenant love? Do we earn God’s good pleasure? Sure, we sin, too. (Just like King David.) Yet, God embraces us, just as God embraced David.

Just as David sinned, so did David’s descendants. For instance, the later kings of Israel started to worship other gods—in addition to the God who gave them the land of Israel to dwell in. The later kings and many of the people of Israel started to cheat and defraud their neighbors—which goes against the Law of Moses. The later kings stopped following the Lord who made heaven and earth, and started to promote sacrifices to other gods. The Lord tries to get the people of Israel to return to the worship of the Lord God alone, but the people end up scattered far and wide over the next centuries. Until—until the birth of Jesus, fulfilling prophecy. Jesus fulfilled the promise of covenant love.

Again, from Psalm 89:35-36. “Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—and I will not lie to David—36 that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun;”

This reminds me of the promise received in the New Testament. As we trace this thread of God’s covenant love through the centuries and through the pages of the Bible, listen again to Isaiah 55:3—“Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”
I want to show everyone these several passages of Scripture to let all of us know that God extends covenant love to Jesus, God’s incarnate Son.

We see that same self-sacrificing love in Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross that our sins might be forgiven.

Just as David did not deserve the abundant, abiding, covenant love of God, so neither do we deserve that love. That kindness, grace and mercy. God is so loving and patient.

We know that before David ruled as king, he ran away from King Saul, hiding in the wilderness for years. I am sure he refined his loving relationship with God then. However, what about us, today? How can we develop our relationship with the Lord? Often times it seems that we turn to the Lord when there is nowhere else to go. God could turn God’s back upon us. That is true. But, no! God extends God’s covenant love towards us, too!

It is not for us, to stand idly by on the sidelines. No!

Are we sharing God’s covenant love with those who need to hear? Many are hiding in loneliness and desperation thinking that no one loves them. We can introduce them to our Lord Jesus. We can tell them of the love of God that we have received through Christ. With our Lord Jesus we can find acceptance and security, and most importantly, love. The thread of covenant love, traced down to today.

God is offering that love to us, today. Can you feel it?

May it be so! Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Suggestion: visit me at my sometimes-blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a Lenten journey.  #PursuePEACE – And my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind -Thanks!

Whiter Than Snow

“Whiter Than Snow”

Psa 51-7 whiter than snow

Psalm 51:1-3, 7 – February 10, 2016

Have you ever made a mistake? I mean, not just like an ordinary mistake, like in addition or subtraction. I know we all made those while we were in grade school. That’s what erasers on pencils are for! I mean, a whopper! A mistake that is so bad, so huge, you wanted the earth to open up and swallow you? The kind that when you remember and look back on it, you want it to be permanently erased off the face of the planet? A mistake that big. That horrible.

Maybe you and I have never made that huge of a mistake. Maybe we have. But, I suspect all of us can relate to that kind of negative feeling. That horrible, gut-wrenching, sinking feeling. That “I wish I had never, ever been born!” feeling.

The psalm we consider tonight is all about this kind of negative, sinking, yucky feeling. This psalm is written by King David after his affair with an attractive married woman, Bathsheba, and his subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband (David’s general), Uriah.

Adultery! Attempted cover-up! Plotting and murder! And, another cover-up! Sounds like it’s right out of a soap opera script. Except, it really happened. And, it happened to a man after God’s own heart. A man with a close, personal, even intimate relationship with God. This all happened to King David, some years into his reign over Israel.

So, David has sinned. I mean, really sinned! I can see people shaking their heads, even now. David had a close relationship with God. God called him “a man after God’s own heart.” And some people might say, “David should’ve known better!”

Looking at us, today, we sin, too. We are often in a similar situation. We say we have a close relationship with God. We know the commandments, God’s rules, we have Jesus Christ and His example for us. Some people might say of us, “they should’ve known better!”

And what is David’s response? Verse 3, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” He does not pull punches. David comes right out and says it. He sinned. He knows it. He knows very well that God knows it, too.

We know we make mistakes, too. We know we mess up. We say mean things. We don’t tell the truth. We cut off people in traffic. We slam doors in anger. Who hasn’t bitten their tongue the second after saying something unfeeling? Or nasty? Or stupid? And, there are larger mistakes, too. Mistakes like, breaking the law. Theft. Embezzlement. Various felonies. Or like King David, with adultery, cover-ups and murder.

The psalm writer freely acknowledges his sins. Not even using euphemistic phrases like “wrong was done,” or “mistakes were made.” David is amazingly clear in stating “my transgressions,” “all my iniquity” and “my sin.”

Listen again to the verbs David uses – “wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,” “cleanse me from my sin,” purge me with hyssop.” To “wash” in verses 2 and 7 could better be translated “scrub,” as one scrubs dirty clothes. (I wonder whether David was remembering his mother, scrubbing the family’s dirty clothes when he wrote that verse?) “Cleanse” in verse 2 and “be clean” in verse 7 is the same word used for washing clothes in a river (Leviticus 13:6, 34, 58). (Perhaps when David was a shepherd for his family’s sheep, he would go by the river and watch the women from his village washing—cleaning or cleansing—their families’ clothes.)

One commentary I read mentions “sin as a kind of figurative stain on her life and conscience that she needs God to scrub away. After all, [we] beg God to ‘blot out,’ ‘wash away’ and ‘cleanse me.’ It’s the image of ancient people washing dishes or clothing and modern people using various detergents and stain removers on stubborn stains.”[1]

In other words, my sins are washed away, and though I may still be in the (figurative) spin cycle, yet shall I dry. I can freely confess my sins, too. Here, tonight, we all can acknowledge the wrongs we do.

At the beginning of each regular service, we gather together and have a corporate time of confession. This Ash Wednesday service is a special time to gather together, confess our sins to each other, and to understand we are sinners. This understanding of our sin—of the mistakes we have made and are continuing to make—prepares us to receive the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ. And the cross of ashes on each forehead is a reminder of that forgiveness in each one of our lives.

Yes, there IS good news! We can ask God to take away our iniquity. God’s abundant mercy will forgive. We can be sure of God’s unfailing love towards all of us.

Believe the Good News of the Gospel. In Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, our sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/lent-5b-2/?type=the_lectionary_psalms

@chaplaineliza

Suggestion: visit me at my sometimes-blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a Lenten journey. Pursuing PEACE. And my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind -Thanks!