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Weekly Prompts for Thinking Through Scripture Covering 2 Samuel 17 – 2 Samuel 21:22


Refresher: Absalom has played the long game and gradually drawn the people of Israel away from their King, and to himself. David, with no time to gather anything, leaves Jerusalem just before Absalom his son enters as Israel’s ruler. Under Heaven, the only thing that David has going for him is that some still loyal to him remain in Absalom’s court and have his ear. But what good is that subtle aid, especially in light of the forceful and crass spectacle of a conquering conspirator?

Day One

Read 2 Samuel 17


· VV. 1-13 – We the readers realize that Ahithophel’s advice was superior, and if Absalom had heeded it, things would have turned out a lot better for him. But besides considering the differing outcomes, it’s also interesting to contrast the substance of Ahithophel’s and Hushai’s advice to Absalom. Notice that A’s superior advice took a lot fewer words to be dispensed. Also, notice that H’s advice (that ended up being heeded) had more imagery sprinkled throughout. A’s advice (not heeded) called for immediate action – a la “strike while the iron is hot” – while H’s required delay for preparation. Human nature: decisive action is commonly avoided. Anyway, can’t we garner some communication tips (how to get the point across; what messages tend to be persuasive) from examining the contrast?


· VV. 15-20 – A fascinating passage from many angles, particularly in considering the means by which God delivers David. Surely God could have snapped his fingers and David would be well! And yet God chooses – with hardly any exceptions – to work through means, often which are cumbersome and/or in danger of being upset. And because God works through means, people – normal folks even – have the opportunity to shine. Here a nameless woman saves the day by thinking fast, staying cool, and, ok, lying to the government.


· V. 23 – We aren’t given enough information to know why Ahithophel responded to Absalom’s summons (15:12) when Absalom made his play on his father’s throne. Did he carry some grievance against David and was just waiting to join arms with someone who would contest the throne? Through noting David’ s concern to counter his counsel and by overhearing that counsel masterfully applied, what does become obvious about Ahithophel: he is a brilliant, effective, and clear-sighted tactician. So, his death is a crippling loss for Absalom. But why did he take his own life? Is this a proud man who cannot bear the thought of not being taken seriously? Or did he perceive that in refusing his advice to act swiftly, Absalom’s would be a failing undertaking, and so best to not be around when the hammer falls?


· VV. 27-28 – Interesting that the narrator takes the trouble to list the foods that were brought to David. Thank God for friends, perhaps especially from unexpected quarters, who offer practical help during difficult times. Who go out of their way. Who don’t skimp. Who are thinking through the details of other’s situation.


Day Two

Read 2 Samuel 18


· VV. 1-4 – David’s men share Ahithophel’s opinion (17:3) that the battle is essentially only between Absalom and David. To go into battle knowing what/who exactly one is fighting for – that seems important.


· V. 8 – “Forest devoured more people that day than the sword.” Now there’s a sentence that seemingly fell out of the Lord of the Rings! What could it mean here? 1) Were the Ents fighting alongside David? (Sorry if you don’t know what I’m talking about!). 2) Is the phrase a colloquialism to say that David’s army was more sure-footed in the greenwood than Absalom’s? That is, that the conditions were more responsible for the outcome than any other factor? Or 3) for some reason, elements of the forest (exposed roots, limited visibility, dangling branches) proved extremely problematic for Absalom’s army? The next paragraph indicates some combination of 2 & 3.


· V. 9 – Absalom’s good looks (assumedly including his flowing locks!), so deciding a factor in his coming to power, will ultimately work against him. Remember Hannah’s prayer way back when!


· VV. 10- 15 – This young man has things figured out pretty well, including his hypothetical take regarding Joab. Does anything that Joab says/does here surprise you? Me neither.


· V. 18 – Not exactly sure why the narrator sets this detail as a marker of Absalom’s death. I do know that his pointing out the lonely, cold, stone pillar which not just signified, but actuallywas Absalom’s legacy to the world, sends a chill down the reader’s spine. We hope for more out of a life. But here’s the thing: John 15: 5.


· V. 21 – It seems that Joab wants David to hear a simple matter-of-fact recounting of the events, with no assigning of victor or loser. He knows that judging the outcome’s favorability won’t be so clear-cut to David. In a fallen world, especially as it waited for the first appearing of Christ, it seems that many “victories” had more than a little of the Pyrrhic. This might still be true.


· V. 33 – Fathers and sons! If you read this verse out loud, and you’re on your lonesome, and in a certain mood…well, a good cry is ok sometimes. Just think: How many years after the event did the narrator write? In the old methods of writing, consider how difficult it was to just set down words: you’d tend to be as terse as possible. And yet, in spite of the elapsed years and arduous recording, we’re still handed these wretched repetitions: My son…my son…my son…my son…my son! Fathers and sons!

Day Three

Read 2 Samuel 19: 1-23


· VV. 1-8 – Wow! Just….Wow! In confusing, no-win-situation scenes such as this, we reflect on how we got here. “You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya…” Sin! God warned Cain that sin is lurking, ready to pounce. Sin is a destroyer. Just look around at these disoriented soldiers, wondering whether to crow over their victory…or cry. Look at David stupefied with grief and receiving the onslaught of Joab’s threats and (I think) justified outrage. Sin birthed this wreck of a scene. No wonder that God is so single-minded about getting rid of sin – He knows all the good it devours and all the sadness it carries. Brothers and sisters, hate sin.


· VV. 8-10 – Sorry to continue in the same gloomy vein. But we should notice that not only has David’s family been riven: there’s also a gash across the body politic. In fact, with this coup we notice for the first time a seam between Judah and the other tribes of Israel. That seam will be torn apart in two generations. Hate sin!


· V. 10 – “Why do you say nothing about bringing…” – That is, considering what’s just gone down, why exactly should we have a problem with David re-gaining his throne?


· V. 13 – I don’t know what you think of David’s offer/guarantee to Amasa. This to me sounds like an emotional, unwise, even unhinged offer from someone whose heart is overwhelmed.


· VV. 16-20 – Well, you’ll be pardoned if you can’t shake the opinion that Shimei is a pretty slimy guy. But we can learn something from him here: when it’s time to own up to your fault, just do it. Don’t hem and haw, don’t make excuses. Humble yourself: in these cases “did wrong” and “I have sinned,” are some basic and necessary expressions.


Day Four

Read 2 Samuel 19: 24-43


· VV. 24-30 – See 16: 1-4 and v. 17 of this chapter for background. Who in your mind is slimier: Ziba or Shimei?


· V.26 – It seems that Mephibosheth doesn’t finish his story here. He told Ziba he was going to ride the donkey out to David but (conjecture) before he could do so, Ziba had taken the donkey away, leaving lame Mephibosheth with no way to David.


· VV. 27,28 – Do you believe Mephibosheth or Ziba? (The narrator doesn’t say who was telling the truth.) I for one believe M, if only for his utterly practical, realpolitik speech to David: ‘Before we were dead meat. Then you gave us life + +. So, what can I say now?’ In other words: ‘For a long time I’ve lived only because you decided it. So at this moment, nothing’s really changed.’ There are some tips for prayer here.


· VV. 35,36 – A schmaltzy application: that our King Jesus is not burdened by, but rather delights in his aged brothers and sisters, even as they lose their taste and hearing and marbles. We love you, our Christ!


· V. 37 – Chimham’s situation is analogous to a Christian’s. How so?


· VV. 41-43 – The same adumbration of the coming schism that we noted yesterday.



Day Five

2 Samuel 20


· VV. 1,2 – This Israelite shift of loyalties seems abrupt, but the last few verses of the previous chapter makes some sense of it.


· V. 3 – A strange detail to interrupt the Sheba narrative. But the ostracized concubines do emblemize the fact that even though David is back in Jerusalem, it’s not the same city that he left. Brothers and sisters, sin does leave its mark that in this lifetime won’t soon – or perhaps ever – go away. But then open up 1 Peter 5:10, and notice the ‘r’ word. Someday you’ll get it back!


· VV. 9,10 – Are you surprised by Joab’s cunning savagery? Me neither. Of course, Joab is working from his bitterness at Amasa being preferred over him (19:10). I think David bears some partial blame for this scene.


· VV. 10-13 – A good passage to get you ready for Sunday’s worship, eh? Ok, admittedly not many lofty words we can throw at this scene. We will remember that our Lord Jesus Christ whom we worship appeared at the end of a history that included brutality and callousness such as we see here. I don’t know – somehow that’s reassuring to me.


· V.21 – A very important observation: This woman is a peacemaker, yes? Sometimes peacemakers say incongruous things: “Behold his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” In short: sometimes genuine peacemakers don’t speak peaceful words.


Day Six

Read 2 Samuel 21


· V. 1 – In times of inexplicable hardship, it’s a good thing to “[seek] the face of the LORD.”


· VV. 1-6 – A difficult passage that bespeaks a justice hard to understand. For background, see Joshua 9: 15. Saul’s transgression isn’t recorded in Scripture. One lesson: the stain of past injustices isn’t erased by the passage of time. A quotation from C.S. Lewis is appropriate: “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speaker's, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ: if we have repented these early sins we should remember the price of our forgiveness and be humble.”


· V. 8 – Saul had two sons whom he named Mephibosheth. ! We knew he was a troubled soul, but man…


· VV. 10 -14 – This paragraph will stay with you. A mother’s love expressed by her night and day staying with and protecting her sons’ corpses. It is passages like this that train the people of God to respect the dead, their bodies, to give attention to what happens to bodies after death. Imagine how hollow it would sound to Rizpah – ‘why are you doing this? what does it matter?…they’re dead.’ Let Rizpah speak to you: Take funerals and funeral arrangements seriously.


· VV. 10-14 – So moved is David by Rizpah’s grief that he’s impelled to retroactively sort out the burial arrangements of Saul’s and Jonathan’s bones. So, while this incident began with unsatisfied justice related to Saul, it ends with Saul and Jonathan literally being gathered to their fathers. Injustice and anger turning to justice and peace through death and grief – there’s a lot of depth here in which to swim around.


Day Seven

Read 2 Samuel 21: 15-22



· V. 15 – “And David grew weary” – we’ve traveled many years and incidents from when the shepherd boy confronted Goliath! The warrior king grows tired, and even he now requires outside help. He’s become another one of the “all who are weary and burdened” who’s invited to the Rest in David’s Son.


· V. 19 – Wait, what? It would seem that there were at least two men named Goliath. Or perhaps “Goliath” was a tag for any big warrior dude. In either case, here is another giant antagonizing Israel who is now felled by an Israelite not named David. Through this specific reportage of facing giants, the narrator is indicating that this beautiful, brave, honorable, deep, and flawed man whom we’ve grown to love is on the wane.

And David is a significant enough figure so that here he can represent the perpetual problem of good things/people/institutions contracting… then finally petering out. Decline and fall is a real problem, which is why Peter spoke in Acts 2: 25-28 with such fierce intensity.


· This morning, reflect on the many things around you that appear to be at some stage of falling off, and then consider the “YES” of God to the creation implied in Jesus’ Resurrection. Hosanna to the Son of David!
















Refresher: Absalom has played the long game and gradually drawn the people of Israel away from their King, and to himself. David, with no time to gather anything, leaves Jerusalem just before Absalom his son enters as Israel’s ruler. Under Heaven, the only thing that David has going for him is that some still loyal to him remain in Absalom’s court and have his ear. But what good is that subtle aid, especially in light of the forceful and crass spectacle of a conquering conspirator?

Day One

Read 2 Samuel 17


· VV. 1-13 – We the readers realize that Ahithophel’s advice was superior, and if Absalom had heeded it, things would have turned out a lot better for him. But besides considering the differing outcomes, it’s also interesting to contrast the substance of Ahithophel’s and Hushai’s advice to Absalom. Notice that A’s superior advice took a lot fewer words to be dispensed. Also, notice that H’s advice (that ended up being heeded) had more imagery sprinkled throughout. A’s advice (not heeded) called for immediate action – a la “strike while the iron is hot” – while H’s required delay for preparation. Human nature: decisive action is commonly avoided. Anyway, can’t we garner some communication tips (how to get the point across; what messages tend to be persuasive) from examining the contrast?


· VV. 15-20 – A fascinating passage from many angles, particularly in considering the means by which God delivers David. Surely God could have snapped his fingers and David would be well! And yet God chooses – with hardly any exceptions – to work through means, often which are cumbersome and/or in danger of being upset. And because God works through means, people – normal folks even – have the opportunity to shine. Here a nameless woman saves the day by thinking fast, staying cool, and, ok, lying to the government.


· V. 23 – We aren’t given enough information to know why Ahithophel responded to Absalom’s summons (15:12) when Absalom made his play on his father’s throne. Did he carry some grievance against David and was just waiting to join arms with someone who would contest the throne? Through noting David’ s concern to counter his counsel and by overhearing that counsel masterfully applied, what does become obvious about Ahithophel: he is a brilliant, effective, and clear-sighted tactician. So, his death is a crippling loss for Absalom. But why did he take his own life? Is this a proud man who cannot bear the thought of not being taken seriously? Or did he perceive that in refusing his advice to act swiftly, Absalom’s would be a failing undertaking, and so best to not be around when the hammer falls?


· VV. 27-28 – Interesting that the narrator takes the trouble to list the foods that were brought to David. Thank God for friends, perhaps especially from unexpected quarters, who offer practical help during difficult times. Who go out of their way. Who don’t skimp. Who are thinking through the details of other’s situation.


Day Two

Read 2 Samuel 18


· VV. 1-4 – David’s men share Ahithophel’s opinion (17:3) that the battle is essentially only between Absalom and David. To go into battle knowing what/who exactly one is fighting for – that seems important.


· V. 8 – “Forest devoured more people that day than the sword.” Now there’s a sentence that seemingly fell out of the Lord of the Rings! What could it mean here? 1) Were the Ents fighting alongside David? (Sorry if you don’t know what I’m talking about!). 2) Is the phrase a colloquialism to say that David’s army was more sure-footed in the greenwood than Absalom’s? That is, that the conditions were more responsible for the outcome than any other factor? Or 3) for some reason, elements of the forest (exposed roots, limited visibility, dangling branches) proved extremely problematic for Absalom’s army? The next paragraph indicates some combination of 2 & 3.


· V. 9 – Absalom’s good looks (assumedly including his flowing locks!), so deciding a factor in his coming to power, will ultimately work against him. Remember Hannah’s prayer way back when!


· VV. 10- 15 – This young man has things figured out pretty well, including his hypothetical take regarding Joab. Does anything that Joab says/does here surprise you? Me neither.


· V. 18 – Not exactly sure why the narrator sets this detail as a marker of Absalom’s death. I do know that his pointing out the lonely, cold, stone pillar which not just signified, but actuallywas Absalom’s legacy to the world, sends a chill down the reader’s spine. We hope for more out of a life. But here’s the thing: John 15: 5.


· V. 21 – It seems that Joab wants David to hear a simple matter-of-fact recounting of the events, with no assigning of victor or loser. He knows that judging the outcome’s favorability won’t be so clear-cut to David. In a fallen world, especially as it waited for the first appearing of Christ, it seems that many “victories” had more than a little of the Pyrrhic. This might still be true.


· V. 33 – Fathers and sons! If you read this verse out loud, and you’re on your lonesome, and in a certain mood…well, a good cry is ok sometimes. Just think: How many years after the event did the narrator write? In the old methods of writing, consider how difficult it was to just set down words: you’d tend to be as terse as possible. And yet, in spite of the elapsed years and arduous recording, we’re still handed these wretched repetitions: My son…my son…my son…my son…my son! Fathers and sons!

Day Three

Read 2 Samuel 19: 1-23


· VV. 1-8 – Wow! Just….Wow! In confusing, no-win-situation scenes such as this, we reflect on how we got here. “You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya…” Sin! God warned Cain that sin is lurking, ready to pounce. Sin is a destroyer. Just look around at these disoriented soldiers, wondering whether to crow over their victory…or cry. Look at David stupefied with grief and receiving the onslaught of Joab’s threats and (I think) justified outrage. Sin birthed this wreck of a scene. No wonder that God is so single-minded about getting rid of sin – He knows all the good it devours and all the sadness it carries. Brothers and sisters, hate sin.


· VV. 8-10 – Sorry to continue in the same gloomy vein. But we should notice that not only has David’s family been riven: there’s also a gash across the body politic. In fact, with this coup we notice for the first time a seam between Judah and the other tribes of Israel. That seam will be torn apart in two generations. Hate sin!


· V. 10 – “Why do you say nothing about bringing…” – That is, considering what’s just gone down, why exactly should we have a problem with David re-gaining his throne?


· V. 13 – I don’t know what you think of David’s offer/guarantee to Amasa. This to me sounds like an emotional, unwise, even unhinged offer from someone whose heart is overwhelmed.


· VV. 16-20 – Well, you’ll be pardoned if you can’t shake the opinion that Shimei is a pretty slimy guy. But we can learn something from him here: when it’s time to own up to your fault, just do it. Don’t hem and haw, don’t make excuses. Humble yourself: in these cases “did wrong” and “I have sinned,” are some basic and necessary expressions.


Day Four

Read 2 Samuel 19: 24-43


· VV. 24-30 – See 16: 1-4 and v. 17 of this chapter for background. Who in your mind is slimier: Ziba or Shimei?


· V.26 – It seems that Mephibosheth doesn’t finish his story here. He told Ziba he was going to ride the donkey out to David but (conjecture) before he could do so, Ziba had taken the donkey away, leaving lame Mephibosheth with no way to David.


· VV. 27,28 – Do you believe Mephibosheth or Ziba? (The narrator doesn’t say who was telling the truth.) I for one believe M, if only for his utterly practical, realpolitik speech to David: ‘Before we were dead meat. Then you gave us life + +. So, what can I say now?’ In other words: ‘For a long time I’ve lived only because you decided it. So at this moment, nothing’s really changed.’ There are some tips for prayer here.


· VV. 35,36 – A schmaltzy application: that our King Jesus is not burdened by, but rather delights in his aged brothers and sisters, even as they lose their taste and hearing and marbles. We love you, our Christ!


· V. 37 – Chimham’s situation is analogous to a Christian’s. How so?


· VV. 41-43 – The same adumbration of the coming schism that we noted yesterday.



Day Five

2 Samuel 20


· VV. 1,2 – This Israelite shift of loyalties seems abrupt, but the last few verses of the previous chapter makes some sense of it.


· V. 3 – A strange detail to interrupt the Sheba narrative. But the ostracized concubines do emblemize the fact that even though David is back in Jerusalem, it’s not the same city that he left. Brothers and sisters, sin does leave its mark that in this lifetime won’t soon – or perhaps ever – go away. But then open up 1 Peter 5:10, and notice the ‘r’ word. Someday you’ll get it back!


· VV. 9,10 – Are you surprised by Joab’s cunning savagery? Me neither. Of course, Joab is working from his bitterness at Amasa being preferred over him (19:10). I think David bears some partial blame for this scene.


· VV. 10-13 – A good passage to get you ready for Sunday’s worship, eh? Ok, admittedly not many lofty words we can throw at this scene. We will remember that our Lord Jesus Christ whom we worship appeared at the end of a history that included brutality and callousness such as we see here. I don’t know – somehow that’s reassuring to me.


· V.21 – A very important observation: This woman is a peacemaker, yes? Sometimes peacemakers say incongruous things: “Behold his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” In short: sometimes genuine peacemakers don’t speak peaceful words.


Day Six

Read 2 Samuel 21


· V. 1 – In times of inexplicable hardship, it’s a good thing to “[seek] the face of the LORD.”


· VV. 1-6 – A difficult passage that bespeaks a justice hard to understand. For background, see Joshua 9: 15. Saul’s transgression isn’t recorded in Scripture. One lesson: the stain of past injustices isn’t erased by the passage of time. A quotation from C.S. Lewis is appropriate: “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speaker's, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ: if we have repented these early sins we should remember the price of our forgiveness and be humble.”


· V. 8 – Saul had two sons whom he named Mephibosheth. ! We knew he was a troubled soul, but man…


· VV. 10 -14 – This paragraph will stay with you. A mother’s love expressed by her night and day staying with and protecting her sons’ corpses. It is passages like this that train the people of God to respect the dead, their bodies, to give attention to what happens to bodies after death. Imagine how hollow it would sound to Rizpah – ‘why are you doing this? what does it matter?…they’re dead.’ Let Rizpah speak to you: Take funerals and funeral arrangements seriously.


· VV. 10-14 – So moved is David by Rizpah’s grief that he’s impelled to retroactively sort out the burial arrangements of Saul’s and Jonathan’s bones. So, while this incident began with unsatisfied justice related to Saul, it ends with Saul and Jonathan literally being gathered to their fathers. Injustice and anger turning to justice and peace through death and grief – there’s a lot of depth here in which to swim around.


Day Seven

Read 2 Samuel 21: 15-22



· V. 15 – “And David grew weary” – we’ve traveled many years and incidents from when the shepherd boy confronted Goliath! The warrior king grows tired, and even he now requires outside help. He’s become another one of the “all who are weary and burdened” who’s invited to the Rest in David’s Son.


· V. 19 – Wait, what? It would seem that there were at least two men named Goliath. Or perhaps “Goliath” was a tag for any big warrior dude. In either case, here is another giant antagonizing Israel who is now felled by an Israelite not named David. Through this specific reportage of facing giants, the narrator is indicating that this beautiful, brave, honorable, deep, and flawed man whom we’ve grown to love is on the wane.

And David is a significant enough figure so that here he can represent the perpetual problem of good things/people/institutions contracting… then finally petering out. Decline and fall is a real problem, which is why Peter spoke in Acts 2: 25-28 with such fierce intensity.


· This morning, reflect on the many things around you that appear to be at some stage of falling off, and then consider the “YES” of God to the creation implied in Jesus’ Resurrection. Hosanna to the Son of David!















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