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Week 40 December 30, 2021

What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, December 30, 2021):

• 2 Samuel 7-13

• Esther 1-7

• Proverbs 14-20

We are at week 40 already! That number is Biblically significant. And there are only twelve weeks to go!

Notes on 2 Samuel

David begins his kingly tenure in full. Jerusalem has been identified as the “one place” where the Lord God is to be worshiped. David is anxious to build the Temple, but God says, no, your son will. But the Messiah is identified as his direct heir (7.16). His prayer in response is worthy of some consideration and meditation (7.18-29). David had been a hugely successful warrior before he was king; he continued on afterward, including the defeat of Israel’s perennial enemies Moab, Aram, and Edom (8.1-14). Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth is called before the king. David was looking for someone to bless in proxy for his fallen friend Jonathan, Saul’s son. Mephibosheth undoubtedly expected the worst when called before the king who had been relentlessly pursued by his grandfather. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find favor and a lifelong provision that he was to enjoy in the presence of the king (9.13). David did not take well to false accusation. In reaching out to the Ammonites, he and his men are insulted and humiliated, for which the Ammonites will pay dearly.

In chapter ten, we see Joab—a very indecent person—to be a very capable military leader. It’s hard to understand why David put up with him so long. But perhaps in thinking about his past relationship with Saul he didn’t want to fall into the same kind of false judgement. However, Joab was most ungodly, possessing none of the character of David. The unfortunate incident with Bathsheba and Uriah is told in chapter 11. David had become lax and complacent, sending out Joab and staying behind during battle.

This was a defining moment in his life. In spite of all the enemies and trials that David had thus faced in his life, his star had continually risen with the favor and blessing of God clearly upon him. However, after this episode, David will face continual problems, make bad decisions, and lose out on much of the anticipated blessings that God would have given him. It does illustrate God’s grace. A lesser person would have probably been struck down dead by God. David would live, but with strong consequences flowing from God’s disciplining hand.

Many lessons on sin here, such as: 1. You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose its consequences.

2. God forgives us completely of our sin, but the effects can nevertheless follow us for a long time.

3. It’s easiest to fall when you are on top of your game. We tend to let down our guard when all is well. There are other lessons, on the positive side: 1. God can paint some beautiful pictures in the dark. This situation generated Psalm 51, a perennial source of encouragement and hope for like sinners.

2. This rather unconventional and off-the-God-path to finding a wife still resulted in the birth of the one who would become a powerful king, Solomon. Nathan was extremely brave to confront David in chapter 12. For though the king had a good heart, he was currently in a very bad spiritual place. He had just committed a murder to cover up adultery. What would keep him from one more little murder to cover his tracks yet again? God’s grace and his mysterious ways are on full display here. Bathsheba gives birth to Solomon, who will become David’s heir to the throne. Out of all of the wives and sons David already had, why would God choose the one born to the wife that he never should have had? The ramifications upon David and his family begin in earnest in chapter 13, with rape, murder, accusations, total family disarray.

Notes on Esther

This short book of ten chapters is a compelling story of the faithfulness and courage of two people (Esther and Mordecai), and how they changed a nation and saved the people of God from doom. As I think I mentioned previously, I virtually always read this in one sitting. In synagogue, the book is read in its entirely every year during Purim. Whenever Haman’s name is read, people stomp their feet, and spit, and groan, and make much ado! This is one of two books in the Bible (along with Song of Songs/Solomon) where the name of God is never mentioned. Also, for you Bible trivia buffs, Esther has the longest verse in the Bible, 9.1, with a total word count of 54 (in the NIV). Esther is not the actual name of our heroine. It is her Persian name. Her birth name, her actual Hebrew name, is Hadassah. I love that name, obviously (my daughter). The only place in the entire Bible where we find that name is in 2.7.

The time frame of Esther is following the return from the Babylonian exile. There are obviously many Jews who remained behind and did not return to Israel and Jerusalem when they were allowed to. This was during the time of the book of Ezra, while the Temple was being rebuilt, but before the time of Nehemiah. One of the subtle lessons of the book of Esther is the deceptive nature of power. This king, Xerxes, had no one to answer to, and became extremely rash, making a number of huge decisions that he would live to regret. It was probably a pattern with him, and his advisors must have had a hard time keep everything together while he bounced from one impetuous decision to another.

He dumps his queen on an impulse, and seems to regret it later (2.1). He signs into law a death sentence on many, many of his own subjects on the word of one person, without further investigation. And this edict is protected unconditionally– there is no legal remedy to reverse or annul it. You can’t change the law of the Medes and the Persians.

Esther’s uncle Mordecai, and most likely Hadassah herself (2.7), were of the tribe of Benjamin (2.5), normally known as the renegade, wild tribe.

In 2.13 and 15, there is mention of the young ladies bringing something of their choosing to see the king. Even though it tells us that she chose something, what Esther picked out remains a mystery.

Esther was reluctant to go to the king, and it is no wonder, after not being summoned for a month, knowing his rash action, and the ultimate consequence of finding him in ill humor (4.10–11).

One of my favorite phrases is borne out of this occasion: “…for such a time as this” (4.14). The most satisfying part of this story, IMHO, is the humiliation of Haman in 6.1-11. Even Haman’s wife saw that he was fighting against God, a battle he would most surely lose (6.13). The tables turning on Haman in chapter six is easier to enjoy than actually seeing him impaled in chapter seven. The fast by Esther and Mordecai is the most extreme form of fasting we find anywhere in the Bible. Going without food in fasting was not uncommon throughout the Bible, but to eliminate water during the fast is intense. The human body cannot go more than three days without water without doing some permanent damage to the body.

Notes on Proverbs

The proverbs we find in our chapters this week are random. There is no kind of organization or structure, just one line after another. Here are some I highlighted:

The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none; but knowledge comes easily to the discerning (14.6) The wise fear the Lord and shun evil; but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure (14.16)

...a fool is a hothead and yet feels secure (14.16). (So much of what I read in the Bible brings Facebook and social media to my mind). We used to quote 15.1 (especially the first half) all the time. Haven’t heard it in a long time, so here it is again: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh work stirs up anger.” All a person’s ways seem pure to them but motives are weighed by the Lord (16.2). “All a person’s ways seem pure to them” (16.2). (How true! This is why we need an inspired Book from our Creator (with clear evidence of its divine origins) in order to sort out what is truly right from what is truly wrong. Thank you, Jesus, for the Bible). Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness (16.31) (I like this one more and more as I get older!)

17.1: Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

(I hear more and more stories about families where holidays have become nothing but stress. This verse reminds me of those stories).

The Social Media Proverb: Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions (18.2).

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (18.10).

Happy New Year!

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