This week's Bible Study - April 13, 2014
2 Samuel 9:1-13
Quote of the Week:
Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
What do you think of when you think of hope? It can have to do with something desired. Many of us have been hoping for an early spring this year. We have no control over the timing of the seasons. Berkley and I recently watched the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament, and saw the University of Kentucky appear to 'hope' that they could hit their free throws, which allowed the University of Connecticut the opportunity to win (they hit all of theirs in that game). Having no control over the game, all we could do was hope. Certainly, even the best shooter can't ensure they make every free throw, but they should be more than simply hoping that the shot goes in. There are some cases in which we do more than hope, as we have an expectation. For example, when we drive, we expect people to follow the rules of the road - stopping at red lights (okay, maybe we just hope for that), staying in their lanes, going the same direction as the rest of the traffic and so forth. Sometimes, we have expectations in that things will go the way we want and that others will do what we want, and that can lead to manipulation. You can see that there are varying degrees of hope, from no control to having control to assuming you have control.
In the context of this lesson, hope might be defined as a desire that things will turn out for the best; even when it looks like things are not going to work out. We know that hope is crucial when someone has an illness. It would appear that when hope is lost, an illness more easily destroys a person. While you may not personally be dealing with a life threatening illness, all of us need to have hope in our lives. It is easy for us to get so caught up in our own situation that we forget that others have things going on in their lives too. What might happen if we understood that all people had significant issues going on? Would we treat them better and give them some slack?
As you read this lesson, consider the areas in which you need to have hope. Realize that God does care for you and promises to be with you. However, also consider how you treat others. Are you treating them with kindness? Are you treating them with respect? It is interesting that this same passage has been used for multiple lessons in the past few years. In this case, the title is "Hope Needed" and in at least one other case, the title was "Demonstrate Kindness". Both are applicable.
David's life had its share of ups and downs. He was chosen by God, through Samuel, to become the next king, even while Saul, the current king, was still in power. Even though David knew that he was eventually to become the king, he still showed respect and honor to Saul. His intent was to support Saul until it was time for him to become king, when Saul died. And David did not hasten that day by his own actions, as he had multiple opportunities to kill Saul if he so desired. When Saul had first become king, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he did many great things for the nation of Israel. But, due to multiple actions on his part, the Spirit left Saul and he became more and more paranoid about others taking his throne away. Saul saw David as a threat, and he spent much of his time with his army chasing David, with the intent to kill David. Like many rulers, Saul felt threatened by anybody that would take his place.
In the past couple of years, I participated in a DiSC assessment at work.. DiSC is a tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication. It was used to help us see how we are each different and how best to deal with others that have different personality traits. The tool uses a series of questions that produce a detailed report about your personality and behavior. Without giving a complete synopsis,
While we all have tendencies in each of these areas, we all have a mix of these personality types. I was mostly an S, showing that I don't like to be rushed, have a calm manner and approach, and would rather cooperate with others within existing circumstances to carry out the task. Bottom line, I want to get along with others, sometimes to my own detriment. While this isn't completely true of me, I think it did sum up my personality pretty well. In the context of David's life in dealing with Saul, I believe this is the area that he would be in, as he truly wanted to just get along.
D stands for Dominance (focused on bottom line results and accomplishments, exuding confidence)
I stands for Influence (focused on persuading others, openness and relationships)
S stands for Steadiness (focused on cooperation, sincerity and dependability)
C stands for Conscientiousness (focused on quality and accuracy, as well as competency).
How would you feel if someone had it in for you? Well, based upon your DiSC assessment, each of us might handle it differently. Most of us, at some point, would want to get even. For some of us, that desire comes quicker than others. We might be able to take abuse of different types for a while, but we all have a breaking point from a human standpoint. David literally was on the run from Saul, who was trying to kill him. How would you feel?
At the point of this passage, David had become the king and Saul was gone. The nation of Israel was at a relative time of peace, and David remembered the promise that he had made to his friend, Jonathan. Jonathan was Saul's son and when Jonathan became aware that Saul was after David, they made a promise to one another. In 1 Samuel 20:14-15, Jonathan said "Someday the LORD will wipe out all of your enemies. Then if I'm still alive, please be as kind to me as the LORD has been. But if I'm dead, be kind to my family." David remembered his promise and he asked if there was anyone still left of the house of Saul (and of Jonathan) to whom he could show kindness for Jonathan's sake. David was willing to go out of his way to show kindness to someone who likely was not expecting it. This was not the common occurrence, as most new kings at this time would get rid of anyone connected to the old king, so that they would not be challenged.
This level of animosity that was normal then is less likely to happen today, although it has happened in some instances. Certainly, you have heard of the Hatfield and McCoys and their feud that lasted for years. Both families believed that their own revenge was warranted, but the hatred between those two families escalated and claimed the lives of more than a dozen members of the two families between 1880 and 1891. Things did get better between the families much earlier than in 2003, when there was an official truce declared between the families (more for the sake of a news story, I am sure). Unfortunately, some people today will carry bitterness, unforgiveness and border on hatred against others from one generation to the next. For some people, they have even forgotten why they are so bitter, yet they know that they are 'supposed' to be. Unforgiveness can truly destroy relationships and it is even worse when that continues to the next generation, poisoning relationships of parties who had nothing to do with the initial issues.
A servant of Saul's household, named Ziba, was summoned to appear before David. Ziba knew that David was the king and he showed him respect. David asked Ziba if there was anyone still alive from Saul's house to whom he could show God's kindness. You can probably remember other kings asking for this information. Do you recall Herod, the king at the time of Jesus' birth, who asked where this new king would be born, so that he could worship him? Herod's intention was not to worship Jesus, but to ensure that his threat was eliminated. Do you think that Ziba believed David?
Ziba's response was that there was still a son of Jonathan, who was lame in both feet. In 1 Samuel 4:4, we can read "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." Do you think that perhaps Ziba was appealing for sympathy for Jonathan's son, thinking that David wouldn't do something to a lame man? I remember hearing somebody on the playground that was about to get in a fight and they said "you wouldn't hit a kid with glasses, would you?"
David asked where this son, named Mephiboseth was and then had him brought from his house to where David was. Given that Mephibosheth was five and became disabled when fleeing because Saul had been killed and David became king, what views do you think that Mephibosheth held towards David? Do you think he thought about his physical infirmities and somehow blamed David for it? It is amazing that some people will blame others for their problems, and while some blame may be due, they often focus their blame in the wrong direction.
When Mephibosheth came before David, he bowed to give him honor. It was apparent that he was afraid, as we read that David told him not to be. I would have to think that Mephibosheth was at least worried about what was going to happen. I have talked to many different men who were husbands and it is interesting to hear their response when they hear the words "We need to talk" from their wives. For some, it invokes terror, especially if those words preceded an argument in the past. Even if the news is potentially good, many of us can relate to uneasiness before a confrontation. Perhaps the words would be better accepted as "We need to talk about (this or that)" Incidentally, this isn't it a problem at my house.
Instead of bringing terror upon Mephibosheth, David told him that he was going to show him kindness for the sake of his father Jonathan. He would restore all of the land that had belonged to his grandfather Saul and Mephibosheth would always eat at David's table. I can hardly believe that Mephibosheth had hoped that anything along this line would happen, but David exceeded expectations by providing for him. Mephibosheth saw himself as much lower than David, but David raised his stature.
We might hope that other people would do this (be exceedingly kind and generous) to us, but that isn't the point of this lesson. In fact, some people have no desire for a relationship, but still expect to be provided every benefit of the doubt. Can you imagine how it would have gone if Mephibosheth told David that he would take the land and possessions, but he didn't want anything to do with David and his table? When people are like this today, some people want the benefits of a relationship without the relationship. This is just one time of dysfunction in families today. The point is that we all are truly Mephibosheth in this story, and David is showing the loving kindness of God. Each of us are recipients of God's loving kindness. It is amazing that God shows such mercy to us, even when we so often proverbially thumb our noses at Him.
David didn't stop with Mephibosheth, but continued on with Saul's servant Ziba. David said that he had given Mephibosheth (Saul's grandson) everything that had belonged to Saul and his family. Since Mephibosheth was unable to provide for himself, Ziba and his sons and servants were to farm the land and bring in the crops to provide for Mepthibosheth. Ziba told the king that he would do whatever David (his lord the king) commanded him to do. David's kindness extended far beyond what he had to do and what others were entitled to. Again, it is interesting to note that Ziba and Mephibosheth showed no hostility towards David, but rather were appreciative of how they had been treated, even though they once were at odds.
We all are in need of hope. You and I may not be lame, as Mephibosheth was, but we all have problems. None of us have truly sought God as He should be sought, yet we can find hope in Him. What areas of life are you in need of hope today?
There is some lesson to be learned from David and his kindness. By and large, we should show kindness to others as God has shown kindness to us. Quite frankly, some people don't deserve our kindness, but we should ask God for the ability to treat others as we would hope to be treated. There are other people that do deserve kindness, yet for some reason we are often lax to do anything about it. Do we take the time to thank people when we should? Do we let others know that they are appreciated? Even when we are at odds with others, we should take time to show our appreciation for the things that they do. Actually thanking people seems to be a thing in the past to many people. We tend to forget how much a little note now and then may be appreciated by others. I know of one person that has resigned themselves to the fact that they are not going to be thanked, so they consider the endorsement on the checks that they send to be that thankfulness. Truly, it requires such little effort, but some people seem to have a hard time thanking others.
There is one other point that deserves to be mentioned. Although David did show kindness at this time, and things seemed to be good between everybody, there were problems that occurred later between these parties. It is an unfortunate truth that relationships will have their ups and downs. We must resolve ourselves to deal with things as they come, but realize that none of us is perfect, and be willing to extend others grace.