Just Like Everyone Else

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 19-20; Luke 18:1-23

 

Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust:10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11  The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12  I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14  I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.” (Luke 18:9-14, Common English Bible).

The late Margret Mead was a respected but also often controversial cultural anthropologist of the 1960s and 1970s. She once said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” The Pharisee in the lesson today, yes, I know it is a parable and therefore not a real person, would have loved Margret Mead. His alleged uniqueness, I don’t believe, is what she had in mind.

The great danger of the Christian faith is that we somehow start to believe we are better than everyone else. No Pharisee was called a Christian, at least until Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea or perhaps Paul would have been the first. It is doubtful Joseph or Nicodemus would have called themselves Christians. While that is true, it is also true that sometimes, we can get a bit caught up in ourselves and start saying, “Look at them, they…”

There is the woman who comes into the church building with her service dog… “Look at her bringing that dog into the church. She should be ashamed. She doesn’t need that dog in here.” Nevermind that the woman is a quadriplegic and the dog is trained, to among other things, pick up things from the floor the woman might drop.

There is the man who was out drinking on Saturday night and wandered into the church building on Sunday morning. “Look at him, coming into church on Sunday morning after what he was out doing last night.” We never stop to think that perhaps this was the first time the man had been to church for many years and he was there to see if he might find help for his drinking problem.

“Look at that teenager hanging out with our youth group. Can you believe he is wearing a t-shirt advertising a beer company to the youth meeting?” No one ever stopped to think he might have, and actually did hear you. He never darkened the doorway of the church again.

The list could go on for far too long. We sometimes have a tendency to feel like we are better than those other folks. When we do, we are like the Pharisee from Jesus’ parable. Do these people sin? Yes! But never, ever forget, you and I do too.

There is an old story about a man with long hair, a week old beard, and dirty raggedy clothes who wandered into the church one Sunday morning. He started looking around for a place to sit. No one seemed to be willing to make any room for him to sit. Rumbles were going on through the sanctuary. Almost everyone in the congregation was uncomfortable he was there. “What was he doing there?” was a common thought. “Someone needs to tell him he needs to leave,” others were thinking.

Suddenly, an elderly man, one of the patriarchs of the church, came walking up the aisle. Everyone knew he was coming. They could hear his cane clicking on the tile floor. “Oh, the bum’s going to get it now. Mr. Smith is going to give him what for and then kick him out of here. We don’t need his type around here.”

Then the whole place went quiet when Mr. Smith got to the end of the aisle where the man was sitting. You could have heard a pin drop. And then there were gasps as Mr. Smith slowly, painfully sat down on the floor next to the man. He believed no one should have to sit alone during worship.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Hanging From an Oak Tree

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 16-18; Luke 17:20-37

So the troops marched into the field to meet the Israelites. The battle was fought in the Ephraim forest. The army of Israel was defeated there by David’s soldiers. A great slaughter of twenty thousand men took place that day. The battle spread out over the entire countryside, and the forest devoured more soldiers than the sword that day.

Absalom came upon some of David’s men. Absalom was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the tangled branches of a large oak tree. Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair while the mule under him kept on going. 10 One of the men saw this and reported to Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.” (2 Samuel 18:6-10, Common English Bible).

When you read some of the other translations of the Bible, instead of the phrase “…hanging from an oak tree,” as is the case with the Common English Bible, in the New Revised Standard Version, for example, we read, “…hanging between heaven and earth.” It creates an interesting image, regardless of which version you might read.

Regardless of how you might read it, depending upon your perspective, the image can be pretty comical and pretty scary all at the same time. To be down on the ground and seeing Absalom in the tree, hanging either from his hear or by his neck between two tree limbs (I prefer by his hair), he, the would-be ruler of Israel, hanging in a tree by his hair. But, on the other hand, from Absalom’s perspective it had to be terrifying. The king’s army is after you and you hang helpless from a tree, defenseless. In addition to all that, it had to hurt!!!

There are two other things about the Absalom story that are really important. First of all, if you remember back to just a few days ago when we read the story of David and Bathsheba. God said, through the Prophet Nathan, that David would face revolt from within his own family. This is that prophecy coming to life.

The other thing, and it is actually in today’s “Journey Through Scripture” reading from 2 Samuel. David asked Joab and his other two military commanders to please go easy on his son Absalom. I understand how David felt. I have two sons. I would beg anyone to spare their lives regardless of what they had done to me. We saw evidence of that just a couple of months ago, when in February, Governor Abbott commuted the death sentence to life without the possibility of parole for Thomas Whitaker, who had killed his mother and tried to kill his father. It was in part, Thomas’ father Kent’s appeals to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and to the Governor that led to the very rare action on the part of the Texas Governor. David and Kent Whitaker were thinking a great deal alike on this one. David was thinking like a father, not a deposed monarch.

Joab, on the other hand, knew, as long as Absalom was alive and free, or perhaps just alive, David’s throne would remain in jeopardy. Joab knew, that for him to truly serve his king, there was only one action he could take. Absalom had to die.

One more thing I want to mention regarding all of this. Nathan had prophesied that David would face an uprising from his own family. And, as we have already said, it did happen. And, Absalom already had control of the country and there were people who were extraordinarily happy about it, as we can see from today’s readings. This was all over David’s affair with Bathsheba and the execution (or it may as well have been an execution) of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. God could have let Absalom take over the country. Already Absalom had all but won. It was really just a matter of catching his father and either executing him or putting him in prison. Yet it didn’t happen. And friends, that is grace, the unjustified merit of God. David deserved what he would have gotten, but God protected him anyway, unmerited favor.

God gives grace to all of us. God offers, let’s take grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

It Wasn’t God…

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 14-15; Luke 17:1-19

11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, 13 they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”

14 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”As they left, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. 16 He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18  No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

How easy it is.  When things in life are bad, we are quick to ask God to help. When things are good, well, not so much. Way too many of us start taking credit for what God actually did. “It wasn’t God. There’s no point in thanking God. I took care of that myself. Just like always, I picked myself up by my own bootstraps and took care of business. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. It wasn’t God.”

Before long, however, we are down off the mountaintop and things aren’t going so well. Things are beyond what we can do for ourselves so we stop and pray. “Lord, I can’t handle this, I need your help. Please come and help me.” God does, we forget to be thankful, we take credit and when things go bad again… well I think you get the idea.

Things couldn’t have been much worse for those ten guys. Leprosy, the name given by those in the Biblical era for any one of a number of skin diseases. At least some of these diseases were very contagious. When someone contracted the disease they lost everything. They lost their ability to work, to make a living for their family, really they lost their ability to even support themselves. They lost their family. Think about it, would you want to infect your family with such a terrible disease? Most of us wouldn’t even consider it.

Probably what made the disease as bad as it possibly could be, by law, these men and women lived in isolation, outside towns and villages, depending on the kindness of family and friends or strangers for their survival. To cap it all off, when someone approached, the “leper” was required, by law, to shout as loud as possible, “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!”

When Jesus was coming close that day, they didn’t do as the law required. They didn’t yell, “UNCLEAN UNCLEAN!” Instead, it was, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!” In other words, “Lord, I can’t handle this, I need your help. Please come and help me.” Do those words sound familiar? They should. If they don’t, read again from the top.

As they traveled back, they discovered they are cleansed, made well. Nine of them just keep moving. Over history, we have given those guys some grief for not going back. But, they were doing exactly what Jesus told them to do. But, Jesus himself is critical of their behavior. When one man, a hated Samaritan, is the only one to return, Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine?”

Could it be that the nine were saying, “It wasn’t God. There’s no point in thanking God. I took care of that myself. Just like always, I picked myself up by my own bootstraps and took care of business. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. It wasn’t God.”

As for the only man to return? Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” That could lead us to think, there is a difference between being well, and being healed. From the way I read it, I think I would rather be healed.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

In Broad Daylight

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 12-13; Luke 16

 

Why have you despised the Lord’s word by doing what is evil in his eyes? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and taken his wife as your own. You used the Ammonites to kill him. 10 Because of that, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own, the sword will never leave your own house.

11 “This is what the Lord says: I am making trouble come against you from inside your own family. Before your very eyes I will take your wives away and give them to your friend, and he will have sex with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did what you did secretly, but I will do what I am doing before all Israel in the light of day.”

13 “I’ve sinned against the Lord!” David said to Nathan.

“The Lord has removed your sin,” Nathan replied to David. “You won’t die. 14 However, because you have utterly disrespected the Lord by doing this, the son born to you will definitely die.” (2 Samuel 12:9-14, Common English Bible).

David, the guy after God’s own heart, the guy that knew God would help him whip up on the Philistine version of Shaq, Goliath, shows he is like the rest of us, he too has feet of clay.

First David has an affair with the wife of one of his soldiers. There is a line of theological thought that says it wasn’t an affair but instead, it was David being even more sexually inappropriate and in essence using his power to force Bathsheba into the illicit affair. Think about it, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. After all, he is the king and she was just a woman. As I’ve said before, I am not trying to be controversial when I say that. Women were little more really than the purpose for which David used Bathsheba. Well, that and rearing a family, hauling water, cooking, making clothes… shall I continue?

Then to make matters worse, when Bathsheba’s husband wouldn’t cooperate in David’s efforts to cover things up, David sent him into battle and to his death. He may not have murdered the poor guy, but he may as well have done so.

I remember one Sunday I preached on David and Bathsheba. After the service, a man met me at the door. “Preacher! I don’t know why you thought you had to preach that sermon. We don’t have any murderers and adulterers in our church!”

I wanted to answer, “Are you sure?” but I let it go. In reality, I was a lot more concerned that he completely missed the point and I am sharing this little side story with you because I don’t want you to miss it too. This isn’t about murder and adultery. Yes, those two sins are present. Of that, there is no doubt. But, this isn’t about some specific sin, it is about sin, period. David had committed sin and tried to sneak around about it. He tried to cover it up. He did it secretly. And God said, through the Prophet Nathan, “What you did, you did in secret. What I am about to do, I will do in broad daylight so everyone will see it.”

So much of the time when we commit sin, we try to keep it a secret. We try to cover it up. What God does, God lets the who world to see.

In the end, things sound bad for David. God knows his sin. God says punishment is coming. David’s child with Bathsheba is going to die. But, God says to David, “You aren’t going to die.” Further, before the Journey Through Scripture passages for today close, Bathsheba and David will celebrate the birth of another son, Solomon who will lead God’s people Israel.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

And When He Came to His Senses…

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 9-11; Luke 15:11-32

 

17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate (Luke 15:17-24, Common English Bible).

For the first time since starting Journey Through Scripture, today I actually had to make a difficult decision regarding the text on which I would write. Both the Prodigal Son and David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) are great stories. Further complicating things, once I decided which text would be my focus for the day, I had to further cut it down. Which one of the sons do I focus on or do I ignore them both and talk about the father.

Well, by this point it should seem fairly obvious which way I went. We are talking about the Prodigal Son and the first of the two sons, but you can’t talk about either of them without talking about the father.

At the point where I pick up the story, the younger son has taken his share of the inheritance and blown it all in what we will just call “wild living.” Having nothing left and thinking going home was not an option, he hired himself out to a pig farmer. There is little that could be worse for a Jew than being a pig farmer. And, if there was anything worse to eat than pork (I’m not saying I agree, about pork, I still love a good bacon-cheeseburger. I am talking about to a true, faithful Jew) it would be the slop fed to the pigs. And, the Scripture says, he was ready to eat that.

Then one day, he came to his senses. Hopefully when any of us are acting and thinking in a way that, let’s just say, isn’t to smart, we come to our senses as the son did in this lesson. He thought to himself, “Here I am starving to death. My father’s servants eat better and are treated better than this. I know I can’t go back expecting to pick up where I left off. I blew that chance when I left . But, if I go back, perhaps my father will hire me back as a servant. Whatever things may have been before, they were always better than this.” And, he heads for home.

How can you not love the father in this great story. “While he was still a long way off…” His father knew what was going to happen and he allowed his son to make the mistake. Too many parents today, don’t let their children make their own mistakes. The father in the story did. When my boys were still at home I would count myself in that number,

But, while he allowed him to make the mistake, he also knew one day he would come back and he was watching the road for the return of his son. Even when the son was a long way off, the father saw him and new it was his son. He ran to his son. We guys may not have tried this much, but running with a long skirt isn’t so easy. It would require raising the hem above the ankles, something men didn’t do in those days. It violated societal norms and yet, for his son, he did it anyway.

The son had his speech ready. “Dad, I am a sinner. I am unworthy of being your son. But please, let me come back and just work for you.”

For his part, the father would have none of that. In essence, the father said, “You can come back, but it won’t be as a servant! It will be as my son.” And with that, the father threw a barbecue that any Texan would be proud to throw.

Friends, there is a word for that. GRACE. We have talked about it a bit already. Grace – God’s unmerited favor. There is nothing the son did to deserve what his father was doing for him. He couldn’t buy the position, he had no money. He couldn’t expect to borrow from it. He couldn’t take it or otherwise rob his father of it. It could only come as the free gift from his father. It was more than he deserved. It was more than he could pay back. It was more than his fair share. Remember, he had already received his share of the inheritance. There was nothing else he deserved, legally or otherwise, and yet his father gave to him anyway. That is grace.

Just like the son, we too receive grace. It is more than we deserve and it is more than we could take or borrow or anything else. God gives it to us out of God’s love for us, God’s greatest creation. You and I receive the gift of grace, God’s unmerited favor.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness (For that grace),
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Follow the Instructions

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 6-8; Luke 15:1-10

 

Once again David assembled the select warriors of Israel, thirty thousand strong. David and all the troops who were with him set out for Baalah, which is Kiriath-jearim of Judah, to bring God’s chest up from there—the chest that is called by the name of the Lord of heavenly forces, who sits enthroned on the winged creatures. They loaded God’s chest on a new cart and carried it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were driving the new cart. 4 Uzzah was beside God’s chest while Ahio was walking in front of it. Meanwhile, David and the entire house of Israel celebrated in the Lord’s presence with all their strength, with songs, zithers, harps, tambourines, rattles, and cymbals.

So David went and brought God’s chest up from Obed-edom’s house to David’s City with celebration. 13 Whenever those bearing the chest advanced six steps, David sacrificed an ox and a fatling calf. 14 David, dressed in a linen priestly vest, danced with all his strength before the Lord. 15 This is how David and the entire house of Israel brought up the Lord’s chest with shouts and trumpet blasts (2 Samuel 6:6-10, Common English Bible).

So David went and brought God’s chest up from Obed-edom’s house to David’s City with celebration. 13 Whenever those bearing the chest advanced six steps, David sacrificed an ox and a fatling calf. 14 David, dressed in a linen priestly vest, danced with all his strength before the Lord. 15 This is how David and the entire house of Israel brought up the Lord’s chest with shouts and trumpet blasts.

16 As the Lord’s chest entered David’s City, Saul’s daughter Michal was watching from a window. She saw King David jumping and dancing before the Lord, and she lost all respect for him.

It was to be a huge political coup. The Ark of the Covenant had been in the possession of the Philistines since the battle in which both of Eli’s sons were killed and after which Eli himself died (1 Samuel 4). Shortly after due to conditions blamed on the Ark, the Philistines put the Ark on a cart pulled by a couple of cows which headed straight to Israel (1 Samuel 5-6). For a short period of time the Ark was in Beth Shemesh, then a little later found a more permanent home in Kiriath-Jearim. It remained there until David came to power. Now David wanted to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.

 

It was important for David to bring the Ark to Jerusalem because it would give his government legitimacy. For the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant represented the real presence of God. Where the Ark was, God was. So David wanted, perhaps it would be better to say needed, the Ark to be in Jerusalem.

David and his army traveled to Kiriath-Jearim, placed the Ark on a cart and started back for Jerusalem. When the cart’s wheels went through a rut in the road, one of David’s men, Uzzah, reached his hand out, touching the Ark. The lesson says that rose God’s anger against Uzzah and he was stricken dead on the spot. Of course, that upset David, who of us wouldn’t be upset. He left the Ark in the possession of Obed-Edom. When Obed-Edom was blessed by having the Ark, David decided to try again. This time the Ark was carried by some of David’s men, using poles designed specifically for the purpose. This time they were successful and David danced and praised the Lord as his men brought the Ark into Jerusalem.

So, why, when Uzzah was trying to do something good, did God strike him down? It wasn’t so much about Uzzah (try telling that to Uzzah, Keith) it was about the handling of the Ark. Back in Exodus, when God gave instructions to the Israelites how to transport the Ark. It was to be carried by hand using poles designed for the purpose. Nowhere did God ever say it was permissible to carry the Ark in a cart. It was a lack of attentiveness to the details and Uzzah paid the price. When it comes to serving God, you’ve got to follow the instructions.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Dream Home

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Passages: 2 Samuel 3-5; Luke 14:25-35

10 David grew increasingly powerful, and the Lord of heavenly forces was with him. 11 Tyre’s King Hiram sent messengers to David with cedar logs, bricklayers, and carpenters to build David a palace. 12 Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and that his kingship was held in great honor for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Samuel 5:10-12, Common English Bible)

If you have ever watched HGTV you can quickly see person after person wanting their dream home. For some, that means buying an old house and completely renovating it. For others it means building something new, from scratch.

As you watch you also see many different kinds of people. For some it is a large house with all the amenities. For others something more modest is the plan. For some it is a single family home and for others a townhouse or condo (for me it is the condo).  There people with large families and people with no family, at least no family living with them. There are people who insist on a green footprint while others are nowhere near as concerned about the world environment as they are about their personal living environment.

As David got ready to build the King’s palace, he would have quickly found, had it not been for the generosity (and probably wanting to curry favor with the new King of Israel who at this point was a world super-power) of Hiram, King of Tyre. David was building his dream home, or at least that is what we might guess.

Make no mistake, David earned this. He had defeated Goliath. He had a hand in defeating many of Israel’s worst enemies. For his trouble, the jealous Saul kept him either on the run or out of the country in hiding. With all David had done for Israel, he then was unable to even see his family without taking his life into his own hands.

In today’s journey through Scripture readings, we read of David going through bitter conflict with Saul’s family. For them, it didn’t matter that David was God’s choice. For those who crave and covet power it never matters if there is sufficient reason for walking away from the source of power. They want to take control of all that is around them. Saul’s family was no exception.

Even once David is able to bring resolution to the conflict with Saul’s family, things still weren’t peaceful around him. David had to deal once again with the Philistines. Some enemies, it would seem, just will not go away. The Philistines were just such an enemy for David. He had dealth with them as a boy, he dealth with them during the time he served Saul, he dealt with them at this point and he would deal with them once again.

But, once David defeated them on this occasion, at least for a time, Israel enjoyed peace from her enemies. That meant it was time for “House Hunters” Israel. David, with the help of Hiram, built his dream home, a palace built for a king. That would only make sense. Finally, David, after close to 20 years, was King of Israel and a king deserves a palace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved