"David's Battle-sized Coach"
July 26, 2009 2Samuel 5:17-25
FROM GPS TO GOD'S POSITIONING SYSTEM
In preparation for our upcoming 4-week holiday in England and Scotland involving 3 weeks of driving a rental car on the wrong side of the road in an unknown country, I decided to acquire (refurbished) a useful piece of equipment other relatives have been raving about for months: a GPS (short for "Global Positioning System"). It should take a lot of headache out of driving and navigating in strange foreign territory: plug in your destination address and away you go, with a pleasant voice telling you when to turn and exactly how far you have yet to travel. For the past couple of weeks the 'geek' in me had fun planning the trip using Google Earth, saving the waypoints in a KML file, then loading our itinerary onto the GPS as a POI (Points of Interest file). If what I just said makes no sense to you, just ignore it; suffice to say, modern technology can be a great help in planning a trip somewhere on the far side of the planet!
Helpful - to a point. Some freely downloadable POI files contain thousands of possibilities of historical or cultural interest. It rapidly becomes overwhelming - how are we going to choose between all the locations in the time we have available? Is it wise to try to cram in both Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral in the same day? Should we choose Inverewe Garden or Inverness if it has to be one or the other?
Here the technology with its impersonal vastness is surpassed by personal coaches. We need someone who can help direct us to the features that would be of most interest to US. Thankfully Yvonne's father (who's a native Englishman), my parents and my brother (who have all visited Britain in the past and met some of our family 'connections') each have helped narrow down the huge range of possibilities. They know us personally, our interests and abilities, so can steer us AWAY from picturesque Clovelly in Devon with its steep path which would be hard to walk, and TOWARD lovely gardens which would be much more accessible and 'up our alley'.
Similarly, when it comes to spiritual pilgrimage, we need more than just limitless possibilities. Psalm 48:14 says God 'will be our guide even to the end.' The Life Application Bible comments, "What we need is both guidance and a guide - a map that gives us landmarks and directions and a constant companion who has an intimate knowledge of the way and will make sure we interpret the map correctly.The Bible will be such a map, and the Holy Spirit will be the constant companion and guide."
As we conclude our study of the early life of David, we see how he developed a habit of looking to God for guidance when faced with big choices to make.
SEEKING GOD'S GUIDANCE, BY ALL MEANS
Being a great leader requires top-notch advice. Part of becoming Israel's greatest king was the habit David developed of seeking God's direction when making decisions. He consulted godly Spirit-led people, and took advantage of divinely-ordained methods for getting direction.
There are a couple of examples of David consulting godly mentors. In 1Samuel 19(18), after escaping when Saul sends men to watch David's house in order to kill him, David flees to Samuel the prophet at Ramah, tells him the scoop, and then they both go to Naioth and stay there.
Later in chapter 22(5), after securing a safe place for his parents at Mizpah with the king of Moab, David is told by the prophet Gad not to stay in the stronghold in the desert, but in the land of Judah; so David goes to the forest of Hereth. We can see, then, that David benefited from godly mentors speaking into his life.
But by far David's most common approach to obtain guidance from God was the divinely-ordained method of the Urim and Thummim or 'curses and perfections' carried in the breastpiece of decision worn over the ephod of the priest. You may recall from Exodus 28(30) this equipment was given to Aaron 'to bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.' On at least 5 occasions that are recorded, David inquired of the Lord using the ephod that Abiathar the priest brought with him.
In 1Samuel 23, when David is told the Philistines were raiding the town of Keilah and looting the threshing floors, he asks God if they should attack the raiders. He double-checks because his men are already scared just being in Judah, and find fighting the Philistines an even more frightening prospect. But God answers that He will give the Philistines into David's hand. So, even though they were probably petrified, David and his men obeyed and went.
Then after they succeed, later in the same chapter, David asks if Saul is coming to trap him in the town as he's heard, and if the citizens would hand him over (23:10-12). God's answer allows David and his troupe to escape before they're trapped.
Last week we read about the Amalekites' devastating raid upon David's town of Ziklag - how they carried off all the men's wives and children and livestock. Again in 1Samuel 30:7, "David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?" "Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue."" Having sought God's guidance, David follows through, and is successful in recovering everything that had been taken - and more besides.
Following the deaths of Saul and Jonathan at the hands of the Philistines, in 2Sam 2(1) David again inquires of the Lord whether he should go up to one of the towns of Judah, and is directed to go to Hebron. Then in today's scripture reading in chapter 5, David asks God whether he should attack the Philistines who have come and camped against the Israelites in the Valley of Rephaim. God answers, "Go, for I will surely hand the Philistines over to you." David defeats the invaders, naming the place by a word picture describing God's overwhelming power: v20, "He said, "As waters break out, the LORD has broken out against my enemies before me." So that place was called Baal Perazim." Perazim comes from a root meaning 'to burst forth' as in breaking a wall. God is a 'God of the breaks'!
But later the Philistines returned and camped again in the same location. Again David inquires of the Lord. This time though the answer and strategy are different: vv23-24, "Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." How wonderfully specific is the guidance God gives! And this time following God's instruction results not just in a breakthrough, but in striking down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer - right back into their own territory, a convincing defeat (5:25).
Even more wonderful is the signal given by which David and his soldiers are to 'move out' - the sound of marching in the treetops, representing the Lord's heavenly host already 'on the move' invisibly against the enemies of God's people. Reminiscent of the incident back in Joshua 5(13ff) when the leader Joshua, out reconnoitring before the battle of Jericho, glanced up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua challenged this mysterious person, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" To which the stranger replied, "Neither - but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come." How comforting in the midst of our stresses and conflicts to remember we're not in this just by ourselves, but we have heavenly allies. When we're attacked, remember there are spiritual dynamics at work; we're to be fighting the Lord's battles, alongside His invisible spirit-troops. The apostle Paul saw it this way: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12) Learn to wait for the sound of marching in the tree-tops! Move in sync with what God is doing.
So, besides seeking guidance from spiritual mentors in the form of prophets, we can see half a dozen occasions in which David inquired specifically of the Lord, then followed up on God's leading. That was a big part of the secret of his success in establishing the kingdom 'for the sake of [God's] people Israel.' (5:12)
ELIMINATING BARRIERS TO A GOOD SIGNAL
If you turn on a GPS inside a house, it may have trouble locating a satellite because of the roof overhead. They're designed to work outside, or under the glass of a car windshield, where there are no barriers to get in the way of communicating with the satellites needed to determine location. Likewise for us, if we would truly benefit from God's guidance the way David did, we need to eliminate the obstacles that might get in the way of receiving God's signals.
Psalm 25 is a song written by David which talks about God's guidance in vv4-10, and in which we can find several clues for hearing God's guidance. It goes like this: "Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant." (Ps 25:4-10)
Now, what are the conditions hinted at here if we would be guided by God? V4, ask: "Show me your ways...teach me your paths; guide me...teach me..." Too many people don't even bother to stop and ask God about their course of action. Jesus encourages His disciples to ask, seek, knock, and the door will be opened to you (Mt 7:7).
Note the importance in this Psalm of fearing God and acknowledging the Lord for who He is. V5, "Guide me...for you are God my Saviour..." Vv12,14 "Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him...The LORD confides in those who fear him..." If you're serious about needing God's direction, you've got to revere and acknowledge Him as He reveals Himself to be in His word.
We need to be hoping in God. V5, "my hope is in you all day long;" remember, when David started fighting the Philistines, they were the advanced technological power next door with the distinct industrial advantage, controlling the iron industry. He had to hope in God! V21, "May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you."
Studying and letting your worldview categories be formed by the written record of God's revealed truth, the Bible, is a very big factor in divine guidance. V5 says, "guide me in your truth and teach me..." V14, "He makes His covenant known to [those who fear Him]." Reading Scripture regularly, methodically, is a way of becoming familiar with God's Old and New Testaments or Covenants. The Holy Spirit will not prompt you to do anything that runs counter to Scripture. What model of GPS did Moses equip Joshua with as he was about to lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land? Not a Garmin or Magellan, but the 'Moses Standard Version': Joshua 1:8, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.Then you will be prosperous and successful." Often God will help you know what you ought to do in a situation if you know His Biblical principles well enough.
Another requirement for receiving God's guidance is confession of sin. King Saul rebelled against God and consequently did not receive answers when he inquired of the Lord - so in desperation he turned to a medium, sinning further (1Sam 28:6f). Sin blocks our connection with God. V7, "Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways..." and v11, "forgive my iniquity, though it is great." Come clean with God about how you've fallen short and messed up.
Another essential is to be humble. V9, "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." Or as the apostle James recommended, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (Jas 4:10) God won't guide you if you're being proud and obstinate.
Finally, if you really want God's guidance, be prepared to follow through. God directs the obedient. V10, "All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant." Jesus, the night before He was betrayed, in private conversation with His disciples, similarly made the connection between obedience and the privilege of having God reveal Himself to us: John 14:21, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
So, if you're really intent about receiving God's guidance like David did - ask; fear God; mine His truth in Scripture; 'fess up; be humble and obedient.
POWERFUL MOB BOSS GUIDED TO SOMETHING BETTER
Michael Franzese was on a Fortune magazine list of the "50 Most Wealthy and Powerful Mafia Bosses". Earning $6-9 million a week, the member of the La Cosa Nostra family was involved in gambling, scams, loan sharking, tax evasion, and white-collar crime. At the height of his career, his name was famous on the streets.
But then the "Prince of the Mafia" fell in love with Camille Garcia, a beautiful young dancer who had something different about her. She was a Christian, with faith that remained strong even in the face of a mafia captain. Franzese recalls, "I saw she was for real, that Jesus really meant something for her." It was clear if he wanted a relationship with her, his life would have to change.
Michael challenged God, saying, "If you're the risen Saviour, then You need to prove it to me.I need to see the evidence." And the Lord did just that. Franzese says, "When I finally opened my heart and my mind, started to read my Bible, and started to review the evidence, I found out there is more evidence to prove the Bible truly is the word of God and Jesus is the risen Saviour." In 1991, abut age 39, Franzese became a Christian and his priorities changed completely.
It wasn't an easy road for him - quitting the mafia isn't something to be taken lightly. Yet he doesn't regret leaving. Now he looks back and sees gangs in a different light. He reflects, "When you continue in a life of crime, you're going down...you get away with it for a time, but then the consequences are severe...The problem with that life is it's not true.It's a life based upon fear, people turn on each other, money becomes an obsession, power becomes an obsession, and that interferes with relationships."
Today at age 57, Michael Franzese speaks to audiences of at-risk youth, athletes, and corporate executives about the dangers of gambling and gangs. He enjoys real community in the church as a place of acceptance where people aren't trying to take advantage of others. "With Jesus, in the family of God, I've enjoyed such great fellowship with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, because they're not looking for anything. They sincerely love the Lord, and in turn, they love me."
How does he describe being guided out of a life of sin into being part of God's 'gang'? He explains you don't have to prove yourself, just admit your shortcomings and ask for God's forgiveness. He says, "You then got to be willing to surrender to [God's] will and allow Him to fulfill a purpose in your life." Praise the Lord for leading even former mob bosses to see the truth and live for Him! Let's pray. [source: Living Light News May/June 2009]