Solomon asks for Wisdom / Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison: June 17th 2021

Kings 2:13-3:15

David’s son, Adonijah, had been outmanoeuvred in his attempt to become king of Israel. David had ensured that his younger son, Solomon, would succeed him.

Solomon would only let his elder brother live if he proved himself to be a worthy man (1 Kings 1:52) and so Adonijah should have led a quiet, respectable life. However, lust was his undoing as it had been for his father.

Adonijah went to Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, and asked a favour. He wanted her to ask her son, King Solomon, if he could take the deceased King David’s beautiful, virgin, bedwarmer (Abishag) as his wife.

This was a terrible mistake. Solomon was infuriated by this disrespectful request. He probably also had his eye on Abishag. Adonijah was one of his elder brothers and so had a valid claim on the throne. If Solomon gave him a woman whom David had spent most of this time with during his dotage, this would make him even more of a threat (1 Kings 2:22).

Solomon had inherited Benaiah as captain of his bodyguards and he ordered him to kill Adonijah. It was then time to deal with the rest of Adonijah’s allies. Solomon sent Abiathar the priest back to his fields, removing him from the priesthood. Solomon told him that he deserved to die for conspiring against him but Abiathar had been loyal to King David and ‘shared all my father’s hardships’ (1 Kings 2:26).

Solomon then had to deal with Joab, the ruthless commander of the army. Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord, after hearing about Adonijah and Abiathar, and was beside the altar seeking sanctuary. Solomon did not grant him mercy and ordered him to be killed there for his crimes (the murders of Abner, Amasa and his conspiracy to oust David from the throne during his last days). Joab had also disobediently killed David’s other rebelling son, Absalom, despite explicit instructions from David that he shouldn’t be harmed. On the other hand, Joab had fought valiantly for David on many occasions as chief of the army. He could have been retired to somewhere harmless for his generally loyal support to David but he was an extremely dangerous man and Solomon wanted to secure his throne.

Solomon did give the disrespectful Shimei a chance. He told him to stay in Jerusalem or he would be executed. Three years later, Shimei left the city briefly to retrieve two runaway slaves. This was the excuse Solomon needed to have him killed and his kingdom was now firmly established (1 Kings 2:46).

There are some interesting principles at work here. When Adonijah desired Abishag, he asked Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, to intercede for him on the grounds that he would not refuse her. She even instructed her son the king not to refuse her (1 Kings 2:20). Christians in the Mother Church pray today to the Blessed Virgin Mary asking her to intercede for them, for her to talk to her son, Jesus Christ, in order to get their prayer requests to the top of the queue. They want her to use her influence over her son. This can be extremely effective. However, it has got to be a godly request that fully complies with all principles in the Bible. Solomon refused the request from his brother even though it had been mediated through his mother because it put his own rule at risk. God gives us what we need not necessarily what we desire – particularly if those desires are harmful.

Solomon had tidied up all the unfinished business of King David and had extended mercy to Abiathar the priest and Shimei. However, he was not going to put up with disobedience and so Shimei eventually provoked his own execution. I feel slightly sorry for Joab, who had fought valiantly for his uncle David. Two of Joab’s killings (Abner and Absalom) had tidied up problems for David. However, Joab was a dangerous individual prone to disobedience. Solomon wanted no responsibility for the murders that Joab had committed (1 Kings 2:33). If we live by the sword, we die by the sword. Just as Joab had been the hatchet man for King David, Solomon now had Benaiah to do his dirty work for him.

Solomon started to make political alliances. He married an Egyptian princess. Because a temple had not yet been built, the Israelites were still sacrificing at the high places. The Israelites had been instructed to destroy all the high places where the Canaanites had worshipped their gods (Num.33:52 and Deut.12:2-6). The Israelites at the start of Solomon’s reign seemed to be blending religions by using the traditional Canaanite worship sites for the worship of our one true God. ‘The Lord’ appeared to Solomon in a dream, where he had travelled to offer sacrifices at the most important high place and said: ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you’ (1 Kings 3:5). As no-one can see the face of God and live, this must have been Jesus appearing to Solomon and conversing with him – yet another Christophany.

Solomon was already wise for a young man but he asked for even more wisdom in order to be a just leader (1 Kings 3:9). Jesus was delighted that Solomon had not asked for long life, wealth or the death of his enemies and so he gave him the wisest and most discerning heart of any man ever and also gave him riches and honour. If he walked in God’s ways and obeyed his statutes and commands, he would also have a long life (1 King 3:12-14).

Solomon realised that his dream had been life changing. He now had the confidence to stand in front of the ark of the covenant and make sacrifices to God. He then gave a feast for all his court. When we know that God has broken into our lives and spoken to our hearts, we can’t help but celebrate.

Acts 11:19-12:19a

Disciples, other than Peter, had also started to convert Gentiles. Some disciples had travelled to Antioch, where Greeks then became believers and turned to the Lord.

The disciples sent Barnabas to encourage the new believers to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts (Acts 11:23). Barnabas went to fetch Saul from Tarsus and brought him to Antioch, where they both preached for a year. This is where believers first became known as ‘Christians’.

A Christian prophet stated there would be a severe famine over the entire Roman world. The disciples were happy to send monetary assistance to their brothers living in Judea. To a Christian, excess money is best used to help other people.

The wicked King Herod put James, the brother of John, to death. As this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too. As Peter was detained in the Jerusalem prison, the church ‘earnestly’ prayed for him. Even through Peter was under close guard, he was rescued by an angel in the night (Acts 12:7). Peter had to get up and follow the angels’ instructions to escape.

It must have strengthened Peter’s faith to know that God supported his mission (Acts 12:11). If we as a church really want something to happen we have to put effort into our praying. God answered the fledgling church’s earnest prayers.

Peter fled to the house of John Mark’s mother. This John Mark was the Mark who wrote the second gospel.

A servant girl heard Peter’s voice outside the door but other people in the house did not believe her. It seemed impossible for Peter to escape and they said, ‘It must be his angel’ (Acts 12:15). The Jews held the same tradition as Christians that each one of us is assigned a Guardian Angel at the time we are conceived. However, the Jews also believed that a Guardian angel looked identical to the person they were protecting and evidently also sounded the same.

The disciples eventually opened the door and were astonished to see the real Peter. Peter asked them to pass his story onto James and the other brothers and then left to hide from Herod in a less obvious location.

Herod could not find Peter in the morning. He was not lenient on the guards who had failed to retain him (Acts 12:19). This story shows how much of a threat Herod thought Peter was. Herod had no intention of allowing Peter to be rescued. Peter had been chained and made to sleep between two soldiers with sentries on guard at the entrance. Some pastors say that God does not intervene directly after Jesus died and relies on human beings to do his work for us. The disciples did earnestly pray for Peter’s release but it was no human who came to his rescue. God had demonstrated he was willing to deploy angelic assistance to save the apostles when there was no other alternative.

Proverbs 15:1-10

Our tongue is the most powerful organ in our body. We can protect ourselves with our tongue (Prov.15:1). We can praise, spread knowledge and bring healing with our tongue.

A wicked tongue stirs up anger and gushes folly. A deceitful one crushes the spirit.

God is pleased with the prayers of the upright. He loves those who pursue righteousness (Prov.15:9) and will fill their house with great treasure. He detests the ways and sacrifices of the wicked. Their income will bring them trouble.

We should prudently listen to valid criticism as it may keep us alive. We cannot escape from God; he is everywhere and in everything. His eyes are everywhere. No sin is ever secret. He keeps watch on the wicked and the good (Prov.15:3).

Image: By Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/tmplobs/T0W0Q86QNMP6XMQX2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9639644

Death of King David / Peter Baptizes Cornelius: June 16th 2021

1 Kings 1:1-2:12

King David was now old and so his servants found a beautiful virgin girl, Abishag, to wait on him and keep him warm in bed. The king did not have sexual relations with her.

Adonijah, another one of David’s wayward, handsome sons started to set himself up as the next king. He gained the support of Joab, which is unusual as Joab was usually very politically astute. Abiathar the priest also supported Adonijah.

Adonijah invited the royal officials and all the other sons of the king, apart from Solomon, to a gathering where he made sacrifices intending to be appointed as king.

Nathan the prophet went to warn Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, that both her and Solomon’s lives were in danger if she did not act fast. Adonijah was likely to execute threats to his throne if he succeeded in taking over.

Bathsheba and Nathan informed King David that Adonijah was in the process of setting himself up as king.

King David confirmed his solemn oath to Bathsheba that Solomon would become king.

David promptly abdicated telling Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet to anoint Solomon as king over both Israel and Judah and set him on his throne.

Adonijah was terrified at this news. His guests rose in alarm and dispersed and Adonijah sought sanctuary by holding onto the horns of the altar. Solomon allowed him to live and go home as long as he proved himself to be a worthy man (1 Kings 1:52).

David instructed Solomon on how to be a good king. He should be ‘strong, show yourself a man and observe what the Lord your God requires’ (1 Kings 2:2-3).

It was vital that Solomon should keep all the requirements in the Law of Moses so that he would prosper and his descendants would always retain the throne.

David told Solomon the crimes of Joab and Shimei and advised him to deal with them according to his wisdom. He asked Solomon to respect the loyalty that the sons of Barzillai of Gilead had shown him.

David then died after forty years on the throne and was buried in ‘The City of David’ (1 Kings 2:10). There is no clear consensus in modern times as to where David’s tomb is. Some think it is in Jerusalem but this would have been stated clearly. To me, ‘The City of David’ is Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). One 4th century traveller found a vault in Bethlehem reputed to contain the tombs of David, Ezekiel, Jesse, Solomon, Job and Asaph with these names carved into the tomb walls (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David%27s_Tomb). 1 Kings 3:1 clearly shows that the ‘City of David’ is not Jerusalem.

Not many people have led a life as extraordinary as David’s. Plucked from obscurity, an overlooked youngest child tending the sheep, he was anointed as the successor to the first King of Israel. As a young boy he defeated a formidable giant dressed in scale armour, showing how he would stand up for God’s people against the forces of evil. He was an amazingly brave and a ferocious fighter who won and retained the loyalty of the nation of Judah.

David showed himself to be a strong man, rather too strong in his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. David had serious faults but he was quick to apologise to God. He loved truth, loyalty and integrity. He refused to kill Saul, the Lord’s anointed king. He was quick to forgive and didn’t want his son Absalom harmed even when he had almost usurped David as king. He longed to build a permanent temple for God but he had soiled his hands with too much blood. Above all, God communicated with him and David listened making him one of the foremost prophets and author of so many awesome psalms. Above all, David was a man after God’s own heart and that is what we should try to emulate (Acts 13:22).

Like David, we should do everything that God wants us to do.

Acts 10:32b-11:18

Peter travelled to see Cornelius, the Roman Centurion who had called for him. Peter took backup with him, some of the brothers from Joppa. Cornelius had gathered together his relatives and close friends to meet them. It is wonderful to read about such excitement and anticipation. We should feel this whenever we go to church and pastors / priests should be working to promote this by allowing the Holy Spirit to work freely and unpredictably in any church gatherings.

Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet in reverence but Peter made him get up (Acts 10:26). It is only God that we worship. Everyone else, including angels, are fellow servants of God and we should treat them like friends and comrades, not masters (Revelation 22:8-9).

It was against the law for Peter to associate with or visit any Gentile but God in a vision had showed him not to call any man impure or unclean (Acts 10:28). God’s laws trump human and religious laws.

Peter had realised that God does not show favouritism for one nation over another. God ‘accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right’ (Acts 10:35). Peter preached about Jesus’ ministry (Acts 10:38). Peter declared he was a witness of everything that Jesus did.

Mankind had been at war with God because of our disobedience and sin but, through Jesus, those who believe now have peace with our heavenly father (Acts 10:36).

As Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the gospel message and they started speaking in tongues and praising God. This astonished the Jews who had travelled with Peter (Acts 10:45-46). The unbaptized, Gentile believers had been given the Holy Spirit. This flies in the face of modern theology, which states that people always receive the Holy Spirit when they are baptized. Many people just receive a tiny mustard seed of the Holy Spirit and never do anything with it so it doesn’t fully grow / develop / burst into flames of faith. However, the Holy Spirit cannot be confined to rules and doctrines. He is God and can do what he wants, when he wants. In this particular circumstance, the coming of the Holy Spirit was the catalyst that pushed Peter into baptising these converts. Peter might not have had the confidence to do this, if the evidence of speaking in tongues had not confirmed that they obeyed God and believed in him (Acts 10:47-48).

Peter ordered that Cornelius and his household should be baptized and they then asked Peter to remain with them for a few days. How wonderful it must have been for them to have the head of the new church, the first pope, the keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to stay with them and tell them his extraordinary testimony.

This amazing event opened up Christianity to non-Jews around the globe. I am a Christian thanks to Cornelius inviting Peter to visit him.

Peter then had to explain his actions to the rest of the church. He told the circumcised believers about his vision and how the Spirit had instructed him to visit, after Cornelius had been visited by an angel. The Holy Spirit had promised that Peter would bring him ‘a message through which you and all your household will be saved’ (Acts 10:14). All Christians are now commissioned to bring this same message to other people.

This is a good example of predestination. God had looked into the future and seen Cornelius becoming a Christian when he heard Peter’s message and so he gave sufficient grace to Cornelius earlier in his life to be a Godly person with a desire to seek salvation. God knew he would respond to the angel’s instruction to call for Peter.

Peter described how the Holy Spirit had come on the Gentiles as he had begun to speak ‘as he had come on us at the beginning’ (Acts 11:15). ‘The beginning’ must mean the day of Pentecost, the beginning of the Christian church.

God had baptised these believers with the Holy Spirit ahead of them being baptized with water (Acts 11:16).

The other apostles in Jerusalem accepted Peter’s testimony and praised God.

Peter’s perfect logic was ‘So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God’ (Acts 11:17). It is wonderful that the apostles were not jealous in any way of the new believers, unlike the Pharisees and the Chief Priests who had persecuted Jesus because they had wanted to retain power and status.

The apostles summarised this latest revelation: ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life’ (Acts 11:18). The phrase ‘even the Gentiles’ shows how revolutionary this message was. From this event we can see some keys principles of accepting the gift of eternal life. We have to repent. We have to accept the message about Jesus Christ and believe in him so that we will be given the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have to be baptized.

Speaking in Tongues is a great way of bringing different people groups and denominations together. It proves we obey God and believe in Christ. Nicky Gumbel (p.350) saw that he could not withhold the Protestant Alpha course from Catholics, when at the first Catholic Alpha course he witnessed all the Catholics praying in tongues, the same supernatural gift that had been given to his Protestant converts. Similarly, I visited my local Pentecostal church as a Charismatic Catholic and witnessed my new Protestant friends exhibiting the same gifts I had. The gifts of the Holy Spirit make us realise we are all one big church family and we should work together and love each other for the glory of God.

Psalm 74:10-17

The Psalmist still did not understand why God was holding back his hand but God always has very good reasons for any delays. He will eventually bring justice to those who have mocked and reviled him.

God brings salvation upon the earth ultimately through Jesus Christ’s death once and for all on the cross.

God is all powerful. He owns the day and the night and established the sun and the moon. He made both summer and winter. Winter has its own beauty but the harsher aspects of it help us appreciate the summer periods of our lives.

God can split open the sea, crush the heads of seas monsters and dry up ever-flowing rivers. Praise the Lord that we have been reconciled to him and received the everlasting gift of peace with our awesome Father through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ideacreamanuela2/5585080402

David and Bathsheba / Peter and John before the Sanhedrin: June 7th 2021

David’s army, led by Joab, destroyed the Ammonites. David stayed in Jerusalem and got up to serious mischief. Like many famous rulers / politicians he gave in to illicit sexual temptation. It would have been better if he had gone to fight with his army as the devil found sinful work for his idle hands to do.

He spotted from the roof of his palace a very beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing. However, she was already married to Uriah the Hittite. David sent for her and adulterously made her pregnant even though he had lots of wives and concubines of his own. Polygamy didn’t seem to work in the Old Testament. It often caused bitter rivalry between spouses. David showed that even when men had several wives and many concubines, they still weren’t satisfied. They still lusted adulterously after other women.

David sent for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and he dutifully returned from the war. David sent him home imagining he would have sex with Bathsheba and so cover up that she had been made pregnant by David. However, Uriah was too righteous. He refused to enjoy himself while both the ark of the Covenant and his fellow soldiers were in tents (2 Sam. 11:11). The next night, David plotted to get Uriah drunk but he still refused to see his wife.

David then decided to murder Uriah and made him take a letter back to Joab, instructing Joab to put Uriah in the front line of the battle against the fiercest enemy soldiers and abandon him to fight alone. This plan resulted in Uriah being killed in battle along with some other Israelites. David was now guilty of both adultery and murder – both grave sins, either of which cut us off from God forever in hell if we do not repent.

David wasn’t concerned about the loss of the other men and sent an encouraging message to Joab (2 Sam.11:25).

Bathsheba heard that her husband had died in battle but, after a period of mourning, she became yet another one of David’s wives and bore him a son. God was not pleased with David’s behaviour.

Nathan, the prophet, rebuked David by telling him a story of a rich man who refused to sacrifice any of his many sheep and cattle for a visitor but instead sacrificed the only lamb of a poor man that was ‘like a daughter to him’. David was furious at the man’s behaviour but the man in the story was David (2 Sam.12:7). God had given David so much but he had still carried out evil. Through Nathan the prophet, God told David that his wives would be taken away and slept with by someone close to him in broad daylight before all Israel. David’s sinful behaviour had brought calamity down upon him.

David instantly confessed his guilt. Nathan replied that ‘the Lord has taken away your sin’ (2 Sam.12:13-14) but David still had to bear consequences. His new son would die.

David and Bathsheba’s son did become ill. David desperately wept, fasted and pleaded with God, hoping to change his mind but his son died on the seventh day. When David heard that his son was dead, he washed, changed his clothes, worshipped the Lord and then went back to his house and started eating (2 Sam.12:20).

David’s servants were amazed that he got back to normal so soon after this devastating news but David knew he could not bring his son back again: ‘But now he is dead, why should I fast?’ (2 Sam.12:23). David had failed to change God’s mind but he was not bitter. He still loved God and worshipped him.

David and Bathsheba had a second son, Solomon, whom the Lord loved. Bathsheba isn’t named in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. Matthew wrote: ‘David was the father of Solomon whose mother had been Uriah’s wife’ (Matt.1:6). It is nice that Uriah gets a mention in the New Testament when he was treated so appallingly.

The death of David’s first son reminds me of the doctrine of purgatory. God had forgiven David for his grave sins of murder and adultery but, for the sake of eternal justice, David still had to bear a punishment. The Mother Church teaches us that God will forgive all our sins if we repent and renounce them in confession but all sins carry a time penalty. When we die, we have to spend the period of time that our sins have totted up in a waiting room for heaven – known as ‘purgatory’. During our time in purgatory, we are fully purified and made ready to eventually go into heaven. My favourite way of imagining this is to think of heaven as the perfect garden of Eden, yet hiding under the bushes are the souls in purgatory who are peering out into the beauty of heaven but have to wait to be called out into the full sunlit presence of God. Basically, for every crime we have to do the time. This doctrine neatly explains how a serial killer on their deathbed could confess and (eventually) go to heaven. God will forgive them but for the sake of justice, they have to serve a long sentence in purgatory for their crimes. Other denominations would say that the blood of Jesus wipes away both the sin and the time penalty due for our sins. We will all find out in the end how God’s justice works.

We can all agree that whenever we sin, we should contritely confess to the Lord and hope for his graceful mercy.

Joab succeeded against the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel of Rabbah. He told David to bring the whole Israelite army to capture the rest of the city. Joab threatened to name the city after himself if he had to do all the warfare while David stayed at home (sinning). David took the crown from the Ammonite king, plundered the city and made all the Ammonite people carry out forced labour.

Acts 4:1-22

Peter and John were put in prison for ‘proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead’ (Acts 4:2). Even though they were imprisoned, the number of believers continued to grow exponentially.

The next day, the two apostles were questioned by the rulers, elders and teachers of the law in Jersualem.

Peter was still extremely bold and challenged them as to why they were being called to account for an act of kindness.

The man who had been crippled from birth had been healed by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazarene, whom they had crucified but God raised from the dead (Acts 4:10).

Jesus was described as the capstone / cornerstone on which the whole church would be built even though he had been rejected by the chief priests and the Pharisees (Psalm 118:22-24).

Jesus is our one and only Saviour, ‘there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).

Everyone was astonished that ‘unschooled and ordinary’ men could speak with such wisdom and boldness, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The healed man – who was over forty years old and thus a reliable witness – stood with them. He was living proof of the power of Jesus’ name with a fantastic testimony. When we are healed by Jesus, we need to stand with our fellow Christians particularly when they are undergoing trials and persecutions.

The rulers and elders could not deny that the apostles had performed an outstanding miracle (Acts 4:16). They commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach at all to anyone else in Jesus’ name ‘to stop this thing spreading any further’ (Acts 4:17).

Peter and John boldly replied that they would obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19-20). They were released because no one could decide how to punish them.

All the people praised God because of this outstanding miracle.

Psalm 71:1-8

My hope is in the Lord. I have had confidence in him since my youth and this confidence has grown throughout my life as God rescued me from the miry clay time and time again. I have always relied on him and will always praise him, declaring his splendour all day long (Ps.71:8).

God brought me forth from my mother’s womb.

We can take refuge in God and rely on him. He is our hope and our saviour.

Image: http://www.obraz.org/, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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