God sent his Revelation to the apostle to shine light where life went dark; to give freedom where life oppressed; to give hope where life ceased. He wrote to a besieged church with a celebratory message needed by them and appropriate to our celebration service for sister Esther Wallace.
God filled the Revelation scroll with strict injunctions against compromise, surrender, defeatism or self-pity. It also shattered gloom with unmistakable assurance: Christians wouldn’t be untouched or unhurt, but God would make them unafraid!
The scroll also issued blistering epitaphs of doom against the besieging power: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!...Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself.” While denouncing the enemy, God promised unconditional guarantees of rebirth for all trusting his Son. “Rejoice saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you....” Thus, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!” And “the Kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”
Thus...God’s defiant, mocking words taunting the power belaboring and massacring Christians while exercising no power at all over them. God’s defiant mocking words spoken three centuries before barbarians sacked Rome’s treasures and estates. Amen. End, Part II
(This blog, taken from a funeral message based on Revelation 7, 11, 12 and 19, was preached Saturday, 7 September, 2019 for Christian sister Esther Wallace.)
Trouble doesn’t have to be national or international to hurt, cause pain or inflict sorrow and distress. Most trouble begins individually before it affects families and societies.
The women of the Nolasco family have experienced a high mortality rate. Of six daughters born to Serafin and Ulpiana, three have died of cancer, two are present cancer survivors—one of them the victim of a devastating stroke. Only the youngest daughter remains free of cancer at this time. Their two brothers are both healthy seniors.
(Judy and I chuckled mournfully when a family member told her that a staff member at Glen Abbey Mortuary said she looked familiar. She should be, the family member replied, since she’s been at Glen Abbey too many times in the last several years.)
What will happen next, and to whom? We cannot say. We can say that the family’s experience with cancer and death somewhat parallels the trouble afflicting the church near the end of the first century. And we can offer to the family the same hope and assurance God gave John the Apostle in Revelation.
A point of history. The Revelation of John the Apostle, came from God about AD 95, a year before bloody Emperor Domitian died, and several since he had smashed a mailed fist into Christian assemblies empire-wide. He encouraged his cities to stage spectacles of persecution of Christians: crucified in arenas; tarred and lighted into torches in the Colosseum; sewn in animal skins and flung before ravenous beasts as spectators applauded and shrieked in delight.
Everywhere in the Empire: Christians victimized, brutalized, helpless, anathematized with Rome triumphant. End Part I
Of several more, let’s learn two valuable lessons from David’s return from exile.
One, each person is responsible for his behavior. Absalom’s own nature accounted for his wickedness. David’s lenience had served his son’s worse instincts, but it didn’t make him evil Absalom’s handsome face and body ballooned his vanity, but didn’t cause his vanity. Praise bloated his ego, but didn’t create his ego.
No, the little man he was spiritually turned every whisper of admiration into a shout of adoration. He turned a violin solo played in his honor into a violin orchestra worshipping him. He simply swelled when praised, not grew.
Because he had nurtured a life full of sail, with too little ballast, always in danger of turning turtle. Like Richard the Lion, his life seemed a magnificent parade, but left only an empty plain when he passed.
Absalom learned to love himself by practicing self-importance. He learned the science of pleasure without accepting the art of accountability. He never understood that privilege without responsibility invariably invited disaster.
Now, we understand that God’s love loves even the unworthy person. And while we criticize David’s blind affection for Absalom, what parent wouldn’t appreciate it? Parents don’t stop loving their children when they don’t live right.
Christians can certainly understand. We disappoint God; sin against God; momentarily lose faith in God; and sometimes disgrace the very Faith of the One who loved us and gave himself for us. Would we want him to stop loving us, no matter how bad we are?
Two, and let us learn from David’s mistake. Never take on yourself someone else’s guilt. Remember the earlier point in this blog that Absalom alone decided the kind of person he would be. And he alone bore the penalty for his decisions. But until Joab’s rebuke awakened the king’s conscience, he blamed himself for Absalom’s decisions.
Scripture everywhere makes guilt personal, not corporate. Ezekiel 18:3ff, 33:12-16, II Corinthians 5:10 are a few of such passages.
In other words, no shared blame exists in guilt. God expects each person to rise above his environment and his temptations to make righteous decisions. Or, failing to, seek forgiveness of his sins. We can’t have someone else bear our guilt, confess our guilt or be forgiven our guilt. The opposite is also true. No virtue one possesses can be shared by another. God’s Grace suffices to save all repentant sinners one by one. No grace exists to save them in tandem! No one will be saved by another person’s merit when each is saved by Grace alone! Fini
B. David at His Best
He had been every inch and ounce the king once he discarded his rose-colored glasses when seeing Absalom.
He inspired followers to act on his behalf in critical situations. He kept the loyalty of his army. He recruited supplies for the civilians with him and resources for his military. He put his army under officers capable of leading them.
And, once knowing he was safe, and confident of his Power as God’s Regent, he reviewed his victorious troops. Then, returning to his throne, on his way to Jerusalem he reconciled bitterly divided loyalties within the tribes; settled a land dispute; forgave his personal enemies, represented by wicked Shimei; acted with haste in hunting down Sheba’s abortive insurrection; rewarded those who had remained faithful during his troubles.
And, not forgetting the overlooked victims of the royal power struggle, he expressed mercy, not revenge, to the ten concubines Absalom had violated. He dedicated a house for their occupancy, a guard for their security and life-long provisions for their daily sustenance.
How do you think a victorious Absalom would have responded? Indeed, at his best, Absalom was worse than David at his worst! End Part III – Lessons to be learned in Part IV
When Joab heard David’s response, he first turned every kind of purple. Then, in giant strides angrily left the people, stomped up the stairs three at a time (author’s freedom) and, uninvited, charged into the king’s presence.
As the teary-eyed monarch glanced his direction, Joab unloaded a scathing tongue-lashing. David had humiliated his own men—the very ones who had saved his life and throne. He hated his friends and loved his enemies. He would have been happy if everyone else had died if only Absalom would have survived.
The outburst from the grimy, just back-from-the-front warrior shocked the king out of his self-pity. Which, by the way, he needed. Only Joab could have had made such an impression.
Particularly since he reinforced it with an ominous warning: if David didn’t go downstairs right then and greet his men, Joab would take them away by nightfall...and even David couldn’t calculate the baleful results.
No one had ever talked so roughly to the king; and no one needed it more than he right then! It suddenly jarred him from personal problems to national responsibilities. He rose, washed his face and, chastened, walked downstairs, through his troops to the gateway: smiling, shaking hands, expressing appreciation. And when news circulated that a waiting line had formed before the king, jubilation returned to all! End Part II
Parisians flocked to the heart of Paris Monday, 26 August, 2019. Many rode WWII tanks, jeeps, trucks and armored vehicles. Women wore WWII dresses; men WWII uniforms. They celebrated the 75th anniversary of French and Allied armies returning to Paris 26 August, 1944. They followed the route General Leclerc and his French command marched as they made their way into the City of Light. San Diego U-T, 8/25/19, 8/26/19
This blog celebrates David’s return from exile after evacuating Jerusalem, then fighting a life and death battle with Absalom’s rebel army. Consider how God’s sovereignty used Joab to save David when he appeared at his worst, so he could return to being at his best.
A. At His Worst
First, he commanded his generals to “be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake,” The most irrational of all war-time orders.
Be gentle with the enemy, the usurper, the traitor, the megalomaniac? Issued to the very soldiers he sent to defend his reign from that man? David forgot the axiom of war that General Patton embodied: the greatest purpose in battle wasn’t to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.
Second, David’s response to VICTORY. He learned that Absalom was dead, his army dispersed, David’s men victorious everywhere—and God’s Kingdom had survived! He should have immediately hastened to the city gate; stood with festive civilians as every troop unit approached in parade formation; smiled ear to ear; and saluted each detachment as it paraded before him.
But no...David instead cowered in his upper room, inconsolably grieving, eyes swimming, his hands shaking and wringing themselves...all because Absalom was dead. Yes, grief for the very man who plotted against God’s anointed leader; who would have executed the king had he not fled the city. The king wailed over that unworthy man’s death. End Part I