Monday, December 18, 2006

Prayer Warriors, Pt. 1: "David"


A Fortune magazine argues that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well-established researchers call it the ten-year rule. The ten-year rule represents a very rough estimate and most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average. In many fields (music, literature) elite performers need 20 0r 30 years’ experience before hitting their zenith. (“What It Takes to Be Great,” Fortune 10/30/06)

Though hard work is the trait all top stars have in common, age is the wild card, especially when people are at their age of peak performance in their field:
Track and field record breakers – 25 years old
Major league baseball maps – 27 years old
Chemists – 35 years old
Economists – 36 years old
Great inventions – 39 years old
Economists -56 years old
Philosopher – 64 years old
Source: David W. Galenson, Benjamin F. Jones, Harvey C. Lehman (“What It Takes to Be Great,” Fortune 10/30/06)

King David had fought countless wars, defeated his surrounding enemies and brought genuine stability to Israel (v 1). Peace was at an optimum, things were quiet in battle and the nations left Israel alone. At that time, David wanted to build a temple. He deemed that the ark of God should be stationed somewhere and in something more stable, more permanent and more magnificent. The place of worship should be more than a hanging curtain, a moving object, or a traveling box. Although his request was rejected, his prayer was accepted because he came to God as he was, stripped of all pretension and accomplishments.

When are you in your prime? How would you be different and not be different? More importantly, what kind of relationship would you have with God in your success?

Praise the Lord for His Greatness
18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: “Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? (2 Sam 7:18)

Upon news that Jimmy Carter had won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, people in the media rushed to Plains, Georgia, a population of more than 600, to interview the former president of the United States, who was one of 150 candidates for the top prize. Other U.S. Presidents who received the award were Theodore Roosevelt (1906) and Woodrow Wilson (1919), but Carter was the only former president to receive it. Woodrow Wilson, the last president to win the prize, won it more than eighty years ago.

At a press conference for the reporters that invaded the small town to congratulate and interview Carter for winning the US$1 million grand prize, the indifferent ex-president said, “After this crowd leaves, I’ll be riding back downtown on my bicycle. It didn’t change my life when I became a state senator, or governor, or president or a defeated candidate for re-election, and I don’t think this will change my life, either. My roots are too deep here to be changed, and I’m too old.” (USA Today 10/14/02 “A day in the life of America’s plainspoken man of peace.”)

Once David was by himself, he bowed his heart and knees to God. At his finest hour David did not see himself a high and mighty king, but considered himself first and foremost God’s servant. David was formerly a shepherd of sheep. He rose from obscurity to opportunity. He was an ordinary shepherd boy who went from tracking sheep, numbering and raising them to ruling men (v 8). God said, “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel.” David was a shepherd, a farmhand and a breeder. There was nothing special, spectacular or stable about his job. He was an extraordinary and deserving king in the eyes of the world, but he was just an ordinary and dispensable servant in the eyes of God. In fact, David’s fondest name for himself was the title “your servant.” Nine times David called himself that in the chapter (vv 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 27, 28, 29, 29). Including 2 Sam 7 but excluding Psalms, David had addressed himself before God as “your servant” an astonishing 13 times throughout his life (1 Sam 3:10-11, 2 Sam 24:10), more than any individual in the Bible.

The highest accolade God can give anyone is to call him or her “His servant.” The phrase “my servant David” was a tremendous testimony to what God thought of him and how highly God thought of him. Besides David, Moses and Job were the other individuals who received this highest honor. The Hebrew phrase “my servant David” or “David my servant” occurs an astonishing 19 times (2 Sam 3:18, 7:5, 7:8, 1 Kings 11:32, 36, 11:38, 14:8, 2 Kings 19:34, 20:6, 1 Chron 17:7, Isa 37:35, Jer 33:21, 33:22, 33:26, Ezek 34:23, 34:24, 37:24, 37:25) in the Bible, a record for any “my servant” references. The two next highest “my servant” references were ascribed to Moses (Num 12:7, 8, Josh 1:2, 7, 2 Kings 21:8, Mal 4:4) and Job (Job 1:8, 2:3, 42:7-8), occurring six times each.

David was honored to be a servant of God. A servant to God was nothing to be ashamed of; it was an honor and a joy to call himself as such, compared to others he had served previously. More than once, he was never embarrassed to acknowledge himself as a servant to others. He called himself Saul’ servant five times (1 Sam 17:32, 34, 36, 19:4, 26:19, 29:8), Jonathan’s servant (1 Sam 20:6-8) and Achish’s servant (1 Sam 27:5, 28:2, 29:8) three times, and Nabal the fool’s servant once (1 Sam 25:8).

When we humble ourselves, God elevates us, just as He honored David before his enemies. One by one in the next chapter – the Moabites (2 Sam 8:2), the Arameans (2 Sam 8:6) and the Edomites (2 Sam 8:14) instead became, in Hebrew, “his servants” and brought tribute to him. David became not just one of the “great men of the city” (2 Kings 10:6) or one of the “great men” of kings (2 Kings 10:11), but one of the “great men in the earth” (v 9), the highest honor of three categories of “great men” in the Bible. Even then David recognized that his greatness was overstated (v 21). David’s greatness, like all other great people, was limited to the earth, but only God is unqualified in greatness.

Praise the Lord for His Grace.
15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'“ (2 Sam 7:15-16)
19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD? (2 Sam 7:19)

A rabbi and his wife were cleaning up the house. The rabbi came across a box he didn’t recognize. His wife told him to leave it alone, it was personal.

One day she was out and his curiosity got the best of him. He opened the box, and inside he found 3 eggs and $2,000. When his wife came home, he admitted that he opened the box, and he asked her to explain the contents to him.

She told him that every time he had a bad sermon, she would put an egg in the box. . .” He interrupted, “In twenty years, only three bad sermons, that’s not bad.” His wife continued, “…and every time I got a dozen eggs, I would sell them for $1”

David heard for the first time God’s promise of a permanent kingdom to him, for his house and through his son (v 13). David was not the first choice, the perfect candidate or the only option. The rise of David’s house or dynasty was so intricately linked with the fall of Saul. In fact, the story of David’s success does not stand by itself; it is inseparable fromSaul’s failure as king. Three times in verse 15, the word “take away” appears, also translated as “remove.” God undid the kingdom of Saul, plucked and recalled the kingdom from him (v 15). In 1 Samuel 13:13 Samuel chided Saul that he could have secured the establishment of kingdom upon Israel forever if not for his foolish disobedience. The dynasty that was within Saul’s grasp could have been his, but he lost it. God’s promise of an everlasting covenant and possession to Abraham’s seed (Gen 13:15, 17:7-8) now rested squarely on David and his descendants because of Saul’s folly. David’s kingship was a dynasty in succession. Formerly outsiders and strangers, David’s family members were now owners of the throne.

We do not live for ourselves and things are not completely for ourselves. Further, according to 2 Sam 5:12 David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom “for the sake of his people Israel” (2 Sam 5:12).

The Chinese have a saying, “Wealth will not survive beyond three generations.”

The longevity of David’s dynasty is appreciated more when contrasted to the northern kingdom that broke away from David's house during the reign of Solomon’s son. Nine dynasties and twenty kings succeeded one another in the northern kingdom for over two centuries – from 926 B. C. to 722 B. C. About the same number of David’s descendants ruled the southern kingdom for over four centuries – from 1004 B.C. to 586 B.C – twice as long as the northern kingdom’s history (New Unger’s). Only one dynasty in the north – Jehu’s (2 Ki 9) – lasted five generations, and only one of the other dynasties – Omri (1 Ki 16:21) - lasted three generations. The others were father and son dynasties at best. The turmoil from one dynasty to another in the northern kingdom was compounded by conspiracy, assassination and war (1 Ki 15:27, 16:10, 2 Ki 9:14, 15:10, 15:14, 15:25, 15:30).

David’s thoughts were always with his children. The word “throne” (vv 13, 16) or “kingdom” (vv 12, 13, 16) was not on David’s lips; the word “house” was his concern. The Hebrew word “house” that David mentioned occurs eight times (vv 18, 18. 19, 25, 26, 27, 29, 29 was the heart, center and soul of his prayer. He never sought or strove for glory, honor or power. God had indeed bestowed David the world’s grandest, finest and truest treasure in the promise of Christ the Messiah.

Praise God for His Goodness
23 And who is like your people Israel-the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.

An eighty year old couple were having problems remembering things, so they decided to go to their doctor to get checked out to make sure nothing was wrong with them. When they arrived at the doctor's, they explained to the doctor about the problems they were having with their memory. After checking the couple out, the doctor told them that they were physically okay but might want to start writing things down and make notes to help them remember things. The couple thanked the doctor and left.

Later that night while watching TV, the old man got up from his chair and his wife asked, “Where are you going?” He replies, “To the kitchen.” She asked, “Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?” He replied, “Sure.” She then asked him, “Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?” He said, “No, I can remember that.” She then said, “Well I also would like some strawberries on top. You had better write that down cause I know you'll forget that.” He said, “I can remember that, you want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.” She replied, “Well I also would like whipped cream on top. I know you will forget that so you better write it down.” With irritation in his voice, he said, “I don't need to write that down I can remember that.” He then fumed into the kitchen.

After about 20 minutes he returned from the kitchen and handed her a plate of bacon and eggs. She stared at the plate for a moment and said, “You forgot my toast.”

It’s been said, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

David’s people were a nation of slaves. Israel was special only because God chose them. They were God’s people, a key phrase stated three times in verses 23 and 24. God‘s design was to be their God (Gen 17:8, Ex 29:45, Lev 26:44, Judg 3:7). They were not inherently more beautiful, elegant or meritorious than other nations. The history of the Jews was the history of slaves (Deut 15:15), but they avoided the fate of slavery out of the goodness of God.

Egypt was an inescapable subject to the Israelites and in Israel’s history. The grandest theme in Israel’s history is how God has redeemed them from the land of slavery (Deut 7:8, 13:5, Mic 6:4) by His great power (Deut 9:26, Neh 1:10) out of the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deut 7:8). The Ten Commandments stated in Exodus 20, repeated in Deuteronomy 5 and displayed in homes, schools, and government buildings does not begin with the commandment “You shall have no other gods beside me,” but with the preamble “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex 20:2). Moses was more blunt. He said repeatedly, “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt” (Deut 16:12, 24:18, 22). Parents were to remind children that they were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD had brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand (Deut 6:20-22). Egypt was synonymous with affliction, misery, suffering (Ex 3:17, Neh 9:9), diseases (Deut 28:60) and reproach (Josh 5:9).

Israel paid the ultimate price for forgetting their slavery in Egypt; forgetting their past was as good as forgetting God’s goodness. In the Scriptures, Egypt was known as the house of bondage (Deut 5:6, 6:12, 8:14, 13:5, 13:10, Josh 24:17, Judg 6:8), the house of slaves (Jer 34:13, Mic 6:4). Israel was a slave society, but when they forgot God’s goodness, they ended up somewhere worse. When Jerusalem fell in 586 B.C., they were exiles, refugees and homeless.

Sadly, revisionist Jewish scholars like Chaim Potock and Harold Kushner today loudly question “if the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership.” (Los Angeles Times 4/13/01 “Doubting the Story of Exodus”)

Conclusion: Prayer is to come to God as you are. Have you come to Him in prayer stripped of your power, position, properties, pride and pretension? Is your wealth found in the security of political power, worldly status or physical property or in the riches of God’s inheritance and the wealth of your children’s relationship to God? Is your security found in God, and not in riches or fame? True security is knowing you are His servant and true success is in acknowledging God’s greatness, grace and goodness.


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