Tag Archives: Jonathan

Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything (CaD 2 Sam 1) Wayfarer

Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12 (NIV)

One afternoon while in high school I sat at the counter in our family’s kitchen and was having an after-school snack. My mom had gotten home from work and was opening the mail. All of a sudden her hand went to her mouth (her signature gesture when she was going to start crying) and she began to weep. At first, I was scared, but then I realized that they were tears of astonishment.

My sister was in college. Times were tight. My folks were struggling financially. I hadn’t known it because I was a clueless teenager, and no one else knew it because my parents had not said anything to anyone. But, God knew. They received an anonymous envelope with cash in it and an anonymous note about God’s provision. Wouldn’t you know it, it was just the exact amount of money they needed to send my sister on her college choir trip.

“Timing is everything,” they say.

Along my life journey, I’ve been both amazed and incredibly frustrated by God’s timing. I have witnessed what I consider to be miraculous events of God’s timing like my parents’ cash gift. I’ve also been through long, difficult stretches of life’s journey when my timing was definitely not calibrated with God’s timing. What I wanted, and felt I/we needed, was perpetually not provided. This has usually led to grief, doubt, silent tantrums, and anger. In pretty much every case, a dose of 20/20 hindsight from a waypoint a bit further down the road made me grateful for God’s wisdom in NOT letting me have what I thought I wanted.

In today’s chapter, we pick up the story of David, who had been anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel as a boy. But, the timing of his ascension to the position was not immediate. Saul occupied the throne and David refused to usurp the throne or depose Saul, choosing to defer to God’s timing. If you’ve been following along with the story in 1 Samuel, you know this led to David being branded an outlaw, having a price put on his head, fleeing to neighboring countries, and living for years on the lam. Now we read of David’s response when he hears of the death of Saul and Saul’s son Jonathon, who happened to be David’s best friend.

I was struck by David’s grief this morning. Believe me, David was also frustrated by God’s timing. We’ve recently journeyed through some of the blues-like psalms David wrote in the wilderness expressing his anger and frustration with the situation. Yet, when his enemy Saul is finally killed and the way is finally opened up for David to walk into his anointed calling, David recognizes that his anointed calling comes with a price. David grieves for the king who had been “God’s anointed” king before him. He grieves for his friend Jonathon who also died and gave David a clear line of accession without political rival.

Today I’m thinking about God’s timing in my life. I’m exploring how I see God working in my journey on the macro level. I’m thinking about paths I desired to take that God blocked, paths that remain closed, and paths that have opened up that I didn’t expect. More than ever, I want to follow David’s example as I proceed on my own journey. I want to wait, trust, acknowledge, and honor God’s timing.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published on April 28, 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The “Uh-Oh” Moment

The "Uh-Oh" Moment (CaD 1 Sam 14) Wayfarer

Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country.”
1 Samuel 14:29a (NIV)

Have you ever been in a situation in which you suddenly realize that the person in charge has no business being the person in charge? I call it the “uh-oh” moment, as in “Uh-oh! If this is the person in charge, then all of us are in deep Shinola.”

There is an amazing scene in the mini-series Band of Brothers, based on the true story of a paratrooper company preparing for D-Day in World War II. Their company commander had turned them into one of the best units in the entire army, but he was a poor leader in the field. His men had their “Uh-Oh” moment as they contemplated jumping behind enemy lines with him in charge. They had no respect for him, and they knew that he would get them all killed. At the risk of being court-martialed and shot for committing treason, they wrote letters refusing to serve in combat under their commander. They were dressed down and punished, but the letters had their intended effect. The company commander was reassigned and a truly gifted leader rose up within the company to replace him.

In today’s chapter, the author of 1 Samuel introduces two important themes in the story. First, we find that Saul’s son, Jonathan, is a courageous warrior, has qualities that his own father lacks, and the young man seems to have his act together. It is Jonathan who, by faith, acts on his own to attack the Philistines and unleash the panic that ultimately leads to Israel’s victory. This is contrasted with his father, Saul’s, own erratic and poor leadership. This is the other overarching theme of the chapter.

Saul starts to seek God’s guidance but then fears that waiting on a word from God could lose him the advantage so he acts on his own. Later, he follows through with seeking God’s guidance but then gets angry and impatient when God doesn’t answer. Saul foolishly makes his men swear an oath not to eat until the end of the fighting with the Philistines. As the battle does on all day, his men become famished and weary. Jonathan, who wasn’t even present when the men swore the oath, eats some fresh honey he finds in the field. When his fellow soldiers tell him about the oath his father made everyone swear, even Jonathan has an “Uh-Oh” moment as he realizes that his father’s leadership has only served to hurt their cause. When it becomes clear that Jonathan ate the honey, Saul acts to have his own son killed for insubordination. Jonathan’s fellow soldiers rise up against this injustice and demand that Saul refrain from carrying out the sentence. They recognize that it was Jonathan, not Saul, to whom they owe a debt of gratitude for the victory that day.

These early episodes in Saul’s career as Israel’s first king only foreshadow what is to come. Along my life journey, I’ve learned that leadership at all levels requires a certain tension between confidence and humility, between decisiveness and wisdom. Every leader makes mistakes, but I have observed a big difference between those who learn from their mistakes and those who are incapable or unwilling to do so. I read one commentator this morning who described Saul as an ego-centric leader. I thought that hit the nail on the head.

As I wrap up another work week this morning, I can’t help but once again think about my own leadership. I have been honored to hold many positions of leadership along life’s road. Here in the quiet, I can quickly think of times that others may have had “Uh-Oh” moments as I failed and made some serious mistakes. However, I’ve done my best to learn from those mistakes and not repeat them. Failure is a powerful teacher if one has the wisdom to be taught.

I’m afraid we’re going to find out that Saul was a poor student.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Uncles and Aunts; Nephews and Nieces

Wendy with our nephew, Solomon.
Wendy with our nephew, Solomon.

In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.
1 Chronicles 20 (NIV)

FYI… polydactyly (Greek for “many fingers”), is a rare but known genetic mutation that happens with one in every 500 live human births. The mutation is also found in certain animals. If you ever go to Key West, Florida, be sure to visit Hemingway’s house and his fabled six-toed cats which still inhabit the house and grounds.

I came from a relatively small family. My mother was an only child. My dad had one brother. I had three first cousins. It was pretty simple to keep track of who was who. I have only three siblings and one of my brothers has not married and does not have children (that he knows of 😉 – sorry, Tim, couldn’t resist). So it is fairly easy to keep tabs on nephews (2) and nieces (2).

Wendy comes from a relatively large family. There are seven siblings and to that you add a few spouses and children. Between her immediate family and extended family, it took me a few years to figure out who everyone was. To be honest, with the extended family I’m still confused on a regular basis.

We have friends who have twelve or more siblings. I can’t imagine the spreadsheet you need to keep track.

The truth is, despite my limited family extensions, I’ve come to appreciate in recent years how important the role of uncles and aunts can be in family dynamics. Uncles and Aunts are usually about the same age as parents, but they aren’t responsible for their nephews and nieces so I notice that it’s easier to extend a little more grace. Uncles and Aunts grew up with one or both of our parents and have a lot longer experience living with them, so they provide nephews and nieces what can sometimes be a much needed context in understanding the parental unit. Aunts and Uncles can be fun to hang out with. They can be appreciated, admired, and enjoyed without a lot of the relational entanglements that come with parents.

I thought about that when I read of Jonathan, David’s nephew, who killed the six-fingered man from Gath who dared to taunt Israel. I can imagine Jonathan hearing the six-fingered man’s taunting and thinking of his Uncle David, whom he’d always admired and of whom he’d always heard the family legend of the killing of Goliath. “If Uncle David can do it,” Jonathan thinks to himself, “So can I!”

This morning I’m grateful for uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces.

Grace for the Lame…Even Me

Taylor MoroccoThe king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
2 Samuel 9:3 (NIV)

In the small community where we live is a local non-profit organization that serves adults who are physically and mentally challenged. Many of these adults live on their own or in local group homes. They have a tremendous amount of autonomy, work locally, and learn to live as independently as possible. If you spend any amount of time around the town you will eventually meet and interact with a number of them. I have always found it a unique aspect of our community that we collectively embrace and assist them. Just a few weeks ago one of our special neighbors approached Wendy uptown and asked for a ride. Of course, she drove him to the store even though it was out of her way and didn’t fit her schedule.

Back in 2008-2009 our daughter Taylor was serving a mission in Morocco. She and a teammate connected with a local center that served handicapped children and they spent time serving at the center and loving the children. Through her eyes and stories we learned how different the experience can be for those with disabilities in other cultures. Families are often ashamed of their disabled children and the culture makes an effort to hide them away from public view. Little assistance is provided for the centers who serve the disabled or those who are caretakers. I’m sure Taylor and her team were an amazing blessing to the children and the administrators of the center where they volunteered.

I thought about these contrasting experiences when reading about David’s kindness to Jonathan’s lame son, Mephibosheth. I am quite certain that a lame man in David’s day was far more likely to experience the shaming derision of the community as Taylor experienced in Morocco than the community embrace that our town attempts to give to the adults from the local center. Mephibosheth’s personal shame and self-condemnation is apparent from the moment he opens his mouth: “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

David’s grace to the lame son of his late friend reminded me this morning of the grace that Jesus has afforded me. I am spiritually lame in so many ways. I am undeserving of the King’s favor, and yet I am invited daily to His table to enjoy provision, relationship, healing, encouragement, strength, and most of all forgiveness.

Today, I am thinking about the grace David showed Mephibosheth, the grace Jesus has shown me, and how I can pay it forward in a tangible way with those in my spheres of influence.

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Playing by a Different Set of Rules

the head of ish boshethHow much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
2 Samuel 4:11 (NIV)

Every human system, small or large, has its rules of behavior. Most often, they are unwritten. Even if there is some sort of written code of conduct, there are still unwritten rules that guide people’s behaviors. At home, on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the workplace, in church, and in our communities we learn to behave within the unwritten rules of the systems in which we live and breathe and have our being.

I don’t think we can quite imagine or comprehend exactly what life was like within the human systems of David’s day. Even reading in yesterday’s chapter of David’s many wives, children with those wives, and his demand of the return of his wife Michal like he was reclaiming a piece of property. It’s hard for us to comprehend living life in those rules.

One of the things I love about reading the stories of David is that he’s not some stereotypical hero who does everything perfectly. Quite the contrary, David is an extremely flawed human being who makes huge, costly mistakes – yet for all that he is still “a man after God’s own heart.” That gives me hope. I see David constantly striving to live by God’s rules even while he’s mired in the messy human systems of his day.

In the past few chapters we’ve read two instances of men who believe that they are getting in David’s good graces by killing David’s enemy and bringing the evidence to him. I have to believe that this was standard operating procedure of the unwritten rules of regional war and politics in David’s day. This was how local power brokers ruled. Kill my enemy for me, bring me evidence of it, and I’ll reward you richly. If you kill off the sons of my enemy then you’ve made my position even stronger (because there’s not a stray son out there plotting revenge … think Vito Corleone in The Godfather II). Kill my enemy, kill my enemies sons and you might even find yourself with a cushy position of power in my administration or army. That’s the way it works. Those are the unwritten rules.

But not for David. In these instances we see David playing by a different set of rules. In David’s eyes, Saul was still God’s anointed king. Jonathan was still his best friend. Saul was still the father of his best friend and Jonathan was still the son of God’s anointed king. In David’s eyes, God’s rules trump the unwritten rules of the local human system. You don’t lay your hands on God’s anointed – not even if you’re the one anointed to eventually take his place. You don’t kill the son of God’s anointed. Period.

Today I’m thinking about the unwritten rules of the human systems in which I live and breathe and have my being. Are there ways in which my words and behavior are unconsciously incongruent with God’s desire because I’m mindlessly behaving in the way I’ve been conditioned? Am I willing to play by a different set of rules when God’s desires run contrary to prevailing cultural mores?

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Timing is Everything

david mourns saul and jonathanThen David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12 (NIV)

One afternoon while in high school I sat at the counter in our kitchen/dining room and was having an after school snack. My mom had gotten home from work and was opening the mail. All of a sudden her hand went to her mouth (her signature gesture when she’s going to start crying) and she began to weep. At first I was scared, but then I realized that they were tears of astonishment.

My sister was in college. Times were tight. My folks were struggling financially. I hadn’t known it because I was a clueless teenager, and no one else knew it because my parents had not said anything to anyone. But, God knew. They received an envelope anonymous with cash in it and an anonymous note about God’s provision.

“Timing is everything,” they say.

Along the journey I’ve been both amazed and incredibly frustrated by God’s timing. I have witnessed what I consider to be miraculous events of God’s timing like my parents’ cash gift. I’ve also been through long, difficult stretches of life’s journey when my timing was definitely not calibrated with God’s timing. What I wanted, and felt I/we needed, was perpetually not provided. This has usually led to grief, doubt, silent tantrums, and anger. In most every case, a dose of 20/20 hindsight from a waypoint a bit further down the road made me grateful for God’s wisdom in NOT letting me have what I thought I wanted.

In today’s chapter we pick up the story of David, who had been anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel as a boy. But, the timing of his ascension to the position was not immediate. Saul occupied the throne and David refused to usurp the throne or depose Saul, choosing to defer to God’s timing. This led to David being branded an outlaw, having a price put on his head, fleeing to neighboring countries, and living for years on the lam. Now we read of David’s response when he hears of the death of Saul and Saul’s son Jonathon, who happened to be David’s best friend.

I was struck by David’s grief this morning. Believe me, David was also frustrated by God’s timing. We’ve recently journeyed through some of the blues-like psalms David wrote in the wilderness expressing his anger and frustration with the situation. Yet, when his enemy Saul is finally killed and the way is finally opened up for David to walk into his anointed calling, David recognizes that his anointed calling comes with a price. David grieves for the king who had been “God’s anointed” king before him. He grieves for his friend Jonathon who also died and gave David a clear line of accession without political rival.

Today I’m thinking about God’s timing in my life. I’m exploring how I see God working in my journey on the macro level. I’m thinking about paths we desired to take which God blocked, paths that remain closed, and paths that have opened up to us. I want to follow David’s example from this moment of his own journey, when he acknowledged and honored God’s timing.

 

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“I Am With You Heart and Soul”

American Legion parade-557706-original
American Legion Parade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Do all that you have in mind,” [Jonathan’s] armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” 1 Samuel 14:7 (NIV)

While a freshman in college, my roommate Kirk and I were asked to do patriotic readings at the local Veteran’s Day festitivities at the city center. We were asked to meet at the local American Legion Hall and ride the bus with the veterans to the parade route. We walked in the parade and then did our readings as part of a long agenda of civic dignitaries.

Other than my uncle who was a ship’s cook in the Korean War, my family does not have much of a history of military service. It was a strange experience for me to enter the American Legion Hall filled with old men in their black jackets and legion caps which detailed where they served. I keenly remember the man in the white cap, signifying he had served at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. It was 10:00 a.m. and our hosts shoved a fist full of free drink tickets into our hands. Kirk and I were under the legal drinking age and neither of us were drinkers so we gave our tickets away. It struck me, however, that many of these men were not only drinking when they were our age but were dodging bullets in Europe and the South Pacific.

I will admit that my Christian good boy sensibilities were taken aback at first with all of the early morning drinking. But, I sat and observed and struck up conversations with many of the Legion members. I watched these men swapping stories. I watched them laugh together. At different times I heard songs rising up from different places in the hall as they sang memories from marching and battle. It was the first time I’d ever witnessed that kind of deep comaraderie among men.

Soon we were on the bus headed to the parade. The bus seats were positioned so that Kirk and I were facing the back of the bus and staring at the two Legion members in the seat behind us. The older gentleman before me struck up a conversation. When I asked about where he served, he began to talk about being in World War II. It began as a cheerful retelling of where he was stationed and then quickly transitioned into some of the conflicts he survived. I watched as his eyes glassed over and and his brain receded into deep, abiding memories. Within moments he was staring silently out the bus window lost somewhere on the battlefield of his distant past. Tears began to flow down from his eyes and across his cheeks. He made no attempt to wipe them away and I made no attempt to disturb his thoughts. I simply watched until finally he looked back at me.

“Don’t ever get into another war,” he said in a soft whisper. He said no more.

As I read the response of Jonathan’s armor bearer in this morning’s chapter, I thought of that cold Veteran’s Day morning twenty-five years ago. “I am with you heart and soul,” the man said to his comrade in arms. I observed and experienced the heart and soul connection of men who had shared the experience of battle in that American Legion hall. I have not served in the military, nor have I had the experience of battle. The only conflicts I have experienced are spiritual and domestic. I will not pretend to equate or confuse the two.

I have, however, experienced the comaradarie of men who have shared my journey, my struggles, my life wounds, as well as my life’s victories. I have men in my life whom I know, if I asked them to follow me into difficult circumstance, would respond “I am with you heart and soul.” There are men whom I have not regularly spoken with in years who I could call in the middle of the night in need. Today, I am grateful for each one of them as I picture their faces and offer a silent prayer of thanks for each by name.