April 19

Read 2 Samuel 21 -- 22

In Today's Reading:

God punishes Israel with a 3-year famine l It's important to know why l Seven members of Saul's family put to death l Victories over Philistine giants l The Psalmist sings: I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised (2 Samuel 22:4; Psalms 18:3).

Verse for Today:

There was a famine in the days of David three years (2 Samuel 21:1).

A three-year famine occurred during the early years of David's reign, even though it is recorded here more than 25 years later. Recognizing the famine as the judgment of God, David enquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul . . . because he slew the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1). Saul violated the covenant that Joshua and the elders of Israel had made with the Gibeonites about 400 years before. The treaty was still sacred and ongoing because the covenant had been made in the Name of God (Joshua 9:3). Apparently, Saul and his sons ruthlessly murdered these helpless people with the same zeal that he ruthlessly murdered all the priests that lived at Nob (1 Samuel 22:17-18). Evidently Saul, along with his sons, benefited from the possessions and property that they confiscated.

The surviving Gibeonites did not ask David for huge sums of property to compensate for the defenseless murder of their loved ones or for the loss of their property (2 Samuel 21:4). From their many years of association with the Israelites, the Gibeonites knew the Commandments of God. [You] shall take no satisfaction (compensation in exchange) for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall [surely be] put to death (Numbers 35:31). Disobedience to this command would mean the land of Israel would be defiled. We are reminded of the importance that God has placed on keeping promises when He spoke to Moses, saying: If a man vow a vow [to] the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that [proceeds] out of his mouth (Numbers 30:2). Murder could not go unpunished. So the Gibeonites asked permission to hang seven of Saul's sons.

Therefore, David was responsible before God to deliver Saul's sons to the Gibeonites. An exception was made for crippled Mephibosheth. The king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the Lord's oath that was . . . between David and Jonathan (2 Samuel 21:7; see 1 Samuel 20:14-17; 23:16-18). The importance of a covenant is also seen much later in Israel's history when they made a covenant with Babylon to be in subjection to them, but then attempted to break that covenant with the help of Egypt. God declared: As I live, [says] the Lord God, surely . . . the (Babylonian) king . . . that made him king . . . whose covenant he [broke] . . . he shall die (Ezekiel 17:16).

The Pharisees, a popular religious group of Jesus' time, made distinctions between what oaths were binding and what promises were not binding. Our Lord said to them: Woe [to] you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . . [you] blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the Temple, he is a debtor (meaning bound to his oath) (Matthew 23:15-16). Making a covenant or promise and then deciding not to keep one's word is a serious act since it profanes the Name of God. It ignores the fact that the people of God should be relied on for what they say because they are the children of God.

Let us take seriously our moral and spiritual responsibilities before God, as well as the far-reaching consequences of making promises with no intention of keeping them. In God's eyes, not even the king of a nation is above the laws of God. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain (Deuteronomy 5:11).

Christ Revealed:

As the One we call upon for salvation (2 Samuel 22:4). Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Word Studies:

21:5 coasts = boundaries; 21:17 succored = came to his aid; 22:3 horn of my salvation = saving strength; 22:6 prevented = trapped; 22:19 stay = support; 22:27 froward = perverse; unsavory = shrewd; 22:31 buckler = defender; 22:46 close places mean fortresses, strongholds.

Prayer Needs:

Government Official: Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Jr. (FL) · Pray for your Church · Country: Brunei (400,000) on the northern coast of Borneo · Major languages: Malay and English · Limited religious freedom · 66% Muslim; 19% Chinese religions; 6% animist; 4% Protestant; 4% Roman Catholic · Prayer Suggestion: Study and heed the instruction of the Word of God that your prayers may be heard (Proverbs 1:28-30).

Optional Reading: Acts 20

Memory Verse for the Week: Romans 10:17