COMMUNICATE

 

Week of May 11, 2008

 

Bible Verses:  Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 2 Samuel 14:23-24,28-33; Proverbs 4:3-6.

 

Biblical Truth: Intentionally communicating with another person about God and His ways builds a relationship and helps avoid wrongdoing.

 

Communicate – Divine Example and Exhortation: Deut. 6:4-9.

 

[4]  “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! [5] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6]  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. [7]  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. [8]  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. [9]  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”     [NASU]

 

[4-5]  The Ten Commandments of Deut. 5:6-21 embodies the great principles of covenant relationship that outline the nature and character of God and spell out Israel’s responsibilities to Him. The present passage is a further refinement of that great relational truth. It is the expression of the essence of all of God’s person and purposes in sixteen words of Hebrew text. Known to Jewish tradition as the Shema (after the first Hebrew word of verse 4, the imperative of the verb “to hear”), this statement, like the Ten Commandments, is prefaced by its description as the commandment, the statutes and the judgments and by injunctions to obey them [6:1-3]. Verse 4 begins with the imperative Hear which is tantamount to “obey”, especially in covenant contexts such as this. That is, to hear God without putting into effect the command is not to hear Him at all. The singular form of the verb emphasizes the corporate or collective nature of the addressee, that is, Israel. The covenant was made with the nation as a whole and so the nation must as a unified community give heed to the command of the Lord. The role of the Shema was understood to be the heart of all the law. When Jesus was asked about the greatest of the commandments, he cited this (and its companion in Lev. 19:18) as the fundamental tenet of Jewish faith [Matt. 22:34-39; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28]. So much so did the centrality of this confession find root in the Jewish consciousness that to this very day the observant Jew will recite the Shema at least twice daily.

 

The confession of the Lord’s unique oneness leads to the demand that Israel recognize Him as such by obedience to all that implies. In language appropriate to covenant, that obedience is construed as love; that is, to obey is to love God with every aspect and element of one’s being. In covenant terms, then, love is not so much emotive or sensual in its connotation (though it is not excluded in those respects), but it is of the nature of obligation, of legal demand. Thus because of who and what He is in regard to His people whom He elected and redeemed, the Lord rightly demands of them unqualified obedience. The depth and breadth of that expectation is elaborated upon by the fact that it encompasses the heart, soul, and strength of God’s people, here viewed collectively as a covenant partner. The heart is, in Old Testament anthropology, the seat of the intellect, equivalent to the mind or rational part of humankind. The soul (better “being” or “essential person”) refers to the invisible part of the individual including the will and sensibilities. The might is the physical side with all its functions and capacities. In sum, Israel must love God with all its essence and expression.

 

[6-9]  An important demand of the covenant relationship was that it be perpetuated beyond the immediate generation of those with whom the Lord made it, for its promises and provisions were for generations yet unborn. In practical terms this necessitated a regular routine of instruction. On your heart means that these commands are to be committed to memory; they are to be in one’s constant, conscious reflection. The covenant recipient must impress the words of covenant faith into the thinking of his children by inscribing them there with indelible sharpness and precision. Thus whether while sitting at home or walking in the pathway, whether lying down to sleep or rising for the tasks of a new day, teacher and pupil must be preoccupied with covenant concerns and their faithful transmission. So important is covenant truth that it must be at the very center of all one’s labor and life. After ordering that the covenant commandments be worn on the person of the faithful Israelite, Moses expanded the sphere of covenant claim to the house and then to the village. In this manner the person and his entire family and community become identified as the people of the Lord.

 

Communicate – Live and Protection: Prov. 4:3-6.

 

[3]  When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, [4]  then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live; [5]  acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. [6]  Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you.”     [NASU]

 

[3]  The Hebrew construction of I was a son to my father carries with it the emphasis that Solomon was under David’s authority. Here, a loving father and mother see Solomon in the vulnerability of young age. While youthfulness does not always appreciate such a view by parents, the passing of time often brings the appropriate appreciation, as it did for Solomon. It also demonstrates that parental instruction can never begin too early. Solomon’s words here demonstrate that authority and affection need not be polar opposites. In a healthy parent/child relationship the two coexist as a helpful, but fallible, model of the perfect fatherhood of God.

 

[4]  Verses 4b-9 quote David’s instruction to his son. Solomon was passing this instruction on to his sons via this quotation. Solomon was stressing that he was once in the very position his sons now found themselves in: that of a learner. David and Solomon are both illustrating the fulfillment of the covenant obligation of parents to pass on the truth to the next generation. Teaching travels along lines of relationship and affection, making the home life the primary and most ideal place for instruction. The father is to take the initiative in this instruction, though certainly the mother is highly involved. Sometimes, under special circumstances, the weight of this responsibility must come upon the mother’s shoulders only. In such cases, God will give grace [2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15], but this is no excuse for laziness and ineptitude by fathers. David called Solomon to Let your heart hold fast my words, a similar call to that already found in Proverbs 3:1,5, where the call was to trust in God with all of one’s heart. The phrase Keep my commandments and live is repeated in Proverbs 7:2. This emphasis has already been met in Proverbs 3:1ff, giving ample evidence that Solomon had truly internalized his father’s words. It is the duty of every father to so set before his children the wisdom of God, emphasizing the life-giving ways of God’s wisdom. Proverbs will have much to say about how a father is to carry out this responsibility.

 

[5]  The words of David still reverberate in Solomon’s ears. Perhaps these very pleadings of David created within Solomon the desire to ask God for wisdom [1 Kings 3:5-14]. His father pleaded with him to get wisdom and understanding at any cost. Here, the desired wisdom and understanding are clearly synonymous, as they are in other places throughout Proverbs. There is no charge too high to pay for these priceless treasures. Forget all else, but be certain to gain wisdom. As strongly as David urged Solomon to gain the wisdom that he did not already possess, he also pressed him not to lose what wisdom he had already attained. To drive home this second point, he first exhorted him to not forget his father’s wisdom. The word warns against more than an absent-minded misfiling of information. It calls us to take personal action to recall what is important. What parent does not worry that the distractions and enticements of this world will lure his child to forget what has been poured into his heart through many years of instruction in the home? David stressed this exhortation by adding that Solomon was not to turn away from the words of my mouth. The first exhortation (forget) might be chalked up to distraction and enticement. This second command (turn away), however, implies willful turning away from his upbringing.

 

[6]  This verse reinforces the last command given in verse 5; the first line does so negatively, the second positively. Wisdom, spoken of here in the third person, is again personified as a woman [1:20-35; 8:1-36]. Forsake and love describe the same action from two different sides. These two verbs represent an oft-repeated call in Proverbs: to hold fast to wisdom and to passionately commit to her. The word guard carries the idea of exercising great care over something. While watch over means to guard by sitting over something, and is used to describe both another watching over us and our responsibility to watch over certain things.

 

Communicate – A Case Study: 2 Samuel 14:23-24,28-33.

 

[23]  So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. [24]  However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face.” So Absalom turned to his own house and did not see the king’s face. [28]  Now Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and did not see the king’s face. [29]  Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. So he sent again a second time, but he would not come. [30]  Therefore he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. [31]  Then Joab arose, came to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” [32]  Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent for you, saying, Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me still to be there.” Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death.” [33]  So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.     [NASU]

 

[23-24]  In accordance with the royal decree, Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. Absalom was permitted to return to his own house and possessions within the confines of the royal city. However, he was not permitted to see the face of the king, in accordance with an edict issued by his father. Why did David refuse to see his son Absalom after permitting him to return to Jerusalem? Perhaps a major reason was David’s desire to imitate the Lord’s example in dealing with Cain. Though the Lord spared Cain’s life, Cain went out from the face of the Lord [Gen. 4:16], and apparently was never again in the presence of the Lord. Since David had previously relied on the Cain narrative to guide his judgment in this matter, it was consistent for him to bar Absalom from his face as well. The practical effect of David’s action was highly negative for Absalom. His expulsion from the royal court undoubtedly meant that he, notwithstanding his position as the heir-apparent, had lost any claim to Israel’s throne. By murdering his brother, Absalom had effectively removed himself from the chain of royal succession, even as Cain had removed himself from the line of blessing through a similar act.

 

[28-30]  In effect Absalom was living in internal exile. He was restored to his former abode in the most important city in Israel, but he was restricted in his ability to move about. Not only did this situation affect Absalom in the present in that it prevented him from dining at the royal table, but it also affected his future in that he could not be considered as David’s successor to the throne. After tolerating two years of quiet frustration in internal exile, Absalom decided to bring it to an end by implementing a plan to restore fellowship with his father David. Since he could not approach David directly, he sent for Joab to take a message to the king. However, Joab repeatedly refused to come to Absalom. Absalom was undaunted in his efforts to achieve the goal of being restored to his father. Ever the man of bold action, he established a plan designed to compel Joab to come to him. He ordered his servants to set Joab’s field of barley on fire. According to the Torah, Absalom would have to reimburse Joab for the lost harvest [cf. Exodus 22:6], but Joab would have to come to him before he could get it.

 

[31-33]  Absalom’s plan to force a meeting with Joab worked. In the confrontation that followed, Absalom expressed his frustrations regarding the present limiting circumstances. He noted that life would be less oppressive for him in his grandfather’s household in Geshur than it was in his father’s royal city as things now stood. But Absalom was in something of a dilemma: he did not want to depart from Israel, nor did he wish to live any longer in internal exile. Either he would experience a complete restoration of his former status in the royal household or he would die. And if Absalom had his way, it would be his father David who would decide his fate. Having been confronted with Absalom’s audacious demand, Joab dutifully went to the king and told him of Absalom’s ultimatum. Absalom’s power play worked. After five years of separation, the king summoned him to come before the king. With all the humility of a lowly slave, David’s son came into the king’s presence and bowed down with his face to the ground. However, David did not treat Absalom as a slave but as an equal: the king kissed Absalom. This act demonstrated both David’s respect and acceptance of his son. Reconciliation had occurred. David had regained his son, and Absalom had regained his father. But, as we find out as the story continues, this reconciliation was temporary.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.          In the covenant relationship between God and His people, what is the relationship between love and obedience? What do we learn about teaching our children God’s truth in Deut. 6:4-9?

 

2.          Solomon uses intimate terms to encourage the reader to pursue a relationship with Lady Wisdom. Practically speaking, how do you think one would go about loving, prizing, and embracing wisdom? How do we train our children to do this?

 

3.          Our first two passages [Deut. 6:4-9 and Prov. 4:3-6] emphasized the importance of communicating God’s truth to our children. In the story about David and Absalom, we see the consequences of the failure to properly communicate God’s truth and to hold our children accountable for their sin. What lessons can we learn about how David handled Absalom and his sin? What should David have done differently?

 

References:

Deuteronomy, Eugene Merrill, NAC, Broadman.

1, 2 Samuels, Robert Bergen, NAC, Broadman.

Proverbs, John Kitchen, Mentor.