Practical Application of the Word of God
“It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”
II Samuel 11:1
Have you read the Bible all the way through several times? I have. Have you ever been reading something very familiar to you and suddenly notice something that you’d never noticed before? I have and I always think, “How did I miss that before?”
Such was the case with the scripture listed above. I’ve read this section of scripture many times in my life, but until 2011, when the Arab Spring occurred, I had not noticed the phrase “in the spring of the year, at the time when the kings go out to battle.”
This it what Hebrews 4:12 is talking about when it says that God’s word (scripture) is living. It literally interacts with our mind and God’s spirit to instruct us, to enlighten us, to comfort us, to strengthen us, to inspire us, and to give us wisdom and insight into the very mind of our Creator. It literally is God talking to us.
Sidebar: We as Christians are growing into an intimate relationship with our Father and our Older Brother as children and younger siblings.
A critical part of any healthy family relationship is communication: two-way, frequent, honest, and sincere. That should characterize our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. I know at times in the past, for me, the communication has been extremely one-sided: I did a lot of talking (prayer), but very little listening (studying the inspired word of God). But as I’ve grown up a little – I hope – I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t do me a whole lot of good to ask God to help me, to lead me, to guide me if I’m not even going to bother to listen to Him so that He can help me, lead me, and guide me.
Perhaps I’m more dense than most people, or maybe just a lot slower on the uptake, but it took me a long time to realize this and understand the communication relationship between God and me.
I wish it hadn’t, because I suspect I’d be a lot further along in the converting process than I am now. However, I also realize that the things I’ve been through and learned as sometimes painful lessons were a necessary part of my customized spiritual maturing process. So, in the end, from a big-picture perspective, God’s will was and is being accomplished, in spite of my deficits and my deficiencies. – End of Sidebar
The phrase “in the spring of the year, at the time when the kings go out to battle” came back to the front of my mind recently because this scripture was used and this section highlighted in a sermon about the battle we fight within to build godly character.
The speaker noted that although David didn’t go out in the spring to fight the physical battles for his kingdom, his staying back in Jerusalem brought the biggest spiritual battle of his life to him.
One of the other things the speaker pointed out was that behavior (what we do), which reflect our character, not beliefs (what we profess) is what got David into trouble here. And the same is true with me in any given situation. And with you in any given situation.
As the speaker was talking about this, I was reminded of something I’d thought about in passing the last time I read this section of scripture (last year), but didn’t spend any time really reflecting on.
This time I did stop. And that is what I want to consider in this post. I don’t have any definitive answers to the questions I pose as far as David is concerned. However, and this is the point of this post, it does make me think more deeply and carefully about the questions in terms of myself and us.
Besides kings going out to battle, what else happens, scripturally, in the spring of the year? The first three feasts of the Lord, set apart by God as holy time, that we are commanded by God to keep: Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12 and Exodus 13 give more details about the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread), and Pentecost (Feast of Weeks).
So this question occurred to me: when did this greatest spiritual battle of David’s life happen?
Just before the Passover? Just before the Days of Unleavened Bread? Just before Pentecost? Or just after the Passover? Just after the Days of Unleavened Bread? Just after Pentecost?
We know it happened within this timeframe, although we might never have, as I hadn’t until last year, really made the connection. My speculation – and that’s all it is, because I don’t know the answer – is that it occurred around Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
Pentecost occurs in late spring (late May or early June), and historically, the kings of the Middle East began going to battle as soon as the rainy season (November through mid-to-late March) ended and the ground was drying out, so the odds are that this happened in the early spring.
The Jerusalem Insider’s Guide lends credibility to this being the more likely possibility: “Spring in Jerusalem is that fleeting two to three-week period, sometime in late March or April, when almond trees blossom pink on every corner and blood-red poppies riot in empty lots and road dividers.”
If it did occur around Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, then I would speculate that it happened after them and not before.
Now think about that.
David had God’s spirit, he knew the plan of God and what the spiritual significance of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread in both the personal application and in terms of fulfillment, and he was a man after God’s own heart (we are blessed that God considers our lives as a whole – the end result of the battles in our war against sin – and does not set us in unchangeable stone forever, as people often do, based on the individual battles we lose).
David had just, as he’d done presumably every year in the spring for quite some time, memorialized the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for his (and our) sins and had renewed his commitment to, with God’s help, put and keep sin out of his life for the rest of his life.
And then he encountered the greatest spiritual battle of his life. While David didn’t ultimately lose this battle, he made an auspicious start in that direction.
David’s walk away from God lasted for an extended period of time. At the very least, it was around nine months, and it could have been even longer, although I am inclined to believe that David repented before the next spring holy day season.
So what does all this have to do with you and me?
If the timing of after the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread is correct, then David should have been at his spiritual strongest, as much as humans can be, and yet this is when he had his biggest fail.
How often do our big fails come after taking the Passover and keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread? I can look at my own life and see that although a few happened just before, the majority of mine have happened in the few weeks afterwards.
I suspect it’s a combination of factors. Of course, our adversary is always involved. But just as God won’t force us to do anything, Satan can’t, because God has limited his power, force us to do anything.
We choose, which is why we bear the responsibility for our sins, and why the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is applied to us and our sins.
There is something odd that happens, I think, in humans after partaking of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Then again, maybe it just happened to David and it happens to me.
There is a sense of being clean, having a fresh start, and somehow a sense of invincibility can come right along with that. We somehow believe we can handle anything and we can find ourselves in situations that we normally would never choose to be in as a result.
David wasn’t where he was supposed to be – after all, he was a king and kings were supposed to be going into battle – when his spiritual battle began. He had plenty of opportunities to win it right up front and along the way.
But, perhaps feeling spiritually invincible, David began to take risks that I’m sure he believed he could pull back from before he hit the edge, but he wanted to see how close he could get without going over.
So David lingered on the roof instead of walking away. He had an opportunity to repent after that. He didn’t.
Instead he and Bathsheba committed adultery. David had an opportunity to repent then. He didn’t.
When Bathsheba told David she was pregnant with his child, David had an opportunity to come clean and repent. He didn’t.
After David’s botched attempt to cover up his adultery, he had an opportunity to repent. David didn’t.
After David had Uriah executed, he had an opportunity to repent. He didn’t.
It was not until Nathan confronted David very directly that repentance even crossed David’s mind.
That’s shocking, isn’t it?
I mean I’m sure there were times when David felt guilty and bad about what he had done, but he seemed to just brush them away and go on.
How could that be?
It isn’t shocking to me. And I can tell how it could be.
I can look back at times in my own life where there was sin, multiple opportunities along the way to repent that I didn’t take (although I experienced guilt and feeling bad about the sin, but just found a way to dismiss it), and then finally something crashed into me so hard that I had to face the sin head on, which led to repentance.
So one of the most important takeaways from the phrase “in the spring of the year, at the time when the kings go out to battle” in II Samuel 11:1, it seems to me, is to really think deeply about the timing of this verse and its relationship to David spiritually and us – me included – and what we can learn from it and apply to our own lives.