(This is the ‘thought for the week’ that I shared yesterday with Ministers of the Eastern Baptist Association and I share it with you in the hope that it may bless you this summer. While it refers to Ministers I think it applies to us all!)
It’s the start of the holiday season. It’s the time of year when most church activities close down, people in the congregation go away and numbers diminish temporarily (unless you are in a resort town), and God chooses to work mainly through Holiday Clubs and visiting preachers (I am not denigrating either of those two, God really does use them!).
It’s the less pressured time of year when Ministers slow down slightly and seek re-creation and renovation through rest and relaxation. I do hope that you will find time and space to do that this summer. If you haven’t already carved out space for that in your diary, do it now! Remember that God commanded Sabbath rest, and indeed is still ‘sabbathing’ (not sunbathing) according to Genesis 1 because there has been no end to the seventh day.
The Old Testament reading set for this Sunday in the Lectionary is 2 Samuel 11:1-15, and as I reflected on the passage it seemed appropriate… It begins: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.”
It was war season (who knew there was such a thing?!). It seems that it was the time of year when kings would lead their armies against other kings and their armies in order to expand or secure their borders, acquire assets or just flex their strategic muscles. Hmmm.
“David sent Joab out.” Perhaps David wanted a rest. Perhaps he had been told to delegate more. Maybe he thought he had achieved enough. Maybe he was fed up with all of the bloodshed. The reason is not given. But we are told that he did not lead “the king’s men and the whole Israelite army” in the manner that was expected. Not only did he not lead the army (who seemed to cope well without him) he remained in his fortified city: Jerusalem. And, as we know, while his army was busy destroying the Ammonites and besieging Rabbah, David got somewhat distracted when he was on his rooftop surveying the city. Bathsheba was bathing and David was peeping. One thing led to another and that led to pregnancy, subterfuge, lies, betrayal and ultimately murder.
Samuel had described David (to Saul when he told him that God had plans for a new king (1 Sam 13:14)) as ‘a man after [God’s] own heart’. He had walked closely with the Lord. He had been a good servant and a good king, in fact he was a great king. Never before or since David’s reign had Israel’s territory been as large, the nation as prosperous or as feared.
The period of his reign were the ‘good old days’ that everyone harked back to in Jesus’ day. Yet this one time he let his guard down (when he was on holiday?) and the consequences were terrible for him, for Bathsheba, for her husband Uriah (especially), for the baby and for the nation.
I want to encourage you to take the opportunity in the summer to rest, to relax, to be refreshed. But don’t limit that to physical refreshment and don’t let your spiritual guard down. Take the opportunity to (re)focus your attention on God. You’re not a professional Christian, you’re a follower of Jesus who has been called to a specific ministry. You’re not exempt from the ability to neglect your relationship with Jesus. You’re not free from the temptation to be distracted from him.
A suggestion you might like to consider is to set yourself the challenge to read through one (or more) of the gospels during the summer. Read it to be refreshed not to come up with your next sermon. Read it to encounter the Jesus who asks, “What would you like me to do for you?” and simply says, “Follow me.” David could have used his time on the rooftop to pray over his people rather than pry and peep. Don’t neglect to pray over your people and your town, even as you are on holiday. Whatever you do this summer may you be blessed by the Lord in order to bless others with him and through him and for him.