A Friend Not to Have (or be)

2 Samuel 13:1-5 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister. And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.

One of the most important decisions we will make in life is that of who our friends are. Someone said, “you will be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the friends you have.” Further, the friends we allow our children to have will shape who they become- for good or for bad. Here we see a young man, Amnon, who had a bright future. He was the king’s eldest son. He was well-known in the kingdom. He had much potential.

Amnon had a certain affection that was causing inner turmoil. Instead of channeling it properly or seeking counsel, he shared his affection with a friend, who happened to be a cousin. Side note- but just because someone is family, doesn’t mean they are good for us or our children as close friends. Amnon’s friend influenced him to make a decision that caused ripple affects in his family, and in the entire kingdom. I see three negative attributes of this friend.

1. His friend was subtle. According to Webster’s dictionary, subtle means “smooth, and deceptive.” A sure mark of a friend we ought not to have is one who is subtle and deceitful. If our friend is subtle with us and for us, they will be to us. Further, I will become what I am around.

2. His friend was entitled. Jonadab’s basis for his plan was, “You’re the king’s son. You deserve to be happy. You deserve not to be lean from day to day. You deserve what you want.” One reason our society is a mess is because of an entitled mentality. Truth is, we don’t “deserve” anything. What we have and what we are are by God’s grace. If we begin to hang around with “entitled” people, we will begin to feel entitled. Entitled people lack humility. Entitled people lack gratitude. Entitled people live in the past. Entitled people don’t reach their potential.

3. His friend was not under authority. What was Jonadab’s plan? “We know the king will come around. Let’s do this under his nose and behind his back.” And that’s what Amnon did. We know from Tamar’s comments that Amnon could have gotten the king’s blessing, and had much different results. We’re in dangerous territory when our friends are people who are not under authority. It will rub off on us.

Amnon’s friend was deceitful. Amnon’s friend had an entitled mentality. Amnon’s friend was not a man under authority. And each point rubbed off on him. When choosing our friends, let’s evaluate their “true stripes”. Let’s stay away from the influence of friends with these characteristics.

Losing Jesus

A few years back we arrived in a city in China of approximately 7 million people. It was late at night, we had traveled long, and we were tired. We were picked up by a shuttle bus at the airport, and taken to our high rise condo in a certain downtown area. I helped organize the trip, so I had all the information, documents, and money for our hotels, tour, and travel as well as my laptop, in my backpack. My wife was with us on that trip, and she, too, carried an identical backpack. As we unloaded from the shuttle, I saw one of the young men with the backpack, and supposed it was mine, so we proceeded to head up toward our room, and the shuttle drove away. It was only when we got up to the room that we realized that we had only one backpack. And it wasn’t mine. It was late at night, and there was nothing we could do about it.  

Have you ever had that helpless, lump in the throat, knot in the stomach, sinking feeling when you realize you lost something valuable? In Luke 2:44-46, Jesus’ parents had this same feeling. They had travelled for an entire day with throngs of people after a feast in Jerusalem when they realized that they were missing something very valuable. They had left their son, Jesus, back in Jerusalem. It took them three days of sorrow and diligent searching to find Him.

Luke 2:43-46 “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple…”

As I think of this story, I think of how it can relate to us. How often have we supposed the Lord was in our company, when in reality, we lost, or left His presence along the way? As I read this passage, I see a few reasons we might leave the Lord behind and not even know it.

First, we can simply suppose he’s in our company. Our closeness to the Lord isn’t something we can take for granted. It’s not a passive thing. It’s something we must proactively seek each day.

Secondly, we can lose the Lord’s presence when we’re busy. Busyness may be one of the biggest enemies of our having the Lord’s presence, because we get so preoccupied with it that we don’t realize that His presence has gone missing.

Thirdly, we can lose His presence even as we’re doing good things. We were told often that the easiest place to backslide is on staff or in Bible college. Good things can replace God’s presence in our lives if we’re not careful, and it’s easy to think that one is the other, when it’s not.

Another reason we leave the Lord behind is when we’re out of routine. Even if we have more time, when we’re out of routine, like we are now with all going on, we can get away from the Lord’s presence.

So then, how do we get back to closeness with the Lord? First, Jesus parents realized that He was not there. We must do a regular assessment and ask, “how is my closeness to the Lord today”. Where is He? How is He working in my life today? Secondly, they made diligent search. They were not going to stop until they found Him. Thirdly, they retraced their steps. Generally speaking, if we trace our steps backward, we’ll realize where and when we lost the Lord’s presence and His intimate working in our lives. And finally, they found Him.

After calling around, contacting dispatch, tracing that shuttle bus, and by God’s grace, getting in contact with the driver himself, what a relief it was to find my backpack, with all the contents still inside, and have it back in our hands! Likewise, it’s even more refreshing to know that I’ve once again found God’s presence, and that closeness I once knew, and see Him again working personally in my life.

When Anxiety Attacks

Psalm 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Psalm 42:11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

About nine years ago, I suddenly had strong bouts of anxiety. Prior to this time, I was the “suck it up”, “it’s in your head”, “you’re overthinking it,” type. I thought anxiety, depression, and the like were for either weak-minded or selfish people. Until it hit me. It’s amazing how our perspective on things changes when it’s now us.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was fearful. There was uncertainty. I would even leave church in the middle of service “not feeling well” when it would set in. I wondered if I would ever get out of the cycle. I tried breathing techniques. I called a Christian counselor. I did research and read up on remedies for this condition. (PS I’m being more honest than I planned to when I picked up the Scriptures this AM or began writing this post).

Psalm 42:11 helped me greatly. In the verse above, David had been driven from the house of the Lord. He lived in uncertainty. There was much to fear. There was reason for sorrow. And there was no end in sight. David had a conversation with himself that was very helpful. These principles from David’s conversation with his soul that can help when our soul needs calming.

Before we do, I think looking at David’s inner turmoil will help us to relate with what he was going through. I see three areas of inner turmoil, or at least, the temptation to fall into them. I see depression, sorrow, and anxiety.

Cast down (שָׁחַח shâchach, shaw-khakh’) = to sink or depress; bend, bow (down), bring (cast) down, couch, be (bring) low, stoop. David felt depressed. His soul was sunk down. He felt hunched over. As in a pit, in the dust, struggling to get back “on top side”.

Mourning (קָדַר qâdar, kaw-dar’) and Tears (דִּמְעָה dimʻâh, dim-aw’) = weeping, sorrow. One chapter prior, he had been betrayed. He was driven from his family, and from the church. He missed the singing, the fellowship, and the life he had known before.

Disquieted (הָמָה hâmâh, haw-maw’) = made uneasy or restless; disturbed; harassed, to be in great commotion or tumult, be disquieted, troubled, mourn, be moved (like bowels move), make a noise (within, a noise that I cannot hold my peace, – same word in Jer 4:19), rage, roar (like waves Jer 5:22, 6:22, 31:35, 50:42, 51:55), sound, be troubled (like troubled bowels), make in tumult (Acts 31:34), tumultuous. His soul was anxious, almost uncontrollable. His mind, and emotions, were like a tumult of people that cannot be controlled, or uneasy bowels that we can do nothing about, or waves that roll and roar at sailors on a boat, and they are at the mercy of the sea. Those of us who have experienced anxiety know what it’s like to be in that boat, dwarfed by the growing wave, ready to be tossed about, seemingly at its mercy.

So then what did David do? What was his remedy? How can we apply it in our situation?

1. Hope. No matter the situation, let us always remember that with God, there. is. hope. There’s hope in the sorrow. There’s hope in the depression. There’s hope in the midst of the anxiousness. God is a God of hope. When these within us arise, HOPE IN GOD! We can go through the most dire of situations if we hold on to the fact that with God, there is hope, and there are much better days ahead with Him.

2. Praise. In the midst of the worst situations, David made it a habit to praise. This helped me much. I realized that in a crowd of people, or alone in the car, I can turn my mind toward the Lord, and focus on praising Him for Who He is, and what He does. I’ve experienced this firsthand- when I get into praising the Lord, so much of the inner turmoil ceases. The more I focus on praise, the less any inner situation is in view.

3. Claim. David gives us a great promise here. It helped him. And more than any other promise, this one helped me. David tells us that the Lord is the health of our countenance. What is there to claim? What does that mean? Notice what God is to us when these things come.

The health (יְשׁוּעָה yᵉshûwʻâh, yesh-oo’-aw) something saved, i.e. (abstractly) deliverance; hence, aid, victory, prosperity:—deliverance, health, help(-ing), salvation, save, saving (health), welfare. Simply put, health here means salvation, help, and/or deliverance from whatever it is that would cause our countenance to fall, or change, or lose it’s joy, or peace, or steadfastness.

Thus, when sorrow comes as it will, when depression tries to rear its ugly head, or anxiety like those waves attempt to arise, remember, GOD IS the health (salvation) of our countenance. Not, He may be. Not, He will be. HE IS! Right here. Right now. He is here to help me, to save me. This is a fact and a promise from the word of God. Meditate on it. Quote it. Claim it.

When these things attempt to overtake our soul, let’s do the things David did. Realize there’s hope in God. Begin to praise. And claim the promise of the Lord as the health of my countenance right now.

Examine Me

Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

According to the CDC, 20-40% of the 900,000 premature deaths in the United States could have been prevented. One Dr. wrote: “As a doctor, it is heartbreaking to lose just one patient to a preventable disease or injury – and it is that much more poignant as the director of the nation’s public health agency to know that far more than a hundred thousand deaths each year are preventable,”

In the medical field, more than ever, we are reminded of the benefits of preventative care and screening. And yet yearly, up to 360,000 people die unnecessarily by causes that could have (and should have) been prevented. Why is this the case? Many times, we aren’t willing to take the time for a simple screening, a simple doctor’s visit, or a simple examination that can prevent tragedy.

Every year, there are scores of spiritual casualties for the same reason. I wonder the number of spiritual fatalities that are a result of conditions that could have been rooted out early. But because they went undetected or unaddressed, they led to tragedy.

David wasn’t going to chance it. David was a man after God’s heart for a reason. Time and time again, David prayed what he prayed in the Scripture above: “Examine me.” Many times he prayed, “Search me.” “Try me.” “Know my heart.” “Prove me.” David wanted the Great Physician to do a heart check. He wanted the Lord to check his spiritual head (Ps 139:23). If there was something wrong, he wanted to know, so he could fix it!

Nobody I know likes to visit the doctor’s examination room. But it’s necessary for physical longevity. If we want to experience spiritual longevity, then often, we need to go to the Great Doctor and ask what David asked, “examine me.” As a doctor will be up front and say, “your cholesterol is high”, or “you need to shed a few pounds”, so is the Great Physician.

Let’s open the examination tool of His Word, and meet with Him in the examination room of prayer. Ask, and sure enough, He’ll bring our condition to the light. He may say, “your heart condition isn’t good”, or, “your thought life needs some work”, or, “you need more spiritual exercise.” And when He does, let’s work on it!

Let’s not be casualties of preventable spiritual conditions. Let’s get into His Word. Let’s go to Him in prayer. Let’s live lives of spiritual longevity for our good, the good of our families, and for God’s glory.

Motive for Mercy

Psalm 6:2-5 “Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed… oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?”

I recently read these words: “let’s answer the question of why Esau failed to find repentance for simply selling his birthright even though he sought it desperately with tears. Esau’s repentance was faulty because he did not understand true repentance. He was a profane fornicator (see Hebrews 12:16-17), and he simply wanted to regain the blessings that he had lost (see Genesis 25:33-34). However, when David was confronted with his sin, he repented for the right reason. He wanted to restore fellowship with God. If we repent for any other reason than this we are not experiencing true repentance (See Psalm 51).”

On multiple occasions, men in the Bible prayed words like those in the passage above in their plea for mercy. They reveal an important principle in going to the Lord to seek His mercy: our motives. The Lord is gracious, full of mercy, and ready to forgive. But why are we going to Him? Is it because we were caught? Or afraid we may be? Is it to regain lost blessings, or stop the spiritual bleeding?

We see David’s motives in his prayer here when he said, “have mercy… for (because, this is why I’m asking) in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks.” What was David saying? In essence, “Lord please extend to me your mercy that I might live to thank you, and fellowship with you once again.”

We have all sinned. We will sin. We will be at God’s mercy again. When we come before Him, let us come with the right motives. What were our past motives in pleading for mercy? What will our motives be when we seek it again? Might our motives be to regain lost fellowship with Him, to once again be led by His Spirit, and to know to do His will. That is where we find mercy, grace and blessing once again.


2 Samuel 9:1-3 And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake… And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet.

My father was playing basketball with some men at the church a while back, when a young man went began to curse him out, and then storm off. My dad had many options. He was the pastor. No one should speak to him like that, at “his” church. My dad chose this option: he noticed that this young man could use some new shoes, and bought him some nice, new Nike’s, and set them on the seat of his car. Further, my father learned that this young man’s dad had just passed away, and it must have been a difficult time in his life.

How can we respond with kindness toward those who need it most? How can we love even those that seem unlovable? Not long before this event in David’s life, it seems that he despised the lame and the blind. Further, David was at variance (even war) with the house of Saul. How then did David have desire spring up within him to show kindness to the house of Saul?

David gives us the answer in 2 Samuel 9:3. It was not David’s own kindness that he desired to show, but the kindness of God working through him. The same is true for us. If we’re going to make a difference in the lives of those God has called us to serve, we need to allow God’s kindness to work through us, and show His kindness to them.

How will we love the cursing bus kid with a broken home, or the single mom whose life is a mess, or the broken marriage that seems hopeless, or the teenage punk in the youth group? How can we make a difference in their lives? Most likely, it will not be by following our natural intuition or inclinations. We will make a difference when we endeavor to allow God’s kindness to flow through us, and show it to them.

Two questions to consider: Has God been kind to us, despite us? To whom can we show the kindness of God today?