A while ago I decided that I wouldn’t do any book reviews for a bit. This first year of Curacy has been a little bit bonkers, and for my own sanity I decided that was one thing that had to go. However when I had an email asking me if I’d like a pre-publication copy of Jo Swinney’s latest book, I was like, ‘err, YES’! As soon as I started reading it I knew I’d have to write about it, so for now I’m breaking my own rule.
Though I don’t know Jo well, I just like her. She’s a likeable kind of person, she’s nice, she’s funny, she’s a bit quirky and she just seems genuinely interested in the people she meets. All of which comes across in her new book ‘Home’.
As the title suggests Jo looks at the concept of where is home. In the diversity of the 21st century, easy and accessible world travel and just the huge availability of opportunity for many people, it can mean that ‘home’ is a complex subject. Well gone are the years where you grew up where you were born, stayed in the same town or village, worked in the same job for life and then died, buried in the parish church by a Vicar who’s been in post for all of the above. For Jo this is taken to the extreme though by growing up in Portugal and living in various countries before settling back in the UK (but for how long I wonder!). The themes she explores are so relevant, regardless of our geographical placement and I found myself nodding and ‘hmm- ing’ aloud as I read to myself. I was quite staggered to make a list that told me that at the age of 43 I have lived in 7 houses, 3 flats, 2 mobile homes, 1 tent, and 1 hostel; in 3 countries, 3 cities, 3 towns and 4 villages. Which of those would I have called home?
The book explores different aspects of ‘home’, like family and identity but interwoven with Jo’s own story living around the world, as well as reflections on the life of King David, framing the whole thing in a biblical context.
Jo’s own life has given her a wealth of information and experience to draw on and share, from growing up in Portugal, where she paints a wonderful picture of a loving, safe home with a vastly extended family of visitors and friends; to the pain of boarding school and homesickness; and on to the choices of adult life as to where to make or find home.
She also touches quite profoundly on the idea of identity, both culturally and personally. She writes of how hard it can be to define a home in a world that in many places is so multi-cultural. In fact in many ways what she writes is hugely prophetic and key for right now as we nationally, and worldwide, seek to understand our identity as nations. She notes:
All of us, whatever our defining cultural identity, benefit when we step out of our ghettoes and learn from each other. Our cultures will always be home in some sense, but who wants to stay at home twenty-four/seven?
But she also highlights the need to remember we are resident here and that we’re also inhabitants of the Kingdom of God, and just as that was comfort for David, it should be for us too. Again a timely reminder when we can easily be so bogged down in national and international negativity
I was touched as Jo writes so honestly about her own battle with depression, self worth and finding an identity of her own. As she says:
As I was discovering, wherever you go, there you are. I needed to find a home in side myself.
I wonder how many of us can say that we have truly done that – or even attempted to? How many of us have struggled with escaping from a situation or reality that was actually all about ourselves?
The book jacket asks the question:
Is home where you come from? where you live now? where the people you love are? or what?
If you’ve never pondered those things, then this book will help you draw out from your own life the ‘or what?’ things that help you call a place a home. It’s a book that asks questions of us, that might help us to seek direction, and challenges us – but in a gentle way and with the encouragement of one who has walked the journey before, and with the truth of God at it’s centre.
Home is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £14.99 and is available now.
This morning’s preach from 2 Samuel 6 looking at worship, God’s presence and going to the next level with God… Text below:
This morning we are continuing our series on David and we are looking specifically at Worship. Which is why I am preaching before we go into our time of sung worship. Because I’d love us to really learn from David’s experience this morning and perhaps take some of that with us as we sing and worship God.
So, our chapter starts as David has been made king. We know that he was, the bible says, was ‘a man after God’s heart’, a man of great faith, although not without his own mistakes of course as we have heard about in this series. But one thing I really love about this passage is how we see David putting God front and foremost of his new kingdom, he wants God at the centre of his new reign and he wants everyone to know about it. And we see him making a very public show of this when he attempts to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been taken during battle. We truly see David as a ‘man after God’s heart’
Ark of the Covenant
So let’s just start by taking a quick look at the Ark of the Covenant – why was it so important to David? Well, in Exodus we can read how God told Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant, (Exodus 25:22) and said to him it would be the place he would meet with him. So that’s pretty amazing right? A place where the living God would meet with one man.
It was part of the tabernacle, or tent, like a traveling temple that went with the Israelites in the wilderness, and God said he would dwell among them there.
So as a result of this the Ark of the Covenant, symbolised God’s presence, God dwelling among his people.
It was also used to keep the tablets of the 10 commandments and according to Hebrews 9:4, Aarons rod that budded and a pot of manna. So there’s a lot of symbolism here, the tablets symbolising Gods law, or instruction; Aarons rod = symbolising new life, or life out of death, resurrection even; and the manna – God sustains, the bread of life.
On the ark was the ‘mercy seat’ where God was said to be, and on the Day of Atonement in Jewish law, the High Priest would sprinkle blood from the sacrifices over the mercy seat to atone for the sins of people, so they could be right with God. A symbol of forgiveness.
And this is important, al this symbolism and meaning, I will come back to that…
So… when David wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem, this was hugely significant, for him, and for the people. The Ark symbolised God’s presence. Something that David wanted to be with him in all things.
However I think in his enthusiasm he has maybe got little bit carried away and not thought it all through. I bet we’ve all done that right?
Well I definitely have, I’m always coming up with crazy things to do (well I think they are amazing obvs) and then throwing myself into them without thinking through what it means or the consequences. I once ripped a hole in the wall of our house, convinced there was an old fire place behind it (there wasn’t) and another time I painted an entire room of our house bright red when my husband was away on business (I think it looked amazing, had to convince the husband!), and I am sure Phil, can fill you in on many of my hair brained schemes.
That I think is what David has done here, filled with enthusiasm, he’s thought yes I want God at the centre of my kingdom (admirable of course) let’s go get the ark, come on chaps lets go…. And David is a very prayerful man, we often see him enquiring of the Lord, or seeking God though interestingly we don’t here…
And then we see the results, a man dead, David living in fear.
Not quite what he had planned. Doesn’t sound very Godly does it?
Well there’s two things I really want to highlight here. Firstly this is all about God’s presence, but secondly we also see God teaching David something new here, David, a faithful worshipper, being taken to the next level, as it were.
So firstly lets look at God’s presence – When God is present, things are revealed, the light shines into the darkness and shines on things that are hidden. So let’s look at how that impacts a few of our key characters…
Uzzah, we have to look at him, I mean poor chap, it seems a bit rough doesn’t it, he was just trying to help, wasn’t he?
Well actually God gave specific instructions for the Ark and other holy items, about holiness, reverence and care, (Numbers 4) which said amongst other things that only specific people were to carry the ark, using poles attached to it, and were not allowed to touch it or he says they would die.
Now we know that Uzzah was one of the sons of Abinadab in whose house the ark had been kept prior to this. I wonder if he really got it, what the ark was about. After all it had just been in his home for some time, perhaps just like any other bit of furniture. Perhaps he had been told to do this by his Father, you can imagine, Dad do I have to… begrudgingly going along.
He didn’t recognise the holiness of it, he didn’t respect God.
So there it was the holiest thing on earth and it’s on a cart (admittedly a new cart there was some thought…) and when Uzzah reached out to support it, just like any other piece of furniture, in God’s presence was revealed his apathy, and lack of reverence and respect for God.
And David, was does God’s presence reveal in David?
I think it’s pride. He thinks he’s doing the most amazing thing, but when it goes wrong, what’s his reaction? V8: anger
This was not what he had planned, a big triumphal entry, celebration, and instead it’s all gone wrong and a man is dead. Of course he’s angry, but he’s angry because of his pride and God’s presence reveals that.
Where was God in his planning?
I wonder, have you ever experienced that? That your plans have gone horribly wrong? Maybe people have got hurt?
Cut if need!
Years ago I ran an art gallery and it came to a point where I needed to sell it. Now I have to be honest I’m not sure I really consulted God on it all. I just knew it had to go and got on with dealing with it. And because of my lack of care and thought what happened was the people who worked for me pretty much went into revolt, and I was angry about their response.
I didn’t consider them in it all, I just forged ahead with my own plans. I know it seems so obvious and I certainly wouldn’t do it now, but then I just thought I was doing what I had to do.
And you know what made me realise? When God sent a Christian friend to talk to me, and I realised how foolish I had been. She brought God’s presence into the situation and for me, it revealed my own selfishness and pride.
God’s presence reveals… but we usually have a choice what we do with that revelation (well apart from Uzzah…)
What does David do? he’s angry then fearful. I think he was worried about himself.
After all what would the people think? David has brought this God into the kingdom and someone had died? Not a great start right? Would the people rise up against him? And sends the ark off to Obed-Edoms’ house. And that I think is what rugby players call a ‘hospital pass’ – ie: you get thrown the ball just as some massive winger is about to thrown themselves at you. What on earth was Obed Edom thinking. Some poor chap has died just touching this ridiculous golden box and the king wants me to have it in my home? Er. No thanks!
But actually his family is blessed by the presence of the ark, probably I think because they treated it with reverence and fear. I mean wouldn’t you..?!
And David could have remained angry and cross and full of pride. I could have remained cross and angry at my staff and think I was in the right. But he sees he’s in the wrong and he chooses to do it all again, properly this time…
So the ark is carried as it should be, there are sacrifices after just 6 steps!! David was dressed in a linen ephod, which was a priestly garment, so he was joining with the other Priests in order to fully enter this ceremony with holiness. ( 1 Chronicles 15:27)
But basically it’s a full on party with much celebration, I bet there was some great Dad dancing going on!
And what about Michal, what do we see revealed in her through the presence of God? Hate and Pride. Hate is revealed. V 16 says she ‘despised David’ in all her heart when she saw him dancing. And she absolutely lays into him. Can you imagine, David must have come in from all that celebrating, totally elated, on a spiritual high – you know what is like, you’ve been in a really amazing service, just felt so close to God, you feel amazing! Ever experienced that?
And she just stuck a pin in it! ‘Do you know what you looked like? what an idiot! ‘ And that can happen to us too, people who have not experienced the presence of God for themselves, not understood what it means to follow Jesus, they can do the same to us too.
Michal is a spectator here too, have you noticed, she’s watching him from inside, from a window in the palace. Why wasn’t she joining in with the celebration like anyone else?
What is it that she doesn’t like? I think it is her own pride that is revealed. Perhaps she feels that she is reduced to the level of the servants, as his wife?
In God’s presence her pride and hate is revealed and she too has a choice. To be part of God’s kingdom with David, or stand with the old guard, the old kingdom, Saul her fathers kingdom the one that went against God and resulted in death.
This is Michal’s moment to choose, does she repent like David has and change her ways? Well we don’t know for sure.
But there is an interesting line right at the end v.23 and I want to highlight this because it says that she had no children until the day she died. That can be a difficult thing to read, is there an assumption that God struck her because of her attitude? Well let me say right now, no! We do not believe that God strikes people down like this, we do not in any way think that childlessness for any reason is a curse from God.
In fact there could be other reasons for this line, for example it could be as simple as David was so annoyed with her that he never slept with her again (don’t forget he had several wives and concubines, he had options!!),but I think it is actually highlighting something different here because barrenness in the bible can symbolise spiritual barrenness.
The contrast between her and David here is vast. David, totally sold out on worshipping God and Michal criticising him. She is spiritually barren, unable to see God, unable to experience his presence, we don’t know why but one reason possibly is to remember she was the daughter of Saul, the previous king who tried so hard to kill David, and who went against God so many times. Perhaps she has just turned against God?
But we do see that David has changed – his response to her outburst?
Fresh from worship here he is revealed in God’s presence as he should be, a faithful servant, and he stands firm – ‘I will be even more undignified than this! (v.21-22)I will be humiliated’, he doesn’t care, because he knows he is worshipping God.
It is the presence of God that highlights things and can change things.
The presence of God that shines light into the darkness that reveals, that invites, that restores.
Another interesting thing…
So usually (not always) we think about coming to worship God, in order to encounter him don’t we? It’s through our praises that he is attracted to, that we get to encounter him. But here I actually think it’s the opposite, it is the presence of God through the ark of the covenant that looses David into such free and abandoned worship. It’s like it’s the opposite way round, does this make sense?
So, as David encounters God’s presence, is changed as a result, and renewed, his response is in utterly abandoned worship. Totally engaged in it, focussed on God, let go.
David Watson said that worship is a delight not a duty and it seems like here we see the delight in David’s worship.
I think what we see here is God taking David to another level of worship, of faith and of relationship with him. We know David is an amazingly faithful man, we know he is a man after God’s heart, we know he is prayerful and focussed on God, but here we are seeing something new. He made a mistake and there were consequences, but he put them right and he sought God in worship in a new way. And so often I find when we have dealt with something, or have been through something tough, or God has revealed himself to us and we respond to that, often that’s when God takes us onto something new, a new level of encounter with him.
In fact I have experienced that for myself, there was a time in a service where I was (not here I should say). Like Michal, feeling overly critical about some things that were going on, when I really felt God correcting me for my attitude. I saw that I was being judgemental and full of pride. I began to say sorry and at that moment someone came over and prayed for me. As they prayed there was a huge release of the Holy Spirit that touched me in ways I have never experienced before. And I believe that was through correction, and then my willingness to reach out to God and repent that he then took me to another level. Since then I have felt so much more released in worship, able to let go more and just be led by him.
And for us, what does all of this mean? Can we truly have the presence of God with us? Can we encounter God like David did?
It’s all about Jesus!
Well the thing is, we don’t need the Ark of the covenant to meet with God of course, because Jesus means we can meet with him whenever we like! We carry the presence of God within us, in Jesus. How amazing is that?! We don’t need to sacrifice before the mercy seat because Jesus has already done it for us. Jesus fulfils all that the ark signifies: the meeting place of God with his people, the symbol of atonement, of forgiveness, the taking of our sins, now it’s all in Jesus.
He is the fulfilment of the law (in the 10 commandments tablets), he is the resurrection, bringing us new life from death, he is our bread of life… he is all that we need…
And so, what is Jesus revealing in us? As we come into God’s presence, whether now in worship or in times of prayer, in fellowship times, what does he highlight in us?
Because we too have a choice – Do we want a life of apathy and lack of care like Uzzah? Or do we give in to a life of bitterness, criticising and hate like Michal? Or do we want a life of choosing Jesus, a life being abandoned to God like David (whatever that looks like for us?)
We have a choice too…
lead into worship/ministry time…
And as we go into worship now I would love us all to be truly seeking God’s presence and asking for a fresh revelation of who he is,
to give to him those things that might be holding us back from abandonment to him, for him to take us, all of us, to the next level…
Preach from The Point Church 7/2/16 on David & Honour, from the series ‘King David: A Man After God’s Heart‘. You can listen using the link above or watch below (although the sound quality on the video is not great, sorry!)
Below are my planning notes which I used to structure the talk. Feel free to reuse.
Intro – series on King David, through 1 Samuel. David we have heard was ‘ a man after God’s heart’ – a faithful man, sold out for God, guided by him in all things. A great role model!
Amazing story – like Hollywood Blockbuster.
Haven’t got time to go through it all again but there is a lot in there. I actually think God has something for us here something prophetic for our church in all this and it’s about honour, lack of honour, dishonour
And then of course finally here in the this passage we see David acting with honour and respecting Saul as the anointed one of God, even though he is pretty much delivered into his hands to kill.
But what even is honour?
WHAT IS HONOUR //
Quality of worthiness, respectability
Honesty, fairness, integrity
You know what I notice about those words? Honour is not a thing is it, not tangible, you can’ touch it, or see it alone. So when or how do we find honour? When do we see it? Well I think honour only becomes apparent in relationships, when people come together, through us and our actions.
I saw this this week, from Bill Johnson – he said that:
‘Giving honour actually releases the life of God into a situation.’
So then, if honour only becomes apparent when we interact with each other, when we do that we are actually allowing the presence and power of God into whatever situation we are in. Isn’t that what we see here with David and Saul, David gives honour, even where we might think it undeserved and it’s like Saul’s eyes are opened, God is released into the situation…
And how do we act with Honour?
Well I want to look at David specifically here, after all he is the focus of this series…
3 things I think are key here.
: David honours God. He is amazingly faithful, he seeks God for his guidance, he is focussed on what is God’s will. He is a servant of the Lord.
: He honours Saul – served Saul well despite being badly treated, having spears hurled at him for no reason! He dealt with Sauls’ jealousy and rage, his unreasonableness with patience and peace. (bible ref) pretty amazing right.
: He honours himself – he knows who God has made him to be. Firstly in the earlier story where he fights Goliath, despite ridicule from his brothers and poss others in the camp, he knows who he is, he knows he can beat this ‘giant’ and confidently does it. But he also recognises where God has put him. He is humble – He was not up himself, he didn’t even think he was good enough to marry the kings daughter (to become his son in law) he was humble, ‘I am only a poor man and little known’ he says. Bit not falsely humble either…
So honour God, honour each other and honour ourselves…
And I think we can simplify this further – this is all about identity – knowing who we are in Christ – who God has made us to be. David knows who God is, he knows who he is and who God has made him to be but he also recognises who God has made Saul to be.
So let’s look at that a bit more. And I want to focus on what happened there in that cave
Saul was anointed by God (through Samuel) to be king. Now Saul was foolish we know and selfish and made wrong decisions. He knows the Lord but I don’t think he truly understands who God has made him to be. Because he tries to take things into his own hands, he rushes ahead and goes against what God has said. He doesn’t truly honour God or himself.
And yet David, David knows and honours God. Saul puts a hit out on him and he does not fight back. And finally after being chased into the desert and running for his life, here we see Saul ‘delivered into his hands’ as David’s men say, they believe God has delivered Saul to him so he can take his life.
But no. David says no ‘ I will not lift my hand against my master because he is the Lord’s anointed’
And there is something quite comical about this moment isn’t there, I can’t not talk about it. Saul has gone into the cave to take a pee basically (or worse). The very cave in the middle of this vast mountainous desert that David and his men are hiding in. not only that but he decides to take a leak. Now let’s not get into too much detail but we could probably say that for a man this could be his weakest moment. Right? He’s not going to have a hand on his sword, he’s not going to be focussing on what is around him and he’s exposed. Not only that but he does so in the cave where David is hiding.
This is the man who has hurled spears at his head, been unfairly hunting him down and David’s men say to him, look it’s the time, God is delivering him into your hands like he said he would. David creeps out, unseen and what does he do? He just cuts off a corner of his robe. You can imagine the men behind him face palming, what is he doing, this was it, the one moment and he’s fluffed it.
But David is grief stricken, what have I done, v6: the Lord forbid I should so such a thing…
The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord’
He honours the anointing of God on Saul, because he knows who God is, he knows who he is and who knows who Saul is in God’s eyes.
Now there’s something else here. Much of this whole story is prophetic.
So he cuts the corner of his robe, what is that reminiscent of?
In Ch 15: 27 Samuel rebukes Saul, telling him he has rejected the Lord and so the Lord has rejected him, then as he turns to leave Saul grabs his robe and it tore.
7 ‘As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.’
An action that is prophetic, that Saul, Saul is the one who has gone against God’s commands. He is the one who has defied him, and here he rips the robe from God’s prophet Samuel and in doing so, rips the kingdom of Israel from his own hands. Does that make sense?
So now, we see David cutting the corner of Saul’s robe, he has cut the kingdom from Saul into his own hands.
Robes were very important in OT times. They denote something of a person’s identity. So Saul’s robe would have showed he was the king, a royal robe, being cut away from him. Not just physically but prophetically too.
So. David cuts the corner from Sauls cloak and is grief stricken he heads out of the cave and prostates himself he lays flat on the floor before Saul, makes himself even more vulnerable that Saul was in that cave and he calls out to him, he lays down the truth but in total humility and honour.
David is acting from a culture of honour. A way he lives his life in which he honours his relationship with God, he honours the people around him and he honours who he knows God has made him to be. And what happens? Things change. The presence and power of God is released into the situation.
‘May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.’
So because David acted from a position of honour, he release the power of God and that culture of honour onto Saul, who is changed as a result from a position of dishonouring himself, his relationship with God and with David, to the opposite.
As David recognises the robe Saul is wearing, so Saul recognises David’s.
Danny Silk – ‘Culture of Honour’. He describes how we can try and live in an environment of honouring God, ourselves and each other and it is fab, definitely recommend it. Will give you a totally different view of situations and how you can handle them.
So then I said earlier I think God really has something for us as a church in this
It’s all about knowing who we truly are. Who God has made us to be. But not just that, for us to see who each other us.
I think God is challenging us, each of us, to see ourselves and each other in the robes that he has put upon us.
Can you see the robe you are wearing? Not just robes of righteousness
We did some teaching a while back about giftings and being part of the body of Christ but this is more than that, This I think is prophetic, it’s going to release us as a church into greater things, if we begin to act with more of a culture of honour – as we honour who we are, and who each other is, we will enable more of a release of who God is.
So I mentioned the role of a prophet earlier on. In OT times, prophets were the ones who could hear from God, who God gave visions and dreams and words and instructions too, to share with the people. They were the mouthpiece of God on earth.
Nowadays we can all hear from God, because of Jesus, he came so each and every one of us could have a relationship with God. For every one of us. So we all have the capability to hear from God. But there are still modern day prophets who God still uses today. And one thing I have noticed about modern day prophets or those with the gift of prophecy, is that often their words for people are about enabling them to see themselves how God sees them.
Mention Shawn Bolz (book) – amazing accuracy – talks of love, so on it. Really sowing into people. And you know the result of a word like that is that it can truly release people
Into what God has for them. So someone might hear a prophetic words that speaks into their life, or a situation they are in and they recognise it, it encourages them, they act upon it and they are released into what God has for them, to see the robe he has given them!
Happened to me – being called, someone spoke into my life, when no one else knew the situation – stepped forward… now look! I was released to see the robe God had put on me.
And it took other people seeing that robe and calling it out in me for me to see it. Then all of a sudden it became clear exactly what robe I was really wearing. You see other people honoured what they could see of that robe in me. And they had a vital role in helping me to see it.
Repeat? Do you understand this, so important??
If we want to build a culture that is honouring, we need to enable others to see their own robes too. We need to try and release the presence and power of God into the people around us.
I think God wants to release into us today as a church something more of his kingdom of who he is, but he is going to do that through each of us.
So here’s a question for us all – how do we actually deal with other people’s robes?
Sometimes we don’t act with honour towards each other in this respect do we?
For many reasons.
Do we get jealous, angry, try and rip them away, cut pieces off? All the while ignoring our own?
Or do we even pull away our own? Try to remove it, desiring another one?
How about, have we put on someone else’s armour? Like David facing Goliath – but he recognised it was not right for him. Sometimes we are inspired by someone, or have an attachment to someone for whatever reason and we try to imitate them, their way of doing things, we are not looking at the robe we have but trying to put theirs on!
And sometimes there might be things that stop us from recognising the one we wear. Perhaps we have negative words spoken over us, we think we can’t do things, or it’s not for us. We even speak over ourselves. I’m not good at that…
But when we do that we are ignoring, rejecting, the gift God has given just to us like saul…. And not only that but how hard does it become then for others to see it too?
Do you see, if we recognise the role, anointing, robe, mantle on someone else and we honour that, then we allow something to be released. It’s like the true nature of that person has to be called out of them, in naming it, seeing it, it can be.
I’ve been wrestling with this this week and trying to find a way to put into words what I think God is saying to us here.
We are a gathered church of individuals but we are all honoured/special
From Culture of Honour:
‘Life flows through honor. The clear fruit of establishing a culture of honor is that the resurrection life of God begins to flow into people’s lives, homes, and communities, bringing healing, restoration, blessing, joy, hope, and wholeness. If we are not seeing this fruit, then we must ask ourselves whether we are truly honouring those around us as we ought.’