July 24, 2015

Knowing the truth is good, but not always good enough

2 Samuel 13:1–39, 2 Peter 1:9–15, Psalm 140:1–13

Many parents have a difficult time rebuking and correcting their children. How can it be done when a spanking has become “child abuse” for little ones, and the older the child, the more difficult to confront or control their bad behavior?

David’s family was large. He had several wives and several children. Because he was the king, he had his hands full with those responsibilities. Not much is said about his relationship with his children when they were small, but the problems they had as adults indicated that he may have missed some areas in their education and in his relationship with them.

It is said that a parent’s weaknesses are multiplied in at least some of their children. For instance, if I have not learned to control a bad temper, I should not be surprised that at least one of my children will have the same problem.

David’s sons had problems that seem related to his problems. For example, “Absalom had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her.” (2 Samuel 13:1–2)

One of Amnon’s cousins came up with a scheme. Amnon was able to get Tamar alone and then raped her. Immediately, his lust turned to hatred and he put her out of his house to a life of shame. In the meantime, Absalom plotted revenge and waited two years, eventually killing his half-brother, Amnon. Then he fled, which indicates that he at least feared what his father might do. However, David mourned for Absalom and he did all he could to bring him back home.

Dysfunctional is today’s word for all this. I’m wondering if the biblical word might be disobedience. Parents are to discipline their children. Scripture is full of instances where father’s failed to do this and the results were always catastrophic.

However, adult children are also responsible for their own choices. For members of God’s family, either under the OT covenant or under the new covenant of faith and new life in Jesus Christ, we are told to work at it. We cannot work FOR salvation, but those who are God’s children have responsibilities. We are supposed to obey God, for our own good and the good of our families.

Parents are to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If those children grow and become part of the family of God through faith, they are told also to “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5–7)

The next verses warn about failure. Those with genuine saving faith will not lose their eternal life, but “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Peter 1:9–10)

Peter, whether he had children or not, realized the importance of teaching how to make good choices and why. He said, “And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Peter 1:15) He didn’t want the people in the family of God to fall.

David may have tried to teach his sons also, and they would not listen. Either way, they needed to hear the truth about cause and effect, disobedience and consequences. Like Peter, David’s attitude and teaching needed to be diligent, not looking the other way or being ignorant about what was happening in his family.

David wrote many words about goodness and evil, about God’s attitude toward unrighteous behavior, words like: “Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily! I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.” (Psalm 140:11–13)

He knew the truth, but as I’ve also learned, just knowing it is not enough. I must do what God says to conquer my determined sinful desire to ignore what I know and follow the temptations that are so eager to lure me away from total faith in Jesus Christ.

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