Did David ever seek God’s guidance about marriage?

Q. King David sought the Lord consistently in battles. However, I don’t know of any time he sought the Lord about anything to do with his wives. Did he and I’m not finding it?

You’re right that David sought God’s guidance about how he should protect his people by fighting against their enemies. In fact, he did this in a way that is exemplary for us. In one instance, the Philistines attacked Israel and, with God’s guidance, David attacked them directly and defeated them and drove them off. Later the Philistines returned and attacked Israel at the very same place. Many of us would probably assume that if God wanted us to attack directly the last time, we should also do so this time. But David sought God’s guidance again, and God told him, Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them. Following this guidance, David once again defeated the Philistines, this time definitively.

It would be good if David had been just as diligent in seeking God’s guidance about marriage, but he was not. As you say, we cannot find any place in Scripture that describes David asking God about this. David married Michal, the daughter of King Saul, even though she appears to have been an idol-worshiper rather than someone devoted to God as David was. Michal later showed that she indeed did not share David’s devotion to God when she criticized him for dancing exuberantly before the Lord as he brought the tabernacle into Jerusalem.

In addition, before he became king, David married two other women, Abigail and Ahinoam, but there is no indication that he sought God about this. And after he became king, David married more wives, including at least one who was the daughter of another king, so he may have been making marriage alliances. But once again the Bible says nothing about David seeking God’s guidance. And we know from the rest of David’s story what great trouble came about because of the rivalry between the sons of David’s various wives. Some of this may have been due to the influence of the wives themselves, if they did not inculcate godly character and values in their sons.

The issue you raise is very important. My late wife and I ministered directly to college and university students for 25 years. We served churches next to schools, and then in our 50s we became front-line campus staff. (Lots of adventures to tell about there!) From our sad observations, we had to warn students that nothing was more likely to undermine their effectiveness in God’s service or even turn them away from the Lord than getting involved in a relationship with someone who was not devoted to God as they were. But the desire to love and be loved is so strong that many people are likely to get involved in such relationships unless they are committed to doing nothing except what God clearly directs them to do.

In other words, a Christian should only marry someone as an act of obedience to God. Certainly, if things are as they should be, this will be joyful and enthusiastic obedience! But this must be the principle. If God says no, then the answer is no.

Remember the promise of Jesus: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” In this context, I would take “leaving wife” to mean not marrying someone if God says no, and “a hundred times as much” to mean potentially finding a much better match later on if we obey God in that way.

To quote the apostle Paul, “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Is the house of David good, and how is Jesus a part of it?

Q. Is the house of David good, and how is Jesus a part of it?

The expression “house of David” has several figurative meanings in the Bible.

It can mean, first of all, the descendants of David. That is what the expression means when the Bible says that “Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David.” Jonathan, David’s friend, made a covenant with him that he would always help and protect his descendants, and David promised the same thing to Jonathan. That is also what the expression means when Luke uses it to describe Joseph as a descendant of David: He says that Joseph “belonged to the house and line of David.”

The “house of David” can also mean all the people over whom David ruled as king. That is how the Bible uses the expression as it describes how David and his supporters fought against Ish-Bosheth, the son of Saul, to see who would be confirmed as king: “The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.”

But most often the expression refers to the royal dynasty of David, that is, the line of kings descended from David who succeeded him on the throne of Israel and then Judah. For example, a prophet said at one point, “A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David.” This meant, “A son named Josiah will be born in the line of succession in David’s royal dynasty.” God himself used the word “house” to mean “dynasty” when he told David, “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you.”

At a certain point the kingdom that David ruled ceased to exist on earth. However, since God had promised to David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever,” the people of God expected that God would send a descendant of David—the Messiah—to re-establish his kingdom.

And Christians believe that Jesus is that Messiah. He is part of the “house of David” specifically by being a descendant of David (reckoned through his legal father Joseph) who came to claim the throne of David and re-establish his kingdom. The angel Gabriel told Mary, the mother of Jesus, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” The crowds on the first Palm Sunday greeted Jesus by saying, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” They did not understand exactly how Jesus would renew David’s kingdom—Jesus did that in a spiritual sense, at least initially—but they understood correctly that he was the one would would do it.

So the house of David is good. It is ultimately the Messiah, the supreme successor of David’s dynasty, who will bring his rule of justice and peace to earth. And Jesus is part of the house of David by being that successor, the Messiah. He is already ruling in heaven with effects on earth, and we look forward to his return to establish justice and peace definitively throughout the earth.

Why did God let Saul keep ruling, and why did Saul’s army hunt an innocent man?

Q. Why did God allow King Saul’s rule to continue so long after He withdrew from Saul? Also, why would King Saul’s army willingly hunt to kill an innocent man?

We don’t know precisely how long Saul ruled after God’s Spirit withdrew from him, but it does seem to have been a period of some years. Perhaps the simple answer to the question of why God allowed Saul to continue to reign is that time was required to prepare David to be a better kind of king than Saul had been. During his years serving Saul, first as a court musician and then as an army commander, and during the years when he was  fleeing from Saul, David had the opportunity to gain much experience and learn many lessons that enabled him to be a better king. Unfortunately there seem to have been some lessons that David failed to learn or forgot, but overall he made Israel much more the kind of place God wanted it to be than Saul did.

This may be best illustrated by the answer to your second question. When Saul, out of jealousy, first told his son Jonathan (the crown prince) and his commanders to kill David, Jonathan defended David and so Saul agreed not to kill him. But Saul soon became jealous and murderous again. It seems that, without telling Jonathan, he wanted his commanders to kill David, but they did not cooperate. However, a foreigner named Doeg the Edomite told Saul that the priests at the city of Nob had helped David, and so Saul went there and had Doeg kill all the priests and their entire families.

This seems to have been the beginning of a reign of terror. The implication was that Saul would also kill the entire family of anyone else who helped David. (This might explain why Nabal, for example, would do nothing for David, although his bad character alone may be sufficient to explain that.) We learn later in the Bible that Saul had also killed many people from a tribe that the Israelites had sworn to leave peacefully alone. Saul did that in order to take their land.

So we can imagine that Saul’s soldiers and commanders feared for their own lives and for the safety of their families and that is why they pursued David, even though they knew that he was innocent. When a person in power is bent on doing wrong, unfortunately that leads many people who are under that person’s power to do wrong as well.

While David was guilty of his own sins against Uriah and Bathsheba through the abuse of his kingly power, he certainly did not have a reign of terror as Saul did. For the most part the Israelites under his reign were free from oppression and enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity during which they worshiped the true God. That is why the Bible uses David as the standard by which it measures all subsequent kings. The book of Kings, recorded by the prophets in Israel, puts it this way: “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” And as I said before, perhaps it was to give David time to develop into this kind of king that God allowed Saul to stay on the throne for several more years.

Did God agree to a suggestion to give Saul a depressing spirit?

Q. Is their a description of a meeting, presumably in heaven, in which King Saul is discussed? God’s present but is letting subordinates talk and make suggestions. None of the suggestions are acceptable to God until one participant declares that he would give Saul a depressing spirit. God likes this idea and the matter is settled.

I believe you are thinking of two Scripture passages at once. There is a passage in 1 Kings much like the one you describe, except that the discussion is about King Ahab. The prophet Micaiah tells Ahab:

I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’

“One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’

“‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.

“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.

“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’

“So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

There is another Scripture passage, in 1 Samuel, about the Lord sending a depressing spirit to Saul, but it says simply:

Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.

So I hope that answers your question about whether there was a meeting in heaven about what to do about Saul, who had disobeyed God. The meeting was actually about Ahab, who had also disobeyed God and who was, in fact, one of the most wicked kings Israel ever had.

Each passage raises further questions, however. How could God make use of lying or deception? And how could God send someone depression? I discuss these questions in these other posts, which I invite you to read:

Does God let us use deception for a good cause? (Part 3)

Did God really send an evil spirit to torment Saul?

Should I stay in an “ungodly” relationship if the other person is learning about Christ through me?

Q. I’m conflicted about something. My spirit is torn about it—confused. So, I met this lady while I was still had the power of the world controlling my thoughts and and decision. But I have come to a place where I have a better and intimate relationship with God. She seems motivated my the steps I have been taking in getting closer to God and doing the same. Mind you, we started off as an ungodly relationship. I don’t know what to do, given that I’m more developed in the walk than she is. I teach her the gospel as well, which I really love doing. It helps keep me in check as well. I guess what I really want to know is do I end this relationship or continue. We’re both in our 20s and both learning about Christ in our way. Could someone speak on this?

Thank you for your question. To read between the lines a bit, if I’m not mistaken, when you say that you are in an “ungodly relationship,” I imagine this means you are living together.

If that is so, then it seems to me that you have more than two options. You don’t have to choose between continuing to live together or ending the relationship entirely. You could continue in a serious relationship but re-establish separate living arrangements. It seems to me that this would show the lady in your life that you are serious both about God and about her. But if you continue to stay in an “ungodly” arrangement, then that will suggest to her that you are not really serious about God, no matter what you might say about him, and that she doesn’t actually have to take God all that seriously either.

Indeed, if you truly love this woman (and it sounds as if you do), you will want the very best for her, which means wanting her to be able to love and obey God and live in a way that honors God. I believe that if you explained that to her, and made it very clear that by re-establishing separate living arrangements, you would not be breaking up with her, but rather working to put your relationship on a solid footing from which it could grow into a flourishing, God-honoring relationship, I would expect that she would be happy and encouraged about that. She would see that you really mean everything you have been saying about God, and it would give her joy to know that the gospel is so real that you are prepared to do something risky, difficult, and sacrificial to follow Jesus.

May God lead you and guide you as you take these steps forward. And please write back to let me know how things go! Thank you.

Answering questions again

Many thanks again to the readers who encouraged me and prayed for me during the time when health issues kept me from answering questions on this blog. I am very grateful that God has now restored sufficient health and strength for me to start answering questions again. I will begin with the backlog of nearly 70 questions that came in during the year and a half when I was unable to respond to them. This will take some time, and I may have to work slowly at first. But I am very hopeful that eventually I will get back to the place where I am answering questions as they come in. Thanks again very much for your support and patience, and thanks be to God!

I am very grateful for the words of encouragement and support I have received since publishing this post. Many thanks again to everyone who was praying for me!

Did God not want to be a woman?

Q. Why is Jesus male? Are women less? Is it embarrassing to be a woman? Could you imagine how a lot of us as women feel? If he is not, why does every man act like God front of women and Bible support him? So why didn’t God just vanquish us? We are not deserve to live. Even God doesn’t want to be a woman. Please help, I am Orthodox Christian, but I’m just that close to lose my faith.

God had to come to earth either as a man or a woman. But even though Jesus was a man, he showed great respect for women. Jesus was born of a woman, and he was known for the respect that he showed his mother. Even on the cross, he made sure that she would be cared for after his death.

Jesus taught women at a time when the other rabbis refused to teach women. He said that the women who followed him were his sisters.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared first to women. He told them to spread the good news of his resurrection. So Jesus chose women to be the first messengers about his resurrection.

Jesus protected women from abuses of the practice of divorce. He warned men not to look at women lustfully.

So if you are getting the impression that God does not value women, that is not coming from the teaching and example of Jesus. It is coming from men who are not following the teaching and example of Jesus. Pray for these men, that they will become more like the Savior they say they believe in.

But know that you as a women are created in God’s image. The Bible says of the creation of humans, “In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” So both men and women reflect the image of God. Jesus welcomes and values both men and women as his followers. He values you!

Thank you for your concern, and please pray for me

– Not a question about the Bible, I’m just concerned about your well being, although I’ve never met you, I’ve always thanked God for you and you’ve been what I call a great role model of how to keep in step with Christ in my trust God daily walk. I hope that you’re well.

– I am grateful for the many blessings of your posts and your blogs. I hope you return again soon but it is all up to His plan. … Still missing your blog and still praying for you.

Thank you both for your kind words and for your concern for me. I am doing all right. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to share the full story at some point, but let me say for now that I am recovering from severe exhaustion. I am making slow but steady progress, thank God, but I am still looking at a long recovery. However, I am now at least able to moderate and reply to comments, and I do plan to resume writing posts to answer readers’ questions at some point. In the meantime, I would ask you to pray for me, that as I am careful to rest and recover, God would restore my strength, health, and energy. Please also pray that in this quieter season of life, I would meet God in new and deeper ways. Thank you so much.

Why don’t Christians only have communion once a year?

Q. If Jesus had communion with his disciples as part of the once-yearly Passover meal, why do modern Christians usually have communion much more often (sometimes every week!)?

The observance of communion or the Lord’s Supper is based on more than the once-yearly Passover meal. It is true that the observance draws great meaning from its continuity with Passover, with Jesus seen as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” But the observance is also based on the fellowship offerings that are described in the Old Testament. Those were a frequent occasion for worship in the life of the Jewish community in the time of Jesus.

These fellowship offerings were understood to be a meal that was shared by the worshipers with God. Part of the animal whose meat provided the meal was completely burned up. That was God’s share. The person making the offering would share the rest with invited guests, the priests, and even with the poor. These offerings could be made in fulfillment of a vow, in thanks to God for help, or spontaneously (as a “freewill offering”) specifically in order to provide the occasion for such a shared meal.

We can see the analogy to communion, which is understood to be a meal shared with God. (Indeed, the word “communion” means basically the same thing as “fellowship.”) And since fellowship offerings were made frequently, it was natural for Jesus to tell his disciples at the Last Supper, when they were sharing the Passover meal, that he wanted them to re-enact the same observance whenever they ate together. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So Jesus himself said to observe communion frequently, and his first followers understood that this was his intention. That being the case, perhaps the question should now be  why most Christians observe communion more than once a year. Instead, perhaps we should ask why most Christians do not observe communion even more often than weekly or monthly. There seems to be a case for Christians to have communion every time they gather together for a shared meal.