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Seeds of the Kingdom

The Cause of the Problem

by Grace Bull

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years, so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
2 Samuel 21:1, NIV

This morning I was reading 2 Samuel chapter 21, which tells a story about a famine during David’s reign in Israel. Presumably, like most famines, it was caused by lack of rain. After three years of famine, David realised this wasn’t just a couple of bad years, and things were really serious, so he sought the Lord.

We are so often like that, aren’t we? We often leave it a long time before we pray! Anyway, David finally asked God if there was a reason for the famine and the Lord showed him it was because Saul had killed and nearly wiped out, some people called the Gibeonites. Way back in Joshua’s time, there was a Canaanite city called Gibeon, whose citizens had tricked the leaders of Israel into promising not to kill them or their descendants. So, they had continued living in Israel until Saul killed most of them.
Now God was saying that breaking this old promise to the Gibeonites really mattered. In fact, it mattered so much that it was now causing a famine.

As I read this story, it struck me how bizarre that explanation must have seemed to David – God was talking about a promise made perhaps four hundred years earlier – and a promise the people had been tricked into making at that. And the Gibeonites were killed by Saul, the previous king, who had been dead for years. It wasn’t something that had just happened.

It must have all seemed strange to David. Why would that cause a famine? And if it did, why did the effect show up years later, rather than straight after the Gibeonites were killed by Saul? Why should it affect David, when he wasn’t the one who killed them? Surely that wasn’t fair.

But despite all these questions, that was indeed the reason for the famine. If David had said, “Rubbish, that can’t be the reason”, and had done nothing about it, no doubt famine would have continued off and on for decades and everyone would have wondered why God wasn’t answering their prayers.

There are many things we don’t understand in our own lives too. David would never have understood the cause of the famine if God hadn’t explained it. And sometimes, when God does reveal the cause of a problem, we can be tempted to object and say, “that can’t be the reason” or “that’s not fair!”

I remember praying for decades about a problem, and getting very angry with God at His apparent lack of interest in helping me. Eventually, while talking about it with a godly friend, I remembered something God had said years before, which I had dismissed at the time, because I didn’t like it. I had conveniently told myself, “That can’t be God” and promptly forgot it completely! Yet it was God, and He didn’t say anything more until I went back to that point and started from there again.

So often we don’t really know God’s ways, and we can be tempted to dismiss the help God is giving us, because it is so far from what makes sense to us.
But God’s thoughts and ways are not the same as ours. In fact, He says in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His thoughts are as different from our thoughts, as the heavens are high above the earth. The things God says won’t always make sense to us.

However, the good news is that God does want us to understand His ways, and to know Him. We have a whole library of books in the Bible, and in it, God reveals His thoughts and His ways. But because God’s way of thinking is so different to ours, often it is only when someone explains it to us that we really understand it. That is why good practical biblical teaching is so important.

It’s also important that we look at the real root of what our problems are. For example, in David’s case, the problem lay in what someone else had done years before. And in our situations too, the cause of our problems may be things we would never have thought of, nor thought were important. But I have seen great freedom come to myself and others when those matters are dealt with.

So, in conclusion, here’s a thought. Why not ask God to teach you His ways?
He would love to answer that prayer “teach me your ways”. Imagine what a difference it could make if He did! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back in a year’s time and say, “Wow, look how much closer to God I have grown this year.” But let’s also be ready for the answers to be a bit different to what we might have expected!

Prayer: Lord, please teach me Your ways. Please reveal Your plans to me. I really want to look back in twelve months’ time and see how much closer to you I have become. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Grace Bull is a member of the Ellel Ministries team, working in course development and the support of Ellel centres worldwide, having previously been a full-time GP (family doctor) for 15 years. Her passion is relationship with God and doing anything that will help other people to find that close relationship too.


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