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"Jesus Keeps Filling"

#89-11
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 14, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries


Listen (5-10mb)  Download (35-70mb)  Reflections

Text: 2 Samuel 14:14

"Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take life away. He devises ways so that an outcast, a banished person, would not remain estranged from Him." A wise woman once spoke those words to ancient Israel's King David. The words sound like a proverb that could apply in many situations, but they also have an immediate context. David's son Absalom has been banished from the kingdom. He's an outcast. He's been banished from the kingdom because he murdered his brother, Amnon, the crown prince. He murdered him because Amnon raped his sister Tamar, David's daughter. And all this is very closely related to the fact that their father, David, just had an adulterous affair with a married woman and had her husband murdered to keep it secret. And now David's family and David's kingdom are beyond recovery: like water spilled on the ground. But the wise woman's words remind him, and they remind us that even when life seems beyond recovery, the God of Israel can still make a way.

Some things we can recover: a lost set of car keys, lost returns on an investment, or when you're out and about and momentarily you lose your sense of direction (which happens to me more often than I'd like to admit). But other things we can't get back: lost innocence, a lost window of opportunity, a cup of coffee spilled in your car, a marriage shattered by an adulterous affair. Some things you can't take back.

The marriage counselor told Jeff, "I think you're wasting your time; her heart isn't in it." Jeff had come by himself this time. He and his wife, Cheryl, had come to this counselor earlier, although they came for different reasons. Jeff was hoping to save the marriage, Cheryl was looking for a way out of it.

Cheryl was unhappy. She felt like she was dying on the inside like there was a crack inside her, and her soul was leaking out and Jeff didn't have the capacity to fill her. "Maybe," she thought, "this other guy would." So far, Cheryl had kept the cheating, the affair, with the other guy secret. But the counselor didn't need to know the secret to see the truth. Cheryl's love for Jeff had run dry. Their relationship was finished; the situation was beyond recovery like water spilled on the ground.

Water is a fascinating substance. It's always looking for a way out. I experienced this in practice while caring for chickens. Did you know that 1932 was a watershed moment for chicken care? That's when the Hudson Manufacturing Company of Chicago obtained a patent for its chicken-watering device adapted to store water in a small reservoir and automatically feed the water into a watering pan.

I have intimately known some of the descendants of this wonderful early 20th-century chicken watering fountain, and they work great until they don't. About a year into my first relationship with a watering fountain I noticed every day it would run dry, and every morning I filled it up.

First, I thought those chickens were just real thirsty, but then I realized that the water had found an escape clause in our relationship and was running out, turning our chicken coop into a cesspool of straw and scat. Now, I read up on the physics behind these wondrous watering devices on a blog by a guy named Randy, but it's still a bit of a mystery to me. I know it has something to do with air pressure. If there's a crack in the system, the air gets in and then that cheating water—always looking for a way out of its unhappy marriage to whatever tries to contain it—runs out, never to be recovered.

Of course, it wasn't the water's fault. The problem was with the container, but neither Cheryl nor Jeff were ready to see that, or maybe they weren't willing to admit it. See Cheryl and Jeff had gotten married and had kids because that's what people do when they fall in love. And when the love runs dry, they either stick it out for the children, or they let life's waters carry them onto the next person who might be able to quench their thirst. But the problem isn't the situation, it's the human in the situation. Being human is a wondrous mystery. A person can spend their whole life getting everything they've ever wanted when they wanted it and still not be filled. It's not life's fault. The problem is in the container.

I've been listening to the account of Israel's King David in the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Samuel. This account, like much of the Bible, shines the light on the cracks and deficiencies of human nature. The first half of the book of Samuel is a story about the dramatic rise of Israel's second king, David, after the tragic downfall of their first king, Saul. The story sets David up as the hero. David is blessed by God, chosen by God, loved by God to lead God's people. But then the story exposes his deficiencies: the cracks in his character that drag him and his kingdom down into a cesspool of sin and evil.

It turns out David's conduct isn't any better than Saul's. The difference is when the pressure got to Saul and he broke faith with God, Saul wasn't willing to see himself as his own biggest problem. He protected his honor; he made excuses; he blamed others. But David, when he broke faith with God, he didn't blame others. He confessed his sin; he admitted that he was the problem.

The whole sordid story says something about God's path of recovery for us when life seems beyond recovering. Maybe it's not in trying to fix the situation, or even to fix ourselves. Maybe it's simply returning to the source.

In the second half of the book of Samuel, we see David's family and career sinking into the muck of his moral failure. And David's kingdom won't recover for more than 1,000 years. And that's when he finds himself talking to this wise woman. The Bible simply refers to her as "The wise woman from the town of Tekoa." She speaks something like a proverb to David—a word of wisdom that holds more truth than even she realizes. She told him, "Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take life away. He devises ways so that an outcast would not remain estranged from Him."

These are deeply meaningful words for the larger story. Later, David is going to be banished from the kingdom like Adam and Eve were banished from God's presence in the Garden of Eden, like the whole nation of Israel will be banished from the Promised Land like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered. That sums up the whole story of the Bible so far. It sums up your story and mine. Since breaking faith with God, we've all become cracked characters. We don't stay filled. Life keeps spilling out, but God makes a way to fill us.

In one of ancient Israel's psalms, Psalm 72, there's a portrait of a righteous King of Israel: a King who keeps faith with God, a King who rules with justice. This King lives not on His own human reserves but on God's infinite and eternal capacity to fill His people. It was said that this King of Israel would be like rain falling on the land, like showers watering the earth, quenching people's thirst, making them grow and flourish; so it would be with the promised King.

The generations came and went like water spilled on the ground and no king of the Jews ever lived up to these expectations. And then 1,000 years after David, One of his descendants, a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus, started making bold claims. He spoke as God in the flesh, as God in a human container. He stood in the Jewish temple and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, whoever trusts in Me, as Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from him."

And later when Jesus was dead on the cross, sentenced to die for the charge of being the King of the Jews, when they cracked open His side with the spear and spilled His blood on the ground, streams of living water came with it.

Cheryl and Jeff, the couple I mentioned, they know what it's like to be empty. They know what it's like to feel life is running out. They know what it's like to be spilled with no hope of recovery. Cheryl divorced Jeff to pursue the affair that she had started with the other man, but that relationship didn't fill her either. After divorce, a friend invited Cheryl to church. The people she met there were different. They weren't perfect, but they spoke of a Source she had never experienced. They spoke of Jesus like they believed He did rise from the dead, like He was living, and that they knew Him personally.

Cheryl said, "It slowly dawned on me that this Jesus everyone was talking about could be what I was missing. I learned he could be my Savior, and that, 'Savior' wasn't just some fancy religious word, it meant He could literally save my life." So she prayed to Him. "Jesus, forgive my sins and be the Lord of my life."

That's when things started to change for Cheryl. She was still the same person in a way, but things were different now. She knew that she was still a long way off from letting God satisfy her empty places, but now she was heading in that direction. She began going to church to listen, and to worship, to pray, and read the Bible, and sit with others and talk about what God is saying through the Bible. She learned about God's plan for marriage—that what God has joined together no one should separate. She learned that her husband could never be the one to quench her deepest thirst, but rather when her thirst is quenched in Jesus, she could learn to love her husband like Jesus loves her.

So, she started asking Jesus to help her reconcile with Jeff, her ex. She asked Jeff for forgiveness, but he was angry. After the divorce, after learning that Cheryl had cheated on him, Jeff said, "I carried my anger like a trophy right out in front of me. It defined me."

During this time, Cheryl was learning to lean on Jesus first and not on her own hopes of a perfect marriage. She was learning to be filled by her relationship with Jesus, and Jesus was faithful to Cheryl.

And He was working on Jeff, too. At first, Jeff wasn't interested. He told Cheryl, "I am never going to be open to the idea. I wasn't the one who destroyed our marriage." From a human perspective what they had lost was beyond recovery like water spilled on the ground, but God made a way.

It took seven years. Jeff started to see his part in the failed marriage. He wasn't an innocent victim. He couldn't keep blaming Cheryl. They started talking and dating, and one night over dinner Jeff asked if Cheryl wanted to marry him a second time. And she said, "I do again."

Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs tell their story in a book they co-authored; it's titled, I Do Again. They were married for ten years the first time, divorced for seven, and now have been again for 22 years.

They are a living picture of the truth spoken to David by that wise woman, recorded in 2 Samuel 14:14. Even though our lives are like water spilled on the ground, unable to be recovered, God does not take life away. He makes a way for us in Jesus, crucified and risen, ruling and returning.

I heard Jeff and Cheryl interviewed on a Focus on the Family podcast recently. I was grateful for their honesty. Even now, after over 20 years into their second one, they don't claim to have a perfect marriage, and they don't claim to be perfect people. "We are one sinner married to another," they said. They've got just as many cracks and leaks as you and I do. And they trust that one day when Jesus returns, He will repair them as completely as He promises to do for all who trust in Him. But for now, life still leaks out, and Jesus keeps filling.

Would you pray to Him with me?

Jesus, please forgive my sins and be the Lord of my life. Amen.







Reflections for November 14, 2021

Title: Jesus Keeps Filling

Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now back to our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.

Michael Zeigler: Today I'm visiting with Dr. Tim Saleska. He's a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and teaches future pastors, deaconesses, and teachers about life with God. So we're listening to the Old Testament book of Samuel. And let me read this comment for you. And I just want to get your reaction. "It would be hard to find anywhere a greater narrative. Eli, Samuel, Saul, David, Goliath, the witch of Endor and other characters are depicted and played up against each other with sureness of touch, technique, and fidelity. Scenes and events are handled with graphic power. And here, as is generally the case in the Bible, all of this is accomplished with the fewest words." That's from Hillary Richardson, Life and the Book. What are your thoughts?

Tim Saleska: So, I think what he says is really true, and readers throughout time really have noticed this about the book of Samuel, especially the graphic nature and the details that you get in the book. Some people have seen this theme of beheading through the books, for example, and people are cutting off members.

Michael Zeigler: It's not just Goliath.

Tim Saleska: It's not. And David is getting his enemies like Moab and sparing one line and killing another. So, those things from a Western perspective, modern Western perspective, are daunting to read and to work through, and are gripping there. I do think that what you see as far as the characters, are these contrasts. And you should look at those, as you're reading the book. For example, Hannah versus Eli. Eli versus Samuel. Samuel versus Saul. Saul versus David. David versus virtually everybody. So, you see these comparisons and contrasts drawn in the characters throughout the book. And I think it's important that we see that. There are subtle clues, and sometimes more explicit clues that compare and contrast them with each other, right?

Michael Zeigler: What would you recommend, Dr. Saleska, to someone who's hearing it for the first time, or returning to it after some time?

Tim Saleska: When you read Samuel, you'll see that the story unfolds within the recognizable parameters of human concerns and passions, right?

Michael Zeigler: Yeah. So, we're not in like fairy land.

Tim Saleska: All the passions and concerns are very recognizable from envy to love to hatred to joy to sadness. And the passions, the passion for power, the passion for other people, those kinds of things. You see that. But there's no great miracles. I don't know if we've mentioned that before. But unlike when you read the exodus account, or when you read in the book of Numbers, the miracles, or the book of Exodus, in the wilderness wanderings, God is very much behind the scenes. So, no great miracles here.

What you do have is the author of the book giving this theological interpretation of the reality that's going on. For example, you have a military victory. The author says, "God gave the Philistines into the hands of David or Saul," for example. Or you have certain things or events, movements of David that the narrator will attribute to God acting behind the scenes. So, what you have is economic events or military events or just social events on the horizontal level, but the narrator gives them this theological implication to what is happening. I think that's one thing to look at as you're reading the book of Samuel.

Michael Zeigler: Right. That's a good point. I don't think I'd ever really noticed that.

Tim Saleska: So, a question to ask yourself when you're reading Samuel is where is God and where is He not? How does the author look at the events going on in the historical plain in light of God's control of all things?

Michael Zeigler: That's helpful because that's how I experience life. I see life play out, and it looks like a combination of human action and natural events. But the Bible is going to train me to see in a different way.

Tim Saleska: No, I think that you raised an issue that I've been thinking about—how we talk about things. And so, as Christians, just like anyone else, we get sick, or our kids get sick, we go to the doctor; we follow their advice. We take their medicine. And we're thankful for those gifts. But it's very easy in such a culture as in which we live to forget that for us, there is God whom we believe is in control of everything. It's not as if He just sits back and lets things happen. His omnipotence is an active omnipotence, we believe. In other words, He doesn't just sit back and intervene when He wants to, most time He doesn't. But He actually works all in all. In Samuel you see that. See, He works both good and evil. "Live with it," so to speak.

Michael Zeigler: Yeah, we've talked about Hannah's song. That's the theme, right, at the beginning. He kills, He brings death, and He makes alive, everything in between.

Tim Saleska: Yep. That's right. And we forget that. And so, a book like this, it's easy when we just do a surface read, to forget that. But it can really shape our language—how we begin to describe what happens to us. And it also, for me, relieves some of our anxiety. We have become so anxious about political events here, and so divided, and focus so much on what the government does, that we forget there's a Kingdom of which we are a part that rules all leaders, who's really in charge, and who should we really trust? And where do we put our faith and our hopes? And because we're sinful people, we put them in the wrong things all the time. And our churches get divided. People get divided over the wrong things.

Michael Zeigler: Let's talk about one other thing, is reading it as a community. Why is that so important?

Tim Saleska: I do think it's important for a number of reasons. First of all, it not only is something that we do in fellowship, but it also builds fellowship. It builds community because the Holy Spirit works among us and in us to bring us together. And conversations are probably the most humanizing things that we do, right? If you're going to build a relationship with someone, talking to them, praying with them is the way to do it. Another thing that it does is it keep us accountable to other people as readers of the Bible, as followers of Jesus. Isolated people are always in danger of losing the connection with what we, as Christians, should believe how we should live. And I've seen a lot of people now that all they see is evil in the world: evil, evil, evil; everything is evil, and forget about the good blessings that God gives us. And especially forget who we put our trust in.

Michael Zeigler: Thank you for talking with us, Dr. Saleska. Thank you for listening. If you're listening by yourself, get some people together. Let this word create fellowship for you and talk about it with someone else.







Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"The Day Is Surely Drawing Near" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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