Week 21, 2018 – Reading thru God’s Word, getting to know Him…

The mysteries of life… dealing with sin… a deep settled peace…

DAY ONE – Psalms 89, 96, 100, 101, 107

All of the deep mysteries and yearnings of life crowd into these psalms (songs) we are reading today. Life can be so confusing and unyielding at times that we don’t know which end is up. When everything is going well we think we must be living in Divine favor. But when the tide reverses and goes out we wonder what happened to the blessing; what did I do wrong to bring these woes upon me? It’s difficult to understand COVENANT; it’s difficult to understand God when our world doesn’t function well. One good reason to read the entire Bible is to discover God’s true char acter and the power of His covenant. It is to witness His faithfulness to His Divine mission over the centuries and to realize that His love for mankind will NEVER FAIL. God will sustain His covenant of salvation and will bring everything to conclusion in its time. David was the great king of his time; Jesus became the Great King for all time, born into the lineage of David according to God’s word. David was a type of Christ Jesus. Genealogically Jesus was a son of David in a line of kings; but spiritually Jesus rules over the houses of all the kings, for He is also the Son of God and the Savior of the world!

As nations rise and fall; and as one century gives way to the next, every generation asks itself, “How then shall we live?” And the answer has always been, and still is–

Psalm 96:1-3  Sing to Yahweh a new song! Sing to Yahweh, all the earth. 2  Sing to Yahweh! Bless his name! Proclaim his salvation from day to day! 3  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. Psalm 100:1-3  Shout for joy to Yahweh, all you lands! 2  Serve Yahweh with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. 3  Know that Yahweh, he is God. It is he who has made us, and we are his. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 107:1-3  Give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good, for his loving kindness endures forever. 2  Let the redeemed by Yahweh say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the adversary, 3  And gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Our role is to always believe the best, always be thankful, and always give God our Father the glory He deserves. In that manner we recognize and uphold His covenant of love and salvation, which lasts forever.

DAY TWO – 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17, Psalms 1, 2, 33, 127, 132

This seems like a bit much reading for one day, until we realize that our mysterious God is revealing a powerful truth about Himself–that He holds the power of history in order to accomplish His great plans for mankind! Remember that we are reading the Bible this year, not to explain God, but to KNOW HIM. And He very much wants us to know that history is not a juggernaut; it is rather an unfolding of His loving mercy and grace in the affairs of mankind to bring about the salvation of the world while judging and removing all evil. This encounter by God with David is only one small but important piece of that plan.

David wanted to build God a house as appreciation for all the Lord had done. So God replied, in effect, “Thank you David, but I don’t need or want you to build me a house; instead, I want to build YOU a house!” David had just built himself a new house, so he was rightly puzzled. Then God continued, “David, I took you from your place as a shepherd and made you king over my house of Israel. I defeated all your enemies and gave you peace on all sides. Now I will build you a dynasty that will last forever, a house that will stand for all time. Your son will build me a house, all right, but a line of kings that come from you will go on forever through time.” David went and sat before the Lord, deeply thoughtful. And He learned something more about Yahweh God–that the Lord’s plans stretch on through the ages as He wishes and are accomplished by His own might and power. The Psalms accompanying this event further explain that the nations may do what they will; but if they are wise they will keep God foremost in their plans, for their counsel against Him and His eternal kingdom amount to NOTHING! Psalm 33:11-12  The counsel of Yahweh stands fast forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. 12  Blessed is the nation whose God is Yahweh, the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance. Psalm 127:1  Unless Yahweh builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless Yahweh watches over the city, the watchman guards it in vain. To oppose God in any way is really to oppose oneself, for God created us to have fellowship with Him and to know Him. We haven’t historically done too well about knowing God; for we keep wanting to refashion Him into a being we can accept and get along with, while God is wanting to refashion us into the people we were CREATED to be. This might be a really good time to do what David did–go sit and ponder this question: “Dear Lord, how can I become all you want me to be?”

DAY THREE – 2 Samuel 8-9, 1 Chronicles 18

Most people remember the Gulf War fought in Kuwait and Iraq in the early 1990’s, a war which was mostly won in a matter of days. So superior was the firepower of the United States that elite Iraqi forces laid down their arms and abandoned their positions with little struggle. In some ways King David’s victories appeared almost effortless, as described in these chapters, for Yahweh God was granting him success in every war fought by his troops. Nation after nation laid down their arms and became David’s servants, bringing him tribute annually. By placing garrisons in conquered cities he maintained a forced peace that pretty much ended wars in that region.

From warrior to philanthropist–King David now made inquiry after the house of Saul, to see whether there was a surviving descendant to whom he might show kindness. It turned out that a son of Jonathan, David’s close friend, had survived the destruction of Saul’s house, although he was permanently crippled. David brought Mephibosheth forward and honored him by restoring to him all of his grandfather Saul’s property and placing him at the king’s table with the king’s sons for the rest of his life. In the prevailing custom of that time, David would normally have killed Mephibosheth so that no descendant of Saul could ever challenge his kingdom. But David was a man after God’s heart and valued the anointing that Saul had once enjoyed from Yahweh God. David also placed high value on the covenant he had struck with Jonathan, who valued David as highly as his own life. So for the king it was a no-brainer–Jonathan’s son received immediate and permanent relief in the house of the king. Our God is like that–He seeks out the lost, the homeless, the indigent, wherever He can find the remotest connection, in order to bestow a kindness and provide relief. And as we partner with the Lord in His heavenly kingdom on earth, we too look for opportunities to show kindness and provide relief with the Good News and whatever resources we can gather. ‘Philanthropy’ means literally a love for mankind. “For God so loved the world…” While the customs of war and peace in the Old Testament may seem brutal, the love of God shines through again and again as He bestows blessings on the righteous and justice among the nations.

DAY FOUR – 2 Samuel 10, 1 Chronicles 19, Psalms 20, 53, 60, 75

While the world clamors for peace, wars continue to be fought in every generation. Kings are not gods. They are men who, either through noble birth or violent struggle, have succeeded to the top echelons of rule among their countrymen. And once they have arrived, they often reach for more. So wars are fought. Men of peace who are kings defend themselves for the sake of their people and their borders. Yet war continues. King David’s ambassadors, sent to comfort the Ammonite king on the death of his father, were rudely treated and shamed. With half their beard cut off and their skirts trimmed up to the middle of their buttocks, David’s men could but retreat in humiliation. It was an act of war. Of course, David and his army were triumphant, and the evil was repelled, and the Syrians lost forty thousand men, and they didn’t want to fight anymore! So that is the way with the world of mankind. And the world continues to clamor for peace, and wars are still fought. Will it ever end? And if so, when? When a world treaty is signed? When global government is put in place? When international armies police the whole world? Remember, men are not gods. The world is not heaven. And the human heart cannot be brought to peace through violence. The struggle for peace continues.

Psalm 53 is called a contemplation of David, himself a king, a man. After thinking over the problems of nations existing in his world, he said “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” When he was a shepherd, and still a teenager, David faced a bear and a lion that had come upon his father’s sheep. With his bare hands, perhaps a club, he killed the animal on both occasions. Later he told King Saul that God helped him and would therefore help him kill Goliath, the gargantuan champion of the Philistines. And God did. David, the shepherd/musician/warrior, knew God in a way that any of us wants to know Him. We want to know, to believe, to enjoy such a relationship. Yet David was a man; when he blew it, he REALLY blew it! We will soon come to his psalm of repentance. So will we ever really be content to let God be God in our broken world? We’re not fools. We know there is a God. We know that He is not a man. We know that He created everything. We know that if there is ever to be lasting peace it will be in a world of God’s making, not ours. Colossians 2:13-15  You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with (Jesus), having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14  wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; 15  having stripped the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. This is the path to peace; it begins and ends with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace. Maybe it’s time we let Him be God in our world, in our life!

DAY FIVE – 2 Samuel 11-12, 1 Chronicles 20, Psalm 51

An event in David’s young life as king is so unthinkable and sobering that it took me two days to sit down and write this paragraph. It seems so… normal, so… human, and yet… Well, David looked down from his palace one night and happened to see a beautiful young woman bathing, and what happened next was predictable. He called her to the palace and spent a night with her. Okay, so she was married and her husband Uriah was with the army fighting another king. When she reported some weeks later that she was pregnant, a full government cover-up went into gear. First, David had Uriah summoned and tried for three days to get him to go home and sleep with his wife to make it appear the baby was his. When that didn’t work, David sent him back to the battle carrying a letter from the king to the general which was, in effect, Uriah’s death warrant. And so it was. Uriah died in battle, David took Bathsheba as another of his wives, and their son was eventually born. But heaven’s response sounded through the prophet Nathan, who was sent by God to call David out and make full exposure of the heinous crimes of adultery and then murder. That was how Yahweh God saw it. With nowhere to hide, his cover blown, David did what he could do; he made full confession. Psalm 51:3-4  For I know my transgressions. My sin is constantly before me. 4  Against you, and you only, I have sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight; that you may be proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge. Yes, God forgave David. He remained king, and his dynasty endured. But the cost of that one night of pleasure followed him bitterly down the years. The baby died. The family was marred. His own son Absalom later rebelled and led a coup against David. The sword remained in his house, and things were forever changed.

The God I love is the One who loved me and forgave all my sin. The God I fear is the God who knows everything I have ever done, things I would love to forget but never will. The God I serve is the God I love and fear–the God who has blessed me more than I deserve and chosen me to represent His kingdom on earth as a full time minister. So I understand Psalm 51–the horror, the humiliation, the repentance, the crying to God, the yearning… and then the assurance of forgiveness, the restored joy, the gratitude that is so deep I will love Him and serve Him the rest of my life. And I wish everyone will know Him that way. God cannot be other than who and what He is. He is Creator, Provider, Lover. He loves with such passion that forgiveness is fully given in Christ, restoration and hope for the future always following. May we find our center in Him forever!

WEEK 20, 2018, There is so much to know about God through His Word…

This Week:  Feelings for God… Who’s your daddy now?.. When leadership changes… and much more!

DAY ONE – Psalms 81, 88, 92, 93

God has feelings. We are created ‘in His image,’ so we have feelings too. Our feelings are integrated with our thoughts and ideas. Our feelings, thoughts and ideas lead us to conclusions, from which we decide on a course of action. We are free to decide. And that is what makes us different… what makes mankind different from all other living things. We get to decide, to choose, whether we will live this way or that way; whether we will live here, or somewhere else; whether we will like that person, or not. God created mankind with feelings, thoughts and choices–His ‘image.’ In our readings today God’s feelings emerge with strong passion toward Israel, the nation He chose and loved well. His love was translated into a prescription for life, based on relationship. The Lord God instructed and admonished Israel on how to live in such a way as to guarantee a future and a hope. And He blessed Israel in that relationship with blessings above and beyond what sometimes even seemed reasonable. Israel’s response was often to choose lesser gods and be devoted to them, rejecting and insulting the God of their creation and salvation. Then God was passionate. Yes, sometimes He felt angry, sometimes sorry, yet always was He moved by love to restore Israel and lead her closer to His forgiving heart. And sometimes God was unsuccessful because Israel did NOT return His love, spurned His overtures, rejected His counsel. The relationship was broken, and even the God of all creation could not save those He loved.

Our readings today also include the passionate cry of those whose feelings reach deep lows and exulting highs–from cries of despair to praises and singing with reverence and joy. What’s interesting to me is that the low feelings always seem to be focused on the events and circumstances occurring in a person’s experience; while the high feelings find their expression in who God is, in what He has done, in the blessings He is pouring out from His own great store of character and creative love. Despair is rooted in the notion that God has forgotten, that He doesn’t care. But as soon as that thought gives way to the Lord’s eternal vigilance over His creation, to His unyielding love for His creation, thanksgiving and praises rise to fill the space of the worshipper. When God’s true and rightful place is acknowledged in this manner, the world is right again! When the Creator, the eternal God, fills my thoughts and feelings, EVERYTHING is okay. I’ll be all right. Now I know I can do this, and the Lord is with me… all the way.

DAY TWO – 1 Chronicles 6-9

Would it surprise you to know you can google your own name and likely discover yourself on the internet? Certain pertinent facts will be there which statistically identify you but probably don’t contain much interesting information! In some ways this is like the genealogies of the Bible–people’s names are included by family, sometime location, and sometimes activity; but they don’t say much about the person–who he was in real life, what he was like, what contribution he made in his generation. In fact, most of us won’t make the history books either, unless we have contributed significantly in a public role. So that cannot be what life is about–a name, a place, kids, the usual. No, each of us is much more than that. Created in God’s image, we are personally known and loved at some point in our life. Someone ‘begot’ us. Someone loved us. Someone reared us. Each of us would have to tell our own story to make any sense of the statistical facts of our life; for certainly life is more than where I was born and grew up; more than what vocation I pursued, if any. To know me you have to know me in my family, in my relationships, in my daily work, in my worldview. You have to know what I think and feel, how I treat people, what I have on my mind. I may be listed in my genealogy, but only eternity will reveal what value I was to my own generation.

The Bible reveals the value God places on you and me in no uncertain terms: John 3:16-17  For God so loved the world (Ray, that’s me), that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (Ray, that’s me) believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17  For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world (Ray, that’s me), but that the world should be saved through him. Yahweh God clearly saw enough value in each of us that He sent Jesus Christ to give His life for every one of us, in order that we might be saved. Jesus’ life then, represents the value of my life! Knowing that the value of my own life is bound up in the value of Jesus’ life, I clearly want to know Jesus;  I want to know Him as a person, to bind my life into His, to value myself as He values me. I am willing to give the rest of my life to this great endeavor, whether it makes me great in this world or not. I cannot wait to meet my Savior face to face, to personally fall before Him with thanksgiving. I want to know Him and make Him known to others. So today I am reading through this Bible one more time, even the genealogies!

DAY THREE – 2 Samuel 5:1-10, 1 Chronicles 11-12, Psalm 133

We can survive changes of leadership if we understand what is happening. King Saul lost his position because of unfaithful character; King David was chosen and anointed in his place. But Saul could not accept that, and he chose instead to pursue and persecute David, with intent to kill. In the meantime, Israel divided in their loyalties to the two men. But all was not lost; God was still at work. David had a small but loyal following, while Saul continued to command most of the nation. Then Saul and two of his sons died in battle, and David asked God what to do next. He then went up to Hebron where he was crowned by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. For seven long years a war of attrition was fought by Saul’s followers, his kingdom slowly fading away. Finally elders from the ten northern tribes of Israel approached David and accepted his covenant to unite the kingdom again. Israel was back together, and David reigned as king for the next thirty-three years, bringing a lasting peace and vaulting Israel into a world power. In the process, notable and worthy men rose to the challenge and distinguished themselves in the new, united kingdom. This is the blessing that always results when God’s plans are being carried out.

We are insisting that understanding the word of God is really about understanding the heart of God. God always has a plan that is moving forward into and through history, to demonstrate his loving intention to save the world from itself! What do I mean by that? Left to itself, mankind reverts to ‘man-centered’ wisdom, philosophy and government. And that always leads down a path toward destruction, because we CANNOT save ourselves. We need a Savior, whom God supplied in His Son Jesus Christ. So to the extent that we recognize and cooperate with God’s plan to save the world, nations move forward successfully. To the extent that we reject and marginalize God’s plan with a view toward implementing our own plans, we run out of options and divide over the way to move forward. That is futility. According to Psalm 133, when the elders of Israel came together around God’s plan, it reunited the kingdom and led to generations of blessing–a blessing commanded by God Himself.

DAY FOUR – 2 Samuel 5:11-6:23; 1 Chronicles 13-16

These chapters signal a shift in protocols of worship. Years before, the Ark of the Covenant of God had been stolen by the Philistines during the battle in which King Saul died and had been removed to the temple of Dagon in a Philistine city. The terror the Ark caused among the Philistines caused them to sheepishly return it after only seven months’ capture, and it remained out of the way for all those years. David, now King David, decided to return the Ark–not to its place in Shiloh–but to a new location he had prepared in the city of David. His first attempt ended in disaster, Uzzah dying for touching the Ark. Angrily David returned home, only to discover through research that he had failed the protocol for moving the sacred relic. Three months later they tried again, this time with the priests carrying the Ark as originally prescribed, and they found success. But another element was added–singing, giving of thanks, dancing, and rabid celebration! David was so animated during the procession that his wife Michal despised the spectacle he made of himself. Unlike at the original Tent in the Wilderness, proceedings in the new location in David’s city brought a whole new genre of worship. The priests and Levites were appointed to serve the sacrifices as usual, but an entire cadre of singers and worshippers were commissioned and stationed around the clock to sing and give thanks to the Lord. New songs were written, new instruments were added, and fresh inspiration took hold of the hearts of the people. There was joy and peace in the land as David settled into his kingdom.

The older generations usually decry the sounds of worship coming from the younger ones. Songs and styles that brought comfort and joy to our hearts fade into memory as youthful enthusiasm finds its own voices of expression. A chorus that has been around about twenty years says, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about you, Lord…” The HEART of worship–that’s the key. Not the sound, but the heart. Worship protocols involve the whole person, and the soul–where dwells our feelings and thoughts–must engage if we are to explore the outer limits of our salvation experience. 1 Chronicles 16:9-11 (see also Psalm 105) Sing to him. Sing praises to him. Tell of all his marvelous works. 10  Glory in his holy name. Let the heart of those who seek Yahweh rejoice. 11  Seek Yahweh and his strength. Seek his face forever more. This song composed by David touches the heart of worship; it not only praises the Lord but announces His wonders and works to the next generation. Let this be the standard for our protocol.

DAY FIVE – Psalms 15, 23, 24, 25, 47

Is it outrageous to think we can know Yahweh God, our Creator? Is it presumptuous to believe we can be close to Him? David asks, “Yahweh, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in your holy hill?” (15:1) Again he asks, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?” (24:3) You could bullet list the answers David gives in these two psalms, but what is the missing ingredient? He speaks of ethics, morality, good living and good attitudes. He talks about maintaining good relationships with good practices. And I do believe God takes all of these into account; but what is the missing ingredient? It all depends on what you mean by ‘good.’ A man once addressed Jesus as ‘Good Master.’ Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? There is One who is good, and that is the Father in heaven.” Well, then, if Jesus holds that view, where does that leave me? Occasionally I like to give a humorous response to the question, “How are you?” And I say, “Compared to what?” It’s really hard to admit that, when we compare ourselves to God, things don’t look that good. So we go about the process of comparing ourselves to everything and everybody else to find our place of ‘goodness.’ Maybe that way we don’t look so bad. So what is the missing ingredient? It’s LIFE itself. Life–eternal life–is the gift Jesus came to secure in the world and give to all who will follow Him. Even if I live up to every good quality or character trait that David has mentioned in these songs, I will discover that I cannot live up to them fully! Something will always be missing, or I will be filled with angst, always wondering what else I can do.

I like to read these Psalms out loud as worship; and as prayer. David has given voice to almost every feeling and question I have had over the years. As I read them aloud, LIFE springs up in me through the Holy Spirit, given to the world by Jesus and His Father to help us find LIFE!  It’s what keeps all my ‘efforts’ from turning into religion–which is nothing more than my attempt to impress or satisfy God with my efforts! God’s Word is filled with the life of Jesus, and as I recite these songs as prayers out loud, His life rises within me to bring assurance and hope. It works something like this:

  • I follow Jesus–that is, I respond in my heart to His claims and guidance.
  • Jesus gives me LIFE–that is, the eternal life He received in the resurrection by the Holy Spirit.
  • God’s Words support this life I live, helping me as I devote myself to Him and His eternal kingdom.

My suggestion is that you say out loud some portion of scripture every day, so that you get used to hearing yourself affirm what God has said, back to your own psyche, and into your own spirit. Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Week 19 – Reading thru God’s Word; getting to know Him better

This week – Songs from life… Chronicles (not of Narnia)… Intimate pictures of the soul…

DAY ONE – Psalms 6, 9, 10, 14, 16, 21

We went through Job some weeks ago, trying to understand the problem of pain and suffering. Now King David confronts the problem of human weakness and outright wickedness in the world. Lamenting his own weakness–he doesn’t say exactly what it is–he demonstrates the pathos and passions excited by his own failures. Whatever has overtaken him causes him to lie awake at night, drenching his bed with tears and pleading with Yahweh God to save him and deliver him from his enemies. “Have mercy on me, O Yahweh!” Listen carefully, for that is a prayer that God always answers and one we should pray frequently.  James 2:13  For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. And Matthew 5:7  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. It is clear that knowing God is to know mercy and to become merciful. This means that we overcome our own predisposition to visit people’s meanness back upon them. Instead, because we have received mercy from the Lord, we wrestle with our own weakness until we are able to be merciful without flinching!

Next David takes on the question of evil. Why do evil men prosper and go on their merry way while God is seemingly detached and uninvolved? Psalm 10:1  Why do you stand far off, Yahweh? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Please understand that David’s question is based entirely upon an assumption rather than a fact. From his viewpoint it appears that God just doesn’t show up when He should… so we think. His description of the evil man’s actions are laid out in lurid detail, so that we want to cry out, “Enough already! God, where are you?” But let’s be reasonable: just because we cannot see God doesn’t mean that He is not there. Just because we cannot understand the Lord’s actions or lack thereof doesn’t mean He is not acting. Our problem is that we cannot understand the problem of evil. And it is a problem… a real problem. And it must be dealt with; we know that. It is our quest then, to humble ourselves before our loving and concerned Father in heaven and decide whether we will trust Him to act becomingly and in a timely way. David’s conclusion? Psalm 10:16-18  Yahweh is King forever and ever! The nations will perish out of his land. 17  Yahweh, you have heard the desire of the humble. You will prepare their heart. You will cause your ear to hear, 18  to judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that man who is of the earth may terrify no more. Jesus put it this way: John 14:27  Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. 

DAY TWO – 1 Chronicles 1-2, Psalms 43, 44

We are introduced now to the books called the Chronicles (or stories), part of Israel’s history. And of course, there have to be more genealogies! These Chronicles roughly mirror the books of Samuel, which we are still in. Many of the stories are told in each set of books, with slightly different emphases. And since they chronicle the lives of Israel’s kings, the Psalms are interwoven into the fabric of that time in history. Hence, our readings are from the Chronological Bible–placing the readings in their proper timelines. By the way, it’s a big deal today for folks to want to know who their ancestors are, and where they came from. You can even trace your DNA! The really good news? We all came from Adam and Eve initially, and then from Noah and his family, who alone survived the Great Flood of Genesis 6. And if you trace your ancestry back a few generations, you might just discover some great… and not so great people! In the end, our quest is to be great in our generation, as Noah was: he found grace in God’s eyes.

King David of Israel was a great man–not because of his exploits or qualities, but because he was a man after God’s own heart! His exploits were shockingly bold and wonderful; his character was highly to be praised. He became a wealthy and powerful king. But after all, he was human; he had weaknesses like all men, and he suffered greatly in his time. For this we can be thankful, because he has left a legacy in the Psalms through which we can most feelingly express agony and praise to God. By simply reading the Psalms aloud or weaving them into your own prayers, you can share your deepest feelings of joy and pain with your heavenly Father. Until pain and suffering are history, we need all the spiritual, physical and emotional support we can get. In this, David is your friend and mine.

Psalm 43:3-5  Oh, send out your light and your truth. Let them lead me. Let them bring me to your holy hill, To your tents. 4  Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy. I will praise you on the harp, God, my God. 

5  Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him: my Savior, my helper, and my God. 

DAY THREE – Psalms 49, 84, 85, 87

David wrote many of the Psalms, the evidence of his musicianship and relationship with Yahweh God (the Lord). But the sons of Korah also gave us a song book. They were part of David’s kingdom, appointed to provide continual worship as support for the daily life of God’s people. When all of life is distilled, what is left in the jar can be studied and made part of our existence. These four psalms offer up answers to various questions: 1) What do I see? 2) What do I want? 3) What do I hear? 4) Where is my foundation for life?

What do I see? I see people getting up, going somewhere to do something, coming back, then doing it all over again. In this manner, we all fashion something we call ‘life.’ Sometimes people get rich doing it; sometimes not. Those who do may decide their wealth gives them special privilege or importance, and they proceed to use it for whatever they want, even to believing that God Himself might be impressed! He isn’t, because His riches and the riches of heaven are beyond the pale; no human has ever seen the like of God’s riches. When I see the rich and poor, my choice is easy–I’d rather be rich than poor! But then I might miss what I DON’T see–God’s riches. So, I am intent on discovering the unseen as I make my way through life.

What do I want? I can tell you now, I have no real knowledge of what it’s like to live as a fugitive for years, running for my life. David knew, and perhaps the sentiments of this song give us a sense of how our ‘life’ may be seen by a fugitive. Cut off from God’s house, unable to join the worshippers, he developed a longing for anything that reminded him of God. Psalm 84:1-4  How lovely are your dwellings, Yahweh of Armies! 2  My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of Yahweh. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3  Yes, the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young, near your altars, Yahweh of Armies, my King, and my God. 4  Blessed are those who dwell in your house. They are always praising you. I want in my life anything that reminds me of the Lord; anything that encourages me in my relationship with Him; anyone who is walking this journey with me.

What do I hear? Voices–so many voices; words, so many words. The air waves inside and outside are filled with voices, and in some way they all affect us. Social media have pretty well captured the mind and imagination of the current generation, filling our ‘life’ with mixed messages. What do I hear? Psalm 85:8-10  I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, his saints; but let them not turn again to folly. 9  Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10  Mercy and truth meet together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 

Where is my foundation? Ray Shelton, born March, 1943, Alameda, California. So what? That tells you exactly NOTHING about me. Alameda means nothing to me; I didn’t even grow up there. No foundations of my ‘life’ remain there. My foundations are not in a place, for I have lived in too many places. Rather, my foundations are in a PERSON–in God, known and loved through my Lord, Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. 11  For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. We are all building something with our ‘life.’ What, or should I say Who, is holding it up?

DAY FOUR – 1 Chronicles 3-5

Ours is a crazy, mixed up world, messy in more ways than one! All of these genealogies we just read give us the mistaken notion that the times and seasons are planned, orderly and in good shape. Most of us hold some notion that our United States, for instance, has a wonderful past and great history, making us a people to be emulated. In some ways that is true. But we also have some deeply rooted messes in our past that can never be eradicated, such as slavery and native American ethnic cleansing. (Please don’t even go there–this is not the place for political and social comment.) As much as our history relates to freedom to worship God and carry His Good News to the reaches of earth, we shine in our intention… but are rather tarnished in execution. Whether we speak of Israel’s 4,000-year history as recorded in the Old Testament or our history as recorded within the last three hundred fifty years, we find profound flaws that bring us back again and again to God. For, after examining and parsing all of human history, answers to the ‘mess’ are, and always have been, in Him alone. If we learn anything from history, it is that we learn little from history! And yet God has always been there–patient, loving, forgiving, desiring that we will seek Him with all our heart and find Him, for He alone has the answers to where we are going, what we need along the way, and how we will get there.

As to the genealogies–God has in every generation reached out in love to find someone, or many, with whom He can make covenant to redeem our world and bring a future and a hope to many. Are you one? I am. While the Sovereign of the universe works tirelessly to destroy the evil and embed righteousness in people everywhere, we can nevertheless see that the evil will not go away quietly. Spurred on by the Evil One, people who reject or ignore God will join the conspiracy against the Holy One and seek to overthrow the heavenly kingdom brought to earth by Jesus Christ, in order to elevate mankind to a place of permanent control over this earthly kingdom and finally be free FROM God. It won’t work, of course, as we will note repeatedly in Israel’s story; but our question today is whether we will be wise in our generation, will be righteous, will be faithful, as was Noah and all who came after him. That is the point at which we receive GRACE from God. Jeremiah 29:11-13  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. 12  You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13  You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. 

DAY FIVE – 1 Chronicles 6; Psalms 36, 39, 77, 78

We are introduced in this latest genealogy to the tribe of Levi, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Levi and his descendants were literally ‘set apart’ from their relatives to become God’s ‘ministering’ servants. As such they did not receive allotments of land in Israel; rather they were dispersed throughout the tribes of Israel, living in cities given them by their relatives. Their chief assignment was to ‘minister’ to God in behalf of the rest of the tribes. They were declared ‘holy’ in things pertaining to worship and service to God. They centered in and around any site used for worship. They became poets and singers, priests and intermediaries. Two of the four Psalms of our day’s reading were written by Asaph, a Levite, and perhaps King David’s secretary of state, whose instruction was aimed at the generations in Israel. They were devoted to keeping Israel in touch with their spiritual roots, keeping their memories alive to the mighty miracles and wonders God accomplished in favor of the people. Psalm 78 especially chronicles Israel’s history from Egypt to the present, urging the people to think of God, worship Him and serve Him. It recounted times of misery brought on by their idolatry and rebellion against God and His ways, recounting how God moved His worship center from Ephraim to Zion–Shiloh to Jerusalem–and raised up a young shepherd, David, to be their king and spiritual shepherd.

Remembering that Jesus became the Savior of the world two thousand years ago when He gave His life for ours, we must ask ourselves whether He is but a memory or a Living Witness in our generations. Given the current state of our culture and the erosion of law and order, will this generation, or the next, even remember God, or be aware of the amazing miracles that attended the founding of this nation? In the end, the kingdom of heaven–God’s heaven, the triumph of Jesus Christ–will displace all the kingdoms of this present world and make an end of the evil which seems to be creating a global conspiracy against our Creator and Lord. God has always been, and will always be, the Sovereign Ruler over all creation. My relationship with Him is always at the forefront of my daily living and commands my unyielding attention. God continues to love the world; He gave His only Son to save the world. I am part of that world and, having been ‘saved’ by Him, I continue to live my faith openly as a remembrance to the next generations.

Week 18, 2018.. We ARE getting to know God better as we read His eternal word.

This week – the lady who saved David’s bacon!.. life of a fugitive.. cost of unfaithful leadership.. and more…

DAY ONE – 1 Samuel 25-27, Psalms 17, 73

It wasn’t Abigail’s fault that she was married to a fool. Young women in those days were given in marriage by their fathers. But her beauty and character stand out in the wake of her intercession. She saved an entire household by her humble entreaty to a king. Yes, David was already anointed king, but he had not yet come into his calling; he was still running for his life from Saul, whose pursuit was mind-numbing. Wanting only to sustain his six hundred warrior followers, David sent word to Nabal (fool), whose herdsmen he had protected and sheltered during their time with the sheep, asking for provisions. Nabal instead cursed David and his men, totally unfeeling, uncaring. Not good. David’s response was immediate and dire. His warriors strapped on their swords and followed David as they marched toward Nabal’s place, intending to dispatch all of them. When Abigail heard, she quickly prepared a gift for David and sent it ahead of her, following secretly without Nabal’s knowledge. Coming to David, she bowed low and began to explain the circumstances, imploring the young king not to sully himself by dealing with such a fool as Nabal; but to leave him in Yahweh God’s hands. Intercession is powerful, thoughtful and demanding. It required all of her power to persuade David to relent, which he did–and wisely so. For within a few days following, Nabal was dead, but his household was saved. And soon, Abigail became David’s wife.

Intercession–Entreaty in favor of another, especially a prayer or petition to God in behalf of another. (Dict. Pro) The truth is, Nabal did not deserve his wife’s kind consideration; no, she was interceding for an entire household consisting of many families of servants and others. She stood before a king; she gave a wise petition and prayer. The king responded wisely, saving his own reputation and character. God intervened; Nabal died. Abigail was wed to the king. Hello? Does any of this ring out to us? Can we see that intercession has always been one of our Lord’s gifts to shape our character and turn evil aside? Do we understand that humble entreaty turns the hearts of kings and lords? Not only does it influence the course of the present, it can also affect the future. Abigail took her life in her hands to approach the king; in doing so she saved her life. Yahweh God used Abigail; will he use us as well to be intercessors? Intercession saves people; it saves families… and even nations. What do you have to do today that is better than interceding for someone? A caring heart… a little time… an earnest prayer–that is intercession.

DAY TWO – Psalms 35, 54, 63, 18

David is camping in the wilderness of Judah, traveling lightly; he is hiding in a cave at En Gedi, near the dead sea; he is roving the hills, knowing that the king who is hot for his life is just on the other side of the mountain with 3,000 soldiers! Month after month, year after year, the trial of endurance persists. He and his men are fugitives; they can’t return home. Dinner has to wait; the children watch in vain for their daddy; the family is sundered by violence. How long, O Yahweh God? What would you say if this was one of us? What would our prayers sound like? Or would we even pray? Let’s eavesdrop on David during one of his meditations in the wilderness: Psalm 63:1-6  God, you are my God. I will earnestly seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water. 2  So I have seen you in the sanctuary, watching your power and your glory. 3  Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. 4  So I will bless you while I live. I will lift up my hands in your name. 5  My soul shall be satisfied as with the richest food. My mouth shall praise you with joyful lips, 6  when I remember you on my bed, and think about you in the night watches. Does this sound like a beleaguered man? Are these words of a fugitive who has been hounded like a common criminal? I don’t think so. I pray these sentiments from a place of relative safety; I come home at night; my family is near; my needs are met. What do I know–other than the suggestive scenes I see on TV of refugees trekking mindlessly toward safety with only what they can carry? They and their little ones can only hope to live again. Is one of them praying this prayer with David, calling out to Yahweh in the name of Jesus? Are their meditations filled with thanksgiving and praise to God? Would mine be? Sobering.

It doesn’t take much thought to remind us of how truly blessed we are every day. Thankfully David has filled his writings with exultations to and exaltations of God. Praise rises easily from his heart; his hands extend toward heaven; his voice intones the greatness of the One whose “lovingkindness is better than life” itself. I like to ‘hang out’ with the young king-to-be, to pray and praise with him, to catch and imbibe his exultant spirit, to join him in his meditations. David’s is the full panoply of human emotions with God always at the center. May his words bless you as they have me.

DAY THREE – 1 Samuel 28-31, 1 Chronicles 10

A sea change is imminent: it appears Israel’s time has run out. With Saul at the helm Israel has declined and become vulnerable, since Yahweh God has departed from Saul and is supporting David. The Philistines will unwittingly become servants of God to take out Saul’s regime and to make room for David to ascend to the throne. Saul, dejected, miserable and way out of sorts, finally resorts to a medium when he cannot contact Yahweh God. When the spirit of Samuel, the lately deceased prophet and judge, is called up, he utters a doomsday message to the fearful king, which is fulfilled the next day in battle. Saul and his three sons are killed, the army flees, and the Philistines move into the land in complete domination. Meanwhile, David and his 600 men have returned to their city of Ziklag to discover it burned with fire and all their families and possessions taken by a band of Amalekites. Unlike Saul, David now turns to Yahweh and asks the help of Abiathar the priest to determine a proper course of action. Assured that ALL will be recovered, they immediately move out. By the next evening, the Amalekites have been destroyed and, as Yahweh predicted, all has been recovered. Wow! Can we not see that turning our life over to God and living in relationship with Him is a wise course of action? Our text clearly demonstrates that Saul’s destiny was sealed when he openly disobeyed God’s orders while on divine mission. His future was totally altered so that God might preserve His plan to save the world. By the way, David did NOT know what had befallen Saul and his sons. David’s ascension was now virtually guaranteed with Saul out of the way. And remember that David had at least two opportunities to destroy Saul but refused because Saul had been blessed by God to be king.

Proverbs 3:3-8  Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4  So you will find favor, and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 5  Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. 6  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7  Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Fear Yahweh, and depart from evil.  8  It will be health to your body, and nourishment to your bones. 

DAY FOUR – Psalms 121, 123, 124, 125, 128, 129, 130 (Variously called Songs of Steps, Degrees, Ascents; sung as worshippers made the trek up to the house of God)

What’s at the Center? Sometimes we talk of being ‘centered.’ Just what does that mean–centered? I think we mean that there is a reference point within us around which everything else must find its place. We will always revert to our center to find balance and stability in life. We will look for whatever we need at the center. For David one Name stands out–Yahweh. God was at his center; all of life’s circumstances and events brought David back to his Center–Yahweh God. His life and writings are so full of the Lord Yahweh that we cannot find anything else as his pivot point. Whether he is talking about life, or protection, or provision, or refuge, or deliverance, or salvation, or an object of worship and praise–it is always Yahweh. When carrying on a conversation it was with Yahweh. When referring to creation, Yahweh was Creator of heaven and earth. David had a center, and God was always in it. Even when he sinned or found reason for self-loathing, God filled his thoughts and was the explanation for his emotions and actions. God was the Center of David’s life; there is no question about that. And in that, he became a precursor or type of Jesus Christ, who was God come down to earth from heaven. For Jesus, the Father, God was always at the Center of His life. And He said in effect that when we find Him we find Life–that is, our Center. If our Center is Jesus Christ the Lord, life may swirl around us, touch us, capture us, even bless us; but our destiny is intact, because our destiny is at the Center of our existence. When Jesus is the Center, our destiny is unassailable. David’s life taken in its entirety shows that, clearly and distinctly.

Psalm 121:5-8  Yahweh is your keeper. Yahweh is your shade on your right hand. 6  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7  Yahweh will keep you from all evil. He will keep your soul. 8  Yahweh will keep your going out and your coming in, from this time forward, and forever more. 

DAY FIVE – 2 Samuel 1-4

The transfer of power is always a messy business in the world of mankind. It was also in the era of the kings of Israel. Saul, Israel’s first king, and his son Jonathan–a soul brother of David–both fell on Mt. Gilboa in a battle with the Philistines, who lived along Israel’s southwestern coast. Already anointed as successor to Saul, David went up to Hebron with his wives and his army, along with their families, and became king over Judah, who swore loyalty to him. However, Saul’s general Abner lifted up Ishbosheth, Saul’s younger son, to be king over Benjamin and all Israel. So the kingdom was divided, and a war of attrition was fought. It too was messy, consuming the lives of strong fighting men and releasing vengeance over the loss of family blood. It’s no fun, really, reading this eventful account. Through it all David refused to join the partisan fighting and vengeful actions. Knowing that Yahweh God was the divine sovereign and that He ruled in the affairs of mankind, David trusted God to bring about the kingdom in His own time. And God did. David meanwhile mourned the loss of fighting men in both armies, attending their funerals and behaving appropriately, leaving a deep impression on the entire nation. He wrote songs to commemorate the loss of Saul and Jonathan and also of Abner, Saul’s general.

Exulting over the transfer of power without mourning the mess it often creates leaves people angry and confused. Such is our world of politics today–partisan fighting, choosing sides, destroying good people, all in the name of holding power over the nation. It’s time we mourn the process, even while we are trying to forward an agenda and get certain candidates elected! In the end, all power belongs to God, and we are here because of His mercy and grace. Judgments we deserve are withheld. Blessings we don’t deserve He shares abundantly, knowing the state of our broken world, which persists  until the final and eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is fully established. In the meantime, humility and repentance go a long way toward healing and peace, regardless our agendas and political preferences. It’s time the world sees that we really do trust God to finish all He has started, and to act accordingly in good faith.

Week 17, 2018 – Our journey thru the Bible, Getting to know God better…

Matter of the heart… When doing good causes suffering… the Cave experiences…

DAY ONE – 1 Samuel 13-16

Matters of the heart may at times seem trivial to us; we might even mistake them as emotionalism. But as we consider today’s reading, remember this: Proverbs 4:23  (NLT) Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. As we review King Saul’s life in these chapters, something keeps surfacing–he cannot follow orders! Though Saul was an attractive human specimen, standing head and shoulders above his countrymen, his fatal flaw destroyed him. Two years into his reign, he was at Gilgal (home of the Ark of the Covenant), with a few hundred men, threatened by the Philistines who had amassed against Israel. Desertion in his army was high, and he couldn’t seem to pull things together. In his mind, only Yahweh God could save him, so he called for an altar and burnt offerings to Yahweh. He waited for seven days for Samuel to come, but the old prophet was delayed, arriving right after Saul had offered to God. Samuel immediately confronted him: “Your instructions were to wait seven days until I arrive.” Saul reverted to rationalism: “But the people were deserting, and I couldn’t wait any longer!” Fear had gripped his heart. Sometime later Samuel related a mission Yahweh was sending Saul on, to completely and utterly destroy the Amalekites for the way they had treated Israel hundreds of years before; it was time for justice. Saul went on the mission, carried out the task, and returned with the conquered king Agag and the best of the booty to be offered as sacrifice. Of course by now God’s prophet Samuel knew everything, for the Lord had revealed it to him the night before. Saul greeted him cheerfully, reporting that he had carried out the mission. Is that so? Then what about all these sheep and cattle? Oh, those are for sacrifice. Really. What part of obeying God’s instructions do you not understand, Saul? Oh…well, I…

As it turned out, Saul once again succumbed by allowing fear of the people to grip his heart. Now everybody knew that Samuel was God’s prophet, and that the Lord let none of his words fall to the ground. Why wasn’t Saul afraid of Samuel? His heart was really messed up! Saul had no spiritual compass, so he was often off course. Since the fear of God wasn’t truly in his heart, he was left with only his thoughts and feelings and circumstances. It ruined him, and he lost his kingdom soon after that to a younger man who served God FROM THE HEART! 1 Samuel 16:7  But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Don’t look on his face, or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for I don’t see as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.” 

Deuteronomy 6:5  You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. 6  These words, which I command you today, shall be on your heart… 

DAY TWO – 1 Samuel 17-20, Psalm 59

David killed Goliath, and it vaulted him into ‘national hero’ status. That’s a pretty large jump for someone maybe still in his teens, but the glory would be tempered by King Saul’s rabid jealousy. And it was a pretty vulnerable place for someone assigned to the king as his personal musician! Since God’s Spirit had come upon David but left Saul, the rages of the sitting king did not bode well for the young king-to-be. Saul might have succeeded in destroying David, but the Lord gave David an ally in Jonathan, Saul’s son. And he wasn’t just any ally; the souls of the two young men had become knit in a close bond of fellowship and mutual respect, so that Jonathan was willing to lay down his own life for David, and vice versa. At one point, Saul cursed his own son and splattered him with vitriol for protecting David, who had to go into exile away from his family and friends until the matter was dealt with. Most, if not all of us, have had difficult relationships that threatened to spoil our dreams of life and family. Following David’s attitudes and actions through the story unfolding before us can give valuable insights into dealing with our own rigorous relationships. Psalm 59 was attached to this reading–let’s see if we can glean from David’s spirit in how to handle someone else’s wrath, especially when it is unjustified…

Psalm 59:1-4  (A poem by David, when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.) Deliver me from my enemies, my God. Set me on high from those who rise up against me. 2  Deliver me from the workers of iniquity. Save me from the bloodthirsty men. 3  For, behold, they lie in wait for my soul. The mighty gather themselves together against me, not for my disobedience, nor for my sin, Yahweh. 4  I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Rise up, behold, and help me!  Psalm 59:8 -10 But you, Yahweh, laugh at them. You scoff at all the nations. 9  Oh, my Strength, I watch for you, for God is my high tower. 10  My God will go before me with his loving kindness. God will let me look at my enemies in triumph. 

David’s strategy begins and ends with God. That keeps his attitudes in check, preventing him from doing further damage. As to his actions, he does what he has to do to survive, but he DOES NOT take matters into his own hands to resolve the problem. It is left to Yahweh God. As future chapters will reveal, the Lord can be trusted with all these things. Stay close to Him, and trust Him.

DAY THREE – 1 Samuel 21-24, Psalm 91

What do you do when your innocent and unknowing act inadvertently brings disastrous calamity to someone else? David’s visit to Ahimelech the priest at Nob eventually resulted in the death of all 85 priests in the family and the destruction of Nob with all its women and children. Even though David had nothing to do with the massacre, he thought he might have prevented it by taking out one man. It weighed heavily on his conscience. With King Saul on the rampage again, trying to hunt down David to kill him, the young king-to-be was doing all he could to even survive.  Evidently being in the will of God does NOT mean that we won’t suffer. Suffering in this world is because we are in this world! At times frightened out of his wits, David stepped into the responsibility thrust upon him and became an even greater leader in the process. Six hundred men and their families were now depending on him!

Underlying all the various issues in David’s life was his relationship with Yahweh God. Two things stand out: 1) David consorted with and consulted God in almost everything. Seemingly he was giving honor and respect to Yahweh every day. 2) David TRUSTED God to act in his behalf and to ‘run the world’ so that David didn’t have to! He really believed God was in charge. When Saul discredited himself again and again, David did not see it as an ‘aha’ moment. When he could have taken Saul out, he refused to raise his hand against ‘Yahweh’s anointed.’ God’s will is not always to be discovered in the opportunities we have, nor in the circumstances that appear to come together. By carefully and repeatedly seeking out the Lord, we grow in our ability to discern right and wrong things to do.

The 91st Psalm demonstrates the safest place to live in this world–in God’s secret place. And what is that secret? Watch this: Psalm 91:14-16 (ESV) “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Ponder that.

DAY FOUR – Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, 52

Does God really intervene in human affairs? Does He take a personal interest in you and me? Deism says NO. It’s a religious belief holding that God created the universe and established rationally comprehensible moral and natural laws but does not intervene in human affairs through miracles or supernatural revelation (Dictionary Pro). Evidently some of our more prominent American founders were deists. They believed in God, but the question is, which God did they believe in? Was it the God of their imagination, or was it the God of revelation–the God Jesus reveals to us to be “Our Father in heaven”? Ask David…wait, we can’t ask him; but we can read his testimony of the God he believed in. THAT God is the God in these Psalms we are reading today. He is Personal, thoughtful, loving, and supernatural. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the description of Himself that He gave to Moses? Exodus 34:5-6  Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed Yahweh’s name. 6  Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth… Is this the god of the deists, or is this the Father whom Jesus revealed to us? At some point in our life, we MUST decide if we really BELIEVE the God of the Bible–the God of David, and Samuel, and Moses, and Jesus, and Paul. David frequently in his prayers and writings says, ‘My God.’

If the God Jesus revealed is my Father, He is also my God–MY God. And if He is as He revealed Himself to Moses to be, which part of His interest in me and my affairs do I not believe? Is God the God of my circumstances only, or is He my God? If He is my God, then circumstances are somewhat irrelevant! He is my God all of the time. Does my Dad ever stop being my father? No. Was I close to my dad? Was he a great dad? Maybe, maybe not, you say. But he was still my Dad. If Jesus says that God is our Father in heaven, and THAT God describes Himself as He did to Moses, then that is the God I believe! I don’t just believe in Him; I believe HIM! To understand David’s heart and relationships, we must also understand David’s God. Then we can confidently move forward.

DAY FIVE – Psalms 56, 120, 140, 141, 142

Caves are not where I want to spend my time. Maybe go in for a look-around, a brief adventure, but I certainly don’t want to have to live in one. For David, the cave became a sanctuary, a hiding place, when King Saul sought his life. The entire ordeal lasted seven years; that’s a lot of ‘caving’! I mention sanctuary, because evidently some of his time in hiding was spent in contemplation, praise, thanksgiving and a lot of attention to Yahweh God. As Paul and Silas in prison at Philippi sang songs and hymns in the deep of night, so David composed many psalms from his place as a fugitive. These are not nice, religious ditties! They are heart-rending, gut-twisting exposes of the soul–deep complaints tempered with hope and thankfulness. David’s faith, trust and confidence were born in the crucible of suffering–away from home and family, cut off from the house of worship, without religious trappings. Psalm 142:1-4  (A contemplation by David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.) I cry with my voice to Yahweh. With my voice, I ask Yahweh for mercy. 2  I pour out my complaint before him. I tell him my troubles. 3  When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, you knew my route. On the path in which I walk, they have hidden a snare for me. 4  Look on my right, and see; for there is no one who is concerned for me. Refuge has fled from me. No one cares for my soul. This is the cry of a man who feels totally alone.

David PROVED God faithful in his own experiences, time and time again. His is not the light prose of someone who believes in a good idea. For him Yahweh is the difference between life vs. death, hope vs. despair, trust vs. faint-heartedness. I have always loved what David said to the king before he went out to face Goliath with his trusted sling and a stone: 1 Samuel 17:37  “Yahweh who delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” And God did just that. Will He do the same for me? That’s what I have to find out; that’s what I HAVE found out. And you–will God deliver you? You must find that out for yourself; no one else can offer you that assurance. We have read no fewer than ten of David’s psalms that came out of deep suffering. Hang out with David; wander with him, cry with him, sing his songs with him, and DISCOVER HIS GOD with Him!


 

Week 16, 2018 – Discovering God’s Treasures by Reading thru the Bible

When everyone does what is right in his own eyes… God at work behind the scenes… Speak Lord, I’m listening…

DAY ONE – Judges 19-21

The Bible is a ‘no holds barred’ historical account of mankind and his relationship with God. Nothing, regardless its heinous nature, is withheld if it complements the story of human history. And no history, however positive or negative, is irrelevant to the human situation. Such is the tragic story that unfolded near the end of the era of the Judges. A story of perversion, unspeakable group conduct, revelation of the facts, and a ‘wakeup’ call to the entire nation, unfolds before our very eyes. One of the twelve tribes of Israel is decimated during this incident but hangs on by the ‘skin of their teeth.’ And when the whole story has reached an end, a final statement is added: Judges 21:25  In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.

There is a redemptive part of the human narrative that must always be told, if we are to correctly understand the nature and wisdom of Yahweh God. Being the Creator of mankind and the One left holding the bag filled with human failure, God is often blamed for the ills and evils perpetrated throughout nations, in families and even in individuals. Until we know the back story, we cannot understand the secret mysteries of evil and good. Only the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ and His mysterious kingdom brings Truth into focus and reveals what has been, and what is yet to come. The FACTS of history must be rehearsed with the call of Jesus Christ ringing in our ears: Mark 1:14-15  Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, 15  and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and God’s Kingdom is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.” It has always been true; now it is critical. Time is running out.

DAY TWO – Ruth 1-4

It has been said that virtue has its own reward. However true that may be, the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz has all the ingredients of a Hallmark ‘feel good’ movie! Famine, emigration and loss of life fill the early pages of this account of Naomi, whose husband, Elimelech died after they settled in Moab. Following the marriages of Naomi’s two sons, to Orpah and Ruth, both sons also died within a ten-year period. Ruth emerges in the following scenes as a truly devoted, self-giving young woman committed to her aging mother-in-law’s welfare. Back in Bethlehem of Judah, Naomi must now look after the welfare of Ruth, whose future seems very uncertain. For us, the emergence of Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, is something new. The kinsman would traditionally buy the family property and marry the widow in order to maintain the family name. It turned out that Boaz was that kinsman willing to perform that function, even though he already had property and family. He had watched Ruth closely, observed her virtuous behavior and considered Naomi’s fortunes as well. Two profound ‘blessings’ are spoken and should be remembered.

First, acknowledging Ruth’s kindness to Naomi, Boaz blessed her in this manner:  Ruth 2:12  May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”  Without knowing, Ruth, by coming back to Israel with Naomi, had placed herself under Yahweh God’s blessing. And Yahweh, who rewards virtue, had laid a plan for Ruth which would reward the young Moabitess with a perpetual blessing that would outlive her; for she would be named in the ancestry of none other than Jesus the Messiah. Second, once Ruth was married to Boaz, her redeemer, she had a son who was none other than King David’s grandfather! And the women of their hometown lavished this blessing on Naomi:  Ruth 4:14-16   “Praise the LORD, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15  May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” 16  Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. So this great story reminds us to trust Yahweh God with the oversight of our past, present and future, no matter the difficult circumstances we may encounter along the way. Ruth, by being focused on the welfare of someone other than herself, and by working hard and accepting elder wisdom, was blessed by God more than she could ever have dreamed.

DAY THREE – 1 Samuel 1-3

Much has been made of Hannah’s prayers for a son, and of the priest’s blessing over her, and of the birth of Samuel, and of his early years in the temple. But he was LENT to the Lord by his mother, having only been weaned. And he was delivered into the old priest’s care, and he grew up before the Lord in the house of God. His mother got to see him once a year. Hannah INVESTED in the future of Israel and trusted Yahweh God with that investment, surrendering all control over what she had given to God. It was soon obvious that Yahweh was with Samuel and oversaw his growing up years. But the defining event in these chapters is how Samuel came to know the Lord’s voice. He thought he heard Eli, but it turned out God was calling him. Three times in the night Samuel ran to Eli to know why he was called. Finally the old man realized it was God calling and instructed Samuel how to answer the next time he heard the voice–“Speak, Yahweh, for your servant is listening.”

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And so God again found a voice in Israel, a young man who would come to know God’s voice intimately and would speak God’s words fearlessly to his generation. “The Lord was with Samuel, and let none of his words fall to the ground.” When a person becomes that intimate with God of heaven, the Lord’s voice and the person’s voice sometimes sound the same, and God honors his servant’s words as well. If we are praying for a generation of young men and women who know God’s voice and will speak to their generation, well and good! But if we are not praying that prayer; if we are not willing to lend our sons and daughters to the Lord, why not? What mischief will it take for us to realize the desperate times our world is in? When will we give it all up to the Lord? Hopefully sooner than later.

DAY FOUR – 1 Samuel 4-8

“And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” That’s a good thing…right? It all depends…  The Philistines had been oppressing Israel into service for some time. Now they decided to conquer Israel, so they made war and killed 4,000 Israelis. Recovering from battle, Israel decided to bring the Ark of God into the battle zone to improve their chances of success. Old priest Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas, brought the Ark from Shiloh, and a massive shout was raised when it came into the camp! One day later, 30,000 Israelis lay dead, including Hophni and Phineas; and the Ark of God had been taken by the Philistines back to their city. When old priest Eli heard the news, he fell and broke his neck and died. Can it get any worse? Well, Phineas’ wife went into labor and had a boy, whom she named Ichabod–“The glory has departed from Israel.” From “The word of Samuel came to all Israel,” to “The glory has departed from Israel.” Wait a minute…where is the disconnect? Israel is making sacrifices to the Baals and Ashtoreths (foreign pagan gods), having rejected Yahweh as Sovereign. Things have gone from bad to worse. But there are some interesting developments down south…

First, the Philistine god Dagon is not faring well. The Ark of God is in his temple. Day one: Dagon is lying on the ground, knocked off his pedestal. Day two: Dagon is on the ground again, this time his head and hands lying nearby, broken off. Second, the Philistines of Ashdod city are breaking out in tumors all over. Everyone seems infected with the plague. And then a memory surfaces: remember what Yahweh did to the Egyptians? The whole world knew. So the Ark is moved to Gath, then to Ekron, Philistine cities. But the plague is now in those cities too. And the lights come on! Seven months of misery have brought the Philistines to their senses. So they send the Ark of God home and leave Israel alone. That was a great start, but Israel was still in the woods–only when they put away the demon gods and returned to Yahweh did their fortunes begin to improve. And Samuel stood before them all the way, speaking and judging with messages from Yahweh God. May the church of the west hear God’s voice calling us away from pagan persuasions, philosophies and traditions. As Jesus said to the seven churches in the Revelation, “Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” May we revive the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven among us and seek His kingdom first.

DAY FIVE – 1 Samuel 9-12

Does our Father in heaven plan ahead for things that happen in our life? The story of Israel’s first king suggests that he does. God’s strategy to discover and choose Saul to be commander over Israel was elaborate and carefully executed, bringing together seemingly unrelated events and people to accomplish His plan. What a great story! What’s even more interesting is that Yahweh God’s hand is so clearly seen in the signs accompanying this incredible event, no one would believe that the Lord considered it a wicked thing! Really? God carried out a plan that made Him an accomplice to a wicked act? Not only did the Lord carry this out, He used it to REVEAL to the people the wickedness of their insistence that they have a king. Remember, from the days of Egypt until the days of this story, Israel had a history of unfaithfulness and disobedience to the heavenly commandments. They repeatedly rejected God in favor of foreign, demonic religious practices. And they were about to do it again, asking for a king so they could be “like the other nations.” So He gave them a king. Then, to prove to the people that they had sinned, God’s word through Samuel brought thunder and rain onto the wheat harvest, destroying it completely! So once again, Israel was sorry; but the damage was done. There would be good kings, but some of them would be so grossly pagan that generations later Israel would be swept away into exile and lose everything they had. Soon we will hear Samuel say to King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” But today is another learning experience.

Is there no comfort, no redemption? But yes, certainly… 1 Samuel 12:20-24  “Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the LORD with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on Him. 21  Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! 22  The LORD will not abandon His people, because that would dishonor His great name. For it has pleased the LORD to make you His very own people. 23  “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the LORD by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. 24  But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve Him. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you. Remember today that the Lord’s plans are ALWAYS redemptive, and He is always planning something better for us as we follow Him.

Week 15, April 8, 2018 – Let’s Get to Know God Better thru His Word…

Samson’s fatal flaw… Dishonest history… Pagan altars… “How’s that working out for you?”

DAY ONE – Judges 2-5

It is pretty well given that we don’t have to look for trouble in this world; it finds us! When Jacob, the father of Israel stood before the Pharaoh, he was asked, “How old are you?” He answered that his days were 130 years and full of trouble. Did he look for it? Not necessarily. Did he cause it? Sometimes, yes, in his quest to get out of life all  he could. Did God help him? Yes, again and again; the Lord was faithful to His covenants. Now we have advanced several hundreds of years, and Israel’s descendants are again in trouble. Though God has kept all His promises and blessed them abundantly, their disobedience to His laws and ways keep activating trouble all around them, especially from the peoples they failed to drive out. One passage says that the remaining remnant nations lived among the Israelites in their new homeland; and after Israel’s failures another passage says that Israel lived among the remnant nations that grew strong again. The tables were turned; the scales were balanced, and Israel no longer enjoyed God’s favor as they had. Now they had to fight to survive. So I’m wondering if we are seeing something akin to this in our millennial generation? It is fairly accepted that in our national culture, diverse ideologies hold about even in the polls–sometimes a bit more conservative, sometimes a bit more liberal. And in the denominational world, scripture is losing ground to distrust and skepticism. So is the Lord testing us as He did Israel? Has the Lord allowed the scales to tip so that we would also have to fight to survive? If so, then our work is cut out for us. Perhaps it’s time we get back to the business of serving the Lord and advancing His kingdom in a milieu of cosmic conflict.

The Judges who emerged in this book that bears their standard were people of commitment and dedication. They led armies, faced fears, defeated their enemies (God’s enemies). They lived on to protect the land and judge the people by serving Yahweh God and encouraging the people to do the same. They rejected idolatry and all its destructive practices. And so the Lord blessed the land with rest for a season during their lifetime. May principled men and women arise in our millennial generation to judge righteously for the Lord and take their stand in our time. After a great victory under the leadership of the prophetess/judge Deborah, and Barak her general, they sang this song: Judges 5:2  “Israel’s leaders took charge, and the people gladly followed. Praise the LORD! Let that song be sung again in our day; may God’s people stand and be counted.

DAY TWO – Judges 6-9

When is it time to tear down our fathers’ altars? Answer: 1) when God’s prophets remind us how far we have strayed from God’s true path of righteousness and relationship; 2) when the ‘angel of the Lord’ (His messenger) finds us at work but living in fear of our enemies. Both of these portents were in evidence in these chapters when the ‘Lord’ appeared to Gideon, son of Joash. This heavenly Messenger gave Gideon a single assignment: tear down the Baal’s altar, using your father’s second bull. Then build an altar to Yahweh God and offer the bull on the wreckage, thus destroying the symbol of Baal worship (Baal has been unmasked in our times as the god of a thousand faces, represented in religions all over the world as their own personal deities). Thus Gideon’s life took a dramatic turn when he carried out the assignment. Not only did God preserve him when his own people sought his life, but the Lord also led him into a campaign that destroyed all the armies of Midian–over 130,000 armed men! And this was done with a small regiment of only 300 men who were loyal to Gideon and God. The Lord Himself gave Gideon detailed instructions at each juncture of the campaign until it was completed. Israel was brought back to God during Gideon’s lifetime because one young man of no particular significance was willing to obey God and buck the tide.

Question: what constitutes an altar? Baal’s altar was prominent, a tower of some sort to which the people resorted with their sacrifices and which provoked them to all sorts of evil practices learned from the Canaanites living around them (oh, right… these were the people who were supposed to be completely driven out during Joshua’s day but never were). We cannot turn back the clock to remedy the mistakes of previous generations, but we can worship and serve the Lord God courageously in the face of the mounting pagan influences saturating our culture. And at some point, the ‘angel of the Lord’ may find us clandestinely going about our business with some fear and trepidation; He may ask us to perform some outrageous act which destroys the evil and tears down wicked altars. What will we say? Will we buck the tide? Will we stand for raw truth regardless the outcomes? Remember, Gideon was no warrior. He was a young man who required several supernatural confirmations to assure himself this was actually God He saw, who was asking him to step out and up to a dangerous mission in a dangerous time. Only when he complied was he lifted to a new level of relationship with Yahweh that positively influenced his generation. Need I say more?

DAY THREE – Judges 10-13

Jephthah was an unlikely candidate to be a judge of Israel. Illegitimate, he was banished from the family compound by his brothers, from which he went into exile and became a mighty man of valor as he struggled to survive the circumstances thrust upon him. Israel at that time came again into the throes of bondage because of their abandonment of Yahweh their God. When attacked repeatedly by the Ammonites from east of the Jordan, they sought out Jephthah to make him their leader and judge, and to deliver them from the Ammonites. With a promise that he would lead Israel, Jephthah contacted the king of Ammon and demanded a reason for their aggression. When the king responded that Israel had stolen their land in the days of Joshua, Jephthah was able to give a truthful and complete retelling of history that debunked the king’s claim. Read it carefully, for based on the truth, Yahweh God stepped in and delivered Ammon into Jephthah’s hands in total defeat. It was history that substantiated Jephthah’s actions; what is more astounding is that he was able to lay out Israel’s history in accurate detail, though hundreds of years had elapsed. God Himself upheld the truth as Jephthah prayed for success.

Rewriting history and retelling it for nefarious purposes is wicked. Yet that is happening in our day, and an illiterate public is buying the lie, which has the effect of changing the entire religious, political and social context of our culture. Ignorant people can be persuaded to blindly follow unscrupulous leaders if they have no knowledge of history. Even the Word of God can be discredited when a lie is offered as a substitute for truth that is historically verified. If, as in the case of the Ammonite king, truth can be skewed by the skillful rewriting of history, it may lead to the downfall of an entire nation of people, as it did to the Ammonites. God stood with Israel and helped Jephthah defeat their enemies and destroy them completely. Always stick with the truth; it needs no other support. And there is no greater telling of history than that found in God’s Word; some have called it ‘his-story.’ Knowing our past is often a prologue to a more secure future.

DAY FOUR – Judges 14-16

It is hard to imagine that one’s strength could also become his fatal flaw. Known for his mighty feats of strength, Samson eventually died because he failed to connect his gift with the source of the gift. When the Philistines oppressed Israel for years, a condition allowed by Yahweh to discipline his errant people, they cried out to the Lord who was reticent to rescue them again after so long a bout with idolatry and apostasy. Yet God did relent. He blessed a barren woman with a son on condition that the boy follow the Nazirite vow throughout his life–nothing from the vine and no razor upon his hair. It’s actually entertaining to read the exploits of Samson, the ease with which he confounded and defeated the Philistines year after year, so that they mostly stayed away from Israel. And then the unraveling began, precipitated by his proclivity to love beautiful, pagan women. It was Delilah the Philistine who patiently and persistently extracted Samson’s secret from his heart. And once revealed, there was no going back. The playboy hero was done for–his eyes gouged out and his life used to provide sport for his captors. In such a setting, his hair now grown again, Samson died avenging the cruelty he had experienced by his enemies. Grasping the two supporting pillars of the temple of Dagon, he pulled down the entire edifice, taking out 3,000 Philistines with him, including their princes and all their ruling class. A beautiful tragedy–inexplicable except for the sovereign hand of Yahweh, Israel’s God, standing in the shadows of heaven and earth.

DAY FIVE – Judges 17-18

Judges 17:6  In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. How does an educated, economically powerful and blessed nation of people spiral so far downward that the above statement could be pronounced over them? The answer is, gradually–it’s the ‘frog in the kettle’ syndrome. But the statement itself is revealing–“Israel had no king.” Israel NEVER had a king. Israel conquered many kings in their exploits but they themselves had always been ruled by God through a few strong leaders raised up by Yahweh God. How did they ever get to the place in which “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes”? We might ask that question of our own people and culture. If we study the course of nations, they are founded on the strengths and values they corporately possess. Their longevity is based on the development of memes which express their strengths and values in succeeding generations. If at any point, social, political or religious movements begin to fragment their memes, then their strengths and values erode, at first slowly, then precipitously. Alter enough of a nation’s core values, and there will be no strength left to support its origins. So went Israel; so goes the western church and culture. Without a king a people may flounder. We don’t have kings in our national structure; it is quite understood that God and His Son, Jesus the King, once provided the source of value that maintained our culture. By repudiating Divine Sovereignty through multi-culturalism and doctrines of diversity, we have denuded the spiritual landscape, leaving it barren and devoid of God’s government and rule. What’s left? “…all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” How is that working out for us?