Day 244: Ezekiel 20-21; Old News… Bad News…

There is a great deal of bad news that comes with today’s reading.  It’s almost depressing to be honest.  Ezekiel probably has one of the most comprehensive descriptions about what is going on with the people of Israel, why it is happening, and even how it will take place.  As I was reading all of chapter 20 though, I kept thinking that I had heard all of this in another place before now.  Of course we have heard a lot of this message in Isaiah and Jeremiah, but it wasn’t with them that we had heard all of Ezekiel’s telling of the story of the people of Israel.  Do you remember where it came from?  It’s been a long time since we talked about it and it had been a long time chronologically speaking for the people of Israel too.  However, any good Hebrew scholar of the Scriptures in that time would have recognized Ezekiel’s words as coming from the book of Leviticus, particularly the end, as well as other parts of Exodus and Deuteronomy that talk about the Covenant and all that would happen if they broke the covenant.

What Ezekiel was saying here, the Word of the Lord that came to him, was certainly not anything new for the people of Israel.  I would assume that Ezekiel knew exactly what God was saying and where He was drawing from as the words were flowing out of his mouth.  If you have a moment, read the following excerpt from Leviticus 26, you might notice some similarities between Ezekiel 20 and this:

Leviticus 26

14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again seven fold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you seven fold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it.33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God.45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.”

The Word of the Lord to Ezekiel is not something made up on the spot, neither is it contrary to the Covenant that God has made with His people.  Yet even at the end of Chapter 20, as we have seen in the writings of the prophets and many more times throughout Israel’s history, God forgives and His grace abounds.  In so many ways, God’s grace abounds.  Even with the people of God don’t get it, when they don’t repent, God still forgives and still continues to try to teach them.  He even goes so far as to send His Son to do what they could not so that the whole world would know that He is God.



Day 211: Isaiah 45-47; The Rise of Cyrus and Fall of Babylon

Today’s reading covers the events that I mentioned a few days ago at the beginning of this section of Isaiah.  There is a great deal of political upheaval that is going to take place in the world as Babylon declines in power and falls to King Cyrus the Great of Persia.  Some of the time that has been overlooked here will be picked up in other prophets such as Daniel.  In the mean time, the writer of Isaiah now is speaking of the instrument the Lord will use to bring about the return of the exiles to Israel; the second exodus if you will.  Our whole passage of reading today covers these events in succession.

Whether or not the writer is writing these things while they happen or if he is prophesying, a great feat indeed seeing as he had the name right any everything, is besides the point really.  Prophecy of this sort is not necessarily about predicting the future.  In fact, prophecy in the Bible is really not about predicting the future day by day, event by event as much as it is speaking the Word of God to the people.  Many times this manifests itself as being something about the future but is often full of imagery and relatively strange metaphors that aren’t necessarily meant to be taken literally.  In fact, most of what we hear in Isaiah and the other prophets as well isn’t so much about laying out an event by event timeline as it is about crediting the Lord with what is to happen and calling the people to repentance.  The call of repentance is something that had been happening, especially in the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, laying out the future in rather broad brush strokes, showing how God is and will be at work is what is happening there and here as well.

The point that the writer is making here is the overall sovereignty of God.  The people of Israel are or will be caught up in this political revolution that is going on, a war between Persia and Babylon that will likely change everything.  God is telling the people that this is something that He is allowing to happen.  In fact, God is empowering Cyrus and the Persians to take over, using him as an instrument so that His people will be allowed to return to their homeland.

What I find interesting about this, is Cyrus’ role in the whole thing.  Scripture says time and again that Cyrus doesn’t acknowledge God at all, but God still uses him to do what he is meant to do.  Ultimately it is God at work using Cyrus, and it’ll be God that brings about Cyrus’ downfall as well.  But for now, despite Cyrus’ lack of acknowledgement, God is working His will.

This gets me thinking about some of the situations that we are encountering today.  I wonder if there are people in the world, in our nation, even in our communities that God is using to work His will in the world despite their lack of recognition.  Perhaps even in our government, with politicians and leaders, the Lord is working out His will somehow.  I don’t think that, given the situation, the people of Israel would have seen Cyrus’ invasion as the work of God without some direction from Isaiah or other prophets.  They were fortunate to have these prophets reminding them of the work that God was doing.  Are there things that are happening at the national, state, or local level that could be God at work?  I dare say there are… if we’re willing to look for them!



Day 210: Isaiah 43-44; Our Only Savior

One of the big themes in this second section of the book of Isaiah is that of restoration.  This can be seen today in many different ways.  The one I want to focus on in particular is that of the transformation of the wilderness that is written about in Isaiah 43.  This is actually something that has come up a couple times already in chapters 40-42, but takes on a very new and specific meaning today because of the context in which it is found.  Isaiah, or the writer at this point, writes the Words of the Lord as He is talking about Israel‘s salvation and relates it to what we could call Israel’s “first salvation,” their escape from the hand of Egypt by the power of God.

The Hebrew people hearing this would have picked up on this theme immediately.  This is such an integral part of the history of Israel, who could forget?  Isaiah is speaking of something like a second Exodus, a time when the people would leave Babylon and return to the land that God had given them.  They are reminded that it was God that made this happen before and it is God that will make it happen once again.  Yet there is something different this time.

Remember, after Israel’s escape from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea, they had to go into the wilderness.  We’ve talked about the wilderness experience at many different times throughout our journey through the Scriptures, from Israel to David and many other characters as well.  Every time though, as we pick up on this wilderness motif, we see it as a time of trial when the people or the person is faced with a great struggle that strips their identity and causes them to be re-identified.  For Israel, they went from being a group of slaves to a nation, a people of God.  David went from being a shepherd boy on the run to a wise and cunning king, ready to rule a nation.  But again, I point out that this time, the wilderness is different.

Isaiah isn’t talking about a vast expanse of land that is hostile to live in and difficult to survive through, He paints a picture of a redeemed and restored wilderness, a place in which the provisions of God are extravagant and overflowing:

Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.
The wild beasts will honor me,
    the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
    rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.

So where does this come from?  This is the work of the Lord and Isaiah ties it into the salvation of Israel and the servant of the Lord that is to come.  Even though the people of Israel do not and will not recognize the work of the Lord, He still does the work to “blot our their transgressions.”  The point is being made here that the people cannot and will not be able to do these things on their own.  Despite any wilderness experience that they have, they will still fall away.  Even when faced with the mighty works of the Lord, the people still turn away from God.

But God does not leave them in their sin, He will bring them out of it and this time, the wilderness not be harsh and trying, but the way will be clear and the water overflowing.  The providence of the Lord will be more than anyone could ever possibly imagine.  Isaiah is referring to Jesus here, the way in the wilderness, the living water that never runs dry.  The grace that is given us in Jesus Christ is more than we could possibly imagine, covering over all the sins of the world.  This is the blessing to the world that Israel was always meant to be, the path laid before all people leading to the grace and mercy of God found in Jesus Christ.  Israel may have failed, but God never did.  They may not have been what they were intended to be, but God’s work towards salvation and restoration never ceased.  The way has been made for us in the wilderness, and the living water flows abundantly through it: Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.



Day 124: 2 Chronicles 1-4; Solomon Reigns in Jerusalem

We now enter into the book of 2 Chronicles.  The first book, our readings for the past week or so, brought us from Creation through the reign of King David.  2 Chronicles, our readings for the next week or so, will bring us from Solomon through the Exile.  Today, we begin where we left off yesterday, with the transition of power from David to Solomon.  As Solomon assumes the throne he does exactly what he is charged to do by his father too, he worships God and seeks His face first and foremost.  This happens within the context of a time of worship in front of the tabernacle that is set up in Gibeon.

Solomon prays for Wisdom Photo Credit: www.hisdaughter02.blogspot.com/

Solomon prays for Wisdom
Photo Credit: www.hisdaughter02.blogspot.com

That night, we read, the familiar narrative of God coming to Solomon and offering the new king anything that he wants.  As we read in 1 Kings 3, Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge to govern the people of God.  This is a request that pleases God and one that He grants to Solomon 100 fold and then some.  Along with wisdom and knowledge, Solomon is blessed with wealth beyond compare and incredible success.  While it doesn’t say it here, remember that in 1 Kings Solomon is granted rest from his enemies and receives a considerable amount of gifts and tribute from the surrounding nations that are under his rule.  We read here too that in the first couple years of his reign, Solomon establishes Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, as the principle power in the region and makes “gold as common as stone.”

English: Solomon and the Plan for the Temple, ...

English: Solomon and the Plan for the Temple, as in 1 Kings 6, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This time, from David through most of Solomon’s reign, is considered to be the “Golden Age” of Israel.  For the first time in their existence, they are (for the most part) following God and living in His ways.  Because of this, God is blessing their socks off, and everything seems to be going their way.  It is in this context that Solomon begins to build the Temple of the Lord, the right granted to him by God.

Yet it is not in this context that these things are written.  Remember that the book of Chronicles is largely considered to have been written upon the return of the exiles from their captivity in Babylon to their desolate homeland in Judah.  They had nothing… less than nothing really.  The great city described in 2 Chronicles 2 lay in ruins.  The only thing that was as common as stone in Jerusalem was probably weeds or ruble.  The Temple of the Lord had been stripped of its former glory and burned to the ground. There was nothing left.  This is such a sharp contrast to what is being described here.  It must have been difficult to hear… much less write.

However, there is a purpose here in writing about the way things used to be, about their former glory as it were.  The writer isn’t rubbing it the face of those the returned exiles, showing them all the stuff they could have had… or didn’t have.  No, the writer is showing the people who they are by showing them who the people of Israel are.  He is showing them that it is very clear what God can bring about when His people follow His Laws and His will for their lives.  He is showing them that all of that can be restored if they follow in the ways of the Lord.  Of course this narrative does not stand in a vacuum, but is juxtaposed against the coming narratives of the disobedience of Israel… the very reason they are in the situation that they were in.  But the point here is that this is who the people of God are… they are a blessed people, chosen by God to be a blessing to the nations around them.  In their return, they can once again live in the City of David, own the inheritance that was given them, and if they will follow in the ways of the Lord, God will be faithful as He always has been, and bless them once again.



Day 119: 1 Chronicles 14-16; David's Song of Thanks

As I was thinking about today’s reading, I really was just astounded by the song of David in 1 Chronicles 16.  Thus far, there hasn’t been a better summary of the Covenant and God’s faithfulness in Israel’s history.  I think, in lieu of something better to say, that I will just encourage you to read it again and reflect on the all that we have heard and read in these last four months.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
Remember his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
as your portion for an inheritance.”

When you were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”

David's Song of Thanks Photo Credit: http://caffeinatedthoughts.com

David’s Song of Thanks
Photo Credit: http://caffeinatedthoughts.com

Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
     tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Save us, O God of our salvation,
and gather and deliver us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!

Amen!



Day 114: 1 Chronicles 1-2; Books of the Chronicles

As I said towards the end of the writing yesterday, up until now everything has happened in a fairly chronological order.  Yesterday we came to the end of the narrative of the kings of Israel and Judah with the final exiles being carried off to Babylon.  We will pick up on that again, however, we now take a step back and look at the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles.

In the Hebrew Bible these books actually compose the last two books of Scripture, while the Christian Bible has these two books towards the end of the “historical” section of the Biblical Cannon.  Tradition has it that these books were written in the “post-exilic” time of the nation of Judah.  While the author is anonymous, both Jewish and Christian traditions hold that it was Ezra the priest that actually wrote this all down along with the book that bears his name, Ezra, and the book of Nehemiah.

Timeline of the Old Testament Patriachs Photo Credit: http://www.ltradio.org/charts/

Timeline of the Old Testament Patriachs
Photo Credit: http://www.ltradio.org/charts/

Today’s reading was, I admit, a bit arduous.  No one likes to read genealogies  especially when they don’t lead to a story.  However the way that the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles are set up, they go through the history of humanity, and then focus in specifically on Israel, David, and then the kingdom of Judah.  As this book was written post-exile, it would have been written for a group of Hebrew refugees that had just returned from exile.  They were, for all intents and purposes, in the same boat as the Israelites were when they first entered Canaan.  They had no land to call their own, no houses, no Temple, no cities or anything.  They were starting over… however this time they didn’t have a nation of a million battle ready soldiers to drive the people of the land out, they had to start over in the midst of oppression, fear of attack, and with a sort of lost identity.

Lost Identity?  Yes… I meant to say that.  See, the exile wasn’t simply about God being mean and pushing these people out of their land.  There was a lot more to it than that.  Remember a ways back, when we talked about the people of Israel living a “Theo-centric” existence?  I couldn’t find the exact date on which we talked about it, however what we see with the nation of Israel, especially when they are in the wilderness, is that they want to live as close to the center of their universe, God, as they possible could. This is seen in how they camp around the Tabernacle, the place they believe that heaven meets earth.  Later, when the Temple is built, that becomes the place of God’s dwell.  Again, this is the place at which heaven and earth meet.

This idea of Theo-centrism also applies to the land in which they live.  Canaan was given to them by God and, though they sinned all the time, their identity was wrapped up in it and, even though they forgot God, it was still a core part of their identity as Hebrews.  However, as I just said, they did sin… they sinned A LOT!  Their identity was twisted and mangled, much like it was in Egypt.  Israel had become slaves once again… slaves to sin.  Once again, they needed to be stripped of their identity and re-identified as God’s people.  In this case, it required punishment and removal of the old by God.

Exile was a very traumatic event because it stripped the people of everything that made them who they were.  You know they say that you’ll never miss something until it is gone, well… this would be very true here.  The people of God lost what they would consider to be their access to God through the Temple.  They lost their inheritance from God in the land.  They lost everything that it was that made them who they were… or so they thought.  However, the one thing they didn’t lose was God.  We’ll see this in some of the many prophets that were sent to the Jewish exiles, and how God works for them through people like Esther and Daniel.

But that, right there, the fact that they never lost God, is the whole point of the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles.  It was written to remind the people of Judah who they were and whose they were.  The covenant did not end with the Exile of God’s people.  In fact, God was still at work, upholding both ends of the covenant as He had always done before.  Though God’s people might have felt “dis-located,” God was trying to show them that they could never truly be absent from the one who is omnipresent.  And in some ways, their presence in the land of Babylon was just the beginning of God’s people fulfilling God’s promise that they would be a light and a blessing to all nations.

Wow… that’s kind of getting ahead of the story.  Today we begin Chronicles.  It takes us through the history of Humanity, of Israel, and then talks briefly about Saul.  It zeros in very specifically on David, and then Solomon, and then on to the Kingdom of Judah primarily.  Why?  Because this was written for returned exiles… and Israel never returned.  As you read, especially in the first half of 1 Chronicles, try to call to memory all that we have read and talked about in the last 4-5 months.  Take some time to look back… to see the bigger picture of God at work in the lives of these people, in the nation of Israel, and how He has been and is continually faithful all the time and everywhere.



Day 105: 2 Kings 1-3; Elisha Succeeds Elijah

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel ...

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel and the son of Ahab and Jezebel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We open the book of 2nd Kings right where we left off in 1st Kings.  These books, as you can imagine, are completely linked.  Really, it is just the book of Kings, yet they are divided up into two volumes.  2 Kings opens just after the death of Ahab, which we read about yesterday.  Ahaziah takes the throne after his father and we read that he is apparently clumsy or something and fell through the “lattice” and probably injured himself somehow.  In any case, rather than going to God with his concern about his injury, he decides to go to one of the gods of the philistines, Baal-zebub (interestingly sounding a lot like “Beelzebub”).  Elijah meets the messengers on the road and delivers the message that God has given him.  Ahaziah will die from his injury because he did not seek the Lord.  I wonder what would have happened if he had sought the Lord…

This act and the the narrative surrounding it brings forth one of the primary issues that plagues both Israel and Judah in this book, and really during most of the time of the kings: Idolatry and a lack of spiritual center.  The people of Israel, both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms are children of the Covenant, living with the promise that God as made.  God is very present among them and has revealed Himself in a very special way to these people.  Yet it seems that whenever there is trouble, the people of Israel go off looking to other gods for help.  Israel was meant to be the light of God to the nations.  They were THE nation through which all nations would be blessed.  Yet, instead of turning to their light in times of need, they look to the gods of the nations that surround them.  Ahaziah is a prime example of this.

The other narrative that we read about today has to do with the succession of Elisha as the Prophet of God.  There are many things that we can glean from this narrative.  Elisha is persistent and loyal, never refusing to leave his master’s side, even after being commanded three times.  I suppose there could be an interesting correlation to Peter’s Denial of Jesus here.  Elijah asks his faithful protegee what he can do for him before he leaves and Elisha’s request is bold!  “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me” he says.  What a request!  And it is granted by his seeing Elijah being taken away, or so Elijah says.  Isn’t it interesting that it takes two strikes for Elisha before the waters part for him.  I think it is important to see here that when he strikes the first time he doesn’t just give up, but he questions the Lord, asking where He is and why he hasn’t yet granted the request.  He is given no sign, no message that he had the power of the Spirit, but he strikes again in faith and the waters part.

Speaking of water, as we close for today, it was suggested the other day by a professor or mine that at any time in the Bible that we talk about water, especially when we talk about going through the water, our minds should move toward the idea of baptism.  We touched on this when we talked about Israel crossing the Red Sea and again when Israel crossed the Jordan River.  Baptism, a washing and cleansing with water, a foreshadowing of Christ’s baptism and His atoning death on the cross, a dying to the old self and rising in the new self, a fundamental re-identification of the person.  This motif, this idea of identity and baptism persists throughout the Bible.  When Israel Crosses the Red Sea they enter as a group of slaves and emerge as a chosen, rescued people of God.  When they cross the Jordan they go down as a Nomadic group of wanderers and emerge as a the nation of God.  Elijah passes through the waters and is taken away and Elisha does the same and takes on the role of his now departed master.  All these events happen though because of the power and will of God alone.  It is God’s might that holds back the sea, it is God’s will, call, and promise that makes someone His… and it will be God’s grace and love which bring Jesus to the cross as atonement for our sins and ultimately the way to be found truly in Him as members of His body.



Day 94: 2 Samuel 21-22; David's Song of Deliverance

If the whole of David’s life were to be summed up into a single phrase, it would arguably be “God is always Faithful.”  Therefore, if we could sum up David’s song 2 Samuel 22, it would be something akin to “God is Great.  God is always Faithful.  Thanks be to God for His Faithfulness.”  Neither of these summaries do justice to the incredible story that is the story of King David’s life, nor the abundant providential faithfulness that God shows time and again throughout David’s years.  They also don’t do justice to the beautiful song that David has written here.  I hope that these two summaries can give us a starting place for thinking about today’s reading and reflecting on David’s life as he enters into is waning years.

Before we get more into the song though, there are some other things that should be mentioned here.  Our reading starts with a famine in the land due to Saul’s unfaithfulness to a long standing covenant with the Gibeonites.  This agreement goes all the way back to Joshua 9 when Joshua is deceived by a group of people pretending to be from a distant land.  This happened during Joshua’s southern campaign, but this is the first and only time we hear about Saul’s actions.  What is interesting about this, I think, is the direct impact this breach of the covenant has on the land, literally the land of Israel.  David seeks after God and the Lord reveals to him the atrocity that has taken place here.  Sometimes I think that we don’t put much stock in agreements that we make anymore.  We have politicians that promise us the world and deliver next to nothing.  Large companies promise great things while delivering shoddy workmanship.  Everything comes with small print…  I wonder what this world would be like if we saw the outwardly direct impact that these breaches have on the world by way of famine, disease, war, etc?  I certainly wouldn’t wish this on us… but it might get a few people’s attention.

We see some of the signs of David’s aging and frailty in chapter 21.  David is in battle and he grows weary?  This isn’t the mighty warrior that we remember from our readings over the last 2 weeks.  David is aging, yet the Lord remains faithful to him in his twilight years.  Other great warriors rise up to defend Israel against what seems like a whole army of giants that come out of the philistines.  There’s even another one named Goliath.  You’d think they’d of avoided that name after what happened to the last one.  However, no matter what their names or what their size, they are no match for the God of Israel.  We once again see God’s faithfulness in action providing for and defending the people of Israel at every turn.

Finally, let us turn our attention once again to the song of David.  As a worship leader, I often struggle to listen to music, especially Christian music, without wanting to hear the lyrics.  I often focus on things like who is this song about, or who are we singing to, or what are the theological overtones of this song.  I think a lot about music, especially worship music, because of the incredible impact that it can have on our lives and on our beliefs as well.  Sadly, there are many “worship songs” out there that really have much more to do with us, the supposed worshiper, than on God who should be the one who is worshiped.  While this could probably be debated a great deal (and I would love to talk about it more), I want to direct our attention back to that of the song of David here in 2 Samuel 22.

David starts out the song with 11 attributes of God right in a row, praising God for who God is.  He then spends the equivalent of 2 lines talking about his own calling out to the Lord and 4 lines referring to why he called out to the Lord, followed by 34 lines of song about the Lord’s answer.  The song continues much in this fashion, focusing more on who God is and the work of God than on the actions of himself.  For David, whether it be safety from Saul or defeat of his enemies, all these things are works of the Lord, faithfulness of God almighty.  For David, everything begins and ends with God.  There is no middle ground here.  We’ll see this more in the Psalms when we get there.  However, for David, as we see here in the twilight of his life, the Lord’s anointed one is giving all honor, all glory, all praise, and all credit to the only one due it: The God of Israel; the God of His fathers, the Holy One and only True God.  May it be so in our lives as we reflect each day on God’s faithfulness to us as well.



Day 88: 2 Samuel 4-7; The Ark and The Covenant

“And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.”

This is really the essence of the reign of David, especially here at the beginning.  What was David’s success attributed to?  Well, if you have been reading the stories of David over the past week or so you have seen that all that David does, he does following what God tells him to.  Even today, as the now rightful king of all of Israel, David still inquires of God as to whether he should attack the Philistines.  It is clear that God is with David.  However, I think it is also clear in these passages that David is with God as well.  There is a relationship here that has taken on the form of what it means to follow the Law and maintain that covenant relationship with God.  Saul showed what it meant to not follow the Law and he was rejected.  David is  clear example of the blessings that come from following the Law.

Following this, we read the narratives of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  Remember that, at the beginning of 1 Samuel, Eli’s wicked sons brought the Ark of the Covenant into battle against the Philistines and it was captured.  When it was returned, it stayed in the house of Abinadab where it has been since that time.  David decides that it is time that the Ark is brought back to Israel.  However, if we remember all the way back to Exodus 25 and Deuteronomy 10 when the Ark was made, there were rules about how the Ark was to be transported and how it was to be regarded.  Whether David knew this or not is, I guess, besides the point for when Uzzah tries to steady it when the Oxen stumbled, he dropped dead on the spot.  Ignorance is, as we see, no excuse for the Law.  David learns from this mistake and when he goes back to get the Ark the second time it is carried by the Levites into Jerusalem.

This brings us the scene of David dancing with all his might before the Ark of the Lord in the sight of all the people.  His wife Michal sees him and criticizes him for it, and yet David is undeterred by her words.  I think that this brings up two very important points in regards to worship.  The first is the point that David makes that He is not doing this for himself, but for God.  Scripture tells us that David danced with all his might “before the Lord.”  This wasn’t a show for all the people of Israel to see.  In fact, we can assume from this text that David doesn’t care who sees him because its not about him.  What if David had spent this time wondering what other people would think?  What if he had paid attention to those who were likely judging him in their minds?  I think we get distracted by the worry that others are going to judge us or what others will think about us if we worship (or dress?) in a certain way.

The second point of worship that I see pointed to here, is the willingness to do what one feels called to do to honor and glorify God.  David, the King of Israel, danced and leapt for joy, wearing almost nothing, with all his might before what was likely a crowd of thousands, if not tens of thousands.  All the people were there: the religious leaders and priests, business folks, farmers, servants, and more than likely a good number of visitors that just happened to be passing through that day.  What is David’s response to this?  He dances just the same… and we worry about whether we can take our hands out of our pockets or possibly show a little emotion when we worship the Living Lord, not to mention actually raising our hands.  What is David’s response to his wife?

“It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.”

Finally, we read at the end of this chapter another rehashing of the Covenant.  We have heard this covenant in many of its “forms” throughout our reading of the Bible before.  God establishes a covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses… each time we hear the covenant it evolves a little bit.  With Adam, we hear that humanity will not be left in sin but one will come to save us from our sins.  With Noah, God promises never again to destroy all life on earth.  The covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob place God as the head of a people that He has chosen, a people that is to follow Him.  In this covenant we also learn that the coming of the one who will bless the whole world (the fulfillment of that which was promised to Adam) would come true through this people.  With Moses, the covenant was defined more giving a Law to the people and a direction in how it was that they were to be God’s people.  None of these cancels out any of the others.  Rather, they build on each other.

We have come now to the “Davidic Covenant.”  This is the latest building and addition to the covenant.  We read here that God’s covenant with David is an everlasting covenant and that David’s house will rule over Israel.  We also find out here the family line of the coming savior.  First we found out he would come as a human through Adam.  We then learned that He would come from the people of Israel.  Now we learn that the coming “Messiah” would be “of the house and line of David.”  We also learn that this is how God will keep his covenant with David, placing who we now know as Jesus as King and Lord of this world and of all things!

Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!



Day 77: 1 Samuel 1-3; The Call of Samuel

As we begin our transition from the time of the Judges to the time of the kings, we walk through the books of first and second Samuel, the narratives of God’s working through the man Samuel to bring about His purposes and will, ultimately establishing the royal house of King David from which the Messiah, Jesus Christ would be born.  This is marked largely by God’s declaration to Samuel in Chapter 3:

“Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.”

It isn’t as if God was trying one this before this and found out that it wasn’t going to work so He scrapped it and moved on to like, plan C or D or whatever it would be now.  God has always been at work in the people of Israel and in the world, bringing about Restoration to the created order after the Fall.  Through Abraham and his offspring God has entered into this covenant relationship and is continuing to work out the fulfillment of His promise from Genesis 12 in which all the nations of the Earth will be blessed.  What God is doing is revealing what the next phase of this restoration project is doing and how it will take on a different shape as before.  All this is laid before us in stark contrast with the words we see earlier in Chapter 3, “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.”

With that in mind, God appears, “standing before Samuel” telling Samuel that He is moving and that things are about to change!  What awesome news for Samuel, even with it positioned around the death of his mentor’s family.

Though I won’t say a great deal about it, I do want to direct your attention to the song of Hannah that she sings after Samuel is born.  It is very similar to the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise when she finds out she will be carrying the Son of God, recorded in Luke 1.

One thing that is interesting to me is how I react to this story now when I think about how it was presented to me as a child.  My Sunday School teachers would always tell us about how we needed to make sure that we were listening to the voice of the Lord and that we were ready to respond to Him.  I think that even at some point one of the criticized Samuel in our class for thinking that the voice of God was actually his mentor Eli.  While I think that this is a good lesson to keep in mind, I’m not entirely sure that the message of this narrative is solely based on that.  Here we find God coming to the one that He has appointed to lead Israel calling to Him and revealing Himself to him.  In much the same way that God called Abraham or Isaiah, God here is calling Samuel to a particular ministry in a particular place at a particular time when God is moving in especially obvious ways.  Its not to say that God hasn’t been working, of course He has.  We’ve seen it  through out the book of Judges and throughout Ruth as well.  God is always at work, always moving, always bringing about His perfect will.  Yet here, God is moving in a new way, a profoundly visible way, and He has appointed Samuel to lead the people through that.  I wonder, thinking about it from that context, if we God speaks to us in the same way.  Perhaps we’ve been doing things pretty much the same for a while.  Maybe we’re just doing church because its church.  Maybe we just get up every day and do what we have to do because that is our lot in life.  I wonder if you have ever had a profound experience like Samuel where God swoops in and says, “Behold, I am about to do a (new) thing in your life at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.”

Oh that we would listen to the voice of God and heed the call to this new thing, whatever it may be, that the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle… to the praise of His glorious name!