Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 120: 2 Chronicles 1, 2 and 3

[Solomon] adorned the temple with precious stones. And the gold he used was gold of Parvaim. (2 Chronicles 3:6)
We've already acknowledged the cheerful heart with which the people of Israel donated monies and materials toward the construction of the temple. They were a grateful people, who cheerfully gave to make the construction of the temple a success.
Here we have another illustration of this building project's importance. This was not the kind of construction project where the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder. Without proper oversight that process can lead to inferior materials being substituted for those in the engineering specs. There was no cutting of corners in building Solomon's Temple. Only the best was good enough for God.
Precious stones were used where the substitution of cubic zirconium would have never been detected. This is where I'd add a little smiley face if this were an email. And when it came to the overlays, no one was tempted to get by with 10-carat gold. They used the gold of Parvaim, the finest gold money could buy.
When you leave your gift at the altar (be it money, time or talent), can you walk away satisfied you've given your very best?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 119: 1 Chronicles 26, 27,28 and 29

We have given you only what comes from your hand. (1 Chronicles 29:14b)
Listen to David's heart as he splendors in God's blessing: Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this (29:14a)?
I read where an eastern European government has regulated the amount its citizens can give to their churches. Charitable contributions are limited to 2% - the thinking being that support for terrorist organizations is often disguised as gifts to charities. Christians in those countries are looking for loopholes so they can give more.
Contrast that with wealthier countries where many people try not to give at all, or find loopholes to give as little as possible. Not so with David and the people of Israel. They were truly grateful for all that God had done for them, and they gave with joyful hearts. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Knowing where our good gifts come from transforms us into cheerful people with giving hearts.
How can you cheerfully give extra this week?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 118: 1 Chronicles 22, 23, 24 and 25

They numbered 288. (1 Chronicles 25:7)
David set aside 288 men to serve as singers in the new temple. 288 vocalists divided into 24 groups of 12.
What else can be evenly divided into 24 units? Hmmm... a day? Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Congratulations! Johnny, tell him what he's won. You bet, Bob. You've won a BRAND NEW CAR!!! [1]
It has been conjectured that these 24 12-member worship teams each served 1-hour shifts every day lifting up their voices in praise to God, so that worship was offered continuously in Solomon's Temple.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they exult in your righteousness (Psalm 89:15,16).
Worship. It's not just for Sunday anymore.
How could you develop a lifestyle of worship?
[1] Just to be clear - no one is getting a new car.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 117: 1 Chronicles 19, 20 and 21

Do you think David is honoring your father by sending men to you to express sympathy? (1 Chronicles 19:3)
During the days of Saul there was great enmity between Israel and Ammon. Saul's decisive victory over the Ammonite forces cemented his position as king over Israel. We learn in verse 2 that David held the Ammonite king Nahash in high regard. The text doesn't spell out for us why that is, except with a vague reference to some kindness shown David. It is probable that Nahash may have provided David refuge during the time he was hiding from Saul. Whatever the case, upon Nahash's death, David wanted to show kindness to his son Hanun in return for the kindness he'd been shown years earlier. Not only was it the right thing to do, but it should have also served to strengthen the tentative alliance between the two nations.
When the Israeli envoys arrived in Ammon they were greeted with suspicion. Hanun's advisors encouraged him to deal harshly with this threat, and the order was given for the ambassadors to be humiliated. Diplomacy demands that when an ambassador is welcomed, he is to be received as though he were the king himself. Not only were the envoys humiliated, but David and all Israel were shamed as well by this despicable act.
The resulting conflict would result in Ammon's destruction.
Have you ever suffered a lapse in judgment and questioned someone's motives when they deserved the benefit of the doubt?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 116: 1 Chronicles 16, 17 and 18

David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the Lord at the high place in Gibeon to present burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering... (1 Chronicles 16:39,40)
In approximately 1050 BC the Philistines won a decisive victory over the confederated tribes of Israel at Shiloh. Though Israel brought the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield as their ultimate weapon, it did them no good, and they were soundly thrashed in a major defeat leaving Israel subservient to Philistia.
Philistine celebration soon turned to concern and then panic as the power of God turned against them. They sent the ark back to Israel where it found its rest in Kiriath-Jearim.
For over fifty years the ark remained in the care of Abinadab's family. Never during the reign of Saul did he inquire of the ark. When David conquered Jerusalem, establishing it as the religious and political center of Israel, he retrieved the ark placing it in the new tent he had built for it there.
At some point after the defeat at Shiloh, Moses' tabernacle was moved to Gibeon, and from today's passage it seems that sacrificial worship continued there - business as usual. One difference: God was not there. The Ark of the Covenant (the symbol of God's presence) was housed elsewhere.
How life changing could worship be that doesn't require the presence of God?
When's the last time you encountered God's manifest presence?

Day 115: 1 Chronicles 13, 14 and 15

Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul. (1 Chronicles 13:5)
When King Saul wanted advice he went to the Prophet Samuel, but most of the time he trusted his own instincts, leading according to his own strengths. For many years, Saul successfully reigned over Israel, even though he neglected the Ark of the Covenant (symbolic of the presence of God). After Samuel's death, rather than go to the priests or visit the ark to encounter God, Saul chose to consult a witch. And in the end, the burdens and responsibilities of leading God's people proved too heavy a burden for his broad shoulders.
David was a great military leader, he made great decisions politically, and because of his charisma and wisdom his people loved him. But David never forgot where his success - including his gifts and strengths - came from.
David wanted God close to him, so he built a new tent to house the Ark of the Covenant. Even though it took a couple attempts to accomplish the task, he brought the ark into Jerusalem and gave it the place of prominence that reflected God's prominence in his own life.
Some people are content to just get by. Some want to accomplish great things requiring God's help and strength?
What about you?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 114: 1 Chronicles 10, 11 and 12

[These fighting men] came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. (1 Chronicles 12:38)
Most casual readers of the Bible think David became king of Israel immediately upon the tragic deaths of Saul and Jonathan (as first-born, Jonathan was in line for the throne). What they fail to realize is that Saul had another son named Ish-Bosheth, who received the kingdom upon his father's death.
While Ish-Bosheth did not enjoy the confidence of the people, he did have the support of Abner, Saul's highest ranking general. This was a relationship of convenience. Ish-Bosheth needed Abner's strength to secure for him the kingdom, and politically Abner needed Ish-Bosheth in place until he could seize the kingdom for himself.
Remember, Saul exiled David because he considered him a threat to his throne. And while no one could have been more loyal to Saul than was David, the king was thinking of his sons and future generations. Even while he was running for his life, a growing band of skilled fighters rallied around David.
In the mean time, upon hearing of Saul's death, the men of Judah proclaimed David king and he reigned in Hebron, Judah's tribal capital. David had a charisma that Ish-Bosheth lacked, and today's reading illustrates the transfer of power as a steady stream of supporters gathered around him in Hebron.
David knew the first step toward being a good leader is to be a good follower.
This week, how can you be a good follower?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 113: 1 Chronicles 7, 8 and 9

Ezer and Elead were killed by the native-born men of Gath, when they went down to seize their livestock. (1 Chroncles 7:21)
Within this History of the World is inserted what amounts to little more than a parenthetical note regarding two sons of Ephraim. Though Ephraim was the second son of Joseph, Jacob (Ephraim's grandfather) gave him the best blessing, which would normally have gone to his older brother Manasseh.
Because of the limitations of ancient languages, and some particularly awkward sentence structure, it's difficult to say exactly why Ezer and Elead were caught in a conflict with the men of Gath. Some commentators say men from Gath raided the Israelites in Goshen and the brothers died defending their livestock. Others say it was Ezer and Elead who were the thieves and they died when they were caught stealing cattle from the herds of Gath.
Most translations leave the statement ambiguous. Then again the NLT places blame with Ezer and Elead, and the Amplified Bible says they were heroes. There's anecdotal evidence in support of both scenarios, but we just don't know.
Here's what we do know: Jacob's kind words over Ephraim did not guarantee him a life free from sadness. In spite of his grandfather's best blessing, this was a man who knew the heartache of burying his children.
How does it make you feel when believers suffer the same tragedies as (or even worse than) those who don't believe?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 112: 1 Chronicles 4, 5 and 6

His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." (1 Chronicles 4:9)
Not everyone gets to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The mere mention of your name may not cause doors of opportunity to swing wide in welcome. And if town leaders offer you the key to the city just because of where you came from... you can stop reading right now.
Jabez didn't live that kind of life. There was nothing special about Jabez's family. Koz, his father (verse 8 lists Koz as the father of Hazzobebah, which is probably a variant of the name Jabez), had an A-list half brother named Tekoa. Besides that, Koz was the youngest of four brothers, not counting his other half brothers. When it came time to split up the inheritance, there may not have been much left for Koz.
And Jabez wasn't even Koz's firstborn son. There was Anub, who would get a double share of the estate as his birthright.
And if that wasn't enough, the day of his birth was a bad day for Jabez's mother. To commemorate a difficult birth, she named him Pain.
But Jabez had one thing going for him. He knew where to turn for help. "O God, bless me." . . . And God granted his request.
You may have lots of strikes against you. Does any of that really matter when you have a God who's for you?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 111: 1 Chronicles 1, 2 and 3

Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mehalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah. (1 Chronicles 1:1-3).
How's that for launching right into the genealogical history of the world? No introduction, no beating around the bush. Sort of like a Billy Graham stadium event where his first words are: Won't you come?
According to Walter Brueggemann, the first three chapters of 1 Chronicles make a wondrous sweep of the past, delivering us to post-exilic times. Chronicles was likely written late in Israel's Persian period, sometime mid-sixth century BC or later.
At times over the next three weeks as we read the story of Israel (after the northern kingdom Israel fell in 722 BC, the name Israel defaulted to the southern kingdom Judah), it will seem like, Didn't I just read this? At other times, we'll read a chapter and think, That doesn't quite agree with what I read in Kings.
Again to reference Brueggemann, this is a revised version of Israel's memory. [1] Consider it like this. Joshua to 2 Kings is the Deuteronomic History. It tells exiled Israel's story looking back through time. How did we end up here? Chronicles covers the same time period (even more - it goes all the way back to Adam), but rather than looking backward, Chronicles sees those same events in the light of looking ahead. Can what we've been through teach us something as we begin a new chapter in our lives? Same events. Different perspective.
Would it do you good to look at the events of your life through different lenses?
[1] Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003), 375.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 110: 2 Kings 22, 23, 24 and 25

I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord. (2 Kings 22:8)
Hezekiah's great-grandson Josiah became king of Judah when he was only eight years old. The writer of 2 Kings tells us he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (22:2). Whereas Hezekiah had to strip gold from the temple doorposts to pay Assyria tribute, Josiah authorized a capital funds campaign to restore the temple to its original condition.
It was during the renovation process that Hilkiah the High Priest found the Book of the Law (possibly Deuteronomy), and passed it on to the king. Josiah was grief-stricken upon hearing God's commandments, and implemented a sweeping reform of Judah. It is in reading of this reform (chapter 23) that we see how far Judah's downward spiral had progressed in just two generations, due to the evil influences of Josiah's grandfather Manasseh.
Josiah had never met his great-grandfather, but had probably heard stories. No doubt because of his mother Jedidah (the writer carefully includes her name), he developed a heart for God. So the question is: Did the discovery of the Book of the Law fan into flame this passion for God? Or did God reveal his Word to Josiah because he knew Josiah was already primed to do something about it?
Just goes to show what we could be missing when we neglect our Bibles.
Has finding your dust-covered Bible ever felt like an archaeologist discovering a long-lost treasure?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 109: 2 Kings 19, 20 and 21

Isaiah . . . asked, "Where did they come from?" "From a distant land," Hezekiah replied . . . "Babylon." (2 Kings 20:14)
In 722 BC Israel had ceased to exist as a nation. The Assyrians relocated her people and populated the land with other conquered nations. Where earlier empires had been satisfied with receiving tribute, the Assyrian king knew that deporting an enemy effectively ended any possibility it would ever cause him trouble again.
From the south, Judah watched as its sister nation imploded. Then Assyria turned its gaze toward Jerusalem, defeating Judah's fortified cities (and deporting their inhabitants) and marching on the capital. Only after receiving a huge bribe (including gold and selected daughters of Hezekiah as royal concubines) did the Assyrian king Sennacherib withdraw his troops. [1]
Rebellion on the other end of the Assyrian Empire convinced Hezekiah to strike a blow for independence. When things turned bad, help from Egypt proved worthless, but Hezekiah was determined to die rather than surrender. The only thing that saved Jerusalem was the mysterious deaths of thousands of Assyrian soldiers (possibly due to rat-borne bubonic plague). Sennacherib withdrew but Judah remained a subject nation. [2]
In later years Hezekiah received a get-well gift from the king of another empire on the rise. Hezekiah proudly showed his guests the nation's remaining wealth. The prophet Isaiah's question concerning the purpose of their visit foreshadows dark days to come.
Have you ever said, "This is going to come back to haunt me"?
[1] John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959, 1981), 286.
[2] Ibid., 288.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 108: 2 Kings 16, 17 and 18

The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from his presence. (2 Kings 17:22,23)
Jeroboam son of Nebat, the first king of Israel the Northern Kingdom, knew that if anyone made the trip back to worship in Jerusalem, they might realize the error of their ways and return their allegiance to Rehoboam of Judah (1 Kings 12:27). He had two golden calves fashioned to represent the gods who had brought the people out of Egypt, appointed a new priesthood and built shrines on the high places, all of which were abominations before God.
King after king, generation after generation, the people continued to worship the calves stationed at Bethel and Dan (conveniently located in a neighborhood near you!), as well as worshiping at the high places scattered throughout Israel. After Jeroboam, 18 kings ruled in Samaria and almost every single one had the same epitaph: He did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Even Jehu - responsible for purging the evil Omride dynasty (Ahab and Jezebel) from Israel - did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat (2 Kings 10:29).
The nicest thing said about any king of Israel was said about Hoshea (Israel's very last king): He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him (2 Kings 17:2).
What spiritual heritage are you leaving to your great-grandchildren?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 107: 2 Kings 13, 14 and 15

A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, "Give your daughter to my son in marriage." (2 Kings 14:9)
Just a few generations after Jehoshaphat king of Judah went to such great lengths to restore good relations with Israel, the two countries were at odds again. Jehoash of Israel was a proven leader with several impressive military victories under his belt. Amaziah of Judah had successfully battled the Edomites.
Amaziah, completely enamored with himself, was itching for another enemy to defeat and turned his gaze to the north. Amaziah's grandfather had been killed by Jehoash's grandfather, and it is almost definite there was still bad blood between the two families. So Amaziah issued a challenge: Come, meet me face to face, to which Jehoash sent his poetic reply: Should a cedar concern itself with a thistle? Stay home; you're asking for trouble.
Here we have the proverbial big fish in a small pond scenario. Amaziah had a limited view of the real world and an elevated opinion of himself. Jehoash's retort was injurious to his pride and he couldn't back down. The ensuing conflict was disastrous for Judah. Amaziah was captured, Judah's army was routed, and the enemy broke through the very gates of Jerusalem. Bad decision on Amaziah's part.
But that apparently wasn't the last mistake Amaziah made, because he survived Jehoash by fifteen years before being assassinated by his own people.
Ever let pride convince you to fight when you should have backed down?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 106: 2 Kings 10, 11 and 12

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. (2 Kings 11:1)
Jehoshaphat was one of the great kings of Judah, but he had a blind spot when it came to Ahab. Perhaps as part of a sordid plan to extend their power over Israel's neighbor to the south, Ahab and Jezebel gave their daughter in marriage to Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram. Out of his naive desire to restore good relations between the two nations, he never saw Ahab's ploy for what it was, and opened Judah to a nearly disastrous wicked influence.
Jehoram and Athaliah gave birth to Ahaziah. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Ahaziah was mortally wounded in Jehu's purge, which eradicated all of Athaliah's family members still in Israel. When the news reached the palace, she set out to kill every member of the royal family - which by the way would have ended David's line - and seize the throne for herself.
In the nick of time, High Priest Jehoiada spirited Ahaziah's youngest son Joash into hiding. He was the only one to survive Athaliah's murderous rampage. The priests cared for Joash until Jehoiada proclaimed the young man king at the tender age of seven. The bodyguard priest then ordered the execution of Athaliah ending her reign of terror.
Against overwhelming odds, God's promise to David (2 Samuel 7:16) remained intact.
So what are the odds God will keep his promises to you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 105: 2 Kings 7, 8 and 9

Have you come in peace, Zimri, you murderer of your master? (2 Kings 9:31)
Jehu was purging the house of Omri from the nation of Israel, and Jezebel was next. Some manuscripts state Jezebel's question like this: Did Zimri have peace who murdered his master?
However Jezebel originally framed her question, her intent was the same. She was reminding Jehu that many years earlier a similar coup had been engineered by a man named Zimri. Once the gate was cracked open, no one could hold back the floodwaters of rebellion. Zimri sat on the throne only seven days before lighting his own palace on fire - committing suicide to save himself from death at Omri's hand.
If Jezebel was going to die, she would at least do what she could to curse her killer. She attempted to sow doubt in Jehu's mind: Zimri only lasted seven days after he seized the throne. How long do you think you'll last? Watch your back. Recipe for paranoia.
Even when we're confident our mission is from God (it was Elisha who ordered that Jehu be anointed as king) enemies will do their best to fill our heads with fear. But when God is on our side, though our foes taunt us with songs of destruction, we can know peace. Despite Jezebel's warning, Jehu's purge was effective and his son succeeded him as king of Israel when Jehu died in his sleep 28 years later.
Is your enemy taunting you with thoughts of failure?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 104: 2 Kings 4, 5 and 6

If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? (2 Kings 5:13)
During a time of uneasy detente between Aram and Israel, Naaman - one of Aram's most valued generals - came seeking help for his leprosy from the prophet Elisha. Naaman was a proud man, who had earned his position and commanded respect from both his subordinates and his superiors.
When his entourage stopped at Elisha's house, the prophet didn't even come out to meet him. He sent word that in order to be healed, Naaman was to wash himself in the Jordan seven times. Naaman was offended. It would be like expecting to see the doctor and having the receptionist hand us some pills through the glass: Take two aspirin and call us in the morning.
At the very least, a man of Naaman's standing deserved a face-to-face. He expected Elisha to make a big deal over his visit and summon his very best magic to heal his leprosy. Not only did he want the answer to be harder than Elisha made it out to be, he wanted to play a role in his own healing. Give me a quest; I'll do anything. Go wash in the river?... Are you serious?
We're just the same. Give me step-by-step instructions. I'll follow any rule to make myself right with God. But it's not about proving ourselves worthy. It's about accepting God's free gift of grace.
How are you trying to earn God's favor?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 103: 2 Kings 1, 2 and 3

Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? (2 Kings 1:3)
There was a history of antagonism between Elijah and Ahab, and that history continued with Ahab's son Ahaziah. When Ahaziah was injured, he probably expected a less than favorable prognosis from Elijah, so he preempted that diagnosis and went straight for a second opinion. He sent his envoys to the Philistine city of Ekron, to inquire of the god Baal - not the best way to get on Yahweh's good side.
If you don't like God's answer, do you sidestep God and shop around for an answer more to your liking?
No extra charge: Did you notice the full name of the false god in verse 3? Baal-Zebub. By the time of Jesus' ministry the name would evolve to Beelzebub and be synonymous with Satan (Matthew 12:22-28).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 102: 1 Kings 19, 20, 21 and 22

One who puts his armor on should not boast like one who takes it off. (1 Kings 20:11)
Yesterday I told you what a despicable person King Ahab was. Today I confess that one of my favorite quotes in the Bible must be attributed to Ahab himself.
In this passage, the King of Aram, along with 32 of his vassal kings and their forces, come out to attack Ahab's Israel. It isn't looking good for Ahab and Aram's king is boasting of how he is going to destroy Samaria (the capital city of Israel). When I get done with you there won't even be enough dust remaining in Israel to give each of my men a handful (20:10)! Then Ahab's priceless response: One who puts his armor on should not boast like one who takes it off.
This could be John Wayne defending the stage coach's women and children from masked highway bandits!
Henry Ford said, You can't build a reputation on what you intend to do. Ben-Hadad's taunts were brave talk for a man who hadn't yet drawn first blood from his enemy. Somehow Ahab's axiom sounds tougher than Ben Franklin's, Don't count your chickens before they're hatched, but it's the same sentiment.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Is your ego writing checks your body can't cash?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 101: 1 Kings 16,17 and 18

Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. (1 Kings 16:30)
The Omrides (Omri and his descendants) were the most evil royal family in the history of Israel. They put the nasty in dynasty. Omri had been the commander of Israel's army when the previous king was assassinated by Zimri. A week later Omri and his army attacked Zimri's stronghold. When Zimri saw he was surrounded, he set his palace on fire forfeiting his own life.
The changing of the guard was not uncontested, but Omri's supporters were stronger than those of his opponent. His opponent was executed and Omri was crowned king. Thus begins the dynasty.
After Omri's death, his son Ahab became king in his place. Ahab's wife Jezebel was the Baal-worshiping princess of Sidon. The couple set out on a literal reign of terror during which time the prophets of the Lord feared for their lives. There were no more feared Old Testament names than Ahab and Jezebel. Even after their deaths, their evil would infect Israel's sister nation of Judah for generations to come, but that's a story for another time . . . a story that begins with Omri.
Evil starts somewhere. So does redemption.
Who do you have to thank, good or bad, for the road you're on today?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 100: 1 Kings 13, 14 and 15

King Rehoboam made bronze shields. (1 Kings 14:27)
Egypt's Shishak invaded Jerusalem and carried off the treasures of palace and temple. This was most likely when the Ark of the Covenant was lost, yet the writer of 1 Kings doesn't even mention it - instead the account focuses on the loss of Solomon's gold shields. It would seem then, that the shields are a very important part of this story.
We just read 1 Kings 10:16,17 about Solomon having the shields made from hammered gold. Once they were stolen by Egypt, the once wealthy nation of Judah couldn't afford the gold to replace them, so Rehoboam had copies made from bronze.
Every Sabbath, as Rehoboam made his way to the temple, his Secret Service agents equipped with those bronze shields surrounded him. I imagine, as the sun shone down on that bronze, it must have dazzled the eyes of anyone looking - maybe even giving the appearance of real gold - but it was not.
After church the guards would put the shields away, locked in a cabinet where they would stay until the next Sabbath for their weekly parade to the temple.
You probably know where I'm going with this. It's easy to play dress up on the weekend. Some people head for church wearing their shiny best. They look the part, but there's no authentic relationship with God. Others fear what might happen if they were to be transparent.
Are you authentic gold? ...or wannabe bronze?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 99: 1 Kings 10, 11 and 12

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women. (1 Kings 11:1)
The smartest man in the world lost his head over foreign women. Oftentimes a king would give his daughter in marriage to another king to seal an alliance. That's probably where a lot of Solomon's wives came from. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase wedding present. But no matter where they came from, the result was that these foreign women enticed Solomon to worship their gods.
These dalliances affected not only Solomon, but brought great hardship on the kingdom. Today's passage cites Solomon's disobedience as the root cause of Israel's dissolution, which would be realized during the reign of his son Rehoboam.
Due to God's favor and David's capable leadership, Israel was the premier military strength in the region. It didn't have to worry about being attacked by any foreign enemy. What no one counted on was the new king inviting an even more formidable foe right in the front door.
How are your defenses?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 98: 1 Kings 7, 8 and 9

When they sin against you . . . and you . . . give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land... (1 Kings 8:46)
The long awaited temple has finally been completed. Solomon offers a grand dedication prayer with some rather odd elements.
Solomon takes it as a given that Israel will fall away from God and be exiled into a foreign land. It's awkward to believe that the king would be such a wet blanket during their greatest national celebration to date. However, this passage fits better with our premise that this collection of materials (Joshua through 2 Kings - called the Deuteronomic History) was gathered into its final form when the people were still stunned from their recent exile. We know chapters 24 and 25 of 2 Kings were written after the fall of Jerusalem. In the end he thrust them from his presence (2 Kings 24:20).
Imagine a nation's disbelief, having taken for granted that Jerusalem was invincible. The temple was in Jerusalem housing the greatest of all gods (they still probably weren't quite monotheistic - chasing after other gods is what got them in this mess). If Yahweh were the strongest god, how could they have been defeated?
Then we understand Solomon's odd dedication prayer.
Who's the audience? Not the people standing around listening to Solomon pray, but exiles from Jerusalem 350 years later wondering what happened and how they got there.
How do you account for hard times in your life?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 97: 1 Kings 4, 5 and 6

Solomon also had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. (1 Kings 4:7)
The nation of Israel was growing up. During the reign of Saul, Israel was at war, subject to, or at the very least tormented by the Philistines. During the reign of David, Israel conquered its enemies and its borders were expanded. In Solomon's time, Israel enjoyed a season of peace and prosperity - at least temporarily.
As enemies were conquered, they were required to pay tribute to Israel. That partially accounted for its prosperity. Under Solomon, however, the kingdom quit expanding even though its bureaucracies did not. Chapter 4 gives us our first glimpse of Solomon organizing Israel into 12 administrative districts (read tax districts), coordinating roughly with tribal borders. Each district was responsible to provide the funding for one month's national budget.
No longer were the costs of doing business covered by tribute from other nations (there was still tribute to be sure, but not enough to cover expenses); now Israel's own people were being taxed to help pay for the nation's many levels of bureaucracy.
We think of the reigns of David and Solomon as the golden age of Israel. We would be wise to consider how their decisions affected future generations.
How will your decisions this week affect your great grandchildren?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day 96: 1 Kings 1, 2 and 3

Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. (1 Kings 3:4)
At some point, probably soon after the devastating military loss at the Battle of Shiloh, the tabernacle was moved to Gibeon. But what's a tabernacle without the Ark of the Covenant? After the ark was captured by the Philistines, and then returned, it would never again be housed in Moses' Tabernacle. For many years (throughout the reign of Saul and beyond) it was sheltered in the house of Abinadab. When David conquered Jersualem, he set up a new tent for the ark called Zion, but Moses' Tabernacle remained at Gibeon.
There was no altar for burnt offerings at Zion, so Solomon went to Gibeon, where he offered up a thousand sacrifices. In return for this act of worship, or more likely because of Solomon's heart behind the worship, God offered the king anything he asked for, and Solomon asked for wisdom. In addition to wisdom, God promised Solomon all the wealth and power he could have asked for.
Extravagant worship. Extravagant blessing.
Could there be a connection?
And your argument for dignified, restrained worship was what again?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 95: 2 Samuel 22, 23 and 24

Enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are. (2 Samuel 22, 23 and 24)
David is the greatest warrior-king ever recorded in the Old Testament. He's never lost a battle. Why? Was it because he was such a great tactician? Because of his military machine? Or overwhelming numbers? No; it was because God was with him. David is always careful to give God the glory for each victory, acknowledging the source of his success.
And yet here in the evening of his days, when he has defeated every enemy and subjugated every opposing kingdom, doubt creeps in. Do I have the strength to hold on to what is mine? And so he orders his faithful friend Joab to implement a census,... really a registration for a possible future draft.
Was there something wrong with taking a census? God had ordered Israel to take a census shortly after exiting Egypt and again before entering Canaan. Nothing wrong with a census. Was there something wrong with being prepared? Would Jesus not illustrate a thousand years later: Will [a king] not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:31)? Nothing wrong with being prepared.
The sin was in not trusting God. God had never let him down, never left him on his own, but now David was acting like God wasn't even part of the equation.
For what do you need to trust God?

Day 94: 2 Samuel 19, 20 and 21

Whoever is for David, let him follow Joab! (2 Samuel 20:11)
Maybe he felt bad for sending Absalom away when he avenged his sister by killing her rapist (his half-brother Amnon), but when it came to his favorite son, David was loyal to a fault.
Absalom had finessed the kingdom away from his father, causing David and those loyal to him to run for their lives. Joab had the opportunity, so out of loyalty to David, he killed Absalom. Joab knew it had to be done if the king were ever to regain the throne. And how does David reward him? He spitefully replaces him with none other than Amasa, the general who had supported Absalom's coup.
But being in trouble is a good way to find out who your friends are. Amasa, sensing David's vulnerability, drags his feet allowing David's enemies more time to strengthen their position. Joab, still loyal to David, sees what Amasa is up to and executes him. He then chases down the king's other enemies, reuniting the kingdom under David.
A friend loves us in spite of our shortcomings. A friend sticks by us when the chips are down. Those seeking the advantage over us constantly scrutinize us to find where we are weak. And once they discern a chink in our armor, they use it against us.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).
Who do you know that needs a friend?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 93: 2 Samuel 16, 17 and 18

[Shimei] threw stones at David and his officers, but the people and soldiers gathered all around David. (2 Samuel 16:6)
As leaders, it's a fact of life that people will throw stones at us. What a blessing to be surrounded by people who love us, and who are willing to put themselves between us and our detractors. It is not self-serving for a leader to teach those around him their responsibility in this matter. It is not dictatorial or cultish to ingrain this kind of loyalty and sacrifice into the hearts and minds of followers. Leaders in training will be blessed by following the example of David's soldiers. After all, one day someone will be throwing rocks at them.
There is another lesson here. David doesn't just dismiss out of hand Shimei's curses. If he is cursing me because the Lord told him to, who can question him (16:10)? David understood the necessity of spreading out before the Lord accusations made against him. David knew that, only after honest examination, if there was nothing there that would be the time to dismiss those curses. He was also humble and teachable. If there was a foundation of truth in Shimei's curse, or if God was trying to speak to him, he was prepared to receive from the Lord his message of correction.
When's the last time you expressed appreciation to people in your life who care enough about you to shield you? And those who care enough to lovingly confront you?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 92: 2 Samuel 13, 14 and 15

Amnon had a friend named Jonadab . . . a very shrewd man. (2 Samuel 13:3)
These chapters illustrate the influence of a well-placed whisper. Our story begins with Amnon, a prince of Israel, who is head over heels in lust with his half sister. His friend Jonadab conceives an evil plan, and whispers it in Amnon's ear, leading to the travesty of King David's virgin daughter being raped by her half brother.
After Tamar confides in Absalom the terrible thing that has happened, her older brother nurses a scheme of vengeance and two years later kills Amnon for raping his sister, before finding asylum in a neighboring kingdom.
David is in a difficult position. Absalom (his father's favorite) has killed another of his sons. Societal conventions do not allow David to bring his son home (no doubt the two years between Tamar's rape and Amnon's death, not to mention the careful planning involved, make it difficult to argue against premeditation).
Joab, the king's trusted general, intervenes. Though he convinces David it is time to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem, David still refuses to see his son. Though back in his home, he is still exiled from his father's presence.
After another two years has passed, Absalom sends Joab to plead his case before David, and the king finally reconciles with his son.
Whispers. Jonadab whispered in Amnon's ear to indulge his appetites. Joab whispered in David's ear to do the right thing.
Who's your Jonadab? Who's your Joab?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 91: 2 Samuel 10, 11 and 12

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war . . . David remained in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1)
Seemingly insignificant decisions can reap giant consequences.
Israel was going to war with Ammon. David had an able general in Joab, and entrusted the Ammonite military campaign to him, leaving the king with some free time on his hands. One sleepless night, David was strolling around the palace rooftop, when he spied his neighbor's wife bathing. He was intrigued and had her summoned. While his neighbor (Uriah) was at the battlefront, David became sexually entangled with Bathsheba (Uriah's wife). Their relationship resulted in an unwanted pregnancy and a potentially embarrassing scandal for the king.
Rather than seeing this as an opportunity to come clean and confess his sins, David went the way of the cover-up. He brought Uriah home from the front lines, thinking he would sleep with his wife and everyone would think the baby was his. No flag no foul, but Uriah had too much integrity for that. In a final act of desperation, David arranged with Joab for Uriah to become a casualty of war, a sure-fire solution to his problem with plausible deniability for all. David was in the clear... and a murderer.
What would have happened if David had led his own troops into battle, and that first wayward step not taken?
All for the want of a nail.
Has a seemingly insignificant decision ever led to big consequences for you?