Fishers of Men.

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:18-25 ESV

In Luke’s Gospel, he records that immediately after His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus had returned to Nazareth, His hometown. While there, He had attended the synagogue one day and was given the privilege of reading from the Old Testament Scriptures, as was the custom. He opened up the scroll containing the writings of the prophet, Isaiah, and read from a particular passage.

16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:16-19 NLT

Having read the passage, Jesus sat down and then stated in the hearing of all those in attendance: “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21 NLT). Jesus had taken an Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah and applied it to Himself. He was claiming to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic prediction of the coming of the anointed one – He who would bring good news to the poor. And as Matthew pointed out earlier, Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the great light that was to dawn, illuminating the spiritual darkness of the world.  

Jesus had begun His earthly ministry with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and was now prepared to take His message concerning the gospel of the kingdom to the world. But rather than begin His ministry within the confines of Jerusalem, the spiritual and political capital of Israel, Jesus had focused His attention on the region of Galilee, to the north. And instead of appealing to the powerful religious leaders of His day, Jesus took His message of good news to the peasants, even focusing His attention on common fishermen. Matthew specifically mentions two sets of brothers: Simon and Andrew and James and John. In his own Gospel account, John records that Jesus had actually met Simon, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael some time earlier.

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).” – John 1:35-42 ESV

After their initial encounter with Jesus, it seems that Simon and Andrew had returned to their nets, having failed to sense any clear calling from Jesus to become His disciples. But when Jesus met them the second time, He made His intentions perfectly clear, commanding the two brothers to follow Him. 

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19 ESV

This statement must have sounded odd to the two men. What could Jesus have meant by the phrase, “fishers of men”? It seems unlikely that the men to whom Jesus uttered His command to follow Him understood what He was talking about. But Jesus’ wording was intentional and carried great significance. He was calling these men to a task that was far greater than anything they could have ever imagined. Their lives were about to be radically changed and the entire focus of their existence was to become irreversibly altered. Four common fishermen were about to become key players in a drama that would have eternal implications on not only the nation of Israel, but the entire world.

Jesus’ use of the term, “fishers of men” was a direct reference to another Old Testament passage in which God spoke of His plan to return His people from their captivity in Babylon. Because of the generations of unfaithfulness on the part of the people of Judah, God had allowed them to suffer defeat at the hands of the Babylonians and sent them into exile for a period of 70 years. But God had also promised to restore them to the land.

14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.

16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the Lord, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.” – Jeremiah 16:14-16 ESV

The Hebrew word for “fishers” is dayag, and it refers to fishermen. God had promised to send fishermen to catch all those who were in exile, returning them to the land of promise. And while God had fulfilled this promise, eventually returning the people of Judah from their captivity in Babylon and restoring them to the land, they were still living in open rebellion to Him. Even at the time Jesus had begun His ministry, the nation of Israel was marked by spiritual darkness, living in the land, but still separated from God by their unrighteous and unfaithful behavior. What was missing was any kind of a right relationship with God. And Jesus was calling these four men to a task that would involve the seeking and searching for all those whom God desired to be returned to a right relationship with Himself. Simon, Andrew, James and John had spent their lives casting their nets in the waters of the Sea of Galilee, hoping to catch fish. Now, Jesus was calling them to assist in His mission to catch men.

These four unimpressive men from inauspicious backgrounds, were going to be used by God to accomplish something far greater than any of them could have ever imagined. They were to be part of a divine plan to restore sinful mankind to a right relationship with God. And these common Galilean fishermen would end up making an impact on the world that would have far-reaching implications for generations to come – on not only the Jewish people, but the nations of the world. Jeremiah wrote the words of God, promising to restore the lost and wandering people of God to a right relationship with Him.

8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here. – Jeremiah 31:8 ESV

Notice that God focused on the needy? He emphasized the blind, the lame, the helpless and vulnerable. And Matthew records that Jesus began His ministry by focusing on those who had needs, “healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matthew 4:23 ESV). Matthew emphasized that “they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them” (Matthew 4:24 ESV). The hurting, the helpless and the hopeless were the focus of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He enlisted the aid of the unimpressive and unqualified in order to minister to the unwanted and undesirable. And Jesus’ fame spread and His following grew.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Godliness Is Impossible Without God.

1 Chronicles 29, 1 Thessalonians 4

O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. – 1 Chronicles 29:18 ESV

Over in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul writes, “God’s will is for you to be holy” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NLT). In other words, it is God's deepest desire that His children live lives that are set apart and distinctly different than the rest of the world. The lifestyle of the believer in Jesus Christ is to reflect their relationship with God as His children and the reality of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. Peter writes of this. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). It is God's will that we experience His ongoing sanctifying work in our lives, and He has provided the means necessary for this to happen. The key is that we must recognize our own inability to transform our own lives in our own strength. But as Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV).

David, the great king of Israel and the man after God's own heart, knew that the people of Israel were totally dependent upon God for their well-being and ultimate success. He also knew that his young son, Solomon, who was ascending to the throne of Israel in his place, would need the help of God to be the kind of king God desired him to be. Which is why he asked God, “Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision” (1 Chronicles 29:19 ESV). Solomon was going to need God's help just to be faithful and to accomplish all that lie ahead for him as the king of Israel. David could provide Solomon with all the resources and plans for building the temple of God, but God would have to provide the internal fortitude and spiritual stamina necessary to accomplish the task in a God-honoring and holy way.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is fully aware of man's weaknesses. He knows that we struggle with faithfulness and are ill-equipped to pursue a life of holiness. Which is why He has always provided the means by which holiness can become a reality in our lives. Holiness, in its most simple form, is set-apartness. It speaks of a character of life that is radically different than the norm. When God had called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and promised to make of him a great nation, His intention was to create a people who would reflect His character and live according to His righteous standards. They would be set-apart for His service, and would be His prize possession. As such, they would be expected to live differently. God told them, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 ESV). God had provided them with His Law, making it abundantly clear just what His standards of conduct were to be. Then He provided them with His sacrificial system, because He knew that they would find it hard to live up to His righteous standard. The sacrificial system was a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with Him, receiving forgiveness for their sins through the atonement made possible through the shedding of blood.

God did not call His people to holiness, then leave them on their own to pull it off. He did call them to live obediently and faithfully, but He knew that they would struggle to live up to His standards. So He provided everything they would need to receive His forgiveness when they sinned and enjoy His ongoing presence and power in their lives. The key was that they remain fully aware of their total dependence upon Him. They were helpless and hopeless without Him. .

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has a strong independent streak. Ever since the fall, we have been wired to act independently and fend for ourselves. We want to be in control of our own lives and do things our own way. But as God's people, we must constantly remind ourselves that the only thing that sets us apart is our relationship with Him. In and of ourselves, we are nothing. We have no strength of our own. We have no wisdom of our own. We have no righteousness of our own. All that we have and all that we are, we owe to Christ. Jesus Himself reminds us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). The key is dependence. We must recognize our non-negotiable need for God in our lives. Even Jesus Himself lived in complete dependence upon God the Father. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30 ESV). This does not absolve us from responsibility or mean that we have no role to play in the process. It simply means that we must recognize our need for God in our lives and constantly turn to Him for the strength, wisdom, and resources we need to live holy lives in the midst of an unholy world.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Trying to love the godly life without God's help is like trying to drive your car without gas – it's impossible. Not only that, it's ridiculous and a total waste of time. Yet how often do we as believers find ourselves trying to pull off godliness without God's assistance. Too often we attempt to replace the Spirit's power with a bit of elbow grease and a good work ethic. David spent years preparing for the construction of the temple. He drew up the plans (with God's help), he appointed all the workers, he assigned all the duties of the priests, he collected all the materials, and he willingly and generously gave out of his own pocket the financial resources necessary to make it all happen. But David knew that nothing he had done was really his doing. David admitted as much to God: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14 ESV). David was simply giving back to God what was rightfully His in the first place. Any gifts David had given had first been given by God to him.

We are completely dependent upon God. He must save us, because we cannot save ourselves. He must sanctify us or continually transform us into the likeness of His Son, because we are totally incapable of doing it on our own. He must also one day send His Son to come back for us. We can't earn or work our way to heaven. We can't climb our way into His presence. Jesus Christ will come back for us. Paul reminds us, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 ESV). God has provided for our salvation, sanctification and, ultimately, our glorification. It is all His doing. We are completely dependent upon Him. But what a great place, what a safe place, what a totally worry-free place to be.

Father, may we learn to lean on You more. May we learn to be content being dependent upon You. Life lived in our own strength is exhausting and disappointing. But when we willingly rest in Your strength and live according to Your power, we find the rest and peace that Jesus offered. Amen

Seek the Lord.

1 Chronicles 27-28, 1 Thessalonians 3

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. – 1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV

David's days were numbered and he knew it. He was fully aware that his time on earth was coming to an end, so he was doing all he could to prepare his son, Solomon, and the people of God, for his eventual departure. His greatest desire was that Solomon would fulfill his dream of building a house for the Lord. David had taken painstaking care to ensure that everything was ready, from the actual plans for its construction, to the division of the responsibilities for the priests, musicians, gatekeepers, guards, administrators, singers and everyone else who would help care for and protect the temple. But David also knew that none of this would come about if his son, Solomon, did not stay faithful to the Lord. The temple would never see the light of day if the people of God did not remain faithful to the Lord, keeping His commandments and rules. After all, the temple would simply be a building. It would be nothing if the people of God did not faithfully follow and worship God. As impressive as David's plans and preparations for this structure may have been, he knew that it was little more than bricks and mortar if the people failed to seek the Lord and “serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV). “For the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

David knew he had been chosen by God to be king over Israel. He had not doubt in his mind that God had promised to establish his throne and make him “king over Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 28:4 ESV). David had every confidence that Solomon was to be his successor and that God had chosen him “to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel” (1 Chronicles 28:5 ESV) and that God would “establish his kingdom forever” (1 Chronicles 28:7 ESV) as long as he continued to keep God's commandments and rules. So God charged Solomon to “know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV). He begged him to be careful, because he had been given the tremendous responsibility of building the temple in which the God of Israel would dwell. But David also comforted and encouraged Solomon by reminding him to be strong and courageous, to not fear, because “the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished” (1 Chronicles 28:20 ESV). David knew that God would be faithful. The real concern was whether Solomon and the people would be. David knew there would be distractions and temptations along the way. He knew that the people had a track record of unfaithfulness. He also knew that Solomon, like all men, regardless of his wisdom, was predisposed to half-hearted worship of God. He would find all kinds of reasons to neglect the building of the temple or, worse yet, forsake the worship of God altogether. And David was painfully aware that if Solomon or the people forsook God, He would be forced to forsake them. God would fully expect Solomon to seek Him and serve Him wholeheartedly. The temple would not serve as a substitute for man's undivided allegiance.

What does this passage reveal about man?

David was a good judge of character. He knew his people well and he understood the risks associated with turning his kingdom over to his young and inexperienced son. This is the second charge David had given Solomon. The first one was in private. On that occasion, David had warned his young son, “may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:12 ESV). David knew that Solomon was going to need God's help in remaining faithful. David could provide Solomon with the plans for the temple, the workmen to build it, the financial resources to pay for it, and the material to construct it. But Solomon was going to need God's help in accomplishing it. The greatest threat to Solomon's successful completion of his task was going to be his own heart. Which is why he told Solomon, “Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord God” (1 Chronicles 22:19 ESV). The ability to build a house for the Lord would only be possible if Solomon recognized his need for the presence and power of the Lord in his own heart and life. He would need to seek the Lord diligently and faithfully.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is so easy to forget that fact that I can accomplish nothing in this life without the help of God. I must constantly remind myself to seek Him because I need Him. I can't live this life without Him – at least, not successfully or as He intended. Paul knew this fact all too well. Which is why he told the believers in Thessalonica, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish you hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus, with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 ESV). Their ability to love one another was dependent upon the Lord. Any hope they had of standing before God as holy and pure at the second coming of Jesus was totally up to God. Which is why their lives needed to be marked by a constant seeking after God. Paul wanted them to stand fast in the Lord – to stand firm, persevere or persist in their hope in and dependence upon God for all their needs. We are nothing without God. We can do nothing without Him. Which is why we must consistently and constantly seek Him with all our hearts, souls, mind and strength. Our faithfulness to Him must be based on our awareness of our great need for Him. We even need His help to remain faithful. We need His Spirit's power to accomplish the life to which He has called us. David told Solomon, “if you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV). Seeking Him begins with an awareness of our need for Him. We search for what we believe to be of value. We seek for what we long to find. If we truly believe God is all that we need, we will be motivated to search for Him with all our hearts.

Father, like Solomon, I am sometimes tempted to believe that there is something other than You that can meet my needs. I am easily persuaded that there are other things that can bring me fulfillment and happiness. But without You, nothing else matters. This life is incomplete without You. There is nothing in this life that can fulfill or complete me like You. Give me an increasing awareness of my desperate need for You, so that I might seek You more diligently and wholeheartedly. Amen

Pleasing God, Not Men.

1 Chronicles 25-26, 1 Thessalonians 2

…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. – 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV

As followers of God, we are always facing the daily choice to live our lives in submission to His will and in obedience to His commands – in other words, to live in a way that pleases Him. But there is always the temptation to become man-pleasers – living our lives in fear of rejection and ridicule, and in search of the acceptance and adoration of men. The proper worship of God always involves obedience. It is never enough to simply go through the motions and involve ourselves in the activities associated with the worship of God, if our hearts are not in it. God would later accuse the Israelites of this very thing. “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV). You see in this passage, quoted by Jesus in His day, that the people of God were far more concerned about pleasing men than pleasing God. They would rather obey laws created by men than those given to them by God Himself. But to live a life that truly pleases God requires that we make Him our highest priority and His Word our only authority. Jesus had strong words for the religious leaders of the Jews in His day. “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Matthew 15:9 NLT). They were burdening the people with rules and rituals that were man-made and not God-given. So the people ended up trying to please these self-proclaimed models of righteousness and live up to their standards, all the while thinking that they were worshiping God. But Jesus warned that their worship was in vain or fruitless.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The worship of God is about so much more than an event that takes place on Sunday morning. It is about an attitude of the heart. It emanates from within and flows out through all our attitudes and actions. The worship of God is to be a lifestyle that encompasses every facet of our lives. We are not to compartmentalize it or relegate it to a specific day or an occasional event. Our goal in life, as God's people, should be to make Him the focal point of our lives – even if it puts us at odds with the people around us. When David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, he did so with much pomp and circumstance. There was singing and dancing. There was rejoicing and praise. There were musicians playing and sacrifices made. Samuel writes that “David danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14 ESV). Here was the king of Israel throwing caution to the wind and disregarding his own reputation, out of praise for God and in an attempt to please God with his life. Interestingly enough, David's wife, Michal, was appalled. She “looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16 ESV). But David was not concerned about Michal's feelings about him. He was determined to please his God and properly praise Him for all He had done for him. This same David would spend countless hours preparing all the elements necessary to build a house for God. He would also appoint musicians, singers, gatekeepers, treasurers, officers and judges – just to watch over the house of the Lord when it was built. As far as David was concerned, God deserved the best. He was deserving of honor, glory, praise, and the best efforts of His people when it came to establishing Him at the center of their lives and community.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The apostle Paul lived to please God. He wanted to conduct his life in such a way that it always brought pleasure to God through his obedience to God's call on his life. He told the Thessalonians, “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or others…” (1Thessalonians 2:5-6 ESV). Paul's desire was to please God while, at the same time, expressing the love of Christ to men. His job was not to please men, but to share with the love of God made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He attempted to live his live in such a way that it would please God. “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:10 ESV). Because Paul was living his life in order to please God, there was no accusation that men could make against him. He didn't attempt to flatter the Thessalonians or use persuasive words in order to impress them. He simply told them the truth about God, the reality about sin, and their need for God's saving grace made available through His Son's death. He told them exactly what God had commanded him to say. “We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 ESV). This wouldn't always win Paul a lot of friends. But he was far less concerned about his popularity than he was about living his life to please God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

For David to hire 24-hour guards to station at the gates of the temple and to employ the finest musicians and singers, would have cost him a great deal of money. And he did all this before the temple had even been built. He would not even live long enough to see the temple completed. And I am sure there were those who looked at all his efforts and questioned his sanity and wisdom. They wondered about why he would waste so much time, money and effort for the construction of a house that God had denied him the privilege of building. But David loved His God. He wanted to please Him and wasn't concerned about what men thought about it all. Likewise, Paul lived his life in such a way that he could lay his head on the pillow at night, knowing that he had done what God had called him to do. He had been obedient. He had been faithful. Rather than seek glory or praise from men, he sought to bring pleasure and praise to God through the way he conducted his life. “We had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thessalonians 2:2 ESV). His life was not easy. Pleasing God did not come without its fair share of troubles and conflicts. There was always the not-so-subtle temptation to listen to the words of men and to seek the praise of men. Popularity and acceptance are strong urges in every human being. We want to be wanted. We desire to be accepted. But as children of God, our greatest desire must be to please God – not in an attempt earn His favor or to try and stay in His good graces. We can do nothing to make God love us more or force Him to love us less. His great love for us has already been expressed in His Son's death on the cross in our place. But our desire to please Him must flow from grateful hearts for all He has done for us. Pleasing men is a futile game to play. Men are fickle and their friendship can come and go. But God's love for us is everlasting and unfailing. He deserves our willing desire to live obediently in response to His Word and in submission to His Spirit, not to please men, but to please Him.

Father, I want to please You with my life. I want to live in such a way that my life brings you honor and praise. Help me to worry less about what men think and more about what You have commanded for me to do as Your Son. Remove the fear of man and replace it with a healthy fear of You. Amen

Serving God.

1 Chronicles 23-24, 1 Thessalonians 1

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… – 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV

Serving and worshiping God should be our primary objectives as His people. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the chief end of man, or his primary purpose in life is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” As David's grew older, he began to prepare his son to carry out his dream of building a temple for God. David had a desire to provide a place of worship for his God, in which sacrifices could be made. David divided up the Levites and gave them specific responsibilities, one of which was to “stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening” (1 Chronicles 23:30 ESV). Their praise and thanksgivings were also to be regularly offered to the Lord on “Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days” (1 Chronicles 23:31 ESV). A big part of what was to go on in the temple was the worship of God, expressed in praise and thanksgiving to Him for all that He had done for His people. David desired to build a temple in which His God would dwell and in which the people of Israel would honor their God through obedient sacrifice and ongoing praise.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Over in Psalm 145, we have the words of David written concerning his God: “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3 ESV). David went on to write of God's graciousness, mercy, patience, kindness, and steadfast love. He declared that “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4 ESV). They were to talk about God's majesty. They were to meditate on His wondrous works performed on their behalf. They were to speak of His might and declare His greatness. They were to sing of His righteousness. For David, serving God was not just about doing things for God. It was recognition of His glory, majesty, holiness and greatness; and a outward expression of that recognition in praise and worship. David said, “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:21 ESV).

In the old hymn, When We All Get To Heaven, Eliza Hewitt wrote the following lyrics: “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, Sing His mercy and His grace; In the mansions bright and blessed He’ll prepare for us a place. When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, We’ll sing and shout the victory!” Even in heaven, we will find ourselves praising, singing, rejoicing, and worshiping God for His greatness, goodness, and glory. But David knew that the praise of God was not something to be reserved for heaven, but was to be the regular lifestyle of those who understood and had experienced God's amazing grace and mercy in this lifetime.

What does this passage reveal about man?

In his letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul spoke of their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV). He said that their “faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (1 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV) and how they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ESV). Their lives had become living expressions of their belief in and worship of God. They were serving God, not just through doing good things and living right kind of live, but by expressing unfailing hope in Jesus and faithfully waiting for His return from heaven. Rather than put all their stock in this world, they were counting on the promise of God for eternal life made possible through Jesus, “who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 ESV).

We see in the Thessalonians an example of what it looks like to serve God faithfully. They had “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV). Their faith in God had become visible and well-known to all those around them. It was not secret, hidden, or some kind of personal, internal thing, but an outward manifestation of their faith in God that was easily seen and acknowledged by all those around them. Their lives were different than they had been before. Others could see that they had turned away from idols and were now worshiping the one true God. They were serving Him and it showed in how they lived their lives. It was evident in how they talked about God and placed their hope and trust in God. They were waiting on the return of Jesus and living with an eternal mindset. But in the meantime, like David, they were singing of the wondrous love of Jesus. They were telling of His mercy and grace. In the midst of all their troubles on this earth, they were counting on the reality of heaven and the promised return of Jesus Christ.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

My service for God needs to be more than just outward acts of goodness and righteousness. It must stem from a desire to praise and worship Him for who He is and for all He has done. Too often I can become just like the Pharisees, of whom Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8 ESV). Like David, I want to be able to say, “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord” (Psalm 145:121 ESV), and I want to mean it. It begins with a recognition of just how great He is. Then it shows up in verbal expressions of praise and thanksgiving. I must learn to tell of His greatness, goodness, graciousness and ongoing love. I must place my hope in His Son's eminent return. I must live my live in faithful obedience to His will and in loving submission to His Word. That is true service to God.

Father, I want to serve You with all my heart. I want all my devotion to be focused on You, but so often I find myself in love with the things of this world. I find it so easy to praise temporal things and find satisfaction in objects that have no lasting value. Teach me to sing of Your wonder and grace, to talk of Your glory and majesty, and to praise You for all Your incredible activity in and around my life. Amen

God's Will and Our Sin.

1 Chronicles 21-22, Colossians 4

Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and her the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” – 1 Chronicles 22:1 ESV

David was enjoying tremendous success. God's hand was on him and he was having a field day against his enemies. But then something went terribly wrong. When you compare the two accounts of this event found in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24, there appear to be some discrepancies. In the passage in 2 Samuel, we are told that God was angry with Israel, so he incited David to take a census. We are not told why this action was wrong. It could have been that David's desire to take a census of the people was in order to determine the size of his army. He could have begun to believe that his recent victories were due to his incredible leadership and powerful army. Knowing exactly how many soldiers he had at his disposal would have given David great pride and appealed to his ego. Rather than trust God, he would have been tempted to trust in his army. David would learn an invaluable lesson through this experience and later write, “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:6-7 ESV). But at this point, David was trusting in his own military might.

Interestingly enough, in the 1 Chronicles passage, we get a different take on this scenario. It says that “Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1 ESV). In both cases, David gave in to the temptation and ended up taking the census, against the advice of Joab, his military commander. While these two passages seem to be in conflict with one another, it is probably nothing more than a matter of perspective. Either way, God was in control. He was the one doing the enticing, but the chronicler makes it clear that God used the “adversary” to accomplish His will. God wanted David to learn a lesson he would never forget.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But there was something even greater going on behind the scenes. This whole chain of events appears to be nothing more than David's unwitting obedience to the enticement of the enemy, but God was actually accomplishing His divine will through everything that happened. After David numbered the people, he immediately had second thoughts and realized what he had done. He admitted his guilt and asked God to take away his iniquity. But God was going to something even more significant. As a result of David's sin, God gave him three options from which to choose his punishment. First, he could choose three years of famine in the land of Israel. Or he could choose option number two and settle for three months of devastation at the hands of his foes. And lastly, he could decide to let God bring pestilence on the land for three days. Not exactly great choices. But David decided to take his chances with God, because he believed that God would show him mercy.

God did bring pestilence and many died that day. On top of that, God was poised to destroy the city of Jerusalem, but “relented from the calamity” (1 Chronicles 21:15 ESV). He stayed the hand of the angel of the Lord, who happened to be standing on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. Then God commanded David to build an altar on the threshing floor – right where the angel of the Lord was standing with his sword drawn. So David bought the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite and “built an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering” (1 Chronicles 21:25-26 ESV). And then God commanded the angel of the Lord to put his sword back in his sheath. God provided the means by which the sins of David could be atoned for and His own divine wrath satisfied. It would be on this very spot that Solomon would build the temple. “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chronicles 3:1 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man's sin is no match for God's mercy and grace. David had angered God and there was nothing he could do to escape God's holy anger and judgment. So God stepped in and stopped the destruction long enough to provide a means of atonement. In the midst of the devastation and destruction, God extended mercy and grace. He is the one who told the angel to stop right on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. He is the one who told David to build an altar there. He is the one who answered David with fire from heaven, consuming the offering and accepting David's sacrifice. He is the one who forgave David's sin and restored the people of Israel. David's response was the begin an aggressive campaign to gather all the materials and develop the plans for the Temple. He knew God would not allow him to build it, but he would do all he could to make sure that it was a fitting structure for His gracious God. 

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There are times when I think my sins are too much for God. I can easily convince myself that my screw-ups somehow mess up things for God. But this story reminds me that God is always working in ways of which I am ignorant and could not understand even if I knew about them. He is greater than my biggest spiritual failure. He can and does use me, oftentimes in spite of me. It is comforting to realize that I can't out-sin God. I can't screw up the plan of God. He is always interested in providing atonement, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. He may let me experience some loss and go through some pain, but He will always lead me back to Himself. I must allow God to complete what He is doing in my life. When David arrived at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he was dressed in mourning clothes and pleading for God to turn His wrath fully on him instead of the people. He was willing to take full responsibility and complete blame for what had happened. But little did he know that this place of eminent destruction was going to become God's place of atonement and forgiveness for generations to come. The words of Paul in Colossians 4:1 seem appropriate in this context: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Prayer that God would keep me from presumptuous, prideful sin. Prayer to thank Him for His incredible, inexhaustible grace and mercy.

Father, You are amazing. My greatest sin is not match for Your powerful mercy and grace. When I screw up, You step in and provide atonement for my sins and restoration for my soul. You work behind the scenes in ways that I can't see. You are always working, even using my sin to accomplish Your will. Never let me forget that. Amen

Heavenly Minded.

1 Chronicles 19-20, Colossians 3

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army and ravaged the country of the Ammonites and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. – 1 Chronicles 20:1 ESV

There is an interesting omission in chapter 20 of 1 Chronicles. It starts exactly like 2 Samuel 11, but then leaves out the entire story about David and his elicit affair with Bathsheba. It is unlikely that the chronicler was attempting to cover up David's infamous sin, because it would have been well-known to all of his readers. More than likely, he omitted the details of this less-than-flattering event in David's life because his purpose for the chapter was to highlight David's victories over his enemies at the beginning of his reign. But that one phrase, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle” stands out. It tells us that Joab, the commander of David's army, led the troops into battle while “David remained at Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 20:1 ESV). While David should have been busy defeating the enemies of God, he was falling victim to “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (Colossians 3:5 ESV). David had been by God to be the king of Israel in order for him to lead the people of God. “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel” (2 Samuel 5:2 ESV). But in the missing story of Bathsheba, we have a case of David losing sight of his real objective. He became distracted from God's intended purpose for his life. And while David would experience great victories in the years ahead, he would also suffer tremendous losses within his own household as a consequence of his sin.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The chronicler obviously knew well the sin of David with Bathsheba, but his real objective was to write of God's activity among His people through the kingship of David. In spite of David, God was still at work, providing the nation of Israel with victories over their enemies. He was still giving them His divine assistance in conquering the nations that occupied the land of Canaan. And His efforts would be so effective that by the time Solomon, David's son, took over the throne, his kingdom would experience a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity. But even Solomon with all his wisdom, riches, and obvious blessings from God, would prove to be unfaithful, allowing his love of women to lead to his worship of false gods. He would lose sight of the fact that God had given him wisdom in order for him to lead the nation of Israel wisely. God had blessed him with abundant resources that he might provide for the people of God. Both of these men were God's handpicked kings over His people. They were not to be like all the other kings of the world. They were never to forget that they had the God of the universe on their side and that their actions and attitudes were to reflect their unique relationship with Him. God wanted to bless their reigns and provide them with victories over their enemies, peace and prosperity for their people, and the assurance of His abiding presence.

What does this passage reveal about man?

David and Solomon both illustrate man's unique capacity to give in to focus on what is earthly. In Colossians 3, Paul provides a short, but relatively comprehensive list of what constitutes an earthly, rather than heavenly mindset: “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and coveteousness” (Colossians 3:5 ESV). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul provides an even longer list of what he calls the “works of the flesh”: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, division, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV). Together, these two lists serve as a compendium of a life lived with an earthly, rather than a heavenly focus. So Paul tells us we are to put to death what is earthly in us. These are internal issues that emanate from within. Jesus Himself said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19 ESV). David's sin with Bathsheba was an outflow of an internal problem in David's heart. Solomon's idolatry and unfaithfulness was the direct result of a heart problem. James reminds us, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14 ESV). But Paul gives us the antidote to the problem. He tells us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God ” (Colossians 3:1 ESV). He says to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2 ESV). Our focus, interest, and primary concern is to be on eternal, rather than temporal things. We are to desire the things of God instead of the things of this world. Paul would have us know that, because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we have “put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (Colossians 3:9-10 ESV). The tense he uses in this sentence suggests that this is a past event. It has already taken place. We have been given a new life in Christ. We are new creations. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). Paul's emphasis seems to be that we are to recognize our new identity as redeemed, renewed creations and live accordingly. In other words, our conduct should begin to reflect our new status as children of God. We are “being renewed” daily – an ongoing process by which we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Paul would have us remember that our job is to live in accordance with who we are in Christ. “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV). This is practical, real-life stuff.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

My relationship with Christ is to transform every area of my life. “In whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17 ESV). I am to live with a heavenly mindset, not an earthly one. I am to live a life that reflects my new identity in Christ and my new Spirit-empowered capacity to reflect His holiness and righteousness. I don't have to live according to my old sinful nature. Yes, it is still there and is alive and well. But God has given me a new nature that can effectively counteract my old nature. Paul puts it this way: “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 ESV). I can live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit. I can bear the fruit of the Spirit. But I must set my mind on the things above. I must seek God's will and saturate my mind with His Word. I cannot live like Christ if I attempt to exist on a steady diet of earthly things. If I fill my mind with the things of this world, I will bear the fruit of this world. So Paul encourages us to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16 ESV).

Father, I want to become increasingly more heavenly minded. I know that I have to live and exist in this world. Even Your Son prayed that You would not take us out of this world, but that You would protect us from the evil one. I pray that I could live in this world, but not be of it. That I could reflect my true identity as a child of God and a new creation, filled with Your Spirit and bearing the fruit that is evidence of His presence in my life. Amen

The Reign of Christ.

1 Chronicles 17-18, Colossians 2

I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever. – 1 Chronicles 17:13-14 ESV

David wanted to build a permanent structure in which to place the Ark of the Covenant. He desired to build a “house” or temple for God. But God let David know that He had more important plans for him. It was God's intention to build a house for David, but in a metaphorical sense (1 Chronicles 17:10). The “house” God promised to build for David had to do with a kingly dynasty. “When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom” (1 Chronicles 17:11 ESV). This son, who would turn out to be Solomon, would fulfill David's desire to build a temple for the Lord, and God promised to establish his kingdom forever. This is part of what is referred to as the Davidic Covenant. But we know that Solomon's kingdom did not last forever. His reign ended poorly and God was forced to split the kingdom of Israel in half, dividing it between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Both of these nations would eventually end up in exile, and the city of Jerusalem would like in ruins for years, with no king ruling from the throne of David. And yet God had promised David concerning one of his heirs, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you,  but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:13-14 ESV). The writer of Hebrews quotes these very verses when speaking of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this portion of the covenant God had made with David. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV). Quoting directly from 1 Chronicles 17, the writer of Hebrews says of Jesus, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’?”

Jesus was to be the offspring of David whose throne would be established forever. David's “house” would be everlasting in nature, in spite of the sins of Solomon, the split of the nation of Israel, the failure of its kings, the fall of Jerusalem, or the exile of the people of God. The gospels of Luke and Matthew both make it clear that Jesus was a direct descendant of David and the rightful heir to the throne. The writer of Hebrews, quoting from another Old Testament passage, writes, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions’” (Hebrews 1:8-9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

David's kingdom was a foreshadowing of a far greater kingdom to come. David was a mighty warrior, but he cannot be compared to the One who will come at the end of the age and who will fully defeat the enemies of God once and for all. In fact, Paul reminds us that with His death on the cross and resurrection to new life, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15 ESV). Solomon was a wise king, but his wisdom is nothing compared with that of Jesus, the Son of God. Again Paul refers to Him as “God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3 ESV). David and Solomon were mere men who, in spite of their love for God and desire to live for him, were ultimately sidetracked by their own sin. But Jesus was sinless. He was the God-man, in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9 ESV). He “is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10 ESV). He is “the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19 ESV). Jesus Christ was to be the fulfillment of God's promise to David. With His arrival on earth, Jesus would establish a different kind of kingdom, one that was of a spiritual nature. At His trial before Pilate, Jesus claimed, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36 ESV). When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, He replied, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37 ESV). Jesus was and is the king God had promised, and His kingdom is everlasting and eternal. There will be no end to His rule or reign. In the book of the Revelation, we are given a glimpse into the future, when God will establish a “new heaven and a new earth” and “the holy city, new Jerusalem” will come “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-3 ESV). And there in the new Jerusalem will be a throne, upon which will sit Jesus Christ, who will declare, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

So much of what we experience in our lifetimes is temporal and a mere shadow of what is to come. This world is not all there is and is not all it should be. There is still the presence and reality of sin. The enemies of God still exist and stand against the people of God. Satan still has a powerful influence over this world. But God is not yet done. As His children, we must constantly remind ourselves of this fact. We must not judge the success of God's plan or the reality of Christ's kingdom by what we see going on at any given moment. There is much that must happen before God's plan is complete and Christ's kingdom is fully established on this earth. David's success as a king was completely dependent upon God. It was the Lord who gave him success and who made it possible for his kingdom to prosper. Solomon was given his wisdom by God. His kingdom was established by God. But both of these men would end up sinning against the very One who had set them on their thrones and given them their kingdoms. There is only one man who has lived His life faithfully in obedience and submission to God: Jesus Christ, the God-man. And Paul would remind us, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I am to “walk in him,” which literally means to “conduct my life” totally dependent upon Him for everything. He is not only my source of salvation, but my means of sanctification. He is my strength. He is my source of righteousness. He is my model for holiness and my reason for joyfulness. We have been “made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:13 ESV). He has cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14 ESV). We must hold fast to Him, who is the Head, “from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19 ESV). He must reign and rule over our lives, and we must live our lives in such a way that we reflect our citizenship in His eternal kingdom.

Father, may I continually learn to live as if Jesus is the literal king of my life. May my thoughts and actions reflect His rule and reign over my life. I want to live as if He is the one who is in control over my life. Don't let me replace His rule with self-made religion or self-effort. I want to learn to submit to Him and willingly, joyfully obey His Lordship over my life. Amen

God of Our Salvation.

1 Chronicles 15-16, Colossians 1

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

In his second attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, David determined to do things God's way. He had learned a difficult, but invaluable lesson. Rather than obey God's written commands regarding the transport of the Ark, David had decided to do things his way and the results were disastrous. But he learned from his mistake and developed a deeper reverence for God and His law. This time, David used the Levites to carry the Ark, just as God had prescribed. He treated the Ark with the dignity and honor it deserved because it was a representation of the glory, splendor and presence of God Himself. David brought the Ark into Jerusalem with much pomp and pageantry, with music and praise, dancing and singing. There were offerings and sacrifices made to God. They sang a song of thanksgiving especially written for the occasion. The significance of this event was not lost on David or the people. For the first time in a long time, they were able to receive forgiveness for their sins. The Ark of the Covenant, upon which sat the Mercy Seat of God, was not only a representation of God's presence, but the means of propitiating or satisfying the wrath of a holy God against their sins. The Ark was the place of propitiation. It had been provided by God Himself for the people so that they could come into His presence, in spite of their sinfulness. The blood of an unblemished animal was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of the people, and to turn away the wrath of God. On the annual Day of Atonement, propitiation was made by means of a substitutionary sacrifice. The sins committed by the people that year were atoned for, and the wrath of God was turned away. The significance of this annual sacrifice and the Ark's role in it did not escape David, which is why his song of thanksgiving expressed such powerful praise to God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

David knew that the existence of Israel as a nation was due to God alone. Their presence in the land of Canaan was His doing. They had been the undeserving recipients of His covenant. They had enjoyed His protection and provision over the years. They had experienced “His salvation from day to day” (1 Chronicles 16:23 ESV). As a result, God deserved their praise, awe, reverence, allegiance, and unwavering fidelity. David knew that, without God, the nation of Israel would have been nothing. His kingdom would be non-existent. And without God's mercy, grace and forgiveness made available through the place of propitiation – the Mercy Seat – their sinfulness would have made it impossible for them to stand before His presence. David recognized God's unbelievable love, expressed through His provision of the sacrificial system and, most specifically, through the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat itself. That is why David would write, “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” (1 Chronicles 16:29-30 ESV). “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV). God was worthy of worship, deserving of praise, and fully owed the thanksgiving and honor of His people for all that He had done for them. Not least of which was His provision for their forgiveness through the sacrificial system and the Day of Atonement.

What does this passage reveal about man?

While we may find it easy to stand in awe of God for His power or His creative ability expressed through nature, we tend to take for granted the provision of salvation made possible through His Son, Jesus Christ. The whole reason David was having to bring the Ark of the Covenant back was because years earlier, the people of Israel had attempted to use it as some kind of talisman or good luck charm. They were facing the Philistines in battle and decided to send for the Ark and bring it to the sight of the battle in the hopes that it would provide them with some kind of supernatural advantage over their enemies. The Ark of the Covenant was meant to be the place of propitiation. It wasn't designed to turn away earthly enemies, but to turn away the wrath of God. The Israelites didn't appreciate the significance of this holy symbol of God's mercy, grace and forgiveness. And because they failed to treat it with the awe, glory and honor it deserved, they not only lost their battle with the Philistines, but they had the Ark taken captive by their enemies. They lost their means of propitiation. With the loss of the Ark, they would experience the loss of their only means of turning away the wrath of God against their sins. They had taken lightly God's means of propitiation and would suffer the consequences.

Over in the book of Colossians, Paul reminded his readers that Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 ESV). He is the creator of all things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (Colossians 1:16 ESV). In fact, “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19 ESV). But more importantly, He is the means of propitiation for the sins of man. His death satisfied the just demands of a righteous God. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” (Colossians 1:21-22 ESV). God, through Jesus, has reconciled or made right “to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Over in the book of Hebrews, we read these encouraging words: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26 ESV). God provided His Son as a propitiation for our sins. He became the Mercy Seat upon which His own sinless blood was sprinkled so that the justice of God might be satisfied and the wrath of God might be turned away. I stand in a right relationship with God due to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. I must never take His death lightly. I must never treat His sacrifice flippantly. I must always remember the holiness, majesty and righteousness of God. I must never forget my own sinfulness and hopelessness apart from the mercy made available to me through Jesus Christ. I must “ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name” (1 Chronicles 16:28-29 ESV). I should “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV). He has done for me what I could never have done for myself. He has provided a means by which my sins could be atoned for and my alienation from His holy presence resolved. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21-22 ESV).

Father, thank You Father for providing Your Son as the once-for-all sacrifice for my sins. Never let me take His sacrifice for granted. You have made me right with Yourself through the death of Your own Son. You expressed Your great love for me by offering Your Son on my behalf. And that incredible gift should result in my ongoing, unwavering love, adoration, worship and praise. Amen

Doing Things God's Way.

1 Chronicles 13-14, Philippians 4

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:5-7 ESV

One of the things that had gotten King Saul into trouble was his tendency to do things his own way. Rather than obey God and follow His commands, Saul would come up with his own plan. Sometimes it was only a slight variation on what God had commanded, but even a minor deviation from God's will was considered disobedience and sin. As the people of God, we will always face the temptation of doing things our own way. One of the problems we face is that we do not adequately know God's will. It could be that we have not familiarized ourselves enough with His Word and, therefore, we are ignorant of what He expects or demands of us. Other times, it is a case of knowing His will, but simply refusing to obey it. We would rather do things our own way. David found himself facing these same predicaments. After having ascended the throne of Israel, David exhibited some mixed signals when it came to his relationship with God and His will. On the one hand, he seemed anxious to do things God's way. When trying to determine whether to go into battle against the Philistines, David “inquired of God” (1 Chronicles 14:10 ESV). He sought God's counsel and received it. The result was a resounding victory over his enemies. When the Philistines rose up a second time, David turned to God again and received his marching orders. “And David did as God commanded him” (1 Chronicles 14:16 ESV) and “and the fame of David went out into all the lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations” (1 Chronicles 14:17 ESV).

But we also see several instances where David didn't bother to do things God's way. He didn't even seem to seek God's thoughts on the matter. One was in his relationship with women. The text simply says, “And David took more wives in Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 14:3 ESV). This was in direct violation of God's command regarding the kings of Israel. “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away” (Deuteronomy 17:17 ESV). Now this could have been a case of ignorance on David's part. He could have been unfamiliar with this particular command of God. But nowhere does the passage say that David sought God's counsel as to whether or not to marry multiple wives. His decision seems to have been driven by desire. Even in the case of David's attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his newly formed capital of Jerusalem, David failed to do things God's way. His intentions were good, but the outcome was bad.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God desires the obedience of His people. His rules and commands are not just arbitrary and optional. They are not up to debate or open to interpretation. Our obedience is a direct reflection of our trust in Him. When we disobey Him we are indicating that we do not trust His will for our lives. We are expressing our doubt regarding His love and questioning His wisdom. When we don't know what God's will is regarding a particular decision or situation, we should seek it. When we do know what it is, we should obey it. David's desire to bring the Ark into the city of Jerusalem reflected his love for God and his desire to honor God's law (illustrated in the form of the original tables given to Moses on Mount Sinai and contained in the Ark). But the problem was that David tried to do the right thing in the wrong way. In his attempt to honor God, he actually disobeyed Him. God had made it perfectly clear that Ark was to be carried by the priests only and that if anyone touched the Ark, they would die (Numbers 4:15). But in his zeal to honor God, David had the Ark placed on a cart. He didn't bother to check with God beforehand and see what He would have him do. The result was that a man died when he attempted to keep the Ark from falling off the cart. David had failed to obey God and an innocent man suffered the consequences. David had disobeyed God's commands. Whether he did so knowingly or ignorantly, the text doesn't tell us. But in doing so, he expressed disdain for God's will. His heart was right. He wanted to celebrate God and worship Him rightly, but he went about it in the wrong way. And when God justifiably and righteously punished those who disobeyed His commands, David's joy in the Lord turned to anger and fear.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Every day of our lives we are faced with all kinds of decisions. It is impossible for us to always know what God would have us do in each and every one of those situations. But there are times when God's will is perfectly clear to us and we simply choose to ignore it. The apostle Paul reminds us, “The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5 ESV). In other words, He is always present and available. As a result, Paul writes, “do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6 ESV). There is no reason we should fret or worry about what to do or how to do it – “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 ESV). Simply put, we are to take our requests to God. Rather than get anxious and worry about the situations of life and what to do about them, we are to do as David did and inquire of God. We are to seek His counsel and try to ascertain His will. When we do, Paul tells us, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). When David did things his way, the result was anger and fear. When we seek God and do things His way, the result is peace.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

One of the keys to living obediently is to remain intimate and personal with God. That requires that I spend time in His Word, immersing myself in His revealed will and constantly exposed to His Spirit's leading. The more familiar I am with His Word and the more submitted I remain to His Spirit, the more peace I will experience in my life. And in those times when I don't know what to do, I must learn to ask Him before I act. I must discipline myself to wait before I know what He would have me do. Better to delay than to unknowingly disobey. I must constantly remind myself that the Lord is at hand. He is nearby and He is always ready to respond to my requests for wisdom. James reminds me, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV). I must learn to ask God. But I must also learn to obey Him when I hear from Him.

Father, thank You that You have not left us in the dark regarding Your will. You have given us Your written Word. You have placed provided us with the example of Your incarnate Word. And You have placed Your Holy Spirit in our lives to provide us with the capacity to understand Your will and to obey it. Amen

An Army of God.

1 Chronicles 11-12, Philippians 3

For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God. – 1 Chronicles 12:22 ESV

The chronicler provides us with a flash-back that revisits the time in Israelite history when David was running for his life, hunted relentlessly by King Saul. He was a fugitive, hiding in caves and moving from place to place in order to escape the professional assassins who had been hired by Saul to eliminate David from the face of the earth. Those were dark days for David. And to make matters even worse, the Scriptures tell us that David quickly found his situation becoming increasingly complicated as time passed. “David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him” (1 Samuel 22:1 ESV). David, living in the rough confines of a cave and forced to eke out a living from the harsh Judean wilderness, suddenly finds himself having to care and protect all his family members. Then the real fun started. “And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men” (1 Samuel 22:2 ESV). Here was the man who had been anointed the next king of Israel, hiding in caves, and commanding an army made up of misfits and malcontents. These people were depressed, indebted, stressed out and more than a little bit disappointed in how things had turned out in life. What a way to start your reign as king! But God was not done yet.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The book of Chronicles tells us that God was not finished providing an army for His new king. Chapters 11 and 12 tell us of the mighty men of David. As David continued his period of exile in the wilderness, God brought a host of highly qualified fighting men to his side. “From day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God” (1 Chronicles 12:22 ESV). While David's situation was less-than-ideal from a human perspective, God was providing him with a team of individuals who were “mighty and experienced warriors, experts with shield and spear, who faces were like the faces of lions and who were as swift as gazelles upon the mountains” (1 Samuel 12:8 ESV). They are described as valiant men, doers of great deeds, and mighty men who were renowned for their bravery and courage. God was not going to leave David defenseless and alone. Yes, David would have to suffer through a period of difficulty and unimaginable confusion as he watched Saul's reign continue and his own kingship languish in obscurity in the desert. But God was preparing David to be a king and providing him with the army he would need once he ascended to the throne. And when David finally did take over as king of Israel, God would be there with him, providing him with a new capital, Jerusalem, and an army of faithful, seasoned warriors to fight by his side. “And David became greater and, for the Lord of hosts was with him” (1 Samuel 11:9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

It would have been so easy for David to have thrown in the towel and given up on any hopes of every becoming the next king of Israel. But he continued to trust God. Even when given the opportunity to take the life of Saul and end his exile, he refused to take advantage of the situation by taking matters into his own hands. He would trust God and His timing. He may not have fully understood why God was doing what He was doing, but he knew that God's ways were preferable to his own. God's plan would be better in the long run. He just needed to keep pressing on. If his path included a bit of suffering and difficulty, so be it. God was in control. Paul had a similar attitude. He wrote, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11 ESV). In those years David spent in the wilderness, he had suffered the loss of his job on Saul's royal payroll, he had lost his wife, his reputation, and his spiritual mentor, Samuel. But he pushed on. So did Paul. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV). And Paul encouraged his readers to do the same thing. In essence, Paul was raising up an army of individuals who would be willing to face the obstacles of life and trust in the promises of God. “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There are days when it feels like I am facing life all on my own. Like Elijah the prophet, I can feel like I am the last man left standing. But I must never forget that God is always raising up “a great army, like the army of God.” He is sending men and women who are of like mind and like heart, who share a passion for His cause and a commitment to His Kingdom. Like the mighty men of David, they are brave, valiant, faithful, and doers of great deeds. We should all aspire to be those kind of individuals, fighting together for the faith and in the strength provided by God's Spirit. Like Paul, we need to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:17 ESV). We need to keep our eyes focused on the promises of God and the consummation of His divine plan. He was not done with David. He was not done with Paul. And He is not yet done with me. He is making me a part of His great and powerful army, transforming me into a mighty man of God.

Father, I ask that You continue to raise up Your army on this earth that we might stand strong, fighting together side by side and carrying out Your divine battle plan against the spiritual enemies of this age. Amen

Lights In The Darkness.

1 Chronicles 9-10, Philippians 2

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. – Philippians 2:14-16 ESV

Over in 1 Chronicles, we read these sobering words:

“And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith.” – 1 Chronicles 9:1 ESV

“So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord.” – 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 ESV

The nation of Judah broke faith with God and ended up a broken people living in exile in a foreign land. King Saul broke faith with God and not only lost a battle, but his son, Jonathan. Defeated and alone, the great king would end up taking his own life in a final act of faithlessness and desperation. He had abandoned God, not the other way around.

Broken faith always has its consequences. This wasn't just a case of a lack of faith. If we're not careful, we could easily conclude that Judah and Saul just couldn't muster up enough faith to trust God. But theirs was a sin of commission. It was more a case of what they had done, not what they had lacked. The nation of Judah had ended up in exile because they had committed acts of unfaithfulness against God. They had sinned. Unfaithfulness is always a sin. It involves disobedience and infidelity. The chronicler makes it clear, Saul had not kept the Lord's commands. When he needed help and direction, he had turned to a witch rather than God. He did not seek guidance from the Lord, and his choices resulted in the loss of his kingdom and his own life. Saul was one king out of many who failed to live in faithful obedience to God. The entire nation of Judah was marked by infidelity and sin. They had failed to live up to their responsibilities as the children of God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was not shocked or surprised by the failure of Judah or the fall of King Saul. He had not been caught off guard by their breach of faith. He had fully expected it and had even warned the people of Judah that their exile was coming. He had already anointed David as the next king and had told Saul, “now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:14 ESV). Their unfaithfulness had been expected by God. He knew that they would find it impossible to keep His commands. He was fully aware that Saul would prove to the kind of king the people wanted, but not the kind of king God required. He had allowed the people of Israel to have a king of their own choosing, a man who met their own standards. “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5 ESV). But when Saul had failed, God had a replacement ready to step into the gap, a man after His own heart. And when the nation of Judah found themselves languishing in captivity, God had a plan for their ultimate restoration. He was not done with them yet. After 70 years of exile, He would bring them back to the land and orchestrate the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, the restoration of the Temple, and the repopulation of the city.

What does this passage reveal about man?

All of the events of the Old Testament point toward a day in man’s faithfulness to God could be not only a possibility, but a reality. They foreshadow the coming of the Son of God, who would make faithfulness achievable by making our sinfulness fully forgivable. God did for us what we could have never done for ourselves. He made our own righteousness a reality by providing it for us through the death of His Son. He made sinlessness possible by providing us with new natures and His Holy Spirit to guide and empower us. God not only made our salvation possible, but He made our sanctification or holiness possible. We don't have to break faith with God. We don't have to live in disobedience. We have the capacity to live differently and distinctively, holy and blameless, all because of what He has done for us through Christ. That is why Paul calls us to exhibit our new lives through changed behavior. He challenges us to “be blameless and innocent, children of God, without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15 ESV). He encourages us to “work out” our salvation with fear and trembling. In other words, we are to love out the reality of our salvation in everyday life. Our changed lives should result in changed behavior. But he reminds us that the power for change has been provided by God “who works in you” (Philippians 2:13 ESV). God has provided the power for us to live like Christ. We don't have to live our lives controlled by rivalry and conceit. Instead, we can live humbly, obediently, and sacrificially, counting others as more significant than ourselves. We can care about others more than we care about ourselves. We can have the same attitude that Christ Himself had, willingly submitting to God's will for our lives and faithfully following His Spirit's leading in our lives. We can be lights in the darkness as long as we hold fast to the word of life. We must remember that the same power that saved us is available to change us.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Because of Christ's death on the cross, my sins have been paid for in full. By recognizing my own sinfulness and my incapacity to save myself from the penalty of death, and placing my faith in His sacrifice and payment for my sin, I was given a new nature and a new status as a child of God. I am fully forgiven and stand uncondemned before God. I am righteous before His eyes because He sees me through the blood of His own sinless Son. But I have also been called to live a life that reflects my new nature. I have been given the Holy Spirit to make this new life possible. I have the capacity and power to live differently, like a light shining in the midst of darkness. I am not to rest on my salvation and find comfort in my ultimate guarantee of a place in heaven. I am to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. I am to take my position as God's child seriously, and reflect my new nature in all that I do. My old sinful habits and nature are to become increasingly more a thing of the past. I am to put on Christ and reflect His character in my daily life. The more I become like Him, the brighter my light will shine in the darkness. God has redeemed me, not just to some day take me to heaven, but to reflect the character of His Son while I live on this earth.

Father, I want to be a bright light in the midst of the darkness. I want to live faithfully committed to Your Word, submitted to Your Spirit and reflective of the nature of the character of Christ. I want to have His mind. I want to live as He lived. I know that I still have the capacity to break faith with You and fall back into my old sinful nature. But help me to work out my salvation daily, with fear and trembling, never forgetting what Your Son has done for me and what You expect of me. Amen

God's Good Work.

1 Chronicles 7-8, Philippians 1

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 ESV

Tola, Puah, Uzzi, Rephaiah, Isshiah, Becher, Jediael, Asriel, Machir, Sheresh, Mahiah, Shuthelah, Huram …

The list of names goes on and on and we know virtually nothing about the vast majority of the individuals listed. Each of their lives and all that they did are contained in a single name written on the pages of Scripture. But they each represent generations of Israelites who lived and walked on this earth, marrying, bearing sons and daughters, contributing to their communities, growing old and, eventually, dying. Obviously this list contains the names of some who remained faithful to God, but also the names of those who walked away from Him, serving the false gods of the Canaanites and Ammonites. In the list of names found in chapter 8, we see the influence of these false gods over the people of Israel, as they evidently named their children after the pagan god, Baal. In the genealogy of Benjamin are found the names of Baal, Eshbaal, and Merib-baal. Even Jonathan, the son of King Saul and the friend of David, had named one of his sons Merib-baal, known elsewhere by his Hebrew name of Mephibosheth.

These lists span the time from the arrival of the people of Israel to the Promised Land all the way to their return after their exile in Babylon. Generation after generation of Israelites are contained in these chapters, all compressed into a shortened list in order to remind the people of Israel of their heritage. The chronicler wants them to know their roots. He wants to assure them that they are still God's people and can trace their roots all the way back to Adam. While much has happened over the generations, and the people of God have suffered much for their spiritual infidelity, God is not yet done with them. He has promises yet to be fulfilled. The original readers of 1 Chronicles would have been living back in the land, having returned from exile in the land of Babylon. They would have found themselves living in relative poverty, having returned with nothing to a land that had been taken occupied by their enemies in their absence. They had no king, no army, no power, and no reason for national pride. They would have been a weakened, feint shadow of their former selves. But God was not done with them yet!

What does this passage reveal about God?

The apostle Paul, writing to the believers living in Philippi, also encourages them to consider that God is not done with them yet. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). As with the Israelites who had returned to the land of promise only to find that things were not quite what they had hoped or expected, the Philippian believers found themselves having to live out their faith in Christ in difficult surroundings. So Paul encourages them to keep on loving, to be pure and blameless in their conduct, and to be filled with the fruit of righteousness – waiting for the day of Christ. Paul knew that God's plan was not yet complete. He understood that there was more to come and that present circumstances were a poor criteria for judging the faithfulness of God. Paul himself wrote this letter while sitting in prison, most likely in Rome. He viewed his own situation from a divine perspective, describing it in extremely positive terms: “ I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,  so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ” (Philippians 1:12-13 ESV). He saw God's hands all over his circumstances, and even knew that others had “become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment” (Philippians 1:14 ESV). Paul knew that God was not done yet. He fully believed that there was a perfectly good reason for his imprisonment and he took full advantage of it to write his letter to the Philippians and to share the gospel. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that is has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest” (Philippians 1:12-13 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

To often, we view our circumstances from a limited, earthly perspective. We fail to see God's hand in it or understand God's purpose behind it. The Jews who found themselves living back in the land of promise felt that the future was anything but promising. They were weak, powerless, confused, and without a king to lead them. They failed to recognize that God was in their midst. He had returned them to the land – miraculously. He had kept them alive – mercifully. He had overlooked their sins – patiently. And He would eventually send His own Son in fulfillment to His promise to David. He would send them their Messiah, the descendant of David, who would someday sit on his throne in Jerusalem. But the time was not yet right. God's plan was not yet ready to unveil. And so it was easy for them to focus on their circumstances and lose hope. It was natural for them to question the goodness of God and wonder about the validity of His promises. And we can find ourselves struggling with the same thing today. Which is why Paul's words are so powerful and appropriate. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (Philippians 1:27-28 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The plan of God is far bigger than my current circumstances. My problems and perceived struggles are lousy indicators of God's sovereign will. Just because things get difficult does not mean God is out of control or has fallen out of love with me. He is working behind the scenes in ways I will never fully understand. Paul's imprisonment was anything but easy. He faced a possible death sentence. And while he hoped for his eventual deliverance and freedom, he was willing to accept death if that was God's will – “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21 ESV). His desire was to honor Christ, “whether by life or by death.” In fact, he was torn between the two options of living and continuing his work of spreading the gospel and dying and going to be with the Lord. “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Philippians 1:23-24 ESV). What a unique, refreshing perspective. Paul truly wanted to honor Christ with his life – whether that meant a continuation of his work or his own death – and he was willing to trust God for the outcome. He was willing to see God's hand in the midst of it all.

Father, You are not done yet. Your work on this earth is not yet completed. And Your work in my life continues as well. You are still transforming and perfecting me, through the power of Your Spirit and with the help of Your Word. Help me see You in the midst of all the circumstances of my life – the good and the bad. Give me a heavenly perspective and an eternal focus. Don't let me get wrapped up in the everyday affairs of this life and forget that Your plan is far greater and much bigger in scope. Amen

Be Strong In The Lord.

1 Chronicles 5-6, Ephesians 6

And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him. – 1 Chronicles 5:20 ESV

Once again, as we read through the genealogical record found in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles, we find an interesting side note provided by the chronicler. In referring to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, he gives an added detail that provides a unique insight into these three tribes that occupied the Transjordan region. As the Israelites were preparing to enter into the Promised Land, these three tribes asked for permission to settle on the opposite side of the Jordan. Joshua's only demand was that they agree to fight alongside the Israelites and help them conquer the nations occupying the land of promise. Once all the tribes were in their allotted places, they could return to the other side of the Jordan. They had kept their word and settled on the opposite side of the Jordan. And the chronicler describes them as “valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war” (1 Chronicles 5:18 ESV). In other words, they were proven men of battle. But he gives us another important insight into their success as warriors. He tells us that “they cried out to God in battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (1 Chronicles 5:20 ESV). These men were recognized as valiant, brave, and skilled soldiers, but the secret to their success was their trust in God. When facing battle, they cried out to God. They didn't simply rely on their own strength, they placed their trust in God. And the chronicler tells us, “many fell, because the war was of God” (1 Chronicles 5:22 ESV). Their reliance upon God brought victory by the hand of God. It would have been easy for them to lean on their own military might and experience in warfare, but instead, they trusted God and relied on His strength. Later on, in the book of 2 Chronicles, we read the words, “But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down” (1 Chronicles 25:8 ESV). The power of God has always been available to His people. When they were standing on the edge of the Promised Land, preparing to enter in and conquer its inhabitants, God told them, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God offers His people His help. He makes available His strength and awesome power. He provides an immeasurable resource into which we can tap at any time. But we must trust Him. We must believe that He is capable of accomplishing all that He has promised. He reminds us to be strong and courageous, not because of our own strength or capabilities, but because of His. What set the people of Israel apart from all the other nations was their God. Without Him, they were nothing. Which was an invaluable lesson they would never seem to learn. Their refusal to regularly rely on Him and trust Him for their well-being would ultimately result in their spiritual failure as a nation and their defeat at the hands of their enemies. But God had always been there for them, ready to put His unlimited, unstoppable power at their disposal. But a big reason the people of Israel turned to other gods was due to their lack of trust in Yahweh. They wanted to hedge their bets and ensure that they covered their bases by keeping any and all gods on their side. The one true God was not enough for them. They never fully rejected Him, but they combined their worship of Yahweh with the worship of all kinds of false gods, in the hopes that these other gods could step in and provide them with aide when Yahweh couldn't or wouldn't. But the apostle Paul reminds us, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10 ESV). His recommendation is that we, as the people of God, put our trust, hope, faith and full reliance on God alone.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But when the going gets tough, our tendency as human beings is to place our trust in anything and everything we think may provide us with help – including ourselves. But as God's chosen people, we are to recognize our need for Him. The battles we face in life are not designed for us to showcase our strength or prove our self-sufficiency. They are opportunities to watch God work. They are unique vantage points from which we can witness the power of God and enjoy victories that would have been otherwise impossible. But first we have to trust Him. Paul goes on to say, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12 ESV). The battle we find ourselves in is far more than we can handle in our own strength. Left to our own devices, we are ill-equipped to face the enemy who stands against us. We are in a spiritual battle that is far greater than anything we could ever imagine. So we must find our strength in God, not ourselves. We must put on His armor, not our own. Repeatedly, Paul tells us to stand against, withstand, stand firm and stand. But we are to do so based on our trust in God and His strength. We are to wear His armor – His truth, His righteousness, His gospel, His faith, His salvation, His Spirit. Like the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, we are to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV). We are to turn to Him and trust in Him, relying on His strength and exhibiting courage based on His power, not our own.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I have always found it fascinating that God did not just give the Israelites the land He had promised them. He could have easily eliminated the nations who occupied the land without the Israelites ever having to raise a finger. In fact, there are numerous occasions when He did just that. But for the most part, God required that the people of Israel put on their armor, pick up their swords and go into battle. They had to do their part. But He had promised to be with them. He had promised that the battle would be His. He would reveal His strength through their weakness. He would reveal His power through their insufficiencies and inadequacies. The people who lived in the land were great and powerful. The odds were totally against the Israelites and any hopes they had of defeating their enemies seemed slim to none. But they had a secret weapon: God. They would not be fighting alone. They would not be going into battle having to rely on their own strength and military might. They would be led by the Lord of Hosts. And the same thing is true for us today. The enemies we face are great. The odds are stacked against us. But we are to trust in God and go into battle equipped with His resources and wearing His armor. We must constantly remind ourselves that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV). We can be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. We can wear the armor He has provided. We can stand on the promise of His presence and the power He provides through His Spirit. We can do battle with the cosmic powers aligned against us because our God is great and His victory is assured. But we must trust Him. We must rely upon Him. And we must constantly remind ourselves that we can do NOTHING without Him.

Father, I get so tired of trying to fight the battles on this life in my own strength. I don't know why I keep trying to trust in myself when I constantly prove incapable and insufficient for the task. I want to learn to stand firm on Your strength. I want to rest in Your power. I want to learn to cry out to You and trust in You. Help me to stand firm, not based on anything I bring to the table, but solely based on Your reputation, power and promises. Amen

How Will You Be Remembered?

1 Chronicles 3-4, Ephesians 5

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV

In chapter 3 of 1 Chronicles we are given a complete listing of the Davidic line of succession all the way up until the time when the people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon. It begins with David and ends with Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. In-between we have a list all the kings who ruled over Judah and it is a fascinating compilation of characters. At first glance, it is just a listing of hard-to-pronounce names. But after having worked our way through the books of 1 and 2 Kings, we know that each of these names represents a particular individual who either sought God during his lifetime or turned his back on God and led the nation of Judah into a lifestyle of unfaithfulness. The original Jewish readers of the book of 1 Chronicles would have been very familiar with these names and their reputations. They would have known of Solomon and his wisdom. But they would have also known about his failure to live faithfully and obediently for God, resulting in the split of the kingdom. They would have been familiar with Manasseh and how he had built altars in the house of the Lord and even burned his own son as a sacrifice to one of the many false gods he worshiped. They would have heard about Josiah, who took the throne at the age of eight, but did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He instituted reforms and attempted to restore the nation of Judah to its covenant relationship with God. Each of the names in this listing represent a life that was marked by a reputation. They would be remembered for the things they had done and the lifestyle they had lived. It's interesting to note that in the middle of this genealogical listing, one name is given special attention. It is the name of Jabez, an obscure individual who is remembered for having been more honorable than all his brothers. He prayed that God would bless him and increase his borders, keeping him from harm. And the text reads, “And God granted what he asked” (1 Chronicles 4:10 ESV). One man who turned to God and asked Him for blessing, protection and provision. His simple prayer illustrates a faithful, committed life lived in obedience to and dependence upon God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Every one of the names listed in these two chapters in 1 Chronicles represents an individual who was a member of the chosen people of God. He had been born into the nation of Israel and was set apart as a worshiper of the one true God. But not all of them lived up to their calling. God had set apart the people of Israel as His own possession. He had given them His name, provided them with His law, and graciously made available His sacrificial system to ensure their forgiveness of sin and the possibility of remaining in a right relationship with Him. He had freed them from captivity in Egypt, led them through the wilderness and provided them with a land of their own. He had given them victories in battle, showed them mercy when they had sinned, exhibited patience when they were unfaithful, and offered them the promise of His blessing if they would simply obey Him. All He had asked in return was that they remain faithful to Him. He had forbidden them to worship other gods or to live like the nations all around them. He simply desired that they live distinctively and differently, illustrating to the rest of the world what it looks like to follow the one true God. Their lives were to have been a visual representation of true godliness in a world filled with false gods. God's expectation of them was exactly what Paul communicated to the believers in Ephesus hundreds of years later. “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:8-10 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

God has always expected His people to live differently. He has always desired that those who are called by His name exhibit characteristics that are in keeping with His name. But the long list of names found in 1 Chronicles 3-4 contains more than a few individuals whose reputations were far from godly and who lived their lives in darkness rather than the light. Paul exhorts his readers that, as believers, their lives were not to be characterized by sexual immorality, impurity, coveting, foolish talk, crude joking, or unfruitful works of darkness. Instead, they were to try to discern what was pleasing to God. As light, they were to expose the deeds of darkness, rather than participate in them. They were to illuminate the darkness of sin all around them, not take part in it. Paul encourages them to “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15 ESV). Their relationship with God was to have a direct impact on how they lived their lives. It was to influence every facet of their lives, including their relationships with their spouses. They were to walk in love and mutual submission. They were to imitate God just as a child imitates his father. They were to be known and recognized for who they were – the children of God. But the temptation for all of us is to blend into the woodwork and to become just like the world around us. We find it so easy to compromise with the world and allow our light to become absorbed by the darkness. God had called the people of Israel to be set apart from the world, but they failed to live up to that calling. He has issued that same call to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. He has even given us His Holy Spirit to make it possible. But we must submit to His Spirit. We must desire to live according to His will. We must want to live as light in the midst of the darkness. Like Jabez, we must recognize our need for and dependence upon God to live our lives in this world. We must be willing to ask, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that you hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:10 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

This life is not easy. This world is a difficult place in which to live as salt and light. It is so easy to allow my reputation to become marred by a love for this world and “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11 ESV). But at the end of my life, I want my reputation to be that of a man who remained faithful to His God and who lived in dependence upon His Spirit. I want to be remembered as someone who tried to imitate God and who will be recognized as having been a child of God. I have been set apart by God for His use. I have been made His child and an heir to His kingdom. I have been given His Spirit and have access to His power. My greatest desire should be to live in such a way that i reflect my relationship as His child and reveal His light through my life.

Father, I want to be remembered as Your child. I want my reputation to be honoring to You, not me. I ask that you continue Your sanctifying work in my life, transforming me into the likeness of Your Son, so that I might mirror His character and reflect His light into the darkness that fills this world. Amen

What's In A Name?

1 Chronicles 1-2, Ephesians 4

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV

For nearly nine whole chapters, the chronicler provides list after list of virtually unrecognizable and unpronounceable names. These genealogies tend to make no sense to us as modern readers. They seem to serve no purpose. But to the chronicler's audience they provided a lifeline back to their heritage as God's chosen people. They had returned to the land of promise after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah they had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and the temple itself. But they were a ragtag remnant living in a city that still showed the signs of the Babylonian destruction and years of neglect as the people languished in captivity. They were worshiping in a temple that was a mere shadow of its former glory. So the chronicler takes nine chapters to remind them of who they were. He takes them all the way back to Adam. They were descendants of the first man, who had been created by God Himself. But more than that, they shared a heritage with David, the great king of Israel, to whom God had promised to give a long-lasting dynasty. One of David's descendants was to sit on the throne of Israel again. But at the time of the writing of 1 Chronicles, the people of God were living in Jerusalem and worshiping at the temple, but they had no king. They were weak, defenseless, and surrounded by enemies who were less-than-ecstatic that they had returned to the land. The chronicler wanted to remind his readers of their heritage. He wanted them to understand their unique status as God's chosen people. Much of what he wrote in this book was designed to show God's people who they were, how they got to be in the state they were in, and what they were going to need to do to see their circumstances change. Their current circumstances were the direct result of their own unfaithfulness and disobedience. They were reaping the results of their failure to seek God. So the chronicler wants them to understand that, as God's people, they must return to Him, and live as the true heirs of Israel.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God's hand had been on Israel from the very beginning. The lists of genealogies start with Adam and clearly reveals God's sovereign choice of Abraham and His divine selection of David. He had been active all the along the way, orchestrating events in such a way so that the nation of Israel would be His chosen people. And in spite of what would be a lengthy track record of disobedience and rebellion against His will and authority, God would eventually restore His disobedient children to the land He had promised to give them as their inheritance. While they had failed to live up to His expectations and commands, He had kept His promises to them. He had miraculously provided the means by which the temple could be rebuilt and the sacrificial system restored. He used a pagan king to make possible the return of His people to the land and the funding of the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the temple itself. The temple was a symbol of God's divine presence. It was a reminder of God's willingness to provide forgiveness for sin and restoration to a right relationship to Him through the sacrificial system. But as the people of God, they would have to live in obedience to His commands, faithfully seeking His face and worshiping according to His standards, not their own.

What does this passage reveal about man?

After 70 years in exile, it would have been easy for the people of God to forget who they were. Most of those who returned to the land of Israel had probably been born in Babylon, and were seeing the land of promise for the first time. They had no real recollection of how things used to be. They had no concept of the former glory of Jerusalem or the magnificence of the original temple. They had long forgotten their unique status as the children of God. Theirs had been a life of slavery, servitude, and suffering. Even though they were now living back in the land, they were doing so as a weakened, impoverished, powerless people who had no king, no army, and no apparent hope for the future. But the chronicler takes time to remind them of their heritage. He wants them to understand the significance of who they are and the reality of their relationship as God's chosen people. Paul does a similar thing when writing to the believers in Ephesus. He reminds them, “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV). And then we read those powerful two words, “But God…” In the midst of our former position as sin-ravaged, spiritually lifeless, flesh-driven dead men, God showered us with His mercy and grace, providing us with salvation through Christ “even when we were dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:4 ESV). He gave us new life. He provided us with new hope. As a result, Paul exhorts his readers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). He challenges them to live up to their new status as God's chosen people. Their lives are to be marked by humility, gentleness, patience, forebearance, love, unity, and a mutual commitment to spiritual growth and maturity. Their conduct and speech were to be different. Their lifestyle was to emulate that of Christ. They bore the name of Christ and shared His status as a child of God. So they were to live accordingly, putting off their old nature and putting on the new self, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

As a child of God, I am to live differently. I must recognize my position as His son and walk in a manner worthy of my calling as His adopted child. My unique status should be apparent in my behavior. Paul told his readers to put away falsehood, speak the truth, not to let their anger turn to sin, to resist Satan, stop stealing, work honestly, talk righteously, extend grace, and stop grieving the Holy Spirit. He was very specific and it was likely because his readers had been used to living in such a way that their lives had been marked by behavior that was un-Christlike and unflattering to their role as God's chosen people. As God's sons and daughters, our behavior must reflect our beliefs. Our comportment must match our confession. We must live or walk in a manner worthy of our calling and in honor of the name of Christ.

Father, I want to live differently. I want my speech and conduct to honor Your Son's name. I confess that too often, my claim to be a Christian is not matched by my behavior, thought life and the words that come out of my mouth. Help me understand that my life must reflect my status as Your child. My conduct must bring glory and honor to Your name. Amen

A Passion For The Things of God

1 Chronicles 26-27

They were responsible for all matters related to the things of the LORD and the service of the king… ­– 1 Chronicles 26:30 NLT

As you read these closing chapters of the book of 1 Chronicles, you have to keep reminding yourself that all of this is being done by David – a man who dreamed of building a house for the Lord, but was denied that privilege by God. Instead, David's son, Solomon, would construct the temple. But instead of pout and take his toys and go home, David decided he would do the next best thing. He began gathering all the materials and establishing the organizational backbone that would make the temple possible. Here he is in the closing days of his administration and life, and he is spending the vast majority of his time ensuring that everything needed to make the construction of the temple possible is ready. Not only that, he is putting in place all the administrative and organizational aspects of building and maintaining the temple in place – long before construction has even begun.

The amount of detail in these chapters is amazing. It can make for a difficult, if not boring read. But it reveals David's passion for God. Even though he will never see the completed temple or worship in it, he is going to make sure that it is built and that it is worthy of the One who will occupy it. I guess I am amazed at the magnitude of David's passion for God. He could just as easily have decided that since he is not going to get to build the temple, then all the work should fall on Solomon. But he was not going to take the risk that this dream of his would somehow die along with him. He was determined to see the temple built and his God honored. So he works diligently and determinedly to make sure every aspect of the temple's construction and ongoing maintenance is covered. His zeal for God's house reminds me of how Jesus reacted when He found the money changers selling inside the temple when He arrived in Jerusalem for Passover. He became angry and physically threw them out of the place. He was not going to allow His Father's house to be defiled in such a way. Like Jesus, David had a passion for the things of God. You might even say he was obsessed. He was consumed with the idea that the temple was to be a fitting dwelling place for the God of the universe. God deserved it. And David was going to see that God got what He deserved. Even if he never got to see it himself. Now that is dedication.

Dr. Thomas L. Constable puts it this way, "His preoccupation with God's promises and his preparations for their fulfillment served as a good example for Chronicles' original readers. David's zeal for the house of the Lord reflected his zeal for the reputation of the Lord. He truly put God's glory before his own personal ambitions." Could the same be said of me? Do I put God's glory above my own personal ambitions? Is making God great and making Him known more important to me than anything else? Sadly, the answer is most often, "No." But as we get ready to enter into another new year, that kind of attitude can change. I can and will make God number one in my life. I will give Him the glory He deserves. I will recognize His greatness and tell others about it. I will make the reputation of God more important than my own. What about you?

Father, like David, I will never get to build a temple for You. I never even came up with the dream to do so in the first place. But there are so many things I can do to bring You glory. Forgive me for the many times I make my own glory my passion. I want to fulfill my dreams and plans and make my own name known in the land. Give me the passion of David. May I spend the remaining years of my life doing anything and everything to give You glory and make You known. Amen


Preaching and Singing.

1 Chronicles 25

"xt David and the worship leaders selected some from the family of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun for special service in preaching and music. Here is the roster of names and assignments: ­– 1 Chronicles 25:1 MSG

The temple David had dreamed of building was going to be more than just a place to come and offer sacrifices. It would feature the perpetual worship of God. He would be the solitary focus within its walls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In chapter 25 of 2 Chronicles, we are told that David assigned a group of men to do nothing but "proclaim God’s messages to the accompaniment of harps, lyres, and cymbals" (2 Chronicles 25:1b NLT).  They were worship leaders, and as such, they were to speak the truth of God set to music. In essence, they formed a temple choir for the purpose of praising God through music and song.  Music, always near and dear to David's heart, was going to play a significant role in the new temple that Solomon would construct. And us usual, David did his part to ensure that there were man assigned to this duty.

When we think of the temple we tend to only take into account the sacrificial system and the Holy of Holies, that innermost place where the presence of God was said to dwell. But as this passage indicates, there was so much more to temple worship than animal sacrifices. The building itself was an incredible sight to behold with its magnificent gold overlays, tapestries, pillars and ornate furnishings. It was a feast for the ears as much as it was for the eyes. Music filled the structure with a variety of instruments and human voices being used to praise God at all times. Visiting the completed temple would have been a sensory overload – filled with sights and sounds designed to praise and bring glory to God. He was the focus. Walking into the temple would have left little doubt that God was the center of attention. The sacrifices were for Him, but so was the music. The entire structure was built just for Him. Think about the difference between then and now. So much of what we refer to as "the house of God" today is about us. Our churches are built to bring us comfort and to accommodate our needs. Even the music is designed in many ways to entertain and encourage us. The sermons are directed at us. Rather than lift up the name of God and celebrate the Word of God, many messages from pulpits across our country today have become little more than short positive motivational speeches or talks filled with tips on how to live a better life. While the buildings themselves may be impressive architecturally, they do little to lift up and glorify God. Sadly to say, they have become man-centered, rather than God-honoring.

But David was not interested in building a place where men could feel encouraged and entertained. He wanted to build a house suitable for his God. He wanted everything about it to speak of the glory and majesty of God. It was to be magnificent in every detail, because David's God was magnificent in every detail. From the smallest brick laid to the highest note played, everything about the temple was to be about God, because He deserved it.

Father, we have somehow lost the significance of You even in our worship of You. We have made it all about us. We build buildings and sing songs that are designed with us in mind more than You. Help us to learn from David that You are always to be the center of our attention, the focus of our worship, and the reason for our existence. Amen


Passing the Torch.

1 Chronicles 23-24

When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel. ­– 1 Chronicles 23:1 NLT

The older I get the more I find myself thinking about my legacy. What am I going to leave behind? What will people think about me when I'm gone? What will my children have to remember me by? They probably won't be fighting over the family estate or the contents of my will. Vast sums of cash will not end up dividing my family. If anyone of my children are hoping to strike it rich when I pass on, they're going to be sorely disappointed. But I do hope to leave them something. Like memories and knowledge that I loved them – if not perfectly, consistently. They will have my library of books, which will remind them that I loved to read and that, most of all, I loved to read books about our faith. They will have access to articles I have written and CDs containing messages I have given. These will remind them ofmy love for the Word and my passion for teaching it. They will know that I loved their mother passionately and completely – right up to the end. I hope they'll recall my sense of humor. At least I thought I had a sense of humor. I tried to laugh at life and even at myself. But if there is one thing I want to leave my children, it is my love for the Lord. .

David had that same desire. He wanted Solomon to love and serve God. He knew that the key to Solomon's success was going to be the health of his relationship with God, not the size of his army or the amount of gold in his treasury. So as David neared the end of his life, he did all he could do to help prepare Solomon for a future without him. And one of the things that was high on David's list was the construction of the temple. This was about more than building a magnificent building. It was about building a dwelling place for God Himself. The temple would assure the presence of God in the midst of the people of Israel. It would be a permanent and constant reminder of their dependence on God as they worshiped and offered sacrifices to God. So David did all he could do to make sure the temple got built. He was not going to let Solomon forget about it or change his mind. David made all the right preparations so that Solomon's job would be fairly easy. David did the heavy lifting, so Solomon could complete the task with relative ease.

That is what I hope I am doing. I want to set the foundation upon which my children and grandchildren will build their lives and their love for God. I want to spend the remaining years of my life doing the heavy lifting, so that my kids can have all that they need to enjoy a vibrant relationship with God all the days of their lives. In reading these two chapters of 1 Chronicles, we see David gathering, assigning, numbering, and preparing for a day he would not even be around to experience. Isn't that what we should be doing – preparing for a day when we will no longer be around? That's what a legacy is all about. It is leaving something of value behind that will be worth more than even if I was here. David's contribution to the completion of the temple was inestimable. You couldn't put a value on it. The time I spend now preparing building a spiritual legacy for my kids and grandkids is also beyond value. It is time well-spent. It will pay dividends for generations to come. David could have spent his remaining years wasting time on himself, enjoying life, taking advantage of the peace they were enjoying as a nation to travel, play golf, read, relax, take up a new hobby, etc. But he knew that the temple was going to be essential, because the temple was going to be the dwelling place of God – and God was the key to the future success of Solomon and the nation. So instead of relaxing, David planned and prepared. He was building a legacy.

Father, help me prepare for the future. Show me how to leave a legacy for future generations that will long outlast me. Keep me focused on the kingdom and not my own little world of comfort and convenience. Give us a parents a passion to prepare the way for our children and grandchildren. Amen


Sound Fatherly Advice.

1 Chronicles 21-22

And may the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the law of the LORD your God as you rule over Israel. For if you carefully obey the laws and regulations that the LORD gave to Israel through Moses, you will be successful. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart! ­– 1 Chronicles 22:12-13 NLT

David's days are coming to an end. He is growing old and his reign as the king of Israel is just about over. He has had a roller coaster reign as king filled with wars, domestic disputes, and enough ups and down to leave his head spinning. But as he contemplates the close of his time as king, one thing is on his mind: The construction of the temple he had longed to build for God. Even though God had denied David the right to construct the temple himself, David was still excited about the prospect of his son, Solomon, fulfilling this life-long dream of his. So he began the process of buying the land, collecting the materials, and providing much of what was necessary for the process of construction to begin once he was gone and Solomon had ascended to the throne in his place.

But David knew there was more that Solomon was going to need than construction materials. He knew from first-hand experience that Solomon was going to need to be obedient. Building the temple would be useless and pointless if the one constructing it was disobedient to God. Over the years, David had learned the importance of faithful obedience to God in his role as king. So he passed along what he had learned to his young son, Solomon:

"Now, my son, may the LORD be with you and give you success as you follow his instructions in building the Temple of the LORD your God. And may the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the law of the LORD your God as you rule over Israel. For if you carefully obey the laws and regulations that the LORD gave to Israel through Moses, you will be successful. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!" – 1 Chronicles 22:11-13

David told Solomon that success in building the temple would be tied to following God's instructions for it. This was not to be Solomon's temple but God's. He was to listen to God and do exactly what he was told. David prayed that God would give his son wisdom and understanding, and that Solomon would obey God's law all the years of his kingship. David knew that obedience was the key to success as God's man. Then he encourages Solomon to be strong and courageous, and to not let fear or a sense of defeat mark his reign. David reminded Solomon…

"The LORD your God is with you," he declared. "He has given you peace with the surrounding nations. He has handed them over to me, and they are now subject to the LORD and his people. Now seek the LORD your God with all your heart. Build the sanctuary of the LORD God so that you can bring the Ark of the LORD's covenant and the holy vessels of God into the Temple built to honor the LORD's name." – 1 Chronicles 22:18-19 NLT

David was leaving his son a powerful kingdom enjoying a time of unprecedented peace. He was leaving him royal treasuries filled with the plunder from successful military campaigns. He was leaving him a beautiful royal palace and a well-fortified city in which to live. He was leaving him a well-respected name and legacy of leadership that was hard to match. But the best thing David left his son was his encouragement to obey God faithfully. David knew this was the secret to his success. He wanted Solomon to be a man after God's own heart just as he was. And at the end of the day, the best way to recognize a man after God's own heart is through his life of faithful, consistent obedience. Sure, there were days David disobeyed and failed to follow God's plan. But he always returned to God, recognizing his sin, taking responsibility for it, and repenting of it. He wanted Solomon to understand that the temple would be useless and impractical if the God for whom it was being built never occupied it. And the quickest way to make that happen would be through disobedience.

David left Solomon a lot, but the best thing he left him was some sound fatherly advice. "Now seek the Lord your God with all your heart."

Father, may that be the advice I leave my own children. May I learn that there is nothing I can leave behind that is more valuable than my understanding that faithful obedience to You is the key to real success. Amen