Archive for June, 2012

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 is a great chapter for getting guidance on how we should live.  The author spells it out pretty clearly.  Let’s take a look at what God says is important when we are looking at how we should live.  “Blessed is the man who walks”.  We are told how to receive blessing from God.  It happens when we are moving – not sitting around or immobile.  God expects us to be in motion – to be on the move and walking with Him.  We are to walk this way – to do these things – or not do these things as we see here:

–       “not in the counsel of the wicked

–       nor stands in the way of sinners

–       nor sits in the seat of scoffers

Three things we should not do, or more accurately, three kinds of people we need to avoid.

What should we do?  “His delight is in the law of the Lord”.  What does it mean to delight in God’s law?  Scripture defines that for us this way: “On his law he meditates day and night”.  Did you catch that?  We are to be focused on God’s truth day and night.  Not just when we run out of our own wisdom or get stuck. Not just when we are having a bad day and need some direction.  God wants us delighting in His law day and night – all the time.

What will the outcome be when we get this right and we walk with God and delight in His law?  Scripture is pretty clear.

–       “He is like a tree planted by streams of water

–       that yields its fruit in its season

–       its leaf does not wither

–       In all that he does, he prospers

That is a pretty cool outcome, isn’t it?  We walk with God His way and we become like a tree.  We won’t be tossed around but stable and secure.  But there is more – we will bear fruit and will remain vibrant as our leaf will not wither.  God summarizes it this way – he prospers.  How is that for a positive outcome?  If we walk well with God, we prosper.  Plain and simple, no other result.  God wants to bless us that way.

God sees things pretty black and white.  And it all comes down to being righteous and walking with Him in His way.  “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”.  It doesn’t get a lot clearer than this.  God knows – He is watching and keeping score – and the scoreboard is all about living righteously.  If we fail, the opposite is the result – and that is called wickedness.  There is nothing in between.  We either are walking with God or we aren’t.  There is no half way position.  God sees this black and white.  We need to be sure we walk with Him and are like a tree planed beside streams of living water so we bear fruit!

1 Chronicles 16

1 Chronicles 16 has the follow up to placing the ark of the covenant in the tent that David had pitched for it.  It was a time of offering and celebration.  “He blessed the people….and distributed to all Israel”.  David called all of the people together and blessed them.  The power of a blessing is significant.  We need to consider how to do that and utilize blessings as a way to make an impact.  We need to pray blessing over our spouse, kids, family, friends and others in our patch.  The power of blessing is something we need to us.

David “appointed some” to be the ministers and priests of the ark.  They were to care for the place and lead the interaction between God and His people.  We find out that David “appointed that thanksgiving be sung”.  He wanted the people to be praising God.  We see a very familiar passage here that is used often in worship.  Check out what the scripture tells us about God: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!  Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered”.

A little bit later the writer says “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be held in awe above all gods…. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting”.  Great is the Lord.  He deserves our praise.  He has made known His goodness.  He has blessed us and in Him we should rejoice.  We need to recognize His wonder and works and the miracles He has done.  God needs to receive our praise and blessing.  He is worthy and it needs to be our lifestyle.  God deserves our thanks.  He has created all that is around us.

The writer listed a number of things that God has done and how we should respond.  Check this out:

–       “he rebuked kings on their account

–       Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name

–       Worship the Lord

–       tremble before him

–       The Lord reigns

–       Let the sea roar

–       let the field exult

–       the trees of the forest sing for joy

There is so much that needs to happen to give God the glory He deserves.  The sea, field and trees know that and respond.  We need to do the same.  We need to magnify and glorify His name.  “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever”!

1 Chronicles 15

1 Chronicles 15 retells the story of David moving the ark of the covenant from Obed-edom’s house to the city.  He “prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it”.  David has seen it be a blessing elsewhere and wants it in town, even if he really doesn’t have a proper place for it yet.  He commands the Levites to carry and bring it as that was their job.  And there was quite a number of them involved, over 500 that were part of the procession.  Along with the Levites were the priests.

He tells the priests “you are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it”.  Basically he tells them to get ready as they have a very important job to do.  They were the heads of homes and were the leaders that were assigned the task.  It was time to do their job.  They had not done it the first time, and now they were being called on to not make the same mistake again.

As they carried the ark “on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. David also commanded the chiefs….appoint their brothers as the singers….play loudly on musical instruments….to raise sounds of joy”.  It’s party time, or at least worship time.  David wants there to be celebration of God and the ark.  So they made noise and glorified God.  They were playing cymbals
and harps and all sorts of music.  It was a time to let their praise be heard.

David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing”.  This was a time to rejoice.  Scripture tells us often to rejoice in the Lord.  We are to celebrate Him.   He is worthy of our praise.  He is the provider and the Creator.  Michal, daughter of Saul, was a stick in the mud and did not approve of David’s dancing and rejoicing.  She felt it unworthy to act that way as the king.  But it is her problem, a heart problem.  That is where the most serious of problems come – from our hearts. 

1 Chronicles 14

1 Chronicles 14 is very similar to 2 Samuel 5 in the account of David.  We learn that Hiram, who was king of a much smaller kingdom than David was, is still very important because he has the resources needed by David to accomplish the building of the temple.  It is interesting how in life God often uses that which seems less to do more.  That which is weak to be essential to the strong.  That which may not seem as important to be a critical component for those who are important.  God weaves together things His way using His plan.

This chapter is about David’s victories.  The first victory is the establishment of his kingdom.  “David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel”.  The people knew, and had a large event to celebrate his kingship.  But David also knows.  He also realizes that it was not for his personal gain, but “for the sake of his people Israel”.  Sometimes we think that life is about us.  That is where we go into the weeds.  God may use us to do great things to build His kingdom, but life is not about you or me.  It is about Him and His plans.  We are part of that story, but we must never lose sight that God is in control and what happens is according to His plan for His sake.

Secondly, David has a victory in that his family is growing.  The list of kids is a bit different here than in 2 Samuel 5, as there are a few more names here, but suffice it to say that his flock is expanding.  He has more wives and more sons and daughters.  Certainly children are a gift of God and provide the foundation for family legacy. David’s foundation is deepened significantly as he adds 13 kids to the mix.  We need to remember that our kids are a true gift from the Father and pouring life into them is what God desires.  As parents we are entrusted with the most precious gift God can give outside salvation – the gift of life itself – and we need to care for it well.

The third of David’s victories is that his enemies are defeated. This chapter captures the story of the battles with the Philistines who find out that he has been anointed king and have a score to settle.  David deals wit them twice in this chapter and whips them both times, but only after seeking God’s direction and obediently following and doing battle God’s way.  It is when “David did as God commanded him” that the battle was his.  When we are obedient to God we can do all things.  David didn’t just win battles.  Scripture tells us “they struck down the Philistine army” – they destroyed the enemy – and “the fame of David went out into all lands”.  God is glorified when we walk in obedience to Him.  David teaches us how to do that as he lived life victoriously with God at the helm! 

1 Chronicles 13

1 Chronicles 13 is a repeat of 2 Samuel 6 for the most part.  But at the start of this chapter, we get a big leadership lesson from David.  You will recall from the 2 Samuel reading, that David now has 30,000 men.  Here we learn that “David consulted with the commanders of thousands and hundreds, with every leader”.  David was a busy guy.  But we learn that he made time and took time to meet with every leader of his troops.  Not just the guys at the top, but each and every leader.  Whether they were leading hundreds or thousands, David made time to connect.

Too often we lose sight of the folks who are doing the work.  We tend to spend our time with the few leaders at the top and wonder why the morale is so poor in the trenches.  David has lived in the trenches and seen his army grow significantly as God methodically moved him to the throne.  But David never forgets that battles are won by the men who do the fighting, and he makes time to spend it with each and every leader so they felt part of the team.

He also shows us some leadership as he comes to the people to ask about their willingness to help bring their people back that have been scattered.  “Let us send abroad…..that they may be gathered to us”.  David works to build consensus among the people to restore everyone back home.  Did he need to?  No, he could have made that decision as he is the king.  But he realized the power of getting people on board.  So he takes the time, makes the time to get buy in all around.

All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people”.  And he got buy in by all.  They heard his suggestion and agreed to do so.  It was the decision of the people, not just the throne.  That is a big deal – when you are focused on getting people on the bus and focused on reaching agreement.  David gives us great leadership training as he takes the throne and leads the people. 

2 Samuel 6

2 Samuel 6 is quite a change of pace.  David has moved from 30 mighty men to “the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand”.  That is quite a multiplication.  He decides to “bring up from there the ark of God” and move it to the city.  Along the path they were “making merry before the Lord” – this was a big deal.  As they went along the path, Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart that carried the ark.  Along the path “the oxen stumbled….Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it….God struck him down”.

Uzzah is dead because he touched the ark.  “David was angry” – he was very unhappy that God had burst forth against Uzzah.  In fact, he decided backed on that not to continue to carry the ark into the city.  “David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David”.  He left it with Obed-edom who kept it in his household and received the blessing for three months.  Where the ark sits is where the blessing occurred and word got back to David on that and he decides to get over his anger and move the ark to Jerusalem

We learn that “David was afraid” after his outburst against God.  He had second thoughts and came to realize that God was not unfair in His action – but only did what He had said would happen.  So David’s attitude changed and “David danced before the Lord with all his might”.  He was shouting and singing and had instruments playing in celebration of God and His goodness.  But not everyone thought that was behavior appropriate for the King.

Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart”.  Remember that Mical was David’s wife but not one that he really spent any time with.  She felt his behavior was not kingly.  David makes it clear to her: “I will make merry before the Lord”.  He is not going to be bound by what she or anyone else thought.  He was celebrating God and His blessing.  He did not bless her with any children: “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death”.  David has moved the ark to the city now.  It was quite a trip, but he kept his priorities on worshipping the Lord!

2 Samuel 5

2 Samuel 5:11 – 5:25 has David in charge.  “David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem,….after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born”.  Not exactly sure that is how you stay in control – by taking more women as concubines and wives, but David did as he moved into a house built by Hiram the king of Tyre.  His family grows significantly, including one Solomon.

But his enemies were not taking this without some concern and action.  “When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David”.  They had a bone to pick with David – after all he had defeated Goliath earlier and made quite a statement and they weren’t about to let that pass without some response.  So they came looking for him after hearing he was back in Jerusalem.  They were going to even the score.

One thing we see about David over and over is that he was in the know.  “But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold”.  He knew how to get intelligence on what was happening and could hide himself away to stay safe.  His enemy didn’t back down just because they couldn’t find him immediately.  They spread out in the valley and were ready to do battle.  They were going to force the confrontation.

But David has the secret weapon – he had a relationship with the Lord.  “David inquired of the Lord”,  He didn’t take it for granted that he should go into battle.  He never assumed that God would show up and save the day.  He asks before taking action.  Rather than what many of us tend to do – do things and then ask God to bless us in it – David asks before taking the first step.  And God’s response was clear: “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand”.  The results were stellar as God did exactly what he said and David defeated the enemy

A second time David is challenged and follows the same steps – he inquired of the Lord.  This time God said “when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines”.  See the pattern.  David asks and waits.  God answers. Then comes the big thing: “David did as the Lord commanded him”.  No cowboy moves – just obedience.  That is the secret to doing things God’s way.  Ask, listen, obey.  It will work every time! 

Psalm 107

Psalm 107 begins like the prior chapter: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever”.  Think that may be a hint about how we should live?  We need to give thanks to the Lord.  He is good – not just good – He is good all the time.  And the clincher is that “His steadfast love endures forever”.  Have you thought about that?  About how long forever really is?  God isn’t just a little in love with us.  He loves us yesterday, today and forever. Not a little bit, but with steadfast love.  We are so blessed by His love and goodness.  That should cause a response on our part – not one of apathy and expectation – but of thanksgiving and gratitude.

This chapter is also a summary of how the people have executed on their giving thanks.  The expectation is pretty clear: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands”.  As folks who have been redeemed, we should be saying so.  We should be talking continually about the way God has redeemed us, helped us deal with trouble, and gathered us from the lands.  God has been at work in our lives since we were born.  We need to simply say so.  We need to share what He has done.  It isn’t hard to see if we stop and look a bit.  God has done so many good things in each and every one of our lives.  He is the blesser and redeemer!

So what do we do though?  This passage sums it up with example after example of how the circle runs.  Here it is at a high level:

–       “Some wandered” – we forget about God and go do our own thing

–       “because of their iniquities suffered affliction” – when we sin we must pay a price

–       “they they cried to the Lord” – when things get tough, we remember and come back to God

–       “He delivered them” – God hears our cry and responds

It is a vicious circle.  We forget God and do our own thing.  It leads us to sin and we mess everything up.  We finally figure out that we can’t make life happen the way we want it and cry out to God for help.  And amazingly, because of His steadfast love, He not only hears our cries but He responds and delivers us.  We deserve death and destruction, but God in His mercy and steadfast love, delivers us.  That is an amazing love from an unbelievable God.

There is one more piece of the circle that is needed to complete it.  “Let them thank the Lord”.  Sometimes we see, and experience today, that when God works in us we do get around to thanking Him.  We do “say so” and let people know of His goodness and love.  But often we skip right past that part.  We don’t mention His “wondrous works” that set us back on our feet and put us back in a good place. God is the one who “fills them with good things”.  We don’t make that happen – no matter how much we might want to think so.  Every good and perfect gift comes from God.  We need to complete the circle and make sure we are giving thanks.  It isn’t that we have nothing to be thankful for.  Our entire world is filled with God’s goodness.  Our lives are overflowing with His blessings.  What is missing is our desire to stop and give thanks and take our focus off of self, and put it where it truly belongs, on the Creator and Sustainer of the world we live in.  God is good, all the time.  He is worthy of our praise.  How will you praise him and say so today? 

Psalm 106

Psalm 106 is a history lesson of mankind.  It recalls all the very stupid things that were done by the people of Israel in the early years.  And the list is very long.  But the chapter begins with these words: “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise”?  God is good, all the time, even when we don’t deserve an ounce of His goodness.  He showed that over and over to His people.  They cried out “remember me….help me….save me” and even though unworthy, God’s steadfast love was poured out on them.

Here is the reality of how the story goes.   “Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness….did not consider your wondrous works…..did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love”.  They forgot God.  They lived their own life.  Look at the long list of sin that scripture recalls:

–       “rebelled

–       they soon forgot his works

–       they did not wait for his counsel

–       they exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox

–       They forgot God, their Savior

–       they despised the pleasant land

–       They murmured in their tents

–       did not obey the voice of the Lord

–       they yoked themselves to the Baal

–       they provoked the Lord to anger

–       They angered him at the waters

–       They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them

–       They served their idols

–       They sacrificed their sons

–       they poured out innocent blood

Long list of big things that they did that was against God.  The chapter captures in detail the calamity the choice to sin created.  It was a series of very intentional and bad choices.  That is what sin is – choosing to disobey God.  And it creates big problems which the chapter captures.

Twice in this chapter, the writer recalls two men who stood in the gap and interceded between God and the sin of man.  It is important to read carefully the power of intercession.  God was ready to destroy people – lots of people – had not these guys stepped up and stood between the people and God’s wrath.  Check out what scripture says:

–       “Therefore he said he would destroy them – had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them

–       Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever

Moses and Phineas stood in the gap.  They intervened, interceded and stood between a rebellious and sin infested people, that they both loved dearly, and a righteous God that absolutely cannot tolerate sin.  We must not lose sight of the power of intercession, nor the reality that God because of His character, cannot and will not tolerate sin.  That clash will yield some response from above.

At the end of the day though, God loves us.  He doesn’t want to destroy us – He simply wants obedience.  He just wants us to walk with Him.  “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power”.  Over and over in scripture we see that God saved people so they could know Him.  We just need to keep Him front and center and work on the relationship we have with Him.  God loves us.  It is plain to see that.  But He also is God and is righteous and holy and cannot allow us to run amuck.  Sin is a big problem between us and a perfect God.  It has to be dealt with.  God more than meets us half way: “Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love”.  We rebel, He loves.  We sin, He sends Jesus to the Cross.  We forget, He pursues us to draw us to Himself.  Oh that we would learn the history of this chapter well and keep God where He belongs.  We need to live in obedience to His love!

Psalm 133

Psalm 133 is a very short chapter – a mere three verses.  But oh how action packed it is.  The chapter starts out declaring how great it is to live together in unity.  Check out what it says: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”.  The writer says it is good and pleasant.  The outcome of being unified is significant.  This goodness is not limited to just those who are involved but spills onto those around them as well.  And it is something that stands out – it isn’t the norm.  It is unique in our world today.

How do we live to make a difference?  When we live as brothers living in unity.  Sometimes brothers struggle to get along.  Too much time in a space that is too confined – we tend to pick at each other and point out the weaknesses and aggravating aspects of our lives.  Brothers aren’t necessarily prone to unity.  But when it happens, it is amazing.  The scripture goes on to talk about dwelling that way.  This isn’t a temporary or occasional situation.  Dwelling in unity means that is how we live all the time.  It is the norm.  It is the way we do things.  Unity is not a gimme.  It is hard work and means that all involved have to be willing to give a bit.

But the result is precious.  Scripture says “It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes”!  The picture here is that unity is a very special thing.  It is precious and the writer uses the imagery of precious oil anointing the head.  Dwelling in unity is not a little special, it is extremely special.  The verse talks about the impact being much larger than just the spot where the oil is placed on the head, but how it runs down the beard and on the collar.  Unity spreads – it isn’t just affecting those who make it a reality but all that are in the patch.  It is like fire and spreads all around.

It truly is a blessing and scripture tells us it is a “blessing, life forevermore”.  Too often we don’t realize the damage that occurs when we fail in this area.  We’ve come to accept conflict as an acceptable way of life.  But God’s desire is that we experience unity, and that means we are part of making it a reality.  Scripture here says “it is like the dew”.  If we get unity right it spreads all over, even to the point where it “falls on the mountains”.  It cannot be contained but touches all in the area.  It is powerful and becomes a blessing all around.  Are you focused on living in unity?  God desires that we get that figured out and dwell that way with our brothers! 

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