Hope, wisdom, marriage and worship (all of life is here)

1 01 2015

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE : Ecclesiastes 7 v. 1 – 9 v. 12; 1 Corinthians 7 v. 36 – 8 v. 13; Psalm 95 v. 1 – 11;


Wisdom – the writer praises Wisdom:
– a good name is better than perfume…better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting…sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart…‘the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure‘…
– bribery corrupts the heart…patience is better than pride…anger resides in the lap of fools
– do not say, ‘why were the old days better than these?‘, for it is not wise to ask such questions
‘Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing’…wisdom is a shelter…wisdom preserves the life of its possessor
– when times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other
– do not be over-righteous, neither be over-wise; do not be over-wicked, do not be a fool…‘the man who fears God will avoid all extremes
‘Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city’
‘Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you…’
– ‘Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound – who can discover it?‘…so I turned my mind to…understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly
‘This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes. Who is like the wise man?’
– Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance

Obey the King – the writer urges us to honour the king, to be faithful in all we do.
Obey the king’s commands and so be faithful to the promises / oaths we’ve made
‘Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm – and the wise heart will now the proper time and procedure’.
No-one knows the future – so who can predict it?
No-one can control the wind – just as no-one controls the timing of their own death.
‘All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun’.
‘When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.’
Although the wicked might appear to prosper, ‘I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God’.
‘There is something else which is meaningless…righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.’
‘So I commend the enjoyment of life, for nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat, drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.’
‘…I saw all that God has done…even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.’

A Common Destiny of All – the righteous and the wicked are both in God’s hands, the same destiny awaits all
‘As it is with the good man, so with the sinner – as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.’
The evil that happens : the hearts of men, filled with evil, allow madness to take over while they live.
‘Anyone who is among the living has hope (a live dog is better than a dead lion)’
Eat, then, with gladness; drink with a joyful heart – for it is now that God favours what you do.
Be clothed in white, anoint your head with oil.
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life….’
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
‘The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong. Nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned. Time and chance happen to them all.’

there is much wisdom in many of these phrases – borne out of taking the time to ‘reflect on all this’ – to wait on God
‘anyone who is among the living has hope’….there’s always HOPE.

Marriage (cont.) – Again, Paul is addressing the questions he must have had presented to him around whether it was better to marry or not. He talks of those who are engaged to be married, and urges them to ‘do as they want’, and encourages them to get married.
It would also be right, though, to have thought things through and to decide not to marry.
‘So then, he who marries…does right, but he who does not marry…does even better.’ – again, probably Paul is simply making a comparison with those (like himself) who choose not to marry and find themselves sometimes freer to serve God whole-heartedly.

Marriage is binding as long as both partners live, says Paul. When a husband dies, the woman is free to marry anyone else – he urges that she marry a fellow-believer (‘he must belong to the Lord’). Paul has clearly prayed these issues through: ‘I think that I too have the Spirit of God’, and rounds up this long passage on ‘Marriage’ by repeating his main point, that people should remain in the situation they currently find themselves (for Paul, time is short, and the mission is priority).

Food Sacrificed to Idols –
Paul had also been asked a question about whether it was right, or not, to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols / other gods. Paul recognises that there are some in the fellowship who possess sufficient knowledge to be able to say, ‘As there is only One God, and all the idols and false gods are nothing anyway, then there is no need to fear or steer clear of food which has been presented in their temples.’
However Paul appeals more deeply to the quality of love, of loving concern, which is greater / superior to knowledge.
‘Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up’.
‘The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.’
In the pagan society in which the Corinthian church is growing, some new believers bring with them the baggage of a ‘food-sacrificing’ worship of false gods. For them, there is the need to create a real separation from the past, to protect their ‘weak conscience from being defiled’.
The greater issue for Paul is drawing near to God (and neither eating certain foods, or abstaining from them will by automatically aid that journey of faith).
We have to be careful that our Christ-found freedoms don’t ‘become a stumbling-block to the weak’.
In this example, a weaker brother may be ‘destroyed’ by seeing others eat temple food, allowing him to be tempted to sin.
‘When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound the weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.’

This is a powerful plea to counter knowledge with love, and heart to build up weaker members of the fellowship. I wonder in what ways we need to temper our behaviour, not because our salvation depends upon it, but because someone else’s might.

‘Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord – shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation
Come, let us approach Him with thanksgiving – praising Him with our music and singing.
My Lord, my God – You are great – the greatest King, way above all gods.
In Your hand You hold the earth’s depths, and the mountain tops;
the seas are Yours for You made them, and You formed the land.

Come, let us bow down in worship – kneel before our Lord God.
My Lord, my God – You are our God, and we are Your flock, Your sheep,
for You nurture and care for us.

If we hear Your voice today, may we not harden our hearts (as at Meribah, or Massah)
as our ancestors were tested, even though they had experienced so much in all You did for them.
My Lord, Your anger towards them lasted forty years; You said,
‘My people’s hearts have wandered, they have drifted from my ways’.
You pledged that they would never ‘enter Your rest.”

Fear the Lord and live life…(real meaning)

16 06 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FOUR : Ecclesiastes 4 v. 1 – 6 v. 12; 1 Corinthians 7 v. 17 – 35; Proverbs 19 v. 23 – 20 v. 4

Oppression, Toil, Friendliness – The writer takes note of all the oppression he can see:
‘I see the tears of the oppressed…no comfort for them…the oppressors have all the power…
I declared that those who are dead must be happier than those who are alive still…
But better still, those who have not yet lived – they have not yet seen ‘the evil that is done under the sun’.

The writer observes that all work and achievement is driven by jealousy (‘envy of his neighbour’) – more meaningless chasing after wind:
‘The fool folds his hands and ruins himself…
Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil…chasing after wind

The writer observes something else which troubles him, more meaninglessness:
‘A man all alone…no son or brother…no end to his toil…’yet his eyes were not content with his wealth’
‘For whom am I toiling…and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ – miserable meaningless living.
Two are better than one…if one falls, his friend can pick him up…pity the one who falls and has no-one to help him up.
Two who lie down together keep each other warm…how can one keep warm alone?
‘Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’

Advancement is Meaningless – The writer concludes that it is better to be a poor and wise youth than an old but foolish king.
The king can no longer heed warnings; the youth may have come from prison or been born in poverty.
‘all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor.’
However those who come later will not be pleased with the successor – all meaningless chasing after wind.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, success is fickle – and therefore devoid of real meaning, if that’s what you’re building your life upon.

Stand in Awe of God – There is a call for people to be careful in their motives as they go to the house of God – people should go to listen, rather than to ‘offer the sacrifice of fools’.
Rather than being hasty in uttering anything (with heart or mouth) before God, there should be an acknowledgment that ‘God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.’
Dreams can reflect the number and weight of cares being carried – so too can foolish speaking reveal much through its many words.
People should faithfully follow through on commitments made to God – ‘fulfil your vow’.
Better not to vow at all than to vow and not follow through. We must be careful not to let our mouths lead us into sin, or to protest that we didn’t mean what we’d said.
‘Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.’

Riches are Meaningless – The writer notices the poor oppressed, their justice / rights denied – the officials are colluding and only looking after each other; the king gets richer through the profits from the fields.
‘Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied – it’s all meaningless.’
The more that goods increase, the more consumers consume – it’s all of no worth, just a sight for sore eyes.
Hard workers sleep well, however much they’ve eaten; abundantly rich men suffer insomnia.
The writer observes a ‘grievous evil’:
there is an accumulation of wealth which harms its owner, or is calamitously lost, so that if the owner has a son, there’s nothing left to inherit.
‘Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labour that he can carry in his hand.’
Another grievous evil the writer observes is summed up by ‘as a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind?’
The writer comes to the conclusion that it is good enough for people to eat and drink and be satisfied with their work ‘during the few days of life God has given’ – content with our lot.
It is a true gift of God when He allows people to gain wealth and possessions to enjoy, and to be happy in their work.
‘He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.’
Another evil is to see people acquire wealth, possessions and honour and then not be able to enjoy them – someone else reaps the benefit – it’s all meaningless.
‘A man may have 100 children and live many years, but if he cannot enjoy his prosperity, and doesn’t receive a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.’ As we all go the same way, the writer suggests that it would be better to never have seen the sun, than to live even a thousand years but be unable to enjoy all that we’ve worked for.
‘All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied’ – what advantage does anyone really have? People’s appetites are always changing, growing, and it’s all meaningless.
There’s nothing new – everything has been before; ‘the more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?’
‘For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after his is gone?’
undivided devotion

1 CORINTHIANS: (Marriage cont.)
Paul urges the Corinthians to be content in whatever state they currently find themselves – circumcised or not (‘circumcision is nothing…keeping God’s commands is what counts’), slave or free (‘if you can gain your freedom, do so’…’he was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman…he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave’), virgins or married.
‘Each one should remain in the situation which was in when God called him.’
Paul refers to a crisis (v.26) – he is clearly responding to pressures people are feeling to marry, not marry, divorce, and he urges the Corinthians to not change their circumstances, but to live out their faith where they are.
‘Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.’
‘Those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.’ – Paul may be making the point that marriage in itself doesn’t solve problems or avoid troubles; in fact, when individuals bring troubles or needs into a marriage, it can feel harder in the working it out. Paul’s point in the remaining verses is for those who feel pressured into marriage, that the unmarried have greater capacity to be concerned only about the Lord’s affairs, whereas the married carry a concern for their spouse and ‘the affairs of this world’. Paul wants the unmarried to see the ‘gift’ they are – ‘free from concern…devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit’.
He urges that time is short, that the Corinthians should not be distracted by marriage issues, grief, pleasures, materialism, ‘the things of this world’, because this world is passing away, and there is a need to live ‘in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.’

‘The fear of the Lord leads to life. Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
The lazy person can’t even lift his hand from the dish to his mouth!
The mocker should be dealt with harshly (flogging?), that the simple might gain some wisdom.
Even the ‘discerning man’ should experience rebuke, that he might gain knowledge.
The son who brings shame and disgrace is the one who robs his father and drives out his mother.
My son, if you stop listening to good instruction, you will be led on a path further and further away from sound, knowledgeable words.
Witnesses who are corrupt are ridiculing justice…wicked mouths gulp down evil.
Mockers beware – you will pay for your folly
Fools beware – watch your back!
Wine produces mockers, beer produces brawlers – the unwise are led astray by both.
Don’t anger a king – his roar is lion-like, his anger can be deadly.
‘It is to a man’s honour to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel’.
That lazy person (sluggard) never ploughs at just the right time, so he looks in vain for the harvest!

What’s the point….of life (Eccl.)…of marriage / singleness (1 Cor.)

13 06 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-THREE : Ecclesiastes 1 v. 1 – 3 v. 22; 1 Corinthians 7 v. 1 – 16; Psalm 94 (cont.)

Ecclesiastes, some say, is a strange book to find in the bible – it is a challenge to the self-made man and woman who seek to better themselves, who seek meaning and purpose in a life without God. Vanity, vanity. All is meaningless. Where are we to find true identity, meaning and purpose?

Everything is meaningless – The words of this book are attributed to ‘The Teacher’, son of King David (Ecclesiastes is a Greek word translated ‘preacher / teacher’).
‘Everything is meaningless – utterly meaningless.
What is there to gain from all our hard work, the heat of the day?

People come and go, one generation follows another, but ‘the earth remains for ever’
The sun rises and sets, the wind blows here and there (north and south, round and round),

All the streams flow into the sea (yet it never seems to be full)
Water always returns to where it began.

Everything is tiresome! Eyes are weary of seeing, ears of hearing.
Everything that has happened will happen again

there is nothing new under the sun’.
No-one can claim anything new – it has already happened, already been.
Nothing and no-one is remembered forever. Everything is meaningless’

Wisdom is meaningless‘I was king over Israel in Jerusalem – committed myself to study, devoting myself to exploring the wisdom which reveals all heaven. It’s a weighty burden from God, and having seen all, it’s all meaningless – ‘chasing after the wind’. The more wisdom you have, the more you suffer; the more knowledge, the more grief’.

Pleasures are meaningless The writer tells how he sought after pleasure / happiness for meaning – all in vain.
‘Laughter and pleasure are foolish…cheering yourself with wine, embracing folly…testing out every activity…
…great projects like building houses, planting vineyards, gardens and parks…constructing reservoirs…buying slaves…acquiring herds and flocks (more than anyone in Jerusalem before me)…amassing gold and silver…gathering singers…attracting a harem – ‘the delights of the heart of a man’
‘I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me…In all this, my wisdom stayed with me’.
‘I denied myself nothing…I refused my heart no pleasure…delighting in my work, the rewards of my labour…
‘Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done…everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…nothing was gained under the sun.’

Wisdom and Folly are meaningless – Then the writer tells how he sought after wisdom – all in vain.
‘I turned my attention to wisdom, madness, folly…what more could I do…
I found that wisdom is better than folly, light is better than darkness…
Those who are wise use their eyes well…fools walk in darkness…
But I discovered that ‘the same fate overtakes them both’.
My heart pondered the fact that if the same fate befalls the wise and the foolish,
there’s no gain in being wise…it’s meaningless.
The wise and foolish alike will not be long remembered, easily forgotten…both will die.’

Toil is Meaningless –
Then the writer considers the uselessness of work – it’s all in vain.
‘I hated life…work was hot under the sun, grievous…meaningless…pointless because ‘I must leave them (work projects) to one who comes after me’…and he might be a fool, yet he’d have control over all I’d poured my effort into…
My heart began to despair…‘a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill…and then leave it all to someone who has not worked for it…meaningless, and ‘a great misfortune’.
What do we get for all this hard toil…pain and grief…sleepless nights…all meaningless.
‘A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work…this is from the hand of God…eating and enjoyment of life come from Him. To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…sinners gather and store up wealth only to hand it over to the one who pleases God…it’s all meaningless, vapour-chasing!’

A Time for Everything –
Then the best-know passage of this book, outlining the ebb and flow of life.
‘There is a time for everything, and a right season for every activity under heaven:
a time for birth and for death; a time for planting and for harvesting; a time to kill and to heal;
a time for tearing down and for building up; a time for weeping and for laughing; a time for mourning and for dancing;
a time for scattering stone and for gathering them in; a time to embrace and to refrain; a time for searching and for giving up;
a time for keeping and for throwing away; a time for tearing and for mending; a time for silence and for speaking;
a time for loving and for hating; a time for war, and a time for peace.’

So, again, what’s to be gained from all this hard work? What a God-given burden.
‘God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.’
There may be nothing better than to be happy and to do good, eating and drinking and finding satisfaction in work – the gift of God.
Everything that God does will endure for ever….men will revere Him.

Nothing’s new – it’s all been before, and will come round again.
I observed something else – instead of judgment and justice, wickedness abounds;
and my heart responded
‘God will judge both righteous and wicked – a time for every activity…God tests all people…aren’t they just like the animals? The same ‘fate awaits both humans and animals – both die. ‘Man has no advantage over the animal’. It’s all meaningless.’
Dust to dust – all go to the same place.
‘Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth’?
The most that can be said, then, is that people should enjoy their work – ‘that is his lot’.


Marriage –
 Paul continues his teaching to the church in Corinth, outlining marriage as a way of combatting the previous issue of sexual immorality. Marriage is the framework within which we are to remain sexually pure / holy.
Clearly, the Corinthians had asked whether it was good to unmarried (or something similar). Paul endorses the state of singleness, but also ‘since there is so much immorality’, he is clear that ‘each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband’. Obviously lines had been crossed, and Paul spells it out simply for them. Each husband and wife should attend well to their marriage, ‘fulfilling marital duties’. A husband’s body is no longer his own, but belongs also to his wife, and vice versa.
‘Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer’ – there is a time to fast from sexual activity in marriage for the purpose of drawing closer to God (and through Him, to each other).
Depriving one another too long, though, might allow Satan to tempt one or the other, and test out your self-control.
Paul does say he wishes all men were like him, ‘as I am’, presumably ‘single’ – perhaps the strong belief that Jesus was returning soon, that the end of time was fast approaching, meant it was not necessary in Paul’s mind for men to marry and raise children. Perhaps he feels more free to be on his missionary journeys because of his singleness….he reminds his readers that all men are different – each with their own ‘gift’ / calling from God.

Paul encourages those who are unmarried or widowed to be content in their singleness, unless ‘if they can’t control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion’. It’s amusing to think of marriage being for those who can’t control themselves, and great to think that marriage is the right place for passions to burn rightly / safely.

Paul then calls for faithfulness and commitment in marriage – wives should not leave their husbands, nor husbands divorce their wives – if it does happen, they should remain unmarried or be reconciled. Paul does have a high view of marriage, and of the need to rescue marriages where possible, or remain single into the future.

Paul next addresses those who are married to unbelievers – if husbands or wives are married to unbelievers who ‘are willing to live with them’, then they must stay with them. Paul talks of a sense in which unbelievers are ‘sanctified through their believing husband / wife’ – a whole family, children included, are influenced by and benefit from the holy walk of the one partner. All the more reason for couples to stay together.
There will be situations where the unbelieving spouse leaves, and then the believer is ‘not bound’.
‘God has called us to live in peace’.
And the real hope for couples can be found in Paul’s words:
‘How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?’.

PSALM 94 (v. 12 – 23)

‘My Lord, my God, those You discipline well are truly blessed, those who are taught and follow Your laws.
They receive from You: freedom from trouble, and a pit to trap the wicked.
My Lord, my God, You do not reject Your people, or forget those who are Your inheritance.
Your judgement is absolutely right – all the ‘upright in heart’ will follow Your ways.

Who is there to rise up against the wicked? Who will stand against evil?
If my Lord, my God, had not come to my help, I’d have been long gone.
I cried out to be rescued, and Your love lifted me.
Your comfort brought joy to my anxious soul.

My Lord, my God, surely no corrupted throne can align itself with You –
it brings heartache and misery every time it issues a decree –
drawing others together to attach the righteous and kill the innocent.
My Lord, my God, You are my fortress, my safe refuge, my rock.
You will get them back, destroy their wicked plans,
Finish them off, once and for all.’

The Gift of Wisdom

7 06 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-TWO : 2 Chronicles 1 v. 1 – 17; 1 Corinthians 6 v. 1 – 20; Psalm 94 v. 1 – 11


2 Chronicles 1
Solomon Asks for Wisdom – David’s son, Solomon, establishes himself as king, for the Lord God is alongside him, helping him become ‘exceedingly great’. Solomon speaks to all Israel (commanders, judges, leaders, heads of families) – getting everyone to the high place at Gibeon, God’s Meeting Tent, which Moses had made. David had brought the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim to the place prepared, having pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem. The bronze altar (made by Bezalel, Uri’s son) was still in Gibeon, in front of the Lord’s tabernacle – and that’s where Solomon and the people met before the Lord. Solomon offers a thousand burnt offerings on it.
When, that evening, God appears to Solomon, He asks him what Solomon would like Him to give.
Solomon’s answer is fantastic:
‘You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed…you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of Yours.’
God shows His delight in Solomon’s prayer, glad that his heart’s desire is not for wealth, riches or honour, nor death of enemies, nor a long life. God grants Solomon then, the wisdom and knowledge he’s requested, but also wealth, riches and honour beyond all others.

Following this, Solomon went to Jerusalem from Gibeon, and he reigns over all Israel. He accumulated chariots (1,400) and horses (12,000), kept in chariot cities and Jerusalem. ‘He made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig.’ Solomon’s horses came from Egypt and Kue (purchased by the royal merchants), and a very expensive chariot came from Egypt (600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150). The merchants also exported items to the surrounding kings (Hittite and Aramean).

How often, when we ask God for ‘main thing’, do we find He supplies much, much more. Remember Jesus’s ‘Seek first the Kingdom, and all else will be added to you’.
What are we chasing after today?
What are we asking God for today?
Wisdom / knowledge for leadership is a very good place to start.

1 Corinthians 6
Lawsuits Among Believers – Paul continues to write to the Corinthian church about their divisions and how they should manage things better. Paul questions why disputes are taken so readily to the law courts, ‘before the ungodly’, rather than being sorted out in-house, ‘before the saints’. These saints will be called to judge the world, and are therefore competent enough to judge on more trivial matters.
‘Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life.’
The church should appoint its own ‘judges‘, even ‘men of little account’ – it is inconceivable to Paul that there is no-one in the fellowship who could make a judgement over a local dispute.
It’s such a bad witness to have ‘one brother go to law against another – in front of unbelievers’.
As a fellowship, they’ve already lost (credibility, integrity, honesty?) if people are seeking lawsuits through the courts. It would be better to be cheated against, to be wronged, than to be the one carrying out / carrying on the cheating and wrongdoing through court.
Those who do wrong (‘the wicked’) will not inherit the kingdom, Paul reminds them. Neither those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom.
‘But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’

Paul reminds them who they are, in Christ, and is troubled about the lawsuits for two reasons, it seems – (i) we’ve failed badly as a fellowship if we can’t resolve things within, calling the ‘saints’ to judge and (ii) it’s a terrible witness to the ungodly.

Sexual Immorality – Paul tackles the view that once a Christian, anything is permissible – Paul reminds the Corinthians that not everything is beneficial, and there is a difference when people let things / issues ‘master’ them, when they give in to temptations. For example the saying, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’ is so temporary, both the stomach and its food will pass away. Our bodies are not ‘for sexual immorality’, as if that’s their purpose, but rather, ‘for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body’.
As God raised Jesus from the dead, so He will also raise us.
‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?’
How abhorrent, then, to prostitute our bodies – we should rather unite ourselves with the Lord, becoming one with Him in spirit, than for ‘the two to become one flesh’ immorally.
Paul urges the church members to ‘flee from sexual immorality’, because this is a sin against one’s own body –
‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’

Then, once again, Paul reminds them whose they are:
‘You are not your own, you were bought at a price – therefore honour God with your body.’

How vital it is for us to remember whose we are, who we are in Christ, as the motivation to seek to honour God, and to be holy as He is holy.

Psalm 94
My Lord, my God, my avenger
My Lord, my avenger, shine on
My Lord, earth’s judge, rise up
pay back the proud
end the jubilation of the wicked

Let’s look at the wicked…
they pour out arrogance,
they crush Your people,
they oppress Your chosen inheritance,
they murder widows and foreigners,
they strike down orphans
they deride, ‘Ha ha – the Lord’s blind, Jacob’s God is not acting, not paying attention’.

Let’s look at the truth…
you are senseless, foolish people – when will you become wise?
God created and implanted ears – He values and is good at hearing!
God created and formed eyes – He values and is good at seeing!
God created nations – He values and is good at discipline!
God is the great teacher – He values and imparts knowledge.
My Lord, my God, knows the thoughts of everyone – each feeble, futile thought. 

Humility, sincerity, generosity

18 04 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-ONE : 1 Chronicles 28 v. 1 – 29 v. 30; 1 Corinthians 5 v. 1 – 13; Psalm 93 v. 1 – 5

David’s plans for the temple – David calls together all the officials of Israel (officers, commanders, those in charge of property, livestock etc.); he rises to his feet and addresses them:
‘I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it.‘ Yet God has told him not to build it, for he has a warrior heart and has shed blood.
David reminds them that God has chosen him as King over Israel, and then ‘of all my sons – the many God has gifted me – he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom’. It is Solomon who will build the temple, ‘for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom for ever…’, said the Lord.
The Lord urges David to follow His commands to possess the land and pass it on; and urges Solomon to ‘acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you…..the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.’
David gives to Solomon all the plans for every room – ‘the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord’ (including the treasuries etc.). He also gave his son the divisions of labour (priests, Levites, serving in the temple), the designated weights for gold and silver (for many, many items), and the plan for the chariot, ‘the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and shelter the ark of the covenant.’
David confirms that he has received all these instructions from the Lord.
‘David also said to Solomon, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid, or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work….is finished.’
Everyone is lined up to help, and everything is ready to start.

Gifts for building the temple – King David appeals to the whole assembly on behalf of his son, who is ‘young and unexperienced’, because it’s a big ask to build this palatial structure. David is, himself, giving large quantities of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, onyx, turquoise, fine stones etc., even his personal treasures.  He asks, ‘Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?’
Leaders, officers, commanders and officials stepped forward and gave willingly, offering more large quantities of gold, silver, bronze, iron. ‘Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord.’
‘The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the King also rejoiced greatly.’
David’s prayer – 
King David offers up a prayer,
‘I praise you, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours is the greatness and the power, and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours is the kingdom, You are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honour come from You – You are ruler over all.
Strength and power are from You too – You raise up and strengthen all.
O God, our God, we give You, now, our thanks and praise – most glorious name over all.’
David continues his prayer, humbling wondering who he is, and who his people are, that God has given so generously to them.
‘Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand.’
They exist like aliens / foreigners, and their earthly days are like ‘shadows’, however all the abundance collected for the building of the temple is credited to God;
‘I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity’
David is overwhelmed by the generosity of the people, and glorifies God in it all.
He prays that God of their fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Israel), who has been faithful throughout the ages will ‘keep this desire in the hearts of Your people for ever, and keep their hearts loyal to You’.
He prays also that God will bless Solomon, his son, with ‘wholehearted devotion to keep Your commands..and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.’
David urges the people to praise the Lord their God, which they gladly do, bowing low and prostrating themselves before the Lord and the king.

David’s prayer teaches us humility, and gratitude, and his prayer for the people and for Solomon, for their loyalty, devotion, and close walk with God is a great model for all in leadership.

Solomon Acknowledged as King – 
all the right sacrifices are offered the very next day – 1,000 bulls, 1,000 rams, 1,000 male lambs, with drink and other offerings. There was a day of feasting, ‘with great joy in the presence of the Lord’.
Then Solomon is anointed – acknowledged a second time as the new king, and Zadok as priest. Solomon became king – and he prospered and Israel obeyed him. All the leaders and officers (and his siblings) pledged submission to King Solomon.
‘The Lord highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him royal splendour such as no king over Israel ever had before.’

The death of David –
Jesse’s most famous son, David, reigned over Israel for 40 years (7 in Hebron, 33 in Jerusalem), dying at ‘a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honour’. Solomon succeeded him as king. All the events of David’s life are in Samuel’s, Nathan’s and Gad’s records (his reign and power, events and circumstances regarding Israel and surrounding lands).


Expel the immoral brother – Paul has been made aware of sexual immorality being practised within the Corinthian church – in particular ‘a man has his father’s wife’ (sleeping with mother / stepmother). And that this is something those some are proud about.
‘Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?’
Even in his absence, Paul is with them in spirit, and casts his judgement over the situation.
‘Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.’

Paul chastises the church for its boasting whilst letting sin act like yeast amongst them:
‘Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast’.
Jesus is our Passover Lamb and has been sacrificed for us:
‘Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.’

Paul’s counsel is that they do not ‘associate’ with sexually immoral people, meaning the one who ‘calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not eat.’ Paul makes a distinction between those inside and those outside the church, saying he has no business to judge those outside the church. God judges those outside. We must hold one another to account within the body of Christ.
‘Expel the wicked from among you.’

There’s some really bad stuff going on within the fellowship of believers in Corinth, and Paul sees that it is more dangerous to allow the sin to contaminate the whole (yeast in dough imagery), than to expel the one who is causing the wickedness.

My Lord, my God, You reign in majesty
You are robed in majesty, armed with might.
The whole earth is firmly fixed, bound on its course.
Your throne was established long, long ago –
existing beyond time – eternal.

See how the oceans rise up and roar, O Lord, my God;
the seas sound off, their waves soar and pound.
How much more mighty is the Lord –
mightier than the thundering waters, than the breaking seas.

Your words stand forever – firmly fixed.
Your house, filled with Your presence, is holy, holy, holy
for ever and ever,
my Lord, my God.

Roles and responsibilities

24 02 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY : 1 Chronicles 26 v. 20 – 27 v. 34; 1 Corinthians 14 v. 1 – 21; Proverbs 19 v. 13 – 22
Hand drawing chart in whiteboard

The treasurers and other officials – there follows a list of the fellow Levites who are put in charge of the treasuries. Ladan’s descendants were in charge of the temple treasuries; Shubael, descended from Moses’ son, Gershon, was the officer in charge of the treasuries;
Shelomith and his relatives are put in charge of the treasuries dedicated by King David (plunder taken in battle) and Samuel;
Kenaniah and sons became officials and judges over Israel;
Hashabiah and his relatives were in charge of the Lord’s work in Israel, west of the Jordan (Jeriah kept the family records);

Army divisions – 
the heads of the Israelite families are listed (commanders of thousands, hundreds and the officers) – each division consisting of 24,000 men.
Jashobeam in charge of the first division (chief of all the army officers for the first month);
Mikloth in charge of the second division;
Benaiah in charge of the third division (‘the mighty man among the Thirty and over the Thirty’);
Asahel in charge of the fourth division;
Shamuth in charge of the fifth division;
Ira in charge of the sixth division;
Helez in charge of the seventh division;
Sibbecai in charge of the eighth division;
Abiezer in charge of the ninth division;
Maharai in charge of the tenth division;
Benaiah (the Pirathonite) in charge of the eleventh division;
Heldai (the Netophathite) in charge of the twelfth division

a few -ites I’d not heard of before in that list…..

Officers and the tribes – Israel’s officers are listed: Eliezar over the Reubenites; Shephatiah over the Simeonites; Hashabiah over the Levites; Zadok over the Aaronites; Elihu over Judah; Omri over Issachar; Ishmaiah over Zebulun; Jerimoth over Naphtali; Hoshea over the Ephraimites; Joel over the half-tribe of Manasseh; Iddo over the other half-tribe of Manasseh; Jaasiel over Benjamin; Azarel over Dan.
Those age 20 or under aren’t taken; Joab begins the count of the men but didn’t finish – God is angered by this, and the number is not added into King David’s annals / records.

The king’s overseers – a few other responsibilities are listed:
Azmaveth is put in charge of the royal storehouses; Jonathan is put in charge of the outlying storehouses; Ezri is put in charge of the field workers; Shimei is put in charge of the vineyards; Zabdi is put in charge of the wine vats; Baal-Hanan is put in charge of the olive and sycamore-fig trees; Joash is put in charge of the olive oil; Shitrai is put in charge of the herds of Sharon; Shaphat is put in charge of the herds in the valleys; Obil is put in charge of the camels; Jehdeiah is put in charge of the donkeys; Jaziz is put in charge of the flocks.
All these were officials overseeing King David’s property.
There’s a counsellor – Jonathan; Jehiel takes care of the king’s sons; Ahithophel, another counsellor; Hushai, the king’s friend.
Joab commands the royal army. scroll1 CORINTHIANS
Apostles of Christ – Those entrusted with planting God’s churches are called Apostles, whom Paul describes as, ‘servants of Christ, and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.’
The must prove themselves faithful. They must live their lives conscious that it is ‘the Lord who judges’, not human beings.
‘He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.’

It is clear that, as co-workers with Christ, we must seek His approval and praise far above any endorsement or praise from people.

Paul has used himself and Apollos as an example of how not to ‘take pride in one man over against another’. Everything good we have, has been passed on, or gleaned, from someone else.
Paul reminds them of the dangers of pride and materialism. He sets in contrast their wealth, riches, pride, living like kings, alongside the lifestyle of the apostles ‘we are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong!…To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless…we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.’
Paul is warning them, as their ‘father through the gospel’, to get their perspective right.
As in a true model of discipleship, Paul urges them to imitate him – in our discipleship we must be inspired by those ‘ahead’ of us, and we must be inspiring others following on. Paul lets them know that he is sending Timothy (‘my son’) to them, ‘He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church’.

interesting to note that Timothy will be a further example to them of ‘the way of life in Christ Jesus’ – it is the way the truths of the faith are lived out daily which need imitating

Paul is disturbed by the pride and arrogance of some within the fellowship, and pledges to be with them as soon as the Lord permits, ‘and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.’
Power can be used well or poorly – ‘the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power’.


Dads are ruined by foolish sons.
An argumentative wife is like a constantly dripping tap.
Homes and money can be inherited from our parents,
but a wife full of wisdom and integrity is a gift from the Lord.
Being lazy means lots of deep sleep – he who shirks work is always hungry.
He who is obedient when instructed protects his life  – those full of contempt will perish.
He who is generous to the poor blesses the Lord – there will be rewards (in heaven) for such kindness.
Teach your children a disciplined life – there is great hope in such a way of living –
don’t speed their demise by your neglect.
Angry men will pay a heavy penalty – beware getting caught in their traps, again and again.
Seek advice, garner it, and be accountable to others – this is the way to true wisdom in the end.
People have so many plans in their heart – but it is God’s purpose which prevails.
People crave a love which endures, which never fails – admit it – it’s better to be in want than to be a liar.

Let our music rise to You, O Lord Most High

22 02 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND NINETEEN : 1 Chronicles 24 v. 1 – 26 v. 19; 1 Corinthians 3 v. 1 – 23; Psalm 92 v. 1 – 15

The Division of Priests – Aaron’s sons – Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar – are divided into appointed orders of ministry (e.g. ‘officials of the sanctuary and officials of God’). Shemiah, the scribe, lists their names, in the presence of the king, as they are appointed by drawing lots.
Jehoiarib wins the first lot, and Maaziah the twenty-fourth; each one in between is listed.
‘This was their appointed order of ministering when they entered the temple of the Lord…’

even then, rotas were drawn up…not a lot has changed, eh?

The Rest of the Levites – the remaining descendants of Levi are listed – the sons of Amram, Izhar, Hebron, Uzziel, Merari, Mahli, Kish and Mushi – and they draw lots – it was a way of ensuring ‘the families of the oldest brother were treated the same as those of the youngest’.

The Singers –
the role allocated to the ‘singers’ – those David chose from amongst the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun – was that of ‘prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals’.
Asaph’s sons are listed – Asaph supervises them, under the king’s supervision, too, as they prophesy.
Jeduthun’s sons are listed – they prophesy using the harp, thanking and praising God, supervised by their father.
Heman’s sons are listed.
‘All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the Lord, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God’.
The lots are cast, once again to assign ‘young and old alike, teacher as well as student’ their duties.

The Gatekeepers – the sons of Asaph, from the Korahites, are listed. They are described as ‘capable men’, leaders in their families.
Lots were cast for each gate of the temple. East gate fell to Shelemiah; North gate to Zechariah; Obed-Edom got South gate (including the lot for the storehouse, which fell to his sons); West gate went to Shuppim and Hosah.
‘Guard was alongside guard’ – none were alone; either six or four were on duty at each gate (and two at the storehouse).

On Divisions in the Church – Paul addresses spiritual maturity in this chapter, and is at his most critical about the Corinthians – they are showing their spiritual immaturity (not ready yet for spiritual solids, still on milk) through their ‘jealousy and quarrelling among you…are you not worldly?‘ The choice to divisively follow different leaders is showing their worldliness.
Paul is quick to identify Apollos and Paul (etc) as ‘servants, through whom you came to believe’ – it is the Lord who appoints each person their task.
‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow’
It is God’s work, not the work of human beings, to bring people to faith.
‘We are God’s fellow-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building’.

that is one of those mind-blowing phrases, that we are fellow-workers with God – that He would choose to use us, in the work in His field, constructing His building – may we be faithful workers, sticking closely to His plan and purpose

Paul uses the image of constructing a building – he laid the foundation ‘as an expert builder’ (putting in place the basic building blocks of faith – clear teaching), and others then come and take things to the next level.
‘Each one should be careful how he builds. For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.’

elsewhere, Jesus is referred to as the ‘cornerstone’, the solid rock foundation upon which all else is built in the kingdom
Jesus said, ‘I will build my church…and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’

It is clearly possible to build inappropriately – even with flashy, costly stones (silver / gold etc) – but it will all be tested in the fire (of God’s Holy presence).
‘The fire will test the quality of each person’s work – if what he has built survives, he will receive his reward’.

The temple of God is not a building, but people, Paul insists. ‘You yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you’. God’s temple is sacred, holy. No-one should work to destroy what God is building.
Paul concludes this chapter with a reminder of the wisdom and foolishness of the age. ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight’. And he underlines his point about the futility of putting faith and hope in following different leaders, and importance of knowing our identity ‘in Christ’:
‘So, then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, where Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God’.

a song of praise written for Sabbath day
My Lord, my God,
how good it is to praise You
to let our music rise to You, O Lord, Most High.
We sing of Your love each sunrise
We sing of Your faithfulness each night
Lyre and harp, play your strings, sing Your praise.

My Lord, my God,
everything You do makes me glad
Your handiwork makes me sing for joy
Your works are great – Your thoughts so deep.
Beyond understanding, beyond knowledge;
though the wicked seem to flourish…like grass…
they will wither and be utterly destroyed.
But You, my Lord, are lifted high, for ever and ever.

My Lord, my God,
Your enemies will be scattered and defeated.
You have lifted my head, and anointed me with finest oils.
I have seen You defeat those who work against me;
I have heard the surrender of those who oppose me.

Those whose lives are put right before You
will flourish like palms, like Lebanon’s cedars
planted within Your household, my Lord,
flourishing within Your courts, my God.
These trees will continue to fruit in old age,
ever fresh, and evergreen
These trees sing out,
‘The Lord is my Rock, my Righteousness. In Him is no wickedness at all.’