Dancing for joy…sharing the good news

16 06 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN : 1 Chronicles 12 v. 23 – 14 v. 17; Romans 15 v. 14 – 33; Psalm 90 v. 1 – 10

1 CHRONICLES
Others Join David at Hebron – there follows a list of the numbers of men who joined David to overthrow Saul’s kingdom:
6,800 men of Judah
7,100 Simeonites
4,600 Levites
3,000 Benjaminites
20,800 Ephraimites
18,000 Manassehites
200 chiefs with their many relatives – men of Issachar
50,000 Zebulunites (‘experienced soldiers prepared for battle)
38,000 men of Naphtali
28,600 Danites
40,000 Asherites
120,000 men from the east of the Jordan (Reubenites, Gadites etc)
their determination was to see David made king of Israel.
‘All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king.’
As the people arrived, there were three days of eating and drinking, celebrating the provisions they brought with them:
(the donkeys were used to bring the provisions)
‘flour, fig cakes, raisins, wine, oil, cattle, sheep, for there was joy in Israel’.
What a feast!

Bringing Back the Ark – In consultation with his officers and commanders, David summons all Israel to join with them: ‘Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not enquire of it during the reign of Saul’.
All the Israelites assembled, from Egypt across to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark back from Kiriath Jearim. ‘The ark that is called by the Name.’
The ark is removed from Abinadab’s home, ‘on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it.’
There was a massive celebration – ‘David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets.’
In a mad moment, at Kidon, Uzzah touched the ark to steady it, and he died on the spot, because of the ‘Lord’s anger burned against’ him.
David was, in turn, angry about God’s wrath – and that is reflected in the name of the place, ‘Perez Uzzah’.
It put fear back into David, and he decided at this point not the keep the ark with him in the City of David, but to pass it to Obed-Edom the Gittite, who looked after it in his home for three months, during which the family there experienced great blessing.

David’s House and Family – Symbolically, David’s kingly rule is further established when king Hiram of Tyre sends messengers, wood, stonemasons, carpenters to help build a palace for him. ‘David’s kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel.’
David’s family grew, too, as he took more wives and had more sons and daughters in Jerusalem, thirteen of whom are named (including Solomon, Nathan, Nepheg).

David Defeats the Philistines – The Philistines head out to attach David when they hear that he has been anointed king. David goes out to meet them, asking God, ‘Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?’. God promises David that he will be victorious.
At Baal Perazim (given this name reflecting the way God had broken out against the enemy) , David and his men defeated the Philistines. The abandoned gods of the Philistines were burned there.
When the Philistines raided that valley again, David asked God again, but this time God said, ‘Do not go straight up, but circle round them and attack them in front of the balsam trees.‘ They are to listen out for the sound of marching at the top of the trees, indicating that God had marched out in front of them. Again, David is victorious over the Philistines as he obeys God’s instructions.
‘David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.’

ROMANS
Paul the Minister to the Gentiles – Paul speaks of his conviction that the Romans are ‘full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another’. He outlines the purpose of this letter and his bold instructions to them, because ‘of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles…so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Paul gives all the glory to God for his ministry. He will remain committed to communicate ‘only what Christ has accomplished through me in leading Gentiles to obey God…by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.’
Paul’s particular ‘ambition’ has been to ‘preach the gospel where Christ was not known’, preferring not to be building on someone else’s foundation.

The real heart of the evangelist – to bring the good news to those who have not yet heard / responded.
It can always appear easier / more appealing to start from scratch with people rather than to build on something someone else has already established.

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome – Paul senses that he has completed his tour of new places, and he is very keen to get back to seeing the Roman church. It’s in his travel plans when next in Spain, to go to Rome and spend some time there before they help him onwards with his travels. First, he says he is going to Jerusalem ‘in service of the saints there’, taking with him the generous offerings for the poor from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia.
‘If the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings’.
After this trip to Jerusalem will come Paul’s journey to Spain and then over to Rome – ‘I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.’
Paul urges the Christians in Rome to pray (‘by the Lord Jesus Christ and in the love of the Spirit’) for him in his struggles; to pray for ‘rescue from the unbelievers in Judea’; to pray that the delivery of money to the Jerusalem church will be well received; to pray that Paul will be able to visit Rome ‘with joy and together with you to be refreshed.’
‘The God of peace be with you all. AMEN.’

It is heartwarming to hear Paul’s affection for the Christians in Rome, his keenness to see them again, ‘to be refreshed’ along with them, and to urge them to join with him in praying for his ministry (God’s ministry through him / them).


PSALM (a prayer attributed to Moses, the man of God)
‘My Lord, my God
You have been our place of rest, our safe abode
always and forever.
Before the birth of the mighty mountains,
before the creation of all that is,
before and beyond, always and forever
You are…
God is.

Compared to You, our lives are dust
‘Return to dust, you sons and daughters, human beings’.
In Your eyes, my Lord, my God
A thousand years a like a day –
 A millennium like a momentary night shift.
Daily, thousands are swept away into a deathly sleep,
like blades of grass,
morning fresh, yet withered by evening.

My Lord, my God
Your anger could eat us up
Your disapproval could petrify us.
All our secret sins are laid bare before You –
brought into Your light, nowhere to hide.
You see everything – every day, every year
 from life’s first breath, to its final sigh.
 Seventy years is a good innings, eighty if we’re given extra strength –
life is tough, though – plenty of trouble and sorrow –
time flies, and we fly away too.

Lord, thank You for the reminder of Your greatness, our small-ness,
Your timelessness, our mortality
Your perspective, our limitation
Our need of You,
Our life in You,
and the greatness, the timelessness, the perspective Your life in us can bring.
AMEN.





Coronation Day (for David) and an overflow of hope

14 06 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN : 1 Chronicles 11 v. 1 – 12 v. 22; Romans 14 v. 19 – 15 v. 13; Psalm 89 v. 46 – 52

1 CHRONICLES
David Becomes King Over Israel – After the death of Saul, ‘all Israel came together’ and acknowledged that David had been their military leader already during Saul’s reign, and the promise that ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler‘.
The elders made a ‘compact’ with David at Hebron, and David is anointed Israel’s king, ‘as the Lord had promised through Samuel’

As the nation celebrates our Queen’s diamond jubilee, 60 years of faithful service, it has been good to remember the moment when she was anointed and crowned.

David Conquers Jerusalem – David’s first task is to recapture Jerusalem (also named Jebus). Despite Jebusite opposition, ‘nevertheless David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David.’
David had pledged that the person who led the attack on the Jebusites would be the ‘commander-in-chief’. He kept his word, and Joab, son of Zeruaih, became commander.
David occupied the fortress, the City of David, building up the city and its terraces.
‘And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.’

David’s Mighty Men – there follows a list of the ‘mighty men’ – those who ‘gave David’s kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land’ :
Jashobeam (cheif of the officers, a Hacmonite)
Eleazar, an Ahohite, who helped David defeat the Philistines at Pas Dammim

There’s a strange story (v.15 -19) about David sending three of the chiefs to fetch him water, and them risking their lives going into enemy territory (Philistine garrison at Bethlehem). When they return with the water, David can’t bring himself to drink it, because they had risked their lives for it. Instead he pours it out as an offering to the Lord….
The comparison in my mind was with the blood of Christ, who risked everything for us, being shared in communion as Jesus insists ‘Drink this, all of you’. Jesus, Himself, entered enemy territory to bring us the water of life.

Abishai, the chief of the three (Joab’s brother). ‘He was doubly honoured above the Three and became their commander’
Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel. He :
– killed two of Moab’s finest
– killed a lion down a pit one snowy winters day
– killed an Egyptian giant of a man (7 1/2 ft tall)
he was put in charge of David’s bodyguard.
There is a further list of mighty men including Asahel, Elhanan (Dodo’s son, from Bethlehem)
Hurai from the ravines of Gaash; Jonathan son of Shagee the Hararite etc. etc.

Warriors Join David – next, there follows a list of those who were with David at Ziklag, when he had been banished by Saul. They helped David in the battles, and were Benjaminites. Their chief was Ahiezar, and a list of names is given.

When David was in his desert stronghold, he was joined by some defecting Gadites (brave warriors, skilled in handling spear and shield, faces like lions, swift as gazelles). Eder, their chief, is listed along with the ten ‘next in command’ Gadites.
‘It was they who crossed the Jordan in the first month when it was overflowing…and they put to flight everyone living in the valleys’

Also, while David was in his stronghold, he was joined by some more Benjaminites and others from Judah. As they approach, David meets them and ‘checks them out’:
‘If you have come to me in peace, to help me, I am ready to have you unite with me…’
One of them, Amasai, chief of the Thirty, is touched by the Spirit and pledges their allegiance
‘We are yours, O David…success, success to you…for your God will help you.’

Even today, God’s Spirit urges unity and allegiances for / towards those God has raised up.  What an encouragement this encounter must have been to David.

David also attracted some of Manasseh’s fighting men, during the time David went to fight alongside the Philistines against Saul. They are listed, as leaders of units of 1,000 men in Manasseh, and are known as brave warriors.
‘Day after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God.


ROMANS

The Weak and the Strong (cont.) –
Further instructions from Paul to the Romans:
~ put every effort into doing ‘what leads to peace and to mutual edification’ (building one another up, not knocking down)
~ don’t do things which might cause another to stumble or fall in the faith (even if it includes abstaining from certain foods or drink)
~ the strong should bear with the failings of the weak
~ we should endeavour to please our neighbour above ourselves, building them up first
~ be soaked in Scripture : ‘everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’.

There then follows one of Paul’s amazing prayers:
‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

~ we are to accept one another, as Christ has accept us
~ Jesus is servant and Lord of both the Jews, and through fulfilling the promises to the patriarchs, the Gentiles, who ‘glorify God for His mercy’.
‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’

What an amazing prayer with which to conclude this section – one of my favourite prayers in the Bible:
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
O, Lord, overflow within us Your hope, joy and peace and power, for the sake of Your Kingdom on earth.

PSALM
My Lord, my God, why do You hide Yourself away,
and for how long will You remain hidden?
How long will You be ablaze with anger?
I won’t be around much longer, Lord.
Don’t our fleeting lives mean more to You than this?
No-one lives forever. No-one can avoid death.
No-one can defeat the power of the
grave

(pause for reflection…and for us, ‘no-one lives forever? No-one can defeat the power of the grave?’…well, Jesus will, and does !!)

My Lord, my God, show us again Your amazing love,
Your faithfulness, promised to David.
Don’t forget how much I’ve suffered for You –
the mockings, the taunts from people and whole nations.
Mocking me, mocking You,
Mocking every little step Your servant has taken.

I will PRAISE You, my Lord, my God.
I will PRAISE You for ever and ever.
So be it. So be it. AMEN.





The key of the door, and a lifestyle which ‘unlocks’ others…

2 06 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWELVE : 1 Chronicles 9 v. 1b – 10 v. 14; Romans 14 v. 1 – 18; Proverbs 18 v. 17 – 19 v. 2

1 CHRONICLES
The People in Jerusalem – ‘The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.’
The first re-settlers were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.
The Benjaminites, and those from Ephraim and Manasseh (who lived in Jerusalem) are listed.
690 from Judah, 956 from Benjamin,  1760 priests (‘responsible for ministering in the house of God’).
212 gatekeepers (including Zechariah, who ‘was the gatekeeper at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting’) – each entrusted to their positions by David and Samuel.

‘The four principal gatekeepers…were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God. They would spend the night stationed round the house of God, because they had to guard it; and they had charge of the key for opening it each morning’

Various gatekeepers had different responsibilities: counting the artifacts, looking after the furnishings, the oils and spices.
Mattithiah was the offering-bread baker.
‘Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties…’

The Genealogy of Saul – Once again, Saul’s family line is traced.
Jeiel…Gibeon (with his wife, Maacah)…Ner…Kish…Saul…Jonathan…Merib-Baal…Micah…Ahaz…Jadah…Zimri…Moza…Binea…Rephaiah…Eleasah…Azel.
Azel’s sons are listed: Azikram, Bokeru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah, Hanan.

Saul Takes His Life – In the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, many Israelites were killed on Mt Gilboa, including Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. Saul himself is wounded, too. He urges his armour-bearer to finish him off, but he won’t. ‘So Saul took his own sword and fell on it…the armour-bearer…too…fell on his sword and died.’ All Saul’s household fell on that day.
The Philistines celebrated a great victory and took many towns.
The Philistines took Saul’s body, decapitated him, and took his armour in the temple of their gods. His head was hung up in Dagon’s temple.
Saul’s body (and those of his sons) is retrieved by those who lived in Jabesh Gilead, and there is a proper burial and period of fasting / mourning, ‘under the great tree in Jabesh’).
‘Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord, and even consulted a medium for guidance…so the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.’

In contrast to the faithful gatekeepers, Saul lets his kingdom slip through his fingers. Time to hand the keys of that kingdom to a new king, David.

ROMANS
The Weak and the Strong – Paul has advice for accepting those with weak faith, without being quick to judge on ‘disputable matters’. The issue he picks out is vegetarianism, pointing out it is a principled issue for some, but not all. Neither view should look down on, or condemn the other.
‘Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.’
God is judge.
Other disputes might include ‘one day is more sacred than another’ – ‘He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord’.
If we have surrendered our lives to the Lord, then
‘none of us lives to himself alone….if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.’
Jesus, having passed through life and death, and returning to life, is ‘Lord of both the dead and the living’.
God is judge, so we should not find ourselves judging our brothers.
‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘Every knee will bow before me; every tongue confess to God’.

There is a day coming when we shall all stand before God and account for our lives.

So:
– no more judging one another
– don’t put stumbling blocks in the way of others (e.g. the dilemma over clean / unclean foods)
– ‘if your brother is distressed by what you eat, you are no longer acting in love’
– don’t allow what is good to be spoken of as evil

‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.’


PROVERBS
‘The first witness is plausible, until others come and testify differently, and question him;

Casting lots can be used to settle difficult disputes.
Offense and disputes create strongholds, stronger than fortified cities and padlocked citadels.
Just as the mouth is the vehicle for food for the stomach, so the words that flow from a person’s mouth can satisfy.

THE TONGUE HAS THE POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH…and those who take care over it benefit from its fruit.

Wives are a good idea…a God idea…His blessing.
Listen…to the merciful cry of the poor…and the cold harshness of the rich.
You will always find out who your friends are…many may contribute to your downfall,
BUT THERE IS A FRIEND WHO STICKS CLOSER THAN A BROTHER.

Better to be poor and right-living, than to have mouths filled with a lot of foolish nonsense.
Best not to be zealously ignorant, or to be in such a hurry that you miss the right path.’