Wisdom and folly…the cross.

4 01 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN : 1 Chronicles 19 v. 1 – 22 v. 1; 1 Corinthians 1 v. 18 – 2 v. 5; Psalm 91 v. 1 – 8
psalm 91

1 CHRONICLES
The Battle Against the Ammonites – Nahash, King of the Ammonites dies, and David sends a message to his son, the new King, Hanun, expressing his sympathy (Nahash had been kind to David); the king’s nobles, however, suspect David is sending them to spy, so Hanun has them seized, shaved and shamed (by exposing their bottoms, cutting their garments ‘in the middle at the buttocks’) before sending them away; David hears about this and sends messengers to meet them, telling them to stay in Jericho until their beards have grown back – ‘for they were greatly humiliated’.
It dawns on the Ammonites that they are in trouble with David now (‘they had become an offence to David’s nostrils’ – they stink !!), so they muster themselves for battle, hiring 32,000 chariots / charioteers, camping near Medeba.
David responds, sending Joab and the entire army out. They see that they have battle lines in front (Ammonites) and behind (kings in the open country), so Joab sends his best troops against the Arameans, and the rest (under the command of his brother, Abishai) against the Ammonites, pledging each will rescue the other if they cannot manage – ‘Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.
Both the Arameans and the Ammonites flee before the Israelites, and Joab returns to Jerusalem.
The Arameans muster more support (with Shophach, the commander of Hadadezer’s army), from beyond the river. David responds by taking the whole Israelite army across the Jordan, battling against them until they fled (the Arameans lost 7,000 charioteers, and 40,000 foot soldiers). The commanders of the Aramean army were also killed. The Arameans make peace with David, and do not side with the Ammonites again.
Another victory for David and his army.

The Capture of Rabbah – It’s springtime – ‘the time when kings go off to war’ – and Joab leads out the Israelite army. They destroy the Ammonite city of Rabbah, and David takes the crown from the king of Rabbah – it contains a talent of gold and many precious stones. David claims the crown for himself, and returns to Jerusalem, with the army. All the Ammonite towns are conquered in this way. The Ammonites are captured and put to work (with saws and axes and iron picks).

War with the Philistines –
At Gezer, war breaks out with the Philistines. Various battles are mentioned, and various people in those battles are named. The Philistines are ‘subjugated’, defeated and conquered. There is a Goliath mentioned (killed by Elhanan), and also a ‘huge man with six fingers and six toes on each hand/foot. David’s nephew, Jonathan, defeats him.
Surely a reminder of David’s great victory over the giant, Goliath.

David Numbers the Fighting Men –
Satan incites David to conduct a census, ‘rising up against Israel’.
In the same report in 2 Samuel 24, it is the Lord who incites David to number Israel. Although there may be many possible reasons why the later version here mentions Satan rather than the Lord, many commentators talk of God allowing Satan to test David (as He does over Job).
Joab and the troops are commissioned to count the Israelites ‘from Beersheba to Dan’.
Joab challenges David : ‘Why does my Lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?’
David overrules Joab and the census begins. Joab reports back to Jerusalem, telling David there are 1,100,000 fighting men (470,000 in Judah).
However Joab chose not to include the tribes of Levi and Benjamin, because he disapproved of the task – ‘this command was also evil in the sight of God, so he punished Israel’.
David acknowledges his guilt before God, and seeks forgiveness. Through a seer, God gives David three options (three years of famine, or three months of enemy attack, or three days of plague), asking him to choose one. David is truly distressed by the choice, but chooses to be in the hands of God, not men; so the plague hits for three days and kills 70,000 men. The plague is inflicted by the angel of the Lord, who has to be stopped by God from completely destroying Jerusalem.
‘David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell face down.’
David pleads that he, who is guilty of the decision to conduct the census, should bear the brunt of the hand of God. David is instructed to build an altar at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite (where the angel of the Lord stopped his destruction of Jerusalem). Araunah sees both the angel and then David, who offers to buy his threshing-floor for the full price. Araunah offers to give David his threshing-floor, but also animals, wood and grain for offerings. David insists on buying it all…
‘I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.’
David pays Araunah 600 shekels of gold, and builds the altar, sacrificing there. ‘He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.’
The angel of the Lord is instructed to put his sword away.
David has established a new altar, and proclaims, ‘The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel’, the tabernacle and altar already present at the high point of Gibeon.

When I think of angels, I tend to think of agents of protection, heralds of glad tidings; here there is an angel of death and destruction. For David and the Israelites, there is a dreadful consequence for his sinfulness. Praise God for Jesus, and for the ‘foolishness of the cross’ – the power of salvation.

1%20Corinthians%201-18%20-%20Before%20The%20Cross

1 CORINTHIANS
Christ the Wisdom and Power of God –
‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of
God…’
Of course it doesn’t make sense – it was never intended to.
Paul quotes from Isaiah 29 to indicate that the wise and the intelligent will be frustrated by this news.
No human wisdom, no scholarship, no philosophy can comprehend this.
God makes fools of this world’s wise ones. ‘God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe’.
Jews may demand signs, Greeks seek for wisdom, ‘but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’.
God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom; God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Lord, I seek Your wisdom; I yearn for Your strength.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that not many of them were wise, or influential, or noble, before they were called.
‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise
and the weak things of the world to shame the strong;
He chose the lowly…and despised things of this world…so that no-one may boast before
Him.’
Our boasting can only be in the Lord, our wisdom – our righteousness, our holiness, our redemption.

Paul reminds them that he himself came with no eloquence or superior wisdom, just a testimony of God’s goodness.
‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’.
Though Paul’s message may have been delivered weakly, fearfully, hardly persuasive, yet ‘the Spirit’s power’ was evident – the power of God leading others to faith.

All that is needed, Lord, is to KNOW You, as crucified, resurrected Saviour –
thank You that You are our righteousness;
Spirit, be our holiness, in every moment, for all time.
AMEN.

PSALM 91
My Lord, my God,
those who take shelter in You, most High God,
rest peacefully in the cool of Your Almighty shadow.
‘You are my sanctuary, my stronghold,
my Lord, my God, I put my trust wholeheartedly in You.’

You save me from deadly traps, and fatal diseases.
You protect me, cushion me, as a bird protects its young,
beneath its feathers.
Your faithfulness shields me.
No darkness of night can scare me.
No arrow by day can unsettle me.
No sickness at noon can bother me.
Though people may fall all around me, thousands upon thousands,
I will know God’s protection.
I will see with my own eyes the downfall of the wicked.

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