Devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God

5 01 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN : 1 Chronicles 19 v. 1 – 22 v. 1; 1 Corinthians 1 v. 18 – 2 v. 5; Psalm 91 v. 1 – 8
1 Chronicles 22_19

1 CHRONICLES
Preparations for the Temple – David assembles the ‘aliens’ / foreigners now living in Israel and appoints some to be stonecutters, to build ‘the house of God’. Large quantities of iron, bronze and cedar were provided also.
David makes extensive preparations for the temple before his death, saying, ‘My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendour…’
David charges Solomon with the building of the temple: ‘My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God….but the word of the Lord came to me : ‘you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest…his name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my name. He will be my son and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.’

Though we may have it in our heart to see something done, sometimes it is God’s will that another undertakes it….here God gives his reason to David, ‘because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight…’

David blesses his son, ‘the Lord be with you…may the Lord give you discretion and understanding….be strong and courageous…do not be afraid or discouraged.’
He outlines all he has done in preparation for the temple (gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone – stonecutters, masons, carpenters, craftsmen).
David orders all Israel’s leaders to help Solomon; after all the battles won, ‘now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.’ They are to do this by building the sanctuary of the Lord God, and then to bring the ark of the covenant to it.

The Levites – In his old age, David passes the kingdom on to his son, Solomon. He gathered all Israel’s leaders, priests and Levites. All the Levites over 30 years old were counted – there were 38,000. David appoints 24,000 to supervise the construction of the temple, 6,000 are to be judges and officials, 4,000 are to be gatekeepers, and 4,000 are to be musicians, praising the Lord (David provides all the instruments!!).
The Levites are then divided into groups, corresponding to Levi’s sons:

Gershonites – the names of the Gershonites are listed, from Ladan and Shimei (two of Shimei’s sons did not have large families of their own, ‘so they were counted as one family with one assignment – thoughtful!)

Kohathites – the names of the Kohathites are listed, from Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel (including Aaron and Moses; Aaron’s side being set apart ‘to consecrate the most holy things..‘)

Merarites – the names of the Merarites are listed, from Mahli and Mushi.

All the descendants of Levi, and the heads of the families are listed and registered – workers aged 20 and over. Now that Israel is at rest and God ‘has come to dwell in Jerusalem’, the priests are not needed to carry the tabernacle from place to place.
Now the duty of the Levites was to help serve in the temple of the Lord, in charge of courtyards, side rooms, purification rituals, performance of duties in God’s house; setting bread on the table, flour, unleavened wafers, baking, mixing, measuring; ‘they were to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord…and in the evening’, and at all the times of sacrifice – they were to serve ‘in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them’.
And so the Levites did everything as instructed, carrying out their responsibilities, under their brothers the descendants of Aaron.

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1 CORINTHIANS
Wisdom from the Spirit – After all the contrasts of wisdom, folly, strength, weakness in chapter one, Paul says that we do have a message of wisdom for those maturing in Christ. This wisdom is not ‘of this age or of the rulers of the age’. This is God’s secret wisdom, hidden from so many for so long, but now revealed for the glory of those who receive it.
‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him – ‘ (Isaiah 64 v. 4)
It is by the Spirit of God, that these things are revealed.

The secret wisdom is God’s plan for salvation, revealed ‘freely’ and most perfectly in the cross – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
It is the Spirit of God who reveals this to our spirit.

It is the Spirit who searches deeply in us, and in God, too – ‘no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.’
We have received the Spirit of God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
We are able to speak, then, words taught by the Spirit, not by human wisdom – ‘expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words’.
Those who are without the Spirit find the words spoken just foolishness – ‘he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned’.
Those who are spiritual, have the mind of Christ – ‘for who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may intrust him?’

May the mind of Christ, my Saviour, live in me from day to day
By His love and power controlling all I do or say….AMEN.

PSALM 91
My Lord, my God, when we make You, the Most High Lord,
our refuge, our safe-place,
then nothing can touch us, no disaster defeat us.

My Lord, my God, You commission angels to guard us,
to lift us up,
to watch our step,
to save us from danger and harm
(even the deadly lion and cobra are no match for You)

My Lord, my God, You are motivated by love for me.
You rescue me.
You protect me.
You know that I seek to honour Your name, Your renown.





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.

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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.





Gold, Silver, Bronze…all for the king.

1 01 2013

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN : 1 Chronicles 16 v. 37 – 18 v. 17; 1 Corinthians 1 v. 1 – 17; Proverbs 19 v. 3 – 12
gold silver bronze1 CHRONICLES
David leaves Asaph and his associates, and Obed-Edom and his sixty-eight associates as ministers before the ark of the covenant and gatekeepers.
Zadok and the priests are left to present offerings before the tabernacle in Gibeon (burnt offerings presented each morning and evening).
‘With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the Lord ‘for His love endures forever’.’
Heman and Jeduthun were in charge of the trumpets, cymbals and other instruments.
Once everyone was assigned their tasks, ‘all the people left, each for his own home, and David returned home to bless his family’.

God’s Promise to David – Once David is back in his luxurious palace, he feels uneasy about the ark of the covenant being in a mere tent. He confesses this to Nathan, the prophet, who encourages him to do what he senses is right, ‘for God is with you’.
During the night, God speaks to Nathan, instructing him to tell David,
‘You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in’, that God has been satisfied to move from one tent site to another.
Rather, God is going to build a house for David.
‘I took you from the pasture…to be ruler over my people Israel…now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men on the earth. And I will provide a place for my people.’
‘When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.’
It is David’s offspring who will build the house for God – ‘I will be his father, and he will be my son’.
‘I will set him over my house and my kingdom for ever; his throne will be established for ever.’

Nathan reports all of this to David.

Of course, for us, the promise of a Son who will establish God’s kingdom and throne forever, points to Jesus, the Only-Son, who comes proclaiming, ‘the kingdom of heaven / God is here’. One born in the line of King David. A kingdom not built around a palace, but a person, a king-of-all-kings.

David’s Prayer – ‘King David went in and sat before the Lord’
. His prayer :
~ who am I…that You have brought me this far?…You have looked upon me as though I were the most exalted of men
~ what more can I say…You have done this great thing and made known all these great promises
~ there is no-one like You, O Lord…and who is like Your people Israel…You made Your people Israel for Your very own…
~ let the promise You have made concerning Your servant and his house be established for ever. Do as You promised…
~ Your servant has found courage to pray to You…You have been pleased to bless the house of Your servant…it will be blessed forever.

this wonderful prayer acknowledges David’s humble dependence upon God – God’s supreme authority, power, and faithful promises – and thankfulness for the blessings he and his family have known

David’s Victories – 
David eventually defeats the Philistines and takes Gath. He also defeated the Moabites, ‘they became subject to him and brought tribute’.
In the battle against Hadadezer, Zobah’s king, David captured one thousand chariots, and thousands of charioteers and soldiers. ‘He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses’.
David struck down 20,000 Arameans (from Damascus), when they came to help Hadadezer. He took control of Damascus.
‘The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went.’
David brought Hadadezer’s golden shields to Jerusalem. He took large quantities of bronze (which Solomon used to make the bronze Sea and other articles for the temple) from Tebah and Cun.
The king of Hamath, king Tou, sends his son, Hadoram, to congratulate David on his victory over Hadadezer (who had been fighting against Tou), and to bring gold, silver and bronze.
All the articles received and taken David dedicates to the Lord.
18,000 Edomites are struck down by Abishai, in the valley of Salt, and all the Edomites become subject to David.
‘The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went.’

this is a VERY good season for David (not so good for his enemies) – God’s favour is very evident to him

David’s Officials – ‘David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people’.
Joab is appointed over the army; Jehoshaphat is recorder; Zadok and Ahimelech are priests; Shavsha is secretary; Benaiah is over the Kerethites and Pelethites; David’s sons are the chief officials at his side.

David keeps close to him those he can trust

1 CORINTHIANS
Paul is writing to the church he’d planted during his second missionary journey, whilst he is now in Ephesus. Paul had spent 18 months in Corinth, so knew the place and the people very well. Paul had been made aware of issues the church was facing, by letter and by a visit from church members.
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Opening – Paul identifies himself as an ‘apostle‘, sent by God, establishing the kingdom in new territories, including Corinth. He serves Christ Jesus, and is called by God. He also identifies Sosthenes as co-writer of the letter. Sosthenes was the name of the chief ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, who is beaten by a mob (Acts 18 v. 17), and becomes a follower of Jesus.
Paul reminds the church in Corinth that they are ‘those sanctified (made holy) in Christ Jesus and called to be holy’ as are all who call on Jesus as Lord.
Rather than laying into them for their faults and failings, he reminds them first and foremost who and whose they are.
His opening greeting is ‘grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’
GRACE is God’s free gift offering us salvation (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense), and our sense of PEACE is found through this gift in Jesus.

Thanksgiving – again, Paul doesn’t tackle the problems in the church until he has told them how much he thanks God for them. He particularly thanks God for
‘the grace given you in Christ Jesus’, for the way they have been ‘enriched’, empowered by God in speech and in understanding. All that Paul had preached about God’s saving grace had been experienced and lived out amongst the young Corinthian church. He reminds them that they ‘lack no spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed’.
Jesus will keep them strong, enable them to be presented blameless, and Paul reminds them of God’s faithfulness.

Divisions in the Church – Paul has been made aware of the ‘camps’ which have become established in the church – those who favour and attach themselves to Paul, those to Apollos, those to Cephas, and even one group which claims to follow Christ above and beyond the others. Paul appeals to the church to be united, to find agreement and live in agreement, ‘in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
He urges a perfect unity in ‘mind and thought’. Surely this unity is only possible in the name of Christ.
(I bet Chloe’s household appreciated the mention that the news of the quarrels has reached Paul through them)
Paul asserts that there is no division in Christ – that the others (including himself) were not the ones crucified, nor in whose name people are baptised.
Paul’s emphasis throughout has been ‘to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.’


PROVERBS
the wisdom writer reminds us that
~ folly ruins lives, and creates hearts which rage against God
~ money attracts people, poverty repels people
~ lying will not go unpunished, liars will never walk free
~ leaders and rulers have many who say what they want to hear, and those who are generous with their giving have many friends
~ poor people are often shunned by family, and friends avoid them, no matter how persistent the appeals for help
~ ‘he who gets wisdom loves his soul; he who cherishes understanding
prospers’
~ fools ought never to be living luxuriously – that would be worse than slaves ruling over princes
~ ‘a man’s wisdom gives him patience, it is to his glory to overlook an offence’
~ when the king is angry, he is like a roaring lion, whilst his favour is like sweet dewfall on the grass.





‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home’ – now there’s a song!

14 07 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN : 1 Chronicles 15 v. 1 – 16 v. 36; Romans 16 v. 1 – 27; Psalm 90 v. 11 – 17

1 CHRONICLES
The Ark Brought to Jerusalem – Having completed the necessary building work in the ‘City of David’, King David ‘prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it’. He reminds the people that only Levites can carry the ark – they are the Lord’s appointed.
David summoned the great assembly of all Israel. The descendants of Aaron and the Levites; Zadok and Abiathar the priests and the Levite leaders are commissioned as ‘the heads of the Levitical families’. They are to consecrate themselves in readiness to bring the ark.
‘It is because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us.’
So, the Levites do as instructed – they consecrate themselves and then bring the ark, carrying it on poles on their shoulders – everything in accordance with the word of the Lord.
David instructed the Levites to appoint their brothers as musicians and singers, ‘to sing joyful songs’.
Heman’s family are chosen, and he, Asaph and Ethan played the cymbals; other named relatives played the lyres (‘according to alamoth’) and harps (‘according to sheminith. Kenaniah, the head Levite, led the singing, ‘because he was skillful at it’.
The doorkeepers for the ark (like chief bouncers) are named, as are the trumpeters.
So David leads the procession with the elders of Israel, bringing the ark of the covenant from Obed-Edom. To thank God for all the help He’s given the Levites who carry the ark, seven bulls and seven rams are sacrificed.
David, the Levites and all the singers wear robes of fine linen (David wearing a linen ephod, too).
The procession is accompanied by shouts, sounding the rams’ horns, trumpets, cymbals, lyres and harps – what a joyful procession !

‘As the ark of the covenant was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart’.

There will always be those who cannot, or will not, join in the procession and the celebration – and the very show of joy and jubilation will make their heart harder, the resentment deepen. Michal had been David’s first wife, until Saul married her off to another – it is a story of damage and of being caught in the crossfire between Saul and David….

The ark is placed in the tent David has prepared for it – burnt offerings and fellowship offerings are sacrificed, and the people are blessed by David ‘in the name of the Lord’, and then they feasted with bread, date-cake and raisins.
Some of the Levites are appointed to ‘minister before the ark’ : ‘to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel’ – an outpouring of prayer and praise.
The music and singing continued on and on – led by Asaph, Zechariah and others – the cymbals and trumpets sounding over and over again ‘before the ark of the covenant of God’.
What a celebration!

David’s Psalm of Thanks
On this great day of celebration, David led a song of praise, which Asaph and others were to learn / lead.

Give thanks to God  – shout His name – tell the world about all the great things He has done.
Sing, sing, sing praise to Him – sing of His wonderful acts.
Bring glory to His name – rejoice and sing, all you whose hearts seek the Lord.
Look to Him – seek His strength, His favour, now and forever.
Bring to mind all the wonderful things He has done – His miracles, His wisdom, His judgement.
Come on, all Israel, sons of Jacob, chosen ones.

He is the Lord over all the earth – God and Judge of all.
He stands by His covenant eternally – His commands, His word last forever and ever.
The covenant with Abraham, the commitment to Isaac, the confirmation to Jacob, the everlasting promise to Israel – He stands by it continually:
‘You will inherit the land of Canaan as your portion’.

Though very small in number, God’s people, strangers in the land,
went from nation to nation unharmed,
from kingdom to kingdom undefeated
‘Do not touch my anointed ones; keep your hands off my prophets’, He declared.

Come on everyone, everywhere – all the world sing to the Lord.
Sing of His saving power and grace, day after day.
Tell all the nations of His glorious, marvellous deeds.
FOR GREAT IS THE LORD AND MOST WORTHY OF PRAISE
above and beyond all gods – awesome God.
All other gods are false idols – it is the Lord our God who created everything.
SPLENDOUR AND MAJESTY ARE BEFORE HIM – STRENGTH AND JOY IN HIS DWELLING-PLACE.

Sing of His glory – sing of His strength – let all the nations know.
Sing of the Lord’s glory – bring your offering before Him.
WORSHIP THE LORD IN THE SPLENDOUR OF HIS HOLINESS.
All the earth will shake, tremble before Him.
His creation is firmly established, unmovable – the heavens rejoice, the earth is filled with gladness.
‘He reigns, He rules; the Lord reigns’ – is the song for the nations.
Let the sea resound – the fields rejoice – and everything in them.
The trees in the forest will sing for joy
THEY WILL SING FOR JOY BEFORE THE LORD, FOR HE COMES TO JUDGE THE EARTH.

GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS GOOD
HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.
Cry out to Him, ‘Rescue and deliver us, O God our Saviour – gather us and protect us –
and we will forever thank You, praising Your holy name, giving You glory and praise.
PRAISE BE TO THE LORD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING.’

O how the people sang out their ‘AMEN’, and ‘PRAISE THE LORD’.
What an amazing day, a true celebration; how they abandoned themselves to praise, worship and rejoicing in the faithfulness of God.
And a pretty amazing song of praise from David.

ROMANS
Personal Greetings – Paul concludes this magnificent letter to the Roman Christians with a list of personal messages.
He begins by recommending Phoebe to them – she is ‘a servant of the church in Cenchrea….receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need…she has been a great help to many people, including me.’
Priscilla and Aquila get a mention as people who ‘risked their lives for me’. All the Galatian churches thank God for them.
There is a house church meeting in their home, whom Paul greets.
Paul mentions Epenetus, the first Christian convert in Asia.
Mary – a hard worker.
Andronicus and Junias – Paul’s fellow-prisoners (‘outstanding among the apostles…they were in Christ before I was’)
Ampiatus – whom Paul loves
Urbanus and Stachys. Apelles – who has been tested in Christ.
The households of Aristobulus and Narcissus.
Paul’s relative, Herodian.
The Lord’s hardworking women, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis.
Rufus and his mother (‘who has been like a mother to me’)
And another group of brothers, and a sister too, are greeted – ‘Olympas and all the saints with them’
‘Greet one another with a holy kiss’
The greetings sent and received are in the context of  ‘all the churches of Christ’.

Paul, in desiring real unity amongst the church, urges them to ‘watch out for those who cause divisions’, and those who set traps or put obstacles in the way, teaching falsely. He advises them to keep well away from people like that. They are feeding their own desires and appetites, ‘not serving our Lord Christ’.
Paul observes how people use ‘smooth talk and flattery’ to deceive the naive. There is a danger of people being too easily taken in and carried along by those who are feeding their own egos, and pressing their own agendas, rather than submitting to the Lord.
However, ‘everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you’. He urges them evermore towards wisdom (in identifying what is good) and innocence (about what is evil).

The good news is that Satan is being crushed, defeated by the ‘God of peace’. The battle will be completely won.
Meanwhile, there is grace abundant in the Lord Jesus Christ, alongside us, with us.

Paul sends greetings from Timothy (‘my fellow-worker’), and from his relatives, Lucius, Jason and Sosipater. Paul’s writer / scribe, Tertius adds his own greeting, too. Gaius (a man of generous hospitality) and Erastus (‘the city’s director of public works’), and Quartus also get a mention.

Paul concludes his letter with a glorious doxology:

NOW TO HIM WHO IS ABLE
TO ESTABLISH YOU BY MY GOSPEL
AND THE PROCLAMATION OF JESUS CHRIST
ACCORDING TO THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY
HIDDEN FOR LONG AGES PAST,
BUT NOW REVEALED AND MADE KNOWN THROUGH THE PROPHETIC WRITINGS
BY THE COMMAND OF THE ETERNAL GOD
SO THAT ALL NATIONS MIGHT BELIEVE AND OBEY HIM –
TO THE ONLY WISE GOD
BE GLORY FOR EVER
THROUGH JESUS
CHRIST.
AMEN.

Glorious, glorious, glorious words with which to end a glorious letter / book.

PSALM
My Lord and my God
who can know Your power, Your righteous anger.
Your great wrath is equal to the great fear You inspire.
Teach us to mark our days wisely, spending time on what will strengthen our hearts with wisdom.

Turn again, my Lord, my God,
to pour Your compassion out upon Your people.
Don’t delay.
Morning by morning, may Your unending love satisfy us completely.
Every moment of every day, may we sing with utter joy and happiness.
May the days of our gladness outnumber the days of trial and affliction.
May Your people see Your goodness, and tell of Your splendour to every generation.
My Lord, my God, may Your favour rest upon us –
make our lives fruitful
yes – make our work for You fruitful.
AMEN.





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.’