Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Psalm 68 - God's Power Praised!

LINK: Psalm 68

BACKGROUND

This psalm of David probably celebrated the triumphal ascent to Mount Zion. It is a song that may have been written when David captured the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites in 2 Samuel 5:6-8 or when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Zion in 2 Samuel 6. It starts out much like Moses' cry in Numbers 10:35 when the Israelites followed the ark of the covenant.

The psalmist reviews the Lord's movement of Israel from the wilderness wanderings to His occupation and conquest of the land. If you have been with us from the beginning, isn't it great to know this history because we read through it this year? If you are just joining us, when you have time, go back and start from the beginning and read forward. It is great to learn the "whole counsel" of the Word of God! It helps you put everything in context because context is KEY in Bible study! The psalm ends with a triumphal praise to God for His power and strength!

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Psalm 68:18 is paraphrased and applied by Paul to Jesus in Ephesians 4:8. 

REFLECTION by Pastor Steve

I love my pastor. I hope you do not mind me sharing his simple reflection on this psalm:


Good Morning Friends,
“Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds -- his name is the LORD -- and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Psalm 68:4-6) 
God is a Father, even to the fatherless. Even to those whose fathers were not around. Even to those whose fathers abused them. He is the perfect Father: strong, compassionate, forgiving, always acting in the best interest of His children. 
God is a Husband to the widow. He will never leave them. He will never be taken away. He will protect and guard and guide and always love. 
God sets the lonely in families. A family is what He has designed His church to be. It is not always a perfect family. Actually, it never is, filled with humans, like you and me. But it is a family of people who care, who support, who are there when you need them. 
God sets the prisoners to song. He is the great Liberator. He can break every chain. He can disarm every captor. Sickness, death, alcohol, drugs, no captor is strong enough to overpower Him, or those who trust in Him. 
But the rebellious, they miss the blessings of God. It is those who trust Him who find Him a Father, a Husband, a Liberator.
His, by Grace,
Steve


APPLICATION (written in December 2008)

How often I lose sight of God's awesomeness in the everyday grind. I had an unexpected day of quiet reflection in the Word and prayer today while the kids and George were up to his mother's farm in Newberg. I was so blessed as I meditated on this psalm and the sun broke through the clouds and streamed glorious light into the living room and on my shoulder. I just had to get out and PRAISE GOD! So, I went out of my house singing a song I had written to Psalm 68:32-33 several years ago. (It has been so long since I have written a song for the Lord -- probably since the 80's! That needs to change! But I digress . . .) It was lovely.

I "wondered" from hill to hill (like Sinai to Zion) on my walk praising God. I often forget to sing to God in my personal devotional times. That is going to change!

Go out and sing to God today!

2014 Update: Wow! What a day for this Psalm again. God "thundered with mighty voice" in the middle of the night with an amazing summer thunderstorm that made me get up and marvel at His great display. I posted on Facebook this verse in connection with the thunderstorm:

Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways,
And how small a whisper we hear of Him!

But the thunder of His power who can understand? NKJV Job 26:14 

Then I went out for a run and this is what I saw as I walked out my front door!

The view from my praise porch

Then I wondered from "hill to hill" today and ran most of the five miles in praise to God!

Then I go to update this post for this year, and I have another day where my husband and kids are gone (all working), and I have done something very similar to 2008 when I wrote the post for this Psalm. God's timing is always wonderful!

PRAYER 

Pray through this Psalm!

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord
to Him who rides the ancient skies above,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God
whose majesty is over all Israel
whose power is in the skies.
You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people.
Praise be to God!
(68:32-35, NASB95)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Psalm 101, 15, 24, & 65 - Holiness is in the House!

LINKS/BACKGROUND

All these psalms center on holiness and are perfect for the time when the Ark, the symbol of the Lord's presence, was brought to Jerusalem. 


Psalm 101 - This psalm is full of the David's intention for personal and corporate holiness during his reign. He sang of the Lord's love and justice (Psalm 89:14) and wanted to rule in like manner.


Psalm 15 - The tabernacle dwelt on a holy hill, Zion, in the "city of David" (2 Samuel 6:10-12, 17) and David brought the Holy Ark to dwell in it. In this Psalm, David explained who could dwell and worship there. 


Psalm 24 - If this was written around the time of the Ark coming to Jerusalem (we are making an educated guess here), then the "ancient doors" referred to in 24:7 was the old fortress that received the Ark.  The psalm acknowledges the Lord's sovereignty over all things and who is worthy to enter the tabernacle and worship. Tradition says that it was sung on the first day of each week in the temple services. 

The people outside would call to the temple gates to open up and let the King of glory in. From inside, the priests or another group would ask, "Who is this King of glory?" Outside, the people would respond in unison, "The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle," proclaiming his great power and strength. The exchange was then repeated (24:9, 10), and the temple gates would swing open, symbolizing the people's desire to have God's presence among them. 
(The Life Application Bible, p. 926)
And God's presence is definitely with all of us in Jesus! 

This psalm could also be a reference to the return to Jerusalem after a battle victory. Either applies to Jesus as He has won the victory over sin, darkness, and death through His resurrection from the dead! The suffering, silent Servant has become the Warrior King. WOOHOOO! 

Notice the word glory repeated over and over again in this Psalm. 

Psalm 65 - This psalm speaks of being brought near to God and the joy of being satisfied with the goodness of God's house (65:4)


REFLECTION 


David wanted to begin his reign with holiness on the brain.  All of these psalms speak of personal and corporate holiness.  I am centering in on Psalm 15 because it was the psalm that every member of my sorority across the nation had to memorize and quote at the beginning of every weekly chapter meeting. It spoke of the characteristics of holiness of those living in community: honest and righteous with no slandering, doing evil to your neighbor, or taking up reproach against a friend. 


Our house certainly did not live up to these standards! Growing up as the only girl in my family, it was really difficult for me to adjust to living with the conflict generated by 70 women stacked three stories high! I was not above reproach and would get sucked into the petty factions too. 

Do not get me wrong: there were fun times, and I have made some really good friends as a result of my three years living in this kind of community, but it was REALLY TOUGH too. Corporate holiness is a great ideal, but it is hard when you have a bunch of sinners, like me, thrown together!

Fast forward that to a community that I lived with while overseas, we had this "rule" that we all signed on to. We were not allowed to say anything negative about any of the other members of the community behind their back ("He does not back bite with his tongue" [15:3]).  It was wonderful! Any conflict we had was brought up directly with the people involved or done in the group setting for all to hear. It was great and very healthy. Conflict occurs, but it can be biblical conflict.  


APPLICATION 


Pray through these psalms and evaluate your own standards for personal holiness. Of course, only Jesus makes us righteous before God. Ask Him to help you to walk in holiness in all your relationships and spend some time praising God too! These psalms are full of characteristics of the great God we serve!


Also, many groups are starting up this fall. Pray about setting some standards for how you will relate in the group in terms of confidentiality and talking about others when they are not present.


PRAYER 


Pray responsively through one or all of these psalms. It will be a rich experience in God's presence. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

2 Samuel 6 & 7 - The Ark Comes to Jerusalem and The Davidic Covenant

LINK: 2 Samuel 6 & 7

BACKGROUND

2 Samuel 6 - Moving the Ark to Jerusalem

One of David's first acts as king was to bring the Ark of the Covenant back from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem. The Ark had been separated from the tabernacle and other places of worship for 100 long years! More recently, it had been captured by the Philistines at Aphek in 1 Samuel 4:11. Remember that the Ark of the Covenant bore the name of God and represented the presence of God who dwelled among His people (Exodus 25:22). It was to be handled with great care and reverence (Exodus 25:14; Numbers 4:15, 20). Putting the ark in an ox cart was not the way God commanded for it to be transported, and Uzzah knew that he could not touch the Ark because no one could touch the Ark and live. It seems like a harsh punishment for someone who was just trying to help, but it has to be seen in light of God absolute holiness. David named this spot Perez which means "outbreak against" because of God's wrath. The Ark remained and blessed the house of Obed-Edom for three months until the Lord gave David instruction.

Following this, the Ark was brought properly to Jerusalem with sacrifice, priestly attire, dancing, shouting for joy, and trumpets. You may ask how David could dress in priestly attire when he was not a descendant of Aaron. He was the anointed of the Lord and founder of the messianic line that would be fulfilled in JESUS who would someday come to embrace the offices of priest and prophet (7:12-16; 1 Samuel 2:35; Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

During this celebration, David's first wife and Saul's daughter, was embarrassed by his celebrating and rebuked him, but David defended his actions as holy zeal! Michal had no children after that time.

2 Samuel 7 - The Davidic Covenant 
(parallel passage: 1 Chronicles 17)

This is a KEY chapter in the Bible with far reaching effects for the future of our Bible reading. You would do well to read it over again and mark it in your Bible.

David wanted to build a permanent structure in which the Lord could dwell among His people. Through the Prophet Nathan, God told David that there was not yet a need for a permanent structure but that he would build a house for David that would be a royal house that would never end (7:16; 1 Chronicles 17:25). The kingdom of David and his throne would be forever. Let us pause in the story for a very important announcement:

This is the Scarlet Thread of Redemption!!!!!!

This promise fulfills the earlier Abrahamic Covenant blessing that the patriarchs would be the father of kings (Genesis 17:6, 16; 35:11). Later Judah, the great-grandson of Abraham, was given the pledge that a promised ruler would come from Judah (Genesis 49:10). David was from the tribe of Judah and part of the Messianic line that would result in a divine descendant and King (Psalm 2:6-7; 110; 89:3-4). We will see in our study of the prophets that they attested to the Davidic Messiah who would rule over all and forever on his throne. Of course, that Messiah is . . .

JESUS!!!! (See Luke 1:31-33)

It is all so very exciting. :)

Now back to our story . . .

Regarding the temple, David's would not be allowed to build it, but his son would do it. How did David respond to this? He acknowledged the Lord's goodness and sovereignty! He did not show disappointment because he would not be the one to build the house for God. I believe this indicates that David had the motive of bringing glory to God and not to himself. He trusted in God's sovereignty and timing and was not going to get ahead of God's plan. Why do I believe this? He says "O Sovereign LORD" seven times! (Just remember seven times in 2 Samuel 7.) 

REFLECTION (written in September 2008)

David's dream of building a house for God was perfectly timed for me! Just last night, my women's ministry director reminded me of the vision God had given me for "building" women in our church and beyond through discipleship. She said, "Carol, I still remember that vision you articulated in an email to me over a year ago. It is so obviously your passion. I am so excited. I want to pray into that vision with you."

Then, I got up this morning and meditated on 2 Samuel 7 and read this in the Daily Walk:
"Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God." That motto would provide an apt summary of David's early years as king over the 12 tribes of Israel. He moved speedily to implement his godly convictions and to reverse the godless influences of his predecessor, Saul. And though God would not permit him to fulfill certain dreams (such as building the temple), He never rebuked David for his motives or discouraged him from attempting other great enterprises for Him." 
"Great projects for God are costly, demanding vision, time, sacrifice, and perseverance. The great Christian schools we enjoy today, the majestic churches whose pulpits are aflame with righteousness, the missionary organizations that touch millions of lives spiritually and physically --each began with a dream in the heart of a committed child of God."
"One person with a dream is equal to 99 who only have interests." (March 2008)
Now, it is just a matter of me listening to the Lord and waiting on His sovereign timing for all things to come together for His glory!

2011 Update: How fun to read this post from 2008 and see that we are on the cusp of something very exciting as we have waited on His sovereign timing for discipleship in our church!  I met with the women's ministry leader mentioned above two weeks ago about starting Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ during the Sunday morning women's study. I am also excited to hear that one of our pastors has a triad of people going through this book right now and many of our staff have read Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time and are catching that vision. As late as March of this year, it seemed like this was maybe "dead in the water," but I was wrong! The vision is coming to fruition after many years of waiting and praying (Habakkuk 2:3). YIPEE! "Desire realized is sweet to the soul" (Proverbs 13:19).

And like David, I will look on in wonder but not be involved in the nuts and bolts of it inside the women's ministry because God has called me to minister to women outside the walls of the church. I am so happy to be a resource person for the building project though!  I rejoice like David and am not sad that I cannot be part of the day to day "building" because it is all about God's glory!


2015 Update: I continue to thrive building into women outside the walls of the church. I am passionate about equipping them to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to every people. This year, I have a group of five women so hungry and F.A.T. (Faithful, Available, and Teachable - see previous post about that HERE)! They are affecting the lives of many others. I also have a group of women leaders in the community that I continue to pray for and encourage to listen and obey. It does not get any better than this!

APPLICATION


The Daily Walk continues:
Do you have a dream of how God might want to use you, your family, your church, your skills, and your resources to impact the world for Him? If not, allow Him to implant in you a dream for His glory; then dream it, plan it, pursue it - and as God enables, achieve it. (p.31)
PRAYER

O Sovereign LORD, who are we that You have brought us this far in our journey with You? We are Your servants. For the sake of Your Word and according to Your will, accomplish things in and through us that bring glory to Your holy name. There is no one like You, and there is no God but You. Make Your name great through the witness of our life and service. And Lord, please build discipleship DNA in every church throughout the world!  We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Psalm 16 - Fullness of Joy

LINK: Psalm 16

BACKGROUND

I am a thinking that David wrote this after he became king because he proclaimed that God 
had made his lot secure, and that the boundaries had fallen for him in pleasant places. This is a man who had learned to trust in the Lord through many trials, and now God's promises to him had been fulfilled. 

REFLECTION


In Your presence is fullness of joy 
and pleasures forever.
(16:11) 

This is one of my favorite verses. The only place to have full and meaningful joy and pleasure is in the presence of God. I cannot reiterate that enough. It seems too simple to be true, but it really, really is.

After I posted this, a friend reminded me of this famous C.S. Lewis quote that gets at the heart of this verse:
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. 
(The Weight of Glory)

Seek Him Bible Book Club members! Seek His face continually!

PRAYER 

Pray responsively through this Psalm. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Psalm 78 - A Worshipful History Review

LINK: Psalm 78 
(This is the audio New Living Translation with beautiful music!)

BACKGROUND

This is NOT a Psalm of David, but it is a Psalm of Asaph. He was a Levite from the family of Gershom. He was a musician and was appointed by David to lead the sacred choral services. His sons were choristers in the temple. He (or his descendants) wrote twelve psalms. I do most of these psalms next year when we go through 1 Chronicles, but I love the historical review of what we have learned so far in the Old Testament in Psalm 78. Because you have read up until this point ending with the life of David, the stories will be familiar to you, and it will reinforce what you have learned so far from a worshipful perspective that focuses on our amazing God!

REFLECTION

As I am writing, I am listening to the New Living Translation narrator that I linked to this post. The violin and piano are so great! Listen to it and let it turn into a praise time with our great and glorious God!

Have you ever recounted your history? Have you reviewed it and seen how our great God has worked in and through your life. On one of my extended prayer times, I talked to a pastor who had taken a sabbatical year where he worked full-time, Monday through Friday, writing his spiritual life story.  He wrote it to proclaim God's goodness in His life and for his children. Once, he came out while I was in the tea room of the retreat center with tears of thanksgiving in his eyes. He had to share the great things God had done. 

APPLICATION

Someday, I want to do my whole life story in a narrative form like that, but we can all do a mini one as application for this psalm!

Here is a handout that will help you look back on God's faithfulness in your life:

Timeline Reflection Questions

PRAYER

Lord, teach us to make You the center of our history. Amen. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Psalm 2 - The King Reigns Supreme

LINK: Psalm 2


BACKGROUND

This psalm is a “royal psalm” and was used by the Davidic kings. Acts 4:25-26 indicates it was written by David. It may have even been written by him for his own coronation in 1004 B.C.!

It is an exhortation for pagan nations to abandon their rebellious plans against the Lord and His Son whom God has ordained to rule. It is part of the Scarlet Thread of Redemption because it speaks of Jesus!

In God's perfect timing for this post, I read this verse during my prayer time (personalized in Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship):
You, Jesus, will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give You the throne of Your father David, and You will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and Your kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:32-33)
REFLECTION/APPLICATION/PRAYER

It is hard for many of us to imagine a physical king because most of us have never been under a king's rule in our own nation.  I want you to do a bit of imagining of Jesus as your King. Put yourself in the scene of the coronation of Him as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Then, pray for the many peoples of the earth who do not know Jesus as their King remembering the promise in Psalm 2:8.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

2 Samuel 4 & 5 - David Reigns

LINK: 2 Samuel 4 & 5

BACKGROUND

2 Samuel 4

Abner had been murdered at Hebron, and Ish-bosheth was panicked. Then, Benjamite assassins came and killed him while he was resting. They thought David would be thrilled, but he had them executed for “killing a righteous man in his own house” (4:11). 

Within this narrative, there is a story of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, which we will talk more about in the future!

DAVID’S PROSPERITY (2 Samuel 5 – 10)

2 Samuel 5

With Ish-bosheth dead, David came to power over both the southern and northern tribes. It started with a covenant and anointing with oil bringing full circle the first time he was anointed with oil by Samuel. The coronation of David included a massive assembly of more than 340,000 troops. We know this from 1 Chronicles 12:23-40 which gives a more thorough rendering of this event. (We will review this time period in the second year of the Bible Book Club.)

David's first act as king was to move the capital from Hebron to Jerusalem because it was on the border between the southern and northern portions of Israel. One thing stood in the way of this move: the Jebusites! So, he conquered them and made Jerusalem the "city of David" so that all the world could see that God was with David. Along with his elevation in status, he increased the number of his wives which will prove to be a big mistake! The chapter concludes with David's defeat of the Philistines.

REFLECTION/ APPLICATION

Keep reading! Hope you are having a great time in God's presence today.

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that You are always with us. Help us to remember to inquire of You just like David. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2 Samuel 2 & 3 - David, Joab, and Abner

LINK: 2 Samuel 2 & 3 

2 Samuel 2

After 15 years (1 Samuel 16:13), David was finally crowned king in Hebron, and he reigned over Judah in the southern part of the nation for seven and a half years (a portent of the split that would come between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after the death of Solomon). He gained the trust of the people of Jabesh Gilead by praising them for proper treatment of Saul's bones (1 Samuel 31:11-13). 

Abner was the commander of Israel's army and put Saul's youngest son, Ish-Bosheth (or Esh Baal, which means "fire of Baal," 1 Chronicles 8:33; 9:39), in power. At forty years of age, he was born after Saul began his reign (Acts 13:21). 

Abner and Joab (David's military commander) went into hand-to-hand combat with David's men victorious. During hot pursuit of Abner, he killed Joab's younger brother (2:23), and the other brother, Abishai, wanted revenge (2:24). David lost 20 men, and Abner lost 360 (3:30-31).

2 Samuel 3

In this chapter, we learned of David's marriages to six wives and the children that followed. We also learned that Abner took one of Saul's concubines. In Near East culture this was an indication of Abner's desire to be the next king. This was why Ish-Bosheth rebuked Abner resulting in Abner going to David's side. Joab was not excited about Abner being in partnership with David and killed him in revenge because Abner had killed Joab's brother (2:23). 

David uttered a curse on Joab (son of Zeruiah, David's half sister, 1 Chronicles 2:16) and his descendants because revenge killings were not permitted in a city of refuge like Hebron (Joshua 21:13; Numbers 35:22-25). He also gave Abner an honorable burial. 

REFLECTION
Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” So David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.” (2 Samuel 2:1, NASB95)
This verse has been swirling around in my head the whole week. While on a walk yesterday, I asked the Lord where I should go and what I should do as I start another school year of ministry with college students and young career people.  I love that this was the first thing that David did after Saul died. He could have assumed what he was to do because he had been anointed to be king 15 years before, but he did not want to make a step without a word from the Lord. I love that!

So, I want to be a person who inquires and stops long enough to listen before I launch into something. How about you?

APPLICATION

If you are reading according to the Bible Book Club schedule, September is right around the corner, and it is usually the start of new things. Have you inquired as to what the Lord would have you do this New Year?

September is not the American New Year, but it is the Jewish one! Rosh Hashanah usually begins in September or early October.

PRAYER

Lord, what would You have us do and where would you have us go this new year? We want to hear Your voice on what You want for us. Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2 Samuel 1 - David Mourns Saul and Jonathan's Death

LINK: 2 Samuel 1

BACKGROUND

Introduction to 2 Samuel

The book of 2 Samuel chronicles the 40-year reign of King David. The time is about 1000 BC. It is halfway between the time of Abraham and Jesus. David was God's leader for Israel and an ancestor of the Messiah. In this book, we will see the small nation of Israel emerge to the pinnacle of its power through the leadership of a man prepared through the trials we read about in 1 Samuel. You will also see that he was a human man who struggled with family problems and his own sin, but his life did not end in tragedy because of it.
Among all the godly role models mentioned in the Bible, there is probably no one who stands out more than King David. . . David was "a man after [God's] own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14).  
Life Application Bible, p.490

Get ready for the adventure!

2 Samuel 1

The running from Saul was over. Saul was dead, and David mourned over both Saul and his good friend, Jonathan.

REFLECTION

Admit it, most of us are glad to see wicked King Saul gone. Some of us feel like the people of Munchkin City in the land of Oz who sang . . .

"Ding dong! The witch is dead!"

when Dorothy's Kansas home accidentally landed on top of her!

Yet, David mourned the death of his anointed king. Doesn't that blow you away?! How counter-intuitive. Our human nature often causes us to rejoice over the misfortunes of the people who are against us (like the "daughters of the Philistines" mentioned in 1:20 and the people of Munchkin City!). David had reason to celebrate Saul's death, yet he chose to look at the good that Saul had done rather than his wickedness. "It takes courage to lay aside hatred and hurt and to respect the positive side of another person" (Life Application Bible, p. 493). What an example for us to follow!

APPLICATION

Is there someone who opposes you? How about changing your negative attitude toward that other person?
The best way to overcome this tendency [toward a negative attitude] is to think deliberately about aspects of others that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy (see Phil. 4:8). Paul is not saying that we should think only about the good things in others, for he clearly understood the necessity of addressing sin and encouraging repentance (Gal. 6:1-2; Col. 3:16). Rather Paul is teaching us to counterbalance our natural tendency to focus only on what is bad about those who oppose us. 
(The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, p. 87-88)
I applied this principle of peacemaking in the situation that I told you about in the post for 1 Samuel 17. I did it by writing out all the things that were true, noble, right, pure, lovely, etc. about her. I found sinful attitudes toward her that I confessed and that opened up a door that eventually led to our reconciliation.

I encourage you to do this exercise whenever you tend to dwell only on the negative tendencies in others. I also encourage you to read The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. It is a "must read" for every follower of Jesus!

PRAYER

Lord, help us to be courageous like David and not settle into the pattern of "dissing" those who are opposed to us. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Put 1 Samuel Back on Your Shelf

YAY! You have finished another book. Isn't the story of David exciting. Now, we will see David as king. We will walk with him through his successes and struggles and in the end, learn so much about God!

BibleBookcase

1 Samuel 31 - Saul and Sons Slain

LINK: 1 Samuel 31

BACKGROUND

Samuel told Saul that he and his sons would die, and the Philistines would defeat Israel (28:19). This is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Saul died by suicide (an Israelite taboo), his head was decapitated, and his armor was displayed at the temple of Ashtereth (goddess of both love and war). The people of Jabesh-gilead courageously took the bodies of Saul and his sons and burned them and buried their bones in Jabesh. Then they fasted for seven days. This was an act of respect and gratefulness to Saul, whose first public deed was to rescue this same city from the Ammonites 40 years before (11:1-11).

REFLECTION

This is such a sad end to a man who did not finish well. On the other hand, it is the end to a wonderful man who did finish well: Jonathan! He was such a wonderful example of faithfulness and loyalty!

Here is what the Life Application Study Bible NIV has to say about Jonathan:
Loyalty is one of life's most costly qualities; it is the most selfless part of love. To be loyal, you cannot live only for yourself. Loyal people not only stand by their commitments, they are willing to suffer for them. Jonathan is a shining example of loyalty. Sometimes he was forced to deal with conflicting loyalties: to his father, Saul, and to his friend, David. His solution to that conflict teaches us both how to be loyal and what must guide loyalty. In Jonathan, truth always guided loyalty.
Jonathan realized that the source of truth was God, who demanded his ultimate loyalty. It was his relationship with God that gave Jonathan the ability to deal effectively with the complicated situations in his life. He was loyal to Saul because Saul was his father and the king. He was loyal to David because David was his friend. His loyalty to God guided him through the conflicting demands of his human relationships.
The conflicting demands of our relationships challenge us as well. If we attempt to settle these conflicts only at the human level, we will be constantly dealing with a sense of betrayal. But if we communicate to our friends that our ultimate loyalty is to God and his truth, many of our choice will be much clearer. The truth of his Word, the Bible will bring light to our decisions. Do those closest to you know who has your greatest loyalty? (p.473)
This post hits so close to home this morning. While my loyalty has been with God since I was 10 years old, I often had to balance that loyalty with my mother's disapproval of what I was doing in obedience to Him. She often did not understand my choices to not pursue the American dream that her father came to America to realize (my grandparents were Swedish immigrants).  The choices I made for God were often seen as disloyalty to the family that had sacrificed so much to "make a better life" for my grandfather's children and grandchildren.

In addition, my father's mother had great bitterness toward God because two families from her church embezzled her inheritance money after both her parents died when she 11. On one of my trips in obedience to God's call on my life, she gave me money but told me that I must spend it only on learning about the art and culture of Europe and not for anything religious! Sadly, my grandmother remained bitter toward God until the day she died.

Coming from this kind of home, it was difficult for me to navigate the waters of "honoring my mother and father" (although my dad never had a problem with my choices) and God's calling on my life. I did not always do it in the best way, but at the end of their lives, I can say that I was able to find the balance between honoring them and loyalty to God's call. It helped immensely when my mom gave her heart to Jesus 12 years before she died (my father had come to the Lord in 1984, a year before he died).

Just last week, through a healing prayer session with a trusted friend, God shed light on why it is so difficult for me to move forward in obedience to Him when people disapprove or are disappointed in my actions. It stems back to some memories of my mother's disapproval growing up. It has been transforming as He connects the dots, and I can walk in greater freedom.  God has given me some opportunities to live in this new freedom as I have disappointed a few people lately in obedience to His clear and confirmed direction.

I was investing in a young woman recently who has not found that balance and has done many dishonoring things to her parents in the name of "God." It breaks my heart, but I cannot judge because I did some similar things. I pray she finds that balance and makes peace with her parents soon! Could you pray for this unnamed woman?

I hope Jonathan's life can be an encouragement to us all!


APPLICATION


Take some time to evaluate your life and relationships in light of Jonathan's life:
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • Brave, loyal, and a natural leader 
  • The closest friend David ever had 
  • Did not put his personal well-being ahead of those he loved
Lessons from his life: 
  • Loyalty is one of the strongest parts of courage 
  • An allegiance to God puts all other relationships in perspective 
  • Great friendships are costly   
 (Life Application Study Bible NIV, p. 473)

PRAYER

Lord, help us to see the balance in loyalty toward those who gave us life, and the calling You have on our life. Help us to finish well like Jonathan by the little choices we make along the way. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Psalm 131 - A Weaned Child

LINK: Psalm 131 ( a very short reading but meant to be savored)

BACKGROUND 

Here is another "Psalm of Ascent." If you forget what these are, read the Psalm 133 post HERE.

I placed this as the last Psalm of David's conflict with Saul. It smacks of final surrender to God's purposes. He is composed and quieted and rests. It is the period at the end of a long and weary battle with a fierce foe. 

REFLECTION 

I am one of those people who, by nature, would not have "composed" attached with my name. :) My natural tendency is to freak out, but I do not do that as much anymore. I have had to learn to trust. I have had to learn to not get myself involved in matters "too difficult" for me. I used to have a "savior complex" when helping people.  Often I would get in too deep and have to cry, "UNCLE!"  I would do it in my own power thinking that I was the only one responsible for that person's growth, but even though it really seemed like unselfish caring, it was really more selfish ambition, hoping I would feel better about myself if I had success in helping someone, but "A mature believer leaves the clamor of proud ambition and rests in the Lord" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary). And, yes, a "savior complex" is a veiled form of "proud ambition." It is one that sounds really sweet and nice, but it is pride. I am not a savior, but Jesus is!

Psalm 131 is my relinquishing psalm when I am finally in that spot where I have given up my vain, self-sufficient efforts to fix things that are too big for me to handle. It is the point where I finally realize that He is God, and I am not. Pride is handed over to the parent, and I rest. My "great matter" is handled by a loving Father God. It is such a wonderful feeling when I can do that. Now, I pray before I involve myself in difficult matters to see it He wants me to even get involved! Many times, my rushing in to "help" has just been me telling myself I "should" rather than the Lord leading me into it. I wait on the Lord's leading and timing now. 

APPLICATION 

Pray through this Psalm and lay matters that are too difficult for you at His feet. Look back on the post this week from Psalm 40 for the meaning behind the word "wait" too.

PRAYER

Prayer through Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of this Psalm from The Message:


God, I'm not trying to rule the roost,
I don't want to be king of the mountain.
I haven't meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
I've kept my feet on the ground,
I've cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother's arms,
my soul is a baby content.
Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
Hope now, hope always!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Psalm 86 & 87 - All Nations Will Come and Worship

LINK: Psalm 86 & 87

BACKGROUND

Psalm 86

This is the only psalm attributed to David in the entire third book of Psalms. The psalm is a collection of quotations from other psalms including Psalms 25-28, 40, and 54-57. It also includes quotations from Exodus 34. It is a psalm of prayer for protection (86:1-5), praise for his power (86:6-13), and petition for His strength (86:14-17).

Psalm 87

This psalm of the Sons of Korah (temple assistants) is an expansion of the idea expressed in Psalm 86:9:
All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And they shall glorify Your name.
It is a song about the glories of Zion, the city of God. The psalmist describes how the nations will gather to her (See Isaiah 11:10 too!).

This continues the theme that we have been talking about all along in the Bible Book Club, that all nations will someday worship the Lord! God's purpose is to reconcile people to Himself, and this psalm anticipates five nations will be among the peoples. "Rahab" is a name for a monster known in ancient Near East poetry as an enemy of God, and it represents Egypt (89:10; Isaiah 51:9). "Cush" is present-day southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia. These peoples will acknowledge Him proclaiming that all their sources of spiritual joy will be in God (Psalm 46:4; 84:6).

According to scholars, this psalm stands alone in the Psalms in that it "foresees the ingathering of the nations into Zion as fellow citizens with Israel" (NASB Study Bible, p. 829), "represents the future community of believers, [and] . . . looks ahead to the Holy City of God described in Revelation 21:10-27. The honor of living there will be granted to all whose names are recorded in the Lamb's book of life" (The Life Application Bible, p. 1000).

APPLICATION


Meditate on Revelation 21:10-27 today and pray for peoples throughout the world to come to Him through Jesus. Consider adopting a unreached people group to pray for on a regular basis. Click HERE for more information.

PRAYER

Lord, we come to You in praise and adoration for who You are. You are protector, forgiver, provider, and lover of our souls. Teach us to walk in Your way and with an undivided heart. Help us not to forget to stand in the gap for all peoples who do not yet worship You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Psalm 69 - Drowning David Finds a Lifering from God

LINK: Psalm 69

BACKGROUND


David used the imagery of drowning to bring home the point that he was on the brink of death and would have died had the Lord not saved Him. This distress was brought on by those who hated him without cause and sought to destroy him. Some commentators believe he was speaking of Saul and that this Psalm was writtten sometime before Saul's death, in anticipation of the Lord's promises being fulfilled. It is filled with fear but also his overall trust in the Lord.


Observe David's pattern of prayer:


I. Distressed (69:1-12)


He was to the point of grief. In grief, David fasted, a sign of mourning that we see demonstrated by the people of Jabesh-gilead at the close of 1 Samuel (31:13). I love how David just let his desperation be known to God. He did not hold back.


II. Dependent (69:13-28)


"But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD . . ."


I love the "but" at the beginning of this section. In spite of drowning, he looked beyond his desperate circumstances to His God who stood at the edge of the boat ready to send out the life ring.


III. Delivered (69:29-36)


He knew God would deliver him even before He actually did. So, David acted in faith and praised God ahead of time for His deliverance. I call this "preemptive praise"!

The humble have seen it and are glad;
You who seek God, let your heart revive (literally, "You will feel glad and joyful").
For the Lord hears the needy

And does not despise His who are prisoners.
Scarlet Thread of Redemption

This is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament, and part of it was applied to the ministry and suffering of Jesus:


Verse 4 - John 15:25: Jesus' enemies

Verse 8 - John 7:5: Jesus scorned by his brothers
Verse 9 - John 2:14-17: Christ's zeal when he threw out the money changers at the temple
Verse 20 - John 19:28-30: Christ's suffering
Verse 25 - Acts 1:20: Judas

Jesus was the perfect example of a righteous person who is persecuted for being zealous for the will of God.


REFLECTION


I was drowning last week. I even used this analogy when asking friends for prayer. I said, "I need a life ring!" Thankfully, they prayed, and I was able to get some prayer time with God in my distress, and I was delivered. Praise God!


David needed a life ring, and He found it in God.


APPLICATION


Are you drowning? Do you need a life ring thrown to you? Carve out some time with God in your distress and send out the SOS! I guarantee that you will find He will buoy you up.


PRAYER


Lord, I want to be early in asking for Your life ring! Sometimes I forget that You are on the edge of the boat ready to throw it in the water and pull me toward You. Lord, help me to see You! I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Psalm 40 - Song of Trust in the Lord

LINK: Psalm 40

BACKGROUND 

In this next set of Psalms (40, 69, 86, 87, 131) David speaks of his fear, but he also speaks of his trust in God who would fulfill His promises and sustain David. In between the promise and the fulfillment, there were many trials for David, but he waited patiently for God. 

I spoke at a women's retreat around the theme of "waiting" once.  This was one of my main Psalms. I have mentioned this before in the Bible Book Club, but I love the Hebrew word for "wait" which is qāwāh and means:
To wait or look for with eager expectation . . . waiting with steadfast endurance is a great expression of faith. It means enduring patiently in confident hope that God will decisively act . . . Waiting involves the very essence of a person's being (Psalm 130:5). . . those who wait in true faith are renewed in strength so that they can continue to serve the Lord while looking for his saving work (Isaiah 40:31). There will come a time when all that God has promised will be realized and fulfilled (Isaiah 49:23; Psalm 37:9). In the meantime the believer survives by means of his integrity and uprightness as he trusts in God's grace and power (Psalm 25:21). His faith is strengthened through his testings, and his character is further developed (Psalm 27:14). 
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 1999 (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Chicago: Moody Press, p. 791
"The root meaning is that of twisting or winding a strand of cord or rope" 
Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (986). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers. 

Ever since I learned this meaning in the early 80's, my picture of waiting has always been one of my heart twisting around the Lord's heart! It puts such a positive spin on a concept many people do not like!

David had to keep his eyes in trust on God when all around him seemed contrary to God's promise.  He could give thanksgiving to God and he could make proclamation of God's righteousness, faithfulness, salvation, love, and truth to others (40:9-10). All the while, he could also continue to lament his present predicament and pray for deliverance (40:11-17)! His present predicament was probably a combination of being pursued by Saul and being a man of sin (25:17-18; 38:2-14). 

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

By the way,  Psalm 40 is considered a "Messianic" psalm because Hebrews 10:5-9 quotes Psalm 40:6-8 and attributes the verses to Christ. 

REFLECTION 

I just wrote on my Facebook status update: "I love soaking in the Psalms. Just sayin'." I was afraid to tackle them during the first round of the Bible Book Club because I am not a poetry expert, but Psalms have comforted me through my whole spiritual walk. I am not approaching them from a poetry perspective but a personal one.

Psalm 40 is one of my "Top Five" Psalms because it sums up God's awesomeness and ability to deliver us from any "pit" in which we may find ourselves! (I even wrote a song to this once. and I might even put a video of me singing it on here by the end of this post.)

Often, we are in "the pit of destruction and miry clay" (40:2 NASB) because we made sinful choices that put us there. I am reminded of my own personal "pit" whenever I read the opening verses of this Psalm, and it always turns me to praise God for His wonderful deliverance. 

My sophomore year of college (1979), I was in a big mess of my own making by becoming involved with a person of very low integrity whom I allowed to bring me right down too. Consequently, I was in the lowest point of my life.  While that person slept in the back seat of the car, I was driving along Interstate 5 during a torrential downpour in the "darkness before the dawn" around Roseburg, Oregon. In this stretch of I-5, the freeway goes up and down through many hills and valleys and can be quite treacherous in heavy rains and snow. As I drove, I was miserable and scared! At a low point of a valley, a huge wave of water washed over the car, and I could not see a thing. I was scared out of my wits, and I cried out to God to deliver me (not only from the physical danger but the mess I was in spiritually and emotionally). His presence met me RIGHT THERE and a perfect wave of calm, bigger than the wave of rain, rushed over me. I knew that He was right there with me, and He would deliver me from the "pit of destruction" I had made for myself.  I climbed up out of that valley on I-5 to the top of a hill and the dawn of a new day!

That was, literally and figuratively, one of the biggest watershed moments of my life (for international readers who do not understand this phrase, I have linked this phrase to a definition)! I began to make better choices that would honor God, and I gave my life totally over to Him (it would take several years to totally disengage because of that person's evil manipulations, and my naivete).  So, I sing this Psalm because it so depicts what God has done for me! My feet are on the ROCK of God's unfailing love and faithfulness. I cannot help but sing praise to Him!

APPLICATION 

God's thoughts toward you are too numerous to count (40:5) - From your reading of the Bible so far, what do you think God's thoughts are toward you?

God has done countless wonders (40:5). Think through your life and jot down some of them!

PRAYER

Pray through Psalm 40 today!

Here is the short song I wrote long ago (TEE HEE):