Tag Archives: obey God

Joel 3

Not Choosing is also a Choice

Have you ever been caught betwixt two courses of action, both of which had profound implications morally, monetarily, socially, or physically, only to find yourself paralyzed? I’ve been there.

Recently I had the opportunity to purchase a barely used front-loading washing machine. This machine sold at retail for over $600. It was offered to me for $350.

I found myself paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do. I already had a perfectly functioning washing machine at home. True it is ancient, but it still works. I didn’t have $350 extra dollars laying around. However, I’m sure I could have come up with it if I had tried. I didn’t want to be seen as taking advantage of the seller. But then again, our washing machine isn’t going to last forever, parts will wear out, it will eventually leak or simply stop functioning…

I vacillated, and the machine was sold to someone else during the several-day period that I was trying to make up my mind. By not choosing, I had chosen. The message implied to the seller was that I was not interested enough to act. There is an old axiom that says;

“Better a bird in hand than two in the bush.”

The seller found a bird in his hand rather than chase the ones in the bushes – me.

You could describe my situation as a valley of decision. I say valley, because I needed to climb up and out in order to move on, before progress could be evidenced. Instead I sat there. The seller never saw my head clear the valley rim.

What other things am I in a valley of decision about?

Am I still vacillating about obeying traffic laws? Am I guarding my eyes like a savage warrior, or do I allow the occasional visual dalliance to cross my optic nerves? Do I invest regular time getting to know God, or is he a casual acquaintance who hopefully understands my busy schedule? Do I keep putting off work assignments hoping that they’ll eventually become irrelevant or forgotten?

Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. It is there that the day of the LORD will soon arrive. – Joel 3:14

Just like the washing machine deal, there is a day coming when it will be too late. And we don’t know when it is. But it is much closer than we think, it will soon arrive. Thousands upon thousands will feign surprise. But in reality they have already chosen. For you see, in the verse above, the Hebrew word translated as ‘decision’ is a past participle. It indicates that the decision has happened already. By going into the valley of decision, and staying there – waiting – the decision has been made. Not choosing is a choice.

Heavenly Father, may I have the courage to reject Adam’s blood-line curse of passivity. Please give me wisdom when needed, and a holy boldness to seize whatever opportunities are presented. Please grant to me the strength to choose that which brings you pleasure, not my enemy. Help me to love you better and to choose you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We are to go through the valley, don’t stop. Jan

Judges 13

Nazirite

I’ve heard this word most of my life, but today is the first time I actually looked to see what it means.

Naziyr – consecrated or devoted one, untrimmed vines. It comes from the root word, Nazar – to dedicate oneself, devote oneself , separate oneself from others.

With that in mind I read the following passage.

In those days, a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will rescue Israel from the Philistines.” – Judges 13:2-5

Ok, so he will be set apart. But then the angel gives specific “set apart” instructions. And in the following passage he adds a bit more for Mrs. Manoah, as if to say, “I know you guys have forgotten what it means to be set apart, you don’t read the law of Moses anymore. So let me remind you.”

“Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her. She must not eat grapes or raisins, drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, or eat any forbidden food.” – Judges 13:-13-14

What was he reminding them about? The following verses from the book of Numbers.

If some of the people, either men or women, take the special vow of a Nazirite, setting themselves apart to the LORD in a special way, they must give up wine and other alcoholic drinks. They must not use vinegar made from wine, they must not drink other fermented drinks or fresh grape juice, and they must not eat grapes or raisins. As long as they are bound by their Nazirite vow, they are not allowed to eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine, not even the grape seeds or skins.

“They must never cut their hair throughout the time of their vow, for they are holy and set apart to the LORD. That is why they must let their hair grow long. And they may not go near a dead body during the entire period of their vow to the LORD, even if their own father, mother, brother, or sister has died. They must not defile the hair on their head, because it is the symbol of their separation to God. This applies as long as they are set apart to the LORD. – Numbers 6:2-8

There is a lot of stuff there; nothing from grapes – not even skin, no cutting of their hair, don’t go near dead bodies, and don’t mess with the hairdo. Add in the rest of Jewish dietary and custom restrictions on top of all that.

Being wise, the listened.

When her son was born, they named him Samson. And the LORD  blessed him as he grew up. – Judges 13:24

I love the last part of the verse, and the Lord blessed him as…

Father, thank you that you bless us because you choose to. We’ve done nothing to deserve it. You do it simply because you love us. May I love you back, no matter what. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Maybe I should let my beard keep growing… Hmm, but I do like raisins. Jan

Judges 10

Here comes ‘da Judge

In reading the book of Judges I was reminded of a 1995 movie starring Sylvester Stallone. The movie was Judge Dredd. Below is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article about the movie.

In 2139, people live in a single city, Mega City, ruled by The Council. Crime is dealt with by a special police force, Street Judges, who may act as judge, jury and executioner of criminals.

The power of the Judges in this sci-fi tale sounds very similar to that of the biblical judges in the book of the same name. The following Wikipedia excerpt really was interesting to me.

Dredd’s commander and mentor, Chief Judge Fargo, assigns him to teach a class in ethics at the academy where he tells the recruits they must be prepared to live in isolation until they take the Long Walk, a time when a retired Judge leaves the city and goes into the “cursed earth” to take the “law to the lawless”, those who live outside the city.

Now paint this portrait biblically. Judges, typically quite alone, are assigned by God to go into the cursed earth to take the law to the lawless, those who live outside of heaven.

Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. They worshiped images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. Not only this, but they abandoned the LORD and no longer served him at all. – Judges 10:6

Why did they need judges? Why did they sin so much? Why did they abandon God so easily and chase after other things and other Gods?

For the answer I go to a New Testament book of the bible.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. – James 4:1-4

The whole army of evil desires at war within them… Within us.

So was there hope for the Israelites? Of course there was!

But the Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And he was grieved by their misery. – Judges 10:15-16

So is there hope for us? Of course there is!

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites. Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor. – James 4:7-10

The greatest honor we could ever be afforded is a place at our Lord’s table. And if we are his children, then we know that we have that place guaranteed.

Father, may I humble myself daily before you. May I resist the Devil, May I draw close to you in prayer, reading, and in waiting. May I truly grieve and turn from any and all wicked ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He is the Law. Jan

Judges 6

Least to Greatest

An interesting thing happened in the sixth chapter of Judges, God took a nobody and made him famous.

The Israelites were under the cruel oppression of several surrounding countries. In fact “Israel was reduced to starvation” according to the text. When we first encounter Gideon he is a nobody who is hiding down in a hole, threshing wheat, so that no one will know what he is doing. While there an Angel visits him and he receives an instruction that mystifies him.

Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” – Judges 6:14

It must have seemed like a cruel joke, “Go with the strength you have…” What strength? He’s hiding.

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” – Judges 6:15

Gideon essentially says, “I’m a nobody from a clan of nobodies.”

The angel tells him that the Lord will be with him, gives Gideon a demonstration of his power, then he disappears.

Silence… until night-fall, when Gideon hears the Lord tell him to destroy the town’s altar to the false god Baal, and use the altar-remains to build an altar to God, and to sacrifice his father’s 2nd best bull on it.

Incredibly, Gideon does it! I wonder if I would have responded the same?

The towns people wake up, and they are ticked. They demand that Gideon be killed.

But Joash (Gideon’s father) shouted to the mob, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who knocked down his altar!” – Judges 4:31

Sounds reasonable to me. If I was a god and someone messed with my property, they’d be toast. But, I digress. Back to Gideon. An amazing thing happened at that moment. He lived. And he continued to live. In fact, as a result of not dying, he was renamed by the people.

From then on Gideon was called Jerubbaal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he knocked down Baal’s altar. – Judges 6:32

Gideon took on a god and lived! He was no longer a nobody. He was famous – about as famous as you can get.

That is why when this former nobody called for warriors to join him in battle a little while later, they all came.

Then the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded. – Judges 4:34-35

The Lord knows how to promote those who are called and chosen. They only need to be obedient.

Father, thank you for lessons from Gideon. May I be willing to do whatever you ask. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Got any altars you need destroyed? Jan

Judges 3

Rescue Them

I have a pretty good overview of the Old Testament history of the Hebrews. Frankly if I was God I would have abandoned them and started over with a people a bit more receptive to obeying his commands. He certainly had plenty of nations to choose from. But no, he remained faithful even if they didn’t. However, he did discipline them.

Since they wanted to live for themselves, God withdrew his protection and allowed natural consequences to take effect. Soon they were conquered by their enemies and enslaved.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:11

Once they experienced the discipline, the consequences of their actions, they cried out for relief. Funny how we always seem to remember God once we are in trouble, but never when we are getting into it.

But when Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD raised up a man to rescue them… – Judges 3:9

And again.

But when Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD raised up a man to rescue them… – Judges 3:15

And again.

After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath rescued Israel… – Judges 3:31

And the same sad story continues through the entire book. They do evil. God lets them have their way. They are overcome, they are enslaved. They cry for help. God sends rescue.

Isn’t that our story? It is my story.

If I was God, I would have abandoned me long ago and left me to rot. But he didn’t and he doesn’t.

He considers me infinitely valuable.

How do I know that? His Son Jesus created infinity and God allowed him to die to pay the penalty for all of my sins: past, present and future. He rescued me.

Heavenly Father, please continue to create in me the desire to be holy. I want to love the things you love, hate the things you hate. Help me to see everyone through your eyes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m Rescued

Job 21

No Need

A few weeks ago we had a guest speaker at our church. He spoke passionately about the persecuted church worldwide, how believers are being added in droves in those places where there is great darkness and sadness. He related a story of how one Chinese pastor prayed, “Lord, thank you for Communism.” The listeners were aghast until he explained, “Where Communism flourishes hope dies. It has replaces all religion and gods and makes man god. And when man finds that he is not enough, what is left? The gospel of Jesus provides the only hope.”

In America we are so incredibly blessed, beyond what we deserve at this point, that we have replaced God with materialism. We don’t need anything, and therefore we don’t need God.

Job described a similar situation.

The truth is that the wicked live to a good old age. They grow old and wealthy. They live to see their children grow to maturity, and they enjoy their grandchildren. Their homes are safe from every fear, and God does not punish them. Their bulls never fail to breed. Their cows bear calves without miscarriage. Their children skip about like lambs in a flock of sheep. They sing with tambourine and harp. They make merry to the sound of the flute. They spend their days in prosperity; then they go down to the grave in peace. All this, even though they say to God, ‘Go away. We want no part of you and your ways. Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us if we pray?’ – Job 21:7-15

Just like the rich man in Job’s example, in our post-modern American culture we are often met with the same response when sharing the light of Christ.

‘Go away. We want no part of you and your ways. Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us if we pray?’

Sadly, these folks will find out that they did need a savior in the end. But then it will be too late to obey him.

Father, may I not grow weary in showing others your way. Please help me to see with your eyes so that I never give up sharing the hope of Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I need Him. Jan

Job 15

Trust

Job’s ‘friend’ Eliphaz the Termite brings up an interesting thought in his second response to Job.

Why, God doesn’t even trust the angels! Even the heavens cannot be absolutely pure in his sight. – Job 15:15

I had to ponder this one for a bit, God doesn’t trust the angels?

So naturally I’ve done some digging. I looked up every reference to Angel or Angels in the New Living Translation of the Bible. Then I extracted those that might fit the Termite’s premise. I have to conclude that he appears to be correct.

Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including myself, who preaches any other message than the one we told you about. Even if an angel comes from heaven and preaches any other message, let him be forever cursed. – Galatians 1:8

Then there was war in heaven. Michael and the angels under his command fought the dragon and his angels… This great dragon – the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world – was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. – Revelation 12:7,9

For God did not spare even the angels when they sinned; he threw them into hell, in gloomy caves and darkness until the judgment day. – 2 Peter 2:4

Their king is the angel from the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon – the Destroyer. – Revelation 9:11

And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the day of judgment. – Jude 1:6

Don’t you realize that we Christians will judge angels?  – 1 Corinthians 6:3a

In that day the LORD will punish the fallen angels in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on earth. – Isaiah 24:1

Ultimately the issue of trusting the angels is one of foreknowledge and predestination. We have no way of knowing what God knew or did not know about the fallen angels prior to their rebellion. Perhaps his omniscience works differently outside of our time-limited reality, I would be inclined to think not. But, we do know that there were incredible numbers of angels that chose to follow Satan, who are now awaiting their judgment. They did not prove to be trustworthy.

So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God. – 1 John 3:10

If someone does not obey your directives can you trust them? Obviously the answer is no. Thus there are at least some angels that God cannot trust.

Which leads me to ask, “Can God trust me?” Hmm…

If my past experiences and failures are any indication I would have to honestly answer, no.

Father, I want to be trustworthy. Please forgive me for failing to obey those things that I clearly know I am supposed to be doing or not doing. And during those times of ambiguity, which are few, please let me clearly know what you desire of me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Can God trust you? Jan

1 Timothy 1

Unsealed Orders

During WWII my grandmother, then in a German slave-labor camp with her family, was given sealed-orders to bring to the commander of a different camp to which she and her family were being transferred. Her maiden name was Hoffman and she was trying to convince them that she was of German descent. Non-Germans were often worked to death, whereas those of German origin were treated less harshly.

Prior to arriving at the other camp my grandmother carefully steamed the envelope open, unsealing the orders. They stated that if the commander was not fully satisfied that she and her family were German, they should be taken out and immediately executed.

In reading Paul’s letter to Timothy I noticed some unsealed-orders.

Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they give you the confidence to fight well in the Lord’s battles. – 1 Timothy 1:18

Paul gave him instructions that were going to be crucial in aiding Timothy in the great war in which he was engaged. So what were those orders that inspired confidence to fight well?

  • Don’t let people waste time in spiritual arguments. – 1 Timothy 1:4
  • Cling tightly to faith in Christ. – 1 Timothy 1:19
  • Always keep a clear conscience. – 1 Timothy 1:19
  • Pray for everyone. – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Plead for God’s mercy for everyone – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Give thanks. – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Pray with actions, not just words. – 1 Timothy 2:8
  • Pray free from anger and controversy. – 1 Timothy 2:8
  • Be faithful. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be self-controlled – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Live well. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Cultivate a good reputation. 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be hospitable. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be a capable teacher. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be temperate (not a drunkard). – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Be gentle – peace loving. – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Not motivated by money. – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Manage your family well. – 1 Timothy 3:4
  • Don’t be prideful. – 1 Timothy 3:6
  • Have integrity. – 1 Timothy 3:8
  • Be responsible. – 1 Timothy 3:10
  • Receive everything with a thankful heart. – 1 Timothy 4:4-5
  • Don’t waste time in arguments. – 1 Timothy 4:7
  • Exercise both physically and even more spiritually. – 1 Timothy 4:8
  • Work hard, suffer if you must. – 1 Timothy 4:10
  • Teach others; insist they learn. – 1 Timothy 4:11
  • Your youth is not an obstacle. – 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Be an example in; life, love, faith, and purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Encourage others by teaching them from the scriptures. – 1 Timothy 4:13
  • Be enthusiastic in your mission. – 1 Timothy 4:15
  • Let others see your progress. – 1 Timothy 4:15
  • Check regularly to ensure you don’t stray from the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:16
  • Never speak harshly to elders. – 1 Timothy 5:1
  • Speak to younger men as you would your own brothers. – 1 Timothy 5:1
  • Treat older women as you would your mother. – 1 Timothy 5:2
  • Treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. – 1 Timothy 5:2
  • Ensure that true widows’ needs are met. – 1 Timothy 5:3-7
  • Those who work hard for God should be paid for their work. – 1 Timothy 5:17-18
  • Unless there are 2 or 3 witnesses, do not listen to accusations against leaders. – 1 Timothy 5:19
  • Publicly rebuke those who sin. – 1 Timothy 5:20
  • Be impartial, no favoritism. – 1 Timothy 5:21
  • Take your time in appointing leaders, don’t be hasty. – 1 Timothy 5:22
  • Don’t take part in other people’s sin – stay pure. – 1 Timothy 5:22
  • Take your medicine. Being sick doesn’t help anyone. – 1 Timothy 5:23
  • Workers should honor their employers by working hard. – 1 Timothy 6:1-2
  • Teach these truths to others and encourage others to obey them. – 1 Timothy 6:2
  • If your material needs are being met, be content. – 1 Timothy 6:7-8
  • Don’t let money tempt you and derail you. – 1 Timothy 6:9-10
  • Run from evil things. – 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Pursue, run after, a godly life. – 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Continue to fight God’s battle. – 1 Timothy 6:12
  • Hold tightly to what you’ve come to believe. – 1 Timothy 6:12
  • In purity obey Christ Jesus’ commands! – 1 Timothy 6:13
  • Trust the living God. – 1 Timothy 6:17
  • Know that God richly gives you everything you need for enjoyment. – 1 Timothy 6:18
  • Tell the wealthy to use their money to do good. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  • Guard what God has entrusted you with. – 1 Timothy 6:20
  • Avoid foolish godless foolish discussions with those who think they are wise. – 1 Timothy 6:20

Wow, what a list! And I’ve probably missed some.

Father, thank you for inspiring Paul to write this. Please help me to make this part of my life as Timothy did. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And yes, my grandmother did convince the German commander. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Jan

Romans 4

I can’t break it

Just yesterday I went home for lunch and was informed that our “precious” puppy had torn a huge hole in my pool screen-enclosure, and had munched down on one of my hats. Aargh!

It reminded me of the joke, “If you want to see if something is truly unbreakable, give it to a 6 year old boy.” I don’t know of much that we creations of God cannot find a way to break. In the computer industry we have a saying that states, “If you make something foolproof, the world will simply invent a bigger fool.”

Today as I was reading in the book of Romans I came across the following passage in The Message version of the Bible.

If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. – Romans 4:14

My bundle-of-joy puppy doesn’t know anything about contracts or business deals. He simply knows that I provide for his needs, discipline him when needed, and give him affection. If there was a contract outlining expected behavior and consequences for infractions, he would be living somewhere other than my home by now. But, when we brought him home, he became a member of the family not of a corporation. We promised to care for him for the term of his natural life.

A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise–and God’s promise at that–you can’t break it. – Romans 4:15

So, since no contract full of fine print exists, merely our promise; Tanner, our puppy cannot break it.

Likewise, no contract exists between me and God. His love letter to me – the Bible – is not a book of fine print. It is a promise.  And since God has accepted me into his family, I know that he will never break his promise to care for me for the term of my eternal life.

Father, thank you for loving me despite the fact that I keep breaking things. Thank you that I cannot break a promise that you made. It is not mine to break. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You can’t break God’s promise. Jan

2 Samuel 24

It stopped where it started

I’m still confused a bit about what really happened with God getting angry at Israel and the whole he “caused David” to sin thing.

The LORD became angry with Israel again, so he provoked David to turn against Israel. He said, “Go, count Israel and Judah.” – 2 Samuel 24:1

There is an alternate reading that blames Satan.

Satan attempted to attack Israel by provoking David to count the Israelites. – 1 Chronicles 21:1

No matter whom was to blame, God was not pleased with David having chosen the sin of pride and not following God’s way of conducting a census.

Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the LORD. Then there will be no plagues among the people as you count them. – Exodus 30:12

As a result God sent word that destruction would result.

When David got up in the morning, the LORD spoke his word to the prophet Gad, David’s seer. “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I’m offering you three choices. Choose the one you want me to do to you.’”

When Gad came to David, he told David this and asked, “Should seven years of famine come to you and your land, or three months during which you flee from your enemies as they pursue you, or should there be a three-day plague in your land? Think it over, and decide what answer I should give the one who sent me.”

“I’m in a desperate situation,” David told Gad. “Please let us fall into the LORD’s hands because he is very merciful. But don’t let me fall into human hands.” – 2 Samuel 24:11-14

In response, God sent the “three-day plague”. I wondered about this event, so I checked what Flavius Josephus wrote about it. Here is his description:

When the prophet had heard this, he declared it to God; who thereupon sent a pestilence and a mortality upon the Hebrews; nor did they die after one and the same manner, nor so that it was easy to know what the distemper was. Now the miserable disease was one indeed, but it carried them off by ten thousand causes and occasions, which those that were afflicted could not understand; for one died upon the neck of another, and the terrible malady seized them before they were aware, and brought them to their end suddenly, some giving up the ghost immediately with very great pains and bitter grief, and some were worn away by their distempers, and had nothing remaining to be buried, but as soon as ever they fell were entirely macerated; some were choked, and greatly lamented their case, as being also stricken with a sudden darkness; some there were who, as they were burying a relation, fell down dead, without finishing the rites of the funeral.

Now there perished of this disease, which began with the morning, and lasted till the hour of dinner, seventy thousand. Nay, the angel stretched out his hand over Jerusalem, as sending this terrible judgment upon it. But David had put on sackcloth, and lay upon the ground, entreating God, and begging that the distemper might now cease, and that he would be satisfied with those that had already perished. And when the king looked up into the air, and saw the angel carried along thereby into Jerusalem, with his sword drawn, he said to God, that he might justly be punished, who was their shepherd, but that the sheep ought to be preserved, as not having sinned at all; and he implored God that he would send his wrath upon him, and upon all his family, but spare the people.

When God heard his supplication, he caused the pestilence to cease, and sent Gad the prophet to him, and commanded him to go up immediately to the thrashing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and build an altar there to God, and offer sacrifices. – Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7 Chapter 13

Wow, what a nasty horrible way for the people to die!

Stay with me, here is where it gets good. The angel stopped his destruction of Israel at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David quickly goes there and tells Araunah that he wants to purchase the entire property.

Araunah said to David, “Take it, Your Majesty, and offer whatever you think is right. There are oxen for the burnt offering, and there are threshers and oxen yokes for firewood.” All this Araunah gave to the king and said, “May the LORD your God accept you.”

“No!” the king said to Araunah. “I must buy it from you at a {fair} price. I won’t offer the LORD my God burnt sacrifices that cost me nothing.”

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 1¼ pounds of silver. David built an altar for the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. So the LORD heard the prayers for the country, and the plague on Israel stopped. – 2 Samuel 24:22-25

Thus ends the book of Second Samuel. However, that is not the end of the property that was formerly Araunah’s! This land was one where an angel of the Lord was stopped from his destruction of Israel. If he had been allowed to go on for the full three days it is likely that nobody would have survived. After all, just four angels are enough to eradicate one third of the population of our planet (Revelation 9:15). Suffice it to say, this ground is pretty special now. It was set-apart to sacrifice to the Lord. It was now hallowed ground.

Then David said, “This is where the LORD God’s temple will be. Israel’s altar for burnt offerings will also be here.” – 1 Chronicles 22:1

Israel was saved here. This is the place where the Temple would one day stand. At this spot, at the rebuilt temple, Jesus was judged and mankind was saved. But there was one more salvation at this location. One that Josephus wrote about when he described what David did.

And when he had built an altar, he performed Divine service, and brought a burnt-offering, and offered peace-offerings also. With these God was pacified, and became gracious to them again.

Now it happened that Abraham came and offered his son Isaac for a burnt-offering at that very place; and when the youth was ready to have his throat cut, a ram appeared on a sudden, standing by the altar, which Abraham sacrificed in the stead of his son, as we have before related.

Now when king David saw that God had heard his prayer, and had graciously accepted of his sacrifice, he resolved to call that entire place The Altar of all the People, and to build a temple to God there; which words he uttered very appositely to what was to be done afterward; for God sent the prophet to him, and told him that there should his son build him an altar, that son who was to take the kingdom after him. – Antiquities of the Jews Book 7 Chapter 13

The birth of the nation of Israel came about through Abraham’s trusting of God; on this very spot his trust was proven. It was a foreshadowing of what our redemption would look like – a lamb being sacrificed in Isaac’s stead. Centuries later on this very spot, the Lamb of God would be condemned to be sacrificed in all of our steads.

Father, thank you for the sacrifice of Abraham, David, and Jesus. May I honor you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Special spot, ain’t it? Jan

2 Samuel 7

Getting to know you…

In 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote a song for the Broadway musical The King and I entitled “Getting to know you”. In this song Anna sings about getting to know the king of Siam, whose children she is tutoring. In the process of getting to know him, he also gets to know her. 

Likewise there is someone that knows me. It is my King, Jesus. 

What more can I say? You know what I am really like, Sovereign LORD. – 2 Samuel 7:20 

He already knows everything about me. 

 I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. – Jeremiah 1:5a 

My job is to get to know him. 

Father, may I get to know you more and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

…all about you. Jan

2 Samuel 3

One A Day

上行下效

 

This Chinese proverb translates to; “Those below follow the example of those above.” It is pronounced (shàng xíng xià xiào). 

It sounds remotely familiar. 

 Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it. – Proverbs 22:6 

And I’m sure I could find other similar verses if I looked long enough. Truth tends to be universal, whether you are Shinto or Christian. Only one path will lead to salvation, but truths tend to be absolutes. 

After the Hebrews escaped the slavery of Egypt, God gave them many instructions. He even gave them instructions for how a future king was to conduct himself, even though a kings was not something in God’s plan for them. One instruction was brought to mind today. 

The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will lead him away from the LORD. And he must not accumulate vast amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself. – Deuteronomy 17:17 

I see that David did not follow these instructions. 

These were the sons who were born to David in Hebron:

The oldest was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam of Jezreel.

The second was Kileab, whose mother was Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel. The third was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.

The fourth was Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith. The fifth was Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital.

The sixth was Ithream, whose mother was David’s wife Eglah.

These sons were all born to David in Hebron. – 2 Samuel 3:2-5 

That is six wives! But wait there’s more! 

When David was one of Saul’s trusted men, Saul gave David his daughter Michal as his first wife. Now when the former forces of Saul want to negotiate peace and crown David as king, he has one condition. 

“All right,” David replied, “but I will not negotiate with you unless you bring back my wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come.” – 2 Samuel 3:13 

That makes seven! One wife for each day of the week – busy man. 

His wives were not his downfall; David apparently handled them well enough to prevent that. But the heartache of divided loyalties amongst David’s children, the product of those wives, caused tremendous heartache and damage. There was rape, incest, murder, hatred, lying, disobedience, and the list goes on. 

Later his son Solomon, a product of yet another wife, is eventually seduced to sin by his own many wives. Solomon had learned from his father that alliances with neighboring kingdoms are made by marrying the king’s and ruler’s daughters, something God commanded against. 

“Those below follow the example of those above.” 

But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors and refused to believe in the LORD their God. They rejected his laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the LORD’s command not to imitate them. – 2 Kings 17:14-15

Father, may I listen and learn by the example of others. However, not only to those above me, but to the one who is above all – you. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Who are you following? Jan

2 Samuel 1

Amalekites

Amazing what happens when we don’t listen to our parents. When I married my first wife it was with the grudging permission of my father. He knew that something was not right even though he couldn’t identify it. As it turned out, neither of us was mature enough and eventually after many years the marriage ended. I caused my parents much grief due to my choice. 

In this chapter I noticed that David and his men had just returned from defeating the Amalekites. First Samuel chapter thirty contains the account of that battle if you’d like to read it. 

However, what jumped out at me was that the young man in this chapter, the young man that killed Saul, is also an Amalekite. 

Then David said to the young man who had brought the news, “Where are you from?” And he replied, “I am a foreigner, an Amalekite, who lives in your land.” 

“Were you not afraid to kill the LORD’s anointed one?” David asked. Then David said to one of his men, “Kill him!” So the man thrust his sword into the Amalekite and killed him. “You die self-condemned,” David said, “for you yourself confessed that you killed the LORD’s anointed one.” – 2 Samuel 1:13-16 

In first Samuel chapter fifteen God had ordered Saul to eradicate all traces of Amalekites. Obviously this was not obeyed. In fact it was Saul’s handling of this particular encounter that was the cause of his loss of favor with God. 

So why did God want the Amalekites wiped out? 

Hundreds of years earlier, in Exodus seventeen, Israel is finally free from Egypt. They are camped at Rephidim when the Amalekites attacked them. The Israelites prevailed and beat them back. However, God pronounced an eternal curse against them. 

Then the LORD instructed Moses, “Write this down as a permanent record, and announce it to Joshua: I will blot out every trace of Amalek from under heaven.” – Exodus 17:14 

Yet, even this did not need to happen. Let’s travel a few hundred years further back into Israelite history. 

Isaac was commanded by his father Abraham to not marry any of the local women, to only marry those from his tribe. He obeyed his father’s wishes and married Rebekah. It is reasonable to deduce that a similar desire would have been passed on to his two sons, Jacob and Esau. 

The father of the nation of Israel was Jacob, he in fact bore the name Israel later in life. His twin brother was Esau. And it is from him that things went horribly wrong. 

At the age of forty, Esau married a young woman named Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite. He also married Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite. But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah. – Genesis 26:34-35 

I think it can be safely inferred from the verses above that these marriages were against his parents wishes. 

Here’s the kicker, Amalek was the grandson of Esau and his wife Adah, also known as Basemath. 

If Esau had listened to his parents, the Amalekites would never have existed! Who knows how the history of the nation of Israel would have turned out had one man listened to his parents. 

Who knows how my life would have turned out had I listened to my parents. 

But, God is a redemptive God. He can take our broken things and create something wonderful with them. 

 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28 

Now many years later I am remarried to a wonderful woman that both of my parents approved of and loved as if she was their own daughter. One of the last things my father did on this earth was to pay for my bride to attend a Christian retreat in Colorado. (My father passed away in March of 2008). 

I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the quote “obedience is better than sacrifice” comes out of Saul’s failure with the Amalekites in first Samuel fifteen. God wants us to obey him and those he has placed over us. 

Lord, may I remember to obey you in all things, whether I agree or understand them. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Listen. Jan